Blessings come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Some are large, others small. Some are financial, others the kindness shown by someone who cares. Blessings are God’s way of showing His love.
Our family has been blessed. Without a doubt. Over the years God has changed us from the inside out. The things that used to be important to us–big homes, nice cars, fancy vacations, well…they just don’t matter anymore. The Lord has turned our hearts toward home–toward the place where He has showered more blessings upon us than we could ever have hoped or imagined ten years ago.
Those blessings have come through opening our hearts to adoption.
When I recently asked if any of you had any questions you would like me to answer, many asked me to share about Haven. I have shared our journey with Haven often here on my blog, but because so many asked, I am happy to give my perspective on raising a child who is non-verbal.
It is hard for me to believe that sweet Haven has been home for twenty months already. Where in the world does time go? She is fast approaching her tenth birthday. We adopted Haven after her first adoption was unsuccessful. She was only with her first family for five days and never left Chinese soil. Haven waited for a family for three years. That’s a long time on a waiting child list.
I so clearly remember the first time I ever saw a photo of her. As I looked at her angelic face, all I saw was blessing. A call to the adoption agency to find out more about her broke my heart in two. “Profoundly delayed”, “autistic”, “non-verbal”, mentally ill”, “small for her age”, “attachment issues” were what I was told. I heard her heartbreaking story and wept for her that day.
The face that stared at me from my computer screen said nothing but blessing. The labels–they didn’t matter at all. Anthony and I knew that there was something so special about this little girl. We knew she had to be rescued. We felt the nudging of the Holy Spirit telling us to get out of our comfortable little boat and walk where we had never dared to go–into the world of adopting a child from a disrupted adoption.
To say that I was terrified is an understatement. Goodness gracious, on the morning of our gotcha day I was a mess. I wondered if we were about to do the craziest thing we had ever done in our lives.
We were. Life for our family was about to change. But not in any way I had feared. No, life was about to become better. Richer. More meaningful. More beautiful. More complete.
All because of one little girl who so desperately needed us to come and get her. A little girl who needed a “safe and sheltered place” as her name means.
Haven has come so very far in her twenty months home. We adopted her just a month before her eighth birthday. It was more like adopting a one year old. She could not change her clothes, eat from a spoon, use the potty, or do any simple things a toddler can do. She was so fearful of everything. If she sensed danger she would cower away in a corner, with her hands up at her face as if to protect herself. It was pathetic. She was so desperately delayed. But we understood why. The little girl who was locked away in a room, away from most of the people in the orphanage because they were afraid to “catch” what she had (non-verbal, delays etc)–had never been given an opportunity to learn and grow. How could she possibly be anything but delayed?
We understood completely. Haven was going to have to learn…slowly. Indescribable physical abuse not only left her with physical scars, but deep, deep emotional scars too. Safety would be the place to begin on the road to Haven’s healing. She did not trust people. They abandoned her and let her down. They hurt her physically and emotionally. Getting her to feel safe with us was our top priority. School could wait. Therapy could wait. She needed to feel safe before anything else could happen.
Slowly but very surely Haven began to feel safe. She began to come out of her shell, and as she did, we saw the sweetest personality emerge. She began to learn many new things, most of them faster than we could ever have hoped for. She started to blossom like a flower in the springtime. It was a beautiful thing.
She felt safe! Her healing had begun.
Today Haven is doing well. She still does not speak. Nobody has been able to give us an accurate diagnosis. It could be PTSD. It could be Apraxia. The only thing we are positive of is that it is NOT Autism. The diagnosis in China was hopelessly incorrect, which we knew just from looking at her referral pictures. Haven is learning and growing, but it has to be at her pace, not ours. We take things ever so slowly with her. Home is her safe place–it is where she does best. Public school is not an option for her–she feels threatened and afraid when there is chaos or if she is picked on or bullied. We do everything possible to shelter her and keep her feeling safe.
Has it been easy? No, not all the time. But it really has not been nearly as difficult as we thought it was going to be. There is such truth in God’s Word. When He promises to NEVER give us more than we can handle, He sure does mean it. Raising Haven has been nothing but a joy for us. She will not use sign language, but she communicates with us in her own way. We have learned how to meet her needs. Haven is happy, content, smart, and an absolute blessing to our family. She learns new things daily. She is eager to learn and tries hard. We cannot imagine our lives without her.
Some of you asked me how having a child who is non-verbal has affected our family. I can honestly say that the negatives have been so few and far between that I cannot even remember them. Our children are all amazing with Haven. I don’t think they can even recall what it was like when she was not a part of our family. God just works it all out when we’re obedient to answer the call on our lives.
Will Haven find her voice some day? We’re hopeful that she will learn to use words. But you know, even if she never does it’s quite okay with us. We honestly don’t get hung up on whether she will, or will not, find her voice. It is just a non-issue around here. Obviously we pray that she will, and we will continue to give her every possible therapy to help her learn how to speak, but if Haven never speaks, it’s perfectly fine. We have no expectations. We love and cherish her just the way she is. Who needs words anyway? Some days I look at her and I wish that I too would speak less…and listen more. I am learning so much from my daughter.
We are so blessed to have Haven in our family. When I consider what would have happened to her if she had remained in an orphanage, I go cold. I cannot even go there. With all the “mentally ill” labels that she was cursed with, her future would have been bleak. She would literally have had no hope in a country where people with “needs” have no worth or value. Oh my goodness, I cannot even imagine.
What I have learned through adopting Haven is that every child has the potential to learn and grow. Every. Single. Child. Labels given to children in orphanages really mean nothing, most of the time they are so inaccurate anyway. No child can grow to their full potential in an institution. I get so heartbroken when I see how many children there are waiting for families with “developmentally delayed” written beside their names. The truth is that ninety percent of children waiting in orphanages are “developmentally delayed” in one way or another. It’s just the way it is. It is NOT a reflection of all that they can become if given the chance to be part of a family.
I just have to look at Haven to know that I know that…