Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Lion's Whisker

The people who swirl around my life in a vortex of love and wisdom offer me the opportunity to grow in so many ways,  They teach me, they reach me, they present me with so much to take in that at moments I find it hard to believe I am in the midst of such understanding, intuition and honesty.  How I have grown from being exposed to so much depth of experience!!  It is as if God's arms are encircling me, and whispered in my ear I hear "Come my child, today I have something new to teach you!" and there in front of me in living flesh (or virtually via email) is the person God is hidden inside for me that day.
I received a story via email today from a dear friend, Lael.  I share it with you here, for it is one that all adoptive parents need to hear: 

The Lion's Whisker


 Long ago in Ethiopia, a woman married a widower who had a son.  Her joy was great when she went to live in the home of her new husband, for she had longed for a child.  But the child refused her affections, saying, "You are not my real mother."  He refused her cooking, tore her mending, and turned away from her kindness.

 After some time, the sorrowing woman decided to seek the help of a wise hermit who lived on the mountain.  "Make me a potion," she begged, "so that my stepson will love me as I love him."

 "I can make such a potion," he said.  "But the ingredients are very difficult to obtain.  You must bring me the whisker of a living lion." 

The woman went away in great distress but determined not to give up.  That night, while her family slept, she crept out of the village to the edge of the desert carring a bowl of meat.  She knew that a great lion lived near some rocks quite a distance away.  She walked under the night sky as close to the lion as she dared.  Hearing him roar, she dropped the bowl and ran back home.  Again the next night, she sneaked from the house with a bowl of meat.  She walked further into the desert until she could see the form of the lion on the distant rocks.  She set her bowl down and ran home.

 Every night she drew closer to the lion before setting down her bowl and fleeing for home.  Every night the lion ate her food.  Finally one night after many weeks, she placed down her bow, and stepped back but did not run.  She watched the huge cat come slowly forward and eat from the bowl.  The following night, she placed down the bowl and did not move away.  The lion came slowly forward and began to eat from the bowl.  She reached out and stroked his fur.  He made happy sounds in his throat.  "Thank you, dear friend," she said, and carefully snipped a whisker from his chin.  She moved slowly away and then ran all the way to the wise hermit's hut. 

"I've brought you the whisker of a living lion," she called, running into his hut.  The hermit was sitting before the fire.  He took the whisker and examined it closely.  "You have indeed," he said, and dropped the whisker into the fire. 

"What have you done?" she cried.  "That was the whisker for the love potion.  You don't know how hard it was to obtain.  It has taken me months to win the trust of the lion." 

"Can the love and trust of a child be harder to obtain than that of a wild beast?" he asked her.  "Go home and think on what you have done." 

The woman returned home, and slowly, with love and patience, won the trust and love of her stepson.


Lael didn't know upon sending this to me that just last night...or maybe it was in the wee hours of another sleepless morn...I received the translation of the court documents of our daughter's biological father's parental rights termination hearing.  It contained a few new facts, and much of what we already had learned.  Contained within the details was the story of neglect, of abuse, of abandonment while still being present...which is perhaps the most painful kind of abandonment of all. 

Why was I so angry upon reading this?  It wasn't really a lot of new information for us.  Why NOW was it bothering me so deeply, and continues to do so? 


I am angry because someone hurt my children terribly, and we will spend the next several years trying to have the patience to grab the lion's whisker.  The damage that was done to them is immeasurable, and I have no idea how to begin to approach helping them heal. 

And it was all avoidable, if only there had been love.

In realizing how mad I am upon reading it, how much deeper must Angela's anger run.  Thankfully, while Olesya has wounds as well, much of what Angela lived through Olesya was too young to remember, and it is obvious within 2 minutes of conversation that Angela suffers from her previous life, from the lack of care shown her...from not being precious to anyone.

I tend to use that word often in relationship to our children...precious.  What a special word it is, how descriptive.  It goes beyond being "important", "cared for" or even "loved".  Precious is what every child should be to their parents..."dear" and "beloved".  There are times when I know there are those who must get sick of the Cindy LaJoy message of how much she loves her hubby and kids.  It is a large part of what this blog is all about, my personal love letter to them and an occasional post directed at you all.

But this next parenting challenge will be our hardest, and I fear in the darkest part of night that we can't do them justice, that so much has been taken from them already and they have spent so many years being less than "Beloved" that we might not ever be able to fill up their empty love tanks.  It is not enough for us to love the girls and provide for them, we must somehow get them to the place where they internalize that they are precious to us in every way.

It may take a lot of attempts at grabbing hold of the lion's whisker. 

