Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Big, Beautiful Smile!

From the moment I saw Brigita's profile on Reece's Rainbow, I was captivated. The brightness in her eyes, along with that big, beautiful smile told me that this was a very special little girl who would add a lot of joy to some lucky family with what was surely a sparkling personality. I have thought about her night and day since then, praying constantly for her health and comfort, and for that lucky family to discover her. That was last December, two months before she turned six.

One thing that troubled me then was the possibility that the big, beautiful smile in the picture had faded away as the years went by. I am not sure when the picture was taken, but I found out at one point that Brigita had been listed with RR since at least 2009 without a profile pic. So, does that mean she was about four in the pic? Or was it taken earlier for her file, and only released to RR later? She looks so tiny, like a toddler, in the photo. I really thought she looked two or three. It just might be that when people see pictures of the older children that had obviously been taken much earlier, they might just think, "cute," and move on. They might think that the available picture may bear little resemblance to the child as he or she is now - either physically or mentally. I always wonder if that disconnect is one of the things holding Brigita back from attracting the interest she should attract.

Fast forward a bit to after I had the immense good fortune to correspond with a wonderful lady who had met Brigita in the spring of 2010, when Brigita was five. She told me that Brigita was still very small, about a 2-3T, and probably under 30 lbs. In other words, about the size of my 2 1/2 year old, but a LOT skinnier! However, she walked very well and loved to play with noisy toys, despite her hearing problem. So, that news was both a relief and a worry. Brigita was ok as of last year, but she needed to gain weight and grow. She was sturdy. She was responsive. She smiled and she laughed. (Yes! Thank God! She laughed when taken - with help - on a playground slide!) But for how long would that remain to be the case? What if she got sick? What if she continued to lose weight? What if she just gave up? That's why I pray for her everyday. Because we just don't know these things.

I have great hope for her, though, and here's why:



A smile like that isn't going to fade easily. Brigita may not have that much to smile about on a daily basis (pray with me that's not the case!), but that smile that just lights up her whole face shows something deeper and more durable in her personality. Maybe in her soul. A joie de vivre that even a short visit and a turn on a slide could bring out in all its glory. I cried big tears of relief and gratitude when I saw the spring 2010 version of that smile. The smile that prompted her good and devoted warrior, Helle, to dub her "The Cheshire Charmer." She is still there, waiting for the day that purity of spirit can be shared with a family of her very own, and she'll get all the hugs and holding she so deserves and so appreciates. Family, are you out there? There's a little prayer team out there praying for you, and for your sweet girl. We haven't given up in all this time, and we won't. We are waiting to see that big, beautiful smile again. Please God, let it be this side of heaven.

Note: I had to double check the date on this picture, because if you notice, it says 2009/05/02 in yellow on the front. Those dates are just a camera error. The owner of the picture has assured me that it was indeed taken in April of 2010, just a little over a year ago. She also told me something I had never heard before - something so beautiful I just had to quote her here:

"This picture was taken at the orphanage when we first met Little Miss. She was so happy to be getting attention and she loved the warm sun coming through the window just like a little cat. I bet she would love to just sit in the sun!"

Hoping those memories give her hope to hold on in the long days of waiting for someone to come and hold her again, and let her know she's so very loved.

Friday, September 16, 2011

At Three O'Clock

Divine Mercy Prayer:

You expired, Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls, and the ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world. O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy, envelope the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.
- from the Diary of Sister Faustina

In this hour, please pray that mercy be shown to Christ's orphaned little ones with special needs. And pray that we who have so much accept His abundant mercy, and share it in turn with others.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thanks and prayers...

So many things to be thankful for today!

Kirill, the cute little guy on the button on my sidebar, is going home. The Supreme Court in his country ruled today that the Davis family can take him home immediately! This is a tremendous victory for all special needs orphans in his region, country, and perhaps beyond. Most of all, it is a victory for one little boy who deserves the love of a family, and for the family who loves him so very much.

Brady (Judd) is going home too! Sounds like maybe it went (relatively) smoothly for the Hartmanns, and there will be hope now for all the Lost Boys. Hopefully, we'll hear more about it in the days to come.

The Dobrovits family seems to be flying, rather than jumping, through all the hoops to get to their boy! I don't want to make it sound easy, because Lord knows they've been working hard to make this happen. Pray that consideration of baby Henry's medical needs will bring an expedited process. And do consider donating to help them bring their baby home. Look for the button with the adorable baby, to the right!

Thanks be to God, also, that so many were spared in Joplin and the surrounding area. But prayers for all who lost family members and friends, and for the souls of those who lost their lives. And please add a few prayers for those in the area who will most likely face another couple rounds of storms tonight and tomorrow. The search and rescue efforts are still far from over.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Motherless



See how precious this little girl is? This is a photo of Brigita taken last year by a sweet lady who had the opportunity to meet her and interact with her. This lady loves Brigita, and would go to get her out of the orphanage in a heartbeat if she could, but cannot do so for the forseeable future. She describes Brigita as "a love" who can't get enough holding and cuddling, and would even - this really gets me - hum a little while resting her head on the lady's shoulder.

According to her RR profile, Brigita is "relatively low-functioning," and the lady who met her agrees with that assessment. But she can walk well, and enjoyed playing on a playground slide (with help). More than that, Brigita knows what love is, and she knows she wants and needs it. Even though she couldn't know at this point what a mama is, somewhere deep down, she knows what she needs, and a mama is the only thing that really fits that description. This is what I was thinking about on Mother's Day.

Here's another sweet girl who is motherless.



This is sweet Michelle. Isn't she a doll? Too bad her photo is so fuzzy.:( I am signed up to be her 5/5/5 Warrior for Reece's Rainbow. So, what do we know about Michelle? Very little, I'm afraid.

Her description says only that she is mostly blind, due to cataracts and optic atrophy, that she has limb weakness due to CP, and that she is doing SO well, able to walk and climb stairs (with help).

This tells us that, probably, someone in her orphanage cared for her. Someone took the time to help her learn and begin to overcome her obstacles. Someone worked with her and encouraged her. She received enough PT to give her a good chance at real mobility. And it might be a fair assumption to say that Michelle must have been motivated to work on these things, too. And she was probably so pleased with what she had achieved.

But little Michelle has ALREADY BEEN TRANSFERRED. That means there will most likely be no more PT, and no more hope for Michelle. In fact, her profile says that institutionalization for little Michelle means she "will most likely remain bedridden for life." Wow. Just because she is mostly blind and has mild CP? Just, wow.

And it gets worse. Most kids are transferred out of the orphanages at age five, or even a bit later. But poor little Michelle won't turn five until September, and she has been in the institution for some time already. Why? Poor little girl. Why???

However, unlike many who have been transferred already, Michelle can still be adopted. Her grant is only $653.50 right now, as we begin the 5/5/5 Campaign to get five-year old orphans out of these places, and into homes. Michelle needs donations to help a family pay her ransom. But even more than that she needs a Mama to recognize something in that little face, or in her story, and come forward for her. She needs to get out of that bed and into a family. Please consider helping sweet Michelle.

And as always, please consider helping Brigita and the other older girls. There are many waiting, as we shall see. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Courage and the Closet Christian

I have been ignoring this blog. Not because I'm too busy. Not because I can't think of what to say. No, I've been trying my best to ignore it simply because I'm afraid. Well, terrified, I think is a better word. Even though this blog is anonymous, I'm afraid someone might figure it out. Even though everyone who knows me knows I'm Catholic, I'm afraid of being outed as a true believer. I'm afraid of people knowing that I don't just decorate my house with crucifixes and Sacred Heart pictures out of anthropological interest, that I don't just send my kids to Catholic school out of tradition, or because it's a better education. I'm afraid that the whole reason I'm even doing this is so radically telling that I simply can't hide if I continue it.

My reason for blogging is love for a little girl, barely six years old, languishing in a poor orphanage in Eastern Europe because she has Down Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, diagnoses which, over there, mean institutionalization for life. This little sweetie is Brigita on Reece's Rainbow Adoption Ministry.




This is the little girl I can't get out of my head. One little face that propelled me, a secret dabbler in the faith of our fathers, to pray my first novenas (all the way to the end, that is...) and beg God for the faith of a mustard seed. She spurred me out of my lukewarmness, to get to the sacraments regularly, to read the works of the great saints, and to say the scary Holy Spirit prayer that requires you to PROMISE to "submit to all you that you desire of me, and accept all that you permit to happen to me." I'm in over my head. And I don't want to blog.

