Monday, December 11, 2017

Song of the Week: An Adoptee's Reflection on Her Mother's Thoughts

Hi everyone! This week is starting off with a new feature on the blog: the Song of the Week! Those of you who know me know I love to sing! So, once a week, I'll choose a song I heard recently and write about it on the blog. Check out the first featured song below: I'll Give My Life for You.

As a writer, one of my areas of interest is historical fiction. When choosing a book or a movie, I prefer serious, oftentimes sad, stories. While I love my share of rom-coms and happy endings, I think that there is something we can learn from stories of sacrifice and grief. 

I recently discovered the Broadway musical, Miss Saigon. It tells the story of Kim, a young girl who is in Saigon during the Vietnam War. She works as a prostitute to survive and make money and one day, she meets an American GI, Chris. This story does not sugar-coat the reality of war. Content Note: This musical is for mature audiences only. 

There are some lovely songs in this musical score like "The Last Night of the World," or "Sun and Moon." Yet, i found a surprising gem in the middle of the show. "I'd Give My Life for You," is the song Kim sings to her son. It is at once a lullaby, a prayer, and a raw, earnest plea. When I heard it, I replayed the song over and over, as it's lyrics capture the thoughts of a mother for her child. 

As an adopted woman, I can see this aching song relating to my birth mother in Russia. Yet, and this is what makes the song so poignant, the same lyrics can also apply to my adoptive mother. 

"You didn't ask me to be born. You-- why should you learn of war or pain?
Orphans don't choose to be orphans. While I can't speak for all adopted kids, nor do I know exactly why I was put up for adoption, Kim's wish as her mother - to protect her child from pain - is deep and true. She knows she can't care for him and wants him to have a better life. The same is true for my birth mother. Likewise, my adoptive mom wants me to know love and like any parent's wish for their child - wants to protect me from pain.

To be sure you're not hurt again, I swear I'd give my life for you.
Because my birth mother knew she could not care for me, she gave up her life - her wishes to keep her daughter- and allowed me to be adopted, never knowing what would happen to her daughter. 

In Russia, my adoptive mother stood up in court, declaring: "I will pour my life into this child." To be sure I would never be alone again, that I would have a family, and know what unconditional love meant -  my mom sacrificed her plans for her own life, to give me mine.

I've tasted love beyond all fear, and you should know it's love that brought you here. And in one perfect night, when the stars burned like new, I knew what I must do.
Knowing what I do about my own birth parents, I think their story was one of love. Yet, I can only imagine the heart-wrenching decision she had to make: She could keep her child without much resources. She could have an abortion. Or she could choose adoption, forever relinquishing her rights to her daughter. She knew what she must do - and I am so thankful to her for her decision. 

It is the love of God for the orphan, and His orchestration and interweaving of lives, that brought me here today. It is the love of my parents, who felt this peace and love from God so that they approached my adoption, bold and fearless. Their love for me was so strong, they knew they had to go to Russia to bring me home. 

I'll give you a million things I'll never own. I'll give you a world to conquer when you're grown.You will be who you want to be.You can choose whatever heaven grants.

When my birth mother made the decision to put me in an orphanage, she did so knowing she was giving me the chance to be adopted. The chance for me to have what she never did. The chance for me to get out of Russia, where the future of disabled orphans is grim. By allowing me to be adopted, she gave me the choice to make the most of all the new opportunities I would be given.

When my parents brought me home, they gave me a million things I would have never have had as an orphan. They loved me, taught me, and enabled me to go out and be a voice for other orphans. Now, I can choose what I want to study, what I want to do with my life. I can be who I want to be - not put in the four walls of an orphanage and labeled as "disabled." It is my parents' years of love and work that have allowed me to prove others wrong and show all the potential that is in a little girl with Cerebral Palsy. The Lord has given me a platform and a passion for other orphans.


