Category: family

giving up normal

I called my BFF yesterday freaking out. We’ve had a long time to process through bringing our nine year old home. But I think with the date in mind, it’s starting to get real. I am so afraid of failing her. I think she is amazing and perfect and has so much potential. And I know I’m going to screw it up. I also wonder what people must think of us. This is so not normal. Adoption is a stretch in general…but to upset birth order, to bring a child into our home who was born when I was barely not a child myself…seems especially crazy. Do people think this is the worst idea ever? Are we operating under wisdom at all? Should we have sought more counsel before leaping? 


But at least I’m in good company. My BFF is the foster mom of three girls, ages 6, 2 and 6 months. Today their bio mom relinquished rights. That means that pending a trial on Monday, she is their mother forever. She and her husband have known each other for four years. This is crazy and reckless. Neither one of us wants to screw our kids up more. But we also don’t want to hear the “problem” and stand idly by while we wait to grow-up into our marriages and families, and become more established households. It’s terrifying, being in this in-between place. We don’t know what we’re doing. We don’t have any clue. But to say no? To leave this beautiful girl in an orphanage…to leave these three girls in the care of the system…it’s possible someone else would pick up the slack. But what if they didn’t? 

The director of the orphanage looked me in the eyes and not in a judgmental way, but just stating fact, said, “Gloria wants a mom.” I have shared this story many times and I stand by what I felt: I was undone. I feel like Isaiah in the temple when he saw God in the temple. I was unmade and then remade in that moment. Forget conventional wisdom. Forget family planning. A basic intrinsic need, a longing for a mother. Who in their right mind can turn their back on such a simple request? So my friend said yes. We said yes. What if more people said yes? I don’t feel ready. I don’t feel “arrived.” I feel like the only way this makes sense is through Jesus Christ. But I’m banking on that.  There are babies who need homes. But there are also others. There are sibling sets. There are older kids. There are kids with special needs, kids who are HIV+. And all they want is a mother. All they need is a mother who can say “…BUT God, being rich in mercy…” It’s hella scary. But so far, I’ve had to turn again and again into the one who saved my soul from sin and death and demand that He be faithful to complete the good work He began. This is HIS. It’s so not about me. So we gave up normal. We gave up easy. We submitted our lives, marriages and families to this, trusting and hoping that God alone knows what this is about. May He prove His character once again. We long for more people to step out and ask how they can love…and once that happens, that God would cause them to be undone and then remake them into the image of His beloved Son. 

Here’s the link to the above mentioned foster-mom, a.k.a my BFF. Be prepared for brutal honesty. http://chippinaway.wordpress.com/

a letter for my daughter

To whom it may concern:

I want to share something with you on behalf of my daughter. As you have the opportunity to interact with us and with her, I want you to get to know her and to teach her and to build a relationship with her. But my primary job is to protect her and to advocate for her. She is not a normal child. Already in her young life she has encountered death, abandonment, sickness, disease, hunger…Her mother passed away. Her father abandoned her to death. She has felt hungry. She has had no consistent caretaker the first nine years of her life.  To her, the world is not a safe place. There is no security–no given. For many of you reading this, whether you have young children, or your children are grown, they believe adults are–to a certain extent–safe and dependable. Their parents provided for them and met all their needs. They know they have at least one advocate in life even if all others betrayed them. My daughter does not have this assurance.

She has experienced trauma upon trauma. To her the world is unpredictable and ever-changing. She is not certain that there is one person who values her above all others. The world is not a wonderful place. And adding to that trauma, we are ripping her away from people who look like her and who talk like her. She is entering a strange new world where she doesn’t know the “normal” way to behave. Things that are common-sense to us are foreign to her. She will be surrounded by people who speak a strange language, eat strange food, wear strange clothes, live in strange houses. There are dangers here she isn’t aware of; and other dangers she will need to let go of.

Compassion needs to be the undercurrent of every single interaction with her. You and I cannot forget where she has come from, or what she has been through. To a certain extent she aches to be treated like a normal 9 year old girl. And I want your interactions towards her to be relatively normal. But there has to be an understanding that she is lost and she needs to be guided. Karyn Purvis has a great example in her book The Connected Child: If your child were taken from you for years, beaten and starved and then one day miraculously returned to you, you wouldn’t cart them off to Disenyland that same day. You would do everything in your power to help your child find healing from the trauma s/he experienced. You would be filled with compassion and would meet them right where they are. That’s the mind-set. As safe as she may be now (or will be) she won’t intrinsically know that for a long, long time.

She may be shy–so don’t overwhelm her with friendliness. As we define appropriate boundaries of physical affection, read her body language and if she wants a hug she’ll let you know. But NEVER presume to engage her the same way you do other normal kids. You aren’t safe to her. She may allow you to meet a need because she isn’t sure if she’ll get it otherwise, but as far as she’s concerned your presence in her life is transient, even if it’s benevolent. She’s lived at three different orphanages. She’s used to people coming in and out of her life. Start small and build up to the full bear hug. Always touch her with an open hand, so she feels like she has a way out. And ask her if you can hug her, but be respectful if she says no. And don’t be offended. She needs to find her voice and she has the right to say no. Her body is her own.

We are comfortable with her history. Don’t feel like you can’t talk about the first nine years of her life–but be sensitive. We love Uganda. We love her birth family. We hurt that some of them hurt her, and we ache over the things she’s lived through. But we are NOT going to demean them or talk about how better her life is here. It’s a tragedy that she is with us and not them. It breaks our hearts. Because of sin and death, we have the opportunity to speak forth life into this hopeless situation and adopt her into our family–just as Christ did for us–but it is by no means a license for us to act like her saviors. We are hurting broken people too.

