This is Love.

Christmas 2014This is my cousin with her sweet baby girl. She is also the birth mother of our sweet little boy grinning from ear-to-ear on my lap.  We spent time together on this wonderful Christmas day.

This is adoption.

This is love.

On the Eve of Christmas Eve

Sitting here on the Eve of Christmas Eve with laundry swishing around in the washer, one child sound asleep in her bed, the other engrossed in a game while resting, and the littlest calling out “Mommy” because he doesn’t want to sleep, all I keep thinking about is their birth-mothers.  Odd, I know.  I should be wrapping last-minute gifts, and getting everything “lined up” for Christmas morning, but my mind just keeps stirring about them.

On this Eve of Christmas Eve, I wonder if they are wondering about their children…their babies…to whom I am mothering.  There is a small measure of adoptive parent guilt.  It may sound strange, but unless you are raising a child to whom you did not give birth to, you may not understand it.

I did not really earn the gift of children. Who really earns the right to raise children to whom they did not birth?  

On this Eve of Christmas Eve, my mind ponders about the many mothers who are raising children to whom they did not give birth to.  Sure, there are numerous celebrities who are adoptive parents.  Yes, they are celebrated, get book deals, and featured on major media outlets, but you know something?

The vast majority of adoptive parents are just simple, ordinary folks whose journeys have been marked, perhaps, by barrenness, struggle, heartbreak, patience, prayer, sustenance, and joy.

Wrapped up in all of their journeys is the steadfastness of humble, yet hopeful hearts.  Ordinary people, making extraordinary decisions.  Ordinary people who take on the most challenging of situations – men and women who seek out to love, hold, and commit their lives to children.

We did not earn the gift of children. Who really earns the right to raise children to whom they did not birth?  I think about the birth-mothers whose gift of life, and their sacrifice of seeking a better life for his or her child.  I think about those whom were told they could not raise their babies.

And then, I think about Mary, the ultimate birth-mother, carrying, laboring, and birthing the hope of the world.  

On this Eve of Christmas Eve, my mind wanders away to her journey to find a place for His birth.  I visualize her look when she first sees His precious face.  I think about her arms wrapping around Him, holding Him tight, and whispering His beautiful name in His ears.

Sitting here on the Eve of Christmas Eve with laundry swishing around in the washer, one child sound asleep in her bed, the other engrossed in a game while resting, and the littlest calling out “Mommy” because he doesn’t want to sleep, all I keep thinking about is the wondrous gift that children are.

I think about the amazing and incredible experience of raising children to whom I did not give birth to.  There is something mightily powerful about raising children. Each child carries within him or her, the hope and zest for a better life.

And then, I think about Mary, the ultimate birth-mother, carrying, laboring, and birthing the hope of the world.  

I know that of all the pleasures that Christmas brings, the ultimate gift is

Jesus Christ.

Messiah.  

Jehovah.  

Yahweh.  

Emmanuel.  

Redeemer.  

Savior.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. -Isaiah 9:6

 

 

Can I get an Amen to that?!

I’m realizing that parenting is one way that the Lord is reminding me that He’s not finished with me yet.

And by not finished with me, I mean…

  • not finished with tempering my sometimes quick temper,
  • not finished with refining my desire to be right,
  • not finished with comparing myself to others,
  • not finished with finding satisfaction in the small successes,
  • not finished with my futile attempt to be in control (can I get an Amen on that one?!)
  • and, not finished with my failure (often) to step back and let Him lead.

Here’s the deal – I’m a failure as a parent, or at least, I often feel like one.

I let the little things bother me. My house is never clean enough. My children are a little, shall I say, strong-willed and “energetic”. I know there are times when they are less than grateful for what they have been given in life. Honestly, I am too.

Today, I had a little glimpse of glory when my six-year-old daughter said, “You know there are homeless people without a Christmas tree.”

I sat there stewing my frustrations about the wild two-year-old who just got every toy out and threw them all over the floor, and thinking about my incredibly sick husband who was dealing with the stomach bug, and I stopped and listened for a moment.

My daughter, who had also been battling the stomach bug today, got really quiet, started smiling, and said, “What if, instead of having Christmas at our house, we go give water and presents to homeless people?”

