The Blessing Jar {Part 2}

A little less than a year ago, we started a family project called “The Blessing Jar”. The idea behind it came from my oldest son’s desire to give change to people without money.  We decided to get a jar, start collecting change, and then give it away.  You can read my initial post about this by clicking on this link, The Blessing Jar.

Throughout the year, I didn’t put any pressure on the kids to donate to the jar.  If they found, earned, or were given money, I asked them, “What do you want to do with it?”  I was surprised how often they wanted to throw it in the jar.

Blessing 1Last weekend, we decided it was time to take our jar of change, get it counted up, and donate it.  The jar was not full, but it seemed appropriate for us to do something like this the weekend before we celebrate Thanksgiving.

After all, our family has so much to be thankful for.

We have a warm home, food to eat, and each other.  What more could we ask for?

I started talking to my kids the week before about what to do with the money.  We talked about different options, and they both kept going back to giving money to people who do not have any food.  As a matter of fact, earlier in the week during an outing to the local mall, my daughter grabbed a handful of change and started sprinting towards the guy ringing the Salvation Army Bell.  She said, “Mommy, he’s ringing the bell.  That means he’s hungry.”  She quickly put money in the kettle.  I later explained that the young man was helping others who are hungry by ringing the bell.

We decided that the money would go to a local group called “The Gathering Tree”. This group, started by a doctor and his wife, feeds the homeless in our community, and is a very grass-roots effort with volunteers cooking the food, serving it, and offering support to those who show up.  A  friend of mine is very involved with the group, and has witnessed the heart-breaking stories of many of the souls who walk through the doors.

Thankfully, there are lots of organizations in our community that help out the homeless and down-trodden.  We decided on this group because it is solely a volunteer-based organization.  I have also heard that the volunteers do not ask questions, or judge whoever walks in needing a warm meal.  There are not any qualifying or conditional factors like a lot of programs.  They offer support and resources, and always say Grace before each meal.

Since my husband and I are both involved in social work, I understand the need for rules and policies for social programs.  At the end of the day though, there are still people who are starving, cold, and in need of companionship.  There are still people who just need a kind word, a non-judgmental look, the touch of another human, and a feeling of belonging somewhere….anywhere.  This is one of the reasons why I suggested the group to my children.

From what I have heard, they are people who simply love other people and want or need or feel compelled, whatever you want to call it, to bring a little comfort to the forgotten, desperate, or needy.

Pure. Simple. Love.

I told the kids that when we got there, they would see people who do not have homes.  They might even see children there, too.  When we walked in, we were greeted by my friend who went to get the founders of the group.  Both of my kids stood there for a while, taking it all in.  My son kept staring at all of the people huddled around eating food.

Soon, a red-headed, freckled face little boy with an over-sized coat and a little girl with a dirty face, came right up next to our family.  Both of my kids just stood there quietly.  Every once in a while, they would head into the children’s area and play with a few toys, but mostly, they stayed close to us.

The founders of the group greeted us and I explained the Blessing Jar to them.  Soon, the wife got down on my children’s level, and with tears in her eyes, graciously thanked them for the $32.00 dollars they donated.  She explained what can be done with the money, and how it can help.

Blessing Jar 2Thirty-two dollars from two little ones who had no idea the gravity of the gift they gave.

Thirty-two dollars given with the innocent hope that goodness will come out of it.

After a few tears, and hugs, we left the building and escaped back to our car and warm home.  As I was tucking my son into bed, he said, “Mom, she had a rip in her clothes, and that boy’s jacket was way too big.”  I just listened.  He then went on to ask, “What if that boy doesn’t have a mommy and daddy?  What will happen to him?”  I said, “If he didn’t have a mommy or daddy, the people there helping out would make sure that he was somewhere he would be taken care of by a mommy and daddy.”

My son thought for a moment, and then said, “Like a foster home?  Kinda like what we did for baby…?”  I said, “Yes, kind of, but that little boy does have a mommy, and the coat may be too big, but at least he has a coat.”  As he was snuggling into his warm bed, I asked him if he wanted to save money in the Blessing Jar again. He said, “Yes.”  I kissed him goodnight, and my heart swelled.

