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Saturday, February 28, 2015

REST...IN THE MIDST OF IT ALL!

REST! 


This is the path God is leading me down these days.  Before you mistakenly think God has allowed things to happen that have caused me to have to rest, take it easy, slow down, take a breather, be assured my life is very full of His doings now, just as much as the past 6 years and maybe even more than ever. The rest God has been leading me to and what I believe God desires for each of His children to dwell in, experience, internalize, embrace, is His rest...in the midst of it all. 
You know how it is; you hear the same topic preached, taught, and then some how it pops up in your own personal quiet-time through a devotional or scripture or on the radio, repeatedly, over a short period of time.  That’s one of the ways He delights in gaining our attention for either a new revelation from His Word or a reminder of truth He has already revealed to us, previously.  Often, we must be reminded of past-revealed truths, for some reason we simply cannot incorporate them adequately into our daily lives the first time around.



Bible Study Fellowship is studying the Life of Moses this year.  We recently finished Leviticus 25 – 26 where God teaches His people about multiple Sabbath’s.  God, Himself, took a day of “rest” following 6 days of creation, which was the first weekly Sabbath.  As God was about to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land, He established the 1st year as a yearlong Sabbath for the land.  Imagine, no planting, tending crops or harvesting that first year in the Promised Land.  Would there be enough to eat?  Where would they get their food?  From then on they were to observe a 7th year Sabbath for the land.  The land was to rest every 7th year, planting was to begin again in the 8th year. In the 6th year, God promised to provide harvest enough that year, for the 7th year and until the crops were ready to be harvested in the 8th year.  A double and a half harvest in the 6th year.  That would roughly be two and a half years or 30 months where the Israelites rested and trusted God to provide.  Basically, God made sure the Israelites were given the greatest environment and opportunity to trust Him and His promises to care for them AND to keep their focus on Him AND be thankful for all He had done and was doing for them. They were to rest physically from their labor of planting, tending their crops and harvesting and they were to rest in the fact that God would faithfully provide for their every need of food, while they were resting. So what would they fill their free-time with each day?  Obviously, they would be forced to think on Him, worship Him, each and every day as their entire daily-routine of planting, tending and harvesting ceased during this time. 

Of course, this was a new generation which had spent the last 40 years wandering in the wilderness.  There was no planting, tending or harvesting during those years. God had already been providing for their every need for food and water, how was this any different? I am sure the temptation to plant was there, they wanted more than the manna God had graciously provided. His provision was not enough for the Israelites, they wanted more and bigger variety.  Sadly, this sounds all too familiar.  

 

Can you and I even imagine what this kind of faith and/or rest is really like?  I dare say, only if God allows certain things to happen in our lives that will force us to depend on Him fully.

You and I do realize, the meaning of the word worship is not just singing hymns or songs of praise when we gather corporately to do so?  It is not just praying.  It is not just reciting scriptures or praying corporately together.  It is not just hearing the Word of God proclaimed. It is not just receiving Holy Communion or the Lord's Supper.  While it can be any and all of these, worship is much more.  At the same time while any and all of these are taking place, it can be without one drop of true worship ever taking place.  True worship happens each and every time you and I encounter Yahweh, the GREAT I AM.  It is when we are confronted with His character and His actions and that encounter forces us to pause to consider, to contemplate, to be humbled in His presence. That, brothers and sisters, is worship!  We do not go to church to be in God's presence.  Many people attend church and are never present with God.  God is present in you and in me every moment of every day!  He lives in us!  We LIVE in His presence every moment of everyday!  





To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27)But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of Him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome Him, in whom He dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. (Romans 8:8-9, MSG)
The Israelites did not experience that kind of God's presence.  He did not indwell them 24/7.  How much more should you and I be experiencing worship, on a daily basis, since God Himself is LIVING in us?  


Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.  Romans 12:1-2

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. John 4:23

Sunday, the sermon topic…“REST”.  It was shared you and I most often think of rest much different than our God.  We tend to think “rest” is when we cease doing whatever “work” we do, for a time of personal pleasure or vacation.  Yes, I guess that was the partial focus of the weekly Sabbath in the Old Testament, break from work, however, the main purpose was for worship. This 7th day Sabbath, was set to prod the Israelites into spending time thinking, contemplating, meditating on God, for all He had done and does.  Unfortunately, that eventually became nothing more than a legalistic free-for-all forcing duty without devotion. God’s original design for the Sabbath was to provide the best possible environment to create a mindset of the “worth-ship” of God.   If there is an intentional, conscious effort to keep our thoughts focused on Him, then the end result will always be, WOR(TH)SHIP!

