Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013

One year ago, a few days before Christmas, I was mustering up the strength to Skype home to my mom and Logan, and tell them we weren't coming home for Christmas.  We were stuck in Peru bringing home our 5 newest additions and I was weary and heartbroken.  I couldn't explain the stress the weeks had brought or articulate the strange tug and pull it had done on my faith.  Weary is the best word to explain it.  And I so badly needed Logan and my mom not to break down.  
They didn't, I did.  And we did Christmas, Scott and I, the 5 Peruvians and Laney while Scott and our families waited on Christmas til we got home.  We ate Kraft macaroni and cheese in a hotel breakfast area, Paneton (a Peruvian sweet bread), and whatever else we could throw together to get by.  
A year later, I can hardly believe we are those same people!  We have lived together for a year Saturday.  We brought them home to a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom house and lived as 9 there for a couple months.  We started school, got acclimated at church, moved in February, started sports teams....and that's not even counting that I was working when we got back and Scott has been doing 2 jobs.  Whew!  This year has been crazy!  We have people who think we don't have any fun.  That we welcomed complete chaos into our lives and they don't understand why.  What's funny though, and maybe it's because I am demented now, is that I look back at this year so differently.  I look at my husband as less stressed and a better example of a man to our kids than before.  And I didn't even think he needed improvement! I look at our life as peaceful and fairly organized.  It doesn't sound like complete chaos and as long as I write things down, I am not complete chaos.  I see our Peruvians as well adjusted and a part of our family that seems like it has always been there.  And I see God as the greatest writer of stories because I could have never dreamt this up!
I'm a realist too.  I've seen the areas that Scott and I have had to improve on as parents.  I've seen how dependent I am on God to know how to parent these individual kids.  I've seen a deeper glimpse into the pain that my kids brought with them and have tried to learn how to help them through that.  We've seen that a year isn't a magical marker where all the healing that is needed takes place and we can go forward without it.  
BUT, that's all part of redemption.  Making me new new.  Making Scott and I new.  Making my kids new.  Jesus-newness is the only way this story works.  And one year does mark that we survived.  It marks a Christmas where we were all in the same house, an incredible house for us.  It marks Gerson's birthday today at home!  It marks change and the incredible comfort that time has brought to our family of 9.  Our family of 9 for a few more months anyway! Ha!  We like to keep things interesting.
If you're wondering about the redemption pieces or just struggling with the faith stuff, I encourage you to go back and read some like "Watching Gerson Heal" or "New Life".  Or even the posts from when we were in Peru a year ago.  I think our story will encourage you if nothing else.  And it makes me believe again, things I've forgotten or ignored.  Because only God could write the Sterlings Crazy Story.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Watching Gerson Heal

