We’re all orphans.

Sofija is home and I’m still sifting through the dozen or so blog posts that are running around in my head. While I’m sorting my thoughts and seeking wisdom in what I share, I want to address something that has repeatedly come up since I first began sharing our struggles. Between the messages and emails I’ve received from people sharing their opinions and the ones from people sharing their own struggles, I’ve received another kind of message. Many people read my blog who have no connection to adoption or autism or mental illness. Several of those people have written to me with sincere questions. Things like, “Why is she so aggressive?”, “Why does she hurt you?”, and “What exactly is wrong with her?” Please don’t stop asking questions. Questions beg answers and answers give me an opportunity to educate. I like to educate.

The Bible is packed full of orphan references and I have to be honest. Until adoption was a part of my life, I always skimmed over those verses with the prideful thought that they applied to someone else. Going through the adoption process I scoured scripture for verses that may prepare me to love my daughter. Within days of meeting her, I realized that I was just as orphaned as she was.

Let’s compare me as an adopted daughter of God to the little girl who joined our family through adoption:

– My daughter doesn’t trust my love. She doubts every promise I make. She keeps waiting for me to stop loving her; for me to fail.  / Yep. I can relate.

– My daughter puts her hands over her ears and hums when I’m trying to tell her how much I love her and how precious she is. / It is a daily struggle to believe anything God’s word says about my worth. I stay busy and keep my environment noisy to block out His voice.

– She also puts her hands over her ears, hums, and closes her eyes immediately after asking for something she really wants. She’s preparing herself for disappointment and she often misses my “Yes” because she’s not looking or listening. / Story of my life.

– My daughter hurts herself and puts herself in dangerous situations and then apologizes to me for not loving herself. / All. The. Time.

– My daughter runs away from the place and people who love and protect her. / More times than I can count.

– My daughter resists all rules that we try to put in place to teach her and keep her safe. / I hate rules.

– My daughter will repeat a bad choice over and over and over again without learning from her mistake. / Grrrrr

– My daughter hurts other people because she is afraid of being hurt. She always wants to be in control so she hurts others before they have a chance to hurt her. / This one is not a huge struggle for me. However, I will openly confess that I’ve been there, done that.

– My daughter will be destructive in order to escape a situation where she isn’t in control. / Been there, done this one too…

– My daughter will lash out at me in order to get my attention. / I really wish I didn’t relate to this, but I do. It’s sad how often I forget that I have God’s undivided attention.

– My daughter will try to hide from me when she knows she’s done something wrong. / Dangit. This is another “more times than I can count” offense.

– She screams and fights and does everything she can think of to get out of a vehicle when she doesn’t know where we’re going. She’s so afraid that we’re going to take her some place scary and unfamiliar and because she doesn’t trust us to provide or protect, she fights. / I look forward to the day when she is as tired as I am of trying to escape the journey.

I could probably list out a dozen more ways that I relate to my daughter’s orphan heart. For those wondering why she does what she does or what exactly is wrong with her, it all boils down to that one thing… the heart of an orphan. Autism has removed her filters. She doesn’t know that the socially acceptable thing to do is try to hide her orphan heart. So all her struggles are out in the open. If you haven’t caught on, I prefer “out in the open”. I crave transparency and I thank God for giving me a girl who leaves all her brokenness out where I can see it.

If you can’t relate to me and my girl, I apologize for wasting a few minutes of your time. If you can relate, just know that you’re in good company. Two of my favorite people in scripture are Esther and Moses. Both orphans. Both changed the course of history. U.S. Presidents Andrew Jackson, Herbert Hoover, and Alexander Hamilton were orphans; as were first lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela. Tolkien and Tolstoy… orphans. Babe Ruth… lived his entire childhood in an orphanage.  Steve Jobs… orphaned and adopted as a baby.

