Thursday, June 9, 2016


33 years of my 33 years have been spent in the Lowcountry of SC. I know no life away from the water. When Jake and I made the decision to move to GA last year my greatest fear was missing the water. He said "there are lakes in Georgia!". But it just isn't the same.

There's something about standing at the edge of the ocean and looking out into the endless nothingness and experiencing the paradox of feeling teeny weeny but with the knowledge that you're known by the very Creator of the oceans so intimately that He has the hairs on your head numbered. There's a vulnerability when the waves take your knees from underneath you that can only be matched by the weightlessness and freedom of allowing those same waves to carry you from the depths to the shore line. There is fear of the unknown every time something small nudges your ankles in the murky water and wonder and amazement when your muddy toes pull a living, thriving animal up into eyes view. And there's silence. The kind of silence where there are kids and adults all around you, swimming and playing and interacting and all you can hear is the crash of the waves. Then there's the river. And the smell. The salt. The sun. The pluff mud. The high and low tides. The shrimp. The crabs. The boats. The live oaks. The stories of generations and generations before us living off these waters and creating legacies for their families with nothing but a net and a john boat. The physical and mental healing of the salt water. It's in my blood. There's always been something about the water.

David loved the water. The beach was his favorite. But the pool, river, bath, shower, sink.....whatever the source was, he loved them all. Water was his peaceful place. The place where his mind and body weren't at war with one another. When we met him for the first time we gave him a little photo album of our family and some of our favorite things to do. The two pictures he ALWAYS went back to were the ones at the beach and at the pool. We went to the pool first. It was March, 2014. We went to Disney because well, it's a rite of passage and we knew he would love it. We put these enormous blue shark swimmies on his arms and Jake held him as he got used to the water. He was terrified. Cole and Zella were cheering and coaxing and I think I even remember a bribe for Swedish Fish for him to loosen his vice grip around Jakes neck and enjoy the water. He just couldn't do it. He didn't feel safe. He climbed up in the pool lounge chair and sat in my lap the rest of the afternoon, Swedish Fish in hand. A few weeks later we tried again. We went to the neighborhood pool every afternoon for almost 2 weeks. He started on the top step and just hung out there for what felt like eternity. Each day during the first week he progressed one step further. His pace and only his pace. Into week 2 he was getting frustrated. He WANTED to jump in. But fear. Finally one afternoon I couldn't handle watching him hem and haw anymore. So in the most inconspicuous of ways, I sat down on the steps next to him and accidentally gave him a little nudge off the bottom step. And he never looked back. The next months and the following summer the pool was his place. Those swimmies were like his extra appendages. Even on the bad days, the pool was one place where he didn't fight me or himself. He would jump right in and float and swim and just be. And somewhere in between all of those pool trips he learned to love the ocean. The sand never bothered him. He never took excessive interest in shell hunting or bird watching. He must have run his fingers through every grain of sand from Tybee Island, GA to Garden City, SC. He was a master with a shovel. He had his beach snack game on lock. And wave jumping. Wave jumping was his favorite. Maybe it was the waves, or maybe it was the anticipation and the conquering that he loved. But some of his purest laughs were bellowed on the beach. His favorite memories (anytime he was asked) were always about beach week with our family every year. Lots of cousins and laughter and chaos and food and the beach. Every day the beach. If every week could have just been beach week. There is just something about the water.

We have spent a lot of time by the water these last 13.5 weeks. The water, in it's various forms, has served as a much needed conversation catalyst as we try to even begin to grieve and mourn. Our good memories, the ones that we will bank and never withdraw, so many of them are by the water. In the days immediately following Davids passing, we were staying with my uncle down at the river. In the mornings I would take a walk down the dock and try to grapple with a new day. It didn't feel like there was mercy in the morning. It didn't feel like even the water could wash away any of my pain. And the truth is, it can't. Even the healing power of the salt and the cleansing of the smell of pluff mud can't make his little Vienna sausage fingers be intertwined with mine again. The water can't mend my broken heart......but the One that meets me there, He can. And He will. For all of us Kubnicks. Small and big. He meets us all there. And I feel certain that David is there too.

I was en route to the river today, and I heard this song.

