Tuesday, December 15, 2015

MY Mama!

Shortly after we got home with Hannah, I wrote this post about how my heart was longing to be known to Hannah as her Mama.  I wrote that on April 1, 2015.  Just shy of two months later I wrote this post rejoicing in the fact that I had indeed become Mama to Hannah!  I felt so much relief in this, it was a huge check mark on my so called checklist of attachment and bonding.  I'd become Mama and it felt great.  I never doubted it.  I never questioned it.

Then it changed again this month and I realized it had been missing all this time, but I didn't know it.  I'm so glad God kept this nugget hidden from my heart, so I could just enjoy being Mama and not spend all my time seeking and trying to create something Hannah wasn't ready to stake a claim on just yet.

In the last few weeks I realized that while I was Mama, I think I was simply Mama because that's what she saw get a response from me and she realized that is what the other children call me.  I became Mama on a surface level, but I didn't realize it was merely surface level.  I thought it carried all the implications of the word, but truth be told, that was foolish of me to think that way.  Of course it couldn't carry all the implications of the word--not that early on in my relationship with Hannah.  There is so much to unpack in that little word...mama.  She didn't know what it meant and while I know the word fully to my biological children, I didn't know it fully to the extent of being Hannah's mama.  Of course, I was oblivious to all of this.  And I liked it that way.  God knows those tender areas of our hearts and He protects them.  It was perhaps easier to bond and attach to one another thinking that she fully understood what she was saying when she called me Mama.  She didn't.  And neither did I.

But all of that changed in the last couple of weeks.  I'm not just Mama anymore.  Nope.  I am MY Mama.  Hannah's Mama.  Hers.  She lays claim to me everywhere we go and grabs hold of any appendage she can grab and proudly declares, "MY Mama!" 

Waiting in line at the grocery store, she grabbed my arm and declared, "MY Mama!"
It is starting to make sense.  I see the wheels turning and I see that this was missing all the time, but I was too blind to see it.  I am HER Mama now.  She's beginning to see what that means, what that means to her, and what that looks like.  I am hers.  Forever.  It makes my heart fizz up to the top and tears spark in the corners of my eyes.  These past ten months I've been solely in charge of teaching her what Mama means.  I feel so inadequate so often and I fail and mess up daily, but I hope as I muddle through, as I seek forgiveness for my own mistakes, and we live out real life together she is getting an idea of what HER Mama looks like.  I will likely never know the depth of what she understands or what she sees.  My only hope is that what she sees is a Mama who is completely inadequate to rightly love others, but I love God and out of my love for God I am able to piece together a bit of what love should look like poured out through a sinner. 

I don't need things wrapped up and under the tree this year.  The work God has done in and through this process of bringing Hannah home, of teaching her about home, showing her family, being Mama...it is really all enough.  I will rejoice this Christmas as I watch the magic in the eyes of all four of my children--four children who know me as Mama.  Their Mama.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Immanuel {Ten Months Home}

"O come, O come, Immanuel..."

I am a few days late in posting our ten months home update, but not without good reason.  We have been busy.  Busy experiencing the wonder and excitement that can only be found in a child's first Christmas.  We are busy teaching her traditions, family, and above all else, the miraculous arrival of our Savior in a child.

Last year, our hearts were heavy and filled with tremendous expectation.  We knew she was coming...soon.  The anticipation and yearning mounted weekly, daily, hourly.  This year, we know our lives with her and we rejoice that she celebrates this Christmas in our arms.

I'm struck by our anticipation this time last year for her arrival.  May my anticipation be yet even greater as I reflect this Christmas season on His birth and eagerly await His promised return.  May your season of Advent be filled with resting in Him, reflecting on His character and promises, and allowing the anticipation to percolate and bubble up outward to all those you see of His long awaited return.

These past ten months have not been easy, but the growth, in all of us, has been a joy to see.  This year we know so much more about what Immanuel means.  We have felt God with us.  We have known God with us.  We have conquered each day because of God with us.

Our prayer is that you might know Immanuel as well.  May your Christmas be filled with Christ.

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall
call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us)."
~Matthew 1:23~

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Further Look at Redemption

November is National Adoption Awareness Month!

When I asked my friends in the adoption community to share their "before" and "after" photos of their China treasures, the response was overwhelming!  Too much for one post, so here you can see yet more of God's abundant love at work through the joy of family!

