Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Can I Trust You?

Trust is not a natural response, especially for those who have been wounded.” (Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling, March 18)

We spent several days at Notre Dame before we flew back to China last month, and a highlight for me was being able to sit in on one of CJ’s Peace Studies classes. The lesson that day was an interesting overview of wars and their various changes throughout history. The professor made an observation that during the 1650’s architecture began to include larger windows because people felt safer at that time. 

 His comment made me think about David and this idea of feeling safe. Sometimes we can see large windows of light in his heart as he prays his heart-felt prayers and as he verbally processes Bible stories and lessons he’s learning. At other times, it seems like thick walls are around his heart when he acts in defensive and aggressive ways, to self-protect and to self-promote. Doesn’t this make sense when, until 5 months ago, there was no one in his life he could consistently trust to be there for him and to look out for his interests? He had grown used to living a life of survival at the orphanage for almost 9 years, and had learned that he could only depend on himself. If you have that, I want that too. If I don’t get my way, I’m going to fight. What do I need to do in this situation to get what I want?

Daniel has some similar issues of self-protection and self-promotion as well. But because of his serious brain infection he doesn’t remember living at the orphanage like David does, or talk about wanting to go back there like David has. Daniel has “come back to life” in our home and I believe there’s a certain amount of simple child-like trust that goes along with the care we’ve given him during his recovery.

On New Year’s Day, while we were visiting some friends in Kansas City, David made the comment that he used to drink as much coke as he wanted to and because we don’t let him drink coke, he wishes he could go back to the orphanage and not be part of our family anymore. I share that just to say that it made me realize David didn’t feel really connected to us yet. Being able to drink coke whenever he wanted felt more important to him than having a family then. He didn’t like our family rule because it felt unfair to him, and it seemed that life was really better before he came to us. Could he trust us with decisions that didn’t seem right to him? To believe that we really wanted what was best for him?

I have recently been reading a book some friends gave us about adoption bonding called The Connected Child by Drs. Purvis and Cross, and I especially like their thoughts on trust and safety:

Our goal is to bring these children closer to us, into our sphere of warm guidance and nurturing care, so we can help them connect to their world and to the people who care deeply about them. Our intent is to see beyond maladaptive behaviors to the real child who has been holed up inside a fortress of fear. We use the term ‘real child’ to refer to the core of highest potential inside a young person. It’s always our goal to free up and reveal this magnificent inner core and to enable the child to experience his or her full potential as a loving, connected, and competent individual.”

We want to help David (and Daniel) to be freed from living in fortresses of fear, so the castles of their lives can be transformed by large windows to let in the light of God. So that they can truly trust us as their parents and fully trust God to meet all of their needs. So that they can feel safe and open up to let us into all areas of their lives without high walls of self-protection and distrust. Then they can let go of their defensiveness and learned survival skills. They won’t have to feel that they have to fight for what they need or want, to feel that no one else is there to fight for them.

You provide ‘felt safety’ when you arrange the environment and adjust your behavior so your children can feel in a profound and basic way that they are truly safe in their home and with you. Until your child experiences safety for himself or herself, trust can’t develop, and healing and learning can’t progress.”

We want David and Daniel to have that kind of ‘felt safety’ so they can develop their full potentials and heal from their past wounds. So that they can learn and become all that God has for them.

When a child feels genuinely safe, the primitive brain lets down its guard and allows trust to blossom and bonding to begin. Parts of the brain that control higher learning can operate. Children who feel safe are free to heal and become secure, trusting children.”

The ideas in this book have helped me to see that possibly some of the attitude issues and learning struggles we’ve been facing may be because the primitive brain has not been able to “let down its guard.” It gives me hope that as David feels more safe and secure in our home and as he learns to trust us more and more, higher learning might then be free to operate without certain blocks in the way.

I was encouraged that school was a more positive experience both yesterday and this morning. And David has thanked me for encouraging him. I realized that he is both learning better and feeling better about himself and me when I praise his efforts and progress. I want to keep growing in this area.

I want him to trust me as a Mom who thinks the best of him and wants the best for him. Who makes sometimes seemingly unfair and hard to accept decisions, but he can trust me anyway. Because he is safe and secure in my love for him. That he could see me as a Mom who is nurturing and who cares deeply for him. Who is more quick to praise and affirm than to notice mistakes and point them out.

As we see spring blooming outside these days, I pray that trust would be blossoming in our home as well. And that increasingly, the answer to one of life’s most fundamental questions, “Can I trust you?” would be “Yes.”

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Lame will Leap and the Mute will Speak

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” (Isaiah 35: 5-6)

When we brought Daniel home from the orphanage last October he was so unresponsive, we weren’t sure if he could see or hear. It was obvious that he couldn’t walk or talk, and we had no idea if he would regain these skills after his severe brain infection last September.

