Sometimes life changes in an instant, without warning. Sometimes it happens over a period of time, and you are aware that your life will change, so you prepare for it, and you make plans, and then the time finally comes for this change that you’ve been spending so much time preparing for and you PANIC. Because it doesn’t matter that you bought a bed, or that someone brought over a bag of clothes, or that you bought the homeschool version of Rosetta Stone English…all of those things you did to prepare cannot truly prepare you for the human being that will soon join the family. A human being with complex emotions, personality, life experiences…. Will she feel comfortable with us? Will we feel comfortable with her? What will “the everyday” be like with her?

We’ve been waiting for this since January, and now that the time has come to fly and meet her and bring her home, I wonder if we’re really ready? Can I be the mother this darling girl has longed for her whole life? Can I fulfill her needs? Will she be happy here or will she hate it? How will she grieve? How will she handle leaving everything she’s ever known? Will part of her resent us for taking her away from it all?

All of these questions and fears are as swirling as the reality of leaving is now here. I don’t have easy answers. This is life, and it’s messy. We don’t expect a fairy tale, but we do know God makes beauty from ashes.

This adoption has been a whirlwind. We first saw her face back in January and at this point, we are merely waiting for word from our agency that we can travel to Ukraine. The time when Tom Petty’s words are ringing true…”The waiting is the hardest part”.

The differences between this adoption and our first are many. Different countries, different ages, different genders, different races, different waiting times! I’m sure there are people who may think we’re a bit foolish to adopt an older child. Teenagers are fraught with issues as it is, and a teenage orphan??? I mean, that’s total craziness. Let me say that we are well aware of the possible issues. We do not expect this to be a Disney movie. We expect it to be difficult. But why in the world does that mean it’s not worth it? So because it might be hard or inconvenient for us, we should allow her to grow up without parents? Sorry, but that’s insanely selfish and I’m not about using that as an excuse. So bring on the struggle. God led us here and He has not failed us yet.

One of the things that keeps us going is the fact that our in-country lawyer/coordinator has gotten special permission to communicate with our V. All communication goes through a social worker, but we couldn’t care less. We get to talk to her and get to know her a bit before we see her face to face! It was an unexpected blessing to say the least. Each letter we receive is like water in the desert. We have learned that she is an artist, and even had her work in a local student show! She loves her friends, music, and playing soccer. She is going to fit into our family just fine.

But I think about the other older children. Who will open their arms and homes to welcome them and fight for them? Do they know they have value? Who will stand up for them?

My heart is breaking for those who do not find families. Craig and I are “parenting from afar” our sweet J from L@tvi@, and my heart is literally in pieces for her. She is a strong girl, but how many of us would be successful if we left the “safety” of a children’s home, thrown out into the “real world” and all of the responsibilities and stress that it brings? It is KILLING me to not be there to walk alongside her, to care for her when she’s sick, to encourage her, take her to lunch, love on her with countless hugs and kisses.

We can’t save them all. So we continue to advocate, to encourage, to educate, and we will hopefully be a difference to our sweet V who is joining us soon.

It’s Holy Week. A week to reflect upon the days leading up to Jesus’ death. To remember how He was betrayed, arrested, beaten, humiliated in the streets, forced to carry the tool for His own death, spit upon, jeered at, taunted…hated. To remember His crucifixion, hanging on a tree between two criminals, His grace apparent even then. To remember a mother, wrecked and weeping, as she witnessed her first-born treated so shamefully. This child whose arrival was heralded by heavenly hosts, now broken and bleeding.

I would describe myself as a very emotional person. It doesn’t take much to get me crying. This week before Easter, however, can get me pretty raw. When I think about what Jesus has done for me…it’s gut-wrenching, mind-blowing, heart-breaking, life-changing, LOVE. I am forever changed, and forever grateful. I know He died for me. For my sins. I know He was crucified and buried. But I also know that He conquered death. I know that Sunday’s comin’.

That’s my Jesus. I wonder, do you know Him?

The subject of grief is definitely one for which I now have a deeper understanding.  Losing my mother was so extremely difficult for me.  I had never lost a family member before her, so the immediate grief process was extremely laborious and raw.  She and I were very close.  Her personality was so big, so when it wasn’t there anymore, the space left wasn’t just empty, it was a vacuum.  It threatened to pull me down into darkness.  Frankly, there were many moments when I thought that letting go and allowing that darkness to pull me down, drifting into nothingness, sounded like a good idea.

It’s about a year and a half after she left this earth, and my grief is not so raw anymore.  But it’s still here with me.  I carry it like an accessory I didn’t choose.

Anyone who has taken a psychology course will be familiar with Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Moving through these stages looks differently for each person, but if each stage isn’t visited, even briefly, the process will not be complete.

I had a wonderful relationship with my mom, but even so, I struggled with my grief process whenever I was reminded of the things about her that annoyed or angered me. She was opinionated, loud, stubborn, and a bit of a know-it-all, just to name a few things. So when I felt the absence of those things and realized how…nice it was to not have to deal with them, I felt horribly guilty. But in the end, I know who she was. I know what she meant to me, and I understood our relationship and I know how much I loved her, and how much she loved me. Our relationship was real and imperfect, but not confusing.

Tuesday night, I listened to a webinar as part of our education requirement for our adoption. The topic was attachment and how it may look differently in adoption. It was all really great information, most of which I was already aware of from seminars and conferences we had attended just because we are passionate about adoption and orphan care. But one of the sub-topics caught my attention. Grief, from the perspective of the adopted child. Because adoption does not exist without loss. It does not matter if the child was adopted at birth, as a toddler, or as an older child. That child has lost the chance to be raised by their birthfamily.

With loss, comes grieving. but if that child is in any way unclear about their feelings for or relationship with their birthmom/birthfamily, they can become stuck in that process. If they become stuck, attachment to the adoptive parent will be difficult.

As a child struggles with the loss of birthfamily, they inevitably think about the circumstances in which that loss occurred. Even in a family situation where a child does not feel safe (i.e. alcohol/drug use, physicaly/secual/emotional abuse), the child will still feel a sense of loyalty and love for their birthfamily. The juxtaposition between that love/loyalty and the fear for safety causes a great deal of confusion for the child.

“They’re my parents and I love them, but they let scary people into our house”
“She hugs and kisses me, and tells me she loves me, but when she drinks, she yells and throws things and it scares me.”
“Mom told me that my birthmom didn’t have money to take care of me, but I wonder if it’s because she didn’t love me.”

Confused feelings about birthfamily throws a wrench into the grieving process. It’s hard to deal with feelings when you’re not really sure what they are. Grief is difficult enough without throwing in the additional stress of confusion.

As we prepare our home and hearts for V, we need to be ready for her grief. not only will she grieve her family, but her homeland, her friends, and all that was familiar to her. I am well aware that there is no prescription to keep us moving through the process of grief. No magic potion to get us “unstuck”. I cannot make it better. But I can give her permission and encouragement to slog through the mire. Who knows how long it will take, but I have my slogging boots at the ready.

Hey readers!  Are you visiting this blog from outside of the United States or Canada?  If so, hit me up with a comment!  You can be anonymous, just reply with the country from where you’re reading!  I love to see all of the flags on my stats page, but I know I don’t know people in all of the countries that have shown up.  :-)  Blessings, friends!

We have an incredible Creator who weaves our stories together in ways we are sometimes privileged to know and in others that we will never be privy to. I don’t know how many people actually read this blog other than my family and a few friends, yet my stats claims that there are lots of people who apparently visit and read my often random thoughts and observations. Who knows? Maybe my words have helped or inspired some of you. If so, I would love to hear it. So like, you know, maybe leave a comment or whatever….

When I was a kid, I remember a song that I sang in church once. I believe it’s called “Tapestry”. I can still recall the lyrics:

“I am a thread in the tapestry, I have The Master’s hand on me. And then He weaves me carefully making textures as He goes. Each of us part of this great design, You’ve got you part and I’ve got mine, all of our lives are intertwined, as the pattern starts to grow! Through thick and thin, The Master weaves us in. Young and old, we are the colors of the rainbow. Our lives are short and long, but together we hold strong, with this everlasting tapestry!”

No making fun. “Christian” music back then wasn’t exactly edgy. But this song, however, has a lot of truth in it. We are a part of a tapestry of humanity. Our lives are indeed connected, and every once in a while, some of those connections can sort of blow your mind.  We are in the middle of one of those mind-blowing connections.

On Monday, January 7th, after a beautiful conversation with our sweet J, Craig and I came to the conclusion that our concerns over adopting an older child were ridiculous and unfounded.  Our kids were so incredibly open to it, they loved the idea of having an older sibling, and we had seen how our lives might look welcoming an older child and all of its fabulousness, struggles, language barriers, awkwardness, and wonder.  Our plan for the next adoption HAD been to return to Ethiopia for a toddler girl.  But God leading us to New Horizons and J, changed our hearts.  So on that day, I once again looked at photos of waiting children, this time looking at older children, and expanding the search to Eastern Europe.  I have combed through hundreds of pictures before.  My heart broke for each one.  But this time, I froze.  My heart skipped a beat.  Still, I kept scrolling, then I scrolled back to her.  Heart skipped again.  Scrolled down again.  Scrolled back.  There was something about this girl.

I caught Craig about to return down to his home office and stopped him.  “Look at this girl, honey”, I said, shoving the iPad in front of his nose.  He looked.  He smiled.  He got a weird look on his face.  “Oh”, he said.  “Oh?”, I said.  “Oh”, he said again.  Then he put his things down.  This was my first clue something was happening.  When Craig puts work stuff down, it’s serious.  “She’s lovely.  How old is she?”, he asked.  “Twelve”, I said.  He looked at me again, with tears in his eyes.  “Okay”, he said.  “Okay???”, I said.  “Yes. Okay.  Who do we talk to?”, he said.  “Uhhh…I dunno.  I’ll email someone I guess.  Okay?”, I replied.  “Okay”.

Firstly, I know, our conversation was extremely intelligent and riddled with big words and complex critical reasoning.  Be jealous, it’s okay.   That’s how we roll.

So I emailed the facilitator of the webpage.  That was Monday, remember.  On Friday, as I sat amidst a pile of teenager clothes, accessories, Ziploc bags, and a bathroom scale, I received a return email telling me that the sweet girl I had seen in a photo, was in Ukra*ne and that I should email another woman for more information.  Normally, I don’t sit amidst such things as teenager clothes and whatnot, but I was assisting J with packing for her departure the next morning.  She had just declared me unnecessary in her process (typical 17 year old!), so I was able to email the person to whom I was directed by the website facilitator.  This woman was the one responsible for getting our girl’s picture on to the website, and was advocating for her, after she met her in the late summer while she was in Ukr@ine adopting her two boys.  This particular woman, Kristen, emailed me back in about 10 minutes.  So I emailed her.  And she emailed me.  And I emailed her.  And then she sent me her phone number.  And it was local.

!!

What?  I emailed her again, asking her where she was located.  She replied with the name of a town a mere hour away.  Are you kidding me?  This woman could live in California!  Washington!  Texas! Other far away states!  But she didn’t.  She lived an hour away.  I couldn’t believe it.

The next day, after an extremely difficult farewell to J and feeling like my heart was being ripped from my chest, then wallowing in my misery for most of the day, I called Kristen.  Do you ever have those experiences where you speak with someone and you know you’ve found a lifelong friend?  Threads in the tapestry, friends.  Kristen and I spoke for quite some time and she later informed me that she knew from the first few minutes of talking with me, that we would be adopting “V”.

It was only the next week that we decided to move forward with adopting this girl who captured our hearts.  We are now almost done with our home study, and we’re ready and raring to go with tackling “The Beast”, aka, the dossier.

Last month, I met Kristen face-to-face where every first face-to-face meeting usually takes place: Starbucks.  We sat and talked for a few hours, until we had to pry ourselves away so we could return to our families, who obviously don’t function well without us.  Kristen is one of those people for me, who is so easy to talk to, like a long-lost friend I never knew I was missing.  It was during this fist meeting, that I learned when she met V for the first time.

But let’s back up for just a second.  Craig and I were discussing the possibility of adopting again during the summer of 2012.  We decided at the end of August that we would take a month to pray about it separately, then come together again and share what our thoughts were.  A mere two days later in church, we were both moved in an extraordinary way.  It was nothing less than the Holy Spirit speaking directly to us, separately.  You can read more about this experience in this post, which happens to be co-written by Craig.  Note the date.  August 23rd.

Back to Kristen and new friendship and delicious coffee.  As we chatted about V, her boys, Ukr@ine, adoption, how crazy we were, etc, I asked her when exactly she was in Ukr@ine.  She had mentioned, “late summer”.  Hmmm.  So when was that, exactly?  She said they arrived the 21st, met their oldest son on the 22nd, and then met V on the 23rd.  Of August.  She met my darling girl on the day we posted our intent to adopt again.  More threads woven into the tapestry.  She promised this precious girl that she would do all that she could to find her a family.  A family is what V had asked Kristen for.  A family to love her and never leave her.  A family to count on and call her own.  A family to fight with, to laugh with, to share with, to sit with, to grieve with, to struggle with, to grow with.

Sweet, darling, precious, V.  We will be that family for you.

The last week has been full and wonderful and painful. I do not look forward to tomorrow when our dear girl leaves.

I will share my thoughts when the dust settles.

We had another day with our amazing Russian friends whom we met last week at church. Today we enjoyed the kids being back at school and getting a much-needed haircut for J. It was great. Supposedly, we will have our desktop computer back tomorrow which means I finally get to post pictures!!!! Stay tuned…….

She leaves a week from today. This fact has set my heart to slowly breaking. I cannot stand the thought of her leaving, of her away from where I can keep her safe and care for her, and make sure her needs are met.

At the same time, I am utterly exhausted. I sat down to think about things yesterday and I realized, that with the exception of sleeping, I have not been alone for nearly one month. One month. Someone always with me. Now, some of you love the thought of that. But while I am an OUTGOING person, I am by definition, an INTROVERT. This means that in order to re-charge and be refreshed, I need alone time. I cherish alone time. No one hanging on me, no one demanding something from me, no one talking at me. Alone time is beautiful. And guess what? While she simply adores Craig, I am “Mama”, so she wants to be with me. Oh right, I also have three other children who have been like, “Hey, someone else wants Mom’s attention? I’ll show her! I’m gonna be super duper awful and do everything I know I’m not supposed to do! Who’s with me? All of us? Woooot! Lets do this thing!”.

And there you have it. Look at me, and the bags under my eyes look like they’re definitely going to be charged for being over the weight limit.

To add to the chaos, sweet J has decided that her first two weeks of going to bed at eight, are over. She has been up close to midnight each night now and of course, it’s then when she wants to talk and open up. It’s hard for me, as I am a lover of sleep, but the time with her is so sweet, so it’s not hard at the same time.

Have I regretted the decision to host her even for a second? A millisecond? Nope.

We are learning more about her, feeling her become part of our family, and trying to prepare for the inevitable departure. We are also trying to separate fact from fiction as she tells us more and more of her story. I have to remind myself that a child doesn’t have full details of the goings-on of the adult world around them. All I know is, this word is broken. I will say it again and again, children need families. J should have grown up with her family. Instead, she has spent too many years in an orphanage, not being tucked in by a loving mother. Not having her hair tucked behind her ear in a sweet gesture of affection. Not being asked by her father, “Are you hungry? Have you had enough to eat?”. Not being told to sit down and do her homework. Not having boundaries set up for her to teach her proper behavior. Not having someone whom she can truly count on. As I keep up with the other families who are hosting (again, kids ages 6-17 are here being hosted across the U.S.), I am hearing beautiful stories of love, honest accounts of struggles, and kids who are relishing being a part of a loving family. Kids who are begging, “Please keep me.”, and “I want to stay with you and Papa”. And it doesn’t matter if these kids have tested their host families. It doesn’t matter if there have been screaming and tears. These kids are BROKEN and they are DESPERATE to be told they are loved, that they are worthy of love, and that they will still be loved even if they act out. Isn’t that the right of every child? To be given a place of safety to push, test, and figure out “But really, will you still love me if….?”

And so until the day I draw my final breath, I will speak out for these children. For those who have seen too much, experienced too much in their short time here on earth. For those who just want a family to call their own.

We have had a low-key end to the week. We did a little shopping, we went to the best Chicago fast food place, Portillos’s, and then bowling with our very awesome friends on Friday. Today we headed to the mall to Build-a-Bear and made a recorded greeting to put in the bear she chose. Bowling was fun, but then it got a little tough as J began having an emotional struggle. She misses her friends, and was thinking about a lot of things. We hope to talk to her about all of that when she’s ready.

Tomorrow we return to the Church where she will be able to hear the service in Russian, and again spend time with the friends we made there last week. We are all looking forward to it!

If any of this is stirring something in your heart, please, I beg you, do not ignore it. I hear so many people say, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to innocent people?” I’ll tell you. He’s waiting on those whose hearts He has stirred. Inaction on the part of people is not God’s doing. It’s the free will He’s given us. He is a loving God who did not create mindless robots to do His bidding. Free will is the gift He’s given to His creation. And when we ignore those whispers of encouragement, we ignore Him. And then we wonder why the world is so messed up? We are His hands and feet. Get. Moving.

.

I am being tested from all sides. J is not so bad. She is making noises, tapping, snapping, knocking, etc, to try and see what our limit for annoying noises is. No problem. I can handle that. It’s MY OWN children who are really testing me. J slept in this morning which gave me a chance to get some post-holiday cleaning done. When I tried to do so, one or more of them started doing something they knew very well was not cool. After so so very many of these incidents, Mama was pretty well done with their shenanigans.

Later, I came into the room and found that they had taken apart the vacuum cleaner’s accessories and had pulled up parts of the brand new rug in the library. Are you kidding me??? Yes, I lost my cool a bit and raised my voice. I was so crazy-frustrated that I ha to go out into the garage and have a good cry. I chatted with J about it later and she assured me, “But they are children’s! This is normal! It’s okay!”, to my explanation that I was sorry I lost patience. I then assured her that I love my kids very much, but they were testing to see if the rules would still apply with J in the house with us. I said, “Family is about loving not just with the good but also with those not so good moments”. What an amazing girl. She just hugged me and smiled. Hopefully that was good and not just patronizing. :-)

Later, we went to Sky High, a really awesome trampoline place and bounced ourselves silly and exhausted. I arrived in a sour mood thanks to the testing going on during the day, but three bounces in, and suddenly I was a five year old again. I almost screamed, “Wahoooooo!”, but I wanted to be sure not to crash into anyone with my lack of focus.

Tonight we had her try a good old American classic, the root beer float. I thoroughly enjoyed mine, and she….didn’t hate it. :-)

Root beer floats!

Root beer floats!

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