Saturday, March 30, 2019

Saying Yes to the Scary and the Unknown in International Adoption

*** TRIGGER WARNING****

This is a transparent and possibly uncomfortable post to read.  My views have been formed based on my personal experience and also from families who have shared intimate details of their journey with me.  In addition, my faith is the biggest guiding factor in how I shape my views and make decisions.  After completing four international, "special needs" adoptions, this is where I have landed in regards to accepting a referral.

I arrived at each of my daughters' referrals differently:  1) through a waiting child list  2) a call from my caseworker asking if I was ready to return to the India program  3) waiting the traditional way for THE CALL and 4) by default after losing a child I had prayed for and pursued for close to a year.  Furthermore, each of my daughters arrived at their respective orphanages in different ways and at different ages.  They each have a unique story.   Finally, they came home at various ages:  Almost 7 years old,  3.5 years old,  19 months,  and 4 years old.

If you read my book, then you know when I started on this adoption journey, all I could envision for myself was a healthy baby.  I was naive and selfish.  God used the closure of Nepal to begin the process of gently stripping away my desires and replacing them with his.  A paradigm shift happened and I clearly became aware that international adoption is not about my wants and desires; it's about providing a family and a home for a child that has none.  It seems obvious, but when you are in pursuit of motherhood or building your family or "answering the call" or whatever other reason that led you to adopt, it's easy for your vision to become cloudy and self-centered.

With each successive adoption, my idea of "special needs" has evolved.  What I once thought scary, terrifying, overwhelming, or a definite NO, has been replaced with a deeper understanding of God's grace and provision.

What I said YES to when I signed their referral papers:

Trauma
RAD
Facial anomalies
Severe scarring
Older child
Failure to Thrive
Strong susceptibility for severe behavioral issues
Unilateral leg paralysis
Sickle Cell Anemia
Meningitis

The reality of my YES once they were home and received medical care:

Trauma
Facial anomalies
Severe scarring
Older child
Failure to Thrive
Unilateral leg paralysis - HEALED
Sickle Cell Anemia - Turned out to be trait
Meningitis 
Alpha Thalassemia
Brain damage
Unilateral hearing loss - severe
Active lymph node TB
Active ocular TB
Latent TB
Microcephaly
Cerebral Palsy
Speech Delay
Schistosomiasis
Septopreoptic holoprosencephaly
Toxocara
Giardia
Hepatitis A
Cafe au lait spots
Strabismus
Metabolic disorder
Short stature
Precocious Puberty
Possible Peeling Skin Syndrome 
Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder
Anxiety
Global delay

I may have forgotten a few things because it seems that something new is always being discovered :)   

We've seen ENT, Audiology, PT, OT, SLP, Hematology, Genetics, Endocrinology, Infectious Disease, Neurology, Ophthalmology, DDBP, Urology, Pediatric Gynecology, Developmental Pediatrics, Orthopedics, and a new referral for Pediatric Rehab.  I'm sure I missed a few here as well because... it's a lot of specialists to remember.

I am a single woman.  I started my journey knowing that I would be a single parent.  I don't have someone I can come home to and tap out.  I'm the sole-provider, the sole-decision maker, the sole-comforter, the sole-protector, the sole-weight carrier, the sole-everything.  In addition to all of that,  I also homeschool all of my girls.

I don't say all of these things for any type of recognition, or unsung hero crap.  Because nothing could be further from the truth.  I am a sinner and a broken person.  I am woefully inept.  I question my sanity and decisions daily.  I'm overwhelmed 95% of the time.  I cry in random places.  I cry when someone is nice to me.  I'm an expert worrier.  I worry about our finances.  I wonder if we will ever get out of this season of hard.  Will God keep me in the valley of absolute surrender and trust?  I worry about the health of my girls - there are some scary issues and all of it feels enormous.  I wonder if I'm meeting their needs.  Am I listening enough?  Am I playing enough?  Am I present enough?  Why did I flip out over the hangers on their floor?  Why do dirty dishes in the sink drive me to the brink of rage?  Because I am weak and I can't do it on my own.  No one can.  I need Jesus every single day of my life.  Without him, I can't even begin to imagine how terrible our life would be.

In John 16:33 he says:

"I have told you all this so that you will have peace of heart and mind.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows; but cheer up, for I have overcome the world."

He straight up tells me that life will be hard.  I will have sorrow.  I will have many trials and tribulations.  However, he also tells me to have joy because of what he has done on the cross - he has overcome the world.  He has overcome my problems, my sorrow, my troubles.

