We were standing in the kitchen this evening, talking about our day, Christmas shopping, things to do tomorrow... and I started talking about Ethiopia. I'm thinking about going with a friend on a mission trip in June. She is going to help train nurses there... I'd just be going to love on the little ones in the orphanage. I'm thinking about taking Sara with me. Anna was standing there eating ice cream, and I asked her if she wanted to go with me. She said 'Yeah, sure". I asked her what she would do while she was there. She didn't know. I asked her if she would want to play with the kids in the orphanage - and she said yeah.
I want my kids to understand that what they have, is not what most people have. I told her how the kids in the orphanage might not look that cute, or be too clean. Their clothes might not match and they might not smell the best.....but they are kids and they just want people to play with them.
Then it happened - my eight year old daughter said "kids in the orphanage are like that". I stopped listening at the word "orphanage". My stomach hurt and I instantly wanted to puke. Hearing that word come out of her mouth - I think for the very first time - nearly killed me. My eyes teared up instantly. She was there... she was one of them.
She wore mismatched clothes. She didn't smell good. Her hair - well... there wasn't much of it... they had given her a buzz cut. She was an orphan. It's strange how you forget that. It's strange how you can't imagine your child starting her life in that environment. You reject the thought. Every molecule of me knows that she did start there - but every molecule of me forgets it as well.
She is not an orphan....
She is my daughter.....
She was one piece of paper away from not being mine. She was one decision away from not having a family. I guess she could have gone to another family - except that God had her planned for mine. What if I had not gone? What if I had decided on another country? What if.....
I'm not sure why it hit me so hard today. I guess because she said that word. She shouldn't have to say that word "orphan". She shouldn't have to understand what it means. She should not have to think about the fact that she was there. She should not have to wonder - as I'm sure she someday will - what if.....?
What if my mom didn't come?
What if I was older and no one wanted me?
What if I was still there?
It's a part of adoption that you don't really think about in the beginning. In the beginning you think about the great need for children to have a family. You think about the child you will be adding to your home. You even think about your fears as to whether or not this child will fit into your family - then all your fears are removed when that child is placed into your arms.... but you don't think about 7 years down the road - when your daughter is eating ice cream in the kitchen and she says that word. You don't think about how it will make you feel - sick to your stomach. You can't even begin to imagine how she must feel - starting to understand what it all means.
I wanted to take my children with me to Ethiopia to get a better understanding of what they have here at home. I wanted them to appreciate more, become more compassionate for those who have less - much less....
But do I really want Anna to see the truth of what was? Part of me wants to shield her from it. She was so young when she was adopted - she doesn't remember her life in China. While the orphanages in Ethiopia are not the same, there are things about an orphanage that are always similar - and the desperate need of each child is certainly similar....Do I want her to see that? I'm conflicted.
I wish I never had to hear that word come out of her mouth. It's an easier word to say, when you are not staring an orphan in the face. Orphans are far away. You can't touch them - not from here anyway. You don't have to see their faces - not in real life anyway.... it's easier that way.
I know that my Anna is not an orphan. Neither is my Sara. But she WAS. They both were. And that is hard to swallow when you are their mom. When you forget that, even though they couldn't look less like you, you didn't give birth to them. And seriously, sometimes I forget. I don't look at my children and think "rescued orphan"... I look at my children and think - they are my children... and sometimes when reality sets in, when I'm reminded of their past - it hurts. Reality hurts. Not for me. Their past does not hurt me.... but I hurt for them... for what I know they will some day feel...for the questions they will someday have that I, unfortunately, won't be able to answer...And knowing that a hug won't fix it. All I can pray for them, is that God heals their broken hearts. That God miraculously fills that empty space for them....
I can't bring home every orphan. I wish I could - but I can't. So, what can I do? Will going back over there, and loving on some kids, playing with the older ones, taking them clothes, toothbrushes, toys... will any of it make a difference? Will they remember that someone cared - or will they just see me as another person that came and went... someone who brought them something, but who didn't rescue them.... once again left behind... forgotten.
Their eyes are so desperate. They LONG for attention. Some climb all over you and entertain you just so you will interact with them... others seem to have given up... they have seen enough people come and go that they have learned that all of their entertaining and smiles don't matter - I'm just going to leave anyway - and leave them there - where they are.....
I wish everyone could, just once, see the faces of these children, not on TV, but in real life - close enough to touch- see how little they live with, and see how little they complain. Their clothes don't match. Their shoes don't fit. They eat the same thing day after day. They don't get a bath. They don't get their teeth brushed. They share a bed. Nothing is their own. No mom. No dad. No bedtime story....
And yet they don't complain.
I can only attribute it to God watching over them. God being in that place with them. Nothing else makes any sense.
Tonight, I'm praying for the orphan. Each and every one of them - wherever they might be. May God bring a family to them. Keep them safe until their family comes. They are all beautiful treasures - children of God.