Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Silence of Adoption

They are beautiful boys.
Our sons from across the ocean.
Each day I get the pleasure of greeting them in the morning and each night kissing their little heads to sleep.
They go through the day talking and creating messes and making plans on this, that or the other.
They are silly and fun and keep us on our toes in this house.
But they are more than just beautiful boys in a picture.
Though they are fun-loving and silly and creators of all the mess in our house, I would be selling them short and this blog short to only imply that is all to their lives.
Our boys come with stories. Stories filled with grief and loss. Both were abandoned at birth.  Both spent their first five years in baby houses where they learned that soft hands would never pick them up if they cried, so they learned to bury their cries deep down into the very depth of their beings.
They never had the luxury of being rocked in someone's arms.  So they learned to rock themselves. Back and forth. Back and forth in their cribs. Hour after hour. Day after day. Year after year. My boys rocked themselves because no loving hands took the time to rock them. They still rock themselves.  Break my heart. They still rock themselves at night.

Both boys had disabilities that sidelined them. Labeled them.  Disabilities that caused them endless hours of suffering in hospitals without kind hands to caress away the pain.
Both boys spent way too many years living in institutions where survival of the fittest was the rule they learned to live by.
And they bear those scars.  Both of my boys. They bear the scars of neglect and abandonment. They carry with them the trauma of their early years in and out of hospitals. 
I would be wrong in this blog to indicate that they came blazing out of their former lives and danced merrily into our family with ease.
Five and a half years ago we met a scared little boy who had been sentenced to live the rest of his life in a mental institute, but for the Grace of God. 
Last year we met another little boy who had spent almost 11 years of his life whispering prayers for a family to love him best of all.
Both boys in their own way have rocked our worlds.  There have been times when we have been deep in the trenches with our sons. In those times we have struggled to put into words what it is like because we barely understood the rules of engagement. 
Here's the truth.
When you are in the trenches  - you often don't have the mental clarity to explain what is going on. And just when you think you can put into words what is happening, everything changes and you find yourself in a different trench. Sometimes a whole maze of trenches.
Some trenches are shallow and easy.
Some are deep and devastatingly complicated.
Some are private.  Things that can't be shared openly.
Some are too darn confusing.
I am not usually one to be at a loss for words but honestly, when it comes to figuring out the world of my adopted sons I tend to be often at a loss for words.
There are some days when I want to just sit down and write a book.  Because maybe then I could bring clarity to what we have experienced with our sweet sons from across the ocean.
There have been many many times in our journey with Aaron over the years that I formulated words in my head only to find that by the time I got the words on paper they made no sense in relation to the trench we had moved into.
There are a million books about caring for a newborn baby.  I read them all when I was expecting Ben and Elijah.  There are just as many million about what to expect the first year of life with that baby.  I read those too.
There are few books on how to care for a child just out of a mental institute.  Few have written how-to's on what to do with a child who has lost all language because of the devastating trauma of transfer. Or what to do with a child who is happy and engaged one minute and 'gone' the next.  No one has written the manual for how to teach a child who was raised where books were non-existent and who spent every single day of his first five years in two rooms with just baby toys which most of the time sat pretty on the shelf.  There are only a few books out there that gave us clues on how to navigate in a world where our son cycled back and forth from emotional sunshine to rain throughout the day. And the book on what to do with a child who spent a solid year sitting in a shed surrounded by moaning boys - not on the shelf.
There are no how-to books about the effect of transfer to a mental institute on a five year old little boy. None that I have ever found. 
So we winged it.  We trial and errored with Aaron.  He had given up all language in the mental institute.  We instituted talking as a rule in our family. We developed battle plans when he 'disappeared' and we worked through his rages.  He learned what family meant and we learned to love a little boy who recoiled when touched.  We realized early on that formal learning was out the window.  He needed time to just play. No toys sat on the shelf in our house. We let him play.  Hour after hour after hour he played, surrounded by trucks and trains and planes because for two solid years every single one of his simple little conversations was about trucks or trains or planes. We battled for his heart and some days we felt vindicated in our battle and others battered and bruised. 
Trench life is hard on the family.
Children from institutes are world-class experts on how to manipulate between the parents. And let me tell you that it doesn't take a lot of speech for a child to spin his web. We had to learn quickly how to deal with the manipulation. 
We waded through the trenches with Aaron and because of our time spent, we thought we had a clue how to help another child into our family.
Then came John.
Last year we brought home a little boy who wakes up with a desperation each morning  to know again and again and again that he is loved. Some days, many days, his attempts at love get muddled up in behavior that causes conflict and struggle. 
