Monday, December 17, 2012

God had different plans

We thought we would wait another year or so before adding to our family after bringing Bek home. He needed time to heal and transition, we needed time to get familiar with our new son and family dynamic. Everything changed when Bek came into our family. Most of the changes have been welcomed & have brought joy into our lives, others have added unique challenges. They say the first year of having an older child home is the hardest. All parties involved are learning this new way of life & getting to know each other. There is a lot of learning through trial & error and that brings forth stress more often than not. Despite the added stress & challenges that come with expanding your family there is always so much more joy that accompanies it. Those challenges we've experienced with our son have made the sweet moments with him that much better. Through his grieving we're learning to be better, more patient parents. We've learned the importance of unconditional love in a child's life and have been able to experience the type of love God so freely shows us. We don't deserve His grace yet he lavishes us in it.  We didn't do anything to receive His blessings yet He loves seeing His children smile.  We didn't choose to be born into the situation we're in yet there is a reason He has placed us in it. The blessings we've received come with responsibility.

John & I try to live our life in a way that brings glory to God. The love we have for Him influences our choices & the way we live our life. Since we started dating we both expressed interest in adoption. God had opened our eyes to the need in this world and we both wanted to make sure the person we married was on the same page. At that time we had no idea what our future held, we just knew adoption would be a part of it. It has been amazing to see how God is growing our family. I say God because He is responsible for bringing our children into this world & uniquely weaving them into our family. John & I definitely didn't anticipate adopting older children when we had that initial dialogue over coffee years ago, but as always He has better plans. Plans to bring us on a journey of healing, learning, loving & raising beautiful children.

With that being said He has opened the door to add another child to our family. A couple weeks after having Bek home John & I had talked about adding another older boy into our family in the future so Bek would have a brother closer to his age. We in no way anticipated to adopt again anytime soon but knew it was something we hoped to do in the future. During the first month of having Bek home we were having a chat about his friends in Ethiopia. Since at that time he spoke VERY little English it was pretty hard to communicate using words. Since we were talking about his friends I decided to show him our adoption agencies waiting children's list (WCL) hoping he would be able to show me some of his friends from the orphanage. As I was scrolling through the pictures of these beautiful children he kept shaking his head saying "no" to the children since he didn't recognize any of them. When we got to the very last picture on the list he looked closer at the picture on it & enthusiastically said "Yes! Sha****!" as he stared at the picture he smiled. A few moments later he looked at me and said "I love him" which about broke my heart.

See, I had seen this boy's picture on the WCL months ago. It was the same WCL Bek was on. I remember seeing his picture but didn't feel that same tug on my heart like I did towards Bek. I almost feel guilty looking back. God had different plans & at that time it wasn't to bring this other little boy into our family. Little to our knowledge that was yet to come. A few days went by after we saw Sha's photo. If I thought for a moment that we would bring another child into our family anytime soon that thought was immediately ruled out by my more sane & logical side. However Sha's photo was in the back of my mind daily and Bek started to share more about his relationship with him.

They grew up next door to each other in their rural village in Ethiopia. Their mothers were best friends & they would play together growing up. There are more extraordinary details to their relationship that I am choosing not to share since this will be Bek & Sha's story to tell someday but needless to say both John & I were blown away with their connection to one another. We were so taken aback that we started to have more serious discussions about what it would look like to add Sha to our family. We initially just didn't think WE could do it. All of our reasons were valid having just gotten home with Bek but we just couldn't deny the connection they have & felt God revealed it to us for a reason. He was exposing yet again the need one of His children had for a forever family & we couldn't say no. So we didn't. We prayed & God answered. He put the pieces in line to make it happen one of which was getting our agency to allow it since they normally make families wait a year before pursuing another adoption. On a side note I can't say enough amazing things about our agency, AWAA. Everyone we've worked with has been wonderful. They are a Christian based adoption agency which was super important to us since our faith is what led us to adopt.

We believe as Christians we are commanded to care for "the least of these" & reach out to the hurting. To us that means adopting. To others it may look different but since we are at a point in life where we want children it just makes sense to us. Ok, back on track....So after several discussions about adopting again John & I decided we would pursue bringing Sha home.  However there were still many obstacles to overcome at that point. We prayed that God would either open or close doors & just like He did with Bek He flung the doors wide open! Our case worker & adoption agency were supportive. Our businesses were blessed to make it work financially & our family although a little hesitant were overall extremely supportive. I also have to mention how fortunate I am to have married an incredible man who loves the Lord. I am usually the one gets the ball rolling in regards to our adoptions but he is the one who makes it happen. He is the one who chases the paperwork, discusses countless details over email & phone with our case worker & works his butt off to make enough money to pay the expenses associated with adoption. I have heard so many women tell me they have a heart for adoption but their spouse just won't consider it. That breaks my heart. I am encouraging John to be more active on his blog which talks about adoption from a man's perspective. As far as I'm concerned there is NOTHING more attractive than a man who fearlessly loves his family & others. Sometimes that means taking a leap of faith & hearing your wife out when she tells you God might be leading her heart to adoption. I know I got way side tracked again...sorry!

So here we are. Waiting for a court date to fly to Ethiopia to meet Sha & adopt him. We are praying we will be there in early January & back home with him sometime in March. Sha does know he has a family & from what we've heard he is very excited about that. He was happy to see Bek would not only be his life long friend but brother soon. Praise God for His plan & for blessing us with another son! We know the road won't be easy, we know his little heart has been hurt & his beautiful eyes have seen more than any child ever should but we believe in a God that heals & restores. We are looking forward to seeing another child blossom into the person they were created to be. Please pray for Sha. Pray God will prepare his heart for the transition that's before him as well as the rest of our family as we prepare to welcome another kiddo into the mix.

