When I look at Lily and Hope I feel so many deep and overwhelming thoughts come over me. Their lives overflow with testimony and witness of God. Everyday God shows me something about HIM through them. I know of so many people who love them and have such passion for their lives, to hear their story unfold. That's the same way I am. It's like when you go see a fabulous movie (which are hard to come by these days) and it starts off so perfectly and happy and fun and then the opening song starts to transition into the rest of the movie and by now you are so excited and so connected and cannot wait to see the movie as it unfolds but you don't want it to go to fast because you are enjoying yourself so much!!! You know what I mean?
So many times Daniel and I in complete awe tell the kids and each other how Lily and Hope didn't do anything to be born in China to parents that would abandon them. It never grows old to think of this. How Daniel and I and our 3 biological children (and maybe you too) just happened to be born into loving Christian homes. With a daddy and mommy who fed us and loved us and held us and sacrificed for us. We had zero control over our birth. And Lily and Hope didn't either.
Yet Hope spent her first 14 months of her life flat on her back in a crib for almost every hour of every day. I am not sure how often they got out of their cribs, if ever. I say this as a fact, and not in any way to criticize the orphanage and it's leadership. I know that sounds odd, but having been there and met the leadership, I do not doubt their sincerity and competence to care for the children. My only question is what they believe is good for the children and if they see them as full of potential. While I was there, however, I did not ever see the newborn to about 2 year old babies ever leave their cribs. I am forever grateful Hope was fed and had her diaper changed regularly though. And for them for keeping Lily alive as she waited on us.
And Lily's life....9 years of neglect. No matter how efficient the nannies were, without a mother and a father and proper nutrition, you are neglected. Her file says she didn't walk until she was almost 5 years old. I wonder what she did those first 4 years. Her flat head lends a clue... Plus, she has been without a surgery to repair a fistula that most certainly needed to be repaired. I am grateful for her roomates, the two older girls and the older boy that I met and love dearly, who I am sure she bonded with and loved in her own way.
Chantel and I were talking about orphans the other day and she said it's like the people who are wrongly convicted of a crime and sent to jail for years and years. And then, as in Lily and Hope's case, finally they are acquitted and released from prison to learn how to live again! That's the way we feel about Lily. For 9 years she has been falsely held captive. NINE YEARS!
Special needs adoption works like this: there is a universal data base of every special needs child registered by China to be adopted. This data base can (from my understanding) be accessed by certain communities and approved people. Someone might view this data base "looking" for a child to adopt. Agencies peruse the list, searching for a match for applicants to which they call the applicant and tell them more about the child. To which the adoptive persons usually view the entire chart and medical records of the child to help them decide if they want to adopt the child, if the child is a right fit for their family. Photos are crucial in many cases, although many photos are not the best. Medical records are even more crucial.
Here is the most recent photo that was on her official adoption file that we were given when got her referral.
That means that for the past no telling how many years, our little Lily girl has been on the universal shared list. I wonder if anyone looked at her file. Maybe not many people were looking for an older child. We weren't. Maybe they were scared by her alien photo (that's what we lovingly call this photo! it is ridiculous.) Maybe they were scared of her medical records that say she is deaf in both ears. By the way, Lily had a professional hearing test last week. She passed with flying colors. By the way, after you receive a referral you are supposed to show the medical records to a doctor and get his opinion. Daniel and I agreed that there was really no need to go outside of my brother in law's professional medical opinion. We knew well-meaning others would just probably warn us of adopting this malnourished, mentally challenged, deaf child into a family of already 4 children.
So little Lily sat in that orphanage for 9 and a half years. I wonder if she knew there was life beyond it. I wonder if she knew love. I wonder if she wondered if anyone would ever come for her. Surely, now knowing how smart she is, she saw children come and go and heard talk of family and adoption. Nothing gets past that girl around here! She had to have known. Meanwhile, her file was in cyber space. Her scary file was in the system. Why? Why didn't anyone get Lily before now? Why? Why didn't we? Why did it take us so long to get our hearts and minds and lives straight to see that Lily was waiting for us? I can hardly appreciate having her now without feeling sadness that we didn't come get her sooner. It's because God has given us a true mother and father's love for that girl.
Here is another photo of Lily that our agency gave us. I have no idea when either photos were taken but I'm assuming that this one is more recent than the one above. I think I can see the scar on her forehead.
This one makes me sad. I have it as the wallpaper on my phone so I see it everyday and never forget what Lily has gone through in her life and how much grace and love and nurturing she needs. Her eyes look so sad in this photo. In fact, in almost every photo we saw of her before us her eyes look sad. She looks lost. SHE WAS LOST! The only joy I get from this photo is to know that she was outside while this photo was taken! From the severity of her rickets, I am guessing she was seldom outside.
