Join Me In The Garden

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I have welcomed all of you to share in the joys and struggles of our family since we began to think about adopting a couple years ago. I have chosen to share our family’s journey with you for one reason, that is to give God glory, and that you may see that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things if we let Him.

God called us to adopt two older girls from China, and we have been blessed beyond measure by our obedience to Him. The road has not been easy, yet it is a path I would choose to travel again.

If you take with you one thing from my willingness to be open to you, I pray that it would be that God moves mountains when we step out in faith to meet the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves. We can count on Him every time.

I am now in the midst of sharing the months that were so dark for me that I chose not to write on my blog. I now share with you those silent months, and how God has made soemthing beautiful of our brokenness.

You can begin the story at the beginning by clicking on The Silent Months on the top menu bar of my blog.

May God do the miraculous in your lives, and may our story inspire many to step out in faith to love a child who desperately needs what only you can give.

Blessings!

The Fat Church

Today I’m overwhelmed with a concern I must share, and I may offend some in the process.

We call ourselves the church, the body of Christ. But sometimes I think saying we’re Christians means no more to us than saying we are white or black or live in America or Costa Rica. We leave our lovely homes, even the smallest of which is grandiose to most of the world, and drive our air conditioned cars to sit in Church and worship God. We have very little to give in the offering plate. We’re stretched just providing for our own.

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Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. ~ Isaiah 54:2

We pray that God would provide for our families, but do we pray that He would enlarge our homes, enlarge our visions, enlarge our limited scopes to welcome the abandoned children of the world into our families, no matter how hard it might be? What would we give to give a child a family?

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By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. ~ 1 John 3:16

Jesus laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for each other. Do we lay down our lives for anyone?

If our children were homeless, living on the streets, enslaved in Human bondage, growing up in an orphanage, Heaven and earth could not stop us from going to get our children and bringing them home.

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Yet God’s children are waiting, hungry, abused, alone, and we, His body, sit in front of our televisions, or our computers, or languish on the beaches of the world while God’s children wait. We are the lukewarm church, and this is what Jesus says about the lukewarm church.

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. ~ Revelations 3:15&16

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If we aren’t bringing the children into our homes, then we ought to be providing the funds for others to do so.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. ~ James 2:14-17

The difference between Christianity and the major religions of the world is that we serve a Risen Savior. Our God lives. He lives in us. He promises to do whatever we ask in His name.

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Do we believe that? Do our lives reflect that faith? Do our actions reflect the living, risen Lord who is alive and working in the world today?

Or have we grown complacent and slothful in His grace?

God is love and grace and forgiveness. He laid down His life for us, and He asks for ours in return. Are we willing to allow His spirit to fill our hearts with His desires? Will we do His work? Will we go and get His children?

We must do the work of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. ~ John 9:4

There ought to be an eagerness to our steps, an urgency about our days. The children are waiting.

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When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ ~ Matthew 25:31-40

Are we living our lives like we believe that the most high God lives within us, and whatever we ask in His name He will do?

Or are we doubting?

5If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

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Oh that God would move in the hearts of His people to work to bring the children home. It is work. It is God’s work. It is the most blessed work of all.

May God move in His people as He did in the Prophet Isaiah to answer His call to care for His children with an earnest, “Here am I Lord! Send me!”

Blessings!

The Early Days

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 first two months we were home, Eliza barely tolerated me. Her face would light up when she saw Mark, and she followed him around like a puppy dog. She adored him. When she would hear his car drive in the garage, she’d run to meet him.

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The rest of the time she withdrew from all of us, especially from me. There was nothing I could engage her in. She didn’t play, she wouldn’t do school work, she made no relationships with anyone in the home other than Mark, and that was not a healthy one. She hung her head and pouted all the time. She was up at night and would wander through the house and go in the other children’s rooms. She was obstinate and difficult when it was time to get ready for church or anywhere really. She didn’t want to leave the home.

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The deep sadness was pervasive. It affected everything we did. We tried to be happy and jovial and include her, but life in our large family also had to go on, and often she sat in a chair as far away from us as we would allow her to, with her head hung in a deep pout, while we tried to maintain some sense of normalcy in our home.

