12 months ago we matched with Z. 9 months ago we began the process of getting him out and trying to get him educated.
As this has taken our ALL, we feel much like we have hunkered down and rallied around Z to pull him out of the pit. Much like Nehemiah said, "I am doing a good work and cannot come down." That is how I feel. I say no to a lot right now, but I am saying yes to 7 years of a boy that is worth it. No child was created to live how we found Z. And also saying yes to my husband and our other 2 kiddos that could not have been more perfectly chosen to be Z's siblings. I cherish and have never been more proud as a mom to watch their purity in love and compassion. Something I have found that is rare in this world, yet gushes from those 2.
Z is an amazing child and Tim and I laugh weekly as he does the things people said he would never do. He has done all of them. And more. He exceeds all expectations and blows every diagnosis out of the water. Why? Because no one knows what an American Institutionalized orphan looks like. There is no diagnosis. You can call him what you want, but at the end of the day, our system has failed him. No label will ever be appropriate for him and until he recovers from the 7 years of deprivation he had, he will have special needs.
Adopting Z has ranked up in the Top 5 Hardest Things we have done. We live our lives completely authentically, as we feel it is our ministry to do hard things and live them out loud.
For me, I feel like I was born to be Z's mom. Things in my life have prepared me for this.
My hardest trials have been:
1. Losing babies. Each of the 5 children I carried short term and lost changed the kind of mother I am. I really believe children are a miracle and I sincerely try to treasure each life stage as we blink through them.
2. Tim's journey to find his career. This was hard on many levels because had it not been for the housing market boom and the initial company he worked for, he might still be doing residential construction sales. From that happening and causing a downward spiral of some jobs that were not a good fit, we had to start over. We sold most everything we had, including our home, and rebuilt our life.
3. The house renovations. I think this was a time from being a mother of 2 small toddlers, working various jobs to help, and renovating houses.... this was a season of life that I was the most physically exhausted that I had ever been.
4. Long term family conflict. I think most people have this with extended family. It's part of life. It is learning to deal with emotionally exhausting people that happen to be your family. They brew and stir conflict and cause drama. We have to learn to live and manage those people, draw boundary lines, and continually remember that we can only control ourselves, not the actions of others.
5. This adoption. Though hard, there have been many harder things I have done. I have a resolution mentality. I don't give up and I see the end goal and go after it at all costs. When we make a commitment, we go all in. Though challenges arise, we feel completely equipped through Christ. He gives us the strength to walk through all of these trials and the wisdom to do the right thing.
I can honestly say that Z is a different child. Not the same child we met at all. To the point where I told Tim God had "blinders" on us when we met him. We did not see who he was at face value, we saw who he could be. We couldn't have believed what was in front of us, we wouldn't have in our right minds made a lifelong commitment with so many unknowns. We heard from the Lord that we were supposed to adopt Z, so we did. We had no idea what the real issues and problems we would face would be... but, we knew that we had been through a lot of hell in our lives and that if God could conquer us, He could conquer Z. We know Col 1:29 is true, "To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." I tell myself often to again, Hold Fast to what I know and press on.
We are beginning to see the boy God made him to be. He is really smart. He loves animals. He loves being outside. He is not afraid of anything. He learned how to ride a bike (thank you to our OT Stephanie and Clay White), he learned to swim. He loves children younger than him and especially babies. He loves salad, fruit, pizza, apples and peanut butter, anything he can dip into ranch, bacon, pancakes, pretzels, all mexican food, and pretty much anything. He hates broccoli, the dentist, sunscreen, the movie theather (still figuring that one out) and there is also a few people he has met that he will tell us he does not like :0
At home with our family, he not only communicates with us 24/7, he does with david and mackenzie too. Unlike months ago he would barely answer our dinnertime question of "what is the best thing that happened to you today?" He now starts, leads, and asks the question to everyone at the table. He will ask for things all day, ask for my help, ask for someone to play with him, ask to go to the store or to swim, ask questions about things (what we are having for dinner, what we are doing tomorrow, and what time it is). He whines and complains and will give opinions on things (although this sounds like I am being negative I LOVE that he acquired this skill... as it is one he did not have when we got him). He wrestles, laughs, plays jokes on us, imitates us, chases, loves to be tickled, and always asks when we are going to someones party. He is a good sleeper and a good eater. He has formed an attachment with a blankie from our best friends and 2 stuffed animals that he was given as gifts. He loves doing anything academic involving reading and letters and has recently really gotten into drawing pictures.
