screaming into the wind…

We can no longer exist in this state of soft and sleepy Christian denial, we must move forwards as the army of Christ and sacrifice everything we have for the cause of those who are lost. We want to stand confidently before God, look him in the face and say that we did all we possibly could to lead these small ones to Him.

 

45847200_10215906709075033_4845337212901916672_o

I’ll be straight up honest with you. In the church, I feel like I’m screaming into the wind, banging my head against a wall, yelling underwater…my voice is breaking.

And I keep screaming, even through the funny, uncomfortable looks or the rolled eyes or the “it’s not what God is calling us to do” statements…because there’s too much at stake here to simply let my voice take a permanent vacation.

You see, it’s not that there is an actual “no” being said. You can’t even get to the point where people actually make a yes or no decision. What always get me is the vast, unending silence and it relentlessly presses down upon my soul. It’s the total lack of interest, lack of questions, it’s the uncomfortable look people get when I start talking about the rows of cribs, the little faces, and how many children there are who wait.

It’s the endless excuses and statements of “Well, you can’t guilt people into adopting,” and “Adoption isn’t for everyone,” and “We just aren’t called to this.” And, honestly, I somewhat agree with every statement here…

You CAN’T guilt people into adopting, but you CAN challenge them to at least be honestly, wholeheartedly open to praying about it and being willing to accept the scary answer. Adoption ISN’T for everyone, I agree…but orphan care in some way, shape, or form IS. “We aren’t called to this” is the most frustrating one…because you ARE called, you ARE equipped, you ARE strong in the Lord and the power of His might.

Now, I know that people look at adoptive families and think we are all a little crazy. And we are, in all the good ways. We are CRAZY about getting children into homes…we are CRAZY about lost souls for Christ…we are CRAZY about having completely open eyes to the reality of the crisis in this world…sometimes, we are just plain crazy from lack of sleep. ūüôā

When you get to the bottom of the problem, it’s an idol of convenience and comfort that we, as American Christians, must battle. Never before in all of history have American believers been so rich, so comfortable, so healthy, so free, so crowded around a man made wealth/health/prosperity theology…and it weakens us greatly. For while we think we are so strong with our coffee/Bible instagram photos and our trendy worship services, these children are going to hell in a hand basket and we are fully, completely, undeniably responsible for our utter lack of interest in them.

I AM responsible. I fully know that ONE DAY, I, Cady Beth Driver, will stand before God and give an account for my life. For the time I have spent, the resources I have spent, the talents I have spent….and I am guilty in so many ways of unrelenting selfishness. I AM so spoiled, I fully admit that. I FIGHT these urges to just continue my life, that I’ve done enough, I’ve adopted one special needs child and isn’t that enough?

dawn sunset beach woman

Well?

I don’t know….I’m not calling for legalism, but, I beg of you, please stop making us shout into the wind. I’m imploring ¬†you, as a church body, to HEAR our hearts, ask the hard questions, fully open your eyes to the reality of what is all around you. Just because you cannot see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Orphans are a hard and ugly reality.

It’s a slap-you-in-the face reality. We can no longer exist in this state of soft and sleepy Christian denial, we must move forwards as the army of Christ and sacrifice everything we have for the cause of those who are lost. We want to stand confidently before God, look him in the face and say that we did all we possibly could to lead these small ones to Him.

I KNOW that there are parents out there who adopt terminally ill children. I know that when they walk through those pearly gates, that that child will be flying into their arms. I know that there are parents who walk incredibly hard roads for the sake of these small souls for eternity, but what if we all did it?

What if every church service had the hiss of oxygen machines, the humming of special needs kids, the adorable off-key singing of children with Down syndrome?

What if we had to turn up the pastor’s voice just to hear him speak over the din of welcoming the least of these into our church bodies with open arms?

What if?

Why must we shout into the wind? Why???

Why must we beg and plead, why can’t we all be this giant crowd of believers running to the helpless?

I don’t have all the answers and yes, I AM fully crazy for this cause. Because I don’t want to close my eyes and pretend like these children do not exist or that they’re not worth every piece of paperwork, every penny, ever sleepless night, every mama’s broken heart…they are WORTH IT.

My heart’s cry is this…Ask questions of adoptive parents…ask them how many children are in their child’s orphanage. Ask them what you can do to help, how you can be involved, how can you pray, how can you support.

Asking is the first step in a journey of illumination and let me tell you, you’ll never want to go back to the time when you didn’t know the answers.

This will break you in all the right ways. All the God ways.

And you’ll join the crowd of adoptive families who are shouting to come and experience the good, the bad, the heartbreak, the triumphs that make up our topsy turvy worlds of adoption.

Come and shout with us. Join us and do hard things…

love spelled with stones

 

 

 

 

 

 

it’ll destroy your life…

Don’t become a pastor! Wow. What are you thinking? I once knew a pastor who had a TON of people turn their backs on him, even though he was faithful in the ministry. His children rebelled, he had trouble paying his bills, it was a strain on his marriage. Really hard stuff! Eventually, his health declined from all the stress. Becoming a pastor is a bad idea, why would you do that to your family?

Said no one ever to a person who desires to become a pastor.

Don’t be a missionary! The potential for serious sickness in a foreign country is HUGE. Your kids could contract something or die from a treatable illness. The loneliness, the trials, the potential for persecution is SO much higher in other countries, plus, there’s, like, no Starbucks….how will you survive?

Said no one ever to a person who is called to missions.

Oooh, adoption or foster care….man, THOSE kids have issues. Not everyone is called to adopt, why do you have this passion? I once knew a family, who… (followed by some horror story) and it could ruin you. It’s expensive, difficult, and so heartbreaking.

Say many people all the time to those called to adopt.

