Friday, July 31, 2015

What's not happening

Ahhhhhh, summer.
The lazy, hazy days of summer.
The long boring, I've got nothing to do, days of summer.
The discontent, disappointing, death that are the days of summer.

The children in my house have reached this point.  In their defense, I agree with them.  It has been an exceptionally boring summer.  The weather has been so off that we have had no beach days, their father has been home since the beginning of May with some mystery illness that has stolen his energy and his fun.  I've had 2 surgeries, and while minor, one kept me in bed for a week recovering.

In times like these, conversations with my kids become a litany of what they don't have:
Why don't we have a pool?
My Ipod is broken.
Why can't I have an Iphone?
There's nothing to dooooooooo.
If I were the only kid, I bet you would buy me an iphone.
Why can't I
the list goes on.

I begin a different conversation along this vein.

Sweetheart, were you scared today?
No, why would I be scared?

Honey, were you sick today?
No, I feel fine.

Baby, were you hurting today?
Nope, I feel great.

finally, were you hungry today?
Well, at lunch time I was a little hungry so I made a sandwich, whenever I'm hungry I just go get something.


My children went years where these were true every day.
Not just scared, but terrified.
Not just sick, but dangerously ill.
Not just hurting, but actively abused.
Not just a little hungry, but starving and malnourished.

With the meeting of needs comes the amnesia of comfort.  While the scars of the past remain to continue with their destructive power, active and present pain is quickly forgotten and replaced with dissatisfaction.

We focus on what we don't have, while failing to see what we no longer have.

It's true of all of us, but for our children from hard places, it is so blatant that it hurts to behold.

I imagine it is even worse for God to see it in us.

He is Jehovah-Jireh- the Lord will Provide, but we live scared, sick, hurting, and hungry because we don't trust Him.  We say we believe it, but our actions prove that we do not.  We don't believe that we are safe in the shelter of his wing, we don't believe that we will be healed, here or in heaven, we are hurting, but we don't ask The Great Physician to heal our wounds. We are starving to be filled by Him, but we desperately chase meaningless pursuits for fulfillment.

Today I want to encourage you to see what is not happening today, and thank God for
the blessing of what is not happening today.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Heaviest Day

We didn't go to church today.
Scott is sick with pneumonia, I am continuing to fight sinus issues, Sveta is also medicated due to sinus issues, and so it goes. These seem like valid enough reasons to skip church, and I'm sure that's why my children think we didn't go.

And that's ok.

But there are deeper reasons.

Today is Mother's Day.

I love being a mom. I think I am doing a fairly good job.  But a day doesn't pass that I am not aware that the only reason I am a mom is because someone else couldn't do it anymore.  Death, illness, and worse are the contributing factors that lead to my motherhood.  

All of my children had to lose everything for me to become a mom. I don't mean to say that I am the reason they lost those things.  The truth is they lost nearly everything long before I became their mom, and if I never became their mom,almost all of the things they have lost would still be gone.

The final thing they had to lose for me to become a mom is their original identity.

In order for me to become a mom, they had to give up the final shreds of what made them them.

I contemplated taking all the healthy children to church and leaving the sickies at home.  I thought of attending church by myself. Truthfully there is a lot of pressure to be a Heim at church on Mother's Day.  We take up an entire row.  We stand out.  Everyone knows that I am the second mom.  Everyone knows how blessed my children are and how fortunate they are to have me.  As far as I can tell, no one considers what my children had to lose to receive that "blessing".

But I do.

So I did not ask my children to sit through what I am sure was a beautiful Mother's Day message.  I LOVE the Mother's Day messages.  I think many of my children cannot love them right now.  I think that they are too conflicted to appreciate whatever the message is.  The truth is most feel that they have been failed by their first mothers.  I am not saying that she failed them.  I am saying that this is how they feel.  Imagine living with the constant feeling of betrayal by one mother and resentment that another one needs to exist.  That second one is me.  I needed to exist because someone else could not perform their role.  It is impossible to parent if you are dead.  It is impossible to parent if you have an out of control addiction.  It is impossible to parent if you yourself have been marginalized, abused, and neglected.  It doesn't matter that it may not be her fault that she can't mother, the fact remains that she is not being their mother.  
This is the truth that my children live with.
They are not always doing it well.
How can they?
My destiny as their mother is to hold their hearts together even when they think they don't want me to.  Even when they don't think I am.  Even when it is JUST TOO HARD.  for all of us.

