November 15, 2012

parenting the wounded child~~the hurt and the healing

I must admit that this week has been hard for me.

I have advocated for many children over the years.  It has been such a blessing to be able to use this little blog of mine to create an awareness of the many children who need someone to love them.  I am so thankful to the LORD for the opportunity.  

But seeing three of the most wounded, desperate, and overlooked orphans go unnoticed once again, well, that just about rips my heart out!  It's harder, I guess, because I KNOW where they are.

I realize that for most of us (myself included!), there is always a certain amount of fear when we consider the what-if's in any situation. I remember being pregnant with our first child.  I was terrified that something would be "wrong" with him.  I remember having those ultrasounds and asking the doctors a thousand times whether he could see anything that was not "normal."  My first question to Anthony when they took Connor out of my womb was, "Is everything normal, Honey?"  

Yeah, I understand the normal fears and concerns that come with longing to parent "typical" children.

And so I completely understand why these three children are still waiting, with no hope of finding families...yet!

I understand the fears.

I understand the "what-ifs?"

I really do.  

Because I used to be the same way.  

It was only when God called us to parent a child with severe PTSD (which we did not know she had when we adopted her) that I began to see children differently.  My eyes were opened and I was finally able to see every single child as fearfully and wonderfully made just the way they are.  

God had to do such a deep work in my own heart when it came to trusting that He would equip us with everything we needed to parent Haven.

Has it been easy?  No way!

Has it been worth it?  Absolutely!

Would I change anything?  Never!

My friend, Connie, is also raising a child who comes out of a devastating institutional environment.  Connie and her family adopted a wounded boy--a child who has shown them more about the unconditional love of their Savior than anything else ever has.  I asked Connie to share her story with you all.

Why?  Because it's when we step out of our comfortable little boats, trust God to get us through each and every day as we parent these broken little beings, and do the hard things in life, that we get a closer glimpse of His glory--His glory which shines through the toughest of situations.

It is an absolute honor to share Connie and Kooper's story with you today.  I know you will be blessed reading about their courageous journey in learning what it means to never, ever give up on a child who struggles in this life!

And how we truly CAN do all things through CHRIST who gives us strength...and enables us to do the seemingly impossible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shared by Connie--one courageous mother-to-many, Jesus lover, and an inspiration to many.            

Three years and counting. That’s how long our wounded child has been home.

I must say up front that nurturing and loving my son is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. If you ask me if it’s worth it, I will state unequivocally “YES!” I will also admit that my husband and I never in a million years thought we would be capable of adopting a teen. But when the Lord spoke adoption into our hearts for the fifth time, it was clear He wanted us to adopt a child who was about to age out. Kooper was two months from aging out of the Chinese adoption program when he came home, and our eyes were opened quickly when we realized we were not only treading the unchartered waters of teen adoption; we had a child with severe traumatization and institutional behaviors.

We were already in the process of being matched with a medical special-needs toddler when the Lord showed us the urgent need of children aging out with no hope of a family. We spent a few days praying about it, asked our agency if they and China would allow simultaneous adoptions of two unrelated children, and the following morning we received the referral of our son!

This is the first picture we saw:


We looked beyond the obvious sadness and documentation of his medical needs, and found peace that this child was placed in our family by the Creator of Heaven and Earth. We raced the clock to travel before he ran out of time. Although we had raised one son into young adulthood and had two biological teens waiting at home, we had never adopted a child over the age of two so we spent the waiting months researching older child adoption and potential issues our son might face once he came home.

Finally, we met the boy we’d fallen in love with on paper. We had no idea how telling this expression was.


This stoic gaze hides years of buried trauma that until recently he believed was better left unearthed.

Kooper was two months shy of 14 when he came home, but the trauma that plagued him put him emotionally at age 3, intellectually at age 7 and physically at age 10. He seemed like a fairly happy-go-lucky kiddo until suddenly for no apparent reason he would shut down. He withdrew so deeply we couldn’t reach him. We had his hearing checked immediately because he would simply keep walking when we’d call his name. He heard us; he recognized his new name (we’d shared it in letters while he was still in China). He just didn’t want to deal with us. His behaviors and moods went full spectrum ~ either he was all-out angry or completely silly.


It seemed impossible to stay ahead of the game and predict how Kooper was going to behave from day to day, even hour to hour. At first I pleaded with the Lord to ‘give us a good day,’ and finally I began asking ‘for enough grace and strength to face whatever the day brings.’

