Monday, December 17, 2007

A Beautiful Heart

Sometimes I ponder what our oldest daughter's future would have been if we had not adopted her. While the information is always sketchy, there are some things that I do know for sure. One thing is that her caregivers were terribly worried that she would not be adopted before she turned 4. At age 4, the children are evaluated and sent to various orphanage boarding schools (rather than a baby house, which will house any baby). If there is any defect detected by this very subjective evaluation, the child is then sent to an institution for the disabled. There, she would face not only a future with no family, but with no education, near starvation and no stimulation at all. (See Abandoned to the State, Cruelty and Neglect in Russian Orphanages to get a taste of what life would be like -- these aren't photos that you would want a young child to view. ) Another thing I know is that although most people in the Former Soviet Union don't talk about it, enough have for people to know that this type of institution is far too common. Of course, even just one institution like that is far too many!

But, today, our dear little 8-year-old is not tied to a chair, or left sitting in a dark room or forced to lie in a bed all day (unless she gets in trouble, and then it wouldn't be all day, just for a while). Instead, she's out in our front yard, playing in the snow, pretending to be an Inuit foraging for food for herself and her sled dog team.

Minutes earlier she was inside, reading through a box of prayer cards that we had received from Operation Christmas Child.

"Mom, what's a refugee camp?"
"Why would we need to pray for children that are in a war? How can a child be in a war?"
"Why would a child have AIDS?"
"Why are there so many children living in sewers?"
"Why would children live in garbage dumps?"

Such hard questions to answer to a child who doesn't even really remember her life in an orphanage! All she remembers is the security of having our family, a family that is far from perfect, but much better than no family at all. In an odd twist though, she does know something about that part of her life... She'll tell people that she knows that she would have a different life in Ukraine. She does know that she would not be reading, swimming or playing the piano if she hadn't been adopted. She knows that she wouldn't know about Skyline Chili, Mexican food, or Cream of Wheat. She knows she wouldn't have her beloved service dog or a family that loves her.

Of course, that doesn't mean she's not a kid. She still disobeys, she still makes mistakes, like flushing when the plumber's working on the pipes, and she still has times where she covets what other people have. But, we never expected her to say, "Oh thank you, Mom and Dad, for rescuing me and giving me life!" any more than we expect our boys to say, "Thank you so much for birthing me and giving me life!"

Her musings, today, touched me because she does, obviously, feel a connection to suffering children. None of our other kids pay attention to those prayer cards. She studies them. She remembers to pray for them. She talks about them.

So, today I didn't ponder what her life would've been like if we hadn't adopted her, I pondered what my life would be like if we hadn't. Taking her suffering and making it mine has been one of the most defining and life changing things I've ever done -- and the most rewarding. On the day we met her, there was no question in either I or my husband's mind that this child was ours and that any of the details of her disabilities would pale in comparison to the joy of having her in our life. She sparkled like a jewel among all the adorable children in her orphanage, always a gleam in her eye. Although, I might say that sometimes that gleam is more of a spark than a gleam!

I've learned so much from her (the least of which is probably what I can do with 1 arm, making me much more efficient at many physical tasks!), that I can't even count the ways it's been a blessing. The courage that she showed during her hip surgery and recovery was far beyond anything that I could muster. Her ability to deal with the indignity of having to use a bed pan and have her parents dress her for weeks after her surgery astounded us. It was like the harder something was, the higher she rose. But, it's her unyielding belief that God is good and loves her unconditionally, despite what life has thrown at her that astounds me the most.

So today, as she innocently flipped through the cards, I was blessed once again by the fact that the Lord chose me to be the mother of such a beautiful little heart that sees past the pain and loss in her own life and desires to bless others.

Now, if only I could get her to clean her room with a good attitude!

No comments: