Sunday, June 30, 2013

How do I go on?

How do I go on? 

That is the question that keeps rattling around in my mind and burning on my heart. 

How do I go on?

I feel like I should be treated with the care of a trauma victim, not like a returning adventurer.  I feel like I need prayers to be able to just function again on a day-to-day level.  I don't know how to even begin a response when I am asked, "How was your trip?"  It is always asked with a smile on the person's face - I am sure thinking I have some grand stories to tell. 

As I try to summon a response, I start to gulp back the tears.  A few people have said at that point, "Life changing, huh?"  That doesn't even begin to scratch the surface - it sounds too cliche.  Almost like it is a good thing.  I trust that my loving Savior will bring good from this, but it will be truly beauty from ashes.  It will be a beautifying of ugly, blood red scabs.  Not a majestic "life-changing" the birth of a baby or saying "I do" to the love of your life.  In the end, I just don't answer.

When I first got home, I was able to calmly discuss the trip with Handsome and my mom.  I was able to describe what I saw and how it made me feel.  I was able to sleep the first night.  I thought I was okay.  Now, I know I was just in shock....that I just hadn't gotten out of the numbness of the shock.

On the second full day home, it really hit me.  I really started thinking about what I had seen and where I had left my precious little girls.  I was frantic with pain, trying to find some form of relief.  The only thing I can think to compare it to is trying to escape the grief when I found out my grandmother died.  My frantic pain took Handsome completely by surprise.  He thought - just like I did - that I was okay.  I am not okay.  I am still not okay.

I have read other blogs of other families - the intense desire for my daughters is "normal" - if you can call anything in the world of special needs adoption "normal".  There is an absolute understanding of the neglect of institutionalism.  So, why I am struggling so badly?  All I can think is that I saw behind the magic curtain.  If I had just seen Hope the way I a sterilized room with only tiny accidental glimpses of the other children...I would have absolutely known it was bad.   I would have seen my tiny girl, all her trauma, her black eye, her weak body and known it was very, very bad.  It would have still been "life-changing", I would still have grief.  I would still long for my babies.  But, I would sleep at night without nightmares.  I would eventually be able to draw in a full breath.  I would be able to eat.

But with the setting with Serenity, I LIVED with it.  I saw all the children without the careful "posing" and carefully constructed pictures.  I saw those children who made international headlines years ago for the indescribable neglect and conditions.  I saw the near "end" result of a life of institutionalism.  (I know seeing the actual end - the adult mental institutions - would have been even worse.  I cannot imagine...even with all that I have now seen.)  I saw their eyes.  I saw their contorted bodies.  I heard their screams.  I was -and am- completely helpless to save them or reduce their suffering beyond a few moments for those 2 1/2 days. 

I see R. when I close my eyes.  Only blind.  She was ONLY BLIND.  And yet now she is severely disabled.  Not able to do a single thing for herself.  She does not even feed herself.  She was only blind.  She will eventually go home to her loving Savior after who knows how many horrific years in an adult mental institution.  I. cannot. save. her.  There is nothing I can do beyond prayers.  Two others who were only autistic.  I cannot say even that they would have been severely autistic if they would have been in a home that loved them.  Now, they are trapped in their own nightmares.

I reach for peace the only place I know where to find it - in His Word.  I know it to be true - every word of it.  He still reigns.  He sees all things.  He loves each of these children.  He has a purpose for my pain.  He is my Rock and my salvation. My comforter and my Redeemer.  It is the only thing that is keeping me sane.  He has shaped this path I am on in His perfect wisdom.  He will carry me.  He will give me grace and mercy.

Yet, now I struggle with "The joy of the Lord is my strength."  I have great joy that this is not the end.  That He has saved me and is preparing a place for all He calls His own.  I take great joy in knowing each of these precious lives will be with Him for eternity.  That they will have rest and love.  That He will wipe away each tear with His own Hand - in fact, He has collected the tears they have cried here in a bottle.  They were not unseen even in a lonely crib in an orphanage. 

But how do I find the joy for each day here?  I cannot sleep at night due to the nightmares.  I cannot see the blessings God has poured out on me without thinking of those that have nothing.  I cannot snuggle Mimi and Grace without thinking of those who have no one to hold them.  I cannot find the balance I need.  I cannot meet the eyes of my friends who ask how I am doing.  I am searching for any kind of peace - rather than clinging to the Prince of Peace.

I know we will try to redeem more, God willing.  But what if we save 2 more...and then even 2 more...there are countless others.  Staggering numbers.  Unfathomable pain.  How to find joy with that drowning each breath I try to take.

