Some of you may already have read the story of the adoption of Katie Musser from the Pleven orphanage in Bulgaria.
When her adoptive parents, Joe and Susanna Musser, took her home, she weighed only 10 1/2 pounds at 9 1/2 years of age. She had been profoundly neglected and malnourished all her life because she was born with special needs.
In a little over a year, she has grown and blossomed tremendously in their large family!
Susanna Musser and I became friends through blogging when our daughters were born three years ago. There was an instant connection because we both had ten children - seven boys and three girls, and our youngest daughters had Down syndrome. We were both Christians who homeschooled, and like me, Susanna had been a pastor's wife. She knew all the complexities of raising a large family and she squeezed in time for blogging as well...it was an instant friendship.
After our daughters were born, we both developed a passion for advocating for children with Down syndrome and other special needs here and in other countries. Susanna's family experienced miracle after miracle through the adoption of Katie, and there have been many children rescued from Pleven as a result of Susanna's continued advocacy for those left behind.
A few months ago I received an email from Susanna telling me we had one more thing in common : she's due with a new baby right around the time I'm due with mine. In fact, the Mussers are adding another child from Katie's orphanage to their family very soon as well...a little boy named Tommy, who is much older than Katie, but in the same fragile state. You can read more about the Musser family on her blog The Blessing of Verity. I asked Susanna to guest post for me today, because in the coming weeks I'm going to give Lily's readers an incredible opportunity to help a beautiful little treasure from Pleven named Penny.
Here is her story....
by Susanna Musser
One of the little children who is waiting in the Pleven orphanage has a story that started twelve years ago.
Twelve years of lying alone in a bed, hidden up in a corner of the hopeless floor, invisible, unloved, clearly not a staff favorite.
For twelve years she grew older, but not much bigger. She wasn't loved or fed, you see. She was allowed to survive, but not much more.
When the paid grannies were given out, this tiny girl was passed by.
She was picked up by ankle and wrist and swung over to have her diaper changed.
If she irritated the staff by letting her mouth gape open, they impatiently pushed upward on her chin to close her mouth.
She was plopped in a wheelchair and left to sit with her back turned toward the other people in the room.
When I watched her official file video, it was as if I was viewing an ultrasound glimpse of one of the children I carry in my heart.
To see her.
My heart hurts. The load it carries for Pleven feels a little heavier than it did before.
So much tinier than she appears to be in her close-up photos. Like a little, unloved baby.
Today I received the text message I was waiting for from a dear friend I first met over six years ago, her future mother.
"We have the commitment papers, she's officially ours!"
Oh Penny, you have a daddy and mommy who are already running to get you. My heart is bursting with joy for you!
Your family found you !!!
Your family found you !!!
You will be safe and happy with them, and so very, very loved.
Almost two years ago, I envisioned them doing this. I told them I considered them to be over-qualified to be adoptive parents to a child with special needs--a child like you, Penny--for so many, many reasons. Their big, children-loving hearts. Their down-to-earth common sense. Their flexibility. Their sense of humor. Their quiet generosity. Their willingness to deal with medical details.
But mostly their big, children-loving hearts.
I watched your future parents' eyes when they first met our Katie-bird almost a year ago. It was her tenth birthday!
I saw the whole picture sink in to their realization. How very ordinary we were, how plain our home, how bustling our family life, and how our Katie fit into all this as if she had always been here. How she overflowed with life and joy as she sat on her daddy's lap.
Just a little child, sitting on her daddy's lap. No special aura around the child. No halo around the daddy's head. No saints and angels showing anywhere in the scene. Just a little child securely surrounded by her big family.
I heard their questions, serious, searching questions, the second time they met Katie, six months later.
I searched their faces for understanding as they heard me struggle for the right words.
"You know how you love your own children; it's just like that. To us as their parents, children with special needs aren't some weird or scary list of diagnoses. They are just...people, our own children whom we love. We find joy in learning to know them and appreciating their individuality and helping them thrive just like we do for any of our other children, just like you do for any of your children. Oh, how I wish there was some way to help parents on the outside really comprehend this one reality."
It has been beautiful to witness the process of fear turning into faith, questions into confidence, and doubt into joy and excitement. Your mama will totally rock the special needs mama bear role. And I can hardly wait to see you nestled in the strong arms of your own papa bear.
It's the birth of pure, tender, enormous Christlike love in the lives of your future parents, Princess Penny. To see it is to know--this is holy ground. God is present here.
Please stay tuned for an upcoming giveaway to help Penny's family bring her home !