Featured Post – Inspire a Fire website!

Recently, I wrote a submission to the Inspire a Fire website editor in hopes of it being accepted for publication.  I want to share my story in many ways in hopes of inspiring people who are struggling with infertility, and also to bring glory to God.  My submission was accepted, and you can read it by going to the website: http://www.inspireafire.com or by clicking on this link:  My heartbreak, His expression

Thanks to all who read and I hope you feel inspired today!

Blessings!

Caroline

My children, I promise…

photo (37)My children, I am not a perfect mother.  Some days, I’m not even a good-enough mother.  I cannot promise you that I won’t lose my temper or get disappointed at times.  I cannot promise you that I will have all of the answers, save you from any pain, and agree with your choices.  I cannot promise you that I will be walking here on this Earth with you for all of your days.  I won’t promise you these things either.

The commitment made by my own mother to me while growing up, and even today, has spilled over into your lives as well.  Through her, I witnessed what it was like to put someone else before one’s own needs.  Through her, I learned that children should hear that their dreams can come true with hard work and heart.  Through her, I learned to not allow one’s circumstances dictate one’s future.  Through her, I learned that it is okay to not have all the answers, and that someday the answers might just be found.  Through her, I learned to not walk away from commitments and family.

My children, I promise you that my overwhelming love for you will stay with me until my last breath.  My protective instincts will linger throughout your growing-up years, and even while you too are feeling the instinct to protect your little ones.  I promise you that I will try my very best to take care of myself so that our days will be long together.  My desire to put your needs above mine, to sacrifice, to provide, to want more for you, to imagine better for you, to work harder for you, and to be your biggest cheerleader will not fade with time.  I will pray for the Lord’s protection over you.

Each day is a gift from the Lord that presents me with the opportunity to steadfastly work on this art that is called motherhood.  

My children, I may not be a perfect mother.  I may not even be a good-enough mother on some days…but….I’m your mother, and I will not walk away.  That is something I can promise.

Colors Don’t Matter

Family Pic Blue Wall 16x24RS (2)

Matt, Heidi, Jaz, Shiloh, Sean, Annika, and Isaiah
Freedom Photography

Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.  -Psalm 127:3-5

One day while sitting at a park bench watching my daughter play, I sat next to a woman who was also watching children play.  Something about her seemed so familiar.  Although I rarely do this, I said to her, “Do I know you from somewhere?” This start of our conversation led to the realization that we have mutual friends. We also learned that we are both adoptive mothers of children out of foster care.  We exchanged Facebook info, and each went our separate ways.

I’ve been wanting to share more stories of the “Backyard Missionaries” that make a difference in our communities.  I think of foster/adoptive parents as missionaries serving others in their own backyards.  I’ve asked Heidi and Matt to share their story….here it is.

Heidi has always had the desire to adopt even before she and Matt tried to get pregnant.  After six years of marriage they opted not to pursue infertility treatments, and instead, put their pursuit and efforts into adoption.  Although Heidi yearned for pregnancy, once they began their journey of adoption, she quickly became excited about what was in store for them.

Their first son, Isaiah, was placed with them through a private adoption agency. They were blessed to be matched so quickly, but also noted that they were very open to race, and other issues such as prenatal drug usage.  This level of openness certainly helped to speed up their placement matching.

Throughout the next four years, it was just Matt, Heidi, and Isaiah.  They wanted  more children, and chose to become licensed as foster parents in the hopes of eventually adding to their family.  Within the first few months of licensure, they received a call about a sibling group of three children, ages 10 months, 2 years, and 3 years.  A few months later, they were called to take placement of another little one.  In a matter of months, they went from being a family of three to a family of seven!

They finalized their adoptions in 2011, and thought they were finished when they received a call from the local children’s protective services office in June 2012.  Matt and Heidi say “yes” to a newborn sibling of their children.  They continue to foster him, and if the case goal changes to adoption, they will add another little one to their amazing family!

For Matt and Heidi, the biggest joy is seeing their children grow and thrive.  They recognize that the road of life these little ones were walking before coming to their home was a difficult one.  It is indescribable to know that they have taken part in the incredible intervention of children’s lives.

