Monday, March 27, 2017

It's Music {Victories in Speech}

We've had some recent change in our home in the last couple of weeks.  We've heard speech sounds we've never heard before.  For the past eighteen months, Hannah has worked so incredibly hard at making two particular speech sounds.  It has been tedious, difficult work.  Sometimes she was up for the challenge and fought hard to do what was asked.  Other times, she'd had enough, shut down, and just plain gave up.  Sometimes the work was fun and others it was a chore.  We rode the rollercoaster of having glimpses of progress, only to find ourselves just weeks later shedding tears in what felt like defeat.  We heard tough diagnosis suggestions and sought counsel from others who know more than we do.  We went at speech therapy with gusto and other times we barely were able to drag our feet to yet another session.  Nothing she accomplishes is easy.

But then.  Then, out of the blue, as she twirled about in the kitchen one sunshining afternoon, I heard it.  One of the sounds.  Not separated from the rest of the word.  Not whispered as we'd been working with it in the past.  No.  It was voiced and it was connected to the word she was saying and I fully understood it.  And I heard it!  I was stunned.  We've recently begun seeing a new speech therapist and we had speech later that day. I expressed to her this sudden new sound I was hearing.  She probed it a bit in their session and Hannah came home singing a sweet little song fully loaded with words beginning and ending with her new sound.  And she sang it to me.  And I heard it.  The whole song.  With all the syllables and all the sounds.  I was over the moon and I have the phone full of video proof to fully document my joy.  Her surgery in the fall?  She's finally healing, she's finally figuring out what to do with that new anatomy, and she's using it!

Then, about a week later, in about the same fashion, out came sound number two!  No longer whispered and separated fully from the word after it as we'd been working on.  It was voiced, it was loud, it was clear, and I understood.  Again, we showed off to our new therapist and again, she came home singing a sweet song chock full of her new sound.  It was sweet, precious, wonderful music to my ears.

Eighteen months.  Eighteen months of hard, hard labor with  no evident fruit.  I spent those eighteen months questioning and doubting so many things.  Were we approaching therapy the right way, was she ready to tackle what we were asking of her, was the diagnosis correct, was the surgery effective, should we go to Cincinnati for further opinions, should we schedule more medical procedures to ensure everything is functioning as it should?  Often I felt like a dog chasing its tail.  Often I wanted to give up, walk away from therapy for a while, give her more time to mature.  And that's just how I felt.  I wasn't the one in the therapy room working so, so very hard.  I wasn't the one fighting the frustration of being misunderstood (or entirely not understood).  I know she wanted to give up.  And sometimes she did.  So many times it felt as though time was being wasted, progress wasn't being made, or that our attempts were futile.  Yet, God took that fight and has given her fruit.

As we've been truly relishing her victory this week in our home, I've been reminded of the Father and His relentless pursuit of our hearts.  He starts with us gently at first, like we did in Hannah's therapy.  Slow and steady.  An upbeat and tender approach. Then He digs a little deeper, pushes a little harder and starts trying to chip away at walls built up, entrenched sinful habits, and straying hearts and minds.  Often He is met with resistance.  Sometimes we build the walls taller and thicker.  At times the work may feel like drudgery and no progress or movement can be seen.  We may even backslide and seemingly erase in an instant what took weeks to accomplish.  But then He starts to hear it, faint, far off in the distance, almost hardly audible.  The quietest of "yeses."  Yes to Him, yes to His love, yes to what only He can offer.  Just a glimmer.  Tiny signs of fruit from His labor to redeem us.  And then one day, out of the blue, as only God could appoint, the walls are shattered, the straying hearts turn and as clear as the clearest of nights we utter the words, "YES, LORD."  And the work, His work, was worth the effort, worth the pursuit, worth the shed tears, the lost sleep, and the desperate prayers.  He didn't give up on us.  He pursued us and brought us to victory.

May I ever be reminded in Hannah's precious victory this week that pursuit is worth it, that victory will come in His time, and that hard doesn't mean we're outside His will.  Redemption is His and His alone to claim and He has a glorious plan as He reveals it to us. My heart sings for joy this week.  I heard my daughter utter two brand new speech sounds.  May she one day create even more music as she utters a "yes" to Him.

"Sing to him; sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!"
~1 Chronicles 16:9~

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Finding a Heritage {Celebrating Hannah's 4th Birthday}

This time of year is birthday season in our home.  Four children, four birthdays celebrated in the span of approximately four weeks.  A time for celebrating.  A time for extra special treats.  This is also the season for remembering, for the "what it was like when I was in your belly" questions to arise.  It's a sweet time of reminiscing and looking through old photographs.

