Kelly

Kelly

Gosh, this was a hard post to write.  I stopped, stared at the image of my cousin above, typed a little, and deleted a lot before finally deciding on how to write about her.  My cousin has been gone now for quite some time.  This week marks the 16th anniversary of her death.  It was an extremely painful experience to lose a best friend and someone who I essentially grew up with.

Most of my friends and co-workers do not even know.  It is not that I have forgotten about her…I just cannot “go there” very often.  I am extremely blessed with amazing friends, but there will always be that space that only Kelly filled.  The vast majority of my early life memories involve her.  Cousins really do become children’s first friends.

She was only 23-years-old; yet, had many sorrows and troubles.  Addictions and sadness plagued her, even though, there was a tremendous amount of sweetness, tenderness, and love buried underneath all of the dirt of life.  She battled addictions for several years and though she wanted to live a full, healthy life, I think that the struggles she had were just too great for her.  So much life has happened since hers ended, but she is never really too far from my thoughts.

My last words to her, while she was conscious, were “baby steps, Kelly, baby steps.” I was trying to get her to slow down with her eagerness to get out of the hospital.  I knew she needed to just put one foot in front of the other and that starting a new, healthier life would be much more difficult than she probably imagined.  “Baby steps”….I regretted those words.  If I had known those words were my last to her, I would not have chosen them.

Moments before her death, I ran to the chapel at the hospital and pleaded with the Lord.  I was not an active Christian at the time and had a lot of confusion, but I still believed in a Heavenly Father who heard our cries.

“Lord, please God, I will do anything. Please let Kelly live.  Please God….she needs a miracle.”  

These words stumbled off of my clumsy lips that were quivering and drenched with tears.  My broken and trembling body laid over the back of the pew.  My hands were clasped together and I was reaching out to the cross before me.  I was alone in the chapel begging….it was just me and God.  It was me bargaining for Him to deliver a miracle to my near lifeless best friend.

Soon after, this I heard my name and turned around.  In the doorway, my aunt stood there shaking her head with tears rolling down her cheeks.

“She’s gone”

….silence.

….numbness.

I got up and nearly ran right into a lady wearing a white jumpsuit.  I remember her brown hair for some reason, but I do not remember her face and did not know she was even in the room.  She said to me, “I heard you pray and wanted to let you know that your cousin is going to be okay.  It is all-Saints day.”  She hugged me and I walked out of the chapel.  I was not Catholic (still am not), so I really did not know what she meant, but something about my encounter with her felt good.

Several months after my cousin’s death, I prayed that God would allow me to see Kelly one more time so that I would know she was okay.  My prayer was answered in a dream.  We were driving around in a car listening to music just like old times when she was breathing Earthly air.  No words were spoken, but I could “hear” her say “I’m okay Caroline.  I’m okay.”  There she sat glowing in all white with that beautiful smile on her face.  There was great peace in the car and I remember not wanting the ride to come to an end.  I woke up and even though it pained me to realize she was gone, I just knew that she was at peace and with the Lord.  I have not dreamed of her since then, but that is okay.

I believe the Lord did grant her the miracle I so pleaded for on that fateful day.  You see, Kelly had been rendered unconscious just a week or two prior to her death.  She miraculously came to, asked for forgiveness, recommitted her faith in the Lord, told her family and friends that she loved them, laughed, hugged, and then passed away.  That was her miracle.

I too was touched by a miracle on the day Kelly died.  My aunt who ran into the chapel to let me know Kelly passed away does not remember the lady in the white jumpsuit.  She told me there was no one else in the chapel with me when she came in.  In other words, I believe my miracle on that day was an encounter with an angel telling me that my sweet cousin was going to be okay even though she would be leaving the Earth.

Kelly never had the opportunity to become a mom, graduate from college, start a career, own a personal computer, use a smart phone, or travel to some far off exotic place.  She did not get to stand next to me at my wedding, attend my adoption hearings, and watch how my story of infertility unfolded.  I know she would have been so in love with my babies and would have cherished them as much as I do.  I believe a part of her will always be with me during all of the moments I share with my children.

I look forward with great anticipation and joy at the reunion I will have with her in Heaven.  I look forward to breathing in the same celestial air that she is breathing and to shine with her in the glory of the Lord.  But, for now, I will continue to hold her in that quiet space that belongs only to her.  I will continue to think of her every time I see tulips and daisies.  And, I will continue to rejoice in the miracles that occurred during that week when Kelly danced her way into Heaven.

