Thursday, March 22, 2012

Isn't it ironic?

A full week has passed since we've been home from China.  I've been thinking so many thoughts about so many things, it's truly a tornado inside my brain.  Then again, when isn't it!

Mostly though, what I think about most, is how adoption changed my world.

The changes though, are not what most would expect.  Before we adopted any children we went into adoption blindly.  To be honest, we thought adoption was a good thing.  We thought we were making a difference in the life of a child.  We read cliche quotes like the following and gave a loud resounding AMEN!

"I can not make a difference in the life of all the children, but in the life of one child I made a difference"

(note, these things and quotes may all be true, but there was an aspect to adoption we were totally missing)

We thought we could parent a hurting child and make it better for them. We thought we would hold them, and care for them, and their world would be a little bit better. When we thought about the impact a child would make on our lives, we thought about therapies for them, help for them. We would do whatever it took to help them. As my friend stated;  "the healthy helping the unhealthy, the strong helping the weak."

We brought our second son home, and were wildly mistaken.  We were faced with parenting a child with pain, abuse, malnourishment, loss, and fear.

Let me tell you, all our initial thoughts could not have been further from the truth!

We came face to face with brokenness, and we realized we couldn't face our son's brokenness without coming face to face with our own gross, ugly brokenness too.

again, in the words of a friend...

Fear, shame, pain, anger, and  insecurity cause my child to break down and lose it.  My own fear, shame, pain, anger, and insecurity fuel my embarrassing responses to his behavior.  To say this isn't how I imagined these scenarios playing out pre-adoption would be laughable.

Before adopting I thought I'd be here for my child, the instrument of help and healing to my child.  The real truth is, I'm simply here with my child.  Walking through our hurt and dysfunction together.  Holding my child after an episode that leaves us sweaty and breathless admitting that we're both a wreck in need of healing.  In need of a miracle.

Me, needing to be parented by God while I attempt to parent.

Me, a child of this fallen world and thus a child of trauma to some extent, attempting to parent a child of trauma.

And that is where the change in my world came in. 

Prior to adopting I thought we would be bringing hurt and pain into our story, but now I realize hurt, pain, trauma, dysfunction, lies, fear, and hate were ALREADY a part of MY story.

We thought prior to adopting that God would use us, we would be His hands and feet, all to bring healing to a child.... and yet adoption will forever be the reason healing, redemption, and restoration began in my own life.  In the words of Alanis Morrisette... "isn't it ironic?"  In this midst of a heartfelt story, I want to note, I secretly do still like her, ah yes, I am multifaceted!

So we bravely and courageously decided to adopt two more kids, we went into it, again like my friend said...

 "we're already imperfect in this house, feel like fat parenting failures most days while raising kids without a lot of emotional scars, and yet we're willing to rearrange our own dysfunction to make space for another life filled with hurt and fear."

What adoption has done for me, is brought me to my knees.  People say all the time, "how blessed these children are to have us."  They do not realize how blessed I am to have them. These children have shown me myself.  They have revealed the sin in my life.  They have brought me out of my middle American ways.  They've allowed me to see things I have and would have never seen before. They've given me a chance to live real Christianity, not a watered down version.  Who Christ is has been revealed to me in these last years, more than my lifetime.
It doesn't take a family adopting to realize our fallen state, the sin, the pain, fear and suffering we all have in our hearts.  For me, for this family, I am thankful He brought us to adoption, without it, I have no idea where I would be.  I fear it would be drowning, but the worst part about it is, I would have had no idea I was.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Together; Flesh and Spirit

They say a picture is worth a thousand words... these pictures are worth more...

The feelings we have had these last couple of days are OVERWHELMING!  They are joyous, tearful, amazing, humbling, fearful, tiresome, exuberant, frightening and a bunch more all in the exact same minute of time!

God is Good, ALL THE TIME!  I can attest to that firsthand.

I can also attest to the power of Satan. 

Ephesians 6:11-12;16  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual host of wickedness in the heavenly places....above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 

I guess if I were Satan, I wouldn't be too happy with me.  But, I am amazed how easy I fall.  How easy I find myself snared in the tools he uses to wear me down.  The first one is sleep.  I think lack of sleep has to be one of the easiest ways to loose hope, start worrying, become fearful, and "stress out."  Then its "others."  Things people say, friends, family, or strangers, that are hurtful.  Some things of course were not intended to be taken that way, some possibly intentional, but, in the end words are powerful.

