what it looks like to trust in Jesus

she believes! kavita has decided to put her faith in God -- to give all of her past, present, and future, to the One True God!

God, thank You for opening her eyes, for answering our prayers, her prayers, for being her ultimate Rescuer. I praise You! You are good. I love that You have used camp, friends, family, and hard conversations to lead her. 

in coming home june 2015, she was eager and quick to learn english. she took to songs and biblical teaching easy. she loved church, kid classes, camp, bible school. she was reading her Bible and always learning in advance the set list for worship songs each sunday. every time in the van, "mom, can you turn on some church music?"

this spring, tension developed as i believe she was at a crossroads with, "do i believe all of this about Jesus?" she doubted. she questioned how we could hear and talk to God who we can't see. it felt silly to pray. 

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brakes and accelerators {an adoption thought}

you can do this! we learned it last week. if I had 2 sets of four, how many do i have?

10?

what?

it's the same as 4+4!

oh, 8, then.

yes!

now, how do you spell thursday?

wait...why you are you using your fingers to spell thursday?

because i know that it has 8 letters.

what? who taught you that?

i did.

i shake my head. most of the head shaking is because i don't know what i'm doing!

here's our story:

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our ten year old daughter jumped feet first into our family 10 months ago.

she has a long list of what she wants to do in life including tennis, playing the piano, speaking on stage, riding a bike, and playing in the snow.

but her drive for learning math and reading is, well... it's getting better!

if it doesn't require much brain space, we call it easy.

biting into an apple is easy.

if it requires some thinking and figuring out and talking it out and working in out and getting handy...we call it learning.

sounding out a word is learning.

telling time is learning.

she had no formal education from what we can gather and spent her 5-9 years of life in an orphanage and went to "school."

of course, those years, she was taught in her native language and speaks none of it among us now.

 so i started homeschooling her with kindergarten in august.

we knew our city district would require her to go into at least 3rd grade and she wasn't ready for that.

we are fortunate that i stay at home and could be her teacher, though i felt and still feel ill-equipped.

we had pre-determined that i would teach her at home for one year and that she would join her brothers at their elementary school.

it's been a tough road for me. i had rose-colored glasses on in how our days would be spent, me reading to her for a while, then her picking up those books and reading to me. us galavanting around the city at the zoo and museums discussing matters of science and technology and how things work and dreaming about the future together.

i thought she would love to learn from me {ha!} and that my strategy for teaching would be her perfect way of learning.

i didn't think it would be this.

one minute putting on the brakes and the other minute pressing the accelerator.

this is how I'm living as a adoptive-mom-who-is-homeschooling-our-daughter-in-her-first-year-of-life-with-us.

my role is more like a tutor where i can gauge what she's comprehending and make a future lesson plan based on that.

we can spend more time on number grids because they're challenging at the present

and less time on coins because we've talked about them for as long as lincoln has been dead.

yet the hard part in driving this journey is knowing when to stop and spend more time and when to push forward.

to stop and make sure the foundation of reading and addition and subtraction are there.

yet to press the accelerator because she will be in fourth grade in august and will be expected to know multiplication.

she doesn't have the luxury of taking 4 years with kindergarten through 3rd grade. she's an older adopted child and this is a sacrifice on her part.

she has to learn quick. she has had to re-wire her mind to be always learning and to remember what she has learned.

she has had to learn to apply what she's learning in math when she's counting her money or when we're cooking.

at the orphanage, she seldom left the grounds. she didn't get to use what she was being taught.

i tell her that she has a "holding place" in her brain that holds information

and that she has a "working place" in her brain where wheels are moving and helping her process and figure things out.

that "holding place" stores memories and such.

that "working place" was dormant for years.

it's a beautiful thing to see her thinking. to see her wondering.

i'm not her favorite person when i press the accelerator at certain times

and she's not a princess when she refuses to try something hard.

but if you were to hear her today, you'd be like "wow! your english is great, kavita!" or "you've grown so much in the past 10 months!" and i'd agree with you. she certainly has. she's made the sacrifice and can't wait to join her brothers in school in the fall. she's a social one and the two of us staring at each other at "lunch" is very un-enchanting.

it's been quite a learning process of brakes and accelerators.

and it's not just bound to teaching an adoptive child.

it's caring for your elderly parents.

it's pushing through a busy work season to get to take a break and rest.

it's receiving wisdom and choosing to move forward or slow down.

