Thursday, February 16, 2017

control? let it go

i just found myself researching affordable colleges. the problem with this, is that my college bound kid is in the 6th grade. this is so not about preparation and proper planning, this is about me feeling out of control.

we were invited to a newish friend's house for swimming and lunch. it was going to be a chill afternoon with just our family and her and her husband.  i knew it would be a good thing for zoe- not too much stimulation, not too many people, not a lot of noise, not a lot of expectations.

lately i've become very lax about letting zoe stay home. if there are going to be a ton of people, or it's a new place with new people, or it's loud, or even if she's already done a social event for the day, i will oblige her and let her stay home. but this was a 'safe' event. and it was the only event for the day. and she missed cookie selling and bible study last night - so in my book, there was no excuse.

she didn't want to go. she was on her bed, folded in half like a paperclip, watching a show on her computer. "i can't go! i can't handle it! let me stay home!"

pause.

this right here is the dilemma of my life. the dilemma of having a child with special needs. because by far the easiest thing to do is say, "okay" and walk away. and that is also, honestly, what i wanted to do. it would mean an entire afternoon with out sticky thoughts and with out long side conversations about her disability and with out the repetitive need to appease her with those comments that feel so fake but somehow make her feel in control when she's clearly lost to herself. comments like "thank you for reminding me of those other choices, yes one choice is going to the bathroom if you have to go", or extra niceties that seem to settle her, "zoe, do you mind if i get myself some water? you don't? oh thank you!" but the dilemma is: do you do the easier thing? or the harder thing and challenge her to face the world and then risk the fall out? do you chose 'safe' or do you chose challenge, and support her through the challenge? do you let her take easy or do you try to grow her?

and then your mind goes back to all those places. and you convince yourself that if you hadn't taken that year off and pushed her to crawl, she would probably still be immobile, sitting on the ground asking for everything to be brought to her. you convince yourself that you do know what's best, that she has some anxiety but that anxiety is not really 'legit' and once she gets there she'll see that and have fun. you feel badly about not having family time and guilty that it's easier to not bring her, and so you muscle up with her kindle in one hand and an LPS in the other, and you force her to go.

and then you pay for it.

it started the moment we insisted she come and it persisted until we got home 5 hours later. in between she pulled all her greatest moves. she jumped in circles and flapped her hands, she screamed (literally), she threw her shoes (crocs, but still), she cried, she required several long one-on-one 'conversations'  with one parent, then the other, she didn't come to lunch, and the only thing that settled her down was watching 'go diego go' on their laptop.

"see! i told you i couldn't handle it!" she says. here comes the next dilemma. is this because she is autistic and right? or is this because she's a bratty 17 year old who just wanted to watch her show? HOW DO YOU KNOW?

i know enough about autism (although i apparently forget it often) to know that she didn't 'mean to' unravel to this extent. that her behavior was coming mostly from a place of feeling unsafe and for zoe, feelings are facts. she can't untangle from them. if her internal system screams 'danger' it doesn't matter what the reality is, she responds in high threat mode. the additional problem is, that i'm human. and i'm on the more human end of the human spectrum. i technically 'know' that getting angry at someone in high threat mode doesn't work, in fact, it makes things worse. reverting to pre-school cartoons is what works.

the human part of me really hates this. the human part of me wants her to live in my reality. wants logic to work, not diego. wants a nice family afternoon with a friend at her pool with out all this. but the mom part of me saw her sitting on the couch watching diego and my heart ached for her. no one wants to throw shoes and yell. no one wants to feel out of control. not her. not me.

perhaps i put her in an impossible situation. i took someone already feeling out of control (for whatever reason) and made them go somewhere they didn't want to go, exacerbating their out of control-ness. the problem is leaving her home alone folded in half like a paperclip all day feels terrible and reminds me that most of this is out of my control. but forcing her to leave her bedroom and bringing her on a family event, is not going to cure her. it's not going to make her world less threatening. it's not going to fix a broken family dynamic where she she dominates a lot of life.