Our worship of God is what ushers us into His-rest...in the midst of it all!

In Hebrews, the writer speaks of God’s “rest” for the believer as if it is an act of faith.  He refers to the rebellious Israelites not entering God’s rest, in the Old Testament, referring to the Promised Land. Their lack of faith prevented them from experiencing the “rest” God promised them.  While I believe “rest” refers to our salvation in some respects and the “rest” we will experience in heaven, I also believe the “rest” God provides is one in which we can live out in our daily lives.  All to often, our lack of faith prevents us from experiencing this promised blessing from God, fully, in the here and now.  Jesus, Himself…is our rest!


While you and I know the right words to say and to pray, I wonder, do our lives scream unbelief to those around us?  Or does it exude His-rest that only He can provide in the midst of our chaos?


While I so desire to enter that final-rest God has promised for those who do His will, I also desire to experience that daily-rest only total surrender to Him grants, in the here and now!   Will you join me?

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You 
in perfect peace, 
for it is trusting in You. 
 Isaiah 26:3






 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

"So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?' Part 11 of...

This blog-post, 11th in the ongoing series, "So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?", is written specifically for those hearing parents who are contemplating the adoption of an older deaf/HOH child who is already using sign language as their mode of communication and for agencies that are "advocating" for their adoption. 

DON'T DO IT !


A heart-wrenching plea with a precious picture or video-link comes across your email or through a group feed.

"AGING OUT"!  SOON IT WILL BE TOO LATE! 

It's a boy or girl, age 12 or 13, and they are deaf/HOH.  They attend a school for the Deaf, which focuses on sign language not oral communication (speaking, lip-reading)


You know a little bit of sign language because when you were a teenager you learned it at church to sign with a song.  No one else in your family knows any sign language...but they could learn. Your thinking, "Maybe, our family is God's answer for this Deaf child about to "age-out". I have always loved sign language and always wanted to learn it. Maybe this is why God gave me a love for sign language." 

OR

NOT!  

First of all, when adopting an older child, deaf or hearing, you must be realistic about the challenges your entire family will face simply because they are "older".

Before I move on to specifics concerning the adoption of an older deaf/HOH child who is already sign language fluent, allow me to deviate from my topic, for a bit. 

Trauma is no respecter of age.  A 6 month old child, abandoned to institutionalized care for any length of time will have "trauma" to deal with.  The adoption of a "young" child is no guarantee of a "happily-ever-after story".  The trauma-brain (a brain that is impacted by trauma, even in utero/pregnancy) is one that will need the right amount of structure and nurture to overcome the negative affects that trauma has caused on the brains' development.  I'm not talking about the ability of the brain to be educated, however that is also impacted, but I am talking about the inability a trauma-brain child has to think logically and therefore is evidenced in defiant behaviors of many kinds.  Truly, the trauma-brain is the brain that is controlled by...fear. Fight. Flight. Freeze.

Now, allow me to mention some additional challenges that often come with adopting an older child that are often never considered. The most obvious is the physical "size" of the older adopted child. With "older" comes bigger and stronger, physically.  Restraint, becomes more challenging.  Tantrums and meltdowns are bigger and bad-er.  Violence and/or destruction of property is more damaging. The expectations placed on an older child are greater, even though their trauma-brain holds them captive emotionally, socially, and often academically, to half their chronological age and often younger. This means the adopted 8 or 9 year old child will only be functioning emotionally, socially, and with every other behavior at a 4.5 year old age-level or below. 

That is hard to comprehend, especially when they live in a 8 or 9 year old body and that is what is "seen".
What cannot be seen is the brain that has been stunted in it's growth, since even before birth. Self-preservation has become "their job" from a very young age, therefore manipulation has become their greatest skill. This is not proof they are simply being defiant, but it is proof their trauma-brains need great care to begin to grow beyond that of manipulation for self-preservation to one of trust and felt-safety. 
In addition, their experience of the world is locked in infancy.  They have no idea what danger, in the outside world, is and do not instinctively know when they are in danger.  They do not know if they run into the street they could be killed by an oncoming car nor do they know fire can burn them.  Unless that was an abuse they endured.  No explanation is adequate for them to comprehend these dangers.  These must be taught, in the same way as they are taught to toddlers.  Sometimes they are learned better by natural consequences. These children have had no one to teach them these things and many have rarely been outside their orphanage or school. This seems to be even more common for deaf children, with limited to no language, as they are often held out of school and events because their behavior is so unpredictable without the ability to communicate basic needs. Imagine trying to force a 8 or 9 year old to hold your hand for safety, when everything in them resists.







