Today I am full. Very full. I’m on the verge of tears right now. Some happy. Some sad. Some overwhelmed. Some tired (lack of sleep will get you too). But most of all my tears come from JOY, but not the happy kind of joy, the deeply satisfied kind of joy.
It’s one year ago today that we brought home our newest daughter. On every level her adoption broke the rules, broke our comfort zones, broke our “plans”, broke our pre-conceived notions of pretty much everything. It’s not like we went in blind- oh no. We knew exactly what we were doing. We were adopting a 15 year old young lady, with a traumatic past, medical challenges, behavior issues, reactive attachment disorder, and more!
BUT, BUT, BUT….
We were ALSO adopting a 15 year old young lady with a heart, a mind, a soul and a future. A big future that depended on US as her parents. We knew it would require so much out of us, we knew it would be hard, but we were willing. We were as ready as we could be, to climb the mountain, to scale the obstacles, to push and pull and PRAY.
Of course we knew that this would change us. Every child you have changes you. We had done this before, this sweet young lady was child 11 in our home. So, we had really done this before. We knew it would change us, but we just didn’t anticipate HOW MUCH it would change us- FOR THE BETTER.
That’s why my heart is soooooo full and I am on the edge of tears, because I have been changed. A LOT. I have been transformed, and God used this sweet young lady as an agent of change in my life. God used her to dig out MY junk, to dig out MY issues, to expose MY weaknesses.
Trauma does that. Stress does that. You can either look at it or turn away from it. When you choose to look at it deep and long- you will be transformed. You will start to see your own wounds and weaknesses as you help someone else look at their wounds.
Time and time again, this is how God works in our lives. He uses trials to transform us.
It’s our choice how we respond. Do we choose to respond willingly or by digging our heels in?
You see, on the outside I had learned to have self control, learned to be strong, and learned how to have a good response in trials. But just because you have learned self control, does NOT mean you are exempt from having your buttons pushed. And adoption of kids from traumatic past will do just that. PUSH EVERY SINGLE BUTTON YOU HAVE– ones that are showing and ones that are hiding.
Our past adoptions had taught me to face it head on. Deal with it. Embrace the challenge. Step up to the plate because in the end I would grow and the child would be changed for the good. But that doesn’t mean its easy for me, it means I just know its the right choice and I should do it.
Now, as I was raising our newest daughter, who struggled with huge outbursts of rage and fear, I was faced with a choice. How willing was I? Day after day, hour after hour with screaming and yelling and anger and stress — how willing was I? VERY WILLING even though I didn’t like it, I did it, willingly.
THAT’S IT RIGHT THERE. being willing to endure.
Trauma will teach you that. Endurance. Willingness. Strength.
So very soon I came to see that MY insides MUST change if I was going to help her change. MY stress, MY anger, MY fears, MY weaknesses– MUST BE DELT WITH– and PRONTO!!!
I longed to be a strong assertive leader with a calm and peaceful spirit. A spirit that was not tossed about with the waves of stress or change. But that does NOT come o a silver platter.
I began to pray more and more. SHOW ME GOD. Show me where I need to change, show me where I am weak, show me how you have designed my entire life to come together at this very moment and equip me. And Lord, please fill me with a peace that is beyond MY ability.
You know what? He did.
I found myself, there on the bathroom floor, holding our raging daughter. She was melting down over anger of lies from her past, reality was hitting hard, life was turned upside down and she wanted it and hated it all at once. I kept holding. Tightly. Honestly, mostly so she would not injure herself or me. But also, because I knew she needed it AND SO DID I.
Touch is hard for me, well at least that much. I’m not the warm and fuzzy type who snuggles for hours with her kids. I’m the task oriented type. The type who goes for a challenge and conquers it. So this much love, this much touch, this much excavation of my soul was hard.
All the while, in my mind I kept singing in my head to myself “It is well with my soul”- and praying that it would truly be well with my soul from the inside out.
Day by day. I was there in the bathroom again and again and again, holding her while the screaming raged on and on. The older kids in the house would take the other children outside or the other room, turn on music and have a dance party. They were learning too, how to respond to stress. How to NOT let it govern you. How, even in their young lives, that they have CHOICES — CHOICES of how to respond to someone else’s stress and NOT letting it become their own stress.
I would say to her, “Show me calm and Show me quiet” …. we will leave the bathroom when you are “Calm and Quiet”.
Don’t we all know, you can be quiet on the outside and have NO CALM on the inside.