You cannot deny that He works in and through the His institution of family to redeem these little ones.  What will YOUR role be in working among the least of these?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Waiting for the Harvest

This time last year, we were rejoicing over the arrival of our "soft LOA" and eagerly anticipating the arrival of the "hard LOA" at our agency.  It was a difficult period of waiting.  Cities were shut down for a week due to major conferences and important Chinese holidays were looming with yet more government shutdowns.  The waiting was difficult.  It was painful.  I shed many tears during that wait.  I wrote so many posts lamenting this wait.  So many struggles, so many worries and fears, so many mathematical equations went into that long, painful wait.  The wait for the LOA that arrived safely to our agency last year on November 11, 2014 and then to our home two days later.  You can read my building anticipation and struggles with the wait here, here, here, here, here, and here.  To say it as an emotional week last year would also be the understatement of the year.  It was emotional and hard and scary.  Looking back on it has been powerful for me this year.  God showed up in big ways throughout that wait.  Not just in the process of our adoption, but also in His process of refining me.

This year it seems no different.  I find myself waiting again, but the waiting is different.  This year the waiting is a different set of challenges....waiting for speech to develop, communication to improve, temper tantrums to abate, for fears around food to subside, for relationships and trust to run deeper.  I'm waiting for children to grasp concepts in school, for attitudes to change, for connections to be made, for knees to be bowed.  The waiting, while different from "the great LOA wait" of last year, is still hard....just in its own unique set of ways. 

What makes waiting so hard?  Waiting is hard simply due to the fact that I have absolutely no control over it.  I cannot control the waiting.  I cannot control the time table.  I don't even have the privilege to know the time table.  Waiting is hard, no matter what you are waiting for....perhaps a longed for child, a prayed over soul mate, an answer to prayer, or the salvation of a loved one, but let's be honest, waiting is hard even in less spiritual ways.  Sometimes it is hard to wait for our turn to speak, to get that needed cup of coffee, to eat that promised piece of chocolate cake, to open the first gift Christmas morning.  We don't want to wait in line or get stuck in traffic, we don't want to wait for the internet page to load or the computer to reboot.  We can't wait to eat the cookie so we munch on the dough.  Waiting is hard for humans!

My waiting this year is no different from my waiting last year in this: I cannot control my wait.  I cannot control the circumstances around my wait.  I can, however, control my response to the wait.  I can grumble and complain.  I can bemoan the lack of progress I see in certain areas, the failure to see any type of movement.  I can focus in on how the wait is negatively impacting me or causing me a certain level of inconvenience, or I can choose to control my attitude and place my focus on the Lord during the wait.  I can thank Him for the waiting and praise Him for the character He is developing in and through me as a result of the wait.  I've discovered that for me personally, I need to do several things in this time of waiting to keep my attitude in check.  First, I have to keep an attitude of praise.  No, waiting is not my first choice, but ultimately, that isn't up to me and I can't change it.  I can praise God for being the supreme Lord of my life and ordaining things to happen precisely as He sees fit according to His plan.  Second, I need to ward off my self-pity and temptation to complain by immersing myself in His truth.  I can do this no other way than by spending quality time in His word, seeking His character and finding for myself His worthiness for me to rest patiently during a time of waiting.  Third, I have to ensure I stop manipulating circumstances to get things to line up according to my plan, rather than His.  I can't force it to happen.  Lastly, I need to fully rely on Him and accept the time of waiting expectantly--expectantly waiting to see Him glorified and proclaimed in and through the wait.

We plant a garden in our backyard each year.  It is very small right now as we don't have a lot of space to have anything too expansive.  Some day we hope to have more land and a larger area to grow more things.  Each spring, as we purchase our plants and seeds and begin the process of planting that garden we can feel our mouths begin to water over the thought of that first red tomato or perfectly ripened cucumber gracing our dinner table.  We want that garden to grow and to grow quickly, but that isn't how God designed it.  We have to plant it just so in perfectly fertile soil so that the plant may take root and become strong and established in its new space.  We have to water it and weed the garden and nurture the plants to help them grow.  In the case of my cucumber vines it also involves a bit of pruning and redirecting to ensure it grows exactly where I want it and not over the top of my green beans.  The pruning is difficult and sometimes yes, a bit painful, but all the while, growth is occurring.  And we wait.  We wait for that perfect harvest to come, to watch those little baby plants transform before our eyes, to see the fruit of our labor.  As we dig into the deep red flesh of that first tomato that is still warm from the sun on the vine, the waiting was entirely worth it.

We aren't much different from that tomato plant and the circumstances of our wait aren't much different either.  Our wait is God ordained.  He's allowing time for our roots to grow deeper and more established.  He's building our character and pruning us to be more like Him.  He's preparing us for the time of Harvest, for His miraculous return, when His glory will be fully known to every tribe and nation on earth.