When Charly and I visited Daniel in the local hospital at the end of his 19 day stay, I noticed his little pair of red shoes under his bed and the verse came to mind “How Beautiful Are the Feet of Those Who Bring Good News.” (Isaiah 52:7) We didn’t know if Daniel’s feet would walk again, but we believed that God had a unique purpose for his life. We didn’t know what God was doing in allowing him to get so sick just before we adopted him, but we believed that He had ordained every day of his life.

We knew that God could, instantly or over time, heal him completely and restore him to his pre-sickness state, but we didn’t know if that was His plan or not. Wait and trust. Continue to move forward in his adoption in the midst of all the unknowns.

It was A Sharp Turn in the Path that we weren’t expecting, two days after our file got locked with David and Daniel’s, and we thought we had crossed the finish line in our fight for these two boys.

In these past six months, we have seen God use Daniel’s illness and recovery in all of our lives as a way for us to grow deeper in our faith and to see His hand at work in ways we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. And we can testify that God is good. All the time. In sickness and in health. In good times and in bad. In the midst of trials and when life is smooth sailing. God works all things together for good.

When we were driving across the US last month, we sang along with a praise CD, “Our God is greater. Our God is stronger. Our God is higher than any other.” And I remembered that these were the words I sang in my heart the day we waited to see if the one in authority in Beijing would give us special approval to get matched directly with David and Daniel. It seemed the best way to us. The shortest way. But God clearly closed that door, even though He could have opened it for us. We knew He was greater, stronger, and higher than the authority in Beijing. But the way God chose for us was Not the Shortest Way.

The next line in the song is “Our God is healer. Awesome in power. Our God. Our God.” If God had given us the shortest way, we could have brought David and Daniel home earlier and Daniel might not have gotten sick. We don’t know. And we will never know. If so, we wouldn’t have known God as healer in the same way that He has allowed us to experience. His awesome power has been clearly displayed in Daniel’s life.

In December in Denver we took Daniel to a pediatric neurologist. We saw her again two months later for a follow up visit. She was amazed by how much improvement he had made by February (he had started talking, regained bowel and bladder control, was sleeping better, and was more independent…) She asked us what we thought the reason for his progress was. Charly said that we are people of faith and that we and many others have been praying for Daniel’s recovery. We believe that God has brought healing into his life.

The doctor told us that his brain MRI showed many scattered spots of brain tissue loss. One of the areas deep in his brain affected by his infection indicates that he should have a movement disorder. She said this was most surprising to her in his recovery: he doesn’t have one anymore. There is no medical explanation. Only God’s healing. You can see what Daniel’s movement disorder was like in the video clips I posted of his Two Months of Change from October to December. He is such a different child now than he was then.

After spending three months in the US, when we returned to our Lanzhou apartment, we discovered that Daniel didn’t remember much during our time here. We still have the wheelchair we borrowed from the orphanage folded up in our living room. We told him how he used to not be able walk and we pushed him around in the wheelchair. We had to carry him up our nine flights of stairs. He used to not be able to feed himself. We used to use a scarf to tie him to his chair to keep him stable while we fed him because he was in constant motion. He used to be our silent little boy. Now he has his own sense of humor and can carry on simple conversations.

A few days ago when I was reading a Bible story to Daniel about Jesus healing the lame, he looked over at the wheelchair and said that he used to not be able to walk either. Yes, Jesus healed him too. Just like during the days when he walked on this earth. God’s miraculous healing is part of Daniel’s story. Part of the good news he can share, through his words—because the one who was mute can now speak—and through his new life.

Zechariah was mute throughout the course of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, and when he could speak again after John was born, the first words out of his mouth were praise to God and faith in His purposes for John’s life.

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people…And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.” (Luke 1: 68, 76-79)

In the days and years to come, may God give Daniel a growing faith, a heart that overflows in praise to Him, a deeper understanding of His purposes that He can then share with others. And may He guide Daniel’s feet into the path of peace, accomplishing all of His purposes in and through his life.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

These Are My Sons

David and Daniel have been a part of our family for five months now. After three months in the US, we’ve been back home in Lanzhou for almost two weeks. This past week I’ve had two almost identical conversations with strangers—one with David at the grocery store and one at the park with Daniel:

他是你的儿子吗? Is he your son? 

, 他是我的儿子. Yes, he is my son.

他像一个亚洲人. He looks like an Asian.

是不是他爸爸是一个中国人? Is his father Chinese?

, 他爸爸也是一个白皮肤的. No, his father is also white-skinned.

