Monday, January 30, 2012

Filling in the gaps...

Before I start, I have to tell y'all something:

I'm a guest blogger today!

How cool is that??  Okay, if you've been reading for awhile, you know I'm a total nerd and it really doesn't take much to make me happy.  So today what is making me over-the-moon excited is that I'm a guest blogger over at JourneyChic! My little post is not at all adoption related, just a tutorial for making a custom t-shirt for your kiddo, but it sure does make my day that I get to guest-blog on a cool blog like that! :)  Special thanks to Laura, who I've known for about forever, for inviting me to participate! Her blog is way cool... much more sophisticated than mine! :) Go check it out:

So anyway....

I was at the playground after school today (apparently NC is going to skip winter this year) and one of the other moms asked me an interesting question. She said, "Do you feel like God has filled in the gaps for you since he's not your biological child?"  I hadn't really thought about that.

And she's right. He has done just that - filled in the gaps. I've mentioned this before, but I was a little nervous when I went to Ethiopia to bring Amani home. I'd met him before, but only for three very short one-hour visits when we traveled there for court.  Picking him up at the orphanage two months later and bringing him home with me forever wasn't exactly a nice & easy, slow transition into our family.  And I was not only nervous about how he would feel; I was nervous about how I would feel.

I wondered if it would feel like babysitting.  I have an awesome network of mamas here and we often keep each other's kids so it's not unusual for me to have an extra kiddo around here every once in awhile. And I love my friends' children. I really do.  But it's not in the same way I love my kids.  So I wondered how I would love Amani at first.

To be honest, the entire time during the adoption process, I used to look at my friends' kids, especially the ones who are Amani's age, and imagine what it would be like to adopt them that minute, to bring them home and have them be mine for the rest of forever.  It was like practicing for the day I'd get to bring my son home. But it never worked. I could never quite figure out what it would feel like.

And let me also be honest - I wasn't that mom who loved her biological children the instant they were born.  I mean, I did love them... but I needed a few months to really fall in love with them as I got to know them.  I have heard moms say they instantly bonded with their newborns. I think that's wonderful. It just didn't happen that way with me, and I think that's okay.

So the answer to my friend's question today: did God fill in the gaps? He sure did. But He filled them in in the exact same way He did for my first two kiddos. I have loved all three of my children the first moment I laid eyes on them: ultrasound picture, referral picture, whatever. I knew in my heart that I loved them and I knew they were mine that same moment.   But, for me, I really fell in love with them over the first few months of living with them. And God filled in the gaps in the meantime.

So I am currently in the process of falling in love with Amani. And boy am I falling in love. That boy has eyes brighter than the stars.  His smile melts my heart.  And I still can't for the life of me figure out how I get to be the lucky one to be his mama.

And I praise God for filling in the gaps...

tiny side note: A big ole giant THANK YOU to all of you sweet souls who have been praying for me and encouraging me since my last post.  We've had some good days this past week - we took Amani out of town and he did amazingly well and right now, really the only major flip-outs he has had have been over washing his hands (weird, I know). Remind me to describe this for you... it's actually probably quite funny if it weren't for all his screaming.  And my dad was, unfortunately, moved to the ICU over the night last night but they have since stabilized him and I was able to speak with him today. AND I got to go with the youth group at church on their ski trip (yes, I packed up three small children to join a bunch of teenagers for the weekend... my idea of a great time!!).  I love those kids, they are awesome.

God is good. In the midst of all my crazy drama, He has shown himself bigger than all my mess. Thanks to those of you who have allowed Him to use you in my life. I love y'all :)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

At the end of my everything...

Yesterday, Rob came home about 5:45. As he walked in the door, I walked up to him, said "I'm done" and I went to bed. I felt like I was at the end of my energy, my patience, my everything.

At 5:45.

I think at some point he asked me if I wanted dinner (I said no) and then after being up with one of the kids in the early hours of the morning I actually took off my jeans, but I pretty much slept until 7. In all my clothes.

Maybe I was a little tired.

I think I am just emotionally drained. After three weeks in Ethiopia with a brand-new (to me) toddler, coming back home to smooth over my relationships with my first two children, both of whom had never been left like that before, and then hitting the ground running with three kiddos, I am just plain beat.

And since Amani has come home I have had some family drama that hurt my heart, medical scares with both parents (one of whom is having major surgery tomorrow), Amani's had one surgery and is scheduled for a second, and some other very emotionally-difficult situations. All in the past three months.


