Goodbye Ordinary

I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us. Isaiah 63:7

Crying out to God October 23, 2012

Filed under: Faith,Grief — Lori @ 11:09 am

Psalm 88

English Standard Version

I Cry Out Day and Night Before You

A Song. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1 O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!

For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah

You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
    my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?

13 But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.

I have observed an interesting phenomenon in my Christian life.  When I have been in really hard places and suffering through a trial, I have spoken my questions, my pain, my fight for trust – and it seems to really disturb some people.  I am an honest and forthright person.  I don’t hide a whole lot about what I am thinking or feeling.  I have tried to learn to measure my words and only share those words at the right times and with the right people, but when our son died, I was in so much pain and felt so alone that I couldn’t keep from sharing my pain.  I find myself in a similar place of despair, although not nearly as deep and dark,  now with the issues with Levi.

What I think disturbs people is that they automatically assume that you are losing your faith in God.  They don’t think you should be speaking about doubt.  But the psalmists didn’t worry about that.  They shared their hearts with God – their doubts, their pain, how they felt alone and without comfort.  Does that seem like they are challenging or questioning God?  In a way, maybe they were.  But, the point is they KNEW they could say those things and they bothered to say them in the first place, because they did have complete faith that God was listening and in control.

Psalm 88 is a psalm that is completely a lament.  There is no praise, there is no resolution (as in most psalms).  He does state in verse 1 that God is his salvation.  There is trust as he speaks even though he does not see a resolution to his problems.

Our church read through the Psalms for worship and on the day we read Psalm 88 I was tempted to skip it.  However, I read some commentaries and came to understand the place that this psalm has in our Christian lives.  In James Montgomery Boice’s commentary on the Psalms, he writes:

“It is good to have a psalm like this, but it is also good that we have only one.  It reminds us that life is filled with trouble, even to the point of despair, even for mature believers.  Psalm 88 is an inspired writer, after all.  He is identified as Heman the Ezrahite, one of the “Sons of Korah”.

In speaking of Christian literature and why there is so little outstanding Christian literature he concluded, “..that is because we are not enough true to life.  Christians feel that in order to be Christian a composition has to work out right in the end and that there has to be a clear lesson or moral.  Psalm 88 is a reminder that life is not always like that.  There may be a perfectly good moral from God’s point of view; I believe that all life does have a divine purpose.  But that does not necessarily mean that we can see it or that it will ever become clear in our lifetimes.”

I am reading a book entitled, “How People Change” by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp.  They include a chapter that mentions Psalm 88 and its purpose.  They also remind the reader that this psalm is inspired by God.  They ask if it bothers you that there is no resolution in the psalm and wonder if you can think of any good you can get from reading it.  They list five things we can gain from it, but I will include my favorite three:

God understands the full range of human experience, from supreme joy to crushing sorrow.

God’s honesty about these experiences invites me to be honest about the things I face.  Biblical Christianity is never blind or stoic in its reaction to life.

Going to God with my despair, doubt, and fear is an act of faith.  Psalm 88 reminds me to run to God in desperate moments, not away from him.

I have often thought that because Kevin and I have been through such a tremendously dark and painful time in our life that we have a different perspective than many Christians who have not dealt with something that rocks you to your core.  You are able to look back and see that even in the times when you felt the most alone and forsaken – that was not the case.  That was precisely the time that the Lord was carrying you and providing for you the most.  There is a nearness you feel to the Lord through dark and troubling trials that is not experienced in everyday life.  However, we didn’t always recognize it at the time.  Your pain can cloud your perception while you are in it.

So, if you have a believing friend who is speaking their doubts, fears, confusion, sorrow, and helplessness and yet crying out to God – do not worry about them.  You can encourage them and pray for them and remind them, as a special friend did for me, that Jesus is our Great High Priest and understands our pain and is praying for us.  But, be careful not to judge them or assume they have lost faith in God.

Life is not neat and tidy.  Every trial does not have a good resolution.  Sometimes there are lessons we need to learn and ways that the Lord wants to grow us that can only happen through these difficulties.  My prayer is always that I would have eyes to see the Lord’s work on this earth, ears to hear what the Lord wants to teach me and most importantly that He would be glorified through it.

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Hope and Healing October 20, 2012

Filed under: Adoption,Faith — Lori @ 10:47 am

I consistently read a blog called, One Thankful Mom.  I appreciate her honesty in sharing about her struggles with her adopted kids and I also find a lot of practical ideas in dealing with similar issues.

Lisa, the writer of One Thankful Mom has a feature that she often runs on Tuesdays called Tuesday Topics and she has invited readers to email her with questions and she will post the question and let her readers comment.  About a month and a half after we came home from India with Levi (April 2011) I emailed her a question.  Here is that email:

“Have you ever dealt with an adopted child who hurts themselves?  Our son has been home for about six weeks and I have been disturbed by some behavior.  He hits himself in the face, he will pick something on his finger until it bleeds, he bangs his head against his forearm (it has left a bruise on his arm that has been there from the beginning), he put soap in his eye, he is completely reckless on a scooter, and the list goes on.

I am trying to balance the fact that he is a boy and I know they are more physical, but something about his behavior troubles me.  He is six years old and has been in an orphanage his entire life.  He had medical treatment (tests and surgery) around the age of two that could have been traumatic.  I have no way of knowing all that he has dealt with in his first six years of life.”

Back when I wrote that question we were looking at some of Levi’s behavior and we weren’t sure what to make of it.  We knew something wasn’t right, but we didn’t know what it meant.

Levi has been in our family now for a year and a half.  Lisa had set my email aside and didn’t get to it and so when she emailed me this week to ask about using the question it took me back to those early days and how puzzled we were – just not knowing what was wrong.  However, we aren’t in the dark anymore.  We have some idea what is going on and we are working on it.

I commented on the post and since she moderates before comments are posted, she emailed and asked me if I would rather write a complete post and give an update on where we are with Levi.  I appreciate her giving me that opportunity.  Below is that post:

I have been thankful for Lisa’s blog and all that I learn here from her personal writing, the things she shares from other sources, and the ability she has given us as readers to ask a question and get feedback from lots of moms who are dealing with similar issues.  What a blessing this little corner of the web has been!

I had emailed Lisa with a question quite some time ago which she recently posted as a Tuesday Topic.  She feels horrible about how long ago it actually was, but nothing is ever a coincidence.  I think the timing was perfect.

As stated in the question she posted, I had written her in April of 2011 – six weeks or so after our son came home with us from India.  He was six and a half years old.  To say that we were completely overwhelmed by the arrival of our son would be an understatement.  It was apparent that he had issues that we had not dealt with in our adopted daughters who were ten and six years old in 2008 when we brought them home.

The experience was day and night in many ways.  Our girls spoke almost no English.  That was both hilarious and scary!  My husband and I laugh about our unique attempts at communication.  The girls went into a rebellious pushing back against us after a few weeks – exactly what you would expect.  We moved through working on their behavior and attachment and things progressed in a positive way – of course with setbacks along the way.  It was not easy by any means, but we always saw improvement and never had a reason to doubt they were attaching to us and we were moving in a positive direction.  It went well enough that we decided to embark on another adoption.

Our son arrived three years later in March 2011.  He had been learning English and was very accomplished using it.  We thought this was wonderful because we were able to communicate right away.  He cried the first night for the ladies at the orphanage which we thought was a great sign that he was grieving for them.  After that, he really never seemed to look back.  He was happy, outgoing, and inquisitive.  We enjoyed our time with him in India.  At home, the girls welcomed him with open arms and showered him with love and attention.  Things at home seemed odd.  There was very little conflict with us.  We did see concerning behaviors like the self hurting, and complete lack of impulse control, but he really tried his best to “be good”.   The warning bells should have been sounding.

