the tiniest teenager.

We have been home from the hospital with Atticus for a few days now. Atti is doing pretty well. We can be overwhelming and loud for him. He requires breaks during the day – where it is quiet and he has time to regroup.

Atticus is a tiny little man. Our 15-year-old left Ukraine weighing right around 22 pounds. He is proving to be a nervous, voracious eater. Starving for years has left him fretful and terrified that food will be unavailable – he lets out a guttural screech when I have food and he doesn’t. And since I feed him, the chances of us only ever simultaneously eating is slim.

He is lacking in skill. Not because he seems incapable, but because of lack of any kind appropriate stimulation for almost 16 years. He doesn’t know how to play with toys or look at books. He tries to eat his blankets and his clothing. He is unsure how to interact with Adam – who desperately wants to be Atticus’ BFF.

The size vs. age with Atticus throws us all off a bit. He is a few months younger than Judsen and Joseph, who are both juniors in high school, but smaller than Adam. No one seems to think he will ever be typically sized – neglect and starvation have removed that possibility. He is a 15-year-old skinny toddler. Wearing a size 4T in length but currently requiring drawstrings to hold his pants in place at the waist.

But, in spite of all of this – our boy is adjusting. Family suits him. He is gaining weight. And has already learned if he YELLS someone will come running. He seems to have a naturally sweet nature about him. He just fits right in.

the wonderful humans.
I have said it a thousand times – and it is still true – my children are better humans than I am. Even the couple of kids that do not like even the scantest change in schedule have taken to Atticus like he has always been here.

Our villagers have all rallied around us. They protect and care for Atti just like the other kids. And it is such a gift to us. I mean it when I say my friends are the maintainers of my slight sanity. I could not even think of living this life without them.

in my brain.
I’m simultaneously joyful and exhausted. I love seeing the humans adapting and changing and taking care of one another. It makes me smile. And in the same breath I can truly say that seeing Atticus’ tiny body rips at me in the ways Auggie did – when time after time I hear, “He’s an anomaly.” Allow me be very, very clear: Atticus, Auggie, and their comrades are not an anomaly, they are not the exception to the orphan. They are the standard. And because of this-my spirit stays weary.

In the states, there are more than 100,000 children legally available for adoption. Internationally, orphans number in the millions. But make no mistake, one is too many.

Please, hear me: ONE IS TOO MANY. 

I know it is easy to ignore the child you haven’t met. It is self-preservation to turn away.  I have done it many times.

But turning away becomes an impossibility while walking the halls of men in Atticus’ asylum that point and question me with, Mama? Ok? Mama? And my answer has to be no – Knowing that most of them will die in that place, unknown to the world outside. If only the retching were purely physical – but it isn’t just the stomach that dry heaves at the injustice. Can the soul vomit? Mine can.

I have strolled the grounds of group homes here. Looked into the faces of teenagers terrified with the question they all have: What happens when I turn 18? I have held their shaking hands and cried too, because the truth is, I don’t know. If statistics hold, chances are it won’t be good. And the question that always haunts me is: What is my part? Because we ALL play a part in this story.

Maybe it is to adopt. To foster.
Maybe it is to mentor.
Maybe it is to look away.
Maybe it is to scream pro-life but not really mean it.
You will choose. So will I.

And I am always asking myself, What is next? What else can be done? The global answer cannot be solely adoption. Adoption is part of the equation, along with family supports, education, cultural shifts – it includes all of us – and solutions will not be quick or simple.

We must recognize that other people’s problems are not only just other people’s problems. They are yours and they are mine. There seems to be a pervasive idea that we shouldn’t help someone that cannot or will not help us. I cry foul – do it anyway. Help anyway. Go against the flow, cross oceans, build bridges, choose what is hard over what is convenient. This is the nature of loving well.

For us, Atticus has scattered light into the darkest parts of our humanness. His tiny body, a concurrent attestation to what is good and evil. His life – a lesson of strength and grace. And I can find sadness and anger. But for today, in this moment – I am choosing thankfulness – another lesson we are learning from our tiny boy.




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  1. My heart and spirit literally hurt and I am holding back tears in my local Starbucks. … So much is wrong in this world… innocent shouldn’t suffer and we don’t know the whys. You guys are working God’s plan and I just want to encourage you and yours in the hope of eternal peace and justice that IS to come! Innocent will no longer suffer. … I just wanted to write a few words of encouragement. Amidst it all, I know you need it. We all do. Thank you for helping God stir hearts for orphans and the beautiful kiddos with different abilities! ♥️🙏


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