Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Fall... In November

While most of the people reading this are bundling up for winter and possibly seeing a snowy landscape outside of their windows, Taiwan is just beginning to embrace what we call Fall.  On this Evergreen Island, there aren't piles of crunchy leaves or the smell of fireplaces filling the air.  But the breeze is pleasant, not like our summer breezes that feel like that gust of air you get when you open a hot oven.  The sunlight has a softness and no longer seeks to scorch your skin.  The sun goes to bed around 5:45.

 If you have read this blog for long, you know all about my love for fall.  It is such a perfect time of pumpkins, cornbread, soup, freshly sharpened pencils and newness!  I know, I know, Spring seems to have the market on newness!  But not to me.  Never for me.  I was always the kid that loved the first two weeks of summer and suffered through the rest.  I wanted the schedule and environment and even homework that school provided.  Fall was always a new start to school with new supplies.  I would beg to buy everything early and pack my backpack weeks before school started.  Then I would sit my backpack where I could see it every morning when I get up.  I remember waking up, laying in my bed and staring at my backpack.  I would feel a thrill of excitement as that was my promise that school was going to start soon.  

For a few years after graduating college, every Fall felt like a party I was missing!  But, as I've gotten older adjusted, I've come to realize that Fall is still a time of newness for me.  Some people like to make big changes at New Years or on their birthdays.  Fall is my time.

So, as I sit in my second story office and stare out at the green, green leaves on my tree, I see two reddish brown leaves.  And those two leaves amazingly remind me of God's love.  God's love for us goes beyond the cross and into the smallest, most private parts of our lives.  He doesn't just want to save us, but to have a relationship with us.  The lover of my soul cares that I love Fall.  And as a reflection of His love for me, I have a tree that sheds its leaves.  An oddity in Taiwan for sure.  Jesus loves me, this I know!  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fostering...

I've been trying to write this blog since last April.  I'm still not sure if I have the emotions all straight in my head for this to make sense, but here we go! (Sorry, but this may be long and rambling!)

Last September, we got a call asking us if we would consider being long term foster parents.  Before that, we had fostered several babies, but always on a short term basis.  We help a mother care center/adoption agency here in Taiwan.  This center was started because of the extremely high abortion rates in Taiwan.  The last statistic I heard was that 7 out of every 10 pregnancies here end in abortion.  So, it has been our way of trying to put feet on to our faith.  If you are interested, you can check them out here.

We really prayed about it and felt it was God opening a door.  We said yes and less than a week later, a cute little 8 month old boy moved in.  They had warned us that he was born premature at 31 weeks and that he could quite possibly have mental problems.  He would sit in his sit and never interact with anyone at the nursery.  Thus began a journey of being foster parents.

Here is Titus getting lots of attention at church.

When we started fostering, he was not yet matched with an adoptive family,  The center had given him the nickname "Buddy".  We quickly discovered that Buddy was not mentally handicapped, but starved for affection.  The center has a nice facility and an excellent nanny to baby ratio.  However, Buddy never cried and therefore, didn't get as much attention as other babies.  He just needed to be loved.  We took him back to the nursery a couple of weeks later to get some shots and everyone kept asking us what we had done to this baby.  He was so different.  (I'm not a preacher, but isn't that what God's love does to us?)  

A couple of months later he was matched with a really awesome family from Canada and then began the wait.  We quickly, or rather slowly discovered that governments do not move fast when processing adoption papers.  And Taiwan drags it out as long as they can.  From December until September, we waited on paperwork and  court dates and decrees.  During this time, we absolutely fell in love with this baby that we were entrusted with.  

Many people, when they realized that we were fostering, ask questions.  And maybe you have some of those same questions, so here is a Q and A.

Q: Do you hope to adopt?
A:  We aren't opposed, but just haven't felt led to.

Q: Why didn't you adopt Buddy if he wasn't matched with a family?
A: We seriously prayed about it, but didn't feel that was what God had planned.  Plus, knowing that families had been on the waiting list for a long time to adopt, meant that he was going to get matched.

Q:Do you want a third child?
A: Actually, I'm very satisfied with the two I have.  It could happen one day, but no plans!

Q: Are you unable to have another child, so this fulfills a need in you? 
A: If I wanted a third child, I do not anticipate any problems, so, no.

Q: Do you think it is sad that his mother gave him up?
A: Honestly, no.  She gave him life and then made a decision that allowed him to be adopted by a family that really wants him.  She opened the door for him to go from an unwanted pregnancy to an anticipated blessing. 

Q: Wow!  You must have had a lot of free time to decide to foster!
A: Um, not really!  But you know the old saying, "If you want to get something done, give it to a busy person!"

Q:Will you foster again?
A: Short term, definitely.  Long term, that's up to God!

Q: How will you ever give him up when his family comes?  Won't it hurt too bad?
A: Yes, it hurt.  But I've found that when you are walking down a road that God has prepared for you, he walks with you.  So, we were sad to see him go, but at the same time, filled with an immense peace that could only come from God.

