Monday, September 30, 2013

Celebrating Our Stories

The summing up of Our Lord's teaching is that the relationship which He demands is an impossible one unless He has done a supernatural work in us...No enthusiasm will ever stand the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His worker, only one thing will, and that is a personal relationship to Himself which has gone through the mill of His spring-cleaning until there is only one purpose left - I am here for God to send me where He will. Every other thing may get fogged, but this relationship to Jesus Christ must never be...

Every time I sit down to write, I try to get it just right. Perfectly right.

You could call this lots of things and attribute it to many factors:

~My genetic predisposition
~My family history
~My pride
~My perfectionistic personality
~My flesh
~My Dad's red pen marking all over my writing assignments when I was in school  {I really did appreciate it, Daddy!}

Regardless of the name you give it, it's part of my story, part of what makes me who I am. And the result {among countless other things, some of which are good things and some of which are not so good things} is that sometimes a post sits in my draft folder for much too long just waiting to get perfected, and it never gets posted.

I've been working on one of these types of posts {this particular one about S} for almost a month now, writing about what we learned at her one-year follow-up visit at the International Adoption Clinic in Birmingham and also about how she has transitioned into school. I've been trying to figure out just how to share with you my heart for this precious child, while also seeking to be transparent and honest about the struggles I have being her Momma.

I just can't seem to get it right, and I'm not just talking about my writing. I hesitate to write the words in this post for fear of being misunderstood. Perhaps I care too much about what other people think about me, and that's why I hesitate to share certain parts of our stories. I often feel very alone and that very few people understand the challenges I have experienced this past year as I've navigated through the ups and downs of our adoption journey. But I do think it's important to share the truth, and my prayer is that there will be others who read these words and will be encouraged. My hope for this blog is simply that our story will bring HIM glory and will always paint a picture of His faithfulness in spite of my many weaknesses and failures...

You see, the more I've learned about S, the more I've learned about myself. And over these past few weeks, I've discovered that there's a lot to learn. It's taken me a bit of time, but I've slowly been sorting through all that our family has experienced this past year and processing all that is in my heart.

Lately I've been doing something similar in our attic and in our closets - the monumental task of swapping out summer clothes for fall and winter ones {for 8 people}, the very surreal task of finding all the maternity clothes that I hadn't planned on wearing again quite so soon, along with sorting through all of the baby clothes that Barrett and Evie have both outgrown. It's quite a job, but a necessary one that will help us get ready for all of the changes that are coming our way in the upcoming months.

I still have a hard time believing that we are here all over again. Preparing, planning, making room for two more precious lives. Reconfiguring our spaces to make things more efficient. Cleaning out and giving away what we don't need, making lists for the things we do need. Simplifying and streamlining. Organizing and ordering. I'm learning how important and helpful these things are, especially with a growing family. Thankfully, this is right up my alley, and I actually do enjoy this type of work although you can't always tell this by looking at my house. In spite of my best efforts, it is rarely perfectly clean or spotless. With six kids under the age of 8 {including 4 little boys}, I've learned that a perfectly clean house never lasts longer than about two minutes. And that's ok. We're a messy bunch...

My floors are messy. My potties are messy. My back yard is messy. The boys' bunk room is very messy. And there's normally a pile of stinky diapers by the back door waiting to greet anyone who comes to visit and just begging to be taken out to the trash can around back. There's always something to keep me busy {or distracted}.

If we are to be disciples of Jesus, we must be made disciples supernaturally; as long as we have the dead set purpose of being disciples we may be sure we are not. "I have chosen you." That is the way the grace of God begins. It is a constraint we cannot get away from; we can disobey it, but we cannot generate it. The drawing is done by the supernatural grace of God, and we never can trace where His work begins.

Some days everything around me {and inside of me} feels so extremely messy that I think I would be perfectly content and happy just hanging out in the attic all day. On those days, when everything feels like it's a little too much to handle, it's so easy for me to choose to focus on what I can control and the things that I can manage. Often I find myself sidetracked, distracted with our clutter, spending my energy on all the little things that really don't matter instead of the little people that truly do. Those are the days {and there have been quite a few of them lately} that I question my "job assignment" and feel like I would be better qualified and a lot more effective at being this family's cook and housekeeper rather than this family's Momma. 

