Monday, April 9, 2018

Two Months Home: struggles, realities, and provisions

Cardboard Testimony at our church's Passion Play

If someone could see into our future a year ago and tell us what having Lottie home would look like, I honestly would have run the other way.  It would have been fairly simple to change to another waiting child at any point before our dossier went to China in September.  Yet through the entire process we knew in our hearts that she was the daughter God had chosen for us, so we must choose her.  We walked in uncharted waters in blind faith, trusting God knew what we could and couldn't handle. We knew she had more significant special needs than Anna Faith, but also knew there was a reason we had to wait 3 years to bring her home.  God was preparing us.   One year ago, we weren't ready.  But through all the delays, fighting, and sacrifices to bring her home, He strengthened us and grew us to ready our hearts for the challenge of being her biggest cheerleaders.
Speech Therapy twice a week.  We love Mrs. Stephanie!

Occupational Therapy in Jackson.  Ms. Nancy is great!

Occupational Therapy

Physical Therapy with Mr. Brian.  She loves working with him!
These two months home have had so many ups and downs, disappointments, struggles, and pull-my-hair-out moments.  There have been days when I've felt so alone like no one understands our day-to-day hardships, then there are days when someone I never knew well before our adoption comes over to meet a need and is used by God as such a comfort to our hearts and ease the load.
Having a special girl like Lottie in our lives gives me much more compassion for parents of special needs children.  I get it now: the exhausted look in the church service, the slow reply to messages, the no show to the parties or concerts, the lack of connection with families with bright, accomplished children.  The envy that creeps in when the "normal" families go on vacation to a water park, take a family bike ride, go camping (I so miss that), go see a concert.  I see the "different kids" at stores and instead of acting like I don't notice, I do notice and smile big and let them know I affirm them, to let them know their child is a blessing, not someone to overlook or try to diagnose as I pass by.  I hear stories on Facebook and cry tears of empathy when a special child is struggling, in the hospital, or if a parent vents over hurt or frustration.  Getting a message of encouragement from a friend who can relate is like having a breath of fresh air infused into me.  No, we are not alone.
Learning to put on socks by practicing on her sister

Trying to get off the bar stool by herself- so much work!

Going up the stairs without holding railing- we were amazed!

You may wonder why we make such a big deal about every one of Lottie's milestones.  After all the diagnostic testing she's had from her therapists, she is averaging physical abilities of a 12-18 month old in most areas.  She is currently 5 years, 4 months old.  Being in an orphanage holds a child back developmentally by an average of 30% every year.  So instead of being at an expected 3 1/2 year old level, she is much more severely delayed.  Taking a first step off a curb unassisted after lots of cheering and encouragement, sliding off a chair onto the floor for the first time after prodding and instructing for an hour, drawing a circle after practicing a month, pulling up into the car so I can lift her into her car seat, learning basic signs over meals to tell me she is done or wants more, even opening and closing the refrigerator door to get out a drink, these are all huge!  So many parents (like me before) take for granted the ability our healthy children's brains have.  Hers, according to the radiologist report, was squished and compressed at birth by excess fluid to misshape her brain's growth for a time.  It is now out of proportion in most areas and is working hard  to compensate and wire itself to allow her to have normal motor, processing, and verbal skills.  Lottie is uniquely made and no child is just like her.  There is no diagnosis, no "label", just challenges to function in many areas.

God placed her with us not just because she needed us, but we needed her.  Life has slowed down a lot for us. I don't mean this to say we don't do anything, we are much more on the go than ever before.  We are thankful for a minivan with great gas milage and have many songs on the Christian radio station memorized (even Lottie hums along to them now).  It is chaos almost every day to get everything that must be done accomplished.  A stack of 10 thank you notes have been sitting in a box and took three weeks to complete, but not before they were torn apart and/or drawn on by a curious little girl.  Messages on my phone have taken days or weeks to reply to.  To-do's on a list stay there for weeks on end, even if the task would only take 10 minutes.  I've always taken pride in being a Type A personality.  I set my mind to do something, and put it on a list and it gets done.  But through all this "new normal" I'm beginning to realize I don't HAVE to have it all together.  I just need to trust the One who does.  If we got another "easy" child like Anna Faith (she exceeded almost every typical international adoption expectation in just the first month), we would not be seeing our faith be stretched nearly as much. We wouldn't be able to relate to other families in the trenches of the unknown.  We wouldn't experience the service of people we only knew by name before helping us in areas we always thought we could manage ourselves.  We wouldn't get to see answered prayer after answered prayer through our daughter's bonding, trust, and test results.
At another doctor's visit. 

Getting an x-ray of her hip to figure out walking issues
Right now Lottie is in therapy four days a week.  Juggling PT, ST, and OT around homeschooling my other four, keeping up with our international student ministry, getting in night shifts at my job when possible, and maintaining life in general with all its relationships and responsibilities has been hard.  Even when we are home it is like having a toddler in the house.  Lottie needs lots of attention and training.  Just teaching basic skills like removing clothing or taking off a jacket can be exhausting.  Trying to get her to take one step up a stairway without railings by herself takes lots of cheering and encouragement.  We have given up on potty training for now because it was so time consuming and has had no results.

At the Passion Play with Josiah

Watching workers through the window.  She is getting to be a very friendly girl!

First picture caught of her cutting up!

I have become very aware of my physical limitations through this adoption.  I now have four different prescriptions to help me manage life as a nearly 41 year old with such a heavy load in this season, and make time to see a chiropractor once a month.  (I know that statement may generate a lot of private messages trying to sell me alternative supplements and remedies- please realize you won't be getting a reply!).  But it is important to remember this life isn't about being comfortable.  It's about dying to self and living for eternity.  If being physically uncomfortable for the glory of God is in His plan, then I must yield to that.  It's part of partaking in Christ's sufferings.   I'm just thankful for God's provision of practitioners who understand what I need and are sensitive to that.
Taking the step of faith of choosing Lottie wasn't hard.  Living out that faith day by day and not longing for what used to be is.   We love her dearly.  We continue to fight for and advocate for her to get the best chance to meet her full potential.  We know that the Lord is walking each step of the way with us.  We also know He provides relief and blessing through some very special people who have come into our lives.  I know they don't do it for recognition.  They don't even think that what they are doing is very significant.  But they get to be partakers in being Jesus' hands and feet to us.

Easter Day in front of our home.
Thank you for all the encouraging words and messages you send.  When each comes, it is always timely.  We need to hear them.  Even if I don't reply or can't respond with more than a "thank you" when we are in person, knowing you notice and affirm us means the world!
I don't like candy coating adoption.  It is hard.  I can't emphasize this enough.  It is not a fairy tail.  It's messy, it's painful, it's sacrificial, and it's life altering.  But it is a privilege to be called to do it, and I consider it an honor that God chose us to walk this path and stretch us, mold us, and use us, even when we don't see clearly and must trust His purposes.


  1. Tonya, you have been on my heart so often over the past couple months. I’m not quick to comment on posts but I try to be quick to lift you all up in prayer. We love Lottie too and pray that God continues His good work in her and your family! Thank you for sharing, your honest words and faith are an encouragement for me. With love to you all, Marci Bahr

  2. Just know that you are not alone as parents of special needs kids. It is so often hard, but so worth it.