 I had me a little meltdown in the car and thought about how the tears are so different now. Some days are hard. No days are easy. But some days are harder. These last two weeks seem to have been full of the harder ones. But hard doesn't mean impossible. It just means hard. It means that some days we cry in public and some days we cry at night, holding the babies we have here on earth, as they cry with us. Hard means that some smiles are fake.....but it does NOT mean that no smiles are real. Hard means that there is a lot of sucking it up and pushing those tears back and making a conscious effort to choose joy over sorrow because truthfully the sorrow is too heavy to carry for even another day. But hard does NOT mean that there is no joy. There is so much joy. Hard means that we are quiet. It means that we fear going in public for having to answer questions. It means that we see people we know and we dodge them because we can't muster up one more lie when they ask how we're doing. But hard does NOT mean that we think we are the only ones with hard. Hard means that now we know. We know that we aren't the only ones. We know how much a prayer for someone that's hurting really means. We know how much grace is really needed. We now know how we have to give the most grace to the people that would never ask for it. We know now that hard means that everyone's life is different and everyone's hard is different and that it's all relative. And we now know how absolutely vital it is, that in the hard, we give thanks (Romans 5:3-5).

There is always always always something to be thankful for. And today, I am so thankful for that water, and that every single time I see the river, or a pool or the shoreline of a beach, I know I can go there to not only find peace, rest and my Jesus waiting for me, but that I can remember my David. There is no kind of hard that can take either of those things away, and I am so thankful for that.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Learning to praise the God who both gives, and takes away.

One of my best friends that knows me a little too well, told me this week, "you need to write". Thank you, Camille, for knowing me a little to well.

I woke up this morning at the river in the SC Lowcountry. The first thing I could smell was pluff mud and pollen and the first thing I saw was a live oak covered in Spanish moss, hanging over the dock. I woke up this morning broken. Like every morning for the last 19 days, mornings are raw. I fight mornings. But today was different. My birthday. A day when I'm supposed to want to celebrate and eat cake and make meaningless wishes as I blow out candles. A day when everyone around me wants to celebrate me, and all I could feel was this enveloping loss. Grief. An aching in my soul that seems incurable. I started wrestling last week with this verse.....this verse that I clung to from the moment I first realized that David was broken. This verse that I prayed and recited and recited and prayed. And in the last several days, God has revealed to me that what I thought I was praying, what I thought I was believing, was wrong.

"I remain confident of this, I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14

For years I have leaned on that verse, waiting on God's goodness. I have been waiting on Him to show me His goodness. The day after David passed away, a sweet friend of mine texted me this, simply this, "GOD IS ONLY ONLY ONLY GOOD". And today, when I woke up, full of sorrow, sorrow in both knowing that my loss is tremendous and deep and sorrow in having even an ounce of the feeling God felt on this very same day, in the loss of a child, I not only woke up to sorrow. But I woke up to His goodness. All of this time, while I have been waiting on God to show me He is good, He has consistently been good. And I have consistently chosen to wait on what I knew He could and would do, rather than recognizing that God is not good because of how He responds to our prayers, but that God is good because of how He responded before we even prayed. He is good because we have access to Him through prayer. He is good because of what He already did. Not because of whatever we are anticipating Him doing. "But if not, HE IS STILL GOOD". Daniel 3:1-24  If today when I woke up, and my heart was still in a million pieces, He still created the river, and the oyster beds strategically built into that water to filter it and those same oysters to feed us. He still loved me enough that He died today. He still loved David enough that He sent a family to love him. He still forgives. He still formed this life that is perfectly growing inside of me. He still covers us with grace and mercy. He still, every day, makes a way for us to reach Him at our best and our worst. He is still good. Even when today is not.

And it isn't. Today wasn't just about a hard birthday or the fact that I would trade every next birthday of mine just to give David another day. Today wasn't about how every thing we did felt wrong because we were minus a son. Today was about everything hard. And everything necessary. Today was about the death that was necessary for the resurrection. Without death there could be no empty tomb. Without crucifixion there could be no satisfaction of our sin and God's wrath. Without suffering, there could be no Savior who has hurt just as we have hurt. Without the cross, there could be no torn veil and direct access to the King. As just as much as today was literal, it was figurative for me. Today God reminded me that without brokenness, there can be no rebuilding. Without tearing down, there can be no building up. Without refining there can be no gold.

