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Monday, February 28, 2011

Backlash . . . Whiplash . . .Whatever!!!!

                                                 (Above: Lemuel holding our youngest, Ezekiel)
I could not have anticipated the outpouring that would follow my raw post on our son who survived two disrupted adoptions!  My "inbox" was brimming with email just 24 hours after posting.  I clicked each email with one eye closed bracing for the harsh criticism that often comes with discussing such  a sensitive issue as adoption disruption.  Much to my relief, there were only two sorts of emails. The first sort came from supportive friends and family members who know us "in real life" and wanted to share how deeply the post touched them. The second sort of email is the sort that haunts me. There were many notes from despondent parents struggling to raise a wounded adopted child.  I wept over many of those emails. I prayed for each family who took the time to write.  I wanted more than anything to offer those parents "three easy steps to fixing your child".  I have nothing by way of advice except to seek the face of your Heavenly Father, day by day, moment by moment and ask Him to give you the grace to get through just that day or that hour or even that minute.  To disrupt or not to disrupt is a question each family must answer for itself.  For us, it was almost the right answer but turned out not to be.  For other families, it is the only way to save their sanity or protect other children in the home (or themselves, for that matter).
To all who read our story, encouraged me, asked permission to share it with other parents and shared your own fragile stories, you have shored us up.  Linking arms with fellow parents and marching forward is a priceless part of our own family healing.
We have come so far and have far to go but I can honestly say, with a dramatic swipe of my brow  . . .
"phew . . . THAT was a close one!".

For His Great Fame,
Nikki and the Crew

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Adoption Disruption - The Down and Dirty