Oh, amazing missionary that we all want to be like, in that you seem so much more spiritual because you sold all of your earthly goods and you live in a grass hut eating crickets AND not drinking Starbucks…please ENLIGHTEN us, how you do it? Tell us all your stories of hardship and sacrifice…we are all ears. And we sit and listen.

Oh, tired adoptive adoptive parents…..(awkward silence) ¬†Sooooooo, what’s the weather like?

close up photography of a hand pointing

Ugh, another adoption fundraiser…man, they just keep coming.

If they can’t afford to pay the fees, they shouldn’t be adopting.

That family hasn’t been to church in a LOOONG time after they came home from Africa with their child. (insert snort)

Well, it was THEIR choice! They brought this onto themselves.

We absolutely do NOT accept adopted, special needs children into our church school.

Adoption will ruin you, both mentally, physically and financially.

Adoption will ruin your biological kids, why would you do that to them? ¬†You don’t want to saddle them with a special needs adult after you die, that’s not fair to them!

It’s a HUGE unknown. It’s scary, it’s hard, it’s…it’s…it’s….

IMG_1253 2

Why is it that adoption or foster care is the ONE ministry that people question and question HARD? Could it POSSIBLY be that it is the ONE area where, hands down, there will be a child who will be literally snatched from the gates of hell? Where a child who would have NEVER had the chance to hear about Jesus will NOW hear about Jesus.

What if adoption were pursued and held up in the church just like pastors, missionaries, famous Christian women bloggers, and performers?

This is NOT the case, and frankly, it NEEDS TO CHANGE.

IMG_1269

Adoption is HARD and GOOD…. SCARY and EXHILARATING. ¬†It takes you to the bottom so you have nowhere else to look but up. It’s Peter in the boat, Jesus feeding the 5,000, Joseph waiting in prison. It’s Moses winning the war, Jacob wrestling with God, Joshua marching around the walls….it’s David conquering Goliath, Miriam weeping on His feet, Jochebed placing her baby in the river.

It’s terrifying courage scattered with tiny seeds of faith.

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Luke 9:24

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Are these children your friends?

45801780_10215906708915029_2101102485149057024_o

Do you see the little, tiny legs? Is SHE your friend? Are you willing to lay down your life, your finances, you sanity (some days!), your time, your energy for her?

Is she a soul for eternity? What is she worth to you?

IMG_0800

What is HE worth to God? Well, to God, he is priceless.

And so he should be to us. ALL of us….without all of the caveats and warnings. Without all of the “scary” adoption stories, and trust me, I know that there are a LOT of hard stories out there. Hear them, pray, and move forwards.

And no, not everyone is called to adopt, although I struggle with this thought process….hear me out…because if that child was left on your doorstep in the middle of the night and there was nobody to pick her up and take her in, no social services to call, would you? Or would you leave her there on your concrete porch with your $69.99 flower door wreath hanging above her head.

Would you? Would I? What did the early Christians do?

Now note well those who hold heretical opinions about the grace of Jesus Christ that came to us; note how contrary they are to the mind of God. They have no concern for love, none for the widow, none for the orphan, none for the oppressed, none for the prisoner or the one released, none for the hungry or thirsty (Ignatius, Smyrnaeans 6.2, A.D. 110).

It is the way of persecutors of the good, of those who hate truth, love a lie, do not know the reward of righteousness, do not adhere to what is good or to righteous judgment, who ignore the widow and the orphan‚Ķhave no mercy for the poor, do not work on behalf of the oppressed, are reckless with slander, do not know the one who made them, are murderers of children‚Ķwho turn away from someone in need‚Ķutterly sinful (Epistle of Barnabas 20.2, c. A.D. 100‚Äď130)

Let the hard become good in your life. Let the uncertainty fade away, for faith is not made up of such things. There is no uncertainty with God. All He orchestrates is good, both in your life and the lives of others.

I’ll leave you with this.

“Consider it all you, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

 

As a church body, let’s travel this journey together. ASK the hard questions, DO hard things, PRAY long, BELIEVE God, HAVE faith.

Because this, THIS is too precious for even ONE to fall by the wayside.

IMG_2573 2

IMG_1128

what if?

#whatif

What if mama’s stomachs were never supposed to be flat and hard…what if our softness was simply a continual visual wonder for the life that quietly grew within?

What if God designed us to be soft, because our arms and stomachs and laps so often cradle a little one for sleep, for comfort, for teaching….

What if the strength of our arms comes not from push ups and lifting weights, but from lifting littles high, catching them when they fall, carrying them through the rough places of life….

What if our hands aren’t meant to be soft and photo-finish smooth, but worn and calloused….each mark representing a dish washed, a child cleaned, a household fed, a tear wiped, a garden planted…

What if our faces were never meant to be flawless, but every worry and laugh line was a reflection of shared compassion, shouldered burdens, unexpected laughter….

What if we were never meant to be mannequins, endless slaves to the ever changing, demanding whims of fashion…but we are seen for the love we hold in our hearts…. the ideas and passions that change this world for the better.

What if our hair was never meant to be continuously coiffed but as silver streaks our temples, we welcome this gradual crowning of wisdom that only time can gift.

What if our feet were never meant to be tortured in shoes designed to draw the stares of men to our legs, but instead, they were shod with shoes that only helped us run faster to the weary, the waiting, the downtrodden…

What if we have it all wrong and we strive for things that will never bring us closer to God?

What if how we, as women, mothers, daughters, sisters, wives….what if how we are made is simply the best thing as we are……untouched, un-refined…that we don’t need the wearisome race of the unnatural……and we can joyfully rest in the undeniable gift of being a woman.

What if?

IMG_2833 2

accept the gift…

Rewriting the story of a child who has Down syndrome has indelibly etched its chapter on the soul. With fresh eyes, one sees the best and the worst of society…the least and the greatest…..the veil has been lifted and who we are as a people is illuminated through those we downwardly view through the pathetic lens of worldly “perfection”.

