Life After Bigger Dirt

Life After Bigger Dirt

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day

I am writing tonight after a long but glorious Christmas Day filled with excitement, surprises, and typical chaos that only a family this size can understand.  Our home is strewn with the evidence of opened presents, Nerf bullets, tiny Lego extras, and now exhausted and content kids.  Two of six have literally fallen asleep where they sat, with two more close behind.  Only the teen and baby brother hold out, but hopefully soon they too will allow us to find our own sleep.  Truthfully, by the time six kids have opened presents, grandparents visit to see the treasures, and meltdowns over whatever major issue that affects young children occurs, we feel exhausted and quite stressed.  We know tomorrow brings the clean-up of all the wildness.  Someone is bound to complain that they were slighted compared to another, or some gift request was missed.  It's hard not to lose our cool, let alone our minds.  
In the middle of the day today, I walked around my house looking for the kids.  I found Adaline in her room playing with her new dollhouse and dolls, laying on her new rug, perfectly quiet and content.  Wenhao was in his happy realm, playing Skylanders on the Xbox.  He had waited for weeks to get this game and was so excited to play all by himself.  He later came to get William to play with him, and so proud to show his brother what he had already learned and discovered.  Corbin fished in his new kayak with his first baitcast rod and reel.  He chased us all with his huge Nerf gun and built a great Lego tower.  Allie found an awesome surprise in her stocking, keys to her first car.  She drove half her siblings around the block before presents were even opened.  William, who is always the most excited and emotional, got his first rifle.  We had to go to Pop's to try it out, though he had to wait several hours before we left.  Mr. Beckett loved the day.  He loved his brothers' kayaks and Wen's new bow.  He didn't care much for opening presents, but after the chaos settled he played with every gift he could.  Even now he is playing with square magnets, making his designs and aligning them just so.
I sat with Beckett and swung on the swing set for several minutes today.  I realized how relaxed and happy he was, just to sit in his daddy's lap and swing.  I so would have sat there all day if possible.  
My greatest gifts were my time with each of my kids over the past few days.  Whether shopping with Allie and letting her be my driver, or target shooting with my sidekick in the hunting world, or building a Lego pagoda with my rapidly maturing 9 year old, I absolutely loved my time with them.  Adaline and Wen sat with me to watch a movie tonight.  That's a rare treat for me.  I finally finished the family swing set last night, which made Wen so happy and stopped his insistence that I work every free moment I had this past week.  
Melissa and I are so blessed by these kids of ours.  They are loud and emotional, and fight like siblings do, but they are amazing and awesome kids.  They make us laugh and smile, melt us with their hugs and snuggles, and full our hearts with their love and perfect spirits.  I cannot imagine our lives without this chaos.  
Merry Christmas to all who read this.  I pray you experience the love and joy we share, and see the perfect Reason for this season through your chaos and craziness.  Jesus came to this earth to live perfectly and die selflessly for our imperfections, so that we can experience and live in His righteousness.  This is why I have joy and peace in the hectic lives we live.  I choose joy, because He chose me and gave me His joyeous, perfect Spirit.  This is my prayer for you all this Christmas.  God bless you all.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Happy Birthday Baby Brother

Over the past 6 months the Smith home has been blessed with our Baby Brother, Beckett Asher.  He joined our hearts the moment we laid eyes on his first picture, but oh how this little guy has changed our world!  He is such an amazing, intriguing, awesome little guy.  We still find ourselves just watching him, hoping to understand him and so thankful at the strides he has made since he first came into our lives.  Tomorrow he turns 3.  We do birthdays big in this family.  It is the one day when our kids pretty much get away with anything and we focus on how precious and special they each are.  For Beckett, a huge party or big dinner night would absolutely overwhelm and stress him.  No, we are not having a big blow out party.  He won't eat cake or ice cream.  I doubt he cares much for presents.  But I do know he will smile, laugh, play, and make our lives joy-filled.  Part of me wants to cry knowing we will celebrate him differently than our other kids.  But my sensible side knows we will make HIS day special and perfect for HIM.  We will rock some Christmas lights, play The Voice on TV, and sit back and be amazed at him as he shines in his little world here at home.  I'm not sad because I can see the incredible growth he has had in the short time in our home.  We are so amazed at how God and love have transformed a weak, scared, quiet boy into this busy, jabbering, always smiling Awesome son.  I melt when he runs up to me, holds up his hands so I pick him up and he squeezes my neck, saying "Da."  He knows how to get his mom to do anything with his smile and "Mamamamama".  This little guy who wouldn't bathe for weeks now runs to the tub every time he hears the water.  On Sunday he wore a hood, twice, without fighting to get it off his head.  He ate Kool Whip.  He wore socks and shoes this week.  It may sound silly to some who don't know Beckett or understand autism, but these victories are HUGE in our world.  Every day, literally every day, he does something that amazes us, something that reminds us how awesome Our God is, and how blessed we are to get to be Beckett's mom and dad.  I love this little guy just as deeply as each of my other 5 kids, and feel honored beyond measure to be each of their Dad.  And I so look forward to celebrating Beckett and our blessings we have gained with him in our lives.
Happy birthday Baby Brother, we love you to the moon and back!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Happy Birthday Mom of 6!