And to be completely honest, the only thing keeping me going these days is knowing that the God of all creation, the One who holds this world in his hands, is also holding me.  I think that "Footprints" poem is really cheesy, but I think it's quite likely true: Jesus is carrying me right now. 

I don't have the strength, the grace, or the patience to manage all of this on my own. I'm fearful about the surgery for my dad tomorrow, I'm nervous about Amani's surgery in two weeks. I'm struggling with some other things in my life that make me feel very lonely right now.

But God is so good. When I look around, I see the three beautiful children He has blessed me with. I have some absolutely amazing friends.  I can't even begin to come up with an appropriate adjective for my incredible husband. He is, by far, God's greatest gift to me to partner with in this life. God has given me everything I've ever asked for and then some.

So why bother to share this? Well, I think I'm not the only one. I think we all go through times when we feel alone, when we feel overwhelmed, when we want to go to bed and not have to face the world.  

And I'm reminded of what God says about all that:
"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)

He has plans for us - plans that give us hope and peace.  What an amazing promise.  And, on days like yesterday when all I can do is hide under the covers, I still know in my heart that He has plans yet for me. He's not done yet. And since he's already brought me through an international adoption, I can only imagine what he has in store for the Cassells for 2012! That makes me excited... and a little nervous.

I don't really know how many folks really read this blog, but for those of y'all still reading, I thought I'd pass the reminder along: God has a plan for you. And it's a good one. There are no promises about there being no bumps in the road or valleys to walk through, but it's a good plan, nonetheless.

So what's at the end of my everything? Hope. Plain & simple. :)  I'm still tired, but my weary little soul will never run out of hope. And I have only God to thank for that!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Best Gift Ever!

Amani was dedicated at church today. It's not really a big deal; we just stand in front of the church and declare our intent to raise him in the church.  Except that I always seem to forget that it's a bigger deal than that.

What really happened was this:

I had the honor of standing in front of my church family along with my husband and three children (and my dad, who was here visiting!), and my good friend's family and her three children (she has the most precious new baby girl) and make our promise to teach Amani how much we love Jesus. And then my church family responded in kind, promising to help me along the way, to teach him, to encourage us as his parents.  It was a very sweet moment for me.  Probably more so than when my first two kiddos were dedicated. I think this time was different because I know how much our church family prayed for us, for him, during the whole process. Just plain sweet!

And Amani gave me the BEST present ever today, on the day of his baby dedication.  When I dropped him off in the nursery that morning before Sunday School, he cried when I left!!!  Yes, I know normally moms don't jump for joy when their children cry about being left behind.  And I never rejoiced when my first two did just that.  But this was the FIRST time that Amani has cared about being left without his parents.  So of course I rushed back to show him that I was still there and once he was settled in, I was still able to go to Sunday School.  And after dropping him back off after the dedication, I wound up being paged to come get him (which somehow I missed the page and our WONDERFUL Children's Ministers brought him to me. Oops - Mom of the Year award).

Want to know why this was so awesome? He was acting like a normal kid who has a healthy attachment to his parents!  Hooray!  From day one, he hasn't minded at all being dropped off in the nursery, and really didn't care that I stayed there with him for the first 8 weeks.  And while it seems nice to be able to easily drop your child off, it has hurt my heart each week when he happily reaches his arms out to his Sunday School teacher (or any adult) and doesn't bat an eye as I leave.

And, just to make the moment sweeter, my good friend Becky, who is also our preschool children's minister, was there and saw the whole thing and totally rejoiced with me.  What a good God I have, to give me friends who are understanding enough to celebrate my crying child with me!! 

Friday, January 13, 2012


I've seen this picture going around facebook lately. I love it.  And I boy does it hit home for me. I know that being judgmental is:
1) one of the most common complaints about Christians and
2) something I know I am guilty of.

And lately I've been really judgmental about people who make racist or ignorant comments to me about Amani.  Don't get me wrong, they shouldn't do that. And I am not at all excusing racist comments.  But my first instinct is to keep a running list of all the stupid/offensive things people have said to me since we first started our adoption. And then complain and get on my high-horse about how frustrating it is to me, the wonderful non-racist person that I am. And that is exactly the definition of judgmental.