it's wanting more for your child when he refuses to budge or wanting your child to slow down when he's doing too much.

it's looking at the calendar and feeling like there's no brake to press.

it's accelerating through 2016 and feeling like time is not on our side.

you and me, we need to take a drive.

not through my city. there's constant stop signs and traffic lights that give my shins a fit.

not down the 101. oh please!

but along the coast. around the bends. along the water's edge. along the cliffs.

where the beauty lies. where brakes and accelerators are needed.

to stop and see what's most important and to press forward believing something spectacular is still to be seen.

kavita has consistent park dates and we have friends over and she loves to run errands with me like the boys did when they were preschool age. she takes swim on friday mornings and gets some good daddy time on his day off. and yes, we've been to the zoo, the nursing home to read to the residents, to the beach on a sunny day, to the academy of science, to the asian art museum, and i'd keep listing them to clear my conscience, but i've got to get back to the accelerator.

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chapter 25 {a special reunion}

it's such a beautiful and miraculous thing when the kids that did life together for years in an indian orphanage

see each other again in their forever families.

for these kids were bunkmates and classmates.

their stories of abandonment are a common thread.

difficult pasts, yet some cheerful memories they hold internally, yet collectively.

for the past few months, these kids have written each other in their new language and shared silly faces over FaceTime.

so seeing each other has been somewhat common, but face to face since orphanage days?

months in the making, we revealed to kavita just an hour before the big moment.

she was so surprised!

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Sneha, Kavita, Asher, Smita, Ajay.

{Smita and Ajay are siblings and have been home 2 years. Sneha came home this fall.}

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these four are chatting with two sisters who came home to their forever families in july. we are grateful to be connected with them as well. these two sisters were a part of the A7 {the 7 kids we were fighting for in court}. they live in the midwest.

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if playing at chick-fil-a wasn't enough, we treated the girls to american girl!

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this is just the beginning.

for they thought they would never see each other again or have this tangible string to their past.

now they have both and it's good for their momma's hearts too.

for we are sharing stories and saying prayers for one another as we seek to raise these precious kids.

chapter 24 {6 months home}

for years she was an exquisite beauty on a flat page. i couldn't even guess her personality or assume characteristics. now here in the flesh, my daughter, is a gift to unwrap every single day.

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and to be quite honest, she didn't know she had a personality deep inside. she didn't have permission to dream or explore or create or imagine outside the four walls she lived inside.

 but that has changed now!

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photographer one day. doctor the next.

always a princess and sometimes a girl at the office.

typically a store clerk and occasionally a college student.

because of her brothers, a 'knock out' basketball player.

because of her moves, a dancer.

because of our church community, a singer and toe tapper.

because of her father, a giggler and tickler.

because of her the woman behind these words, a journalist and planner.

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we have celebrated her roots and will do so always.

sparklers for diwali and mounds of sweets from our friend.

lots of text messages and face time chats and pictures and letters sent to her ashram friends now in the States.

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even though there's a dozen years of parenting in us, which includes lots of 'fly by the seat of our pants' moments and a heaping amount of intentional moments, this is a whole new world!

to see her with a dual lens. to see her with the past that has shaped her and to see the potential to be unlocked as she grasps how loved and valued and safe she is.

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in order to get her caught up to 4th grade for next school year, i've pressed her hard at learning to read English. so much so that she frequently says, "us, pilgreens, do hard things!"

we're tackling together kindergarten through 3rd grade in one calendar year and it's everything you could possibly imagine! we're joining brothers on their school field trips and figuring out how to apply what was learned in the "classroom" to grocery shopping, serving, playing, and every day living.

she's reading. really reading!

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she's holding and releasing a butterfly!

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she's out on the water for the very first time. and under the golden gate bridge no doubt. and this is just a regular ole field trip!

i still sit stunned that she is with us. to hold her hand at the dining table and think that for years elijah and i just held our hands open to the one who would eventually sit between us.

and then to hear these exchanges:

kavita: "i'm sorry."

asher: "but you didn't do anything."

kavita: "but you're hurt."

asher: "but it wasn't your fault."

kavita: "but you're my brother."

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we've covered dozens of parks.

she loves going to the library.

she's growing her hair out and wishes i had a closet of high heels.

she knows where i keep my lip gloss and thinks we're all so cool to have phones that do everything.

she can be anywhere and turn anything into an office for play.

she is now having quite lengthy confident conversations with folks at church.

