An Open Letter to the Pews Behind Me

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Last night, I once again braved the Church pew with four lively young children.  Ordinary enough, I know that thousands upon thousands of mothers complete an identical ritual every week.  But our situation is a bit unique, and for those of you in the pews behind me, you know all of this.

You know that I am not just an ordinary parishioner; I’m your pastor’s wife.  I sit up front with my four children who are absolutely capable of being well behaved during a service… but are not always.  You know that we just adopted two of our children this summer, that neither can walk and both have special needs and come from neglected orphanage backgrounds.  You know that the pastor’s kids, my kids, have been struggling more the last few weeks.  Three of the last four services I have had to take someone out screaming.

You know that last night was the worst they have ever been, one raging, cursing, flailing child (yes he was cursing at me in Russian); one uncomfortable little girl who began screaming and crying while I was on the other side of the building; a little one too quick to follow in his older brother’s disobedient footsteps; and a little girl who should know better… but just couldn’t help herself; and a poor grandmother trying desperately to salvage the entire ordeal before the entire pew made a grand exit.

I know you have concerns.  Perhaps you are concerned that I’m too strict or too lenient with my children in Church.  You might be worried about our biological children after seeing our adopted son throw punches in the middle of the sermon last night.  I know that you are concerned about my wellbeing; most of you ask every time we see each other how I’m holding up.  Maybe you’re worried that our family is too much for anyone, or how can Pastor possibly have enough time or energy for his work after all that?  You might certainly be wondering how on Earth we are going to manage with Mambo #5 who is arriving very quickly after the New Year.

I know there might be a lot of wondering and a lot of speculation, and probably even a little bit of talking after last night’s episode.  And so, since I’m in the fishbowl already, I thought I might as well join the conversation.  Our family’s struggles are no secret, or at least they aren’t after last night.  I know you have concerns and I know you have questions, so here is my two cents about the matter.  No matter how much or how little you saw last night, here’s what I really want you to know.

I take my children to Church for a reason.  Yes, they disrupt the service.  I wish they wouldn’t but they do.  I could sit in the back, or I could give them food or toys or any number of distractions.  I could make it easier on them and on myself, and on your ears too.  But I don’t.  Why?  Not because distractions are bad parenting, I certainly make use of them.  But when we go to Church to meet our Lord and Savior, to honor and thank Him, to physically touch and consume His Life, to sing praises along with the entire host of Heaven, well… why on Earth would I distract my children from such a great experience?  Why wouldn’t I want to give them a front row seat to the miracles taking place before their eyes?

No they don’t appreciate it, and they never will either – unless I teach them, show them, tell them what an honor it is to be in the presence of God at Church.  And by giving them distractions from God, I would be making it difficult to later assert that He is the One Thing Needful.  Everyone’s kids are different, and parenting during Church will look different for everyone.  I know my children, and I know what they are capable of.  Each one of them is more than capable of participating in the service without distractions.  Why would I expect less from them than what I know they can do?

Yes, I’m a bad mom.  But not last night, last night I actually did really well.  Ever since coming home with our new little ones I have struggled with my temper, really struggled.  Some Sunday mornings my little ones make it through the service, but I don’t.  I end up snapping or being too firm with their fidgety little hands.  It makes for less noise and distraction, but it puts a whole lot of sin on my plate.

Last night though?  I kept my cool under the pressure cooker of the worst rage our son has had in months.  I was hit, spit at, cursed at, bit, scratched and a myriad of other infractions.  But not once did I raise my voice at him.  Not once did I lose my temper.  I was present and calm and I weathered the storm, even when the rest of my children crumbled under the chaos – I continued to calmly go about damage control the best I could.  I refused to enter the crazy cycle with my hurting, traumatized son.  Instead I just waited him out, I put him to bed and I told him I loved him.

My son is not a bad child.  What you saw was not a temper tantrum; it is what they call a “rage”.  Raging is a behavior stemming from neglect, abuse or trauma.  It is a fear response, and it happened at least daily when we first came home.  About two months ago his rages stopped.  We had been doing very well keeping him close to us and not letting other adults give him affection that would be confusing to a child for whom every adult had been interchangeable his whole life.  One day a flip switched, and he just stopped raging.  Overnight he transformed into our best behaved child.

