Wednesday, May 28, 2008


As the sun arose,
its light capped the snow covered peaks,
while the shadow blanketed beneath.
The icy blue sky fell behind
and lent itself to a magnificent backdrop.
Who would stop for a moment
and watch
as the sunlight
inched down the mountain
and see the shadow shrink away?
I don't have time.
I must make time.
He has got me to notice,
now I need to stay.
There are too many good excuses
to make me not pause.
And bad ones, too.
I listen.
I listen.
Averting my thoughts.
Even if I don't hear a thing,
I know I have reflected for a moment
and took notice.
I keep looking in good places for temporary comfort.
It is fleeting and volatile.
When will I stop pursuing this disappointment?
It only leads to discouragement and frustration.
Where is that true Comforter?
The One that appreciates me for who I am and values what I can give
The One that sustains me in peaceful reverence
not in impatient aggrivation.
The One that doesn't need specifics
because He pays attention to the details.
It is here that I will find enduring comfort
and His answers always sufficient.
If I would stop for a moment.
I will not only notice,
I will recognize Him.
And know that he is nearby
even though I feel so distant. 

written january 2008

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Today, but feels like Tomorrow

There is something hopeful about tomorrow, next week, next year.  I feel it on most todays now when dealing with Victoria.  Her anxiety, her hyper vigilance weighs on me and pulls my focus off.  But it will get better.  I just don't know when.  What I do know is that we are much closer than we have ever been.  
We are approaching the present now.  I don't know what that means for my posts.  I have shared only a part of my story.  I will be back on some tomorrow to share part of her's.  When I have that advantage of hindsight.  
This was just a glimpse.  Maybe someday I can write the whole story while not living in part of it.  

What I Know For Sure

I have been tentative about allowing comments on my post.  This has never been about receiving sympathy.  In the beginning months of therapy, my lament was, "I just wish I would have known this in the beginning when we brought her home." However, despite the pain, especially the unexpected pain that came from good sources, I can never wish I had known.  Far too many truths have been revealed and I am beginning to feel the warmth of the sun.  

This story is far from over but I am more hopeful than I have ever been and more prepared than I could have ever imagined.  I am anxious for the day when Victoria will be able to relinquish the fear and allow the love and joy to flow freely from her heart.  That she will be free from the weight of despair that has robbed her of a childhood that should have been full of innocence, light-heartedness and happiness.  I know before that day arrives there will be more disappointment and impatience but I have loved this girl more than anyone despite what I could not do for her.  This love brought her to this home.  This love allowed her to stay.  This love will mend her.  This love will allow her to love others.  

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Heart In the Right Place

When we first started therapy I was depleted.  The insight and help Max provided in the first couple of months made such a significant difference in our lives.  I wasn't feeling confident in knowing what to do with Victoria based on my past history of complicating things. I hung onto to his every word.  I had some preconceived notions about therapist.  Lets just say they were pretty lofty.  Max had some challenges that would not allow him to ever live up to these standards.  I think it has to do with him being human or something. And that he had to deal with me. :) I expected the rest of therapy to continue changing at that pace and with that understanding.  That isn't how it works.  
We now begin therapy again and I have a much better understanding and perspective on how this all works.  No therapist has all the answers.  They have their best guess based on past history.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  But my greatest lesson learned concerning this: Is that I may know what is best for her.  I am entirely confident in myself and my intent with her now.  I feel like I can make suggestions.  I feel like I can decide whether or not something will work.  This is important.  I live with her 24/7.  I have insight no one else has.  And I trust myself now.  It is amazing what happens when you have a heart in the right place.