The flimsy jewel of intelligence, beauty, acceptability, and usefulness is smashed on the single altar of this…..the Giver’s unexpected gift….the unforeseeable gift. The gift that requires the seeker to really see, earnestly look for, faithfully uncover.

petaled flowers with dew drops on close up photography

In thoughtlessly tossing away the gift of a soul who doesn’t fit our presupposed notions…we slap the face of the Gift Giver, depriving ourselves of the opportunity to breathe in beautiful new vistas previously unknown.

gray bridge and trees

And while we rage at the Gift Creator for bestowing this uncertain path, our hearts are blinded from the things we have yet to experience. For how can we know the tomorrows in the today? How can the life path we expected be fully understood before it is traversed?

In our vast misunderstanding of the Giver, fears loom large…expectations for the life we firmly desire are indented with our fingertips. Muscles strain as with one hand we hurl back a heart that He knew would point us Light-ward, and with the other…we grip our own imagined, glimmering future… engorged with our heart’s desires.

Little can we grasp that what we eschew is the remedy. That sometimes our deepest fears transform into the One’s greatest individual stories.

For you.

For me.

For all.

What we beckon and encircle is what our souls become.

If only we tilt our ears towards heaven….and listen….we may hear the whisper of the child who might be….

“Don’t be afraid,” she lilts. “Take my hand,” the softness of his small fingers on your cheek.

His rosebud lips. Her almond eyes.

You didn’t choose the journey. The Chooser gifted this glorious journey to you.

 

IMG_0101
Accept the gift.

grant me this one request….

It’s October 1st and October is Down syndrome awareness month!
 
Let me share a bit of my past with you. When I was a teenager, I was very involved in the pro-life ministry at our church. We would go to the local abortion clinic in Bridgeport, CT and do sidewalk counseling with the women who were entering the clinic. We would offer to pray with them about their decision, we offered practical help, options for them and their baby, diapers, clothes, classes, anything they needed….ongoing care and support through their pregnancies and after the birth of their child.
 
We offered options for them other than abortion. We truly cared for the mother and the child and we cared what happened to them.
 
Being on the front lines like that at a young age, I knew a tremendous amount of information about the bitter reality of abortion. Every Saturday, we would stand out there, rain or shine, freezing cold or bitter heat…and we’d pray…and sing…and counsel. Sometimes, as we sang, we could see the women peeking through the blinds to watch us. Sometimes our singing would draw them back down, back outside, back to us….back to life for their child. The ministry saved hundreds of babies’ lives, and helped SO many women throughout the years.
The front lines…that’s what it was. We were the last stand between life and death for those children.
We were passionate about LIFE for these children.

newborn child feed

In high school, I was a cheerleader…yes, hard for ya’ll to imagine…haha…but our principal’s daughter had Down syndrome and she was a part of the cheerleading team. We all just adored her and she was the brightest, happiest girl. The basketball fans roared their approval when she’d do the end cheer with us lifting her up or she’d slide her way to the front of the orchestrated cheer. Everyone adored her. She was a beloved and accepted part of the school.
We didn’t think anything differently of her. We just loved her.
 
Because of my pro-life involvement, I decided to write a research paper about abortion for one of my high school projects. In my research, I discovered that a very high number of unborn children who have Down syndrome are aborted….just because they have Down syndrome. I was stunned. I knew people who had Down syndrome and I loved them. They were happy, loved, attending school, living their lives in their own sweet way.
The day I read those statistics….I had a request…. with tears in my eyes, I prayed a sincere prayer. “God, when I grow up and get married, please let me become pregnant with a child who has Down syndrome, because it’ll mean one fewer child that will be killed.” And I meant it with my whole pie-in-the-sky teenage heart.
Now, God didn’t answer that prayer. Not in the way I asked it. Does He ever?
None of my biological children have Down syndrome and it wasn’t even anything I was thinking much about when we started the adoption process.
But God….
IMG_0068
And so here we are.
And here he is, a miraculous part of our family. Lian’s name means “God has answered”.
It still gives me goosebumps because this was the name the orphanage gave him.
How?
How does this happen? How does God take a prayer from decades ago and answer it in this glorious way?
He takes our desires and transforms them as His own…He takes our dreams and consecrates them into His holy plan.
Who knew that He was preparing the way in my heart for the moment when this child’s life would be forever entwined with ours.
I still shake my head in wonder. I still pinch myself. I still look at him and marvel that he’s here….this package of wonderful, extra, mischievous chromosomes.
Let’s celebrate the fact that these beautiful people are in our lives, making us see God more clearly through their sweet spirits and amazing journeys.
Two years ago, on October 30th, Lian was placed in our arms. I am grateful and humbled beyond words to be a part of his story.
IMG_1663
Micah 6:8
“He has told you…what is good…and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
Let’s just do this.
IMG_0069
And so it is.

a downsy?

How we label people matters simply because our society has so incredibly devalued the lives of humans who have Down syndrome.

“Oh, he’s a Downsy? He’s a Downs kid…a down syndrome baby. ¬†Is he a Down syndrome boy? That cute little downs kid! That Down syndrome girl…she just had a Downs baby! Was he abandoned because he’s a downs?”

I know that any parent of a child who’s rocking the extra chromosome is cringing right now.

 

IMG_4016

Seriously, I’ve heard all of these and more! Before we had Lian, I really didn’t give much thought to these phrases and I probably used them a time or two, unthinking, unknowingly. I mean, what’s the big deal, right?

Are we, as parents of children who just happen to be blessed with that minuscule extra chromosome, are we being overly sensitive? Too demanding? Too picky?

Hmmmm….. Let’s just do a little experiment here. Let’s switch Down syndrome with something else.

“Oh, that palsy boy? What a cute, little, palsy baby! Oh, she’s a bifida kiddo. Did you know that Amy has a cancer brother, too? Yeah, she’s a cleft girl.”

