Saturday, July 30, 2011

WWF and Swan Lake

This past week, Josh and I spent almost 20 hours in training for older child/children adoptions.  The aim of this training is to better ready parents, who plan to adopt older children, of the difficulties and hope that surrounds their adoptions.  The facilitators do their best to deflate the fairytale that all parents-to-be builds. It's not to discourage older child adoptions.  It's not to direct them to small babies.  It's to prepare us for the struggles that are sure to come.

The time was fruitful.  We left with tons of ideas and a plan in place.  On our midnight ride home, we readied ourselves to re-set the system at home immediately in order to prepare for our newest addition(s).  As seasoned parents, we determined execution wouldn't be too daunting.  Ha!  We roughly underestimated the task at hand.  

Tired from the long week and late night, I met my first opportunity early this morning.  Rough housing as usual, my boys got carried away.  Enter five year old body slamming against older brother, who quite enjoys using his weight to propel brother back four feet, while the two year old beats them both with drum sticks.  I gently approached them according to protocol.  Eye-to-eye, soft and safe touch, playful voice intact, I didn't expect it to work just like the role playing in training, but I did expect something.  There was no notice from the terrific trio.  They continued WWF Wrestling.

The boys' row couldn't be quieted by that timid an approach, so I redirected to level-two as per the plan.  Gentle voice, two choices, and eye contact with a bit firmer touch.  Ummm, hello.  Excuse me.  I'm trying to be the right kind of parent here.  My flitting wasn't working.  I guess the boys didn't take the class.  Ugh.  Plan failing quickly.  I try once more.  "Boys," I gently prod, "Boys, you know this isn't the place for rough housing.  Stop.  You can 1)  Take the rough play to a safe area.  2) Let me escort you to a better place to play.  These are your choices.  What do you choose?"  Really? Good enough plan, but I can't say it was exactly working.  Every ounce of normalcy was heckling me, "Just goose them or talk like a normal parent of four kids, loud and firmly."  Instead, I stuck to the plan.  

Level three.  Firm but kind voice, eye contact (how the heck do I do this without physically accosting the boys, which is not part of the training), directly state they can think about this scenario until they are ready to comply (Must.  Hear.  Voice.  To.  Register.  Directions.  Darn this is hard.), then de-escalate to level 2 and on to 1 as quickly as possible.  Clear throat.  Flit.  Hop.  Skip.  Jump.  Tap tap.  If anyone were watching they would assume I was botching a piece to Swan Lake, not parenting the three boys in front of me.

Then, there was that moment.  The moment I saw the click in our 13 yr old's eyes.  He realized something had been happening.  He realized I had been talking, bouncing, working so hard to get them to obey.  It was almost as if I could see his brain working out the last 10 minutes of the exchange he was only semi-present to experience.  And with all his fervor he looks up, calming the 5 yr old and 2 yr old with a faint "shhh, shhh, shhh" and the waving arm motion.  And he asks with full sincerity, "What is wrong with you?  Why are you talking like that.  That's so...awkward."  

They stopped rough housing, not because my newly learned parenting worked; I think they stopped because they were confused and bothered by the exchange.  I was, too.  It felt very out of body.  I couldn't help but laugh.  I guess we need more training.  Next time, I'm sending the kids.

Mucha Lucha Mez, Mucha Lucha Tiger, and Mucha Lucha Hunter.  Terrific Trio.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Discord in Perfection

I love family.  The last two days, have been a bit of rapture from our normal chaos.  My older sister and her four children are sharing their last few days as Texans with us before they move off to New York.  I suppose some might think a crew of eight children overwhelming.  They’re right.  But for me it is a boon to my soul. 

There was a point tonight while we were on the lake, and the Sun was setting, and the kids screamed in delight as Josh dragged them behind the ski boat, as Mez perched on the bow of the boat, and as we rocked to Gun’s and Roses… there was that moment when that I really said, “THIS is the perfect moment!”  I want to stay right here.
Cousins tubing.

