be, being refined.

i've been mulling over this post for a month. it's not for lack of content, but an inability to process and actually edit and write it down. so forgive me if this is wordy. i hope you can hear my heart. 

we are nearly 4 years home with my daughter. she is our 3rd of 4 kids. she came home from china when she was 14 months old (she is almost 5 now). 

and there are times that i feel...hopeless. 
lately it's been more than sometimes. it's been often. 
i teeter between compassion and extreme frustration. 
i thought things were supposed to get better, not worse. 
i withdrawal from people because it feels too raw to let the pain our family is experiencing show.
they'll know how imperfect we are.
they'll think badly of adoption. 
they won't know how to respond when I tell them she hits and kicks and punches me.
they won't understand what it's like to be screamed at for hours on end. 
i'll sound like a bad parent who can't control my kid.
they wouldn't understand that this child i so desperately wanted, persused and love oh-so-deeply is, at times, tearing our family apart at the seams. 

we brought home a tiny, frail, malnourished little girl. she was the shell of a child with enormous potential. we went to countless therapy sessions, were followed by 9 specialist and underwent 2 major surgeries. our first year home was a blur of meetings, exhaustion and survival. i came out of it depressed and blindsided. it took me hiding away from everything, pulling out of all activities, and focusing only on our family for almost a year to come out of it. 

fast forward nearly 4 years...that child we brought home has disappeared. my daughter is strong and courageous, incredibly talented and creative. she can cut and color and glue like a 5th grader. she makes jewelry and intricate lego creations. she wears high heels and tap shoes and prances and dances and sings. she wrestles with her big brothers and is my ever present helper. dishwasher duty is her favorite chore and she randomly sweeps the floor just for the fun of being helpful. she carefully draws pictures of her and i holding hands. of me holding her as a baby. of hearts and kisses and love. she is funny and happy and loving and truly a gorgeous soul, inside and out. 

but there is also different side to her. one that no one else sees but us. what started as night terrors for the first 3 years and frustration over being non-verbal has become horrific raging tantrums lasting one to two hours every day over the past year. her skyrocketing verbal abilities have been an amazing triumph, and yet they allow her to tell me just how much she dislikes me. they also give her the freedom to harass and verbally abuse her brothers in ways that have caused tremendous strife and pain. 

we often have no idea what will set off her rage. sometimes its predictable and caused by something she wants but can't have (like wanting to go to preschool when her day off). other times it's caused by something she usually loves (like brushing her teeth or reading a book). 

during her rage, she hits and pinches and claws at me over and over and over again (while screaming at a velocity that can only be described as a veloceraptor stuck in a paper shredder). i've tried many techniques to help her stop and regulate. some work and some don't. usually doing something makes it worse so i've decided my new technique is to hug her until she stops raging. she punches my back and digs her heels into my feet and flails like i'm chopping off her limbs. and all i really want to do is go hide. hugging her at that moment is the very last thing i want to do. i want to lock myself in another room, put on headphones and watch a few episodes of a mindless show and forget about dinner burning and my child screaming. 
and just when i think i can't hug this flailing wild child any longer....
she lets go of her rage, and sinks deeply into my arms. and she cries...no sobs. uncontrollably. in an instant the anger is gone and she's my tiny girl again. my sweet girl and her sweet little heart. her entire demeanor softens and tears come hot and fast down her cheeks. her tenderness wells up and she hugs me with all her might. it's as if the past hour never happened. in fact, usually she doesn't even remember the things she said or did. 

i teeter between walking on eggshells, terrified of upsetting her vs. dealing with it, thus causing treacherous days for all involved. 

and this happens over and over and over. day after day, month after month. the past year has been the worst her rage has ever been, most likely brought on by the birth of her baby sister. 
it's depressing to think of all the love she was deprived of. the millions of times she needed someone to tickle her baby toes and make her giggle. snuggle cheek to cheek and speak softly into her ear. call her name just to see her smile. sit for hours nursing and snuggling and holding her as close as humanly possible. she needed that oh so desperately. every child does. those thousands of unmet needs have changed her. altered her brains ability to cope and it's devastating to think about. it's significant and gives reason to her unreasonable actions. her loss isn't lost on me. the deep places of hurt in her young life have changed her and changed her ability to process stress.