Up to this point, I've been careful about the information I give regarding Gerson.  At least about some things.  I never wanted to make a spectacle of him.  Or draw attention to pieces that really didn't make up Gerson to us.
But I got permission to share this great story!  Here's some background info first:  When we met Gerson, we learned that he had been suffering with some unidentified physical issues since he was a small kid.  He said he had no pain, but he often walked with struggle, especially late in the day.  When we arrived in Peru, it was actually worse than we thought.  In old blog entries, we talk about Scott carrying him when we were there.  Doctors in Peru had tested for many things and had decided that it was psychological.  When we first saw him, we knew that wasn't the case.  As the day would go on, his muscles would get tighter and tighter.  If he touched his back, you would feel him shaking from the fatigue in his flexed muscles from shoulder to toe.
We saw muscle, nerve, and cerebral palsy specialists of all kinds when we got back in the U.S.  He had a perfectly "normal" MRI of both brain and spine.  We did physical therapy up to 3 times a week.  We were wearing him out with little to no progress and still no valid diagnosis.  I even started to wonder if trauma had been the cause and not something physical.  And really, Gerson had resolved to this being his life.  We were just trying to see if there were avenues to make things easier for the day to day.
I've watched the 15 year old be crushed that he can't play soccer.  Laugh about falling at school.  But cry when he stresses about starting a new semester and having to be so different, once again, and not understanding why.
Last week though, we got sent to the geneticist for the first time.  Honestly, I thought it was just a silly formality and was doing it only because Children Mercy said so.  We had even received the genetics blood work and knew it was normal before we went.  Waste of time, I thought.  But this appointment was different!  The Dr. had read his file extensively before we got there.  Then, she did something no other Doctor had completely done.  She listened.  She pieced together things from his file with things that I said we had observed in the year we've been together.  And she had a diagnosis!  It was surreal.  She walked in, introduced herself, and said "I believe he has dopa responsive dystonia".  Basically, she believed his brain wasn't making enough dopamine to send the proper messages to his muscles and it explained his symptoms.  The onset of this is usually around 6 years old, you have more energy and muscle control in the mornings and struggle late in the day, untreated it causes stunted growth....I could go on and on.  It described Gerson!  And no one had ever mentioned this before.
I left in a whirlwind, not wanting to do the cartwheel that seemed to want to come, for fear that she could be wrong and Gerson would be so disappointed.  But we filled the synthetic dopamine prescription that night and he started the next day.  And I kid you not, there was a difference when he came home after school that day!  After only 1 pill!  When I realized he knew it too and could control his hands and feet differently, I practically tackled him on a bean bag crying!  It was a miracle!  A kid, whose muscles have been essentially frozen for 10 years, is walking flat footed.  His neck and face are so much more relaxed, he almost looks like a different kid.  We watched him try on shoes for Homecoming, standing on one foot, and not holding onto anything.  In the evening!  I wish I could convey how huge this is!  We're a week into medicine and Gerson is talking about what professional sports he might play!  We saw the geneticist again today and even she is floored at the progress.  She had documented that he had clubbed feet and his toes crossed over each other, but no more!
We're still working out dosage and Gerson has to take it a bit slow to teach his muscles how to do things they haven't done before.  But we have truly witnessed a miracle in our house!  God has been so good to Gerson.  He could have written his story differently and that would have been okay.  But He didn't!  We are so grateful!
(Gerson-15 in the blue, Jhonny-17 in the purple)

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What's New-The Craziness has Returned!

Wow, June!  Sorry to the three people who read!  I can't believe it's been June since I last wrote.  But I guess it makes sense.  June was summer and summer was bliss! The 2 older boys were in an in-depth language immersion class at Avila all summer.  And me and the 4 littles got to play, do swim lessons, go to library, and just chill while they were gone.  We had a handful of birthdays, got to take the girls to a Taylor Swift concert, and just thoroughly enjoyed each other! People kept asking me if I was ready for school and the structure of life to begin again.  Um....no.  Because with school and structure means immunizations and dentist appointments and soccer, oh lots of soccer.  And a very full planner and living in fear that I'm going to take the wrong kid to the wrong place on the wrong day.
All that to say, a fun season has begun!  And it really is fun!  I have a Varsity soccer player, a youth competitive player, one that wants into gymnastics, and homework coming out of our ears!  I am clearly not smarter than a fourth grader and some days homework is more stressful for me than it is for them!  We have a couple of weeks under our belt, though, and we are finding our groove.  Homework doesn't make me want to yell (most days), soccer schedule is pretty down, and my planner is my best friend!

Summer recap:  The 2 older boys did really well with Avila.  I could hear a big difference in their English and am so grateful for ALL that Avila has done for us!
My four littles loved swim lessons; in fact, Betsi took a second section and the coach was begging her to do a swim team.  She definitely found something she is great at!  In addition to many other things!
Logan enjoyed a summer free of school and went on a mission trip, a vacation, and camp with our youth from church!  It was a good break before a tough semester for her now!

Now, we have a college sophomore, high school senior, high school sophomore, a 7th grader, 6th grader, 4th grader and preschooler!  2 days a week, I have ZERO children at home for 4 1/2 hours! May not sound like a lot but the things you can do without a 3 year old are endless!
This fall, I am looking forward to much: showing the kids the changing leaves in Missouri, getting family pictures done, doing Halloween together (especially my 3 and 10 year old) and even Thanksgiving!  I'm trying not to jump too far ahead into the holidays but I am just so excited!  I can't believe we are approaching Thanksgiving...a year from when we left for Peru.  Wow, time is seriously flying!  I'm also anxious to decorate our new house for Christmas.  But in the meantime, I am going to enjoy the regular things of life.  And I'll try to blog about the real life things.  I so badly want more people to be inspired to adopt or foster older children and I want to be honest about our experience.  Hopefully, those writings are to come! 



