Thursday, August 4, 2016

My response to a friend's letter (Our youngest daughters were adopted from the same orphanage around the same time)

Yes we are still in the Athens area. My goodness, it sounds like you guys have been through so much! I teach swim lessons and 2 of my swimmers have autism and one has downs. But honestly, each child I have comes with their own unique set of fears and backgrounds so I approach each one with a goal of moving them forward, each at their own pace. Each child is precious and I try to meet each child where they are at and ignore chronological age. I believe unconditional love is the only thing that heals.

I don't blame you for wanting answers from their past. I think I've told you most of what Emma remembers from the orphanage. She was covered in bug bites when we got her and had fingernail scratches around her neck from itching. Not sure if it was head/body lice or bedbugs. She still has a terrible fear of bugs! I mean, no-one likes bugs, but she freaks out and it takes a long time to calm her. 

I think they left them in their cribs for long hours and babies continually cried. As Emma said when she 1st started communicating... "baby no like China crib, baby cries and cries and nobody comes!" I told her that I would always come when she cried and will never leave her. That seemed to sooth her. She'd repeat, "mommy never leave you..." That became her little mantra after that. Whenever she couldn't find me, like if I was in another room putting up laundry, or if I stepped out on the deck... she would flip out if she called me and I didn't answer right away. I would come running when I'd hear the screams and say, I'm right here. She'd say, "mommy never leave you, mommy never leave you", over and over until she would calm down. 

I don't think they were bathed much or even got their clothes changed. She was in a torn blue outfit when I got her. It was filthy and smelled, as did she. I couldn't get the black out of her fingernails and toenails for a long time. She had giardia when I got her. Must have been painful. Also trachoma (eye infection). 

I'm sure food was scarce. Her little face was plump, so when I first undressed her to bathe her, I assumed I had a healthy little girl. She was skin and bones with a bloated belly. She hoarded food and would throw down if you got near her plate. We were at a restaurant and I ordered chips and dip. She thought it was ONLY for her. When I took a chip from the basket, she went ballistic and chips and dip went everywhere. We worked on sharing for quite a while. She hid food in her socks as well. 

I'm sure it was survival of the fittest in the orphanage, because my little Emma was a fighter. The girls were coloring one day and Ellie took a crayon from Emma's side of the table and Emma went after her sister, whose 4 years older than her, and chased her and pulled her off the bed by her hair. She's a survivor. 

A book that helped me help her was From Fear to Love by Brian post. Also, I still subscribe to online parenting websites for healing kids with trauma...

I took Emma with me to the store one day recently. She wanted to help. I said, "Can you grab the mozzarella  cheese. She picked up 4 different cheeses, none of them mozzarella. She reads well, so I thought she was just messing around and I was in a hurry and a little annoyed, so I grabbed it and pointed to the word mozzarella, then tossed it in the basket. Then she asked if we could buy some coke. I said, "Okay, but make sure you get decaf." She brought me caff. I said, "Emma, I said decaf." She said, "I couldn't find it." I just let it go because I could see she was getting upset. I said, "It's no biggie, this will be fine." Then we picked out pasta. She said, "Let me do it." I said, "Okay, get the penne pasta." She brought me spaghetti. So I walked over with her to show her what the penne pasta looked like. She started crying and saying, "I'm so stupid, I can't do anything right, I hate myself..." I tried to reason with her I told her that she is only 10 and its hard to find things in the grocery. I told her, "Emma, I have been grocery shopping for my family for 30 years so I should be good at it, but when I send dad, he always brings home the wrong thing. Do you think dad is stupid?" She kind of smiled and said, "No." I said, "And neither are you." She is very much a perfectionist. While we were in line and she was calmer, I asked her why she thought she got so upset. She said, you made me feel stupid when I got the wrong cheese. I said, I'm so sorry. I thought you were just messing around and not paying attention and just grabbing any cheese because you kept grabbing the yellow cheeses and the white mozzarella was right in the middle... I was in a hurry and feeling impatient. Will you forgive me? She said, yes, but mom, I was really trying. I didn't know mozzarella was white? It seems like she still has this fear of not pleasing me. Still trying to "earn" my love and acceptance. So when I correct her or ever get frustrated, I have to be careful because she takes it as an attack on her self worth and worries that I don't love her or she's not worthy of being loved. I do know while we were in China, that she was looked down on because of her dark skin and her strabismus (her eyes were crossed before we had surgery) Several people over there made shockingly cruel comments to us about her. It made Keith and me so angry and broke our hearts for her.

