Category: Adoption

The Tale of Two Teens – Graduation Day

The tale of two teens begins long ago.

A time before I even thought of becoming a mother. When I was living a young married life kind of dream. It starts with another mother across the ocean in a harder life. One who could not take on the care of her beautiful Chinese baby.

Our sweet Audrey Hai Ping is a beautiful young woman, older than her peers at nineteen. She walks the halls of Howell High School working harder than most do just to understand the simplest of things.  Her dad and I adopted her from China when she was ten. Before God gave her to us, she lived in an Orphanage in Zhu Hai, China.

Her given name is Zhu Hai Ping. That is somewhat like Jane Doe where we live.

We do not have the whole story straight. The orphanage told us one thing, but as Audrey learned English, we learned a story far different. It was not what any parent wants to hear. The simple English words she spoke over time pieced together a puzzle that was broke. Tiny pieces are missing and a few rather tattered and torn. Our daughter from China had lived a life a typical kid here in our town could never imagine nor would we want them to I am afraid.

La Sa Po, A girl in a trash can, was her nickname at school. That was our Audrey Hai Pings beginning. Abandoned in a trash can at an early age. We think three or four but will never know. She carried on in the orphanage until the day we showed up at the door.

 

You would think life would be fine after that. A new life in the States. Parents who love her every way. Siblings to share the day to day. The tale goes on to one of perseverance and hard work. This Chinese gift came to us with no prior knowledge of anything but her life in the orphanage. She did not even understand the concept of planet Earth. Bodies of water or a land mass on a map. Over time as English slowly came, we realized there might be more going on. Determination was her game, while her siblings finished up their spelling words and reading time each night Audrey remained at the dining room table for hours studying hard to try and gain anything she could.

Her working memory is low; she does not process the way she should to keep up with her peers. Her challenges are great. There is more, but I think you may now understand the chance of what is considered normal would always be difficult for her.

That never stopped this girl of mine. She worked at her level the best that she could. Our schools as a whole at a loss on how to best handle her academics. Individual teachers and administration stepped in and gave her all that they could over time. The personal level of dedication to teaching our beautiful daughter was gifted by educators, whom I believe are superior and talented in skill and heart beyond what most parents see.

They are the kind of administration and teachers that should be awarded each day for the individual time and care they put into our kids. I am overwhelmed with love and gratitude for them especially the few that had Audrey day in and day out the last four years.

Her ELL teachers, Counselor, and principal never gave up on her dream of fitting in. Working hard to always treat her with respect and gave her the time she needed to do her best.

Tomorrow, this girl is walking across a stage in a cap and gown. She will not have awards or high academic praise. Instead, she has years of life experience far above most kids her age. She graduates with a degree in Perseverance and Tenacity. I have never felt as proud as I do right now thinking of the accomplishments she has made.

 

The other teen you may already know.  A beautiful boy wanted in every way.

He was given the best, provided for by a hard working and loving dad.  A mom who kissed and hugged him whenever she could. Staying home while he was young to give him a traditional and dedicated upbringing. This boy with a mop of blond waves and blue eyes had a depth into a thoughtful and giving soul in so many ways. He felt deeply and loved deeper. Sensitive and gentle in heart.

Ethan had almost everything a child could want it seems. Nothing lacking in his day one would think. Weekends spent on the family boat at the cottage across the state. Spring break vacations in warm spots. Far away family that lived for the day they could spend time with this boy and his siblings. School years with friends and playmates. A neighborhood where people care about each other and kids play ball on the street. Times came that were hard for this boy. Parents who divorced, anxiety about internal things and stress that lived inside that made new things seem like they were monsters in the dark.

 

Over time the monsters grew into the enemies of depression and anxiety.

They came in and battled my boy. Some days the monsters would go and leave him alone, and all was right. We would see the Ethan we knew and loved with all of our heart. Those days would go on it seems, and nothing was going to stop this teen from the good life ahead. WMU waited just before him, a degree in accounting was what he wanted. He loved to work hard and had ideas and dreams he loved to debate. He was goofy and funny and the most amazing brother one could be.

The tale of two teens, one had everything from the start. The other had nothing but hurt and pain. Their lives came together in family and love. They are brother and sister. They are my seniors graduating tomorrow. They both had monsters to battle and fight. One teen lost when his disease blinded him; one teen still struggles to find her normal in the day to day mostly with a smile on her face.