The next day as we were getting into the car, he spotted a quarter that had fallen down in-between the seats.  He quickly pointed out that it needed to go in the Blessing Jar!  Our jar is empty now with the exception of a couple of quarters the children have already added, but hopefully it will start to fill up as the year goes on.

I have learned as a parent that it does not take a lot of effort to teach children about grace, generosity, giving, and loving others. Sometimes, children can teach these things better than any adult on any given day.  We just need to stop long enough to hear their hearts speak through their actions, concerns, and musings of life.Blessing Jar3

Our little Blessing Jar has blessed us in return.

There is great joy that comes when generosity and life-lessons collide.

Indeed.

“In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ” – Acts 20:35

It Happened Again This Week {Adoption Day}

It happened again this week.  I stepped into a courtroom filled with excitement, energy, and the weight of the little one I was carrying.  I have been through this before, twice actually, but still I felt a twinge of nerves.  I do not know if the feeling is similar to what a mother experiences right before the birth of her child, but it is the closest that I can relate to.  It is the feeling of anxiousness, eagerness, elation, and relief all stirred up together.  (Of course, it is minus the pain of labor; although, physical labor sometimes pales in comparison to the emotional labor of those expecting children through adoption.)

adoption dayOur adoption of my littlest was finalized during our county’s celebration of National Adoption Day.  We were one of twenty or so adoptions that happened in one day.  I am the mother of three.  I am the mother of three wonderful children who otherwise might have had a rough life ahead.  I am not barren at all.  I am enveloped in grace that pulsates throughout my being.

It is mightily overwhelming to think about, really.  I was never meant to be a parent.  I was supposed to be pitied, look upon with sadness, and harbor a sense of shame.  I was going to make an awful mother.  I was not good enough.  I must have been a bad person.  Parenting a child not of my body would never be the same…..and so on….

These are the thoughts I carried around for many years.  I imagined the enemy hissing and laughing at me.  I imagined that he relished in my self-doubt, and susceptibility to feel as though I would always fall short as compared to other women.

The adoption of my third child is simply an incredible chapter to a story that started so many years ago.  When the world, and all the angst of the enemy, said to me, “It’ll never happen for you.”  Our Heavenly Father said, “It will happen for you.”

Towards the end of the hearing, the Judge declared him to be our son.  When those words rolled off of his lips, I held back a few tears.  Those words are probably some of the most beautiful ones I’ve heard.  To hear them time and again does not diminish how special they are.  In that moment, I thought, “My God, You are incredible.”

In the same breath that I praise the Finisher of our desires, I think about the birth mothers of my children.  All of them held their babies for the first time, and probably felt the same thing that I felt on adoption day; excitement, eagerness, elation, and relief.  Their moments were beautiful as well.  They may have even thought, “My God, You are incredible.”

I know I do not deserve the mercy that has been shown to me through the adoption of my children.  I know that I have been completely and overwhelmingly gifted with them, and that my responsibility in raising children who are compassionate, responsible, and faithful falls heavy on my heart.  If ever a time to relish in the joyful moments of life, this is it.

It happened again this week.  I became a mother of three. I am certainly living a life that went from being barren to blessed.

 

 “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

Love that is Far from Barren

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Photo Credit: http://sarahcarterphotos.com/

During this month of celebrating adoption, I’ve been meandering my way through pictures of my kids.  The one above happens to be one of my favorites.  It was taken by a local photographer a few years ago.

When I look at this picture, I see children whose future is wide open, and who matter more to their parents than they may ever fully realize.  I see children who found their way home.  

When I look at the image above, I don’t see barrenness.  I don’t feel desolation.  I don’t find myself speaking the “what if’s”, and “why’s”.  I don’t recall the place I used to dwell in; that wasteland of broken dreams.

I don’t see infertility.

When I set my eyes on the picture above, I know that things happen for a reason.  I feel the restoration of broken lives, the healing of scarred remains, and the mercy-filled grace that I am now living.

When I look at this image of my oldest son and daughter, I am thankful.  I am genuinely thankful for the path I walked to become their mother.  I am truly grateful for others whose hands touched our lives, and molded our family.

Ultimately, though, I am humbled by the acts of my Heavenly Father who shook me out of my barrenness, and said, “MY plan for you is better than this.  MY plan for you will unfold.  MY plan for you is one that diminishes the scars of your youth, and wipes away the tears of your adulthood.  MY plan for you is far from barren.”