Waiting is hard.  Waiting is God's attempt to shape me into someone more like Him.  Waiting gives birth to things far greater than what we could fathom or understand.  Waiting provides yet more opportunity for us to bring Him glory.

So yes, a year later and I find myself still waiting--waiting on different things, but still waiting.  This year I choose to rejoice in the wait and the glorious work it means He is doing in me.  I will wait expectantly for the harvest.

"And let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we
will reap, if we do not give up."
~Galatians 6:9~

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pictures of Redemption {Orphan Sunday}

My friends, adoption is redemption.  It's costly,
exhausting, expensive, and outrageous.  Buying back lives
costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed Him."
~ Derek Loux(via Lifesong for Orphans)~

Today is Orphan Sunday.  November is national adoption awareness month.  We are not all called, personally, to adopt, but we are all called to participate in the care of orphans.  How can we do that?  Pray, give, go, support!  Pray for those in the process, support them financially in their endeavor to adopt, follow the prompting on your heart and GO, or provide moral support for families who have adopted.

Hannah was placed into our arms in a stark government building.  She is transforming before our eyes.  Redemption that only God can accomplish.

Our referral photo of Hannah

Adoption Day: January 2015
Home eight months: October 2015

It is remarkable to see how these precious ones change.  And so, I thought you might want to see others.  It isn't just Hannah who changes.  I asked my friends in the adoption community to share their treasures with me...their photos of redemption.  The response was overwhelming!  I hope you enjoy....







Whether home a month, a year, or several years, adoption changes things.  Adoption grants us a front row seat to His redemption at work.  Beauty from ashes.  What a gift!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Our Village {Nine Months Home}

Nine months since we stepped our toes off our flight from China back into the United States with Hannah strapped snuggly in her Ergo carrier.  There is much to reflect on.  So much has happened these past nine months.  More than I ever deserved and God has heaped grace upon grace and mercy upon mercy on me. 

We couldn't have gotten through these first nine months home without you....our village.  You have blessed us in ways you simply will never fully understand (unless you walk the road of adoption one day yourself).  We can never repay you and that is the beauty of it...our village doesn't want or expect repayment.  They just simply give.  With joy and abundant sacrifice.  You just give and you keep on giving.

I will be totally honest.  Life with four kids consumes me.  I am not the friend to you that I once was.  I don't return your phone calls.  You get texts from me at odd hours.  Sometimes I respond to e-mail, sometimes I mean to and don't, sometimes I never even actually read your e-mail because it gets overlooked and slips from my mind.  I can't commit to much.  Spur of the moment is impossible.  Asking me to come something often means you are not only inviting me, but also my sweet little Asian sidekick, but you don't care.  You invite me because you want to see me.  You check on me and ask good questions.  You brought me meals through post adoption adjustment and then again through two surgeries.  You pray for my sanity--daily.  When you ask how things are going you want more than just the "fine" that is so easy to give.  You really want to know and you really listen.  You care about speech therapy and how hard it is.  You care about insurance and deductibles and medical bills.  You ask about the big kids and invite them to come play, even though you know that invitation probably translates into babysitting for you because I most likely won't be able to stay.  You still sit with me at church even though I have a distracting (and loud) toddler in my lap.  You don't judge the behavior of my children and encourage me, rather than offering parenting tips or suggestions.  You watch the big kids for appointment after appointment after appointment.  You offer breaks and any creative ideas you might have to grant us respite.

You are genuine.  You are the embodiment of Christ and for you, we will be forever thankful.  You are His hands and feet to us and your compassion seems to never run dry.  You teach us about how to love and love well.  You teach us about how to serve and serve with joy and tremendous sacrifice.  You are our village. 

Nine months home, village.  We wouldn't be here without His grace and your effectual prayers.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cousins through Grace

Adoption is beautiful.  These two?  Cousins by chance?  No.  Cousins by God's gracious design through the gift of adoption.
Cousins...through His perfect plan.
A gift of His amazing grace.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Freedom from Circumstance

I've been wrestling over something in particular lately with God.  Something foolish and not at all worth the time, energy, and thought I've devoted to it.  I've been struggling with life with littles and how hard the day in and day out-ness of it all can really sap me in a myriad of ways.  It was always a hard job and I struggled my fair share of days in the past, but truth be told, things got a bit topsy-turvy when we arrived home from China and I've struggled to "right the ship" since then.  The fact of the matter is, I have four children.  When my feet hit American soil in February of this year I had four children aged six, three, three, and one and a half.  That is a lot of little people to be responsible for and the demands to keep up has been a battle for me.  I started to allow it to steal my joy.