So we sat and sat and sat. Until both of us learned to be calm and quiet on the inside first.
So today is THAT day. May 10th. One year, deep and long, very full of emotions. A journey. On the outside it looks like an adoption journey. But the truth of it is– it’s a journey of a the soul and deepening of faith. A journey of continuing to trust that God does not make mistakes. A journey of “It is well with my soul”.
No matter how hard, I would do it again 1,000 times. Because both of us have come out transformed. We are still on a journey. A journey that helps both of us embrace the life God has given us, no complaints, no regrets, just gratitude for the gift of transformation.
So, today I am full. Very full. I’m on the verge of tears right now. Some happy. Some sad. Some overwhelmed. Some tired (lack of sleep will get you too). But most of all my tears come from JOY, but not the happy kind of joy, the deeply satisfied kind of joy.
Well this post is LONG LONG LONG overdue. I meant to write it many times and then life happened. Today I had the chance to sit outside under a big oak tree, sip ice tea and watch my kids run and play in the sprinkler. There was a wheelchair parked on either side of me and I just soaked it in. It was great. It lasted about 4 minutes before “someone” needed something, but those four minutes were bliss 🙂
We have said soooo many times that there are zillions of things we could have NEVER imagined about our family. But double digits…. we never imagined that… then again, God does say He will give us more than we can ask or imagine 🙂 Yup- He did. We have 10 kids!!!! what??? really??? when did that happen? Life flies by sometimes really fast. I feel like just a few months ago we moved to Texas, but its been two years next week! wow.
So just yesterday- 24 hours ago we brought home our newest addition- Jadon Emmanuel Martin, age 6 1/2. Just 10 weeks before that we brought home our other newest addition- Jaron Christopher Martin, age 6.
Here’s Jadon Emmanuel- age 6 1/2: (his name means Thankful God is with us)
Here’s Jaron Christopher-age 6: (can you tell his name mean’s to cry out with rejoicing ?) 😉
As you may have known, the boys knew each other from school, even though they were not blood related, they were destined by God to be brothers.
Here is their reunion just yesterday when we brought Jadon home. This picture was snapped by Mrs. Farley the second we wheeled in the door:
I just LOVE this picture. For so many reasons. I just love Jarons excitement when he saw Jadon wheel in!!! I love that everyone is circled around celebrating. I love that they are both holding their daddy’s hand. I love that our wonderful friends, The Farley’s, were there too. (They are an adoptive family too) I love that our family verse Ps 37:4-6 in hanging on the wall in this picture (thank you Nikki- you’re awesome for making that). I love that Joanna is just staring at her daddy with this big grin as he grins!!!!
Some of you may be wondering- wait a second last I checked you had adopted little baby girls back in CT, what has happened since then. Well first I’ll show you those “little baby girls” now and then I’ll give you their brief story.
This is Joanna (age 5) and Jaron sharing her kitty with her new brother. And Sarah (age 6) helping in the kitchen. My how they have grown!!!
So way back in October, we went to Florida for an adoption match meeting to see if our family would be a good fit for Jaron. We went in knowing we would say yes- everything had been so clearly orchestrated by God, the writing was on the wall. But the officials needed to say yes. So on October 16th, 2014. They said yes. And we went to meet him the next day. During that visit, we found out about ANOTHER little boy who needed a forever family too.
Then, jump ahead to December 16th, 2014, when we had an adoption match meeting for the other little boy. They said yes. And Jill flew down to meet him and spend time with the first boy, while Sean watched the kids.
It took some time and lots of paperwork! About 7 months time for each boy, which is a little long, but shorter than if it were a foreign adoption. 🙂 All in all, we made a few flights there to visit the boys. Then we drove as a whole family down in May to pick up Jaron in person. That was a fabulous journey and we even got to stay with amazing friends (The Whiddons) and family (The Williams). It was soooooo hard to only pick up one boy and leave the other behind. very sad.
If we look on the bright side, it gave us 10 weeks to really know Jaron better and for him to know us, before we went and got Jadon. Since, we had just driven clear across country 10 weeks prior, and early in October, we opted for Jill to fly and get Jadon while Sean stayed home with the kids. There are only so many road trips you can do in a year… (and we have a special wedding of a friend coming up) so we preserved our days this way.
We will be celebrating our DOUBLE DIGITS growth later this fall in late October when TX weather is beautiful and the boys have settled in. THAT will be some shin-dig!!!! (Keep your eyes open for that)
Here’s the whole crew:
Jacob- age 14 1/2, avid cello and piano player, bee keeper, chicken raiser, entrepreneur, and lover of statistical analysis projects with his dad at work. Great encourager and big brother. Always helping fix things around the house- which is really important when you have lots of siblings the break stuff.