Today is Melissa's birthday.  Our newest son, thanks to a late nap yesterday, kept us entertained until almost 2 A.M., and the remainder of the young kids started their day about 8.  This has become our norm since Beckett came home, and we just roll with it.  Melissa started her morning with a snuggle from Beckett, followed by donuts and diet Dr. Pepper, her favorite breakfast.  Aside from a doctor's appointment in the mid-day, we had a fairly relaxed day.  No dinner date or party.  Just pizza for dinner and America's Got Talent with 6 kiddos waiting to vote for their favorites. 
We do birthdays big in this family, usually.  It is the day we celebrate each other.  It is the day to choose dinner, control the remote, make the fun decisions for the day.  This day wasn't quite our typical birthday, but it was perfect for this family.  When I asked my beautiful wife what she wanted for her gift, she simply replied, Beckett.  Her heart is so full of love for these kids, and even more complete now that Beckett is home.  For her, this day was perfect. 
Both her mother and my parents came to visit this evening, to offer their happy birthday wishes and see the kids.  My father remarked how much Beckett has changed, progressed in the past 2 weeks since coming to his forever home.  This little guy who could barely walk 15 feet when he came home now runs the entire house, climbs in beds and in tables.  He smiles and laughs all day.  He right now is in his big sister's lap, playing with her hair.  Just 15 minutes ago, he sat in his mama's lap and let her rock him while he laid on her.  This was a true first for them, and it was beautiful.  He says "mamamamama" running around this house.  These may not be tangible gifts,  but they carry far greater weight in her heart than any gift of monetary value.
My father also confessed how his heart has hurt at the thought of orphans laying in cribs around the world, not being stimulated or nurtured.  He had never made these statements to me, even with our prior adoption experience.  His heart truly ached, causing worry in his mind for these kids without forever homes, especially seeing the gains Beckett has made in just 2 weeks. 
Melissa, this is your influence.  This is the extention of your heart and love for orphans.  You have opened so many eyes to this world of need, and have touched hearts all around.  I am blessed beyond measure to share this life with you, and on this day I celebrate you and wish you an amazing happy birthday.  I love you and adore you.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Our Why