My children need me to be "complete" mom - ready to laugh with them, to tease, to find joy in each of their lives.  Handsome needs me to be a wife full of love and joy.  To be full of energy and the strength that comes from the joy of my Savior.

It is now that I need to believe that He is more than enough.  He is enough for my pain.  He is enough for their pain.  He is enough to carry me through the nightmares.   He is enough to heal my soul.  He is enough to turn beauty from complete destruction. That it is enough to do what He asks me to do with my own little life and trust Him to save the world.  That I am only responsible to do with excellence what He has placed lovingly in my Hands.  That He has shaped this cross I carry perfectly for what He created me to be.

So I will try to breathe deeply of the fresh air that surrounds me.  I will kiss my children and Handsome with abandon.  I will serve with everything I have.  I will strive to follow Him and pray for peace, patience, and wisdom.  I will delight in each gift, in each day.  I cannot save the world - only He can - but I can save as many as He chooses to give me.  Even then, it is not me, but His grace.

It does not erase the pain and despair.  But focusing on His face keeps me from sinking beneath the waves. 

Until He comes....To Him be all glory, honor, and power.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Letters to home..

I just returned yesterday from the country my daughters are in.

I just don't know how to possibly begin to retell it all.  Even as I sit here, the joy, the horror, the sorrow, threaten to overwhelm me with an indescribable intensity.  There wasn't a whole lot of private "down time".  That turned out to be a good thing.  No time to think too hard, no time to really cry before I drifted off to an exhausted sleep. Now that I am home, I am afraid to cry.  I am afraid once I start, I will not be able to stop for a very long time.

I know people are waiting to hear about this trip - I know what it is like to be on the other side, refreshing the blog every few hours because I just want to know what happened!  But it is an enormous task to try to put to words.  So, I believe that God whispered the way - just to give you my email letters I sent home to my family as it happened....They will be very informal as I am writing to an audience ranging from Handsome all the way down to The Boss.  I will also need to edit out any identifying information, as I have been asked to not share pictures, etc. until the adoption is complete.  I should mention that "Serenity" and "Hope" are names that we have given the girls, not their names in their country, so we are safe there.

So this will be a very lengthy post, so either pour your cup of coffee or get your "scroll down" button ready.  There will not be any pictures of the girls, I am so very sorry.... I will be editing a bit because it is so long, but this should take you on the journey with me ~

Right after I met Hope:

Where to even start?

I guess with thanking God for this amazing treasure!

The drive to {her city} took forever!  It seemed longer than the entire airplane flight!  But in reality it was about an hour and a half.  Once we left {the capital city}, it was beautiful empty countryside.  As in no farming, etc.  but I will tackle that later...lots of thinking about socialism vs capitalism....

When we pulled up to the building, I was overwhelmed with sadness that my daughter was behind those iron bars and cement walls.  I tried to think of something positive to keep from I decided to be thankful it was newly painted bright yellow.  I started to smile....until we found out it was the wrong building!  When we pulled up to the actual orphanage, it was much, much worse!  No bright yellow paint even.  I was starting to fall apart but then we saw some little ones going for a walk with nannies.  I recognized "Roland", a little boy I had prayed for!  I know his family is coming for him, so it brought me great joy!  Thank God!

When we got there, the social worker at the orphanage was very stiff and unfriendly.  Even Mr. A. {my guide} was surprised and he has worked with orphanages for years!  She seemed bent on saying no to everything.  She left the room and I whispered to Mr. A that they had kept the last family waiting for 2 hours.  I thought Mr. A was going to cry!  So, I was completely unprepared when I turned around and she walked in with Hope!

I was afraid last night that I would have a brief moment of unease over her face, but she was so beautiful!  Much more than the pictures.  She was very scared and nervous.  I tried to move slowly and touch her gently, but she immediately arched away.  The social worker led us down in a dungeon like hallway and stopped to unlock the door.  I felt the walls closing in!  But when she unlocked the door, it was a tiny room but had big windows that the breeze was coming through.  She had told Mr. A that she had to be with us EVERY moment -yikes! - but she turned around and left.  Whew!  We all laughed in relief.  Hope was very scared.  She was making a funny growly noise that was a little disconcerting and was pulling away from our attempts to play.  I was getting a little worried that we really were going to have a tough time.  I assumed we would but it is different standing in the room.  Feeling a little desperate, I pulled out that little music toy that Mimi loved- ta dah!  She was fascinated!

