Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sacred Moments

We've been working on building a sandbox.  It is slow going.

Don't you think we picked a pretty color?
There are always so many doctor appointments to deal with, errands to run, and chores to finish.  When we do manage to find some extra time the weather doesn't always cooperate.

Finally we had a day that was just right to start adding the red paint.
Trying a roller instead of a brush.
Claire changed into her "old" clothes.  (It is hard to decide what qualifies when she has only been here 6 months.)  We mixed up the paint and got started.

Claire wanted to dip the brush into the paint all the way past the bristles and up the handle.  Then she thought it best to scrub the brush back and forth til the paint was rough and patchy and the brush resembled a bird's nest.

I tried to show her how to dip the brush, remove excess paint and make long even strokes.

Claire is not the most "teachable" person.  Even the gentlest suggestion that she isn't doing something right seems to trigger. …  What?

I'm just not sure at this point.  Perhaps it is a stubborn defiance and determination to do things her own way.  It could be a fear response.  She interprets any correction or teaching to mean she isn't good enough and then she panics?  The fear makes her shut down so she can't do the simplest things or even hear the instructions anymore.

I just can't tell what is really going on, but it often feels like defiance and is always very, very frustrating. 

It drives me to my knees on the inside, pleading with God to help me stay calm, and to find a way to get through.  My prayers are often desperate as I tell God how difficult it is to parent this little girl and ask Him to take over because I just can't do it anymore.

And, somehow, God does carry me through.  It isn't always pretty, and we sometimes call an abrupt end to whatever we were trying to do and spend a lot of time in the rocking chair, but we have managed to avoid too many mommy meltdowns.

This time, we made it mostly to the end of our painting task when I noticed little red footprints on the deck all around the tarp we had under our project.  I put Claire in a chair, firmly, and ran for supplies to clean that up.

Frustration was definitely growing.  I expected paint in her hair and on her hands and arms and knees.  But to step in it and walk on the deck after we were being so careful to keep all our work on the tarp was making me angry.

Pray.  Scrub.  Pray.  Scrub.  Pray.

Deck cleaned up and back aching, I closed up the paint and considered grabbing the hose and using cold water and some handfuls of grass to clean her bright red feet.

But Jesus whispered, "Whatever you do to the least of these…"

So I told her to sit still while I ran to collect a soft rag and a bucket filled with warm, soapy water.

Still praying, I lifted her to the edge of the deck and started scrubbing that paint off as gently as possible. 

Suddenly, I felt Jesus there.  He was there loving me. His hands were holding mine and His love was pushing out all the frustration.  Tears started streaming down my face as I got a tiny glimpse into the character of Jesus in a way I'd never seen before.

I've known about mercy and grace and love and compassion for a long, long time.  Today I felt it to my core. 

The moment passed and the rest of the day had the lots of frustrating events.  It will take lots of time, and many repetitions of love to convince Claire that she is safe enough to trust, to try hard things, to obey, and depend on us.

But, I'm certain that Jesus will help us get through the hard moments and frustrating hours.

Today, thanks to Claire, I know Jesus better than I did yesterday.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Six Months

Six months ago, we sat in the Civil Affairs office in Taiyuan and became foster parents. 

It was a very tense day.  Lifeline was supposed to deliver our paperwork so that we could hand carry the official documents needed.  

They forgot.

 I made several calls in the days before we left, and they kept assuring me that the papers were on the way and would arrive in time. Someone forgot to ever mail them. So,  I was promised that they would quickly send the paperwork ahead of us to China so that all the documents would be waiting for us when we got there.

They were not.

Fortunately, I had printed out copies of everything and Kelly had those in his backpack.  The official agreed to accept those copies until the original documents could arrive.

After a very unpleasant call to our adoption agency, that issue was set aside.  Then they brought Claire into the room. She promptly tried to run away.  She wanted nothing to do with us.  She wasn't going to have anything to do with the things we brought to distract her.  She just didn't want to even look in our direction.  We had to hold on tightly to keep her from leaving as we went down to get pictures taken for the adoption decree. 

