STAND Above the fray

Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I landed on a friend’s posting of a long, drawn-out conspiracy theory that, quite frankly, demonized people who voted a certain way. Anger visited me. Putting my fingertips to the keyboard, I started typing a rebuttal. At that moment, these four words hit me: STAND ABOVE THE FRAY.

Social media is used to weaponize folks. Visceral tongue-lashings of others go on day after day. I admit that I have been guilty of it. I’ve posted an emotional response to things and then had to delete my post because I never want to hurt anyone or spread a message that doesn’t represent who I am, or more importantly, who Jesus is. I’ve been blocked by people, unfriended, and misunderstood. None of which gets to the heart of any issue that we’re facing.

The United States has a lot of problems right now -the pandemic, voting rights issues, treatment of non-white people, conspiracy theories that turn into triggers. The list goes on. But these things are not what I’m talking about it. The problem I’m witnessing is the hate and disdain for others because they simply don’t vote the way one expects them to or in the same way. Or, they don’t want to jump down that rabbit-hole and join others in their quest to prove they’re right.

Growing up, my parents were on opposite political spectrums. One was more conservative, the other more liberal. One a Republican, the other, a Democrat. They had friends and family members between this political spectrum. Not one time did I ever hear a nasty word about someone because of the way they voted. It was simply just that they voted based on their concerns and life-experience. That’s it. Because of freedom. Because of the right we all have to choose how we vote.

Our children are growing up in a society that devalues a person’s right to choose a political leaning. And I refuse to be someone who doesn’t raise her children to assume the best about people – regardless of how they vote.

So, when it comes to politics, I’m choosing to stand above the fray. This is a new concept for me as I’ve always enjoyed a good back and forth. But, anymore, I find that decent conversations are hard to have with others when falsehoods and scorn are being splattered across the scene.

I choose to stand above the fray of:

  • Assuming that if people are passionate about one issue, they don’t care about others.
  • Demonizing and calling one side evil or assuming the other is more righteous.
  • Categorizing people solely based on how they vote.
  • Believing that someone isn’t Christian (enough) because of whose name is marked on a ballot.
  • Dehumanizing others because I don’t understand their fears or struggles.
  • Questioning patriotism because some question leadership.
  • Spreading conspiracy theories that are usually just that – a conspiracy with little truth.
  • Joining in on ridiculing others by sharing memes that do nothing but promote bitterness.

I will fail at times but I’m giving it my all so that the only thing I promote is hope, love, and authenticity. I’m rarely met by Jesus when I go low. And, others are not met by Him when they see me go there.

I’m choosing to stand above the fray.

on this day of thankfulness

On this day of thankfulness, my childhood has been on my mind. Maybe, it is because my daughter is now the age I was when I had my hysterectomy. Sometimes, I see myself in her. Curious. Strong-willed. Lover of fluffy things. Empathetic. Other times, I don’t.

Barrenness rushed in like a thief in the night. It didn’t just steal from me at that time, in that present moment. It kept stealing each and every day as I grew up. A stalker. A shadow that didn’t go away. A reminder of what was missing.

On this day of thankfulness, I’m reminded of the power of restoration. That somehow, grace had the audacity to chase me down, prove me wrong and breathe love and life into my soul.

Thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who took my physical, emotional and spiritual brokenness and flipped the script.

Lightness out of darkness.

Fruitfulness out of barrenness.

Gratitude replacing grief.

On this day of thankfulness, I am truly blessed.

I Am the Least Likely

Your story - whatever it is - may be used to spurn future generations into faith

Can I take you back somewhere for a moment?  Like, way back…

Lying in my bed with my fat cat “Cupcake” resting nearby, nestled in warm covers, and dim lights, I wondered, “Maybe God knows I would make a horrible mother and that’s why this happened.  Maybe, it’s because I was a bad person in a past life or because I should have been born a boy.  Maybe, it’s because the doctor made a mistake.  Maybe….”

These thoughts raced through my mind shortly after my hysterectomy.  They ripped and raged at my heart.  I didn’t understand what a lifetime of barrenness would look like, but oh boy, did I believe that I was destined for shame, anguish and never being a mother.  I understand now that these dark whispers were not of God but of the face of darkness.  They were from the Enemy, who likes to nip and chew at every single vessel and cell of our existence.