I chose to be very intentional about loving Eliza with my actions and my words, even when I didn’t feel it. I’ve always loved children, all children, and acting out my choice to love her wasn’t really what I had difficulty with. I had difficulty with the feelings.

Of course, in the midst of Eliza’s difficult adjustment, Evangeline was sick and had five long hospital stays the first year we were home. This was very hard on Eliza and my ability to bond with her. It also eventually created a jealously between Eliza and Evangeline as they grew more comfortable in our home and vied for my attention.

Within a couple of months, both girls were in love with me, so desperate was their love and need for me that there was not one moment when they were not either calling my name, interrupting the other children, standing beside me, following me around the house, hugging me, hovering over me when I sat down for a moment, or fighting with our little children in an attempt to get my attention.

There is no question in my mind now, that no matter what age child one adopts, attachment begins at infancy. That was so true for our girls. The difference is they were no longer infants who needed a lot of sleep and who could be put down for a nap a few times a day.

I did learn to schedule hugs, and put my hand out and say, “I can’t hug you now, I’m eating, but I’ll hold you,” at such and such a time or what ever time we had scheduled. I tried hard to teach them not to interrupt their brothers and sisters, but these were children who were so adept and getting attention that it really was a difficult thing to conquer as well as balance the true and deep need for love and touch and time with me.

The girls presence in our home affected everything. When we travelled to China, our homeschool was structured. Even our evenings were structured. Mark would come home from work at 7pm, have something to drink or a snack and immediately sit down and begin family devotions. He would then read allowed to the children whatever we were reading for homeschool, or other things, like the entire series of The Lord of The Rings.

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The girls completely made that impossible. They couldn’t sit still for any period of time at all, even with blocks, coloring books, Legos, Lincoln logs, bracelet sets, etc. They would sit and watch me make those things for about three minutes, but they could not occupy themselves quietly in the room with us in the evenings.

Instead, they acted out, caused fights between the littles, giggled and tried to interrupt in any way they could. I didn’t want to put them to bed early, or put them in any way away from us, so eventually the reading in the evenings stopped, be it right or wrong or just out of necessity. The reality was, we could not make it work.

Likewise our homeschool was difficult. In the beginning, the girls constantly called me. Then I set it up so that the girls had a child helper who they had to ask for help. They were not allowed to ask me for help, but I would make my rounds through the children and check on each one periodically. That worked wonders, and they suddenly began to understand much more than I thought they knew. And during the long hospital stays, our older children maintained our homeschool, for a while. But then, eventually it began to fall apart. They just needed their mom, and I was in the hospital.

I have experience in psychology, and I understood all that was happening. Yet it drained me. It was just really hard.

During Evangeline’s first hospital stay, which was merely three weeks home from China, Eliza was so sad and withdrawn when Mark would bring her to the hospital that I felt I could not be her mother. I was convinced that I wasn’t the person who could be what she needed. I wasn’t home, and Evangeline’s needs looked bigger around every corner. I was at the hospital, so I felt very bad for Eliza that I couldn’t be there. I felt she needed a mom who could be more present. And remember too, I didn’t know about any of Eliza’s cognitive differences before we traveled.

Emotionally, I really felt that I could not mother her. I was beginning to see the severity of Evangeline’s medical needs, and I was growing more and more aware of some significant cognitive needs that were presenting themselves with Eliza. I felt I couldn’t do both, and I didn’t feel it with Eliza. Not only did I not feel it, I was beginning to resent the constant shadow her dark mood casted over every activity our family shared.

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I was so broken during that first hospital stay that I actually talked to our agency about looking for another family for her. It wasn’t what I wanted deep in my heart, but I felt so over my head with all the needs, and Eliza didn’t seem happy with us.

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But look at her now. She no longer hangs her head, but holds it high, confident, loved.

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Of course we never moved on that or she wouldn’t be here today. But I share that I considered it because the questioning and feelings of inadequacy are all a part of the bonding process. If we, as a body, can come to recognize the normal feelings of the process of attachment to an adopted child, then we can be at peace with our feelings, and know they are normal and will most likely pass.

I knew in my heart that the road would be difficult. In fact, I expected it to be, and that was okay with me. God had awakened a desire in our hearts to fulfill a need, and we acted on it. But Ohmygoodness! There were so many days I just threw myself at Jesus feet and laid my heavy load in His arms. I could never have done this in my own strength.