Sophie- age 13, die hard animal lover, extremely hard worker, servant’s heart, awesome cook, takes care of the goats on our farm. You would never have to ask- she would willingly die 10 times for each of her siblings.
& Sam- age 12, goofball, ham, never met a stranger, always eager to help
Josiah- age 12, TOTALLY wants to become a cowboy. If he is indoors too long, we all know it !
Joel- age 12 (well in one month) – Year 11 was huge for Joel, began initiating conversation/speech, choose to potty train (I write this to give parents of special needs kids hope) and LOVES making pumpkin and apple pie, takes care of the pigs on our farm.
Jamie- age 10 1/2- our resident puzzle princess, learning how to climb stairs and couches with only her arms are her big accomplishments this year!!!
Jadon- age 6 1/2- loves music and just discovered listening to extra loud crickets in TX is fun!
Sarah- age 6- her life is a musical- her whole life- did we mention WHOLE life 🙂 she helps Jacob with the chickens and loves the sprinkler. This year she learned to read! She is such a great helper in the kitchen and is learning to help with breakfast everyday!!!
Jaron- age 6- loves to laugh and be silly, loves music and helping outside in the garden. Loves to swing and learning to walk across the room to the piano 🙂
Joanna- age 5- born with a huge heart and genuine love for her siblings, especially her new brothers. She loves animals, mostly baby ones, singing songs and dancing. She takes care of the ducks on our farm- all by herself with NO help (she would want to be sure you know that). She has named all 16 of them with fabulous names life Puff Noodle, Princess, Momma, Necklace, Fritzy Poo, and more 🙂
That’s all for now….. until the fabulous Miss Alma calls again 🙂
It sounds crazy. Who would look at pain as a gift. Who would want it. Who would be grateful for it.
Our hearts, our emotions, our memories, our thoughts, our body, our loved ones.
and that is GOOD, very, very GOOD.
October of 2007 –We have a child that doesn’t feel pain. Half of her body is numb from nerve damage of Spina Bifida. She can’t feel her legs. As a result she can’t move her muscles. Because nerves that feel, tell your muscles- hey move!
When we first moved into our old house in CT there was radiant heaters on the base board areas of the rooms. One day Jamie was playing with pretend food sitting right next to one. Other kids did it. THey loved to warm their toes on the baseboards. Sooner or later you move your foot. It gets hot. Jamie didn’t. Time passed. Kids played happily. The house was new to us so we didn’t know yet where a problem lie waiting. She crawled away to another area of the room and I saw her back. Her shirt bloody and oozing. I lifted up her shirt to find a massive burn. She didn’t feel it. Not one bit. Later as she was healing up she would complain about an “Itchy pain” in her shoulder. But the burn was down way low near her waist. We found out that pain was shooting up her nerves in her back!!!
January of 2011– On the day of her birth our dear Jocelyn died. We were blindsided by this mack truck of pain & sorrow. We dug deep searching for reason and purpose in what seemed like a huge hole in our hearts. By God’s grace we found that reason and purpose. We saw a greater value and worth in her short little life than we could have ever imagined. We saw the impact she had on healing so many peoples hearts that were wounded from loss in the past. But that initial mack truck of pain was beautifully hard and retchedly awesome. WHY? Because it was sooo BIG and SOOO PAINFUL that we HAD to face it. We HAD dig it out. We HAD to beg God to open our eyes to understanding greater than our humanity could see. If it didn’t hurt, if the pain had been minor, we, in time, would have “moved on”. OH HOW GRATEFUL I AM THAT WE NEVER “MOVED ON” AND THAT WE HAD DEEP, DEEP PAIN!!!! Because we clung together with our children, we grew closer to them, we sought the Lord more than ever, we shared to Truths of Scripture with confidence and no shame or worry of appropriateness. And we will NEVER NEVER NEVER forget. She is a permanent part of our hearts and minds not just because she is our daughter (of course that is true) but because the pain was SOOO immense we will never forget. We can’t.