No. We would respectfully say, “a little boy who HAS cerebral palsy, a little girl who HAS spinal bifida, Sally has a brother who HAS cancer, she HAS a cleft palate”. ¬†None of these things degrade the value of the person at all.

IMG_4395

For example, above is a photo of Lian, who has Down syndrome, with his grandfather, who has cerebral palsy. Neither of these two men allow their condition to limit whom God has made them to be.

It’s called “people first” language or terminology. And, to be honest with you, I learned this AFTER we adopted Lian, but it makes SO much sense and I’m very grateful I learned it.

IMG_4677

As parents of children who just happen to have special needs, it’s so incredibly important to us that you aren’t counting chromosomes and handing out labels before you first see our child as a person. He’s a person first. A person of value who isn’t defined by a diagnosis, and, in fact, has struggled to overcome, to fight for, and accomplish more in his short life than most of us will in a lifetime.

How we label people matters simply because society has so incredibly devalued the lives of humans who have Down syndrome.

Their lives are demeaned to the point that these tiny persons are routinely aborted, never given the chance to brighten the world with their sweet spirits and sunshine smiles. These children are routinely abandoned in many countries solely because of their chromosome count.

IMG_4834

“For God sees not as man sees. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

So, the next time you see a parent of a child who is obviously blessing all around him with his cute wave, his husky boy hello…Just smile and allow his sweet spirit to lift your day.

I don’t want this defining question, “Is he a Downs kid?” to be the first thing Lian hears every time he meets someone new.

I want him to hear, “Wow, great signing, Lian! I hear that new word you’ve been working on for months! I love your smile! What a strong boy you are! Thank you for helping!”

And if you feel like you can’t possibly say anything nice, just move on. Please!

IMG_3845

Because who he is isn’t defined by a chromosome. If you could just look past the label, you’d see a child with an enormous heart, sensitive to those who are hurting, ready to dole out hugs and light up the room with his smile. You’d see a little boy who reminds us to pray when we forget, who raises his hands to God in worship service when I’m too self-conscious to, who insists on praying for someone who is injured or sick. You’d see a little person who speaks to God as if they are best friends, who commands the rain to stop with all the audacity of being a beloved son of the King, who makes us laugh all day long.

He, and all of our beautiful children who just happen to have Down Syndrome…they are infinitely more than the label.

So don’t introduce them with the label first.

 

IMG_5042

a hundred thousand Hannahs and counting, I see you…

“Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

Dear Mamas who are praying, longing, yearning to adopt,

I see you. I was you. I am you again. I was the Biblical Hannah, pouring my broken heart out in my desire to adopt, my face pressed against the cold, stone, temple pillar, nails catching in the cracks as I held myself up. ¬†Lips moving silently, tears streaming… I seemed crazy to those who saw me, knew me. One observer wonders, why do you pray that way? Why do you yearn so strongly that your heartstrings are pulled tightly, stretching, reaching, longing for something you cannot have on the other side of that steep adoption cavern?

I see you wipe your tears and walk away, only to repeat the cry through the months, years, over and over again…. silently, aloud, in the whispers of the night, or at the red light when A Thousand Years plays. (yeah, me)

pexels-photo-1001153.jpeg

I see you hinting to your spouse, I see the sadness welling in your eyes when “that” family walks into church. You know what lovely family I’m referring to…the one with the bus of kiddos in various stages of special needs from sundry continents. I see you late at night pouring over photos of children who need you….need a mama, a family. I see the longing in your eyes because I was you, for more years than I care to count or remember. Your phone is full of screen shots, you read bios, juggling a dozen adoption listing access passwords…Red Thread, Reece’s Rainbow, Morning Star, Little Flowers…you know them all by heart. I see you. I know you like the back of my hand, the inside of my coffee cup.

In 1 Samuel, we see Hannah. A woman who had no children, who longed, with every fiber of her being, to be Divinely granted the gift of motherhood. I think we can all knowingly concur, sympathizing with that wail, whether our arms are currently too full or too empty.

That longing is uncommonly hale, compelling us onward into an unforeseeable future. A holy yearning, cherishing an innocent as greater than oneself……to sacrifice, nourish, to love with all your might, a person who cannot survive well otherwise.

And Hannah’s husband asks of her, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

pexels-photo-704147.jpeg

Ah, husbands….we do love you so, and we were certainly made to be by your sides! God knew that you shouldn’t be alone and He sent along us…and we do so adore that you need us, working so diligently to bestow happiness on us, but you alone are not enough, for our hearts were made for so much more than complacency and a life of single-minded love.

Our hearts are so much more capacious than that.

Hannah saw that her aching, childless arms were an affliction….an affliction! “O, Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.” There is a wellspring of endless tears for those who are denied their true calling of motherhood.

The grand story is that Samuel was born to Hannah, one joyous year after the sun dried her tears on the temple steps.

What is the absolute favorite verse of adoptive Mamas? Stop and listen, hear it… it is Hannah’s voice softly declaring these words,

“For this child I have prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him.”

The Lord has granted me…please grant it to us, God. Hear our cries, wipe our tears, listen to our hearts.

You, sweet one, I see you…. praying, seeking, petitioning, ¬†looking at little faces in the glow of your screen. I feel your heart squeeze during scrolling…. he’s too thin, she looks peaked, those blue lips, that rash, that bruised forehead, those shadowed eyes……your two simple hands can’t care for them all, but you want just one more…you wish it, sigh it…just give me one more, God, please. I’ll be so tender, I’ll do my best, I’ll guide through the hard spots and trudge though the valleys.