Proverbs 12:18  The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

In just four days, lack of sleep, and reckless words have quickly found me angry, easily upset, bitter, frustrated, mean, and a big cry-baby.  I too quickly jump the boat.  One minute I am singing praises, and the next I am ready to "ream someone a new one."  I am thankful for a forgiving God.  I am thankful He is still with me.  I am thankful He is gracious.  I am thankful He quickly has pointed out that HE is all I need, that regardless of my sleep condition, regardless of what people say or do, He is still here.  He is still God.  He has given me these children, this life, my husband, this house, and He is still holding ME in the palm of His hand.  He asks me to trust Him, to have faith in Him, to love Him. 

Flesh and Spirit.  I repent and then I praise Him, and then I do it again.  I have been bought though, paid in full, Satan has no claim over me, or my sins.  AMEN!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Almost there...

For the entirety of our life together, Kenney and I have never spent 19 days, every hour and every minute of each of these 19 days, completely with each other, NEVER apart... heck, our hotel room even allows for us to watch each other in the bathroom.... just saying... think what you like...

We have had much time to talk and share about all kinds of things.  It's amazing the conversations you have when you are together all the time.  Some things we have talked about, that we don't want to forget...

1.  We are too greatly influenced by our surroundings and environment.  In China, the average home (note people don't usually own homes, they buy apartments) is 600 - 800 square feet, and that is considered, normal, not small.  How can I go back home to my 1700 square foot house and complain?  I know how, I look at my friends and family and I see their house, and I desire that.  What a horrible sin that we have allowed into our lives, and so easily justified it.  We could go on and on about the differences in culture and privilege, but that isn't the point, the point is, we have determined what we need for our lives instead of letting God determine what we need.  We don't want to live like that.  On the plane ride I read the book by Jen Hatmaker called "7."  I totally recommend to anyone who is ready for a heart-changing read.  This last year Kenney and I have been bothered by the excess we have.  The amount of toys, clothes, how much food we have, the extras in life...  we are slowly beginning to realize what God meant when he said it was going to be harder for a rich man to get to heaven than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.  I pray that each day we can have Jesus be all we need, and if it means we have to get to a point where Jesus is all we have, then so be it! 

 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15

2.  We take Christianity for granted.  Through some awesome opportunities only God could have orchestrated we have met some awesome Christians in China.  A dear friend, I have only just met, introduced me to some other Christians like this, "Laura, this is one of your sisters."  What a profound thought.  A thought I never thought about until today.  There will be people who are not my immediate family that I will spend eternity with.  And even more profound, and as much as I hope and pray my immediate family is all in heaven with me to spend eternity, they may not all be.  Jesus makes it quite clear that our family in Christ is just as much as a family as our "immediate family"

Luke 12:53  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

Matthew 12:50  For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

He personally calls us His brother or sister, if we are His, and do His will.  To be introduced to someone as my sister, was so amazing, the thought behind the title, the idea that someone half a world away, that I have never met, I will spend eternity with is amazing!  I have taken for granted the relationships I have and can have with fellow believers.

3.  We eat and drink too much!  Seriously this is a no-brainer.  Super size at McDonald's doesn't exist like it does in America.  The largest size drink you can get here is the size of a medium back home.  Our obsession with food in America is over the top.  When we eat out in China, we all order a couple of things for the table and we all share.  What a great way to cut back on the quantity of food everyone eats.  The answer to making sure there is enough food for the whole table is to make sure you don't eat too much, instead of ordering more, you just personally cut back.  Over-eating doesn't happen. 

4.  Isabell's physical needs are much more than we thought.  Clubbed hands and feet are the least of her problems.  She had a surgery when she was about a year old, but it wasn't done well and she had no therapy.  Her ankles are completely hardened.  They don't move at all!  Her original disease of MOP/FOP may be a reality.  Her knees are in the bent position, always sitting.  Because she was always kept like this without therapy her skin never grew,  because her legs were never straight, at this point there isn't enough skin behind her legs for her to even be able to straighten her legs if she wanted to.  Her legs are so tiny, she has no muscles tone and the size of her legs is that of maybe a 10 month old baby. Her arms are in the exact same state, except they are straight and she can't bend them.  She can only sit, and has no use of her arms or legs. When she sleeps she wakes up every hour and cries that her ankles or her knees hurt.  She can't close her legs completely together, so it's like she is doing a permanent leg lift.  I imagine the pressure on some of her joints is quite miserable.