Today I cried. I cried a lot. I cried out in gratitude that this awful thing that happened so many years ago, is the greatest gift I could have ever received today. Today I cried out in mourning for the loss of a son. Today I cried out to my Father, who is holding me every day, and reminding me that He will rebuild. He will restore. He will provide. Today I cried as one too few sets of hands laid on my belly and felt littlest brother kick for the very first time. I want to understand God's plans. I want to know why His plans for David were so different than His plans for these other Kubnick babies. But today, as I look at the FULL picture of salvation, and I am reminded that the bloody cross showed no precursor to the miracle that would happen on Sunday, I can see just a speck of the picture, and God knows. And just as He turned the crucifixion into the resurrection, He will use this pain. In His way. In His time.

Friday is so hard. But Sunday, Sunday is coming. And because of Sunday, I have hope. Today is hard, but our Sunday is coming. This life will be hard without our David, but one day, some day, we will have our eternal Sunday, and we WILL see him again.

We have hope. Hope eternal. We are lost without Sunday. We are damned without Sunday. And Sunday is coming. And in these weeks, in this holy week, in this crucifixion and resurrection weekend, we are learning to praise God who takes away, so that we can learn to truly praise God who gives.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

This Old House

       I think Cole was about 2.5 years old. Jake and I had been fighting. A lot. We used to fight hard. And dirty. And both of us spent a lot of time trying to be more prideful and stubborn than the other. It got us nowhere and it got us there fast. This particular day had been bad. Cole was in the high chair in the kitchen and I was at the sink pretending to be doing dishes.....since I had abruptly left the table in disgust over whatever stupid thing we were arguing about. Jake walked over to the stereo, then walked over to me......"I am an old woman, named after my mother, my old man is another child that's grown old, if dreams were lightning thunder was desire, this old house it would've burnt down a long time ago...", and we danced. Barefoot in the kitchen. Emotions just as raw as could be, the wounds still open. It's been 7 years. And there isn't a day that I walk into the kitchen in this old house that I don't hear Bonnie Raitt and see us dancing.
    Then there were the nights I spent awake here with Zella. She was so sick and so miserable. We would rock and sing, sing and rock, all night long. Some nights we paced a trail into the hardwood in the living room and some nights she just needed me to lay with her on the floor in her nursery. And those nights were long. I got thrown up on more times that I ever thought possible. I lost years of my life in sleep in that year and some months. But when I walk into her room now, and the crib has been replaced by a big girl bed, and I see that old rocking chair in the corner, I know I would do it all again. The crying (from both of us), the research, the begging with God to heal my baby. The singing. The cooing. The moments that I have that nobody else ever saw or had the privilege of sharing. In that nursery, in this old house, God taught me how to fight for my children. He knew I would need to know how. In that nursery, God broke my heart for a pair of orphans across the world that were suffering with the same tummy issues as Zella and they didn't have a mommy to fight for them. In that nursery, God taught me to cry out to Him.....for someone other than myself. There isn't a day that I walk into Zellas room that I don't remember those nights. She barely fits in my lap anymore. We grew up together in that nursery, at the top of the stairs, in this old house.
   I've been scared to death in this old house. Cole's first hernia surgery almost put Jake and I in our graves. I've never been that terrified in my life. Until it was Jake on the table for 9 hours having back surgery. Until I laid awake listening to David wheeze and gasp as he tried to sleep in his first weeks home. Until Zella had her first FPIES reaction and was limp in my arms. Until the nights before our flights were leaving for Ukraine.....and we were both leaving Cole and Zella, trusting God that He would bring us back to them WITH their new brother. Until furloughs happened. And more surgeries and more loss. And all the while, in this old house, our lives were changed. Jake found God in this old house. And God found me. We started over here. We learned about grace. We learned how to forgive. We learned how to be humble (still learning). We learned how to be quiet. We learned that it isn't always important to be right. We learned how to love each other. We learned how to pray. We learned about obedience......and that God's plans for us are good, contingent upon that obedience. We learned that it's hard. And we learned that it's worth it.
   2 of our 3 babies came home for the very first time to this house.
   This was our very first home. Our first big investment.
   We said yes to adoption in this house.
   We met lifelong, amazing friends in this house.
   We have changed in this house.
   We have witnessed God move mountains in this house.
   We learned the definition of love in this house.
    I learned how to cook in this house.
    I learned to dream again in this house. From those dreams.....children, a business, vision.
    We have filled this home with laughter for 9 years.

