Friday, June 22, 2012

The Trying Times, by Steve

I wanted to share this - from my husbands heart. 

"I am always reluctant to get too personal and share much detail about the things happening in our lives for several reasons. One; I never want it to appear to be whining or looking for pity. Two; I don’t want anyone to think we are asking anyone for anything. Three; prior experiences have resulted in judging, even by well-intentioned people, and I really do not like being judged and to have people say “you brought this upon yourself” or, “You asked for it.” Four; I wrestle with where is the balance between sharing life with the body of Christ and trusting God.

I know many follow the ups and downs of our family on Shonni’s blog. But I know some of you do not and look here for info on how we are doing. So here I share now, as much to work things out in writing for myself (the cathartic process), as well as to share what is happening with those of you who keep us in your prayers, which we covet most of all. For those of you, who might feel inclined to judge us, please stop reading now.

This year has been challenging, to say the least. I think it best to try and categorize this under major headings.

Health issues - We have never had so many, nor so many unusual problems as we have had this year. Shonni got a bad scrape while hiking that turned into a very nasty infection, nearly put her in the hospital, and took weeks of heavy antibiotics to clear up. Kalyn became severely anemic, almost to the point of hospitalization, and it still recovery, taking iron to try and get her levels where they should be and other treatment to try and prevent it from happening again. Caresse was supposed to have two surgeries (one to remove a plate in her knee from a prior surgery and a second to remove one of the abnormal bone growths she that is one her shoulder blade and is pushing through her body to her ribs) only to find on the day of the surgery that she had some unusual infection on her hand that had infected one of her lymph nodes. She had to go to the CDC at Children’s hospital, was put on three heavy duty antibiotics, and is still on two of them as the infection has yet to clear so she can complete the surgeries. Landon of course has been struggling with his allergies to wheat, peanuts and soy. Noelani has been to multiple doctor visits for her cleft pallet (dentists, oral surgeons, orthodontists, plastic surgeons, and speech therapists) Clive has had visual problems; they are trying to correct with glasses, but will probably require surgery. He also is being treated for exposure to TB (does not have it, but was exposed) Garett has been suffering from a sever gag reflex problem that has required several diagnostics tests. The problem caused him to not to be able to eat and he lost weight he did not need to lose. They still do not know what is causing the problem and we are waiting on a referral to a specialist at Children’s Hospital. Aiden went through testing with an occupation therapist regarding some of his developmental issues and of course Keshawn had to recover earlier in the year from breaking both bones in his wrist. The time, energy, and of course money dealing with all of these issues has been significant. It has not been unusual to have one or two problems during a year, but not this many of these types.

Education - Shonni has been homeschooling for over 16 years now, but never this many students, nor this many grades. At the beginning of each year she sets out her plans for what she is going to teach. She purchases the curriculum and away she goes. That is until this year. After the first of the year she started noticing significant problems with some of the kids and how they were progressing (or not) with school. At first she thought some might need classes, but after seeing the doctor found out that was not the problem. Eventually she was able to determine that at least five of the kids had learning disabilities of varying degrees. Some were visual, like dyslexia. Others had auditory problems. Some has other issues and some had combinations of all of the problems. Shonni had to, for the most part, trash everything she had planned and start over with many of the kids, practically running her own special education class room. It has been very difficult; mentally and emotionally for everyone. It has also been financial challenging.

Adoption issues - Of course none of this even begins to touch on the adoption issues of the two newest and even some of the other children. We had never adopted children this old or done two at one time. Noelani and Clive gave Shonni and Kalyn a great deal of resistance and trouble while in China (I could write a whole post just on that experience). We had many Skype session while they were there supporting each other and talking about how to handle the problems they were facing. By the time they reached home nerves were frayed, everyone was emotionally exhausted, and the transition was only beginning.