For a while I was focused on it as a so called storm in my life, yet still, a storm I was called to enter into.  In Matthew 14, Jesus calls Peter out of the boat into the stormy waters.  Peter was precisely in the heart of God's will for him and only when he began to doubt and look away from the Lord did he begin to sink.  Immediately post China we were in the thick of stormy waters.  Adding a child to your family always takes time and adjustment.  It was hard and challenging, but just because it was hard, doesn't mean I wasn't in God's will.  Then time went by and it seemed like the storm was raging on a bit longer than a storm generally does.  So I named it a season.  Seasons come and go.  They begin and end.  I put my eyes out on the end of the season and trusted it would come to a close.  I placed a lot of foolish hope in the ending of that season.  And time went by.  And it didn't really end or really change all that significantly.  So I named it a circumstance.

Whoa.  What?  A circumstance?  Like a fixture in my life?  Like I won't know when it might go away sort of circumstance?

I struggled to embrace that idea.  All I could focus on was the loud, thundering thud I heard when I said its name....circumstance.  In an instant, my joy was gone. 

Enter the Deceiver.  Lies were whispered, my mind was clogged with thoughts of the permanency of that word, joy was drained away.  I lost my sense of purpose.  Circumstance felt so permanent.  What was the point of trying to work through if there was no through--no end-- to achieve?  Self became the focus and everything that happened was an attack on me.  Why would God take away my joy with this thing...this thing I've named circumstance?

Enter the mercy of the Giver of Joy.  He began ministering to me, placing things into my hands to read, enabling me to actually hear full sermons, and guiding me through Scripture.  Does it matter what this time with lots of littles is called?  Does it have to have a name?  Do I need to name it "storm," "season,", or "circumstance?"  Does that really matter?  Last I checked all that really mattered was God's will and I have no doubt I am right there, in the heart of His will for me.  I see Him.  I feel Him.  I know He is working in and through me (despite my constant mistakes and failure to follow or trust).

Where does my joy come from?  From the day to day?  From the circumstance?  No.  He never intended for me to find my joy in my circumstance.  Sure, those things may bring me happiness from time to time (who can resist the hug of a little person, or the snug fit they hold so perfectly in your lap when you read a good book, or the funny questions they come up with, or watching one of those precious little people sleep).  Happiness, however, is fleeting, and not the source of my joy.  The real problem is that I am seeking to find my joy in the circumstances.  Does His word tell me to look around at my circumstances and find my joy in them?  No.  He does use circumstance to bless me, change me, mold me, and shape me to be more like Him, but He does not ask me to find my joy in them.

True, everlasting joy can be found in the Lord alone.  The storm, season, and circumstance swirling around me will fail me every single time.  He will not.  He is constant and never changing.  He is beginning and end.  Only in Him can I find my everlasting joy and pleasure.  There will be situations daily that cause me unhappiness.  There will be spilled milk, fights with siblings, temper tantrums, communication barriers, appointments, laziness, and lack of self control.  I will not "feel" like rejoicing, but I can rejoice because I am known, intimately and personally, by a wonderful Father.  I can look for joy in the temporal, but I will never find it.  My eyes, heart, and mind need to be fully focused on the Lord and the joy that comes in knowing I am secure.  I am a full member of His family.  I have eternal joy in Him.  How can I do this?  How can I shift my thoughts?

My heart's cry is to just let it go.  I don't need to know if it is storm, season, or circumstance.  Those are just words the Deceiver wants me to use to define life with little people right now.  The Deceiver tells me my circumstance dictates my joy.  God's word tells me otherwise.  True, everlasting joy is found only in Him.

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  If I am able to give thanks to Him in all circumstances, I am able to draw my focus off myself and my fleshly desires for an orderly home and compliant, obedient children.  There are reasons to give thanks at all times.  Another tantrum?  Another opportunity to point that child toward Christ.  Another mess?  Another opportunity to train my children on how to maintain an orderly home and care for their belongings.  Another meal to fix?  Another chance to humbly serve the family I've been blessed with.  Another quarrel among siblings?  Another chance to share how Jesus works through disputes.  Finding joy and opportunities to give thanks should be an easy and natural response to all that He gives me in my day to day life.

His word also tells me to "Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2).  I can focus on the messes, the behaviors, the tantrums, the arguments....or I can take that thought captive to the obedience of Christ and put my focus on Him.  What is He developing in me through this hardship?  My child?  My family?  The more my thoughts are on the Lord (and not myself), the more (and better able) I can love my family and find joy.  His joy. 