And thankfully that was enough. There were no other follow up questions. Maybe because adoption is so uncommon in Lanzhou, most people don’t even have that concept in their thinking or that word in their vocabulary. So these conversations have left the Chinese strangers thinking that some kind of genetic mix-up has given two white skinned people two sons who look more like them than like us.

I don’t know for sure how a further conversation about our adopting David and Daniel from the Lanzhou orphanage would make them feel, but I can guess that those extra potential questions and comments would be awkward and embarrassing.

“What’s wrong with him?”
“Why didn’t his parents want him?”
“How fortunate for that poor boy to have a family now.”

At the grocery store after I answered that David’s father wasn’t Chinese, I looked down at David who was smiling up at me. I returned his smile and my heart felt glad. I thought about God’s words spoken over Jesus at his baptism. “This is my Son whom I love, with whom I am well-pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

That’s what I want to communicate about David and Daniel when people ask about them. Not just “Yes, this is my son,” but through my attitude, words, and actions the added words of blessing and affirmation. So that they would know—without a doubt—how beloved they are and how pleased I am with them. Both on their good attitude days and their bad attitude days. When they are easy to love and when they are not so easy to love. That God would help me to be consistent, not condemning, finding the right balance of gentle and firm, forgiving, accepting, loving and merciful.

As David and I walked back from the grocery store together, we passed by the place under the bridge where I bought peaches last summer. The place where God reminded me that He doesn’t pick over people the way I picked over the bruised and “bad” peaches. As we walked, I remembered how I wrote about having met David and Daniel at the orphanage and how I had the feeling that they wanted to give us the “right” answers when Charly and I asked them questions. How I hoped that they could be real, to be themselves in our family, and not feel like they had to change to become acceptable—that our home would be a safe place for them, a place where they could blossom in their identity as Abba’s children.

As God is helping me these days to not communicate a message of condemnation, I realize that I need to take my focus off the bruised and bad spots of these two precious peaches so that I can daily thank God for them and communicate that these are my sons “whom I love, with whom I am well-pleased.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Neither Do I Condemn You

Neither do I condemn you.” Jesus spoke tenderly to the woman caught in adultery. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.” (John 8:3-10)

God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.” (Romans 2:4) (not His condemnation)

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)

God, I want to be merciful like you are merciful. Help me not to be condemning/judging/unforgiving toward my children. Help me not to be like the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35) who was forgiven and set free from a huge debt that he could not pay. But then walked away without a sense of real freedom from that debt and therefore refused to forgive the poor soul who owed him money.

God, Help me not to live under a cloud of condemnation (of not being good enough as a wife, mom, minister of the gospel…) so that I then pass on a message of condemnation when my children demonstrate behaviors that seem to me to need immediate correction. Our two boys who have lived 8 and 9 years of their lives in an orphanage are not going to change their patterns of behavior overnight. Why am I so quick to enforce the law when they need my patience and understanding?

God, I want to be a giver of mercy because I have received Your mercy and have been inwardly changed as a result. I want to be kind because You are kind. I want to pass on a message of “Neither do I condemn you.” Not a message to our boys who already have an engrained message of condemnation in their lives: “I condemn you too.”

Because the truth is that God sent Jesus “to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because you Gentiles have become his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, and now you can call God you dear Father. Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, everything belongs to you.” (Galatians 4:5-7)

I don’t want to live like the prodigal son’s older brother, who never left his father and “everything his father had was his,” but chose to live with a hard heart and was therefore unforgiving toward his younger brother’s wasteful and wild ways. I want to live with an everlasting awe, like the prodigal son when he humbly and fearfully returned home—with only the tattered clothes on his back— and expected to work for his father like a servant…

Really, a party for me? After all of your money that I’ve wasted, you’re saying that everything you have is still mine? After all that I’ve done to wrong you and bring shame to your name. I can still call you Abba? Your love for me is really that undeserved and unconditional? I don’t even have to show you that I’m changed to earn your trust and love again? Amazing. Truly amazing. (Luke 15: 11-32)

I’ve realized recently how much I need to daily soak in these truths about my relationship with my Father. Aware of how hard my heart can be, I know there is no way I can freely give mercy in my own effort. I’ve seen that fail many times before we even eat breakfast.  I need to be reminded again and again of what Jesus did by being cursed in my place. “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Galatians 3:14)  Through Jesus and His completed work on the cross, I am a receiver of God’s unlimited mercy and grace. And God has sent the Spirit of his Son to live in my heart. How can I then not extend mercy if He is living His life through me?

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? Will God? No! He is the one who has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? Will Christ Jesus? No, for he is the one who died for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:33-34, NLT)

And Jesus continues to speak to us the life-giving words he spoke to the woman caught in adultery after everyone had dropped their stones of accusation, “Neither do I condemn you.”


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