While Noelani gave Shonni the most problems while in China, once she got to our home, while having some issues and challenges, she has settled into and accepted her life much better than Clive. There was, of course the language issue. We had to use Google translate a lot in the beginning, but less now. Both kids can understand more that they can say at this point. Shonni even began incorporating sign language to help them with the language transition. The language was and is still a stressful part of bringing these two home. More stressful has been the orphanage behaviors. Hording, stealing, manipulation, lying, yelling, and no respect for others, have been some of what we have had to deal with from these two. Noelani has come a long way in her attachment with us, but there are still problems on occasion and probably will be for years. As noted above, with her is also the need to deal with the issues surrounding her cleft pallet and the speech disability it causes right now and all that is needed to correct her condition.

Clive has been a whole other issue. We were aware of possible “learning disabilities” when we adopted him. He in no way acts his age of 8; he behaves more live a child of 5 or less at times. Sometimes it is hard to tell what are developmental issues, orphanage issues, attachment issues or maybe something else. He is very manipulative, teases excessively, demonstrates in appropriate behavior at times and demands a great deal of time and attention. We have testing going regarding his developmental issues, while also dealing with his visual issues. We thought he would be the easier one of the two, but he is by far the more challenging.

As anyone who knows, pretty much every adopted child will have wounds they need to deal with and attachment issues to one degree or another. So it is with ours. While most of the children, adopted as infants, are doing well, some continue to have attachment issues that we have to work with. This includes Kiana, Aiden, Garett, Joeliana, and Corbin. Not surprising, many of these are the same children who are struggling with learning disabilities as well. This is not uncommon for kids who have been orphans to deal with multiple issues like this.

Financial - Of course there are always financial challenges when you do what we do. Not only are there the medical and educational issues noted above that have stretched us, there is also the normal challenges of just feeding, clothing, and providing shelter for this many people. It can be daunting at times. Caring for this many often means others things have to give. We can look around our home and see things that need to be replace or repaired, that we put off for another year (or two or three). Or things we would like to get or do that we just have to say no to. And it is OK as we would much rather put our money into these children than anything else.

Isolation – Out of necessity, to care for the needs of these children, Shonni and I both have had to withdraw from other activities and even people. We can’t be involved in small groups or many church activities or programs, as our ministry is right now, all around us. At times that can make us feel isolated, lonely, even abandoned, with little support except what we get from our family. We often feel misunderstood, misjudged (for good and the bad) and on our own. Many look at and admire us, but we are kept at a distance. No one has us over for dinner and it is not unusual for us to be invited to event, but asked to not bring the children. I am afraid our experience even extends to the local church where we are looked at as some nice oddity, but not as a family involved in a ministry needing support. We often wonder if we would be looked at differently if we were “over there” doing this instead of here in the states. Virtual friends through Shonni’s blog and Facebook become our biggest sources for encouragement and emotional support.

The work we do is exhausting; emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. Most nights we are exhausted by the end of the day, just wanting to crash in front of the TV for a few minutes to unwind. Most days it seems all our time is spent cooking, feeding, cleaning the kitchen, dressing, cleaning the house, bathing , schooling, putting everyone to bed, only to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

Having said all of this, I wouldn’t trade a thing. I would not have said no to any one of the children, no matter how hard and stressful it is. God never said it was going to be easy to obey. He never promised there would not be struggles, difficulties, and hardships. If fact He said we would face all of these things, but that He would be with us.

Sure we could have had a much easier life, simpler, less stressful, had or done more things if we hadn’t chosen to walk this path, but no “thing” is greater than the lives of these children. Some call us reckless, irresponsible, or worse. But lives have been saved for the kingdom. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat. There are no signs that things are ever going to get better or easier. It is always going to be a struggle, and that is ok.

Its life, and it is good because of Him."


  1. Such a heartfelt post!!!

    Anything I begin to write in response seems trite.... but I want you to know I am praying for your family. You guys are amazing and you are certainly feeling the fires of affliction that refine us for the kingdom. This adoption journey is not an easy one... we know, too. I wouldn't go back and undo for the world, but that doesn't make the attachment issues and emotional issues, and developmental issues, etc.... any easier.