When negative emotions come over me during this time of raising many little people, I am more than likely thinking of myself, how the situation is inconveniencing me, or impacting me, creating hardship for me.  Finding reason to be grateful in all situations will shift my focus to Him.  My desire is to truly be grateful for each situation that comes my way--they each provide greater opportunity to grow in my own spiritual journey, but also to further train my little people to be soldiers for the Lord!  Finding gratitude in the opportunity to care for lots of little people and to stay home and school them helps me shift my eyes off me and onto Him and His provision.

No one has my unique set of circumstances.  I've been placed here by Christ to serve Christ.  Only I can do that in my specific situation.  Only I can draw more glory to Him in and through the midst of the daily circumstances.  God gives each of us special gifts to serve Him and it is our job to call upon the Holy Spirit to help us steward those gifts.

Storm, season, circumstance.....  It doesn't matter because my joy isn't found there.  My hope is in the redeeming love of Jesus Christ. He gifts and equips, enabling us to tackle whatever He gives us.  God entrusted me with His work, but He never intended for me to accomplish it alone.  I can trudge through each day, dragging around the shackles called circumstance.  Or, I can allow myself the freedom to remove those shackles and find joy in the knowledge that He is here, with me, cleaning the spilled milk, disciplining the wayward child, folding the mountain of laundry.  Our teaching leader at BSF spoke these words of wisdom a couple weeks ago: "Diamonds are formed under pressure.  Pearls are formed by irritation.  Silver is made by refining fire."  He is here, ordaining all of it, every part of it with eternal purpose.  Good comes from hard.  Beauty comes from ugliness.  Yes, He is at work in the lives of those little people in my life, but more than that, He is at work in me.  He is changing me to be more like Him.  He is using this thing called circumstance to place me on the potter's wheel and change me.  I have eternal purpose as His child.  In that, I can find my joy.

"You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures."
~Psalm 16:11~

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Last night, Chris and I had the opportunity to be filmed for some promotional material to be used by a non-profit foundation designed to provide grants to adoptive families.  This organization provided our family with a grant last fall, when we were pursuing Hannah.  It was a new experience for both of us.  It is difficult for me to articulate all that I want to say in a situation like that and I know I didn't fully express all that my heart desired.  I much prefer to ruminate and ponder, type, and save, and walk away.  You can't do that when someone is filming you.  They asked us to share some intimate details about our adoption journey and the work God has done in and through that process.  Again, the pressure of the moment made it really difficult for me to fully express myself, but I do hope that somewhere in there (and through the magic of editing) they are able to pull out the heart of what I was trying to say. One of the final questions they asked was, "What was most intriguing or surprising to you in your adoption journey?"  I had the answer to this question almost immediately and began answering it right away.  Sadly, my first answer didn't even make it to film since they had yet to begin recording, but I did my best to try to stumble back through it and recreate my answer for the video (the first was far better than the second).  It got me thinking quite a bit last night.

Adopting Hannah changed us.  It changed me in a way that I can't ever and will never be the same again.  All in good ways, but I will never be the person I was this time last year, eagerly awaiting the arrival of our LOA.  I think that is what I found the most surprising about our journey.  I entered into the adoption process expecting to change Hannah's life, but really, we are the blessed ones and we are the changed ones.  I was not fully prepared for the sanctifying work God was about to begin in my life through our adoption journey.  The depth of my understanding of the gospel has reached a level I've never experienced in my life.  I have come face to face with an understanding of the magnitude of the sacrifice, the cost to achieve it, and the pain that accompanies it.  I've experienced the pouring out of unmerited grace and love--a depth of understand of just how unworthy, how undesirable I am and yet how profoundly powerful His love is to look beyond that and accept me.  He has used Hannah's presence in our home to draw me into His presence in ways I never knew.  My reliance on Him and desperate need for Him is overwhelming.  I simply cannot do it.  I simply cannot weather the storm, season, or circumstance alone.  I am not equipped and I am desperately nothing without His grace, His mercy, His adoption of me into His eternal home.  Daily I am confronted with raising a child who is hurt, broken, and perhaps unaware of just how desperate her state was and still is.  Love heals a myriad of wounds, but eternal adoption....my love can't conquer that, only Jesus can. 

The fact of the matter is that yes, outwardly, we changed Hannah.  She has a place in our family, she is a Burris and always will be.  We helped her with her special need and provided her with the surgical changes she needed to thrive, but ultimately, that isn't what it is all about, is it?  What I want to change most is to pierce her heart.  Yes, I want to flood her heart with love, compassion, grace...all the tenderness only a true Mama can provide, but ultimately, I want this little person to feel the penetrating power of the gospel at work in her own life.  I want her to know Jesus in the way He is daily revealing Himself to me.  I don't know that I would know Him this way had we not brought Hannah home and I will forever be thankful for His grace to call me to adoption and then so intimately and lovingly provide me with a deeper level of understanding of Him.  I was hungry for more of Him before Hannah came home.  Now, I am daily hungering and thirsting so desperately it can only be filled by Him.

