Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Where my passion started...

Today I'm going to tell you a story. It may be rather long by the time I'm done (grab a cup of coffee), and maybe even a bit heavy for some, but it's a story I must tell.

First I'll tell you why, after five years of blogging here, I just now wanted to tell this. To be honest I didn't really remember it, well not in the way I remember it now, until very recently. A few weeks ago I began to put together a plan/program to help children going into foster care -I'll tell you all about that later when I have it all settled exactly what we will be doing. I had been praying about how I would present this to our church and possibly other churches to get help and support. I began to ask myself why in the world I would even consider talking to a group of people about this when I can't even talk to a stranger one on one without turning blood red. Why, I, the shyest person in America, would consider for one SECOND being the front-man for ANYTHING? Then I realized, it was because I have a passion for this, these little souls, "the least of these", "the fatherless", that I don't have for anything else. So I began to ask "Where did this come from?" "When did this start?" and one night on the way home from church a vivid memory came flooding into my mind. Right then I knew that this was the ONE moment that set my life on a different course. From that moment on I made decisions differently. It wasn't a drastic turn around, but rather a point in which the trajectory of my entire life changed. It was a moment made just for me, a divine appointment of sorts, that happened where most divine appointments happen, in the most unlikely place.
When I was a senior in high school I took a sign language class. To be perfectly honest it was mainly a way to get out of taking a foreign language, not so much an overwhelming need to talk to the hearing impaired. As you might imagine by the end of this class I was really interested in working more with the hearing impaired, specifically children. When I graduated a few months later I decided to jump right in, so I drove to the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind located in Talladega. I heard that they did a summer camp there for hearing impaired children and I begged the man over the camp to let me come. Yes, I begged. He gave in and gave me a room in a dorm full of little girls. I was to start in a couple of weeks. I was so excited! I had all of these "noble" plans to go and help these "poor little deaf children". I would have all these great memories to tell my kids about how "compassionate" I was as a teen, and how instead of going to drinking parties and all of those things, that I was sure "normal" teenagers did, "your kind hearted mother was teaching the unfortunate little children".

So a number of rude awakenings came shortly after arriving when I realized that 1)I wasn't near as good at sign language as I thought I was, 2) all of "the poor little deaf children" that I met weren't poor little children at all, they were normal, LOUD, running, playing, children didn't give a flip if they could hear ME or not, 3)they were the ones that felt sorry for ME when I was obviously the only "poor little hearing girl" that was the slowest communicator in the country. My bubble had been properly busted! But if there is one thing I can now say about my 18 year old self, although I was terribly disillusioned about a lot of things, I didn't EVER give up. I decided to stay and I set my mind to let these children teach me.
My first lesson came shortly after unpacking. This was my moment, my divine appointment, and it was heartbreaking. A lady that was sent to show me the ropes took me to the pool, where my girls were, and instructed me to make sure they all get out, get dressed, and get to lunch on time. I set to work doing my best to communicate and round everyone up. When they were all almost ready a little girl came to tell me (very patiently, I might add, because remember they were teaching me) that there was one little girl that needed help in the back shower. I walked back there and was shocked to find a little brown lump curled up in the corner of the shower. I nearly dissolved into tears right there, but I had this surge of I don't know what brace me and give me the strength to help instead of cry. I took her little body and washed her off, she was much too weak to stand or even sign. I dressed her and I carried her back to the dorm along with all of my other girls. I thought that she must be about five or six years old and I wondered what must be wrong with her. While the other girls were at lunch I took her to a lady over me and, very concerned, asked what was wrong. I didn't know if she was disabled or sick?? I was informed that this particular little girl had just arrived that morning. She was severely dehydrated when they picked her up from her foster home, but her foster mom insisted that they take her anyhow and just give her Gatorade. By the time she was done swimming she had just completely run out of energy. I asked why I didn't recognize any of her signs and was told "Well, she doesn't really use American or English sign language, she mostly uses her own signs. She goes to a school that doesn't really have a program for deaf children, and her foster mom doesn't use sign language either." My heart dropped. I came from a home where my parents would have moved heaven and earth to communicate with me if I had been unable, and this sweet child had not one person willing to hear what she had to say. This was the moment that a feeling took over me, an overwhelming urge to protect this child to the best of my ability, to hear what this child had to say NO MATTER WHAT. I now recognize this feeling as what I can only call my "mama bear instinct". I wanted to mother this child. I found out that her name was Stephanie and that she was nine years old. She couldn't read or write and she wasn't fluent in sign language (as most of the children her age was).
(Stephanie and my sis Rae, at Rae's Missionette Ceremony)

For the rest of camp Stephanie was glued to me, and on the last day we cried that we had to be separated. I got her foster mom's name and number from her social worker and she left. During the week I taught her to write "I Love you", her name and my name. Just before she left she handed me a note that said "I love you Sam" in a five year old hand. I couldn't let her go. I had to make sure that she knew that somebody believed in her. The next week I talked to her foster mom on the phone and she told me that I was welcome to come and get her anytime I want. "What? I'm only 18 you know?" She lived two hours away, the very next week I headed to Montgomery and got my little girl. Her foster mom seemed very kind, but she was an older lady who "couldn't learn new things like sign language". Stephanie would come and stay with me for a week at a time until one day I called and she wasn't there anymore. Her foster mom couldn't tell me where she had been taken to, so just as fast as Stephanie had came into my life she vanished.