Love You, Kelly

Just a Bag of Clothes

It had been a long day for my husband after waking up at the crack of dawn and driving several hours to see a child on his caseload who is in a residential type of setting.  My husband came into the kitchen after getting home and I could tell by his expression that something was amiss.  He was sad and the look on his face told me that his heart was heavy.

“I went to see “Billy” (not the actual name of child) today.  I took him a bag of clothing.  You should have seen the look on his face.  It was just a bag of clothes and they really weren’t that great.  He was so happy to get it.”  My husband was trying to cover his emotion while telling me this story.  I told my husband that it sounded like he was happy to get them and it was a good thing to do.  My husband then went on to say, “I know, but “Billy” doesn’t have a family.  He doesn’t have a home to live in.  He doesn’t have anyone, but he was thrilled to get a bag of clothing.  He has nobody.”

Sadly, this story is true.  My husband is a case manager working with abused and neglected children that have been brought into the foster care system.  “Billy” is one of those kids who disrupted out of his potential adoptive home due to behavioral issues and is now living in a residential setting.  This child has lost his birth family due to abuse and his sibling is getting adopted by his foster family soon.  “Billy” truly does not have anyone except for my husband.  Despite continuing efforts to help him control his behaviors and to find a permanent home for him, it is quite possible that he will grow up in the foster care system.

My husband hit a wall that day after work.  I have seen it time and time again with case managers.  I too have hit that wall.  The wall I am referring to is the moment when the harsh reality of the work at hand slaps one in the face.  It is easy for all of us working in the field of child welfare to get caught up in the paperwork (trust me there is a  TON of it) and the tasks at hand.  It is challenging when one feels torn between what the federal and state laws require and the gut feeling about what truly may be best for a child.  The job requires one to work with people who are broken or, at least, have broken hearts.  I do not know of a single person involved in child welfare who has not been changed by his or her experience.

The stories of kids like “Billy” are ones that often go unheard or unknown except for those working closely with them.  In my experience, these children are usually quite grateful for clothing and other basic necessities.  I have seen Christmas wish lists from foster children that have a few toys, but mostly have items such as jeans, socks, coats, and hygiene products.  They actually have to be encouraged to ask for things other than the basic needs.

For my husband that day, the act of taking a bag of clothing to a foster child as part of his duty became so much more.  It served as a reminder that there is much work to do in serving children.  It served as a reminder that there are too many children like “Billy” living in our country who literally have no one to call mom and dad.

It also served as a reminder that many of us have been blessed with the gift of stability, protection, love, and a family.  My hope is that this post stirs something in your heart.  My hope is that you will look up organizations in your community that work with foster children and explore how you can get involved.  You never know how the simple of act of taking a bag of clothes to a child in the system could make an impression on that child’s heart.

Enough to make a difference

I asked God, “How much time do I have before I die?”
He replied, “Enough to make a difference.”
— Unknown

Call me strange, but I enjoy browsing through quotes on various topics of interest.  I love it when a quote catches my eye and causes that silent but golden “aha” moment.  The quote above is one of them.  I have often wondered “Am I really making a difference in this world?”  “Do my actions, whether part of my job or not, really help to create something new and hopeful for someone else?”

Through my years working in social services, I have heard many social workers say the same thing when questioning if their footprints (I’m not talking carbon footprints) on this Earth are making positive differences in the lives of others.  Social work is incredibly draining.  It is both a blessing and a burden.  Those of us in the child welfare field go to work knowing full well that our “job demand” really does exist because families are in crisis, children are being hurt, and lives are in chaos.

I have heard that once child welfare (whether as a foster parent, juvenile officer, or case manager) “gets in your blood”, it is hard to get it out.  I believe that.  I suspect that even those who have left the field continue to think about the children they worked with who may now be young adults trying to make it in the world.  Often, I think about the children I have worked with over the years.  I wonder how they are.  I wonder if they ever got what they were looking for…although so many did not even know what that was.  Did I really make a difference in their lives?

I like the quote above because it reminds me that each day is a new opportunity to make a difference in the world.  It reminds me of the absolute responsibility and beauty of life itself.  The joy of living is also tied into the duty of sharing that joy with others.  The grace of waking up each day feeling safe and loved is a gift that deserves to be shared with others and is just enough to make a difference.