Saturday, June 8, 2013

Teaching Your Kids to Follow Jesus

This week, I was in the car with 2 of my kids and for some reason, we were talking about Laney's eyes.  Laney has incredibly dark eyes for her fair skin.  Like darker than some of my Peruvians' eyes.  And the kids are intrigued.  I was explaining to them that the only person in our family I know of with eyes as dark as Laney's was my grandma.  My Grandma Dolores had black eyes that were so pretty and could practically read your soul.  I told them how badly I wished they had known her and how much she would have loved them.  She was one of my favorite people on this planet.  She was strong and opinionated.  She would doubt your decisions until you could show her you had good solid facts and discernment.  Which forced me to be confident in my decisions before I would tell her.  But most importantly, she loved Jesus and knew His Word.  Before she died, letters and cards flooded their living room from people she had influenced...at the bank where she worked, at church, in Sunday School.  Everyone who knew her knew she was a follower of Christ.  And some of the last words on her lips were Scripture.  Encouragement to us grandkids.  Words telling us she wasn't scared.

As I talked, my 2 boys could feel how much I loved her and could see how passionately she loved God.  My oldest blurted out "Man, I want to know God like that......but I can't".  What?  I always wonder if there's a misunderstanding with an accent or something.  Can or Cannot?  The younger one chimed in as if he knew exactly what Jhonny was thinking.  "Can't".  
He went on to explain that He doesn't think He can know God like that.  Aside from the fact that he sees the Bible as boring (which is a common opinion among young people....and maybe old), when he reads it his days following are terrible!  Hmmmmm, that my son is called spiritual warfare.  So there we sat in the car trying to Spanglish hash out spiritual warfare and how there is a fight for their hearts.  A fight to keep them from being productive for God.  A fight to keep them lazy, or arrogant, or prideful, or self doubting.  Whatever it is to keep your feet in cement.
I'm not entirely sure they understood everything we talked about.  Could be the language.  Could be the teenager-ness.  But I will say they didn't move a muscle.  We sat in the car, even once it hit the garage.  And it has kept me thinking for days.
How do you teach your kids to follow hard after God?  I know a lot of the answers.  You model it.  You take them to church where they're presented with good theology and fellowship.  But is there a need for balance?  Is it possible to cram it too far down their throats?  Is my life demonstrating a real follower of Christ?  Or a church-goer American Christian without fruit or passion?  And how will I know before they're 35?  Not sure I know how to answer all these questions.  But today I'm keenly aware of my need to figure it out!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Flip Flops

In the busyness of our every day life, I had an idea that I waited too long to do in it's completion.  See, I wanted to do something special for our 19 year old before she goes to Jamaica on a mission trip (she leaves Sunday).  It didn't exactly happen so I will try to honor her this way instead.

In 2008, Scott and I went to Jamaica for our 2nd time.  By this time we were dating, ending our 27 years of friendship (slight exaggeration) and Logan went too.  One night, walking back from a visit with a local in Harmons, Jamaica, one of our friends noticed Logan was barefoot.  Which is a normal summer thing here...and probably in Harmons too.  But this time, it was a long walk, on dirty gravel down a road and our friend was positive Logan had gone with shoes.  When she asked Logan where they were, she replied that the girl they were visiting needed them more than she did.  She noticed hers were broken so Logan took hers off, then and there, and walked back barefoot without saying a word.

I bought Logan 10 or more pairs of flip flops to take with her to Jamaica this year.   Not only because there is always a need for shoes.  But to remind her of that day when she so clearly heard from God and responded.  It chokes me up this many years later.  What a strong 19 year old chica!  And a strong 14 year old she was then.   She is a confident girl, a great sister and friend, and our family would not be the same without her!
I intended to do something cute and creative with a pair for her to keep but....that's where I got busy.  Several pairs of flip flops are still making it to Jamaica so C'est la vie. :)  

My prayer for Logan is Psalm 17:5 --- My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped. That she would hang on to God harder than anything or anyone else.  And that she would hear his voice every day just like she did that day in Harmons.  Then and only then will her feet not slip.  