You scatter your prayers to the wind like cherry blossom petals, hoping, wishing, dreaming that your child would follow the petal path back to your arms.

pexels-photo-981379.jpeg

If you have a pack of bios and you’re praying to adopt, I hear you. I was there. God hears, answers. ¬†If you have one or two heart babes and you’re praying again…I’ll pray with you because I’m kneeling right next to you on those temple steps, my forehead scraping the stone, in petition to the God who sets the solitary in families. He hears us and cares that we care. Our prayers don’t fall to the ground.

I can’t save them all, but one more? If it’s in Your will….

And so….

Happy Mother’s Day…to the praying Mamas-to-be, to the Mamas who have loved, lost and loved again, to the wishing ones, yearning ones, exhausted ones, adopting ones. To the birth Mamas, the foster Mamas, the tummy Moms, the heart Moms. To the Ayis in China, to Lian’s foster mom, Lian’s birth mom….

IMG_2566

Happy Mother’s day through the tears, prayers, and wishes….the longings of our hearts that whisper…just one more.

For this child, I have prayed.

 

IMG_2487

Dear Darus,

“I know of a Heavenly Father who loves you, even if you’ve never heard those words from an earthly father.” And so it begins….a mostly one sided conversation, me talking about the love of God, him weeping, barely whispering bitter answers.

pexels-photo-374147.jpeg

I’m out for coffee with a friend, the sweetest $4.95 of my day. Mid-summer warmth dimly fades into night as conversations linger. A coffee shop Bible study ends, drifting people into the illuminated parking lot.

Peaceful, fond goodbyes drift through the air as I hop into my comfy car. Plugging in my phone, I glance up….there you are. Sitting on the curb, your face on your knees. Christian hands juggle Bibles, coffees, keys….cars start and fade away, nobody sees you. Nobody is looking at the dirty teenager on the curb. ¬†I pause, my hand upon the starter….

You are young, but your shoulders already bear the slump of burdens….something about the tilt of your head, the way your hands shield your face pierces my mother’s heart, but I hesitate…it’s late, I’m a woman, alone in a parking lot at night…

pexels-photo-594624.jpeg

Whelp…here goes, God!

I roll down my window….calling out, “are you okay?” ¬†My voice sounds thin and I wonder if he heard me. He glances up….a tear snakes its way down his smooth cheek only to be roughly captured by a sleeve. He jerks his face away from me.

He’s not ok. He has no words, but I’ve seen all I need to know.

Heart pounding, I leave the car and settle down on the pavement next to him, tucking my comfy orange “homeschool mom” sundress underneath me, pavement digging into my bare ankles.

A garish clown leers at me from his shoulder ink, his curly head stays down on his knees.

“Are you ok?” His head shakes a negative. ¬†He’s not.

I tentatively reach out and touch his shoulder as sobs shake his young body. The leering clown mocks his pain, its evil eyes laugh at me…do I know what I’m doing? ¬†I’m desperately praying for wisdom here.

“Do you want me to leave? I can’t leave you here, I’m concerned about you.” He doesn’t want me to leave, the slightest of head shakes.

Ok, Lord, I’ll stay, now what?

Talk to him about God. Got it.

“Do you know the love of a father?” More sobs, accompanied by gritted teeth…silence.

“I know of a Heavenly Father who loves you, even if you’ve never heard those words from an earthly father.” And so it begins….a mostly one sided conversation, me talking about the love of God, him weeping, barely whispering bitter answers.

His name is Darus (Daris?) He was kicked out of the house three days ago. ¬†He’s 18. He’s in high school, plays football, works at the fish market downtown.

I lean against the building and talk about creation, God, Jesus, heaven….that there was a reason he was there tonight and I was there….about how there are no coincidences in God’s eternal, wondrous time-line.

Mid-conversation, a man strolls up and tosses $2 down at Darus,”Buy yourself some food”, he states coldly, and stalks away. ¬†Darus hasn’t eaten in three days and even his clown is starting to look a bit famished.

It’s Darus’ brother. I look down at the 2 filthy, crumpled bills in the gutter. That won’t buy much of anything.

Let’s go get a burger…and we head over to the biker restaurant next door….loud music, smoke, there’s a rousing game of corn hole going on…

We make our way through the crowd, this rough, young man and this homeschool mom in her orange, flowered dress and pony-tail. I order a burger, fries, a drink.

His tears are dried as he eats…. I jot down the number of someone who can help him….I long to pat his head, like I do my sons…but I refrain…. only saying, take care of yourself. Remember what we spoke of….remember….there’s a God who loves you. Please don’t forget. Remember.

Please.

Remember.

He mumbles a thank you and our eyes lock for one brief moment, his dark and shadowed, heavily lashed, reddened from the tears of a thousand hurts, aged beyond their years…and he looks away.

And I leave…because there’s not much more I can do….and as I walk away, I look back at this broken, young life with the scary clown that mocks the world from his shoulder, and I plead with God to make him count for eternity.

Grow the seed. Change the life. Heal the heart.

Please, God.

This was several years ago, but every time I pass by that spot in Garner at Aversboro coffee, I think of Darus and the hand he was dealt in life, and I pray that somewhere, somehow, he has found his way, found God, found the love of a true Father….found someone to say “I love you” and mean it.

Please, God. Let’s not leave the coffee shop with our lattes, laughs, and Bibles, not seeing, not looking for the broken.

Please, God.

pexels-photo-164504.jpeg

 

 

of toddler and teens…

Who’d have thought I’d be the lucky mom of a simultaneous toddler stage AND teen stage? I’ve definitely hit the occasional insanity jackpot, not that I was aiming for it, but it somehow seems to find me no matter how carefully I hide. (was that a mixed metaphor? Jackpots searching for me…oh well)

I know that ya’ll just look at our happy pictures and think, “oooohhh, Cady has it all together!”, but let me just fill you in on what a sometimes typical day looks like in the always strange and exciting opposing spectrums that encircle the lives of toddlers and teens.

