Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Teary Goodbyes and An Uncomfortable Confession

Well, today was another teary goodbye as we spent our last few hours with “Max” before heading back to Sofia to sign some paperwork and prepare for our journey back home. The emotions in leaving each of the three boys are all so different. With six-year-old “Tyler”, we felt he was well loved and cared for but we feel an urgency to bring him to the States so we can get him the corrective surgery he desperately needs on his cleft palate, and also find out if there is anything we can do for his serious heart defect.  With “Chase” our hearts were broken because he lives in the poorest of the three orphanages….out in a remote village with very few resources. He seems so lonely and we didn’t see that he had a meaningful relationship with any of the staff.  But today with Max, it was different. He has been longing for a family for years. He fully understands the difference between growing up in an orphanage and having a mom and dad and he has been waiting hopefully for someone to come get him. He’s such a sweet, affectionate, loving boy….and today, as he knew we would be leaving, he was really feeling the pain of the separation and he cried silent tears, trying to hide his face in my jacket so no one would see that he was crying. Of course I was teary too but I wanted to show him that things would be ok, because if he had seen me crying he would have felt even worse….and he would have started crying for me…..he has such a sensitive spot in his heart for others.

I feel that I must confess something here….something that’s not easy for me to admit….something I’m ashamed of. I share it only because there may be others like me, and hearing this may touch their hearts. Though I had a sweet spot in my heart the moment I met Max, I was a little bit worried about some of the awkward things he does at times. Like, when he gets excited he will jump up and down laughing so hard and shaking his forearms up and down. Or he laughs and laughs and buries his face in his director’s chest and wrings his hands together over and over because he’s overcome with excitement and emotion and he just can’t contain it (Like when they brought him in to meet us the first day and were telling us how long he’s been waiting to have a family and how excited he is.) Or when he’s overcome with happiness that he has a Mama and he starts stroking my face and hands, saying, “Mama, Mama, Mama.” These little things made me a bit nervous…not that I ever considered at any point NOT adopting him….but I would think in my mind, “Well, he probably makes many of those facial expressions because he doesn’t see well and he doesn’t even know that he’s doing it…..once his vision improves he will start noticing those things and will stop doing them.” I thought, “He’s such a smart boy and a fast learner….I’m sure we can explain to him that jumping up and down like that with such loud excited laughter in public, isn’t the best thing to do and it will make people stare at him.” Or I started reasoning, “He does these things just because he’s grown up in an orphanage and he has been so babied by his teacher. Once he’s living with us for a while he’ll probably act a bit ‘cooler’ and learn how to tone down his excitement.”

Perhaps some of my reasoning is true….maybe he will mature and grow out of these things….but I could tell in my heart that there was a little bit of rejection there for him. Once I realized it, I felt so sad for him and so horrible with myself. I wondered if it was something that he had sensed (although I had really tried to be affectionate and caring with him the whole time we were together). I started to think about his gentle, loving, eager to please personality, and my heart started breaking thinking that for the last two days I had been thinking so much on how I could help “improve” his personality rather than appreciating him for exactly who he is right now. I asked God to please redeem the time I’d wasted with thoughts on how I could “help” him act more “normal”, and to spend every drop of time I had with him today just cherishing and taking in his sweet personality, and pouring love and acceptance into him. And I was so happy with how God worked. It was like He did a miracle in my heart overnight. I woke with a renewed  excitement to see Max and affirm every ounce of his sweet natured personality. And we had a wonderful day together as I soaked in his sweetness.  
This morning when we arrived at the orphanage his director was there to greet us and told us that she had already set up all of the English lessons Max will take while he waits for us to return. She is a wonderful director—really has the children’s best interests at heart. We paid in advance for the lessons and she told us also that we could Skype with him, with his English teacher’s help, on Fridays. We are so excited about keeping up the connection with him. I know he is highly motivated to learn English—he already knows so many words in just three short days.