I carried around this heavy blanket of thoughts for many years.  It seems odd to even call it a blanket, though.  When we think of blankets, we think, “warm, soft and comforting”.  However, like a blanket, these thoughts wrapped themselves around me and engulfed my body.  Soon, I began to cling to them – much like a child clings to a blanket.  After all, I was a child when barrenness knocked on my door.

These thoughts often brought shame, confusion and resentment towards a supposedly loving God.  Even after all of these years and being a parent, I still have moments where my mind escapes back to those nights in my bed and of the times where I could not stop the tears from flowing.  Besides, why would any loving Father ever allow this?

The truth is that I am the least likely to be typing this and to be speaking of spiritual freedom.  I am the least likely to work with children, promote the importance of adoption, advocate for foster children, share in support of foster families and play a small part in the molding of new families.  I am the least to be doing any of this.

The reality is that I had already envisioned a life minus anything to do with children.  It just hit too close to home.  I went to college and got a degree in Gerontology – the study of aging.  I didn’t want anything to do with children.  I even told my mom, “I don’t want to work with children; especially abused and neglected children.”

(I’ve since learned that we shouldn’t tell the Lord what we won’t do.)

I often recall those moments in time where I wondered what in the heck I was going to do about all of this trauma – medical and barrenness.  I believe that these are the times when the Enemy wants to steal progress and remind us only of what we struggle with, what breaks our hearts and where our fears lie.

Still….the Lord is there to hush those whispers and calm the waves of painful remembrance.

Ending up in child welfare (because the Lord closed every single door until the one to child welfare opened up), being around children, and working with kiddos who needed homes, forced me to confront that part of my life that I had always hidden away; never showing to others what I was dealing with.  This is why I am the least likely.

God takes the least, wipes the slate clean, clears the fog and reveals a truth that pierces through the darkest of places in our hearts.  It was He who put me in child welfare.  It is He who has kept me in it.  It is He who continuously reveals so much of who He is and who I am in Him.  It is He who hushed those horrible, slithering whispers that tried to capture a future without children.  It is He who took a hold of my barrenness and threw it off of me; declaring a new identity.

Imagine being bound by chains of self-doubt, grief, and angst.  Now, imagine those chains being broken.  This is what the Lord is capable of.

Yes, I am the least likely to testify that a faithful and all-knowing God took a hold of my barrenness and shaped it into what my life is today.  I am the least likely to proclaim that motherhood is important, infertility is not a result of being a bad person, and that God is out to punish us all.

It is just the opposite.  Listen closely.

The VERY thing that the Enemy used to devour my spirit, the Lord used to not only create a new life but also to fill it with exactly the opposite of what the Enemy desired. 

The Lord took what ripped my heart out and turned it into a lifetime of devotion of working on the behalf of children.  He took the biggest void in my life and blessed me.

What was meant to harmmeant to stealmeant to boundwas turned into a revelation of the all-consuming love of God.  It turned into that incredible feeling of true freedom – know that you are exactly who the Lord intended for you to be and that you are living out His story of your life.  Not only did it become a revelation, it evolved into a lifetime of doing the exact opposite of what the Enemy wanted.

Did you read that clearly?  A complete opposite of what the Enemy wanted.

If you ask me about the presence and proof of God in my life, all I would have to do point you to where I was versus where I am now, and that would be sufficient.  None of this happened by accident.  It still catches my breath.  It still feels so raw and real and beyond belief.  For me, the proof of the Lord is revealed daily.

My story.  My personal journey.  My medical problems, surgeries and barrenness turned into a testimony of what a truly loving and forgiving God can do.  My life is an example of redemption (over and over again), of the glory of God revealing Himself, and of answered prayer.  This is my testimony and I refuse to hide it away.

Yes, I am the least likely to proclaim the beauty of adoption, to advocate for children and to pursue the heart of God.  It is not by my works that I am a parent and an advocate for children in need.  It is the Lord who is working through my barrenness.  It is the Lord who has taken away my doubts about motherhood.  It is the Lord who declared Himself in my life.  It is He who has sustained me through working in child welfare as long as I have.

