Thursday, March 7, 2013

Beauty from ashes

We've had our new kids for almost 4 months now, and every day has had its ups and downs. Some days definitely has had more downs than ups and's been hard to say the least. There have been moments of despair, frustration, and questioning..."Have we done the right thing? Have we ruined our family?" I've been told this is normal, but it is a new normal for me...and not a fun one!

Well, this week, some fruit started to appear. Not real fruit, but just as tangible...spiritual fruit.

It started with another really difficult day with Duan. This is common. Her defiance, her attitude, her unwillingness to respond and everyday wearing on parents. On Monday, it started. She became very disrespectful and just shut down when I put her towel that she sits on during math time where she didn't want to sit. It wasn't a big deal, but with a child who wants to control everything and manipulate the people around her and her was a big deal to her. So, the usual conversation began, "Duan, you have 2 choices (showing my two fingers): you may either do your math with me or sit in the green chair (our "time out/in" chair). The chair works for her to sit for as long as it takes until her attitude softens...usually 20 minutes plus and I am in the room nearby checking on her every 7 minutes or so.

Well, to the green chair she went. After 25 minutes she was willing to talk and listen. Keep in mind that I am also teaching 5 other children during this time with their schoolwork - a typical day here now. The next activity was to color her reading book and read to me. Again, attitude...back to the chair and my frustration began to rise up more as she seemed to not even care, but I knew that if she didn't sit in the chair, I would probably throw something! I needed to gain self control and clarity.

So, I began lunch. Thinking about it, I felt the Lord probing me for a different response..."Look at her the way I look at her...draw her in...bring her to you...she is hurting." I know this is true, but hard to do when you have chaos around you. So, "Duan, I am going to give you a second chance. You can come make lunch with me, but if you don't listen and respond, then you need to go back to the chair. After lunch, you can try doing your reading again."

All seemed better for now. Later in the afternoon, she had a run-in with Emily and Liz in which her feelings got hurt. She retreated to her room, crying, and crawled up in her bed. She hasn't done that for a while and really only has a few times when she is really deeply hurt. Phoeby needed to take a nap and Duan wouldn't come out of her bed. So, I got the ladder and lifted her down from her top bunk. The next thing that happened was the beginning of me really seeing our Heavenly Father's heart for his children.

Here there is this disobedient, obstinant, hurt child who wants nothing to do with anything other than herself. Much like we are in regards to God at times. So, I listened to the "problem" and then sent Liz and Emily away while Duan continued to cry in my arms. "Duan, you know, it's okay to cry...just cry it out...cry it ALL out! Cry out ALL your hurts. Mommy is here, and I'm not going anywhere...I love you. It is are safe. You are my sweet baby girl...just cry it all out here with Mom."

And she did. She sobbed and sobbed. I prayed over her and sung to her and clung her near and dear to my bosom as only a mother can do. I asked her if she was hurt before when she was Phoeby's age. "Were you sad when you didn't see your birthmom, Miami, anymore? Did your heart hurt?" More sobbing...and the layers began to peel away. The layers of hardness that had been built up in self defense around a little girl's heart. The layers of lies that said to her - you are not loved. Your mom does not want you.

She sobbed, and I cried too. It was surreal in a way...kind of like a dream of complete bonding and goodness. It made me think of the bonding time I had with my biological children when they cried and I nursed them and caressed them and held them in my arms when they were a baby. It was like "nursing" her hurts with God's love flowing through me. She cried until she fell asleep with her arms around me. I sang to her and stroked her hair. We laid on the sofa in each other's arms and both fell asleep from emotional exhaustion. After minutes of resting, we woke up. The crying was over...a smile was on my baby girls face. She had been comforted...loved...accepted...wanted...all in about an hour's time. And it did not come from me...only through me. Love like this has a source...unconditional love...agape love...God's love!

Since then, there is a different bond between Duan and me. During our family devotion time on Tuesday we shared a good thing about the day. Duan said it was when Mom held her and helped her her it didn't matter that it happened the day before. The effect of it was still going on inside of her. And...I know there will be more hurts to hold and heal...more layers to be peeled...more sanctification to be made from our heavenly Father. But, are any of us any different? Wasn't it for this reason that Christ was make beauty from ashes?

"to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." Isaiah 61:3

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday Phoeby!

Our precious Phoeby Gayle turned 4 years old on March 1st, 2013. She had a fun "Dora themed" birthday party with family and friends. Her big brothers and sisters dressed up as Dora characters which made it an even more fun, interactive party. Check our photos from this fun day!