We took Max and his teacher out to the little town shopping square. It was absolutely take-your-breath-away freezing, with snow falling everywhere and I was really suffering walking outside. Max could tell how cold I was so he wrapped his arms around my waist and said that he would help keep me warm. We walked like this until we got to the café. We all ordered a hot drink (Max and I LOVE the hot chocolate….it is NOTHING like the watery chocolate drink you get here in the U.S….this drink is rich and thick and creamy, yum!) and a pastry. Max is such a careful, polite eater. Even though he has to tilt his head to the side in order to see, he tries to take careful bites and eat like a gentleman (unlike poor little Chase, lol)

One thing I’ve missed with Max is being able to look him straight in the eyes while talking to him. Because of his extremely poor vision he doesn’t really hold the gaze of the person he’s talking to…instead his eyes just go wherever. So today in the café when I would speak to him I would ask him to look right into my eyes and hold his gaze there. I knew that he couldn’t see me well (He has to get extremely close in order to see) but I wanted to just look into his eyes while talking to him rather than just having his eyes dart back and forth. I think he understood exactly why I was asking this of him and he was very obliging. One thing that made me sad was when I asked him what color my eyes were. First I had asked him what color my hair was and he said dark brown. But when I asked him what color my eyes were, he looked carefully and said “blue.” We told him that, no, my eyes are not blue and to look more closely (because he can always tell the color of objects). So then he just said, “brown…they have to be brown because her hair is brown.” Lol

Some tears were shed in the café. I looked Max straight in the eyes and told him, “Listen….I feel very sad right now because it’s almost time to say goodbye to you and I’m really going to miss you. But we will see each other over Skype and I’ll mail you some pictures of us together. Work hard at learning English and we will work hard at getting all of the documents completed so that we can come get you as quickly as possible.” He hugged me hard and then buried his head into my shirt. When I looked down at his face his eyes were all teary, and of course mine were too.

We left the café and walked to the toy store. Norman had given Max some money throughout the week and we told him he could spend it before we left. One advantage to his vision problem is that he cannot see the hundreds of items lined up all over the store We knew he liked cars so we asked him if he’d like to buy one. He chose a battery operated one that lights up and makes noise and drives on its own. He was soooooo excited with this car that he started jumping up and down and laughing loudly in the middle of the store. I didn’t mind one bit but looked around out of curiosity to see people’s reactions. Several people were watching him but everyone had on a pleasant expression…like they could tell he had special needs and they were happy for him. I was just happy that he was so happy. Norman and I kind of looked at each other and chuckled, because we are usually the ones telling our kids, “Do not make a scene here in public….we don’t want everyone staring at us.” (of course, that was always in regard to sketchy behavior and never because a child had a special need) Now, I suppose we will get many stares in public, but we will always be ready to share the redemption story…both of Christ and of special needs adoption.

We drove the snow covered roads back to the orphanage and his teacher said it would be best to say goodbye on the street around the corner, because many of the children were at the orphanage and it was difficult for them to keep seeing a child who was getting new parents while they were not. So we got out of the car and there we held Max and prayed for him. We prayed specifically that God would heal his eyes and restore his vision so that he could see all of the beauty that God created. His teacher and our facilitator were both very touched by this and watched with tear filled eyes. Max started to tear up and I did as well as we hugged as hard as we could for the last time for a few months and walked our separate ways. I’m teary now just thinking about it. I thank God so much that he has his teacher there with him. She is absolutely in love with him and will comfort him while he waits to go home with his Mama and Daddy. We watched as she held him and they walked towards the orphanage. At one point he turned around to wave at us and we could see that he was really crying now and it just broke our hearts. (Really crying now!)

People just don’t realize how much these children suffer with longing for a mother and father. You just have no idea. They ache inside. They go to regular school….their friends have families and parents to go home to. But these children have caretakers… on one night, one on another….one who quits after a time… who is brand new… who is very loving……one who is just there because it’s a job and she needs the money. They are all so eager, so friendly….they want to be “picked” too. They see that every once in a while a child gets “chosen” and they hope that next time will be their turn. If our story of Max has touched your heart, then please consider opening your home to an older waiting child. Most of them don’t have special needs, but they are humble, loving, caring children. This is what growing up in a hard life makes of them. But they still need parents before it’s too late because they are not prepared to go out into the real world, and most orphans, once out on their own, can’t make it. They have no family, no support system, they are behind in their education, can’t get a job….they turn to drugs and indiscriminate sex…..a very high incidence of suicide, crime, etc. Oh it’s just so sad to think that these lives could have been saved….and there are so many families in the U.S. who have the means of taking in just one child….just one. We cannot leave them there….they must be redeemed….please pray……and act….on behalf of the least of these.

(As soon as we get back to the States we have a HUGE payment due and we will be forced to borrow the money. If you can help us with raising the costs we need to adopt these three boys, please make your tax deductible donation HERE Thank you so much!)

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