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We have lived in Romania for 16 years now. We have 6 kids.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Life is Hard, but God is good.

     The choice to send your troubled children away to get help is not an easy choice. Baron got to the place where he knew we needed to get them help outside of our home before I did. The choice for a mother to know she can not raise her child/children and someone else needs to intervene is a difficult place to be. I know we made the right choice, but not a day goes by that I don't hate the choice we made. Walking on God's path does not always mean "liking" all the plans God has for you, but I have learned to accept his plan. I have to daily look to God and the truth and let go of feeling guilty, feeling like a bad mother, feeling like I should have been able to handle it. I often wondered what it meant to have peace in the middle of a storm and now I know. It isn't this wonderful joyful feeling, but it is a feeling of hope in the midst of what looks hopeless. It is being able to sleep at night instead of thinking that your house feels emptier than it should. It is going on and living life, waking up each day thanking God for providing intervention for your children. It will never "feel right" that my 13 year old twins are not living at home right now. As I experience this pain of missing them, I wonder how God will use this pain for his glory.

     We will be going to a conference over Thanksgiving put on by the Alliance of a Romania without orphans. The pre conference class is on how to start a support group for adoptive families. I hope that we can start a support group here and encourage, listen to, and empathize with other adoptive parents. I have also recently received training in the first four instruments of Feuerstein therapy. Here is a link to learn about the benefits of this therapy:  Feuerstein and Testimonials. Joey, our adopted son, went through the first instrument of Feuerstein last year. He was failing math in school last year, this year he tested out of the math class he was in and has been moved to a more advanced math class. I believe this therapy helped him learn how to think and has impacted his grades this year. I am starting to practice on some kids here and hope to start with kids from private children's homes in January. I believe God will use our pain to empathize better with others going through this same pain.

     A song that has been very encouraging to me as I feel tempted to wallow in my sorrow is called: "Sovereign Over Us"
There is strength within the sorrow
There is beauty in our tears
And You meet us in our mourning
With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting
You're sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You're teaching us to trust
ref:
Your plans are still to prosper
You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and the flood
You're faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand Your ways
Reigning high above the Heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You're the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
And Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley, You are faithful
You're working for our good
You're working for our good and for Your glory

     I believe God will use our pain for his glory. I am happy to announce that I will visit the twins the first weekend in December. Trusting in our faithful and sovereign God to continue working out for good the pain in our lives and the pain in our twins lives.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Beauty From Ashes

I want to give a plug for a really great ministry. Here in Romania when the kids age out of the system at age 18, they are given a little bit of money and sent on their way with no training, no preparation on how to work, no way to survive. There is a ministry in Oradea called, Beauty From Ashes; they take girls from the orphanage at age 18, give them a place to live, teach them to work, teach them about their Heavenly Father, basically they bring them in to live and become part of this family. Corey and Diana Burba live in the home with them. They have two small children of their own. This is a remarkable ministry and we were thrilled to visit with them last week and see first hand what it takes to keep a ministry like this up and running. It takes a lot of work and a lot of love. They are currently fund raising to actually purchase the house they have been renting. One of the first things they do with the girls is teach them to make jewelry. The girls eventually go out and get a job but when they first arrive, most have never worked a day in their life and have to be introduced to it slowly. They start them a few hours a day working in their very own workshop and then it is sold on their etsy site. May I please present to you a wonderful idea for Christmas shopping this year; buy some beautiful and unique handmade jewelry and support a great ministry all at the same time. Here is the link:
https://www.etsy.com/shop/BeautyfromashesUSA?ref=l2-shopheader-name

You can never have enough jewelry and they make some really beautiful pieces. I hope you will consider shopping here for the jewelry lovers in your family. I will also share the fund raising link for the house purchase. https://www.gofundme.com/purchaseorphanhome
Please pray for Corey and Diana and the team of workers they have as they teach, train, and prepare these girls to live on their own.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Recommendations

I have some trouble keeping up with this blog because most days my life seems rather dull and there is really nothing to write about. I also struggle to blog because I am not a writer. I discover this more and more as I homeschool 2 high schoolers and try to grade their many writing assignments and realize I know nothing about writing. Thankfully, Baron's Aunt Wanda was a high school English teacher and provides some assistance.

I wanted to recommend a movie and a book. First, the movie, it's called Lion. I have seen it three times and it has touched me each time. It is based on a true story of a boy lost in India; he somehow escapes being used and sold into the sex slave industry and is miraculously adopted by a family from Australia. It is a very realistic look at what it looks like for these children who many times are not true orphans. They adopt another boy who is deeply troubled. If you want to have your eyes opened to the issues and danger of children being sold and abused, and if you want to see a story of hope, then this is a great movie. Sometimes seeing the huge numbers, as shown at the end of the movie, can be depressing and it can discourage us; what can I possibly do. No, you can't save them all but you can save one, you can impact one or two or more. "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 1:27ESV). Not everyone is called to adoption but we are all called to "visit orphans and widows in their affliction." Find out what this looks like for you and help them in their affliction today!

