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Silver Linings

May 5, 2014

Qian Fu Tao 65My King and my God, to You I pray. In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice.  I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:2-3)

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We present our requests to God.

He hears them.

None of them are ignored.  None of them are discarded  or unacknowledged.

Each request is heard, and each receives a response.

Sometimes we like the response.  Sometimes we don’t.

Sometimes we are handed a NO.

Sometimes we hear Him quietly say WAIT.

Sometimes we receive a resounding YES.

But, sometimes we receive a YES that isn’t resounding.  Sometimes we receive a YES that, at first, disguises itself as a NO.  It appears to be a NO because it doesn’t look anything like the YES that we had envisioned.

On December 31, 2013, our adoption agency matched us with our son.  A precious 20-month-old boy from Guizhou, China.  During the weeks leading up to that match, we had prayed over and over again that God would match us with a little boy who was under 12 months old.

In our paperwork, we had stated that we were open to a child who was 18 months old or younger.  Then, after two unsuccessful months of waiting for a match, our agency suggested that we could bump up our age range a bit to increase our chances for a match the following month.  We prayed about that.  And we ultimately decided that we should do it.  So, we expanded our accepted age range to 20 months old.  But, we were secretly hoping that our son would be much younger than that.

The younger the child is, the easier it can be to bond with them.  If they are vulnerable, needy, and dependent on you for everything, attachment can happen quickly.  They are forced to allow you to nurture them, care for them, touch them, feed them, clean them, change their diapers, and love on them.  And, over time, that nurturing helps to build a crucial bond between parent and child.  In addition to the bonding aspect, we also wanted to be able to see and experience as much of our son’s life as possible.  We wanted to be able to witness many of the first’s that we missed with our daughter, Grace, who came to us at two years old.  We wanted to be able to start building memories with our son as early in his life as possible.

There are more reasons that I could list as to why we wanted our “match” to be as young as possible.  But, those are the main ones, I guess.

Bryan was on the same page as me.  He wanted to be matched with a little boy who was under a year old.  The bonding process with Grace wasn’t necessarily smooth sailing for him or for me.  When we met Grace, we fell in love with her.  She was a precious, beautiful, sweet, two-year-old girl.  But, she was incredibly independent.  She was so smart and so capable of doing many things that most two-year-old’s do not know how to do.  Her two years in China must have taught her to fend for herself….to do things on her own.  As a survival mechanism, she learned to take care of herself at a very, very young age.  While this was impressive to us, it also proved to be a hindrance in the bonding process.  Yes, she would willingly cuddle with us and accept affection from us.  But, it was almost as if she could take it or leave it.   She seemed to function just fine with or without affection. (Again, a survival mechanism.)  So, we had to teach her to NEED affection.  We had to teach her that it was okay to depend on others.  I can remember holding her in China during our first days together. Even though she didn’t weigh much at all, she was very difficult to hold.  She didn’t mold to my body the way that Sidney and Jackson had.  I had to bring her legs up and wrap them around me as she sat on my hip.  She wasn’t sure how to hold her back properly….or where to grab on to me.  That might sound silly, but it was truly a challenge for me and for her.  Something that should come so naturally for a parent and child did not come naturally at all.  It was clear to me in those moments that she hadn’t been held or carried much at all.  She wasn’t sure how to let someone snuggle her, hold her, carry her, and love on her.  We had some serious work to do.

We’ve made a lot of progress over these past 3 1/2 years.  She now initiates affection regularly, and asks for hugs daily.  She is very loving.  Our bond with her has definitely strengthened over time, but it has taken some work.

So, when we got that call on December 31, 2013 from our adoption agency, we were hoping that the voice on the other end of the phone would joyously tell us that we had been matched with an infant.  But, she didn’t.  Instead, she joyously told us that we had been matched with a 20-month-old child.  Of course, we were THRILLED to receive this call – THE call we had been waiting for.  And when we saw the little boy’s face, we certainly began to fall in love with him immediately!  Though we did grieve a bit over the fact that we weren’t getting the infant we had hoped for, we felt strongly that this was the boy that God had chosen for us.  And, we found ourselves trusting – once again – that His plans for our lives are much better than our own.

Within days of being matched with Haven, we learned that he couldn’t walk.  Even though he was 20 months old, he wasn’t walking…and he couldn’t stand on his own either.  At first, this was a cause of great concern for me and Bryan.  We panicked a bit.  We knew from the get-go that he had a condition called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bone Disease).  But, we were told that it was mild.  We were told that he hadn’t broken any bones, and he could walk.  So, we felt like we could handle his needs (even though we have four other small children to care for).  We excitedly accepted his referral and decided to move forward and bring him home.  We knew that we had found our son.  But, as we began to learn more about him, we found out that something must have been lost in translation from the Chinese documents into English.  He could not walk or stand.  His legs were very weak.  He could push himself around in a walker, but he couldn’t walk on his own.  This news was very unsettling to us.

