The End of The First Day

A NOTE TO THE READER: This is one post in a series of posts that will share the story of how I came to know and grew to love my daughters who were adopted at fourteen years old, mere days before they aged out of the adoption system. It does not reflect my feelings now. I choose to share my story to address a topic that is taboo in the adoption community. I share it to normalize the feelings that so many feel and yet are too ashamed to share. I share it to provide support to those who feel alone because there’s a big white elephant in the room, and no one can talk about it. I share it in support of adoption, in support of every single precious child waiting for a family, every one of which deserves to be loved and is lovable, every single one. Why can’t we talk about it? The feelings are real. The process of attachment can be easy and it can be painful, and the more we support parents who experience the painful side of adoption, the more we help the children. There are far too many disruptions, especially of older children, and if we as a community can come to see the feelings and the process as normal, perhaps we can provide support to those families and in doing so, help the children. Adoption is rooted in pain and loss, and often the process is painful. AND it’s okay. Before you offer your criticism, please read, Eliza Today, A Preface, and God’s Heart and Workers for His Harvest Field .

The night before Eliza’s gotcha day, we found an open wound on the the bottom of Evangeline’s foot, right on the knuckle, oozing infection with rotten flesh and opened down to the bone. Evangeline’s gotcha day was on the 9th of September, and Eliza’s was on the 12th. Evangeline was as tiny as a six year old, yet she was nearly fourteen, and I was giving her space and allowing her to choose when she would shower.

Our guide in Xian was a man, and we didn’t feel as comfortable with him as we did with our guide in Guangzhou. We arrived in Guangzhou about 11pm the night before we were to get Eliza. I mentioned in passing to our guide that Evangeline had not taken a shower yet, and asked her to talk to her about it.

Within moments our guide came out to the living room area of our hotel room and told us she wasn’t taking a shower because she had a wound on her foot.

She sat Evangeline on the bed, and spoke in Mandarin to her. Evangeline took off her shoes and unwrapped her tiny foot with the adeptness of a child who had cared for herself for a long time. As she unwrapped the wound, I could see the dark yellow stain on the bandage. Was it infected?

Then she took off the last layer of gauze. The wound was deep and raw. This was no new wound. My mind raced in fear for her. How had she walked all over the streets of the cities with us and never complained? Did she feel it? Why was it there? How long had it been there? And then, how do I care for it until we get her home?

At midnight, our guide and Mark ran off to a pharmacy to get gauze and antibiotic cream to re-bandage it. Evangeline and I waited at the Hotel for the gauze to wash and re-wrap her foot. I helped her bathe while keeping her foot dry.

Soon our guide, Rebecca, and Mark came back with dressings for the wound. We put antibiotic ointment on it and covered it again with bandages. We discussed whether to take her to the hospital the next day or not.

We were to get Eliza at 10am that very morning.

I tucked Evangeline in bed and tried to sleep. My mind was so full of the days events. We bonded with Evangeline immediately. Her needs were big, even bigger than we had expected, but caring for her felt natural, easy, as if I had birthed her myself. The feelings flooded me, and surprised me at the same time. It was Evangeline I had worried about meeting. We’d only decided to adopt her a few months before we travelled and had had no contact with her or updates. We had sent a care package, but had no idea if she had ever received it, or if she knew she was being adopted, or even if she wanted a family.

I had lain awake the night before we met her praying, wondering, so filled with excitement and anxiety all mixed up in one tumultuous mixture of feelings that rushed through my mind like water rushes over the falls. And then the moment had come, and I felt as in love and proud as any new mother with our newest daughter.

The hours were short that night before we met Eliza. I lay wake then too. Praying for our sweet girl I felt I already knew. We had even skyped with her. We had walked her through our home and shown her the bedroom we had just redecorated for Victoria and Eliza. I felt I knew her. My feelings that night were more excitement than fear.

But now, here I was in the hotel room with both of our daughters, and I felt such anxiety and exhaustion and confusion.

The phone rang, it was Rebecca. “We can take Evangeline to the hospital now.”

Oh, I thought, and wondered how Eliza would feel about spending her first afternoon with her new parents at a hospital. This wasn’t how I’d wanted it to be either. I wanted to stay in the Hotel and begin to know Eliza, our newest daughter. Yet this was real life, not my dreams or thoughts of how Eliza’s first day with us should be. “Yes.” I said to Rebecca. “We’ll be down in a few minutes.”

We left the room, locked the door behind us, and turned to walk toward the elevator. Eliza was yards ahead of us, almost to the elevator. She had run the length of the hall with her left arm straight out to the side, touching the wall, and moving it up and down as she ran in a wave like fashion.

“Wait!” We hollered, and Evangeline said something in Mandarin.

