We saw a picture of a precious little girl in China who had a heart breaking story. She had grown up in an orphanage for 11 years with a special need that made talking difficult for her - cleft lip/cleft palette. She had seen other friends leave to finally go “home” to a family. Her turn came, but then things happened and she went back to the orphanage instead home to a family. I was so sad for this little girl and what she had gone through in her short life. We advocated for her and prayed for her to find her family. In a surprising twist to her story, God had chosen her family and soon I was on my way to China to bring home our new son AND her. God gave us the name Noelani for for our new daughter. We now call her Noelani Rose, because she wanted a middle name like everyone else in the family.
How is she doing now, after 8 months with her new family? My thoughts flow from “great” to “hard” all at the same time. I read a blog written by a young lady who lives and works with orphans in China. She wrote about how the little motherless and fatherless children that she serves and cares for have learned very well “how” to be orphans. They have learned how to steal, lie, get attention, hide their fears, avoid trouble or fight if needed. They have learned to rely on themselves, and expect nothing. Decisions are made for them, and so in an effort to gain “felt safety” they learn to control what they can. Bad behavior covers up fears and weaknesses. And even though, in many instances, wonderful people who work in the orphanages have daily sought to care for these little ones, some where in the back of the child’s mind, that boy or girl still knows that ultimately they are alone and belong to no one.
I have seen many of these things in Noelani (and Clive in different ways). She IS good at being a orphan. Ofter all, it is all she has ever known. Only now, she is suppose to be a part of a family. I have given them time to adjust and learn, and they have - some. And yet I also see the struggle she probably doesn’t even notice ... the one in her heart. She NEEDS to be loved and belong but pulls away. She NEEDS to laugh and play like a little child, but falls back into her old patterns of being a “little adult” like she was in the orphanage. She NEEDS to trust, but puts up walls. She NEEDS to belong, but isn’t sure what that looks like. She NEEDS to talk, but she’s trying to learn a new language and she gets tired and goes off alone to avoid the work of it all.
She really does struggle to say words. She is learning English very well, but she has “sloppy” habits of speech (probably picked up very early in life as she learned to work with her cleft lip/cleft palette). She is hard to understand and it takes work for both parties.
As I watch my little Noelani struggle to learn the many things that she is trying to learn, I hurt for her. I can’t even imagine ... yet, I know that this is her story and God’s adventure for her. Her story is how she is becoming a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, and a niece; an American and ultimately God’s little lamb who is not longer lost and alone.
This last week she used her learned behavior of deception, lying and aloneness to ring up a nasty little phone bill of texts. Texts sent to anyone she could find in my phone. It has been going on for quite some time. I had been giving her “freedom” to play alone in the school room at certain times of the day, with me just in the next room. She also got up early knowing that Steve was in the basement exercising, and she must have snuck in some late nights as well. We have also caught her at other times sneaking on the computer or the iPad. A few months ago she and Clive were in trouble. She (the older one - that’s how they operate in an orphanage), had Clive, the younger one, steal candy from the pantry. We found scraps of trash buried in the sand and thrown in the window well. She laid all the blame on Clive, who was to afraid to tell us that he had an accomplice. Because the little ones learn to be afraid of the older one in the orphanage. Truth finally came out.
However, this latest one really got us to thinking that we needed to “shrink” her world if we were really going to help her learn to be in a family.
So instead of giving her privileges that she is not ready for, we are working more to keep her close, teach her to ask, to listen, to play WITH us and her brothers and sisters; to BE with us. Not as punishment, but much like I would with a newborn. I would never leave a newborn alone, or not watch my one year old. I would also be within eye sight of my two year old ready to correct and train.
I guess that I thought she would mostly “learn” to be in a family by being around us, which is what Clive seems to be doing to a larger degree. But it seems that we are going to have to “force” her to work at it a little bit more. I understand really. It’s easier to go off by herself and not try, but it’s not good. My heart breaks when she “goes” off by herself. Dandy noticed it when we were on vacation at the lake. And it broke his heart. She would try to talk to him, but he just couldn’t understand her, so she would finally just go stand outside alone. We would bring her in with us, but she had already chosen to withdraw. It was easier that way. Poor baby. I pray that the LORD shows us how to parent her right now. She really is an amazing little person - sweet, helpful, joyful, happy, silly, tender and loving.
These river pictures taken last month when we went camping tell a story ... are you seeing it? Go back up four pictures. See her sitting in the background by herself. She kept saying that she would hold the dogs, and I would ask her to come play in the river with us. She kept refusing. I finally convinced her to at least put her feet in. I wanted her to experience being a child, a free and protected child. She did, reluctantly. And then her brothers began to play with her and show her how to “sit” in the river.
Do you see it? Pure childhood joy and laughter.
Learning to be with a family, to laugh, to play, to trust and to speak, knowing that we care about what she has to say. And even if it is hard for us to understand her, and it is hard for her to say the words, she does have a voice, and she has a story to tell.
I read the below verse this morning, and I think how I didn’t know “how” to be in Gods family at first, but Christ welcomed me anyway. And we now will continue to welcome this little daughter into our family, and pray ...
pray for her to find her way,
and thank the LORD that He showed us the way, and will now show her.
FOR HIS GLORY.
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” Romans. 15:7
“God of endurance and encouragement, I pray that you would grant us as a family to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 15”5-6