My afternoon yesterday was most likely your night…since I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific ocean. I read through Facebook posts and tweets about the Cardinals losing, Monday night football, Dancing With the Stars and some pretty nasty comments about the presidential debate. My mind was on other things. I was googling “mental retardation.” I engrossed myself in stigmas and causes. Medicinenet.com defines it this way, “Mental retardation: The condition of having an IQ measured as below 70 to 75 and significant delays or lacks in at least two areas of adaptive skills. Mental retardation is present from childhood.”
I read about studies done in orphanages in Budapest. Some said that for each month a child spends in an orphanage up to age three, their IQ score goes down 1/2 point. I read about stigmas of each name. How retard has become a dirty word. I know, I used it on just about everything growing up in the ’80s. Now, the politically correct phrase is developmentally delayed. Huh? That’s Jack’s special need according to all his paperwork.
Why am I bringing all this up now? I just left Jack’s cognitive assessment. I won’t have the results for several weeks, but I know the test the psychiatrist was using needed to be changed to fit his level more than once over the three hours we spent in that little room. Jack was awesome. I think in the same situation I would have been irritated with someone asking me the same question in a sing song voice repeatedly. I didn’t do so awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t lost my composure. Here’s the thing. It’s a standardized test and Jack, well, Jack’s not standard. We call those little wax things colors. Dolls are babies. I’m Mama, not Mommy. Grandpa is a bear. Things like that tend to skew a test. I can’t think of a time I’ve said, “Jack give me the _____.” I say, “Can I have ____?” or “Hand me the _____.” “Get your shoes.” “Find your cup.” I wanted to yell, “You aren’t asking the right way!” I did finally say, “In our house those are (and then I spelled out) B-A-B-I-E-S.” That’s when I got the standard rules for standardized test speech.
Jack can count higher than half the kids on Bria’s class but he won’t answer if you say, “Jack, how old are you?” He just learned to say “Mama and Daddy” not that long ago. Jack parrots our behavior. Matching something is an abstract concept for him. He shares. He tries to do what we ask. Today I was overwhelmed leaving the test when he patted my shoulder and said, “Woook! Is a train!” He is getting it, ever so slowly. The fact is for whatever reason he is delayed.
I heard all about the orphanage delay. I had delusions of grander. Apparently what I heard loudest was, “he will catch up.” Instead of that, can’t speak, low muscle tone, missing fine motor skills points. I heard he’ll be like everyone else. He’s not. Neither is Arleigh, or Hanan or Bria. We all come with our own set of kinks and quirks. Low IQ was off my radar. I thought this would be, show him a car, say car, he’ll learn car sort of deal. It’s not. I’m mad right now because I hear some people saying, “I told her so.” I hear the naysayers in my head saying, “Do you know what’s going to happen to your family?” or “Did you really count the cost.” When I am overwhelmed with Jack’s delay I’m reminded that there were people along the way of our paper chase who wanted to tell me it would be too hard. When I’m struggling, sometimes I wonder what they are thinking now.
This is what I would say to myself of almost two years ago when we were just getting Jack’s file…
If you think the paperwork is scary now, you don’t know what scary is. Wait until they take him back for an MRI to look for brain damage. It is going to get a whole lot worse. It’s not blue skies and rainbows and sisters loving on brother the second you get off the plane. It’s hard. He’s going to get mad because he can’t tell you how he feels. You are going to get mad because all you want is a day at the beach and the beach is going to be the most terrifying place on earth the first few times he goes.
During this paper chase there is something about it. You are broken and want your boy home but you also feel like you are part of something bigger. You somehow really see your place in God’s plan. It’s easy now to shirk off naysayers. It’s a bit harder when Jack is in your arms and you want him to act like a normal little boy and he’s not. When you are holding him and he is tremoring like a seizure is coming on just because something is new and people are giving both you and Jack funny looks, try to remember that Wonder Woman feeling you have right now. It’s a bit harder to hold on to these days but it’s still there. Remind yourself that you are still part of God’s plan. You are helping the world see God’s love in a little boy.
