5 quick and easy reasons to not adopt

Adoption isn’t for everyone. This is such an oft repeated statement that we should, really, get t-shirts made of it. I mean, seriously. They would sell like hot cakes. You know how crazy adoption peeps are about the t-shirts!

For everyone’s convenience, here is a conveniently compiled list of the top 5 reasons that adoption is not for everyone. This is a great list to have handy when challenged by those crazy people who adopt, making one feel all squirmy with those shocking photos, inconvenient statistics, and, for Pete’s sake, stop with the t-shirts sales, people!

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5. FROM ANY ANGLE, ADOPTION IS A CHALLENGE

If you’re a person who strives for a life paved with smooth, sparkly stones and peaceful vistas, adoption is probably something best to be avoided at all costs. For most, the challenge of running a 5K or working out in the gym should definitely be satisfying enough. Why put yourself through the equivalent of a lifelong marathon when a weekend marathon can satisfy the challenge itch? Plus, with adoption, there’s no visible finish line, no cheering crowds, and not one single shiny trophy in sight as far as the eye can see.

What attraction is there in the thankless, broken, lifelong marathon of adoption?

Although, I HAVE heard rumors that the adoption marathon could bring enormous, yet quietly celebrated victories that cannot be measured by earthly standards….but those are just rumors and who can trust those?

4. ADOPTION WILL BREAK ONE

Adoption will break the hardest of hearts in all the most tender places. This is definitely NOT good for your physical health, mental state, and definitely puts the blood pressure into digits only recommended for elephants. For example, once you’ve walked through that room, lined with silent cribs occupied by glassy eyed children, your heart will feel like it has been through a shredder and it’s a much larger shredder than the cheese one.

No longer can you enjoy a simple sunset or a cozy Christmas without being gouged by the double edged sword of happiness laced with remembrances of those who aren’t experiencing your current blessings. There is an undeniable shattering of the heart when you weep as your adopted child weeps, as they mourn their loss, as they rage against the life change, clawing through the trauma of a brief but scarred life.

A broken heart is something to avoid at all costs in life.

Although rumor has it that a tenderized heart expands in capacity and endurance, and didn’t Jesus Himself weep over the lost?….. but I could be wrong on that one.

3. ADOPTION WILL GREATLY AGGRAVATE ONE’S FLAWS

If you are like me and you work on an orderly existence with possessions that haven’t been repaired with duck tape and spit, then adoption definitely isn’t for you. If testing the absolute limits of your patience and tolerance isn’t a goal in life, definitely don’t attempt this.

In cautiously avoiding any and all situations that will challenge the assorted fruits of the spirit (love, joy, peace, PATIENCE, self-control, etc…), you can be sure to never embarrass your Christian testimony in front of others, your faith quota will always be a lavish overflowing waterfall, and you can rest assure that your spotless reputation will stay  solidly intact.

Also, another benefit is that one will not ever have to rely or lean upon your church, friends, family, village, town, tribe, or even perfect strangers, and one’s fierce independence will stay firmly in place.

On second thought, I DO recall that a muscle that is exercised becomes stronger with use,  and the whole “not needing anyone” could possibly be a pride issue……but exercising is hard work, and sweating through these problems might ruin the hairdo or chip the nails….and independence is SO American…so let’s just go with that.

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2. ADOPTION WILL CHALLENGE ONE’S MARRIAGE

Long walks on the beach? Dinner and a movie? Gazing at each other minus the eye bags of extreme exhaustion…. If you just ADORE these romantic things, and they are what make your marriage tick, then I’d recommend continuing on with the comfortable journey you are currently traversing. You don’t need those pesky late night migraines of trying to figure out where the next adoption payment is coming from or which kidney you need to sell to make it happen. Not to mention that the therapies and sleeping at the hospital will DEFINITELY put you out of the loving mood and who wants that?

That sweaty hand in his as you ride that elevator up to meet your child for the first time, the mascara running down your face, those whispered prayers for sleep to come in the traumatized dark hours, the bleary mornings….definitely not.

Besides, who wants to get all sorts of creative with what a date night constitutes? A 15 minute ride in the car with the child who finally fell asleep and you can miraculously finish a sentence….it’s a hot date! Grocery shopping together, catching each other’s gaze over the mushrooms and diapers (hopefully not in the same section)

DATE!

Sitting through a church service for the first time in a year because your child will FINALLY stay in the nursery without exhibiting trauma-related behavior. It’s a DATE…and if you’re lucky, you may EVEN attend a church where you can hold hands or he can slip his arm around you. * helpful hint* Sit in the back. (Not sure if making out will be overlooked, though, unless it’s one of those super progressive churches where you have to feel your way to your seat in the dark.)

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Nah, long walks on the beach are DEFINITELY preferred….

the moment your eyes lock over the photo of that child, and both of your hearts leap with united Divine intent…

…that’s definitely not as glam. Stick with the beach thing.

