Thoughts on Motherhood [Inside Out]

Over three months ago, Ellie Grace came home. And life has not been the same since. I was thrown into instant motherhood through adoption, a blessing and a calling I have been dreaming about for years. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into, but really I had no idea.

Motherhood guts you from the inside out. Fully. Completely. Totally rips your heart apart. When Ellie came home I knew I would watch her be transformed by love, but little did I know that I would be going through a major transformation as well.

Motherhood reveals the deepest, darkest, most ugly parts of your heart. When it’s 3am and the moon is shining bright, and you are wide awake with a screaming child who refuses to sleep, your first response isn’t to react with patience and understand. It’s easier to become frustrated and have a short temper. You say mean things and use strong words. You pace back and forth thinking of your wrongdoings of the day. You question your ability to parent and wonder what the heck you are doing. The ugly and the nasty parts of your heart surface in those moments and you live minute by minute. In those moments you have two choices, let those ugly heart parts continue to saturate your actions and thoughts, or pray for God to change them.

For the first few weeks of Ellie being home, I chose the first option. Ellie had a rocky transition due to extreme trauma and severe malnutrition. She had a very difficult time sleeping and eating, which caused me to become frustrated easily. My temper would be short and my fuse would be hot. I was exhausted in almost every minute of the day. I wouldn’t necessarily get mad at her, but the circumstances and situations I was facing. And the nasty parts of my heart would creep their way to the surface. I would feel guilty because of the way I reacted, which would affect my mood even further. “Mom guilt” is very very real. I felt negativity constantly buzzing around me and was not the happiest person to be around.

Then, I decided that I needed to chose the second option, to ask God to take the surfaced ugly parts of my heart and change them. In those moments when I was at the end of my rope, I chose to not react with frustration, but to cry out to God for help. For strength, and bravery, and energy to get through the long days and even longer nights. And over time, I felt my heart begin to change. I found myself having more patience than ever before, even when Ellie was refusing to eat more than a spoonful. I found myself speaking kind words, even when my head was pounding with annoyances. I found myself holding Ellie close and gazing deep into her eyes under the moonlight, even when she would wake up 15 times a night. My words changed, my actions changed, my relationships changed. When you ask God to take over every piece of your heart, He will. And He will surprise you with that He does. He took the ugliest corners of my heart and flipped them upside down. The hardened, sin soaked parts of my heart are being softened and molded into new paths to Him. His grace is given freely…but only if you accept it.

Ellie Grace, you have no idea the ways you are changing my life.

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KCH Inclusive Primary School [Special Needs Resource Center]

I’m so excited to give you a peek inside our Special Needs Resource Center at KCH Inclusive Primary School! Because we recently had a new classroom block built to house our ever growing school, we decided to turn the old classrooms into a resource center for our special needs kiddos. Thanks to your generous donations, we were able to paint the inside & outside of the building, put in new windows, cement the floor, lay colorful flooring, build cabinets and round tables, stock the supply room for the year, buy new chalkboards, and purchase physical therapy mats and supplies.  Our Special Needs Resource Center consists of a physical therapy room, an art/vocational training room, computer lab (we currently don’t have any computers…in need of laptops!), a store to sell our artwork and crafts, and toilets.

Because we run inclusive education our special needs students are in their classroom for about half of the school day, learning right beside their mainstream peers. The other half of the day, they are in the Resource Center working on different actives. We have organized lessons teaching them life skills, such as tying shoes, zippering, washing hands, washing clothes, buttoning, basic hygiene, etc. We also do art lessons, fine motor skills workshops, multi sensory activities, free play, music and dance. We do a lot of one on one and hand over hand instruction with them to assure they are receiving individualized attention and lessons as well. Our kids don’t ever want to leave the Resource Center at the end of the day because they are having so much fun!

Welcome to our Center!!

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[Outside of the Special Needs Resource Center]

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[Beautiful new paint job..thank you Canyon Community Church of the Nazarene in Corona, CA!]

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[Art room]

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[Art room]

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[Physical therapy room. Waiting on the delivery of parallel bars and more leather bound mats]

Posted in Blog Update, Ghana, Living in Ghana, The Treasured Ones | 1 Comment

I carry them.

The mothers in The Treasured Ones programs and I have an unspoken bond. A bond that can not be explained in words, but when our eyes connect, we know exactly what eachother is feeling. A type of bond that crosses all cultures and language where two hearts are instantly knit together.
We have a bond because we both have children with special needs.

