Eight

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Two weeks ago, this sweet girl turned eight.  And as I wrote yesterday, our relationship is unique and her heart is a mystery.  But God is writing the story and one day we will know the secrets she holds as He unfolds her heart.

Regardless of where our relationship is, she is our daughter, our family, and forever one of us.  And while God knits our hearts and joins our worlds, we wait for the redemption that is coming.

Happy birthday, my beautiful, mysterious girl.  I am thankful for you and for the privilege of being your mama.  I know one day we will dance naturally together.
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I love you,

Mama

Adoption: Two Years Later

She came home two years ago on March 29.  It was Good Friday.  And something that we prayed and labored for for two years came to a sort of completion but something we would pray and labor over the rest of our lives began.  A new daughter, a new life, a new story to weave into our own.

It started almost right after she came home.  I just called it a sort of “baby blues”.  My heart and mind were tired from the sudden upheaval of adding a new member (no matter how long the wait, it always comes suddenly).  I was emotionally drained from the years of waiting.  It would pass with time.  That’s what I told myself.

But as time went on, it really didn’t get better.  She seemed to be attaching well to everyone in the family except me.  The world around us acted as though she hung the moon.  My heart felt cold.

Time went on and she became one of us, as though she had always been here.  Sort of.  Her relationship with family and friends was normal.  Her relationship with her sisters was healthy and strong.  Her relationship with Matt was beautiful and unbreakable.  But she and I, we kept each other at arm’s length.  I, resentful and lacking confidence and more fully aware than ever of my short comings as a mother.  She holding back from me, guarded, untrusting.

The past two years we have danced this way, more of a line dance, side-by-side, than a slow dance, face-to-face.  Occasionally we will turn and draw closer and it will feel almost normal, almost natural.  Most days it’s an awkward relationship and feels like I’m forever babysitting someone else’s child.  An unnatural mother with my natural children, I don’t know how to reach out to connect with this one not born of my body who brings a six year long story I was not part of.  My four biological girls, I can look at their face, listen to the tone of their voice, and instinctively know so much of what is going on inside each of them without a word being said.  This littlest one holds secrets I may never know.  Her face and tone often betray something deeper, but she holds it all tight inside.  Only she holds the key.

The shame and guilt of being the mother who can’t attach has worn on me.  When you adopt, you read and prepare endlessly for the child who struggles to attach.  You walk into it with the awareness that the child may never be able to form healthy bonds if they were never formed in the first place.  But no one talks about when a parent struggles to attach, especially the mother.  Because mother-love is supposed to be instinctive and strong and deep and easy, that’s what the whispers in the dark tell me.  And what mother spends countless hours preparing paperwork and endless nights of tear-filled prayers longing to hold a child she did not carry and then builds walls around her heart once the child is home?  Satan assured me I was the only one and that I was the very worst mother possible.

A few weeks ago, in a post-adoption group that I am on in Facebook but don’t participate much in so it rarely shows up on my feed but this day it did, God gave me a grace-gift in the form of a woman sharing my story, except it was hers.  How she couldn’t attach or connect and the shame she felt and that her child had been home over two years and it was just finally starting click.  And a glimmer of hope flickered in my heart.  Not that Amania and I will connect soon; I dare not hope for that.  But hope that I am not alone in this painful place, just as I am not alone in the other dark areas of my life.

I do hope that Amania and I will one day have a natural, comfortable relationship.  That she will no longer look at me like there’s a story she cannot tell, but that our story will be written together.  I do not know when that will come or how long it will take or how hard we will have to work to get there.  But I find no small significance that our story starts on Good Friday – that day that Satan thought he won the victory, but God wasn’t finished.  Friday was dark and hopeless and terrifying.  But God was writing redemption and restoration and hope and beauty.

God’s still writing.  And in some parts of my heart and in parts of Amania’s heart it’s still Friday.  But Sunday’s coming….