Being an orphan (or even having an orphan heart) should not define anyone. My daughter has many struggles and I will continue to do everything in my power to help her overcome those struggles for as long as I have breath. Those struggles do not define her. Just as my own struggles do not define me. And just as your struggles should not define you. Sofija was created in the image of God. She is wonderfully made. He has a plan for her future. Plans to give her hope and to prosper her. She was created to overcome. All those things also apply to me… and to YOU.  You want to know something amazing? Even if you don’t believe it all, it’s still true. And just like I refuse to give up on my daughter, God refuses to give up on any of us.

Isaiah 43:5 "Do not be afraid for I am with you.  I will bring your children from the East and gather you from the West."
This little girl was an orphan. Now she’s my daughter.

Now go watch a Batman, Spiderman, Superman, or James Bond movie. They’re all orphans and they all make it really hard for people to love them. But… their stories all end well.

believing the truth…

truthI’ve experienced a roller coaster of emotions this week.  While I was at home breathing easy over the news that I DO NOT have cancer, my precious still-a-little-broken baby girl was busy at school taking down four staff members and giving her lead teacher a concussion.  On the same day that I talked to my doctor about possible surgery dates that would give me time to heal before that baby girl’s school year ends, I faced the reality that her “school year” may be over in the terms of her actually leaving the house for a few hours a day.

And then, in the midst of the roller-coaster of emotions and seeking wisdom on baby girl’s school placement and dealing with an achy uterus, I was told some things yesterday that punched me in the gut.

“You are a narcissist and a hypocrite! You lack the ability to be truthful and you have no place doing any Christian counseling with anyone… Don’t blog or write anymore as your words are meaningless and untrue!”

It’s always interesting to me how those type of character attacks come when there is ZERO energy (or even motivation) left to defend myself.  But you know what?  I think there’s a reason for that.  I think God wants us to have ZERO energy for defending ourselves so that we can lean into Him.  So that we are forced to choose what we are going to believe.  I also don’t think it’s any accident that the character attack came at the same time I am being forced to choose what I believe about daughter.

So, for the record, I choose TRUTH.  I choose to only believe the things that the Word of God says about me and my child.  I choose to believe that God has given me a platform with this blog and that when someone is blessed by something I write, my purpose is fulfilled and HE is glorified.  I choose to give GOD credit for any good that anyone sees in me.

TRUTH: Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for Sofija and Kaci,”says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give my girls a future and a hope.”  ~My baby girl is going to be just fine.  No matter what her school environment looks like, it will be a good thing.  No ifs.  No ands.  No buts.

Matthew 10:31  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. flock~See all those birds?  You, me, and my baby girl…. we’re more valuable to God than that whole dang flock.

2 Corinthians 12:10  That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the INSULTS, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  ~ This is why I’m pretty confident God allows character attacks at times when I don’t have the time or energy to work it out on my own.  “…when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Romans 8:28 For we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. ~We’re all going to be okay around here and you’re going to be okay wherever you are and whatever it is that you’re walking through.  There is no guarantee that life will be easy for those who follow Christ.  There is however a guarantee that EVERYTHING will work together for your good.  I need to mention that sometimes “your good” doesn’t look like what you imagined it would look like.  It just doesn’t.  But that doesn’t make it less good.  It’s just different good.

John 1:12  But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. ~ Did you read that?  “…children of God.”  That’s right, y’all.  Me and my girl…  We’re royalty.  We’re daughters of a king.  There is nothing that anybody can say that will ever change that.  

A couple of years ago, Prince Harry was caught on camera, sans pants, in Vegas.  For the Prince, what happened in Vegas, did not stay in Vegas.  Within hours the crown jewels were all over the internet and people were calling him all sorts of bad names.  You know what he did?  He got up the next morning, put on a suit and tie, and continued to be a Prince.  As crazy as it may sound, I want to be like Harry.  Okay maybe I don’t want the world to see me in my birthday suit through the lens of a cellphone camera.  But I do want to get up everyday, clothe myself in a suit of armor, and remember that no matter what anyone says about me (or to me), I am a daughter of a king.

