Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sharing Sunday: And Two Unexpected Gifts

Sunday is the hardest day of the week for me when my husband is deployed.   The kids and I go to church, and afterward I chat with one or two people before we head home.  The three of us walk slowly downstairs (because that's how Buddy walks down stairs: S-L-O-W-L-Y!).  As soon as I buckle in the kids and slam the heavy van doors, loneliness engulfs me.  It happens before we even leave the parking lot.  Emotions that I am able to keep at bay throughout the rest of the week well up inside of me.   I feel isolated, disconnected from all that is around me.  I realize the irony and the sadness in this happening on Sundays, but after many deployments I've failed at finding a way to remedy it.

We are incredibly blessed, above and beyond what I could have ever imagined.  I don't say that lightly - it's true.  God's provision in our lives astounds me.  Knowing this makes me ashamed to feel the way I do - lonely, isolated, uncared for - because I know it simply isn't true.  But it's one of the things I struggle with.

We aren't fundraising to cover the costs of our adoption, as many other families do out of necessity.  As I just mentioned, we have always been provided for in amazing ways.  Like most people adopting through Reece's Rainbow, we have a Family Sponsorship Page (FSP) set up for donations, but didn't advertise it, or link to it.  We didn't expect any contributions to be made there.

Today I walked through the back door with my usual Sunday-afternoon heavy heart, wishing Rob was here to eat lunch with us, or read to Bou, or even argue with me about tennis (this happens on a lot of Sundays!).  After eating, I put Buddy down for a nap and decided to check my Facebook messages.  There was one from my dear friend Sara (and I hope she doesn't mind that I'm sharing this!).  She is one of my kindred spirits - we have known each other for 20 years now.  We were randomly assigned to be roommates in college campus housing our freshman year.  Sara, along with our two other roommates Amy and Laura, quickly became my closest, most treasured friends.  And they still are!

Sara and I both gave up careers to become stay-at-home moms.  She has three boys and I know that she has had to maintain a conservative family budget since they became a one-income household.  So when she messaged me today to tell me that she wanted to donate the money she made at an annual children's consignment sale to Isabella's fund, I got a little teary.  Why?  Because she is willing to sacrifice something that her family could use to help my family.  What a gift a friendship like that is.

Later, I saw that Sara had posted an update about Isabella on her Facebook page, and Sara's father commented that he donated as well.  The tears started flowing again.  What a gift a man like that is to those around him.  The money, while GREATLY appreciated, is not the real gift.  The real gift is people like this in my life, people who care about us, and Isabella, and the injustices suffered by innocent little children in this world.  People who care, and then act.

I am not alone, or isolated, or disconnected - no matter what I think on any given Sunday afternoon.  There are people in my life who bless me in incredible ways.  I am connected to the Body of Christ, even if I don't always feel it in the places I think I should, or at the times I think I should.  It is there, and I am very thankful for it. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sharing Sunday: Radiant Girl

I have several photos of Isabella, so I decided to share one every Sunday until it's time to travel to her country.  When I look at this one the word that comes to mind is radiant :)  Her body is very weak from malnutrition and lack of medical care and she can't sit up alone anymore, yet she is still such a happy girl.  She just SHINES!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Long Story: Part One

In my last post about Isabella, I mentioned that I was afraid when I left her orphanage.     

I was afraid of a lot of things.  But mostly I was afraid to trust God.  On the long, quiet ride back to the apartment I thought about this post I'd recently read on my friend Julia's blog.  Her husband, in describing his personal journey, wrote:

"I picture it this way (I may be borrowing this illustration, I don't remember):  imagine that all of God's people are swimmers in a broad, swift stream.  The stream is God's will, and it flows toward the accomplishment of God's purposes.  People like me tend to stay close to the banks, where the water doesn't move to fast.  We hang on to the edge to keep the raging will of God from pulling us faster than we have the courage to go.  Sometimes we even try to swim upstream, against God's will.  People like my wife, on the other hand, are always pushing away from the banks, out into the center of the stream.  They want to be where the action is, to see God moving in the world and move with Him.  We are all going downstream to the same place, because God's will cannot be denied.  But if we want to experience more of God, we have to move out into the center of the stream."

In the days after my visit with Isabella, I struggled so much with where I was supposed to go from there.  Like Julia's husband, I wanted to stay close to the banks of the stream - where it felt safer, easier, more predictable. 

I'd been interested in adoption for many years.  We talked about it even before our first biological child was born.  I had specific ideas about what kind of child we would adopt though.  I'm about to be very frank here, and I may not make any friends, but if it resonates with others out there who are considering adoption then it's worth sharing.