Why would anyone, in their right-mind, adopt an older child?  Because God calls them to do so. Yes, much preparation and training is needed in advance, and the resources for doing that are much greater today, than ever before.  God equips those He calls, but commitment to receiving and perseverance for that equipping is vital.

Trust-based Relational Interventions (TBRI) works miracles with children from the "hard places", but simply reading a book, like The Connected Child and trying only a few of these tools, briefly, will not produce lasting impact.  The outcomes parents desire to attain, brought about by a heart change accessed by a brain that feels safe, will require them to be mindful of their own behaviors and why they behave the way they do. Recognizing their own need for a heart change will grant parents the ability to begin to meet the great needs of their child(ren), adopted and biological.  AND it will require a paradigm shift in parents' old way of thinking relating to raising a child, which most often employs behavior modification, a system designed to control behaviors based on rewards and punishments.  However, reaching a child's heart is based on a relationship built on mutual trust in an environment of balanced structure and nurture that produces a heart that desires to behave, not one that is forced. Once parents understand their God given responsibility is to parent their child's heart, not their behaviors, life-changing behaviors can occur for both parents and children. The National Center for Biblical Parenting offers a vast library of resources for families desiring to utilize the relational-approach to parenting, one designed by God.




Back to the topic of this blog-post. 

For the older Deaf child, if you are not already ASL-fluent and immersed in the Deaf community, with an acceptable Deaf school nearby (which also provides a broader base for a larger Deaf community in your area), please do not even consider adopting an older Deaf child who is sign language fluent.  This, almost assuredly, is a recipe for disaster for everyone. 

So, what hope do older Deaf children who are already fluent in sign language have? 

They have you!  Your willingness to advocate for them to grant them the great opportunity to be adopted by a family who is already ASL-fluent and possibly even better...to be adopted by a Deaf dad and mom who can often identify with them far better than a hearing mom and dad ever will

I suspect the percentage of deaf children who are adopted by Deaf parents is less than 15%, maybe less than 10%.  Why is that?  While we want to believe we have surpassed the stigma deafness brings with it, many hearing people mistakenly believe the Deaf are ill-equipped to parent a child, adequately.  In addition, many Deaf couples have stories of being rejected by adoption agencies, simply because they are unwilling to devote the extra time and money to provide adequate communication for them for homestudies, meetings and pre-adoption training via ASL. Misunderstandings of the cultural differences between the hearing agency personnel and the Deaf parents, unfortunately, are also reason for rejections, as well.  These stories of rejection, permeate the Deaf Community.  And finally, the cost of adoption for the Deaf population, which is under paid and under-employed has long been an insurmountable obstacle felt by many.  


Will you advocate for qualified Deaf parents to be given the great opportunity to adopt deaf children?

Sign language fluency can come within a few years of daily exposure, for Deaf children immersed in the language. That means an 8 or 9-yr old who has been attending a school for the Deaf, that utilizes sign language--not all of them do--for roughly two years, is quite possibly already fluent or well on their way.  In addition, they have now been exposed to the Deaf community which is vastly different from their indigenous hearing community and certainly from the American hearing community. 

Deeper aspects of the culture of Deaf people will be shared in future posts.

Why is it a deaf child can often become sign language fluent in such a short amount of time, as compared to a hearing person? 


Deaf children who have been waiting for years to be given the opportunity to begin to communicate with those around them, God has wired our brains to crave communication, often become sponges when their world is turned upside down with language...visual language.  Finally, something they can visually understand without the need to hear or speak. 

Us hearing folks...well, we can hear and that supersedes our "need" to communicate via sign language. Ultimately, the "need" for the deaf child to learn sign language, their first language, is far greater than the need for you and me, hearing folks, to learn a 2nd language that does not enter our brains via the ears. Let's face it, you and I respond to noise automatically and instantly, that is natural for us.  For those who live with deafness, they respond automatically and instantly, to what they see, that is natural for them. 

If you or your adoption agency do not know what the Deaf child, you are considering for adoption, is currently receiving at their deaf school, find out.  Deaf schools in China and in Eastern Europe often never use sign language and only focus on teaching the deaf children to speak and read lips.  Other countries are not so focused. For some deaf children who are learning a sign language, some SWI's (Social Welfare Institutions), in China, think it will be better if they tell you the deaf child is learning to speak, when in fact they do use sign language to communicate.  Their thinking...a family will be more likely to adopt them if they can "speak".  It's the age-old myth that if a Deaf child can "speak" then they are not mentally deficient and will be more adoptable. Other times, the Deaf child does use sign language for their mode of communication and that is vitally important to know, to know how to best advocate for them and their needs.

