Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The "R" Word

I just saw the funniest status on a young man's facebook page and I simply have to share it.  He said "My chemistry teacher is retarted" . . . did you catch that? RETARTED???? My first inclination was to leave a smarmy comment related to learning to spell the word "retarded"  but I restrained myself and ran right over to this blog to give the thoughts pinging around in my head a place to land.
First, I have to say that I had no idea I was supposed to be extraordinarily offended by the use of the word "retarded" until I adopted a child with Down Syndrome. Now it seems every other day my inbox is inundated with the names of various companies I'm to boycott because they advertise during a TV show that uses the "R" word.   There is a laundry list of web sites I can no longer purchase from because they sell t-shirts or bumper stickers that use that monicker as well.  The way things are going, I'm going to have to grow all my own vegetables and make my own clothing in order to boycott all the companies that are either directly or indirectly related to the misuse of the word "retard", "retarded" or "tard", for short. I had to get rid of my fire extinguisher because the label clearly states it contains . . . you guessed it . . . RETARDANT (okay, not really but I'll bet somebody, somewhere . . .).
  I am finally getting a glimpse of what life must be like for folks inside a persecuted minority.  It's tiring.  I can't keep it all straight.  For the record, let me state that I know the "R" word is  not a nice word.  It's generally used to make fun of a person or to denigrate someone who has made a faux paux.  I have used it. And not just as a child. I have used it for the sake of humor with no regard to my listeners. I have actually asked my husband if he is, in fact, retarded.  It was wrong.
That being said, I can not decide whether or not to link arms with my fellow offended parents of special needs children or to blow off the whole campaign to obliterate the use of the "R" word.  I truly am torn.  The fact of the matter is, my son is retarded. His development is delayed in all streams. He is three and can not speak. He is not potty trained and doesn't show the slightest interest. He is light years behind his peers in all  areas.  Aside from being retarded, he is beautiful, funny, cuddly, adorable, incessantly happy, a light in every room he enters, the star of the show every time we go out in public, a friend to every child, an amazing little brother and a terrific son.  He is made in the image of a Holy God and he is exactly who he was created to be.  If I believed in magic, I would say he's magical but I don't. There is something so profoundly magnetic and awe inspiring about him that I haven't found the right word for it yet.
If a person who is retarded can be all those things, too, maybe the "R" word isn't such a cuss.  Maybe we MAKE it one by flipping out every time a careless teen tosses it around on TV.  I  just don't know.  What I do know is that out of respect for those who have been injured by it, I will no longer use the "R" word or allow it to be spoken in my home.   Maybe my view on this debate will change and I will be blogging my readers those long lists of companies to yank dollars from but for now, I think I'll not make myself the conscience of someone else.  I can only imagine the offensive things I do and say on a daily basis, unaware, that open wounds of another person.  I have a lot of cleaning to do in my own backyard before I take on the neighborhood, you know what I mean? 
"Retarded", "special needs", "handicapped", "disabled", "developmentally delayed" . . . those are all words that could be applied to my son.  To us, he's just about as close to perfect as someone on this earth can be.
There's no debate about that!

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Large Inheritance

"The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup. You hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places. Indeed! I have a beautiful inheritance!"  Psalm 16: 5-7