Mr. A was wonderful, slowly working with her to play with me and then stepping back when she relaxed.  We found out very quickly that she loves sounds.  She would pat or knock on everything.  So I began playing with her by finding new sounds by banging on different things.  She slowly began to lean closer to me.  I began pulling toys out one by one and Mr. A laughed at my "magic" bag.  She already loved the music toy...but oh, the blow up beach ball got a giggle from her!  We banged and bounced it.  I quickly realized that she WOULD copy what I did.  That is something Mimi doesn't do yet!

We kept her busy for a long time and I slowly slid her onto my lap.  She is not stiff..but she is very tiny (skinny) and has squishy muscles (lack of muscle) like Mimi before she started moving.  We had been told that she could stand holding onto something, but that is not the case really.  Just like Romeo, when we tried to stand her on her feet, she just pulled her legs up so her feet didn't touch the floor.  Mr. A helped pull her legs down but she stood in a really funny position.  So I sat her down and pulled her socks off.  She has an extra toe!  But this toe looks and moves more like a thumb.  But she can't really stand on that may be part of why she doesn't stand or walk.  The toe is kind of hard to look at, honestly.  But as we played more and more I began kissing her feet - she was shocked and then delighted.  She would hold her feet up for me to kiss.  :). The more I dealt with it, the easier it was.  I am sure it will need to be removed, but I think it will be a complicated surgery, just looking at the tendons and bones.

She prefers to lay down and play (like Mimi for a long time).  So I would let her lay fora bit but then sit her up again.  Pretty soon she was leaning against me.  I do not think she can pull herself into a sitting position, but like Mimi way-back-when I think she just doesn't want to and needs to build tummy muscles.  I started to sneak therapy in with her legs and pretty soon she was KICKING the ball over and over again to Mr. A.  I am absolutely confident she can learn to move and walk - she just has no motivation to right now.  Mr. A  feels the same way.

Even though they told us it would be strictly 2 hours, we were with her until 1 pm and they said we could come back after 2. 

Mr. A and Mr. T took me out to lunch  and we chatted about politics and laughed a lot.  Soon Mr. A started asking a lot of questions about our family.  I could tell he had been thinking about it a lot.  Much, much laughter as we discussed it.  They are both really funny. :)

We went back and they gave us the key to the room.  Then the social worker told Mr. A to just keep the key because she didn't trust her staff.   Mr. A and Mr. T  just held their laughter in until they were sure she was gone and then guffawed loudly as they translated for me.  We were suddenly more worthy than her staff!  She also gave us permission to take her outside!  That is HUGE!

When they brought her in she settled on my lap with the music toy.  Mr. A and Mr. T said they will hear that in their sleep tonight!  I told them welcome to our world!  I worked with the word "push" over and over again and soon she would hold her hand out shyly for me to help her.  By the end, she was doing it by herself most of the time!

I noticed though that she would still not look at me or let me turn her to face me.  So I waited until she started to fuss and then stood up and faced her toward me, but so she could see outside.  I started singing to her and slowly, slowly she leaned her forehead against my cheek.  Mr. A then asked if I wanted to take her outside?  Of course!

She does make different little growly sounds and shrieks quietly when excited.  She LOVES it when I copy her noises back to her!  So when we started walking down the hallway, she was making her happy noises.  But when she saw the open door as I started to step thru it, she went stiff as a board and had this complete stunned look of shock.  I don't think her eyes could have gotten any bigger!  I instantly stopped in the door way and kept talking quietly.  Oh, so slowly, I took baby steps outside.  I cannot describe the look of shock and wonder on her face!  I sat down on a bench and she just kept looking around in shock.  She loved the trees blowing in the breeze.  Finally she got excited enough that she shrieked.  Well that ECHOED off the cement walls.  Joy!  Now we had to squeal to hear the echo! 

I finally stood up and walked toward the old, rundown playground.  She did well for about 10 minutes and couldn't get over the sun on her face.  But it was hot!  So we went back to the bench in the shade.  She started flopping around again - can you say " sensory deprived"?  So I took a chance as she was laying in my arms and sucked in air as I said "Uhhhh!" Then rolled/bounced her toward me while making rhythmic noises as I did with The Testy Chef when she was a baby!  At first she was shocked but then squealed with delight. Then to my great delight, she began LOOKING at my face in anticipation as I would start the first noise!  Smart girl!