Second, the book. This book has nothing to do with adoption or orphans but I want to recommend, In Search of the Source, by Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore. I read this in our home school as a read aloud years ago and have since read it twice more. I am reading it aloud to my youngest this year and he says after every chapter I read I say the same thing, "I love this book!" It is about the Bible being translated into a language that had never been written before, I believe this was in the 1970s. The complicated job it was to first develop an alphabet and a written language for a small people group in Papua New Guinea took dedication and great faith that God wanted His Word translated into every language. I love how he spends time learning the language and getting to know the culture. Many times they would be confused with a literal translation because it didn't make sense to them. For instance by the sweat of man's brow he will work for food. They didn't understand this, they sweat just sitting doing nothing it is so hot there in the tropics. When they talk of working hard, they say, "we burst our stomach." I love how amazed and in love with the words written by God the people are as they start to hear the stories read to them for the first time. They sit on the edge of their seats waiting to see how the story of Joseph ends. Then the part that gets me every time is when they say, "we are dying from the deliciousness of these words." They are so moved by the Word of God. I can not imagine what is like hearing the teachings for the first time, they are so familiar to me, I grew up hearing them from the time I was conceived! It opens my eyes again to how "delicious" God's word should be to me; how precious it should be. It reminds me to not take for granted the fact that I have several copies of God's Word all over my house. It reminds me to pray and ask God to, "open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things from your law" (Psalm 119:18).


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Family Time

Six years ago we were introduced to the mission board called Biblical Ministries Worldwide. We were invited to their missionary conference in Germany and we decided to go. It was a God meeting. We were coming back from a furlough and thinking we had new co workers and then found out our new co workers were not able to stay in Romania due to health reasons.  We were completely disappointed; after waiting for years to have co workers it felt like such a let down, but God was at work and had a plan. They invited us to the conference and we went. It was August of 2012 and I don't remember a whole lot about the conference except for when we got in the car and pulled away I started to cry and told Baron I couldn't believe we had been missing out on this kind of fellowship for our first 10 years in Romania! At that point, I knew in my heart I wanted to be part of this board.

We continued to go back to the conference each year and they always made us feel welcome even though we weren't official family members. For various reasons it took 5 years before we could officially become part of this mission board. It became official last summer and we just got back from our first conference as part of the family! It felt a little different this time. I felt more connected to this group of people that serve God in various European countries. I enjoy hearing their stories, learning about their calling, getting to know their hearts, and being encouraged by them. We learned from the book of Psalms together, we prayed together, we laughed together, and best of all we were real together. There is no better and purer friendships than those where you can be your complete self without any fear.

The other great thing about being a part of this board and going to this conference is our kids get together with other third culture kids and can completely be themselves and feel safe and have fun. Our two oldest were in the teen group. They took late night walks down to the castle and played games. They talked and laughed a lot and slept very little! They had their own Bible studies with a young man/pastor who is from England and he poured into their lives during the week.

We had an adventure getting to the conference. We flew into Italy and rented a car. Our plane tickets were $10 round trip for each person, yes you read that correctly! We flew to Bergamo and we missed seeing this old medieval town but we will be visiting it again with such cheap air fare available!  We drove through beautiful Switzerland. It is just unreal how beautiful the drive was. We drove back through the Austrian Alps and the Italian Alps. They make tunnels right through the mountains. The longest tunnel we went through was 16km! The drive was just breathtakingly beautiful. Of course on the way back the boys missed most of it as they were exhausted and sleeping. We then spent Monday in Venice, Italy wanting to give the boys a chance to see a new place. They were so tired I don't know how much they enjoyed it. We did have Italian pizza and Italian ice cream (gelato) which as always was delicious.

Over all it was a really good trip. It's always an adventure traveling through Europe and this time was no exception! We always come home with thankful hearts full and encouraged! 




Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Hard Things

Gina and I arrived in Greenville, S.C. on January 28, 2016. In February, I joined a gym and started working out, hard workouts, killer workouts, workouts that make you think before you shove another cookie in your mouth! At first, I thought, this is ridiculous, why am I doing this to myself. Then I realized it was a great stress relief. It was one hour each day my mind wasn't trying to find a solution or thinking about being away from my husband and boys or the stress of having a child with mental illness! Then, I started running. Now, let me tell you something, I have never been a runner. I could never even get the President's fitness award in high school because I could not run a mile in under 9 minutes! I ran a 5k in September of 2016 and  another one in December then I signed up for a half marathon! Yes, crazy is a good word to insert here. Running for me became about doing something that was very hard for me. It was a huge mental hurdle to get over, physical too yes, but mostly mental. I begin to run because God wants us to do hard things and if I could do this thing that seemed impossible to me then I could do other hard things. I wanted to show my kids that their mom could do something that seemed way beyond her ability. I wanted them to see that I understood they were in a hard situation and I was asking them to do something really hard, face their demons so to speak. Running became my way of supporting my kids and showing them I was behind them. It was my way of showing them we can do hard things, we can have courage, we can do all things through Christ. There were long runs during training that I thought I would never be able to complete 13.1 miles in May! I thought what am I doing! Once I got past running 7 miles the soreness would set in. I would run Saturday morning and then limp around the rest of the day all stiff and feeling old! I was determined though and my running buddy was fun to run with. Stephanie and I would run our Saturday long runs on the Swamp Rabbit Trail. I feel that God gives our bodies the ability to do amazing things if we can just get our minds on board! My exercise program has helped and is helping me to become more disciplined in other areas of my life to. Running has made the verse in Hebrews 12:1 come alive to me, let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. I've learned a lot about the endurance my body is capable of from running. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be crazy enough to train for a full marathon!!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Adoption Pt.3

In the previous post, I wrote about our daughter Gina. For the past two years she really has been the focus of my attention. Joey just kind of ran with the boys and a lot of his problems were over looked because of the severe nature of Gina's issues. When Joey was little, he was quiet and mischievous. You didn't want him to get bored or he would be destroying something, books, furniture, blankets, toys, anything he could get his hands on. We learned very quickly that all scissors and razors should be hidden! Joey is a charmer. He has a beautiful charming side that he puts on for others but as he hit puberty that charming side was only available for others, not for his family. One of his brothers started to notice this and asked me why Joey was so nice to him when they were at a friend's house but when they came home he was mean and grumpy.

We had him psychologically evaluated and we were told:" Psychologically, Joey is a very empty, depressed, lost and confused youth.  There is no question that he has had no formal attachment during his early formative years due to multiple developmental failures.  He is often fear based, bored, lost and confused as the world around him is too overwhelming and he tends to 'shut down' or comes out in an acting out manner.  This is very common in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and children who come from developmental failure backgrounds in which agitation, irritability or times that total 'shut down' tends to take over."
 It was very overwhelming to realize both of our children had severe issues due to their abandonment and lack of consistent care givers in their first 5 years of life. We began to realize how important bonding at an early age was. At first, I thought I would home-school him even while in the states. The psychologist gave us some curriculum ideas that he thought would be a help to Joey. Within the first 3 days of 5th grade, I told my husband to take Joey to the school that was 5 minutes away and enroll him, I couldn't do it. Homeschooling children with attachment issues is not the way to go. There is too much of a struggle between the child and adoptive mom. Joey wasn't willing to learn from me, he didn't think I had anything to offer him.

We put him in school  and his teachers loved him. He was a leader in the class and a good example for all the students who were on the wild side. He was socially awkward and didn't know how to behave in a classroom but he picked up on how to behave quickly. He was chosen by his teacher to be on student council, he was in art club, he was the best runner in the school. At home, he became more and more troubled. He wanted to be entertained at all times and if he got bored he would get into trouble. He is a great artist, natural God given ability to draw but he was easily bored with drawing. He didn't like to read, he didn't like to play computer games. He always wanted us to take him somewhere, he was happy as long as he was the center of attention and as long as he was doing something fun. We tried to start teaching him and training him that life isn't always fun, it's ok to be bored, you still need to make good choices even when you are bored. He began to argue with everything we asked of him. He didn't want help with his homework, he didn't have a teachable spirit, he already knew everything and whatever mom and dad have to stay is just plain stupid! We sought counseling for him. We also signed him up for a type of brain therapy as this was recommended to us by someone to help him with school. The purpose of the therapy was to start teaching him to think before he responds/acts. It was called NILD and Feuerstein therapy. Another problem with both our kids was, no matter the consequence no matter the reward if they got an idea in their head that they thought they needed to do, they were going to do it. Nothing could motivate them towards obedience. They were very obsessive compulsive, they had to do what was in their head to do even if there was a heavy consequence or great reward, no amount of reward charts worked. I think through all of this, he started to feel like an outsider. Our youngest son was more mature and more trust worthy than he was. He started to look at the family as us vs. him. He couldn't see we were trying to teach and train him and if he would just do what he was told he would earn the same privileges his younger brother had. He did not think he should have to do anything to earn privileges. He was a pathological liar. I am not sure he had the know how or ability to tell the truth. Lying was so natural to him. No matter how small or big his first response to any situation was to lie. "No, I didn't shave my eyebrows." As I'm staring at bald spots in his eyebrows. He would argue with me like I was crazy for thinking he shaved his eyebrows. I would finally take him to the mirror and say, "Joey, I can see that you shaved them, please stop lying." Then the story would finally come out, he thought they were too bushy and so even though we told him not to touch razors, if one was left out, he was going to take care of his eyebrows. I am currently reading a book called, "Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control." It is giving me great insight into the reason behind the lying. I want to quote a bit from the book: "Research in the field of neuro-science has shown that children who have experienced trauma react to stress out of a state of fear, from an unconscious level, as deep as the state memory. The fear receptor in the brain becomes overly triggered and, in this stress state, the traumatized child's perception of the situation at hand becomes distorted and exceptionally fearful. Children with trauma histories are living out of a primal state of survival. They literally lie from a place of life or death. Their survival is dependent on convincing you that they are telling the truth. In this distortion of their mind, the state level of memory drives them with the conviction that they must persist with this lie at all costs in order to survive. Simple events throughout the child's day can cause intense fear reactions...In order to understand this lying behavior, we must first acknowledge that the child is simply reacting from a state of fear. It is critical that we acknowledge that when children with trauma histories are triggered into their stress and confronted in a lie, they will continue to reinforce the lie. Thus, the awareness that the child's unconscious is saying, 'I have to convince you I'm telling the truth because my life depends on it' is necessary in order for the parent to respond from a place of love, instead of a place of fear and punishment."
This has really helped me understand where they are coming from when they lie. Unfortunately, I didn't respond in this way to the lying. It will drive you insane if you don't have an understanding of the why behind these ridiculous lies. They can have chocolate all over their face or you saw them to something with your own eyes and they will look at you and deny it over and over!