Don’t quit. Jack will teach you so much about yourself. Some good, some bad. Jack is going to show you and those little girls a bigger world. He is going to win EVERYONE over even though he doesn’t talk much. The random guy at the school will come to love him. He will make people laugh out loud on a regular basis and you get to watch as he touches their hearts. Jack is going to open up compassion in Arleigh, Hanan and Bria like you’ve never seen. Bria will walk away from her little sister role to become a champion to her brother. You’re going to cry over all the tests. It’s going to be hard to watch him fail. Hard isn’t impossible. In his failing, he just gives himself more room to grow.
Jack isn’t going to be what you thought. He won’t be perfect. He’s going to be better. He may be with you until he’s 18 or forever. Either way it’s okay because you’re going to learn that when he’s around, you’re better. Delays are hard to swallow. It’s just one more mountain to climb. God wouldn’t have sent Jack to you if He thought you couldn’t do it. Somedays you may think you can’t. Remember that with God, you can.
Don’t quit! Sincerely,
Brandi is a Christian, military wife and mama to four true blessings. After living in Iceland and Maryland she started blogging so their extended family could keep up with their life on the east coast. Two moves and two kids later, one brought home from China, it’s about faith and family, dealing with developmental delays and their misadventures in Hawaii. You can read more here.
We will drive to the baby home for the last time,
sign in at the front door for the last time,
shake the director’s hand for the last time,
take off those communal clothes our little man’s been wearing for the last time.
We’ll dress him up in the outfit we so carefully picked out just for that day.
We’ll roll up his pant legs which I’m sure will still be too long.
We’ll zip up his brand new winter coat and slip warm mittens onto his little hands.
We’ll walk out those heavy metal doors,
down the cement steps,
and outside the black gate.
We’ll climb all three of into the backseat of the car.
And we’ll drive away, forever.
The words on the chapter in our little man’s life-without-a-family, all written. Finished.
The proverbial page, turned.
A thousand empty pages waiting to be filled with a hope and a future.
A year ago I found this one couple who had chronicled their Russian adoption journey via youtube videos. The video of this couple leaving the orphanage with their little boy for the last time contains one incredible, poignant moment: as they head down the staircase to leave the baby home, their translator tells them to open the door and bright, white light from outside floods into the dark hallway.
“The door to the world. To a new life.” she says.
And in the background of the video, a song with these lyrics:
Sin has lost it’s power,
Death has lost it’s sting.
From the grave you’ve risen
Into marvelous light I’m running…
This moment- this moment of leaving the old and starting the new- this is the picture of salvation. In my son’s story, I see my own. I see my rescue. I see my ransom. I see the life I’ve been given, the gift of the Father. For I was once fatherless, but now I am a child of God.
When John and I walk through those orphanage doors with our son in our arms, we will be living in a moment we’ll remember forever. A moment that will forever cause us to worship. A moment made of new clothes, and footsteps on tile floors, and the weight of a child in arms, and cold winter air, and three in the back seat….
but mostly it will be a moment made of grace.
Through the door. To a new life. Into marvelous light.
This is all of our story, who know the Lord. Once we were not a people, but now we are God’s people.
One month to begin a story that has been written for all eternity. Praise the Lord.
Jillian Burden is an expectant mama; she and her husband are expecting their first child by way of a Russian adoption. While her belly might not be expanding, her heart and her faith sure are growing! You can read about this soul stretching journey to parenthood on her blog.
Large baskets by the roadside, dusty corners… dark alleys. My eyes are always peering intently into those forsaken locations, wondering if today is the day that I’ll hear a kitten’s cry and it won’t be a kitten. It will be a baby.
I don’t want to find a baby, and yet I do. I’d like to stay in denial that babies actually don’t get abandoned. I’d rather believe that they ONLY suffer in institutions, thrive in families, survive in foster homes and blossom in foster families. This would be so much easier to believe… if only it was the truth.