Funny thing though, because we have had to deal so much with her sadness, because we have had such a language barrier, because we have had to talk too much and spend so much of our time regarding her loss of her first family, her physical problems have taken a back seat.  In such a glorious way, we have come to realize as big of a deal it may seem to some, it isn't.  Not to diminish her needs, but to realize that God knew exactly what her diagnosis was long before we even thought about adoption. He knows exactly what is wrong with her, He knows exactly what her outcome will be.  He has told us through His word, that He cares for the Lilly of the field and clothes them in beauty, how much more does He care for us?  He has told us we can't even add an hour to our life with worry, why even bother worrying then? God knit Isabell together in her mother's womb. She is an image-bearer of Christ.  Regardless if she lives to 20 or 100, regardless if she walks or doesn't, she is still loved by the Father and held in the security of His hand. 

In no way do I want to diminish the pain and reality of dealing with some of these special needs, but truly Christ has told us to not worry, to fear not, and that He can offer a peace that no one else can.  We have felt that peace descend upon us.  The prayers offered on our behalf by the believers of the world have been answered.  The joy we've experienced, the grace He's shown us, the peace, oh the peace.  No matter what our circumstance is, His offer of peace still stands for any of His children.

5.  WE ARE READY FOR OUR FAMILY TO ALL BE TOGETHER!  Oh sweet joy, we board a plane in less than 24 hours to go home! 

6.  Useless tidbits of information.... Northface knockoffs look exactly like Northface, we tried but couldn't find the differences.  Chinese bathrooms are not fun, especially if you have the runs, or a child who can't stand, but is totally potty trained. 

Gas masks are a staple item in all hotel rooms here.  McDonald's is the same yucky McDonald's.  Tea markets and pearl markets are the most wonderful places to shop.  Hopefully we do not have problems in customs, we rather enjoyed the tea and pearls, and our luggage is proof of that.  Chinese herbal medicine is 200 million times better than Pepto, or Immodium for those problems like nausea, vomitting, diarreah... and no side effects (for a good time, go look at the possible side effects on your bottle of Pepto... it's amazing!)  Split pants are just strange, I have yet to really see the convenience of it?  The lamb here is awesome, if I could we would eat lamb everyday!  If you have blonde hair and blue eyes and are in a remote area of China and go shopping, you may be stopped and asked for your autograph... I don't know why, but it happened... a lot!

Thank you all for your love and support and most importantly prayers, we have felt them!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities...

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times…

A sweet sister in Christ shared a story with me some time ago about the mixed feelings adoption can bring, and that is how she opened her story.  I found such comfort and honesty in her story that today, I share a similar story.

We picked up Caleb on Monday February 27th.  He stuck to me like glue.  Every movement I made, every place I went he followed.  At a near 35 pounds, carrying him around for hours on end got a bit old.  He cringed at Kenney’s touch and pitched a monumental fit when Kenney would even look at him.  We did our best to “try.” Kenney tried holding him, with me in the room, without me in the room, it didn’t matter.  Not only was it emotionally taxing, when we would go in public we would have people stare and almost yell at us, if Kenney was holding him and he was pitching a fit.

Our prayer each day was to be “a little bit closer” to make baby steps of progress.  Every day we would kneel at our bedside and repeat these thoughts.

I refuse to worry; in this world there will always be something to worry about- that is the nature of a fallen, fractured planet.  Temptations to be anxious are constantly with us, trying to worm its way into our minds, and our best defense is continual communication with HIM, richly seasoned with thanksgiving. Awareness of His presence fills our minds with light and peace, and leaves no room for fear. “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:25-26. We would repeat God’s words, “fear not” “trust me” and over and over again we opened our hands and asked Him to go before us and take our hands.

On Monday we prayed to fear not and trust HIM

On Tuesday we prayed to fear not and trust HIM

On Wednesday we prayed  to fear not and trust HIM

On Thursday we prayed to fear not and trust HIM

On Friday we prayed to fear not and to trust HIM

On Saturday we prayed to fear not and to trust HIM

And then on Sunday morning we came before Him, so worried, so scared, we didn’t listen to His command to fear not.  The devils “what if’s” they hit you hard.  They hit even harder in a country far away from home, without my other children, without my family, without my brothers and sisters in Christ.  And so we woke up, not knowing what was going to happen when we got ready to pick up Isabell. 

