Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gradually Healing Hearts and Bodies

Looonnggg post...sorry...lots of contemplation going on here...

Sometimes, every once in awhile, I pause for a moment and catch a glimpse of our family as perhaps others view us.  I am sure that at times we appear...


I share a lot openly here on the blog, and I tend to be as open in "real life" as well.  Long ago I lost all desire for pretense, preferring instead the richness of authenticity, even if at times it reveals pain, struggle, less than Polly-anna-ish.  It's life, it's real, it's often complicated and messy.  And it's all OK.

The past several weeks have been tough ones for us.  Oh, we've certainly had worse and many of you who are long time readers and friends know that to be true.  Perhaps it is that forging over and over again that makes these times a little easier to get through, it is not really "par for the course", but we are always walking assured that the natural ebb and flow means that eventually we'll look around and find ourselves back in smoother waters.

And we are NOT broken.  Never broken.  We are actually whole in our brokenness, for we don't run from it, we don't pretend it doesn't exist, and we seek out life giving Spirit that is the glue that cements those broken places until they are stronger.

But you can't sweep those shattered shards quickly into the dustpan and dump them into the trash.  It is delicate, the process of repairing the damage, and it takes using as much of the original as you can salvage, even when it doesn't look very pretty..

Two of our children are in dark places right now. Not as dark as some are, as the news is filled this past week with soul sucking stories of yet another ten year old committing suicide as the bullying became too much to face, or the young boys abused in ways that make my stomach turn.  Adults failed to do their job, they abandoned  children who were so vulnerable, they turned their backs on the need of the helpless.  Children died, both literal and spiritual deaths.  It makes the needs of ours currently seem so mild by comparison.

And yet where would they be without the adults who DO protect them, who care about them, who stand up and say "No!  Not my child!  Not my young friend!  We will NOT let this happen on our watch!".  I do not mean to imply it is just their parents, for it is a community of caring adults that surround our children and help us nurture them into stability and wholeness.  In turn, we try to pay it forward to those we know are in need of support, for we too will not leave a child behind...and I can damned sure say I'd never witness a shower scene we all read descriptions of this week and not fight to the death to save that child, mine or not.

Healing takes time, it takes being surrounded with folks willing to fight for you, it takes love enough to hear you through your pain and patience enough to outlast the trudging steps that must be taken at slow speed.

I had a conversation this week I had hoped I'd never need to have with Kenny, but it became clear it needed to occur and it needed to happen in a safe time and place, not in an office in the middle of a meeting with a bunch of specialists who would blurt something out unthinkingly, and change my son's opinion of himself forever.

Kenny was talking about the testing we had hoped to get done through the school district, and asking questions.  Our initial answers earlier in the week didn't satisfy him, and he sensed there was more to the story than he was hearing.  After momentary consideration, my gut told me I needed to do what I always do, lay it out openly and honestly.  So I did.  We had the IQ conversation, as I quickly sent up a quick prayer for the words to put it into context that would strike Kenny as ringing of truth.  I had to, as our school program believes (and rightfully so I think) that as they mature children need to take over more of the reigns of their education.  They are invited to participate in all phases of their education, and sooner or later Kenny would be sitting in on meetings, asking questions, and learning to advocate for himself.  That means he needs all the information to do so.  After all, it is his brain, it is his future, and it is his information...we are just temporary gatekeepers of his heart, protecting it from damage until the time comes when he can take over.  We took a big leap towards that with this conversation.

I finally explained that being a non-native speaker was not the only reason he was declined for testing, that indeed there were more reasons which was why Daddy and I were so angry and frustrated.  I shared with Kenny what an IQ test was, how it worked, and how results can be interpreted.  He got very , very quiet as he thought about this information, then asked what his score was.  I gave him the number.  He asked what "normal" was, and I told him the facts about ranges, etc.  I didn't jump to reassurances, I didn't dress it up or "poo poo" it, I just let him sit quietly for a few minutes with that before saying much else.  He then asked how he compared to his siblings, a logical question and one to which I could honestly reply I had no figures for, as none of them has taken an IQ test before where we received any data.

Words can not convey that this was one of harder conversations I have ever had in my life, for my heart broke as understanding and feelings of failure flitted across his face, a face that is always so expressive and easy to read...and usually filled with joy.  Now that it was digested a little, it was time for me to help process this information.  I told him to look at me, really look at me, and he did.  I said "Kenny, have I ever, ever lied to you?  Have I ever tried to make you feel better by lying?"