It’s a stereotypical “awkward” question from children, “Where do babies come from?” They ask because they want to know. I don’t ask where the orphan in my arms or in that bed came from because I do not want to know. And yet… I do so very want to know.
She was abandoned in a field… he was at the foot of a bridge… the local village, a hospital, the orphanage gate…. At the foot of a mountain….
…by the railroad tracks. That’s the one that gets me the most. Who abandons their baby by the railroad tracks? The hospital – I get that! A poor woman has just given birth to what should be a healthy son but instead it’s a weak baby girl who’s struggling for breath, looking quite blue and has a heart defect according to the doctor that would cost the family more than they could ever afford.
The culture here allows for borrowing and lending. I recently heard about a family who, when they discovered that their child was quite sick, spent every fen they owned. Then, as they cared for their child in the hospital, relatives went amongst one another, borrowing money. In the end, the child died. As the parents recover and grieve the loss of their one child, these sacrificial, unconditional-loving parents must work their fingers to the bone to repay their relatives.
A sick baby is born to a poor family. This is their reality, their situation and, ultimately, their choice. High-quality care costs a literal fortune and you must pay up front.
How high is life valued? I think that I can see an important yet devastating chapter to each little orphan’s story just by hearing about where they were abandoned. The girl abandoned at the hospital was meant to live. The boy abandoned in the town square was meant to be found. The baby in the flower bed was to know that she’s always been cherished… and hopefully will be found by one who loves. The little boy abandoned at the foot of a mountain was meant to be forgotten. The little guy by the railroad tracks… he was gotten rid of.
I want to throw up just typing it. A vibrant, healthy, living child was never intended to be found, to be loved… to be wanted. Of course I could be reading into the story a little bit or a lot, but in reality… he’s not a “perfect” baby and those imperfections could have been seen as negating his value as a human being.
I don’t know why I look for the babies. I think that maybe it’s because I have to prove that this sort of loss and pain exists in the world. But why? Why must something so awful be confirmed? This I don’t know. Could it be that God’s heart is for the fatherless and His eyes are on the little ones at the orphanage gate and in the flower bed and that His passion is to bring children to himself? When I look into the eyes of the children here, I see Him. I see Jesus, because in many cases… His love and care is all that they have to live on.
How much realer and truer is this for the one who hasn’t been found yet? What about the baby who was just given up, who has spent her first night in the cold without arms to keep her warm and a voice to keep her comforted? She has nothing, and if she had anything at all, it’s quickly escaping to leave room for the cold hard facts of the cold hard world.
But she has Jesus. That’s what I want to see; that is what I see.
I’m not looking for babies, I’m looking for Jesus. I’m looking for His love and His provision; for His peace and for His grace. I know that He has His eye out for each tender cry and delicate life.
I hope that I never stumble upon a bundled up child left by the roadside, hidden in a basket or at the public gate, but I do hope that I see Jesus in the eyes of every empty heart.
When Hannah traveled to China in 2002 with her parents to adopt her sister Elisabeth, she fell in love with the country and people. In 2004, when her other sister Naomi was adopted, she started dreaming of going back. It took 5 years for that dream to come true. She now serves in a foster home for special needs orphans in China. Hannah spends her days studying, writing for the foster home and on her personal blog, Loving Dangerously, and most importantly, holding babies. Hannah loves the adventure of living overseas with her family. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it.