He clearly tells me in Matthew 16:24-25:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

This life is not mine.  I was bought with a price - his life.  My purpose here is to be a vessel of God's love, through the unique gifts and talents he has bestowed upon me.  The only way I can do that is through his strength and community.  God's purposes are always eternal and he accomplishes them through relationships because he is a relational God.

The cross was a horrific death, and yet, he tells me to pick up my cross daily.  To surrender my will, my desires, my "self."  And when I do all of those things, I will find true life - life everlasting.  

So when I think about each of my girls and the needs they came home with, both known and unknown, I'm convinced that God used my YES to shift eternity for each of them.

Waiting potential adoptive parents say to me all the time that they want a child with minor needs.  I get it because I was once that person.  However, I want to shake them and tell them that just navigating trauma alone is a severe need.  Every single child who is adopted suffers a primal wound - the loss of birth family, and in the case of international adoption, language and culture too.  A significant part of their identity is missing and for the rest of their life, it will be a permanent question mark.   Everyone wants a quick process and minor needs, but that's not the majority of international adoption processes.

I am in a unique situation and my family is atypical - we are a transracial family, led by a single woman, with four internationally adopted girls.  We are the underdog.  By faith, I stepped into the abyss of the frightening unknown.  I came home with way more than I bargained for; yet, God has never left us.  He continues to provide every single thing we need - from shelter, food, and transportation to medical specialists of every kind.  He provides medicines, therapies, and procedures.  He provides a community of other adoptive parents that just get it.  I don't have to explain anything, they just know and in that knowing, provide comfort and encouragement.

Adoption is not easy.   The genesis is profound loss and therefore, should not be easy.  I learned through saying yes to things that terrified me that God would never forsake me and even more, he would never forsake my daughters.  He is passionate about caring for the orphans and the widows.  I've seen more miracles being on this adoption journey than I would bet most people ever see in their lifetime.  When you say YES to adoption, God is committed to seeing you through it.  I'm not saying he is committed to making it easy, because that would be a bald-faced lie; however, He will never leave.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, will separate me from his love.  No diagnosis, no sadness, no anger, no despair, no moments of distrust, no loneliness nor depression - nothing.  I know this because his word is true.  He promises in Romans 8:28 -

"That neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor ANYTHING ELSE in ALL CREATION, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus." 

Last year, I went through hell and back after losing Sparrow.  It was the darkest, saddest, most faith-shaking season I've ever experienced but through it all, he never left me.  He walked with me through my grief, my anger, my sorrow, my questioning, my depression, my unbelief, and most of all, my fear of ever trusting him again.  He was big enough for all of it.  He peeled back layers and exposed deep wounds still in need of healing.  He gently lanced the cysts filled with the puss of sin and unforgiveness.  He cleansed my spirit and bound up my wounds.  I learned an invaluable truth from that situation:  his grace and love are bigger than I can imagine.  They are all encompassing and readily available to me as I stumble through this life.  Because of this knowledge, I know that whatever unknown comes our way, he will provide everything we need and will walk with us every step of the way - the hard, the scary, the sad.

I can't fathom not having each of my girls home with me.  I can't even comprehend my life without them.  Were their needs beyond anything for which I was prepared?  Absolutely.  Have I been scared out of my mind since getting home?  Without a doubt.  But I would never, ever in a million years trade any of it.  I love my girls with everything that I am.  I'm not a perfect mom, but each and every day I strive to love them with the love of Christ.  We soldier on knowing that he will meet us exactly where we are.  He will never leave us.  And that is what makes saying YES worth everything.






Thursday, November 1, 2018

Where I've Been

I looked out the window at the Cincinnati skyline and smiled at the beauty of it.  Dazed from thirty hours of travel with four kids, I felt a sudden surge of adrenaline pulse through my body:  we were moments from our final destination.  I heard the landing gear engage and my excitement intensified.  My adoption journey that started almost a decade ago quickly approached its finish line.  It was surreal.  I fought back tears as the flight attendant welcomed us home; I almost stood up and clapped as the captain expertly landed the plane.  A wave of joy and relief washed over me.  We were home.  We were complete.  We turned the last page of the adoption book of our family, closed it, clutched it to our chest, and in a final family hug, thanked God for all He had done to weave our lives together as one.

We stepped off of the plane, excited to open a new book, ready for the next adventure.  We had been living "On Hold" ever since Munni came home - it had taken a toll on everyone and all of us were excited for a new beginning.  