Another episode that she had just the other day was when Drew, our youngest son, moved out (and took his cat with him). Transition and saying goodbye really is hard for her. Also her best friends (3 little boys) from across the street moved this summer. She came home from playing with a neighbor's dog and said, "Mom, can we have a dog?" (our dog died this year). I said, "No babe." She said, "Why?" I explained it to her. Then she said, "Can we at least foster a pet?" I said, "No". She said, "You fostered a bunch of kids and pets are easier than kids, it's not fair." I laughed at her witty comeback. She wasn't laughing though. Then she started begging me and crying and telling me that I love the boys more because I got them a pet when they were little. I was thinking, is this her hormones, is she about to start her period? Where is all this coming from? Then I just decided to hug her and let her cry out all her sad and tried to be as empathetic as I could. I hadn't a clue what was behind this behavior that made me want to say, "You're acting like a spoiled brat!" Actually I said, "Emma remember that girl on Willie Wonka? The girl that said, I want a pony and I want it now, daddy!" She just glared at me. I said, "Seems like you are demanding that you get what you want, even if it's not best for the family." But she wasn't ready to reason just yet, she had a full emotional backpack that she needed to unload, so I just held her and hugged her while she cried and ranted about how unfair it was...I just kept saying, "I'm so sorry babe." But I still didn't give her what she wanted, just empathized with her sadness and disappointment. Then as she cried, she began to unload her emotional backpack and got to the real source of her sadness. She said, "I want a dog because I want somebody to play with, I'm so bored! Ellie never plays with me, she's a teenager! The boys across the street left me, Drew left me, now all the brothers are gone and I have nobody!" I said, "Oh Emma that is sad! That is a lot of loss in a short amount of time." Then I repeated to her the mantra she used to say to me, "Mommy never leave you...". And she just cried and melted into me. She hasn't mentioned the dog since then. It was never about the dog. She was upset and didn't know why. All the loss triggered her deepest fear of abandonment.

While these episodes are fewer and farther in between, I don't have an agenda for her. I don't have a goal for her to reach by a certain age. In fact, I let go of that for all my children. We are all broken, every human. It frees me and allows me to love them each where they are. To love them each unconditionally without comparing them and to allow them to each have their own journey. I want the highest and best for them, whatever that looks like. I'm hoping to move Emma toward healing and wholeness the way Jesus taught us to heal the world... "Love one another as I have loved you." 

Sorry I wrote a book! Gotta go cook dinner. Girls had  their 1st day of school today and I can hear Emma getting frustrated at her Legos not fitting together. Lol, I have a feeling it's about more than just the Legos;)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

I'm often asked where I "go" to church...

When asked where I go to church, I know what they mean. Where do you attend a Sunday morning service. But His church is bigger than our Sunday morning institutions. We are the church! His body, followers  of Jesus, God's family scattered all over the world. And as we connect relationally, in a million different ways, we express his church. Can one be a passionate Christian that no longer participates in a traditional congregation? If I don't attend a Sunday service, am I still part of God's family. I would argue that Jesus's church can take on many expressions in the world outside of a 501C3. Do we recognize the church in all the ways she takes shape around us or do we believe she only takes shape in a pew on Sunday mornings? Scripture teaches that when 2 or more come together in His name, He is with us. The bible says that the kingdom is within us. We, the church, bring light into dark places as we love those he puts in our path every day.

For too long we have been dividing His church into tribes, each thinking ourselves superior to the others. As though there is a competition... We are the salt of the earth scattered all over the world. We are the sheep listening to the shepherds voice as he personally leads each of us. He has different tasks for us. He wants to love and heal the world through us. Jesus doesn't say, you'll know my disciples by whether they attend a local congregation or because they hold all the correct beliefs. He says, you'll know my disciples by their love... When I look at Jesus's ministry, I don't see him sitting in a pew, but as he goes about his day, he's about his father's business, listening to his father's voice and loving those in front of him. If you find that attending a local congregation helps you, amen. If it hinders your faith and He has called you to wide open spaces, amen to that too!