We did not go to church today.
And Jesus is ok with it.
I am too.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

what you choose to see

Reflections on 2014

"I am one moronic act away from OD-ing on Stupid."

"I'm suffering from random acts of stupid."

I've said other things, but to my shame, these have been my favorite.  In all honesty they are pretty funny, and in the moment, they made me laugh at what I was experiencing.  Not a bad thing, really.  The problem comes in when instead of temporary levity, these thoughts become my focus.

Eventually, I do literally drown in the stupid and fail to see any beauty and hope.

We live in a broken world.  My family is made up of broken people who have been shattered and hand selected to be lovingly pieced back together by our Heavenly father.

A popular trend on Facebook right now for the new year is to select a word to focus on.  One friend (forgive me, I don't remember exactly who) brought up the word KINTSUGI.  I was fascinated by it.  It represents my family so very well:

Kintsugi Art Metaphor: "Mending Broken Pottery With Gold"
What Can We Learn From a Broken Teapot? 
Kintsugi, as the practice is known, gives new life or rebirth to damaged or aging ceramic objects by celebrating their frailty and history. One can consider how we might live a kintsugi life, finding value in the cracks, missing pieces and chips – bringing to light the scars that have come from life experiences, finding new purpose through aging and loss, seeing the beauty of 'imperfection' and loving ourselves, family and friends despite flaws.

 Photo and Quote from Lakeside Pottery Ceramic Restoration Studio
543 Newfield Avenue
Stamford, CT 06905

It is undeniably true that the shattering that each of my dear children have suffered has hurt them far more than I can imagine.  The weight of what I know crushes me some days and the residual affects are present daily, but the beauty of who they are becoming is even more evident to me and miraculous to behold.

Sometimes I am blinded by it.

His love and mercy overwhelm me as my heart is broken and pieced back together over and over as the Holy Spirit mends me and makes me more like Jesus.

But most of my children cannot see it.  Where I am overcome by the beauty out of ashes, they can only see the ashes.  Some can only see the ashes because the beauty has only just begun to be created.  Others have blatantly rejected the beauty and cling to the ashes.  They blame God that they were ever broken in the first place.  As if it were somehow HIS fault that man sinned, and the fact that Jesus was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins, beaten so we could be whole, whipped so we could be healed (Isaiah 53:5 NLT) has no significance.


Says who?


You know what?
You are right.
God agrees.
You should not have been broken in the first place, but you were.

1 Peter 2:24 (NASB)
and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Jesus is the gold that was melted and poured out, a spiritual act of Kintsugi so that we could be made whole.  

When I so quickly take my eyes off of the marvelous beauty of His grace made so evident in my very own home and focus on the ashes, all the STUPID that has gone into their brokenness, how can I be incredulous that my children have done the same?

Lord Jesus, I repent.  My pride, my arrogance, my foolish assumption that I am the one in control of the Kintsugi of my children's souls.  How quickly I am distracted by the ashes that blind me to your loving, healing, hand.  

Friends, please join me this year.  There is a spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of my children.  It is fierce and relentless.  I am weary of it.  Please pray over my children by name whenever you think of us.  their names are: Samantha and my son-in-law Ashraf, Biruk, Sveta, Hanna, Andy, Alex, Alina, Mel, Vika, and Dasha.  Leave your children's names in the comments and I will do the same for you.  

Ezekiel 36:26
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

Please pray this for me as well.

For 2015 I pray that God's blessings not be hidden in the ashes this year and that you never lose focus of His glorious beauty poured out over you.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Unrealistic expectations and Hope

I have been doing this parent thing for a long time.

A looooooooong time.

I suppose if I am to be honest, I should add the qualifier "adoptive" to parent, because to be completely honest I am a parent through adoption only.

So big deal, is there really a difference?




Yes there is a difference because adoption comes with a certain set of issues that only come with adoption.

No, because as far as I can tell from observation, if adoption were not in the mix, a child with emotional anguish will come up with any number of reasons to behave the same way as a child with emotional anguish who blames it on adoption.