Two weeks after arriving home, I reached to put my laptop on the coffee table so I could get up to go to the bathroom.  I felt something in my back, not a pop, but something wasn't right and it hurt.  I told Roopa I thought I pulled a muscle.  It hurt all night.  The next day, it still hurt.  Wow.  I knew age affected things, but this was crazy.  I couldn't believe how bad my back was hurting.  And not only my back, but my hip, and a sharp pain that ran down the outside of my right thigh.  Then, a day or so later, as I was getting dressed, my hand rubbed against my right thigh as I pulled on my shorts.  Ew.  My leg felt like a stranger's leg.  My thigh was completely numb.  The pain continued to worsen.

I ended up completely out of commission, as in flat on my back for almost a week.  I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't drive for a month.  The pain of sitting and extending my foot on the gas pedal about put me through the roof.  This also coincided with the 8,325 hospital appointments we had for both Sonali and Mohini.  My mom had to drive us everywhere.  In addition, I couldn't lift, hold, or even have my girls sit on my lap because even the weight of them being on my lap, sent shooting pain in my back and deep into my hip.  

I saw a chiropractor who performed decompression therapy on me.  It provided minimal pain relief.  I went to urgent care because the pain was so bad.  The doctor said she would give me a steroid shot and a steroid pack.  On the verge of tears, I told her I had 4 kids.  She said she would give me 2 shots.      Finally, I was able to get in to a spine specialist.   First, I had to have X-Rays.  Then, there was a debacle with the pre-authorization for the MRI, so I lost three weeks of waiting.  At last, it got sorted out and I got my MRI last week.  The results came back and I have an annular fissure in my lumbar disc.  So that's fun.  I find out tomorrow what the plan of action will be.

While all of this was going on, more and more medical issues kept appearing with Sonali and reappearing with Mohini.  My vision and expectation of how I thought our life was going to look when we stepped off the plane was nothing like what we were living.  I cried every single day.  The worst part has been not being able to hold my kids, especially Sonali.  Imagine just having a baby and then not being able to hold your baby for almost 2 months.  Attachment and bonding are critical in adoption and physical touch is such a huge component to that equation.  On top of that, Roopa asks me daily when I'll be able to hold her again.  I struggle with this because she is growing so fast and I wonder if I'll ever be able to hold her again and that breaks my heart.

And then there's Mohini.  I had a total breakdown in the neurologist office.  I think it all just came tumbling out because the doctor was nice and I'd been in denial/avoidance for so long but now that Sonali is home and it's staring me smack in the face, it gutted me, right in the doctor's office.  It wasn't pretty, but thankfully, the neurologist was compassionate and the team at Cincinnati Children's is amazing.  I know we will get the resources Mohini needs - it's just overwhelming looking at the big picture.  We are looking at years of therapy.  And it frustrates me because I HATE trauma and all that trauma does and how it wraps its disgusting tentacles deep within their brains and hearts and affects their lives for years and years and years and I want to punch trauma in its face because I feel helpless and pissed and tired and frustrated and scared and sad because I love Mohini with all of my heart and I want her to be all that she can be.  Her medical issues alone are significant, but the consequences that trauma adds to her issues just makes everything a million times harder.

Almost everyone has heard of RAD -Reactive Attachment Disorder, when a child doesn't establish healthy attachment with parents or caregivers.  Another lesser known attachment disorder is the one we are fighting: Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder.  We became hermits because of this.  It's exhausting explaining why I parent the way I do and why it's not "just normal toddler behavior" when Mohini does the things she does.  People wouldn't respect the boundaries I asked, so we stayed home or stopped visiting.  I had to put her in the carrier to help eliminate some of her behavior, but then she got too heavy for that and I got too frustrated.  I grew resentful.  Our life changed dramatically and where we once were able to come and go freely and enjoy parks, the zoo, museums, basically anywhere outside of our house, suddenly became major anxiety points for me.  She has no stranger danger.  She would literally go home with the mailman.  She thinks every adult is a safe adult.  She doesn't cry when I leave.  She wanders away with no fear at all and never, ever panics.  If I let go of Mohini's hand for one second, she would be hugging a stranger's leg, or grabbing another's woman's hand, or hugging a random man - lightning fast.  She's freaking adorable so everyone thought is was soooo cute and smiled and laughed, which only encouraged her behavior.  The whole time I have to say it's completely unhealthy, run through my script, please don't touch my child, she doesn't know what a mom is, blah blah blah, the faces drop, the looks turn and I can see their thoughts running across their face... I'm the crazy one.  But they don't know.  They don't see it every. single. day. and every. single. place. that we go.  So, we stayed home for basically an entire year.  I tried everything the therapist told me to do.  I prepped her before we left the car:  "Mohini, we don't talk to people who aren't our family.  We don't touch people who aren't our family, Ok?"
She'd smile and say, "Okay."
And then, we'd go into whatever establishment and it was as if the conversation never took place in the car.  I'd remind her, "Remember?  We don't talk to people.  We only talk to Munni, Roopa, and Mommy."
Big smile - "Sorry, Mommy."
Walk three steps and she's talking to random man, reaching out trying to touch his arm.  She's adorable and so he responds to adorable baby reaching out to him and touches her back.  The cycle continues.   These are just small examples.  You can google the effects of DSED as children get older, it's not good.  That's why I'm busting my tail trying to lay the foundation for her to have healthy attachments now.