 "No, never.", he replied.

"Listen to me", I said, "I have never pretended you would be a jock, we both know that would be a lie.  I have told you that you could still have fun and enjoy sports even if you weren't the best on the team, and you did with volleyball.  When things are going to hurt at the dentist or the hospital, I tell you the complete truth, I never act as if it is going to be painless if it is going to hurt, right?"

"Right." he said.

"Kenny, one of the reasons I am so frustrated over all of this is that you are a very smart young man, I can see it, others can see it, and no one who knows you thinks you are stupid or can't learn.  What is obvious is that you learn differently than others, and that your brain doesn't work the same as everyone else.  That is NOT the same as being 'dumb'.  People who don't know you see only a number on a piece of paper.  They have never had a conversation with you, they have never heard your opinions, or seen how well you can learn when we approach a subject differently. They see a number, and you are not a number. They also have never worked with a child from your background, you are a huge puzzle for them, and some people, rather than sticking with a puzzle until they solve it take the easy way out and walk away.   Believe me now, like you have always believed I would tell you the truth, you are not stupid...not by a long shot.  If I thought this IQ test  was valid at all, and really showed you would never be able to learn as much as I think you can...and as you have already shown you can...I would be wise enough to be willing to settle for whatever little bit you could give me.  Instead, what do I do?  Every day I push you, I challenge you, I expect more and more from you.  I know you can do it, and so far, you have proven me right every single time.  I am not giving up on you, even if the entire world does, but you have LOTS of people in your corner who will never give up on you because they ALL see what Daddy and I see, a really smart kid who needs to learn differently.  That's all."

Oh, so quiet, eyebrows knit together.  Pondering his own brokenness.  I knew this was a key moment for Kenny, and would dictate what path he takes as he stands at a fork in the road.  Does he take Easy Out Road?  Where he blames everything for ever on his "bad brain" or "low IQ"?  Or does he place one foot in front of the other, walking upright and with conviction towards his own future?

He looks up at me and asks "Am as as smart as my brothers and sisters?"  Everything hinges on this, I can tell.

Thankfully I can answer truthfully what is in my heart "I only have smart children, Kenny, not a single one of you isn't very bright.  Your own brothers and sisters show respect for what you have to say in class, they never make fun of you, they always listen attentively when you speak.  Of course, just like Daddy, you and I, they can see that your brain works differently sometimes, and things are very hard for you when it gets bad, but they all think you are as smart as they are.  I do too, and I mean that 100%.  I just have to figure out how to help you work with all that you have and find ways to make learning and remembering easier for you.  No one here is paying attention to any number, so it is up to you if you want to believe that a number will limit you.  If so, of those who know you, you will be the only one."

Slowly, a grin begins to spread as he tilts his head and gives me a sideways Kenny LaJoy grin. "It's only a test, and it's only a piece of paper, isn't it?  They couldn't get me to read, but you helped me do it and you said I could.  I have learned way more this year than I ever have, and I don't feel stupid anymore.  I might at school, but here I don't.  Maybe it is because no one here cares about the number, and at school, maybe people think I am too dumb to learn so they give up."

Then I say "Kenny, 90% of the secret of success is not how smart you are, it is how hard you work.  The smartest people in the world can get nowhere if they are not hard workers.  But a person who isn't as smart as Bill Gates can still get ahead by working hard and never giving up.  I'll say that in this family, you and Daddy are the very best at that AND you are both very smart men.  You can do anything you want..."

And then, in ever lovin' LaJoy form he shoots back laughing "Anything but take that test they won't give me! HAHAHA!"

Broken?  On the outside, it may appear that way.  On paper, surely it seems so.  But we humans are more than our external selves and more than data on paper.  We are Spirit and determination, we are pieces and parts of others who lend themselves to us to bandage us, cry with us, and sit us upright to begin anew.

Kenny LaJoy is not broken.

Joshua has been dealing more silently with his brokenness, for his is more subtle and hidden from the world. It appears on whispery, feathery dreams, or in moments where irrational fear creeps in which is tamped down as best it can be, but displays itself in the dark, or at moments unbidden during daylight when he once again feels he might lose what he has, as he once did.

