It is amazing how fast time flies. Eleven years ago the Prince and I embarked on a journey. One that we knew we were called to, one that we knew would be a challenge. At the time we began the the journey did I have the ability or knowledge of so many unseen factors, nor the understanding that this may not end as a "happily ever after story". I would say sincerely no. I am not sure what I thought would happen as we progressed in this journey and the children started to age, and this post does not address those deep issues.....
However, as we have begun to meet folks here in our new home state, I have heard more times than I care to count these words and phrases:
" Wow, you must be amazing people."
" Your rewards in heaven will be great!"
"Those kids you rescued must be so grateful."
" I would guess that your adopted kids are so grateful to be in such a wonderful home."
While I am sure that these words are intended to encourage us, or they are platitudes said because silence would be awkward, I would like to just comment from the heart about the above statements:
The prince and I are not "amazing" people. We followed the calling of the Lord in our lives. The amazing part is that in our sinful selfishness, we were able for the moment, see past ourselves, and focus on the clear direction of the Lord in regards to what He was calling us to do. Yes, our rewards in heaven will be great, but not because of the fact that we adopted four special needs kids, but because we love Him, and it is our honor to serve Him. That in times of goodness and in times of struggles we praise Him for the gift and for the trial. We trust Him for our needs, and with our children's future, all 7 of them.
For the record, we did not rescue anyone. If the truth is to be told, they have rescued us from a life filled with short sightedness, narrow mindedness and of being judgmental of others. Because of them, and their uniqueness (sometimes I do call their uniqueness, their issues...) we have become more well rounded and tolerant of others, of who's stories we do not know just by glancing at them in passing. In the midst of the hard things in life, we recognize that there is no way to know what is behind the "moment" in time that we are witnessing. When your 12 year old pulls down his shorts in the store to show you that he is wearing the same underwear as that on display, I know that all who witnesses that scene were judging me, my parenting skills and the fact that my dwarf "looks normal". However because of moments in time such as these, I am able to smile at the mom that is stressing over a situation with a "normal" looking kid, and not stare or be judgmental. The only words that would come forth from my lips in that time, and only if it were appropriate, would be offer assistance or encouragement, as all to well I know the feeling of being judged wrongly based on a snap shot of time.
Grateful by definition is feeling or showing appreciation. In making a statement like the above mentioned, one would be assuming that my children are able to understand, comprehend and on some level have the emotional and intellectual abilities to be grateful. I am sure on a basic level that they are thrilled to have a full pantry, indoor plumbing, electricity, comfortable beds and other niceties of a home as we know it, but the fact that many forget about, is that these items to them are just expected because "everyone else" has them. They also think that when they grow up will be drafted to professional sports teams upon turning 18, that they can save their allowance and buy and drive expensive foreign cars, that the Lord has made a mistake in creating them and they are the wrong ethnicity, that they have no problems with math (even when they add 1/2 a cup of baking soda to a recipe instead of 1/2 a teaspoon), that they completely have a grasp on their finances, even when they turn over their entire wallet to pay for a purchase. What additionally, they are unable in their minds to comprehend, is that they did not constantly have basic survival items prior to their coming to live in our home(running water, electricity, full fridge or pantry) nor did they have any hopes of getting them or maintaining them during their existence prior to our home. Yet at the same time, they have an unrealistic remembrance of what their life was like prior to life in the kingdom. A life where they ate grass because they were tied to a tree for the day and were hungry, or where the water was shut off and they drank ketchup when they were thirsty, or that when they were removed from their home the only thing in the fridge was a jar of salsa. They live their current lives steeped in what they knew the first years of their lives, which was not so luxurious despite what they have been living in and with consistently for so many years. They have an innate fear that this (the kingdom) is not real, even after 11 years that it will some day disappear. (Side bar; as their ages creep closer and closer to 18 it is becoming obvious to the Prince and I that it may disappear for some of them as they are failing to grasp the tools we have been imparting to them for success outside our home.)
Is our home wonderful? We think so. However not because of the list of stuff that is inside it, or the access to technology, or the full fridge, or any other specific "item" you could list. Our home is wonderful because inside these four walls, one can grow, succeed, fail, mature, learn, and achieve while being protected, championed for, instructed and loved unconditionally. Do any of us deserve unconditional love, NO! However it is not about what we deserve, it is about modeling this in all situations so that the dwarfs can see the love of Christ. So they can understand what it means to be committed to something greater than one's self, selfishness is what was modeled for them in their early years, and is hard wired into who they are now by extension. However, what makes it wonderful in our eyes, makes it not so wonderful in their eyes, as accountability, the bar of responsibility, the anxiety of kind living, interacting with others, showing the love you are granted in return makes them extremely uncomfortable, and causes them to respond in the opposite manner you would expect. Anger, frustration, tantrums, emotional shut downs, extreme blow ups, regressive behaviors, are exhibited by one or more dwarfs on a daily basis. These extreme behaviors are rooted in a deep recess of their mind, one that they are unable or unwilling to let go of.
In writing this post, it is my intention that when you hear a story similar to ours, that you give some deeper consideration in responding. Sometimes silence is golden. A smile or a handshake or hug and a simple Thank you can go a long way. Sometimes if you know the person and or family in a more familiar way, the communication will be simple and clear. For those that you meet, and you are hearing the story for the first time, perhaps consider other ways to phrase similar sentiments...
" Wow, you must be amazing people." " I am amazed by what you have done." Or "I admire what you have chosen to do."
" Your rewards in heaven will be great!" " I am sure this is more difficult than you imagined at times, but praise the Lord as it seems He has equipped you well for this journey,"
"Those kids you rescued must be so grateful." " I would guess that your adopted kids are so grateful to be in such a wonderful home." " I would guess that it is hard for kids to express their appreciation or even have an understanding of what you have done/provided for them, but I hope that someday they are able to understand and express gratefulness."
I do know that those we are meeting, really are just trying to find a way to connect with us. I also recognize that most people now days do not have large families, and that fact alone makes people a bit uncomfortable. But when they find out the large number of children was a purposeful and intentional act, then folks start feeling a bit off. I can't say why, I have just seen it happen. In a conversation that starts simply enough with, "Oh, how many kids do you have?" or "Is this your only daughter/son?" there is a subtle shift in their eyes when the hear that we have 7 children, or we have 4 boys and 3 girls.
Look from what I hear, (again another often quoted phrase given to me as encouragement after hearing their ages) "You're in the home stretch now!" Yes, if only that were so. One is getting married, and one is graduating this year, and three will be in college next year.... but there is a lot of living and life to be done with a 12 year old who is mentally 8, and a 17 year old that learns on a 2nd grade learning level, or with a 16 year old that is just doing the bare minimum, because at 18 he becomes a famous sports figure.... Chances that I will ever be an empty nest-er are slim to none. But I just smile and nod....
You really can't make this stuff up, but know that I can retell the tales of life with a large family, so that everyone we know and love can get a snap shot of life in the Kingdom.