Sonali has been home two months.   Seeing her attachment compared to Mohini after being home a year and half is startling; hence the breakdown in the neurologist office.  Thankfully, we managed to get in for an assessment with the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (DDBP) at the autism center in a few weeks.  Normally, it's a 6 month wait.  They don't think that she has autism, but because of her brain injury, and being an institutionalized child, a lot of her individual behaviors are somewhat autistic in nature.  The neurologist thought it would be a good "home" for us because of the amount of resources available.  We were also assigned a Developmental Pediatrician.  In addition, she starts speech therapy next week.

My back injury occurred on September 6th.  When I stepped off the plane at the end of August, I truly thought we were home free.  I was giddy with joy.  We had been dreaming of all the fun things we wanted to pursue this year.   Funny how things change.  Instead, I found myself in convalescence.  Basically, a decade of stress and anxiety came crashing down and literally took me out.  There were many days were I wondered if I was ever not going to be in pain and it scared me.  I have a new compassion for those who live with chronic pain.  It messed with my mental state big time.  I read my bible and found solace in the story of Elijah.

He had just come off of two major spiritual victories - and then ran 6 miles back to town to make sure the correct story was told.  But when he got there, his public enemy number #1 aka Jezebel, had a little warm welcome note waiting for him.  It went something like this:

I'm gonna kill you.  

That was enough for Elijah, who dipped and bounced to the desert.  He ran for his life, terrified.  Exhausted, he sat under a Juniper tree and told God to just let him die, there was nothing left for him to do and that he was no better than his ancestors.  Then he fell asleep.

I thought about my adoption journeys.  When I was in process, there is an adrenaline and energy to get you to the finish line.  God performs so many miracles, a community rises up beside you, it's like a tidal wave that pushes you forward.  And there's a beautiful face in front of you - keeping you focused, prayerful every day, fighting the battle.  The climax comes when you finally arrive in country and wrap your arms around the child for whom you've prayed, cried, dreamed, loved for months and months.  The title orphan is exchanged for daughter and that child is grafted into your family forever.  It is the sweetest victory.  But then you get home and real life sets in and all the demands and medical needs and stresses and attachment issues and sibling issues and behavioral problems and resentment and doubt and fear and sadness and questioning and I'm sitting under that Juniper tree feeling afraid when I think about all that we are facing.

An angel comes and wakes Elijah and tells him to eat.  He looks and sees bread and water so he eats and falls back asleep.  A little while later, the angel touches him again to wake him and tells him to eat or else the journey ahead will be too much for him.

I was reading a devotional about thankfulness.  It talked about learning to take every single circumstance and thank God for something about it - to look for the good that He can bring from it.  It's been challenging, but I have to say shifting my perspective to that has been a great lesson for me.  I thanked God for my back injury because it forced me to rest.  It forced me to slow down.  It forced me to be present with my girls in ways I normally wouldn't have been.  It forced me to humble myself and ask for help.  It provided opportunity to spend more time with my mom.  I made three new friends who have ministered to me and my family in the sweetest ways.  I think about my journey ahead, and I see how He has provided sustenance for me while I rest and prepare.  Part of that meant pulling back and circling tighter.  He sifted some relationships and brought me new ones.  We are idling in first gear, waiting for the moment we have the healing to pick up speed and shift gears.  Until then, we are going to continue to slowly inch forward.





Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Finding You: A Memoir

I wrote a book.
It took me two and a half years.  Writing a memoir is not easy because revisiting those raw, emotional places takes a toll.  
However,  I hope our story will encourage others and most of all,  I pray that everyone who reads my book will see the tender heart of God.

You can order a copy here.


Saturday, July 28, 2018

Sweet Sonali Paloma

We can finally share with the world our sweet Dove!  It is with overwhelming love and thankfulness that I introduce to you:

 Sonali Paloma ~ Our Golden Dove





We are beyond thrilled and excited that we will be traveling to India in less than a week to welcome her into our family!  We love her immensely and can't wait to wrap our arms around her.

I am blessed beyond more than I could ever dream or imagine ~ His ways are indeed higher than my ways and His thoughts more than I could ever comprehend.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Mountaintops and Valleys

Early 2016, I read two books that changed my life.  They propelled my faith to new heights.  Never had the composition for my life purpose been so clear.  Those books helped me to succinctly write my life statement for how I would use my gifts and talents to honor God not only in my life, but for my family as well.   I stood on the mountaintop, next to Jesus, looking out into the horizon of my future.  Excitement and joy filled my spirit as Jesus pointed to the colorful skyline, whispering plans, encouraging me to walk into a new level of obedience.  His arm wrapped around me, I never felt more secure in my faith.  The vision He gave me was crystal clear and exhilaration filled my entire being at the thought of walking out this journey with Him.  

For months, I reveled in the aftermath of that experience, often thinking back to the panoramic view that gave me vision to see farther and clearer.  The vista allowed me to navigate my faith course of desires and decisions to move me closer to God and His goodness.  I made bold moves in faith.  I quit my teaching job.  That was the beginning of the snowball effect of our intentional living.  After that, I pulled Munni from public school and we began our journey of whole life learning.  It is hands down the best decision I have made for our family.  We have grown together in ways that would not have been possible had we continued living the way we were.  Munni has experienced tremendous emotional healing.  The girls have flourished in their faith and in their relationship with each other.  Being intentional in our relationships, in our family, in our faith, in our learning, has been an incredible experience for which I am extremely grateful.  At the same time I quit my teaching job, I felt the Lord nudging me to pursue another adoption.  It seemed insane, but I was on this new journey of obedience so who was I to say no?  Exactly one year later, Mohini was placed into my arms.

But two months before that happened, God did something else.  Something that would alter the course of my life and permanently scar my landscape. 

He brought Sparrow into my life.

This time, it truly seemed crazy.  I was done with adoption.  Done. Done. Done.  But He kept nudging so I kept praying and walking forward in obedience.  Signs and wonders and prayers and miracles happened throughout the 11 months that I pursued her, right up to the moment I lost her.  It didn't make sense.  In my shock and grief, I stumbled backwards and fell off my mountaintop, hitting rocks jutting out from the sides on the way down, and landed hard in the valley below.

It was dark and I was disoriented from my fall.  Bruised, traumatized, and heartbroken, I gingerly tried to get up on my own.  I attempted to make sense of it all.  How could this be happening?  It had to be a mistake.  I did everything He asked of me.  Doesn't obedience end with blessing?  The walls of the valley were steep and blocked my view of the beautiful horizon I once gazed upon with Jesus by my side.  The brush was an overgrown maze of thorns.  I wept.  I was lost and didn't know how to get out of the wilderness in which I now found myself.

At first, the pain was about her.  I grieved losing her.  She was my daughter.  We prayed for her and thought of her as much as our family as if she were physically present.  It rocked us all.  Not only did I have to manage my grief, but my girls grieved the loss of their sister as well.  

But then, it moved deeper.  Up to this point, I had been pushing it away, focusing on all I knew to be true about God.  He is good.  His purposes are good.  He is loving.  He works all things for the good of those who love Him.  

Jesus came to me in the valley.  He reached His strong arm towards me and said, "Child, come."
I reached for His hand and began to walk.  The ground beneath me uneven, I stumbled along, losing my balance, and He steadied me with a simple Word each time.  We walked slowly.  Very, very slow through the valley.   I wore my faith draped around my shoulders like a tattered blanket, thin with holes; it barely kept me warm through the winter.  The bramble was thick and tore my skin with each step.  Finally, I couldn't take it anymore and I sat down on a rock and cried.  I was stuck.  I couldn't move forward with Him until I allowed myself the courage to ask the hard question.  

How can I get healing from the One who hurt me?