As I read these verses during my time in God's word this morning, they almost passed me by unnoticed! We live in a culture that does not dwell on either family lineage or inheritance. I suppose part of the reason for that is most of us don't come from wealthy families. Our parents have nice lives and, in their passing, we may get a check that allows us to help our favorite charity or take a vacation but few of us will receive life-changing, hire-me-a-security-guard-and-a-financial-adviser type windfalls.   In Psalm 16, David is referencing a much more eternal inheritance, one that promises value both in this life and for all eternity - a life orchestrated by an all-knowing and sovereign Father!    Now THIS is an inheritance I can truly appreciate!  I often feel like David that the "lines have fallen in pleasant places" for me.  God has given me a portion in life that is beautiful, restful and peaceable.  I have so much to learn about God's will but I do know that being a mom, serving my family, adopting our children, homeschooling and serving those He puts in my path are the charges He has laid before me. All of those tasks are to be undertaken with the ultimate goal of sharing the gospel in sight.  When I do those things with the right heart, I truly see the "beautiful inheritance" that awaits. There is something so calming and yet motivating about obedience.  On the other hand, when I begin to grumble about the hard work my life presents or when I begin to doubt the calling He has placed on me, I no longer feel like an "heir of God" (Rom. 8:17).  I feel like that greedy cousin who was not written into the will and walks away gypped.  Don't let the enemy steal the joy of your inheritance today.  Walk in the full knowledge that if you know Christ, the "lines have fallen in pleasant places" for you as well.
YOUR inheritance is beautiful.  Now THAT'S something worth passing down!!!!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Urgent Prayer Request

Many of you may have heard about the desperate situation of a beautiful little boy with Down Syndrome who lives in an orphanage in Eastern Europe. Kiril is his name and he has a family. Kiril is being lovingly pursued for adoption by the Davis family. This family prayed, raised funds and traveled to Eastern Europe. They spent time with this amazing little wonder and fell more in love than they already were, only to be told by the judge presiding over the case that Kiril would be better suited to an institution than to a family!! Kiril is cheerful and bright. His eyes sparkle and he is, of course, gorgeous!  His mother tells the story best in the blog below:

Kiril's parents know what all adoptive parents know . . . something I have not only experienced but blogged about in the past. An adopted child becomes "ours" the minute we see that photo and make that decision to pursue them.  Kiril IS their child.  They have loved him long before they held him. I am beseeching my readers to pray for this family, pray that the judge who will hear their appeal has a change of heart. It will be the same judge who initially denied the family.  Pray that God would lead this judge into an understanding that Kiril is WANTED - not for any nefarious purposes but he is being sought after by a family who desires to parent him and raise him to reach his full potential.  In many Eastern European countries, authorities can not fathom that any family would seek out and pay ridiculous sums of money for the adoption of a disabled child. In the minds of these authorities, people who seek these children must have ulterior motives.  Rumors from child slave labor to organ harvesting keep these countries abuzz and cause each adoptive family to tremble on court day.

 Please pray!

God is bigger than any hurdle in this adoption case!

Monday, March 21, 2011

What To Expect When You're Expecting (A Teenager)

I have officially entered the "obsession" stage of adoption which is all-too-familiar as this is our 4th adoption but no less crazy-making than the last three times.  Since our new son is 15 full years old, I can't run to the latest pregnancy book and find a page telling me he is roughly the size of a plum  but I CAN read copious amounts of material on teen adoption. That is what I have been doing.Thanks to my good friend "google", I have officially decided to STOP reading!  From the sounds of things, our pets are about to be murdered, our house set ablaze and my purse pilfered.  Our cough medicine will be summarily digested since we don't have a liquor cabinet and my car silently rolled down the driveway as our new son attempts to joyride at 4am without waking the family. Factor in the new grandchild he will inevitably produce with the clerk from our local Zippy Mart and the pay-per-view pornography we are going to be charged for and you've got yourself the latest information on the internet related to teen adoption. Very encouraging, no?
I don't mean to minimize the problems others have faced with their teens and, of course, I have condensed two weeks' worth of reading into one laundry list of challenges simply because hyperbole makes for great blogging (ha ha).  My point is, that much like the nightly news that our family has dubbed the "Eleven O'Clock Bad News", adoption of teens is painted in sensationalistic hues for increased readership.    Only the worst case scenarios seem to make it to the internet and many of those are posted "anonymously" causing me to wonder if some bored 45 year old bachelor in his mother's basement is taking a break from World Of Warcraft and typing these stories!
It would be scary reading if I weren't so convinced that God is calling us to this young man and where He calls, He equips.  I know there will be challenges and hard times. We have experienced those with all of our children, biological and adopted. It's life. Nobody's perfect except our Savior and as we are shaped into the image of His son, the cutting away and squeezing into the mold can hurt. It's in those times I've leaned most heavily on Jesus and found His arms more than sufficient to both carry my burden and embrace my whole family.  He's good like that. . . always calling us to give more of ourselves and then producing such joy in the giving that it doesn't feel like sacrifice -it feels like privilege. 