A child who has internalized their abandonment to such a degree can not explain it, can not express it, can not even make sense of it.  They simply feel it.  It hurts and it takes much from them.  Imagine walking around for years, wondering if the person you have given your heart to at much cost will one day reject you, either purposefully or unintentionally through no fault of their own.

Night terrors ensue, bed wetting reappears, seeking out during the daytime is commonplace as they look up and you are out of sight and they can't push away that sensation that something is amiss.  Yes, Josh too has been battling demons lately, and it has not been easy.

Tonight though, there was a glimpse into how he has chosen to cope with emotions that make no sense.  He asked if we could read together, and he curled up in bed with me dragging along a few favorite books, including his favorite "The Red Blanket".  It tells the tale of an infant girl being adopted from China who struggles to attach to her new Mommy, and the red blanket that served as a bridge between the two of them.  It IS our story, it describes the avoidance of gaze, the inability to console, the frustration and eventual healing.

This time as we read it though, it was different.  I supplied more details about our story, and for the first time, Joshie asked questions about what it felt like.  We continued reading, stopping here and there to interject, changing the color of the blanket in the story to be blue, for that was Josh's blanket's color.  He gets to the part where the child is crying and stops only when the new blanket is tucked under her chin, and with his own Version #4 in hand (for 3 prior ones were lost or threadbare and discarded) he says "Stop Mommy!" and he hops off my bed, and reaches into the cupboard that is my nightstand.  There, digs for a moment and finally pulls out this:

it's a 2" butterfly box that he bought me with his own money in Almaty, Kazakhstan when we were there adopting Kenny.  He was 4 1/2, and asked me to walk away while he got his Tenge from Dominick and purchased it for me as a surprise.  It was in that very marketplace, the infamous Tsum, where 3 years prior I had wandered the aisles with him squirming and screaming in my arms as he rebelled against the idea of letting anyone hold him close, let alone hold his heart in their hand.  It is a very special gift, one that I value so much because it holds great meaning for me.  

Tonight he gingerly lifted the lid, as he said "I thought this would be the perfect place for this.  I have a little piece in my bedroom too.  I hid this here for you, Mommy, now we both have a little of it in a special spot."

This is what was revealed to have been secretly hidden:

A tiny little scrap of Joshie's heart.  That's what that faded, torn, precious little piece of cloth is.  It's a symbol of the journey through brokenness that he and I walked together.  That at 8 years old Josh would understand the significance of this, even if he couldn't explain it as such, is startling in it's depth.

 He took it out for a moment and wound it around his finger, snuggling it next to his cheek, as he does Version #4 and every other version from the past.  Then, he reached over to let me touch it too.  He said "I want you to keep this for always, Mommy.  It's yours and mine, just like in the story.  I don't know if the girl in the story shared her blankey with her Mommy, but I think it's our blankey, not just mine."

It sits next to me this very moment, a testament to healing, a quietly defiant badge rejecting the concept of brokenness.

He closed the lid and scrambled back up to hear the rest of the story, which I could hardly choke out as his head lay on my shoulder, trusting, certain of love.

Joshua LaJoy is not broken.

As I heal in body this week, my children heal in Spirit.  There is other healing that needs to occur within the hearts of others under our roof, but it takes time, trust and tenacity.

None of us are fully, completely broken.  It may appear that way sometimes, but as long as we draw breath, there is hope.  As long as we continue to reach out to others and commit to being light in the world, then brokenness can heal.  It Is Hard.  Our wholeness encompasses the broken places, that is how we can be broken and whole at the same time.  When we try to deflect any thought that we might indeed have those broken places, we deny ourselves the chance to heal and be whole.  We deny others the chance to help us find our way, to help us feel less alone as we keep on trudging and trying.

I will finally turn out the light now, and hopefully will head into a deep sleep where more healing will take place for me.  That may not necessarily mean healing of asthma battered lungs.  It may be renewal of Spirit to do the job ahead of being light for the children God has entrusted us with, of being balance to the husband God has blessed me with, of being just plain old Cindy to the friends God has gifted me with.  Maybe somewhere along the way over the next few days, I can look someone in the eye and reassure them in whatever words they need to hear, that they are not irreparably broken.  I have lived a life that has shown me otherwise, and I will take a hand to lead toward wholeness if I can.

After all, in the family God built, we have had a lot of practice.


Anonymous said...

God works through our brokeness.

He fills the cracked places with His love, joy, peace.

Through our own struggles, we learn compassion for others.

We learn to depend on His strength and not our own.