 And in this old house, in the last year and a half, I have learned that alone, without my husband, even full of all of these memories that have shaped and molded me, this is just an old house.
Tonight is the last night I will sleep away from my husband. Next week we will pack a truck and he will drive our lives to our new old house. And we will fill that place up with memories, too. And those experiences will shape us and mold us further. And when we leave there, it will have been just an old house. Just drywall and brick and a few carpet stains and nail holes. The memories are what we hold on to. The experiences are what shape us. Old houses are just an accessory to a beautiful life.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


It's been a few months since I last wrote. Sometimes the vulnerability of putting my heart on this page far outweighs the benefit of writing it all down. And that's where I've been. Vulnerable. Wondering what was next for us/me and asking God a lot of questions that He won't answer and I shouldn't be asking. I had very good intentions of shutting this blogger account down and just moving and my marble composition book could get along just fine without this very public open door to scrutiny. But every single time I went to shut it down, I hesitated. And it's the hesitation that made me re-evaluate why I wanted so badly to hide instead of shout from the rooftops. I don't have all (or many) of the answers. Most minutes of most days I am still very certain that I'm 72 shades of cray, but in this very quiet season of my life, turns out, when all of the other noise is turned down, God gets turned up. Not saying that silence has made me way. I have a temper and I'm prideful and totally allow my emotions to be dictators instead of indicators and I get inside my own head and my self-confidence is straight non-existent. I let comparison steal my joy and struggle with the not-enough (not smart enough, holy enough, prayerful enough, skinny enough, etc.) all day long. I battle daily with identifying myself in Christ and as a wife, mother, person with only 2 arms and 97 tasks required of them simultaneously. I DO NOT HAVE IT ALL TOGETHER (or any of it after I just read that last sentence back to myself). And I think God loves it. He loves that I am a mess. In my mess, He gets to rescue me. In my rescuing, my vulnerability is His to reassure. He keeps me in this place, because the very difficult person that I am, would otherwise not allow Him to hold me or forgive me or show me grace. And so today, as I spent a lot of the day frustrated, God worked some things out for me....and created a few new things on the docket for working.

In April 2012 I was driving home one day from work and sobbing to God. He had burdened me with a heart for the fatherless, and my hands were tied as I waited patiently for adoption to become a part of our lives. I will never EVER forgot that prayer....."God, why would you give me this burden if it isn't part of Your plan for us? WHY would You break my heart just for the sake of it being broken? God, if adoption is NOT in Your will for our family, then please, God, just give me peace....". I couldn't understand it. I couldn't wrap my brain around the fact that it took years for God to get me back to Him, and when He did He broke me and then just left me in the waiting room for what felt like eternity. Just a week or so later, in a literal miracle, adoption became a part of our lives and God began rolling out His next phase for us. David has been home for just over 2 years.....and the burden is still mine to bear. There was a little girl at the orphanage....there are so many left behind. I dream of kids in like 8 different countries (that's not scary or anything).....I will never forgive myself for leaving her behind. Ever. When I say that to people sometimes I get the mouth agape, deer in the headlights stare.....because this adoption and foster care stuff, it's hard, people. HARD. It's beautiful and necessary and emotional and exciting and so so many things. But it's also hard. So many children, so so hurt and so so broken and traumatized and sick and malnourished and developmentally delayed and all factors accounted for sometimes the rainbows are hard to see but they're still there. And the hardest thinking about where they would be if they were still in the orphanage.  But let me just be for real.....

And that doesn't change a thing. It doesn't change the mountains God moved to make him a Kubnick. It doesn't change the value of this childs life. It doesn't change that God does not make mistakes. It doesn't change that before he was created in his mothers womb, God knew he would become an orphan........and David was created anyways. It doesn't change that I fight for him every matter what. And no amount of suck changes that I tell him that....."I LOVE YOU NO MATTER WHAT".  It does not at all change that during those bucket of suck days when I say "God, WHYYYYYYYY did you give this child that needs so much healing, to someone who needs so much healing? We are hot messes together! Surely there was someone better!" And you know what He says, "it doesn't matter why. Because I said GO and if you trust Me, that's all you need to know". He's always right. But in these moments, these are the moments that I know, I would do this crazy ride again tomorrow if God called both of us. I have family members reading this right now (cause y'all know family knows our crazy on a deeper level) and they're saying "nooooooo........" but yes. I would. In a heartbeat. Because the burden doesn't go away. THE BIBLICAL MANDATE DOESN'T GO AWAY. And now that God has opened my eyes, how can I possibly stand in front of Him at judgement and say "well see, God, what had happened was......once we adopted that one child, it was SUPER hard and so we just kind of figured we met our quota....". If there is a list of "Things you gotta do to get through the gates" and one of the things is "Orphan Care", you know what? I cannot check the box. Know why? Because my son is no longer an orphan. He was. But he has a family now. And the day we said yes, the check in that box got erased. So why am I on this topic today? Because.....