I never wanted to adopt a child with special needs.  I certainly did not want to adopt an older child.  I admired other families who did, but I didn't feel that we were equipped to do something like that.  I had a long list of reasons why that just wasn't a fit for our family.  Whenever I researched adoption back then, it was mostly with the goal of figuring out which countries offered the greatest prospect of adopting very young, healthy children.  I didn't have a heart for orphans yet - my eyes had not been opened.  I was focused only on fulfilling our desire for a child. 

After our daughter was born in 2006, adoption thoughts were put on the back burner for awhile.  But becoming a mother planted the seed of change in my heart.  To look into my young child's eyes was to see the face of innocence, complete dependence, pure love.  It made me want to wrap my arms around her and hold on for dear life.

Three years later, we were again hoping to add a child to our family but weren't sure if we could conceive another one, so our thoughts turned back to adoption.  This time I was more open to the idea of a child with minor special needs, or one who was a little older.  Just as we were seriously considering our options, we found out that we were expecting another baby.  For a time after our son was born I felt that maybe our family was complete...but I never had total peace about it.

As our children grew, my ideas about parenting, love, and the concept of family began to slowly evolve into something different than I'd imagined in the days before I was a mother.  And oh how I LOVED being a mom - teaching, nurturing and protecting my children.  I couldn't imagine them growing up without the love and security of a family - it was unthinkable.  My thoughts once again turned to the little ones out there in the world who were living without any of these things.

Then last year I logged onto Facebook and saw an exciting announcement from my friend Lora.   I clicked on her blog and read about her family's commitment to adopt an older child with special needs.  She included a link to Reece's Rainbow - curious, I clicked on it too.  I saw a photo of the child they hoped to bring home.  I scrolled through pages and pages of listings, all children with special needs.  While I felt very sad - even angry and appalled - about the injustices that these children endured, I didn't consider adopting any of them.  There were various ways to support families who did choose to adopt, and we could do that - we could support others.  We could stay on the periphery.

Months went by, and I still didn't consider adopting a special needs child.  That began to change the day I saw Little A's photo among the listings.  He was so cute, his description was encouraging.  He was about to turn five - he was older and had more severe needs than we'd ever envisioned taking on.  Still, he grabbed my heart and pried it open, just a crack.  The ideas about adopting that I'd clung to for so long were being challenged.    Little A's family found him not too long after that, but by then I was hooked.  I began following the adoption journeys of other families, connecting with some very special women who had already adopted, and learning much more about the world of international special needs adoption. All this time, when I'd  looked at photos, I'd seen the special need.  Now I was beginning to see the child.  When I looked at these sweet kids I saw in them exactly what I saw in my own children - the innocence, the dependence, the need for love.  They were still waiting for what my children have always had:  families to wrap their arms around THEM and hold on for dear life.  My heart and eyes were finally opened.  I had the courage now to push away from the banks of the stream, just a little...the question was, what would I do with this new-found courage?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Some Potty Humor

Buddy has been potty training this week, and doing pretty well.  I guess I got a little too confident in his progress the other night though :)  After dropping Bou and her friend off at Sparks we had an hour or so to kill.  I put him in the stroller and we walked to a couple of stores to pick up some things before I decided it was time for a bathroom break.

I waited until I pushed the stroller into the stall before asking "Do you need to potty?" to which he emphatically responds "YES!".  Wow, this was just awesome, I thought to myself as I unbuckled him.  Who knew potty-training my boy would be so easy? 

And as I lifted him out I saw the big dark circle in the center of my bright orange umbrella stroller.  Seems that I was few seconds too late!  No big deal, I'd just change him.  I opened the diaper bag to find, well, not much.   I had only one size 3 diaper (he wears a size 4), no wipes, no underwear, and no shorts.  Hmmm...

Oh, and no shoes.  Buddy was barefoot because my children leave the house all the time without footwear - they are like little Hawaiian rednecks.  Plus, I was planning to have him ride in the stroller the whole time so I wasn't worried about having shoes with us.

So I put on the litte diaper (which covered about half of his little butt).  I couldn't put him back in the wet stroller and he couldn't walk barefoot on the hot asphalt outside.  As I was carrying my boy sans pants with one hand and pushing the peed on stroller with the other hand, I knew my shopping time was over.  I was really just talking out loud to myself when I said "Well, what should we do now Buddy?".  He looked up at me and said in a very serious voice, "Mama, we wash our hands now!".

Don't you love how little ones are such concrete thinkers?

Here's a cute video (mostly for you Daddy) of Buddy sporting his new underwear, which he thinks are VERY cool.  He loves to run around in them.  I'm sure that 10 years from now he'll be so thrilled that I posted this, but at least I don't use his real name on the blog so his buddies can't google it :)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Blue Sun

Well, all it takes is one look at this page to see that I am a terrible blogger - I've only posted four times in the past year!   But I hope to start utilizing this blog more, and I want to begin by sharing a story about a trip I took last February...