Their oldest daughter really struggled when she came to live with them at age three.  She desperately missed her birth mommy, and was angry.  Matt and Heidi allowed these feelings, and helped her transition to their home by offering stability, love, and support.  The quick adjustment from a small family to a large one was quite challenging at first, and it took them a while.  Big is normal now, and they love it.

Questions from others such as, “Are you ever going to have children of your own?”, or “Which ones are brothers and sisters?” are ones that challenge Matt and Heidi.  Although they have two biological sibling groups, they are ALL brothers and sisters, and do not see each other any different.  As far as having their own children, Matt and Heidi know their children are their own, and quite simply do not understand why anyone else would feel different.

Adoption has changed their lives, formed their family, and has added incredible joy.  Adoption has taught them the value of diversity, and it is their uniqueness as Caucasian parents raising African-American and Bi-racial children that they embrace.  Their family motto is “Colors Don’t Matter” .  They have also learned that the ability to grow babies in a belly truly has nothing to do with the love and commitment of parenting.  Adoption has taught them that love truly has no borders and knows no bounds.

Heidi’s and Matt’s advice for people considering adoption out of foster care is quite simple:

“Be patient.  Have faith.  The system is not perfect.  Love the children.”

Matt and Heidi own a photography studio and are preparing to put together a gallery of images of families who have adopted out of foster care in an effort to promote this incredibly vital and worthy cause in our nation.  You can check out their website at:  www.Freedom-Photography.com

“I Can Do It Myself!”

When I was around 3-years-old, my mom recalls that my first day at preschool started with me jerking loose of her hand, boldly stating “I can do it myself!”, walking down the stairs, opening the door, and heading right into the preschool.  I’m sure she stood there for a moment just a little speechless and saddened that her baby didn’t need help moving on to the next little adventure in life.

I am now parenting an extremely stubborn and strong-willed 4-year-old daughter who absolutely feels the need to do all tasks by herself, even the ones that cause her frustration.  As her parent, I look on with impatience as she tries to tie her shoes.  I know the end result will not be what she wants, but nevertheless, she attempts the same thing time and time again.  In the end, she gives up, crying, throwing her hands up, and states “Can you just do it for me?”  Even walking into the dance studio, she looked at me and said, “Okay mommy, you can go in, pay the bill, and then leave.  I don’t want you walking me in.”  Oh my!

Often, I tend to get frustrated with my children’s ever-present and willful streak of independence.  Both of my children are fearless, very social, impulsive, and will walk any boundary line we set with one foot hanging over the edge.  While my husband and I have learned to adjust to parenting two children who are boundary pushers, we have also learned that life with strong-willed children can be very exciting.

There are very few dull moments in our lives.  Our children are not really shy about trying anything, and can usually create a buzz of energy just about anywhere they go.  Sometimes, though, we worry about just how far our children will push boundaries throughout their lives.  We want them to make choices that are safe and healthy, and yet, we do not want to break their spirits.  We also know that life lessons are mostly made by mistakes, “do-overs” can be quite humbling, and natural consequences often teach more than any of the words we can use.

Thinking about the challenges we face as parents causes me to wonder how the Lord must feel when we cross the boundaries He so desires us to stay clear of.  He too watches as we push to try to do everything ourselves, live with one foot hanging over the edge, and attempt to do the same thing OUR way even though we usually end in failure, frustration, and heart-break.  While I have thrown my hands up in moments of parenting frustration thinking, “Why are they doing this?!?!”, He has thought the same thing about me.

Our ways of telling the Lord, “I can do it myself” are ones that potentially could be quite destructive.  I think of thoughts and words that have been whispered off the lips of people such as, “I can quit drugs anytime I want”, or “I know how to fix this marriage”,  or “I’ll let go of that issue when I’m ready”, or “I doubt my future will be worth anything”.  For me, it was thoughts like “God really must never want me to be a parent”, and other musings that coursed through my mind.  In other words, I was thinking “Lord, I don’t trust that You have my barrenness in Your hands.”

I am so thankful that the Lord allows natural consequences, do-overs, and mistakes to mold us.  His words teach us how to live, but more importantly, how to love.  I am also grateful that He continuously loves His stubborn children despite our attempts to turn away and not listen.

