Thursday, January 5, 2012

In Honor of My Wife on Her Birthday

Unauthorized guest/hijacker post by Vince

"An excellent wife, who can find?"

Regular readers of this blog know that this adoption has been very difficult for us—the hardest thing we’ve ever done.  When you adopt, you eat someone else’s trauma.  That sounds noble in theory, but like the crucifixion, it’s been ugly and gut-wrenching and profoundly disturbing in practice.  The thought of a broken, shattered little human arouses sympathy from a distance, but the scars and symptoms of trauma can be frightening and maddening up close.  

There is something primal about uninterrupted screaming that elicits a visceral, flight-or-fight response.  And something about defiance and rejection from someone you’ve sacrificed dearly to love that can cut through the fairy tale prettiness of the happy family adoption photos to a vulnerable place of raw, unsanctified emotion, revealing just how weak your love really is.     

For me, what’s been hardest about this is watching someone I love dearly—my wife—suffer and cry and fight to hang on to hope.  I remember the conversation at Panera Bread when we decided to start this journey, and the God-given hope and longing in her heart to adopt a little boy.  There was love in her heart for him before they ever met, and she desperately wanted to be his mama.  

But he wasn’t ready for a mama—had no idea what a mother was.  In fact he seems to have no grid at all for the give and take of human relationship.  He has little use for cuddling, as he evidently never experienced it.  He knows when he wants to eat, knows that he’s been hungry before, and would be content having a machine hand food to him regularly here.  We want him to trust us and interact, but he just wants to be in control.  Until recently he would forego an offer of additional sweets rather than give in to relationship and sign ‘more’—this from a child who will eat until he’s distended unless someone stops him.  When he doesn’t get his way, the default is to throw himself back, bang his head on the (carpeted) floor, and scream.  Or just lay there on his back (which we don’t let him do because his head is misshapen from spending most of his first year in that position) and stare at us in defiance with dead eyes.  

There are happy moments, too, and he’s making slow progress.  There's more smiling, more laughter, and less screaming week by week.  But that’s not the point of this post.  

What most readers don’t know is that Jerusha suffers chronic pain from scoliosis and arthritis in her back.  She begins each day in pain, and until recently Shu began most days throwing a tantrum as soon as she laid him down for a diaper change.  Most days his diaper leaked—on a good day it was just urine—so she had to strip and bathe him, which invariably meant him screaming and crying with every ounce of his being.  When we tell him “all done” after a snack or a meal, he throws a fit.  Put him down before he’s ready to put down, he throws a fit.  At bedtime, he throws a fit.  This begins to take its toll.     

My back doesn’t hurt, and I get to go to work every day and sit in my quiet office.  She stays home all day with four kids 7 and younger because she believes it’s best for them.  I’ve suggested finding day care for Shu to provide her some relief, but she refuses because she doesn’t want to put him through something he’s not ready for.   
So, for seven months I’ve watched my wife deal with the disappointment of wanting to love a little boy who’s unable or unwilling to love her in return.  I’ve watched her struggle with an unrelenting chorus of voices in her head telling her she’s inadequate and cannot do this.  She hears the heart-warming stories of adopted children who immediately bonded with mom and wonders what’s wrong with her.  She hears the voices of those who say an adopted child should be always indulged and never disciplined, “timed in” instead of timed out, and wonders if she’s cruel because she believes Shu must have consistently enforced boundaries.  (Thank God for the Christian pediatrician who, after seeing one of Shu’s tantrums, told her she was doing a great job and to continue her efforts to keep him from becoming a tyrant.)  And she hears the voice of the enemy whispering that she doesn’t love this child because his whining, crying, screaming, defiance, and resistance to relationship haven’t left her with the same warm, fuzzy feelings she has for our other kids.        
And yet, in the face of all this, she never quits.  She seldom complains.  She gets up every morning and does the mundane, frustrating tasks in front of her.  Despair nips at her heels but never grabs hold of her for long.  She finds reasons to be thankful during this darkest season of her life.  She tells of the faithfulness of God.  She’s a source of strength to others when she has no strength herself.   

In short, she's a super hero, and I know God is bursting with pride in his little fighter.   

We didn't sense God saying much before we left for China, but I did feel like he told me, "This will be your finest hour."  That sounded about right.  We would swoop in to rescue the little orphan, having emptied our bank accounts in noble sacrifice, and bring him home to Utopia, U.S.A., where we would get back to the familiar job of raising happy kids.  Mission accomplished.  Will they mail our medal for heroism or do we need to pick it up somewhere? 

Silly me. 

I mentioned this "finest hour" idea to Jerusha the other night and she started to cry.  This season hasn't felt "fine" at all.  But then Jesus' finest hour didn't feel so great, either. 

So here's to my wife, a super hero, in her finest hour.  You are an oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.  Immovable.  Unbreakable.  Yours is the fragrance of a life broken and poured out, a life laid down daily for others in living sacrifice.        

Someday you will look back on this and laugh in triumph, and one day your children will rise up and bless you.  But for now, I bless you.  What you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done for Jesus.  May the joy of the Lord be your strength, may his peace guard your heart and mind, and may his hope sustain you until his promises become present reality.  