Eliza kept going and by the time we had reached the elevator, had already pushed the call button, and the doors to the elevator were beginning to close. I stuck my arm through the doors. They stopped and opened again. Eliza ran in and began pushing the buttons in the elevator.

I grabbed her hands, breathless, “No. Wait.” I said afraid to take her out on the streets.

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Her lovely dark eyes, looked at me, deep and penetrating. They reflected something, not defiance, not anger, not even disappointment. Perhaps it was sadness, or the first pieces of a wall that was forming between us, right there, in the elevator.

My hands began to shake as I let go of hers. I longed to make her comfortable, to ease her fears, to tell her I wasn’t so bad, that I would love her and never hurt her.

The elevator door opened, and we all walked together into the lovely lobby enshrouded in the opulence, rich mahogany and gilded mirrors, of the Garden Hotel in Guangzhou. Rebecca was waiting. We exchanged pleasantries, and I asked her to explain to Eliza where we were going and why, and to add that I was sorry we had to go on the very first day with us.

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Rebecca began to speak to Eliza in the beautiful rapid, tonal language that they shared. Eliza shook her head as if she understood. We walked to the van. Eliza climbed into the back, as far away from us as she could.

Her fear was palpable, and mine was too. I longed more than anything to ease her fears I wanted to tell her that I yearned to know her, to love her. I wanted her to know that more than anything I loved being a mother and that I considered it an incredible privilege to be the one who would have the privilege of mothering her. I wanted to tell her that I was scared too.

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And I wanted to tell her we would keep her safe.

Yet I didn’t know her words, nor did she know mine. I could have asked our guide to tell her those things. Yet, somehow, sitting a row ahead of her in the van with the driver dashing through the crowded streets of Guangzhou, I felt lost in the rush of the moment.

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The hours long hospital visit proved to be a disappointment. They could offer us no information, and only told us they’d fix it when we got to America.

Tired and a bit dejected, we went back to the hotel and ate noodles for supper. Eliza showed me a cd of pictures she had brought with her from her orphanage of her life from as far back as when she was three years old. Somehow, with our bodies, we communicated about each one. She told me about each of the children in the pictures, what their special need was, if they had a family, and other details she thought of. She told me about the nannies, the ones she liked and the ones she didn’t.

These moments with Eliza were precious, the pictures priceless. We had begun to bond, and I was so thankful for her willingness to share this part of her life with me.

It was late. We’d all had a long day, so we went to bed. I was so thankful that both of our girls were in our arms, and aware of the incredible miracle we were in the midst of.

For this child I prayed, and the LORD has granted me my petition that I made to him. ~ 1 Samuel 1:27

Blessings All!

Sharing a friend’s blog.

This is a post written by a friend in response to the many negative comments written about my sharing the difficulties I had bonding with Eliza. It is excellent and well written and well worth your time to read it.

You can read it here, The Light of Home.

I will continue my plan to write in detailed story-like fashion about the silent months on my blog. I am called to share our story and feel that I am at a place where I can because of the healing that has taken place in our hearts and in our daughter’s hearts.

I will add that we have three special needs children, one of which is our oldest son, Andrew, who has Aspergers. He is gifted and has great strengths, and he has big weaknesses to overcome. AND we love him, for every intricacy of his wonderful brain. And he knows it.

The same is true for our daughters. We love them, love every detail of their specially made brains and bodies. We celebrate them. There is no shame in sharing the wonderfully created people that they are. Covering up our differences and hiding them and refusing to talk about them creates shame.

Please spare me the comments on the feelings of my daughters. I adore them, and of course we have discussed all of this. We have chosen to, this time, share my feelings, and the effects their adoptions had on me and our family in an effort to encourage others to speak out about the times when the feelings don’t come right away, to normalize the very frequent feelings adoptive parents have, and ultimately to help the children through supporting the parents.

May God bless you as you seek His will for your life.

Blessings!

The Beginning

A NOTE TO THE READER: This is one post in a series of posts that will share the story of how I came to know and grew to love my daughters who were adopted at fourteen years old, mere days before they aged out of the adoption system. It does not reflect my feelings now. I choose to share my story to address a topic that is taboo in the adoption community. I share it to normalize the feelings that so many feel and yet are too ashamed to share. I share it to provide support to those who feel alone because there’s a big white elephant in the room, and no one can talk about it. I share it in support of adoption, in support of every single precious child waiting for a family, every one of which deserves to be loved and is lovable, every single one. Why can’t we talk about it? The feelings are real. The process of attachment can be easy and it can be painful, and the more we support parents who experience the painful side of adoption, the more we help the children. There are far too many disruptions, especially of older children, and if we as a community can come to see the feelings and the process as normal, perhaps we can provide support to those families and in doing so, help the children. Adoption is rooted in pain and loss, and often the process is painful. AND it’s okay. Before you offer your criticism, please read, Eliza Today, A Preface, and God’s Heart and Workers for His Harvest Field .