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chapter 23 {capacity to learn}

home for 2 months. home for forever.

some days it feels short. other days it feels like always.

kavita hope goes non-stop in processing her new world.

some days are heavier than others in learning english, our family and the culture.

those days are filled with lots of questions and touches and curiosities and discoveries.

other days are observation days. taking it all in through a much quieter, contemplative way.

the curious days are definitely the more popular!

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this daughter of ours is adding dozens of new words and concepts per day.

"ocean blue?"

"can be ocean red?"

"some day?"

"after saturday?"

asher says, "oh my!"

kavita replies, "who's Oh My?"

my favorite is "beauty sleeping" for Sleeping Beauty.

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i remember in the first few weeks we would pretend to have a tea party with a plastic tea set. the concept of "pretend" was not there. we looked really strange to her as we "sampled" cookies and drank our "tea!"

now she's leading the tea parties and making construction paper food for tingley and bear.

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in the world of getting caught up, she's had her first dental visit and pediatric appointment.

she's begun to get immunized and loved the watermelon flavor at the dentist.

we've got a plan moving forward as we work with the dentist and endodonist to repair some teeth and clean out cavities.

the first doctor's visit was great...it's just not the last one! we've got blood work to do so we can establish a baseline for her and her health.

so i'm thankful that she's at home with me this year as we do school together, get in all the necessary appointments, and restore what was lost in her childhood.

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she began to pray and  i'm learning all over again that modeling proceeds action.

"thank You God."

"thank you God. gifts. family. mom. dad. elijah. sam. asher. friends."

so we pray and we sing...

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i thank God that while it was a long 3 year journey for us and for her, Kavita's heart was protected and her desire to grow through hardship and beyond an institutionalized way of life is amazing.

she wants more.

she wants all life has to offer.

and she's learning that God is the giver of such.

she's also learning she can talk to Jesus anytime...not just at bedtime.

so while she, myself, and asher were playing the board game, sorry, and she wasn't drawing a 1 or 2 to move her pawn out off start, she prayed, "Jesus, please 1 or 2, please Jesus!"

 

chapter 20 {fragile superwoman}

it's been clear to me since the afternoon we were all six inside our home, that her heart had been prepared for God for this.

to fit right in.

to become one of us.

to be where she belongs.

i've said in a chapter before that kavita was given our family photo book in january 2014 and would look at it every morning. then she would tuck it away in her school backpack. though she couldn't read our words or our names, she knew our faces very well. 18 months well.

i thank God so much for this. that she had access to our pictures while we had access to hers. we were memorizing each other long before we could touch each other.

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i call her my fragile superwoman.

extremely strong and empowered to go where she's never gone before.

confident to climb high and go around the block again.

happy to get her feet wet and wipe the water off her face.

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but to be handled with care and sensitivity.

a delicate heart that has old walls of protection built up.

a cuddler on the big chair in the mornings.

a jumper into daddy's arms.

a girl. {that's a new one for us! just being a girl and all the fragility that can bring!}

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so many firsts as fragile superwoman:

first drinking water fountain experience {used her hands}

outing in the van in our pajamas to look at fireworks on july 4th {thought it was quite silly to wear pjs outside the house}

frozen soundtrack and movie {nothing more to say}

washing machine {she absolutely loves it! she did her own laundry, so this is quite a win}

prayer {she's the first to clasps her hands together}

seat belt {buckle as she calls it}

a play kitchen {oh the joy on her face at a nearby play space}

sidewalk chalk {to write on the ground and not just on her school slate}

ordering something and it coming to the door in a bag!

another first that we've waited for...

seeing her friends from the orphanage that have been out of there for 18 months. friends we have met while kavita was in the orphanage and we were fighting for her.

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bashful at first, then they were soon introducing their stuffed bears to each other and making silly faces!

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then my favorite. ajay showed us his room and one of his favorite books. kavita was happy to show him the same book we read each night.

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then just the other night in the van coming home from the park, she tried to engage in conversation with us rather than just listening. it's great to see her point to herself and say, "you" rather than "me!" and then today she brought a notebook and pencil with her and was writing down words she saw while we drove across town. superwoman.

 

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i'm so ready to know her like i know my boys. to know what hurts when she cries and what that smile is really saying. i want to know the treasure chests of thoughts and ideas and dreams and pain she has locked up for now. fragile.