    I am thankful for the friends made in blogworld... but it sure is inconvenient to make friends that are no where physically near so that we can't even have you over for a picnic!!

    God will reward your efforts for HIS children. I pray that He will send you friends to support you - people with "skin" on living near you.

    Blessings on you and your precious family.

  2. Well-written, honest and heart-felt. Thanks for sharing so openly. Your children are beautiful and incredibly blessed to have you two as parents.
    Heavenly God, bless this family, each and every one, with the strength and courage to bond as a family supporting and encouraging one another. May Steve and Shonni feel your loving arms supporting them on their journey. May they feel refreshed and ready for each new day. May the children's hearts be open to embrace Your love and the love of their parents. Touch each with a healing hand so they may grow to be strong warriors for the Lord in their life journeys. Amen

  3. Love! Love! Love! Spppp true - all of it!!!! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Steve (& Shonni),

    Thanks so much for sharing your heart. Thanks for your transparency. I am soooo.... sorry that life has been just plain HARD for you all this year. (I can certainly relate to the HARD this year.)

    While the enormity of all of your medical problems are hard to comprehend, I just wrote a post about the 20 doctors' appointments we've had in the past 6 weeks. It is exhausting just to keep up with the appointments, much less the impact the medical problems have on daily life.

    So sorry about the homeschooling issues. I do understand much of that, having home schooled for 21 years (with some highly gifted, some highly challenged, and everywhere in-between. This year, we had to make the most difficult decision to put our most challenging adopted child into school full-time. And, I must tell you, it was the BEST decision for all of us. Something you may need to consider for Clive.

    Isolation? Oh how my heart hurts for you here, because I totally GET IT. Sadly, even when we "just" had our 10 bio. kids, we were outcasts even in our own church. We were not invited to others' homes (we had to do ALL of the hosting, if we wanted to have friends). We were looked at as "odd", "crazy", "different". Interestingly enough, while families in our community that have adopted a lot of kids are looked at as "heroes" and your life is a "ministry" . . . those of us with a lot of bio. kids are judged as "foolish", whereas I believe that my children are definitely my "ministry" whether adopted or bio. :)

    So sad. So sorry. I will continue to keep you all in my prayers. Thanks for the update.

    Hugs from WA.

    Laurel :)

  5. You two know how much we love you? We do. I hear all these things and know it is a HIGH, hard call you both have said yes to. A call that is unusual in our culture. Reading this, I kept thinking of the verse about running the race - you two are running hard after the things of HIM. I think of missionaries and all the biographies I have read … yours is no different. Don't let the enemy (in whatever form he may appear) tell you that because you "live" in the USA that is SHOULD be different. You are going against the grain here… even within the church. Heck, we get that with only 6! I think anyone serving the Lord with His plans experiences loneliness. I also think God works through that loneliness. It makes us scream "this place is NOT our home." Love you both so much!

  6. What a beautiful post sharing your heart :) We have been praying for you and now have much more of an idea to continue on.

    With only 2 left at home, but with many of the special needs you speak of, I also use the internet world for encouragement and support! Yeah all of us out their gathering together wherever we may be to say we understand and mean it!


  7. Your post makes me want to cry! Although we don't have as many children as you do, we do often feel isolated and my blogging friends have become very dear to my heart. Praying that people close to in church and community, will pull up their socks and fill the void in your life. Praying for strength for you...God Bless!

  8. Excellent post Steve!

    I completely understand- we have a large crew to and had the trip from H_ll with our Emma and Ellie in China.

    We also have one with latent TB that will start meds soon and many other medical needs.
    I think the Dr appt and surgeries are the most stressful part because they take you away from everyone else in the family and they take so much time.

    We have also found most of our new children to have learning challenges. They can be super smart but unable to sit still for a moment or extremely cognitively disabled and everything in between.

    The social part for you two sounds like us... we do try to have a date night every other weekend. It is so much fun to have that time together and refreshes us...