Unrelated to this post, I just wanted to share a favorite new picture of Ezekiel (it's a lollipop, he's not a smoker)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Simple Praise

"Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and forget not His benefits! Who forgives all your sins, who heals all your disease, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies, who satisfies your mouth with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."
Psalm 103:2-5 NKJ

Every now and then, I like to diverge just a little from my usual adoption and family related posts to simply give praise to my Creator and Father, Jesus Christ. Inevitably, as I praise His name, my praises come full circle and I end up back to adoption and family "stuff" because those are places His goodness has shone extra brightly in my life.  I especially love to remember His kindness to me when I am feeling down or stressed. Something about recounting the favor the Lord has shown me lifts my perspective and reminds me that, as undeserving as I am, He treasures me.  If you have committed your life to Christ, you can rest assured that you row next to me in the very same boat.  Grab those oars, dear friends, and let's praise His name together.

Today I am most grateful for:
1. The free gift of salvation
2. Ongoing forgiveness of my sins
3. Mercy that is new every morning
4. The health and safety of my  family and me
5. Knowing my prayers are heard
6. The Holy Spirit interceding for me
7. A pantry full of food, cars full of gasoline - provisions
8. The wisdom of Godly women I can turn to for counsel
9. A husband who loves the Lord, His family and isn't afraid to take risks (this should have been #4 or #5)
10. Being raised in a Christian home
11. The fact that my siblings and their families are Believers
12. All of my children (who have the awareness) have come to Christ
13. My church family and a pastor who leads us in the right direction
14. Trials that have brought me closer to Jesus AND the fact that those trials ended (surely more will follow)

This list could continue forever!

Are you sad or stressed today? Is there worry overshadowing your heart and coloring all you think, see and hear?  Please consider taking out a piece of paper and writing your own list of "benefits" that have come through knowing the Lord.  If you aren't sure if you really DO know Him, consider taking a trip over to the Desiring God web site set up by Pastor John Piper.  He gives clear, succinct explanation of what it means to truly be a Christ Follower.  You can find this info at: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/if-you-want-to-become-a-christian   
Life in Christ is not for couch potatoes but the benefits so greatly outweigh the risks!

Bless the Lord, Oh my soul and forget not His benefits . . .

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Much is Enough?

"The blessing of the Lord makes rich and He adds no sorrow with it."  Proverbs 10:22

Today has been both wonderful and difficult. One of my precious children is sick and we went to
the doctor early. While making conversation with an office employee who has known our family for years, the subject of our pending adoption came up (okay, I brought it up because I'm just so darn excited!).  She congratulated me and then proceeded to make some light hearted, no-harm-intended comments about my craziness for wanting so many children.  I felt a little annoyed but decided it was probably my own attitude that needed to be kept in check and I played along.

A few hours later I went to our local "quick ship" store to send some documents to homeland security for our adoption. The clerk, a man much older than I, asked for the address to which I was sending the documents so he could print a label for me. The address piqued his interest and I could tell he wanted to know what I was sending but was not allowed to ask.  Once again, in my sheer excitement about our new son, I shared a little with him about our family. He looked at me and sardonically made a remark about the volume of groceries and laundry I must have. HUH? 

In between these two encounters I ran into the grocery store with JUST ONE of my children. I bought enough yogurt for the entire Italian army, I'll admit that. We like yogurt. It's yummy.   Anyway, a lady peered
into my cart and said "you must be feeding a lot of people" and because I still haven't learned any better, I replied "we have five children and they are big yogurt fans".  She looked at the little brown boy by my side and said "you must be adoptive parents".  I proudly said "yes" and she proceeded to elevate me to the status of Mother Theresa right in the dairy section of Aldi.  She said "well,God bless you" as she walked away and I replied in all honesty "He already has" and gave my boy a  quick squeeze of the hand.  Her sentiments were lovely but her furrowed brow tattled on her.  She's the president elect of the  I-can't-figure-out-for-the-life-of-me-why-anyone-would-want-more-than-two-children club.