This post has been fighting to get out of me for some time now. I have attempted to squash it with a million "what ifs"  and  finally came to grips with the fact that my "what ifs" were really attempts to get myself off the hook and pretend that adoption has been perfect for us in all it's forms.  It hasn't. And it hasn't been perfect for all of our children either, primarily our 12 year old, Lemuel.
 The circumstances of Lemuel's birth are his own private history and out of respect for him, I will only share what is absolutely vital to the understanding of how he became a "disrupted adoption story."  Lemuel was born to a poor and physically ill mother who passed away just a month after surrendering him. Lemuel's birthmother was malnourished. She did not "break" him, she did the best she could but he was born at a disadvantage to his well-nourished, deeply-wanted age mates. A crack appears . . .
Lemuel waited in an Asian orphanage for 7 years for a family to call his own.  He was in a wonderful, Christian orphanage run by a family which I respect immensely. They did not "break" our son.  They fed, clothed and trained him but they are not a nuclear family.  They will be the first to tell you that every child needs a Mommy and Daddy of their own and a "regular family" to develop to the highest potential. The crack widens a little as he waits . . .
Finally, after 7 long years, Lemuel was placed for adoption with one of his biological brothers. That placement lasted all of two weeks before the first family recognized they were not prepared for the challenges that these two children were presenting. They disrupted the placement and Lemuel and his brother were put into two separate foster-to-adopt homes for their own benefits.  This first family did not "break" our son, either but the
crack in him  develops branches . . .
Lemuel's new foster-to-adopt family took him in with, undoubtedly, the purest of intentions. They wanted to help a child who needed them.  In the safety of their home, Lemuel began to express his deep sadness and anger at all of the circumstances in his life that he could never control.  This expression came out as violence. The family had their own biological child to protect. Lemuel was too risky to keep. He needed more than they could safely offer so it was time for him to move on. The crack in the soul of our son becomes a wide crevasse and ugly things ooze out . . . 
Lemuel is placed in a psychiatric hospital and put on a patch delivering continuous medication. He is 8 years old.  This medication keeps the tantrums at bay and puts a bandaid on a gaping, mortal wound.  When his sadness breaks through, he is given pills in addition to the patch.  He is labeled.  He is alone in a foreign country with no family, no siblings and nobody to truly fight for him.  The foundation of this little boy shatters into a million pieces and he says he doesn't want to live anymore. He is a broken pile of shards . . .
We learn about Lemuel through our adoption agency and we agree to go to the psyche hospital and meet him.
We take our three children along because we want them to understand as much as possible about this new child who may or may not be joining our family.  We meet Lemuel in  a large cafeteria at a psyche hospital. The room smells like old pizza and white milk.  He is a tiny figure at the end of a long table sitting with an agency social worker.  We approach him and HE IS TERRIFIED.  His eyes dart to each of our faces and then around the room. His eyes never stop moving. He wants to be anywhere but here, bracing for another probable rejection by people who mean nothing to him and yet symbolize everything.  We try to play a board game with him but he makes a mistake, gets angry and quits. His lips are so chapped that a circle of scabs surrounds them. He has been habitually biting and licking his lips for weeks out of sheer anxiety. We try to joke with him but he does not understand.  He gets up abruptly and leaves the room in the middle of an attempt to engage him.  None of us even knows if he is allowed to do this. The agency social worker goes to check while my husband and I wordlessly communicate "this kid is a mess".  And he was.
We leave the hospital for a nearby restaurant to talk and pray as a family.  We are distraught by what we have seen but aware that we are WAY out of our league.  We could have buckled up in our car and driven away without even looking in the rear view mirror. Part of me wanted to. The other part of me wanted to take Lemuel home with us that very day. We asked the Lord to show us what to do.  We called our agency on the
way home from the psyche hospital and told them we wanted to bring Lemuel home.  We did.  When we picked him up a few days later, he was neither happy nor sad. Just resigned. He had never had his opinion count before so he did not offer one about this new family coming to claim him.  He would simply learn to spell his new last name and move on with life.   He tried to.  He couldn't.  He was not a good enough actor to camouflage his true feelings. He cried a lot. He disobeyed most of the time. His attitude was terrible. He didn't like our food, our music, our ideas or any of us.  He was determined to reject us first or force us to reject him and shorten his time between placement and the big "heave ho."   He made us miserable.  We could not take him places without having to face him whining, griping. complaining or busting out with an inappropriate comment or question - and he could not whisper. He still can't.  He lied incessantly and made nonsense statements.  He overate and had nightmares constantly.  Our lives changed drastically over the course of the next few months.  Our older children began to resent him. Our younger child did not want to play with him because he cheated and always had to win.  In privacy, we questioned our decision to bring this child home.
We felt what his previous families had felt. That we had made a mistake and doomed ourselves to parenting this most difficult child. We cried. We read books. We considered disruption a hundred times and each time, one or the other of us would say "no".  We came to the stark realization that when handed a body bag with a broken person inside, we expected him to "rise up and walk" just by virtue of living under our blessed roof.
We somehow fancied our mere presence sufficient to heal this child.  We thought it would be easy. We were critical of all who had gone before us. Until we were humbled.  Until we couldn't fix him either.
Fast forward 5 years. Lemuel is still in our family. He has been in counseling and residential treatment since joining our crew. We have made many mistakes in our parenting of him. We have held the bar so high that he could never jump over it and then been furious when he didn't.  We have failed. But we have also succeeded.
We promised him that this family would be his last stop. And it is.  Not because we are so tolerant or so perfect and certainly not because he has been "cured" of all his issues.  This is Lemuel's last stop because he is our child and we love him.  We are learning to accept him "as is".   We don't have the kind of  glue that mends
a broken child but we have a Heavenly Father who makes all things new and He is teaching us bit by bit and day by day that He is sovereign.   Lemuel has improved GREATLY over the last 5 years but, guess what.
So have we.  We have learned the meaning of "blessing in disguise" and we are working on figuring out other mysteries like "unconditional love" and "adjusting expectations".  Lemuel is fine. He is exactly who he is supposed to be at this time in his life. 
 Despite the painful blows life has dealt him, he continues to find joy in the smallest of things.  He loves sports, video games, other people, making friends and eating Filipino food.  He laughs too long and too loud at the silliest of TV shows and adores his little brother who has Down Syndrome.
Lemuel is a walking miracle . . . beauty from ashes.
I do not believe I could have survived what he has.  Many could not.  Most would not be able to do it and retain any hope in the future.  Lemuel has many hopes and big plans - he wants to play football for his school, drive a car when he's 16, join the  military and he says he'll never get married because he'll probably die in a war and he doesn't want his wife to be sad.   (A little morbid but quite thoughtful, too).
I am not haughty enough to believe this child was put through all this hell just to teach our family valuable lessons, but he has.  I know the reason for Lemuel's life, just like the reason for all of our lives: we exist for the sole purpose of glorifying God.   Lord Jesus, be glorified in the journey and make us something beautiful for You.  Amen!

                                                                   

Monday, February 21, 2011

Document Me!!!!!!!