Phoeby's siblings put their money together to buy fabric and make her a Dora fleece pillow and blanket for her birthday! They were so proud of doing it and had fun too!

Our friend, Janice Zima, came over to make Phoeby spaghetti (Filipino style) for her birthday lunch, which included pasta, tomato sauce with sweetened condensed milk, and hot dog and ground beef. 
Can you tell that Phoeby liked it?

Phoeby opened up some presents from family members earlier in the day.

She was so excited when Mommy brought home her cake for the party!

We had a Dora themed party and her brothers and sisters dressed up as characters, which they made costumes for: Duan was Dora's friend, Emily as Tico the squirrel, Stephen was Swiper the Fox, Christian was Boots the Monkey, Liz was Isa the Iguana, and of course, Phoeby was Dora. 
She even looks like Dora!

Even 92-year-old Great Grandma, who lives next to us, came for the party! Her highlight was hearing Phoeby sing "Jesus Loves Me" on stage in the basement for the Dora concert.

Friends at the party coloring together. 

Tico (Emily) helps run the Dora game to find the "ticket" to go on their Dora Adventure...

First, they had to go through the Balloon Forest...

Then they went to Pinata Mountain where they found Boots in a "tree."

Each girl got their turn at trying to "crack open" the pinata, which was very hard to do. 
Here's Duan giving it her best shot!

Finally, they made it to the Dora rock concert. 

They helped Isa find the microphones to sing and dance at the concert. They also sung Happy Birthday to Phoeby and a few other songs they knew like, "Jesus Loves Me."

 Time for cake and ice cream!

Happy 4th Birthday Phoeby!

Yummy! Phoeby decided she really only wanted the ice cream even though she was SO excited about her cake! She is an ice cream girl for sure...only chocolate too!

Benny the Bull (aka Leah Macy) was great at scooping ice cream for the party! 
Even though it was as hard as rocks!

Time for presents!!! Phoeby got her wish...many presents!

She gave hugs to everyone. Here is Phoeby giving a hug to her friend, Macey. 

Happy Birthday, sweet 4 year old Phoeby!!

God's Faithfulness

Last week was a hard week with sickness in our family. Our daughter, Phoeby, knows that better than anyone. She has been sick since an infant, but by God's faithfulness, she turned 4-years-old on
March 1st, 2013.

God was there when her birth mom knew she couldn't take care of her children any longer and surrendered sweet Phoeby to Children's Shelter of Cebu as an infant with her siblings.

God was there when Phoeby started getting sick a lot and CSC's loving staff took care of her needs.

God was there when in 2010, I visited CSC and unknowingly took a picture of Phoeby at 1 1/2 years old sitting in a red wagon.

God was there when Craig and I saw her picture on our computer, along with her brother and sister, and fell in love with them!

God was there when we met them for the first time and introduced ourselves as their Mom and Dad.

God was there when he brought her to the other side of the world and kept her healthy.

God was there when she enjoyed meeting her new brother and sisters.

God was there when she laughed and played like never before enjoying good health for 3 months.

God was there when she got sick on Valentine's Day and relapsed into her nephrotic syndrome.

God was there when her belly swelled up so much that it hurt, and she was so tired.

God was there when she began getting better and her kidneys started functioning properly so the swelling went down.

And God was there when she celebrated her 4th birthday with her family.
She got her wish...many presents!

To our precious Phoeby, you are a gift from God, and He has amazing plans for you, my daughter!

Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness! You never give up on your children!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My God Story this week...