Sun setting on Lake Palestine while we skied. 

The thought only lasted an instant.   As quickly as it emerged, it burst into a million pieces.  Hiyellum’s face (the boy I met in Korah) interrupted my musing.  The glass house constructed of the American dreams I’ve been sold along the way shattered…yet again.  These are the moments that keep my heart grounded in being more than just a Christian consumer.  It is the disparity in the world of the over priced ski boat on the lake and of the boy living under a tarp next to a hovel and begging only for a home and love that cause a collision of discordance.  

I can’t help but see this sweet face each night and wonder what God has in store for him.  I dare not ask God to relieve me from the weight of this millstone.   It is this burden that reminds me to pray for Hiyellum daily.  The social worker has not been able to locate Hiyellum to discuss and file the necessary paperwork for him to leave Korah and have a foster family.  To the best of my knowledge, he is still living there alone.   

Monday, July 25, 2011

It's the Simple Things

Tonight, I quietly tiptoed through my room heading to gather laundry because Mez was already tucked in to his crib for the night.  I paused.  Seeing him there, asleep, in our home, his home, still takes my breath.  With so many families in the Ethiopia program living in the court-MOWYC@-embassy-limbo land, I can't help but to feel all the more blessed.  It seems like so much time has passed since we brought Mez home.  I think time lessens the tumult of the journey.  But the tumult makes me savor the simple things:  Mez's unkempt morning hair and disposition, his crying to be held, his crying to get down, the way he coos when he's sleepy, his love of food, his deep brown eyes, the unsolicited and unpredictable hugs and kisses, his splashing that floods the bathroom floor at bath time, how enamored he is with his pacifiers, and how he begs for bed when he's sleepy.  I couldn't just walk through my room tonight.  Gratitude compelled me to stop and take a longer peek at Mez snuggled safely in his bed.  Seeing him there reminded me to pray diligently for those still waiting.  I hope I never lose sight of the simple things.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Telling it like it is...Lori and LoPa

For those of you who might be wondering how it all began, here's a snip it (or at least what she says). 

Josh and I started our family very early.  At 19 and 21, an unplanned pregnancy led us to consider all options that might be best for our son, whom we carried.  We read statistics.  We explored placement.  We researched parenting.  Ultimately, God’s plan for us was to raise our precious son; but this rough beginning served as an introduction to the beauty and sacrifice of placing a child for adoption and founded in us a love for birth parents, whose best option is to place their children. 

Three and a half years later, God readied us for our next child, our daughter.  Our second pregnancy remained problematic from beginning to finish; yet in the end, she arrived right on cue.  Little did we know this would be the end of the “easy road” to family growth. 

Over the next four years, Josh and I lost four pregnancies.   Rather, four babies.  Ranging from six weeks to twenty plus weeks, each loss stole our breath.  By the third loss, our doctors scrambled to diagnose the cause.  We followed all the rules.  Our friends and families prayed.  Ironically, days after our fourth loss (yes after), our doctors called with a diagnosis of a genetic clotting disorder and a possible treatment.  It was too late.  We grieved and questioned.  We closed the door to carrying another child in our womb.  Adoption seemed reasonable. 

The research began.  Only months into preparing adoption papers, Josh realized my significant pain, the damage, and the gaping hollow that co-existed with the loss of our pregnancies.  He understood that adopting would be a way for me to fill this hole.  He knew God needed to heal the hurts in my heart before we were truly prepared to adopt.   Josh stymied our adoption.   The pain of my losses festered and took root into an insatiable desire to mother and took me to a place of complete brokenness.  A day arrived when I was finally inclined to relinquish it at the foot of the cross.  I yielded my hopes for more children through adoption.  I surrendered my agony. God began the work of restoration. 

