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.