Today little Beckett met his ophthalmologist for the first time.  Beckett, having albinism, also has eye involvement.  This causes vision impairment and nystagmus, which is uncontrollable eye movement.  His visit went very well, though the doctor had a squirmy, scared patient to examine.  No need for glasses at this time, and no treatment for the nystagmus.  Not what we expected, but very good news for us.  He has not let us put sunglasses or hats on him thus far, so daily glasses would be a serious battle.
He has been home a week now, and literally every day he has grown and blossomed.  Even with the stress of a 100 mile drive and a 2 hour eye appointment, we still enjoyed his smiles, laughs, exploring the waiting room and exam room.  Last night, he stood up and walked down the hall of our house and just explored all on his own.  He is making huge strides every single day.  Truly amazing for us to watch this little boy come out of his shell and be a silly 2 year old.
We often get asked about why we adopt, and why we adopt internationally.  We get the frustrating questions like, "Can't you have your own kids?", or "Don't you think you have enough already?"  I seriously heard of these questions, but when I was actually asked them, I was taken aback.  I think I answered diplomatically, taking time to educate why we have chosen international adoption. 
We have 3 children from China.  All three are considered special needs children.  They were abandoned by their birth family either for lack of the ability to care for them, or for the shame their physical differences might bring upon their family.  They had no mother to nurture them, respond to their cries, or hold them when they needed comfort.  They missed the essential love a child needs and deserves to grow and develop mentally and emotionally.  In just 18 days of love and stimulation, Beckett has made months of life progress in the care of his mama and now entire family.  This is why we adopt from China.  These 3 babies did not ask for their physical differences, and surely did not deserve to be abandoned and neglected in their infancy and earliest years.   They do deserve to have a family that loves them unconditionally.  That we can do. 
We didn't adopt our babies so their physical issues could be fixed.  Yes, two if our children have had surgeries to correct physical issues, but even without surgery, they are precious and perfect in our eyes.  Adaline is outgoing, sassy, funny, loves to entertain.  Wen is so smart, silly, and has become a loving, snuggling kid.  And Beckett, just precious and amazing.  We are learning him every day.
Why do we adopt?  Just meet my kids.  See how much they have changed since coming home.  See the transformation that only love can propel.
Why do we adopt?  Read the Word.  All throughout scripture we see commandments to care for the orphan, meet them in their affliction, defend the fatherless.  God has concern for the orphan, and from the days of Moses on to the teachings of the apostles, He commands His people to meet the needs of the orphan.  There is no mention of a calling to do so.  Just commandments.  Like feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the poor.  Defend the fatherless, care for the widow. 
My question is, why aren't you adopting?  I know,  this seems harsh and very poignant, but the question still remains: what are you doing for the orphan, the fatherless?  Pastors, why do we skirt this issue?  Deacons, are we meeting the needs of the fatherless in our congregations?  Elders, why are we not encouraging this in our ministries?  Church, why aren't we meeting the needs of the orphans?
We received the gift of Grace not to keep for our own treasure, but to multiply it and return it 10 fold.  Romans 8:15-17 tells us that we have received an adoption of Grace into the kingdom of God, and are no longer slaves to this world.  This Grace should abound in our lives, driving us to be like our Father.  We follow His commandments, out of love and gratitude.  We share our gift to others, because we want all to have the same Grace and Mercy we have received.  For my family, this includes following the command to care for the orphans (James 1:27). 
My prayer is that the Church will heed this command, all across this world.  My prayer is that hearts will be broken for these babies lying in cribs around the world , with no stimulation and no nurturing.  My prayer is that no child in America go to bed without being told they are loved and they are precious.  My prayer is that the foster care system is overwhelmed not with kids needing placement, but with families ready to love and nurture kids from difficult places, kids hurt by the world they were born into.  My prayer is that no child live their life without feeling the Love of the Father exhibited through His own adopted kids.
Adoption has forever changed my life, my wife's life, my kids' lives.  It has transformed our family, and has opened my eyes to the Truth of Grace.  It will forever be a part of our worship and thankfulness to our Savior and Lord.

Monday, July 18, 2016

New Seasons

Beckett has been home for 4 days now, but it appears he will fit right in with this wild bunch.  His first two full nights, he maintained China time, spending about 6 hours of prime sleep hours partying with his mom.  They played in the living room, tried rocking, snacking.  Bless his heart, he was just on China time.  He would finally be so exhausted around 6am that he just crashed, and would sleep a few hours.  Last night, the awake time was cut back to about 2 hours.  Progress!  God is so gracious, in His perfect timing.  I have admired the patience I have witnessed in Melissa, just rolling with his crazy awake hours.  It is like watching her with a newborn, taking in every moment no matter how inconvenient the time may be.
Every morning there are 2 or 3 kids waiting impatiently outside Beckett's bedroom, hoping to be the one to wake him and start the playing.  He is such an easy kid, and he seems to enjoy the attention that he surely cannot escape.  The cocooning process has begun in this home, but I am amazed at how involved all of the kids are in nurturing and welcoming baby brother into the family, and into all of our hearts.
I cannot say it enough, how truly we have been blessed during this adoption.  I see it more each day, I think I look for it more as well.  I want to see God's hand in this.  Without it, left to our own decisions, we can do a lot wrong.  We need Him, we need His direction, His peace, His strength.  I pray He is glorified.  I know I am overcome with love for the One who adopted me into His family, and I am beyond thankful He placed this love and desire for Beckett in our hearts.  
It is almost midnight, and half the house is still awake.  In weeks past, I would have been anxious and frustrated, knowing I want to awake early for my Crossfit class.  Some things change as our seasons change.  I welcome this season, because it's time to hang with Beckett.  His laugh and smile are amazing.  I truly did not expect to see it so soon.  He belongs in this family, I have no doubt.  To God be the glory.
Now excuse me while I go play with my son.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Home at Last!