Thank you!

I just wanted to say a quick thank you to Andrew for writing a post about me, my adoption story, and my blog.  You can check it out here.

While you are at it, take a stroll around his blog!  

Words Hurt!

a little blurry because I was in a hurry

Standing in line at the grocery store, I glanced over at the latest tabloid newspapers.  As usual, they were spreading gossip about celebrities and others.  I try not to put much effort into noticing these magazines.  I see them not benefiting our society at all.

This time however, my eye caught one the latest headlines and I was somewhat stunned by what it said.  A celebrity couple was splattered all over the covers with statements about how they are heading for a multi-million dollar divorce.  According to the reports, the couple is divorcing because he “snapped” and stated “You can’t give me kids!”

When I read this, I thought “Oh no…no…no…no…they just didn’t go there!”  Sure these magazines and tabloid papers stoop to pretty low levels and truly do not care whose lives they ruin by their false statements, invasion of privacy, and exaggerated facts, but this one really got to me.  How disgustingly low of them to print something like this.  Here are a few reasons I find this to be just simply awful:

  1. If the couple is truly in the midst of fertility struggles, then they may be dealing with the emotional hardships of it.  This type of pain is only something that people who are infertile or otherwise struggling to become parents can understand.  It is a pain that fluctuates with great highs and deep lows.  It is a pain that leaves no mercy and that lingers.
  2. The assumption that their marriage is on the rocks because of infertility is a little insulting.  I know plenty of people with biological children whose marriages have fallen apart.  With that being said though, I suspect that marriages can be challenged by the stress of infertility.  The wife may not understand the husband’s thinking or he may not know how to comfort her.  One spouse may want to explore different options than the other.  Both may be grieving at the same time.  And, let’s face it, grief is a universal response to loss, but how one grieves is unique to that person.
  3. It always seems to be assumed that it is the woman who is the cause of infertility.  Men can be infertile too.  I know plenty of couples where the men have been diagnosed with infertility due to medical problems, etc.
  4. The statement “You can’t give me kids” is offensive.  Marriage is not JUST about having kids.  Plenty of people get married and choose to not have children.  My husband knew going into our marriage that we would never have biological children.  We started off on this adventure of marriage together knowing full well that our pursuit for children may not have been successful.  Marriage is about love and commitment.

I know that the entire article may be false and completely without merit.  Their marriage may be fine and infertility may not even be an issue.  I really do not keep up with celebrity news as it is, but I could not help but feel bad for the wife.  The insensitivity of it really bothered me.  What if they are struggling with infertility?  What if she is insecure right now about their marriage?  It would be extremely painful to see one’s hardship splattered all over the papers for the rest of us to read about.

To be honest, I really thought long and hard about writing this post.  A part of me feels like I too am benefiting from what was said as it gave me a topic to write about.  However, the words I read on the front cover of the tabloid that day stayed with me for several days later.  I actually went back to the store and snapped off a quick picture with my phone as I knew there might end up being a post about it brewing inside my thoughts.

Maybe that part of me that still lingers back in the days of growing up infertile feels the need to speak out and be a voice for others.  I don’t know…I really never found my own voice about being barren throughout my adolescence and young adulthood, so now, it feels good to find my voice and to use it — sort of like a protective instinct over the matters of all things infertile.

The saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” is just wishful thinking (in my opinion).  Words hurt.  Words can be used as instruments of healing or instruments of hate.  Words can be magical and speak vibrancy into so many things, but words can also drain the color.  Words – whether true or not – can cut right into the heart of the pain someone is going through.  It saddens me when the pain of others is turned into profit.

What is your opinion about this? Did you see the headline?  I’m curious!!

Siblings

“Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring, quite often the hard way.” 

-Pamela Dugdale

My husband and I are learning the hard way that nothing causes more trouble in the home than when the kiddos are mad at each other.  

The words I say to them are “You are brother and sister for life, so work it out.”

Let’s just see how that works for us…..

Grace is a Gift

Lost Hill Park

Yesterday, we took the kids out to local park to take some pictures.  I planned their outfits, made sure their faces were clean, and properly instructed them to not wipe anything (crumbs from their snack) on their shirts.  I am not a “photographer” at all, however, have a decent camera and every once in a while, I get lucky and capture a fantastic moment!