I was changed through the adoption process.  Deeply changed.  I am daily changed by the adoption process.  I am daily changed by Him.  If you hear the call of adoption on your heart, please know that He has so much more in store for you than just simply the rescue of an orphan or the giving of a Father to the fatherless.  Those are great things and so desperately needed, but His plan for you, through adoption, is far greater than what you can see on the surface and so much greater than what you have to offer to your child to be.  What we have to offer Hannah is so meager compared to what only He can give, but somehow, I get to be part of that story.  He allows me the honor of accompanying her on her journey to seek to know Him and it fills my heart with overflowing gratitude to be invited into just a small part of that story.  We gave her an earthly home and family and we get to watch her as she learns about and realizes how much she needs to seek an eternal family and home.  Yes, you will change your child, but hear my heart and know this truth...you will be changed.  You will experience spiritual warfare.  You will be stretched and you will come face to face with the gospel in unexplainable ways.  You'll have a choice.  You can press on, trusting your call, and clinging more deeply to His promises than you ever have, or....you can push it aside and resist the feeling of being a piece of clay in the Potter's hands, you can fight the filling He offers for His vessels.     Adoption changed me.  Adoption changes things.  Jesus changes everything.

**If you have any questions after reading this blog post about how to be a part of God's eternal family or how to enter into the adoption process, please do not hesitate to contact me!**

Monday, October 5, 2015

Mercies Anew {Eight Months Home}

"The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning...."
~Lamentations 3:22-23~
Today we mark 8 months at home with our precious little girl.  Eight months of blessing, eight months of stretching and growing, eight months of refining in ways I never knew possible.  Eight months of being further sanctified by my Lord.
In all honesty, we hit a bit of a slump this eighth month home.  Things were hard.  I grew weary and the weakness of my flesh controlled my actions and reactions more often than I wish to admit, but in all of that, I learned so much about the mercy and goodness of our Lord.  Each day was a new start, a new opportunity, a beginning to each day that stretched before me with chances to glorify Him more and satisfy my self less.  Did I succeed?  No, not in the way I wanted to, but I grew to understand His fresh mercies in a new sort of way, in that moment by moment newness He graciously offers us.
It has been challenging, this eighth month, and in talking to other post adoptive mamas, I realize I am not the only one to hit this eighth month slump.  I found myself often overlooking the trauma, forgetting the momentous changes, disregarding the power of triggers and memories, and being just plain annoyed (and tense and emotional and all those wonderful things that go with being this way). I let my flesh take control. Hannah has been doing so well and when she doesn't do as well as I've grown accustomed to I find my fuse shorter, my patience thin, and my ability to see beyond the situation limited.  The Deceiver has had a strong grip on my thoughts and has whispered so many lies to me this month.
Truth be told, the pace of life in our household this fall has been high speed and I'm a full grown adult struggling to keep up and maintain my joy and grace to others.  How then, is it possible for me to expect my newly home child to maintain her self control in these situations?  Of course she's going to fall apart.  Of course she's going to need reassurance.  Of course she's going to act out.  I easily overlooked her need to be fully prepared for new situations and had expectations that exceeded what I'd prepared her for (ummm...five minutes ahead of time or just as we jump out of the car is not enough preparation for my steeped in routine little girl!).  I learned a lot this month about how my personal reactions to her sinful behavior can either add to the ever growing mountain of sinfulness for both of us, or how it can quickly put an end to things and restore our relationship.  Being spread thin makes it extra hard to respond in the way my heart so deeply desires and it becomes ever more important that I have so much more of Him and so much less of me.
All things considered, Hannah has taken our full speed ahead fall schedule in stride and responded in the best ways she is equipped to respond.  She's gone to ballet lessons galore and a myriad of baseball games.  She's worked her hardest in her brand new speech therapy sessions.  She participates in our homeschool co-op in the big kid class!  She does her absolute best to participate and be involved in our homeschool (probably above her age level in most cases).  I've asked (and frequently demanded) a lot from her.  Sometimes she rose to the occasion and sometimes she faltered and fell, but together we have learned much.  Her greatest struggle this month?  Communication.  This is kind of funny to me because we had so....many....opportunities since arriving home from China for communication to be one of our greatest struggles.  I mean, we brought her home with an unrepaired cleft lip and palate.  She spoke Mandarin and Cantonese.  We spoke English.  Neither one of us understood each other and yet, communication wasn't really a big issue.  This month?  Communication has been hard.  Hannah's understanding of English is becoming more and more refined.  There is so much she wants to say now and yet she just doesn't have the words for it.  Her default mechanism to communicate when she is frustrated is to have a tantrum and lose her self control.  If she can't find the words, her frustration mounts and the tantrum escalates.  I have spent a lot of time sitting face to face with her, teaching her the skill of taking deep breaths, and trying to help her dig up these elusive words.  It has been tedious, messy, and well....hard and challenging.  In it all  though, I am so reminded of the power of the Lord to strengthen me.  When I want to snap, respond with anger, lose my own self control, or just simply give up and push her aside, He is always there, filling me, slowing me down, and washing me in His grace to pour out to her.