"Buddy" on his 1st birthday

We had Titus (the name given to him from his adoptive family) for a little over a year.  Our greatest hope is that he will grow up to feel secure and with a desire to know and serve God.  I know that he will not remember the time he spent with us, but hopefully, something was transferred in the spirit.  He was always lifting his hands and clapping in church.  Once, I was crying during prayer meeting and he climbed in my lap and wiped my tears away.  I guess you could say that we hope we were a blessing to him in the year we took care of him.  But, I'm pretty sure we were blessed the most just by getting a chance to know and love this awesome kid!


Titus left last week with his new family.  After arriving back home, they shared a picture with me of Titus and his 3 siblings.  It did my heart so good to see him laughing and smiling!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bracken Blurbs

#1-  Last year, while we were in the US, Chris was preaching at a church.  Sometimes, at the beginning of his preaching, he will speak a little Chinese and then translate for himself.  Just maybe 4 or 5 sentences where he goes back and forth between two languages.  Well, the next day, the church secretary calls me over and says that she has the best story to tell me.  She did not disappoint.  It seems that two ladies were sitting in the back of the church during Chris' preaching.  One lady has a known hearing problem, but staunchly refuses to admit it.  However, during Chris' preaching, even she started to think that maybe her ears should be checked.  She turned to her friend and said, "I can't understand a word he is saying!  It is like he is speaking a foreign language!"  Her friend then leaned over and replied, "He is speaking a foreign language.  He's speaking Chinese!"  Of course, that got them both tickled and they even had to step out of the church for a moment to get themselves back together. 


#2- A few months ago, our family was all talking around the dinner table.  We always sometimes have the most random, stream of consciousness conversations.  That day, we had somehow gotten into a conversation about lips.  I wish I could explain how we got there, but I have no idea why we were discussing lips.  Ethan had been pretty quiet the whole time.  There was a break in the conversation and he suddenly pipes up with, "Lips.  I've been on the wrong side of those before."  Yes, in case you are wondering, he has reached the age where it is embarrassing to be kissed by your mom.


#3- The other day, I packed the diaper bag in a super big hurry.  We were trying to get out the door for church and I needed to grab a clean burp cloth/ spit cloth for the baby.  Now, I'll tell you a secret.  I'm horrible at getting folded clothes from the laundry room table put up in their proper places.  And that day was not different.  So, I ran downstairs, grabbed a cloth and some extra baby clothes and shoved it all in the diaper bag.  On Wednesdays, I teach an English class before church, so Chris watches Titus (Our foster baby).  I always get back to the church right as prayer is starting.  So, after prayer, I notice that Titus ate a cracker when he was with Chris and now I need to change his clothes.  I know church is about to start, so I quickly dig through the diaper bag to get his extra clothes out.  Onesie- check!  Pants- check! Wait.  What's this?  Then I discover, to my absolute horror, I am also holding a pair of my... unmentionables!!  It seems that in my hurry to grab things off the laundry table, I accidently snagged a pair and now I'm sharing them with anyone in the church who happens to be looking!  As you can imagine, I quickly shoved them into the side pocket of the diaper bag.  But my face was still bright red and I got the nervous giggles!  Chris just happen to walk over at that moment to ask me a question.  After 12 years of marriage he just said,  "What did you do? Nevermind.  I don't want to know."

Is it Possible?

Is it possible I haven't written in almost a year?  I remember as a kid feeling like summer break lasted an eternity and my grandmother would tell me, "Just wait.  Time flies when you get older."  And indeed it does, Mamaw!





So, what have we been doing? Well, long story long, here is a brief run through.  We went to the US.  We came home. School started. We started fostering a dog to see if we would like to have a dog.  We started fostering a baby not to see if we would like another. Thanksgiving came.  We avoided turkey just to be different.  Christmas came.  We all got sick.  New Years came.  We went on vacation to try to recover.  January was cold.  Taiwan National Conference came.  It was awesome. March came.  Things settled down a bit.  April came.  It was hot.  The Kaohsiung Church celebrated its 31st anniversary. I remembered I had a blog once.


Well, that's it.  Good bye for another year. 




I'm just kidding! I am going to try and get the details down for all posterity soon.  Until then, God's blessings on you!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Dear Uncle Trey...

Dear Uncle Trey,

In preparation of coming to the U.S., I have had to say almost everything to my kids twice.  This is your fault.  They want me to say things normal and then say it "Southern".  They just discovered in this last year that people from the south have an accent.  I guess I have pretty much lost mine, except for when I am mad.  At least, that is what Chris tells me.  I guess that most people revert back to their native language when they are mad. But, let's get back on topic.

 They want to speak with a southern accent so they can talk to YOU!  I'm not sure how you all have been communicating for the last 10 years, but it must not have been working...
 