After learning these things about him, fear began to creep up inside of us, and a cloud began looming overhead.

But, under this cloud – this news about Haven’s developmental delays – we realized that there was a beautiful silver lining to be seen.

Our eyes were opened to the fact that maybe God had answered YES to those prayers of ours from months ago.  Maybe those requests that we had lifted up to Him – asking that we might be matched with an infant – didn’t receive a NO after all.  Maybe he had answered YES.  But, that YES simply didn’t end up looking like we thought it would.

Though our sweet little boy is now 24 months old, he is actually functioning more like a 9 month old. Though he is a toddler, he appears to be functioning as a baby.  From what we can gather from his paperwork, he appears to be very dependent upon his caregivers.  While he does eat solid foods, he still takes a bottle twice a day and needs formula due to his small size.  We know that some of his delays are simply due to the fact that he has spent the first two years of his life in an institution.  Delays are so, so common among children who have been institutionalized.  But, we also know that Haven has some medical issues that seem to be magnifying these delays.

The current stage he is at in his life isn’t reflective of his age.  And while we will do everything that we can to get him to the point where his stage matches his age, we are going to soak up the time that we do have with him as a completely dependent and vulnerable child.  Through his developmental delays, it’s as if God has given us a way to experience his infancy.  Through those delays, it’s as if He has rolled back time a bit…for our sake, and for Haven’s.

He has provided us with a unique window of opportunity to bond with our son and experience the infancy that we feared we would miss (just as we had with Grace).

Yes, there is a window.

And when I look through it, I see my fair share of clouds….but underneath them, silver linings can be seen.

Shimmering, beautiful silver linings.

~~~When I saw the first video of Haven trying to scoot himself around in his walker throughout the orphanage with obvious weakness in his legs, it was very unsettling.  It became very clear that our son was suffering from something.  What was going on with him?  How severe was his condition?  The unknowns began to overwhelm me a bit.  I watched his little legs struggle to push himself around the room in his walker, and I instantly saw months of physical therapy in our future.  The clouds began to gather overhead.  But, underneath them, there is a silver lining to be seen.  Because he hasn’t yet taken his first unassisted steps, that means we will get to witness that important “first” in his life.  We won’t have to miss out on that incredible milestone.  Those precious moments when he takes his first steps will be ours to witness!  What a gift.  Truly, a gift.  Do you see the silver lining?

~~~When we first learned that Haven wasn’t walking, our hearts sunk.  We knew that our son was facing some medical issues that could be more serious than we had initially thought.  The clouds began to gather overhead.  But, underneath them, there is a silver lining to be seen.  Because Haven can’t walk, he will need to be carried.  He will need us to hold him.  He will have to depend on us.  And, believe me when I say, those things will help greatly with the bonding process.  His inability to walk – his lack of mobility – could actually improve his ability (and our ability) to build and solidify a crucial bond.  Do you see the silver lining?

~~~When we first learned that he was underweight, we were concerned.  Most kids his age weigh almost twice as much as he does.  The clouds began to gather overhead.  But, underneath them, there is a silver lining to be seen.  Due to his small size and his need for optimum nutrition, we get to feed him formula for (possibly) the next several months.  And since he has grown accustomed to taking that formula using a bottle, we will continue using the bottle once he comes under our care as well.  (After all, we don’t want to disrupt every single aspect of his life once he enters our family.  For his comfort and security, we will try to keep as many of his routines and habits the same at first….including his feeding habits.)  There are very few opportunities for bonding that are greater than those precious feeding moments with your baby.  Anyone who has ever experienced those moments would undoubtedly agree.  As a mother who exclusively breastfed her children, I have to say that I am excited to have the chance to experience bottle feeding with one of my babies. Most children who are Haven’s age are well past the bottle stage.  But, from what we have been told, he is not.  And, you know what?  I’m okay with that.  I will cherish those feedings and that time with my baby.  What great bonding opportunities they will be.  Do you see the silver lining?

For months, we prayed that God would match us with an infant.  A baby. We prayed that the little boy who was meant for our family would be completely vulnerable and dependent upon us, which would provide him (and us) with the opportunity for a smooth bonding experience.

Today it has become clear that God has granted that request.  He has said YES.  But, that YES looks much different than we had envisioned.

How thankful I am that He often answers our prayers in unforeseeable ways.

And how thankful I am for silver linings.

Friend, what clouds are looming overhead in your life right now?

Think about them for a moment.

Look very closely at them.

Study them.

And maybe – just maybe – you will discover that there is a silver lining to be seen after all…

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I see ye visibly, and now believe,
That he, the Supreme Good, 
Would send a glistering guardian, if need be, 
To keep my life and faith unassailed. 
Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud, 
Turn forth her silver lining on the night? 
I did not err; there does a sable cloud, 
Turn forth her silver lining on the night, 
And cast a gleam over this tufted grove!

-John Milton-

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clouds-silver-lining

 

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