I listen to mothers express the hardships of raising a special needs child in a country that views them as burdens, cursed, and sometimes not even humans.
I listen to their frustrations with the major faults of the medical system and when doctors refuse to even see their children.
I listen to their sadness when they explain that their communities have kicked them out, husbands have abandoned them, and they dread taking public transportation because of the insults people will throw at them.

I listen to them pour their hearts out about the struggles they face, and my heart is right there on the floor with theirs, because I go through it too. I go through it too.

I’ve had Ghanaians come up to me and question why I would want to adopt a child who is so flawed.
I’ve had countless people refuse to sit next to Ellie and I on a packed bus.
I’ve had horrible experiences with people who are supposed to be honest and fair medical professionals, but who act like heartless individuals.
I’ve had people make rude statements about how they don’t want their child to sit next to Ellie and I on the bus because they are afraid their child will catch Ellie’s “sickness”.
I’ve had fingers pointed at me, mean words said to me, and nasty glances shoved my way.

When I admit new children and families into our school, medical sponsorship program, or meet them on community outreach and I introduce my daughter Ellie Grace to them, they breathe a sigh of relief as if to say, “She gets it. She knows what we go through. She understands us”. And thats when the bond instantly forms. And they begin to trust me. Because I am not just saying that I understand what types of things they go through, they trust me because they know that I go through it too.

This does not make my ministry better than anyone else’s, but running a special needs ministry, and having a special needs child myself, brings the passion and dedication to a whole new level. Because when I work for more societal acceptance of children with special needs, I am not only working for their children, but mine too. For them, and for Ellie Grace.

I carry the mothers with me wherever I go. When someone on the bus or in a story asks about Ellie or says something mean, I take a breath and try to respond with grace and patience. I advocate and educate. I speak truth, life, and love over children with special needs in Ghana. I stand up for these mothers’ children, and for my own daughter Ellie Grace. Because all of these treasures are fearfully & wonderfully made. Precious, perfect, and lacking nothing. And I pray that the country and people of Ghana begin to see them in the same way.

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Ellie Grace [18 months]

IMG_8897Name: Ellie Grace
Age: 18 months
Weight: 14 lbs
Nicknames: Ellie baby, Ellie Bee, Sunshine, Gracie, Princess, Big girl, Ellie belly, Auntie Soso, Little one
Likes: Bath time, taking walks in the Ergo, standing, laughing at people, babbling, smiling 90% of the day, napping on momma, playing tricks on momma, hugging momma, anything and everything having to do with momma
Dislikes: Physical therapy, sitting by herself, darkness, and being with anyone besides her momma
Favorite toys: Mickey Mouse stuffed animal, Vtec kids computer, anything that makes noise or lights up
Favorite foods: Yogurt, mashed avacado, ice cream (a girl after my own heart), peanut butter

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As of today, I have a one and a half year old! I still can’t wrap my mind around that. My girl came home two months ago and acted totally like a newborn, unable to engage, move, eat well, or sleep for long periods of time. Now, she is babbling, sitting straight up, and standing with assistance. She eats a lot, and only wakes up 1-3 times a night (it used to be 5-8!). She’s no longer a baby, even though she’s a tiny little peanut who only fits in 3 month clothes. She’s a growing little lady.

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Dear daughter, 

Today, you turn 18 months old. A year and a half. I can’t believe that in six months you will be two years old. You have grown so big and strong and I am so proud of you. I am constantly in awe that out of everyone in the world, God chose us to be a family.

When you wake up in the morning, you are nothing but smiles. During the day, you are constantly laughing. When I tie you onto my back for you to fall asleep for the night, we walk to a mirror and when you see yourself on my back, all you can do is open your mouth wide and smile. You truly are the most joyful child.

My baby girl, I say it time and time again, but its the biggest blessing and honor to be your momma. People will say that you are lucky to have me because you were an orphan, but I don’t believe that one bit. We are lucky to have each other. Because I could not imagine life without you. We are a team. A mother daughter duo. You are my forever sidekick. We don’t go anywhere without each other.

You are brave. You are a warrior. You are strong. And you never, ever give up. I know the physical progress you’ve made in the last two months is only a beginning of an incredible journey of healing that we are on. I can’t wait to have a front row seat in continuing to watch God perform miracles.