Deaf children cannot speak because they cannot hear the sounds to learn to speak, not because their brains cannot function at a certain level. Albeit, there are those deaf children who do have additional challenges, in addition to their deafness, but deafness, alone, is not an indication of being mentally challenged. Language deprived deaf children, however, will have additional challenges to overcome, mentally, socially, emotionally and academically. Check out Part 5, in this ongoing series, "Why Is The Deaf Child So Far Behind?"

Non ASL-fluent families who do adopt older Deaf children who are already sign language fluent and adoption agencies who allow them to do this are sewing seeds for consequences they will not want the responsibility
to bear. Disruption/dissolution is not uncommon and the collateral damage on all involved is great. 

Remember those who are deaf/HOH often cannot learn to speak a spoken language clearly enough, simply because they cannot hear adequately enough for their brain to allow them to learn spoken language accurately.  This is not an option for them.  On the other hand, every hearing person, on this planet, can learn sign language, IF they are willing.  Yes, it takes time and commitment but they CAN learn it.  It IS an option, for them.  It is not a question of are the deaf willing to learn, but one of "can" they learn since they cannot hear adequately?  Some can and do learn to speak fairly plainly, but most cannot, even with hearing aids and/or Cochlear Implants. 


It is not deafness that separates the hearing from the deaf, it is the inability to speak clearly that separates them from us.  We cannot "see" their deafness, but we can "see" abnormal speech and because we are naturally hearing...that "screams" at us. Adequate speech for speaking, for the d/Deaf person, does not mean there is adequate hearing in every situation of life to allow for smooth communication in speech.  
 

If you are told by your adoption agency, or any others for that matter, the Cochlear Implant will easily make your deaf child hearing and "normal" in every way, be wary.  That is just not true.  Do your own research.  The Cochlear Implant is covered more in depth, in Part 6, The Adopted Deaf Child and the Cochlear Implant

I hear stories all too often and so do others, of eager hearing families who will "rescue" their Deaf son or daughter from their peril, before it's too late.  Too often, when hearing parents, maybe well prepared for raising a child from the "hard places", but who are clueless about the Deaf culture and know too little sign language, bring their son/daughter home...all hell breaks loose and hearing family members are shell-shocked. "How could this happen?" Or the Deaf child withdraws, which in the end can be even worse than those who are openly violent.

This is not just because this is an older child adoption, while that will certainly be a significant part of it, add to that the Deaf child's frustration with the inability to communicate in the same mode of communication as they have known and loved...a manual (on the hands and body) language, not dependent on the ability to hear.  
 


There are those who recommend the use of "translation technology" when adopting children who are post-lingual (those who have already learned spoken language) from another culture where English is not used, especially in those first crucial weeks. This is used as a "bridge" for a short time, to help the transition be a little less stressful for the adopted child. Be aware this technology is far from perfect and many misunderstandings are experienced.



Translation technology has also been used to facilitate communication between hearing parents who do not know sign and their deaf children who do know some written Mandarin or other written language.  Deaf children who are fluent in sign are often taught to read and write in Mandarin, as well.  While there are benefits to this kind of communication in the first few weeks and maybe months, relying on this for prolonged time is not recommended. This in no way will provide a strong foundation between hearing family members and their deaf son/daughter.  We all know how technology has restricted and negatively impacted the next generation in their ability to develop strong social relationships with one another.  One can only imagine how limiting this mode of unnatural communication will negatively impact a recently adopted sign language fluent Deaf child if it is allowed to continue beyond a few weeks or maybe a few months.  I do not believe you and I can begin to imagine the disappointment and frustration an adopted Deaf child, fluent in sign, would experience when their adoptive hearing parents and family members are unwilling to learn to communicate with them face-to-face directly in sign.
 
The adoption of an older child, brings with it more than enough trauma for a lifetime.  Add to that the inability to identify and bond with parents through a shared language utilizing the same mode of communication...either spoken language for hearing children or manual language for Deaf children. That has been labeled by some, as...child abuse.