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and some days it feels like we have been a family of 6 for 3 months with all that we've discovered together, but it's really just been a short time. so i will let her keep being the fragile superwoman she is. because she's showing me her confident spirit behind the mask and i've waited 3 years to take care and hold such a sensitive and sweet girl of mine.

chapter 19 {first week home}

she loves to laugh.

helps with meals and cleans up. immediately.

first 5 nights at home, slept on pallet in the family room with her 3 brothers.

gets tickled to watch me shuffle the uno cards when we play.

we certainly thought the climate in cool san francisco would be a shock to her hot climate culture, but oh no. she's got no need for even a jacket so far. hot natured girl.

we've given her 2 children's books in gujarati and she loves to read them to us.

she holds close to her photos of her friends back at the orphanage.

she says all of our names frequent and well.

she eats everything we are eating though we are making her special dishes we ate in india!

she says, "sorry."

"thank you."

"please."

we're pretty sure she understands more than she says in english and we're in awe that it's just been a week!

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call it a "honeymoon," call it what you may. i'm calling it living in answered prayers.

not expecting perfection. not expecting a smooth journey ahead. but am relishing in what we've got right before us.

"praise awaits you, our God...You who answer prayer, to you all people will come. You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds, God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas...the whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy." {Psalm 65.1-2,5,8}

it's also called summer! something we really haven't enjoyed since school got out last month.

we are embracing home in the mornings and outings in the afternoon just like we normally would.

except we've got a precious girl seeing all of this for the very first time...

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the pacific ocean. if you could hear her soft 'oohs!'

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the texture of the sand, she just can't grasp. though she held up countless hands of it and let the wind blow it away again and again.

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then mitchell's ice cream {thanks to a family gift card} where she delightfully consumed mango sherbet with rainbow sprinkles.

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day 2 we took her to one of our favorite playgrounds where she swung and swung and swung some more.

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"hi, asher."

"hi, kavita."

"hi, sam."

"hi, kavita."

repeat.

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moments come when i feel like we have a toddler on our hands as we teach her new things and social norms.

then on the other hand, we've clearly got a 9 year old girl who's going places...all the way to the top!

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day 3 was all about golden gate park and the many things to see and do there.

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picnic at stow lake while watching the ducks and paddle boats go by.

a walk around the lake.

a ride on a carousel.

more swings and playground time.

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all on a perfect day.

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getting over jet lag and ben enjoying the last days of paternity leave, we spent sunday getting her a pair of shoes that actually fit.

how is it that the store had only one more pair of keen sandals and they were pink and her size?!

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she's grown so in being in retail places! the first time in the mall in india, she thought everything was free for all! and why wouldn't it be to her? she's learning the concept that dad has to pay for those shoes and we have to be careful what we touch!

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then a stroll to our neighborhood park where she picked up the fundamentals of baseball!

then playground time...and swings!

monday we said goodbye to the older two as they headed to church camp. i'm so curious if she understands that.

i needed a taste of comfort, so ben treated us to chick-fil-a in walnut creek.

she immediately was drawn to the chicken wrap as it resembles something from india. but she set that aside and devoured the waffle fries and chicken nuggets and of course, the icedream cone!

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AT&T park has their children's lot open on non-game days, so we did the slides and played some ball. it was more like batting practice as running the bases didn't seem to fit for her!

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though it's summer, kavita had just returned to school in india. they took off april and may and she was just getting back into the books when we picked her up. she's constantly writing her numbers and the english alphabet, so i pulled out a few worksheets to do each morning. she has a strong desire to learn.

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tuesday we joined some family friends at a nearby pool for hours of jumping in and getting out and jumping in. {repetition is good!}

and yes, it was that warm in san francisco for this mom to get in!

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kavita is adjusting so well. she's bonding to her brothers and to her mom and dad.

it's simply remarkable at how brave she has been in leaving the familiar and learning a new world.

she's tried more new things in 7 days than a normal human being.

she's embracing this life with such a smile.

i know i'm showing the surface here and there is far more to this beauty deep down.

i know she misses her dear friends at the orphanage and has stomached the foods i have offered.

i also know if this girl continues to give me the gift of herself everyday, i will grow in my confidence and courage as well.

she's such a gift from God and we've got so much to unwrap together!

chapter 17 {kavita lands in america and meets her brothers}

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we're home. and home has never felt so good!