And it's maddening. It infuriates me. It makes me sick to my stomach some days that other people aren't burdened the way that I am. The way that my friends (who also sometimes have bucket of suck days with their trauma kids) are burdened and so they say yes over and over and over while others sit by and tell them how amazing they are. I can't even lie, I have a few adoption friends that when they talk the songs of angels come out of their mouths because they really are amazing but you know what? Most of us are not categorically amazing. Most of us are EXACTLY LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. Most of us are quite broken. Most of us have been healed of that brokenness and we know new life. Most of us fail most days. Most of us spend more time on our knees in a prayer closet in the back of the house than we do taking pictures frolicking through meadows with our multi-racial children (have you seen that brochure?! Bless it.). Most of us, we're not any special kind of amazing. Sometimes we don't even really like our kids. But we love them. And we will fight for them. And a lot of us, we will fight for the ones that don't have moms, too. And most of us, we get super upset when we realize that we are the only ones fighting. When we realize that churches aren't stepping up. When we realize how simple and easy the solution is to the foster/adopt issue that is not just a national problem but a global epidemic. And this was me today. I was mad. Mad that I can't do more. Because the weight of the burden......oh the weight.

Throughout today God has helped carry the weight. He knows my needs. Just like He knows yours. And He has reminded me today that the body of Christ is like a machine. Each of us given a job and expected to complete that job to His standards. That my burden, this is not everyone's burden. God's heart isn't ONLY for orphan care. He uses us all according to His will. But are we all allowing Him to burden us to a point of being used? What has He put on your heart? Maybe it's the homeless population or maybe it's finding ways to get clean drinking water into remote 3rd world countries and villages. Maybe its feeding local children meals on the weekends because they don't have access to school cafeteria food. Maybe it's animals. Maybe it's the elderly or maybe it's troubled youth. Tonight as I am allowing my anger to subside, I am wondering, how many Christians are just being useful and not being used? There is a difference. God created us all with the ability to be used. But are we allowing Him to do so in a way that will truly impact His Kingdom? Or are we just hoping that someone else prays with that homeless vet on the corner.....waiting for someone else to become a certified foster family......making excuses to God that the quota was already met with that 1 thing that 1 time.

Can I encourage you to pray tonight about that burden that you have tucked away in your heart and mind that you don't tell anyone about because it's all kinds of crazy? GOD PUT IT THERE FOR A REASON. HE WANTS TO USE YOU. We can't keep ignoring Him. I will never forget reading the book "Kisses for Katie" by Katie Davis. This was before adoption was part of our lives and she said "pray about adoption. God won't say no." I did. He didn't say no. It makes me many of us are NOT praying about that thing God put on our hearts, out of fear that He will say yes?

 God reminded me today of my favorite quote.....

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything You gave me'." - Erma Bombeck

I think we forget sometimes that God created each of us, individually, with purpose. He gave you every single piece of you, so that He could use those pieces. He does not make mistakes.

Pray. About adoption and foster care. About that dream He helped you create. About being used.....and not just useful.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A birthday story......

David Tiberiy Benjamin Kubnick turns 7 years old tomorrow. 2 years ago, on July 27th, he became eligible for international adoption. And we met him just 12 days later. God. And last year we couldn't really "celebrate" yet. David was still adjusting and excess made him uncomfortable and so it was small and more of an acknowledgement of his special day with one very special gift. And I remember thinking to myself "next year. Next year we will celebrate." And here we are. Another year gone, almost 2 years home. And things HAVE changed this year. The roller coaster had different scenery and the ups and the downs and the loopty loops were all in different places. And in the midst of it all, our son began to learn what "family" means and what it looks like. He began to find his place in it all.