 

These teens are two of my children. God gifted them both to me in different ways. There is never a time I am not proud to be their mother.  Overcome in fact, with gratitude to God. We focus on their accomplishments and the good in them.

The days of school gone for both. My heart hurt continues. The most bittersweet of celebrations about to begin. That awful squeeze in my insides, wrapping my heart in painful loneliness for what once was.

 

Six weeks ago I would have said, I do not want to let it end. I do not want to walk away from this time in their lives. Hashtag  Freeze time my constant sign.  For those parents who are feeling the same, graduation hours away with our kids moving on to the next chapter in life. Embrace the change and encourage growth. Life is so fragile and unknown.

No, I cannot say I want to freeze time any longer, a thing I used to voice. That just happened to our boy.

Frozen now forever in time at eighteen, his life too short.

 

Tomorrow, the tale of two teens continue.  They walk the stage together in spirit. Audrey in cap and gown, carrying Ethan’s picture in hand, wearing his Gold Cords around her neck. Proudly displaying her joy at all, she has done, honoring the brother she loves so much.

Ethan, a memory of an amazing son who was going to go on to Western, years of walking the halls of Howell Schools as a friend, classmate, and student. Both of my graduating seniors whether in spirit or life are my proud accomplishments.  Despite the disabilities they fought they are forever my Highlander Pride.

I believe Ethan and Audrey both deserve caps flying high for their accomplishments as students and life.

Tomorrow, no doubt the tears will come as they often do. I will look out over the sea of green gowns and find my heart broken at my missing son. I will cry tears of pride as I watch my daughter get her dream of fitting in with her peers one last time. I will cry tears of joy for each senior who grew up with my kids as they cross that stage. I will celebrate the accomplishments of all of these seniors, praying for success and happiness in their next stage of life.

I will find hope in their future as they move on and make a difference in this world.

 

  • Encouragement from a wife in her second life

This Ride of Ours on the Crazy Road of Blended Family Life

 1 John 4:19Ephesians 2:10Matthew 7: 7-14Mark 12:31

 Life is a ride, Ours is no exception. Blending Our family again on this crazy Road of Blended Family Life.

Yesterday, we made it official, we have our first “ours”, you know the drill. His, mine and now “ours”. Now we are a party of eleven in this Blended Family life! In September we met our together child and life has not been the same. Miss Sophia is nineteen and I might say a bit unexpected… A surprise child if you will. Not an “oops” by any means. We think God may have created her just for us. That kind of gift if you know what I mean.

The kind you don’t plan for, expect, or dream of and one day the gift just shows up.

Let me back up and explain some of this craziness….You see I’m pretty sure my father in heaven had been planning this all along. Three years ago I sold my little downtown store. I said goodbye to my photography studio and weekend weddings, nights of putting in inventory and capturing memories. Something was tugging at my heart. The nights and weekends away from my kids, the hours of work with really very little pay. No time to focus on what is important.

I yearned desperately to simplify. Dreamed of spending my days studying the word of God.  Imagining a life more intentional with my kids.

A dear friend walked into my store one day and offered a fair price. I closed the doors to my studio and finished up a few weddings. Turned over the key and never looked back. Although the Mr. was 100% supportive of my career ending he was in the process of starting his own new company and a paycheck must be made. I put my resume in at our local schools, our county special education program, and a few preschools. I thought because I love kids so much, that maybe a teacher’s aid or lunch lady would work out. Not full time. Something just enough to help out with groceries and the kids extra stuff. A job that at the end of the day I could just check out. Something simple to put my focus on our blended family life.

Something that would not consume me into the world but allow me to just be…..the mom God Created me to be.

A woman named Alice called one day. “Hello, she said I am the head of transportation.” “Transportation?” I asked. “Yes, we see you have experience with special needs children, we want you to come in for a bus driver position.” A driver of kids with Special needs. Umm, ok I thought. Not my dream job but something in me jumped on it. Maybe it was the challenge of something new, maybe the draw to the kids, maybe it was just the first call. But I took it and after a few weeks of training, I found the job of my stay at home mom dreams.

Yes, the best of both worlds. I get to drive most of my own kids to school, then drive a bus load of specialness.