Ellie Grace, my sunshine, you are so very loved. I loved you before I ever met you. I have been praying for my future children for years, and now, I know all those prayers were heard by our Father, because every single one of them was answered…with you. My beautiful daughter, you are God’s greatest gift to me, and there are never enough words to thank Him enough for giving me you.

I love you. Always and forever. To the moon and back, and more.

Love, 

Momma

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Always gracious, Always attentive, Always loving

In the course of a week, I normally get at least 5, sometimes up to 10, phone calls about new cases special needs children who need help. Whether that be medical needs, wheelchairs, education related inquiry, or family assistance. My phone never stops ringing, and most days I want to turn it off completely in order to get even 5 minutes of free time. Here’s an example of a few of the cases I’ve been called about in the last two weeks:

  • Child is 4 years old with hydrocephalus. Can not walk, but can speak and has high cognitive function. Mother is being abused by husband, verbally and physically. Has two children, child with hydrocephalus, and a 3 year old. 3 year old attends school during the day, but mother cleans a nearby bar in the mornings to make money. Can’t take child with hydro to work with her, so she has to lock her inside their one room. Child cries and neighbors get angry at mother and tell her she needs to kill her child, or they will kick her out of the compound.
  • Child is 8 and has cerebral palsy and seizures. Child was born normally developing, and had major seizure at age 2, and has since not been able to walk, talk, or be independent. Husband kicked mother and child out of the house, saying that the mother was cheating on him with another man, which is why child had seizure and is now disabled. No place mother and child to go, and no job for mother.
  • Child is 7 and has Down Syndrome. Child attends our inclusive school and is excelling rapidly. Child comes crying to me one morning and mother calls to tell me child’s father has died, leaving the family with no support. Mother can’t find a job because her name has been spread in the community as having a disabled cursed child.
  • Child is 3 months and has many special needs due to medicine mother took while pregnant to try and abort him. Mother plans to kill child because of baby’s “curse”, and want to poison him immediately to rid the family of the evil.
  • Child is 9 months with progressing hydrocephalus. Family tried to do cultural medicine on the child to heal the child of the “curse”, and ended up injuring the child in the process. Child goes in and out of consciousness many times a day.

Five. Those are shortened versions of five cases that I got called about in the last two weeks. There are many, many more that I could share with you. These are just a few.

I will be the first one to tell you that this life and work it not easy. At all. Not one bit. There is nothing “simple” or “easy” about living in Ghana and working with special needs children. Every week I am bombarded with stories and situations like the five mentioned above. Many of the stories have overlapping themes: stigma, financial hardship, unsupporting spouses, unwelcoming community, medical emergencies, hopelessness, suffering children, joblessness, and a lot of struggle.

In all of this, its so easy for my heart to become hardened. It’s simpler to turn away from the situations rather than facing them head on. It’s less much less complicated to turn a blind eye, rather than working knee deep in the mess. It’s easier to pretend it isn’t happening. Because knowing that it is happening and not doing anything about it is seeing a problem and not working towards a solution. It’s seeing struggle and not reaching out your hand to help. It’s watching others suffer and saying, “It’s your problem, not mine”.

And if I’m being honest, thats what I want to do some days. I want to shut off my phone and take a few minutes to breathe and focus on my own personal needs, rather than constantly tending to the needs of others. But that my friends, is the ugly parts of my heart crawling their way to the surface. Because I didn’t move to Ghana to follow my own personal desires, I moved to Ghana to follow His desires for my life. To follow His plans. To pursue His calling for the time I have on earth. And that means not allowing my heart to harden in the process of hearing similar stories and situations over and over and over again. It means picking up every phone call and walking into every home visit with a clean, open, and welcoming heart. And not thinking, “what rendition of the story will I hear today?”, but “what is God trying to show me through this family’s situation, how can The Treasured Ones be off assistance to them, and how can I point them back to God in the process?” It means waking up everyday and saying “God, show me today how to be more like You, always gracious, always attentive, always loving”. 

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Ellie Grace [Diagnosis]

When Ellie first entered my life many many months ago, I knew she had special needs. I knew from the moment I laid eyes on her in the Babies Home back in January 2014. At the time, I knew very little about special needs, but I knew that she was not a normally developing child. Before being brought to the Babies Home, she was never diagnosed by a doctor. While at the Babies Home, she was never diagnosed by a doctor. At the point when I decided to pursue custody of her, I had no idea the length or width of her special needs, or what they would entail short term or long term. Yet, I didn’t allow that to stop me. I knew she was my daughter, whether she had a thousand special needs, or none.