As long as you can have your chance, I swear I'll give my life for you. No one can stop what I must do. I swear I'll give my life for you.
As the  song begins with the voices of both women, so it ends. I am humbled and honored to be a part of both stories. My birth mother's story - who sacrificed her own life and desires to keep her daughter - to give me a chance at a new life. And the story of my mom today - who decided she would give up her own life plans - all to ensure a little girl would have a second chance at life.

I am thankful for the sacrifices of my birth mother in Russia, who like Kim, gave her child a new life at the cost of being together. 

I am forever blessed by my mom who raised me and whose prayers have given me the life I have today.

Adoption is a sacrifice. But when the Lord knits hearts together...
No one can stop what they must do. 

Below:
Hear Eva Noblezada (Broadway's current Kim in Miss Saigon) sing "I'll Give My Life for You" 





Saturday, December 9, 2017

The King Loves - A Summer Sageuk at The Silver Petticoat Review


Scarlet Heart: Ryeo was my first Korean Drama. As someone who loves historical fiction, there are an abundance of sageuks (historical dramas) to choose from among Asian dramas. Needless to say, when I found out one of the actors from Scarlet Heart: Ryeo was going to play a lead in the summer drama The King Loves, I couldn't wait to tune in! Check out my review over at The Silver Petticoat Review!

Read my complete, original article here. 

Excerpt:
"Next on my list of things to adore: the costumes and setting! From the gorgeous hanbok (Joseon-era clothing) [...] Some highlights to look forward to include: the masquerade dance at the palace between the three leads and a literal cliffhanger when the friends traverse a mountain on an unusual quest. There are deeply artistic moments throughout this show that are quite breathtaking – whether it is a field of flowers or a sword fight as fluid as a dance."









Monday, December 4, 2017

Ode to Joy: A Story of 5 Women...and Adoption


If you are looking for a drama with characters you can relate to, heartwarming friendships, and lots of drama and romance, then look no futher than "Ode to Joy." It is the story of five apartment neighbors and their lives, romance, and struggles in contemporary Shanghai. 

My favorite character throughout remained Andie, who as was adopted from China when she was young. She then returns to work in the business world. While parts of Andie's story are over dramatic for the sake of television, overall I was impressed to see an international show tackling the issue of adoption. Andie struggles a lot with the question of identity and trauma  that happened in her childhood. I won't give away her story, but it was a joy to see her open up to her friends and others sh was close to. Andie is just one of the five Ode to Joy Girls! Check out my review to learn more about why you should watch this drama:                          

Original, complete review available here on The Silver Petticoat Review. 

Here's a snippet of my review and why you should make this your next go-to show!

"One thing which makes this drama distinct is how the characters’ likability constantly changes based on the situations they get mixed up in or how they choose to react. I found different moments of their stories resonating with me at different times [...] the show offers moments of wisdom and advice that hold true to our lives today."




Saturday, October 7, 2017

I Can Promise You I Do Not









This is Ellianna.
She is my sister. 
I know. 
I know people look at her and don't see the potential I do. They see her smile. And hear her infectious laughter. But others also see her disabilities -  her Cerebral Palsy, that makes it hard for her to walk  Her learning disabilities, her dyslexia, and dysgraphia that make it difficult for her to read and write, even when she painstakingly practices over and over. They see her cochlear and discover her profound deafness. Very few people take the time to learn her language and communicate.

With so many special-needs, the world looks at her and doesn't expect her to become anything or achieve anything of worth in life. 

A few weeks ago, I re-watched the movie, The Imitation Game. It is the story of Alan Turing, the creator of "Turing machines" - also known as computers. In the film adaption of Turing's story, we see him hunched over his desk, drawing sketch upon sketch, countless diagrams and ideas pouring out of his head onto paper - and the utter disbelief from his colleagues that what Turing was doing was actually accomplishing anything. How those diagrams reminded me of Ellianna's talent with spatial directions, her quick nimble fingers building lego structures without diagrams to help her, and her natural understanding of technology. Her mind is always turning, always questioning, always discovering.