In the picture shop, her nanny of 4 years was trying to get her to sit with us for a photo when her foster mama from her first 4 years of life walked in.  Things got a little confusing for awhile.  I remember new shoes, a bag of fruit and candy, and a glass of milk tied in a grocery bag,  being given to Claire. Then there were pictures and tears and I was holding a wailing child as we dragged her into a waiting van and pulled away as she screamed for her mamas.

All that screaming and crying created the need for a breathing treatment.  Finding some interesting things to see on the computer helped her get calm and stay still.
We needed a quick lunch.  It had been a long morning and we were running out of steam.   Our guide had only told us about a McDonald's and Pizza Hut.  Since we knew that Claire had been to McDonald's on field trips, that was our pick of necessity.

We made sure that Claire got some noodles for supper.  Proving that we could provide acceptable food was a good first step in helping her feel safe with us.
Six months later, she remembers those other mamas fondly.  She talks about how they had jobs to take care of children until their mamas could come get them. Then, those nannies will take care of other children.  Nannies love the children but don't take care of them forever.  Mommies keep on being mommies all the time.

I think I'm the mommy now. At least it sure feels like it when she crawls into my bed in the morning and pats my cheek, or when she says, "Wo ai ni, mama." at night when I'm tucking her in with 42 hugs and 18 kisses. 

                Six months isn't very long--but it is long enough for a lot of love to grow.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Happy Birthday!

Claire turned 9 today. 

It was a day to delight in her.  She loved putting up balloons and streamers.  She had a ball decorating the windows with crystal window markers.  She couldn't wait for her cake and her presents.

My heart rejoiced as I snuggled with her this morning and listened to her tell me that 8 was all gone and now she is 9.  What a miracle!  This precious little girl who wasn't supposed to live at all is a beautiful 9 year old who loves to demonstrate how "strong" and "smart" she is to anyone who will pay attention.  God has been so good to Claire.  I'm so blessed to walk down the street holding her hand, or to sing a silly song with her, or to get to work beside her, "mixing" supper or folding laundry. 

My heart also felt overwhelming sadness today. While we were snuggling this morning, Ben came in to say goodbye before heading off to work.  He bent over to hug Claire and his tie swung forward.  Claire batted it for a long time—like a kitten.  Nothing wrong with that, but my heart ached for this little child to have thoughts and ideas, to understand something more than the simple motion of a swinging tie.  Claire is 9.  She can't dress herself, or care for her body without a lot of help.  She can't count objects.  She can't speak a sentence in Chinese or English.  She doesn't play with toys.  She can't write her name or tell you where she lives.  She can't open a door or buckle a seat belt.  She doesn't communicate anything on a thought level.

I long to know my little girl.  But all I know is when she is hungry or wants me to take her to the bathroom.  I know that she resists learning with all her might, leaving me exhausted and longing for bedtime long before it is really time to turn out the lights.  I want her to be okay.  I want her brain to be healed just like her heart.  I want to be able to tell her the incredible story of God's love for her, but the empty tomb of Easter doesn't have much meaning for a child who still doesn't consistently demonstrate object permanence. 

I confess that sometimes I feel angry and I'm guilty of wanting God to explain to me why He healed her heart and her lungs, but left her brain so damaged. I love her so much.  I want her to be okay.  I want her to be able to read, and sew, and knit.  I want her to be able to play a game or participate in a discussion. 

Then, I'm reminded that God loves her more than I ever could.  He is still good.  His plan is still being carried out whether I see it or not.  So, now I ask God to show me how to love Claire the way He does—through her stubbornness and disability to the heart of who God has created her to be with abilities and disabilities all wrapped up in one sweet package.  Happy Birthday, Claire.  I love you.

"Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way…God can give us the perfect way." 
~~Corrie ten Boom