I suppose it started the day I met her, that long awaited, momentous day when the clouds would part, and I’d first lay eyes on the precious child for whom I’d prayed for over a year.

We’d even written letters to each other. They were love letters from a child who’d never known a mother to the woman she’d dreamed of all of her life; they were love letters, too, from me, a mother who was aching for her daughter.

I had been warned to keep my expectations low, even to not have any at all. And having worked in psychology for the ten years before I met my husband, I knew those were wise words. I felt I had no expectations, other than a desire to love a child who had never known a mother’s love. I had nine biological children. I didn’t need this child to fulfill anything for me. I was fulfilled. My family life was full and wonderful and overflowing with love, and we had something to share.

But then I saw her, sitting on that famous black and white couch of the civil affairs office.

She sat there, her head enshrouded in short, raven black hair, it hung low on her shoulders in a way that struck me as different, remarkably low. She peaked up at us from beneath her deeply bowed head with a shy, sweet smile. She sat beside the director of the orphanage who had brought her. We walked over to her and sat down on the couch next to her, each of us on one side of her, and Victoria next Mark. Evangeline sat beside me and moved back and forth from the couch to the ottomon next to me.

I felt a fear in my stomach. There was something about her that scared me. Was it her mannerisms, the way she hung her head so low, the way it seemed small for her tiny shoulders? Was it the gray, boy’s backpack that sat beside her, the one I thought should have been a girl’s?

How small of me. I thought. She was probably given that. She had nothing of her own, but had she chosen it?.

I wanted to hug her. I reached out for her and her body stiffened, perhaps in fear, or perhaps because she felt uncomfortable with this strange new mother she didn’t know. We spoke kind gentle words to her, words of love. Words she couldn’t understand. We gave her gifts we had brought her, candy, some colored pencils and a notebook. She took them and shook her head, never lifting it from it’s hanging position. We asked her to show us the things in her backpack.

She shyly reached for it, and I noticed her tiny hand, as tiny as an eight year old’s. Her finger nails were bitten low, to the quicks. They looked sore to me, and I thought of how she must have worried about this day as much as she had longed for it. She slowly unzipppered her backpack, the dark gray boyish back pack that bothered me, and she took out a bracelet she had made for me. She held it in her tiny hand. Tenuously, and slowly, fearfully, she reached out to me, to this woman who was now her mother, this strange amazon of a woman with big hands and feet so unlike her own. I took the bracelet from her, and smiled.

“Oh, it’s beautiful. You made that for me? Thank you.” I said in a language she didn’t understand.

She just sat there, head hung low, and smiled. The awkward silence seemed to slowly encompass us, like a haze. I thought of Carl Sandburg’s famous words, “the fog comes in on little cat feet.”

It felt like that, the silence between us. It had insidiously enveloped us. I didn’t want it to feel so awkward. I wanted to put her at ease, to stop my racing heart that beat within me with a vigor that nearly choked me.

The director spoke, “do you have any questions?”

Questions? I thought. Oh yes, I have so many, but where were they? They’d dissapeared like a sprite in the night. Words failed me.

“What time does she eat?” I asked with a stupidity that checked me. This was a teenager. “And her bedtime?” I asked, still in that stunned, doltish mode.

Mark was better. He was smiling and sitting relaxed on the couch. He looked through Eliza’s photo album while I wracked my brain for questions to ask the director.

Then, suddenly, the director said, She’s quiet now, but she’s one of the hyper ones in the orphanage.”

Neurological isssues, I thought, and my anxiety grew. My mind was suddenly filled with pictures I had seen of her on other people’s blogs, photos that families who’d already traveled before us had taken. She was always off somewhere, throwing a ball, sitting with children much younger than herself, jumping, not involved with the other teens who were being adopted and whose body language and stance in the pictures showed a web of relatedness, a connectedness. And then there was the picture that I’d seen only days before we travelled. It was a side view, and she had just had her hair cut short. Her head looked so small, remarkably small. I knew what that meant, but we were about to travel and this was the child God had called us to adopt. I ignored what I saw, and pressed on in faith to go and get this precious child who needed us.

Yet here I was, with this child sitting beside me. The awkwardness was painful, the anxiety rippled through my body as the pieces came together in my mind that this child was different. She was different than we were told she was, and I felt a distance, a separateness, a fear that gripped me.

I can’t do this. I thought.

And yet, there was that ever present consciousness that this was the child God had chosen for me. I was called to be her mother. He would make a way. So I ignored my feelings and went and signed the papers. She came in with us, and sat on my lap.

Where were the motherly feelings? I was numb and stunned and afraid.

“Are you happy with your child?” The man asked.

“Yes.” We answered.

You promise to love her and teach her and give her all that you have given your other children?”