When I look at the sweet image of my son and daughter, I see love.

Love fulfilled. 

Love that changed lives.

Love that intervened at just the right time.

Love that brought life into the wasteland.

Love that is far from barren.

That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

Psalm 30:12

Feisty and Five {Happy Birthday, Daughter}

Daughter, my sweet and feisty daughter, you turned five today.  Do you want to know something?  I always wanted a daughter.  In my vision of a future family (as limited and skeptical as that was at times), I pictured a daughter.  I imagined a little girl who was dainty, a little on the shy side, and a Princess in the making.

photo (54)Do you want to know something else?  You are not dainty, you are mighty.  You are not shy, you are feisty (although you do get embarrassed sometimes), and you once told me, “I am not a Princess” (except when it comes to your Papa).

There is not a single thread of doubt in my soul that you were meant to be my daughter.

My mighty, mysterious, smart, and beautiful daughter, I love you.

You, my girl, are a God-orchestrated, God-created, and God-filling vessel of love. You are a walking miracle.  Your value is worth more than anything, and your life is one of opportunity.

I caught you looking up to the sky one day last spring.  As big and fluffy snowflakes made their way to the ground, you looked up to the Heavens with the biggest smile, as if you and the Lord Himself were agreeing that snow in the springtime is the best thing ever.

Keep looking to the Heavens, my girl.  

Keep looking up with the hope that is found in the gracious love of God.Snow

My hope for you, little one, is that you never forget how deeply cherished you are. We love you so much, but Mommy and Daddy could never love you as deeply as your Father in Heaven does. You are His.  We are just charged with bringing you up in the crazy, mixed-up; yet, incredible world.

My mighty, mysterious, smart, and beautiful daughter, I love you.

Happy 5th Birthday, Daughter.  You are one of the most strong-willed, independent, and outspoken little girls I think I have ever known.  But, do you want to know something?  You are also loving and protective of the ones you love.  You became an instant big sister to a little one that came into our lives suddenly.  Yet, you took it all in stride.

You quickly learned that babies need lots of attention.  They cry a lot, eat a lot, and learn to giggle pretty quickly.  You have thoroughly enjoyed watching him grow, change, and become one with our family.

SisI caught you crying softly one night.  When asked why, you simply and sweetly stated, “I miss him as a baby.”  You were referring to the fact that your new little brother is walking, growing, and getting bigger right in front of your eyes.

You are wonderful big sister.

Simply wonderful.

You are a blessing to the babe who found his way to our home.

You also give away your gifts and items freely to others.  You comfort your big brother when he’s having a bad day.  You check on your Daddy when he’s not feeling so well, and you tell me that I’m beautiful.

My daughter, beauty shines from you when I witness the softness of your touch, the care you give for others, and the simple, yet sweet, acts of generosity.

Five years have gone by so quickly, and yet, I look to many more years of watching you grow into a strong, beautiful woman.  I hope you stay feisty, stay mighty, and stay yourself.  Stay the girl who prefers blue jeans and t-shirts over frilly dresses, or would rather be outside playing “camp out”, digging up bugs, and chasing her big brother around the yard.

I hope you never lose the thought that it is perfectly fine to wear a mask and cape a good majority of places that you go.BatgirlAfter all, the world could use a few superheroes.

You are a mighty, mysterious, smart, and beautiful daughter.  You are a wonderfully made daughter.  

In this month of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for you.  I am thankful for the unique little girl that you are.

Orange

I am thankful that you are feisty, and five.

I am thankful that YOU are my daughter.  

Happy 5th birthday.  Love You, Forever.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

I talk to you often in the work I do.  I hear you say, “We want to hang in there”, or “We are doing the best we can”, and even, “I don’t know if I am up for this.”  I hear these words through your shaky, weakened voices.  But, what I really hear is you saying, “I don’t want to be another mother who disregards this child”, or “If I could, I would provide this child with every ounce of my being in order to heal him or her.”

You are walking in very heavy shoes.  You are feeling as though your efforts are disregarded, don’t matter, don’t work, and will be forgotten about in the fleeting moments of a day.  I’m here to tell you, they are not disregarded.  They do matter.  They work, and they will never be forgotten.

