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Sleeping Tight, His Presence at Night

Having had said our goodbyes to Saturday morning sleep-ins a long time ago (as soon as our first child arrived to be exact), it wasn't a surprise to us that when bringing our new son home from an orphanage in Ethiopia, that sleep schedules and bedtime routines would be changing.

The jet lag from traveling over 18 hours of flight time and layovers lasted nearly one week for Todd and I, but our new son Tarik quickly adjusted to day time and night times.  Ethiopia time is opposite of the time in the Eastern USA.  For example, it is currently 8:46 p.m. on a Thursday here in the states and it is 4:46 a.m. in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on a Friday morning.

The first night we had Tarik out of the orphanage he fell asleep in my arms, lying in bed, while he drank his "too-toe" (that means bottle in Amharic language), his bottle of formula.  That was easy! It was peaceful and I was utterly grateful to have him in my arms at last. About an hour later Tarik woke up in a frantic and inconsolable scream. He was scared and overwhelmed, I'm sure.  Not knowing us well, not knowing another place to have ever slept besides in the orphanage bed, not seeing the nanny he was used to, having left the walls of the only home had known - that was, let's call it what it was - traumatic.

I tried to pat his back and he cringed up his shoulders away from me.  I tried to hold him and he flew his arms and legs in a rage.  I tried to sing to him and he slapped my mouth.  I couldn't just watch him and do nothing. He didn't know how to let someone comfort him this way.  He didn't know love. Being on his own and independent was something he had endured too much of in his life.  Self comforting and self soothing was his resolve, but he is loved now and my child.

I just held him.  I sat him in front of me on my lap while sitting in bed and literally restrained him. He cried and screamed as I quietly whispered periodically in his ear "ah-tah-frah" and "ah-tah-seb".  These words which mean "don't be afraid" and "don't worry" in his native language.  For longer than hour we sat together in this state.  He dug at his head with his fingernails scratching.  He scratched at his face down the sides of his cheeks.  This was his self soothing habit from his past.  His way to bring comfort and manage his turmoil.  I held his arms down gently for that type of comfort need not mollify him any longer.  His mama was here.

It broke my heart to hold him and see him this way.  An immense amount of love was surrounding him yet he fought it.  Years of wanting him, praying and waiting had preceded this day that we would take custody of him as his parents, and he was terrified.  The precious boy.  It hurt so much in his heart and he was confused.

As I held Tarik, I loved him so much.  I knew where he had come from and I knew that outside of those walls of the orphanage there was hope, healing, learning, a family, and so much more for his new life. We had plenty to offer him, love for him, and promises to belong to a family that would adore him.  But Tarik didn't want to go. He loved the orphanage. He knew it well and he was used to that normal. The self comforting, self soothing, and many times of fighting for himself to have food, toys, or attention.  So much so that he was screaming, raging, and scaring himself down the cheeks of his beautiful brown skin in protest of this night to go back to where he was comfortable.

When I held Tarik while he was crying, scratching, and in fear of "what is this next step in my life going to be like?"  I felt a peace come over me.  I felt like God said to me, "This is what I do for you."  For He holds me tight, telling me "don't be afraid" and "don't worry." Letting go of my own ways and letting Him love me can be scary when my normal gets rocked.  He continues to hold me, in patience and love He is strong and steady. He knows the plans He has for me (Jer. 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.") and it's so much more than my comfortable place.

God opened my eyes to see this. You see, I was that orphan.  I was once comfortable living by my own rules, in my own ways, and being self sufficient of my needs. I thought I was in a good place.  I tried to cover the hurt with material things, self-righteousness, gain in the eyes of the world, but they are my scars that I 'thought' would sooth my emptiness.  Nothing is farther from the truth.

Then the Lord Father God, came to me and wanted me so desperately to belong to his family.  He wanted to take me out of those walls of my 'orphanage' where I was comfortable and confused to think that life only goes this far and only offers me that amount. God has so much more.  And He offers this to all of us. There is hope beyond the walls.  There is healing for our emptiness.

Just as Tarik was scared of us, his new caregivers, we may be scared of this new love God gives.  We may fight it screaming and kicking as sometimes it is difficult for us to see and understand what the Lord has in store for our future.  We want to go back to the way we were comfortable.  But do you know? There is a greater purpose for our life.  God holds goodness, hope, and a future for us.  Not only on this earth, but throughout eternity.  There are things He wants to show us, teach us, and places to take us while we are here on this earth.  If we stay in our comfort zone, we will never experience the amazing love and future that God wants to give to us.  And the more we fight God, the more we are scaring ourselves.

Can we allow Jesus to be our guide and our comforter?  Though it seems hard to let go of our 'normal', God is there for us to trust in Him.  We are only restraining our potential in Christ and hurting ourselves with our self-soothing habits.  Let God take you to places you have never been. Let God direct your paths.  Won't you?  He wants you to belong to his family, to be alone no longer, to be an orphan no longer.  Let Him take you into His arms and comfort you. There are great and wonderful plans that He has for you.  Step out of your comfort zone and see where God will take you. Trust and obey.

Oh the love the He has for us and what He has been teaching us through this adoption experience has been beautiful.  A difficult journey? Yes. Very. Much. Yes. The closeness of God and the understanding that He is opening to us as we seek His will is worth every bump in this long road.  We are grateful and we desire to go where God leads us beyond our walls.

*         *           *

After several nights, and then relapses of this same sleep pattern, Tarik peacefully learned to trust us to care for him.  While in Ethiopia during our stay with him, he brightened more each day that we spent together and slept more soundly near us each night.  When we arrived back to our home in the U.S. these same night terrors occurred as he was adjusting once again to new surroundings.  He and I would lay together while he drank his bottle.  In slow progression of trusting and accepting being comforted, he has developed from not allowing me to pat his back or touch him, to allowing me to place my hand on his back, to patting him. The first night he snuggled next to me and put his head on my chest, I cried and thanked God for this huge step in our bonding together.


For three months we allowed Tarik to sleep in our room near us.  Currently he is transitioning to nap in his own toddler bed in his room that he shares with his two brothers.  Night time sleeping in his own toddler bed is another step that we are working toward.  It is difficult and a delicate step to take as he has trusted so much to be comforted and snuggled with us and now to give him back some independence yet with new confidence that his mommy and daddy are still near...well, that's where we are now and one day at a time, yes, we are still figuring this all out!

Thank you for your continued prayers for our family as God helps us to overcome the challenges and as He grants us blessings along the way of growing our family through adoption.

HE hears our prayers and we thank you for being with us for so long through this!!

Much love,
Erin




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