He spent almost 11 sorry years in an institution. No matter how nice or pleasant an institution, it is not a family. It never will be a family. Children belong in families. From birth.  In institutes they learn to lie and steal and manipulate to survive. They learn the rule that only the fit survive so they make themselves fit and fast and sure. They learn that certain behaviors gain them the greatest attention so they become professionals at those behaviors. 
It's how he survived.
He was a master at survival.
It doesn't work in a family.
It's a disaster in a family.
 I wish with all the deepest part of my heart that I can erase the pain in John's hurting self and be his mom from birth. I wish I could reach back and take him out of his crib and hold him and kiss him and whisper love into his ears. I wish I could.  We are playing catch up. It is hard work.  It forces me to my knees every single day praying for God to give me tender love and eyes that see for my little boy.
Eleven years is a long time.  One year is short and barely scratches the surface on helping a little boy heal from so much neglect and abandonment.
And with John's pain, much has surfaced for Aaron. 
So we have spent a year focusing in on our two sons from across the ocean. Those who live in our world have listened and encouraged as we have shared our journey.  Those who follow our blog have wondered as this blog has been silent so much of the time.
It's the silence of adoption.
It's not because we are hiding. 
It's not because we want to gloss over our lives and give a false impression of adoption to the world.
It's because words are shabby and elusive and so much of the time I just don't know what to say and don't truly have the mental energy to chase after those elusive words.
It happens to many many families after they come home. It is a disappointing reality for those who are watching and praying the child home.  The family is so great about sharing the adoption story and so many jump on board to support and encourage and then the family hits American soil and suddenly the family is silent.
A blog here or there with happy pictures or maybe hints that things are tough but few words and little information.
It's the silence of adoption.
It's those early days with a traumatized child and a family in shock trying to wade through in a process where the handbooks are sadly inadequate. 
The truth. It is in that time that the family needs the support the most. The months of quiet.  The silent times.  When words are inadequate and thoughts are too jumbled to get onto paper.
It is those times when the family needs prayers.  They need the church, the neighbors, the friends, the family to step up. They need people to encourage.  Call. Ask. Listen. 
Without judgment.  With ears of understanding.  With a willingness to give the family a break so they can pass through this season free from guilt. And shame.  Because with the trauma comes layers of shame for the mom and the dad.
Wading through with a child lost in trauma is a humbling, scary and guilt-ridden process. There are times when the family struggles deeply with how to love. They struggle with questions and doubt. When they see the trauma affecting their other children the layers of guilt get ever deeper.
They feel shame for the anger and frustration they feel towards the hurting child in their midst. They feel shame that they aren't experts on raising this child despite many of them who have been there and done that with the other children in their family. They feel guilt that they can't even find the words to express their current world.
And one of the hardest parts - when the child who spins out of control at home, goes out in public and smiles and glad hands everyone in his or her path, charming the socks off the adults around him leaving the parents feeling ever more alone. How can they share about the battle when the child is obviously so sweet and easy?
It's a complicated bunch of mess in that silence. 
I can say this on a personal level.
We have come a long ways.
The trauma that marked every waking hour of the first months has become trauma a few times a month instead.  In the same way there were no manuals for Aaron, we have found that the books out there for raising a child 11 years in an institute are woefully inadequate when you are living the day to day. So we have waded through the trenches, trying this, trying that. Praying a lot.  Seeking counsel.  Talking to each other.  Talking to each other even more because communication between the spouses is a HUGE part of confronting the trauma.  Because as I said before, children from institutes are world-class experts at manipulating the adults around them!!
We have come a long ways.
Through it all God has been good to us. 
I wouldn't trade either of my little boys in their crazy, silly, trauma-filled ways for anything in the world.
They are our beautiful boys.
They have stretched us. They have enriched us. They have challenged us.  They have taught us about love and redemption and grace.
We are not through the trenches with either of our sons.  You can't erase their loss with a quick Band-Aid and a feel good kiss.  They suffered years and years of neglect.  John spent 11 years without a family.  Aaron spent a year in a soul-sucking institute.  Both boys spent far too long alone in their cribs.
 We are not na├»ve to think that our boys have, by the force of our love and will, shed the hurt from their pasts. We are well aware that we will encounter the wounds of their past again and again as they get older and pass through different stages of life.  They both learned at the earliest of ages how to hide their deepest cries down in the depths of their being.  We are wise enough to know that there are layers upon layers of protection our sons have placed around their hearts to keep the grief at bay.
We will continue to wade through. We will continue to try this and that.  We will read what we can. We will seek counsel. We will continue to pray for grace and love.  We will battle the demons of shame and guilt that whisper to us. And one day maybe we will write a book.   About two of the most beautiful little boys in the world who have suffered so much, lost so much but who have enriched our lives beyond belief.
Do you know an adoptive family who seems awfully quiet today?? Give them a call. Send them a note of encouragement.  Let them know you care. I know from experience that they will deeply appreciate it!