Sunday morning, miraculously, Caleb ran to daddy.  We walked to the grocery store and Kenney held Caleb, the ENTIRE time.  No fussing, no crying, no screaming for mama.  It was in God’s time. God teaching us lesson after lesson in trust.  We rejoiced.
It was the best of times…

My heart was prepared for turbulent waters with Isabell.  I dreamt about how difficult “gotcha day” was going to be.  I tried to push it out of my mind, but in an almost peaceful way God was preparing my heart, almost like going through Lamaze classes, we are taught about the pain, only to deal with it better.

And there we sat in the adoption affairs office on Sunday afternoon.  It was just us and our guide.  No other families, we were alone.  The heat was not on and we sat shivering.  We heard footsteps climbing the five flights to our floor.  They walked in.  My sweet Isabell, held by her foster father, following up the stairs was her foster mother, brother, two sisters, and grandpa.  They brought her dressed beautiful, in her best coat and pants, and had even bought new shoes for the occasion.  They had bags full of gifts.  They brought her favorite toys, her favorite snacks, new hair bows, a special handmade silver charm bracelet, brand new Chinese outfits, a gift for us, and photo albums full of pictures, pictures of when she was a baby, her foster family, pictures showing places they took her, to the beach, in a stroller, when she had her surgery, to the spring festival.

They told us how they had been preparing her, but that they loved her, they wanted to see her loved, see her get the surgery and the care she needed.  She clung to the only daddy she has ever known for almost four years.  She screamed over and over again she wanted to go home and she didn’t want me.  They kept telling our guide all kinds of things about her, her favorites, how she slept, how to rub her ankles because they ached.

Stupid rules, stupid laws, I cried.  My thoughts immediately drifted to the cross.  Where Jesus bore my pain, my guilt, my sins, my fears- and the weight of it all crushed me.  To see this families love for a little girl, and to take her away.  Oh the pain in adoption I had never experienced until now.  The sins of this world that have left children abandoned, the sins of this government, that make rules that are not God’s rules.  If I could I would have begged for her first family to keep her, but the rules of the government, they can not.  Where we are they have no real medical care, and she will just get worse physically.  They would eventually take her away, and suffer grave consequences  even if they tried to keep her. There were so many tears in all our eyes.  The real sickness I felt because of this pain.  This world today reminded me it is broken, it is full of sin and pain, and heaven will have none of this.

The love this family had for Isabell was real, and pure, kind, patient, longsuffering, genuine, - agape.  In a dark place where the city practices mostly all Buddhism there is very little light.  I saw the light.  The mother kept telling our guide something, but the guide was not translating, and finally in a desperate effort the mother came up to me, opened my hand, and placed a small tiny wooden cross in my hand and said “Christos.”  At this point I was a crying, sobbing, nutcase.  I felt my body weeping, nodding my head telling her Yes! Yes!  we are too, we will teach her all about Jesus.  I looked over at Kenney and saw the tears pouring down his cheeks as well.  Even with a language barrier, we all communicated the same thing.  We understood this entire situation was crappy, but it was the only way, the best way, Jesus’ way.

We got back to the hotel room, and she screamed and cried for hours.  She cried she didn’t want me to touch her, she didn’t want me to hold her, she wanted to go home, she wanted her mamma and her baba.  I laid down with her tiny broken heart and body and cried with her and for her.  It was all I could do.  Jesus knows my thoughts.

It was the worst of times…

Friday, March 2, 2012

13 days and counting...

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25-26

This was our verse this morning...

So we sit looking at each other, is this true for us?  Do we desire nothing on this earth except for Christ? 

We realize we fall short.  Our flesh wins sometimes, we want things our way, perfect in our own eyes.  We think we can do it.  We think we possess the power and the talent and the resources to accomplish our desires.  Yet, we fail, over and over again.  God is our strength, not we ourselves. 

We are resting in this verse today.  We rest knowing God will  be our strength.  He will be all we need today.  If we don't eat the food we like, or if my arms feel like breaking because I've been holding Caleb for too long, or if Kenney is trying desperately to love on Caleb and he rejects him... it's all okay, because there is nothing on earth we desire except for Christ.  He will be our portion. 

I think it might be a dadism, not sure, but somewhere, someone said "baby steps"  (okay, maybe it was Dave

For one minute today Caleb loved daddy... only one minute and the rest, well crying would be an understatement, but one minute is a baby step

These children will forever be on our hearts, if I could I would bring them all home, but for now, baby steps, they will remain on our hearts.

And this little boy, he will forever change our lives, but for now, baby steps... pray for him, he is having a very hard time right now.