God never seizes to amaze me with His plan. I am thankful that despite all my shortcomings He has chosen me for the special job of being a mama to these little humans. I love my people!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Grieving is complicated.

The reality is I'm hopeless when it comes to blogging or any type of writing for that matter. Although I enjoy sharing our story & more so than that I find it very therapeutic to express my feelings through words I am just not disciplined enough to be consistent with it. So hear is my seemingly weak attempt at updating you on the craziness that has been our life the past 3 months...

When Bek came home at the end of September we were still living at my parent's house while our house was being built. They were kind enough to allow us to stay in their winter home for 5 months while they were still up north. It wasn't ideal bringing home an older child during this transitional time but we really didn't have another choice. In hindsight I don't think it impacted him that much moving into our new home shortly after he came home to America. As expected we have witnessed so many firsts with Bek. What I didn't expect is how much fun that would be! He has embraced American food & has appreciated my attempts at adding a Ethiopian twist to our family dishes (adding berbere). He immediately & naturally fell into the big brother role with Cruz. They already have a unique bond & Cruz copies him as much as he can. These eyes can see nothing sweeter than when my 2 boys interact. The first few weeks were an amazing honeymoon with our new son! It was short lived but OH SO WONDERFUL! But it wasn't real life. Everything was new & exciting. We didn't have to be real parents yet because we didn't implement discipline & boundaries those first couple weeks. We just wanted to get to know our new son & have him familiarize himself with his new life & family. We had so many fun moments together during that time, moments where I thought that maybe this was how it was going to be forever but I knew better. I had spent endless hours educating myself on bringing home older children & was aware that there were going to be many challenges on the horizon. Oh those first few weeks were sweet though. They abruptly ended when we brought up the plan for Bek to eventually attend school. We weren't sure when he'd start but we wanted to start a dialogue with him about it. That initial conversation brought about many raw emotions in our boy. He had a bad experience with a teacher in Ethiopia (that we were unaware of at the time) & has disliked school ever since. Insecurities about his inability to speak English came forward & his lack of friendships made the idea of starting school terrifying. This was the first time I saw him sob. You have never heard crying like a child who is grieving. It's like a moan mixed in with a heart crushing cry, it takes over their entire being & causes irrational thought. I kick myself now for bringing the school subject up so quickly after getting home but at the time I was clueless as to what he had experienced. After that first "incident" the honeymoon had officially ended. I was sad to see it go but knew it had to in order for our son to heal. He needed to grieve before healing could take place & grieving he is still doing. Grief is a complicated thing. It rears it's ugly head at the most unusual times & takes over our son's entire being when it comes. It normally is triggered by something small & can bring about anger, sadness, anxiety you name it we've seen it! Two things that seems to trigger it is our inability to effectively communicate due to the language barrier & telling (not asking) Bek to do something while watching TV. Already John & I have learned to parent our grieving child more effectively but that's come with experience & time. Even though we have read several books on the topic when the craziness of grief is going down right in your living room it rocks you to the core. I am thankful I did educate myself beforehand though because we were able to start implementing some of the tools I read about & that has made a HUGE difference. Another resource that has been so helpful is the Facebook adoption groups I'm a part of (shout out if you're in one!!). Connecting with fellow adoptive mothers has been an amazing source of encouragement. Knowing there are others who have walked this road & are currently on it with you is a blessing to say the least. Before adopting Bek I educated myself on how to help him deal with his grief & making his transition as smooth as possible. I did little to prepare myself on the changes that would have to take place within my own heart & daily life. In the past few months in order to survive & stay remotely sane I have had to alter my expectations I subconsciously placed on our son, become more patient, learn to let go of control (not all but some), leave the dishes & housecleaning behind to spend more time with my children & not to feel guilty for taking time away from my family to regroup. Another thing I've learned is that it is never good to compare your child to others who have gone through or are going through the same things. You never know their full story & comparing places unhealthy expectations on your child. I hate to admit it but I have done this. I have asked myself "Why isn't Bek doing this like so & so's child"...terrible, I know. I'm learning. I pray God will continue to grow me as a mother. I am so grateful He has entrusted me with such incredible blessings. My hope is to not screw them up too bad! Although we are still healing & grieving I am seeing glimmers of God's redemption take place in our boy's life. The "grieving episodes" that can look alike like defiance are getting shorter, his confidence is increasing, he initiates physical contact with both John and I & many more little but important milestones. Parenting a child who comes from a traumatic background must look differently than how you'd parent a biological child. I always tell John that basically you take what your natural parenting instincts tell you to do & do the complete opposite! Maybe you're naturally better more patient parents than us but this is what we've experienced.

Most days are really great but we have several hard days mixed in. Those hard days just make the ones that are good that much sweeter. Bek is truly a sponge. He is learning English quickly & understands a lot more than he lets on. He is one of the sweetest kids his age I've ever known. While around the house he seeks out hugs & affection (which melts my heart every time). He has recently started saying "I love you" first & he loves family time. While in public he grabs for our hands (unless we are around other kids his age). All of these things make being his parents so sweet! We are also getting excited to have another big boy in the house which I will share in another (long time coming) post!