Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Adoption Is Not Pretty But Grace Is

For those who have never walked through an adoption may have an idealistic view of what adoption is like.  Some may assume that when you adopt a child the child is filled with love and gratitude for being "rescued" or that the child instantly bonds with their new family.  It would be awesome if that were truly the case but unfortunately, my friends, I am here to be real.  To share what our lives have been like for the past seven months.

It has been seven months since Elijah, YunYun, and I landed in Detroit, MI where the United States gained a brand new citizen.  Poor Yun was so exhausted, confused, scared, and angry.  She could hardly stand up as she was welcomed into her new country.  I felt shell shocked after enduring two weeks in China with a screaming tween.  Elijah, just 10 years old, could not get home fast enough to the normalcy of home; tired of listening to Yun's tantrums that would go on for hours at a time.  The weeks and months that followed our arrival back home were truly some of the most difficult - for everyone.  Each day brought about so much unknown and we were in pure survival mode.  Seemingly every day was met with screaming, crying, carrying on, being cussed out, smacked, etc…  and I began to wonder: Was our effort worth it?  Did YunYun truly want to be here?  She did consent to being adopted, though there is much more to the story that is only for Yun to tell should she ever decide to do so.  Suffice to say, however, it was clear that Yun was not properly prepared for her adoption.  She was completely thrown for a loop when she met Elijah and I as she assumed that we would be Chinese.  It was utterly heartbreaking.  

Day after day, week after week, weeks turning into months, we lived in a state of walking on egg shells.  We were all afraid of saying or doing something that would send our newest family member into a tailspin and it has been utterly exhausting.  Eventually Eric and I decided to put Yun in school so she could have a break from me and socialize with other children, one of the best decisions we ever made.  Yun was put into a typical classroom with two fantastic teachers and classmates who are some of the most loving and accepting young people I have ever met.  Yun's command of the English language at just seven months home is mind blowing and I am so proud of how well she is doing.  Not only can she speak English, but she is reading and writing English, too!  It is her command of the language that begun to bring about healing for all of us.  

Little by little Yun began to open up to me about her previous life.  I will never forget the night we were both in tears as she recounted her story of being left behind by her "China daddy".  Or some of what she experienced at the boarding school her orphanage sent her to.  Our family has also enjoyed hearing about the many happy times she experienced:  Her friends, her nannies, and some of the special times with her "China daddy".  Even more amusing has been her list of favorite foods from her native land and I now have a long list of new dishes that she would like for me to cook (chicken feet and chicken head soup are just two of the exotic dishes that will soon be added to my culinary skills).  But despite the acquisition of her new language, she had yet to acquire trust for us.  She held us at arm's length and would look for any opportunity to push us even farther away.  Even if that meant acting out towards her family and friends.

Eric and I prayed.  The boys prayed.  We confided in a select few and asked for prayer.  My social worker and I have been in close contact and she has been my biggest cheerleader these past several months.  I clung to hope that maybe, just maybe Yun would decide to let us into her heart.  Things had really begun to come to head these past several weeks and on more than one occasion I wondered if it would ever get better.

Then came Grace.

Grace is Yun's American name.  We had been told by the orphanage staff that Yun wanted an American name and we were to provide her with three choices.  In fact, the orphanage director encouraged us to give Yun the opportunity to choose an American name.  The name Grace was always at the top of our list because grace is something we live each and every day.  But by the grace of God…  So when we were told that Yun chose the name Grace we were over the moon excited.  We completed her adoption paperwork with her new American name.  Grace Anne.  Imagine my surprise, however, when I was told by Yun herself that nobody ever asked her what she wanted.  In fact she hated the name Grace (like she hated me and everything else about her new life - or so she said) and she never wanted to be called Grace ever in her life.  

"I hate Grace, mommy - I hate you!"  


But you know what?  She did hate grace, but not her name.  She hated that day after day no matter how much grace that needed to be extended to her we were still here.  We still loved her and accepted her for who she is. She was handed over to us broken and beautiful.  Grace did not know or even understand how to accept the unconditional love and grace and it was seemingly beyond her comprehension. 

Then about two weeks ago there was an incident at school.  Details are not important but suffice to say Yun (let's call her Grace now) had the opportunity to see that her mother, the mother she despised, loves her and would do anything to love and protect her.  This mother at whom she would scream was willing to take her word on something and defend her without question.  When it was all said and done it was determined that things were not portrayed to me accurately on Grace's part but I did not get angry.  I did not get upset.  I did not accuse her.  I simply used the opportunity to remind her that as her mother I am here for her no matter what.  This situation caused something to click in Grace's mind.  

She experienced true grace.

Suddenly I now truly have a 12 year old daughter.  A daughter who chooses to be loved and accepted by me.  Grace has wanted me to do her hair, paint her nails, spend time with me, hold my hand, give me lots of hugs, and even truly understanding that the name chosen for her has special meaning.  Grace is even learning that grace is not only to be accepted but extended as well.  So when I am out of yogurt in the morning she chooses to say, "It's O.K. mommy.  No problem" rather than screaming and carrying on for hours on end.  It has been a most beautiful transformation.

The adoption process has been ugly this time around.  Difficult.  Painful.  Unpleasant.

The grace, our Grace, however, has transformed something so broken and ugly into something so utterly beautiful.  Something that only God can do through His grace and love for us.  Without having accepted His grace and love our ability to extend grace and love would not be possible.  In fact I am pretty sure that I personally would have given up on Grace if it had not been for my faith.

But this does not make us anything special.  No way!  Far form it.  It is because we (Eric and I) are broken individuals in desperate need of a Savior and His grace each and every day.  

But by the grace of God…

Here sits my daughter, Grace, doing homework.

This is her real smile.  Genuinely happy and content.  Truly a blessing!

Finally, as I have said hundreds of times on this blog, adoption is not easy.  And I am sure that we still have some tough times ahead with Grace but I know we will make it.  I know that we will be O.K.  

Because we have grace and extend grace.  Acceptance of that grace is just the first step.