Z's biggest struggle is keeping him out of fight or flight mode with people that have not been around kids from trauma. Z does awesome with other children in our neighborhood, playgroups, our gym childcare facility, church sunday school, and any birthday party. Most of our family and friends will never see Z's flight or fight mode because they love him so much and love is always is sensed by a child. Z's other biggest struggle is just age appropriate socialization. After coming from an orphanage and isolation, our most accurate, up to date opinion from professionals is that Z is a poster child of being institutionalized. We are constantly extracting him out of isolation and forcing him into the world and to engage in it.
It is a glorious thing to meet people who "get him". He is making huge milestones, yet we see major set backs when he is around people who want to force their way with him or not take his entire past 7 years into account. In a society and education where it is full steam ahead, there doesn't seem to be a lot of room and grace for children who need it the most. I have such a heart for families that have children with some disabilities. Whether they are major or maybe like Z that will probably disappear over time, it is a hard road that shouldn't be so hard. We chose to be parents of a special needs child. Not only do I chose Z, but I chose to believe in a whole child teaching and really pray for my kids. If you have more than a few children, you see how you have to accommodate your parenting to each child. I remember so clearly David as a toddler was not even phased when we said the word "no" and Mackenzie would stick out her lip and sob with hurt feelings if you looked at her disapprovingly.
We are so in tune to making our kids successful and I think about Z. He has never had anyone advocate or do anything for him. He was continually left by himself to just figure it out. This has also implanted some deep seeded stubborn-ness in him. He has been seeing a counselor for 12 weeks and she is like a miracle worker. One of the things I did not even realize with Z is if he was even aware of the "hierarchy" going on. She told me to ask him who the boss was, "Z or mommy and daddy?" He quickly responded, "me!" As I told him he was not the boss, he would grind his teeth at shake his head. Needless to say, he now knows mommy and daddy are the boss of this house. Boundaries and discipline breed freedom, security, and a platform of growth. You don't realize how fundamental those things are until you have a child at the age of 7 that has no idea how a family is run.
It has been bittersweet to introduce life to Z. Boat rides, parades, fireworks, crazy playgrounds, hiking, ropes course, swimming, zip line, the lake, the beach, train rides, parties, holidays, traditions, toys he has never heard of, weekends, the zoo, water parks, foods, stores, malls, large crowds, road trips, root beer floats, chewing gum, yard work, chores, taking a shower, having a pet, siblings, canoeing, summer camps, VBS, learning about tools, rock climbing, shopping, long walks, adventures, peers, snuggling in the morning, cooking, neighbors, church, Jesus, being outside at night, sunsets, concerts, therapy, counseling, washing a car, checking the mail, not being afraid of people but saying hi and waving, learning, restaurants, praying, and hearing him pray.
As difficult and unique of a child he is... I can't help but to think of the verse, Hebrews 13: 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for by doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it. As Z was at first a stranger to us, now our son, and some days I look at him and convinced he was a little angel put here on this Earth. My anger at people who have treated him poorly in his past and also in some settings since moving him in is justified. God is his defender and protector. He is father of the fatherless and I believe there is a special place for people who withhold, neglect, and mistreat children, especially those with special needs.
Our path has seemed dark and very dimly lit at what we have had to walk through in where Z came from, getting him out of there, getting him educated and dealing with what comes with that.
All I know is that God is still Emmanuel, He is With Us.
He has given us people out of the holy woodwork to come to bat for Z. We have had an outpouring of support and resources because who doesn't want to get behind a child that has never had a chance?
As we continue to fight for Z and him being given a normal life at home and at school, we will not give up. I will sit in the darkness as long as I need to with Z. The darkness has been in my past and I'm sure it will rear its head again in the future. We always know that this too shall pass. And it will.
As we continue to press forward and get Z back to where God wanted him to thrive, we will commit to sit in as much darkness with him until he is out. Just as years where I sat losing babies, I prayed Micah 6:8, Do not gloat over me my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light."
And lastly, God is right in the middle of our mess. That is the gospel. He stepped in and rescued us from ourselves. Adoption is a picture of that. We have to be willing to step into the mess and work out of it. God is in all of it.
Psalm 139:8- If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
We are honored and constantly humbled to have Z as a son. We are about to finalize our adoption and I cannot wait to share a huge slide show of his new life.