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For His Glory ~

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Adoption – One Year Later

A week ago we quietly celebrated the one year anniversary of Amania’s homecoming.  And when I say quietly, I mean by cleaning out the garage and going to soccer and otherwise living normal life.  Because it was needed.

Fifty-four weeks ago we were making plans and preparations for our quick trip to Haiti to bring our girl home.  Fifty-four weeks ago we were worried about parasites, language barriers, bed wetting, night terrors, RAD, food hoarding, and a dozen other worst-case-scenarios we had read or heard about along the way.  Fifty-four weeks ago, we had no idea what the next few days would look like, let alone the next year.  And a one year anniversary seemed a million years away.

We came home and she settled right in and all those things we worried about turned out to be nothing.  Parasites were treated.  Her English skills grew overnight it seemed.  Bed wetting, night terrors, RAD….all those things were non-issues, needless fear.  Praise. The. Lord.

And yet the past year hasn’t been without struggles and tears and wrestling.  And there were struggles we didn’t expect.  Struggles not directly related to our new addition, and yet connected.

There were the unexpected opinions of others who suddenly felt they could (and should) weigh in on how we run our family and our lives.  There was the Mama Bear reaction in me as I watched the world swarm around our newest family member (for months after she came home), all the while ignoring all of our other children who are all old enough and smart enough to know what was going on.  There were the struggles of our bio girls as they adapted and accepted this new family member – helping them feel valued and loved, while helping her assimilate.

And then there were my own struggles.  Some I’ve shared here, some I haven’t.  And those I haven’t are simply because I just haven’t had words. I do not understand my own struggle to connect with this child, how she has what appears to be a perfectly natural and healthy relationship with everyone else in our family circle, except me.  How our relationship is still so stiff and forced and awkward.  How I’m not a kid-friendly mama.  I love love love my kids, don’t get me wrong, but I’m very German and we are utilitarian, functional, efficient, not particularly cuddly (at least that’s my impression of us).  Unless of course you like cuddling with porcupines, which is what I often feel like around small children.  (True confessions, right here, friends!)  And the level of guilt and shame that I feel admitting all of this because Godly Christian women are all supposed to think young children are the best things since Jesus Himself, or so it would seem.

There has also been the unexpected toll taken on our marriage because of my unexpected and unexplainable reaction to Amania’s home coming – the depression, the disconnect.  And I feel like our marriage has been through the ringer and there are days I wonder if it will ever be the same.

And I haven’t said much here about our journey with her home because I honestly haven’t known what to say about the emotional places we’ve been.  As someone in our family reminds me, she is doing so much better than we ever expected and things could be so much worse.  But the fact is, this is my reality. This is where we live.  And while I’m thankful we don’t live in “worse”, this is by no means easy.

I have been praying about this post for weeks, maybe months.  Because I don’t want it to be about me, but I am, without a doubt, the one who has struggled most since Amania came home.  And right now, I don’t know if I will even hit publish, because I feel so vain, so shallow, so dysfunctional for these struggles I’ve had.  But as I prayed this morning, asking God for words that were transparent yet redemptive, He reminded me that this too is redemption.  This process is His continued refining of all of us.  This struggle has been a struggle for our whole family and He is working out something good.  I don’t know how long it will take for Amania and I to have a “normal” relationship, but I do believe with all of my heart that one day we will because our God is a God that redeems the broken.  He makes beauty from ashes.  He restores the years the locust has eaten.  And I think about how our adoption, my adoption, cost Him everything and why should I expect that this adoption would not also cost me more than money, time, and energy, but also a greater breaking of my heart, that I would know Him more and be more like His Son.

And I don’t know how long this process will take, but I will wait quietly on the Lord to restore and renew and make us all whole again.

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So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten….
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.

Joel 2: 25-26

For His Glory ~

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First and Seven

Yesterday she celebrated her first birthday at home and there’s a certain bit of irony that it came while Mom and three sisters were out of town all day.  But still she celebrated, we all celebrated, because she is here, she is home, and she is seven.  And because we’ve only been counting down to her birthday since about a week after she came home a year ago.  🙂

AmaniaHopeWhen she entered our hearts and our hopes over three years ago now, she was one of us, yet unknown to us.  And God has worked in each of us to make her part of our family and make us part of hers.

