Tuesday, April 24, 2012

On Love And Anger

Today brought about a full range of emotions. 
My first visit with Sam was dream-like! She warmed up to me quickly and was showing what seemed to be genuine affection. She has a lot of ticks and habitual movements that she does when she’s anxious, excited, or unsure. These are NO DOUBT a result of the environment she has been raised in. But this morning there were moments when her ticks melted away and she was giving me REAL SMILES! Once, while we were playing on the floor, I stood up to grab a kleenex a few feet away, and she reached her arms up to be held. And there were a couple times when she actually melted a little bit into a hug. This is unusual, as her body is usually quite stiff and her movements very abrupt. 
Sam has really been enjoying one particular toy that I brought, a hot pink, squishy koosh ball. She LOVES the way it feels on the palms of her hands. For the majority of our time today she wanted me to brush the toy against one hand, and then the other, back and forth. She even offered up a foot at one point, but quickly decided she didn’t actually like that!
Even more so than yesterday, Sam was allowing, even enjoying kisses, and a few times our faces were affectionately pressed up against one another.
I am noticing more and more that many of Sam’s movements, even some that look cute when she does them, are forms of self-stimulation. There are things she does with her face that look like quick smiles and winks, head nods and shakes, a sideways dance/shoulder shake, and clicking her teeth like she is chewing gum. And then of course there is the way she grinds her teeth on the left side of her mouth. She enjoys being held for several minutes at a time, but then falls to the side abruptly and flops about as if to say she would like some time on the floor. 
When we play on the floor, we are often holding hands or clapping together. I am discovering that these clapping routines, (again, still quite cute) are a self-stimulation as well. When she invites me to clap with her, or clap over her hands; she is inviting me into her world. Don’t get me wrong, she is still quite expressive and affectionate, but I am seeing more and more the hurt that has been caused and the healing we have to look forward to.
I left our second visit today feeling both sad and angry. Sam was a bit agitated for the first part of our visit. Not grumpy. Just agitated and unable relax and enjoy herself. I can usually calm her down by offering her my hand, and waiting for her to start clapping our hands together, or by caressing her arms, or softly touching her mouth where she grinds her teeth and telling her, “Shhhh, its okay”. But she couldn’t calm down for some reason. And when I would offer her my hand, she would gently push it away.
All the while there was a conversation going on in our TINY visiting room, FULL of people, about the conditions of the orphanage. I became more and more angry as someone tried to explain away the children’s conditions, saying that the reason they are starving is not because they are under fed, but because their “diseases” make it impossible for them to digest food correctly. They also said that the Bulgarian newspapers like to exaggerate and demonize people because it sells stories. The staff are not bad people, they are just ignorant of the children’s needs due to their complicated conditions.
I simply could not comprehend what I was hearing. There is PROOF now of the intentional and profound abuse and neglect of children all throughout this orphanage. When is enough enough? How much more proof can people possibly need before they will understand that what is going on in this orphanage is criminal?
I also found out today, once and for all, that Sam continues to live in a room all by herself on the 6th floor of the orphanage. My attorney knows this and is angered and saddened. I know without a doubt that if there was anything at all she could do about it, it would already be done. Apparently she is kept on the 6th floor because she is an “anomaly”. And because her “condition” is chronic. And her “condition”, if you can believe it, is the self-stimulating ticks and movements caused by these very living conditions.
I waited throughout our afternoon visit for Sam to invite me into her world. She didn’t want to be touched, although I would pick her up from from time to time and hold her, even if only for a minute. She didn’t want to hold hands, but she sat facing me, allowing me to touch her hands with the pink ball. And finally, when she determined she was ready, she let me in. She grabbed my thumb and pulled my right hand over to my left hand to make her favorite clapping noise. Eventually she allowed me to hold the palm of my hand up to hers, which I took as an indication that she was ready. I began to methodically stroke her arms, both at the same time, from her shoulders down to the tips of her fingers, and back again. She even then let me rub her back and then turned over, asking me to pat her belly. And then, miracle of miracles, she climbed right up into my lap, all by herself, and sat there calm and still and at peace. No sooner than she was calmed down, it was time for us to say goodbye.
Needless to say, there have been some tears tonight. I kept telling Sam, “I can’t wait to break you out of here!” And I can’t. That day cannot come soon enough! But praise be to Jesus! He is not unwise to the suffering of Sam or of any of the other children. He will not rest until they are free. 
Our word of the day today was Trust, and our corresponding reading could not have been any more fitting. I’ll only put part of it here, but if you have the chance, go and read all of Psalm 37.
Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you. He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper- it only leads to harm. For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.
Love to all of you, dear friends and family. Thank you for your prayers.