All three of these encounters happened JUST TODAY! I promise!  As a child, our pastor would tell stories that sounded, shall we say, "fantastical" to me.  I grew up wondering if pastors were given poetic license to
embellish in order to make a point.   It sounds like I am doing that in this very post and if I could type with my right hand up and solemnly swear I am not, I would!  This was my day today. 

These encounters caused me to wonder if this is really how society views children - as laundry makers and grocery consumers. As robbers of our time and our sanity.  As troublesome beings that, if actively pursued, make the pursuer  a saint.  The Bible says that children are a heritage from the Lord. They are a blessing.
We should seek to fill our quiver with them.  Do we ever make jokes about how bothersome our extra money is? Our good health? Those pesky vacations that keep needing to be taken each year? But when it comes to children, we don't view them as "the jackpot", we joke about them like they are millstones around our necks, holding us back from all the things we REALLY want to do.  Am I being too cynical? Maybe. I get that way sometimes but with three interactions in one single day, the evidence is leaning heavily in favor of the permeating attitude being "kids are great as long as there aren't too many and they hurry and grow up and leave the nest". 

Yes, my kids have caused me sadness on occasion. They have driven me to my knees in prayer on many, many occasions.  They have even made me cry behind closed doors but they have blessed me. They have held me accountable. They have improved  and refined me. They have challenged my hypocrisy and shone a spotlight on the weaknesses that need shoring up in my character.  They defend, forgive and prefer me more than I deserve.  My children make me laugh every single day and I often feel pity for the rest of the world that these children are mine and not theirs (just keeping it real here).  I feel like the prom queen and the valedictorian when I am with them. My husband and I secretly muse (well, not "secretly" anymore) that we don't really understand our good fortune in being given this family but we sure don't want to do anything to mess it up - ha ha! So far, so good.
SO . . . if you run into a proud mom in the grocery store line, tell her how lucky she is. Tell her she seems to be truly happy in her role and her kids are adorable.  For the love of all that's good, DON'T make a snide remark about how much laundry she must have or how tired she must be!  Tell her she's blessed. I'll wager she already knows this but tell her anyway.  It will be so counter to the messages she's used to getting that you'll throw her right off her game!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Selfish Prayers

I woke up this morning to the news about the devastating earthquake in Japan and simply could not believe the reports coming in!  I would like to say my mind went immediately to the pain and suffering of the Japanese people or that I prayed instantly for their protection from the aftershocks. I didn't.  My first thought went immediately to The Philippines and to Francis.  Was his orphanage near the water? Were the tsunamis expected to hit there? What time was it in The Philippines?
I began to pray on the spot about all those questions. I searched online and found a map that relieved my fears - his region was not under threat from the tsunami and it appeared he would live to join our family. 
My thoughts then went to our family members still living in PI and to our dear friends who, yesterday around the time the quake hit, were scheduled to be in the Tokyo airport heading back to the states with their newly adopted son.  Prayers went up for all of these people as well.  Finally, after pulling myself out of the tunnel of "how does this quake effect ME and the people I love", I realized my thoughts - even though they were thoughts for other people- were inherently selfish.  I wondered if God even hears or honors prayers like mine?  Many would probably eschew these notions and patronize me with statements about how natural it is to think of your own loved ones first.  I am clearly disappointed in myself, though.   It is often said that when your cup is shaken, what sloshes out reveals what was inside. In other words, under stress, the contents of the heart are revealed. My contents still don't think enough about people in faraway lands with lives, families, feelings, plans and dreams. They are mercurial  and somewhat confined to the TV screen.  
I'm not sure being consumed with compassion for unknown people comes naturally to anyone but I do know that it is what I will begin praying for this very day.   I want my first reaction to tragic world events to be the desire to intercede for the people effected, not to run through a rolodex in my brain of ways the tragedy may impact ME.  . . . Lord, LESS OF ME and MORE OF YOU!
Amen. . .