but i'm being honest. the day to day of life is difficult. my child who needs intense amounts of love and attention works the hardest to sabatogue nearly every moment of affection i give to her. 

and then i remember, the connection she so desperately seeks? it's what i'm seeking too. she so strongly fears she will be rejected at her most unlovely moment that she finds ways to test my limits to see if i really love her like i say i do. 
isn't that what we all want? to know we are loved even when someone else sees how very unlovely we are? isn't that exactly what Christ died for - our unlovliness? 

just when i start wondering how we will make it though...how will anyone understand, i remember...

there is the One who sees. the One who is refining me. the One who will not fail to bring glory to Himself through our mess. He is the One who allows the pain to bring purpose. the pain isn't lost on me. i need it. it hurts and it's awful but it's really the only way to get at who i really am. what i really stand for and rely on. and sometimes it shows my priorities and coping mechanisms are very misguided. on hard days do i hide on instagram? do i eat junk food to feel better? or do i sink into the Word and give myself the peace of knowing God is fully able to bring peace and calm to my spirit in a way nothing else can.

there is value in walking a road that isn't pretty. the long and crazy road is actually the one that brings the most out of life. it's the one that weaves in and out of places no one else sees because we aren't anyone else. we aren't meant to be the same. my child doesn't have a perfect formula that adds up because she is unique and requires my uniqueness in order for God to orchestrate our healing together. 

i'm learning that parenting in the hard places is real life. it gives me plenty of opportunities to apologize to my children for my attitude. for my quippy reply. for my shortness. they see my failures first hand, and witness my sin. i hope they remember my apologies and requests for forgiveness from them more than they remember my failures. but without failures i would fail to see my own imperfection. my pride would fool me into thinking i've got this parenting gig in the bag. God's role would be minor and mine would be the star. 

praise God, it isn't so. be, being refined. that is my status. my unfinished, failure ridden status. weaving in and out of the places no one else sees, but weaving a story i pray will read healing and a new generation of our family who love and serve the Lord. 

** i finally confided in a few close friends this past fall and shared our messiness. it made our struggle real and somehow more bearable to be known. i feel the strength of Godly friends praying for us and asking about her....for real asking, not just phony question. we are also pressing family counciling which i am praying will be able to start soon. if you are in a similar place of hopelessness and haven't been honest with your close friends around you, do so as soon as you can. it made a huge difference for me. 

this article was powerful for me...maybe it will be for you too. 


tiny wonder of a girl

i can't quite explain it, but the moment this little one was born, i needed her. with all my might, with all my soul and all my being. she is a treasure i had no idea i needed so very badly. it's as if my heart has been waiting for her without my knowledge. when she is with me, she looks deeply into my eyes. she snuggles close and calms at the sound of my voice or the moment my hand reaches for her. she is brand new. un-hurt and un-scarred. she doesn't have any past, only the future. i don't wonder where she was yesterday or one year ago. i know exactly her very presence in every moment of her life. i had no idea what a treasure this knowledge, this closeness actually is. if you don't know it, don't ever find out. if you find out, don't ever forget how very special it is for your child to know only you. to know only joy. to know only the calm of your voice and the safety of your arms. i needed to start over with a baby that would trust me from the very start. i needed it.
and she is so much more than the fulfillment of my needs, but at this time in my mothering, in this moment of my mid-30's i cannot imaging anything or anyone being a joy to match this tiny wonder girl.