It’s a typical day. I’m chasing Lian around, redoing the things he’s undoing, picking up the things he’s pulling out, cleaning, laundry….you know the game. It’s like one giant, happy game of “let’s see how insane mom can get”.

IMG_1982

“Mom”, says Chloe as I’m laying on the floor fishing the balls out from under the TV cabinet….again. Lian is laying on the floor with me, pointing and directing where mom should put the aforesaid balls so that he can pick them up and roll them under the cabinet again. It’s a fun game, you see. Fun.

“Mom!” louder now, “MOM! I applied to the Royal Ballet School and I can’t get the application to go through.”

“Ok,” I grunt as I heft my aching body off of the hard wood floor. I sit down at the table, scratching my head. Is my hair thinning? Yes. Yes, it is.

CRASH! Lian dumps all of the tupperware out of the cabinet. I sigh, but leave it. It’ll keep him occupied while I figure this out.

“Mom! I need the computer!” my youngest demands. “There’s no ink in the printer and I HAVE to print this!”

I glance over.

“Lian, please don’t put that toy in the dog water!” I say in my best I’m-trying-to-build-attachment, cheerful mom voice…dragging him away and distracting him with a cracker.

“TT, I’ll get dad to order ink, don’t worry” I make a mental note to text Chris. (I forget, as usual)

I shoot an email off to the Royal Ballet Academy stating our issue. The dog starts insanely barking and Lian demands to be picked up.

“Jake turn that thing down, please!” My phone rings. Lian on one hip, Tirzah hovering worriedly over my shoulder with a look on her face says that her entire future will be ruined unless she can print this paper out for class. NOW.

“Good Day! May I please speak with a Mrs. Driver? This is the Royal Ballet School calling”….a very proper British lady is speaking. I suddenly get the urge for a cup of tea and I stand up straighter. British accents have this affect on me.

“Yes!” I pant in what I hope is a proper voice, as I balance the phone on my neck and start kicking the growling dog out the backdoor. Let her eat the mailman, I don’t care.

I’m wildly gesticulating at who knows what, but I feel that more proper behavior is in order from my children and various stinky pets when someone from England is on the phone.

“It’s the Royal Ballet Academy”. I mouth to Chloe. Chloe’s eye widen as if the Queen of England herself is gracing us with a visit.”It’s the Royal Ballet School!” She corrects me. I attempt to roll my eyes at her but I’m afraid it’ll throw me off balance and I’ll drop the baby.

Lian happily reaches over, stuffing the rest of his cracker down my shirt. I set him down and wildly gesture to Jacob to turn that game down or so help me, all of his descendants will feel my wrath. A cat slithers past my leg and yowls at the door I just shut from letting the dog out. Why, again, do we have pets????

“It seems you’re having a problem with the website. You must enter the state code.” She states in her proper British way.

I shake the crumbs from my bra. State code…state code. Lian is babbling. “MA”, he yells at the top of his lungs. State code…..State motto? I think…..ummm….something about fried chicken or pulled pork…a cardinal? I can’t remember what the state motto/code is. Live free or die? No, that’s Patrick Henry. Was he from here? What does the state code mean? I’m failing this quiz from the proper British person. Silly American, not even knowing her own state code! I stammer that question like a slightly distracted idiot.

“What’s the state code?”

“Oh, no”, even her bell-like laugh sounds properly British….”the state code…what is the code for North Carolina? The, what do you call it? Abbreviation?”

Oh, duh, NC. I sigh. Lian is dipping his ball in the dog bowl and licking it. Sydney is outside eating who knows whom…I think I hear the mailman faintly screaming in the background. The mail truck is now honking frantically. I ignore it. He’ll be ok.

“Yes, we shall fix that state code immediately. Thank you so much.” I brightly state as if my side of the phone call is very much in control of the situation.

I hang up, suddenly exhausted and feeling frumpy. I feel that if I possessed a British accent, my world would be calm, orderly, ¬†and I would stand up straighter, my clothes would fit better, my upper arms would not dangle and swing when I wave……or something.

Would my house be cleaner if I had that crisp accent?

Lian is now rolling the wet, dog slobber balls back underneath the cabinet. There’s tupperware scattered everywhere and my son is shooting aliens, but more quietly now.

Motherhood? Who knew, right? I’m thankful that Lian’s cracker as at least dry before he decided to stash it in my clothing. Thankful for small blessings.

Please don’t let the mailman sue me for his heart failure from my dog.

“MOM!”

IMG_1887

10 terrific tips for China adoption

He had no idea how to manage his fear or his emotions. He managed his fear by spitting, hitting, slapping, pinching and even threw a few solid bites in there to really make sure his opinion was respected.

If you’re currently climbing the papery mountain of adoption and diving into the humbling waters of fundraising, you probably have a lot of questions about the looming adoption experience.

Let’s face it, China is sorta, kinda far away….there are numerically, a billion unknowns, plus a myriad of questions running through your brain during the cricket filled hours of moonlight.

Don’t be afraid, my friend! We have experienced all of the above and I would just be so honored if you gained some insight with this post.

pexels-photo-707265.jpeg

1. He’s petrified, just like you…learn useful mandarin.

When we picked up Lian, he was kind of like a tiny, scared, slightly smarter than us wild animal. He had no idea how to manage his fear or his emotions. He managed his fear by spitting, hitting, slapping, pinching and even threw a few solid bites in there to really make sure his opinion was respected.

I remember one initial bath time, he just hauled off and slapped Chris across the face in an admirable “hallmark-movie-spurned-lover” kind of way. If people he didn’t know spoke to him, he’d spit at them. I ¬†understood this behavior as his way of saying “stay away”. New people, new situation, he was in all out self-preservation mode. He had no words and no other way to communicate. How terrifying to be so small and feel so alone.