“Yes.” The word tumbled out robotically with this teenager sitting stiffly on my lap, and the warm feelings that I’d expected so vividly evading me.

“Yes.” We said over and over again. I’m saying yes to God, I thought, void of the feelings I’d thought I’d feel.

Soon the signing of the papers was over, and it was time to go. I didn’t know how to be her mother. I felt it was too soon to take her with me. A deep fear enveloped me, yet I knew God had called us to Eliza. I held her hand and walked out of the civil affairs office, wishing with all of my heart the feelings of dread and estrangement would end.

We rode in the van, and she seemed excited. The fear lifted a little as she seemed so eager to go with us and to have a family. We took her back to the hotel, and she unpacked her things, wanted to know where she was sleeping, and then pointed to the clock. It was 12:00 pm. She was hungry, and it was time for lunch. She had always had lunch at noon, and today would be no different.

We began to get ready to go and the anxiety increased for Eliza. We were late, and she was completely out of her comfort zone. I knew we had to hurry. She couldn’t wait much longer.

She hung her head low, her lips pressed together in a deep pout, and a sadness enveloped her that was so fathomless it pained me. She picked at her fingers. I reached for her hands and tenderly held them in my own. I lifted them to my mouth and kissed her tiny fingers. “We’ll go soon.” Again I spoke in words she didn’t understand.

Finally, we were ready and we walked a few blocks to an Italian restaurant. She sat awkwardly on the chair, her head bowed low, refusing to look at the menu. I tried to show her the pictures and used the translator to describe the food. She couldn’t decide on anything, so I chose for her.

Mark is a joker. He was making funny faces. Victoria and Evangeline were laughing and connected using hand motions in conversation. Yet Eliza sat beside me, disengaged, sulking, sad. She lifted her legs and put her feet on the seat of her chair and buried her head between her knees, Clearly, she had no idea how to act in a restaurant. The sadness I understood. The social awkwardness wreaked of autism to me.

Had she never been to a restaurant? Had they never taken her out? Or was she not able to pick up social cues? Her mood hung like a heavy rain cloud over the meal. I looked at Mark, and his eyes met mine. “There’s something wrong,” he said in a quiet voice. The sick feeling burned inside of me like the sting of a jelly fish. This wasn’t what we had expected. This wasn’t what I wanted.

And yet there she was, sitting beside me, and I was her mother, and all I could feel was an overwhelming estrangement from my daughter. I had no idea how to talk to her, how to reach her.

We finished our meal, all of us that is except Eliza, who had eaten nothing. We stood up and pushed in our chairs. Eliza sat there, not moving, her head tucked between her knees. I pulled her chair out and took her hand. She quickly pulled her hand from mine, but she stood up and followed us.

We walked out of the restaurant in a group, but as soon as we were on the side walk, she walked as far away as she could from us. If you’ve ever been to China, you’ll understand how concerning this was for us on the over crowded streets. We insisted that she hold our hand.

She hated that, and continued to pull away.

I didn’t want her. Every ounce of feeling that pervaded my being was that I could not be her mother. But how could I not be her mother? She would turn fourteen in two days. God had moved Heaven and earth to get us there on time to adopt her before she aged out of the adoption program and could no longer be adopted. If I couldn’t be her mother, then she would never have one. We were her only chance at ever having a family. How could I judge this child in the first moments I’d met her? God had so clearly moved every mountain and provided every penny we needed to bring her home. I knew, deep within me, I was called to mother this precious child who felt so foreign to me.

And she was lovely, beautiful, strikingly so, yet somehow she repelled me. It didn’t make sense. I, who had never met a child I couldn’t love, felt nothing for our clearly lovely new daughter.

That was when the guilt began to invade the peace I’d known before we travelled. And who could I tell? I was so ashamed of my feelings. I don’t think I even admitted them to myself.

Finally we made it back to the hotel room. Evangeline asked if she could watch TV, and as much as we were horrified by the program options on the television, we needed a break.

Evangeline ran to turn on the television, and I went in the bedroom with Mark. Tears streamed down my face. “I can’t do it. Her needs are so big. How can I meet them? How will I ever teach her all that she needs to know?”

He took me into his arms and held me. “It’ll be okay. We’ll get though it.” He said with a calm confidence I lacked.

Then the phone rang. It was my mother. I spoke through the sobs. “Mom. I can’t do this.” I said again.

But my mother, half way around the world, who had been concerned about us adopting initially, said matter of factly, “Yes, you can, and you will.”

And dear reader, I do love her.

I’ll write more soon.

Blessings!

