Back a long time ago- well, what seems like a long time ago- when it was just me and Tommy for the most of my days, I decided to babysit my niece (who is the same age as Tommy.) Two babies and a new mama, there are a whole lot of stories and disclamiers that could come out of that year, but, most basically- I did it. I watched two babies for the better part of the day. Somewhere in my mind I figured I managed a horribly collicy baby and my sweet niece, and therefore I could conquer the world. I remember Kenney and I still had standards. Dishes were never left in the sink. There were never fingerprints on the windows. We woke up early on Saturday mornings to do laundry and wash our bedroom sheets. Every. Saturday. Morning. (Well, being honest, he woke up and pulled the sheets from under me and I am pretty sure I fought that kicking and screaming- seriously.) We kept lists, and had routines, and planned weekend projects. I distinctly remember being proud. It makes me a bit nauseous now, but I remember thinking it. I was happy, yes, but secretly proud. Money wasn't really tight. I lost my baby weight. We had a clean and managed house. We even had a cat and a puppy. Even little colicy Tommy would take a bottle from Daddy now and then, to give me a break. Even on my worst days it felt like things were in control. Even on those bad days when Tommy didn't stop crying and I was exhausted, I remember the dozens and dozens of people that either gave practical advice or the simple quote... "It will get easier, it will get better." I really did believe life progressed and got "better."
Then Noah came home and I was five months pregnant. We kinda bumbled along those first five months. Audrey was born, and we realized Noah needed some help. Therapy began- Speech Therapy, Occupation Therapy, Developmental Therapy, Physical Therapy, a Behavioral Psychologist, and even a Nutritional Therapist.
The house was full. Somewhere in-between pre and post Noah we moved, we gutted the "new" house out. We traveled to Russia four times. My brother and sister-in law and their new little baby moved in with us. At some point I began babysitting again. Finances changed, our house didn't sell for what we had hoped. The mortgage was high, and the loan we planned on getting to remodel the house in the beginning was used for adoption. Yet, somehow in the midst of all of this we decided to adopt both Isabell and Caleb. And somehow, we thought special needs, and handicaps and deafness would all be okay too. So we signed up for more financial "tightness" more people, more stuff, more needs.
Not even months after we were back with Isabell and Caleb, we planned to go back for Charlotte. More special needs, Cerebral Palsy to be exact. We even adopted two more dogs (one who had just delivered puppies) to add to the mix.
There is a whole lot of missing information and pieces in the above paragraphs, but that information isn't the point.
You see, for me loving my little baby boy, colic and all was easy, being a mama wasn't so bad. My little Tommy spent nine months in my womb hearing my voice, listening to my heartbeat. I spoke words of praise, of joy, of delight over him. He was wanted and the two of us grew together. He was born healthy, nearly perfect. He rolled over and crawled and walked perfectly. He talked perfectly. He ate perfectly. His body did exactly what healthy bodies do. He was loved from the very moment of conception, by both his mommy and his daddy. Sadly, I took the credit for it. I believed it was me. I believed somewhere in my sinful, broken heart that I was what made this little boy giggle and coo and smile at his mama. As he grew up and began to read and write, and became a mostly well mannered little boy, as he ate all his veggies and asked for more, again, I took the credit, and I believed it was me. I believed I was a good mama.
I cry more than all the past years in my life almost every day. I am a mess. A real, dirty, needy mess. These children, even more specifically the children brought to us by adoption. They ruin me.
Some of my children can not walk at the age of five years old. When I go to the grocery store, I have to park next to a shopping cart corral that has a cart, because there is no way for me to carry both Charlotte and Isabell and hold Caleb and Audrey's hand, and monitor the safety of Tommy and Noah. So if there is no shopping cart, or spot open near a corral- I have to wait, keep driving around, or just leave. I have to get them out of bed in the morning. Carry them to the table, carry them to the living room, carry them downstairs if we all go downstairs, carry them outside if we all want to go out and play.
Some of my children can not use their hands or arms or bodies to get dressed, to brush their teeth, to feed themselves, to hold a cup and drink, to color, to play with their toys, so I feed them, I dress them, I brush their teeth for them, I hold their cup.
Some of my children can not talk. Cannot. Nothing, no words, nothing. She's almost six years old and all we do is look into each other's eyes, and some days I have no idea what she needs or is trying to tell me. She can barely manipulate her arms, or hands, let alone fingers and so signing isn't much of an option. She can not call out to me in the night and ask for a drink if she is thirsty. She can not say the words every mother longs to hear.... "I love you."