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face . . .

For my younger readers, let me explain that the title of this blog post was taken from a Roberta Flack song of the 70s.  It's a song that romanticized the first time a woman laid eyes on the man she loves. It's a song that was popular when I was a small child and although I could sing every word, it held no meaning in my own seven-year-old mind.   Even as a young adult, I can not honestly say that seeing my husband for the first time (across a crowded sports bar) was love at first sight. It may have been "lust" at first sight and certainly the physical attraction made my stomach flip-flop but "love at first sight" never existed for me until my children arrived.

In 1994, I was a young special ed. teacher, a newly-married woman and I gave birth to the most perfect little boy I had ever seen. I still recall the doctor holding my son up after an easy labor and I immediately recognized him. We did not know the gender of our first child officially but I knew he would be a boy and I knew his face from day one.  I was immediately enamored of this gift that God had given us. Love at first sight.

Just two short years later, an ultra sound revealed that we were to give birth to a daughter. After the miracle of a son, I could not believe my good fortune to have the chance to mother a daughter.  On December 26, 1996 I gave birth (with NO anesthesia, thank you) to my amazing little girl. She was a vision of loveliness and I recall seeing a little mole on her cheek and thinking "if they try to switch babies on me, I'll know my baby is the one with this tiny spot".  She looked 100% Asian.  Instant love.

In 2005, our little family of four traveled across the world to a little area in The Philippines called Silang, Cavite.  We entered Chosen Children Village and saw our precious Kyle for the first time. He was sitting at a wooden table with a sippy cup of water. He was waiting for us.  I had seen him in pictures and he was cute but in person, he was PERFECT.  At almost 4 years old, he was swimming in size 2T clothing and he was still diapered. He held in his hand a photo album I had sent months earlier and he looked from the book to his new family and back to the book again. There was a flicker of recognition and a faint smile.  Again, I loved him on the spot. No questions asked.

Just one year later, our lives took a drastic turn as we adopted Lemuel after his two disrupted placements. When we met him for the first time he was 8, highly medicated and in a psyche hospital. Just knowing his history made my heart ache. When I saw him for the first time, I suffered just thinking of all he had been through. With all the confusing emotions pressing against my heart, I know a seed of love was planted on that first day. He was fragile and needed us.  That seed would blossom slowly but I knew it was there.

Almost exactly a year ago (March 8, 2010), I sat at my brother's kitchen table with this very computer in front of me waiting for my "skype" to ring.  My daughter, Lemuel and my husband had gone to The Philippines without me to bring Ezekiel home.  When the tone sounded and I finally saw Ezekiel on the screen, I began to cry and say "my baby, my baby".  He was tiny and beautiful. His Down Syndrome only added to his charm and I was, once again, able to honestly say "I love you" to yet another person I had only just met!

I don't know how the first encounter with our newest son will play out. As a young man who is neither a baby nor a delayed child, it will be a story of it's own. His most recent evaluation lists him as being "shy and withdrawn".  I am prepared for this love to take time but if God sees fit to plant a tree rather than a seed in us, I will be grateful.

I write this post today for two reasons. First, it's a precious stroll down memory lane for me and as we get closer to meeting another member of our family, I find myself gleaning comfort from all that God has done in the past. I use this blog as a sort of altar of praise and a tribute to a Heavenly Father who always does more than we ask or imagine.
Second, I share my "love at first sight" encounters because my friends are meeting their son for the first time in The Philippines today. They are meeting a little 4 year old boy who was our Ezekiel's crib mate and best friend at Gentle Hands.  I prayed for this little boy from the moment I read Ezekiel's paperwork, which made mention of his "best friend who is always with him".  I pray that the new parents are falling head over heels right this very moment and that the little boy feels nothing but safety and love in their arms.