In my tantrum, I challenged him through my sobs.  You say you work all things for good, but this seems cruel.  Why would You have me pursue her for almost a year just to take her away at the last minute?  I don't know how to trust You in anything anymore.

I fell flat on my face, baring my innermost hurt, admitting what felt like betrayal from Him.  He let me cry.  All of my grief poured out of me like a broken dam.  I was afraid it wouldn't stop.

The release of emotion and confessing my hurt felt like the lancing of a festering boil.  The infection oozed out and the pressure released.  I sat up and wiped my tears.  Jesus cupped my face in His hands and looked at me, "My Child, I am leading you through it."  His eyes penetrated so deeply to a hope buried in my heart.  I felt a flicker.  He held out His hand to me once again.  "Trust Me."  This time, with both hands, I grabbed ahold of His hand and His strong forearm and pulled myself up from the place where I had been stuck.

The path was dark and narrow.  We trudged through single file, Jesus leading the way.  I clung to Him so close I could feel Him breathe.  The thorns and branches still tore at my skin but I began to notice something.  I started to see the purpose in the pain.  Through my sorrow, the superficial things in my life that were taking up space were being stripped away.  One by one, they were ripped off, replaced with a scab, with new tissue growing underneath.  In a way that only Jesus can do, He opened my eyes to His grace in heartbreak where before I had only seen it in triumph.


In Psalm 23:4, David says, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me."  For You are with me.  I have learned that truth through my dark valley trek.  It has been horribly painful, but Jesus has been with me every step of the way.  Every time a thorn has ripped my skin, He has squeezed my hand tighter.  When I felt I couldn't take another step forward, He looked into my eyes with compassion and a love so sweet, collected my tears with His thumbs as He wiped them away, and encouraged me as only He can. 

I'm still in the valley but I'm getting closer to the edge of the clearing.  I'm learning that the real blessing of obedience isn't something tangible ~ it's relationship with Jesus ~ a deeper intimacy with Him.  

The longer I walk with Jesus I realize that in order to get to the mountaintop, it takes a long time walking through the valley.  But walking through the valley is where all of my brokenness, my helplessness, and vulnerability are openly displayed.  I was completely raw and exposed; I placed an absolute trust in Jesus and through this, grew an intimacy so deep and pure and beautiful between Him and me.

I know eventually there will be another mountaintop experience in my future.  But this one will be different because I am different.  I don't imagine it will be filled with the same exhilaration and excitement as previous summits.  No, instead I imagine witnessing something beautiful beyond words with the greatest Love of my life, and the intimacy of sharing that with Him, that will be my mountaintop.





Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Not the Highlight Reel

My perspective on adoption has evolved since I started my journey.  In the beginning, I was super self-focused.  I was excited to become a mom!  I couldn't wait to adopt a healthy infant, because... it was all about Me and My wants.  What I could handle.  What I wanted.  My dreams.  My longings.  I didn't want messy.  I didn't want special needs.  I wanted picture perfect.  I wanted those beautiful moments.  The Hallmark card.  The perfect story.  My daughter would be named Sofia because that was My girl name.  The name I wanted for My daughter forever.  Me.  Me.  Me.

I spent hours upon hours watching Gotcha Day videos.  I imagined the day some orphanage worker would place a beautiful baby in my arms, the camera would zoom in on my face, tears streaming down my cheeks, everyone filled with joy!  The moment captured forever when we became family and everyone lived happily ever after.  Can you see it?

And then God said, "we'll see about that my child, because I have a different plan."  He let my heart marinate in loss.  While the juices of sorrow soaked in, a funny thing happened.  My heart became tender to the things for which God's heart is tender.  And when it had been saturated enough, He brought the sweetest six-year-old into my life.  I'm so incredibly thankful God didn't give me my way.  

As I've continued on this path, other scales have fallen from my eyes.  Their extraction has been in large part, due to my children.  I look back at videos of my first two adoptions and cringe at things I did.  I was naive.  Even though I had read and researched VOLUMES on trauma and attachment disorders and been through hours of training, I can clearly see my mistakes.  Behaviors I mistook for attachment were clearly survival skills.  Two steps forward, three steps backwards.  We trudge along.

Right around Roopa's family day celebration, snuggled up in bed one night, we were talking about our trip to India.  We talked about the day we met Roopa and our time in India.  It was extremely traumatic for her.  Nervously laughing, Roopa said, "I thought you kidnapped me."  Her remark caught me off guard.  I looked at her and with fear in her eyes but mustering all the courage she had, she timidly asked, 

"Did you kidnap me, Mom?"

