‘Tis the Best Gift We Can Offer {a few lessons from reading home studies}

A part of my job is to read home studies for prospective foster and adoptive families. I have probably read somewhere in the thousands of studies. Although each one has a unique perspective on life and various layers of the human story, there are a few themes that run with each one.
 
1) People do not recall the “things” they were given as children. Instead, they remember vacations, family game nights, traditions, meals around the table, going to their grandparents’ house for family gatherings, feeling loved and knowing they are wanted.
2) People recognize that chores were good for them. Some had way too much put on their plates, while others did not have enough. Because of both experiences, the importance of appropriate chores is appreciated.
3) People recall the tempers of their parents and the fighting that occurs. Looking back on their childhoods, they are able to talk with detail about how fighting between their parents affected them and in some way, affects their current relationships – both in a good way and a bad way.
4) There is usually at least one solid adult who meant the world to them. For some, it was their mom. For others, their dad. For several, it was a relative or neighbor who mentored and loved on them when they needed it.
5) Children, who are not allowed to freely express their emotions, remember it as adults. They recall feeling stifled by not being able to show anger or being fearful if they showed anger.
6) Even in the worst home situations, most people walk away with a set of values taught to them. They can tell the difference between authentic values and false living.
7) Most people are forgiving towards their parents. Even as adults, people tend to still crave a decent, healthy relationship with their parents.
 
Reading home studies can be quite tedious. Interesting, but tedious. Each time I read one, I’m like, “Oh…yeah. I totally could be handling that issue better” or “Man, wish I could be as wholesome and loving as that mom.” Needless to say, reading the stories of others can be quite humbling!
 
However, with each study (basically a story) that I read, I am reminded that none of us are perfect. We each have our own insecurities, challenges, talents and imperfections. What is important in life is that we connect with our children, we give them experiences, and we never abandon or pull away from them.
 
Just a few reminders as we head straight into Christmas. Children will not remember each gift they open on Christmas morning, but they will remember us and the love we give.
‘Tis the best gift we can offer.

Momma-in-Waiting {at Christmas time}

pexels-photo-76931Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  Christmas is all around us, isn’t it?  You overhear your co-workers talk about the sweet surprises for their kiddos.  You are forced to look at picture after picture of your friend’s little one’s first Santa visit.  It’s not that you don’t think the images are cute or that you don’t want to see them.  It’s just that it hurts…really hurts.

Christmas morning in most houses is filled with chaos, giggling children, and mounds of bows and wrapping paper.  Weary parents get up at the crack of dawn to watch their children excitedly rip open that special gift from Santa.  Christmas morning at your home is a little different, though.  You get up whenever you desire and exchange presents with your spouse or anyone else staying the night.  It’s quiet and calm and in that stillness, your heart plunges to a depth a lot of people just don’t understand.  Your mind races with the same questions you’ve cried out for way too long…

Why is this happening?  When will it end?  What is wrong with me?  What if I never become a mother?  What if every Christmas is this quiet?

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  My own house is now filled with chaos at Christmas.  I hear my giggling children and clean up mounds of bows and paper.  I watch as the kids rush to the tree to see what Santa brought.  I wish I could tell you that it’s not that big of a deal and you’re not missing much, but that would be a lie.  You know it and so do I.

It’s a little ironic, isn’t it?  We celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas; yet, you are wailing, wanting, and desperate to celebrate your own miracle; your own gift to the world.  You are waiting to celebrate the birth of your baby.  I don’t really know what to say except I was once where you are and I know that it is miserable.  I knew I could never birth a child but I did not know if I would ever be a parent.  It is so incredibly hard.  It’s one of the worst pains any human can experience on Earth.  I believe that.  I really do.

From Hannah and on, barrenness is noteworthy.  If it wasn’t, then I suspect it would not even be mentioned in Scripture.  People tell you, “God has a plan for you.”  They say, “If it’s God’s will, then it will happen.”  Do you want to know something?  I loathed those words.  I could not stand them.  I despised every single time they were said to me (and they were said more times than I can count).

Only now, after adoption and actually being a Momma-no-longer-in-Waiting, can I say that I “get it”.  I understand that the Lord did have a plan and adoption was His will for my life.  Yet, this knowledge does not erase the pain that I felt nor does it wipe my memory clean of my existence when I was a Momma-in-Waiting.

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  Christmas is hard but so is just about every day when your steps are padded in confusion.  If there is one gift I can give to you this Christmas, it is this – your feelings are valid, your frustration is justifiable and your grief is not lost on those of us who have been there or who are there right now.

At this Christmas and every single day after, I want you to know that even though it feels like it, God has not forsaken you.  He never will.  Even though you do not feel His presence, He is there.  He is near you when test after test shows a negative, or when your doctor tells you news that you just don’t want to hear.  God is with you when you are lonely, tired and weeping the most sorrowful, thick tears ever imaginable.