Friends, if you are going through something that is tragic, life-changing or appears to have stolen your future, I’ve been there.  I understand.  While I may not know your exact pain, I do understand how quickly life can change and how rapidly you can succumb to desperate thoughts.

Friends, in Jesus, nothing is impossible.  We are made new.  In Him, our futures are just getting started.  Don’t give up.  Your story – whatever it is – may be used to turn future generations to faith.  

 

If you met me many years ago, I would have convinced you that I am the least likely to talk about spiritual warfare and the faithfulness of God.  It is not that I didn’t believe in that stuff.  I just didn’t want to feel it.  I didn’t want to talk about it.  I didn’t want to do the hard work to discover myself and the Lord in it.  I wasn’t ready.

I am the least likely to share any of this, but… the Lord has this incredible habit of taking the least and using them to proclaim the full measure of His grace.

“I am the vine; you are the branches.  If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” -John 15:5-8

 

Dad’s War Story {in honor of Veteran’s Day}

DadBefore this week of honoring Veterans slips away, I’d like to say that I am proud of my dad for serving in the Marines during the Vietnam War. The picture is of my dad and sister.

I’ve asked Dad more than a few times if he would share his war story with me as I’d like to put it in writing, but he has declined. He doesn’t like to think about it, and in his words, “No one would be interested.” I’ll share just a bit of it, though.

At 19-yrs-old, Dad was drafted as a Reserve to serve in Vietnam during the TET Offensive. During his time in the jungle, he watched his best buddies die from dysentery, saw first hand what military assault rifles do to the human body, exposed to Agent Orange, and “slept” in a foxhole night after night during torrential rains.

During one night in a hole, helicopters flew over and dropped strawberries. The berries were not fresh, and not that safe for human consumption, but they were food. In Dad’s words, “We would crawl on our hands and knees in the mud to get the berries, and then crawl back into the hole. We knew as soon as we ate them, we would get sick, but nothing was going to stop us from tasting the sweetness of those berries.”

My dad was blown out of a bunker by a grenade, and landed on the jungle floor with a broken back. He was there, helpless, for almost a full day before anyone could get to him. Can you imagine? At 19-yrs-old? He ended up in a military hospital in Europe for several months until he was able to come home. Dad earned a Purple Heart for his service.

My Dad does not use the computer very often, and is not on any form of social media. I’m pretty sure he would roll his eyes at me (and maybe share a few choice words) if he knew I was posting this, but I think his story matters.

Vietnam Veterans did not get the credit they deserved when returning upon war. My Dad is one of the lucky ones. He came back to his family, was able to work, made a living as a professional fisherman, and eventually started his own business. We all know there are way too many Vets (especially Vietnam Vets) who are homeless, and were never able to enjoy the things in life that my dad has. Surely, there is more that this country can do.

The next time you get frustrated by the rain, or upset that the fresh fruit you just bought at the local store isn’t that fresh, just remember, at least you are not sleeping in a foxhole.

a life Eternal

In her ninety’s and near death, Elizabeth was thin, frail, and completely unaware that I was with her in the room to which she had called home for many years.  I was in graduate school and chose to do my internship at a local Hospice agency. Elizabeth was one of many clients that I was asked to go visit, provide support to, offer counsel if necessary, or offer a hand to hold.  I nudged her hand, introduced myself, and whispered that I was there to sit with her a while.  She lay there, eyes shut, and not responsive to my presence.  I sat back in the chair next to her bed, looked around a bit, and watched her in silence.

Breath in…breath out…breath in….breath out…then…..Eyes open wide, arms reaching out to the Heavens, and with a strong voice, she declared,

“Oh, the trees.  The trees.  They are beautiful.  The streets.  They are golden…and the music.  The beautiful music….it’s the most beautiful music I’ve heard.  Yes…yes, I see her.  I don’t know her, but I will see her again.” 

