Sleep Sweetly

When I got home, I stuck the sticker on my refrigerator to remind me of the moment. The edge of the sparkly heart curled up from where Olivia had peeled it off her paper and it lost its stickiness. For little girls Olivia’s age, stickers are quite important. And for her to give me one of hers was no small gift.

It all started with a game. Lately the older children like to take turns crawling up in our laps to play the “Xuejia” game. Roughly translated, it means the napping game. They like to curl up like a little baby in our arms, tightly close their eyes, and pretend to sleep while you sing a song. Usually they take turns, patiently waiting for their turns — one song each! — and they can go on and on. I’m not sure which of the children invented the game, but it has definitely caught on.

The game itself breaks my heart as I watch these little ones reach out for extra love and affection. And, it doesn’t escape my notice that it is so controlled. They are the ones who decide the terms and limits of the affection. They choose the moment. They choose the song. They give strict instructions on how the game is to be played. It’s clear that they’ve lost the childhood innocence that defines the moments when most children cuddle up with their mothers for a song. But they still want the affection…

Like I said, usually each child is limited to one song each since there are others waiting in line. (Yet another thing that breaks my heart… Children who must take turns to receive affection.) But today was different. Everyone was off and busy doing other things. When Olivia came in, she was clearly out of sorts. She walked over to where I was sitting on the couch and asked me to hold her. I picked her up.

She curled into my arms. She turned her head towards my chest and buried her face deep in the fold of my arm. I felt tension ease out of her body, and she whispered what song she wanted me to sing. It is one you know… I began softly singing and she remained still.

Olivia is a beautiful girl. She’s often told that she is beautiful, and many visitors are drawn to her. Though she’s only 4, she has learned how to beguile and attract people with her engaging personality and winning smile. She is cute, but for her, it is all about control… she uses it to get the attention she needs and wants. Emily, on the other hand, gets attention by forcefully grabbing it. Cheryl pretends she doesn’t need it. I could describe how each child has learned to receive the attention they need, but it was only recently that I learned to recognize Olivia’s method.

But when she curled up on her lap and asked me to sing the song over and over again, I could sense her letting go of that control, if only for a moment. She rested. She trusted. She let go of control.

And she fell asleep.

For nearly a half hour, I held her as she slept. As I watched her, I wondered what her life would hold. When would she finally go home? Where will her journey take her? Will I be able to tell her mother someday of this moment when I stood in for her? How can I help her heal?

When she woke up for dinner, we sat and played for a little while longer. She gave me the sticker… a broken heart from a broken heart… and I had to go home. As I walked out of the foster home, I found myself humming her chosen song yet again:

Little ones to Him belong
They are weak, but He is strong.

12 thoughts on “Sleep Sweetly

  1. wow. I can hardly post a comment because the tears are blurring my vision! praying for sweet Olivia and all the other little ones there. Praying for you and all the other workers who provide them with so much love.


  2. A beautiful moment, as I read your post I pictured to myself Jesus holding this broken little one through your arms. You are pouring so many precious things into these children each day, each smile, each hug. Blessings,Jen


  3. Carrie, I can’t count how many times I prayed that the Lord would fulfill his promise to be a “Father” to our Maddie Rae, “the Fatherless” while she was in the orphanage. I sincerely believe he used special nannies and caregivers to fulfill that promise, and He’s using you now to tangibly love on these children. What a precious story, and visible reminder of the needs these little ones have. I know it is SO difficult some days to face another day of pollution, crowds, and no Target 🙂 , but I pray that the Lord would continue to give you the grace while He has you there to love these little ones who need attention so desperately.


  4. OK, my heart is broken too and I want my daughter home now!May God draw many to His children through your work. And may He bless you for your obedience to show them His love.


  5. Carrie-Your posts often make me think and elicit emotion here on my end, but right now I’m simply overcome. These children and their emotional needs are so delicate and important. Thank you for standing in for a mother’s love. What a beautiful song Olivia chose. HE indeed loves her!Kelly


  6. I read this post this morning before work. I was speechless. I’ve thought about it all day. Thank you for sharing. I love Olivia and will say a special prayer for her and all the others tonight.


  7. Each of these comments before mine say it all. My prayers are for Olivia and prayers of thanksgiving for you being there. Your post is very beautifully written.Janet


  8. Carrie, I’ve appreciated reading about Olivia for as long as you’ve written about her. I know how long it has taken her to be vulnerable like this to someone. I’m so glad for her that you were/are there for her. I trust she will never forget it either.


  9. Carrie, I honestly don’t know how you do it. You have to be one super strong woman. I would love to volunteer for a month but Im scared that I would be an emotional wreck by the end.


  10. Oh Carrie….tears are streaming down my face. You know that my little ones know ALL about controlling this Mommy and the entire household in their own special ways. I can’t even imagine my life and everything around me so OUT of control like they have experienced. I pray for every orphan in the world they find a forever family…breaks my heart…truly breaks my heart.


  11. Oh, Carrie…there are no words. Just tears and a heart that literally aches for these children.I only found this blog earlier today…which I cannot believe, as I've been a faithful visitor to New Day and a prayer partner for the children since last year. I've been reading your posts for hours. You've reached into the depths of my being with all that you've posted. My love for these children has been continuously growing for nearly a year now… but tonight it has reached new depths… a love that can only be reflective of our Father above. And my love for you and the heart you have for these kids, your insight and reflection…it too is growing as I truly “feel” your heart. God bless you, Carrie! <><Big Hugs,~Tanya T.


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