Learning at a Snail's Pace

 I did not know some of these things for sure, for a very long time. Max tried to tell me. I tried to believe him. It has taken me a while to get here. It helps me understand her and how to respond to her but it doesn't make it any easier. Really in some ways it is more difficult.
I finally had to get to a place where I believed that all of her behaviors were actually selfish tactics to get attention from me. But because she places such an enormous amount of importance on negative attention, it appears so deliberate to hurt me. But she is really too self absorbed to focus on what she can do to hurt me. She is deliberate and vindictive but only so far as to get a reaction for her warped sense of love. I have to think that the demand for negative attention stems not only from what she received most at the orphanage but also for so long that was the way to get the biggest reaction from me.
We are in a place where we try to set her up for positive experiences so she can feel the good feelings, not be scared of them, and to prefer them. Right now, she has no interest in feeling good. She constantly sabotages the good experiences that could come into her life.  She finds comfort and familiarity in the misery.

Nothing Personal

I am here.  I am stronger.  I still have to allow her to take my love today, throw it away tonight and provide more in the morning.  I am not a paper weight.  I am the pin cushion taking all the jabs.  It is painful but I am not hanging onto it.  I understand her now.  I feel sorry for her.  I see it isn't so much about disobeying me, as it is so hard to let go of the misery, even though it takes more effort for her to maintain the despair.  So my heart hurts for the wrong choices but I am not hurt personally by the disobedience.  Finally.
She is starting to feel me.  My sincerity.  My consistency.  My love.  It is scaring her.  She is raging more often but not every day.  But I can see the progress in it.  It is breaking down walls.  S-l-o-w-l-y.  

Friday, May 09, 2008

Stumbling Blocks

 Right before I stopped taking Victoria to therapy my heart was at war with what I knew I should be doing and not being able to do it.  Especially showing her consistent affection.  Just thinking back on it is a bit traumatizing to me.  I felt like I could do it.  But literally, when I saw "that face" you know, the one that everyone falls in love with so quickly, my heart would not allow me to do what my mind knew had to be done. I could not see beyond the face.  I couldn't see her heart.  I knew that underneath it all is a little girl with so much love and happiness to give buried by fear but I couldn't see it.  I wasn't allowing myself to.  It never failed, for instance, on my worst days there would be a talk in Church on charity.  I was a mess.  I wanted this to be fixed.  I wanted to be able to do what I thought I was capable of.  I sent the same email to Max and my dad asking for help.  I sent an email to Max because I knew I couldn't be the first mom with this problem and I sent one to my Dad because I felt he knew what my heart was capable of.  
Max responded with suggestions that had worked for other mothers.  I could pretend to see a baby, or one of my other children's faces when I looked at her.  I could imagine her as having cancer or some other disease because she really is sick on the inside although she looks perfectly fine on the outside.  He also said that there was no magic trick that would fix it.  That wasn't going to work for me.  Max would soon see a pattern forming here, what would work for most Mom's, I complicated.  
My dad sent me back a treasured email.  He reminded me of the charity I did indeed have and had since my youth.  I couldn't seem to find it at the moment but his confidence in me and the other precious truths in that letter was a comfort to me.  Things didn't change in that moment.  I would imagine this is a significant stumbling block for many parents.  And it is too personal to have anyone figure out for you.  I have indeed gotten to place where I not only see her for who she really is underneath it all but I find the truths in her behaviors despite what she is saying.  I am not completely sure how this has happened.  Enough time has not transpired for me to objective.  But what I do know, is it is a miracle. 

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Picking up the Pieces

I knew that my reactions to her were making everything more difficult than it ever should have been but I couldn't make sense of her or me.  I was looking from the inside out.  I couldn't see everything objectively.  I didn't know how I was going to fix myself but I know I needed someone who could see from the outside in.  This was a problem.  I don't let people on the outside, in.  This is a part that is so intensely personal.  I want to share it, I don't want to share it.  I want everyone to understand it.  There is no way I could even begin to explain it.  I had to look to my past to make sense of my present.  In this last General Conference, Elder Scott gave a moving and tender talk on abuse.  I think this line that he quoted could be attributed to any deep emotional turmoil.  "Healing may begin with a thoughtful Bishop or Stake Counselor or a wise professional counselor...but remember a true cure comes through the Savior..." I come through this part of my journey, reminded of the woman, you know the one, she felt weak, helpless, depleted, unsure and reached out with just enough faith to touch the hem of the Savior's garment, "Daughter, be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole..."