I sat there frozen in my chair.  It is not that I did not move.  It is that I could not move.  I watched and listened to her as she spoke out loud.  I felt peaceful, and in that moment, I knew that I was witness to a celestial exchange.  I was partly in disbelief, but mostly in pure belief that I was allowed to hear a vision of Heaven.

As soon as she was through speaking, she went back to the slow, labored breathing to which I initially watched her do.  I too felt as though I could move around, and raised up in the chair, grabbed her hand, and just held it in silence for the remainder of the hour that I was there.  As my time with her drew to a close, I gently got up, leaned over her and said “I’m leaving for now.  Thank you for this time together.”  As I exited the room, I looked back once more at the frail woman lying in the bed to which her soul would escape to Heaven.

As I walked down the halls of the nursing home, I felt elation mixed with emotion and humility.  I kept hanging on to her words that described a Heaven to which my mind could only begin to imagine.  I also clung to the part of the conversation that seemed to include me.  I had never met Elizabeth before, and had never even stepped foot in that particular nursing home.  I did not even think she noticed me.  To my amazement, I realized that I was given a glimpse of the promise of eternal life.

I thought about this experience for many days after I visited her, and heard that she lasted about seventy-two hours after our visit, and died a peaceful death.  I never told anyone at the agency about my experience.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps, I was worried that they would try to apply a medical reason for her words.  Instead, I told those close to me.

While I had similar experiences with the elderly population I worked with, this experience definitely was different from the others.  I witnessed something not of this Earth.  My presence with her was not random.  I felt as though I had been invited into a private conversation between a dying Believer and the One True Mighty Father. 

It has been nearly thirteen years since this experience; still yet, here I am writing about it.  Thirteen years ago, I was barely clinging on to the faith of my childhood.  I had just started going back to church.  My heart was still compounded by confusion of past trauma, regrets, and an unknown future.  I was not yet married, not a parent, and not even sure of the path to which I would walk down.  Sitting here now, a mother to three children, a wife, a professional in child welfare, and a Believer in Jesus Christ, I am mightily aware and thankful for this experience with the sweet soul whose room I stumbled into as a graduate student.

It seems Eternity has been on my mind and heart lately.  Of all the things spoken of in Scripture, a life Eternal is by far the most incredible promise of all.  Perhaps it is the wailing of the world that is happening, or the yearning of my own heart to draw closer to the Lord, but as of late, my thoughts have been pressed on towards our Heavenly Home.

I believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and through Him, we have salvation.  I am not ashamed or embarrassed to say this.  I am not less intelligent, naive, or intolerant.  I am a friend, daughter, sister, wife, mother, stranger, and acquaintance.

I am the person who messes up, or sometimes, gets it just right.  I am the one who overlooks others, or sometimes, bends down on knees for total strangers.  I have a temper, a sense of humor, a serious side, and a quiet side.  I am strong.  I am weak.  I am vulnerable at times, and completely unbreakable at others.  I am a Christian.

Through reading of the Word, and the blessed experience of the one described above, I fully believe in a life Eternal.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.   -Revelation 22:1-5

Everyone is Lovable

Sitting around our slightly scuffed up and very used dinner table, my husband asked our son what he learned at school.  Scooping up a fork full of red beans and rice, our son said,

“We learned that everyone is lovable.”

My husband and I glanced at each other with both surprise and gratitude.  I took a bite of my cornbread, chewed as quickly as possible, and said to him,

“That is a great lesson.”

I thought about his statement throughout the night.  At what point do we start to not think this way?  When do we decide that some people are more lovable than others?  In our adult experience, why is it that we forget this lesson?  Why is it that children must teach it to us?  

As a Christian, I have found myself seeing others with blurred vision.  There are certainly people who I would never want to surround myself with, and yet, perhaps these people are the exact ones that Christ sought so desperately.

We teach our children to love without borders, to be kind without restrictions, and to give without expectation; yet, we often do not live up to the standard that we teach. And yet, it takes a simple elementary school lesson to stir my heart upon these things.

Since becoming a parent, I have felt drawn towards the refining messages and lessons learned from watching them grow up.  Our children teach us so much – just like we taught our parents, and so on.  I thank The Lord for these lessons, second chances at getting it right, and tender moments when you just know that the words coming from the lips of your child are totally meant for you.