But the holidays are usually a very difficult time for children like my son.  More affection from other adults, more visitors, more sugar, more presents… it’s all too much and it can send them toppling back into the confusion and chaos in their mind.  In the last week we’ve seen the rages slowly come back, and last night was the grand finale topping it all off… right in the front pew for all to see.

Often these children don’t rage in public, they wait until they feel safe – at home.  But you have done such a wonderful job of making our son feel welcome and safe, and apparently he doesn’t mind showing off at church now either.  So for his sake, and the sake of all children who come with struggles and special needs – don’t assume a child is bad, especially if you see them acting unusually loud, aggressive, manipulative or crazy in public.  Over-the-top behaviors don’t indicate a bad child or even bad parenting, they indicate hurt and fear.  Show generous amounts of compassion to this child’s parents, and pray healing over their child.

Our other children are safe, but not untouched.  Yes, he came out swinging last night, and yes some of those punches landed.  But I can count on one hand the number of times, out of many many rages, that he has ever laid a finger on another child.  And I can assure you, no one has ever been really hurt.  My husband and I are the ones that trigger his insecurities and fears of being left or hurt.  He is afraid of loving us, because he’s never been able to love an adult or caregiver before without being hurt by that affection.

He’s not afraid of loving his siblings.  That means, either myself or my husband is always physically there when the raging begins, and it is very simple for us to keep other children safe at that point.  Close quarters in the pew complicates things a bit, as you might have guessed.  But my point is – don’t worry about our children.  They are safe.  This doesn’t mean that they are not untouched by the trauma that their siblings have endured; it has affected them greatly too.  Some of that you even got to see yesterday as they followed suit in acting like hooligans in the middle of the Divine Service.  They were just as tired and stressed as I was over the whole thing.

Adoption is hard for them too.  They have seen the trauma and aggression and neglect and fear and pain that their brother and sister have endured.  They are acutely aware of the suffering of people so close to them.  Both of them have been changed and, as their parents, we are working so hard to make those changes positive for them.  But it is a lot to process for little minds, and this will also take time.  Give them grace too.

One more sibling is not too much.  Yes, having five children developmentally five and under is going to be CRAZY!  I know.  And I’m so excited.  I won’t write a whole post on that here, but someone else did, and it’s a really great read if you are interested: “Why Have More Kids?”

We are bruised but not crushed.  Our family is weary of all that this adoption has taken out of us.  Adoption is not an easy road, and many of you might be looking at our ragged, weary bunch thinking that you are so glad you aren’t in our shoes, or that you could never do it or maybe even that we bit off more than we can chew or that we shouldn’t do this either.  That’s just not the case.  With God’s help we are making it.  We are surviving the transition.  Not only that, we really are thriving with His provision and mercy.  All of us are healing, growing, learning and becoming stronger.  And we’re doing it together, which is the best part.

These are our children, and we knew they were ours.  We love them dearly and want them exactly where they are now, right here with us.  Our life isn’t perfect or easy or comfortable, but we have a life together.  None of our children are starving or being drugged or beat up.  None of our children have to be cold at night or go for days without being touched.  No one is lacking medical care and no one is alone.  Those are not things that our family takes for granted anymore, because it wasn’t always this way.  We are so blessed to be where we are… and perhaps from the outside it looks like a life that is unpreferrable, one that you would not choose.

But from our point of view, we are clinging desperately to our Savior, because He’s our only hope left.  And we would not change that for the world.  Hardship, discomfort, pain, loss… it’s all a part of adoption.  And it’s a great privilege and blessing to endure it for the sake of these little ones, for the sake of our Lord.  Don’t feel sorry for us.  The joy and love we are creating is worth so much more than what we’ve lost, and we wouldn’t change it for the world.