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Eighteen. Tell Me It Ain't So...

It's too fast.
You were just a tiny baby yesterday.

Ben's bestest buddy in the entire world!

A personality that kept us on our toes.

Too fast you have grown...
Still best buddies...
Our blonde haired dimpled little  boy.
The PERFECT Jack Sparrow


Sid Sawyer at his finest!

Friends forever.

You are Eighteen today.
This is the 2nd year in row where I'm not able to be home for your birthday.
I'm posting this early early in the morning as I am heading to Ohio for a convention. You are asleep in your bed and all I can do is whisper birthday wishes and prayers as I quietly walk out the door.
It's not fair I miss hugging you on your 18th birthday.
It's a pretty special day.
You have spent the last 18 years bringing laughter to our family.

Your quick wit and quirky sense of humor leaves us in stitches and scratching our heads at the same time.
People think you are shy and reserved.
Not at our family table.

Not when you are talking politics or science or engineering or history. Now when you are critiquing movies and graphics.
Not when you are on stage. There has been no part too small or too large or too serious or too wacky you aren't willing to do. 
Not when you are singing. Not at all when you are singing!
You're eighteen today.
I'm going to miss giving you your birthday hug today. 
Happy Eighteenth Birthday my one of a kind son!!
I love you all the way to the moon and back....

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Happy Birthday, Rob

To the BEST Papa.
The BEST Daddy.
The sweetest husband and my bestest friend in the entire world...
Happy Birthday Rob!

Your dislike of the camera made it hard for me to write this post.
I don't have many beautiful posed pictures of you and the boys. They are rare and precious!

And pictures of you and me are almost non-existent.

You're too busy just being dad.
You're too focused on being our provider, protector and fixer of all things!


You love Jesus. You love me. You love your family.

I love you more than words can say.
Happy Birthday!!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

I Know That My Redeemer Lives

I have a tag on my e-mail.  Every time I send an e-mail the recipient gets to see this verse:
I know that my redeemer lives,
    and that in the end he will stand on the earth.
And after my skin has been destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him
    with my own eyes—I, and not another.
    How my heart yearns within me!
It's from the book of Job.
Job.  A man who lost everything in his life. His fortune. His children. 
Sitting in the ground in sackcloth and ashes.
His entire life having caved down around him.
But he clings.
He clings with all of his being to the One Truth.
He has a Redeemer.
One who will stand beside him at the end of days.
One who will speak for him.
A Redeemer.
I know that my Redeemer lives.
...and in the end... I will see God!
On this Sunday.
As we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord I cry out with all of my being...
At the end of days - I WILL see Him.  He WILL stand beside me.  He will speak truth and hope into my heart.
We need a Redeemer.
Each one of us.
In our broken, sinful, selfish state. 
We need one who will be there in the end and speak for us.
Jesus is Our Redeemer.
He is MY Redeemer.
I KNOW that He lives.
 “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cool History Cool Dudes

They were the cool dudes at the Great Homeschool Convention in South Carolina this past weekend.

The best dimpled salesmen we had in our booth!!
Seriously? Who wouldn't want to buy from them??
They LOVE going to conventions!

They LOVE helping us set up the booth. 
They had a BLAST doing the children's program.  They think hotel living is living the high life!
I love having them with me. It makes going away so much sweeter when I'm not leaving my entire family at home.

Though it was a long drive down to South Carolina and back, doing it with Rob and the boys was a nice way to start the year.  I don't get that pleasure often enough this year so I don't take it for granted.