I am whole now.  I have more capacity to feel in my heart than I did before.  Pieces of me that had been numb are now more intense.  I need all of this for what will be required of me to eventually help Victoria become whole.  But it will be easier, though still not easy this time, not only because my best is so much better but He is still making up the rest.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Another Adoption Story

There are many adoption stories that aren't so complicated.  I actually have one.  Even though our journey with Victoria has been challenging, I did decide to expand our family again.  It was spur of the moment.  It required no background checks or paperwork.  They weren't concerned with how many kids we had or our parenting style.  I traveled to South Jordan.  And he can't talk :) And he has been so good for my mental health.  His ancestors originated in Cuba but he has an Irish name.   Meet my 6 month old Havanese, Finnegan.  

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Pieces of Me

I thought that freeing my heart from all the resentment would be enough.  I knew I was in a far better place now but I was still allowing things she did to hurt me.  And I felt an enormous amount of pressure to initiate and form trust with her so I could be the person she would bond to.  I just told Max, "tell me what to do and I will do it."  I could provide the affection now but I was literally just going through the motions.  And it was working.  For her.  But I couldn't maintain it.  The most painful part for me was in the evening.  I would take her defiance all day long.  I compare it to water torture.  The kind where they strap you down and a drop of water lands on your forehead every few seconds.  It's only water right?  But it is tormenting.  That is exactly what her "insignificant" behaviors felt like, all day long.  And then, I would need to go in her room in the evening to cuddle with her, feed her a piece of chocolate and act unaffected by it all.  The smile that would greet me screamed conditional.  Yet, I could not be.  I had to begin with a clean slate each day no matter what happened the day before.  A lesson in forgiveness nearly every day.
We went to therapy every Tuesday.  On about Sunday, the stress would kick in and I would want to cancel.  I knew this is what she needed, the only way she was going to get better, so I would go, never canceling,  knowing that I couldn't even manage to do what was required of me the week before.  
The previous three years and the demands of the present had left me in pieces.  I finally realized, I could not do anything until I was whole.  I couldn't pretend any longer until it became real.  It wasn't working for me.  It was scary for me to stop therapy.  I was worried about her, me, the support, but it was worth it just to free myself of the stress that I encountered every week going into that office.  So nearly six months after starting therapy, we stopped.

My Talk on Forgiving and Receiving Forgiveness

We know that Christ was sent here, and willing, to do the will of His Father.  We also know that His Father's will is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of each of us and all men.  Everything Jesus Christ did on earth was to help us in this life that we may return to our Heavenly Father.

Neal A Maxwell says, "Any serious disciple yearns to go home to Heavenly Father and be welcomed there by Jesus."  But the Prophet Joseph Smith declared, "We cannot go where they are unless we become more like them."

To become more like them we must accept the Lord's individual and personal invitation to "come follow me."  Why is this so important?  In John 14:16 the Lord declares, "I am the way, the truth and the life no man cometh to the Father but by me."  If our exaltation is dependent upon following Jesus then it is imperative that we know Him.  "Learn of me and listen to my words, walk in the meekness of my Spirit and you shall have peace in me."

As we study the brief time that Christ walked upon the earth we not only find the path we must trod but we also find a unique empathy and a perfect mercy that will help us on our way.  

As I thought about how studying and learning about the life of Jesus Christ helps us today, I knew this topic was no coincidence.  I knew that as much as I'd like to give examples of how others had been helped, I know no story better than my own.  

As we come unto Him, and find ourselves being perfected in Him, we find that this journey can often seem slow and difficult. But as Neal A Maxwell reminds us, "Be assured God is in the details and in the subtleties of the defining and preparatory moments of discipleship.  He will reassure you.  He will remind you.  Sometimes if you are like me, he will brace or reprove you in a highly personal process not understood or appreciated by those outside the context."

This highly personal process is one that Alma refers to as a mighty change of heart.  And this is not a one time occurrence.  It will happen throughout our lives and often the changes that leave an indelible mark on our soul cannot be easily expressed or often appreciated by others.  Simply because, only One knows the intents of hearts, where we have been and how far we have come.  But with this Spirit as my guide, I will try.