I've spent a good bit of time on my knees this month over this little one--so complex, so many things to overcome, yet so full of boundless energy and curiosity, so willing to tackle new things, so unreserved in making her needs known, so truly passionately affectionate and hungry for physical love.  I've had moments where I've allowed the Deceiver to tell me lies and I've had moments that I've pondered if there was an ounce of truth in what he told me.  And then I see her face.  The twinkle in her eye.  The awesome dynamic she adds to our family and our home and I hear His truths coming through loud and clear.  Worth it.  Worth every ounce of challenge and pain.  Worth every walk through the Refiner's fire.  I am growing in ways I never could have if she wasn't here.  She brings an unspeakable joy to our family.
So this month, while it had its share of new challenges to overcome, it was also filled with such rest in the knowledge that God has this because clearly, I can't do it alone.  I will fail her, but He won't.  His love for us is lavish and unabandoned and my love for her can be the same, despite any shortcomings or sinful ways.  Each time I have to correct her, I present the gospel to her.  It has been such a blessing this month to hear her little voice begin to fill in the blanks: "Wrong things are sins.  Sin keeps us far away from God.  We have a sin problem.  The Bible says all of us have a sin problem, but we can rejoice because Jesus came to rescue us!  Jesus takes our sin.  Jesus died on the cross so we can be close to God.  Hallelujah, the gospel is true!"
Month 9 is barreling toward us.  Life is moving at a rapid rate.  May I rest peacefully in His gracious new mercies each day and may I abundantly pour those same new mercies out on those He has entrusted to my care.
"But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is
made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my
weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me."
~2 Corinthians 12:9~

Saturday, September 19, 2015

I Can Do All Things

"I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."
Philippians 4:13

As you all know, Hannah was born with a cleft lip and palate.  Many of you may not be aware of the long road of speech therapy our girl has ahead of her.  We are talking years of therapy, folks.  This is not a developmental delay that can be overcome in 6 months of twice a month sessions.  No.  This is going to require intense, focused intervention over a long period of time.

In the start of September we finally (hallelujah!!!!) secured Hannah's spot for speech therapy at our local University Hospital.  We had been waiting for a long, long time.  Finally, as I was about to despair, God provided yet again--the perfect time slot and a great day of the week for us. 

During our initial meeting, it really hit me.  Hard.  I knew this speech road was going to be long.  I knew it in my heart and my head, but something about that first session and watching the therapist try to coax Hannah to make various sounds and hearing them all come out of her mouth sounding all the same....it just rattled me a bit.  The road ahead is long.  Really long.  With no end really looming or remotely visible.  But I know several things that keep me grounded.  First, I know my God and I know He's totally into doing big and insurmountable, seemingly impossible things, especially in this little dynamo named Hannah.  He loves her and has so many great things planned for her.  He most certainly won't abandon her as she struggles to find her words.  Second, I know my daughter.  She is a force to be reckoned with and fights with a level of ferocity that can only be borne in a life of struggle.  She has overcome so much, yet still, she finds joy.  She can overcome this.  Last, I know God has equipped me especially to be her mama, to work on finding those sounds at home between sessions, and to advocate for her needs during her sessions.  She.....can....do....this.....through Christ who will give her strength.

Ready to roll!  Let's do this speech thing!
Now comes the part where you get to be involved in this.  Would you join us in praying for Hannah to find her words and the sounds necessary to say them?  Hannah has lived two and a half years without a palate.  Suddenly she now has one and has no clue how to use it.  Would you join us in praying she would leave us in awe in how quickly she realizes that palate is there to be used to make these sounds?  She's got all the equipment necessary to make a chorus of gorgeous English language sounds.  She just didn't get an instruction manual to go along with it, so now we have to teach her how to use it.  Pray for Hannah to have a good connection with her therapist and for their sessions to prove fruitful!  There are also some details I know God is aware of with regard to our current speech therapist that really need fervent prayers.  Would you please pray in earnest that we would know specifically how to navigate this situation?  Pray that I would have the ability to strongly, yet compassionately, advocate for Hannah's specific needs and that we'd stop seeing regression from Hannah as the result of these sessions.  I want so desperately for us to have a healthy and thriving working relationship and be 100% certain my goals are the same as the goals of the therapist.