My heart shattered into a million little pieces.  Sorrow filled my being as I thought about the weight of that ugly lie she had been carrying in her heart for three years.  How many times had she looked at me and wondered?  How many times had she shoved that deep down within her?  How many times had she denied herself the answer to that question?  How many times did she wrestle with loving me and reconciling her emotions over the fear of the answer to that question?

I told her immediately I understood how it seemed completely logical that I kidnapped her.  Here I was, a total and complete stranger.  I looked nothing like any other woman she had ever seen.  I had blue eyes.  Blonde hair.  Funny looking skin.  I smelled different.  I didn't speak her language.  And I took her from the woman who, for all intents and purposes, was her "mom."  Even though she was a woman who worked at the orphanage, she had taken care of Roopa since the very first day she arrived at the orphanage.   So, in Roopa's mind, I kidnapped her from her mom.  I'm quite certain that many children who are adopted, have very similar emotions.

Thankfully, Roopa witnessed me go through two adoption processes.  I talked to her about all of the paper stacks for Mohini and Dove.  We talked about driving to the state capital for the apostille process.  We talked about how I had to get blood drawn.  We talked about the social worker coming to our house.  We talked trips to the bank, to the post office, to staples to make a zillion copies.  We talked about the fire marshall coming to our house to do the fire inspection.  We talked about all of the hoops I had to jump through to get to the point we are at now in Dove's process.  I told her, I had to do all of that for her!  I did not kidnap her.  I adopted her and it took a very long time.  I'm glad she asked me that question and she let me tell her exactly how she became my daughter.

These are the conversations you don't see in the youtube adoption fairytales.  

In January, I received two short videos of Dove.  I showed them to my neighbor.  The first thing she said was, "She's an old soul."

She's right.  She is.  You can see it in her eyes.  There is a loss.  A deeper understanding.  The other day, I received two more videos of sweet Dove.  We were able to send her a little book of us.  She saw our faces and our names.  As she is looking through this little book, she gets overwhelmed and looks off to the side.  And there it is.  That look.  So much loss.  Her little best friend was with her.  He is being adopted by an European family.  I don't know if he will be gone before we get her or not.  He was also in the videos I received in January.  This is a special relationship for her.  Another major loss.  So much change.  Her entire life is being decided for her.  Everything is changing and she has no say whatsoever.  Can you imagine?  How stressful that would be?  Obviously, a family is ultimately better than living in an orphanage.  But, these precious children already come with such loss and endure so much brokenness.  When I watched those videos I thought, this is a truer reflection of what our kids suffer and a more realistic portrayal of adoption.  

When it's time for us to finally go get our Sweet Dove, we are anticipating some intense grieving.  I'm mentally preparing myself for our trip to be similar to how Roopa grieved.  Roo told me that she's going to sing lullabies to her.  She has a compassionate heart and an understanding I can never know.  I think about my little family and our mosaic and how God has knit us together so perfectly in our brokenness and imperfections.  We pray for Dove every night.  We pray for her tender heart.  We pray that she will let us love her through her transition.  We pray that peace will override fear.  We've been praying this verse for our family and continue to pray it for Dove as her life nears a new dawn.  

"For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun!  Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland."

Isaiah 43:19






Sunday, February 18, 2018

Mosaic

Today is Sparrow's birthday.
Moving through this grieving process has not been easy.  It's a strange phenomenon how God can knit a child into your heart, and then take that child away.
But the love remains.

This past year has been hard.  Really hard.  I wish I could say that I've handled this whole situation with the upmost grace and wisdom and all things holy.  I haven't.  I've had bouts of anger.  I've had wicked thoughts.  I've had heartbroken thoughts.  I've had thoughts of despair.  I've had thoughts of apathy.  It's been a struggle.

I'm an avid reader.  One particular book I read since losing Sparrow ministered to my soul.  A section I highlighted, ended up getting copied onto an index card and carried around with me on a daily basis.  Shoved into my jeans pocket.  Tucked into my jacket.  A gentle reminder of my journey here.

"Jesus is not primarily a teacher of information or morals.  His teachings go much deeper than that.  He is a teacher of a way or a path that leads to change and transformation and a new heart brought about by a surrendered life deeply centered in God."  

And I will go further to say that for me, the surrendered life is reached through suffering.  As painful as is it, I've learned to recognize the sweet in it, as there is no other conduit that draws me closer to Jesus in such an intimate way.