But on the other hand, I want Brigita to have a home and the love of a family. Others have been trying their best to help her. I've been sitting by watching them do the brave thing in what seems like a futile effort, telling myself lies about how I'll sit down and write something just as soon as I get that next load of laundry done, just as soon as I change this diaper, just as soon as... No. Enough. This is not helping Brigita.

A really good justification I thought of was that no one will read this blog anyway. Best to leave it to the experts. Only these guys aren't really experts. They are just ordinary people with hearts overflowing with compassion for special needs orphans, and the courage to pick up the challenge that lies before all who see this great need. Once our eyes are opened we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows we know and holds us responsible to act." Proverbs 24:12 I didn't come up with that Bible verse myself, btw - I'm a cradle Catholic after all, lol.

Mother Teresa said famously that God does not ask us to be successful, but only faithful. So, ok. How about if I just be faithful here in my own little world? I tried this for awhile. It seemed like God was giving me the green light at first. This being the first Lent in nearly two decades where I didn't qualify for the "pregnant or nursing mother" exemption, I had to, horrors, give up meat on Fridays, and do a bit of fasting. I'm not gonna lie - it was easy. Also, giving up coffee (something I had previously regarded as impossible) was easy. My newfound confidence suggested a brazen plan. How about a little more prayer? Like, regular prayer. And, being nicer to my husband. None of this was all that hard. I thought I had it made. But God is so clever. He had set me up. He is so that way.

Turns out He had given me the ability to do those things, and He could take it all away. On the last leg of Lent I got the chance to recall my previous weakness. By reliving it. The first part of Lent was all, "Oh, I can give up meat one day a week. Little Brigita has to eat some kind of bland gruel every day of her life." And the last part of Lent was "St. Francis, how DID you get that cantankerous 'donkey' under control?" Thoughts of coffee (and cookies and donuts and...) crowded out all that profound stuff I had been exposing myself to. Now, I'm not bright enough to know whether this was a ruse of the devil, or whether God wanted me to know my utter dependency. What I do know is that this Lent stuff is real. Christianity is real. Woe be to me, I'm thinking, if I just set this all aside.

And then came Easter... I was half expecting to have some great big revelation concerning the Resurrection and all that, but I guess I'm probably not ready. And how many times is it necessary to recount the tale of Peter denying Christ anyway??? I did get a little gift, though, that made me cry tears of joy. A valiant teenage blogger, who writes on behalf of special needs orphans declared Brigita his "orphan of the week." Right below her beautiful little photo were the words, "Christ has Risen indeed, alleluia!" What does that mean? I could be wrong, but I think it means go forth and fight the good fight. He has secured our victory already.

Please, if anyone out there stumbles upon this post, please do something - anything - to help the precious sweetheart who has completely stolen my heart and knocked me off my horse. A donation, a prayer, a blog post, a tweet. Anything. I've got it on good authority from a lovely woman who has met her that Brigita is a sweet, gentle child, and would benefit so much from the love of a family. Here are some important links:

Helle's giveaway. Win cool stuff from Norway! Helle is Brigita's official Reece's Rainbow warrior. Read her touching post on Brigita's birthday. Helle blogs for orphans at The Noggie Bloggie.

Caleb's post about Brigita. Caleb and his buddies are teens who advocate for special needs orphans on their blog, Speaking for the Silent.

Brigita's profile page at Reece's Rainbow. You can donate to the older girls' fund here.

And, if you're on Facebook, search for the "Finding Brigita's Mama" event, hosted by Stephanie from Daily Smiles blog. Read some of what she has written about Brigita here and here.

Thank you, guys, for all you are doing for this sweet girl.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

An Invitation to Courage (part 1): Watching and Pruning

We are more than halfway through Lent now - a good time to take a look at how we are doing, and gather up resolve to complete whatever it is we have undertaken this season.  On the whole, this Lent has been easier for me than most others have been in the past.  And also, oddly, more productive.  Not that I haven't gotten off-track, because I definitely have, maybe just as much as usual.  But somehow it seems that all of that - the resolutions, the modest successes, the failures - are all just exercises for something bigger and more complete.  And I guess that's what it's supposed to be.  Duh.  I guess most everyone knows that!  Of course, we are supposed to be preparing for Easter!  But I never understood what that might mean.