it comes down to me feeling out of control. thus the frenzied college search 4 years too early. and this is where i have to be careful.  is this my psyche trying to 'fix' things? i have a college application age kid who has only finished 8th grade. am i trying to do what i would be doing if my life was like i thought it was supposed to be? am i pushing jude to make up for zoe? am i grappling for 'normal'? and am i struggling to find something that feels like control?

that's messed up.  that's where there real damage can come. so i needed to pause. to x out of that website and to let myself feel the sucky parts of the afternoon and the wonderful parts of it.

henry nouwen says that brokenness isn't beautiful, it's the compassion around the brokenness that's beautiful. 

so i pause. to look at it all. and to hold compassion. compassion for her. compassion for my other kids. compassion for our friends who put themselves in places of discomfort because of our situation. compassion for myself. and again, and most of all, compassion for her.




Saturday, February 11, 2017

verklempt

i must admit, i am verklempt, and i get to say that because i passed a facebook 'test' that said i was 100% jewish after answering 10 questions. i owe that to all you mensches out there who taught me well- (Frank and Coris families- you know who you are).

i am verklempt because of the response to the picture i posted of zoe yesterday. zoe all dressed up for the tim tebow foundation event- "a night to shine". a night for kids with special needs to dress up, walk down the red carpet and be crowned queen. to be not just accepted but celebrated - as you are- beloved. God's beloved child. as she is, as i am, as you are.

 
















the love and care that came out of people from her entire life and even from my entire life was overwhelming. it was over 150 "loves, likes" and over 30 comments of love and support. people who have known me since i was 5, people who have known her since birth, people who have worked with her, taught her to read, taught her to hike, taught her to listen inside and know herself. people who have prayed for her and with her and me. people who have stuck by her, who believe in her, people who have told her consistently that she is valuable and beautiful and capable. people who don't avoid her differences but welcome them. people who have helped me up off the floor of my life, who have given me hope, who have just listened, who have cried. people  who have invited her into their lives and showed their own children that differences aren't scary or to be avoided but included and learned from. people who only know her story, my story from reading about it here. people who zoe has inspired.


















the list of names is like a collage of our lives- people i haven't seen in years, people from all over the world, people i haven't even met, and people i see everyday. it reminds me that we are in each other lives. we touch each other more than we know. we matter to each other. and we have such an opportunity to help each other and be less alone. it also reminded me that while sometimes our belovedness can be lost behind special needs fronts, so can our loss of belovedness get lost beneath our non-special needs fronts.

sometimes we look like we must feel our worth because we look good, or we at least look "normal". but we so often don't feel our worth. we so often loose our awareness of ourselves as beloved- as we are- because inside, we feel and see our own handicaps that mar our believe that we are loveable.

i've written before that my two fears as a child were that God would "make" me be a missionary, and that God would give me a child with special needs. hahaha. well, here i am with both now true.  why did i fear these things? safety. that is why. one, the missionary thing, was about fearing being in dangerous places, places with less security, less control, more risk. the second, was also about safety and control.

as a child i had a 'bleeding heart'. i felt for those who were different. i thought i was empathizing. that i was compassionate, but what i felt was pity.  i was treating people with disabilities not like they were like me, but that they had my sympathies because they were not like me. i'm so ashamed to write that, but it's true.

to pity is to feel sorry for or compassion for someone suffering.

why was i assuming that people who may look different or be differently-abled, are suffering? and was i assuming that all those with an intact body, clear speech, a smooth gait and no intellectual challenges are not suffering? 

i think my pity was about my own shame and my own fear. 'what if someone sees how disabled i feel on the side?' what if i couldn't hide it, and my challenges or weaknesses or differences, were out there for all to see the moment i entered the room?'

i saw people with differences or special needs as fully exposed and that was terrifying. as i've done a lot of internal work over the past few years, i can see how much of me i hid that i believed was unacceptable. how i picked through the parts that i would show, and tucked away the parts that brought me shame. what if i didn't have that option? how scary is that.



