Yesterday Jake started the hype by asking David what he wanted for his birthday dinner (on birthdays, the birthday person gets to choose the meal) and he replied "spaghetti" so Jake asked "ok and do you have a second choice?" and David said "noodles with meat and red sauce" and I smiled. I smiled because it took A LOT for David to express his desire.....and I smiled because FINALLY, two years later, I already knew what his choice was going to be. To know that he trusts us enough to let us in on his desires is monumental. It seems so so small. But it's huge. And a big big win for us. And it continued through to today in the car. David did a little giggle and said to Cole and Zella "you know it's my birthday tomorrow, right?" and they both confirmed it with me (can NOBODY read the calendar in this house?!) and then David went on, "and we're having spaghetti for dinner. I got to pick." He was beaming from ear to ear. Cole (trying to sneak a math problem into things) said "how many birthdays have you had before this one?" and David replied "this will be my second birthday".  Insert alligator tears from the driver seat. It simultaneously breaks my heart and renews know that for 5 years, birthdays weren't an occasion.....but to know that his good memories, in all of them, we are there. That he was alive because his mother chose life for him, but that to him, he started really living when he became a Kubnick.

When God burdened my heart for adoption 5 years ago, these were the moments that I longed for. The ones that reminded me of the new life that is found in Jesus. Today, and tomorrow especially, I am so thankful to be Davids mom. On the hard days.....because God gave David to me to reveal to me all of my weakness, and have mercy am I ever a hot mess! And on the good days, because I am literally watching God move mountains.....In His time. Not mine.

Tomorrow may be Davids birthday, but we are the ones that have been given the gift.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


I shared this memory with a sweet friend tonight.....

She was in the middle of fundraising to bring her boys home from Africa. And if you know anything about adoption fundraising, you know it means "sell whatever you can as fast as you can" and so we had this brilliant idea one day to do crafty stuff. I mean, Pinterest makes it look super easy and people will buy it! Done! She made these beautiful burlap wreaths. They were full and Southern and PERFECT for any door or mantel. And she sold like a buzillion of them. I remember her texting me really late one night after an exhausting day dealing with adoption agency stuff and paperwork and everyday life and kids and a house and all that wears a mama down, and she was sitting in the middle of her living room floor, surrounded on all sides by burlap, fingers hurting from all of the pins, exhausted, crying, blaring Meredith Andrews, Not for a moment.
That was the closing worship song at church on Sunday. God immediately took me back to that night, thinking about my friend. Exhausted. Beat up. Trusting God to bring her boys home. 1 wreath, 1 fundraiser at a time. And it was an amazing reminder.......

That afternoon, I had some laundry folding time and quiet and I turned on worship music. Jesus Culture "Walk With Me" started playing and again, God took me back. The morning we were leaving for our first trip to Ukraine we went to church and heard this song for the first time in worship. And I was a mess. And it became our "anthem" throughout that says all there is to say "Calmer of the storm.....Healer of my heart......Author of the world...walk with Your presence Lord, there is joy.....there is rest.....there is peace". I remember the morning of our appointment to go look at available "files" and Jake and I stood in our apartment holding hands listening to that song. We were TERRIFIED. That's not even the right word. We fully understood the scale of what we were walking into at that very moment.....and knew that we were not at all walking alone. And I look back at the last almost 2 years, since the first time I heard that song, and some days I still feel just like my friend did that night, in a heap on the floor, surrounded by life and all of its stuff, thinking we will NEVER get past that day. And each morning, here we are. Carried. Walked with.

I look back now at the last 2 years and some things are just memories. And I'm SUPER thankful for that. And we are changed. And my friends sons have been here for a couple of years and they are thriving and she isn't making wreaths anymore (LOL) and David has been home almost 2 years  and so much progress and the hard days are fewer and fewer and all of us, we made it. We are still making it. Every day, by the grace of God.

It's important to remember how far God has carried us. And important to allow Him to remind us that He IS constant and He IS sovereign. He is faithful and He is not changing......and He has revealed these things to us over and over and over again. We just have to choose to look back and remember that whatever we are walking through now, He already walked through it.....and He will walk us out of it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What I've learned as a "special needs" parent.......