Last night at 10:06 pm, the plane landed from Dallas with our precious cargo on board.  Welcome home posters, flowers, a new ball for baby brother, and anxious hearts awaited the first sight of mama and Beckett coming off the jetway.  I admit that I held my emotions true, but at the sight of my gorgeous wife carrying our new son in her arms appeared beyond the gate, my heart raced and tears welled up uncontrollably.  Finally, after two long but glorious weeks, our family of 8 was together and safe. 
Our journey for Beckett began in September of last year, when we first laid eyes on his precious face as we perused Waiting Child lists as we began considering adoption again.  I can honestly say, at first sight and review of his profile, we knew he was to be our son.  From that moment, our hearts began to embrace this little boy half across the world, and even without ever seeing or touching him, he became entwined in our lives, he was becoming our son.  We began to pursue him through his agency, started the months of home study and paper work, and gathered funds to one day have him in our home.  With each step, each major milestone in the adoption process, we grew more anxious to hold him and bring him into our fold.  The say we received travel approval, and began making final travel arrangements, was by far the most exciting point of the journey to that point.  The anticipation grew exponentially to that moment Melissa would hold him in her arms at Gotcha Day.
As you can see from the past to weeks' posts, it has been an emotional and magnificent travel to China.  We have seen miracles in this little boy, miracles in each step of travel.  God blessed my family with Mrs. Traci, a true angel.  Her fluency in Mandarin and familiarity with China made Melissa's travels so peaceful, I can never thank her and her family enough for their sacrifice.  I thank you, Schmidley family, for loving my family and blessing us in this journey.  The flights home were wrought with storms and lightning, fearful times for mama.  I am confident angels surrounded their planes and brought them through perilous skies to be safe in Alexandria, and ON TIME!!!  Our Beckett slept through most of the flights, and quietly watched movies the remainder.  This, too, I can only attribute to an angel of peace, through prayer and annointing.  Every step of this journey was girded in prayer, every flight with prayer and fasting, every day in China with a meal sacrificed for prayer.
When Melissa crossed the security line, she was mauled by 5 kids who had long-awaited her return.  They each ran to her, hugged and kissed her, and touched their new brother.  I waited and admired their excitement, but gladly grabbed my love for a kiss and hug I had so much longed for, to see her face and hold her in my arms.  I then had the true honor of holding my new son for the first time.  He had been on my heart for months, but to have him in my arms finally, I find the words difficult.  My son was finally home.  He was scared and overwhelmed, and cried and pushed me away.  But he was in arms and I was ecstatic.  The fear and commotion of our large family soon calmed, and with the help of big sister taking him up and down the escalators 10 times, he soon calmed and relaxed. 
Parents of adoptive children fear that first car seat experience.  Beckett grumbled for a brief moment, and then settled in for the ride HOME!  We prayed for peace and safety for the ride, as a storm ensued from the west, and the Peace of the Father poured out over our van, our kids, and the ride was absolutely amazing.
We saw 3:30 am this morning before sleep came.  Between excitement that all were home and two still on Chinese time, sleep eluded us.  But it gave us such an opportunity to meet this amazing little boy.  We heard his laugh and saw his smile.  He grabbed my face and pulled me within inches of his eyes, so he can better study my face.  He leaned against me as he played on the floor with one of his many balls he seem to love.  We tried to encourage sleep, but he felt it more appropriate to smack and try to talk the night away.  He finally found a place between Melissa and me in our bed, and faded off to sleep with his right thumb in his mouth.  I have never been so glad to have a kid in my bed as this moment.  I awoke this morning with him snuggled next to me, his right hand on my left arm.  I guess that means I am alright in his book.
I know the journey has only begun, but I give praise to My Savior for the Glory and Mercy we see and live.  Never once since September have I doubted or worried over this.  I have felt the Peace of knowing we were called to Beckett, and he was waiting for us to come bring him home.  We will be cocooning this child and learning his needs over the next months, and anxiously await his emergence into the little boy we know he is.  Please continue to join us in prayer and in our journey.  Give Glory to the Father, Beckett is finally home!!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Packing Day!!!