Have any of y'all ever felt that same way? Have you ever thought that maybe you're just not cut out for the job the Lord has called you to? Maybe you've read other families' blogs and their adoptions just seem so smooth and their transitions seem so much easier than what you have experienced. Or maybe, like me, you look at other moms and you can't imagine them ever thinking the things you think, doing the things you do, or blowing it the way you blow it. How can others look so perfect, love so unconditionally, give so selflessly, and always respond so patiently? Why do I struggle so? It's what I've been asking myself lately. Why does this seem so hard for me? Why do I feel like I'm going backwards instead of forwards? Why can't I get it right with my children and why do I feel like such a failure with this one child in particular that I feel so burdened to get it right with. And, for me, these questions always lead to that one big question. More? Lord, are You sure about this? Give me a closet to clean out any day, but are You really sure about giving me more little ones to nurture and love? Don't You see how I struggle with these I already have? Ask me to wash 8 loads of laundry, even clean 8 bathrooms or organize 8 closets, all before 8 in the morning, but do You really think I can care for 8 little people? There are many, many moments that I think I'd rather hide out in the closet or escape to the laundry room than do the real work that I know He's called me to do. I often feel that I am much better at dealing with clothes that need to be folded than hearts that need to be nurtured. And it's so much easier to clean up the messes these kids make than to deal with the mess that they reveal in my own heart.

So this past week, as I've been organizing our clothes and preparing for the seasons to change, I've been asking the Lord to prepare my heart for this new season that we are walking through. I've been asking Him to sort through the clutter in my own heart, to clean out all of my own messiness, and to expose the lies that I've been listening to. I've asked Him to help me better understand my story, and the way my story affects my relationship with others, particularly with my children and especially with S.

Now to back up just a little. I want to give you the quick version of the very long, not yet perfected update post about S, still sitting in my draft folder. When we went to Birmingham with S back in August, we had the opportunity to meet with a great team of doctors and therapists who helped give us some insight on our sweet, little girl. We went fully expecting to hear words like institutional autism and developmental delays. What we didn't expect to hear was that while S has made some progress, compared with what they typically see from other children, even ones who have come out of extremely hard places, her progress is incredibly small and has been much slower than what they would have liked to see. {For a little perspective, this time last year S's cognitive level was tested to be similar to that of a 12 to 18 month old. After a full year, she now functions closer to an 18 to 24 month old. We've seen about a 6 month developmental gain in a year's time.} They now believe that we're not looking at autism or developmental delays, but rather a genetic predisposition and a low IQ that significantly impairs her cognitive function and her ability to communicate. 

In many ways, we were surprised, and, in other ways, it was something we always knew all along was a definite possibility. Without sharing details, we do know a little bit of her family history, and we knew from the very beginning that her delays could be more than just the typical delays you see from children coming out of Eastern European orphanages. We entered into this adoption without expectations, simply trusting the Lord that this was what He had called us to do and believing that He would equip us to do it, no matter what it looked like. We went into that appointment with the same mindset, knowing that regardless of what diagnosis S was given, it wouldn't change our heart for her or shake our confidence in the One we know can heal, restore, and transform S into exactly the person He intends for her to be. In fact, it was very freeing to hear the doctors tell us what they thought and what to expect in moving forward. It helped to give us a better perspective on the behavior and attachment issues we have been dealing with, and it encouraged me that school would indeed be a good thing for S.

And it has! She has loved going to school, and this has been such a blessing. Right now, she stays for three hours in the morning. The majority of that time she spends in the self-contained room, but she is slowly being transitioned to small intervals of time in a pre-K class. She works with a speech therapist everyday, and we are starting to see a small amount of improvement in her imitative skills as she is working to make new sounds. She's learned the routine and rules of her class, and her teachers have been very pleased with how she has adjusted.

She really is doing so well, especially when I consider how far she has come since we brought her home last year. Even considering her progress just since this summer, it truly is remarkable. She is a remarkable little girl! Then why is it still hard for me? Why do I still forget how much she has learned? Why do I still find myself at times irritated and frustrated with her, expecting too much, when I should be displaying compassion and patience? 

I've been asking myself these questions, and I've been asking Him to help me understand my heart. And He has been so merciful, helping me to better understand her story and also my own! He's been showing me the lies I've been listening to, pointing me to the truth, and then faithfully renewing my mind with His Word.

