Monday, November 28, 2011

win or lose

Xia-Xia, LangFang, China, June 2006 (brings tears to my eyes)
Sara showing me the look she gives her sister & brother behind my back most days to push their love away. :-(
Sara working on getting her brain strong after acting out on a "fun" family outing.
Jumping jacks help kiddos move out of fight-or-flight mode.
Sara feeling a bit more grounded but still struggling during one of her difficult days.

"And may you have the power to understand,
as all God’s people should,
how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is."
Ephesians 3:18 (NLT)

Welcome to my world. Looking at the above pictures may leave you scratching your head wondering why in the world I'm sharing such sad pictures. As well as what kind of parent I am. No worries! I wonder that myself. Every.Single.Day. (Grin.)

I've had several people ask me to share a bit more detail about the struggles my family has been working through this past year, plus. After much prayer and thought, I still believe that most of what we are going through needs to remain confidential.

However, as with most things, I know we aren't the only ones struggling. My intention in writing on a public blog is to hopefully encourage others by sharing what God is teaching me through this crazy-daisy life I'm livin'.

Life is hard and we're all in this battle of good vs. evil together. A word of warning: I most assuredly do not have all the answers. Nor have I figured out how to live a life fully pleasing to God. That is, of course, my heart's desire.

But I'm human. I struggle. I make mistakes. Sometimes I think I've figured something out, only to realize that I was reading my Bible upside-down!

Some days I'm clear-headed and my focus is where I want it to be - while other days I'm downright confused and overwhelmed. So please take what I share as what it is. One person's experience at this point in time. Please allow God to be your source of wisdom and guidance. He won't let you down or steer you wrong. I'll try not to, but as I said, I'm human. (Smile.)

You and I are fellow-sojourners on this amazing journey called life. Together we can offer each other support - and a whole lot of grace!

So, grab a cup of coffee and step into the "World of Amy" for a moment or two...I have a feeling you'll be more than relieved to step back into your own reality by the time you're done reading! (Chuckle.)

Here goes...

As a mom to two birth children and two adoptive children, God has given me a unique perspective. I have the joy of parenting children who have always known the security of love and acceptance. I also have the anguish of wanting to pour love and acceptance into children who have never known the security of love and acceptance. Holding both experiences in tandem, I'm learning, is beyond excruciating.

I spent my first 8 years of parenting taking for granted that love was something that was freely given and freely received. I couldn't fathom that anyone, especially a child, would consider love to be something to run from. Until I met RAD.

Reactive Attachment Disorder.

I'll spare you all of the gory details and cut to the chase. Children (and adults who have yet to experience healing), suffering from RAD are terrified of love. Their sole purpose in life is to protect themselves from love and do so by working tirelessly to control others and their environment. You see, for them, to give into love or allow others to be in control is equal to dying. Their goal is to survive at any cost.

Their behaviors do not make sense - at least not to untrained heart. You see, in reality, these individuals are AMAZING human beings - full of creativity, intelligence and deep beauty. And, of no fault of their own, experienced devastating loss or trauma before the tender age of three.

There's much more to the diagnosis and disorder than what I'm relaying here. But for the sake of keeping this l-o-n-g post from being even longer, this is 'RAD in a nutshell.' And quite honestly, after living with it and learning about it for 5 years, my brain is still tied up in a painful-pretzel-knot every day trying to figure it out.

Moving on...

My Sweet Sara has verbalized extreme trauma during her first 18 months while she was in China. I recognize that the average person does not (should not? cannot?) remember the first several years of their lives. But, for whatever reason, Sara does. Vividly. Painfully.

Shortly after we brought our baby girl home, we recognized that her special-needs went far beyond her physical heart, lip and palate. She needed special parenting, unique therapy and lots and lots and lots of prayer. And patience. And the one thing she was most afraid of - love.

Bringing Sara into our family has taught us so much. We spent three solid years helping her to heal and grow and settle into our family. The miracle of transformation we saw in Sara, and in ourselves, inspired us to adopt again. Through our own histories and experiences, God birthed within us a desire to help hurting kids heal.

For reasons God alone understands, He led us to another child who also experienced a traumatic start in his life.

The details of Sara and Luke's lives are for them alone to share. Suffice to say, they have experienced deep wounding and trauma. Unimaginable experiences that have scarred them both deeply - resulting in RAD - which affects every cell of their being and every aspect of their lives. Their thought processes, decision making and actions are all affected by what they did - and didn't - experience during the first few years of their lives.

