Each time February rolls around, I remember the snowy and exciting February of 2014. We touched down in Bulgaria on our baby’s first birthday, eager to meet our oldest child the next day. Does that sound confusing? It can be, but I’ll tell you what: it made me smile to overhear Ezekiel and Eden playing with toy ponies today, explaining the structure of their make-believe family. “These ponies are twins, and this one’s the firstborn. This one was adopted; she’s the oldest.” I like hearing them work adoption into their play scenarios!
In February 2014, our five-, three-, and one-year-old children were nestled safely at home in Louisiana with their visiting grandparents. We were beyond thrilled to be meeting our new daughter, the one to whom God had directed us like an arrow shot straight to its target! We wouldn’t be allowed to bring her home until the following July, but meeting her was a huge step in the adoption process.
In recounting our pickup trip with you, I left off at a point where my trust in God was seriously faltering.
This is going to be real, folks. This has been one of the most difficult weeks of Mason’s and my life: a week of questioning God, panicking and doubting, alternating with trusting God, seeing and expecting great things. I’m a total mess. Jesus Christ, who truly loves all the children of the world, including the broken little girl sleeping in this room, is the only One keeping me standing right now. His face is what gets me up in the morning again to face Bulgaria – in fact, it was the thought of seeing Him face to face at the end of my life and having to explain why I didn’t go get this little girl He put on my heart that caused us to begin this journey in the first place!
It has been unspeakably difficult for me to leave Ezekiel, Eden and Isaiah to come effect this rescue plan that God picked us for. This mission to rescue Kamelia was not undertaken without counting the cost, but now that we are in the middle of it, it seems overwhelming. I’ve been blessed by the encouragement of friends and counselors in my lowest moments, and I’m grateful to them for believing and hoping for me and seeing the beauty that is going to come from this time of intense pain. It is so strange to watch videos of our happy, adorable kids at home that my mom sends and then to watch and hear Kamelia thrash and scream in anguish. Yes, we think the fits are lessening in duration and frequency still, and if I were to tell you all she is learning you’ll wonder why I’m not feeling more excited. She is saying more English words each day, learning new songs, performing tasks with help that she has never done before such as throwing away trash or putting on her own clothes, sitting at the table to eat, and so much more…but the road seems interminably long from this spot. This twelve day trip is beating me up. We are over halfway done, but I really need your prayers to carry me and Mason through to the end with strength and stamina. The temptation is for me to check out and wallow in sadness and anxiety rather than actively pursuing and bonding with Kami. When I focus on her, good things happen. Another ounce of trust is added to the bank. She learns a new word or giggles at something funny. It’s just becoming very hard to press on, though I know that the remaining hours and days will keep passing and the flight, no matter how challenging, will land and we will be back in the beautiful, wonderful United States. I won’t ever take that country for granted again! Mason is the most patient man in the world, but even he has had his moments where he needed a break. He has been wonderful with Kami, but it’s not easy. He also is ready to have his regular wife back, the one who is not sobbing about missing her baby.
This may look alright, us strolling the streets of Sofia; but it was so not alright. At age 7, Kami was much too big for the stroller, and every time we stopped she would arch her back and shriek like an otherworldly baby!
It’s impossible to accurately envision what life will be like on the other side of this. How will I manage the needs of all four kids, especially when Kami will probably still be throwing dangerous fits? It is heartbreaking to see a child so angry and hurt that she bites her hand or throws her head against the ground, but that’s what we’ve seen in the worst moments. It is heartbreaking to realize that so very many children are living in conditions where they have to resort to animal instincts to survive. No discipline, no parents, no love, no security, nobody to depend on. How can we overcome that? We can’t without the wisdom, strength and comfort of the Lord Almighty. It’s also an interesting realization that these undesirable behaviors are the very ones that allowed her to survive. In a sense, we have to respect her ability to navigate such a terrible environment and come out alive. But envisioning how to phase those behaviors out in a safe manner as she enters a family with three siblings is difficult. I wonder if we will ever go out again, if I will ever have a normal play date again, how home school will change. God knows these things. He intends for Kamelia to leave this place, to grow and thrive, to develop her musical talent, to build loving relationships and most importantly to know Him. He knows my heart is so torn up away from my babies that I am having trouble putting one foot in front of the other. He knows what Kami needs and is giving us wisdom to help her heal. Please pray for us as we finish out this time in country, that God will fill us with His peace and strength. I said this months ago, and I definitely believe it now – adoption isn’t charity, it’s war!
It’s interesting for me to read this today because we’re currently passing through a regression that includes a revival of some old animal instincts. Kami doesn’t need them anymore to survive, but her brain doesn’t always remember this. On the other hand, it’s amazing how my own words, journaled years ago, can give me the perspective I need. I wondered if we would ever go out again as a family; now we go out all the time. Unless a stranger gazes intently at Kami or tries to initiate a conversation with her, they might not even notice what’s different about her. Only her immediate family usually sees those old instincts come out, and it’s typically when she’s upset that we require her to submit to God’s authority over her. The mechanism of God’s authority for a child is, of course, parents. A soul who never felt an ounce of loving authority for her first seven years is ill-equipped to understand that love comes in the form of discipline. But it does. Today and yesterday have been tough, but I find the Lord providing the words when I don’t have any kind ones to say. He reminds us both that He rescued her so she could bring Him glory. I’m not sure she understands the depth of that truth, but I do, and my soul needs to hear it at the end of the day just as much as hers does.
Kami will turn ten next month, and it feels good to know she’s now been with us for about 25% of her life. The first 75% of her life continues to present a challenge as we move forward. God is helping us where no human help will do.
So what’s going on with you that’s really challenging your trust in God? Do you question Him, like I did, when the going gets rough and you realize that the thing He called you to do is much harder than you knew going in? I’m with you, friend.
“When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Isaiah 43:2