I’m still trying to figure out the details of how we can work in our family Christmas and one that involves her idea of giving to the homeless, but I walked away from this discussion thinking,

“Thank you, Lord, for that little glimpse of parenting success.”

If most of the lessons I’ve tried to teach my kids wash away, but they grow up with compassion and faith, then maybe, just maybe, I am succeeding as a parent.

I’m realizing that parenting is one way that the Lord is reminding me that He’s not finished with me yet. And by not finished with me, I mean…

  • not finished with tempering my sometimes quick temper,
  • not finished with refining my desire to be right,
  • not finished with comparing myself to others,
  • not finished with finding satisfaction in the small successes,
  • not finished with my futile attempt to be in control (can I get an Amen on that one?!)
  • and, not finished with my failure (often) to step back and let Him lead.

Mothers who are weary, sick of cleaning up the messes, fretting your own failures, doubting your decisions, comparing your flaws, looking around at the mini-disasters in your own living room, doing your best to hold your tongue, wishing you would have said something differently than you did, and enduring hardship, remember this…

The Lord’s not finished with you yet, and He’s not finished with your children.

Can I get an Amen to that?!

“Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” Philippians 1:6 (The Message Bible)

What Adoption Means: Adoption is just another way God Blesses us

“What Adoption Means” Post #8 – Even though we are well into December, I’m continuing my posts from fellow adoptive parents on what adoption means to them.  I have found that a lot of the messages I have received are ones where people want to tell their stories of adoption.  We hear about birth stories.  We listen to women who have given birth describe their pregnancies, and their deliveries, so when someone has the opportunity to share his or her adoption story, I think it is worth reading!

Here is an international adoption story written by Amy, a mother who knows her life would not be complete without her daughter.  Adoption Means #8

“Well to start out… when Mark and I started dating we both expressed interest in adoption.  I personally wanted to only adopt but he wanted biological children also, so we started our marriage with the intent to have two biological children, and adopt two children.

On our 3rd wedding anniversary, we decided to start trying to have a baby.  Eleven and half months later, I was pregnant with Elijah.  My pregnancy went fairly well accept I gained seventy-one pounds!

Delivery was a different story.  It was hard.  Twenty-one hours after my water broke, I was rushed in for a c-section. Not fun!  After that experience, Mark changed his mind about having another bio child.

When Eli was five-months-old, we started talking about adoption. We didn’t want our kids to be very far apart so in April of 2005, we signed paper work with Christian World Adoption.  Paper work kept coming for the next two and a half years!  It was so hard waiting and waiting.  I thought we would never get a referral.

Once all our paperwork was in we had to wait about three months (April to June 12) before we got the phone call that we had a baby!  Our daughter was born May 20, 2007. We were so excited!

They e-mailed us a picture and mailed the rest of our paperwork to sign.  The first time I saw Elena, I was amazed at how beautiful she was. Her eyes were so piercing. I knew when I saw her that we needed each other.

The Lord placed her in our home.  

It was just… right.

For a months everything was going just as we thought it would, and then, the Guatemala program turned. We started hearing bad stories about trips to Guatemala. People were not getting the babies they were planning on. Mix ups with children.  Stolen children.  The program in Guatemala was shutting down.

When we got our referral we thought that we would have her by Thanksgiving.  Nope.  Christmas?  No, again.  We knew that the program was coming to an end, but not even our agency could tell us the deadline date.

We were so nervous.  We didn’t know if we would ever get to go to Guatemala.  All we knew is that if we got our paper work out of the Guatemalan government by Dec. 31, 2007, then we would have a chance.  We asked everyone we knew to pray and fast.  (Really, we had been praying all along and had been fasting on Mondays for a couple of months)

There were so many people fasting and praying with us.  It really is amazing how people can ban together at difficult times.  We decided her name would be Elena Marie.

In December of 2007, we found out that all we had to do was wait for a court date with the Guatemalan embassy.  PRAISE GOD!!!!!!! On January 23rd (1 month later), we got word that our court date was set for February 9th!  Talked about scrambled eggs.  My brain was crazy messed up!