For all of my fellow mamas out there - whether you are parenting children who grew in your womb or in your heart - when your child hurts, you hurt. You want to pull them close and shower them with love.

The only problem is that RAD doesn't allow us to do that. In fact, it's a defense mechanism that seeks to destroy love in any shape or form. "Devastating" doesn't even begin to describe what it's like to want to love someone who not only refuses to let you love them, but works tirelessly to make themselves unlovely.

For Sara, the past couple of years have brought her more pain. The details of her life thus far would break your heart. Watching her struggle, trapped in a world of solitude that she has carefully constructed is beyond painful.

Every day she wakes up with a plan to push us away from her. Every day I wake up with plan to pull her close and help her fragile, bleeding heart heal.

I would do anything, give anything to help heal my little girl's heart.

Out of 417 days, Love has won out on only 6 of those days. One could say, therefore, that my youngest has won 411 of those days. But, sadly, the reality is that when Love loses, we all lose.

My precious child has missed out on 411 days of peace, joy and love. And it breaks my heart.

You might be wondering what a child healing from RAD might say about such a sorrowful situation. Sadly, she's quite pleased with herself. I kid you not. Like I said, it doesn't make sense. Or maybe it does?

RAD makes these amazing children believe that they don't deserve anything good. Otherwise why would they have been abandoned by their birth parents? Why would God have allowed bad things to happen to them?

I don't have the answers to those questions. But I can guarantee you that I've done everything in my power to try to convince both of my wounded children of their value and my unconditional love for them. (Have I mentioned my pretzel-knotted-headache?)

The problem is that RAD doesn't allow reasoning. It wires the brain in a different way.

So far, my batting average (6:411) stinks. But you know what stinks even more? The fact that my precious kiddos aren't the only ones battling RAD.

When it comes to God's unconditional and abundant love for me, I'm afraid that more often than not, I have my own defense mechanisms and refuse to let Love in. I don't know why I do it. In fact, most days, I don't even recognize that I'm doing it. Kinda like my hurting kids.

When I see RAD come between me and my Heavenly Father, it gives me greater compassion and empathy for my two struggling children, and gives me the strength to try yet again tomorrow.

I've said it before - I'm not giving up. I'm not giving in. I refuse to let RAD - and the enemy of our souls - to win.

Because, despite all of the loss, trauma, grief and pain the enemy throws our way, we have a God who is far bigger and far more powerful. As a human, as a mom, there is only so much I can do.

But God.

He is love. He is life. He brings new life to seemingly hopeless situations. He is the light in our darkness.

He has gone before us and is preparing the way to freedom.

Our breakthrough didn't come today and it might not come tomorrow. But I believe that it will come. In God's time. In God's way.

Friend, I don't know what challenges you are facing today. Maybe some of what I've said is resonating in your heart. Maybe your struggles are even more intense than what we're dealing with here.

But I do know that if you are struggling and feeling like every day is a losing battle-  you are not alone.

Our situations may look nothing alike, but I do know that our core desire as humans is to know love, give love and be loved. We all struggle with that in one way or another.

Some days can be so very, very hard. We win some. We lose even more.

But that doesn't change God's never-ending love for us.

He loves us with a fierce devotion. Especially when we do our best to look and act unlovely.

Today, may we both take a chance to stop fighting, allow our defense mechanisms to drop and let Love in.

There is nothing my children can do to earn my love. There is nothing they can do to make me stop loving them. They've tried. Believe me. They have tried. And I still love them. Immensely.

There is nothing you or I can do to earn God's love. There is nothing we can do to stop Him from loving us. I've tried. Believe me. I have tried.

God is love. And "love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:8a, NIV)

Win or lose, I'm choosing to keep on loving and to KEEP LIVING A BLESSED LIFE!

With hope and LOVE,


jeanette said...

oh how I love how you write my sweet friend!

Your batting average is 417 for 417 because you have BATTLED for your kids hearts! :)

I love you and your family ~and continue to pray...I'll pray too for your pretzel-knotted-headache! :)

Regina said...

Amy, Your writing is so well done. Without going into to much detail, you were able to gently, yet accurately describe the complexities and struggles of a child with RAD. I thought your insight into our own struggles with RAD with our Father was pure revelation and very helpful to me as we have traveled down this same road as well. Praying for you and yours ~ Regina

Football and Fried Rice said...

Thanks for sharing, Amy. I love your tender heat for your children - the struggling ones and the others. Youre an inspiration for the rest of us to find grace deep in our hearts and shower our kids with it.