I have always been in the heart of the fold, just one of ninety and nine.  I have made mistakes, recognized them and immediately repented.  My life has followed a divine path.  I have prayed for and received direction from my Father in Heaven.  As a result of being a peaceable follower of Christ, he has seen fit in his wisdom only, to bless me both spiritually and temporally.  That is not to say that I have not struggled.  But with each struggle, I am made a little stronger.

It should be wise to remember: where much is given, much is required.  I had no idea what the Lord was going to require of me.  And as I ponder on my lot before me I must remind myself of these promises:
"Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am lowly in heart and ye shall find rest in your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, lean not unto thine own understandings.  In all thy ways, acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths."

I knew I could trust the Lord to forgive me for the wrongs in my life.  A promise that I take comfort in.  I love the healing power of repentance.  A much more difficult, yet divine quality, I struggled with was forgiveness.  And this is my story I'd like to share with you.

I had been lied to and manipulated.  I tried to trust and love someone who delighted in provoking my anger, causing confusion, and thwarted my best attempts to help.  Lies and empty promises.  Hopes dashed hundreds of times.  For three long, contentious and hard years I tried to make sense of the senseless.  I fought a losing battle, swimming against the tide, hanging onto a sliver a faith.  I was buffeted, bruised and torn  Not unlike, yet not at all like, the Savior himself.  Except how I handled it couldn't have been more different than when he said,  "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."  This couldn't be anymore true than in my case.  She doesn't know what she is doing.  She is doing what she has always known- a result from a lack of love and security.  But at the time I didn't know, and the pain and hurt had turned my heart bitter and resentful.  For so long I was feeling wronged and all I wanted was a sincere apology for it all.  I demanded justice.  As you can see already, I had much to learn.  

A friend, in watching me struggle to mend, suggested to me the very topic of this talk when he said, "Maybe you should study about forgiveness, especially through the life of the Savior."  Of course, that evening I went right to studying and wrote out some comments.  It wasn't an answer but it opened my mind to what I needed to do to bring the peace into my life that comes from true forgiveness. 

Here are a few of the comments I wrote:
The Lord with that same infinite wisdom that blesses me, also would require of me, greater love, patience, long-suffering, kindness and not the least, forgiveness.  The very attributes that make him the King of Kings and Prince of Peace are suppose to be reflected in my countenance.  And this requiring a mighty change of heart.

"The spirit of forgiveness and an attitude of love and compassion is the very essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."  I need this spirit.  How am I going to get it?

I must change my attitude.  "Significantly when we forgive our wounds begin to heal.  As we faithfully surrender to the Savior the pain caused to us by others, the power of the Atonement heals our wounded hearts, lifts our burdens of sorrow, and brings our souls."
"Be ye kind to one another, tenderhearted forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you." (Eph 4:32)

In addition to the scriptures, another important resource was found in the words in this book, The Peacegivier.  I cannot even begin to help you understand the changes I felt but should you decide to read it, I can tell you I saw myself on nearly every page.  I began to see through the Atonement I couldn't make demands on justice.  The Savior says, "Let me deal with it if there is any dealing to be done.  But you, my dear daughter, let it go.  Let me take it as I have already done. Forgive."  I was beginning to see that the Atonement is as much for the benefit of the sinned against as for the sinner.  I did begin to understand these things clearly in my mind but truly my heart was lagging behind.  I still didn't know how this change was going to come about?  I didn't know where the strength was going to come from?  How was the Lord going to work this miracle in my life?  Of course, the Lord provides a way.  He was waiting for me to be ready.  And often times He works through other people and for this miracle to take place he chose my Bishop.

I did not know this man.  We have just moved into the ward.  I had met him and his counselors in our home for 30 minutes the previous night.  The following night as I met with him for a regular Temple recommend interview, the conversation seem to take a diversion.  He didn't know me or the extent of my torment or what he would say that evening would be an answer to my humble and fervent prayers but he didn't need to know those things because Someone else already did.