IMG_2330

So, we ignored the spitting and within about a week, it lessened and finally faded out as he became more secure. If people were offended, I’d just raise my eyebrows and shrug. Don’t get in his face…. Every time he would pinch or hit us, we would say, “no” firmly and take his hand and show him how to stroke our arm or face gently….and then we’d stroke his face gently and say “gentle”. After many repetitions of this, he learned to respond to us when we just said “gentle” to him…..and, of course, he would test us, but overall, he desired to learn, which was encouraging. Eventually the aggression faded away until we got home, and then we had the unparalleled joy of regression to help perfect us in tossing quick, heavenward prayers.

Good thing God is a great catcher.

Before we left for China, we also had a friend of ours translate some useful mandarin phrases in pin-yin for us, such as, “Are you hungry? Are you tired? More? Don’t be afraid. I love you” and so on.

Think of some useful phrases to help in your communication and memorize them before you leave. Life. Saver.

pexels-photo-920559.jpeg

2. Your little person may not know how to “play”

Lian had no idea how to play with a toy. He had no idea what a book was or how to turn the pages.

Lian’s one and only idea of play was to grab an object with mind-defying speed and throw it as hard as he could. ¬†As you can imagine, this made eating out an adrenaline filled experience when chopsticks were expertly thrown like ninja stars across crowded restaurants. Miraculously, nobody lost an eye. Also, waitresses in China seemed to have no concept of child safety and would routinely place piping hot dishes, hot tea, knives and other injury inducing objects right in from of the aforesaid tiny ninja.

IMG_6355

This soon honed our reflexes and observational skills. It also trained us as anticipatory prophets of future injurious related events….all invaluable parenting skills that we exponentially grew in.

Also, napkins. Why do the Chinese not use napkins? Every restaurant we went to acted like we were personally strangling adorable panda cubs when we asked for napkins….and with Lian, we NEEDED napkins….so, I recommend taking napkins, wet wipes, or entire rolls of paper towels ¬†with you every time you eat out.

3. Magic and more

Before we went, I had viewed this “go to sleep right now pretty please, Tiny Energy Sucker” YouTube video, which I thought was amazing! A parent took a soft little blanket ¬†and repetitively drew it down the baby’s face until sleep magically came.

Before you injure yourself by rolling your eyeballs too hard, it totally works, or at least, it did for Lian, so don’t get mad if it doesn’t work for you…(please, no angry digital epistles) I just used my fingers to lightly stroke down Lian’s face, over his eyes, nose and mouth. It makes him very drowsy.

I cannot emphasize this enough: TRY YOUR HARDEST TO KEEP A SLEEPING AND EATING SCHEDULE. Yes, I know it’s difficult with all of the running around, but nap time and bedtime routines really help with regulating your little’s already topsy turvy world.

IMG_6339

Here was our bedtime routine. Bath every night, followed by stories (if he tolerated it), then we darkened the room and put on soft piano music on iTunes (Relaxing Piano with Ocean Waves was a favorite). ¬†Chris and I would lay on either side of Lian, stroking his face, sometimes singing, and he’d drift off. After about 30 minutes of Chris and me frantically catching up with family on social media on our phones while we lay as still as possible, ¬†he’d be in a solid sleep and we’d transfer him to the crib. Anytime during the night, if he cried, we’d bring him back to bed with us and repeat the above. Overall, he did pretty well sleeping, which I chalk up to the one of the many blessing of Down Syndrome….they are GREAT sleepers.

I kind of view adopting a little one who is blessed with Down Syndrome like this…God said, “Oh, you’re taking this step of faith? Well, I will bless you with *Ta-Da* SLEEP.”

And I’ve heard this from a myriad of parents, not just us.

We always made sure to be back at the hotel in the afternoon for nap time between 1-3:00, if possible.

4. Mourning and night terrors

Your little one might have a period of mourning. About 4 days after we got Lian, he woke up one morning just sobbing his little heart out. We instantly recognized this as mourning for his familiar life and, I’m sure, he was grieving the loss of his foster mother. He spent the day very dis-regulated, crying and being sad intermittently. We simply held him, sang to him, and let him mourn. I remember crying right along with him as I sang “Jesus Loves Me”, it just broke my heart to hear him cry so.

IMG_2434

After that one day of solid mourning, he seemed to consistently improve and commenced attaching to Chris and me in a healthier way.

A few times, when we got home, he did have some teary days where he seemed distant with memories, and he did have a few night terrors where he woke up screaming, but if you answer every cry with compassion, those things eventually fade.

5. Don’t panic if you’re the rejected parent

It was simply the Lord that I “accidentally” stumbled across an article about being the rejected parent.

75% of adopted children initially reject the mother, according to statistics.

Maybe the dad is an anomaly since most of their orphan care is done by female workers, or maybe they are angry with their foster mother for “disappearing”, I’m not sure. I was so glad I read this because it helped me mentally prepare to be the rejected parent, and guess what? ¬†I was the rejected parent.

IMG_6303

Woo-hoo.

All the years I begged, bargained, and pleaded with God to adopt and all Lian wants is Chris.

I suspect it would have been much harder for me if I hadn’t known this beforehand. ¬†The rejected parent needs to then do the majority of the nurturing/bonding acts such as hand feeding all food, rocking, soothing, and playing. ¬†The non-rejected parent can do the diaper changes and not-so-fun things (there were perks to being the unpopular one!)

On a side note, it’s way easier to feed the baby bird noodles with chopsticks than with a fork. The Chinese were on to something here, but rice…yeah, not so much.

IMG_2463

At first, Lian would only tolerate me, avoiding any eye contact. I understood that he had had a foster mother with whom he was close AND he was an only child in the foster home. I was replacing his foster mother and Lian wouldn’t allow himself to love me. It was really challenging, but I was determined to break through to him.