She finally got tired, so we went back in.  She was definitely worn out.  So I held her and she let me snuggle her a bit.  I had worked ever so slowly all day on touching her more.  At first she wouldn't let me at all but slowly, so slowly, she let me touch her.  First just " big" still touches, like my hand on her leg...but eventually tickles in small does and kisses on her feet and fingers.  Finally, she let me brush her hair back repeatedly with my fingers.  By the way, her skull is completely closed, even over her nose.  I wasn't sure if it would be soft, or cartilage or what, but it is a firm skull.  That makes me feel much better.  And it is really just from the top of her lip to her hairline.  She has good looking teeth, but the top ones are pointing funny because of the different shape of her palate.  But I could see the palate was closed.  Anyway, as I was rocking her, I was singing, but was looking out the window, but I finally felt a tiny little hand reach up and touch my face!  She wouldn't look at me, but just searched with her little hand.  She would just brush her fingers on my cheek and then pull away, then do it again but it was BLISS for this mama!

She finally drifted off to sleep.  I held her for about 20 minutes asleep before they came to get her.  Ahhhhh, my heart is so blessed!

Handsome, to answer your question- cognitively I am sure she is farther than Mimi is now.  She anticipates ( which Mimi does now too), she mimics (absolutely necessary for teaching/learning, and she is extremely curious, another huge step!  I am positive she will walk, run, etc.  as far as talking, the shape of her mouth my make it hard but she is a prime candidate for simple sign language to begin with - so using it even now.

I love you all so much!!  Getting tired, must need coffee!  :)"

The second day:

I sit down to write an email and my thoughts and emotions are just pouring over me tsunami to even begin?  Especially one finger typing...this gets old!

 Today was joyous and heartbreaking - contrasts seem to be very strong here!  When they brought Hope in she got very animated - flapping her hands and making noises - but then just leaned back into my lap (facing forward, of course!  She doesn't choose to face inward) and relaxed.  She was a little more mellow most of the day compared to yesterday.  We stood at the window for as long as I could hold her.  Eventually I would have to sit down.  She squealed and grunted her happiness.  She also loved to play with the lace curtains.  She would drape them over her head and scratch them against the wall (to hear the sound, of course!). Suddenly, she looked straight at me (very unusual) and started touching my cheeks and mouth thru the lace.  It was like the lace between us made it "safe" to touch me.  Eventually, she pulled the lace to the side and shyly touched my face a few times and then pulled the lace back over her.  She did this several times.  Huge steps!   

Poor Mr. A and Mr. T were very hot so I felt badly asking them to go outside, but I knew Hope wanted to go.  They were very nice about it, they knew she loved it too.  She began squealing, kicking, and flapping with excitement as we headed down the corridor.  She hesitated only slightly as I walked thru the door.  She was sooooo happy, it makes me cry just thinking about the look on her little face.  I brought the bubbles out and she was fascinated!  Unfortunately, we only had about 10 minutes before they came to get her for lunch.  The two nannies so far have held her very gently and have been kind.  The social worker is a little gruff, but not really unkind - but she holds her in a very funny position, almost like she is trying not to touch her.  Anyway, it is sad to see Hope snap to attention, almost like a soldier, when any of the staff say her name.  Her face just goes blank. :(.

Part of the heartbreak today is that Hope had a very black eye.  I don't know if she hit her face against the crib - she does get animated - or if someone hit her.  I was gulping back vomit realizing there was nothing I could do to keep her safe if someone was hurting her.  The day was also filled with kids sobbing in pain.  Mostly older children, not babies.  Again I was fighting throwing up knowing I couldn't help them.  There was nothing I could was just the "sounds of the orphanage" .  I don't think anyone was purposely hurting them, I think they were just in untreated pain.  My mind just went numb in shock.  I knew I would hear it, but it is so different actually sitting there.  But again, in contrast, 2 nannies had some smaller children outside with glasses of water with ice..they were all content.  I don't think I could say happy, but they were being cared for....

After they took Hope for lunch, the social worker gave us the forms to prove we had been there.  We went and picked up her visa photo, which I love!  Then had lunch at a bowling alley.  I had a good Greek salad.

When we got back to he orphanage we rang and rang the bell and no one came.  Mr. T said many people stop working around noon on Fridays.  It is funny and not funny all at once.  Mr. A finally went peeking in windows until he found some workers - all sleeping.  I kid you not! 

So once they let us in and grumped a bit (the other social worker's shift was done), they brought Hope to us.  She was very happy and came right to me - always facing forward and no eye contact.  