As I was standing during worship at my church in Orlando this past Sunday, out of nowhere God brought up Russia on my mind. It caught me by surprise that God brought this particular thought into my head. God does that, catches us by surprise. Now for those who don’t know me very well you must know that I think about Russia all the time. Oftentimes I wake up in the morning just simply missing Russia. I really do miss Russia every day of my life. This is not to say that I hate living in America. I love America. It is where my family is, my home, my friends. I love going to college in Florida, baking in the sun at the beach in the months when everyone else is already getting out their winter clothes. I wish I could combine the best of both worlds; Russian culture and the American family and climate. One must always make sacrifices. Recently missing Russia and talk of Russia has been incessant due to the fact this is my last year in college and I must decide where my future must head. The constant question of, “do you know what you are going to do after you graduate?” is engrained in my brain. I almost can predict when the people will ask the question before it comes out of their mouths. I get excited and at the same time sad answering the question. “I’m moving to Russia,” is my initial response. Then comes the question, “What are you going to do there?” This is where I hesitate….What am I going to do in Russia?!
It didn’t take me by surprise that God brought Russia on my mind this past Sunday, but it did surprise me that he brought up orphans and adoption. Even from a young age I knew I would go back to Russia and that God would use me to minister to orphans, but as I got older, my desire still stayed the same– minister and help orphans. However, college changed my perspective. What am I going to do ministering to orphans when I’m graduating with a double major (Russian Studies and Environmental Science)? Was the time spent in college working so hard going to go to waste? Did I choose the wrong majors? I could make a very good living through in either of those areas. I’m going to need money to live on. I can’t do ministry work in Russia; I need to find a real job.
Oftentimes, I go into thinking in this way. I imagine myself being a very successful government official or businesswoman. I see myself changing the world in some grandiose way. I desire those things; however, then I see someone in need and my heart just breaks. I know there is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful or making a lot of money, but it all comes down what is most important in this world to me! Money comes and goes, experiences come and go, troubles and happy times come and go, but people live on. Whatever I do in my life, I want to help people better their lives. I want to see them succeed and be happy and satisfied with life. I want to help orphans because I was one once and knowing this I know there is hope and there is life after you have been abandoned and rejected by those people who gave you birth.
Over the years my very good friend, my mother, and I have been making a quite interesting observation. We have been surrounded by many adopted children most of them coming from Russia, who have been placed in wholesome, loving, caring families. The adopted children have every basic need satisfied in their lives plus more, for these new parents provide them with overwhelming love and care. We have seen these adopted children grow up and live their lives like they grew up in a home without love, care, protection and parents. The decisions they make are harmful to their lives. Oftentimes, they begin to use drugs or alcohol, get into rebellion–and the list goes on. I look at those children and without judgment and wonder, “Why is this so?” I know these families well enough to know that they have poured nothing but love into their adopted children.
I can testify to this happening not only as someone looking from the outside but also as someone who has personal experience. In my own family, we have had many such experiences. My own adopted siblings have sometimes chosen paths of destruction and hurt. I have watched for months, which later turned into years as my parents did everything humanly possible. Some situations got so bad that only God could do anything, because it was humanly impossible to do anything else. I don’t know how it feels to be a parent of a struggling child, but I know how it feels to have someone of your own blood be in a painful place and feel so helpless.
And I began to entertain the idea, could it be that love is simply not enough to dramatically change the adopted children’s lives? Could it be that God isn’t enough to change their deeply hurt hearts? I don’t entertain that idea for too long, because if God isn’t enough to change these hurt hearts, then there is no hope for orphans. God has to be enough and is enough to make a difference in the heart of the orphan. All I pray is that God will use me to do just that.
Kristina, a 22 year old college senior majoring in Russian Studies and Environmental Studies, is one of 7 children, 4 adopted and 3 biological. Kristina was adopted when she was 10 years old from Russia. She has experienced the redemptive work of God in her life and has a calling to minister to children and a deep desire from God to have an impact in the very country that was the source of so much pain. She occasionally writes for the Hope at Home blog.
This waiting, it sucks.
You’re shocked I know.
But here’s the thing about waiting for three plus years – sometimes your pride tricks you into thinking you’ve actually gotten good at it. Like you’ve conquered it and are so content and experienced at it you’ve got it under control.
Then you get smacked upside the head with what seems like an impossible weight of waiting you can’t possibly live through. For us, that smack came last week when we learned we are still 12 or so months away from bringing “J” home.