July of 2013– In the daily routines of parenting, we catch a glimpse, and it stops us in our tracts. Jamie looked at us with only one eye while the other stared into the distance. We knew right away. Shunt failure. Sean swooped her up and took her to children’s hospital ER. At first, they didn’t think it was shunt failure. We insisted. They pushed back. No it’s not. Shunt failure is sooooooo painful. The migraines alone or so intense that it causes one to vomit. And look at her- she’s happy as a clam. And she was. Now, we had had some behavior issues. But that’s it. 24 hours later she ended up in surgery with nuero getting a new shunt on her brain.
Nothing. Nothing at all. Came home with NO pain meds. NO PAIN MEDS!!! after they had literally just drilled a new hole in her skull, placed a shunt in and had two very large sets of stitches on her head (with some of her hair shaved off). NOTHING. She wakes up the next day. I look at my daughter all stitched up on her brain, missing hair, and I shake my head in amazement of God’s timing and causing us to see her eye problem quickly. I am “wowed” by God causing us to look at her in a such a way that we “happened” to catch her eye not moving. Had she gone to sleep that night she may not have woken up. God is AMAZING. We do not believe in coincidence. It is not of our own accord by any stretch of the imagination. God’s timing was impeccable. I shake my head again as I look at her and say good morning. She says “mom, my head is kinda itchy”. I couldn’t help it. I laughed out loud. I picked her up and showed her her head in the mirror and said “yes honey, thats where they cut into your head for your new shunt. It’ll probably be itchy for a while as it heals” “oh, ok” she says and “MOVES ON”. She did what I am glad that I can NOT do so easily- she MOVED ON. She had NO pain. So, she didn’t care. It didn’t matter.
I could list a 1000 more examples God has given us through our children with special needs. From jumping out of trees and belly flopping on hard ground only to brush off the grass and MOVE ON, to ripping braces off your teeth with your bare hands because they were annoying, or ripping all your toenails off (yes and the flesh too) while in bed one night because they were “too long”, or maybe something even more hair raising than toenails- like twisting out 3 teeth in one night (with your bare hands) that we NOT EVEN AT ALL loose so that you could have teeth come out like a sibling did!!!
and so on…….
next time somethings hurts
next time something wrenches your gut in pain and sorrow
next time pain blindsides you
next time pain slowly etches away at your mind, emotions, and memories……
it may take you time, but don’t “MOVE ON” and be “tough”
there’s no great godly glory in “toughness”
dig deep, keep your eyes open even when you want to look away
beg the Lord for wisdom and discernment, for perspective to see what God sees and not what you see
you WILL NOT be diminishing the event of pain, nor will you “MOVE ON” quickly
you will heal and find you have within yourself a great capacity to care
(and less and less of an ability to “move on”)
And THAT is a VERY good gift that pain will give you.
The Color Run is a short 5k run/ fund raiser that travels from city to city. It’s an absolute BLAST!!!! They douce powdered color on you throughout the run. It’s really more of a walk than a run- surely a family and friends type event. So Jill’s sister, nephew and friend came into town to join all of us Martins at the Dallas Color Run. If you are curious you can check out their website at www.thecolorrun.com
So we set out for a good time, family bonding, opportunity to encourage and be silly as a family!!! We started clean, all white, but with each turn in the run came another color station. The stations have color dust everywhere, as well as workers showering you with color at every moment! We took the opportunity at a few stations to make a few “snow angels” in the dust. Hey why not? We HIGHLY recommend this event to every family. It may be in a city near you soon.
The pictures tell the story best….
Sometimes God has a special gift for us. Waiting. We don’t even know it’s there. Then one day, when we least expect it. We are asking God for our daily bread, and He gives us more than we can ask or imagine. A little bit like the fish and loaves story in scripture.
At the beginning of March we brought a special therapist to our home, Nancy Thomas. She came here for 5 full days, 6:00 am until 10:00 pm, WOW long days!!! Nancy Thomas specializes in helping children with attachment issues and conscious development. So most of her work is with adoptive children from challenging pasts. Even though our children were adopted at young ages, many of our children still struggled with things. We’ve spent their entire lives helping shape their character, bond as a family, and work hard to be overcomers in all areas of life. No matter how much we prayed, worked, encouraged, taught, disciplined, encouraged more, taught more, etc there still seemed to be a piece of the puzzle missing. So we brought Nancy to our home to help us identify the missing pieces, see what we needed to do differently or keep the same, and most importantly- how could we help ALL of our children become God’s best in each of their lives.
Well it was a tall order in this unique house, but not for Nancy! She has spent years rehabilitating children from extremely abusive pasts. Helping them overcome horrific things such as childhood molestation, neglect, trauma, and more. She helped us see that even though our kids came to us young, their long lists of infant surgeries, PICU life, foster care, and drug exposure added up to a lot.