In January of this year, we started wondering what we could do to best help Joey. He did not want to go back to Romania. He did not want to home-school again. I did not want to home-school him. We started looking for other options. A family he could stay with  and continue with school and brain therapy. We looked and prayed and nothing opened up. We talked with the case worker at Watersprings just to see if she had any ideas and she told us if we wanted, they would take Joey too. By this time, Gina was making great progress and it seemed like since many of Joey's struggles were the same as hers, maybe this was the road we should choose. We prayed, we talked to his counselor and then in March we made the decision that at the end of the school year we would take him to live at the ranch for right now. The goals for him there are to find healing and the ability to move forward by him realizing his identity is found in Christ, not in his past, not in what happened to him, not even in his adoptive family. The other goal is for him to get up to grade level. He has struggled with school and it took a few years for them to get the English language down which put them behind. I was never able to gain their trust enough to help them catch up, we would barely get through that day;s assignments! We took him to Watersprings Ranch on Memorial Day weekend. He wasn't happy about going although he wanted to stay in the states, he just had a different idea of what that would look like. We also were glad the twins would get the chance to bond again. He gave us a very flat good-bye and as we (Baron, Andrew, Nate, and myself) pulled away we were all crying. You feel so bad that your adoptive child feels so bad. It feels bad that they feel bad and yet have no idea why they feel so bad. It hurts to know your child needs someone other than you to provide the help they need. It is natural to leave your child behind for college (even though it is hard), but they are ready to start moving on. Leaving your 13 year olds behind doesn't feel natural, it doesn't feel right but I know it was the right thing to do. I know that God is using others to work in their lives. Watersprings Ranch is located in Texarkansa, Arkansas. If you every feel led to donate to an organization that helps kids from difficult backgrounds, kids with attachment issues, kids who need someone other than adoptive parents to step in and guide them, then please donate to this organization. I have spoken with Joey once so far and he sounded really good on the phone. I'm looking forward to seeing what God is going to do in and through Joey.

For those who are walking this road, know that you are not alone. You need to know that even though you feel guilty for needing respite from your child, you do need respite at times. You also need to know that sending your child away to get help is not abandoning them again. It can feel like it but it is just doing what is best for them and your other children. I have been able to spend time with my other kids and see that some of them  have suffered due to my lack of being there for them the past few years. It's hard to make a decision like this but you have to look at the big picture and realize for your child or your other children to have a future sometimes drastic steps have to be taken. You can not worry about what people think, if someone has not walked this road they have no right to tell you that you are making a mistake and how could anyone send their child away, or I could never do that!! You have to make hard and difficult decisions and take everyone in your family into consideration when making this decision. We knew God wasn't finished with us in Romania, we knew that we didn't have the resources needed here to meet Gina and Joey's needs and we knew God had opened this door for them. If you need help please reach out. I don't have all the answers but I can listen and encourage you and let you know you aren't alone and remind you of God's promises to you. I can also provide you with a list of places/services that may be helpful to you.