Dear Momma of a Stranger’s Child, you are one of the bravest mothers of all.  You’ve ventured into the murky waters of loving a child whose hurts seem like they could go on for an eternity.

You, dear Momma of a Stranger’s Child, you are a broken-hearted warrior.

You hear from others, “You are doing a good thing”, “I could never do what you do”, or “Your faith is bigger than this.”  While you hear these words of comfort and affirmation, your heart is screaming in that silent, lonely place of wondering if you really are doing a good thing, if you really should be doing what you are doing, and if your faith really is bigger than this.  You, dear Momma of a Stranger’s Child, you wonder where God is in all of the hurts put on children in His world.

You…dear Momma of a Stranger’s Child…you long for rest.  You grasp for answers, and you pray for healing.  You get angry.  You wonder why any mother would neglect, be absent, abuse, or completely disregard her child.  You wonder why you are left to pick up the pieces.

You want the Lord to step in, heal, and completely restore the broken child in your arms.  You cry and pray for this so often that it feels as though you can no longer find the words, or muster up the tears.

Dear Momma of a Stranger’s child, you were once a broken child, too.  At one time, you were lost in a world of despair.  You needed to be picked up, cleaned off, and captured by a love so strong that the greatest army could not break it.

You were worth it. You were not forgotten.  You were brought out of the darkness, and into the cleansing light.  

YOU were meant to make a difference in the world.

Dear Momma of a Stranger’s Child,  please do not give up.  You are the backbone to so many forgotten children.  You are a living example of an unconditional, incomparable type of love that is a rarity in the world we find ourselves in.

You will get hurt.  You will have many sleepless nights.  You will have some doubts, regrets, and desires for do-overs.  You will be exhausted.  You will get angry.  You may even be ignored.

But….

Your Father in Heaven sees your actions.  He sits with you in the midnight hours when the stranger’s child is raging.  He is with you when you walk out of court rooms or meetings still not knowing what the future holds for the child in your care.  He hears your pleas.  He sings over you in your fretful night’s sleep.

Dear Momma of a Stranger’s Child, do you want to know why you are probably the most important mother in this world?

Perhaps someday, the little one you are loving on, praying for, staying up all night with, advocating for, crying over, taking in or letting go, will grow up to be a Momma (or even a Daddy) of a Stranger’s Child.

Isn’t that worth it all?

Thread of Adoption

photo (26)Our kids really do not know much of life before each other.  Our son was just over 2-years-old when a nice lady knocked on the front door and delivered a brown-haired beauty in a car seat.  He just knew he had a sister on the way.  He even proclaimed it during a car ride to preschool one morning.

Adoption brings together strangers.  Strangers, born from other wombs, connected through the predestined establishment of sisterhood and brotherhood.  It binds hearts to each other.  It creates brothers and sisters.

Adoption weaves together lives with an unseen thread.

IMG_0151

IMG_0456My children’s relationship is not any different from other sibling relationships.  They are each other’s first friend, first playmate, first person to blame for wrongdoings, and first person to lean on when needing to convince mom and dad of something.

Adoption weaves together lives with an unseen thread.

Sometimes, they hurt each other. He gets just a little rough.  She gets just a little dramatic.  He seems to always be in a hurry. She seems to take her own sweet time. Sometimes though, they hold hands and run together.

They are each other’s sounding boards about what Santa might bring, or if the Easter Bunny is actually real.  Sometimes, they even try to convince each other to ask Santa for the same presents so that his elves have to “make” two of everything.  (Or, at least, big brother has to ask Santa….)

Adoption weaves together lives with an unseen thread.

IMG_0050They explore worlds, both real and imaginary.  They seek out new adventures, create whimsical and wonderful characters, and fight the bad guys as a united team.

They get dirty, cause messes, and  create life-long memories of the fleeting days of childhood.

IMG_0646Through adoption, their childhoods have been given refuge from the hardships that this world can bring.

Their little lives move along with the changing of the seasons.

In this home, and in this family, they find warmth, opportunity, and the occasional chance every winter to throw snow on IMG_0660mommy.

(Sometimes, mommy throws it back on them.)

Two children.  Two reminders that love exists, and life is worth it. Two children who, without adoption, would have never known each other.

Two children, born of other birth mothers, forever sealed in love through adoption.