And the bottom line is, no matter how hard it is to love these broken children, we are called to love them. And once we do, the most beautiful things happen. The children blossom in the love of a family, and the stories they tell, once they have the words, would stagger the strongest among us.

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If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work? ~ Proverbs 24:12

And I need to say again, there is no need to feel shame. Shame is for those who see and do not act, not for those of us who try and falter.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Blessings!

I Digress

There has been much discussion throughout some of the groups I have chosen to share my blog in about my using the word, ‘rescue’ when I speak of adopting our daughters. I’ve read many comments from deeply pained older adoptees who feel hurt by the use of the word rescue. To those people, allow me to offer a genuine apology.

All of us long to feel wanted, chosen, loved. We want to feel that our parents selfishly wanted us, wanted to parent a child, wanted to have the privilege of parenting us.

I get it. And I’m sorry.

I can also say, without hesitation, that I wanted our girls. I chose them, consider having the privilege of parenting them an incredible honor, and am blessed beyond measure to call them my own.

Having said that, children need families. Orphanages are no place for a child to grow up. Even families adopting babies are protecting them from the horrors of orphanage life or the potential dangers of the foster care system, and they are offering those children the ability to have their most basic needs met, to attach, to have permanency and safety, to be loved.

If that’s not rescuing, I don’t know what is.

As a mother of eleven, I can attest to the fact that parenting any child is hard work, yet God’s word is clear. Children are blessings. All children are blessings, not merely those who are healthy.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
Psalm 127:3-5

I can also say that all children have special needs, not one child is perfect in every way. Every child is a mixture of strengths and weaknesses.

Indeed, we are all broken. And we all need the Savior. Their is no shame in needing to be rescued. God rescues us, and He certainly loves us. He loved us so much He sent His only Son to rescue us. We should never feel that we are loved less because we needed to be rescued. The Bible says he counts the hairs on our heads and collects our tears in bottle.

There is a big movement among conservative Christians to adopt children with big special needs. Even our girls had significant special needs. People are deliberately choosing to make their lives harder to care for these kids with big needs.

Why?

Because God loves them, and they are valuable treasures of the Most High God. He is love, and when we invite Him into our hearts and ask Him to fill us with Himself, His love overflows in us, and moves us to love His broken and beautiful children. His heart is for the orphan, the fatherless, the broken, the needy, and it is His faithfulness and love working in the hearts of His people that is bringing these precious children home.

For it is God who works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure. ~ Philippians 2:13

Those of us who have answered God’s call to love one of His dear children, have done so by His grace, not in our own strength. So I was wrong in yesterday’s post to say that we had rescued our girls. I should have said that God had used us to rescue them, that He had moved in our hearts to long for them, and that we had stepped out in faith and watched Him bring them home to us.

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And that we are now forever blessed.

Blessings!

China

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 days we spent in Guangzhou all jumble together now in my mind in some hazy mixture of anxiety and fatigue. Oh there were bright spots mixed in with the pain, but I was overwhelmed with a feeling that I had jumped off a cliff and was somehow hanging on by one hand and dangling over a dangerous, roaring river miles beneath me.

The days were busy sightseeing and signing papers. Evangeline happily hobbled along with us, never complaining about her foot, refusing to use the wheelchair, communicating as best she could, and often speaking for us, sometimes telling the cab drivers where we were going. Eliza followed behind us or walked far ahead of us everywhere we went, shuffling her feet, with her head hanging, a deep sadness in her eyes, her lips pressed so tightly together they stuck out like a duck’s and formed a little shelf under her nose.

On one day, Mark had gone off looking for Chinese socker jerseys for the boys, and Eliza and Evangeline, exhausted from shopping, sat with me on a bench. I tried to exude love, and tranquility, but I was exhausted and wanted to rest. We waited and waited for Mark, and yet he didn’t come.

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After a while we, decided to walk in the direction he had gone in hopes of finding him. In moments, Eliza ran off around a corner and was gone.