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I think of how far she’s come, how much she’s grown, since that first meeting. And I think the same thing of my heart.

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And I think of how far we have to go.  I pray that the coming year brings her more security and a true knowing she will never ever ever again be left or abandoned.  That this truly is her forever family.

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I pray there will be a better understanding of her story and how she came to us, because there are so many questions.

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I pray she will continue to grow in humble confidence in the beautiful and talented girl God created her to be.

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I pray she will know that she is loved exactly how she is, regardless of how she looks, how she performs, how she speaks.  And I pray she will never stop trying to be more like Jesus.

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And I pray hard that she’ll never lose her joy.  I’ve never seen a child so characterized by happiness.  Yes, she cries and she pouts and she asks for things she doesn’t need.  But her default mood is happy.  And content.  And I think deep down she realizes the blessing she has that the rest of us take for granted.  And I feel my heart stretched even farther as I think about that.  Because this child who has had her family taken from her seems to know instinctively this gift we all take for granted….a family, imperfect and impatient and mundane and weird as they maybe, a family that loves us is a priceless gift and something to be happy about every day.

Happy “First” and Seventh birthday, Amania.  May you never lose the hope you have in Jesus.

Love,

Mama

Adopted for Joy

I sit here, the room across the hall finally quiet.  My heart hurts for a girl who chooses a harder path out of fear.  And I think of our adoption as children of God and how our Father trains us, teaches us, disciplines us, in ways we often don’t understand.  Ways that seem too hard at the time, but they are for a bigger purpose.  And just like each new stage and event and transition in life bring struggles for this otherwise adaptable little one, we are daily presented with the temptation to revert to our old ways, to take on a survival mindset that says God cannot be trusted and my way is best.  And yet, it never is and He always can.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child and exchange gifts and sit in wonder at the manger, I am thankful for the gift of adoption, the gift of being bought for His Kingdom, to be part of His family, and to have this child as part of ours.  I am thankful for parenthood and how it gives the tiniest glimpse into the heart of God and His great love for us and that bigger picture mindset.  And I am thankful for His gentle, but firm, hand that always leads, always guides, always hangs on.

May your Christmas be filled with wonder at the gift born long ago and the gift He gave everything to give to us.

Joy Find #13 – adoption by a perfect Father, paid for at the cost of His own Son

For His Glory ~

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The Difference a Year Can Make….

A year ago, I sat waiting and wondering.  I looked at pictures of a little girl far away.  I walked daily by her empty stocking and empty bed.  I wept, wondering when the process would ever end.  And I grieved, knowing she would not be joining us for Christmas.

A year later, she is home and we are all together and the whole season has light and life again.  I have new appreciation for those who grieve during the holidays, who feel keenly the absence of a loved one for any reason.  And I give thanks for our family united this year and the chance to celebrate all together – to see all my girls faces every morning, to hear their laughter, to share in their joy each day.

A year ago I heard this song by Third Day.  I had heard it many times before, but it was just a nice song.  But in the midst of the waiting and the wondering and the longing, it became an anthem that was listened to often last Christmas, always with tears.  And then I forgot about it when the season was over and the Christmas music turned off.

Until this year when it played again.  And the tears fell again, feeling those feelings once more and also rejoicing that the wait is over and we are on the other side of that song.