If you had asked me 10 years ago if we would ever adopt children with this kind of history, I would have quickly said "No way, that is not something we can handle nor want to bring into our home.".  10 years of growth and maturity, of special circumstances and experiences placed before us to prepare us and that is exactly what God has asked of us and what we have willingly agreed to do.  Knowing it will take time, knowing it will take patience and understanding that we might not imagine having, we will do our best to win the trust of these children.  For love has to include trust or it is not really love at all.

But for now, for the next couple of days, I need to allow myself to be very, very angry at what was done to them.  I need to let that settle in my soul for just a little while,. to acknowledge the very real pain they have gone through, to see inside their hearts and find the cracks.

I also have to allow myself to grieve that 2 of my children have been through some awful things in this world, and I wasn't there to stop it.  It doesn't have to be rational, I don't need anyone telling me "You couldn't do anything about it" or "You just need to look forward" or even "It all works out for the best, look how great it all turned out!".  How can it EVER be for the best that a child is abused, neglected and abandoned???  Why should I be allowed to look forward and not look backwards when daily my children live with the fears and sorrow and not have anyone to join them in their backwards glance as they try hard to trust a future that is a big question mark?

And maybe they need to know that someone loves them enough to be terribly hurt and angry over it all for them.  That someone loves them enough to say "I'd take it all away if I could, I'd go through it for you so you didn't have to."

So maybe I need to sit in this place of seething anger for awhile.  It won't last forever, but it might help me understand Angela and Olesya a little better. Then I can look at them and honestly say:

You are SO precious to me!  I truly WOULD take it away if I could...I am so mad this happened to you.

If we join them and walk where they have walked, maybe they will feel our presence.

And then maybe they can trust us enough to love.

Thank you God for strength and courage provided to us by those who surround us in love and prayer.  Bathe us in it, for we will need every single ounce of it.  We have a long way to go, literally and figuratively.

The walk has begun, the lion's whisker has been approached.  It might be a long time before any of us have the courage to pluck it though.


Carol said...

Hi Cindy,

You are so very wise. If anyone can provide Angela and Olesya with the love, compassion, empathy, security and family they need, you and the rest of the LaJoys can... and will. Good for you for allowing yourself to be angry.

I Love "The Lion's Whisker"... beautiful message.

Adrienne said...

that is lovely... and the message so wise..

You are just the Mom that Angela and Oleysa need....

I admire you so much..
thanks you for sharing your lovely family with us.. We can learn so much form your great insights and compassion..

Anonymous said...

You, each of you, are already plucking the lion's whisker daily. It has its risks, but you already know that. Each of you commited to that when you decided to love the girls into your family and redecided that again recently.

Love to each of you,

Kate said...

I'm sorry. That must be so painful to read and process.

Tammy said...

As Zachary goes through each stage of his grief and trauma, I find myself reliving it again and again with him. Things I had known intellectually needed to be felt with the heart. Sometimes it's the big things and sometimes it's the little things. Today at work my supervisor came with her 3 week old son, who had an ear infection. She commented on how he was being held a lot to comfort him and I thought to myself, "No one ever held Zachary like that. Ever." And it hurt. A lot.

Sometimes things hit when I am least expecting them. But if we don't feel these feeling with our children, who else will? And if not us, who will they ever learn to be empathetic to others if they don't learn it from us first?

Hilary Marquis said...

When they are able to read this blog they will see that since you met them, you would've taken their place. It will be long and it will be hard. But, I believe that God WILL equip you with what you need to grab that whisker. I'll even throw in a good Nebraska steak!

Anonymous said...

Cindy and Lael - what a "precious" story. Seems like perfect wisdom for what adoptive parents must go through. I have copied this to share with a list of people who I know will appreciate it and relate to it! Cindy, by allowing yourself to feel the anger with respect to the pain your daughters have endured you are easing their pain. They will feel lighter because you are willing to accept some of the weight by feeling their turmoil, by acknowledging their pain, by committing to see them through their healing, no matter how many trips with the bowl of food it will take. Love to all, Miss Joan

Anonymous said...

Perfect timing. I passed this story onto a friend of mine who is starting "labor." He is matched with an orphan from Haiti and has just found out that they will be meeting in Florida.
Thank you so much and keep posting I check every day for news :)
Kim in Seoul

Zoya said...

Hi Cindy,

You are obviously well aware of your own emotional needs and the need to grieve for the hurt your children experienced and for all the moments you never had with them and they never had with you (or someone else) sounds like a very reasonable and right thing to do. I hope that your ability to allow yourself to experience strong emotions will help your new children to face theirs.

All the best to you and everyone in your family.

Carrie DeLille said...

What a great story.

Maureen said...

What a great story and what great insight. I too get mad when I think that my son's birth family didn't want him. I can't fathom it! It is both good and bad that you got this additional information, but I know that you will use it wisely. I wish we had more information about what happened to our son in the years before we got him.

Best wishes!