Treading Lightly

Two days ago I woke up to wonderful news.  Whitaker found his family.  One little boy who has been waiting for far too long, who was on the brink of a death sentence… his crime?  Being born with a disability.  But his sentence has been postponed.  A family has stepped up to pay his ransom and to free him from his life behind the bars of a crib.  Praise God from whom all blessings flow!  He moved the hearts of His Church for one sweet child… and Whitaker is now found, destined to be loved and cherished forevermore.  No longer to be called an orphan… but a beloved son.  How beautiful, how marvelous, how I couldn’t be happier for this boy.

And yet, there is a tension in my heart.  I want to be so careful not to alienate the hundreds of beautiful people who were involved in this miracle.  I had more views on my last post for Whitaker than I have ever had on any post, and that’s actually really saying something!  Over a hundred people shared him on Facebook, and who knows how many others shared.  I know phone calls were made and hearts were moved.  Over 20,000 people saw his sweet face and I alone had a dozen families request more information about him.  (I know I wasn’t the only one receiving inquiries either!)

It was such a swift and beautiful movement, with all of God’s people moving in harmony and in tune to His will.  And from the bottom of my heart, I thank all of you who saw that post for praying and sharing and loving Whitaker, of being a part of his miracle.  I could not be more grateful for all that was done, and yet, there is still apprehension, because I know.  I know that what I wrote three days ago for Whitaker is true now.  One is not enough, two is not enough… millions.  That’s how many orphans are desperate for homes.  Millions.

I had one precious lady email me back after Whitaker found a family and she told me that even though he was going to be going home with someone else, his story still touched them enough and now they are looking to adopt another child from his same country.  That made my day, because they really got it.  They saw Whitaker and they knew he wasn’t alone; they knew that there were hundreds and thousands of children just like him.  And they knew that we can’t just stop at one.

So to the other eleven dear and precious families who contacted me about the possibility of adopting Whitaker… rejoice with me that he is going home.  But please, I am begging you, let’s not stop here.  Can we move forward?  Can we keep looking?  Perhaps God led you to Whitaker, so that Whitaker could lead you to your own child.  Perhaps not… but isn’t it possible?  Now you know about Whitaker’s plight, the one he shares with countless other children.  Winter is coming, death sentences and life imprisonments are soon to be dealt out to hundreds of children across his country.  These children should never have to see the inside of an adult mental institution, let alone live in one.

Please take that spark of love and compassion etched into your heart over the weekend and use it to just take one more tiny step… See just one more child, pray over one more fragile soul.  Almost all of you who contacted me did so with a caveat, or a hesitation.  You weren’t sure if you could adopt Whitaker because of a specific family circumstance.  And you might be right, but guess what?  There are so many children you would be able to bring home.  Let me show you a few…

Available to Single Moms

I heard from a few of you sweet ladies, who said you would have taken Whitaker in a heartbeat if you could qualify.  Friends!  Good news!  There are so many sweet children you do qualify to adopt, who need just as much love and are in just as difficult situations.  (And equally cute I might add!)

BeauregardBeauregard: Look at those intensely adorable cheeks!!  You can see such personality in that little face, and what a joy his caregivers say that he is.  A precious gem just waiting to be found.  His needs sound fairly mild, and with all that he is able to do, he will absolutely thrive in a family.  Beauregard also has an agency grant available!

Koda: Wow, this kiddo just steal my heart.  It kills me that he hasn’t been adopted yet!  He has Cerebral Palsy, just like Jacob Koda(and they are the same age!) but his CP is so incredibly mild!  He can run and play??  Hello!  That’s amazing!  His needs are easy and he looks so full of life and ready for someone to love, just like our son did in his referral picture.  This kiddo will be a huge, huge blessing to his Momma one day!

DarrenDarren: This cuddle bug is also in Eastern Europe like Whitaker, and just like Whitaker, he will spend his life staring through the bars of a crib with little affection or stimulation, no therapy and no chance for anything else..  In addition to that, Darren is in serious need of medical attention.  He has hydrocephalus, which will likely continue to worsen, leading to an excruciating and slow death.  UNLESS he is adopted!  This condition is so medically treatable, if only he had a family coming for him!

