This summer is proving to be a busy one. Our church just had a Bible conference, meaning VBS for the kids and preaching for adults. We all really enjoyed it, my kids had a blast and I spent the week being chastened, edified, and taught. For an overall great week, I walked away Friday feeling a bit discouraged as a mom. I was involved in several conversations regarding Ella's hand, leg, and skin tone. These are church kids, mind you, kids who have sat next to my children for two years in Sunday school class, played with them in the church gym, and enjoyed meals together. So imagine my surprise when I heard Everett's friend introducing Ella to a visiting kid, "This is Ella, look at her arm and she only has three fingers…" It sounded as if he was auditioning for a carnival, "She even has a fake leg!" I half expected him to charge admission for this rare sight. Don't get me wrong, I understand that kids are curious, and I welcome their (appropriate) questions. This display embarrassed Ella and I felt horrid for her. Later, I admonished Everett for standing by while his friend made a spectacle of his sister.
At the end of the week an eight year old girl joined us for breakfast before VBS began. She was informed by a friend that we are adopting two children. The conversation went something like this…
Little Girl: "My mom said she would never adopt. Never."
Me: "Hmmm." Wondering what sort of conversation preceded her mother making that statement.
Five year old friend of Ella: "Ella was adopted from Ukraine."
Little Girl: "What? Ella was adopted?!" She nearly falls out realizing that she is eating breakfast with an "adopted" person. I suppose she didn't realize that adopted people don't bear some mark making them "look" adopted. Though I should appreciate the fact that she didn't notice that Ella obviously looks quite a bit different than the boys.
After a bit of staring at Ella she suddenly says, "What is wrong with her hand? She only has three fingers."
Me: This is my usual response for children, "God made Ella with a special hand. He has a very special plan for her life."
LG: Not pacified by this response, "Poor thing."
Me: Surprised, "Nothing poor about it, God made Ella the way she is on purpose, because he is going to do something important with her life and He wants her to have a different hand."
LG: "Well I am so glad that I don't have a hand like that."
Me: Thinking many rude things, wanting to make statements along the lines of—Well, I'm glad God didn't give Ella a face like yours…I keep quiet.
LG: Undeterred, "Her hand looks like a lobster claw. That is what another girl said, that it's a lobster claw."
Me: Completely flabbergasted that I am hearing this, "That is awfully rude and you shouldn't say that."
At that point I ended the conversation and turned to Ella, who had been busy with breakfast and fortunately missed most of what was being said. After talking to Ella, I was thankful that my five-year-old has the language skills of a child much younger. I was also thankful that I was there to take up for her. And I began wondering how many times something like this has happened when Ella was alone. She is quite unable to stand up for herself when it comes to verbalizing (she's more than capable to sock one of her brothers when she's been wronged). I once witnessed a classmate asking Ella about her prosthetic leg. She kept saying, "What is that?" Ella kept replying, "What? My sock, my shoe, my leg?" The little girl was not able to comprehend that "that" is Ella's leg and Ella did not care to explain that "that" is a prosthetic.
So what did I end up leaving the week with? Quite a few blessings, but a heavy heart aching for my daughter who has so many battles ahead of her. How can I prepare her for what she will face as she gets older? How far do I go when something happens? I'm struggling with this gray area called "grace". Two weeks ago, we had an unsettling incident (from a respected adult) he said some borderline nasty things about kids with differences bearing these burdens because of their parent's sin. You can't imagine how I felt after this! The message I've been giving to my children is that they were made with purpose, not as a consequence! The next day, Seth opened his Bible to do his daily reading and the passage that day was from John 9.
And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. John 9:1-3
I thank God that He knows what we struggle with, even before we bring it to Him. I realize that the past few weeks are probably just preparing us for what is to come. I'm praying that we can gracefully handle the situations that will arise once we add two more children to our family. A family of seven attracts attention, a family comprised of three different races attracts more attention, throw in missing limb or two and we should expect some stares and jibes. How do I give my children confidence in how God made them? How do I teach self-assurance and contentedness? And how far do I take it when an innocent child or nosey adult takes the conversation too far? After a hard week, Everett's memory verse for Sunday school was (amazingly) Psalm 139:14.
I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.