It all comes down to identity.

Who am I?

Why do I behave this way?

Who can I blame my poor choices on?
(read- am I in some kind of family cycle of pain that I am predisposed to, not "It's all your fault that I make bad choices- I demand complete autonomy and no responsibility for my actions!"  Although that sentiment sure does make things worse.  Most people, not just teens, think that is a reasonable expectation.)

With ten children in the house, seven of whom are teens, we are heavy on people yearning for independence from mom and dad.
There are:
two 18 year olds (one will be 19 in December)
two 16 year olds
one 15 year old
one 14 year old
one 13 year old (on 8/3)
one 10 year old
one 8 year old (on 8/2)
and one 6 year old (7 in October)

Most of them find living in the Heim house intolerable for no reason that they can articulate.  I am not offended by this.  A survey of my friends with teens in the home say their children feel the same way.
So what causes this intense loathing for the nest that nurtures them?

a desire for independence
the natural shifting to maturity hampered by the childish bonds of self-centeredness

and now we are back to that "complete autonomy with no responsibility" lie that most everyone believes.

Think about it…what do we tell God?
This is MY life, I will do what I want.  I am not basing it on any loving guidelines you have laid out for me in the Bible.  You wrote that to control me!  I will do what I want when I want.  Don't you try to stop me!!!
Then as soon as one of those selfish choices brings about consequences that are painful and long-lasting, our tune suddenly changes.

Oh God, please help me.  Heal me from this terrible pain.
Please send me the money to pay the rent
Please don't let me be pregnant.
Please rescue me from this DUI- Tell the cop to let me go
and the list goes on.

If God doesn't rescue us or heal us or provide the money for us, well then that's just proof that he doesn't exist or doesn't love us.

So what does that have to do with parenting?

Only everything.

God is our FATHER.  We are his CHILDREN.

Everything on that list of things we tell God, our children tell us.

My husband and I have raised our children with values and guidelines based upon the Bible.
 I have explained to my children that the Bible is not a list of do's and don'ts, but it's more of a recipe for a blessed life.
Take the example of a cake.  If you want to make a cake, you select a recipe and follow the directions.  At the end of the hour or so, you have a moist, warm, delicious cake.

But what if you don't want to be controlled by the recipe author?  Who is he anyway, some kind of control freak?  I can make my cake however I want!!!
I love the beach.  Instead of flour, I will use sand!
Who needs eggs?  I will use salsa instead.
Butter? Nah, how about bubble bath!
and so on.
Place into a preheated oven, set the timer and wait.
I don't understand.  What is wrong with my cake?  I used all the things I like.
Bubble bath…Good!
but this cake…TERRIBLE!
Mommy, fix it.  I need a cake for tonight.  In one hour the party starts!  Can I have yours?  Can you make me one?  Buy me one?  I don't have any money.  I spent mine on concert tickets…

No one can make you follow the recipe.  You can do what you want, but you will get out what you put into it.

Hopefully, if you have had your children from the start, you will have had longer to instill that message into them.  Even then they may reject the recipe for the lie.

If your children are adopted, depending upon their age, you don't have the benefit of time and history.  You are working against the clock to establish morals and values into someone who doesn't know you, much less TRUST you, but the lessons are the same.

I have a daughter who understands that 18 is some kind of golden ticket.
I am 18, I can do what I want…
There is an ellipsis at the end of that sentence because even though society likes to promote it as a freestanding statement, there is more to that sentence.
It's really:

I am 18, I can do what I want as long as I am completely independent and take care of myself.

There's the rub.

How it is phrased in my house is, You can do whatever you want, but you can't do it here.  You are welcome to stay here and follow the rules of the house.
If the rules are too restrictive for your taste, you are free to leave and support yourself.  You absolutely can do whatever you want on the other side of that door.

I have a daughter who thinks she wants to get married.
I have looked her in her eyes and told her that she absolutely should not do this, but as she is doing nothing immoral or illegal, she can CHOOSE to get married if she wishes.