And happy birthday.


Krissy said...

what a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman and mother and fighter!
thank you for sharing such insight into your home and world.

happy birthday j - you are strong, because you are weak - have a beautiful day!!!

themorellis said...

I am speechless while tears pour down my face. . a fitting and amazing tribute, Vince. Thanks so much for hijacking the blog! Everyone who reads this will be blessed and awed to have this small glimpse into your heart and see the wonderful way your cherish and honor your wife. Thank you!

Rita and John said...

Vince, you are the best hijacking husband ever. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to Jerusha, who is indeed a superhero. You are all in our prayers and happy birthday to an amazing, inspiring wife and mother!

Amy said...

Tears. Such beautiful words for such an amazing woman! I know you provide great support to your wonderful wife (& I know that is often what gets a person through the seconds, minutes, & hours of each day). The hardest times bring the best rewards. But walking through the fire is torturous at best. Please know there are many more people than you might think that are thinking of you & lifting you & your family up. Bless you both.
& I hope you have an incredibly blessed birthday Jerusha!

Lisa said...

This post took my breath away. As a mom struggling with the same things (our daughter home 6 months) this encouragement from a husband is oh so very treasured. Where would we all be on a difficult adoption journey without a a marriage blessed by God.

Aldridge Family China Adoption said...

Just beautiful. This has to be out of the mouth of God, through yours, Vince. Stunning testimony - both of you!

Sara said...

Happy birthday Jerusha! Your husband wrote such a great post, I bet you can feel the love he has for you not just today but every day.

Magic Brush said...

What an amazing tribute!!!!! I am all choked up.
I am anticipating much more writing from the both of you. Vince, the world could use adoption books written from the father's point of view. And Jerusha.....bless you friend. I'm so sorry this hasn't been easier for you guys....but believe you will see the GOODNESS of God in the land of the living!!! Happy Birthday!

a blog full of weldons. said...

hands down, best birthday hijacked blog entry of all time :)

i'm sobbing. like my entire cheeks and sweater are soaked.

thank you for honoring your worthy and incredible wife in such a beautiful was an honor to read and share in the pain and sacrificial love your family is experiencing.

you guys are so loved!

canaansland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
canaansland said...

My friend Doug Aldridge shared this with us on facebook. I want to tell you how blessed I am to read about your journey.
My little brother is adopted(domestic) and there were and still are, he's 24, times when my mother feels that he never bonded to her. She dealt with feelings of inadequacy and failure while also battling fibromyalgia, lupus and mental health issues. But God has always spoken his truth into her heart, and we believe even with the temper tantrums this boy still throws, he will one day serve God with his whole heart and honor his parents.

So, have faith and pass our prayers onto your family. I believe you truly have a Proverbs 31 wife, and am grateful that you see this and honor her.

D said...

What a fellowshp, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms!

We are your witnesses, to the unseen but present God whose arms uphold you!

With our Love and prayer dear Jerusha on this day.

D & M

emily russell photography said...

Happy Birthday! One of the most beautiful posts ever! I sooo love your honesty and faith during this journey!

TeamOehlkers said...

Happy Birthday, Jerusha!

I hope I am spelling this correctly because I type through tears right now... you are a beautiful person. Thank you for encouraging me when I needed it.

P.S. That hubby of yours is a keeper ;o)

nic said...

what a beautiful and timely post. our finest hour, indeed.

jerusha, i'm so glad we've connected.

Mary said...

Jerusha, I'm not sure I've ever commented on your blog, but I've read it many times. And this was one of the loveliest posts I've read on ANY blog. You are an incredibly lucky woman to be so, so loved, and obviously deserving of every ounce of that love and much more. Happy Birthday!!

Stephanie said...

Simply beautiful. A testament...of his love for you...and your love for your children and your God.
A blessing for sure.

2girlpadgetts said...

Thank you for being real during this process, although we have not had these experiences with our girls, we have friends who have recently adopted and have watched the agony, despair, and trauma daily unfold, Still, the Lord reaches His merciful hand in day after day and picks us up. It is a good thing because I had hit a major depression after we had hopped of the plane from China in May; my dad had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.

We have an adoption support group that meets once a month to share and many times--cry. You are not alone! Does your church have one? They are so helpful and such a blessing!

Our daughter Joelle has done well and seems like she's been part of the family forever, but I always question if she really feels our love or can give it? She seems to love everyone-too much.

Anyway, I share these things to let you know that you are not alone, and I often go to your blog and pray for you.

Praying for many more blessings including a complete healing of your back!

Gena said...

I know my comment is extremely belated, J, but I echo Vince's beautifully articulate words. And I admire you both so much. It's such a joy to see the progress Shu is making day by day. I pray the voices of insecurity and self-doubt will be SILENCED in your mind, and that you will enjoy a new level of peace and confidence in the Lord this year. I pray for the bond between you and Shu to form strong and undeniable, and that even this year will be a rich harvest of fruit from last year's labor.

And I agree with Jennifer...I'm Looking forward to the books that you two will write in the future!