We got to our hotel in Guatemala at 2:00, and Irma (foster-mother) and Elena were supposed to be there at 3:00. We freshened up a bit, and then at 2:40 we went down stairs to wait.  My nerves were shot.  I was shaking and jiggling my legs so hard.  To see the video, it was pretty funny.

At 4:20, they walked through the doors. Elena was asleep. She is so cute when she’s asleep.  She looked like an angel. All my nerves were at peace.  Irma didn’t speak any English and Mark and I speak very little Spanish.

The first 30 minutes,  I just let Irma hold her (she had Elena from the time she was two-days-old until she placed her in our arms).

 I felt like I was respecting her by allowing her to place her in our arms in her timing.

After about an hour, we asked Irma if she wanted to have dinner with us.  She said, “Yes.”  It was so neat getting to know her.  I knew that the more I got to know her, the better I would understand Elena.  It was so true.

Elena immediately attached to us.  That night she cried for me when I went to the rest room.  She slept all night and was great.  Eli fell in love that day! ( He still is. ) She loved us.  WE LOVED HER! ( not like it was a surprise!)

The next night we had dinner with Irma and her husband, Oscar. We hired a translator for the hotel. We received excellent advice and tips for Elena’s habits and personality. It was so fun to sit down and visit with them.

The next day we went to the embassy for our appointment. It really wasn’t anything like I expected.  It was really informal!  We made plans with Irma and Oscar to go to church with them on Sunday.  Our agency told us to not to leave a certain area in Guatemala City but we did.

It was so exciting.  They sang the same songs as we do just in Spanish.  The Holy Spirit was overwhelmingly strong.  I think I cried almost all of the first part of the service.  Irma was too!

I didn’t understand anything Pastor Cash Luna was saying, but it seems to be the most important message I have ever heard.  After church, Irma and Oscar came back to the hotel with us for one last meal together. We really enjoyed our time with them. When it was time for them to leave, Irma came to hug me goodbye.  It was so hard.  We just stood there in the middle of the restaurant and cried just embracing each other.  It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I thought we were both going to fall. I was holding her tiny under 5 ‘ body up.  Her head was laying on my chest.  I love her so much.

She is a part of my family now.  She raised my daughter the first 9 1/2 months of her life.  She loves Elena.  She will forever.

It is amazing how much you can learn from someone you know nothing about.  I still pray for her and think about her all the time.  We have sent gifts and pictures and letters , but we get no response.  We don’t know if she gets them, or if it is just too hard for her.

Everyone was so excited to see her; especially my Dad, James.  Oh yeah, and Mark’s youngest sister Tiffany! Everyone immediately loved her.  When she was thirteen-months-old, she started walking and her and her BIG brother were inseparable. They love each other more than most siblings that I have met.

I truly believe every Christian family should make it a priority to adopt.

There are so many children that need us and believe it or not… we need them. Our lives would not be complete with out Elena.  I love her as much as I love my biological son Elijah.

Adoption is just another way God blesses us with kids and builds our families.  Every child deserves a loving family.”    

Tribulations and Triumphs

Do not fear your tribulations.  Without them, you may never savor the taste of your triumphs.

These words came to me as I was packing up our car for a weekend road trip to my oldest son’s gymnastic competition in a city a few hours away.  I’m not sure why they did, but I took the moment to jot them down.  Throughout the drive, I kept thinking about them.

Tribulations and triumphs.  Heartache and hope.  Despair and contentment.  I’m pretty sure these words make up much of the human existence.

The gymnastics competition went well for my son, and for the team.  He made some mistakes, but did his best, and his team won first place. Gym

On the way home, our van broke down.  It was unexpected, and quite random.  We just put new tires on, and had it completely serviced a few weeks ago.  A hose broke and sent smoke and fluid throughout the engine.  Stuck on the side of the road with children, my mother, my husband, and cold weather, I recalled the words,

Do not fear your tribulations.  Without them, you may never savor the taste of your triumphs.

At the time, I did not embrace these words.  If anything, I was pretty annoyed. Thankfully, we were able to get our van towed to a local mechanic, and my children, mother, and I were able to get home through the help of family.  My husband stayed behind, and arrived safely home the next day after the van was fixed.