So today makes a little over 3 months that we've had our new kiddos. There have 
definitely been ups and downs with adjustments but I seemed to have hit rock 
bottom this past Sunday. On Valentine's Day, Craig worked hard on preparing our 
traditional fondue dinner and dessert. Phoeby was screaming with tummy pain and 
ended up throwing up on Craig after dinner. That night Emily threw up in her 
bed...a lot!!! She likes fondue but it's not meant to come back up. Over the 
weekend Phoeby's swelling continued to get worse and Craig and I ended up with 
that nasty bug. We were up all night making trips to the toilet but due to DiGize 
oil was able to keep it down. But we felt terrible!! Satan had been working on 
my mind for a few weeks, slowly creeping in thoughts of defeat since we had been 
struggling with certain children's attitudes and heart issues, along with 
fatigue and sibling selfishness. I had also been working so hard on doing 
natural oils to keep Phoeby healthy so when she got sick, I felt like I just 
wasn't good enough. 
I had been having my morning devotions, but they were more routine and rushed 
with 6 kids and needing to start the day with homeschooling. Plus, time for 
myself or for Craig and I had been very little. People may not understand, but 
it is not exaggerating when I say that every bit of the time and energy we had was 
given to bonding with our new kids, keeping ongoing relationships with Emily, Liz, and Stephen, 
as well as put out sibling problems, answer a million questions a day with new 
experiences for Christian, Duan, and Phoeby, and just keeping our heads above water!!! 
My energy and love tank had been running on empty for weeks. I even felt like I 
had lost joy and didn't even want to be around my family. Thoughts began in my 
mind of feeling trapped in a prison that I couldn't escape...because what a 
TERRIBLE parent I would be to say that I didn't like my family that we had 
prayed so hard for!!! 
My comfort started to become the pieces of chocolate that I hid in my nightstand 
and the hope that if I could just survive today...time will pass. God definitely 
knows what we need when we can't even express it in words! So back to Sunday 
with me laying on the sofa feeling terrible...physically, emotionally, 
spiritually, and totally defeated! In an impulse moment I posted how I felt on 
Facebook. Then Craig and I talked and I sobbed in his arms as he prayed over me. 
I couldn't even pray except to ask the Holy Spirit to intercede for me. I just 
sobbed and rested in my love's safe arms. 
It's hard to humble yourself as a mom and to admit when you need least 
it is for me. I didn't want to burden anyone or expose anyone to the "bug" that 
had invaded our house since Christian even got sick on Monday. But God sent his 
angels of grace and mercy to come to my aid in a time of need. I had numerous 
emails and messages of prayer and encouragement. Since Craig was already better 
he had to leave for work on Monday. Friends came over to clean my house, do 
laundry, and one saint even gave me an amazing massage! Even my children helped 
take care of their mom and had more peace in the least for a day or 
two! A friend sacrificially watched my other children when I had to take Phoeby 
to the doctor. Some friends are planning to bring us a meal, and the list goes 
on. The amazing thing about this is that most of them are not blood related who 
came to lift me out of the pit I was in...but all are sisters and brothers in 
God's family! God has used this week of weakness for me to remind me of His 
provision and that He is always with us. I needed to rest in Him to see it 
I would never have believed it, but due to prayers, encouragement, and the 
saints who served me so lovingly, just 2 days after feeling defeated and down, 
joy returned! I laughed and even had fun with my kids on Tuesday. I wanted to 
hug them and tell them that I loved them! My strength and energy was restored as 
well. God's medicine truly is miraculous and life changing! 
There is still a long, winding road ahead for our family as we continue 
through this transition time, but I know it is not a road I have to walk alone. 
That's my God story! 

***Due to having a "gone wrong" Valentine's Day...the kids had to postpone their Valentine Concert for us until a few days later. Here's "God's Not Dead" Hamstra kid style!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Let it Snow!!!

Let it Snow...Let it Snow...Let it Snow!!!

Christian got his answer to prayer, and it came with lots of snow to play in! The kids have either sledded or played in the snow everyday, and I'm ready for a break...a break from getting 6 kids layered and ready...a break from the loads of laundry...and a break from making all the hot chocolate! But the kids have been loving it's all been worth it - I think! Check out the pictures below!

Sledding on our neighbors hill...Phoeby's first time. 
She said it was "scary!"

"Spiderman Christian"

Snow pics of my snow bunnies!
(or panda or kitty or dog!)

You can tell this girl a thousand times, but she still eats the snow! 
Lots of it! We made sure she knows to not eat colored snow, 
especially yellow and brown!

The "snow fort"

Yippee!! We LOVE snow!

And eating snow...together!!!

Dads favorite thing to do in the snow...cross country skiing!

We went to our friends' house, the Matts, and they got pulled on 
sleds by the four-wheeler by Kyle and Dylan. 
They had a BLAST!!

Snow Angels and icicles!

Ready to ride!

Phoeby even loved it too!

Ice skating at Hobart Arena with friends!
Our fashion girl, Duan!

Phoeby and Liz...Phoeby loved it too. You'd never know these
kids lived in the Philippines by the way the LOVE the cold!

Our Family! Love and blessings to you all!
We've had "snow" much fun this winter so far...and it's only January!