I love my Lily girl. I love her unconditionally. When we first got Lily I expected her to love me so much. Phoebe and I had conversations about how much she'd love us both and how she'd want to do everything we did and be with us all the time. We were wrong. She only wanted to be around Daniel and occasionally Johnny. She had this look on her face. She didn't smile much except for Daniel. Robert even asked me about the look once in China and told me that Daniel and I were gonna have to talk to her about it. It was kind of a sassy, mean, put out look. That was the ONLY look I ever got in China.
I struggled. I talked to God about it one night. I said, "God, she has no idea what I did for her. I am the whole reason she got adopted! If I had not gone there and met here she would still be there! And she treats me badly. She ignores me, turns away from me, doesn't appreciate me! And it's so hard to like her!" As soon as I said those things, He spoke so loudly and lovingly that that is exactly how He has felt when His children ignore Him. That we have no idea what He sacrificed for US. Where would we be without HIM! Yet we live our lives as if they are our own. We go through days forgetting His Presence, ignoring His Spirit, mocking His Name and mission.
Yet God still loves us. Still.
I got it loud and clear and asked Him if He'd help me love her the way she deserves. Unconditionally. Regardless of what I get back. And He has helped me.
Since returning from China, things are so much better. First of all, I think Lily just has NO IDEA what a mother is. She's only known nannies who I am not sure loved her the way a mother would. The girl is so self sufficient and stubborn and smart and able, I am not sure she thinks she needs a mother! She doesn't know what I have for her once she is able to open up to me. I have so much love ready for her. So much. But already we've seen so much differences in her.
I think also having a lot of visitors has made the transition more difficult. Daniel and I knew that we were told to have hardly any visitors immediately when we came home to enable bonding. That is impossible for people like Daniel and I. We love people. And people love Lily. But I can definitely see that it has hindered the bonding. If we had to do it over, I am not sure I would do it differently though. My friends and family mean so much to me. However next week my goal is to isolate ourselves as much as possible and have "normal" days. Daniel is going to be locking his office door most of the day so that he can work and so that Lily will have to get involved with what I am doing. The times that it's only the girls in the family have been very productive. She is interested in girl stuff and she really bonds with me. She does not like sitting still and learning, but we are working on that, as Phoebe does her home school work in the mornings. We set a timer so that Lily can look forward to when it's over!
Daniel and I received training and read information on adopting older children. We knew that often times one parent is preferred over the other. I JUST NEVER DREAMED I WOULDN'T BE THE ONE PREFERRED!!! Coming home, I have read things that confirm that often times it is the mother that is rejected in the beginning, shockingly. And that you cannot assume time will fix the problem (as I thought in China) but that you have to actively pursue this child, loving and giving and nurturing and reaching out even when they don't care or give back. I haven't felt rejected much since we've been home from China. It's just that if ANYONE else is in the house or around, she prefers them over me right now. As said earlier, I think she thinks I am the nanny! LOL! So starting tomorrow, no one FUN will be allowed in the house!!!!!!!!!!!! If you are mean and boring, you are welcome anytime!
You can see from the photos on the previous post how different Lily looks now! Her eyes are passionate. They are usually filled with delight and girlish joy. Sometimes the brow hides them when she is pouting for her way, but not much anymore. She is learning to share (a word I think she must hate) and how to be in a family.
On the records we got for Lily the orphanage described her as shy, introverted, quiet and sometimes obstinate. While I can see the sometimes obstinate (lol), I would never use the other words to describe Lily. If fact, I would use outgoing and happy and joyful and smart and peaceful! Lily is nothing like I thought she was when I wanted her last summer. She's better! I thought she was meek and quiet and slow and maybe mentally challenged. I can remember waking up in a panic last summer. I can vividly recall the feeling of oppression...i can recall feeling as if the devil himself was whispering into my ear.....WHAT ARE YOU DOING ADOPTING THESE KIDS???!!!! We had already decided to adopt Lily and fearfully in the middle of that night I wrote a long letter to Daniel that said that maybe I had made her out to be something she wasn't and could never live up to. I told him that Lily may never learn how to write her name or draw or grow or be able to understand or progress. I panicked that maybe I had painted too easy of a picture and that's why he said yes to her. But the next morning he took my face in his hands and assured me that Lily was ours! He said no matter what. She was ours.
And now Lily is SO much more than I ever thought she'd be. In fact, she's smart and sassy and quick and witty. She makes us laugh. She is FULL OF LIFE!!!!!!!!!!! She's enjoying her new found life to the fullest and not looking back. The girl loves life, her new family, her room, riding in the car, mashed potatoes, baby dolls, playing with cousins, taking baths, getting dressed in fun clothes donated by people reading this!
I am so blessed to see her life blossom. She is a new creature! Never going back to the previous life. And I am watching her life unfold just as you are and in awe. God is doing it. I hope I don't mess up anything He's doing!
I'm not sure what's going on in the background of this perfectly captured joyful photo of Lily but I assure you that no one was harmed in the taking of this photo!