Kids in wheelchairs and the mentally impaired. Autism is the norm, drooling and deformities don’t scare me away. God’s greatest gifts all transporting to the greatest of schools. I can’t explain the time I get with these kids ages  3-26. Each route a gift itself. My own number four kiddo is one of them. Did I mention that? Big number four born with one leg gets picked-up by one of our buses each day. I don’t get to drive him but sure do appreciate my friends who do each and every weekday. By nine a.m I head home for laundry and cleaning. Midafternoon a time of writing and Bible reading, and a few classes in Theology.

The perfect amount of time to grow my knowledge, write and share my love of Christ.

I pick my kids up from school at 2:15 then back to work for the bus ride until 5:00. No later than 5:15 I’m home for the job I was created to be, mom. The best of both worlds. I can truly say I adore this position. The time it allows to be around. The paycheck it provides. When you give up the world’s way and work for only what you need and not all you want, you find the money always manages to be just enough. That is simplicity at it’s best. The joy of no weekends or late nights….more time with the kids! Still, I wondered…a bus driver? Is this all God has in store for me?

Little did I know the best gift was still ahead.

This year….September came as it always does. With it excitement and nerves for the kids getting on my bus. My 6th stop of the day brought me to an apartment complex just two blocks from my very own house. Two girls stood waiting for the bus. One in a wheelchair looking a bit nervous. The other standing close but not overly attached. My bus assistant and I loaded this beautiful brown eyed girl up. Her caregiver took off. Miss Sophia just 19, Cerebral palsy her physical illness smiled wide and that is when I fell in love.

 Over time I learned her story and she mine.

Audrey, Big number one and Sophia are the same age.  Sophie just a few months ahead. Sisters from far away birth mothers at heart. Audrey and I started to visit, first walking down and then a regular hang out.  We learned the horror of her life. The abandonment and emotional strife. The cognitive delays apparent, the mental impairment bubbled over when stressed and overwhelmed in her life. Soon our sweet Sophia started to visit our home and one day asked if we could adopt her. She had been on her own for some time. Caregivers doing the job of a parent, a different one each shift. A state-funded social worker and one caregiver her friends.

This brown eyed girl wanted just one thing. She wanted to belong.

She wanted to feel like she was part of something. Our chaotic, not so perfect life was the first thing in a long time she felt that she was suited for. She found in our mess a place she can be herself.  In her, we found a little bit of Christ. A way to serve and give. To Love.

“To love my neighbor”, Mark 12:31 says

The Second is this “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.”

It’s written in red… My bible says it so clear. The Golden rule.

“Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way. But the gate to life is small, and the road narrow, and only a few ever find it.”

Matthew 7: 7-14

Right out of the words of my savior…my one true King. My, I AM. The one who redeemed me.

Do for others what you want them to do for you…..And so we LOVE….we GIVE…..and we BECOME…more for her. Today she calls us mom and dad. We call her “ours”.

We travel a narrow road, searching for the right path. It is not always easy. Not always clear on which gate to choose. 

Now we BLEND our family once again….this time by adoption. Adopting this grown adult into our hearts and our family. Not legally an adoption because of her age. We are her guardians. Official by a probate court. To her, we are parents, ones who give direction and support. Ones who accept her flaws and love her anyway. Ones who will discipline, direct and give her goals. Parents who will delight in all she is.

Her past, well….it’s still there. The hurt, the pain, the abandonment. With Christ in the lead, we pray her yesterday slips away replaced with the good of today.

We focus on teaching her the Lords way….

Now, I know what I did not then…Three years ago when I got the call to be a bus driver as strange as it seemed at the time God had a plan for me to LOVE. He knew all along I was going to be a method of transportation to get one neighbor to know this feeling. One more orphan in this world needed a ride. She needed to belong to more than she had.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works; which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

If I were alone….If I had no one in my life, no one that loved me what would I want? I would want the love of someone….The kind of love that Jesus has for us. The kind of love where you give yourself up to heal pain.

So I ask….I wonder…..who in your life needs a ride? Who can you show God’s grace? What could you give up in the world to give someone the Jesus kind of  LOVE we all need.

 

We love because HE first loved us

John 4:19

Stay in touch-

XOXO

Steph