I got one of those comments very recently. Something about me being so lucky because Amani is good-looking. I'm not 100% sure it was related to race, but it sure sounded to me like I was lucky to have gotten a good-looking black boy.  And I also know without a doubt that the person giving me this "compliment" really had no idea what she was saying.  But I do know that no one would make a comment like that about a biological child. Can you imagine? You visit your friend who has just had a baby and you say, "oh you are so lucky your baby actually turned out to be pretty!"  Yikes.  I have a good friend who recently got a compliment about being "pretty for a black girl" and no doubt that person thought they were saying something nice.  I would be willing to bet no white person has ever gotten the "compliment" that she was "pretty for a white girl."

So I was praying (aka complaining to Jesus) about some of the stuff that I've encountered lately and I suddenly realized that I am not supposed to be praying ABOUT those folks... I'm supposed to be praying FOR them.

And I realized that my being judgmental of them is just as bad as their racism/ignorance. Ouch.

If I truly believe in the transformative power of Christ, why in the world would I choose to be judgmental of people who make comments like that instead of leaning on Him to help me be an instrument of change? I sat there, convicted, realizing that not only was I judgmental, but I was completely not trusting in God that He can handle that kind of thing.

Now don't get me wrong, I fully believe that God intends us to DO something about our prayer requests. We have hands, feet, and mouths for a reason. But if I am consistently praying FOR the folks who make unintentional (and intentional) comments towards my family, I will have a much better attitude and be much better equipped to handle those kinds of situations in a way that glorifies God.  'Cause smacking them or giving dirty looks doesn't quite work, as tempting as those responses are.

As we head into Martin Luther King weekend, I can't help but think what his prayer life must have looked like. He's a bit of a hero of mine and I am thrilled that this year Riley is old enough to understand just a little bit of how important he was for our history. My life is better because of what he did. And this weekend, I thank God for people like him who, because they love Jesus, are compelled to fight injustice.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It's hard to blog with three kids.

I really really want to keep this blog up at least weekly. And I really really want it to be more than just updates on my family.  And it is really really hard to put thoughts onto paper (screen?) when you have three kids.

I have some things I want to write about. But instead of writing, I've been doing laundry, kissing skinned knees, and cooking dinner. Motherhood is quite glamorous in that way, really.

So for today, I'm going to point you in another direction. I got this from another adoptive mama who posted it on facebook (thanks, Abby!). Love this short essay. Please go check it out:

And for those of you wanting an update on us... we're still doing better each day. We just scheduled Amani's next surgery for Feb 8th. This is probably the LAST surgery! Whoo hoo!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A new year... another surgery! :(

Happy New Year! Wow - what a difference a year makes. Last year at this time we had just learned about the big Gladney slow-down in Ethiopia. We didn't know it would be three more months before any more referrals would go out, I didn't know it would be SIX more months till we would see our sweet Amani's face.  The beginnings of 2011 were a time of great anxiety and fear for me. But God used that time to grow my patience, to grow my faith, to teach me how to rely on Him when I really truly had no control over my circumstances. Our church family rallied around us in ways that I had never imagined.

If there is anything I learned in 2011, it is that my family is loved.

This year I am celebrating that, at the moment, I have all of my children at home with me. We do have tentative plans to adopt again... but not for a looooooong time. Next time, we plan to adopt a slightly older child, though, and I do wonder if he/she is born yet. But I'm trying not to get ahead of myself!!!

I do have a little 2012 anxiety already. We have decided to go ahead and have Amani's second surgery... the one I was hoping to push off until after the summer.  But we're going to go ahead and get it over with - the doctors said medically the earlier we do it the better. And then we'll be all clear for pool-time this summer. Sigh. I just hate the thought of sending him off to the operating room again.

But we have discovered an amazing tool in helping us with some of our attachment issues....

drum roll please.....


Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Amani has had some terrible constipation and we were trying to manage it with juice, probiotics, and pears. The child was full of juice, probiotics and pears.  And was still straining and in pain and whiney and crying and miserable.  So we tried Miralax and I have a brand-new child! Seriously, he is amazingly different.

That doesn't mean all the attachment stuff is figured out. But making him more comfortable has made a MAJOR difference in our days. We now have more good days than tough days, and that has been WONDERFUL!  We are still going to check in with an attachment therapist though. Mostly because I know we are not perfect parents and I'd love some tips on what we could do better AND I am hoping for some peace of mind so that every time he cries longer than 5 minutes I don't begin to fear that he'll have emotional problems for the rest of his life.

This is kind of a fluff post... sorry. I do have some thoughts on race that I plan to share soon. But that would take a lot longer to write out... and being a mom of three who is addicted to sewing and crafting doesn't leave as much time for blogging as you might think :)