having zoe has changed that in me. i don't pity zoe.  i have moments where i feel sad with her, when i hear and see her frustration and i so wish i could take it away. but i also have moments when i feel a tinge of sadness about something in her that she is not sad about- about her shoulder that sticks up and she can't put down, or her limp when she walks. and what i've learned in those moments is that they're about me not her. that tinge comes from my deep and often hidden insecurities - my interpretation of how i would feel if it were my shoulder and my limp. it gives me an opportunity to pause and inquire inside what parts of me are afraid of exposure? it gives me the chance to reflect on my brokenness, and to see myself and her in a different light. a light that shows we are the same.

some of the most beautiful  or whole looking people, if turned inside out, would look empty or crippled. and some of the most scarred people turned inside out would blind us with beauty. it speaks to our bodily limitations and the possible freedom of our souls. we miss the point, we get it wrong. we look at the frame and miss the artwork.

so God, who knows what is best for me, gave me the gifts of being a missionary and having a girl named zoe. the gift of seeing the world differently and learning to see people differently. to see wholeness and brokenness differently. to let go of safety and control and trust Him. 

but now i'll stop the long speil and the kavetshing and thank all of you menshes for your love and support and bid you shalom.




Monday, February 6, 2017

the camel's back

yesterday i lost it. not out loud. just inside.
it was zoe. again.
it was not that big of a deal. not that out of the ordinary. but it was a straw breaking moment for me.

it was 1 pm and she still hadn't brushed her teeth. it's not that her delayed brushing is this horrible thing or the end of the world - it's that her reaction to my asking became that. something minor and simple, something that should be a regular small part of her day- it becomes this massive monster of a thing.

let me explain the straw-breaking-the-camel's-back-ness of having a special needs family member. the camel's back is perpetually full. battened down. layer after layer. no more room in the inn full. it's packed with all the little holding of things together. all the accommodations that everyone makes all the time. all the put up withs. the things you overlook, the exceptions, the things tolerated that you wouldn't tolerate in anyone else. it's packed with the emotions that go with this. the grief. the fatigue. the gearing up for each something that you know will likely cause a meltdown. the asking of yourself, again, 'do you have it in you', and knowing that the only answer you can give, that you have to muster up, is 'yes', even if you don't. those are the bags on the camels back.

so sometimes it just takes something so small as the tounge sticking out, yelling 'i hate you! no one knows how i feel, can't you see i'm struggling?' refusal to brush teeth in mid-afternoon, that breaks you.

yesterday breaking me meant i indulged in a 30 minute internet exploration of housing options for autistic young adults. i let myself go there. i let myself feel that possible freedom that could come from not living with her. i told myself if things get too bad. if it becomes too impossible. if the other kids are suffering- there could be options.

to be honest, sadly, there aren't many. and the ones that are, are super expensive and located on the other side of the world. i just wanted to know what was out there because sometimes the answer to that internal, daily question of 'do you have it in you' is a resounding 'no'.

today i got up early and prayed. i exercised and mike helped with her morning routine. i let the day be full of accommodation and overlook, and inclusion. she spent the day with me, not off in her room, but next to me.

there was a moment when we were eating lunch, when i was reminded again of why i love this girl so much. on the table was a tiny, lego dog belonging to her brother. zoe loves tiny things so she was holding it while she ate and when she was finished looking at it, she carefully put it on the table and walked it across to join the other lego pieces. she didn't pick it up and move it, she animated it silently to herself, somehow respected it's toyness. maybe that makes no sense to anyone else but me, but it was enough. it was her being herself. her uniqueness on display. her attention to the things that matter to her. it was like i could see into her world for a minute and i loved that.