We had spent years parenting the “fetal alcohol” and “disability” side of our kids. She helped us turn our eyes to the heart of the matter…. attachment. It is something that we take for granted as we parent our kids, snuggling them, kissing them, telling them stories. But when kids spend countless days in hospitals, 9 months in the womb cringing from burning alcohol and drugs, and more— it causes ones brain to develop different. The part of the brain that we use in bonding with others (the cause and effect part of the frontal lobe and temporal lobes) is atrophied. Brain scans show those parts of the brain look like swiss cheese. So even though we loved on our kiddos day and night, it wasn’t enough. Even though we teach them character, it’s not enough. There are parts of their brains that “need an extra workout” to help them attach appropriately to people and in turn, care about themselves and others. Learning how to love, really love, not just enjoy others.
Here’s how it usually works:
1) RESPECT (wow- my parents are all powerful and they meet my needs when I cry)
2) TRUST (wow- they keep meeting my needs, now I know if I cry they will help me)
3) LOVE (I bond to my parents BECAUSE I first respected then trusted them. That bond is love)
4) CARE ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE AND THINGS (I care about things because I am cared for)
You see this developmental cycle doesn’t develop correctly in lots of adoptive children as well as children with disabilities. We try so hard to fill them with #3, that #4 doesn’t happen. They learn to enjoy things and learn to manipulate others. They learn how to reflect character qualities that we teach them to get what they want. But there’s something missing. So we start at square one. Even though some of our kids are 10 years old, they need to start from the beginning. RESPECT 1st above all in every little thing. Love is 3rd. I’m sure part of you is thinking- that’s a bit extreme- shouldn’t it be a balance? OK OK it’s not that we are not loving them- of course we are still loving them!! Remember first that their brains are already out of balance- so we need to rebuild the brain and the heart. Just imagine if you broke your leg. When you got the cast off you would have to work extra hard to rebuild it. It’s not that you are neglecting the rest of your body. You are focusing hard and deep on your leg SO THAT your WHOLE body can work together BALANCED in a healthy way. … and THAT is what are now purposing to do. Rebuild our children’s hearts and brains in a HEALTHY way. The end goal- that they can truly be TRANSFORMED by the Word of God in all areas of their lives, not just mimic the Word of God.
So this Daily Bread turned into overflowing baskets of fish and loaves. More than we could ask or imagine. It’s a lot of work when God gives you more than you can imagine. A lot of work. But sometimes that is part of the deal. Surely when all those people got tons of fish and loaves on the hillside there with Jesus, they had to pass it out, clean it up, and cook it before they could enjoy it. Part of the deal. So right now we feel like we are holding 12 baskets full. Full of more than we could imagine. Everyday we ask for grace and wisdom to parent God’s children well. God, in His sovereignty, knew that some of our kids would have these obstacles in their past, and He knew this day, Today, would come too.
We share this with you so you can SEE God at work in the lives of children with broken pasts. So that you will SEE that God can do more than man can imagine. Sometimes, people are afraid to adopt. They hear stories or hard times and struggles with kids. Yes that is true sometimes. But NOTHING NOTHING NOTHING is impossible for God!!!! Adopting an older kid with a broken past- HA! God says- HA! I’ve totally got that covered! Stop fearing and start believing— It’s the same with our relationship with God…
4) Care- that transformational work in and through us.
One last food for thought…. over 400,00 children are in Foster Case in the United States alone. Over 53,000 are already legally freed for adoption and just waiting for homes.
While we have many missionaries back home from around the world, we know the importance of teaching our children to stand firm in their faith right here in America. Important lessons in life don’t always come from a text book, and they can be a lot of fun too. With a little CREATIVITY and FUN you can teach your children vital truths for their future.
Recently we have had different families over for dinner on a few different nights. Sean taught the kids a lesson on standing firm in your faith and what the shield of faith is all about. He passed out shields to each kid, made of foam board and rope handles, and passed out soft foam balls to all the kids. It’s a simple game that ALL KIDS can play, no teams, no big rules or strategies, no big concepts to understand– just guard yourself with your shield and throw the ball at others when able. 🙂
LET THE GAMES BEGIN and LET YOUR SHIELD PROTECT YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The pictures below are from different nights and different families, but the lesson was the same. (Note: in one picture Sean is under “attack” from ALL the kids!!! THAT was hilarious!!! Thank you little Joshua for helping protect him with your shield!!)