I know the Lord still works miracles because my heart has been a recipient.  The first thing the Lord was going to to was tell me I could do it.  He would let me know in no uncertain terms that as one of the most important things I was sent here to do, I can rise above this.  What a loving Heavenly Father, that first shows he has faith in me, tells me what blessings I will receive and then, only then, after I really understood this time, he tells me what is required of me to have that change of heart.  I cannot remember nor can I relate all of the things the Bishop spoke to me but the feelings of that moment will stay with me for an eternity and heal wounds that I didn't know how they would be healed.  

Forgiving her was obvious to me.  It was the only way to heal from the pain, resentment and bitterness.  I was ready to do this for her and now I see, for me.  Nothing was ever going to get any better if everything was contingent upon her finally doing or saying the right thing.  Forgiveness requires no strings attached.  I do not need her repentance (she has nothing to repent of) I need my own.  She doesn't need my forgiveness.  I need to forgive her.  Just once?  No seven times seventy if it needs be.  But you see, it will be easier now because I have already begun to feel the sweet peace.  I am beyond hopeful now.  His burden is light.

It is a miracle and a promise that the power of the Atonement can heal us.  I cannot diminish the significance, nor marvel at the speed at which the change came after studying with real intent and praying with a sincere heart.  Isn't that all he requires of us?  A broken heart and a contrite spirit?  My spirit has to be ready to hear what he has to say and until now my heart simply wasn't.  

As I have continued to study about the Atonement, I see that because I now have a personal witness, those selfish feelings have no place in my heart.  They cannot coexist with what I know and feel.  What do I know?  I know first of all that I can handle whatever is presented before me, even when I have no idea how.  I know that through the Lord's power, weak things can be made strong.  I know that he can heal the deepest hurt.  I know that in addition to healing he provides hope.  

Elder Roueche, from the Quorum of the Seventy has said, "When we forgive and let go of that which has weighed heavily on our hearts and taken us off the path, a great burden is lifted from our souls, and we are free- free to move forward and progress in our pursuit of the gospel of Jesus Christ with an increase of love in our hearts.  We will be blessed with an increase enthusiasm for life, and our hearts will be lighter.  A surge of spiritual energy will propel us forward in joy and happiness.
And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep." (Alma 5:60)

May we always find ourselves in the heart of the fold, accepting His invitation of follow Him.  It is my prayer that whatever the struggle, we might look to God, and live.  I testify of these things in the name of my Savior, and my advocate with the Father, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

Matters of the Heart

I can talk all day about the matter-of-fact stuff.  Consequences, behaviors, therapeutic approaches.  But now we get to the intensely personal part of the story.  I should be hesitant to share this but I'm not.  I am not even close to perfect.  And this journey just confirms that for me.  This is my struggle.  Everyone has one.  Mine is personal, specific only to me in how I dealt with it. But what I want to accomplish here, especially for other RAD moms, is the comfort in knowing that someone is dealing with the exact same struggle although it is too personal for someone else to figure out for you.  There is not a one size fits all fix for the emotional challenges that these children present to parents, especially mothers. 
I just couldn't provide the physical affection required of me.  I didn't even want to sit down and read her a book.  Thankfully Jay was able to do all the things I couldn't do, until I could do them.  But it felt like never.  My heart had become so bitter and resentful.  Even with the knowledge I had now, that all her acts against me weren't so much to hurt me as reactions to a broken and sick child, I couldn't seem to let it go. 
This torment that I felt from not being able to do what was required of me was second only to the anguish I feel about how I treated her especially during the first year and half in our home. Simply not knowing what was going on is not a good enough excuse for me.  I am working on accepting forgiveness for my actions.  
I explain my journey to forgiveness in a talk I was asked to give shortly after coming through all of this.  I don't mention Victoria by name and I imagine most in the congregation had no idea I was speaking of my own daughter.  I know that each of us have our own way of dealing with difficulties in our lives and for me, it required a spiritual change.