Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pure Joy

The past 5 months have been full of so many challenges that it's been easy to take our care free 13 year old, Stephen for granted... suddenly, I am reminded of the tremendous blessing he is to our family.
 I felt the need to just celebrate him.
When we began our adoption journey to our 4 children, we were cautioned by our Social Worker, our Agency Case worker and several friends and family members to reconsider bringing home a teenager to our family.   None of us expected him to be the least of our worries.  Several months before we met him, I began grieving for all the losses he had and would experience. I shed many tears and wondered how resentful he might be to us for taking him away from friends, extended family, food... everything that was familiar to him.  It was painful, but I needed to grieve with and for him.  It was my way of connecting with him and preparing myself as his mother.
I had no idea of what was beneath this beautiful gift.  
Our son has been nothing but pure joy to our family. Since the first day we met him in Ghana, he embraced us as his family. His heart of love and thankfulness opened the doors for us to enter his life and welcome ourselves as his parents.  There was never an ounce of resentment or fear.
It was literally a fight to bring him home.  What if it we didn't stick it out??... he spent his life longing to belong to a family,  to be cared for and have the resources to learn and succeed.  Although his childhood was full of grief and loss, he chose to survive very differently than his siblings.  He stopped fighting and learned to accept his circumstances with hopes that God would provide for him. 
I can still recall the picture of the Ghanaian police suddenly dragging my husband away from us and how our son grabbed on to his belt and yelled out in Twi " You cannot take my father away from me!!" With his strength and mine combined, we were able to tear my husband away from them.  How could they argue that this child was so deeply blessed and loved by his father?  As much as we fought for him, he fought for us. 
I get emotional when I think of the fears and anxieties we had of adopting an older child.  It was a risk. There were so many uncertainties. Who would have known that this child would adjust so comfortably to our family and immediately embrace us.  Who would have thought that he would love and care for his adopted siblings so deeply and be more loyal to them than his siblings from Ghana.  We would have never imagined Ethan (our biological son) to be so attached to him.  The competition of "who's the oldest?" never developed because they both know they are together, the oldest. 
Sometimes he jokes and says that he is half Ghanian, quarter Persian and quarter Chinese. 
I have often wondered and challenged him to be real with us.  As the eldest, we didn't want him to carry the burden of perfect performance and people pleasing.  With all the other challenges that his siblings brought, we anticipated a difficult cycle with him.   His response to us has been nothing but "mommy, why should I complain? God has blessed me so much." 
Pure Joy. Pure Gratitude.
I'm so glad we chose to say 'yes' and didn't allow our fears to stop us.  On days when parenting is so difficult and hope gets blurred, God uses Stephen to remind me that it is all worth it. 
We have 4 and a half years left with our son before he goes off to college.  We will make the best of it with him and trust that regardless of all the years we have lost with him, he knows that in a heartbeat we would fly across the Atlantic Ocean, get arrested and detained in a Ghanaian jail... all over again... just for him. 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Rest for the weary soul

Nothing energizes more than being in a room full of adoptive moms. Last weekend, my ever so gracious husband gave me time off to join my dear friend and hundreds of other adoptive moms at the Created for Care Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  To be honest,  I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing.  My friend called me to register, Sol gave me the blessing... I packed my bag and ran out the door as fast as I could.  I so desperately needed a few days of rest.

4 days prior to leaving, our 10 year old son decided to" run away" (again).  I was home alone with all 6 kids and he was raging with hurt, anger, frustration and confusion.  Without warning, he slammed the door and took off.  I couldn't fight or stop him.  It would only make matters worse.  I let him go and decided we would set out to find him soon after. I texted Sol (who was working and catching up with deadlines). My weary husband who was barely treading above water... 
Unfortunately, my other 5 children were so fearful, they begged me to stop looking.  Around 8:00 that evening, the Police brought him home.  Apparently our son chose to betray us and told the police officers that we "mistreated" him.  Once again, Sol and I were "interviewed."  By now, I just took a deep breath and told myself.... "Chris, this is your chance to be a light in the darkness (again)... share the truth of the struggles and fears that adopted children face... - just keep it real." They responded with understanding and gave us permission to relax.  As they hung around our house, they were able to see and experience the aroma of joy and laughter coming from the rest of our children.  While leaving, they received another call to search for another "run away" child.  It was a relief to know that we weren't alone. 
Once again, our kids had to experience Police officers unexpectedly entering their safe and secure territory.  As soon as the officers left, our 8 year old daughter started sobbing and the rest of our kids sought us for immediate comfort.
Our kids were hurting and angry at their brother for betraying them. Their wounded brother was full of bitterness, fear and frustration.
That night, my weary husband and I cried out in desperateness to God.... our strength was fading...
"Please God... intervene. Heal. Provide rest for our weary soul..."

One of the speakers (a dear friend) at the conference spoke about  "Being seen by God."  She reminded us of the story in Genesis 16 where God meets Hagar after she has fled from her mistress, Sarai. I thought..."for sure this message was to give me insight into one of our children... perhaps our 10 year old son."   Over and over again, I have asked God to give me eyes into my children's hearts, to be able to see and love them even through their anger and frustration. I want my children to know that God sees them and desires a relationship with them... even in their brokeness. I had been so consumed with my kids and being the "loving,nurturing mother" that I had forgotten my longing to be seen and noticed by my Creator. My Abba Father. "El Roi"- the God who sees me.
I finally broke. The floodgates opened. Healing tears streamed down my face as I just melted in His presence.  The room full of 450+ women suddenly became empty.  Voices faded and all I heard was God telling me how much He loved me.  I wrestled with Him for a few minutes. I felt guilty... guilty for just thinking about me and Him. This time, it wasn't about my children or even my marriage.  As I slowly let go of the guilt, my kids and Sol...I began to feel His loving arms embrace me.   I felt seen and noticed by Him. I had finally found my Resting Place.

Over the weekend, several moms that I had never met approached me with hugs and told me how much they had been praying for our family during our detainment in Ghana.  I hadn't realized how much it meant to me until I experienced God's presence in such a powerful way. He demonstrated His love for our family through these women and their prayers during our desperateness and trauma. Once again, I felt my weary soul refreshed and renewed. 
As much as I wanted to stay in that place of Rest, I knew I needed to return home to my family and continue this loving and yet painful journey that God has called all 8 of us on. 
There is so much comfort in knowing that God sees and will pursue us regardless of our weariness. 

I am so thankful for my dearest friend who "forced" me to register for this conference, for our insightful friend who spoke about "Being seen by God," and for all of you that have prayed for our family.  I can't say "thank you" enough.  We were never meant to walk this journey alone. 

May you find REST for your weary souls today.

"Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength."
Isaiah 40:28,29