These kids are not just "rebellious." Their behaviors are rooted in fear and a need to survive. It seems absurd to us that a child wouldn't feel safe and secure and loved with a family he has never been abused in and has had his or her every need met for the past 7 years but the first years of their life are so important. They did not form a bond with anyone in those first 5 years, they did not have a primary care giver to make them feel safe and this has affected their ability to attach to us and feel safe with us. At some point, yes, the sin has to be dealt with but until you can get to the root of the problem there is no way for the child to even see his sin because he is so sure he has to lie or disobey to survive that in he mind, he is justified to behave this way.  We learned this the hard way. Parenting these kids looks very different from parenting a child you had from birth. I encourage people who feel called to adopt to read. Here are some books I've read that I recommend:
1. "Detached" by Jessie Hogsett. Written from the perspective of a person with RAD.
2. "Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control" Very good information on what is going to cause some of the behaviors.
3. "The Connected Child" by Karyn Purvis.
I also recommend you find in your area a counselor that has specialized training with attachment disorder. Find a support group. Find people to support you after you bring the child/children home.

I will continue with a few more blog posts on what God has taught me through all of this and how He has sustained me even when there were times I felt like I was just falling and there was no end. God is good. He does provide at just the right time and I continue to learn to trust Him at all times. I still struggle with the fact that we had to make this decision. It is a daily battle to not give into self pity or wonder if we did the right thing. God's grace is sufficient for each day. Each day, He gives me the grace I need to get through that day. I look forward with hope, that our family will be reunited and that God will encourage and strengthen all my children as this has been a difficult road to walk for each of them.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Adoption Pt. 2

The story gets harder to write here. The pain is fresh although I don't know that it ever gets any easier to write about a painful event in your life. As the twins got older, their problems seemed to grow, especially Gina's. Looking back though, I don't think that Gina's problems were worse than Joey's, hers were just more aggressive and he got overlooked because of that, which didn't help him. It seems when they turned 11 and puberty hit, that Gina really started to lose it. The fall of 2015 we seemed to hit an all time low in being able to control her any longer. Our days were spent either trying to keep her busy and happy to avoid a fit of rage or trying to help her work through a fit of rage. All my time was poured into her and I struggled with keeping up with homeschooling the other children. Her fits of rage became not just about not getting her way, her fits of anger and rage become more directed towards us her parents. She would yell hateful words, she would scream, hit, and  growl. If she lost control and went into a rage, it was hours before she would calm down. It disrupted the whole family. I would look around and realize all the boys were gone, hiding somewhere, trying to find a quiet place. Normally they all 5 went upstairs to the oldest boys' room. Her fits were so bad that I did everything in my power to keep her from going into one, sometimes simply not doing school and entertaining her all day. We searched for counselors, we searched for psychologist. She didn't understand enough Romanian anymore to work with a Romanian psychologist. We were introduced to an American couple who are biblical counselors. They were very supportive of especially Baron and myself but it just seemed Gina was beyond anyone's reach. She had gotten to a point where the voices in her head were so loud that she couldn't calm herself enough to take counsel from anyone. She was saying crazy things, she was talking about people being hurt, she was talking about wishing we would be hurt. She wished the house would burn down with us in it. She cried out in her pain that she wished she was dead, she wished God had never created her. She actually said to us, "why did your God make me." I can't tell you how painful it is to watch your child be in this much pain and feel hopeless to do anything about it. Our counselor friends in Timisoara, Mark and Diane even made an emergency trip to our house on probably more than one occasion. Sometimes it seemed to help when someone else would come around to calm her down. Finally, on January 27, 2016 she was being so destructive, throwing things in her room, yelling and screaming, that for her safety we cleared everything out of her room except her bed. That's when Baron made the decision to buy Gina and I a ticket to the states for the very next day. We knew we couldn't live like this anymore. Baron couldn't minister to anyone else, he didn't have time to do anything because I was always calling him home to help me. We wondered how exactly she would respond and how I would get her on the plane but surprisingly, she seemed excited and immediately calmed down and started packing her bags. There was no amount of reward or consequences that helped, once the torch of anger was lit, nothing we said or did would calm her down. She was just so troubled and angry and she didn't know why and she was frustrated. It was time to seek help in America.