And maybe I still don't really understand.  But yesterday, as I was pruning my roses (waaaay late, as usual), I began to perceive a little of what everyone means when they talk about "a season of pruning," etc.  I have never really had the courage to make all the necessary cuts.  In general, in fact, I hold back an awful lot in gardening.  And I guess in life, too.  I'm so greedy for flowers, that I tend to compromise the health of the plant and the overall structure of the garden.  But yesterday, I bit my lip and made those cuts.  Because it's Lent, because I've been decluttering, because I've been trying hard to submit both to my husband and to God.  And because of the encouragement of lots of bloggers out there who have showed me how it's done.

One of those women is Elizabeth Foss.  I have been following Elizabeth's blog for about 5 years now, ever since I quit school to come home and take care of my family.  I have watched and rejoiced as she welcomed her latest two little girls into the world, numbers 8 and 9 of her big, happy brood, and wished and prayed that I could one day be more like her.  More recently, I have watched and cried as she grappled with the possibility that these little ones might be her last babies.  Through it all, Elizabeth has been a tremendous encouragement to me, and surely to many, many others.  Without her example, I cannot imagine finding the courage to make the cuts I'm having to make.

Elizabeth has posted a challenge to her readers to ponder our mandate to "encourage one another," and what it means to be courageous.  An invitation to courage, I suppose.  I have read all of the submissions so far, and have been further en-couraged to bear down and continue what I have set out to do this Lent, this season of pruning.  I still don't know exactly what Easter is supposed to mean to the faithful.  Sorry.  Yes, my 12 years of Catholic school did little to elucidate that one for me!  But that may be because I never had the courage to try and find out.  For the remainder of this Lenten season, I'm going to be leaning hard on the encouragement of those in the blogging communities out there who genuinely desire to conform themselves to Christ's will, however uncomfortable that might be, so that they might have something in the end more beautiful to offer to God.   

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Joke's on Me

(Note:  This post was actually mostly written on April 1st, but just never seemed worth finishing until today.  Today I've decided that courage requires something rather than nothing be said here in this space, even if it's late.)

Happy April Fool's Day! In observance of this most human of celebrations, I thought I'd go ahead and display my foolishness yet again by taking another stab at a blog post.

You know those dreams where you are wandering around in your house, and suddenly come upon a whole new level, or wing, or suite of rooms that you never knew was there? Well, I've been walking around my house lately, just doing my chores, and there was that feeling. It's maybe not quite as spectacular as finding actual undiscovered rooms, but on the plus side, I'm unlikely to suddenly wake from this dream. And those dream rooms are usually a total mess, filled with mountains of unsorted junk. This used to be kind of exhilarating when I was a kid, but these days it leaves me with more than a bit of dread. In this waking dream, everything is being sorted and cleared out.  This cannot be me.  I'm confused.  But I like it.

After years of searching for shortcuts and methods and gimmicks and strategies and theories and hacks, I finally just gave in to trust that if I quit doing battle with my enemy, the house, and began to treat my duties as works of love, everything would start to fall into place.  Of course, this is an oversimplification.  I really did have to learn how to clean, how to organize, how to manage time.  But the mystery of why this job is unlike any normal job, where you start to pick it up fairly quickly, just out of necessity, always dogged me.  It seems to me now that part of it is that being a housewife isn't really a job, quite.  Nor is it really exactly a career.  It is perhaps best understood as a vocation.  You don't get paid, and you can't get fired.  No promotions or awards are possible.  It is utterly relational. You either take care of this living, breathing space, or you don't.  And take care of these living, breathing souls well or poorly.  Or sorta well, sorta poorly - which is where I guess I thought I'd be forever.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  A lot depends on love and trust.

So, here I am enjoying cleaning the toilet - a job I actually told my Flylady buddy 9 years ago that I would never, ever do - and I don't even mind if my husband and kids think this is some kind of April Fools joke.  Today I am just so happy that I have finally realized what a ridiculous fool I've been all these years.  Not that I  won't continue to be some kind of a fool, no doubt.  Just never again that type of fool.