IsabelleIsabelle: Gorgeous, just gorgeous.  She has a grant of over $4,000 (and growing!)  What a beautiful child and what an amazing addition she would make for any family.  This girlie is also in Eastern Europe, but she is getting therapy and learning new skills!  This is remarkable and will make her transition to family life so much easier.  Oh I hope she finds a Mommy, she is just too precious to stay hidden away in an institution forever!

Already Paid for Adoptions

I had one or two families specifically say that they had never considered international adoption before just because of the sheer cost.  I will say that we had pretty much none of what we needed to pay our children’s ransom when we started our adoption process last year.  But God provided every last penny.  That’s a huge leap of faith, and I understand feeling uncomfortable taking it.  But you don’t always have to…

AndruisAndruis: With a grant fund of over $21,000 his adoption is all but fully funded.  This precious boy has waited so long.  What an amazing gift to find him a family for his birthday this New Years!  Like so many of these children, his delays seem to be largely due to a lack of love and care.  He will truly blossom in a family.

Vaughn: What a handsome young man!  Vaughn is also the same age as our Jacob, and what a magical age to adopt this is!  He Vaughnis reported to be a very healthy child, and his file is with a wonderful agency in a great program to adopt from.  He has nearly $17,000 in his grant all ready to go toward the cost of his adoption.  Likely this is not fully funded, but close enough that money will be no issue, especially with the fan club he has behind him!

ClariceClarice: Oh this lovely girl breaks my heart!  She is such a dear, lovely girl.  We know people who have met her and have so much information on her development and personality.  She has over $15,000 in her grant, very close to being fully funded, and she has been listed for such a long time!  Just like our daughter, she’s got a great following and it’s likely that the rest of her adoption will be swiftly covered if a family steps up.  Clarice is running out of time, her family must file paperwork before next summer or she will be in a mental institution for the rest of her life.

Mild Medical Needs

I had two lovely families ask about adopting Whitaker, but they weren’t sure if they could due to his medical needs.  Both families felt led toward international missions where they would have low access to quality medical care.  What a wonderful calling!  So many of the kiddos we advocate for do need that access, but certainly not all of them.  Adoption and missions do not have to be mutually exclusive callings!

JamisonJamison: Take this boy for example.  His only needs?  Mild mental delay and a speech delay.  Really!  That’s it!  So he’ll need some occupational and speech therapy, but there is absolutely no reason a family could not adopt him and also move overseas for mission work later down the road.  Not to mention he just has the most charming smile.  What a handsome young man and what a gift he would be to the family who steps up!

Lana-Photo-5-May-2013-224x300Lana: This lovely lady has Down syndrome.  Otherwise she seems to be quite bright and healthy.  A family would be looking at therapy to help her reach her full potential, but other than that her needs are so mild and manageable!  She loves pink, loves games, loves helping and being a part of activities… she is just a sweet girl longing to be loved and to be a part of a family.  Oh how she would thrive if she was adopted!

Alexandra-218x300Alexandra: The only real medical need she has is her HIV+ status.  This is not contactable in a family setting and is incredibly easy to manage!  Children with this diagnosis have potential to live totally normal lives with the medication that is now available.  There are so many deserving children with nothing but this diagnosis who would be such a delight to any family.  Most contract the disease at birth from their mothers; they are otherwise totally typical kids!  HIV is truly a special need that almost any adoptive family can easily manage.  If you don’t know much about it, here’s a great place to start.

Available to Large Families

A few of you inquired whether or not Whitaker was available to large families, and I was very happy to report that yes he was!  So many large families and families with lots of little ones, have adopted internationally.  Here are some other sweeties for whom family size is also not a an issue.

 

ilianaIlliana: Oh my goodness, isn’t she a doll!?  Absolutely beautiful!  Can you believe that this dear girl has spent most of her life in an adult mental institution?  And she is doing, so so well considering!  She is independent in almost all self care tasks, she demonstrates attachment and emotionally healthy responses, she is so bright!  This girl would just thrive in a family, and she would probably love some siblings to dote on!  She needs to be adopted soon, before she ages out!

