I want to share some fabulous news! Today I learned some very good friends of ours are fostering a 17 year old girl......an amazing 17 year old girl. She has no family and has been stuck in the system for 7 years. She is a straight A student and has never had a behavior issue at all. She has been patiently waiting on her forever family, and my friends want to become her family! They already have younger "birth" children of their own, so this new gal has taken the coveted "oldest child" spot in their home. The best part of the story is all of the "birth" children are nuts about her!!! I wonder how many other teenage boys and girls like her are out there waiting??? A big congratulations to this family!!!
I also heard some disturbing news today that I want to share. A family adopted a young boy from Africa. He is struggling from the trauma of being uprooted from Africa and placed into a new (foreign) home. As a result, he is wetting his pants and crying alot. His new mom is not bonding with him at all and has stated she wishes she had not adopted him. Her frustration with him is causing more stress for the child which is causing him to wet his pants more frequently.....needless to say, the relationship is negatively escalating.
Two stories in one day. The first story is about a family with no expectations---just opening their home to a teenage girl in need. The second story is about an adoptive parent with big expectations which has resulted in big disappointment.
From my experience, the solution is simple: Don't ever take a child in need for what that child might possibly be able to do for you; and always expect nothing in return. When you take in a needy child, you are always the GIVER, and should not expect to receive anything; afterall, the needy child is the one in need of something.
When we adopted Natalie from Russia, she was a mess for a very long time. I remember expecting the adjustment period to last for 6 months to a year.....it continued, to my surprise, for three years. Apparantly, three years in an orphanage took a great toll on her, and it took a full three years before she began to allow herself to become a real part of our family. She acted out constantly in an effort to anger me. In hindsight, I think she was seeing how far she could push me.....testing to make sure I wouldn't send her away.
Just some examples of Natalie's first few years with us (used with Natalie's permission and many laughs at the memories):
1. She ate cat litter
2. She pulled the wallpaper off the walls in the upstairs bathroom
3. She pulled carpet and made bare spots all over the carpeted floors
4. She tore Caleb's nerf balls and stuffed the pieces down the vents on a regular basis
5. She chased Lydia with any weapon she could find daily
6. She terrorized our cat
7. She would repeatedly say "no" when asked to do something
8. She moved out to the backporch with her blankie and refused to move back in for several hours on a few occasions
9. She packed a suitcase (with stuffed animals) and threatened to find a new family
10. She painted my bathroom (top to bottom) with lotion
11. She lied more than she told the truth
12. She bit her fingernails until her fingers bled
13. She would go to sleep in her bed every night but we would find her sleeping under her bed most mornings.
.....and the list goes on.....
Needless to say, it wasn't easy. And, if we had adopted Natalie for what she could bring to us, we would've sent her back to Russia pretty quickly. As adults, however, we knew she would come around in time, and we also knew our family was the very best for her (much better than a beaten-in old orphanage down a lonely dirt road in Russia). It took three years for Natalie to realize it, because she HATED our rules (being parented), but she finally embraced our family. I remember the day it happened:
Natalie was having a typical meltdown and had decided (for the umpteenth time) she was moving out. Instead of begging her to stay, I helped her gather her blanket and stuffed toys and took her to "live" in our garage. That satisfied her need to control her life as she had always done in the orphanage. When Chappy came home from work that day, he told me this was going to have to stop and said we had to come up with a plan to help Natalie see that she needed us. As soon as he finished his sentence, a crazy thought crept into my mind. I jumped up from the couch and went to a closet to retrieve our indoor central vacuum. I plugged it into the wall (the motor was located in the garage) and the garage was filled with the sudden very LOUD sound of the vacuum. Chappy and Caleb quickly caught on to what I was doing. Within seconds,
the little stubborn, self-sufficient, "I can do it myself" and "I am in charge of my own life" girl from Russia started pounding on the garage door. I quickly turned off the vacuum and rushed to the door. When I opened it, she lept into my arms crying: "Mommy". It was the very first time Natalie had ever allowed herself to "need" anyone in her entire life. It was a turning point for both of us.
That is what my life is about, friends. Each day of Natalie's life with us (8 years now), I see another babystep. We have walked miles of babysteps. Once you get a taste of something powerful like this, it changes you. Through Natalie, I have witnessed a life that was once without hope being filled with neverending hope. Why wouldn't every believer rush to be a part of something this magnificent??? There are 147 million orphans around the world in desperate need of hope.
You've probably already thought it, but I'll go ahead and write it: yes, my life is work. Natalie still wrestles with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome daily, Hope has a heart that is not fixable on top of her Down Syndrome, Charlie has Down Syndrome, and Caleb is a product of my first marriage (which comes with its own set of struggles). It is often a balancing act around the Hollis home. However, I wouldn't choose to spend my life any other way, because MY LIFE MATTERS!
Each day, I have the awesome privilege of being a potter. Natalie, for instance, came to me as a broken teacup......she entered the fire when she came into our home, because she was asked to put her guard down and allow herself to be loved.....finally she submitted to the "love heat" and became a lump of clay.....each day, I handle that clay in my own hands, I pray over the clay, I mold it and shape it, I speak God's Word into it.....and each day, she looks more and more fit to be the King's cup. Natalie is in school now, and she rushes home each day to tell me about a little girl in her class who is handicapped and she tells me how she loved on her. I couldn't be more proud of Natalie! While she knows she is in school to learn, she sees the greater purpose. She was once broken, but not anymore. The King is using this little cup.
What if I had given up on Nat? What if I had decided the work was too much for me? What if I had felt cheated because she wasn't fulfilling my needs?
How about Hopey? When the OBGYN told me the rest of my life would be difficult if I decided to go through with my pregnancy and birth Hope instead of aborting her, what if I had listened? Hopey has taught me more about God than anyone ever has, and she still hasn't spoken her first word. Because of Hope, we have Charlie. Because of Hope, we will welcome Amy Joy into our home this year!
To close, our purpose on this earth is not to see what we can get out of it, but to see how much we can give. Through emptying ourselves, we begin to glimpse the Glory of the Father. I can testify to this personally. In the most difficult circumstances with Natalie.....and in the most frightening medical situations with Hopey, I have seen God clearly....like a Beacon. He is real! And, we will all face Him someday soon. Are you ready? What can you give?
"I am coming soon!" Revelation 3:11