I’ve been asked how I feel about certain political issues, social debates, and hot topics that make up our days.  If I want to live a life aligned with the heart of Christ, then, I choose to leave my answer at a place of love.  I’ve decided that nothing else matters except a heart that loves, a heart that forgives, and a heart that admits we are all in need of love.

I’m so thankful that my son walked away from school (public school, I might add), with the reminder that everyone is lovable…Everyone – rich, poor, clean, dirty, shameful, unashamed, popular, unpopular, black, white, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, gay, straight, smart, not smart….the list goes on.

Thank you, Lord, for finding me lovable in the moments I’ve deserved it the least, the moments I’ve needed it the most, and in that incredible moment You drew a last painful breath on the Cross.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, – Galatians 5:22

Barren Path {I AM}

I walk along this barren path with bitter, heavy steps.

My skin feels parched from this dry walk.  My tongue lay thick in my mouth.

“Where, oh where, are you my Lord?” my voice screams without a sound.  “You are not here.  You do not care.  You are nowhere to be found.”

This painful walk.  This mournful way.  This path does not seem right.

I am forgotten, misunderstood, and full of dread for the night.

With each step, my bones crack, and my heart lays deep in my chest.

I am weary, tired, and painfully torn.  I desperately long for some rest.

“Where, oh where, are you my Lord?” my voice screams without a sound.  “You are not here.  You do not care.  You are nowhere to be found.”

The ground beneath laughs at me.  It scorches me to the bone.

This barren ground.  This painful walk.  I am completely alone.

 “Where, oh where, are you my Lord?” my voice screams without a sound.  “You are not here.  You do not care.  You are nowhere to be found.”

And then, at once, I look up. The light is far too bright.

I squint my eyes, cover myself, and wonder.  “Where is the night?”

“Where is the night that envelopes me?  Where is the darkness that won’t leave?”

This barren path.  This mournful walk.  It clings to me so tight.

“I AM.”  I hear you say.  “I AM.”  

You say again.

This is the sound that chased after me; the one that would not leave.

This voice.  This gentle, but intense one, that stirred my heart to believe.

“I AM in the sunrise, wind, and rain.  I AM in the sunset, joy, and pain.”

“I AM the One who first knew you, and the One who wrote your days.”

“I AM the Weaver, Storm Creator, and Calmer of the Seas.”

“I AM the One who set your feet upon this barren path.  Yet, I AM the One who will avenge you, my child, with great wrath.”

This barren path.  This parched, dry walk.  This journey of which I’ve known.

It does not feel dry anymore. I no longer feel alone.

For my Father,the Great I AM, walks me through the days.  He fills the air, and colors my view with songs of joy and praise.

My steps are light.  My heart leaps up.  I dance on this fruitful land.

For my Father, the Great I AM, holds me in His Heavenly Hand.

“I AM.”  I hear you say.  “I AM.”  

You say again.

Thank you Lord, for guiding me, and setting my soul upon this terrain.

Thank you, Father, the Great I AM, for capturing my  heart once more.  Thank you, Father, the Great I AM, for things that are in store.

You set my feet upon this walk.  This barren path is long.  Yet, You quench each thirst. You pad each step. You caress me with a new song. 

You breathe hope into my lungs.  My heart leaps at Your Great Name.  

Yahweh.  Father.  Loving God.

For You are the Great I AM.

 

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

IMG_1614

I was running a little late yesterday picking my son up from school.  Up to this point, we have had a fairly routine pick-up schedule.  I arrive about ten minutes before school lets out, park in the same area, walk in to the main doors, and wait on a bench until I see his smiling face walking down the hall towards me.  Yesterday though, I was about ten minutes late from my usual pick-up time.

As I approached the door, I could see him sitting on the bench waiting for me with a slight look of worry on his face.  He was searching through the small crowd of parents that had gathered in the front entrance.  When the door opened, and I entered the building, he swung his head around and with a gleeful sound, he said, “Mommy!”  We hugged, he told me about his day, and we made our way to the car.

