I’m not filled with romantic notions nor am I an idealist. However, I am well-versed in what the ideal childhood and marriage scene should look like. I’ve planned what my life was supposed to look like, and well….I’ve truly missed the mark. Okay, really I’ve completely missed hitting the whole darn target. And truth be told, I may be shooting with the wrong equipment.
Giving our children an ideal childhood with loving constructs and undivided attention seems optimal. Throw in perfect childhood memories and happy family vacations and you’ve attained the ideal. There are times that I measure myself by these ideals and truly I fall short each day. When I say out loud that I work full-time, have 6 children and 3 of them have complex medical needs, it actually sounds a bit unmanageable. Then you throw in school, holidays, IEPs, doctor appointments, and the general grind of daily life and you can see where the equation looks quite lopsided. Now add marriage and one might see impossibility.
Last week, I went to the movies with my best friend and while sitting there waiting for the movie to start an older gentleman struck up a conversation. After inquiring about the details of my life, he finally looked at me and said, “Good God woman, don’t you just want to lie down… and die?” And I laughed out loud, but inside I felt sad. I felt sad because this is not how I see my life. Am I tired? Well heck yes, I’m bone tired. And not a day goes by that I worry that I’m enough for my kids. Do they feel loved enough, held enough? Am I doing too much, not enough? Will they have a therapist someday and talk about their mother? And then I breathe because at the end of the day, I have chosen to lay down the ideal and let the romantic die.
I’ve grown so much since bringing Israel home from the orphanage. He has taught me that I’ve spent my whole life trying to build something for nothing. I have labored and toiled to achieve things that now seem hollow. And as the years have rolled by and I’ve received the diplomas, work accolades and financial security, I realize they are fleeting. And so, you see that gentleman at the movies was absolutely right on a deeper level. Since the adoption of Israel. I am choosing daily to lay it down and let it die, and I’d like to invite you to this freedom as well. The “ideal” and the “romantic” will never bring fulfillment to you or your children.
And so I guess, I wish I had answered the gentleman and said, “Man, are you ever afraid that you will never just lie down and die?” “Are you afraid that what you are chasing can never be achieved, or perhaps you will grab it one day and realize it doesn’t bring you fulfillment?” I wish I had told him that I am finally living my life with arms flung wide, heart strung out, and legs weary. I am living courageous and brave. I am living on the edge of impossibility and each day God makes it work. I have chosen to not buy into the ideal or rely on the romantic; because frankly I can’t. My life is gritty and messy in all its blessings. It is sleeves rolled up and grime on the face. Daily we rely on God to pull us through another day, and through this we have learned to pull together closer. And I will tell you that there is nothing more perfectly wonderful than embracing the imperfect.
I want to live my life with a vision for eternity. I want to be disturbed by the realities of orphans and pour my time and money into what I believe is eternal. God is not safe, and it’s taken me a long to realize this. He is not safe, but He is good and following Him should cost you. God is not looking for you to live safe and comfortable, it should terrify you, exhaust you, burden you and most of all cause you to realize that without Him you would absolutely fail. And if I am sitting on this Earth and thinking that all my dreams have come true, then perhaps I should re-evaluate and determine that maybe I dreamed too small. If I feel safe and insulated, perhaps it’s time I look to lose sight of land and step deep into bigger waves. Because the minute I don’t need Him to pull me through the day, is the minute I have allowed my vision of the eternal to fade.
When I look at Israel seeing his first Christmas tree and smiling in delight; my heart wrenches. One year ago, my boy was four years old and Christmas Day rolled by without noise. He sat one more day in a crib without a shiny string of lights to delight his eyes. The smells were not of pine and Christmas cookies; but urine and sterility. The sounds were the noiseless steps of a caregiver who rushed to change him twice in a 24 hour period; not the Christmas songs sung off-key by his siblings. There were no gifts, no toys, no anticipation and delight for Christmas morning. And yet, one Christmas ago, I sat in my home terrified of the choice to bring him home. We were leaving in three short weeks, and I looked around at my comfortable life and I was scared to death and clinging to God. I realized that the level of abuse he sustained would cause permanent physical and mental damage. And yet, we took trembling steps up those orphanage stairs carrying a shell of a boy. And over the months, I have slowly spread my arms wide, opened my heart big, and poured my soul into this baby. And I did this knowing that Israel may never fully heal, he will never be physically whole, but I was willing to shatter what was the ideal and the romantic and embrace the messy and the broken while leaning into Him.
And every week, I read new horrors from friends that are going into these orphanages and choosing to lay down and let die romantic notions and ideals…(warning-child abuse trigger)
“She was just an infant. We were told we had an appointment for 0830 to get our soon to be adopted son’s spica cast taken off. The orphanage sent another baby and staff member with us to get bandages changed a the infant girl. She was born with some of her foot and hand missing. We weren’t seen until almost noon. They didn’t even feed her that morning. She cried and cried until she just didn’t anymore. I asked if the nurse could bring her a formula bottle but no, I guess that’s not a thing. She had some sort of wound bandaged on her foot so the doctor laid her on the cold metal table and just began ripping the gauze out of her foot. Dry dressing change, no pain medication. Some of the gauze was REALLY stuffed in her foot and he couldn’t rip it out so he got out a scalpel and started cutting it out. Of her flesh. Blood pooled on the floor, her screams were unlike anything I’ve ever heard, I squeezed my eyes closed, and wished that she would pass out from the pain so she wouldn’t feel it anymore. I asked to hold her to comfort her, they said she wasn’t in pain, she was just crying because she was cold. I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say if I could have grabbed both the kids and ran, I would have.” Alexandria – adoptive mom
“We brought him home and they found pieces of shunt left under his scalp and scars on his stomach that we were told was from shunt surgery; but our Dr said they can’t imagine why those scars would have been in those locations from shunts. His skull was full of fluid filled sacs, the brain tissue pushed back in a thin layer around the skull. Our docs speculate that he endured massive infections, but have never seen anything like it. He was born cognitively normal and he endured horrendous things. But they don’t care, after all those kids are “just there to die”. adoptive mother of Reed(who is now in the arms of Jesus)
And I am spurned on to deeper waters, as I realize that God is not finished with me, and this last year was just the beginning of stepping into deeper waves. So my answer to the gentleman at the movie theater, Yes, every day I live the impossible, but I would do it again. Every day I hear the need and I wait with my heart flung wide. And if opportunity arises and I feel like God is calling me to even bigger impossibles; why yes, I will lie down and die to do it again.