The three months we were in the states without Baron and the boys were extremely hard. I felt resentment in my heart towards Gina for taking me away from my husband and rest of my kids. She would have a really bad day, saying mean and hateful things, pushing me away, then the next day she would want a hug and wonder why I didn't respond warmly back to her. It just got to a point where I couldn't pretend anymore. She would have a really bad day and wake up the next day wondering why everyone was keeping their distance. She couldn't understand why we couldn't just pretend nothing had happened the day before. Our first 4 weeks in the states were calm. We stayed with my parents and she was enrolled in public school. I told them up front why we were there and they were very understanding and accepting. At first she was so calm I thought maybe it was just homeschooling setting her off. Maybe that was all it took but after 4 weeks, she no longer tried to hide it from my family, she went into her fits of rage again. This time even more fierce, she began to hit, bite, and kick me. While she was in school, I was making phone calls and visiting places and searching for help. I told her I was looking for somewhere to send her to get help. We found a counselor who was also a Christian. He advised me to seek outside care when she got violent to protect her and myself. One night we finally ended up in the ER. She was a danger to herself and others. I guess through all this I tried to find things to be thankful for. A lot of kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder can hide their behavior from others and only act out in front of the parents or mom. Gina could not hide her mental illness from others. She wouldn't necessarily rage in front of other people (except my family) but she would verify my story to the doctors in the ER as to her behavior which was helpful. They involuntarily admitted her to a psych hospital in Columbia, SC. Policemen came and transported her there, I couldn't even accompany her. It was heart wrenching. It didn't phase Gina. She acted like she was just going for a fun ride, she immediately started asking them questions as if they were going on a field trip. Obviously her 10 days in the psych ward did nothing to help her but it gave me time to re group and think. They put her on a couple of different medicines which didn't help her. One of the medicines had the side effect of suicidal thoughts which she was already having on her own. Within one month I took her off both of them. It got to an all time low again, she was raging constantly, I didn't know what to do.  I had an appointment with a psychologist in Virginia who specializes in children who had spent time in an institution but that wasn't until May. Baron was coming in May. Our life line family at our supporting church in Taylors, SC had taken Gina for weekends but now she offered to take her for the next 5 weeks until Baron arrived and we took her to Virginia. I pulled her out of school and she spent the next 5 weeks with our dear friends the Garzonys. I needed the respite care and that is exactly what our friends did for us, they offered a respite. I was also introduced to a woman who had dealt with families with troubled children for years and during this time she would spend time counseling me, listening to me, but not letting me stay in self pity mode. She would give me the truth, she would tell me this was hard, and then she would tell me I had to deal with my own heart issues. I couldn't fix Gina but I could deal with the bitterness that was growing in my own heart. Another respite for me was our church sent me to  Edisto Island for a few days. I was able to spend some time asking God for direction.

Fast forward 5 weeks. Baron arrives and we take the twins to Virginia to see this specialist. He gave us a really big discount. I even called and said I think it would be a waste to bring Gina, we are looking for a place to care for her, we don't want to waste the money. He told us to bring her, he would see her for free. We decided to get Joey evaluated too as we saw many signs and symptoms in him that were troubling, he just so often got overlooked because of the violent nature of Gina's outbursts. There was a day of testing for each child. We were advised that Gina needed professional help, that if we didn't get a respite from her we couldn't really help Joey at all. Her needs were really beyond what we could help her with. He did advise we try to find a psychiatrist in SC who would put her on Abilify.  We were seeing a psychiatrist in Greenville, after her discharge from the psych hospital we were required to see one. I asked him about Abilify, he didn't put her on it. Finally as Gina continued to rage and we had no control over her I went back to the psychiatrist and pleaded with him to try her on Abilify. He did and within 3 days her raging was more under control. I felt like now, she was in a place where she could maybe get help somewhere because the medicine had quieted her some. Long story short, we found a place in Illinois. It was expensive but we hoped they could help. We sent her there. I went to work, night shift taking care of a lady. Baron and the boys delivered yellow pages. Within 6 weeks, our insurance kicked her out. They said since she wasn't raging there, there was no need for her to be there. The institution fought to keep her there, they told our insurance it was not a good idea to send her home. We were worried but God was working. We were desperately making phone calls. The institution she was in was desperately fighting with our insurance company to keep her there. God provided a place called Watersprings Ranch. We called, they had a bed and said it sounded like she was a good fit for their program (we had interviewed at several other programs that felt she her level of need was greater than they could handle). Within 5 days we drove up to Illinois, picked her up and took her down to Arkansas. When we left Illinois Gina bawled. She had not cried in years. She had gotten attached to a boy. She became boy crazy, another dangerous issue, but the positive thing to me was she was attached enough to someone to cry and weep because she had to leave. My twins were without emotion really and this was a first positive step to her road to healing. This new place was a God send. They run on donations, we no longer had the burden of coming up with a big chunk of money each month to keep her there. The second HUGE blessing, was this place is completely Christ centered. They believe that the children find healing when they find their identity in Christ. When they are able to forgive the hurt the past has caused them, then they are able to start healing and moving forward.  I had difficulty believing that such a perfect environment had opened up for Gina. We moved her to Watersprings the first of September. They have house parents in each home. It is very family like, each house with 5 to 8 kids. They prepare and eat their meals at home, they have chores, they have a consistent set of house parents. It is hard for someone who has never dealt with a child with attachment issues to think of sending a child away as being the right thing to do. There was such a wall up between Gina and us that someone else had to help her. We assured her of our love, that we would always be her parents, and the goal was for her to come home again some day. I really can't tell you the pain of leaving a troubled child somewhere. I knew things couldn't continue to go as they were but I hated the option of sending her away. It seemed as though it was the best thing for her and the rest of our family. Through all this raging, she also became very interested in having a relationship with a boy. She was looking for love but didn't really know how to accept love. We were very worried for her but also worried if we kept her at home we were going to lose our other children as well. It took me longer to get to the place where I realized that sending her away was the right decision. Baron had reached that conclusion way back in January when he put her and I on a plane. My mother's heart just didn't want this to be the answer. I wanted to be able to stick this out and fix this but God showed me that was my pride and I had to step out of the way and get on board with what was best for Gina and the rest of the family.