Joy Find #6 – all my girls home for Christmas

Merry Christmas  – Third Day

There’s a little girl trembling on a cold December morn
Cyin’ for momma’s arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
Where the forgotten are

But half a world away I hang
The stockings by the fire
And dream about the day
When I can finally call you mine

It’s Christmas time again but you’re not home
Your family is here and yet you’re somewhere else alone
So tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in His arms
And tell you from my heart, I wish you a Merry Christmas

As I hang the tinsel on the tree and watch the twinkling lights
I’m warmed by the fire’s glow
Outside the children tumble in a wonderland of white
And make angels in the snow

And half a world away you try
Your best to fight the tears
And hope that heaven’s angels come
To carry you here

It’s Christmas time again but you’re not home
Your family is here and yet you’re somewhere else alone
So tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in His arms
And tell you from my heart, I wish you a Merry Christmas

And Christmas is a time to celebrate the Holy Child
And we celebrate His perfect gift of love
He came to us to give His life and prepare a place for us
So we could have a home with Him above

It’s Christmas time again and now you’re home
Your family is here so you will never be alone
So tonight before you go to sleep, I’ll hold you in my arms
And tell you from my heart and I’ll tell you from my heart
I wish you a Merry Christmas

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For His Glory ~

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Revisiting the unpacking….

A repost from the archive as friends and loved ones return from Haiti and sort through the raw and real and the American dream.

I’ve sat here for nearly an hour, trying to figure out what to say.  I sort through this past ten days and don’t know what to think.  I sit here, my emotions a strange combination of protective numb and completely raw.  I don’t know if I should sleep or cry.  I only know I don’t feel like I expected to feel.

This orphanage has been a part of our lives for a few years and a huge part of our life for the past twelve months.  I have lived it in other peoples stories and pictures and in my own mind I have dreamed of the day I would get to go.  And now I’ve lived it for myself for eight days.  Eight wonderful, hard, dirty, beautiful days.  And I guess I just expected to feel differently today.  But I honestly don’t know how I feel yet.  Just that numb rawness.  How do those two even co-exist?

I sort laundry and I sort memories.  I wash out Haitian dirt and pray to never wash out Haiti memories.  Those kids.  Their laughs.  The singing.  The cheers every time our truck pulled into the compound.  The food distribution.  Two hundred people with nothing, showing us around their village, showing us their homes.  Two hundred voices lifted in praise to God so thankful we have come.  We leave rice and beans to fill their stomachs for a few days, maybe a week?  They have filled our hearts for a lifetime.  The crazy trips into town. The traffic.  The wild driving.  The stories of Matt driving the Isuzu.     Pterodactyl.  The dirt that you can never get off your skin for very long.  The three minute cold showers that felt better than my ten minute hot showers at home.  Taking some of the kids up to the beach.  Water like I’ve never seen before – green-blue wonder.  Haiti is so beautiful….why do they not develop that?  That old woman on the side of the road.  What becomes of someone like that in a country like that?  The beauty of this people amidst all this poverty.  Knowing that it is their poverty that makes them love Jesus all the more.

I think of meals with the team and laughing and new friendships formed and all of the strange references I’ve heard that finally make sense, have context.  I think of Stan’s message on Sunday and Daniel’s passionate translation and the looks on the faces of those Haitians as they heard bagpipes probably for the first time ever.  I think of Nicole’s testimony and how it tapped some deep well of emotion.  I think of crying on the porch of the medical clinic with Matt as I try to process all of these feelings amidst all of the fatigue.

I think of all those little companions I had for eight days.  A dozen shadows everywhere I went.  I think of Liknay and how he nearly drove me crazy, but somehow I miss his ornery face.  I think of Misterline and Camberry and Adline and Miliane and Stella.  Those sweet girls and how they cried when it was time for us to go and I wonder do they still hope for a family or do they believe they have run out of time, that this is their life?  I think of beautiful Shela and the mama she is to my girl and how I know it tears her heart out that one day Amania won’t be there anymore and yet she loves her well.