Days after she came home (two months ago) I took her to the best pediatrician in town who fully examined her. Ellie was diagnosed with microcephaly, spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, clubbed feet, severe malnutrition, and possible seizure disorder. When the doctor started writing down all the diagnosis in her chart, I started to cry silently, while my girl was sitting contently in my lap. I was not surprised any any of the diagnosis, because I was expecting most of them, but still, I cried out of fear, worry, and heartache for my little one. Questions and concerns and deep fears began to surface in my head, as my heart tried to defend them off. “We aren’t sure what her prognosis could be. We aren’t sure what she will be able to do. There’s a lot going on with her body right now, and she’s in a fragile state because of her severe malnutrition. Lets take it a day at a time”. No momma wants to hear those words come from a doctors mouth. I swallowed tears and we made a plan on how best we can proceed, and begin to tackle some of the issues at hand.

Over the next few weeks Ellie was poked, prodded, stretched, and manipulated more times than I can count. Blood tests, CT scan with sedation, EEG (twice because the first reading was faulty), physical therapy assessments, and malnutrition examinations. She did it all with a joyful attitude, even through all the tears. Hearing my daughter scream and be in pain and not being able to comfort her, was awful, but knowing it’s what is best for her got me through it. Her list of diagnosis were all confirmed through the tests.

It’s been almost two months since the day the pediatrician listed off her special needs. And my Ellie girl has taken that list of diagnosis, those barriers, and said “watch me soar”. Because she has done just that. She goes to physical therapy twice a week, can stand and sit with only a little assistance, has gained six pounds, is eating like a champ (her favorite foods are avocado and yogurt), is now babbling, connects and engages with everyone, loves to pull tricks to get anyone to hold her, and is the smartest child I know. That is what love, prayers, a family, and great medical professionals can do. She is my brave warrior girl, and I couldn’t ever express in words just how proud I am of her. She makes my heart swell with joy just thinking about where she came from, and where she is now. She is constantly surprising doctors and myself. And to that I say, “My beautiful daughter, never stop surprising me. And I will never stop praising you and thanking God for giving me you”.

Ellie’s diagnosis is heavy. It comes with endless unknowns. But please don’t ever pity my daughter because of her special needs. She is more than words in her patient chart note. She is more than what doctors say she will never do. We don’t want your sad faces or “I’m sorry”s. E is fearfully and wonderfully made. She is perfect in every single way. She was created by our Father, who stitched and sewed every fiber of her being together. He had this planned all along, and although there has been a lot of heartbreak and struggle, this is our journey together. We are embracing the path set before us and trusting Him more than we ever have before.

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Shadrach [Rehab/Foster Home]

Back in April I was scrolling through the Project Hopeful page of Waiting Children (to be adopted) and I came across a little boy with the brightest of eyes named Shadrach. I clicked on his page, and to my surprise, found out he was in Ghana, and had special needs! Because of his special needs, his village and community thought he was cursed, and they planned to abandon him and leave him to die, in order to rid themselves of this evil curse that was placed upon them. Thankfully, he was rescued by a local orphanage before they could carry out their plans.

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Immediately I googled his name and found out that he was being cared for by an organization called Feeding the Orphans (FTO). I messaged FTO’s director and said that if Shadrach needed someone to care for him before he got adopted, that I would be more than willing to take him into my home. She responded saying he was in an orphanage where he was loved and cared for. I began posting on social media about him, trying to get anyone and everyone to read his story, knowing that his forever adoptive family is out there looking for him too.

I continued to move forward with founding The Treasured Ones and transitioning my personal home into the Rehab/Foster Home. At the end of August, while in the midst of finalizing Ellie‘s legal guardianship, the FTO director messaged me again saying, “Rebecca, remember when you offered to care for Shadrach and said your house would always be open to him? The time is now. The place where he has been living is closing, and he has no where to go. Can you take him in?”

I was in a car with some of my staff, and we jumped for joy that God planned for Shadrach to be in our foster home. I quickly messaged her back and we immediately got to work preparing for this sweet boy to come home.

Three weeks ago, on September 22nd our sweet boy Shadrach came home. We welcomed him with lots of hugs and kisses, a warm new bed, and hearts bursting with love. He started to settle in, and we even got some smiles out of him!