Time passed and on a routine visit, my doctor and I were both stunned to discover I was pregnant.  We followed protocol for experimental treatments to sustain our pregnancy.  We knew the risks.  We anticipated the difficulty ahead.  All of us expected another loss.   At each turn we were cautioned against being too hopeful.  As tumultuous as this pregnancy was, God sustained the life of our child.  He was born.  God granted us more than we could have imagined possible, yet He wasn’t done. 

A year and a half later, Josh arrived home from work with an announcement.   After years of dormancy, God awakened in him the passion to adopt.  Josh caught me off guard.  God caught me off guard.  I had not considered adoption since the day I released my dreams.  Josh had not mentioned adoption for years.  Yet here we stood.  God took our years of waste, our losses, and our pains and cultivated them into a passion that would transform our family.  God directed our hearts to Ethiopia where our fourth son first lived. 

On our placement trip to Addis, we fell desperately in love with Ethiopia…the culture, the people, their giftedness, their kindness, the simplicity, and beauty in the midst of penury.  We realized that this would not be a place we left easily or permanently.  Ethiopia imprinted herself on our hearts.  Looking into the eyes of each orphan, each child on the street, each poverty-stricken woman and man, we glimpsed our son and the life he could have lived.  We were compelled to touch those, who were left behind. 

LoPa Art was born from our hearts' desires to touch those left behind- to feed, to educate, to trade train, to employee, and provide medical care and employment through profits produced by micro-enterprise.  The giftedness of Ethiopian artisans makes easy this task.  Following God’s plan makes each step a treasure. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Poverty Becomes Personal

What a great but trying day!  We trekked back to Korah.  It's always been hard, but for me, today was exceptionally hard.  Yesterday, a small boy sat right by my side during the inauguration and feeding.  He refuses to leave.  Today at Korah, he saw me from the distance and rant to me.  He held my leg and my arm and my hand.  After a while, I asked him where he lived.  He pointed to the other side of the dump, then to where we were, and then beyond us.  Confused, I asked our guide where his family lived.  When the guide asked the child he began to whimper.  He said his parents were dead.  He was from The North (same village as Mez) and when his parents died, his brother told him about Korah, a place they could live and find food.  Together, they traveled over 500KM.  Once at Korah, his brother disappeared.  At 10 years old this child was scared and broken.  I picked him up and he melted into me.  He held me as tightly as possible.  When I hugged him, he smothered me with kisses and hugged tighter and tighter.  He asked the guide if I could be his mamma.  He told our guide that I loved him (because I was holding and kissing and hugging him like his 1st mamma).  This boy, 8-10 years of age, has NO home.  He is living with another boy under a piece of plastic.  He really does eat from the dump.  He doesn't have money for school.  BUT the good news, he meets the criteria for our feeding and education programs.

We spent ALL of our time together.  At the end, when it was time to leave my little guy held on for dear life.  His heart was breaking.  That was one of those moments that poverty becomes personal... Pray for my friend Hiyellum

July 4th

Amazing day!  We are celebrating freedom in a different way, inaugurating the feeding program today.  We were privileged to see hope in the young and old of Korah.  An elderly man rejoiced, "Before we knew the hope of spiritual rebirth.  Today, we feel physically reborn.  We have been forgotten.  Today, God remembered us.  He sent you to remember us."  The only appropriate response was to testify that all good things come from the One True God.

Seeing the newly built showers and toilets brought tears.  Now, those ridiculed and kicked out of schools (even once sholar-shipped in) due to their stench, can freely attend school.  They rejoiced for a clean plate of food, not scavenged from the dump.  The elderly felt freedom from a lifetime of shame.  Finally, they can engage those they've only watched from the outside.  It's our prayer that the people of Korah will know that true home comes only from Him.

Pray that as their tangible needs are met, their hearts will be open to salvation.  Pray we will have the opportunity to share Christ's love and salvation if even with one person.  Pray that we would be bold but gracious, honest and loving, and testify of Him.  Pray we would only be a transparent vessel for the Spirit to be revealed.  Pray that Satan is struck from chaos and corrupting God's work.

Bound to you by His Blood~