And the number ONE REASON to NOT adopt is:

1. ADOPTION WILL CHALLENGE  EVERY SINGLE AREA OF ONE’S FAITH

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If you have a huge interest in questioning the goodness of God or why bad things happen to tiny, helpless humans, definitely adopt…..if you really don’t want to challenge your faith with these head scratching conundrums, then absolutely avoid adoption.

Is God good? Will He really, truly provide this Mt. Everest of cost? What is true worship? What does the Bible really say about laying down your life? Why are we commanded to do certain things? What is a soul for eternity worth?

Man, lots of questions like these can almost shove you out of the Christian kayak of belief and then where would you be? Floundering in the water? Getting eaten by a giant whale?

Yep.

Though, there IS some ancient text where a certain person (starting with “P” and ending with “TUR”) was commanded to step out of a boat willingly and if he kept his eyes on Jesus, he walked on water. I could be mistaken though.

Who wants to step out of a satisfyingly safe kayak for a water stroll? Not everyone.

Let’s not get crazy here, folks. Safety is our top priority, right?

Although, I have heard whispers of if a believer wishes to save one’s life, one must lose it.

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These pesky, Bibically-laced whispers….always so inconvenient and they make one just want to turn up the Netflix binge and block things out.

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“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” Luke 17:33

“But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:16

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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!

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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.

 

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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)

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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?”

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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.

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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….

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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.

 

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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”.

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“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!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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worship in the gutters

What I greatly fear has happened in Christian churches worldwide, is that this brand of worship has produced an experientially focused, overfed, overindulgent brand of believers.

If I say “worship” or “religion”, what’s the first image that pops into your brain? If you’ve been a part of the Christian community for even a nanosecond, this is probably what you’re envisioning:

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Looks amazing! We’ve all been here. Expensive, colored, sometimes pulsing lights, atmospheric smoke, trendy, attractive people on stage fueling the compliant crowd into an emotional experience.  Eyes are shut tight, hands waving, bodies swaying in musical accord. Musicians expertly playing state of the art instruments. The service ends and expensively dressed congregants file out of such a “worship” service feeling energized, yet longing for the next religious personal “experience” as soon as this one fades.

What if I told you that this isn’t worship. This is not true Biblical religion. You’ve been fed an indulgent half-truth and the whole Christian world believes that this, THIS is true worship. True religion.

It.

Is.

Not.

Yes, yes, the Psalmist talks about singing to the Lord a new song and that is great! Let’s do that! Raising holy hands, yes! Awesome! Have at it! I’m all about some great Christian music. Lights, smoke, etc…nothing inherently sinful about these things….

BUT…

What I greatly fear has happened in Christian churches worldwide, is that this brand of worship has produced an experientially focused, overfed, overindulgent brand of believers. It breeds prideful performers and esurient, entertainment seeking congregants…people who are so focused on sentient religion that they fail to comprehend what God has instructed us, through Paul, as to what pure, unerring religion is.

The early church didn’t have lights, camera, smoke, action, glory, accolades….. No, my friends….. Their religion had simple hands, traveling feet, unending suffering, total sacrifice, pain, and many times, a bloody martyrs’ death.

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What concerns me greatly about the seeker-friendly focus of churches is that this type of experiential worship is NEVER mentioned in the New Testament. Never.  In fact, James addresses what true religion is, very clearly and explicitly:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James 1:27

Wha?!?!  No flashing lights? No smoke, come on! For Pete’s sake, where’s the smoke machine? How can I worship God without conjuring up that wondrous, sparkly experience?

So, let me get this straight….. you’re telling me that true religion is this:

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And not this?

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Yep. According to the apostles.  The persecution and sacrifices they endured and God’s calling qualified them all to teach with the utmost, tip-top, religious authority.

I have this strange feeling that if James or Paul were alive today,  you wouldn’t find them on stage riffing away in torn jeans, you’d find them in the gutters and street corners, hands dirty, picking up filthy, abandoned infants, praying with widows, ministering to the homeless.  You’d see the scars on Paul’s back, a split underneath his eye from the stoning he’d recently walked away from. You’d see the bloody chafe marks on his wrists from the chains that attempted to paralyze him from proclaiming the glorious gospel of Christ.

I wonder what Paul, and the other great saints of old, think when they look down at our churches right now….and you know they ARE looking.  At you.  At me. At this church of Jesus Christ.

Maybe you’ve had some sort of ecstatic religious experience, my friend, and that’s great! But I’ll let you in on a lovely secret…..Ready?

Lean closer.

God meets you when you’re here, at the bottom, weeping because of the lost souls in those dirty rows of cribs….He gathers your tears as you gaze upon the abandoned child in your arms….as you stroke their thin, sore covered neck. God meets you in your painful longing to bring Christ to as many lost, broken, difficult, RAD, sleepless, defiant, sick, hopeless, damaged, sweet images of God as you possibly can.