Mostly though, I remember that when He threw His hands up in the air because of us, they were nailed to a tree.  This act was not done out of frustration, but of intense love.  My salvation is not something I can do myself.

 Then said Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they parted his clothing, and cast lots.  –Luke 23:34 

It Would Be Easy

It would be easy for us to say no to a situation involving a family member that, if all goes through, will distinctly rock our fairly routine family life.  It would be easy for us to say that we are too busy, too poor, too stressed, too hectic, too old, and far too content in our own circumstances to do anything to help.  It would be even easier to say “it’s not our problem”, and walk away living our own life with our own little family.  It would be easiest for us to sit on the sidelines with our own opinions; yet, not be willing to step out in action, in love, and in faith to help.

It would be easy for us to ignore the need, which in turn would ignore the living, breathing lives of those involved.  When we look at the situation at hand though, we know the decision that needs to be made is not the easy one.  Often, the right thing to do is the hardest.  We also know that if the tables were turned, and we were in need of help, we would desperately want the love of family to stand with us.  We also know we have the ability, the means, the love, and the solid rock that is our Lord to carry us through.

It would have been easy for Jesus to say no.  It would have been easier for Him to say He was too busy, too poor, too stressed, too hectic, too old, and far too content in His own circumstances to do anything.  He did not say, “Father, they are not my problem.”  Oh, it would have been especially easy for the Son of God to circumvent the calling on His life in order to avoid hardship.  Because He chose the hard path that led to a bloody and brutal death on a cross, we have been given new life, abundant hope, and eternal grace.

Our life may be changing in the next month or two.  We may have less time, less space, and less money.  We may have to rely on each other for even greater support.  We may have to be even more fervent in prayer, and patient in the progression of things.  We may have to help our little ones understand the opportunity to imprint love onto someone else.  We may lean on the circumstances to help them understand their own stories.

We may face objection, questions, and fear.  We may ask at times why the Lord led us down this path.  We may even face heart-ache.  I can’t help but think, though, that if we didn’t face these things, then our answer would have been far too easy.

Each Time I Speak

Today I had the privilege of speaking to a class of social work students at a Christian university about foster parenting, adoption, and infertility.  I always enjoy these opportunities to share of the great calling that is foster parenting, and to give a glimpse of my own personal testimony.  It seems each time I speak, I walk away learning a bit more about myself, and about the Lord.

It was a small class, and I really do not know what each of them want to do with their education or who their target population of clients will be.  I don’t know what any of their own life stories involve, but I was thankful to see a group of young persons seeking to learn more about society and the social issues that we face.  I also recognize that they are going to learn more once they actually graduate and dive into the field, than myself, or any professor could ever teach them.

With that being said, I do believe in the power of story-telling, and not just fictional stories.  Human stories are powerful and often help the listener navigate their worlds vicariously through the stories of someone else.  Today, after speaking about the basic facts of foster parenting, and sharing some examples of both heart-break and joy, I was asked to share my personal journey.

I’ve been a guest speaker several times and have told my story of infertility and adoption multiple times.  Each time I start though, I struggle just a bit with how to begin it.  Often, I pause, take a deep breath, then start something like this….

I need to start from the beginning in order for you to understand the full story…

I begin the tale of my journey by explaining that my medical problems started to happen at the age of two years, but that no one ever suspected what would happen at the age of eleven.  I tell of being in the hospital for nearly a week in the dying process before the life-saving decision was made to perform exploratory surgery.  I talk about my hysterectomy, and at times, I catch myself off-guard about how open I am now in talking about it.

After I “break the ice” a bit with my medical history  I meander my way through the steps taken to become licensed as a foster parent up until the moment I first laid eyes on the precious baby we were charged with taking care of.  I tell of the lows (and there were many), the highs, the revelations, the humbling moments, and ultimately, the gift of adoption.  I speak of the relationship built with my son’s birth mother, and the moments where all I could do was kneel in prayer for the child I deeply loved.