Perhaps, Momma-in-Waiting, this is the best gift I can give you; the hope of the Lord.  

Be strong.  Be fierce.  Be courageous.  Don’t let anyone stifle your feelings or your voice.  Keep talking about infertility.  Keep asking questions and all of those other laborious things you need to do when you are meeting with doctors.  Don’t let others tell you how to navigate this journey for it is your own.

Pssst..hey, Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you.  At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of a child who changed the world.  Today, Momma-in-Waiting, I’m thinking of you and I believe that the very baby born so long ago is thinking of you as well.

For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. – Isaiah 41:13

 

Author’s Note:  I originally wrote this post in 2017.  Typically, I do not repeat posts that I have already published.  However, this is one that I hope will reach those who need some extra encouragement this time of year.  Blessings, Caroline

In Need of Grace {a letter from my child}

“The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.” Russel Barkley

I think of this quote when parenting my kids.  It is a great reminder when I’m struggling to manage the problems and issues we often face.  I have also thought of it when considering my own actions.

Sometimes, I’m not easy to love.  I absolutely admit that I can be a bit of a grouch at times.  I can put expectations on my kids that are probably too high for their level of functioning.  My feelings get hurt, I lose my temper, and I struggle showing grace – even when I am the one who probably needs it the most.

Last week at a doctor’s appointment for a recent back injury, my doctor asked me how things are going with the kids.  I sat for a minute and thought, “Do I tell him the truth that life is hard or do I grin and say things are going fine?”  The word “fine” has become the one I use when things really aren’t that fine.  It gives a simple response to questions that I don’t want to unpack.

As much as I tried to keep it in, I couldn’t.  The tears ran down my face as I explained the issues we are having and how I have been feeling and failing, lately.  The funny thing (actually, not that funny) is when you are told “maybe tomorrow will be better”, deep down you know that it probably won’t be.  Instead of offering a rallying cry to me, my doctor let me cry.  Soon, he brought in a counselor they have on staff and she also just let me cry.  It felt good to release it.  I should probably do that more often.

Fast forward a few days from this appointment to my birthday (yes, I just turned another year older).  My children were having a rough night.  I’ve learned not to expect nights without behaviors – even on special occasions.  As I opened my gifts, one of my children handed me a letter…

Dear Mom,

Thank you for sooo much for being graceful, and loving to me and for adopting me and helping me up when I’m hurt, cheering me up when I’m sad and you love me no matter what I do.  Thank you for being my mom for the best years of my life.

Did you read that?

Graceful.

Loving.

Helping.

Cheering.

Best years of my life.

I cried as I read it and looked at my child.  Soon, this child’s eyes were welling up as I opened up my arms for a big hug.  I will hang on to this letter.  I will read it over and over again during the good times and the bad.

It is hard to explain what it is like to raise children who struggle with lots of things – mental health, academics, behavioral issues, etc.  From the outside, my kids look perfect.  Their outside appearances do not match what is going on internally.  Because of this, there are false perceptions made about all of us.

Having been down a bit from the past few weeks of challenges, I have been in need of a lot of grace.  I have wondered in desperation if I was equipped to handle the arrows aimed in my direction and at my children.  I have questioned if there will ever be a relief or a miracle or something that proves the heartaches and hardships will make sense one day.

Through a child’s words, I was offered that grace.  It spoke straight to the heart.  I was given the gift of encouragement and a glimpse into why it is so important to keep going.  I was reminded of the need to offer grace, the feeling of being loved, the importance of helping and encouragement, and that (often) we parents are our children’s entire worlds.  My child’s letter thanking me for the grace I have shown actually provided me with the grace I have searched for, lately.  What a powerful moment it was.

Although my child wrote the letter, I see God’s hand all over it.  I hear Him saying, “There you go…there you go.  See?  I told you it is worth it.  You do matter.  Your children matter.  You may not see it every day, but your children do and so do I.”  

Parents of children with extra needs, moments like the one I experienced reading my child’s letter may not come around very often.  I know this.  You know this, as well.  We find ourselves not only managing the typical antics and activities of childhood, but also managing the extra stuff; the kind that yearns to siphon whatever energy or hope we have left at the end of the day.  Some days, it isn’t very much, is it?

We have to remember that we are making a difference even if we don’t see the results immediately.  We must believe that even though a miracle may not occur, our actions, stability, support and love are miraculous to our children.  It is okay to admit our failures.  It is totally acceptable to dwell in the knowledge that we are desperate for a measure of grace on any given day.

Keep going.  Keep the faith.  Even if you think no one is noticing, remember that your children are.

So is the Lord.

Praise Him for that.