Words can't adequately express the changes going on in Gina's life. The first few months I would talk to her on the phone and she was still tough, antagonizing, and looking for a fight. When I talked to her in December, she seemed different, softer. Then when I talked to her in January she told me with excitement that she had let Jesus come into her life and take control. I immediately planned a visit and went to see her in February. She had such a peace about her, she didn't have to constantly babble about nothing, she listened to counsel. It was a wonderful visit and I hated to leave her. She was able to express to me things I never thought I'd hear come from her mouth. She told me it was good that she moved from the first place, she told me she knew she was getting the help she needed, she didn't ask to come home but she did talk of coming home some day in the future. I left with a full heart seeing the change that was taking place in my daughter. In April, just before her 13th birthday, she had a set back. She exploded again. I was able to talk to her the next day and she was able to express the fact that she had been keeping some things inside and not sharing them with anyone. She had never been able to express things like this before. She would just explode and then it was over and she had nothing to say. We visited her in May and she has made such progress. She is like a different child. She told me she knew God had provided Watersprings Ranch and that she knew she was getting the help she needed. She was also able to tell me she was working on forgiving her birth mother for abandoning her and she was working on moving forward with her life. Please continue to pray for Gina Grace that she will focus on her relationship with Christ and not boys. That she will continue to listen to counsel. The goal is to eventually wean her off the medicine. We can't thank God enough for the work he is doing in her life. My next post will be a little more of Joey's story. We are so thankful that God provided a place like Watersprings Ranch and thankful for the change He is cultivating in Gina's life.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Adoption: Pt. 1

We first met the twins just a month before their 4th birthday. They had been abandoned at birth by a very poor mother who had about 5 other kids and lived in a leaky one room hut. She was overwhelmed and didn't know what she would do with 2 babies so her best option, she thought, was to leave them in the care of the hospital. They were there for 6 months, not the best environment for development for the first 6 months of life. At 6 months, they were taken to a private children's home. Here, they had  many people who loved them but again, it wasn't ideal. They had many care givers who loved them but when you've been neglected and abandoned, love is not enough.  Care givers came and care givers went and the twins were never able to learn how to form a lasting bond with anyone. We were introduced to them and decided we would pursue adopting them unless God closed a door.

We knew from the time we moved to Romania that we would adopt. We knew nothing of attachment disorder, we were starry eyed and thought we could take in a child or two and they would be part of our family and know they were loved and the rest would be history. Adoption is the perfect picture of how God adopts us into his family. We are not pretty, we are messy, sinful, rebellious and yet he takes us in with all our baggage. We call him Father and He loves us as we are and begins to help us change but it's a long process. In a country full of fatherless children, we knew God was calling us to this.

We met these two beautiful sweet gypsy children and fell in love with them. The process was slow. We thought we would at least be granted custody fairly quickly so we told them on our second visit we wanted to be their mom and dad. They immediately begin calling us mom and dad. Then we realized we probably shouldn't have told them so quickly as it was a year long process before we were given  custody of them. It was a hard year, bringing them home for a week visit, then taking them the 4 hours back to the orphanage. Joey especially was upset every time we dropped him off. It didn't seem to phase Gina, she would run back in, wave bye and that would be it. Joey would cry, he was sad, he didn't understand why mom was bringing him back to the orphanage. Finally, on their 5th birthday, April 22, 2009, we were granted custody. They didn't have our name yet but they were in our home and we were a family at last! We were complete!

We had a year long honeymoon period. I was told Gina was a screamer but we never saw it in that first year. It was an amazing year, they smiled and laughed and spoke broken English. It was so much fun! Then after the first year, real life set in. That is when Gina had her first screaming fit. Boy could she scream even though she was little! It was usually only once a week sometimes only twice a month. She was little, she was manageable and she was usually just angry she didn't get her way. She never expressed anger or hatred towards us. She just didn't understand why she couldn't always have what she wanted. This began our long road to realizing our kids had a lot of baggage to deal with and we began to realize there were many emotional delays. We read a lot of books on how to help children from institutions. We loved them, we tried to be very consistent with what we expected of them. We tried rewards, we tried consequences, we tried keeping them busy, we tried keeping them on a tight schedule, we tried entertaining them all the time, we tried to teach them to entertain themselves. The walls were colored, furniture was colored, scissors had to be hidden (hair cuts, eyebrows, bed linen). When they got bored they would just mindlessly destroy something. The other kids would get frustrated when they would save up to buy something and then shortly after they made their purchase if Joey got his hands on it, it would be broken. We tried to remember things aren't important but we also tried to teach the twins to take care of things and to respect other people's property to no avail. Much later we realized they were OCD. It didn't matter what form of punishment or consequences they knew would come, if they had something in their head that they thought needed to be done, nothing was going to stop them from following through with it. They were funny and full of energy. It always felt when they were little like they tag teamed. It felt like somehow they discussed which one was going to give mom the most trouble that day. Thankfully, they never had a really bad day at the same time! We could never leave them without supervision. It was challenging too because our youngest son is 2 years younger then them but he has always been more responsible but the twins always thought we favored their younger brother because he had more privileges then they did.