(I think everyone's inclination at this point in the conversation is to scream at the girl and tell her how stupid she is and that I ABSOLUTELY FORBID IT!  and perhaps kick her out of the house.  While I may have been burning to take this route, I elected a different avenue, one in which all the responsibility for the choice rests upon the shoulders of the one making the choice, and not upon the shoulders of the one who handed her a ready excuse to blame the one who kicked her out of the house thereby FORCING her to make a bad choice.  "It's your fault I married him" is not anything that will ever be able to be said to me.  I am the parent and it is my responsibility to teach this child, who I have only had the blessing of parenting for one year, how to make wise decisions even among the worst ideas.)

I discuss with her relationships and ask leading questions that reveal that they do not know each other AT ALL.  I shoot down the idea that she can get married and continue to live with us for a year (just her, not him too) and then in a year they will live together.  I explain that if you get married you live together.  Together somewhere that is not in my home.  I discuss apartment rentals, security deposits, why deposits are necessary.
After I am told that when she has a baby I will take care of the baby whenever it cries, I explain exactly  how often and for how many reasons a baby cries, and that I WILL NOT be raising said baby, she will, she says to me, as if it explains everything,
 "but you the grandma!"
At which point I ask how often Nana Nellie takes care of her.
She doesn't take care of me.
That's right, because she is the grandma.
I am your mom.  I take care of you.  When you move out and are the mom, you will be THE MOM, not me.  I am still mothering MANY other children.

When all the reality gets to be too much for her she reverts to theses questions:

What kind of dress should I wear?
Whatever you can afford.

What kind of flowers should I hold?
Whatever you can afford.

Where will I live?
Wherever you can afford.

and so on…

She recently made some very bad choices that I did not find out about until later (yes, worse than thinking getting married to a guy ten years older than her who speaks less English than her and does not speak Russian nor Ukrainian).  She said she made them because she hoped I would kick her out of the house when I found out.

I explained I would not kick her out over it, but if she wanted to leave, the door was right there and she could walk out any time.  While she is welcome to stay, I couldn't MAKE her stay.

Do you see how she tried to blame me for her bad choice?  She chose to do something she didn't want to do and that she knew I wouldn't approve of because she thought she would get kicked out of the house.  She wanted to be kicked out of the house so she would be "forced" to marry the guy because she had nowhere to live, making her marriage ALSO my fault.

This is the web of lies satan weaves.  He tells us all that we are being controlled by someone else and that we deserve to be free, when the truth is, if we believe him, we are actually being controlled by him.

God gives us a guideline to follow, and if we choose it, we live a life free of the web of deception that traps us.  We live to bask freely in the glorious blessing of his favor.

I pray that my children CHOOSE FREEDOM.  Many are not choosing it now, but I have the hope of a future blessed by the Father, a hope that is theirs as well.

This hope is available for you too!

Romans 15:13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Once & Done

Convenience is something we value in our culture today.




Rapid release


These are all words you will find on many, if not all, of the cleaning products today.  All terms we like to apply to the messy areas of our lives.  My girl friend used to use a floor product called "Once & Done".

Once & Done.  Wouldn't that be fantastic?

But even with floors, it's not really true.  You've washed it once and you are done…for now.  The truth is we all know we are going to have to wash that floor again.

It is the same with adoption grief.  It is not a "Once & Done" proposition.  I will never forget the most impactful sentence I ever read during the exhaustive adoption reading I did before my first child came home at 10 months in 1998.

"With age comes understanding."

This is a heavy concept.  Just what does that mean?
She was a baby when she came home.
We've always talked about her adoption and what a blessing is has been to us.
He has always known he was adopted and he has always been such a happy and content child.

What are you saying?  Are you saying that there is no formula to apply for a rapid release of grief?
Shouldn't all the love they have received for all of these years cancel out those beginning moments of pain?


It does not work that way.  With age comes understanding.  It is a great foundation that your child has growing up loved and invested in, and it will ultimately allow that when the storms come, they will be battle worn and weary, but they will stand and you will be the rock they stand on.

Think about your child's story.  How have you presented it to them?  How you talk about it to a 2 year old about how they came home is not how you talk about it to an 8 year old, or a 10 year old, or a 12 year old, and by the time they are 15, they know the how and are figuring out the WHY.

It is the WHY that hurts them.

It is the WHY that is NEVER "Once & Done".

