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this is how we do it…

Oh my. I feel like every day is a lifetime. I have much to share from our last few days–but this momma is wiped out. My parents have come and gone. Papa was a HIT with T. We kayaked. We swam. We started her scrapbook. We figured out a better way to communicate (thanks to Aunt Reid hours of endless efforts trying out different APPS and having us talk back and forth and testing for accuracy…you rock AR!)…and we had another heart-to-heart.

24 hours ago I was holding back tears wondering how I’d make it to August 2nd–and now I’m absolutely scared to death for time to pass. I want to freeze it. Because right now, she is here–safe in our home. I think about what being 16 in Ukraine means–and how we are all she has…and I want time just to stop.

This last week has been one of the hardest of my life. I’m not kidding. But before shutting down for the night as I sit here typing, I hold back my tears…but for a much different reason. She is precious. She is a child of God. And in a few weeks she could walk out on the streets and be on her own. It just doesn’t seem fair as all my littles sleep…as I contemplate what sports I will sign them up for or this or that…this princess–sleeping in the room beside me has such a different future ahead of her. This curly headed stubborn love that likes to give me the stink eye–really just has layers that need to be loved through.

I’ll be the first to admit. I had NO idea what I was getting into. It will be perfect to bring home an almost 16 year old. Her profile says she likes kids–we have kids. It’ll be fun. And for once I can even run in the gas station to grab a water while I leave everyone in car. Yeah. That’s what I thought. I even had friends say, “I bet she will even help with the kids.” BUT what they didn’t know–is that orphans come with years of layers and counselors often say for every year a child was in an orphanage—it takes twice as long for them to fully adjust to family. I’d say that is pretty accurate for our son. Two years home we are just now feeling normal–like true healing has taken place. Think about 15 years–and the number of years seems hopeless. BUT there is hope…and we are seeing glimpses.

When you are helping a wounded child–often the child will revert back to the age where trauma or change first happened. So while you might think you are bringing home a 15 year old–some days this child might need to be 3 years old and others this child might act like the 30 year old they needed to be in order to survive. It can look and seem crazy to some–one minute playing with a baby doll and the next scolding children in the home. But this is normal and to be expected–and it can be hard. A teen from an orphanage can require more attention and time than a handful of little ones–and if you aren’t able to give it to them right away, 3 year old behaviors may start to appear as they do the only thing they have known to do–fight. They have to fight for attention among the hundreds. Fight for any inch of love they might find. Fight to survive. When an older child reverts back, you love ’em at that stage and meet those needs–and all the while your head spins that this is absolutely crazy–so different than what is “normal”. But being orphaned isn’t normal, right or fair–it’s the result of pain and hurt–and these are unfortunate things that orphans carry. The one and only thing that covers them–is deep, real, authentic love. Love that is not natural. Sacrificial love. Love that is only from Him. Orphans can be the hardest of all to love as they do not know how to accept it. And they certainly don’t know how to return it. It requires minute by minute stepping outside of yourself (dying to yourself) and considering their past, their pain and the reason behind the difficult behaviors–considering the WHY and then returning what they need most–MORE LOVE.

And in just over a week’s time–we have truly covered so much ground. It is amazing me what even hosting a precious one can do. Lasting impact no doubt in my mind. Worth every bit of our summer. I have no doubt that many trips to the Ukraine may be ahead for us–to love this sweet one in some capacity and to make sure she is okay. We have had a few ask how in the world are we communicating. One might think because we can’t communicate well in language that not a lot is happening over here. OH WOW. How untrue that is–as I’ve never covered so much ground with anyone in one day. While I know I could “fake it and make it”–my heart won’t let me. I feel the Lord asking me to be real and love deeply. We have trouble communicating…we start charades…we both get frustrated…we head to google translate and type back and forth…the translation messes up our conversation so we run to my iPhone and try another app–that works for awhile..and we work it out. If all else fails, we call a translator. But we try to limit our calls to the translator or else we’d be calling every 3 minutes;). My children sit watching around us…listening to us both–our children sit around watching us–watching us try our best…our trying to communicate…watching us give hugs and love without always understanding…watching us work hard moments out and some times I think about a normal summer at the pool. But this. This is hard. This is so different. This is…life-changing. And honestly–summer at the pool…it’s just not. While one whisper in my ear might try to tell me this is so hard and we’re missing out and my children are giving up their summer and this is too much for them…the much louder whisper tells me that THIS is really how we are supposed to live. Not just in our summers–but always. This life isn’t about anything else…our flesh will tell us differently, but when you can choose life-changing over a normal…then give me life-changing. I know one thing–I am forever changed, and I pray all 5 of these children in my home are too.