I’ve been thinking about the look on my son’s face when I saw him through the door looking slightly distressed over my absence, and then again, at his joyful expression when he saw me.  The thoughts that have come from this brief and somewhat insignificant moment is this, It matters that we keep our word to children.  It matters that they can rely on us to be there for them, and that we do what we say we are going to do.”

I couldn’t help but think about the kids in foster care that I used to work with as a case manager.  Many were promised things by their parents and others that never came to fruition.  Parents did not get clean from drugs, work their treatment plans, or “get them back” like they told their children they would.  Several of the children meandered their way through the system (and many still do) moving from home to home without anyone committing to caring for them long-term.  They were continually let down by the unfulfilled promises of adults.

Many of the kids have been failed often by adults in their lives even prior to entering foster care.  Too many of them have never had anyone stick around long enough to help them lay down roots to a firm foundation for their future.  One of the keys to successfully working with children in the foster care system is to say what you mean, and mean what you say.  It also is vitally important to do what you say you are going to do.

My son’s look of relief upon seeing me yesterday after being just a few minutes late to pick him up reminded me of what I really already knew.  Our responsibilities as parents and as adults is to keep the well-being of children in the forefront.  The way we treat them, keep our word to them, and be intentional in their lives will shape their future, and in many ways, will shape ours.

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

My Inner Momma

“He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord!” – Psalm 113:9

I’ll admit it. I was once scared to be a parent. I believe this fear may have started after my hysterectomy at age eleven. I suppose that a part of me wondered if I would know how to care of babies and little ones since I did not have the capability to carry a baby in my body. That seems sort of ridiculous, but it truly was a concern of mine.

The notion that my natural maternal instincts exited my body when the organs did is something that was never too far from my thoughts. I’m not really sure why and perhaps it was because of my young age, but I just assumed that the female organs went hand in hand with the ability to be a good mother. These thoughts stayed with me throughout my growing years and even right up to the moment when I became responsible for caring for a child.

I was not quite sure if I really knew how to mother a child. Babies always made me a little nervous, and I never really volunteered to babysit or care for children. It could be that most women feel this way before becoming a parent. I don’t know for sure. The sense of my own ability to instinctually be a mommy had been damaged somehow. I believed that I did not have what it took to be a mother and for some reason, I was not meant to be one. I feared that I would have to work harder at it and it would not come as natural.

Reality hit me the moment I became responsible for a life other than my own. My first care of a child came when we accepted temporary guardianship of my nine year old second cousin. Immediately I just knew I was meant to be a parent despite my medical history and the insecurities that followed. Something awoke in me. The inner momma that had been suppressed by life experiences began to speak, and I liked the sound of her voice.

I went from being aloof about trusting my parenting abilities to craving becoming a parent. Parenting became this complex, tiring, and joyful yet completely fulfilling experience. During this time, I started picturing myself as a mom. Growing up, this is something I never was able to do following my hysterectomy. I barely allowed myself to visualize being a mommy. I had moments when I would dream up my fantasy child, but truthfully, I never saw those dreams coming to fruition.

My husband and I knew that if we did not at least try to become parents, we would risk regretting it much later in life. I needed to parent. While raising my cousin, I felt more alive than I ever had before. The experience of caring for him lit the fire in us to become foster and adoptive parents.

Once we started fostering, it seemed that the most natural part of foster parenting our children was actually parenting them. I know that sounds so strange. The legal system does not lend itself to feeling natural. The placement of our kids was not normal in that we went from being childless to instant parents with just a few phone calls. Driving our son to visit his biological parent, handing him over, and then walking away always felt so surreal. Visits by case workers to our home every few weeks to make sure we were safely taking care of the kids felt invasive even though we appreciated them for doing so. Compared to all of the other experiences foster care provided us with, parenting them was definitely more organic.

I never knew really how easy mothering would come for me. My instinct to nurture never really left. It was not damaged from the surgery. It was not taken away with the organs. It just needed time to blossom. The inner momma in me found her voice, grew her wings, and took flight on the most amazing journey available to us on Earth….the blessed journey of selflessly putting ourselves second in order to care for and love on children.