As if our last bit of good news on our current adoption was not enough, MORE good news arrived today!
I received  a phone call from our terrific adoption agency (www.christianadopt.org) that Francis' legal documents are there!! Tomorrow they arrive in our home via Federal Express!  I will immediately file the I-800 on Francis' behalf and then, we . . . say it with me . . . "wait".    We wait a little more joyfully this stretch because it's truly the home stretch. It can last anywhere from 8-14 weeks and then we get to travel.
Thank you, Jesus!

The pic below was taken at my birthday dinner at The Melting Pot.  Although one son is not pictured here (Lemuel), can't you just see Francis sitting at the table with us?  I sure can! It won't be long now . . .

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Forward Motion

This morning I awoke to a wonderful, much anticipated email from our adoption agency! It was a note to let us know that the psyche eval results have been received by the Inter Country Adoption Board in The Philippines and that Francis' legal documents (birth certificate, court papers, etc) are on the way to our agency so we can file for his immigration clearances!!!!!!! I am jumping for joy this morning!   It was hard being in that "holding pattern".  So many loving friends and family members have been asking over the last month for updates on our adoption and I have had to robotically repeat "we're waiting on one more document before we can move forward .  . . just an updated psyche eval . . . beep, beep . . ."   NOW I can give a new and better answer!!!!!
We do know the US Embassy in Manila will be closing for part of March due to a move so, it's possible we'll be hitting another slow down here soon.   I have to keep in mind that all of this will happen in God's perfect, predetermined timing.  All of my praying, pleading and whining don't thwart the plans of my Heavenly Father.  It's a good thing, too because if I could "beg" God into revamping the plan, I would have missed a lot of spiritual growth and faith building along the way.
So, today as I drive to the orthodontist for one child and piano lessons for another, I'll do it with a little extra "spring in my step"  because we're getting closer to bringing Francis home!!!!!!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Swept Away

This week I received a new photo on Facebook of Lemuel's (our adopted 12 year old) brother, Ariel. Ariel has been the subject of some of my former posts as we tried as a family to find a way to bring him to the US. Ariel is cognitively delayed and is 20 years old. In the photo below, he is in the orange t-shirt.
(I know, he's super cute and looks a LOT like his little brother) In any case, US immigration law has no provision for Ariel to come legally to the US.  The Embassy in Manila denied him even a tourist visa to come and visit us because they felt no assurance that he would return to the country. Truthfully, I don't know how that would have played out.  We have sent him care boxes  and, even now, an open box sits on my counter as I need to hit one more store before sending it off.  I contacted one of the directors of the fantastic home for "street kids" that cares for him. I asked her to inquire of Ariel what he would like in the next box. He asked for more  pictures of our family, letters from us, shorts, t-shirts and underwear.   Yeah . . . that's what I thought, too. . . "that's it?".   I probably would have found a way to shove a pony in that box if he asked for it and yet, his requests were so simple.  The request for photos and letters told me what I already knew in my heart. He wants family connections.  He has the same unquenchable desire at 20 that even a young child has - the need to belong.  
I write this post for several reasons. First, I covet your prayers for Ariel's future. With limited literacy skills and the fact that he is not all that "employable", I'm concerned. Second,  I hope some of my readers who are looking for a mission trip or a place to direct donations will consider "Children's Garden of The Philippines" where some truly precious young men have been sheltered from the streets.  Finally, I share this slightly off-topic news because it weighs on my heart daily and the Bible tells us to "bear one another's burdens".
Life was so much easier before I knew about the needs.  It was so much simpler when I had my two small biological children and we homeschooled, went on field trips, had play dates, went to church and tossed exactly 10% in the offering plate but I don't long for those days. I don't miss them. Orphans and street kids always existed, just not for our family.  Now that they're here and we're here, God is using THEM to teach, refine, mold and sharpen us.  He is showing us our calling and, as we respond, life just gets more fulfilled and abundant.   Of course, it's not all roses and lollipops.  We struggle with knowing exactly what we're to do, how much to give, who should come into the family and who we support from afar.  We trust the Lord to direct our paths but so often our fervor and fear blot out His instructions.  I have begged God countless times to send our family to The Philippines as missionaries.  I have become cynical of our comfortable lives here in the states but even to this very day, God has not called us to go. He has called us to stay, to adopt, to donate, to pray and to wait on Him.   Nothing is harder than that last request. NOTHING.