As parents to three biological and five adopted children, we didn’t overreact to these new behaviors, but we didn’t take a passive approach either. We realized that older children may require a longer transition period, especially children who have been in the care of many different people, have left their native land and language. In the past three years we have sought and followed the advice of renowned adoption experts in trying to help our son heal.

A 2010 visit to Dr. Boris Gindis revealed more than we could have imagined. Our son was diagnosed with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), PTSD and Major Effective Depressive Disorder. At that point we knew we had to more aggressively address the healing process because time was not on our side. One thing we constantly remind ourselves is the diagnoses don’t include the ‘faith factor.’ We believe that God is able to redeem ALL, and in the day to day trials it’s easy to get caught up in the present and forget that He alone knows the whole story.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say there have been many days I’ve wondered if I misunderstood the Lord’s calling on our family, but when I’m certain I’m at the end of my ability to love my son, when I think I can’t handle the rejection, disobedience, lying, disrespect and outright defiance, I am reminded of those same behaviors in myself toward my Heavenly Father. For 36 years I rejected Him, and ever so patiently and lovingly He lavished His grace upon me and beckoned me to Himself. At the age of 36 I finally accepted His gift of salvation, and He has been true to His promise to never leave nor forsake me. He has not thrown my ugly sin in my face. Instead, He renews His compassions every day and gives me the strength I need. Perhaps the gift of my son is exactly what I needed to remember God’s love for me.

I remember one particular visit to the International Adoption Clinic where the therapist knew how important our faith is, and she said to me, “Don’t be surprised if one day your son asks, ‘Where was your God when I was abandoned? Where was your God when I was…’”?

We are thankful that although our son didn’t immediately grasp our faith, he ultimately accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, in his own time, and is growing in knowledge and faith.

One of our struggles has been language. Communication is key to relationship. We didn’t realize how much Kooper resisted learning a new language, or how difficult it would be for him, based on the fact that his native Chinese was also very poor. While there are other ways besides verbalization to communicate, language seemed our best choice because his body language said, “Stay away…unless and until I decide to approach you.”

We have adopted two more medical special needs Treasures since Kooper came home three years ago, and are currently in the process of adopting our daughter with possibly the most severe medical needs we’ve dealt with. I say this only because it is important to understand that despite the difficult unknowns, the time and educational demands and weekly therapy, the Lord has reminded us that His plans are good and cannot be thwarted. No matter how difficult some days seem, tomorrow is always a new day full of hope and promise, and we are so grateful that He has burdened our hearts for the orphan.

We still have miles to go as our son approaches his 17th birthday, but we have come so very far! In the last six months Kooper has begun sharing his most painful past. He finally trusts that we won’t leave him, no matter how hard he pushes us away. He finally understands that healing comes not from burying the pain, but from talking about it so we can carry the burden with him. He will hopefully realize one day that none of it is his fault. He has even spoken of someday helping other kids who struggle with their pasts.

We’ve seen the many faces of attachment disorder, and we are finally seeing the heart of a child who truly desires the love, attention and nurture of a family. I’m certain that in our own weakness if we had known all the intricacies of our son’s makeup, we would have not moved forward to bring him home. But God, in His sovereignty, shielded us from that knowledge. We have been completely dependent upon Him since our son’s homecoming. We believe He has great plans for our son! In moments of weakness and loss of perspective we “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ,” for there is nothing impossible for God!

We’ve also discovered that in asking the Lord to transform our son, He needs to change us. We are so very human! Our son doesn’t need perfect parents; he needs parents who can see him through the eyes of the Father with empathy and compassion.


I don’t know what I would do without the encouragement and understanding of other families who are walking this same path, facing similar struggles, finding answers through trial and error as they trust the Lord. Older child adoption can be an isolating experience. Many people whose hearts are in the right place just don’t get how difficult things can be when raising a child from hard places. They see the superficially charming child who can do no wrong. For this reason, it’s important to form relationships with families who get it. We’ve found that our son does best with structure and limited exposure to outside influences. There will come a day when he will be able to spread his wings and fly, but God is giving us this time to groom him for what lies ahead.

Kooper is excited about his new sister coming home and even talks about when we will adopt again. This week he said he might even like to adopt when he grows up. That is truly the work of the Lord!

To Him be the glory!

(4 of our 11 Treasures)


You can follow the Johnson family RIGHT HERE as they head across the ocean once again to bring home one more precious treasure from the LORD!  Please prayerfully consider sowing seed into their adoption--I know it would mean the world to this amazing family!

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