I’m not exactly what is going on, but it seems that lately I have been stuck somewhere between a blessing and a curse.  I take two steps forward, then wham…I have to take four steps back.  Unexpected and costly medical issues have come up recently.  We have also had vehicle issues, and random household repairs that all have been quite expensive.  This incident this weekend just seemed to be the icing on the cake for us, and ended up costing more than we initially thought it would.

Do not fear your tribulations.  Without them, you may never savor the taste of your triumphs.

As the day progressed, I thought more about these words gifted to me on our way out-of-town.  I thought that maybe someone else needed to hear them.  There are so many people going through tremendous battles in their lives.  Keeping them all in mind, I thought, “I can write about these words.  Surely there’s a blog post there.”

I’ve realized that while someone else might need to read them, they were very much meant for me.  I have been told, “God must be getting ready to bless you big-time; otherwise, you would not be going through what you are going through.”  I’m not so sure I believe this.

I do not believe God owes me anything more than I have already been given.

I have a family.  I have a home.  I have many other things in my life that I consider a blessing.  I have love in my life.  I have salvation.  After this, nothing else really matters.

Do not fear your tribulations.  Without them, you may never savor the taste of your triumphs.

The truth is that I have struggled lately fearing tribulations.  Perhaps other mothers (and fathers) feel this way as well.  News of violence around our community and our world seems to be commonplace.

There is not one day that I drop my children off at school and wonder about what they might face during the day.  I also think about the world to which I am raising them.  Truthfully, I have begged for Christ to return.  I have yearned for it.  If not for my own feelings of fear, but for the sake of my children.

And yet, I return to the many tribulations in the past and how they have turned into triumphs.  I look back and recognize that I have always been given just what I needed, right when I needed it.  I return to the fact that each day is a gift.  Each day is an opportunity to embrace this incredible faith in Jesus Christ.

Do I fear my tribulations?  At times.

Do I walk around with a bad attitude?  Sometimes.

Do I wish that life was just a bit easier at times?  Of course.

Have I tasted the victory of triumphs?  Yes.

And, do I recognize that the greatest triumph of all is found in Christ?  

Absolutely.

Christ triumphed for us all, and the taste of His victory is so sweet.

Do not fear your tribulations.  Without them, you may never savor the taste of your triumphs.

What Adoption Means: Obedience

“What Adoption Means” Post #7-

This message came to me from someone who felt the calling of foster care and adoption at an early age, and then as an adult, chose to be obedient to His calling for her life.  Her life is truly blessed because of it!

“I have been processing this concept for a few days of what adoption has truly meant for me. The one word that immediately brought to my mind was OBEDIENCE! At a very early age, the concept of foster care was brought to my attention through a research paper I was writing my junior year of high school. I began to study and learn about children in the foster care system and knew the Lord would somehow make this happen when the time was right.

Several years passed, graduating from college, starting my career, marriage and then it happened. I was driving along a street, and read a sign that said Foster/Adoption Information Meeting. I went home and spoke with my husband about the desire in my heart to foster/adopt. We were in agreement and went to our first meeting on a cold January night. I had peace in my heart after the meeting was finished.

The journey began with classes, and eventually the license came. The Lord blessed me, and has fulfilled my life with two children. We provided respite services for our little guy when he was one-month-old, and then he was permanently placed at six-months-old in our home. My little girl was just five days old when I brought her home from the hospital. Our adoption anniversary of two years for both children just happened in November.  Since then, we have added one of my children’s siblings to my home, and the State Children’s Division is in the process of termination of parental rights.

One word – obedience – has brought three little blessings in my heart. God entrusted me to raise them, teach them about Jesus, and to ensure they know where they came. They were not an accident, and me driving down that road one January evening was not an accident either.

When we obey God, He will bless us.  It’s as simple as that, and we never know when those blessings will happen.”

What Adoption Means: Dream Life

“What Adoption Means to Me” – Post #6

I received this message from a fellow professional in child welfare.  She shared with me about her father’s adoption story. When I first read it, I got stuck on the words “dream life”.  It reminded me that adoptive parents need to be mindful of how incredible the memory is as it pertains to memories of biological families.

After reading her father’s story, I am thankful that adoption is more openly spoken about these days than they once were.  No child should ever have to feel that he or she cannot speak or wonder about biological family.  Also, I think it is pretty amazing that adoption is the profession that his daughter chose.