It's something that is starkly lacking for Hannah.  The photos are few, the baby book begins at age two, and the coveted "in your belly photo" is glaringly missing.  My mama hands feel so empty, yet they yearn to offer something.

I cannot offer anything tangible, so I offer what I can with my words.  I use my voice to weave the story, her story, for her.  Her only knowledge of her beginning is what my words have to offer.  I find that as I weave the story, as I write the heritage she will carry in her heart, I am conflicted.  The burden for truth is heavy.  The silence is deafening.  There's the story I want to weave....and the story  I must weave, the one based in truth.

The story I want to tell beats hard in my chest.   I want to cup her precious cheeks in my hands and look deep into her eyes and tell her every single detail of her beginning, to paint a picture in her mind where no detail is forgotten, no fallen tear overlooked.  I want her to be able to see the sights, smell the smells, hear the sounds, and feel the soothing touch of her birth mother's hand.

But those are details I cannot offer.  My daughter deserves truth. And so in this season of remembering the truth stumbles out.  Broken and jumbled, like a stream falling over the rocky bed of a brook, disjointed and groping, finding the words and organizing the thoughts.  The truth is.....there is so much I don't know.  I don't know what her biological mother was thinking or feeling in those awful moments.  I don't know what drove her heart wrenching decision.  I don't know the in's and outs or the whys or what if's.  I just simply don't know.

And the not knowing falls like a loud thud upon our time of celebration, of remembering, of sweet reminiscing.  It hurts, the not knowing, the empty hands, the having nothing to offer, so my heart turns inward and picks up the pen of indelible ink and begins writing her heritage for her.  This is what I do know and this is what I will share.  This is what I have to offer.

My most precious, sweet Hannah,
There are so many things I do not know about your start on this earth.  I long to tell you the details of your birth and I want so badly to offer you photos of your form wrapped safely inside your mother's womb.  I want to tell you the story of how you came to be part of our family, but there is one half of that story I will never know, a puzzle piece that will always be lacking.  So instead of weaving a story about something I do not know, I will tell you all the things I do know.

I do know that you have a mother and a father here on this earth that absolutely adore you and are crazy in love with your robust laughter and tip-toe skip-hopping through each day.  I do know that your siblings fight over who you loved first when you came home.  I know you want nothing more than to grow up and be just like Gracie.  In fact, you speak often of just simply living with her forever.  I know that you like noodles and rice and have an insatiable hunger for sweets.  I know that cake isn't your thing, but icing sure is wonderful.  I know you've fought hard for everything you have gained in the short two years you have been home.  You are a voracious reader and so very eager to learn.  You skip from 13 to 18 every time you try to count to 20.  Your Lovie is your most cherished of possessions and has traveled the globe,  visited the OR multiple times, sat in the dental chair, fought hard through speech therapy sessions, and visited countless doctors' offices by your side. Yellow is your favorite color and ice cream is better with sprinkles.  A cup of ramen wins the prize over PBJ for lunch every single time and water almost always beats milk.  I know that choices are agonizingly difficult for you and it's best to keep it limited to two or three options.  You are independent and strong and like your voice (and opinion) to be heard. Your eyes beam with light when your mouth smiles and I see you thinking deep thoughts in the dark pools of your almond-shaped, brown eyes.  I know that you are my daughter and your heritage is what I humbly have to offer you as your mother.

And yet, all that still seems to be not enough and so I look deeper still.    You see, there is a Father.  Your Father.  And His heritage?  He wants to make it yours.  His story?  It's broken and messy.  Painful and hard, even ugly at times.  No earthly eyes to look into that reflected His own.  A humble beginning, a broken past, a birth that appeared a scandal.  A family that made Him their own, gave Him all they could give, and began to weave the story.  His story.  And then the cross.  Gruesome and painful, tragic and so very devastating.  Darkness washes over and it seems all hope is lost.  The heritage is erased and the pen has stopped writing.  But it wasn't so.  The sun rose on the third day and the plan for redemption was made manifest.  What appeared so broken and so empty, so lacking and final, was God's greatest plan for human redemption.  Beauty from ashes.  

So my pen writes on, my story weaving continues.  Your heritage is that you are mine, yet better still, you are His.  He has a plan for you, one of deep and overwhelming redemption and joy.  Only He can fill the God sized gaps in your heart.  May my love somehow point you always toward His, that you may know His heritage and one day make it your own.


And so birthday season winds down in our home and the questions lay to rest for a while.  My heart and mind will never be far from the mother in China who gave me my child.  My heart's deepest cry is that she may also know and share the same heritage Hannah may have as a child of God.  May restoration be found in a heritage that is known.  The heritage that only He can give.

"he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
~Titus 3:5-7~