I'm sure that Stephanie is all grown up now and she has no idea how she changed my life FOREVER. You see, in that moment I discovered that it wasn't "needy children" that I was called to help. It wasn't just this blanket group of abandoned children, but more like the souls of individual children like Stephanie. I wanted to help, and be helped by, children like her that just needed someone to believe in them. A lot of people looked at her as "broken" but I could see how her little eyes lit up when there was someone there willing to care for her, protect her, and speak for her. And surprisingly, that's what she did for me too. She lit me up! She helped me more than I could ever have helped her! She taught me more about who I was, as this cocky teenager who set out to save the masses, than I could have ever learned in any other situation. She brought forth emotions, passion, mama bear instincts, and pure LOVE that I never knew I possessed before. This sweet little girl who wasn't the right color for me, or whole in the worlds eyes, this abandoned "poor little deaf child" gave me RICHES! God used her to show me what my life's passion was going to be, children, the biological ones, the adopted ones, the broken ones, the not the same color ones, the abandoned ones, the ones that barely made it, and the ones that didn't make it.

That's my story. That's where my passion started, it's the fire inside my heart, and it's why I truly believe that every child is a blessing. People have asked before as we were struggling through miscarriage after miscarriage and through this long drawn out adoption process "Why do you keep trying? Don't you just want to give up? Wouldn't that be easier?" and my answer was always "I want all of them, I want all of the children that God has planned for me, no matter how they get here." Because you know who would miss out if I don't fight for them? Me. And now, even that doesn't seem like enough. Now, I want to help the ones that I can't keep too. I want to somehow touch the lives of children who need love, even if for brief moment, like Stephanie touched mine. xo, Sam

14 comments:

Becky said...

wow! and wow that you can actually pinpoint a specific time/place/incident to your turn in life...some people just go thru lives as is all thru their life...yes i agree you've been blessed...
God bless you again and again and again...xx
btw i couldnt read it all straight away,,,emm my eyes got all blurry at one point!!! :)

Joy said...

OH how cool to finally hear the story. I've known that fostering has been on your heart for a long time, but it is really neat to finally get 'the rest of the story'.

I've served with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate)--and I want to foster. But here in TN my family size (6 biological kids) prevents me from fostering...so...it's definitely one of our dreams that is a 'not yet'.

Emilee Klein said...

What a blessing..I'm sure to this day Stephanie still remembers you and the love you showed her. My father was in an orphanage from 6 weeks of age until he was 4. When my grandparents, his foster parents took him in he was a lonely little boy with a lot of problems. They filled his life with love and he blossomed. Sounds like you and Stephanie blossomed together. Thank you so much for sharing the beginning of your journey with us. You're an amazing mama bear :)

auntie said...

Sam, I know what you are saying and I don't say that as simply a comment on a blog. When I was growing up I was one of 8 children. My parents fostered and I knew from a young age that I would be a mother to many, as many as I was allowed. When we were married I wanted at least 12 children of my own. God granted me 7 and then took one back. We fostered for nearly 20 years and so wanted to adopt but that was simply not in His plans for us. Just like you though, I assure everyone that every child that enters this house, no matter how short or long the time, that child is one of my own. Bless you.

Kelly said...

That's really an amazing story. I'm so glad you're used it shape who you are and what you do. You have an amazing testimony! Whatever it is you're moving your church to do, I pray that God will bless it!

Abigail said...

That's amazing Sam. Thanks so much for sharing your story. God bless you and your beautiful family.

Candice said...

What a beautiful story- that is why we are here- to fill our Story that God has given us! He will help us and guide us through every page and chapter - it is so joyful to see your story behind the story! You will be blessed to be able to share your story in a way that those listening need to hear! What an editing adventure for you and yours! May each day bring blessings, peace and more ways to reach those wonderful souls that teach us everything!

Lynsey Tapp said...

Sam,

You don't know me, but I wanted to say thanks for sharing your story! It was a blessing for me to read. At first I wanted to adopt bc I was afraid of childbirth pains, but when we got married we decided to have our own. We have 2 and are "done", but God has never lifted the desire to adopt, foster. My husband doesn't have the same desire yet. I just keep praying for the kids who are being helped by people like you, and maybe one day - God will align our hearts to adopt or foster, but for now I must wait.
sweetkittydesigns.blogspot.com

mandi said...

beautiful! I remember my moment when I realized what adoption could be- I was 16.
Thank you for sharing your story!

Jess said...

That is a beautiful story! I admit it I cried, so many children need someone to show they care and love them. I am sure that little girl still remembers that summer and what you did for her. Just as she touched your heart, you touched hers, what a wonderful blessing and job God has in store for you!

Dana-from chaos to Grace said...

OK, so funny thing, I found the pictures of your triple bunk bed on Pinterest, and then decided to just browse your blog. I found THIS entry and you had me crying!

God called us to foster a couple of years ago, but we only just received our first fosters last Aug of 2011. It was a sibling group of 3 (we only wanted 1, and only wanted girls...but OH does God change our hearts! LOL). We went into this to help change the foster care system.

It's not always been easy, but it's the hardest thing I've ever done that I LOVE so much! I do wish we had more local support with our church....but that is what I am asking God for. ;)

I LOVED this post!

Pam said...

I loved your testimony, truly inspiring.

Megan said...

I found your blog from the Pinterest bunk beds, too, and decided to peruse a bit. I just want to say thank you. My daughter is deaf and I wish the whole world could see her the way you see "poor little deaf children". That they are full of life and value! Once she's out of this medically intense time (trach, gtube, lots of surgeries) I hope my husband and I can adopt more kids with special needs. There is a level of joy that comes with the challenges that most people will never understand!

Handsfullmom said...

nBeautifully said. It really is the love we give to each soul one at a time, one day at a time, and one act at a time that really matters.

I stumbled on your site because of your cute triple bunk beds and I'm glad I stayed a bit to read.