So they have been practicing how to say Y'all.  And they are horrible at it!  They say it too high pitched.  The southern voice in my head cries in agony every time they say it.  (Could you perhaps help them with that when you see them in August?  Thanks!)  They are both pretty good at the "Uh-UUH" you seem to say a lot. Honestly, though, we love you!

Dear Uncle Dominick,

It seems that you can understand "non-southern" English.  Congratulations! We love you, too!     

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's Summer, Y'all!!

This may be the first time and perhaps the last that you guys will read the word "Y'all" on my blog, but it just felt right!  And I am from Alabama, so, there's that. 

Hey!  It is Summer!  And I haven't written forever!  I have thought about this blog and kept my list of story idea, but alas, the muse has not been with me.  But I feel it returning.

My sweet kids are on summer break now.  They are now officially third and fourth graders!  But, living in Taiwan has taught me something.  Every summer, we hang out, play, sleep in and in general, just do what kids should do in summer.  However, their Chinese classmates all go to extra classes, practice up on their math skills and probably build rockets or something.  The point is that they stay educationally active in the summer and us, not so much.  And we have to play catch up in August.  So I thought that I would pick up a few workbooks for the kids to just practice in their down time, i.e. when they say they are bored.  Today, that time arrived.  Abbey comes in my room wanting something to do.

  "Go read your library books", I say.  She has already finished them.

 "Go play outside', I say.  It's too hot.

 "What about your Polly Pockets?"  She's bored with them, plus Ethan was doing something else and she didn't want to play alone.

 I grab the Math workbook and give it to her.  Actually, I just held it out to her.  She never actually took it because she was scooting away from me and the workbook.

 "Here, practice this and time yourself.  The first couple of pages are super easy!"

 To which she replied, "Mom, are you kidding me?  Math?  I hate math!!"

 I decided not to push the issue because, well, moms like summer break, too.  Later I heard her telling Ethan about it.

 "Ethan, mom tried to make me do Math today.  During Summer break!"

 "Dude, you're kidding!  Math?"

 I chimed in with, "Well, I just don't want you kids to forget everything in the summer."  Ethan's reply?

 "Mom, it's like in our brains.  We won't forget.  It's impossible."

 Anyone need a math workbook?  Cause I've got genius kids that don't need this one.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bracken Blurbs... again

I love to see the world through my kids eyes.  Their perceptions are sometimes amusing and often very insightful.  As many of you know that have been following this blog since they were babies, they are apt to say anything and let's just say that bashfulness isn't something we have discussed very much in our house.  Proper times to say certain things is a frequent conversation topic in the Bracken household.  So, without further ado, here are a few of the most recent observations:

1.  A few months ago, the kids and I were reading the story of the Princess and the Pea.  Halfway through the story, Ethan said, "Wait, it's a pea you eat?"  When I said yes, he replied, "I always thought that she just peed the bed!"  Yeah, that WOULD be hard not to notice!

2.  Just last night, Ethan was talking and he said, "A long time ago, when they had snail mail..."  Oh, I feel old!  I can actually remember a time when there was no e-mail and I actually had a pen pal! That wasn't as long ago as you might think...

3.  This last one, it isn't directly about a Bracken.  Some of you might remember this blog that was meant as a joke.  I thought that most people would get the punch line.  Apparently not.  About three weeks after I wrote it, a girl in my church came up to me and ask where that supermarket was located at.  I ask her, "What supermarket?"  "The one that you wrote about in your blog!  I've searched all over the internet and can't find it!"  And cue the hysterical laughter.  I laughed until I cried and could not breathe.  Somewhere in the middle, I wheezed out an explanation.  Then she laughed until she cried and couldn't breathe.  We were both possibly tired.  After we caught our breath, she told me that she had spent a couple of hours searching the internet and even going to the chamber of commerce page to try and find out about any new supermarkets in Kaohsiung.  Then she search for the whole island to see if it was in another town.  Amazingly, she was unable to locate it.  I wonder why... 

4.  Recently, Abbey and Ethan have both developed a slightly annoying habit.  I fully recognize that is just a part of growing up.  In fact, I can remember doing the same as a kid.  What is it that they are doing, you ask?  They will ask us a question.  When we answer, they will say, "I know".  To which I say, "If you already knew, why did you ask me?"  Their answer?  "I was just seeing if you knew the answer!"  Thank God for college!

5.  Last one!  We have a Sunday School contest going right now.  If you can memorize a scripture and tell a teacher at Sunday School, you get a point.  Points can be used to "buy" big prizes.  There is no limit on the number of scriptures you can say in one class time.  So, last Sunday, both kids remembered this before church.  They got their Bibles and started searching for a scripture to memorize.  When it came to tell the teacher, I didn't know which ones they had chosen.  But their choices so reflected their personalities!  Ethan quoted one from Revelation concerning one of the beast and Abbey quoted a lovely one from Psalms!  I LOVE IT!!