tonight i found her lying on her bed. i went in and lay beside her and rubbed her back. i could feel the knotted muscles and the curve of her spine and her left shoulder raised and tucked wing-like by her ear. i remembered rubbing her back when she was just a baby, and a little girl and wondering what life would feel like in her body- from her skin. wondering what her experiences would be? what would challenge her, pain her? what would break her heart.  i felt such a deep love for her and i wondered why it can be so hard to forget. to get lost in the bags on the back of the camel. to get lost from my perspective and forget her personhood. tonight, it broke me in a very different way. it was powerful. it was beautiful.

i began to write instinctively on her back, ' i-l-o-v-e-y-o-u'. she said, 'i know you just wrote that you love me, why?' 'because i do!' i said. and i told her. all those reasons - those completely special zoe reasons- her humor, her trying, her toy dog walking across the table, her expressions, her putting up with my failing to see her as she sees herself, my failing to know her behind and beneath all those camel sacs. and as i lay there rubbing her back, all i could think was that i would never, ever want her to go away. that i wouldn't want to miss out on really knowing her-and these moments- these little times that make the weight of the baggage lighter. that make room from more straw.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

sacrifice

i used to write a lot. that was 6 years ago. i would sit on my back porch at 5pm, with a cold glass of white wine, listen to pandora and i would write. my kids were 3 and 5 and 11. the homeschool day with zoe was done. the boys had had their naps, eaten their snacks and everyone would play outside or sometimes watch 'noggin', which was fine with me and far enough away from the porch that i didn't hear it. i would run here to write. for solace. i would write because i had a lot to say. i would write because i needed to. i would write because i could.

i. miss. that. hour. truth be told, i miss that glass of wine and i miss pandora's music. i miss that porch and those giant water oaks that shaded it.  i miss those ages when people didn't have 'devices' and didn't talk back and came to me for a hug not with a request for something else to eat. i miss not having to run back and forth to school to pick up kids from sports and play practice. i miss not having house help and not having guards- the spaciousness that comes from just me and my kids.

that hour was a time for me to breathe. to remember. to appreciate. to make lemonade with life's lemons.

right now, i am in the house alone. completely alone. it happened accidentally and it's fantastic. i can't remember the last time i was completely alone, but in sitting here alone, i have realized how much i have missed it. i also realize how constantly noisy my life is.

last sunday the sermon was on sacrificial giving. primarily financial giving. about tithing and giving to others. it was a challenge to think about what sacrificial giving would look like. living in africa, we are surrounded by opportunities to give. we are surrounded by need. my perspective of 'enough' is in comparison to 'not enough', not in comparison with 'more than enough'. we are constantly bombarded with people who have less than we do, and with the knowledge that one latte is someone's daily wage. it's a hard thing to live with. we are all called to tithe and we are called to give on top of that. we do the best we can. we try to listen to the Spirit and be obedient. i'm sure it seems schizophrenic at times, but for me the greater challenge is not having a hard and fast rule about extra giving but inquiring of God and listening. we are also missionaries. we've given up some things to come live here, there has been sacrifice, and people are making sacrifices to support us. so what do we do with sacrificial giving?

i began to pray about it. and as usual, God had a bunch of good things to say. He reminded me that it's not about my money, it's about my heart.  it's about detachment from things. things that i may cling to. it's about trust- and trusting Him not myself to meet my needs. it's about living intentionally not fearfully or defensively.

so i asked if He could please be more specific and as i reflected on what i'm attached to or what i crave and cling to, for me it's not money, it's time. He asked me to look at how i could sacrificially give my time.

now my kids are 10, 11 and 17 with special needs. and there is another one who's 7. now they are big and the house is smaller and they take up a lot of room and a lot more energy. they have these amazing opinions about everything- all of which must be shared- even their opinions about me (not usually asked for). they want to tell me about every single dream they ever had in great detail, they want to share each minute event in their plants vs. zombies game, and they want to recount every tv show they've ever seen, and quiz me on the ages of various actors. honestly, i love them, but 'i don't care!'.  it's painful! they still give hugs but there is a lot more asking for another bowl of cereal or a ride somewhere. but for me, mornings have become the worst. i stumble out of bed after jude has woken me and before i even have coffee i am immediately expected to listen to three people telling me there is NOTHING to eat, and asking the location of lost uniforms for the game that day, or help with a costume for 'spirit week' "but what am i going to doooo? i have to leave for school in 15 minutes!" (i don't know why didn't you figure that out last night when i asked if you had everything ready, instead of yelling 'of course i do!' when you clearly didn't). the noise of life.