Every day feels life a lifetime. And today was such a horrible, amazing day. It started off rough–and ended better than I could have hoped for. We were honest with some things we needed to be honest about–I was shaking in my knees scared to be honest with some things that needed to change and some behaviors I never wanted to see again–and how the reason behind all of it was LOVE. LOVE resides in our home–and what isn’t love doesn’t belong here. At the end of our talk hard talk I typed in the translated that we could make a handshake of promise–she laughed, shook her head YES!…and then instead of a handshake, I got a really big hug that took away all the hard of our day. This mom is learning so, so much–and the Lord is growing my heart in new ways. It’s refining–painfully refining…and I can’t imagine how this story might travel from here. I have a new respect and appreciation for those who are called to bring home teens from hard places forever (a parent with a teen will tell you that raising teens is just hard anyway–but raising a teen with a lifetime of ungodly terrible wounds and without knowing any love is a completely different ballgame). If you are one of those parents who has done this–I can’t wait for you to see Jesus and have Him look in your eyes…for you to hear the words, “WELL DONE.” Because you–you guys are now my heroes. Do not give up. It will be worth it. You were made for this–and with His strength, you can run and finish well. For those of you who have been called to bring home teens with younger children–and you are breaking birth order–I would love to pray for you…always. It can be hard for adults to understand these different behaviors, and for younger children in the home it can be impossible to understand and then you add the layer of shepherding the littles to be guarded from picking up those behaviors that are being modeled in front of them. It can be hard to need to give an older one so much more attention while the littles watch and wait their turn–and all while I hear it really does get easy after months and years of healing and love–it will not be easy as you love them into their age with littles still needing a mother’s care. To those of you who have followed God in this way, I stand amazed and encouraged at your willingness to follow Him when it made absolutely no sense to the world. I know your heart has felt guilt, hurt, frustration–but I can only imagine the JOY you have felt as you have seen healing over and over again. I, too, can’t wait for you to see Him and hear those words, “WELL DONE!” I pray the Lord cares for all of your children in real and powerful ways–especially in times when you must parent an older one while the little ones learn to put others first in a new way.

I totally understand Jesus’s words in Matthew 6 in this time in a different way Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough trouble of its own”. He also tells us in that chapter to store our treasures in heaven and to simply TRUST HIM. I am praying for a God-sized miracle for the future of our T. I’m beginning to see this precious one more and more how the Lord sees her…and I just want her to know how loved she is and to live into that. Please pray for our other children who aren’t used to the crazy that our current normal brings. Pray they will be confident in His love and our love. Pray that our strength would come from Him and that He would lead and guide us in the days and weeks ahead.

Signing off until another life-time filled day…

Sara - July 7, 2012 - 1:56 pm

“But being orphaned isn’t normal, right or fair–it’s the result of pain and hurt–and these are unfortunate things that orphans carry….I, too, can’t wait for you to see Him and hear those words, “WELL DONE!”

Amen. So well written. I’m just a mom of littles, but those who bring home older children from hard places are my heroes, too.

Jennifer - July 7, 2012 - 3:21 pm

As someone who adopted biological brothers-a 17 mo old and an almost 6 yr old (best guess), I truly understand why the vast majority of people gravitate toward those under two. I am not being negative, but I really think any kids who are older require a lot more time/patience/love to fit in a family than little ones do. Our threesome has become a family pretty easily (relatively speaking), but still……