I think of meeting my girl for the first time.  Shyness.  Tentative love.  How she warmed up to me but stayed cool toward Matt.  I think of yesterday morning and how she cried so hard before school Nicole let her stay with us until we had to leave.  I think of sitting there at the table, her on my lap, just counting down the minutes, wanting to get this band-aid ripped off, so to speak, get the leaving over with because I know it’s going to be hard, but I have no idea how hard.  I think of her starting to say softly “kay” in Creole and pointing outside.  We ask the social worker there what does this mean.  And he tells us “kay” means house, home.  And I feel my heart break into a million pieces.  I think of going outside and her pointing to that truck, begging through her tears for us to put her on it, to take her with us and having to tell her no, that she must stay and praying to God she trusts us when we say we will come back for her.  I think of literally peeling her off of me and getting on that truck with my head low so I can’t see her, thankful that the loud motor of the Isuzu helps drown the sound of her tears.  I think of Matt weeping as he has to leave his little girl there, unable to do what men are made to do – protect, provide.

And here I still sit…raw and somewhat numb.  A good tired.  A good overwhelmed.  One cannot have these experiences and not be changed.  The effects of the fall are so obvious in a place like Haiti.  Here we gloss over them.  We make our sin shiny and clean looking.  There man’s brokenness is undeniable, in your face, unavoidable.  Even though I feel somewhat numb, I do not want to become numb to what I saw, heard, smelled, felt.  God is at work.  He is on the move.  I want to be part of whatever He is up to, even if it means having my heart shattered time and again because that is what He has done for us.

For His Glory ~

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* originally posted February 10, 2012

Amania’s Hair and Skin Routine….

….because no one has asked, but someone might wonder.  😉

So it seems to be the standard thing that if you are white mama with a black child and you blog, you must post how you care for their hair and skin.  So, I’ll follow suit and share what we’ve been doing ever since Amania came home.

Before she came home I was all kinds of worried about her hair.  I read multiple posts that had me freaked out about caring for ethnic hair and skin, and that’s not even touching on the styling aspect.  However, I learned quickly that it’s really all about finding a product that works for your child’s hair type.  So, here’s what we use:

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Curly Q’s Curlie Cutie Cleansing Cream (shampoo) and Curly Q’s Coconut Dream Moisturizing Conditioner.  (Shampoo can be found here.  Conditioner here. )  We only shampoo once a month, so the bottle lasts a good long time.  In fact, a friend gave me both of these products when Amania came home, in these sizes.  She’s been home almost 8 months and I just ordered new bottles for the first time just to have extra on hand.  We condition, or co-wash, weekly.  We rinse well to make sure all of the dirt and product are rinsed out of her hair.  Then we rub in the conditioner, comb it through, let it set, and rinse well.

After that we use this:

Taliah Waajid Protective Mist Bodifer.  (Found here.  If you have a Sally’s nearby, it’s cheaper there.)  After each wash, we spray this on her hair, massage through, and comb out before styling.  Then, daily, we use a 50:50 diluted version to moisturize and detangle.

Using these three products consistently, Amania has strong, healthy, super-soft hair.

For her skin we love Aveeno’s Positively Nourishing Comforting Cream.  It can be found at WalMart or Target or anywhere pretty much.  This stuff has been great for her skin, and as long as she applies it well and daily, her skin is soft and smooth and healthy-looking.

 

So, that’s what we use.  Maybe someone else will find it helpful!