"Sometimes, it's the people no one imagines anything of, who do the things no one can imagine.' ~Alan Turing, "The Imitation Game"

Turing's machine cracked the German Enigma code and together, the team's work shortened WWII by several years and save thousands of lives. 

Though I had already seen the movie several times, that night tears welled up in my eyes at the end of the movie when Joan Clarke, Turing's teammate during the war, visits him in his home. She finds him depleted of strength and his brilliant mind draining away. Joan has everything Alan does not - a job, a spouse, a normal life. Kindly and with a firm, steadfast gaze, Joan tells him:

"No one normal could have done that. Do you know, this morning... I was on a train that went through a city that wouldn't exist if it wasn't for you. I bought a ticket from a man who would likely be dead if it wasn't for you. I read up on my work... a whole field of scientific inquiry that only exists because of you. Now, if you wish you could have been normal... I can promise you I do not. The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren't." Joan Clarke, "The Imitation Game"

In that moment as I cried, Joan's words resonated with me in a new way. I realized her words are precisely what I tell Ellianna, whenever she becomes discouraged...when she asks why she doesn't have friends that come to visit...when she cries in frustration at not being able to communicate with others as she so longs to...and when others, looking at all she isn't, miss everything that she is and all she can do. 

No one normal could have done that...

Ellianna's Art for Orphans
Can you see the man on the bench amidst fall leaves?



Dear Ellianna. 
If you wish you could have been normal, I can promise you I do not. 



The world is an infinitely better place precisely because you weren't. 

Follow and write to Ellianna at: I Am Ellianna on blogger and Facebook!
Learn about her Art for Orphans and order her prints by contacting Ting Ministries.








Saturday, August 12, 2017

Silver Petticoat Review - The Kindness Beneath the Joseon Gunman


Read the complete, original article here. 

Those who know Korean drama, may be familiar with Lee Joon-Ki. He played the orphaned Wang So in Scarlet Heart: Ryeo and does an excellent job in historical shows. So I was excited to find his show from 2014, Gunman in Joseon. Check out an excerpt of my Romantic Moment of the Week, when Hae-Won tells Hanjo she was once a slave, and be sure to follow the link to the whole article on The Silver Petticoat Review.

Excerpt from the Silver Petticoat Review: 

[Hanjo] looks at [Hye-Won] with a small smile and she returns his gaze. It is clear the admiration for each other has not changed – in fact, perhaps it has only grown. Hanjo’s own situation, and knowledge of what he is hiding behind the name Hasegawa Hanjo – the son of a “traitor” and a sister who suffered for three years in his absence – gives him a genuine understanding and compassion."

What he goes on to tell Hye-Won is one of the best lines of gentle affirmation I have heard in a K-drama...and made me love Lee Joon-Ki's acting even more!


Friday, August 4, 2017

Guest Post: Caring for Orphans and Animals



This is a story I have to share, for it has settled in my heart. 

Update from Ting Ministries: See the original post here.

From our animal rescue partners at Shelter Friend - Ukraine.: "Often people who drink a lot or homeless are more kind to animals then so called normal pet owner... On the photo is an elderly man who died alone, who lived alone, who drunk a lot... But he saved two dogs and three cats from streets. He was [sharing] food with them and they cuddle at night to warm each other. Man died and relatives will take what ever is left from house except animals.. so we offered them shelter..."
Some people ask us at Ting Ministries why we care about both orphans and animal rescue. If you have ever seen the healing a hurt, abandoned animal can bring to a hurt and abandoned child - that is why. This man knew how it felt to be alone. So, when he saw the lonely animals, he offered what no one else did to him - a home and love. Likewise, our dogs, adopted from Shelter Friend - Ukraine. are an integral part of not only our personal family, but of our TM family and vision. They were abused on the streets, and it is incredible to see the love and understanding they have for our girls, who came out of years of orphanage neglect and trauma. God truly "sets the lonely in families..."(Psalm 68:6) with beautiful results. Learn more about TM's work with Animal Rescue on our website and please check out our partner's Facebook page and website at: http://dryg.org.ua/eng/about/