    We also find that the children read us like a book. If we are struggling then they struggle even more and things go down hill quickly.

    I try to group my kids when homeschooling - but before I give any advice with HS- I better see how the fall goes!!

    God Bless you BOTH!! Next time we are in Colorado we have to get together!!

  9. Oh and BTW- I wouldn't change it for the world either! This is exactly where God want us and we love it! It's not always easy but we love it!

  10. Thank you for posting this. We could change the names, and it would fit my family; TB, finances, school, all of it. Saw a comment above about 20 dr appts in 6 weeks, we/ve had 20 in 3 weeks before, although it is not a regular occurance.
    Many people post only the good stuff on blogs, and that makes us feel even more like failure on the bad days. We had a terrible week last week, so I am so glad to see that others experience the same things...even though I wish everything was "all better". Our only social life is DH's work, and my playdates about every 8 weeks.
    I feel your pain!! It is so hard and easy to get discouraged. Let us all lift each other up, and remember who gives us strength=)

  11. We understand also- the feelings of isolation having chosen a life where it is about 5 full-time jobs to raise the children we have in front of us. It truly is a full-time ministry. And we are learning as you are....that even a church family is often not...really willing to step into the game to help out. There is so much on your family's plate and it is more then hard. But, as you have found...often it is such an encouragement to have "e-friends" in similar trenches to encourage and uplift during the discouraging times. I know...that when Shonni leaves a comment on our makes me feel better...because I know her hands are full yet she took a moment to be an encourager to my family. I hope I can be the same back. Prayers for continued endurance and patience when you feel those twinges of isolation or judgement. It's easy to say you shouldn't worry about those folks- but not so easy when it happens. Blessings for your amazing family and the parents who have built it, Jennifer

  12. Oh my goodness, can I just thank you so much for sharing your heart and struggles and all! You have put into words what we are going through and I literally have been fighting a depression at the isolation and exhaustion and all. We have ten children, 2 to 17, and seven are adopted. Our most recent additions are our youngest two at two and three (one with Down Syndrome) and have been home for three months. You stated all that I just want to weep over daily. Thank you so much for sharing! You have given me great solace by knowing it isn't just us that is going through this. It does seem unending. And alone. And no, we wouldn't change a thing - except to make things easier. The finances, the issues, the work, no social life, no outside contact, all of that. It is completely full time ministry. It is not recognized, and often we are crazy or irresponsible in other's eyes - given our society's values. It is hard. Thank you so much for stating all of this, and it gives me a chance to find other people who do what we do. That alone is priceless.

    After reading your post, and beginning this comment, I ended up being called out by my toddlers needing refills on their snack, and found walking into my kitchen I had a much lighter spirit, felt that my "menial" jobs were more meaningful and was just simply, comforted and supported in this calling - day in, day out as it is. Hey, at least I haven't had to clean up poop spread all over a sibling's bed today! That is a step forward from yesterday.

    Thank you for sharing. Thank you for being honest and real. I think I may be able to find the strength to mobilize the four kids here with me to get to church this AM (hubby left with three before 7AM as he is on the worship team, and oldest son left an hour later with three more so he could attend first service prior to playing guitar for the latino service). I had been struggling with stomach issues and it seemed just so much simpler to stay home with the kids here. I now feel I have the strength and encouragement to get to church with the loud toddlers! I always know that it is worth getting there, but it is so hard sometimes, and like you said, the judgement, and all - well, it is huge to face it publicly all the time. I know for the most part, people mean well, but it is hard. You know. You know so well.

    Thank you for sharing your story, your struggles. It was like reading the voice in my head that has been screaming for months. Now it is quiet and calm.

    It is a ministry. It is what God called. We answered, regardless of the cost. The cost is high. In many ways. But, it is priceless.