Some of my children are hearing impaired. He can not hear what I am trying to say, he gets confused, he has a hard time talking, of communicating his needs. So I resort to talking loud, almost yelling. I repeat myself over and over, only to be stared at blankly.
Some of my children have ADHD, SPD and other brain/behavior disorders. Things are confusing. Learning the alphabet is nearly impossible, even thought at five we sing the song every day over and over. They break down, throw tantrums, screaming lying on the floor, all because I politely asked don't touch. They can't sit still, they can't focus. They can't stop pulling at their sleeves or picking at their cuts and scrapes. They cry because someone touched them one minute and the next could gash their head open and not even notice. Their brains are confused and in a basic sense don't work the way they are supposed too. Trips in public can be a nightmare. We have to have special diets- no gluten, no food coloring, no preservatives, no cured meats, stay away from genetically modified foods, extra Omega 3's, extra liquids, eat every two hours.
Some of my children are hurt. From the moment they were conceived things were not like it was for Tommy. I do not know that the nine months (if it was even that) they spent in the womb, words of love, of affirmation, or joy were spoken over them. I know for a fact, some were thrown away, literally in a garbage bag left to die. I know some were malnourished, some spent the first year of their life on their backs, in a crib staring at a ceiling. I know some of them physically hurt. Their bodies were literally broken. They've undergone numerous surgeries and spent more time in a hospital than Kenney and I, and most all the adults I know. They've had multiple "mommies." They've had people come and go. The bonds that a mother and a child have... they've had and then lost, and then had and then lost, and lost and lost again, while some... have had nothing.
Everything I thought I had control over- my son's walking and talking, his health and his happiness- I believed a lie. The lie made me proud, and proud people don't know how much they desperately need Jesus.
I am sure I said it before... said that I needed Jesus. But it was not my life's heartbeat. It wasn't the constant I heard all day. It was just words, empty, meaningless words. I know I liked to believe that Christianity was about being strong for the Lord. I know I believed that things were getting better. Life was getting better. Things were getting easier. Somehow I believed that Christianity made me stronger, more powerful, bigger, better, more capable. I am not quite sure exactly where I was headed, but I've heard it said "Jesus' office is at the end of your rope." I do know I wasn't at the end of my rope.
But I am now.
This though, is where is gets good.
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. --1 Corinthians 1:26-29
I can not say it any better than this quote:
"The hope of the Christian faith is dependent on God’s display of strength, not ours. God is in the business of destroying our idol of self-sufficiency in order to reveal himself as our sole sufficiency. This is God’s way—he kills in order to make alive; he strips us in order to give us new clothes. He lays us flat on our back so that we’re forced to look up. God’s office of grace is located at the end of our rope. The thing we least want to admit is the one thing that can set us free: the fact that we’re weak. The message of the Gospel will only make sense to those who have run out of options and have come to the relieving realization that they’re not strong. Counter intuitively, our weakness is our greatest strength.- Tullian Tchividjian
I have been brought to my knees- better yet the floor, flat on my face, poor and needy, crying tears of desperation. I know every single moment of every single day, I CANNOT do this. I can't. I'm lost. I'm so very helpless. I need so desperately Jesus.
My need for Jesus- it's my greatest strength. I didn't think really that I needed Jesus, like I need Jesus now.
It's a beautiful thing.
Being broken and having Jesus.
I didn't see my own dirty hands before, but now I see them every day. I can hold my daughters broken hands in mine, and I can see the dirt and the mess of my own hands, and I can have joy, because Jesus washed me white as snow.
I didn't see the mess my life had become before, but now I see it every day. Dishes piled up, shoes on my counters, unopened mail, a lunch still to be packed, and groceries still to put away. But Jesus, he cleans up messes, and he takes the weight of having to perform to have worth and value, he takes that and squashes it, and loves me in spite of the messes at the end of the day.
November is National Adoption Month and Thanksgiving.
No more an appropriate time to be thankful for adoption. God used adoption in my life to break me. Jesus heals broken people. I am a healed, redeemed, white as snow daughter of a Heavenly Father. I have never experienced such a joy as this and I am so very thankful. I am thankful to be at the end of my rope, because this is where I have Jesus, and there is no better place to be.