I'm heading to Tennessee to the Teach Them Diligently Convention this next weekend but sadly won't get to take these silly boys or Rob with me.
Happily, Ben will be working by my side, so I get another weekend soaking up time with family!
We recently received a letter from someone who uses BiblioPlan AND who has adopted a bunch of treasures and I just wanted to share parts of that letter here.
Just had to share with you how wonderfully BiblioPlan is working for our family.  We finished up our first round of history this past fall, did a short unit on our state history, and then started on Ancients about 8 weeks ago.  We are loving it!   We love the Companion, the associated Bible readings, and the Victor Journey Through the Bible along with the living book suggestions.  The maps are so much easier to use because you have the instructions printed right on the map.  With five kids doing maps, this has been a huge help since each child has their own set of instructions and they don't need to refer to the teacher's book.  They are able to do the maps on their own once I briefly explain them as a group. 
The Cool History questions are great for review and your timeline images are very nicely done.  All of my kids have special needs which include ADHD, intellectual disabilities, CP, and dyslexia and BiblioPlan works for all of them. 
 Now that I have five children, I no longer have tons of time to plan out my own history curriculum but that is no problem since BiblioPlan requires so little planning.  For the first time ever, I think I can stay on schedule and we are all enjoying the program.  Thank  you for you, your husband, and your sons' hard work on all of the parts of this wonderful program.  You have done a fabulous job and I finally have the history curriculum I have always wanted.
If you homeschool and are looking for a history and/or literature curriculum, please check us out! Especially check out our newest book!! Anyone who is doing Classical Conversations this fall definitely needs to look at this book!!!!

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Faceless Ones

They are the ones we don't see.  The black silhouettes that we quickly scan through.
They are unseen and the least likely to be picked.
The faceless ones.
March is the 21 Days of Hope for Reece's Rainbow
An opportunity to raise funds for the operating costs of their ministry.  Their Voice of Hope fund.  21,000 in 21 days. 
But of course Reece's Rainbow is all about getting the children seen so it's 21 days of Hope for 21 children in the midst of raising funds for the operative costs.
For every 1,000 raised in the Voice of Hope account, a selected child will receive 1,000 in their grant account.  21 children have been selected.
This year they picked the faceless ones.  The ones we tend to pass right over.  The ones that no one ever really sees.
Usually during Voice of Hope it's been pretty easy for people to jump on board and raise the money each day for the selected children.  Their little faces beaming out at you make it hard to turn away.
This year has been slow.  Very very slow. 
Vinn, Denise, Laina, Keira, Angelica, Mia, Jasper, Kael, Prince, Shelley, Cara and Danton.
12 children who are listed on Reece's Rainbow but because of country rules are faceless. 

It's hard to get excited about a silhouette.
It's hard to rally when 12 of the 21 children are just names. 
But behind those black and white pictures are little boys and little girls who need  families just as much as the rest of them.
Please SEE these faceless babes.
Please see the other 9 children who also have a chance to have their grant accounts increased!
Please CLICK HERE and make a donation to keep Reece's Rainbow running so that these children have a voice.
It's 21 days of hope.
For every 1,000 raised in the Voice of Hope... 1,000 will go into a waiting child's account.
Will you give some hope to the Faceless Ones this March???

Friday, March 4, 2016

Fatherless Friday

THANK YOU THANK YOU to everyone who poured into Michelle Barrett's grant account yesterday.
You gave and gave and within a few hours she met her 5,000 grant and on top of that met another 250 grant that someone gave her!!  She is so close to being fully funded. Yesterday, Michelle was given the precious experience of watching God move in hearts on her behalf. Adoption is scary and hard and often times rather lonely. Thank you for surrounding Michelle and letting her know that she isn't alone.
If you didn't get a chance to give you still can... Her grant account is HERE.
It's Fatherless Friday.
There are so many babes who are waiting for their families.
It makes my heart hurt sometimes to think of all the waiting babes out there.
This week a fellow blogger asked her readers to notice Elizabeth.
Oh my goodness she is a precious, precious love!!
Let's be real. Her diagnosis is sad. It's gut wrenching.  She's dying. She has a disease that is ominous. I don't even begin to understand all of it but just doing a quick google search makes me beyond sad.
Anyone who adopts her has to go in with their eyes wide open recognizing that according to her diagnosis her life on this earth is short.
Let's be even more real; if she stays where she is then it's even shorter.
They don't have the medicine or the medical expertize in that country to care for her. 
She's a little girl.
A little girl who should not have to spend her short sweet life alone and lonely. 
Oh Please - Is there anyone out there who is willing to pour into a child even knowing it may be for just a short period of time?
Is there anyone out there who can love deeply knowing they may have to let go? Is there anyone out there who is willing to write Elizabeth into their life's story? I guarantee you your story will be enriched beyond words!
Look at her. She's just a little girl.  A little girl waiting for a Mama and a Papa who will throw caution to the wind and race to get her. A Mama and Papa who will fight for her.  Care for her. Love her.
Please someone love Elizabeth!!
Jesus, they say You walked upon the water once
When you lived as all men do
Please teach me how to walk the way You did
Because I want to walk with You

Jesus, they say You taught a lame man how to dance
When he had never stood without a crutch
Well, here am I Lord, holding out my withered hands
And I'm just waiting to be touched

Jesus, write me into Your story
Whisper it to me
And let me know I'm Yours