sacrificially give your time. give it to Me. give it to them. that is what God said and these days i'm all about obedience because i've tried the other way and it doesn't work. so today i got up at 5:30. that's an hour and a half earlier than usual. i had coffee before anyone was awake. i got myself ready for the day, read and prayed and watched the sun come up- in silence. i figured out breakfast and lunches before anyone was awake. i was totally ready for the chaos- uniforms, spirit week, bring it people! and they did. but it was fine. it was calm (er). it was an opportunity for true giving and in doing that, i was given the gift of stillness, of that sunrise, of a quiet cup of coffee.

people grow and life happens and sacrifices look different at different seasons as i cling to different things and then am reminded again, of the letting go of them. in the sacrifice, the release, is the freedom. and maybe in starting my days like this- i will somehow find my way back to here. back to the porch at 5pm with a glass of wine, beside the banana plants, with my now big children coming and going. to breathe. to remember. to appreciate. to make lemonade with life's lemons.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

seven

i woke up yesterday with the number 7 in my head. 7 years.
7 more years. here.
it all becomes real. this is where i am and where i will be. this is where my children will be raised. this decision we made 6 years ago, has become my life in a more significant and permanent way than we ever imagined.

it wasn't that we planned on leaving here. it was that we didn't have a plan. we went where we felt God pulling us, with the idea that we would listen and be still and stay until it was time to go. but there was a freedom in that that we no longer have.

there was always the possibility of escape. if things got too hard. if we got too tired. if we got sick. if our kids were miserable. if things fell apart politically. if things fell apart financially. if we just missed home so much. and normal, and starbucks and the smell of new things in clean bright stores that only sell new things. if we missed really tall buildings and old cobbled streets and history and being a majority and having normal jobs, that pay us. if we longed desperately for our family and our friends, for being known deeply. if we just needed to see leaves change color and smell the cold and feel snowflakes fall on our upturned faces as we stare at a white sky. if we just wanted to remember. to be where it's familiar and comfortable and you have to ask less questions of the world and less of yourself even because  you don't have the developing world staring you in the face. or if we got scared. and thought that our children would do better at "home". that they "deserve" more. that they might resent us someday for raising them here- for growing them up as third culture kids. all those lingering thoughts and emotions, we could listen to them and they could know that we heard them, that they had a voice and if they screamed loud enough- we could turn this ship around.

not anymore.

yesterday i was feeling it. i was hearing from all those parts- thoughts and emotions- fears and sadnesses and i just listened. i resisted the urge to tell them that it is fine and to convince them that actually everything is great here and we had better just pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and make the best of it. no. it's really important to sit in grief sometimes. to open ourselves to our pain. to give ear to even our most absurd fears - because here is something i've learned- they don't believe in bootstraps and they won't go away- so best to listen, to acknowledge, to not abandon parts of ourselves that are hurting. hard as it is, sit with it, in it, cry it out, write it out, run it out, paint it out, shout it out, give it a healthy place to be heard or it will lash out. it will lash out in blame or resentment, or falsity, or displaced anger, or chronic, low grade, lingering sadness. it's best to invite ourselves to feel openly, and with out judgement, to have compassionate curiosity for ourselves.