penny my love

there are a million things i could write about you. two million. three.
you've been the delight of this year. from your tiny beginnings and my uncertainly about being a new mom again. from those long 10 weeks of feeling more sick and nauseous and horrible than i've ever felt...literally not leaving the couch or bed for weeks on end...to my big, giant belly with a very active and happy, kicky girl inside. by the time you could wiggle hard enough for me to feel you around 15 weeks, i was happily excited to remember the amazing and wonderful experience of life from within. you were my buddy. my constant companion. i absolutely loved every moment of your time within my womb. i didn't like how giant my body became, but i loved sacrificing for you. if i put my hand on my belly, you kicked me right away. you responded when i would sit by giving me a barrage of kickage. you loved to have your belly sticking waaaay up high and your legs kicking me in the same spot over and over. it felt like a very long pregnancy.
and then i met you.
i was awestruck. instantly and completely overtaken by you. i felt nervous and anxious when i wasn't holding you. somehow you soothed me. somehow you gave me peace. somehow you were everything i needed that i didn't realize i was missing. you were my delight and i wanted nothing more than to soak in every single moment. i didn't want to miss anything. so i held you all the time. day. night. morning. afternoon. evening. i hogged you. snuggled you. kisses you. millions upon millions of times. i photographed our every day with you. i adored your sleepy cheeks pressed to mine. i wanted every nap to never end. every smile to continue forever. every day you were my delight. you are 6 months old now. you rarely nap without me holding you :) and you usually sleep on my pillow with me :)  my constant companion. i need you just as much as you need me. comforting you is my greatest joy. you smile with your whole being when you smile at me. its like you see the real me and you still love me. you are shining God's love and joy on me every single day. if only, i would live every day with you again and again and again.
one of my most favorite part of our new life with you in it, has been seeing your siblings fall so deeply in love with you. during my pregnancy, they were so into everything babies. they wanted to know everything about being pregnant and how big you were and how babies are born and what you'd be like. and after you were born? forget about it. i've never seen such passion and love and joy exude from them, as it does when they look at you each and every day. they talk to you and play with you and push you in your scooter and hold you and bring you your favorite toys and hug you and kiss you and they adore you. every night they tell me to kiss you a 1,000 times. and hug you a 1,000 times after they go to bed. done and done. i think i kiss you 10,000 each evening. your little squishy cheeks and delightful little lippies have been smothered with kisses in your little lifetime.

when you were 2 weeks old, we realized you hadn't gained any weight. i rushed you to the doctor and they old me to supplement with formula, but i loved nursing you so much and you were such an expert nursing baby, i didn't want to do that. so i spent 3 days doing nothing but feeding you. i pumped after every other feeding to boost my supply and i fed you as much as you would allow. around 3 weeks you got very sick and lethargic. you didn't eat much for about 24 hours and spiked a 103 fever. i was panicked and hadn't slept in 2 days because i didn't take my eyes off of you. i rushed you to the ER and they did a ton of tests including blood work and a spinal tap and decided to keep you for observation for 48 hours in the pediatric unit. you were so lethargic, you didn't even move or cry when they put your IV's in and i could hardly get you to lift your head. so we sat in a hospital bed for 2 days and i fed you and kissed you and loved you. you were hooked up to all kinds of monitors and IV fluids helped boost you back to your usual spunky self. it was after your hospital stay that i realized in a certain nursing position you were able to get more milk, so i chose to only nurse you from one position (football hold) and you quickly caught up and started to grow grow grow. you became quite a little chunker and grew out of all the clothes we had for you at 3 months old! by 5/6 months you were wearing 18 months clothes! your belly was the cutest and sweetest and softest i'd ever seen.

you don't like to be apart from the action. you are rarely without siblings running everywhere or mama holding you or being in the middle of life. our house is small and loud and crazy. and you love it. if it's quiet, you seem to wonder where everyone is :)
emery loves you so very much. she talks constantly about how much she wants a baby just like you. she is tender and sweet and loving towards you and wants to do everything for you. but she has struggled deeply with the change in my relationship with her. she has seen me bond with you and it's been very difficult on her. there is a LOT of screaming. she rages and flips out about a lot of things and i often worry that you feel stressed during her terrorizing rages. you often cry when she screams in my face (because i'm usually holding you, trying to protect you from getting hit when emery gets mad), but thankfully i'm able to find ways to comfort you and whisper in your ear to try and make you feel safe, while trying to do the same for emery.

the boys have been spectacular with you. they both think you love them the most :) and they both insist you look like them :) the truth is you look a lot like foster, rowan and me as a baby. i see much of each in you.
you might be the last, but i want you to always know just how amazing and fantastic you have been in my life. how much of a treasure you are and the way that you have changed me for the better. the way that my heart needed you. the longing i have for you the instant you aren't in my arms. you are absolutely amazing and sweet and kind and the best things of life.
i can remember before i knew you were coming, if our family was complete. i can remember looking at family pictures thinking someone was missing but i couldn't imagine who it would be. the kids would draw family pictures and i would wonder if there was someone else we should draw. it was you. you were meant for us and we were meant for you.
i love you and God has gifted me in such a magnificent way with you. i pray over your sweet life that God would guide you and you would live a life of passion and love for Jesus.
you are you. and i love you.
love mama


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