I was in Eastern Europe, and we had just pulled up to our destination for the day - an orphanage that houses older children with special needs.  My stomach was suddenly full of butterflies.  As we stepped through the front door of the orphanage, I made sure to wipe my boots really well so as not to track any of the grey snowy sludge inside.  The floors of the lobby area were gleaming, as if the off-white linoleum had just been mopped - not what I was expecting for some reason.  I looked up at the person behind the desk.  She was an attractive middle-aged woman with short, light brown hair.  As my translator talked to her in Russian, we made eye contact and she smiled warmly - again, not what I was expecting.  After a brief conversation, I was instructed to sit on the small sofa and wait for the orphanage director.  I glanced around - there were some live plants clustered together on my left.  To my right was a staircase.  It was incredibly quiet - well over 100 children live in this building and I can't hear a single one of them.  I thought about my own small children at home, seven thousand miles away - it is never this quiet in my house and there are only TWO of them! Oh, how I missed them.  My heart ached for them.  I began to wonder if I'd lost my mind - what was I doing here, visiting orphans in a foreign country?  The courage (or lapse in judgment, tenacity, stupidity, whatever you want to call it) that brought me this far was suddenly failing me. 

Then another middle-aged woman, this one with darker hair, appeared in the doorway and motioned the translator and I into her office.  She was pleasant and cordial - after a few minutes of conversation she decided that I could spend some time with one of the children.  I was led into a hallway, darker and older-looking than the lobby, and suddenly the SHRIEKS of a child pierced the silence.  There, in the lap of a caregiver, sat a frail eight year old girl.  The translator began laughing and telling me that this little girl, "Isabella" had been told that visitors were coming and she was so excited.  The translator went on to say "She is saying that she is so happy, that we bring her so much joy!"  Joy.  It was one of the first words I heard her say.  This malnourished little person sitting in a dimly-lit orphanage hallway, teeth rotting, blond hair shaved short, dressed in clothes that were mismatched and several sizes too big, was full of JOY.

We tried sitting in the hallway with her, but she could only tolerate it for a little bit before she asked the caregiver if she could lie down.  They took us into a room that had two bunk beds and she seemed much more comfortable then.  I gave her the juice I brought, which she drank, and some wafer cookies which she said she'd save for after lunch :) I pulled out an "I Spy" book and she asked "This is for me? Can I keep it?" As Isabella looked through the book, she insisted on turning all the pages by herself.  She was shaky and slow but did a great job.  As she turned the pages, I studied her hands and wrists.  Oh my word, they were so bony that they looked as if they could snap like twigs.  Later, as I held one of them in mine, I remember thinking that they weren't much bigger than my two year old's hands. 

Isabella also asked me if I had a pen and notepad, which I did. She did some scribbling with those shaky little hands and when I asked her what it was she told me it was a butterfly. Then she did another one and said it was a sun.  At the end of our visit, she told me she loved me.  I said I loved her too (because I did).   I held her little hands and gave her hugs and kisses.  When it was time to go, the translator and I pushed the glass doors open and stepped outside, happy to see that a softly glowing sun had edged out the grey fog.  I thought of the "sun" in my notepad, scribbled in blue ink by a child who seemed desperate to show me that she could do things.  I was afraid when I left the orphanage that day.  I'll write more about that later, but for now I'll just say that life looked different when I walked out of there.  The butterflies that I had when we arrived did not go away for a few more hours.  It has been six months since I visited her orphanage.   The blue sun sits on my computer desk, a daily reminder that my own family is blessed beyond comprehension. 

Soon I will go back to the orphanage, where I will sit with Isabella and we will draw new suns, pink ones and green ones and maybe more blue ones.    

And then, when it's time, we will pack away our pens and paper, and Isabella will leave the orphanage with us. 


We are adopting Isabella.  Due to her physical condition and the culture in which she was born into, she was essentially cast aside by her society, relegated to a crib, and expected to accomplish nothing.  She spends her days in a "laying room" where there is very little to look forward to other than bath day and the next meal-in-a-bowl, spooned into her mouth by a caregiver.  Her little body is frail and broken.  Her spirit?  Anything but!

We have been working on the adoption requirements all summer and now we hope to travel to her country in a couple of months.  To be honest, I wasn't sure if I wanted to blog about our adoption, but I decided to give it a try for a couple of reasons.  First, I want Isabella to be able to read this blog one day, and to know about some of the wonderful people who played a part in her story.  Second, I want others who may be thinking about adopting an older special needs child from a laying room to be able to find us.  There just isn't enough information in the blogging world about these particular kids.

I hope our friends will enjoy following along, and I promise I will try to blog more than once a month!  We will see you soon, Isabella.