when we get scared, we like to dichotomize. to make things black or white. to see the world as all or nothing. it's harder to live gray, in between, to grow into the comfort of the truth- which is 'all' and 'and'. for me, in this, it looks like saying, 'i'm thankful that we are happy here, but i'm sad that we can't go home whenever we want. sometimes that can feel scary. sometimes it feels good to have a plan and know where we'll be. sometimes i love living in africa and sometimes i really hate it. some days i can't imagine being anywhere else, and some days i'm so very homesick. ' i know that if i moved back to america right now, i'd have very similar feelings. and so would my kids. i know that God has absolutely allowed this to be as it is and so i know that He will absolutely provide what we need to stay here. not a guarantee of easy or painless or perfect- but a guarantee of His presence and of peace and joy- even though.

listening to the fears and the missings and the goodness, helps me support myself better.  i might not have a lot of money, but i can get a latte at the dutch coffee shop in town- and sometimes seeing that leaf patterned into foam - is enough. i can call home more. i can look at pictures and tell stories with mike and our kids as we remember our very snowy winter 2 years ago. i can enjoy here and i can remember there- both with thanks. and i can trust. trust that God knows and loves me- that His promises and provisions are real. that time is in His hands.

right now it's beautiful. it's cool and gray with a few raindrops and a good wind. it's my version of a rainbow- a promise that He brings what we need in small ways. today i needed this cloudy sky and some darkness. i needed goosebumps and a to wear a sweatshirt.

seven years. one day at at a time.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

where is the window?

"whenever God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window." someone said once.

where is the window? it's hard to breath in here. the door slamming was loud, my ears are ringing. it's dark. so dark i can't see my hand. where is the window?

i just got an email from the lawyer. it may have been the worst email i've read- or one of them. it said NO. it said they said NO to rose's adoption. it said NO and Never and wait until she is 14 and can legally request adoption. it could have been over next week. we had a court date for next week. this 5 year ordeal could have finally been closed and a new chapter opened- the post adoption chapter.

i read it with shock and appall because we had spent an hour with the family before this, right before this, and it sounded like we were all on the same page. it sounded like we were family now- the jaja called me her daughter- it sounded like they understood what they had agreed to months ago in the village way up north. it sounded like finishing the reality that has been our life for 5 years now.

i read it and i felt like i was choking with my hands tied behind me. powerless, and trying to breathe. trapped and trying not to suffocate. 7 more years. jacob and laban. the longest labor ever known- measured not in hours but in years to birth this child.

i started clamoring around for a window in the dark. maybe there is latch if i can just feel it i can open a window- i can find light and air. but i'm just struggling in the dark- flapping my arms against smooth solid walls, and getting tired.

the thing is, i have this unshakable faith in God that gets in the way sometimes. i mean even if i want to get all pissed off and angry at God, i trust Him too much to really do that. i know he can handle it- i've been angry many times before, but lately His love and constancy have grown that trust even more and i know in my deepest parts that somehow, this awful, bleeping plan, is ........better. i know this, even though i don't know why. even though i don't know how. even though it sure as H-E double hockey sticks, doesn't feel like it's better.

it is.

we don't get to choose what life gives us, but we do get to choose how we respond to it. i have a choice in this. i can let the rage that wants to ignite in me take over and i can "fight this!!" (but i'm not even allowed to make a court date and if i had one, the judge wouldn't grant it anyway in this current adoption environment). i can let this anger fill me and i can refuse to let this family ever see rose again, because legally i have that right, and man right now that is exactly what i want to do.

or, i can sit down in this very dark room, open my hands and ask God to show me the window. knowing that this window might not look at all like my idea of a window. knowing that i might have to sit in the dark for a while and let my eyes adjust. knowing it might just be a window in my heart that opens. that lets a greater love grow. that changes me in ways i can't imagine, but need.

the tricky part is that i also have to trust that God is big enough for this to be .......better, for all involved. mike. zoe. jude. bryn. even rose herself. for her extended tribe. for our extended tribe across the ocean.

it's so much easier to get angry than it is to sit down in the dark.  it's so much easier to organize and strategize and make plans a, b, and c. to feel i can take control even in a very dark room.i know because i've been doing it for 40 years. it's so much harder to feel what feels horribly unfair. to feel the pain of it. the trapped-ness of it. perhaps most of all to feel the fear of it and all it's rippling fears. it's so much harder to release the anger, to widen my view to see all sides, to embrace the very unknownness of this, and commit to do the right thing, and not what i feel like doing.