Ephesians 6:13-17  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the BELT OF TRUTH and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News (the Bible) so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

 

 

Have you found your ‘thing’?

I have.  I’m supposed to gather stones.

In the book of Joshua (in the Bible) the Israelites FINALLY get to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land.  In the process of crossing the river, the Lord speaks to Joshua and tells him to have one man from each of the twelve tribes go back and gather a stone.  They are to carry the stone on their shoulder to the place where they stayed the night (in the middle of the riverbed that God had dried out just for them).  The stones were to serve as a reminder that God cut off the flow of the water just so they could walk into the territory that had been promised to them.  Hope I haven’t lost you, but this story is extremely significant to me at the moment. You see….

From 1998-2000 our family lived in a little Korean city called Tongduchon (I’m quite certain I spelled it wrong.)  Those two years opened my eyes to something that I previously had no idea was going on in this great big world. I could not walk one block down the streets of Tongduchon without recognizing that all around me, women were living in slavery.  I began to build relationships with girls from the Philippines who were promised the world by a woman or man who brought them to Korea and held their passports while forcing them into prostitution.  My friends and I did what we could to help the girls make money outside of “the clubs” and we successfully raised money to buy the freedom of a few who were able to return home to their families.  What we did never felt like enough.

While living in Korea we vacationed in Thailand.  If my eyes had not been opened to the sex-trade in Korea, they had no choice but to acknowledge its ugliness in Thailand.  Everywhere we went we saw older white men walking around with young Thai children that they had purchased for their time in the country.  While shopping we would have flyers thrust at us by children with price lists of the sexual acts they were willing to perform.  Thailand was one of my most beautiful and disgusting life experiences all rolled into one package.  At the time I was five months pregnant with Seth and I cried myself to sleep on several occasions over the thought of bringing another life into a world that contained such ugliness.  My heart ached for those children.  Where were their mothers?  I could not imagine anything I could do that would ever be enough.

In the last few months of our time in Korea we noticed a change happening in the business of sexual slavery.  When we first arrived the girls were mostly Filipino.  By the time we left, they were mostly Russian and Eastern European.  It was a very strange phenomena to be in a place where you rarely saw anyone who looked like you and then come across someone who did and not be able to communicate with them.  The Filipino girls always spoke English.  The new girls did not.

A pimp rented out the apartment above us and filled it with seven or eight of these girls.  My heart ached.  I watched them come and go.  I watched the Johns (mostly American soldiers) come and go.  I heard screaming and crying through our ceiling.  I smiled at them and took them cookies and brownies and ached for a conversation.  Once again, I felt overwhelmed.  What could I ever do that would be enough to erase the ugliness of what these girls were experiencing?

Something else happened while we lived in Korea.  Several of our friends adopted children.  A dialogue on the possibility of us adopting in the future began.  A dialogue that eventually led us to the home of the girls who lived on the other side of my ceiling in Korea.  A dialogue that led us to Sofija.

If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time you know it began as a way of documenting our adoption process.  Throughout our adoption journey I never took the time to document all that took place in our lives leading up to the day Sofija found us.  I find it so entertaining that we just knew she was meant to be ours when we learned about her even though we had no clue where in the world she lived.  When we did find out that she was in Serbia we actually had to look at a map to see exactly where that was.  And… it wasn’t until we were in Serbia (hearing the spoken language) that I began to realize that the girls living in slavery in Korea, the girls whose floor was our ceiling, must’ve come from there.