Two years ago, Jake and I were getting ready to embark on our journey to Ukraine to meet the newest member of our family. We were waiting on a travel date from our team in Ukraine and were preparing our home and our hearts for whomever God had waiting for us. Our dossier, that had already been approved by the Ukrainian government, specifically stated 1-2 children, ages 0-7, with mild or correctable special needs. For the record, we had no idea what that meant. There are tons of labels and diagnoses thrown around in adoption world that really could mean so much more or so much less than what they actually mean so that's just a vague generalization. But we didn't know that then. A week before we were scheduled to fly out, I got an urgent email from a team member saying that I needed to call her. I did. And what she said to me was this, "I think that you should strongly reconsider your travel. From what I hear from our team, there are only children available with severe special needs. Nobody wants them." We said yes anyways. And about a month later, we met David, and 16 of his friends at the orphanage. Some of them had very obvious physical special needs. Some of them appeared just as healthy as David. "These could NOT be the children that nobody wants," I thought to myself. I had no idea that the idea of "special needs" would be redefined for me in the next several months.

Our first several weeks with David home were both heartbreaking and triumphant. Many of you followed our story and know of the things he was limited to. At 5 years old he could not hold a utensil (eating or writing or otherwise) because his muscles were so weak over his entire body from malnourishment. He couldn't chew things that were gooey or tough because the muscles in his face were so underdeveloped from having so few textural options with food. He had never seen toilet paper. Had never taken a warm bath or shower. He had never worn a pair of shoes that actually fit his feet, and as a result, had a very noticeable gait when he walked. He did not know how to be held. He was violent and would fight horribly against affection. He would spit and kick at night and not sleep for fear that he would be injured in his sleep, like he was in the orphanage. And these things, the results of his horrid living conditions, deemed him "special needs". And ALL of these things, and so much more, he has moved past. He has outgrown. He has developed and grown and has real feelings and likes and dislikes and opinions and tantrums and "stuff". And he also has needs. Very real needs. Very real needs that are special. And you know what? That makes him EXACTLY LIKE EVERY OTHER CHILD.

The most important and valuable thing that I have learned in the last year and 9 months of parenting a child that is deemed "special needs" is that every child is special needs. They don't fit in a box. They can't and shouldn't be compared to their peers. They not only require to be parented differently, but they deserve to be parented differently. Each of them.

Before we began this journey, I had never heard of sensory processing disorder, oppositional defiance disorder, reactive attachment disorder, stemming, low muscle tone, secondary trauma, etc. etc. etc. This list is infinitely long. The first time we walked into our occupational therapy evaluation I was completely overwhelmed with the details that go into a childs operating systems and development. And it was humbling. It was humbling to be a mother to two biological children that I swore I had done everything right with them and yet still, some of these things, these disorders, these quirks. I recognized them in my bio babies too. It took me weeks to reconcile that. It took me even longer to come to terms with the fact that a lot of people will tell us that something's wrong with my kids......and even longer to convince myself that they aren't broken. They are the way God made them. There isn't anything wrong with their ticks. There is something wrong with a society that tells us that children should be parented 1 way and that children should behave 1 way.

I have 3 very different children. With very different needs. And so do you. Your kids are special needs too. Yes, you. Because they are special. Not special in the way that the world defines "special". Special in the way that God defines it.....unique, fearfully and wonderfully made, perfectly created. And they have needs. Very unique and individual needs to fit their very unique and individual makeup. And some of their needs are BIG and physical and/or behavioral and require 100% of your time and some of their needs are small but still needs, nonetheless....... But in the end, they're all different. Can we all remember that?

I have to remind myself every day. Every Sunday when I drop two kids off at kids church and the same usher for the last 10 months every single Sunday says to me "you know we have a kids ministry" as he looks down at child number 3, I have to remind myself, "I am this childs mother. And I know his need. And their sitting still and being quiet skills are better than half the adults in here. so shut it." Every time a mom that doesn't know anything about our story compares a very happy bubbly child standing next to their very sad and mopey sibling and questions the difference. Every time that same mopey kid announces a half truth that turns heads. I remind myself......they are each different. And they each have needs that are special. And I will meet those needs to the best of my ability. And that is literally ALL I can do.

If you're the mom that questions other moms, just stop. There's a lot to be said for solidarity. We all need support. If you don't understand, that's okay. But that's not the other moms fault.  If you're the mom with the kids that always get you the looks from the moms that I just mentioned, you're amazing. Your children will grow up knowing that their mom loved them enough to fight for them and with them through all of their crazy little quirks. Keep pushing through, moms. Moms of all children, that are all special, with special needs.