S is learning. She is making progress. It is just a very slow (and often hard) process. And I can relate. Over the past 14 months, I have been learning how to be her Momma, and it has proven to be a very, very, very slow and challenging process as well. You see, like S, I also have a genetic predisposition. I tend to be a type A personality. I'm incredibly driven and determined, ridiculously stubborn, and very strong-willed. Growing up, I always believed that if I set my mind to do something and if I just tried hard enough and practiced long enough, I could be successful. The word "can't" wasn't in my vocabulary. And while this trait might have helped me be a good student and a good athlete when I was growing up, and it definitely helps me now when I have to tackle a messy house or a closet that needs to be organized, it sometimes sets me at odds with S. Because I truly believe that she is capable of continuing to make more progress, I am continually encouraging her to try new things, say new words, and learn new skills. I do the same with my biological children, too, but most often it plays out differently with S. I get more resistance and push-back from her, and she is a little slower at learning new things than the other kids. Bless her sweet heart. There are things she actually just can't do - no matter how hard she tries. She struggles so much to even make the most basic sounds. She has a very difficult time of focusing on anything for a long period of time. She resists learning anything new. She's content to do the things that are easy for her and often unwilling to do the things that are a challenge for her. Using her mind and applying herself is extremely hard. Maybe it's because of her genetic predisposition or maybe it's because it's all she's ever known. And maybe my issues are because of my genetic predisposition or maybe, like S, it's what I've known for so long, too. But regardless, there are times when my encouragement turns into pushing, and sometimes I push just a little too hard. I expect too much, not intending to be harsh, but because I love her and I really do believe in her and I truly do know in my heart {regardless of what the doctors say} that she is capable of so much more. I push her, just like I've always pushed myself. There are times that she definitely needs pushing, and she responds in a positive way, and it's a good thing. But not always. Often she reacts with frustration toward me. And I get frustrated because the very last thing I wanted for this beautiful little girl of mine, the one who already struggles with attachment issues, is for my pushing too push her away. We both end up in tears. She ends up mad at me, and I end up angry at myself, beating myself up for yet another time I have blown it with this precious heart.

I've known my story for quite a while now. I've dealt with many of my issues and worked through my past. I've learned to forgive others. I've learned to forgive myself.  But this past year has revealed yet another layer of healing that my heart has desperately needed, and the Lord has used S to teach me so much more about myself.

And as I'm {slowly} learning how to open up my heart and receive His unconditional love and acceptance {in spite of how many times I blow it with my children, in spite of falling so short of the expectations I have for myself, and in spite of continually making the same mistakes over and over and over again}, I'm learning to allow Him to pour out His love through me. And more and more, I'm finding that as I receive His grace, I have more grace to give to these little people that He's put in my care.

I'm smiling now as I write this. It's such a crazy story. How the Lord would see fit to weave my story together with the story of this sweet little girl. How her life, her background, her issues, her brokenness, and her wounded heart would uncover and reveal my own. 

Parenting her might not come naturally to me. It might go against my natural affinities, my personality, my strengths, and even my spiritual gifts. {Would you be surprised if I told you that administration ranks at the top of my spiritual gifts' inventory, and mercy is at the very bottom?} But it's what He's chosen for me, and I am incredibly grateful for the privilege of being S's Momma. I love this little girl {and ALL my little ones} dearly, and today I celebrate her story and my story and our family's story and the beautiful way the Lord is weaving them all together! 

Our Lord's making of a disciple is supernatural. He does not build on any natural capacity at all. God does not ask us to do the things that are easy to us naturally; He only asks us to do the things we are perfectly fitted to do by His grace, and the cross will come along that line always.

Oswald Chambers

Happy October!


P.S. Praying that I have some adoption news to share soon! In the meantime, here's a little bit more encouragement from one of my favorite devotionals! These words have blessed me these past few weeks, and I pray they do the same for you!

Pour all of your energy into trusting Me. It is through trust that you stay connected to Me, aware of My presence. Every step on your life journey can be a step of faith. Baby steps of trust are simple for you; you can take them with almost unconscious ease. Giant steps are another matter altogether; leaping across chasms in semi-darkness, scaling cliffs of uncertainty, trudging through the valley of the shadow of death. These feats require sheer concentration, as well as utter commitment to Me.

Each of my children is a unique blend of temperament, giftedness, and life experiences. Something that is a baby step for you may be a giant step for another person, and vice versa. Only I know the difficulty or ease of each segment of your journey. Beware of trying to impress others by acting as if your giant steps are only baby ones. Do not judge others who hesitate, in trembling fear, before an act that would be easy for you. If each of My children would seek to please Me above all else, fear of others' judgements would vanish, as would attempts to impress others. Focus your attention on the path just ahead of you and on the One who never leaves your side.

Open your mind and your heart - your entire being - to receive My love in full measure. So many of my children limp through their lives starved for Love, because they haven't learned the art of receiving. This is essentially an act of faith, believing that I love you with boundless, everlasting Love. The art of receiving is also a discipline: training your mind to trust Me, coming close to Me with confidence.

Remember that the evil one is the father of lies. Learn to recognize his deceptive intrusions into your thoughts. On of His favorite deceptions is to undermine your confidence in My unconditional love. Fight back against these lies! Do not let them go unchallenged. Resist the devil in My name, and He will slink away from you. Draw near to Me, and My presence will envelop you in Love.

Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for being so open and honest. I'm learning the same lessons right along with you as I learn how to parent our own son from B.