  13. Forgot to add my blog address:!

  14. Dear steve and shonni
    I have been a reader of your blog for, oh, a couple of years now. ;) Always so love your posts. Thank you so much for writing this and sharing your hearts. As much as you may not have expected it to be an encouragement to others, this DID encourage me today. I so get this! And although our stories are very different (we "only" have five kids:)) yet it's been a really really hard year...yes, it is good because He is in it, but wow, it can be so incredibly isolating and hard. Please know that I will be praying for your family--I often have, but this renews that commitment for me. I honestly think Satan just hates followers of Jesus with all his...does he have a heart?? but you know what I mean. And by followers of Jesus, I mean those that really DO follow Him, and do the hard, crazy things that gets them sometimes harshly judged and criticized even by those in the organizedd church..One of my dearest friends said to me (right before things went really crazy for us last year) that "When you are in God's will, even if it is terrible, it is good." That is something I have clung to at times...that even if it is "terrible" is GOOD if we are in His will. Personally, I look at your family and see that you are so MUCH in His will that satan can't stand it and so is throwing it all at you. Just thinking of Peter...and that JEsus said to him that satan had asked to 'sift him like wheat'...but that He, JESUS, would pray for him. wow. Praying that strength and comfort for each of you today. Do not lose heart. Thanks for sharing and know that you are prayed for even from Canada. :) Darci

  15. Steven (Shonni) I felt like I was writing this post on so many levels. I am so sorry for how isolated and lonely you all feel. I have been amazed at this part of our journey as well.

    I will be keeping you all in my prayers and trusting God to continue to carry you through the valleys and right up and over the mountain tops! Thank you for sharing and being transparent so we could all come along side of you in prayer!

    Much love,

  16. Steve & Shonni,
    That was so heartfelt and transparent. I SO admire that. I have absolutely no experience yet, but we will soon be bringing home 2 (yes, 2!) SN children and I can not tell you what a blessing it is to know ahead of time what may be. Thank you so very much for laying it all out there. You are in our prayers.

  17. Steve and Shonni, I love your family SO much! Thank you for your candor. I understand every single thing you've mentioned here. I know most days are like living on an island (not a tropical one -lol), and are so isolating. I praise the Lord He gives perspective in times like these. I'm so glad you've continued to blog, despite the busy-ness of your life. It is so refreshing to see families chasing hard after the Lord! Love you all!

  18. We are on this train with you. And like Jean, as hard as it is some days, we wouldn't change a thing. Walking in the Lord's will is better than struggling and wondering what He wants us to do.

    The piece that stuck out for me was the isolation. We had a few people over for our daughter's college graduation in May and I realized we had not had ANYONE over to our house since we came home from China with our son. Last September.

    We've had several hospitalizations, millions of doctor's appointments and in order to cope I had to let ministry to others go for awhile. I wrote a note to a friend asking if she would still be my friend when I was ready again some day.

    Everyday I tell myself, this is all in light of eternity. Momentary.....

    God is good all the time. All the time God is good.

  19. Thank you for giving my husband a voice. I heard his heart pour out from behind your words. We only have five adopted children. Only. They are loved. They are amazing. But they are HARD. Blending a family is no joke. No one gets it, unless they've been there and so few around us, have been there. The appointments are the hardest on me (mom). We have anywhere from 2-8 appts per day. Yes, per day! Psych therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, med rechecks at Dr's offices, braces tightening, sign language classes then homeschool, church and extended family, not to mention keeping up with life at home (cleaning, garden, lawn, etc). Also, caring for a MotherinLaw with Dementia. Our adoption of two teens from foster care is not finalized yet and we have had 3 social workers and 4 guardian ad litems during this time. Meanwhile since we homeschool, family & friends think we sit around and do nothing all day. They don't understand how taxing emotionally, financially and taxing on our time these children are. I even had a friend tell me yesteray that I "chose" this life and sometimes "serving the Lord can lead to busyness" and it takes away from our true calling. How sad! How sad that others are missing out on "life abundantly" the Lord has called for us. How sad they are not "running the race" so that we may be perfected on the other side of the veil. Continue in the race, dear brother and sister. You are doing an amazing thing. You are building God's kingdom. We? We are right there beside you!


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