God meets you in the broken, not in the mighty.

Recently, my husband was in India on a business trip. There were two sisters who slept on the sidewalk outside his office building every day. One can’t help but wonder what these children would think if they walked into one of our churches today….at the colossal amount of money wasted on entertaining the masses of “believers”.

My heart weeps because we are all living for the NOW, not the eternal. We aren’t really broken up by this photo. We are numb to it. I am numb to it. You are as well.

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When you meet a lost soul here and there is no fanfare, no accolades, no lights, no atmospheric music, no “likes” on YouTube…. this, THIS is where you will find pure religion. Perfect, silent, heart-broken worship. This is where you see God move mountains, miracles happen, healings take seed.

I’ve been here before and it’s heart wrenching. It’s gut twisting to be snatching little ones from the jaws of hell. It’s horrible, frightening, and down-right terrifying to invite the unknown into the rest of your life…into your family…..

and I want to be here again because this is where you meet God.

 

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What makes this religion real? It’s real because orphans and widows cannot give anything back to you. Pure, perfect, holy religion! There is no mar in it, no thought of self, no consideration of how it’ll give back…what you can gain from it.  Christ-like, sacrificial, wholly pure religion.

Let’s get back there! Let’s be so radically on fire for Christ that we may have to hide amongst the dusty bones of the catacombs, picking up abandoned ones from the gutters.

Let’s go there together, you and me.

Because Jesus said, “ For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  

Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’”

If you’ve read this far, then I beg you to wrestle with this question….where would you like to meet God?

Here?

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Or here?

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Let’s gather in the gutters and meet God.

how do I protect him from words?

If someone were coming at my child wielding a knife, I would step in, take the blow, protect….but these words are like knives for my child’s tender heart. How do I take the blow, somehow anticipating what’s coming?

“Oh my word, I could just take you home with me RIGHT NOW!” She bends down and starts talking directly to Lian.

“Oh, you’re just so cute! How old are you, what’s your name?” He’s ignoring her because he’s rolling a roll of tape across the hardware store’s floor.

“I love it when they’re this age and they don’t talk yet, it’s when they get older and start talking that drives me crazy.”

Ouch…I sigh….what I wouldn’t give to hear Lian speak to me, hear what he’s thinking, hear his little boy thoughts. The countless hours I have spent with flashcards, letters, slowly saying words, coaching, bribing, singing…..Progress is painstakingly snail slow.

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“He’s not really speaking much yet.” I state, inwardly cringing a bit. I know what’s coming and I mentally brace myself.

“Oh”, she pauses, “does he have autism?  Oh, Down Syndrome? You know, you can teach those kids how to talk.” She beams upon me as if, in that one statement, she has rescued me from all my travails, enlightening me with the knowledge that he can be taught.

Those kids. The “us” and “them” thing.

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“Well, every child is a bit different in their abilities.” I wrestle a can of spray paint from Lian’s hand.

Stop the madness!

“You know…(why is every uneducated statement always predicated by ‘you know’), I read that in China, these kids are just abandoned just because they have Down Syndrome and it happens all the time. Parents just leave them. Can you believe that?”

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Oh dear.  God, how do I gently educate this person while keeping my composure? I’m so grateful that Lian doesn’t understand…yet….but does he? I’m not sure what he does or doesn’t comprehend about adoption yet. I want to rush over and cover his little ears. It’s as if she thinks he can’t hear because he’s not talking.

I smile and shake my head. I tell her about the hard choices that some parents have to make with medical care and the cost of some children’s needs. I tell her to not believe everything she reads. I tell her that we love him to pieces and that he is so incredibly valued.

“Well, I could never do a thing like that. I just don’t have the patience for it.” She flatly states.

Okay then…and I tell her to have a nice day and we leave.

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Let me pick your brain with the “what if’s” of this conversation.

What if Lian had been old enough to understand? How incredibly damaging it would be to his core self-worth to hear a stranger make a judgment call as to why his biological parents made the decision they did. This is HIS story.

Would he assume that he is somehow flawed, that was HIS fault he became a orphan, that his parents didn’t love him enough to keep him?

How hard the car conversation will be when he IS old enough to comprehend the heartache of his past.

How do I constructively navigate and cut this conversation short? I’m truly at a loss here because this is new to me. If someone were coming at my child wielding a knife, I would step in, take the blow, protect….but these words are like knives for my child’s tender heart. How do I take the blow, somehow anticipating what’s coming?

I felt torn and guilty that I should have known what was coming.  I should have circumvented it somehow, I could have cut her off (SUCH a hard thing for me to do, since manners have been drilled into me from a young age.)

Mamas who have done this a long while, help me! I don’t know how to handle this well, introvert that I am. I need kind suggestions, not mean or snarky ones (although those are fun to contemplate).  I don’t want to cut people down, I want to educate, but not at the expense of my son’s hurt.

Any words of wisdom? I could use some. Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you!

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