“My dad was adopted when he was about three years old. He says that he remembered bits and pieces of his biological family but always wondered if he was dreaming.  He would wake in the mornings sometimes, and ask his mom if they ever lived on a farm with lots of animals, or if he ever had an older brother. He would ask those questions about this “dream life” as he describes it because the details were so fuzzy and confusing to him. It was almost as if he remembered this life with a family but he couldn’t quite remember all the details.

When my dad was 18 years old, his parents sat him down.  “It was time to tell him the truth”, they said. They explained that he was adopted at three years old because his biological parents had died. They said that there wasn’t always good medical care for people who lived out in the country, so when the couple fell ill, there was no way to save them. His parents told him that he indeed did have an older brother who had been adopted by a family in another state, who needed an older child to help on their farm. He was also told that he had several, older half-siblings that lived close to his hometown.

As you can imagine, my dad was devastated. He was sent into such a state of shock and felt that he was right all along: He was different, and not only was he different, he wasn’t someone who deserved the truth about who he was or where he came from. He was not given this information about his adoption or his biological family from day one or even when he asked specific questions about his “dream life”; he was lied to and the truth was withheld.

My dad was very ashamed for years about his adoption story. I think in most part because of the secrecy behind it all. When I was about 10 years old, my mom told me that my dad was adopted. I will always remember that moment as I was trying to make sense of what adoption meant. I asked my mom, “So are you saying that Grandma and Grandpa aren’t dad’s real parents?” My mom immediately snapped, “Don’t EVER say that again!”

There was no explanation of why that question should not be asked, but I knew that something must be really wrong to ask questions about adoption.  I didn’t ask my dad or my mom questions about his adoption for a very long time.

When I went off to college, I found my calling in life: social work; and more specifically working with children who need forever families. Adoption was my calling. I remember the phone call when I told my parents about my dreams and what I wanted to do most in life, which was to help find every child a forever family. The conversation was met with lots of skepticism, especially from my dad.

I started learning everything I could about adoption. I also started asking my dad questions about his story because I wanted to better understand my dad’s thoughts and feelings regarding his history. At first, he was hesitant to share with me. My dad is a very strong man, and I think sometimes men are nervous to talk to others because they might display weakness. However, once my dad started to open up about his past, he started to realize that he had a lot of questions himself. He researched and found that he had one older half-sibling that lived not too far away.

My mom reached out to her and they spoke on the phone. That half-sibling cried tears of joy to know that her baby brother had been adopted by a wonderful family. She said she’d always wondered what happened to him. She later wrote my dad a letter that he still keeps in his bedside table. In the letter, she wrote that she was about sixteen-years-old when their parents died. She said that she had offered to raise him and his older brother but the authorities had said that she was too young.

The children were taken to an orphanage at the time and placed for adoption. She said that she tried to keep in contact but was told by well-meaning social workers that it was not appropriate for her to keep in touch with them; that she needed to let them live their own lives, and that communication from her would only confuse them and cause problems. Because of this, she cut off all communication and lost track of where they were.

My dad still has not met his half-siblings face to face, though they have written letters and talked on the phone. He has now seen pictures of his birth parents. It is crazy because I look exactly like his birth mom. When we saw those pictures and realized the resemblance in his birth mother and me, I think it was hard on him at first because the loss was so real, but now, I think it is comforting that we look so much alike because it is like a piece of his birth story still lives on.

My dad has also met his older brother who was adopted by an out-of-state family. That reunion was pretty amazing because they look so much alike and have the same mannerisms, though they were raised by different families.

Though my dad’s story has not come to a perfect ending, he has at least found some comfort and closure in knowing his story. He is still very private about his adoption history but I find that he is opening up more and more. He will call to ask me questions about adoption or give me advice, which is great since this is my profession. Plus, I love my dad and his history is my history, and I think it is important know the truth. My dad still hasn’t talked much to his mom about the adoption (his dad has since passed on). He says that he doesn’t want to hurt her by asking too many questions. Like many people, my grandparents struggled with infertility, so adopting my dad was an answer to their prayers. They raised him as if he had been born to them and gave him unconditional love. So he tries to be very respectful of his parents as he has sought answers regarding his history.”