Sunday, November 29, 2009
As the holiday season rolls in, I am aware once more, how different our life has become. Different from before of course. Our family, consisting of mostly grown big kids a few years ago was blessed by excitement times two when Cami and Delilah tumbled into our lives. We have been given a chance to experience the holidays once again through the eyes of a child, and words fail me when I search for a way to express my gratitude and joy!
It is a GIFT to live in this magical time and place.
After much strategic planning and weighing the pros and cons, we packed up our bags and spent Thanksgiving with relatives,and there I began to see our family through other's eyes. It was certainly not the first time, but by spending time at a place we have traveled to many times over the past 25 years, so much was illuminated.
Not only are we different from the average middle age couple because we are starting over with small children, we are different from our former selves as parents. Adoptive parenting really is different from parenting birth children. Sometimes people want to gloss over this difference and makes sure everything is equal between mothers who give birth and mothers who adopt. But it is really a shame NOT to acknowledge the ways, the incredible ways, lives can be forever altered by the presence of these sometimes puzzling little souls who hang in the balance between searching and embracing, and in the process, finding the Faith to learn to love and trust again.
Whatever sorrow, whatever trouble, whatever weakness exists in one's heart, the holidays have a way of shining a light on it. Perhaps that could be a true gift of Christmas......the chance to unwrap our packaged grief and hold it close and begin to heal sitting in the soft light of candles and trees and angels.
Adopted children come into our lives with stories as powerful as any history has known. Their hearts have broken too soon after they began to beat. They know the meaning of loneliness on a primal level. They have endured, struggled, and survived. They lived to see another day, another summer, another life.
But there was a price to pay for survival. And I believe my goal as a mother is to fearlessly help them through the dark places and learn to trust the light again, and forever.
As the holidays begin, I see my girls become stressed, even in the middle of all the traditions they are coming to love. During these times, my job is to pay attention so I can understand what they need, to hold them close, and to accept there is a sadness and pain at the center. Most importantly, I need to accept them exactly where they are and allow them to express their joy and their pain without judgment.
Thanksgiving was a joyful mingling of laughter, food, pets, and cousins. My three and four year old girls enjoyed the attention as they danced and twirled their way through the day. Unlike the adults, the meal was a small moment to be endured, before they could return to their adventures. As the day wore on, I saw the slow unravelling. It was as if all the laughing and talking and anticipation had crawled inside them and expanded until it filled every crevice and had to be released.
One child has a mantra she uses when she is overwhelmed. She moans, "Nooooooooooo" over and over in a variety of keys and tones. It usually fits any situation and it more than sums up her feelings about her life at the moment. However, it can be disturbing to others who are within hearing range and I project, perhaps wrongly, that everyone expects me to stop the noise. And I cannot. It cannot be quieted. Not by me. It has to run it's course, like a ritualistic dance and it is not mine to control.
So I hold her. Not tightly, not with force, just gently allowing her to lay across my lap or put her head on my shoulder. At first she resists. She is deep in the privacy of her own pain. But I sit and I persist and I wait. Soon she will allow a hand on her back, my hand on her hand, and then a gentle pull onto my lap.
After some time, the crying mantra will give way to a sad sobbing so pure and raw it breaks my heart. And then, in the end, no matter what the challenges or joys of the day have been, do you want to know what my small girl with a soul a big as the sky says?
She looks at me, straight into my eyes, black coals burning truth and she says, "I miss my mommy in China". Then she hugs me and rises again, into this life, into the light where she grows and thrives and laughs and loves. She is back and balanced. Some weight has been lifted for now. But the loss remains. It will always be a part of her. My hope and my duty is to be a comfort in the storm and a companion on the journey.
When someone asks, "What is wrong"?, I could answer "everything"........or I could tell the other side of the truth.....which is less understood but no less true:
She needs to Cry Out Loud.
Monday, November 9, 2009
November is National Adoption Month. Yesterday many churches around the country celebrated Orphan Sunday, and all month events are planned to bring attention to the millions of children who live on the fringes of our planet. Children. Without parents. Without cuddles on the sofa and goodnight stories. Without toothbrushes and sweaters. Without shoes and bandaids.
I imagine their hearts are broken.
We are born human with expectations for certain simple things. We expect, from the first day, to be fed, to be warm, and to be loved. We expect someone to come if we cry. We expect someone to care. These are human needs.
Another trait of being human is compassion. One third of American families consider adoption seriously at one point or another. We think about it, we imagine it. But only 2% of this third of families actually follows through with adoption.
There are real reasons for that. Adoption can be complicated. There is a great deal of paperwork, but when taken one step at a time, one day at a time, it is manageable.