Homeschooling was difficult. It was hard to tell if they really didn't understand something or if they just weren't in the mood to learn that day. There was also the language barrier. Not so much a barrier for us but trying to help them learn phonics in English was a slow process. In the midst of all this, we still had formed a love for them that could only come from God. We loved them, the boys loved them, they were our family. When they were 6 1/2 they finally received our last name and our names on their birth certificates. I'm not sure how significant this was for them since they already felt like family; they had been living with us for 18 months. The day they received their blue passports close to their 7th birthday they were so excited! It made them feel like part of the family since their passports matched ours!

We had no idea what Attachment Disorder was but would soon learn more about it. Attachment Disorder is when there has been a failure to form normal attachments to a primary care giver in early childhood. A frequent change in caregivers, many caregivers, or a lack of caregiver responsiveness to a child results in a lack of basic trust. The twins had many wonderful caregivers who deeply loved them. One of them actually has kept in contact with us all these years. They did the best they could for our twins but they were volunteers and they came and they went which made it difficult for the twins to be able to form lasting bonds with any one caregiver. The first time I went to pick the twins up and bring them home for a visit, I went by train. I got them on the train with me and a man with a beard sat next to us. Gina jumped into his lap and was rubbing his beard before I could even respond. No one was a stranger. We had to begin to try to teach them about the dangerous people that were out in the world. To them, everyone was their friend. They would talk to anyone and asked strangers the most personal of questions.

I remember  how entertained they were by seeing me after my shower with wet hair. They had never experienced any of their caregivers getting ready in the morning. They always just showed up ready for the day. They would just stand in the bathroom and watch me dry and fix my hair.  Joey's nose would bring him out to the kitchen when dinner was being cooked. He loved to eat and any time he smelled food, he'd be in the kitchen smelling, mouth watering, waiting for what was going to be put on the table. After breakfast he'd ask what we were going to have for lunch. After lunch he'd want to know what was for supper. So many new delights and it was fun to watch them get used to what life in a family was like.

Even though they were 5 years old when they moved in with us, it was like starting at the very beginning. They had no idea what it was like living with a family, being part of a family, having boundaries, and not having to fight for attention. They needed constant attention and supervision.

I think the adoption mindset is changing but raising the huge amount of money needed for foreign adoptions is the smallest of hurdles to jump over. It seems like people are a part of the adoption journey until you bring the children home and then they assume it's over. When the children are actually adopted is when the family will need the most support. Especially a family who adopts an older child from a traumatic background. They need your love and continual support and understanding. Many adoptions are "happily ever after" stories but just as many are not and those are the families that need a lot of support and understanding. They need for people to step in and assist them, help them find the counseling and help that they and their children need. If you have friends that have adopted or are adopting, don't walk away when they bring the child/children home. In a later post, I will tell you  some of the many ways that people in the states came a long side me (I arrived in the states with Gina 3 months before Baron) and helped carry the heavy load of finding help for  Attachment Disorder.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Home

It's been over 2 years since I've updated this blog! I've been thinking about writing again for a while but just haven't had the words to put down yet. I still don't really know if I can express what I want to share but I do want to share our journey over the past 2 years with our daughter. I won't start on this one but I do want to say leaving America is always hard for me; leaving America this time with 3 children still there was extremely hard. I wanted God to not make me leave. I wanted this to not be our path but it is our path and I can live in misery going my own path or I can settle in peacefully to the path God has for our family. God is teaching me so much through these difficult times. So many times I'm pulled to wanting to stay in my comfort zone, it's easy to stay in wealth and comfort...God doesn't want us to stay in our comfort zone.
I read a devotion by Paul Tripp this morning: "The call to deny yourself will be a challenge, but remember - it's a rescuing grace. you will never find life in your spouse, in your children, in accumulating possessions, in the esteem of friends, in the most beautiful location, or even in theological knowledge.
Taking up your Cross daily means putting to death your sinful and selfish desires and accepting a life-giving invitation that the Enemy and created world can never offer: the all-surpassing glory of knowing Christ.
This is the world's best prize. This is the universe's best banquet. This is the only thing that will give your life meaning and fill you with lasting joy."
I had so much support this past year in the States and knowing that so many of you are praying is such an encouragement as we begin this new phase of life. I will little by little try to start sharing our journey in hopes that other families who have adopted and are going through a difficult time will be encouraged and not feel alone.