Shadrach is almost 2 and a half years old, and has craniosynostosis (from a pre-birth infection), cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and a few more special needs.  His prognosis is for severe mental retardation, requiring lifelong care. BUT Shadrach is a beloved child of God, and deserves a family. And I KNOW his family is out there. If you are interested in adopting Shadrach, please use the “contact” page above. Be praying for Shadrach’s forever family to find him!

Shadrach goes by a wide range of names in my house such as “Shaddy boy” “sweet boy” “Shaddy baby” and “big boy”. He is such a joy filled child. He loves to nuzzle his slobbery face into your neck and get as close to your body as possible. He loves to be held, and rocked, and many times he thinks he is a small baby that should be held all day, not a 25 pound 2 year old who is heavy! His favorite place to be is tied to someone’s back, where he is able to feel your warmth, and still look around at his surroundings. He adores music and lights and loves interactive toys.

We love our sweet Shadrach and pray for his forever family every single day. Could Shadrach be your son??

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Joni and Friends Wheels for the World

Earlier this year I was connected with Joni and Friends, a hands down incredible organization comprised of many different ministries, both domestic and international. JAF is answering the call in the Gospel of Luke 14, “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed…make them come in so my house will be full.” You can read more about all their ministries here.

In June 2014, I was invited to serve as a short term missionary at their International Family Retreat in Accra, Ghana. It was an amazing week, and I will write a blog post on it soon. I connected with the JAF Ghana Directors and discussed the possibility of doing a wheelchair outreach in Kumasi with the families of The Treasured Ones. We prayed for the provision of wheelchairs, for transportation for the chairs, for scheduling of the mechanic to custom fit the children, for no rain, for the families coming, for health, all the way down to praying for the food we would serve for lunch. Every single one of our prayers were answered, and today, 8 children received custom fitted wheelchairs. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…..

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[Pastor Joel, who oversees Wheels for the World outreaches in Ghana, and also fits each and every child with a custom wheelchair]

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[Lord (yes, his name is Lord) 7 years old]

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[Emmanuel, 7 years old]

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[Many of you know this incredible mother-son duo from The Treasured Ones video!]

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[Ernestina, 14 years old]

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[Offeibea, 12 years old]

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[Blessing, 7 years old]

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[Blessing lives in a village very, very far away. She has been crawling on her hands and feet over 3 miles to school each day. Her brothers and sisters walk beside her crawling so she doesn't get attacked by animals. She now is able to push herself in her wheelchair to school for the very first time.]

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[Ishak, 9 years old]

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[Precious, 4 years old]

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I’ll never be able to explain in words what the wheelchairs mean to these families. Ghana is not like America where there are sidewalks, ramps, elevators, or accessible buildings. The mothers of these children have to carry them on their back absolutely everywhere. And all of the children are h.e.a.v.y. Many are single mothers, so there is no one to watch the children when they go to the market to buy food, or even just next-door to pick up something. The children must travel with them, and you would not believe the bashing, stigmatization, and shaming that is thrown upon them. They are told that their children are cursed and wicked and not human. This takes a major toll on the mothers’ mental health, and also the emotions of the child. But now, these mothers are proud to show off their children’s wheelchairs. They are proud to take them to the market. They are proud to push them around their community. The wheelchairs not only provide mobility, but they provide independence. And confidence. The wheelchairs provide joy. They boost the morales of the mothers and children, because a child with a custom fitted wheelchair shows a community and a country who constantly looks down upon them, that they are worthy, important, and very, very loved. Wheelchairs bring new life.

Posted in Blog Update, Ghana, The Treasured Ones | 1 Comment

Education Center GRAND OPENING!

Today, October 9th, 2014, we officially commissioned and opened The Education Center. We held a huge opening party at the Center with many guests that included government officials, chiefs, departmen I am at a loss for words to what this day means to me, what it means to all of us involved in this project. All I can say is thank you. Thank you to every donor, contributor, partner, fundraiser, and cheerleader. We could not have gotten here without you. I will post more thoughts on the completing and opening of the Center when I get the words out. But for right now, it is my biggest honor to introduce you to the Light for Children Educational Center in Atonsu, Kumasi, Ghana.

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[Library]

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[Library]

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[Library]

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[World renown musician Koo Nimo]

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[Cultural group from local junior high school performing]

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[All the school children were invited to the opening ceremony…as well as lots of media!]

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Posted in Blog Update, Ghana, The Education Center | 5 Comments

The {well} Studio (Guest Post)

I had the wonderful opportunity to write a guest post for The {well} Studio and share a bit more about the journey to founding The Treasured Ones. Check it out here!

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