We played and played at the window.  We listened to music on the iPad.  I kissed her feet.  Then we went back outside.  She just wiggled and squealed and danced on my lap.  Eventually she just laid in my arms as she watched the leaves and felt the wind on her face.  Finally, she sat straight up and wiggled/giggled/laughed enough that we were all laughing.  Mr. T turned on his radio and he started silly dancing for her.  How she squealed with delight!!!  She was so happy.

We were outside for at least an hour and a half.  I knew time was getting short, but I kept telling myself it would be okay.  A very nice older nanny came out who obviously loved her.  It was the first time Hope didn't "snap" to attention.  Instead she looked at me so sadly, like she was saying, "Really?  I really have to go?"  That was the end of me.  I made it to the car and started crying.  Mr. A and Mr. T kept saying, "It's okay.  I will buy you a coke.  Okay, I will buy you chocolate, too.  How about some gum?"  They stopped and bought all three.  I ate some and then promptly fell asleep in the car until we reached {the capital city}.

 Oh, by the way, Hope grinds her teeth worse than all our other kiddos!  She also makes this grunting/huffing noise to communicate.  I couldn't get it on video.  She also fake cries a bit, it was pretty funny.  Um, she also can pop her hips and knees in and out of the sockets when she is nervous.  I am not joking!  Obviously, I will talk to the doctor about it when she comes home.

We will obviously have plenty of time to talk before she comes home, but she will be different than Grace's homecoming - as we have said all along.  She definitely has "institutionalized" behaviors such as her hip popping, grinding, and obsession with sounds.  She also hits herself in the head with her fists and bangs her heels against the floor very hard.  She does not like to be held toward a person until she relaxes.  She is very busy trying to see and hear everything around her.  She is very scared of touch.  BUT the progress we made in just 2 days gives me great hope.  There is so much potential there.  I am trusting God to give us strength, wisdom, and direction.

After meeting Serenity, bits and pieces over the 2 1/2 days:

Oh, my!  The adventure gets crazier!!!

It took us 4 hours to get to {Serenity's city}.  We stopped at the new mall- BIG news in {this country}!  The director asked to meet us there but we weren't sure we know!

Serenity was moved in Dec to a "family-style" home..more like a tiny orphanage.  There are only 8 kids here.  But it is in the middle of miles and miles and miles and miles of sunflower fields.  Absolutely gorgeous but waaaaaaay out in the middle of no where.  Mr. A's GPS can't even find us!  We laughed as the road got rougher and rougher and then finally disappeared to dirt ruts!  Oh, but it is beautiful!  They have flowers and gardens.  It is still very rough- there is just a big hole they throw all their garbage in...but sooooo much better than an "institution". 

They absolutely adore Serenity.  She has really chubbed up!  She is still shorter than The Boss by quite a bit, but she is a really healthy size.  As you saw from the video, she feeds herself!  In fact, I think her theme is "do it myself!"  She definitely rules the roost here!  But she is also very happy.  She only says 3 words in {her language} - "me" "mine" and " no!"  Can you see we are in trouble?

It is a very different experience.  We are so far out here, we are just going to stay in 2 tiny rooms they made as guest rooms.

It is going to be a little hard "visiting" with Serenity with everyone watching every move we make.  She is also very busy and I don't know the rules- can she go in that door or not?  Is she supposed to touch or not?  She definitely has her own mind!  Actually it will be very hard.  They are treating us very nice, but we are on display.  It is also hard on the other children.  I will ask if I can give them stuffed animals.  I will definitely leave all the toys here, if I can.  They have sunshine and fresh air but not many toys that I can see.

She is very well cared for, but is going to be a handful when she comes home.  She is bigger than I thought, entirely due to good food, good care, and fresh air.  She had 1 surgery on her hand!  But the doctor only did the right hand - and she is left handed!  That made me so mad I wanted to cry!  Are you kidding me?  Her hands are very misshapen.  I will try to get pictures up close so people can start getting used to them.  Even after surgery, they will not look "normal".   But she uses them very, very well.  Her head actually looks pretty good.  She plays with her tongue and drools a lot.  She makes lots and lots of noises and giggles.

I pulled a few toys to start with from my bag.  She loves them all, but pretty soon she started going to my bag to try to find another toy.  Smart, stubborn girl.  She LOVES seeing herself in the camera and she knows it is her.  She saw the little hair clip pies in her hair right away and pulled them right out!  She played and played with her tongue.