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My heart fell in my chest. I had Evangeline who was so tiny and could only walk slowly. I couldn’t leave her and run after her. I frantically called her Chinese name holding Evangeline’s hand and walking as fast as we possibly could. Fear clutched at my chest robbing me of air, and I felt light headed as I made my way through the crowded streets calling Eliza’s name and praying God would help to keep her safe until I could get to her.

She was nowhere to be seen. We walked on passing so many people, some carrying children on their backs, men riding bikes with enormous bundles tied to the back of their bikes, young mothers with school aged children dressed in uniforms, old ladies walking quickly with grocery bags, vendors with their wares set out on the sidewalk, and beggars lying on the concrete sidewalks with their hands held out. I was running through a maze of busy city streets and crowds.

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I stopped a minute and prayed. Had she left us? Would I ever find her? I reached for my cell phone to call Mark, but he didn’t answer. Reception wasn’t always available over there. I put the phone back in my pocketbook, and turned into a little park filled with green shrubbery with benches nestled under shaded trees. The shrubbery was neatly trimmed and formed paths between groups of stores that encircled some form of stadium.

I walked closer to the stadium and there she was, looking at me, eyes wild and somehow blank at the same time. I couldn’t read her. I walked up to her, breathless. She stood there staring at me with an empty expression on her face. I grabbed her hand. “Don’t ever do that again!” I said, shaking my head, fear forming ridges in my brow, my hands trembling, but so very thankful to have her back in my care.

I held both the girl’s hands tightly in my own. My palms were sweating. The day was muggy and and we trudged back to the bench where we were to meet Mark. We sat on the bench, me in the middle, the girls on each side of me, their hands clasped tightly within mine, and Eliza’s back turned toward me.

It seemed like forever, but finally Mark came back and we went back to the hotel. I think this was the day Eliza decided that she didn’t like me. She made it clear to us after that that she didn’t want to go to America. She wanted to go back to her orphanage.

Inside my heart I felt almost as if a war was going on, a war between my fleshly desires and God’s desires for me and Eliza. I knew I was called to go and get Eliza, called to be her mother. And my feelings didn’t follow along with what I knew in my head. All I could feel was fear.

In China, I kept quoting a verse I had memorized as a child.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. ~ Isaiah 41;10

I knew that promise was meant for Israel, but I also knew that same God as my own Father, and knew I was no different from the people of Israel. I was God’s child, and He would remain faithful to me, even in my faithlessness.

I wrote on my blog and asked people to pray. You can read that story here.

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Eliza is here today because God was faithful when I couldn’t be, and because Mark and I made a cognitive decision to follow through with what God had made clear to us before we traveled, NOT because we acted on our feelings.

Today I am so very thankful for the prayers that kept us faithful to trust and act on that faith that God would finish the work He had started in our hearts so many months before.

Up until this point in the telling of our story, my goal has been to share that our feelings just weren’t there in China as we wished they would have been. And they didn’t come very quickly when we got home either.

But dear reader, we are now twenty two months home, and I love this precious child more that words can say. She is woven into the very fibers of my heart. I don’t even know how to express how dear she is to our family, and how we need her precious, eager, willing spirit in our lives. How can any of us express our love in mere words for any of our children, be they adopted or biological?

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The thought that I could have missed out on her precious presence in our lives because I couldn’t feel the feelings I had hoped to have for a child I didn’t know, is a devastating thought. We walk a narrow road in the choices me make, and without God, and His clear direction in our lives, we are like a rudderless ship lost at sea, and so terribly close to missing His perfect will for our lives.

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From here on out, I will tell my story of how I fell and grew so weary, even broke under the weight of caring for these precious children, of how God used other Christians to give us a break, and how he eventually restored the brokenness in our lives.

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I’ll no longer tell the children’s tale. I’ll tell the tale of how following God in this path was the hardest thing I have ever done. And I will share how God brought us through the valley.

So many have criticized me for speaking about adopting our girls as rescuing them. And I understand that adopting a baby and forming a family is different than adopting an older child. Once a child is five years old, they have less than a 5% chance of ever being adopted. And the lives that wait for these abandoned children in the world are nothing short of horrific. Ninety five percent of the orphaned children who age out of foreign orphanages are human trafficked within the first year. There is no question that we rescued our girls.

Blessings!

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!

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