As we were walking along the trail and stopping to snap off some pictures, I tried to instruct them to look at me more often, not walk into the tall weeds, or stay on the trail, etc….but I do not think they were paying too much attention.  Their agenda was to have a good time while mine was to get some good photos of them.

We came across a partially dried up creek bed where we stopped to let the kids throw rocks in the water.  I said to them “Do not get in the water. If you step in the water you will fall.”  I took a quick picture of them and was preparing to take some more when my daughter took one step onto the slimy rock and down she goes.

right before the fall

Being the drama queen that she is, she screamed at the top of her lungs while partially soaked in water with the slime of algae on her.  The people walking on the trail were staring at us.  My son just continued to throw rocks into the water as if nothing happened.  My husband was laughing, although he was trying to hide it from me.  I quickly pulled my camera up, took a deep breath, and said “I told you that if you stepped in the water, you will fall down. We have to leave now.”  To be honest, I was fuming inside and did not see any of the humor my husband found in it!

This morning while thinking about our day yesterday, the Lord impressed this upon me.  “Caroline, how many times have I told you to step back from the edge?  How many times have you fallen, and stood up soaking with the slime of sin?” 

Wow – our Lord never fails to turn life into a lesson.  

He is the best example I have of being a parent who finds joy with my children even when things don’t go “my” way.  He is the forgiving parent who does not pack up and walk away.  He is the gracious parent who still wants to capture my moments of beauty despite the fact that I just wallowed in the mud.

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me that grace is truly one of the most important gifts a parent gives a child.

Adoptive Parenting & the Unknowns

This past weekend I was taken by surprise when an X-ray completed on my son that was intended to evaluate whether or not he had pneumonia revealed something else.  The doctor walked into the room and asked if I have ever had any concerns about his heart.  As the conversation developed, I began to realize that I know virtually nothing about his genetic medical history.  I stood there and felt a little panicked at all that I do not know.

These four words, “I DO NOT KNOW”, are words that I have had to say to medical professionals about both of my children through the years.  I get angry when I do not have the answers or clues needed that could assist in seeking results or directing the path that doctors need to take.  I know though that even parents who are raising biological children do not always have the answers needed when discussing medical history, and that medical conditions are not always related to genetic history.  I mean, look what happened at me!

As an adoptive parent though, I feel very helpless when standing in front of medical staff with barely anything to add.  My thoughts go from frustration, to anger, and then to guilt.  I feel frustrated for not being able to help.  I get angry at realizing that poor choices by my children’s birth mothers could lead to health problems for my children.  I also get angry knowing that it is almost nearly impossible for people who have been adopted to find out their medical histories.  Often, they have to get attorneys to subpoena the courts to open the record.  It is not an easy process at all.  I understand protecting the birth family’s and adoptive family’s right to privacy, but when it comes to medical history, adoptees should have the right to know as much as they can.

The guilt sometimes comes from not finding out as much as possible before the adoptions were finalized, or for not pushing for answers from case workers and biological family members if possible.  I do not blame the case workers at all (I was once one and my husband is currently one).  I just wish getting the information would have been easier.  I know that I asked as many questions as possible about their genetic medical history.  It seems though that each time something comes up and I do not have an answer for, I feel guilty.  Looking back, I wish I would have listed out every disease process and used a yes/no system to ask questions about genetic history.

I was talking to another adoptive parent the other day about these issues and we both agreed that it is different from raising biological children.  Let me clearly state though that It is NOT different in the love, effort, and energy poured out when parenting.  It is NOT different in the genuine sense of knowing our children are “ours”.  But, there are different issues that adoptive parents face.  My friend who adopted privately has had to face similar issues.  Her son is now an adolescent so she was able to share with me how she has faced some of the unknowns and questions her son has had through the years.

There are many unknowns in adoptive parenting.  I do not know if any other significant medical problems will develop as they age.  I do not know what my children will think or feel about being adopted as they grow up.  I do not know my children’s biological grandparents’ names, histories, or any other valuable information that could be passed on.  I have very, very few pictures of their birth mothers and fathers.  I do not know if they will look for their birth parents (although I am open to assisting them with this).  I do not know if they will get angry for not having more open contact through the years.

My son is okay.  It was just an incidental finding related to respiratory issues.  His heart is healthy and he is going to be fine.  I can relax now.  I can stop stewing over the conversations about health issues that I should have had with his case worker and birth mother.  I have come to realize that adoptive parenting is an incredibly complex; yet, amazing experience.  I am also realizing that I must walk in faith when it comes to navigating the unknowns.

