My heart is so full as I type this post.
On this day last year, we met our precious oldest son for the first time.
I will never forget driving through the orphanage gates. It felt so surreal, the moment we had been dreaming of for close to a year had finally come. In just moments we would see our son face to face. It was one of those moments where your body just can't seem to process the weight of your reality. We got out of the car, met with the director of the orphanage, learned almost everything there was to know about Ivan's past (which wasn't very much), and then we followed our facilitator over to a different building.
As we were walking I spotted a nanny carrying a child over to the same building we were going to. I knew instantly it was our boy and my heart began to pound. A knot formed in my throat and I grabbed Ryan's arm because I was so overwhelmed I thought I might faint. I looked up at Ryan, who had the biggest smile on his face.
Everything is a blur after that. I'm so glad we took a video because I was completely lost in the moment. I was soaking in the presence of my longed for child.
He was everything we dreamed he would be.
From the moment we saw his baby picture on Reece's Rainbow we knew he was ours and we knew he had the sweetest and most tender personality. God must of given us that insight because it couldn't of been more true.
He called me mama right away. He offered kisses and LOVED to be held and snuggled close (not things that are common for children who have grown up in institutions).
After spending around 20 minutes with him and hearing the director and doctor share a little more about him, the nanny took him back inside for naptime. We were then asked if we wanted to pursue his adoption.
We both said YES without even talking about it.
There was nothing that could of changed our minds.
He was OURS.
Recalling these memories bring tears to my eyes. When your living them, you're kind of just going through the motions, trying to survive in a foreign country, and praying everything works out, but now I can look back and see clearly how holy and precious each of those first memories with Ivan were.
I know him now.
I know how tender he is and how much he LOVES being in a family and being an American.
I know how much he loves life. How he loves learning new things and mastering new skills.
I know that if we wouldn't of adopted him it is likely he would not be alive today or worse yet, just an empty shell laying (maybe even strapped down) lifeless in a crib locked away in an adult mental institution until his body would eventually give up and take it's last breath.
That may seem like such a grim picture, but it would of been his reality.
I remind myself of that on the really hard days.
Adoption is not easy.
It's easy to post the smiling pictures and brag about how far we've come, but those smiles and the progress are only made possible by hard work in the trenches.
This past year we have battled trauma, grief, loss, and just plain evil all to prove to a child who has been abandoned, neglected, and lost everything he once knew, that he truly can rest safely in our love.
Knowing how hard it is, everything we've had to face with him, everything we've had to give up because of him, we would say yes again in a nano second.
Being comfortable just cannot compare to the redemption of a life.
I am so glad that Jesus didn't choose to take the comfortable road. He paid the ultimate price, giving up his entire life, so that we could have a chance at eternal life and an intimate relationship with Him. He puts up with us pushing Him away and He understands how the darkness has corrupted our hearts and made it so difficult for us to simply accept His love and the salvation He offers. But even with our messed up histories, God longs for us to be His sons and daughters.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:14-17
You see this adoption thing was not man's idea. Adoption is rooted in the heart of God and it is only through His powerfully healing love that the chains of Ivan's past are being broken.
I am brought to sobs when I realize the change in my son. I was looking through pictures the other day from when we first brought him home. He looked so little and fragile.
I remember how all he did for the first couple months was cry, scream, and self injure.
I remember telling his therapists that most days he seemed to be developmentally at an infants level.
Although he is still significantly behind for his age he has literally gained not months, but years developmentally since those first couple months home.
I look at him now and I see a sweet little peanut of a seven year old who has endless possibilities in front of him.
These next months will be ones of reflection, celebrations, and thanksgiving.
For God is awesome, His redemption is beautiful, and there is absolutely NOTHING that is impossible for Him.
To God be the glory!!
The following pictures were taken on our second visit. He was so excited to see us again! The nannies told us that he kept asking them when his "guests" were coming back. He had spent years being told that other children had "guests" coming to see them and finally some "guests" had come for HIM :')
|We have nearly forgotten how his eye had such terrible strabismus, it has pretty much corrected itself simply from having consistent visual stimulation.|
I can hardly believe that little boy in the picture above has turned into this bright eyed KINDERGARTNER!!!