They did begin to sound about six months after he came home.  We weren’t really sure how to put our finger on what was bothering us.  He was a busy guy and in some ways I think we focused on the wrong behaviors as signs of what was going on.  We realized that he showed very little emotion and when he did, it was off the scales.  By about eight months home we realized it was serious.  My husband and I talked with each other and both expressed our feeling that our son treated us like we were orphanage workers.   I wrote a pleading email to a therapist I had seen in the past.  I knew she had professional experience with adopted kids, but she also grew up in a home with older internationally adopted siblings.  I laid out all the issues that we were experiencing with our son and asked, “Do I need help, or does he need help?”

The list of behaviors that concerned us was pretty long.  The therapist mentioned attachment issues and said we should have him evaluated and tested and gave me a recommendation of a psychiatrist to see.  I ran and grabbed my copy of “Attaching in Adoption” by Deborah Gray and read Foster Cline, M.D.’s list on page 81, “Checklist for Symptoms of Attachment Disorder”.  I could check almost every one of the items on that list.  What was interesting to me is that we saw the behavior, but we did not see the root of the problem.  We immediately took her advice and made the appointment.

There is a feeling of helplessness that comes over you when you realize that the issues your child is dealing with are so far beyond your experience and knowledge it isn’t even measurable.  Why wouldn’t you go to a professional, who has been trained and has experience in dealing with issues that you cannot even label?  We needed someone to tell us what was going on and how to deal with it.  Our faith has always been an integral part of our decision process.  God designed and created the brain in all its intricacies and beauty.  Unfortunately, sin has polluted our world and things happen to change and distort the creation.  How many times have you sat and pondered how the circumstances in your children’s lives have shaped them in negative ways?  It is heart breaking.

God has also given people different talents and abilities.  We don’t do surgery on ourselves when we have appendicitis.  We learn to find the right help at the right time for each situation and, of course, we consider the advice, pray about it, seek second opinions and ultimately try to make the best decision we can for our children.

When my husband and I sat and listened to the diagnosis of our son, we were floored.  Not because we heard something we had not already suspected.  But, hearing it all laid out is so overwhelming.  I am a person who likes to have a plan.  I can tackle pretty much anything if I can research it, read about it, talk with people who have experience with it, and I have a list in front of me that tells me what to do.  Sometimes life is just not that cut and dried.  Bummer!

Having a diagnosis does not declare a sentence on your child.  That doctor may have a lot of knowledge and experience, but they do not control the universe.  We serve a Sovereign God Who does though.  That is such a comfort.  When you hear that diagnosis and the recommendations for treatment you take a deep breath and you talk with your spouse every second you can possibly spare and you pray like your life depends on it and then you put one foot in front of the other.  You do your best to listen to what you are told and to filter that through what you know about your child – because let’s face it – no one knows your child better than you do.  You take each step with help from the professionals, your own conscience, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and you pray.  Ultimately, healing for your child will come through God’s intervention.

I recall a conversation with one of my kids about obeying God.  They said they had been praying that they would obey, but were still sinning.  I reminded them that we pray for God’s help and strength to resist temptation and obey, but we still make a choice in how we live.  God does the work in us through His grace with our cooperation.  That is how I see us moving forward with our child’s care.   The Lord is in complete control of the outcome and we see His hand guiding us as we make decisions and we do our best.  This verse describes the tension in that statement perfectly:  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.  Philippians 2:12-13

We are working with a therapist and trying to address our son’s attachment and anxiety issues.  At times the well that is his past life experiences which have contributed to who he is today seems very deep and dark.  Trauma has changed his brain and we will do all we can to help bring healing to him and give him a future and hope.

We have seen some tiny glimmers of hope that things are changing with our son.  I often tell families who are just embarking on their adoption journey that they need to think of their work with their child in terms of a marathon and not a sprint.  You also have to prepare yourself that things may not turn out the way you had hoped they would.  My husband and I remind ourselves all the time that we adopted our children for their sake and not for ours.  We also remind ourselves that it is our job to obey what the Lord is leading us to do (in this case adopting a child) and remember that the outcome is not in our hands.  We may plant, water, and nurture a seed, but we do not make it grow.  I actually find that very comforting.

If you are interested in reading the comments in reply to my original question, you can find that here.  If you want to see what her readers are saying in regards to the post of my update on where things are with Levi, you can find that here.

 

 
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