  1. It absolutelt breaks my heart to hear of those comments and even more to hear little Sam is still being isolated! It angers me to tears. Those tears turned to tears of joy as I looked at the pictures and I'm praising God that Sam is learning to trust you, rely on you and accept your love! As always praying for you all. Give Samantha hugs and kisses from me and Trevor said "give her a high five from her new friend Trev"


  2. My favorite picture is the one of you standing with her. She looks like she has melted into you. I also love the picture of her looking at her beautiful reflection in the mirror. I bet she's never seen it before.

    The bible verse you ended this post with is perfect and I will go back and read the entire chapter. God is bigger than the evil in that orphanage and I'm praying that you will get a court date in record time because God can do it!!! However, in the meantime when you are not there, God is and her strength and spunk is proof of that fact. I love you.

  3. Grace, my heart is hurting and tears are falling right along with yours.

  4. And I am SO thankful that you are her mommy. SO THANKFUL!!!!

  5. Oh Grace,

    Words cannot express the emotions that I felt when I read this... I am praying for God's hand to be in that place! What Katie said above is so true--God is SO much bigger and Satan will not have victory! God can do anything--if I have learned anything in the short amazing time that I have known you, your example of your life has shown me that and been inspiring. Enjoy this time with Sam. You and Sam were MADE for each other; its clear! I love you my friend. Sending lots of prayers and love from home. Give Sam big hugs and kisses from me too. I cannot wait to meet that sweet girl!

    <3 Paige

  6. Also, its amazing to see; she is so full of life! What a blessing!!!

  7. Grace,
    My heart breaks for Kami that she has to be in a room all by herself. However, I am praising the Lord that He has made you her mommy!!! It sounds like you are doing wonderful things with her to help her feel safe with you!

    Mike and I are praying, praying, praying!!!!

  8. Hang in there, Grace! The things you will see and feel will change you forever. It breaks my heart that she's being kept alone...and that you can't see the other kids as you'd hoped. Some of those workers may actually believe that they are doing things the right way in not feeding the kids. The eastern european way of practicing medicine is nothing like the U.S...Bundling kids in layers even when it's hot outside....calling scabies a "sugar allergy"...labeling most kids as delayed, mentally challenged, unable to learn, etc...all very common things in these countries. Then you add the way an understaffed, ill equipped, orphanage cares for them and it's a disaster. It wasn't that long ago that our own country recommended that parents of children born with differences be sent away. I have hope that someday LIGHT will come to these dark places and people will see how valuable and special these children are. You are helping to do that!!! Sam's post placement reports are going to help do that!!! Can you imagine the shock on the officials' faces when they see how she's blossoming in your care? Oh to be a fly on the wall...Praying for you, Sam and Anna.

  9. I'm drinking in every word... praying and loving your girl from afar.

  10. Sad and angry with you.....but also so very thankful for you and the fact that I KNOW that Sam only has a few months left in that place before her healing begins. She is beautiful!

  11. Hey there GRACE,

    Once again soaking in every word! PERFECT BIBLE VERSE...JUST PERFECT!

    Praying fervently - The LORD to do more than you could have ever hoped or imagined...HE CAN DO THAT YOU KNOW!

    love you...steph brian sasha ellianna avi and lina!!!!!!

  12. Are you allowed to leave anything to be put in her crib?

  13. Grace the amazing change I see in her just from when we visited here is so breathtaking! She is a little song bird who has been let out of her cage and is singing the sweetest of songs. I wonder why she is by herself? She had someone else in her room when we were there:(

  14. I am so glad your blog was linked from "The Blessing of Verity" today. It has been the blessing of my morning to read your posts. Your daughter is so adorable, so I don't see how they could say she is not as attractive as the other kids--her smile lights up the whole blog! It sure seems like just plain old racism that's going on. Clearly the people in this area are ignorant of more than just the children's medical needs. maybe her Down Syndrome is a blessing in disguise, as she will now live out her life in a country that will not think twice about her racial heritage. But I am so glad the orphanage workers are seeing a beautiful American mom loving and valuing this little girl--will make them see her in a new light.

  15. Grace, we're lifting you, Samantha, and all the orphans up daily in our prayers in our second grade classroom. We will continue to do so, as I know the grief of a mother who must say goodbye to her child for ANY length of time this side of Heaven. As you so beautifully witnessed in your blog, Jesus does indeed love Samantha and all the other children with an everlasting love. He is already causing MUCH to be done on their behalf, and He will continue. May He bless you and strengthen you for each day to come. I can hardly wait to see how He is going to bring about miraculous happenings for Samantha spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically once He puts her safely in your loving arms for good! Until and beyond that day, dear friend, please know that we are lifting you up daily in prayer, and you and Samantha are blessing the lives of MANY other people. (P.S. - I've put some pictures on FB to show you some tangible ways that many children (and adults) are reaching out to these children of God at the Pleven Orphanage :)