We learn trust.

Blessings to all of you on your continuing journey,

Peggy in Virginia

Carolyn Tarpey said...


I am sitting here with tears streaming down my cheeks, you are AMAZING truly an amazing mom, wife and friend and what a gifted writer as well! Your children are so LUCKY to have you as there mom to truly understand at every level what life was like before you entered there deep souls. None of us are saints but if I had to pick a winner, it would be YOU! I never forget where my dear son's life started in a babyhouse in Kaz, with only his basic needs met. At the mere age of 8 months he had already started to shut down emotionally and did not like to be held at all,always reaching to the ground to be put down and left alone to play by himself ( that was safe for him ). It was heartbreaking for me but through NEVER giving up and little by little he let me in and now at almost 5 he is not a broken little boy! He is happy and loves to be held and cuddled and sleeps as close as possible every night in bed with me. I am grateful I was one of the lucky ones and I NEVER lose sight of where it began. Believe it or not I have very close friends who have adopted children and just shove under the rug the beginning, t breaks my heart!

Thank you so much for sharing so openly and honestly, I enjoy your blog a lot.

Best, Carolyn ( Mama to Henry from Kaz 11/07 )

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Kind Regards,

Anonymous said...

Liquid joy
Liquid sorrow
Flowing straight from the heart
For ourselves
For our children
For our world
Gift from God
Living water of life.

Thank you for the joy, the sorrow, the healing, the tears,


Kelly said...

I love your blog and have been reading it for years. One of the things I find different about your family vs. mine with adopted children and the other adoption blogs I read - is how your children open up so much to you vs. taking their anger or frustrations out on you. Your children, like many others, have certainly had more than their fair share of trauma. Your children open up to you and allow themselves to be parented by you. Many older adopted children, including my 13 year old son, show more anger over their trauma and take it out (swearing, kicking holes in the walls, etc.)on those that are most on their side regardless of how much therapy or love and kindness that they are shown. Some children are so broken by their past that they can't get to where your children are. It makes me very sad for those that will never get there...also questioning why some children do respond so much more positively to family life than others.....

Joan S. said...

This is beautiful Cindy. I was in tears as I read it. It amazes me how in tune to the Holy Spirit you are in ministering healing to your children. He is the ultimate healer and you are a lovely vessel that he uses to show them the Father's love.

schnitzelbank said...


I love reading your blog. Thank you for sharing your lives with me. I have two little boys, and hope to have half of the intuition that you have.

Anonymous said...

Your discussion with Kenny brought to mind a TED talk that I first saw on another adopted mom blog . . . thought you might enjoy it. Here's the link:


Wish I could be half the mom you are!

Anonymous said...

As with so many others who have read your latest blog, Cindy, I have tears in my eyes.
Thank you. I needed to hear what you had to say today.
God continue to walk with you and uphold you and imbue you with Spirit.
Love, blessings, and shalom!

Anonymous said...

Our kids are never broken. They are just an orchid in a large bed of roses. They need different care, feeding and light to shine bright.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing Cindy. I really needed to read this tonight, as I am feeling Claire's pain. She is really trying to fit in with her peers at school. It is so painful to she how much she tries and tries, and others can't see her special talents and gifts. Cuddle time for us tonight. Going on 15 and still likes to have this time with me. I am truly blessed to have such wonderful daughters.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, Cindy! Your way with words and your sweet, gentle, intuitive way with your kids -- all very inspiring!! I think the meds are working, you definitely have plenty of oxygen getting to those brain cells!!!


Joyce said...

Kenny, 90% of the secret of success is not how smart you are, it is how hard you work.

Never has a truer word ever been spoken!!!

Tammy said...

Our kids really are courageous, aren't they? Most adults would never be able to handle the cards that have been dealt our kids with the grace and commitment kids do.

It is sobering for all of us, our kids included, to delve deep into our most vulnerable parts. I had tears in my eyes as I read how Joshie gave you a piece of his blanket. My son has a blanket that is his lifeline and I know how much they mean. Hugs to all of you as you all continue to heal.

Carrie DeLille said...

Gosh, I feel horrible....so sucked into my own family's goings on and challenges. I think I missed a MONTH of your posts! Cindy, I love you so much, I respect your ability to parent beyond anything I can express. You and Dominick are incredible parents. I love how you let each child be an individual, I love how you can always, no matter what, make sure they know they are loved :o)