Today we spend all day here again.  It truly is a beautiful place where we are at if you ignore the hurting children and the deep poverty....which is very hard to do.  It is good to see Serenity in her own environment.  She is very busy - not in a frantic way, but just always doing something.  She does NOT want to be babied.  She climbs up and down all the furniture by herself.  She drinks from a cup by herself (although she will start playing with it if you don't stop her).  They really work to keep her chin clean from drool, not an easy thing.  They are also trying to teach her to keep her tongue in her mouth, but when she is busy, I think she breathes better that way.  And she is already used to 4 mothers, so she will fit in just fine with so many older sisters! ;-)

Everything about this trip has such contrasts or conflicting emotions.  I genuinely like the women who care for Serenity and I do think this place is better than Hope's institution, but it is still hard to see the older kids just left in their chairs.  They do move the ones that are able to the ground with a blanket but some are just not able.  It was hard to eat a very nice meal while the children had just basics...but most couldn't have eaten it anyway. 

Serenity LOVES to eat - she will not stop on her own.  There is one woman here that is very quiet but very intelligent.  She says it is not good, but that the other ladies don't want to tell her no.  She had already eaten her dinner, but when she saw me eating, she ran over and climbed up in my could I resist?  I guess I am no better than the rest of them!  She eats the food blended up into a thick paste.  But she can also eat toasted bread (the soft bread sticks to the roof of her mouth) and she loves the soft cheese they have here.  It is a little harder than our cream cheese and it tastes very good!  Especially spread on a piece of toasted bread!  Definitely taking my allergy pills!

Tomorrow, we will take Serenity back into {the city} to get her visa picture taken.  I hope they turn out as good as Hope's and that they will send it to Mr. A's email again so we can have it.  After that, we drive back to the city and I need to sign papers.

This is a very good place for Serenity until we can come rescue her.  She is spoiled and pampered, but she is loved.  (Can I just say, it is official - I am completely head over heels in love with my new daughters!)

The other 7 children here are much older.  They appear to be 7 or 8 years old, but in reality, they are more like 15 and up.  There is one little guy who might be 8ish and he needs to be rescued so badly.  There is also a young man who appears to be mid-teens, but is actually 22.  He looked vaguely familiar, along with most of the older ones.  I could not figure out why.  The young man, has obvious special needs cognitively, he works on a 4-6 year old level.  But he is extremely friendly and helpful.  He just follows me around like a puppy.  He is always getting me a napkin or a chair.  He was very excited when I gave him (and the rest of the kids) the beanie babies.  I also let him play with the magnet book, the magna doodle, and the crayons.  He was so excited.  I also helped him take pictures (lots of pictures) on the iPad.  He has a special place in my heart.  He grew up in an  orphanage but had to leave at 18 years old.  Now he works in the fields during the day, but is allowed to live here on the weekends.  He helps with laundry, etc.  it is an almost unheard of situation where he is actually cared for.  But that could easily change with a change of director or staff.  :(. He looked very familiar.  The older kids are very badly special needs.  Extreme institutionalized behaviors.  The girl that was blind really looked familiar.  I couldn't figure it out until Mr. A's told me where they came from.  Over a year ago, I watched a horrific documentary called {name of the video}.   For some reason, I ended up watching parts of it again my first night in {the country}.  It is NOT something for ANY of the kids to watch.  It was about the children of {this area} - who made international news about 6 years ago as they were much worse than even {another bad orphanage}, if you can imagine.  Well, Mr. A told me these children are from there...I have seen them on the videos.  Horror. 

 I do think that my mind and heart just go into shock.  How else can you eat dinner as children are screaming and moaning 8 feet from you?  One of the girls is extremely autistic.  She would wait until the staff looked away and then try to take Serenity's toys or pull her hair.  At first I was very angry, but I realized that Serenity gets ALL the attention.  She is the favorite.  That is when I pulled out the beanie babies.  She was so happy to get one!  She was still mean, but at least she had her own toy.

The youngest boy has limb deformities and is blind.  I am pretty sure I have seen him listed before.  He sit curled up in a chair and no one notices him.  They fed him and turned away.  He vomited on himself and they just left it for a long time.  I like the staff,but they don't see the kids as people, just like the rest of the country.  It is a "good" situation as far as institutional go, but still horrific.........

Today was very, very hot.  There were flies on everything.  I did fine yesterday but today I just couldn't stand the flies anymore, so I waved the coloring book like a fan whenever I had a chance. 

Being at the beck-and-call of a busy, stubborn 3 year old does wear me out.  How I wish I was bringing her home.  She will adore having big brothers and sisters! 