The first time Lian locked eyes with me was, I’m not kidding, over a Starbucks coffee. We had stopped for a rest and a drink. I started scooping whipped cream off of the coffee and letting him taste it from my finger and after the second lick, he locked eyes with me and I smiled. He kind of half smiled, opening his little mouth for more, and there was no going back. We were both smitten with each other.

IMG_1897

6. You don’t have to do everything

It might be tempting to do every single event that is on the tourism schedule in China, but if you don’t want your time there to be super stressful and exhausting, opt out of a few things. ¬†It’s ok. Give yourself down time in your room to recoup and rest. You and your new little one need time to play together quietly, go for a walk on the hotel grounds, connect, and just be.

You’ll see and do plenty even if you don’t do everything.

7. The Walmart stroller

When I tell you that the $20 Walmart umbrella stroller is literally a God-send, it is. Best $20 you’ll ever spend, especially if carrying your child constantly isn’t a good fit for your back (like mine) or if your child is too heavy for the carrier.

When we’d go out to dinner and have to walk through the city or if we just took a late afternoon walk through the park, Lian would just ride along or cat nap. It was perfect.

Plus, you’ll have it for the subsequent airport runs and it makes life so much easier.

IMG_6386

8. Sores, crusty eyes, straw hair, and spots

The wonderful, terrifying, sorely anticipated day when Lian was placed in our arms was filled with questions and concerns.

The first time I stroked Lian’s hair, it wasn’t baby soft as it should have been. It was coarse, dry and pieces fell off in my hand. I was actually alarmed when I stroked his head because I knew that damaged hair was indicative of some pretty severe malnutrition issues. Come to find out, it’s a protein deficiency. These kids aren’t fed meat or protein, hence the “orange” colored, straw-like, thinning hair and flaking fingernails.

IMG_6319

Even as I write this, looking back at pictures, I can see how pallid he looks as compared to the sun-kissed, strong body he has now.

The first night we went to give Lian a bath, we were horrified to see large, deep blue marks on his lower back and buttocks. He also had a quarter size raised boil on his neck and some rashes, along with horribly runny, crusty eyes.

My first panicked thought was that he had been hit on the back several times. After sending a photo to our pediatrician, we were relieved to find that the spots were Mongolian spots, which is very common in Asian children. The raised boil was a really bad case of eczema and the crusty eyes were blocked tear ducts.

I’m going to let you in on a secret….eczema is a milk allergy, but you will NEVER find a doctor that will tell you that. I also knew that the constant congestion, eye bags, and crusty eyes were from a milk allergy. Lian was fed mainly yogurt and rice congee in China. Some mornings, he would wake up and he literally couldn’t open his eyes, they were that crusted shut. We’d have to carefully clean them with warm water (which he hated).

As soon as we got him home and I cleaned up his diet (i.e. NO dairy) within a few weeks, his eczema cleared up completely and within about 2 months, his blocked tear ducts also healed themselves.

The majority of children cannot digest milk and it causes an excess of phlegm in their systems. Children do not actually need to drink milk. Their bodies cannot process the calcium in milk. If you’re interested in learning more, I highly recommend some naturopathic research on the subject.

9. The dreaded plane ride and being yelled at

Oh yes, the dreaded million hour plane ride. A few tricks held us through: children’s chewable melatonin, a book of 1,000 stickers to distress the flight attendants with, some tiny packs of play-doh, favorite snacks, and emergency lollipops for when things might go south. We were fortunate to get a flight at 7:30 at night, so he was about ready to go to bed at that point and ended up sleeping a large chunk of the night, which was a blessing.

If you can manage to get an evening straight flight, it seriously helps. We also didn’t fly straight home. We had a straight flight to JFK, then we spent the night there and got a quick flight out in the morning to Raleigh. It made a huge difference in our energy levels to do that and we didn’t arrive home completely spent.

Also, be mentally prepared in China to endure glares, be yelled at occasionally, and be adulated, not necessarily in that order. On several separate occasions, I was yelled at by women who seemed angry with me for reasons I still know not of, since I don’t speak Mandarin. I think one woman thought I hadn’t dressed Lian warmly enough for the 74 degree day (they like to WAY over layer their kiddos there and strangely allow their over-layered kids’ cute little bottoms to hang out in the air for the occasional sidewalk poo-poo squat)

Go figure.

A few people were positive to us, giving us smiles and enthusiastic “thumbs up”. Those were always encouraging.

10. Fear of strange things

Like grass. Also leaves, sticks, being dirty at all, touching things, any sort of loud noises, being outside in a park, and anyone resembling another person besides us.

Lian was petrified of walking on grass and being outdoors. One of the great joys of motherhood is playing outside, picking up leaves and sticks, exploring. Nope. You couldn’t show him a flower or a leaf, but he’d motion no or look distressed. It took quite a bit of coaxing to get him to walk on grass and when he finally did, there was great rejoicing in the land.

I’m not entirely sure he’d ever seen grass, flowers or tree leaves before.

Now?

IMG_8382 2

Yes, he’s eating a dandelion. You saw that correctly.

BONUS – Things you don’t think about

Claustrophobia. I felt so claustrophobic in the cities where it was just endless people, endless miles of tall buildings, no green unless you travelled to a park, and no rest for the eyes or ears.

People are too close! Yipes! As an introvert, it was a stretch for me to have people standing constantly close enough that they are literally breathing down your neck. Literally.

It totally just shivered typing that.

Also, being pushed and shoved. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that.

Longing to hear English. After a few days, you suddenly long to hear your own language. It’s a very un-settling feeling. It’s almost as if your brain gets weary of not understanding anything and your ears strain to hear something familiar. It helped me have patience and sympathy for Lian, for the language switch for him.

All in all, just do what you can to survive the trip, enjoy it as much as you can, remember to rest when you can and know that we are all rooting and praying for you!

Also, keep your sense of humor!

Love ya!

Cady

IMG_2414