A Preface

Over the next days and weeks my untold story of the silent months on my blog will unfold upon the yet blank pages before me. I share it freely. It’s a story of adoption, its pain and its joys. It’s a story of the overwhelming guilt and shame that consumed me as I struggled to remain faithful to God’s calling to mother two older girls with special needs who had grown up in two separate orphanages. It is a story of God’s faithfulness in our lives as we walked a difficult path. And most importantly, it is a story of redemption in the lives of our precious daughters and in the life of our family who struggled under the weight of the cross we were, without a doubt, called to carry. It is a story of the beauty of adoption, an intimate picture of how God weaves the broken pieces of our lives into something beautiful.

I do not share it because I think my story is like someone else’s story. I do not share it because I can somehow ease the pain of others who may be struggling too. I do not share it to draw attention to myself or to boast of anything I may have done right. I certainly don’t share it to elicit pity for I am blessed beyond measure.

I do share it to lift the veil of secrecy in the adoption community of the far too frequent painful side of adoption, to normalize the feelings of guilt and shame and inadequacy that so many carry, because, try as they may, they cannot feel the motherly feelings they hoped they would feel for their precious child. And I share it to let others know they are not alone if they have travelled a similar path.

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I share it in support of adoption. God’s heart is for the orphan, and we, as a body, must do a far better job caring for them in the future than we have done in the past. Sharing only the easy, beautiful adoption stories does everyone a disservice. It does not help the orphan, and it doesn’t help the families who are choosing to love these children. Secrecy helps no one. It is the truth that will set us free, and perhaps the truth will set the children free too. God will call workers to care for His children, and better prepared parents can only bless the fatherless. So then, perhaps I share it, too, for those who will choose to adopt, for those who will be traveling soon, and who may find that things are not as they expected or had hoped and find themselves in a place that feels so lonely. I share this to support those who will struggle. I share it to say they are not alone, because, in a way, I think that was the hardest part.

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We felt so alone in our pain. The shame and guilt that consumed us was far too heavy a load to carry. No one should ever have to feel shame because they have stepped out in faith to meet the needs of the broken, abandoned and abused children of society, and found it to be beyond their ability alone to meet all the needs, or to produce the warm fuzzy feelings of motherly and fatherly love. Loving these children is not about the feelings. It’s about the work of it. It is about God calling people to care for His damaged children. It’s about choosing to be faithful to love when the feelings don’t come.

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So come along with me on a journey of love and loss, of pain and redemption, of sacrifice and blessing, and may you find a fellow sojourner for your pilgrimage in my willingness to be vulnerable to you. And, last but not least, may God use His story written upon our lives for His glory.

…37Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38″Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest field.” ~ Matt 9:38

Blessings!

Eliza Today

Before I begin the story of my painful fall, and I phrase it that way because it was I who had the attachment disorder, not Eliza. She loved her home from the beginning. Of course she struggled in the transition of it all, and she and our oldest daughter had some difficulties sharing a room. But even only weeks home, every single time we would drive up to our house, “Eliza would chant in her somewhat loud, vigorous, determined voice, “I love my home! I love my home! I love my home!”

Early on she attached to Mark, but it wasn’t long until she loved me, loved to be in my arms, loved to rub her hands up and down my body as I worked, loved to be so close to me that I would trip over her, and it felt as if she wished she could climb inside of me, loved me with a fervor and intensity that drained me. Even today, when things are good, and I have grown to adore my precious Eliza Jane, she daily says to me, “Mommy, I wish I could be in your tummy too.”

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I’ve heard it said that no matter what age child you adopt, attachment begins at infancy, and having walked this journey for twenty two months, I can say that I heartily agree. I have held and rocked the girls, given them sippy cups of warm milk, sung lullabies to them as they have drifted off to sleep, and I have cocooned them from the world as much as I have been able, and I still do.

I eventually came to realize that I no longer could homeschool all of our children, and I will write more about that later, but for now I want to say that Eliza started school one week before Evangeline had her surgery on June 4th. She is doing well, and even going to an extended summer program. She has begged me to send her to school, and has frequently said, “Mommy, I want to learn! I want to learn. I can learn Mommy.”

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Many of you have followed my blog from the beginning and are aware of much of our early confusion and inability to identify where Eliza was cognitively. We travelled to China believing we were adopting a neuro-typical child, and soon realized that she was anything but neuro typical. You can read about all of those stories on my blog in the months after we travelled in September of 2012.

Having said all of that, Eliza has made AMAZING progress in the past months, and I do not believe, after more intensive schooling than I have been able to give her, that she will be classified as even borderline MR. She may have some mild “institutional autism” as a result of the years she lived in an orphanage, but she is amazingly capable and extremely bright. She can read and write Mandarin at a gifted level. We have had her letters and writings translated by various translators, all of which have exclaimed that she writes extremely well, and many have added, ‘I can’t write like that.”

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Recently, we had some wonderful visitors from the Midwest who have also adopted children from China, one of which was the little girl, Emily, who shared a bed with Evangeline before she was adopted, and who was the reason Evangeline has become our daughter. From the time Emily came home to her mother, she asked her if Dang Mian Fang had a family yet. It was her continual prodding of her mother which caused Emily’s mother to call her agency and ask them to find Evangeline’s file. Her picture then circulated through Facebook, and the rest is history. I have told that story too. You can read it here in a post called, The Whole Story.