If you are an adoptive parent (especially out of foster care), do you have any nuggets of wisdom you have gleaned through the years that you would like to share?  If so, please comment as I am always seeking out ways to understand the complexity of adoptive parenting.

Barren to Blessed (meaning behind the name)

The first night I started this blog, I had no idea really what the heck I was doing.  I just felt the urge to write.  It started when I began to journal about my hysterectomy a few years ago.  I guess I held so much in over the past 25+ years that once I started writing, there was not an end in sight.  I do not want to stop.  Writing is therapeutic, and each time I write, I learn from it.  I am pretty sure most bloggers can relate to this.

I know I am not the best writer and often make grammatical mistakes, but writing is not about perfection anyway (at least in my opinion).  Writing, like life, has moments of grit, sorrow, heroism, and laughter.  Writing has given voice to the imperfections of my life and to the yearning to be understood in the world.  Writing releases the words my heart wants to say.

I have to be honest, I really did not spend a lot of time coming up with my blog name.  Growing up knowing I would not be able to have biological children caused me to think of my barren self as being cursed.  I do not mean cursed in the witch-crafty, voodoo kind of way necessarily; although I wondered that from time to time soon after it happened. For whatever reason I felt that I was intentionally blocked from having a “normal” life.  Of course, now that I am an adult, I do not know of anyone who has had a “normal” life.

Adding children to my life has given me a taste of living a life outside of my own.  Parenting children continues to bring meaning and sense to life and the things that have happened.  But, the meaning behind my blog name is more than just about the children.  I walked a long and difficult road to see the Lord for who He is in my life.  I was void (barren) of listening to His will, reading His word, and leaning on His hope.  I did not see a purpose for what happened.  I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel…until I saw the Light that is Him.

The Lord was calling me back to Him long before I even gave a thought about becoming a foster/adoptive parent.  My blog name obviously represents the blessings that come from children.  If my life ended up without children, there would have been sadness of course.  I know that.  However, I also know that life in Christ is a life worth living and for that I am truly blessed.

Don’t Borrow Trouble

“Caroline, I learned raising you with all of your health problems that you can’t borrow trouble.” 

The quote above is from a conversation today with my mom about my son’s health.  A routine trip to the urgent care to make sure that bronchitis or pneumonia had not declared itself in my son’s lungs turned into a six-hour ordeal involving multiple breathing treatments and more doctor’s appointments and testing to come.  I’ll know more this week and am really trying to not borrow trouble, but I’m also really good at it.  If it was a salaried talent, I would be a “zillionairre” by now!

I admit there is hypocrisy with me in this area.  I just wrote a post about not allowing life’s distractions (Distractions, Distractions) to get in the way of keeping focus on the Lord, and here I am just a few days later getting distracted by the “what if’s”, “why now’s”, and tomorrow’s worries that may or may not even come to fruition.  I will suggest to others to not fret over what may or may not be a problem.  I’ll quote scripture and encourage others to pray, but often I do not take my own advice as well as I would like to admit.

I do not believe that the Lord wants us to fret over situations.  We are to cast all of our cares onto Him in good faith knowing that He has already declared the victories in our lives.  The walk on this Earth is hard.  Our money runs out, our relationships lay in ruins, and our bodies break-down; yet, He never changes.

HE.NEVER.CHANGES

While my mom told me not to borrow trouble, she also suggested to be prepared.  Learn about possible conditions, think through scenarios, and be open to the possibility that health matters can become serious.  She knows this first hand from raising me.  You can learn a little bit more about her in my post titled Mother’s Resilience that I wrote on Mother’s Day.  She has always told me to “trust my gut and intuition” when it comes to my children.  I feel that this gift is one the Lord has given to women.  That ability proved invaluable when she was raising me.  Her persistence and determination to get answers played a big role in saving my life during my illness.

So for now, I am going to walk in faith trusting the instinct the Lord has granted me with my children and trusting Him to work out the details.  I am going to put as much effort as I can to focus on the hope that comes from the Lord instead of the hap-hazards of being human.  Regardless of the outcome, I have comfort knowing that the Lord already has tomorrow’s troubles in His Heavenly Hands.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

– Jeremiah 29:11