Every winter, my parents go down to Florida.  Last week, I drove the long drive down there so we could have a much needed respite.  I desperately needed a reset.  Admittedly, I did a horrible job of self-care last year and was not in a good place.  I needed serious down time.  On top of that, it seemed like day after day was never ending gray and rain and mud and cold and snow and just made me want to sit on my couch and do nothing.  
Waking up to sunshine and warmth was an immediate relief.  I know that sounds dumb, but that's how out of whack I was.  We spent all Sunday by the pool and on the beach.  I felt the sand in between my toes and let it fall through my fingers.  I loved looking at all of the shells and walking on the beach with the girls.  Slowly, I could feel some of the stress and anxiety dissipating.

Monday morning, my dad followed me to the Honda dealership.  My minivan had been making a horrible noise and I was so incapacitated, that I didn't deal with it and just drove to Florida.  I know.  Stellar move.  My dad heard the noise Sunday morning when we arrived and insisted we take it in first thing the next day.

Anyway, Josh in the service department wasn't feelin' our non-appointment, early morning drop-in.  He wasn't fond of my sound descriptions either.  I was a hot mess.  I basically rolled out of bed, threw on a hoodie over my tank, flip flops, and a messy bun, standing there with my dad.  Josh had an attitude and was clearly annoyed.  I wanted to cry.  I told him when I purchased the van, I also ended up getting some kind of expensive warranty that ended up covering a new engine 6 months after I bought the van.  I said some other stupid stuff that I don't remember because I talk too much when I'm nervous.  I get nervous when people are annoyed with me and Josh was just staring at me.  He got up to go get the VIN number and the mileage off the van; I told my dad I thought we should just leave it there.  I took my hoodie off because I was getting sweaty from being nervous and Josh was making his way back to the desk.  I tried make a joke and asked him if he thought I was going to have to Fred Flintstone it back to Ohio.  He looked at my sleeve, winked at me, and said, "I got you."
I blushed.  I felt like a high school girl.  Who knew my ink would turn my day around?  I turned to my dad and he told Josh to give us a call when they figured it out.  In the end, it needed two front axles replaced and some other stuff.  Josh took care of it and made me feel like a million bucks when I picked it up.  It's the little things like someone telling me, "I got you," or my dad basically holding my hand at the car shop because I was so worn down that I couldn't do that simple task myself.  I needed his support.

I let myself just be.  We didn't have an agenda.  We rested.  We played.  We swam.  We talked.  We were quiet.  I read.  It was a healing time for me.  
Roopa got baptized and we celebrated Munni's Forever family day.  I'm so very thankful that we spent that time with my parents.  My girls love them so much and each day with them is a gift.  
One day on the beach, my mom and I were talking about Sparrow and the whole situation.  She shared a story she heard.  She said a man had been pondering the Trinity of God and tried to understand it as he walked along the beach.  He came upon a little boy who was busy digging a hole in the sand.  The little boy had a bucket and was running to the ocean, filling the bucket with water, running back to the hole, and dumping the bucket into the hole.  
The man asked the little boy, "What are you doing?"
The little boy replied, "I'm putting the ocean in this hole."
The man gasped, "You'll never be able to do that!"
The little boy replied, "And you'll never be able to understand the Trinity."

It is such a great picture for me, because I will never understand God's ways.  I'm learning each day, some days better than others, to open my hands, let go, and trust.  For whatever reason, only he knows the purpose and specifically why I needed to go through it.  He knew the transformation that would take place within me.   It has taken me to a deeper place than I've ever been.

On the long 15 hour drive home, I had a lot of time to think and pray and listen to music.  I was struck by one of Alanis Morissette's songs and thought, how did I want to be?  Which refrain did I want my life to reflect?

Cause I've got one hand in my pocket 
and the other one is giving a high five
and the other one is flicking a cigarette
and the other one is giving a peace sign
and the other one is playing a piano
and the other one is hailing a taxi cab

I decided that I want my other one to play the piano.  In the pain of the journey, I want to make something beautiful ~ even if it's just plucking out a simple one-handed melody.

All week long we collected shells. Whole shells and broken shells.  I thought about those shells throughout the week.  I pondered how Jesus uses our broken state to make something beautiful.  I look at my family and how each of us have our own broken shards, different colors, different shapes, and he has masterfully created the most breathtaking family mosaic from all of our individual pieces that none of us ever would have imagined.  I love my girls with everything that I am; but I wouldn't be their mom if not for my broken pieces.