ClydeClyde: A bit of a blurry picture, but you can tell he is precious.  Clyde is so young, still just a baby!  He will benefit greatly from early intervention that many of these children are not blessed to have.  I remember just a year ago when tiny babies like Clyde were scooped up in a heartbeat.  But adoptions have slowed greatly, and now they wait and wait.  I hope he doesn’t have to wait.  I hope his Mommy and Daddy see him while he’s still tiny!

DagmarDagmar: Not nearly as tiny, but still just as in need of a family.  Dagmar is in our children’s country.  That means that in just a few short months he will become unavaialable for international adoption.  He’ll age out of the system and be stuck in a mental institution for the rest of his life.  Friends his need is urgent!  He doesn’t have long.  A family must file paperwork for him before January!  He has over an $8,000 grant!  Please, someone see how worthy his life is of saving!

 

Friends… I could go on and on and on with countless categories and thousands of children who you would probably qualify to adopt.  If you don’t meet the international income requirements, have you ever considered domestic adoption?  You can adopt from foster care without being a foster parent.

There are many, many little ones waiting for a family literally right in your own backyard.  Their adoptions are virtually free and there is no set income requirement.  I have researched almost every possible type of adoption, and when I hear someone say “I’d love to adopt but…” their reasons are usually not quite valid!  If you don’t think you’d qualify to adopt, but you really want to find out contact me.  Seriously, I can at least point you in the right direction and I’d love to help.

And also remember, finding families for waiting children is important, but praying and assisting families who are adopting is just as important!  If you love Whitaker please hop on over to his family’s blog and send some prayers and encouragement their way.  Thank you!!  Love to you all in Christ…

Fundraising Q&A

Why are you fundraising? Adoption is very near and dear to our hearts. We realize that many of these children, if they are not adopted, have very few options. Orphans with special needs are usually sent to underfunded government mental institutions where many die for lack of food, neglect and other abuse. Healthy orphans are turned out onto the streets as teenagers; no one will hire them and they often have no other choice but to fall into crime, drugs or suicide. Many are sold into the sex slave trade. Unfortunately, international adoption is prohibitively expensive. Saving the lives of these children makes it difficult for families to be found for them.

How much does adoption cost? An international adoption (like ours) costs, on average, $30,000. This is not because we are “buying” a child, but logistically there are many things that need to be paid for. These costs include things like: a homestudy, background checks, translation assistance, international plane tickets, sleeping accommodations during travel, government facilitators, passports, court fees, etc.

If you can’t afford the adoption, how will you afford to care for the child once they are home? This is a common question. There truly is a big difference between paying for an adoption (the equivalent of about $4300 payments a month for seven months) and being able to afford to feed and clothe a child. Many loving, competent, financially stable families would love to bring an orphan into their home, they simply lack the large lump sum needed to get them there.

Do other families fundraise for their adoptions? Yes! Adoption fundraising is becoming more and more common as more people are realizing the plight of these orphans in other countries. Special needs adoption is a ministry that truly reflects God’s love for us! More Christians are realizing this truth and answering God’s call as He “sets the lonely in families”. Churches and communities gather around these families and give them the support they need to get their children home. It is a marvelous and beautiful thing!

Are there any fundraisers going on right now?  I am currently having two Thirty-One parties as fundraisers.  Go to: mythirtyone.com/thecup All commission from sales at this website will go toward our adoption!  We also have some more fundraisers coming up, so stay tuned!

Can I make a tax deductible donation toward your adoption? Absolutely! We are partnering with an organization called Reece’s Rainbow for our adoption. They are a registered 501c3 non-profit that advocates for orphans and helps to raise money for adopting families. You can find our sponsorship page and make a tax deductible gift at: reecesrainbow.org/63824/sponsormueller. Or you can mail your gift to the address below with the memo “Juri for the Mueller Family”.

Juri
Reece’s Rainbow
PO Box 4024
Gaithersburg, MD 20885

Blessings!

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