And here’s the thing about that weight – we can’t carry it. We must wait on the Lord. Not in a cheesy just stand on the sidelines and pick daisies all day while something in the Heavens magically comes together.
We have to wait on Him. Lean on Him. Ugly cry out to Him.Get on our knees before Him.Give it all over to Him.
Only when I am crushed by God, do I truly wait on Him. It’s sad but true. My humanness can’t do it otherwise.
So here we are: crushed and waiting. Thankful that He’s got this. He’s not finished writing this story, it’s just going to take a little longer than we thought it would. Like three years longer. But who’s counting?
p.s. For those of you who are reading because you’re in the DRC process and care about the logistics – there were more errors found on our Consent to Adopt and our attorney was robbed at gunpoint. He lost his cell phone, computer and passport. (he was out of country) Therefore, we don’t know if the Consent to Adopt has been signed by the mayor yet or not.
The reason for the additional wait is because we have an amazing agency who cares about the children of the DRC – ALL of them, not just the ones who can be adopted, and is working hard to build a relationship with the government officials instead of working around them. Building relationships takes time but they are committed long term to the care of the vulnerable children of the DRC.
Lindsy and her husband William lead the Orphan Care Ministry at Antioch Church in Louisville, Kentucky and are passionate about sharing God’s love for the fatherless and caring for orphans as a family. Their desire is to provide Believers with practical ideas and encouragement for orphan care and adoption. The Wallace’s have been married for six years, have two biological children and two children currently living with them through the Safe Families program. They have been pursuing international adoption from Africa for three years. Lindsy blogs about orphan care, adoption and more at www.wordfromthewallaces.blogspot.com and can be reached at wordfromthewallaces @ gmail . com.
“After the third kid people stop congratulating you. Then they just look at you like you are Amish.”
We can relate. When people find out we have four kids their response is usually something along the lines of, “Really? Four?” or “Wow, that’s a lot.”
But more often than not I hear the following question: “So are you guys done?” Sometimes I can’t tell if they are asking a question or pleading for us to stop.
We have to be done, right? With our income and in today’s world it was borderline irresponsible to have four, much less five children. We couldn’t possibly afford more kids could we? Besides, where would we put them? We are still trying to figure out where to put Jude’s bed for goodness sake. Don’t even get me started on how we are going to pay for college in the years to come.
We should really do the responsible thing and focus on the kids we already have. But then again, whose definition of responsible am I using? The world tells me that it’s responsible to have a beautifully decorated home, nice cars, college savings for everyone, expensive hobbies, well invested retirement accounts and kids who excel in academics and sports. If I can’t give each kid their own room, own television, own smart phone, own computer, their own this & own that then it’s pretty clear what am I: irresponsible.
It’s not that any of those things are bad. In fact, many are good. But does checking everything off of that list make me responsible? Or wise? I am starting to think the answer to that question is a resounding “no”.
No doubt, we all have a responsibly to provide for our families. But an even greater responsibility exists to spread the Good News to the ends of the world and to reach those in need: the poor, the abandoned, the foreigner, the widow, the orphan.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that my family isn’t done. I don’t know if that means we will adopt more sons and daughters into our home. It may. But even if we don’t we will never be done fighting for the millions of Rylies & Judes who are waiting, literally waiting to come home & waiting to hear the Gospel.
The more the world looks at my family and cries, “How irresponsible!” the more I’m convinced we are finally being responsible to the call that a Jewish carpenter made some 2,000 years ago.
Jennifer and Rush Middleton have been married for 11 years and have 4 kids, Jonah (8), Reagan (5), Rylie (3) and Jude (2). Rylie came home from China in 2010 and Jude just arrived earlier this year. The Middletons have been through the easy and the hard of bringing a child into their family, yet the awesome gift of adoption has rocked their worlds in more ways than they can count. You can check out their blog about family, life, adoption, cleft lip/palate and other randomness at Apple Pie and Egg Rolls.