Our church's team will be leaving for Jamaica Sunday morning and will build houses, work in a greenhouse, and love on a community every day for a week.  Please pray for them as well as Logan!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day-by-Day Faith

I know Christians say and do stupid things sometimes.  I am one and I have been the guilty party.  But there is something supernatural (literally) about what happens when God's people hear from Him and respond, that is just unmatched.  This week we received an anonymous gift that immediately made me cry.  Good tears.  Overwhelmed, humbled tears.  Humbled that God saw our need and made it known to someone else.  Humbled that the someone else responded precisely and just in time.  And disappointed that I had even for a moment doubted or worried.  
I think I thought that the crazy faith journey somehow ended when we got home from Peru with all my kiddos safely tucked in.  But I'm thinking the Lord is not going to let Scott and I get very far from the day-by-day trusting Him.  Which duh, I guess.  That's what faith is.  But it's different than my former way of living a yo-yo: I'm in control, God's in control and repeat.  The problem is it is just so uncomfortable to be in the day to day trust.  It's just so against what I think I know, in my Lauren-ness.  I used to think I knew things.   (Some of you are nodding because you knew me in my most know-it-all days.  Give a girl room to grow! :)  I thought I knew how to fix things, problem solve, take care of myself.  Even though I was a follower of Christ, there were still things I could do myself.  But our life now, not even just that we adopted, is continually reminding me I know very little.  I don't know what God is going to ask of our family, how He will ask us to do ministry, and/or what that will look like for us.  The way my job works now, I literally have no idea when or if I will get to financially contribute to our family.  I know I'm not a "normal" girl but that matters to me.  So it's like surprise paychecks I suppose! :)  I don't know how to parent 7 uniquely different kids with different stories.  Sometimes I don't even know how to pray for them.  My reliance on God has never been so firm.  I find myself standing with all my weight on Him, sometimes because I don't know where else to stand.  And everything else looks like a lily pad in the raging ocean yet, He is solid.  
So here we stand.  God is so gracious to give us connection and moments that are so sweet: 
I walked outside this week to find Joel trying to teach Laney how to tie her shoes.  I'm not sure she's quite there yet but he tried. :)

And sometimes I find doodles like this one that just make you smile.  
The kids refuse to let me put on tennis shoes without jumping on bikes and wanting to walk with me.  Our oldest busts out random water balloon fights in her spare time. 
Right now, we watch a lot of soccer, eat a lot of meals together, and laugh every day.  Even if it's at each other.  :)  Being right in the center of day-by-day trust is the scariest, most exhilarating, awesome place I've ever been.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

FĂștbol Has Begun

At right about three months home, like clockwork, the exciting newness was wearing off and my boys specifically started to struggle.  They're doing great in school and do everything we ask--homework, tutor, church, etc.  And without much complaint!  But you can tell there's a little bit of discomfort.  Unease finding their place.  My oldest Peruvian shows it the most in his face.  

More than just about anything, the boys talk about how hard it is to not be able to play soccer outside everyday.  We've had some great weather days...and some not-so-great days and the inconsistency is annoying!
So competitive soccer means a whole new kind of crazy!  But it's needed for their sanity.  They say "it's in their blood".  Not to mention it's good for my boys to run and get worn out and compete!  
The first game had quite the fan club!  In addition to the fact that our own family is a clan of groupies, we had my parents and friends come to cheer with us too!

 JHONNY

 SUPERFAN
So now I drive the minivan and am the literal soccer mom!  It's still tons of fun, even in just normal moments like now--helping with homework, rice in the cooker, and boys playing outside.  Spirits are lifting!  If you're praying for us, pray for my Peruvians to continue to feel at home here (and Peru of course), to make friends that help them be themselves, and that they would learn that the only person who can truly be the confidant and friend they need is Christ.  Pray for us to continue to ask God to teach us how to do family in this capacity.  And that God would have His way with us.