We started school three weeks ago now. After much prayer (and indecision) Ryan and I both felt very strongly that it would be best for Ivan to be homeschooled again this year.
To be perfectly honest, it's not been an easy start. Ivan has never had the structure of a school day and there have been days where the necessary boundaries and instructions have reminded him of his past isolation which sends him into trauma mode. He feels restrained in his chair and when I introduce things that he's not familiar with or ask him questions he doesn't know (even if he knew them yesterday) he feels like his world is out of his control and therefore not safe. He is so smart and learns easily, but only when it's on his own terms.
IT'S. VERY. HARD.
We know it's going to be a slow process for him. To assume that he's going to be able to sit and do assignments and projects like other children his age is completely irrational, but after only 3 weeks we are seeing slight improvements. We are learning that homeschooling is much less about Ivan "learning" a list of what society tells us he needs to know and more about us "learning" Ivan.
Learning his fears and teaching him ways to cope.
Learning his unique learning style so we can find the best ways to help him understand and grasp things.
Learning where he is strong, building on that strength and standing alongside him where he is weak, until he's ready to stand on his own in those areas.
Learning what he needs most of all is to feel loved and protected. Sure it's great if he learns his letter sounds and can count to 20, but if he gets there by us forcing him before he's ready, at the end of the day it's all going to be in vain.
On the difficult days, I wonder if we've made the right choice in keeping him home. It would be so much easier to have someone else deal with his meltdowns, but God continually reminds me that there is nothing that Ivan needs more during those moments then the assurance of his mama's presence, the constant reminder of our love for him, and the safety of his home.
We do a preschool curriculum that includes sensory activities each day which are by far his favorite. He is slowly learning that he needs to complete tasks even if he doesn't want to.
In the orphanage he was never pushed to learn new things. Everything he knew was due to him absorbing things on his own, which is why his hearing is impeccable and he can memorize things like nobodies business. When he laid in a crib for days, one of the only ways he was able to stimulate his mind was through his sense of hearing. Learning using his other senses (like sight) is a huge challenge for him. So we work on him using his eyes to find things in his sensory bin and looking at and describing pictures.
This is all so new for him.
When he first came home we praised him every time he voiced his desires and if at all possible we made sure we honored his requests so he could learn that he had a voice and mama and daddy would listen to him. This is how we built trust, which is CRITICAL for a child to have in those who care for him.
Trust is what builds security.
Security is the foundation for healing trauma.
So last year we really didn't push education on him. He was in learning overload with all the new stimulation alone, not to mention learning a new language when he knew very little of his first language to begin with.
We knew he would push back when asked to do things he doesn't understand or enjoy, but we didn't realize just how traumatic it would be for him.
It's clear that he wants to learn and do what we ask of him, but there's a hurdle of fear that he has to overcome with each seemingly simple task.
It is HARD.
Raising a child who has come from a HARD place is just downright HARD.
But with each little victory we see hope, joy, and pride overcome the fear in his eyes.
We see love win and there is nothing more joyous than watching your child heal and accept your love. Seeing him feel safe enough to take on new challenges is breathtaking.
We are so proud of our son!! We know this year of homeschooling isn't going to be easy, but we're so excited to look back on it and be able to see the transformation.
A couple pics from our first couple weeks
|All ready for school time|
|Apple stamping. A year ago he would meltdown at the touch of paint|
|His finished masterpiece that he did ALL BY HIMSELF. Such a huge accomplishment for him :D|
|Painting with bubbles, obviously my little fish LOVED this activity.|
I realize mostly have pictures of him during sensory play, which is not the only thing we do for school. It's just the only time he's calm enough for me to step away and get a picture ;)
More pics from this past month
We made a spontaneous trip to the park one night after bath.
|after work tickle time with dad|
|After bath cuddles|
|He asked me to take his picture, the little ham.|
|First night wearing his knee immobilizers|
|He wears them all night. They help his legs get into a straighter position, preparing them to be able to support his body for standing someday|
Is this seriously the same child? Our little man is growing up!!
Ivan Abraham Maxwell 10 Months home!!