this is the battle we all have. the parts of us fighting inside - the dark side and the jedi side. in moments like this the dark side has some very legit points and likable ideas- "this isn't fair to rose! play hard ball! tell them they will never see her again unless they sign those papers!" but if i'm honest, all this heaviness is coming from a place of fear, not a place of love.

and light comes from Love.  i'm sitting in this dark space yes, but if i can access that love, one small light is enough to kill the darkness. so i choose light. i choose trust. i choose faith and waiting. i choose hope. i choose to believe that while fear is flying all around this from all sides, so is love. love of a child. birthed by some and raised by others, loved by all.

i will sit in the arms of Love that parted the waters for the Israelites twice, once out of slavery and once more into the promised land. i will trust the parting. i will remember my own waters crossed dry and my own illuminated darknesses. i will wait with my little light. i will ask to see the window, and i will look and listen for where the light comes, and i will do my very best to walk in it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

supposed to be like what?



the sun has set and the birds have been replaced by chirping frogs and insects. music from the club down the street carries differently in the evening- its sound is right here. we just came in from playing football- both types at once- while trying to chase the dogs away from the ball. it was after a dinner of chicken and chips - our last supper before we meet (again) with rose's birth family to try to move closer, after 5 years, to finalizing her adoption.
 it's been a long five years. a lot has happened and a lot has changed. i've changed. in many many ways- but even in the way of how i feel about her adoption. for a long time i carried a lot of ambivalence. i loved her and wanted her absolutely, but once i found out she had a birth mom and a large extended family, and then later on a birth father surfaced, i felt conflicted. it wasn't supposed to be like this. for anyone.
 so i worried about her birth mom. i worried about where her words came from. if she felt forced or coerced to say them- to not take her back. i worried that culturally she didn't have a voice. but all i had was her voice and her words and they said- 'take her, keep her, raise her'.

time when on. we saw the birth mom several times a year, and her mother (jaja) and their entire village. we were given the 'blessing' and welcomed into this unfamiliar family that became our family. but when ever legal issues came up, things changed. people dragged their feet and said they couldn't decide with out this person or that person. they hemmed and hawed about not wanting to completely let go, officially. and again, i was conflicted. i worried that they were voiceless. i imagined being in their place. i felt we couldn't rush them. i felt we needed to respect them.
time went on and years went on and as her legal guardians, we again went to the village and met with everyone to again try to settle this child's life in a permanent way. there was a program and niceties but again when legal talk began- so did the foot dragging.

now i can see that in the only voice i need to worry about is rose's voice. and that she is the one who has been silenced in this. she was left at 2. she had to do the work of learning another language and navigating a family of people that didn't look like her. she has to hold a different passport. she has to see these people who birthed her but haven't raised her and won't let her go, again and again, and she is tired and because she's a child, she is voiceless.
but she has a voice. a very clear one. her voice is fierce and bold and resilient. her voice is confident and smart and decisive. it's the one that calls me mom and mike dad. the one that calls over and over again to her brothers as they play and walk to school and laugh together. the one who helps her big sister again and again in her gentle, ever-forgiving manner. her voice doesn't understand why this is even an issue. she only has known us as family- even though she's seen these other people off and on for years now. yet her voice is too young to be heard.

so i have to be her voice. i have to no longer worry about the feelings of her birth mom or her grandmother - or anyone else really. i have to speak for my beautiful daughter however i can. because life is full of things that are 'not supposed to be like this'.

and this wasn't supposed to be like this. not for her birth family, not for our family, but mostly importantly and most of all it wasn't supposed to be like this for her. not this hard. not this long. not this complicated. not this messy.

but it is.

so maybe it was supposed to be like this. for reasons that we will possibly and probably never know.