Phew!  Speech is hard work, folks!
Hannah talks and communicates so much and while I can understand her, I am ever so eager to start hearing words flowing from her mouth that can also be understood by others!  I know the day will come that the words will tumble forth and I know I will rejoice yet again over the work God has done.  Getting there will be hard, but not without the fingerprints of God throughout.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Sweet {Seven Months Home}

Hannah has been a part of our family for seven months.  Seven months!  Remember how I talked about finding the sweet spot at six months?  That everyone told us six months would be a big turning point and things would fall into place?  I said that they were right.  And they were.  Month seven has been by far, the sweetest month we've experienced with Hannah.  Yes, we had major surgery during the seventh month, but you know what?  That didn't seem to hinder us much at all.  She took that surgery by the horns and just conquered it.  She amazed me by her strength and ability to overcome.

I've found month seven to be more joy filled than "hard" filled.  We've had more fun and good than challenge and difficult.  Does that mean things are easy?  Well....no.  We've had less hard, but truth be told, some of the hard we've had has been really, really hard.  Short lived though it may be, still it is hard.  There are things I long to "fix" in her ex-orphan's heart.  She still has deeply rooted fears of abandonment and worries about food.  She's been home seven months and still every night when I tuck her in, she has to ask me when she will get to eat and drink again.  Every....single....night.  And every single night I have to tell her, "Yes!  Hannah will get to eat and drink again at breakfast right when you wake up!"  She asks me this at least three times each night when I tuck her in.  Emotionally, she struggles to regulate her reactions to things and generally overreacts to anything that might be interpreted as slightly negative.  But the good.....oh the good.  I have laughed and giggled more at her antics than I have previously and just found more joy in the personality she adds to our family.  She has laughed and giggled more than she has to date.  She is letting the walls come down.  She is releasing herself from the bondage of fear.  She is figuring out we are really here to stay.  She's not just accepting that she's a Burris now.  She's letting it define her and shape her.  She's letting herself fill the role with gusto and her own spice and flare of personality.  She is not just a temporary addition.  She is a Burris.  And will be for life. 

Seven months.  Seven of the sweetest things:

1.) Conqueror of Fear: Hannah overcame major surgery this month!  She didn't just cope.  She conquered!

2.) Big Girl Bed: Shhhhhh!!!!!  Nobody tell Hannah that she is successfully sleeping all night long in her big girl bed and has been doing so for about the last 10 days!  This is huge and seriously totally unexpected this close to her surgery!  She hasn't been able to successfully do this since her lip repair occurred in April!

3.) Silly Sister: Sibling relationships are starting to bloom!  Including those we once though would never happen.  Everyone is finding joy (and frustration, like normal siblings) in their relationship with Hannah these days!

4.) Dearest Daughter to Daddy: This girl?  The one who wouldn't go near Baba?  The one who screamed and could barely take a goldfish cracker from her Daddy's hands?  Yeah....that girl.  We don't know who she is anymore.  Our girl?  She cried when Daddy went to work the other day and asks multiple time to "go with you" when Daddy leaves the house these days.  Her favorite pastime?  Riding like a maniac atop Daddy's shoulders.

5.) Fluent with a Frenzy:  This girlie is 100% fluent in English.  She gets it.  All of it.  And she speaks it.  The trick is to understand it.  Speech therapy is finally underway!!  She talks and tells many a tale!

6.) Passionate with a Purpose: She....does...not...back....down if she thinks she is right.  This girl has spunk and passion.  This month we are really working on harnessing the passion and displaying it appropriately.

7.) Smart as a Whip: She is smart.  Super smart.  Unbelievably smart when you take into consideration her history, that English is her third language, and that she's experienced some major amounts of trauma in her short life.  Smart....smart....smart.  Tomorrow, we will also celebrate Hannah's half birthday.  She'll be two and a half and so advanced for her age--well beyond what we had prepared ourselves for and the delays common to the majority of ex-orphans.

Seven has been so sweet.  I cannot wait for eight!  On deck for  the eighth month?  Big girl panties  and starting to separate a little from mom and dad to stay with other caregivers!  It is going to be a big month!