My friendship with this new mom is going to a deeper level, no doubt, as we become kindreds through the experience of adoption. 

All who are reading please offer up a prayer for the formation of this brand-new family.  Our Father hears, He knows, He cares and He is always good!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sweet Remembrance

I went to my room this morning to have some quiet time in God's word. I've been reading through 1st and 2nd Thessalonians for awhile now and as I settled in with my cup of coffee and Bible, a piece of paper slipped from between the pages and fell onto my bed. It was an old bulletin from our church I had been using as a bookmark.
This bulletin was dated June 13, 2010 (my husband's birthday). The sermon title was "The Call of Moses" and I remember enjoying this sermon very much. Our pastor highlighted the many ways Moses attempted to wiggle out of God's calling on his life. In fact, this sermon impacted me so much that I blogged about it back in June 2010.  In any case, I noticed the following list in my notes (copied verbatim)
Why Do We Pass the Buck (and not adopt Francis)?
Indifference (don't care)
Inability (can't afford it)
Insecurity (we might fail)
Inconvenient (we are doing our Dave Ramsey baby steps and it's not a good time)

I remember at the end of the sermon that day, the song we ended with contained the following lyrics:
God can make a way where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we can not see. He will make a way for me
He will be my guide. Hold me closely to His side.
With love and strength for each new day.
He will make a way, He will make a way.

I believed that very day that God would bring Francis into our home. It was not until September 4th that my precious husband called our agency and inquired about our family adopting Francis.  For three months, I prayed both at home and at the altar at church that this young man would come to us.  I stopped dropping hints around July as my playful hints were not being met with humor but annoyance.  I knew it was time to silently pray and keep my mouth shut. So I did.

In November, our congregation sang the same song again about how "God can make a way . . " and rather than that song being a desperate plea from me to my Savior. It was a praise that I could sing with complete confidence.   He DID make a way and there truly seemed to be NO WAY.

So, as we wait for the final few steps in this adoption, I encourage you all to know that if God made a way for us, He can make a way for you as well. We have no special red bat phone on the desk of our Heavenly Father that allows Him to hear us first and better than the rest of His children. We have what all Believers have: a Great High Priest that goes before the Father on our behalf and the Holy Spirit interceding with words we neither know nor understand.

All praise, glory and honor goes to Him!  Just Him . . .

The Final Word

I'd like to submit one final post regarding adoption disruption and then, I will have exhausted my entire wealth of knowledge on the subject (ha ha).  Many readers may be familiar with the organization CHASK (Christian Homes and Special Kids).  Chask is a well-respected, God-focused ministry to birth parents and they serve two sectors of the adoption community. First, they help birthmothers who are pregnant with special needs babies. They encourage these moms to choose life for their babies and if the moms are considering adoption, they help match these unborn treasures to families who are open to the particular special need.
I have seen many babies with down syndrome and spina bifida listed on the CHASK site.  Second, the CHASK site offers a venue for parents who are disrupting their adoptions to find new families for their children.  Currently, as I type this post, there are two children from Ukraine and one from China listed on the site.  They are all older children and all have behavioral diagnoses like Reactive Attachment Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These children will not be "easy", most likely.
During the worst of our battle with parenting Lemuel, I contacted CHASK and considered placing him there for "rehoming" (a term that makes me bristle because it sounds like it refers to a pet rather than a child). CHASK is wonderful.  If you are a family who has considered disrupting and decided in favor, I encourage you to let CHASK help you.  If you have considered adopting a child from a disruption, please go to their web site and pray about the children currently listed.  www.chask.org .
I check their photolistings daily. I pray for the children featured there and am always thrilled to see how quickly the photos are removed. It seems there are scads of parents who are equipped to handle these difficult children.  I praise the Lord for such families. To knowingly, willingly  walk through what we "accidentally" did garners so much respect from me!  Please investigate CHASK, pray for their volunteers and their waiting children, consider donating to them and sharing their link with others who may benefit.