Today is packing day, the last day in China for Melissa, Traci, and Beckett.  As they wait for Beckett's visa from the consulate, they will be packing suitcases and preparing for the long day of travel tomorrow.  They begin their day with a van ride into Hong Kong, which is white knuckles for nearly 3 hours.  They then fly 15 hours into Dallas.  It is here that the magic begins. 
They will go through Customs, as all international travelers do.  Melissa will hand the Customs agent the infamous "brown envelope," which she has kept guarded and unopened for over a week.  The agent will open this envelope, ask Melissa a few questions, and then look at our son and welcome him as a United States citizen.  I first experienced this 4 years ago with our first adoption, and it was incredibly emotional to know my two kids were now citizens of my beloved country.  It is even more awesome as I see the similarity to God welcoming us all into His family, the citizenship of His kingdom, when we experience His Grace.  Just as Melissa traveled such a long journey to bring home our son, Christ traveled beyond the grave to bring us home to His family.  This is what drives us to adopt.  Knowing God has a heart and love of orphans, and experiencing the Grace I have received in Spiritual adoption, I, we as a family, desperately want to expand His kingdom through obedience to His call.
We have seen such a change in our little boy over the past 9 days.  He allowed little physical contact the first couple of days.  He would not eat, and did little more than lay and hold his ball.  He disregulated quickly when faced with any change in routine.   Day by day, however, through love, patience, and His mercy, we have seen this little guy grow and slowly escape his little cocoon.  He has found comfort in Melissa's lap, laughed at her touch and play, smiled at her smile and kisses.  He walks around the room, finding things to play with, climbing into and out of his crib, sitting in the floor alone to play and entertain himself.  He was lethargic and sick when he came into our care, making only the occasional mouth clicks.  He now will climb into his stroller and tell his mama "chu chu", which means "go" in Mandarin.  He tells her "boo", meaning "no," when he wants to be left alone.  He drinks juice and take his milk readily.  He has come alive.  He seeks the closeness of his mama and Aunt Traci.  He is truly miraculous.
Each night before bed, my kids and I have gathered to pray over these 3 in China.  My kids have prayed for their safety, for their health.  I have heard my 6 year old son pray for the bonding between Melissa and Beckett.  6 year old...  Tonight, as we Skyped with them, we watched as Melissa kissed on Beckett and tickled him.  He smile and laughed at her, his little face lighting up in delight.  Corbin, who is 9, leaned over to me and said, "that is answers to our prayers."  My heart filled with pride, knowing they had prayed, not recited what they heard me pray.  They get it, and it is glorious to be a part of.
This adoption has changed us, more than our first and possibly more than any experience to date.  We have had to rely on God's grace and power more than ever.  We had a sick child in a country unfamiliar.  He could not communicate and did not eat.  We chose to not travel together for the sake of our kids, which made for its own difficulties away from one another.  Though we at home could not help comfort our son or meet his or mama's needs in China, we could cover her daily in prayer and fasting.  Her travel has been surrounded with fasting and prayer.  We have lifted each other with words and encouragement.  And mama has had intense and intimate time with our new son, to focus on learning who he is and what his needs truly are.  She has amazed me with her insight into this complex and awesome guy.  He has flourished in her love and adoration.  I watch in awe as the Glory of the Father rests on my bride and covers this little boy so hurt and scarred by early neglect, but now lavished in nurturing, motherly love.  I am blessed to call her my bride.
Please keep this family in your prayer.  Though this journey to China is nearly complete, this journey of adoption is merely beginning.  Beckett bears our name, and has our hearts, but melding into a family takes time.  We know it will be trying at times, but we are in this completely, sold out to the call. 
Today we both thought back on some of our parenting mistakes with each of our children.  Though we were inclined to our regrets, I was reminded that our journey of Grace is all too often laden with mistakes as well.  It is a journey, and it must maintain the course toward Grace, no matter the setbacks.  If we can maintain Grace in our parenting, and keep the course toward Grace, we will get it right.  I see it in their prayers, in their adoration of Beckett, in their love of other orphans and kids in foster care.  His Grace is sufficient, and I pray it encompasses all we do in this crazy world of Smith, party of 8.