Give Doug and me the space to meet all her needs at first. I know you want to help and you can’t wait to tell her how much you love her and are so excited she’s here. And I want that so badly for you. But she needs to learn what a family is and what her role in it is. She needs to learn that there are boundaries. And she won’t learn all this in a week. It will take time and consistency. They say one month for every year in an orphanage. We’re estimating that means about 9 months with either Doug or I being about an arm’s length away from her 24/7. This is hard. But support us in it. Ask us how you can help. But please give us the space and the time to do this. Our highest goal this season is to be a place of healing for this precious child. It won’t happen over night.

Lastly, let her be who she is. Let her have a voice. And just love her. Don’t make her earn your love or affection. Just give it to her. We missed those years when babies are so cute and cuddly. We’ll never have that with her. You’ll never have that with her. But don’t hold it against her. I ask that you take a leap of faith and love her with abandon.

love,
sarah

new habits

This year seems to be a year of new habits. Setting aside old habits to make room for new. I’m feeling the pull to be different–to be different at the end of this year than at the beginning. But I’m also afraid of failing. I’m afraid of starting but then losing the inertia. We’re in the process of becoming a family of five. How much will change in the coming months? And will old habits creep back in because I’m too worn out after all the other changes? These habits are all good things. But doing them doesn’t make me good. And I forget that line. And so another failure would make me not good–and I hate that feeling. I’ve refused for the past five years to make a new year’s resolution. People make them, but it’s a running joke that by March most have “quit” their resolves, so what is the point to begin with?

Last year I resolved one thing to myself–half-heartedly committed until about March, when I had maintained and  decided to stick with it. I quit for about three weeks, but picked it back up again and finished strong. I learned something. I learned it’s not about perfection. It’s not about ten years from now. It’s not about trying to reach the stars. It’s about today. What I can do today. What I can choose to see, choose to read, choose to dedicate my time too. And so “failing” for three weeks didn’t feel like failure. It was a fall. I picked myself up again and continued where I had left off. And it was OK. It was human.

The other thing I learned was that for the 27 years I had not been doing that habit, did not make me a bad person. Just as the one year I did it, didn’t made me a good person. It was just a good thing. It did not alter my identity. It did not earn me any extra glory. It was something and I did it. Yes, I feel good about myself. But whether or not I continued in it, or I failed in it, who I am is secure in Christ alone. As He draws me nearer to Himself, things will begin to change–new habits and new ways of thinking will form. But my “goodness” is found in Him alone. These are just freedoms I get to walk in.

I still hate the idea of a new year’s resolutions. But I love the idea of taking this year to form new habits. To pick up better things in place of OK things. And I’m still terrified of failing. But I also feel Christ nudging me to set aside some childish things that I’ve clung to for far to long.

New habits:
1. Waking up before my kids.
“As a door turns on it’s hinges, so does a sluggard turns on his bed,” (Proiv 26:14) has been coming to mind a lot lately. I often wake up in the morning, and refuse to put feet to floor. Instead, I roll over and find a position that might beckon sleep to come again. I don’t like the image of a sluggard. I’d much rather be compared to a princess. So when reading a friend’s blog and she shared her 12 new habits for this year and the first one was committing to waking up every day before her kids, I submitted to the leading of the Spirit.

2. Read 52 books.
A friend and I committed to reading 52 books this year and blogging about them. I’m OK with the reading part–I read over 65 in 2011 without even trying. But the documenting and sharing whether I liked them or not, scares me. Plus, I think this friend is much more insightful than I am and a better writer, so I’m a little afraid to have our writings right next to each other.

3.The Joy Dare
I have yet to read “One Thousand Gifts.” I bought it for my sister for Christmas and hope she will loan it to me when she’s finished (one of my 52 books this year). But I love Ann Voskamp’s blog and the way she views the world. So when I read this, I decided to participate in the Joy Dare. Find three gifts a day…

4. Eat more fruits and veggies
This one came from Cooking Light’s 12 healthy habits for 2012. It just seems like a good idea–small steps to change our eating habits for the better. Already my kids are eating more veggies.

And all this activity may just be a way to cope with the waiting. Using the inertia from a new year to help me wait well. Taking a day at a time. I feel peaceful, joyful and sad. Today’s gift was “one thing in your heart.” I wrote the heart of a mother–longing for her, waiting for her, loving her. It’s fierce and beautiful and I am amazed by this forceful all-consuming love for her.

the waiting

Every day I fight this underlying residual feeling of anger. I want to go and fight someone. I want to send Doug out to kill the lion or the bear. I want to run miles to save her life. I want to lift a car over my head to get this girl home. But there’s no one to fight. There’s no one standing in the path of my anger. Accomplishing those tasks is not how we bring her home. There’s paper work. There’s patiently waiting. A hundred emails will only annoy our lawyer and would not be loving Ug*nda. It would also potentially make it harder for other families to adopt, so we want to honor their culture and follow the advice of our lawyer and give her the space to breathe. We want her on our side so that she can do her best to make the judge on our side. And that just takes time.

So every day I walk around keeping my anger below the surface. It fuels my prayers. It fills me with anticipation and longing for the day she will be legally ours. And we’ve been waiting for about three weeks. There could be several more months. Some families have to wait for a year. I found out today that a mom flew over for a court date, and got there only to learn that the judge wanted to talk to the probation officer so she flew home WITHOUT HER KIDS. During our time at Redeemer House, I got to love on her son. Like Gloria, he only wants a mama. He’s looking for her, aching for her. He’s two years old and he should be sitting in her lap tonight. All I can do is praise the Lord that he has Kathy tonight. That Gloria has Kathy. That she is safe. And she is loved–it’s not a family, but its about as good as it can get on this side.

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