For His Glory ~

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(Almost) Four Months Home

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Four days shy of four months home and I realize that many were eager to hear stories of Amania’s birth into our family and her transition as she becomes one of us.  And I realized I’ve shared far more about my struggles and wrestling these past four months than about her and there is a reason for that….she is doing amazingly well.  Dark skin and thick accent aside, it’s as though she’s always been here, as though she was born of my body and not just our hearts.  She is funny and emotional.  She is smart and moody.  She says she’s a princess, then she says she’s a ninja, and then she’s a ninja princess.  She plays dress up with Ellie and has tickle fights with everyone.  She slumps her shoulders and lets out a huge sigh every night at 8:00 when I say it’s time for bed (just like all of her sisters did at that age, and some still do).  She’s learning to enjoy reading time and will grab books and sit for an hour like the others, although she’ll spend at least half of that time asking myself or one of her sisters what time it is in hopes that she can be finished.  She loves to work and loves to help and will be genuinely sad if the big girls are working and I can’t find something for her to do.  (Okay, maybe that’s not like the other girls.)  She is finding her place as another mother hen, in spite of being the youngest.  She tattles and whines and gives dirty looks when she’s angry.  Lately, she has taken to asking for cookies every morning for breakfast.  We have never, in our history of parenting and certainly not in the past four months, served cookies for breakfast.  And yet, she acts genuinely shocked and dismayed when I say no every morning.  She says things like “gubble-u” for  the letter “w”.  She speaks almost completely in English except for words  like “li”, “nou”, and “kouniya” (which she uses both correctly in Creole and as “can you” or “can I” in English”).  She wants to be independent just like her sisters and last week told Matt “Dad.  No.  Stop.” and made him wait in the hall as she walked to her Sunday school class alone.  Sometimes she still wears a jacket in the air conditioning or on mornings when it’s in the low 80’s.  She loves to sing and dance and ride her bike in the driveway.  She swims like a fish and can’t wait to start kindergarten in a few weeks.  By all appearances, she’s a very healthy six year old.  And in spite of our struggles as a family, as a couple, and mine personally, this has been an amazing adventure.  Watching God weave a new member with her own story and background into a family already established, marveling at her choice, her willingness, to simply come along with us and become one of us, seeing the work God is doing in all of our hearts and our family – it’s a remarkable and beautiful thing.  We know that, like all of parenting, there will be more struggles, but we are so grateful to be on this journey together.

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For His Glory ~

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*family photo credit goes to Meghann Boatright

Week in Review: 2013 {Week 22} – And Some Honest Thoughts from an Adoptive Mama

Oh this week. It’s Friday. May has lingered long, and this week has lasted longer, and the mother guilt weighs heavy this week. And to even speak what weighs down seems unthinkable. For it seems that with our Haiti girl I’m not supposed to get tired or frustrated or discouraged. Because things are going so well when they could have gone so wrong. And I realize that. That things are going better than I ever hoped at this point. But our girl, she’s six, acts like she’s four, and has the verbal skills of a two year old. And I’m plain worn out. And sometimes it feels like such an overwhelming gift to have her here and sometimes it feels like I’m babysitting someone else’s kid. Indefinitely. And lately, I just want to hide from it all.

Perhaps some other mama, adoptive or not, can identify. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this emotionally isolated, this mentally alone. Probably since I last had a two year old. Add in moving and all that means for a family of seven and I’m ready for lengthy trip somewhere very far away.

And I listen over and over again to Jason Gray and his album A Way to See in the Dark and so many songs speak deeply, but this one puts words to feelings we struggle to articulate…

I’ve spent some days looking
For a length of rope
And a place to hang it
From the end of my hope
But where I thought hope had ended
I always find a little bit more

……

My heart is not lifted up
My eyes are not lifted up
But calm and quiet is my soul
Like a child with its mother is my soul

After a while in the dark
Your eyes will adjust
In the shadows you’ll find
The hand you can trust
And the still small voice
That calls like the rising sun
Come

And bring your heart
To every day
Run the risk of fearlessly loving
Without running away
You must run the risk of fearlessly loving
Without running away

Jason Gray, Without Running Away

And here I sit, quietly waiting for God to do a miracle in my heart and move me from where I am now.

But God is good and it will all be worth it and He writes redemption and He restores and He is doing something amazing here and I’m blessed to be a part of it. And I really am thankful, even in the midst of the tired and worn. Because it is a gift. But it isn’t easy. As one introspective child said this morning, “Nothing feels the same anymore.” No, sweet girl, it doesn’t. It’s hard sometimes right now, but it’s going to be so much better. Soon.

And I go back to a quote from Pastor Jim and cling to that…

When life is at its darkest – when the Giant Despair has you locked up, and the black raven won’t leave your door, and the demons whisper ‘give up hope’, don’t do it, don’t give up, look up…and say ‘God’. The greatest faith is born in the darkest hour of despair.

For His Glory ~

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