Then, there is another deeper issue to be addressed here, as well.  That is one of culture. Once deaf children have learned a signed language, they will naturally be drawn to those who can communicate with them easily and can identify with them deeply...those just like them.  This is often hard for hearing family members to understand and to accept, especially when they themselves have not become fluent in ASL.  Many hearing family members will live in denial of this fact and when reality sets in are heart broken by their Deaf children's allegiance to and desire to spend most of their time with those who "know" them best.  As stated above, future posts will share more details surrounding the Deaf culture, which is vastly different from the counter, hearing culture




Another thing to keep in mind.  If you are not already ASL-fluent when you bring your deaf son or daughter home, be aware it will take as long as 6 years, maybe longer, for you to become fluent. And that requires spending much time devoted to doing so on a weekly basis and not just from a book or classroom, but interacting WITH the Deaf community, regularly.  My definition of ASL-fluent...you are comfortable carrying on an in-depth conversation with every native Deaf signer you encounter, one-on-one.  For me, that was about 6 years and this included constant classroom participation with Deaf teachers and multiple days a week interacting with the Deaf in my community.

One thing to keep in mind, IF you adopt a 12 or 13 year old they turn 18 in just 5 or 6 short years. 



To gain a better  perspective, try to envision what it might be like for a hearing child, age 5 - 6 yrs. old or older, already fluent in his/her native spoken language, to be adopted by an all Deaf and fully signing family, with extended family members who are also Deaf and sign, and from another country/culture.  This hearing child, fluent in spoken language, would have little to no exposure to those who speak a language.  Wait a minute!  Would an all Deaf family be granted the ability to even adopt a hearing child who is fluent in spoken language?  Some would say...that's child abuse. 


 
While this is not a perfect comparison it does help us gain perspective.  The great advantage of a signed language, as opposed to spoken, is it's visual qualities that can lend itself to providing comprehension/communication without a single spoken word.

This video shows how the lives of deaf children can look when they are impacted by sign language at an early age.  Sadly, most deaf children, here in America, and around the world never receive this kind of vital input, as less than 10% of hearing parents ever learn to sign with them.

Friday, February 6, 2015

"So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?" Part 10 of...

Educating the Deaf Child - "Homeschooling"
Part 10 of the ongoing series, "So You Want to Adopt a Deaf Child?"
This blogpost is shared by Elizabeth Albers.





We were told our son was profoundly deaf but that he wore hearing aids and could hear and talk. Hoping that he could hear with hearing aids we learned little sign language before we brought him home. Other than that we had no experience with ASL or deafness. We brought our little boy (5 years old) home July 2014. After spending just a few hours with him we knew that his hearing aids weren't helping him at all. We immediately started taking on-line ASL courses (while we were still in China) and looking up any and every word we could on-line. Since bringing him home we've continued to learn ASL.  He did get new hearing aids and they do bring him into a moderate to severe range which brings him some hearing and speech. 

We have chosen to homeschool our son for many reasons. One being that we homeschool our 4 other children. Homeschooling a deaf child has been challenging, but we know that God prepared us for this little boy. While we haven't had much experience with deafness we have had many years of experience with homeschooling. We take it one day at a time and we introduce things as we feel he is ready. He's been home 6 months and he is thriving at the level of a K-1st grader. One of the hardest things about educating a deaf child at home is that it is somewhat new territory. There isn't a lot of curriculum or resources for homeschooling deaf children. We have to sort of figure out things as we go. We are part of an on-line community of homeschool deaf/HOH families. They have been invaluable to us. Always offering support, ideas and suggestions. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming being the only one in our community who is homeschooling a deaf child, and these on-line families help us to know we are not the only ones trying to do this.  

We also utilize our public school for some extra services. After months and months of meetings and insisting that our son work with a Deaf Teacher, the school board has allowed my son and I to join in on a class a couple hours a week with a Deaf Teacher and one other little deaf boy. This has been an amazing opportunity for our son and it's so great to see him interacting with the other little boy. We also utilize speech therapy through the school system and have just started on-line AVT (Auditory Verbal Therapy) through CASTLE, UNC. It took a long 6 months to get services in place, but the fight was worth it. 

We've also tried to help others in our community learn more about deafness and ASL by starting an ASL club. Note: Not to be confused with the original Deaf Clubs created within the Deaf Community. This has not been an easy task. It's hard trying to get people involved, but we are determined. We've also visited a deaf church (about 1.25 hours away) to get to know more people and learn more about how deaf people interact. We hope to attend more deaf events, but again this is difficult because there is no real deaf community. But we keep going and trying and doing our best with what we have. We have a desire to give our son the best of both worlds.

Overall we have had a great experience educating our son. Some days it felt like we were the only ones homeschooling a deaf child, wondering if we were doing the right thing, but now that we are six months into this journey we feel so much more confident in our choices and our ability to teach our son.