One of the problems I see us having to deal with is that she eats ALL the time.  Until she feels sick.  She plays for awhile and then cries at her high chair until someone feeds her - again.  Some of the food she eats is very good for her - but others are just sweets or chips.  She is gaining weight rapidly (1kg a month!) which will soon make her too heavy.  We will have to move the food out of her reach for awhile.

Speaking of food, for dinner tonight, we had yummy sausage-type meat, fresh tomatoes, and....yuck...the same cabbage stuff I didn't like at lunch, except this time it was served cold.  :(  But, yes!  I ate every bite with a smile on my face so I didn't hurt their feelings!  Just remember that I do understand sometimes you don't like things - really don't like things- but there are times you just have to eat them!

All day long the tv is turned on (yes, no garbage service, but there is cable tv!) - crazy!  It is on the Bulgarian folk channel with people singing folk songs in the craziest videos.  They are not meant to be funny, but I had to really work not to laugh.  Bad mommy!

It was very hot and then dark clouds rolled in.  We have heard thunder most of the afternoon and evening.  It did finally rain for a bit, making it hot and muggy.  Yuck.  I am ready for some cooler weather!

Serenity was adorable, as always.  She grabs my hand and pulls me where she wants me to go.  She is busy, busy, busy.  But watching her, she will fit in our family just fine...because she was made for us!..........

So this morning for breakfast, I had a dish of a different flat pasta mixed with goat's milk and cheese.  It tasted a lot like oatmeal.  It tasted okay.  Yesterday we had something between a crepe and a pancake rolled up with an apple type jelly in it.  It was very good but very sweet.  At lunch we had a cabbage and meat dish.  It was the first one I found really hard to eat.  I finally discreetly started swallowing it without chewing so I didn't taste it as much.  But I am so thankful for their hospitality, I didn't want to hurt their feelings!

The staff drinks a lot of pop a like a strawberry soda or Coke.   Everyone smokes that we have been with except for Mr. A - so I will probably smell like cigarettes when I get home.  I had to laugh, their cigarette packs have a huge warning label in English that says, "Warning: smoking is very bad for you and everyone around you!"  Plain and simple!

Serenity was pretty mellow (for her) this morning and was content to sit on my lap for most of the time playing with her new toys.  I found out that the blind girl is 18 and is the one in the video.  She is only blind, but has been taught NOTHING!  It hurts to think that in the US she would be very independent and able to do so much.  But soon she will be moved to an adult mental institution and be locked away forever. :( she gets very excited, kind of in a scary way when people touch her.  It was hard at first to gain the courage but I walked up to her and called her name as I reached for her hand.  She hugged all over me and squealed.  I soon went and got the other music toy and gave it to her.  I showed her over and over again how to find the button with her hands and would hug her each time.  Pretty soon, I knew she could do it, but she wanted me to touch her.  So precious and heartbreaking.

I plan to leave all the toys here.  The kids have nothing.  I am not sure now how long Serenity will be here because Mr. A said they are just here for the "holiday" which has several different meanings here.  He speaks very good English but there are still some things we can't quite communicate on.  But she will be with the same staff of women, so she will be taken care of.  One of the ladies has her saying "mama" at me.

I don't know what her language will be like due to the shape of her mouth and her tongue.  We definitely need to work with sign language.....

Well, it turns out that the place we were at was truly a "motel" of sorts.  Serenity will only be there a total of a week!  Heartbreak!!!  Once I finally figured that out with Mr. A, a bunch of things started making more sense.  But I am so sad that was all"lost in translation" until this morning!  :(

Serenity was not quite awake yet when we came out, but as soon as she woke up, she was ready to eat!  That girl eats more than any child I know!  The woman I said was very intelligent turns out to be her nurse (more about that in a minute) and she keeps telling the women not to feed her so much, but the moment she fusses (throws a temper tantrum, ahem...) they give her more!  Allen was pretty disgusted with it all.  He said, "She needs to be in your home!"

Finally, I have debated and prayed over and over again whether to share a few of the emails I sent just to Handsome, but I think that they are very important to the whole picture....they are very raw and emotional:

So many things rattling in the brain.  I wish we could just sit and talk things thru together.  Wish you were here to see things first hand and give your perspective.  I am sure that some things seem overly dramatic or exaggerated, but in reality, they are much worse.  I just can't find the words to paint an accurate picture.