If you are the newly adoptive parent of an infant, you MUST recognize that grief is not a disposable feeling.  It has no rapid release formula.  It is the gift that keeps giving.  Forever.  It never goes away.


Understand this.
Embrace it.
Prepare for it.

If they were adopted as infants, theirs is a pain that was forged deep in their hearts before they were even born.  It is our duty and honor to carry them through it when it finally comes to the surface, and it WILL come.

If there was ever a time that you need to understand that "It's not about me", this is the time.

It will feel like they are rejecting you.
They are not.

It will feel like they do not love you and never did.
They do.

It will make you think that none of the love and attention and effort and blood and sweat and tears you have poured out for them matters.
It does.

This is what an adoptive parent does.
It's what a PARENT does.
We bear the pain with our children.
Because we love them.

This is when we begin to understand just how perfectly God loves us.

1 Corinthians 13:7-8a
Love BEARS all things, BELIEVES all things, HOPES all things, ENDURES all things.  LOVE NEVER ENDS.

love is not "once & done".

 It endures forever.

Please be prepared to love your children by BEARING, BELIEVING, HOPING, ENDURING, AND NEVER ENDING.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

On restraint and redemption

Vika has had her share of tantrums.  While I don’t always share the specifics of issues my children are dealing with, the tantrums are no secret.  If you have been to our house, or church, or a restaurant, or any public place really, you likely have been party to at least some portion of her tantrums, so I feel they are a safe topic to be open about.  (She certainly has no qualms about being public with them)

So here are some thoughts as we navigate through this behavior.

Ephesians 6:4b
… but bring the up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Two words stand out to me there.  They are nurture and admonition.

Dictionary definition:
Nurture: The care and attention given to someone or something that is growing or developing. 

Admonition: gentle or friendly reproof.  Council or warning against fault.  

Traci’s definition:
Nurture: loving care and attention

Admonition: teaching the how and the why behavior is important; Actual training about how to behave. 

Those are two extremely important actions in a child’s development.  Neither she nor children like her are receiving any of these two vital actions that every child needs in order to survive and thrive.

For nearly seven years Vika experienced nothing even closely resembling nurture and admonition.  What she experienced, at both most basic and extreme, was containment.  She had been contained.  Her physical self had been contained.  Her emotional self had been contained.  Her behavior had been contained.  At the very least, ignored, at the most, punished, but never given any loving care or teaching about how behave in order to thrive.

So what triggers such wild tantrums in a child who had not been exhibiting behaviors like that while in the orphanage?

At first I believe it was truly terror.  When she fell into a fit, her eyes, while terrified, were vacant.  I would describe it as “Vika has left the building”.  She would scream, thrash, scratch, pinch, bite, pull hair, kick, and flail until her little body was completely contained by mine.  I would wrap her arms across her chest and hold her hands tightly in mine while hugging her tightly and holding her legs clamped tightly between my tightly clenched thighs.  (yes, that tight) My cheek was often pressed against hers as it rested on the mattress of her bed so she could not head-butt me,  always careful that she could breath properly.  (I definitely succeeded as evidenced by the decibel heights of her incessant screaming.)  We would hold this pose for 45 minutes to an hour and a half depending upon how hard she felt compelled to fight.  In those first weeks, we might have 3-5 tantrums a day/week.  Her expression during these episodes was vacant.  She was incapable of behaving any other way.  Her mind had retreated and her reflexive response had taken over.
As time passed, her tantrums’ severity abated, and we were able to talk with her about her behavior.  We both agreed that we DID NOT like to do that.  She did not like being restrained like that, and I did not like doing it.  Neither of us wanted it to happen, and the frequency began to subside.  We began talking to her about making different choices regarding her behavior.  We would calmly ask her to join us in counting to 10, or 20, or 50 to see if we could avoid going down the tantrum/restraint path.  Sometimes we could avoid a tantrum in that moment, but later that day the tantrum would still come out.  Once awakened, that monster would not go away unless slayed.
A curious thing happened.  After her tantrums lessened and some months passed, all of a sudden her tantrums began ramping up again, but they were different.  Her eyes had lost that vacant look.  Even in the face of different, better options of behavior, she would actively choose the tantrum.  Her eyes were angry and hard and she defiantly refused the opportunity to choose a better path.
“I choose tantrum and outside physical restraint.” Her defiant actions said.
I responded with weary but determined actions, crossing her tiny arms and balled fists across her chest, embracing her tightly against my chest, resting my cheek again against hers to avoid impact, and holding on until it was over. 
In this last week we were back up to 3 or 4 in a row in a day.
We would discuss what was happening:
Vika, do you know why I hold you the way I do?
Yes, if you don’t, I will scratch you and pinch you and bite you and pull your hair.
Yes honey, that is what you do to me if I don’t hold you like that.
What is happening that causes us to fight like that?
I am being mean.
Do you want people to treat you mean?
Do I let people be mean to you?
Do I let you be mean to other people?
Is that a good thing?