Adoption can be expensive. This is true, but the expenses are manageable. The money is not due all at one time. And most people have untapped talents for funding adoptions. There are grants, credit lines, family loans, and fundraising. To be honest,in our personal experience, we can feel the financial strain from completing two adoptions in two years, but we are not going hungry or living without heat. We are not suffering at all in comparison to how much of the world lives. I am ashamed to even mention it honestly.
Adoption can be risky. Yes, just like getting married and giving birth, you really don't know how things will turn out. I think this is where Faith and Commitment carried us. We adopted with Faith that we were answering a higher call to do something to make a difference in a child's life. And we adopted with the commitment of all parents who welcome a new child into their family and we knew we would provide whatever support was needed for this child, our child, medically and emotionally. And most importantly we committed to loving them unconditionally. Once that decision was made, nothing else really mattered.
Adoption changes families. Physically. Emotionally. Eternally. Many times I have struggled to share my vision and global awareness with the older children in our family. Their life changed dramatically when we began the adoption process. We went from a family focused on teens, college, and cars, to a family focused on toddlers, pull ups, and toys with many pieces. They had to learn to live in extremes of noise logic...... crying babies interrupted their sleep, but their music could not be played loud if the babies were sleeping! It was suddenly hard to get a word in edgewise and time alone with mom or dad was rare. There were grumpy days that might have been normal teen angst, or it could have been a result of mom and dad doing something so far out of the ordinary that they feared their lives would never be like their friends lives again.
I'll admit that there have been times when I felt guilty. I have worried there is not enough of me to go around. But as soon as I hit a low point, along comes a morning like this one, where my almost 20 year old son is helping Delilah write the letters of her name, and I know, I just know, that the same small white light in my heart that led us down this road has remained with us. And I believe again that the whole story is not yet told and the coming chapters may reveal more joy, more beauty, and more hope than I can even imagine.
And this is only my story. There are thousands of stories being lived out around you. Adoption has probably touched the families of most people you know in one way or another.
My reason for writing during November is to ask you to open your heart to adoption. But wait, I don't mean I expect everyone can or will adopt a child. Adoption is only one way to make a difference for the children in the world trying to grow up without a family. There is so much you can do to help the orphans of the world. In fact, you can do something from your home that will help a child in a third world country today! The needs are immediate and the situation is often severe. No effort is too small.
Pray for them. When you hold your child wrapped in warm blankets, be aware that in China most orphanages are without heat and every winter babies lose fingers and toes to frost bite.
Educate yourself on the reasons for many children being separated from their parents. Is it poverty? Lack of health care? Illness? Become aware of the laws and policies that affect families on a global level. Support the ideas that encourage families in a positive way and speak out against the policies that manipulate the families already struggling for survival.
Awareness is the first step in changing any situation. Once you know the conditions in which some children live, you can never "not know". You can no longer pretend they do not exist. The images will be part of you.
Do some research and learn about people who are devoting their lives to making the lives of orphans less difficult and less hopeless. Missionaries, doctors, nurses, and ordinary people are giving their time and skills to help children who have no one else to speak for them.
Find an organization that you believe is doing good work and help them. In this economy, donations are less than normal across the board. Every little bit helps. In China $10 or $20 can buy alot of food for a child. One thing I do is to save all the coins and change I receive in a coffee can. When it is full, I go to a change machine and turn it into cash for a money order to send to one of my favorite organizations working in China.
Consider sponsoring an orphan in foster care in China. Your sponsorship of less than $50 a month can give a child the chance to live in a loving family, with warm clothes and plenty of food. The simple things in life can make all the difference.
And finally, in this time when we all have more stuff than we know what to do with, why not consider honoring a friend or family member with a donation for the holdiays. Wouldn't it be an honor to know that because of your gift, a child had rice three times a day instead of once, or that they were able to have life-saving surgery.
Below I am listing some of my favorite organizations helping children in China. Look at their websites, look at the faces of the children who have no voice, and consider in your heart what role you might be able to play in these innocent lives.
China Little Flower (caring for medically fragile, terminally ill, and premature infants in Northern China.)
Destinys House (supplying shoes to orphans and starting up a new orphan care home in Central China.)
Love Without Boundaries (providing medical care and life saving surgeries to children in China. This organization made Cami's cleft surgery possible when she was 9 months old.)
Half The Sky
Coal For Kids (providing heat for orphanages that have no government support)
and there are so many more! If you start exploring the possibilities, you may find yourself enthralled with all the stories people's lives are telling.
What is your story?
I would love for you to share it.
If you are part of an organization or know of one that you think should be included, leave me a comment with the information and I will list it on the side bar!