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I also share pictures from their visit here. Their visit blessed our family in so many ways, one of which was that it was very affirming to me that we, as a family, had been right to cocoon the girls, and to hold them close for as long as we have.

One of the children who visited was adopted from a disruption. I believe she is now sixteen. She kept saying to her mother about Eliza, “Look at all she can do. She can do that? I couldn’t do those things when I was only home that long.”

Her sweet and attentive mother kindly said to her daughter, “Honey, she has been home with a mother who taught her and kept her close for all these months. Your family left you alone in your room.”

I share that not to brag about my parenting, or my strength, for as you will see as I share this story it was I who fell short and wore out. Yet even in my weakness, Eliza is doing far better than I ever could have dreamed she would. In the early days, she was sitting under the table hiding from me.

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Now she is an integral part of our family. She is quick and efficient. If we lose anything, we always ask Eliza because she usually knows. She cooks. She cleans. She loves. She loves her mother with a sincerity that any mother would be blessed to know. She sets her timer every night so she can bring me warm milk while I’m writing before bed.

She loves the dogs and cat and takes care of them without fail. She is kind and thoughtful, and so very thankful to be a McCaslin. I have grown to depend on her. She can feed our enormous crew and clean it all up with an efficiency that is exceptional. She is capable and considerate.

And I love her so very very much. She has become a child of my heart. My skin no longer bristles when she touches me, and I don’t recoil from her presence. God has blessed me with a mother’s love for Eliza, and I have grown accustomed to her presence in our lives. I miss her when she is away at school.

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I share this now before I tell the story of the valley we walked through because I want to make it clear that no matter how dark it felt or how impossible the situation seemed, God was making beauty from ashes, streams in the dessert. I couldn’t see them. But they were there, and I have arrived at this place only through faith where I can share with honesty the pain I felt and consumed my days.

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. ~ Isaiah 43:19

As I look back over the dark days when my faith was faltering and my flesh was weary, I can see clearly that God carried me through those dark days, and it was His faithfulness that brought us through the darkness. It was God working in our hearts, “to will and to do of His good pleasure,” even when we were at our weakest.

I welcome you and invite you to share in this story of our humanity and weakness for God’s glory, and if you are walking a similar path, that you might know that you are not alone, and that God is faithful to finish what He has started in your hearts.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. ~ Romans 11:36

Blessings All!

God’s Heart and Workers For His Harvest Field

Many of you have been aware of a painfully long silence on my blog.

For the most part, I have been very quiet about my silence, primarily because before I opened my heart to the world, I wanted to be certain that what I had to share could be presented in an honest and positive light, with a pure heart before God, and in an earnest spirit that would be helpful to others, and not in any way discouraging to those who are considering adoption, and, last but certainly not least, in a way that would protect our daughters’ privacy. All these things were extremely important to me because God’s heart is for the orphan. and so ought ours to be.

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I have decided to share our story because I know our family is not alone in the struggles we’ve experienced. The pain and hardship of adoption are often hushed and only discussed in secret circles, while fairy tale blogs paint dreamy pictures of warm fuzzy feelings and long awaited dreams come to fruition. Yet the struggles are real and are an integral and all too frequent reality of redeeming the lives of these precious children.

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The secrecy doesn’t help. It only further isolates those walking an already lonely road and creates a shame that has no place in this incredible ministry. Following God’s calling in our lives is hard sometimes, and we fall beneath the weight of it. And it is okay. Jesus fell beneath the weight of the cross, and Simon carried it for Him. Was His falling enshrouded in shame?

Absolutely not. God often calls us to do things we cannot do in our strength, and yet we do not rest in knowing He is strong in our weakness. We expect of ourselves what He knows we can not do alone. When we suffer and break, loving and pouring out our lives for the fatherless, shame and secrecy have no place amidst the pain.

Shame is for those who fail to follow God’s calling in their lives. Shame is for those who see and do not act. Shame is for those who close their doors and homes and refuse to welcome the least of these. Shame is not for those who try and falter beneath the weight of loving these hurt children.

From it’s very beginnings, adoption is rooted in pain and loss. We who step out in faith to meet the needs of these precious abandoned children, willingly choose to carry their heavy crosses of pain and loss. Sometimes the road is beyond hard, and yet we are called to care for these dear children who are so very close to the heart of God.

There is no place for shame and secrecy in doing God’s work and sometimes falling beneath its weight.

Today I saw a post from a dear Facebook friend and I share it with you here.