The day we met Sofija we were asked if we planned to prostitute her.  It had never crossed my mind that someone might suspect we had bad intentions for her.  But for the people who loved her in Serbia, such a fate was a very real possibility.  We spent three weeks in Serbia seeing things through gray-cloudy lenses.  The food was great.  The people were beautiful.  The oppression was heavy and real.  There was this feeling I got anytime I was close to the girls living in slavery in Korea.  The air around me would thicken.  It took an extra effort just to walk or breathe or speak.  It was like being under water.  I felt the same thing when I saw the children in Thailand.  For the entire three weeks that we were in Serbia, that feeling never lifted.  I felt the yoke of slavery.

I also felt the disgrace of discrimination.  People looked at us everywhere we went.  Not because we looked different or spoke a different language.  But because we had two children with us who are autistic.  They make noises.  They jump around and rock and spin and flap their arms and tap things and sniff things.  People stared with disgust.  We looked and looked and looked some more, but we never once saw another person in public that had any special needs.  They were hidden.

Last year I returned to Serbia and had the honor of getting to know people who have dedicated their lives to breaking the yokes of slavery and discrimination in Serbia.  I met parents who were forced to choose between keeping their child born with special needs and maintaining relationships with their extended family.  Those same parents have dedicated their lives to educating their children and taking part in changing laws regarding special needs citizens.  And…  God gave me the honor of building relationships with people who have a heart to bring His message to their nation.

Which leads me to gathering stones.

While we were in Korea and Thailand and Serbia, I did often feel like I was under water.  But you know what?  I wasn’t.  I was camped out in the middle of a river bed with the waters held back on every side of me.  I could feel the pressure and the moisture, but it never consumed me.  And now I have an opportunity to gather stones and take them back to that place where God held the waters back.

Those people I met who have a heart to bring God’s message of salvation and hope to Serbia have taken on something BIG.  Have you ever seen the movie Faith Like Potatoes?  If not, watch it on Netflix NOW!  My friends have taken a ‘faith like potatoes’ leap.  They have reserved two venues in Serbia for September 21st and 22nd and they have Nick Vujicic coming to speak.  If you don’t know about Nick, click on his name above and read his story.  He’s AMAZING!  Nick was born with no limbs and he’s proven that we are not defined by what the world says we are.  He’s proven that there is no special need that God cannot use.  He is a bringer of hope.  Oh. Did I mention that his parents are Serbian?  And… we’re gonna see him at Creation Fest in June!

On May 2nd, 2011, I wrote a post called ‘set up’.   Sleep evaded me that night.  My heart was aching for the people of Serbia.  I was there and I could see a lack of hope, a lack of God’s love, in the eyes of people everywhere I went.  It was that night that I begin to beg God for opportunities to bring hope and to bring His love to the people of Serbia.  Even if it’s never enough, I want to end this life saying that I gave it my all.

So… will you help me as I pick up a stone and carry it on my shoulder back to Serbia?

We’ve set up a fundraiser through wepay.  I’m working this week to transform my blog to accept widgets, but for now the link will have to suffice.

I have spent a year questioning why God stopped Paul (repeatedly) from going through Serbia.  Why he made him turn back south from Macedonia and didn’t let him cross the Adriatic Sea to reach Italy will be one of my first ‘Heaven questions’.   Whatever God’s reasoning, I do know that he has provided a voice and a time for Serbia to hear His message.  The voice is Nick Vujicic and the time is this September.

why fast?

Today I have found myself struggling with the fast.  I woke up excited about the idea of getting creative with Daniel fast-friendly football food and then realized that I had to drive my oldest to a Krispy Kreme fundraiser for her high-school crew club.  With no time to dig into the Bible or drop to my knees, I suddenly had two dozen circles of sin sitting on my kitchen counter.  How nicely they would go with a hot cup of coffee….
In a desperate attempt to avoid cooking up some bacon and eggs and making myself a feast, I went to my room and began looking for fasting encouragement.  I’ve read a ton today, but the devotion at the following link gave me the most motivation.

http://www.newlivingtranslation.com/03spiritualjourney/column1.asp?aID=661

Nice to know that I’m not the only sinner around with “hell in my heart”.