But still the rage against the rules, until yesterday.

Yesterday she changed.
We went into her room with all the fight elements present: mean behavior, resistance to stopping, reluctance to remove herself, active fighting with me.
I gently murmured to her, “Vika, at the end of my count to ten, you know that I will have to hold you down.  Now would be a really good time to choose to count with me. One, two…”
By the time I got to two, she had stopped fighting, she had gone limp against my arms, and she began counting.  When we got to ten, I lifted her into my lap and told her what a wonderful job she had done making a wise choice. 
Her smile was so wide!  She hugged me so tightly.  We were both so excited at the turn of events and Vika understood that she could control what would happen.
Two more times that evening she started down the old road, and when reminded that she had the power to choose what would happen, she made the wise choice.

It. Was. Awesome.

Why the change?  Why did she ramp up the tantrums first?  I believe it took this long for her to understand the rules, and then to trust us she needed to be able to see that we were consistent.  Because we never deviated from the routine, because we didn’t react to her the way her behavior made us feel (like smashing something), but instead reacted in a way that would create structure, safety, and security, she could believe it.  She had been nurtured into choosing wisely.  She had been admonished enough to understand how to do it wisely and why it was important. 

Do I believe the tantrums are over? 
Not yet, but I believe they are on their way to becoming a distant memory. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Maximum Impact

I had an enjoyable conversation today with a new friend.  She was seeking adoption advice.  We talked about many things:

Different countries
sibling groups
special needs
adopting more than once
the state of adoption approval in Illinois...the list goes on.

The conversation kept returning to making the biggest difference.
We began discussing different special needs.  We mulled over both the short and long term issues presented by different physical and mental issues.  We discussed the journeys of families in other blogs who have adopted desperately neglected children.

If you have had this type of conversation before, you know how very overwhelming it can become.  A feeling of dread and despair begins to permeate your soul. 
How can we manage that over the long haul? 
Dear Lord, are we really equipped to do that?  
She just painted a picture of what transition is like for a "healthy" child, how can we possibly navigate through  all of that if we add these significant special needs?  

I hope if you have these desires and these questions that you explore deeply the answers.  She and I surely did.

As we spoke a very liberating thought occurred to me.


I believe the greatest need is love.
It is universal to every child who has no one to to call their own.
If you haven't got love, what does it matter if you can't walk?
If you haven't got love, what does it matter if you can't hear?
If there are no arms to hold you tight and kiss you when you are scared, what does it matter if you have DS, or CP, or Arthrogryposis, or Leukemia, or HIV, or TB, or Autism, or anything else?
If no one delights at the very thought of you, why does the rest of it matter?


Why does a child say yes when she has been told that "these Americans don't love you, they really just want to harvest your organs"?

She say yes because while she may die when she get there, it is worth the risk to see if perhaps they really do love me.  If I don't take the chance, aren't I dead already?

Please understand this:
You are not meeting a greater need if you go to Africa over  the American Foster Care System.
You are not meeting a greater need if the child is actually a sibling group of four.
You are not meeting a greater need if the child is bed-bound.
You are not meeting a greater need if the child has HIV.
You are not meeting a greater need if the child has special needs of any kind.

You are meeting the greatest if you give love to the child you can.
Everything else is just details.

So dear friend, if you are asking yourself these questions and feeling like there is no way you could do what these other people do, ask yourself this question:

Can I love a child who needs it?

If the answer is yes, then GO!