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I am very down today….. I know it’s only been three months, but I am beginning to wonder if it will ever get better. The cruelty toward her little sister and outright rage when she is called to the carpet for it are wearing on me. I am sad to admit that today I don’t like my daughter very much. Can you give me some encouragement?

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Over the next days, I will begin to tell the story of the very dark valley we walked through last summer and well into the winter. It will take several posts, but I feel called to share it now that I have come to understand it and to feel God’s merciful healing in my life, in our family’s life.

We are the body of Christ, we, His hands and feet. We are broken and human, mere earthen vessels made in God’s image, and yet He does great things through us if we let Him.

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Oh that we would trust Him through the valleys to do the miraculous in our lives!

Blessings!

My Long Day

I pulled in the driveway this morning after an early morning errand, and was immediately met with a very dejected Eliza. Before I had even shut off the car, she opened the door with tears streaming down her face. “Mommy, I have something tell you.” She said tremulously.

“Tell me.” I said gently, pulling her into my arms.

“I broke your coffee cup.” She gushed as she broke into sobs.

“It’s okay, Eliza. It’s just a cup. It doesn’t matter. We can get a new cup, but I can’t get a new you.”

She smiled through her tears, yet she cried hard in my arms,, before I could even get out of the car. Eventually, she agreed to go upstairs.

I made it up the stairs to find Evangeline waiting for breakfast, for me to wash her hair, and to help her get dressed and put her braces on. That alone takes hours. We had to leave by 11:40 to get Andrew to work on time.

Thanks to the efficient help of our children, and a bit of miraculous intervention too, we did manage to get Andrew to work on time. Since we were so close to Starbucks, Evan and Victoria decided to go in for drinks since they had money, breaking their little brother’s and sister’s hearts.

So, off to Starbucks we all went, getting Evangeline out of the van since she didn’t know what she wanted. Then, in Starbucks, she and others needed to use the bathroom, which was a major production in and of itself. Then I had to go to the bank to stop payment on the comcast bill, which was mistakenly double paid, with nine children, mind you, one of which cannot even get in and out of the van without a step stool and walker.

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After we finished that fiasco, I met my sister at the pool. I rushed to get Evangeline out of her braces and into her suit, all the while helping the others with various things, like swimmies and goggles, then left the kids with my sister, except for Victoria and Olivia, and ran Evan to guitar lessons.

I then ran to Aldi’s to pick up a few things. Then back to get Evan, then back to the pool, then put Livi In her suit so she could swim for thirty minutes while I redressed Evangeline and put all of her braces back on.

Then we packed up the car, making sure my two year old nephew wasn’t running in the road, cleaned up the pool, and left, only to realize we didn’t have David. He was in the house changing. I turned around and saw my sister running inside to shut off the alarm, because when he was dressed, he just walked out.

David climbed in the car and left again. We drove to the drug store for Evangeline’s meds, and then finally we arrived home, unloaded the things from Aldi’s, hung up the suits and towels. Helped Evangeline in bed, and it was time to go get Andrew from work.

I am exhausted, and have decided that I cannot take Evangeline to the pool without Mark or another adult.

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Anyway. That was my crazy day.

But tomorrow I am going to receive a very special blessing. One of my bloggy friends is in the area and coming for a visit. And I plan to sit and enjoy a long awaited cup of coffee with her.

I’ll let the laundry wait, and the dishes too. The kids can play, and tomorrow I will rest and enjoy this precious blessing God is sending my way.

In the midst of all of the busyness of the past weeks, I’ve begun to notice a change in my heart, a lightness of feeling, as if that tiny spark I always knew was there, but could barely see has begun to grow again and ignite into a thriving fire of hope within me.

For months, I have felt like I’ve been pressing on in search of some new normal, and walking by faith into God’s will for my life, trusting that He would finish the work in my heart that He started so long ago. The days have seemed long and the valley so low and so endless that so frequently my faith has fallen short. Over and over again I’ve reminded myself that it is to this work, of serving and loving and pouring myself out until I am so exhausted that all I can do is fall into God’s waiting arms each night, that He has called me.

There’s a verse I’ve repeated in my mind daily these past months that has become so dear to me. I share it with you here.

if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. ~2 Timothy 2:13

I don’t know when it happened, but somehow amidst the striving and the doing, the working and the failing, I have felt that great joy within me begin to burgeon again. I have felt the power and peace and joy of my Savior.

Friend, if you’re walking through what seems like an endless darkness, carrying a cross that feels too heavy for your feeble shoulders, know that you are not alone.

God is faithful, believing for you and with you as you press on, void of the warm feelings you thought would guide you. Our obedience to God, or success in His work, isn’t reflected in our feelings. It’s reflected in the choice to trust that we are walking the path, however hard, that God has called us to, and that in His perfect timing, we will see the fruit of His work in our lives and feel again the joy and excitement that once propelled us.

God is faithful, even when we are faithless.

Blessings All!