Update from Shelter Friend - Ukraine




"Often I feel sad about such a stories more then about just strays... Often people who drink a lot or home less are more kind to animals then so called normal pet owner... On the photo is an elderly man who died alone, who lived alone, who drunk a lot... But he saved two dogs and three cats from streets. He was [sharing] food with them and they cuddle at night to warm each other. Man died and relatives will take what ever is left from house except animals.. so we offered them shelter...
Please share our page so more people will hear the plea of our animals
https://www.facebook.com/shelterFriendDnepr/
If you can adopt - adopt
PayPal - shelter.friend.ukraine@gmail.com or martina.ravak@gmail.com International adoptions are welcomed!!! Thank you!!"




















Saturday, July 29, 2017

All Blood Looks Red to Me


"All blood looks red to me, so I can't tell. So I don't look at the blood, but at the person."                                                                                                                              ~The King Loves. 

The Question...

A common question that often comes up in adoption conversation and a question I've been asked as an adopted child  Don't you want your own children? What about having biological kids?


Even as an adopted child, studying my native language at university, there are times I literally forget I am adopted. It might sound silly, but people often tell my mother and I we look alike, and assume I am her biological daughter.

Now, maybe it's just because I'm Caucasian, like my parents, that I forget. Surely, someone like my sister Ellianna, with her long black hair and Asian features wouldn't be mistaken for a biological child. 




 You should see the surprised expressions on people's faces when they turn around.

The Heart of the Matter...

So many adopted children struggle with the issue of identity and blood relationships - questions of what if, why, what about my birth family. It can lead to doubt, resentment, and fear. These feelings surround the  context of the quote at the beginning of this post. There are two friends, one a prince, the other a member of a noble family. The prince, whose father is Korean and whose mother is Chinese has grown up surrounded by people saying he's unfit to rule because of his "half-blood" lineage. The prince, taking these comments to heart, thinks his friend would be a much better ruler - after all, his lineage is pure. As an adopted young woman, I was struck with the truth of his friend's simple reply: 

All blood looks red to me, so I can't tell. So I don't look at the blood, but at the person.

You see, blood is blood. Just a substance. Yes, it is the basis of physical life. However, it is the person that makes the difference and teaches us to live life. This is why I call my adoptive parents Mom and Dad. They were the ones who have taken care of me, given me a home, and taught me with love from the time I was 17 months old. 

The same holds true when I look at my sisters. I don't see a difference in country of birth, language, race, or disability. They are simply my sisters. I don't love them because of their blood. Indeed how shallow that would sound. I love them because I have been taught to "care for the orphans and widows in their distress..." (James 1:27). I love them because they were chosen by my family and because I have experienced how love and care can change a life. 

I've written before about biological/adopted child dynamics, in my review of Cheese in the Trap. Yet the answer to the same feelings of doubt and resentment is the same. We (adopted children, biological children, and parents) must choose to be secure in our identity in Christ. There is only One whose blood matters. (John 3:16). And it is through His death we were adopted into God's family (Ephesians 1:5). It is not our blood that makes us brothers and sisters in Christ. How could there be any hope in that? It is through the Person who laid down His life for us. (1 John 3:16). This is how we know what love is...

This is why, even remembering a conversation I had in high school, to now, I see no distinction between biological or adopted. What I know is this. There are 156 million orphans and Christ sacrificed His life for my adoption. Why should I then, in following His example, not do the same? Because of the Cross, the Lord does not look at us in our weak flesh and blood. Rather, He looks at us through Christ, the One who makes the difference in our lives. 

Final Thought... 

I will always be grateful to my birth parents for giving me life. But if it weren't for my parents, I would never have had the opportunity to live it. Thank you. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Comment below or write to me at natalya.aleksandra@gmail.com.