I go on to talk about how our son declared we would get a baby sister about 10 days or so before we even became aware of her.  I talk about how her “case” was vastly different from my son’s, and how our children are strong-willed, ornery, and deeply loved.  The Lord’s declaration to me that my journey was never really about me in the first place is something I always share.  It is the most important piece of my story, and something that will always stand out to me as being one of the most incredible gifts through all of this.

On the drive home following my speaking engagement, I was at a place of peace and contentment with life.  I feel this way every time I am able to share my story.  I see how the Lord put all the refining and deeply painful moments together with those “mountain-top” moments in life.  I also think about the adolescent girl and young adult that I once was who barely whispered a word about what happened.  I remember that my hysterectomy was something I hid from others, was deeply ashamed of, and that caused great internal turmoil in my life.  I recall the images of myself avoiding baby departments, struggling through baby showers, and coiling up in a fetal position while weeping my way through the pain of infertility.

I am so thankful for opportunities to share my story with others.  I know others learn from my professional and personal experience.  I believe that a small dose of understanding is learned, and that some may walk away feeling moved to get involved in foster care.  I also feel that I am able to speak for those still struggling through infertility, and to share that there is always hope and goodness that happens in life even when that doesn’t seem possible.

For me though, each time I speak it out loud, I am reaffirmed of His presence throughout my life, His marking of the path that led me to my children, and His ability now to use me in ways I never imagined.

Thank you, Lord, for bringing me to a place where my story reflects Your glory.  I feel You around me Father.  I feel You working on me, and sculpting my life in ways that remind me of who You are.  I also know that You are not through with me yet, and for that, I am excited to see what You have in store.

 

The Blessing Jar

photo (48)I’m not real good at making or keeping New Year’s Resolutions.  I have a few “to-do” items that I need to accomplish this year, but to say they are resolutions is a stretch.  Regardless of the New Year, the items on my list will need to get done for the betterment of my home and health.

Before the New Year came upon us, my son approached me after school, pulled some change out of his pocket, and said, “Mommy, I want to give this to people without money.”  I was happily surprised by this statement.  We have talked from time to time about how blessed we are to have a home, family, food, and other things, and have done some random acts of kindness with the kids on weekends, but I have never tried to guilt-trip my children about the luxuries they have in life.  I strive to balance the desire to raise socially conscious children who are aware of the plights of others, while also keeping in perspective the fact that kids just need to be kids and do not need to worry about all of the hardship in life.

My son’s statement became a teachable moment for a discussion on how to help people who are impoverished.  Mutually, we decided that instead of giving the change right away, we would put it in a jar and start collecting money.  The next day, as promised, I went to a local store, bought a jar, and brought it home to show the kids.  We brainstormed on a few ideas to call the jar.  My son suggested “The People Who Don’t Have Any Money Jar.”  While I told him that was a fantastic suggestion, I felt that maybe the name was a little too long!

I told him that the purpose behind the jar was to save money for the year, and then be able to be a blessing to someone else.  He asked, “What’s a blessing?”  I did my best to explain the complex definition of a blessing.  I said, “A blessing is something that is good and kind that someone does for us, or that we can do for someone else.”  I also explained that God gives us many blessings, and that he and his sister are blessed gifts from the Lord for mommy and daddy.

We decided that the jar would be called the “Blessing Jar”.  From that moment, both of the kids have been scouring the floors of stores, parking lots, and just about anywhere else they can find coins, in hopes of being able to add to the jar.  Just last weekend, I gave my son a dollar.  He held it for a while, then turned around to me and said, “I think I’m going to put this in the Blessing Jar.”  This action made my heart leap just a bit!  This project has become something the kids think about often, and they are eager to add to the money placed in the jar.

There is a small amount in it, and honestly, I don’t know how much it will be holding next Winter when we decide to donate it.  The thought that my children are learning to not only save money, but to make small tokens of sacrifices for others with-whom they have yet to meet, or may never meet, is worth more to me personally than what the jar will ever hold.

I think this is one resolution of sorts that we will keep not only throughout this year, but hopefully throughout their growing years.  It certainly has been a blessing to me to watch my children grow through this.

Do you have any other ideas for teaching social awareness to children?  If so, do you mind sharing?  I would love to hear from you!