Healing

My goodness! How the time does fly!

My niece is getting married.

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This is my Aunt, my mother’s sister, and her girls.

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Evangeline actually made the shower. Olivia is sitting on my mother’s lap. And my sister, Brenda, is between Sophia and her daughter, Emily.

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This is my brother’s wife, Karen, mother of the bride, and her girls.

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One thing we did at the shower that was really neat was we all decorated a tea towel or a dish cloth with a verse or a phrase that meant something to us and might help to encourage Kelcie and Jeremy in those inevitable moments when we see humanity in our spouses instead of those celestial beings we fell in love with.

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This was Olivia’s.

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And this was Eliza’s.

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The deserts were scrumptious!

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And we took a very worn out Evangeline home.

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Jonathan turned seven.

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And Evangeline went swimming!

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It seems like the days turn into nights and then days again without even a moments notice. Evangeline’s surgery seems further away each day, and we are enjoying the long, languishing days of summer.

I hope you are too.

Blessings!

It’s Summer Time!

Yesterday was the kid’s last day of school. It feels like we go for forever here in NJ. We had so many snow days, so that made it even longer this year. And we were all so very ready for it to be over.

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I haven’t written much on my blog about our decision to send a few of the kids to school mid year this year because, honestly, it has been a painful one for me. Some of the kids started in January, after much prayer and a lot of tears from Mom. I so desperately wanted to homeschool all the children but it became blatantly clear that I could not meet all the needs along with Evangeline’s long and frequent hospital stays, our frequent trips to CHOP for both of the girls, our teens growing up and needing more, and my own inability to attend to all the needs.

I had to come to the place where I realized that God had called us to adopt these precious girls with big needs, and He knew all along that we would need support to do it. It was I who had to let go and trust that God had a new plan to meet their needs that was different from what I had planned. I knew that He would go before the kids and prepare the way for them and work it all together for His glory and for their good.

And He has.

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We decided to send our elementary kids to school, and work toward sending Eliza and Evangeline when the school was able to find an appropriate placement for them. I have been so impressed with the way the teachers and administrators have loved our kids and met their needs. Steven, our fifth grader, made the adjustment exceptionally well. The first week, he won the the math problem of the week and has been on the principle’s list for both marking periods he has been there. At his moving up ceremony, he received the reading award. He’s had some great successes, and there is a light in his eyes that wasn’t there before.

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Colin graduated eighth grade. He didn’t love it, but he did it.

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We are so proud of him. But Colin’s great love is ballet.

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As is Sophia’s.

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Colin and Sophia left on Sunday for six weeks of ballet camp with the Atlantic City Ballet.

And in the midst of Evangeline coming home from the hospital, the end of school year busyness, and packing two kids off to camp, we had some very special visitors.

Evangeline’s orphanage sister, Emily, came to see her with her family and friends. We had a wonderful visit.

The kids played spoons at the dining room table and had so much fun.

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Emily never left Evangeline’s side.

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Then after dinner we decided to walk down to the lake. The kids enjoyed the freedom, and we all delighted in the visiting.

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Time for goodbye came too soon for all of us, but we have been blessed to see how God has grown our family in ways we never imagined. The children now have cousins in Indiana, and I have two new sisters.

Evangeline is progressing slowly. She still struggles with being out of bed for more than an hour or so. She is off the oxycodone, but still on the Tylenol and Valium, and still REALLY needs that. She is totally dependent on me even to just sit up. She can walk some with the walker, but the pain really grabs her at times and still brings tears.

I helped her take her first shower on Monday.

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It was painful and took us about three hours, but she perked up in the end.

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Our littles helped me finally get our geraniums planted in the urns on the front porch.

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And last but not least, our precious daughter, Victoria, turned seventeen yesterday. She wanted to go to Olive Garden with her friend, Racheal for her birthday, so Mark and I took them last night, and I finally was allowed to get a picture of our lovely daughter, and her sweet friend.

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That blessed me more than you know!

I hope all of you are enjoying your early summer days and pressing on through your struggles “toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called ‘you’ heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phillippians 3:14)

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:24

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Let’s run to win!

Blessings All!

A Rather Haphazard Father’s Day

I hardly even remembered it was Father’s Day with my thoughts being so consumed with caring for Evangeline. The kids remembered though.

I woke up Sunday morning and really didn’t think Evangeline would be able to go to church. And I also didn’t think I could get her ready in time.

Mark was still sleeping, and I remembered it was a Father’s Day. So I figured I’d bake a chocolate cake for my Father, and we’d take all the kids down for a visit.

I thought a ride might do Evangeline some good, and figured she could lie down on the bed while we were there.

But she really did well. She even went outside to see some of the kids try their first swim of the year in the icy water.

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She’s doing really well, and continuing to heal every day.

Thanks you all so much for your prayers.

Blessings!

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