I feel like I am losing part of my humanity - the shock and horror just become part of the day.  We sit and eat while a "little" boy(in reality probably 16 or so) screams this terrible scream like demons are crawling in his soul.  He bats his hands and screams at things no one else can see.  NONE of theses kids original needs were so bad that they should now be as they are - it is the result of the horrors of institutional life.  Another is curled up in a wheelchair with his body contorted permanently into an odd position.  He cannot really eat, so they just force his mouth open and pour it down as he gags.  There is no other way to feed him at this point.  It could have been so different.

Before I had the courage to interact with {the blind girl}, I asked Mr. A if he thought being in a family now, after so many years would help her.  (I am horrified now that we had this "polite" intellectual conversation about a soul!  A child as important as each of our own!).  He shrugs his shoulders and says no.  That maybe if someone had gotten her when she was little...later, as I touched her and hugged her, I realized that I had lost the heart of the matter.  It didn't matter if a family changed her, it only mattered that she should be loved and cherished, regardless of her needs or progress.

I am sure to survive emotionally in the special needs orphan arena, there has to be some manner of detachment - but I don't want that!  I don't ever want the horror to lessen - but it already has.  I think it takes that horror being fresh to keep from categorizing people into the "should be saved" and the "not worth the effort" - which is really saying they are trash to be thrown away.  That is how they end up forgotten at the end of a dusty road like this.

I feel completely torn in half.  On one side I think, "we can only do so much" and we have to take care of the kids we have.  That we can't save them all and are already carrying a heavy load. That I need to focus on the ones we have.  But then I see these children, knowing that they are only a drop of an eye dropper in an ocean full of need.  That each of their lives is just as precious as mine.  That I can save one more child from a life of literal hell....and I remember that God will provide for everything we need.  That He loved each of us to send His very own Son to die a horrific death on our behalf.  Do I choose to sacrifice my life for them or keep it safe and help a little.  We have jumped off so many cliffs by faith...but how high of a cliff am I willing to jump off of?  Do I trust Him to protect all my children at home as we leap or is it my job too to keep them safe?  To not push them too far.  I know what my American Christian culture would say.  I hear their voices whispering to my heart with tantalizing arguments as to why I should walk away....oh, how easy it would be to just walk away.  To not feel the horror or despair or just walk away, brushing it off my soul like mud that has caked on.

But I know that not a single one of those voices has sat here in the heat watching children scream in torment or lie in their vomit because no one wants to clean it up, or only be blind but be a complete invalid because no one took the time to teach her.  I cannot be any angrier at the workers here than I can be at each of the comfortable Christians in the US.  They are all casting the same judgement on each of this lives...that they are not worthy of the time, money, sacrifice, or cup of cold water to ease their sufferings.  That 401ks and vacations and spoiled kids and the worry (or more politely the "planning" for the future) are sooo much more important than a little blind girl that continually asks for her "Baba" - grandmother to come get her.

Have to go....pray that we hear God's voice loud and clear over all the worthless "noise".\

That evening:

After all my fine words to you in the last email, tonight I am swinging the other way.  I am too tired and hot.  Tonight, I just want to bring my daughters home, close our gate and forget there is a world beyond our little family.  I don't want to smell any more smells, see any more vomit, hear any more hellish shrieks, see any more vacant eyes full of sorrow beyond imagining.  Tonight, I just want to be selfish and give up what seems to be an impossible task - to shine God 's light in the darkest places.

So tonight I will ask for His grace and forgiveness to abound to me - the greatest of hypocrites.  I will pray for strength and grace to face another day.  How I wish you were with me!  I love you.

The whole experience was so full of contrasts and horrors - I know of no other word that fits.  I have been to Guatemala, to Ethiopia, and to Taiwan to adopt.  There were some very difficult things in Ethiopia - but I was a different person.  I was the "indifferent" then who was just able to lock out the horror into the place that nightmare's reign and not think about it.  In fact, I am more horrified now, 6 years later, as I realize those were people, real people.  In filth and hellish conditions.  And I just walked away.  I couldn't have done anything physically - they were just giving me a "tour" - but I could have joined the spiritual battle in prayer and petition.  Instead, like so many other comfortable Christians, I just shut it out.  I have not to this day told anyone everything I saw.  I have told Handsome bits and pieces, but not all.  But it is rushing back like a nightmare come to life as I see it through new eyes - through His eyes.  That is what makes this trip so much harder.  It wasn't just part of the was most of the trip.  And it was MY daughters this time...not just a sea of faces unattached to me.

I know as I sort and pray through thoughts and feelings these next days and weeks, I will have more to say.  But between the effort to keep the emotions from drowning me and the jet lag, I will leave it at this now...

Until He comes.....Lord Jesus, come.