Adoption weaves together lives with an unseen thread.

They know their stories are a little different from their friends.  They have asked why they don’t have the same birth mothers.  They have even announced that they have birth mothers to total strangers at the grocery store, which makes strangers a little uncomfortable.  And…makes my heart smile.

They question why some of their friends only have one mother.  IMG_1059Often, they ask about their birth mothers.  They want to know their names.  They want to know if they are dead or alive, or if they have a home.  They want to know where they are.  My husband and I answer every question to the best of our ability, and with loving honesty.  We answer them because we know that our comfort with their histories will only help them as they grow up.

To be honest, I love my children so much that it saddens me to know that they were not able to grow up in their families of origins.  Sounds strange, huh?  I know.  Yet, I know that in the great and mysterious workings of the Lord, we found each other.  We found them, and, they found each other.  Brother and sister.

Adoption weaves together lives with an unseen thread.

I am thankful for my children.  Adoption has made me a mother.  I am also thankful that they have each other.  They have something that my husband and I do not. They have the shared experience of adoption.  I have been asked over and over if they are “real” siblings.  Yes.  YesThey are very real siblings.  They were brought together from the tragedies of lives lived in chaos, and from the belief that every child deserves a safe, and stable place to set roots, sprout wings, and fly.

375917_341839525907009_1617492878_nSometimes, just sometimes, I catch moments like this one above.  Moments of tenderness. Moments of affection.  Moments of a relationship formed through the great miracle that is adoption.  

photo (27)Soon, very soon, adoption will offer them just one more “forever” sibling to discover worlds with, to blame for wrongdoings, to make messes, to throw snow on mommy, to talk about birth mothers with, and to love.  Brothers and sister.  Forever.

 Adoption weaves together lives with an unseen thread – a thread of beauty, patience, and prayer.

For this, I am truly thankful. 

Here’s to Adoption

NOVEMBER IS DESIGNATED AS A MONTH OF THANKSGIVING, AND CELEBRATING ADOPTION.  

Last year, I published a new post each day with poems, stories, and information about adoption.  This year, I’d like to focus this month with how adoption has created a greater sense of thankfulness in my life.  I’d like to do so with images of moments in my children’s lives.

Here are some images of my son from his first gymnastics meet last Spring.  He was 6-yrs-old at the time.  This meet was a “practice” one since he was too young to compete in the regular meets.  

Hunter Bailey 36

In December, we start traveling for his competitions, and I can hardly wait to watch him.  I’m so proud of the hard work he puts in, and the determination he has to continue perfecting the sport – all of this at the age of 7.
Hunter Bailey 22

Another thing, that always seems to stir my heart a bit while watching him, is the thought that all of this may not have been possible for him had he not been adopted.  Please do not get me wrong…I know the ideal situation is for children to stay with their birth parents.  Parents should be able and willing to care for them, make wise choices, remain substance free, and provide the stability that every child desires, and deserves.

However, in foster care/adoption situations such as my son’s, the plan to reunify with birth family changed to adoption.  I know in my heart that his birth parents longed to provide him what he needed, and truly wanted to raise their son, but they could not.  I also know that his life would have been tragically different had he remained in the environment to which he was born.
Hunter Bailey 43

I believe that our paths were created to cross with a fierce, all-knowing, and powerful love that comes from a Heavenly Father who doesn’t forget a single child; even when others do.

I am so thankful for this. 
Hunter Bailey 3So, here’s to adoption.  Here’s to the incredible opportunities that exist because of it.  Here’s to the multitude of orphans who have landed in a soft spot called home.  Here’s to the birth parents who choose adoption.  Here’s to the case workers, attorneys, juvenile officials, and judges who work tirelessly for the well-being of children.

Here’s to the families, such as mine and many others I know, who took the biggest leap of faith when they signed on the dotted line to become foster and foster/adoptive parents.  Here’s to the moments, such as the ones shown in this post, that provide parents, grandparents, and children with memories that last a lifetime.  I am so thankful for these.

Hunter Bailey 31And, here’s to the children who wait for families to call their own.  Here’s to their hopes, dreams, and longings to belong, and to have a mom, dad, grandparents, siblings, and just about anyone else who will stay with them – forever.

Here’s to the miraculous, and hope-filled journey that is adoption.