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"You belong"

There was one thing Maria was more afraid of than math when she first got home; swimming.

So for her birthday, she received a 4 week swimming class from grandma and grandpa, and after just a couple lessons, she is a fish.  She floats on her back, extends her arms, peaceful and happy.  “Mama!  Mama, look at me!”

“Go, girl!”

We decided to sign Finley up to join the class as well, since we were already going….and that first day you could hear his screams from the parking lot, terrified.

Maria swam up to him, as he clutched the cement sides with his little fingers.

“Finley,” she said softly, meeting his eyes, “is ok…you no crying, Maria right here for you.  You jus look at me, and it be ok?  You no crying…is ok.”

She handed him a chipped, plastic ronald mcdonald toy, “Maria right here Finley, you no be afraid…”

And by day three,

“One, two THREE!” as they jumped to their teacher, waiting in the pool for them, side by side, their faces etched in smiles and giggles.  Brave little swimmers, splashing through the water together.

The cheerleaders

-Side note-, to say that I am impressed that Elijah can actually…sit on our laps for 30 minutes is new territory for us.  Actually, we are entering another new season with our children, a season of enjoying what came from heckuvah hard work.


Once, at a teacher staff meeting, a pastor, the dad of the guys in Switchfoot came and spoke.  One thing he mentioned was how physical boys are, and how they feel loved and cared for when they can get physical and he would spend a good two hours, each day after work wrestling his boys…  That really stood out to me, because two hours… and he’s a busy guy.

Sometimes, our boys get that look in their eyes, that crazy look, and we know it’s time.  We scatter the pillows, and chuck them back and forth to each other.  It’s their happy place.

See that crazy look in E’s eye? So ready 😉

I think it helps prevent some major behavior problems, plus, it’s fun.   After a bit, the kids quiet down, and get their sweaty little selves up close to us for some cuddling.

Or dancing.


To see Elijah enjoy life, to be genuinely happy, is just… incomparable.

Brother high five

A boy who used to scream in torture when he would be cuddled, has become new, we never stopped or gave up on him, his self imposed barriers broken.

To extend your arms passed what others say is ‘yours’ to bring in those who aren’t anyone’s, the message being, “You belong” where before they didn’t, to anyone.

‘You belong, to us,’ and ‘you have value,’ is our message to our children, to reach and keep reaching for them, even when their little hearts don’t know how to respond, a new message to them.  As humans we are naturally geared to learn from rejection, to gauge it and leave quickly when appropriate, which is why we can’t gain our strength in reaching our arms wider, in drawing them in closer from our humanness.  We didn’t adopt altruistically because we are strong humans, we can’t, in fact, we will be the first to say, we are weak.  Of which we are often reminded; our hearts smart when they don’t want us, we quickly caution our hearts from moving further down the road rejection leads, and with humility–learned humility, when we wish we could be champions, know that we can’t do it on our own.  We gain strength from the example of our God who, despite rejection, ridicule, reaches, loves, cherishes, despite.

And that is how we can.
When his little tears flow down both of our cheeks, those moments, we choose to whisper, “You belong.  You belong to us.  You are loved.”

Be devoted to one another in love.  Honor one another above yourself.  romans 12.10


And after a small time, little bodies relax, his scent turns to sweet baby smells in my nose, and his body, his heart knows, he snuggles deeper, the barriers he put up, broken with persistent, unoffended parents, barriers which have always worked in his past, barriers to protect his own broken heart, in his time without a family.  

 So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment.
Never be without it. col.3

We’re ok with second place, behind everyone else without a bunch of kids who need extra help.  In fact, we’re pretty cozy here, and I would even venture to say, we much prefer it, deep down in our souls.
Adoption and Orphan care…

“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”  Love Does
 It’s a tough job…
OMG his face!

 But someone’s gotta do it…
Jonny Mananas
This is him wanting to have a serious conversation with Putin.  He wants to set him straight on a few things…

Last weekend we spent Saturday morning cleaning up an elementary school with our friends.  When we arrived, 200 people from our church were already working. 
Honestly, it seemed like the worst idea ever to do it again this year.  I was thinking we wouldn’t last, how would we get anything done, be of any service with our three kids, especailly the smaller two who need to be constantly watched.  Most of me wanted to just say no, but we said yes, a recent habit.  Yes to helping others, yes to service, when you feel like you can’t. 

And each and every time, that darn yes, God meets us right there, and in our feeble attempts to serve and help, he does abundantly more than us.

Best Day Ever.

Oh my gosh, God is good, while we spent hours planting, digging, weeding cleaning, my heart was filled with pride for my children, the kind of thing everyone longs to feel.  I was so proud of them working so hard, shoulder to shoulder, a team.

“I’m done,” they said at first, “We don’t say ‘I’m done,’ we keep working until we are all done,” I gently reminded, happy for the opportunity for my children to learn perseverance. 

“I dig these hole for you, Finley, put the white flowers.”

“Ok, Maria” as he carefully pulled the flowers out of their cups.

Um…were my kids just working together to plant flowers at a school…yes.  I almost interrupted them just to squeeze them.

What is happening??  More than I could imagine.

We weeded, hundreds of plants were planted, everything was painted, new lunch tables were built, flower and garden boxes, new tile in all the bathrooms, just to name a few.

“Good job, buddy!”  Check out those work gloves, they mean business.

