Archives for September 2019

Gotcha What?

At what age do we become aware that we belong to someone? How old is an orphan when s/he learns that most children belong to people who claim them, provide for them, delight in them, plan for their futures, are proud of them — but they don’t have that. They live on a compound with other orphans and watch some go to families, but some don’t.  Why?

Imagine the courage to wait and watch and become a big kid. Imagine praying for a forever family for more than half your life.  Imagine watching other children meet their families. Some of those kids kind and courageous and you might think, “Yeah, s/he is awesome. I wish I were cool like them, so I could be loved .” Some of those kids you’re probably glad to see the back of, but you might wonder why that little meanie gets a family, and not you, and you might wonder, “If s/he gets love and a family, and I can’t, what must be wrong with me?” Imagine carers in your orphanage, for whom this might be just a job, who might make careless comments about families from other countries, orphans, and the value of belonging.  What if they tell you foreigners are monsters and will eat you?

What if there sometimes isn’t enough food? What if the food is not always fresh, but sometimes rotten? What if you aren’t always kept clean? What if you cannot leave your bed at night to use the restroom? What if other kids’ insomnia is your problem? What if, in waiting for workers to care for ‘all ’em kids‘, the individual goes days and days between one-on-one, face-to-face, sustained eye contact with an adult who says their name and asks about their day?

Congenital Hepatitis B, complete bi-lateral cleft lip and palate, orphaned at 14 months, into foster care at 4,  At 5, he met another in a procession of short term visitors to the family educational center that employed his foster parent.  The visitor had no plans to expand a family, no bent towards intercountry adoption, and less funds than she knew, when she saw his face.

Moved to America at 6, has been in 3 churches, had 5 surgeries, and just wants a golden retriever (I’m willing to negotiate for a basset hound mix, after the dogs we have, have crossed the rainbow bridge).

This man is brave. Real brave. Not “you-spoke-in-front-of-a-group brave”. “Pack your bags, believe a bunch of adults (who, let’s face it, up to that point, hadn’t done a lot to make themselves credible), take on a new continent, nation, culture, climate, language, cuisine (hated beans when he came here)” kind of brave.

He had no idea.

Yet.

He loves about everyone.  He serves quickly and wordlessly.  He is generous with the smile, he’s endured so much to own.  He cares about his family in a real way.  He rarely complains.  He works diligently on school work. He, plain out, reveres his sisters and their men.  His faith and trust in Christ, lived out daily, challenges me.

At 15, he’s not perfect.  His heart hopes for things not-yet-seen (golden retrievers and such).

Today is Marc’s Gotcha Day. It’s the day I met him  at the Civil Affairs office in Xi’An, Shaanxi, China, and took him into my care and our family. Nine years into knowing his big, giant heart, we are the lucky ones, we are the blessed.

We had no idea.

Inconvenient and Embarrassing AF

~My husband will take issue with the use of the term AF in the title of this post.~

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day. Several friends have posted devotional thoughts or statistics to raise awareness. I thought I would take another tack.

This past Sunday, a pastor and a few friends prayed for me. In the last couple of years, we’ve barely had a chance to process one change, than another came. Like a proper SAHM/homemaker, I’m the shock-absorber.  I’ve asked for help.  I’ve called the church, talked to family, gone to therapy and spoken with friends.

Finally, like an electrical cord that gets hot when too much current blazes through it, in May, I had to step away and spend some time alone for a few days. You unplug for a minute, but not nearly long enough. Then, when it’s mostly cooled down, you plug right back in under the same load as before.

In June, I asked to check into the hospital. I was unable to do my job and unable to communicate (how serious a person must be to ask this). It didn’t happen and was swept away, in the midst of birthdays, holidays, life transitions, physical illness, and injuries. July passed in a blur.

In, early August, I was back in that place again. I spent three days at a friend’s house. I rested and prayed and sought out the people who would hold me accountable, and they did. As I poured out my heart, each of three trusted friends had similar insights. Not the least of which, was my neglect of my physical health. Following Thyroid cancer last year, my tiny synthroid tablet was the only daily acknowledgement that I occupied a physical vessel, at all.

I began planning better meals and taking my vitamins. In a few days, my energy and outlook did a 180, but if I had to speak to my burned out emotional state, tears and snot poured. I was focused on the present moment, but ignoring the stress monster that brought me to the point of strange thoughts– where certain situations caused me to have mental pictures of dangerous things. (Just pictures. I immediately reported these visualizations to my husband and they dissipated.)

If we’ve just met, you should know, three years ago, I dropped out of a Graduate program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.  I know a little about the lay of the land. There are no perfect plans. Every plan is fraught with statistical probability that you survive, disabled, to be cared for by those you want to leave; an actual daily challenge, rather than the one I think I am now.

I feel better than I have since months/years before they found the mass on my Thyroid. But this prayer thing, with the church on Sunday, made me feel like Charisse in the movie, Kingdom Come. When she had to keep on going in her stress, she behaved badly. Another family member said, “Don’t pay her any mind, she just likes attention.”

No one said that, but it was inconvenient. I was aware of afternoon activities that I was delaying. It’s reeeeeeally embarrassing to ask for years and have

ev. er. y. one.,

act like you didn’t say anything or you’re being selfish, immature. To ask to unplug. To ask someone else to plug in. I was in a place where I was fantasizing about strange, inappropriate, non-suicidal things, just so someone would look in my direction, and possibly say, “Are you OK?” It feels like, a classic illustration of how difficult it is to make changes because those whose situations rely on your pattern might resist. Did I stigmatize myself, because I had to tell the truth? Absolutely. There are a lot of people who can’t deal with someone being transparent and vulnerable and not a freaking superhero.

It’s common to hear when someone commits suicide, “They never said anything. I didn’t know.” They might not have said it to you, but they did. They are saying it now. Listen. Look for the trail of crumbs. Don’t make it incumbent upon them to behave in an undignified way. To be deliberately bizarre. They don’t just, “like attention.”

On the worst days when despair dogged my steps. I could still see the kindness of God and the bounty of my blessings. I just couldn’t feel like I was allowed a place at the table to share in the feast with my beautiful cloud of witnesses. For a time, I lost my grip on hope to live through the day I was on. But Hope didn’t lose His grip on me.

If you are burning out. If you are falling fast. If you are cruising the internet today to add fuel to the burning pain, stop. Call your safest person, even if it’s that nice gal at the bank (I’m looking at you, Amanda).  Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.  Call me. You have a place at the table.  Don’t believe the lie that no one knows how it feels.  It feels embarrassing and inconvenient.  Yes, and crazy.  But it’s OK.  Hope is trying to get to you.

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