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when we boarded the plane in delhi, we explained that the first plane would take us to dubai and the second plane would take us to america. her grin and head nod led us to believe she completely understood. and she did. 20 hours on a plane and we maybe slept 3 hours. but it's what it takes to go to the other side of the world to bring your daughter home!

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clearing customs and immigration in san francisco took some time, but once handing over the sealed packet of documents to u.s. immigration, her india passport was stamped and she was declared a u.s. citizen. we picked up our bags, cleared customs, and rounded the corner to what we were most excited about...seeing the other half of our family...the boys and our san francisco family.

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we gave hugs and mustered up genuine thank you's without coming unglued ourselves. to see friends at the airport was the most beautiful thing i've seen since we met kavita a week ago. i love that these 20 or so friends and children could see kavita. could see their faith made sight. our hearts are full knowing we are loved and supported as we learn to be a family of 6.

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we hopped into our family van, kavita buckled up between sam and asher in the back seat.

she seemed to recognize home as we arrived. elijah and sam showed her where we put our shoes when we come through the door. the boys gave her a tour and then she needed to unpack her backpack. we could tell this was necessary for her. it's all she has, so she thinks. and for a week now, we've lived out of backpacks and suitcases, so it looked like she was treating her room like a hotel...another place to stay. the rest of us looked on.

we've lived life with kavita for a week now, so it was so wonderful to watch the boys spend their first few hours with her.

"mom, this is amazing."

"this is crazy that she's actually her."

"i can't believe she's really here."

they colored together.

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she and i watched as the boys played their usual nerf basketball game.

they introduced her to legos.

creative play is a new thing for kavita.

to have access to a home to be free to play. to have games and toys.

but she was warming up. she began hopping around from this to that.

then it was high speed energy from 4-6 pm!

hide n seek.

switch 1, 2, 3.

night at the museum.

all games the boys were teaching her.

full laughter was in the house.

ben and i had talked a few days ago that her time with just us was good, but she needed the boys. she needed children to play.

one thing she did while playing with the boys was speaking to them in full sentences in gujarati. she was so caught up in play that she spoke what was natural.

my heart smiled to watch this.

we held hands as a family and thanked God for pizza and being together.

and then we sat down at the kitchen table to eat. elijah and i looked at each other because there's been an empty seat between the two of us for some time now. not anymore! our 6 chairs were full!

the boys taught her how to clear the table though this girl certainly knew how to help serve others first before sitting down herself.

the kids {that already sounds funny off the tongue after saying boys for 9 years}

got pajamas on and we laid down bedding in the family room.

all of us in our 'hi' pajamas settled in for a giants game. that's what we pilgreens do.

and i knew if she were tired and anything like me, she'd fall asleep to the voices of baseball announcers.

yep. exactly. sound asleep at 7:15 before the first pitch!

she slept a full night like the boys all in the family room while ben and i slept most of the night in our own glorious bed.

then morning came...

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and in our home, as a family of 6,

she woke up happy to the rest of her life.

to be continued...

chapter 16 {she's all covered}

 

this child has been covered longer than we have known her.

her heavenly Father has never taken His eyes off of her.

ben and i have voiced a time or two the past few days that we have not been able to process all that we have touched and witnessed in the flesh, but we are in awe that this is real.

last june we were denied.

this june we are united.

she's all covered.

as soon as we could, we went to the u.s. embassy. ben entered through security and came back to the car in 15 minutes with this beauty!

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the tightly sealed packet is for customs on u.s. soil, the pretty envelope he is holding? officer said, "ours forever!"

it's the hague adoption certificate! plus her passport with a visa stamped inside!

folks, she's coming to america!

kavita will be a u.s. citizen in a few short hours when we walk through immigration at the sfo airport.

she's covered!

 

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then we got our hands covered!

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something i've wanted to do with my daughter.

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we did some shopping at the dilli haat and all i could sing was "sweat drops are running down my legs" to the tune of raindrops are falling on my head!

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ben helped her with some gold bangles and she is so proud of an english alphabet book she picked out.

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we enjoyed a good last meal before going to sleep a few short hours before boarding a few planes taking us about 24 hours to get home.

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it's been so fun and the days have gotten sweeter as we learn and bond.

but as we rest, we want to thank you for covering us in prayer.

this prayer covering has traveled the world and so have your prayers.

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see you soon.

with a new little american citizen!

a very prayed for american citizen!