Garden Boxes
New lunch tables

This used to be crazy weed area

Maria had the most beautiful, sweet, hardworking attitude.  She is such a good example to her brothers, and to us as her parents of what we should expect of her two siblings.  Blessing.  She takes great delight in helping others, in working hard.

It’s hard for us not to see the blessings when we serve God, it’s inescapable, our family was so touched and changed, but the school, to be honest is unrecognizable.  The kids and I walk by this school every week on the way to the library, it will be so cool to point of to my kids all they did, and how much of a difference it made, that they can SEE each time.  It’s funny, each time we go, Andrew and I always comment how we’d love to buy them a new playset, and grow plants along the chainlink fence…and guess what job they gave me, growing vines in the fence, while my friends fixed and painted the playset.  

 Does God pour blessings on you when you choose to serve him, I believe so.  But I want you to notice this picture right now first, I didn’t know what it meant until later.  TBC…

Saw this on my run the next morning

Weekend of Service 2013: The Church Has Left The Building from North Coast Church on Vimeo.

And it made me realize how capable my children are, and how much fun hard work can be.  They have been doing more work at home, and they ask for it.  Today, they told me they didn’t know what to play, so I told them they had to move a huge pile of bricks with me.

“YIPPEE!” said Maria.  Finley got one time-out as he was remembering what hard work was, and as soon as we finished, they ran off together, playing side by side, without saying they didn’t know what to play, as if fun was reinvented.
Hard work, does a kid good I now know.


Who wants to guess what we’ve been building? 🙂


On Sunday, Maria and I had a girl date with some friends.  We stopped at Starbucks first. 

Thank you Ally and Laney for the awesome girl day!
As she painted, she told me a funny story about Finley, and I laughed.  Then I told her a funny story about the boys from when she was at school, it was fun to get to chat for so long without being interrupted.  Everything I shared with her she loved, because it was her life as well, which is when it dawned on me, something that I think she’s known the whole time, but I guess I have been busy, caring for, and keeping everyone in order that I just didn’t even realize…that she is becoming my sweet little friend, one of my very best friends.

 Have a wonderful weekend, and we want to wish a very special happy Mother’s Day to our friends who have their children stuck behind red tape in Russia.  You are incredible mothers, your children’s lives are forever changed because of you, because they were chosen by you.  That child, in a sea of others will forever be changed, because they not only have your love, but they have your prayers, and the prayers of so many who now know about them because of your sacrificial love to them as their mothers. We love you, we love your children, forever.

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{ 15 comments… add one }
  • rosedel May 10, 2013, 8:28 am

    Hi Amy! Great update. I love that your kids are learning to help other people even when they “are done.”
    I sent you an email about doll clothes. Did you get it?
    sarramb at aol dot com? If you didn’t I’ll send another.

  • Holly Schoeppler May 10, 2013, 11:59 am

    Another beautiful post, and the photos say it all. Elijah’s eyes have lost their deep sadness. I’d say he’s coming into his own!

  • Cassafrass May 10, 2013, 12:43 pm

    Love this so much! I so enjoy reading your posts! You have a beautiful family! I am a high school senior and I really want to adopt when I’m older.

    • The Tiny Team May 13, 2013, 1:58 pm

      Go girl! You should go on a missions trip this year, you would be awesomeeeeee!

  • Carla May 10, 2013, 4:29 pm

    I love this!…your family and your church. It all sounds so familiar, as we’re in the beautiful challenging trenches of loving a child who doesn’t always understand how to receive our love (and our church families are so similar too). The Church is the people on mission together, and I love Jesus people! A great reminder to me, to be more open to saying “yes” even when I doubt we’ll be very useful.

  • Jen May 10, 2013, 4:50 pm

    Beautiful post. Seeing sweet Elijah’s cubby laughing face is priceless, and Maria reminds me so much of my own sweet Bella. We’ve been collecting little things to send Maria, and the girls want to write her cards– (Im post office challanged, but soon.)

    So encouraging to read after feeling very defeated this week. Thinking so many times, how can I adopt when I can’t keep everything together as it is?! You guys are seriously such a light- your words continually minister to me, well I guess that’s the Holy Spirit through your words! He gently whispers, “you can do it Jen, you can do it through me.” Happy Mothers Day, Amy. And, I am remembering all those babies over there, and the mamas here….

    • The Tiny Team May 13, 2013, 1:57 pm

      You are so sweet, Jen. Have you heard of New Horizons hosting? There is a little girl in China who we long to host, but can’t this year, they say she’s “the best of the best” and she looks it! Her name is Tanya

  • RiverOwl May 10, 2013, 6:11 pm

    And another post that has left me in tears…

  • Tonya Garrick May 11, 2013, 2:57 am

    I always love reading your blog!:)

  • Jill - addingaburden.com May 11, 2013, 4:12 am

    Sometimes the things Maria says and does withher brothers make me want to take a parenting class from her! She is wise beyond her years and a natural nurturer.

  • Rebecca Higgins May 14, 2013, 10:33 am

    Beautiful to see how your children are growing! I know you and Andrew have worked hard to get to this “new” place in the journey–consistently loving and reaching out even when Elijah pushed away from that love. Your description of how he used to respond reminds me of the way many people are in response to God’s love and overtures of grace. If only they’d stop fighting and pushing away from God they would know the sweet joy and comfort that comes from knowing they belong to Him! God bless your family as you continue to love and serve each other and reach out in service to your community and beyond.

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