But what about the scripture in Hebrews that says, don't give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing? Well first of all, it says "some" of the disciples were in the habit, not all. Secondly, their "meeting together" looked very different than our Sunday morning meetings. They were together daily, in each other's homes, eating together, praying together, encouraging one another, not sitting in a pew, facing forward, listening to a 3 point sermon. And finally, the author was addressing the believers who were being scattered by persecution and killed for their faith. It was dangerous for them to be seen together and many were going into hiding. They needed the encouragement from each other. There are many ways to meet together. There are no right or wrong ways. Today with technology, there are even more ways to connect with not only Christina in your area, but all over the world!

A letter to someone dear to me...

Oh, that's tough about (won't use child's name). Bless his heart, he needs his father to be the parent, his guide, his protector. I'm sure he feels betrayed. And I'm sure after the fact, (the father) felt huge remorse, guilt, and embarrassment. Been there! I have a thing with my kids. When we blow it, we ask for forgiveness and if we could have a redo. On a small scale it might look like... One of my kids is disrespectful or sassy with me. I ask her if she'd like to try that again, but with respect. She is free to have her feelings and communicate those to me, but in this household we respect one another. Or I might lose it with the kids and when I realize I'm using power over them rather than coming under them with a spirit of humility, respect, and love, I ask if I could have a redo. I feel like what I model, I'll get back from them and believe how we live is the most powerful teacher, not what we say. I'm still in the midst of a pharisectomy. Trying to root out that old way I used to parent the kids using shame, guilt, and manipulation to get them to behave like I wanted. I could control their behavior through fear, for a time, but it never transformed their hearts, and it did not provide a spirit of openness, safety, and trust in our relationship which would allow me influence in their lives. It only made them hide their stuff from me. I think when you break your trust with your kids, as every parent does, because we are human, you get the powerful opportunity to demonstrate repairing what you broke. I believe it's even more powerful than being a perfekt parent. (Which we know doesn't exist!) I have a stronger relationship with my boys now than I ever have. The last 10 years (and I'm now 50), my relationship with my boys that I almost destroyed because I parented out of fear, has completely changed. I have owned my brokenness and apologized and began rebuilding.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Finding Peace and Freedom...

Most recently, as I was pondering, a thought came to me...
Peace is found in letting go, not trying to control the outcome. Participate in "your part" of the journey, but recognize what's NOT your part.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

There is only 1 way to experience full life!

We weren't designed to live in this world apart from our father. When we try, we get desperately lost. Our father invites us to walk with him, but will never force us. As long as we breath, he will never leave us or stop wooing us with his love. Living life on our own, apart from his guidence leaves us stumbling around in the darkness. We end up becoming slaves to sin, that so easily entangles, as it slowly destroys every good thing in our lives. Sometimes when we see that's not working for us, we search for programs, systems, rules to live by. We weren't created to live by the rigidity of a program. It only leaves us feeling frustrated and never measureing up. Jesus never asked us to follow a system, but to follow him. We were created for a relationship with our Heavenly Father. Drinking in his unconditional love transforms us. As we begin to awaken (yes, it's a process, a lifelong process) to that pure love, that grace that loves us and forgives us despite our ugly choices and reminds us of our incredible worth, we begin to love as we've been loved. When we experience unconditional love rather than harsh judgement, we can't judge others because we weren't judged at our ugliest. It's a fruit, not something we produce by self effort. It's the fruit of fellowship with a loving father. You've heard the expression, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree... Well if we see father as a harsh, angry judge that will punish us or withdraw his love if we disobey, that's the way we treat others. If we see him as a the loving father full of mercy and compassion that bends down and helps us up when we fall, not only do we begin to trust him and turn to him rather than trusting in our own ways, but we begin to reflect that kind of love to those around us.

We all know that hunger in our soul. That God shaped vacuum. It is there because we were designed for a relationship with him. Only his love can fill that hole and give us the full life that we hunger for.  If we fill it with sin, we will find pleasure, but only temporary pleasure followed by the natural consequences of our choices.  Often quite painful. When we fill it with a system, a programs, or meetings, we wonder why we still have that gnawing hunger. Sin and religious obligation are poor substitutes for a relationship with father. That hole was never meant to be filled by an "it", but only by a relationship with him. As we are won by his love and learn to tune into his voice and trust his guidence, he will help us navigate our way through this broken world. He'll show us the land mines to avoid and the way to experience the full life  he created for us to experience.