Favorite Fishing Buddy

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“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” —John Buchan

My dad fished professionally for many years, and earned sponsors and endorsements from boat and bait/tackle companies.  He was featured in magazine articles, and won many notable tournaments throughout his career.  As a matter of fact, when I tell people around here who my dad is, most (if into fishing) “ooh” and “ah” over my dad’s knowledge of the lakes and his seemingly instinctual ability to catch fish.

Before the adoption of our son, we took him to the lake often to visit his “Papa” and play around on the water.  Once our adoption was finalized, and my son had the ability to hold a fishing pole, my dad headed out on the water with him and started teaching him all that he knew.  He is now 6-years-old, and has been fishing pretty regularly since the age of 2 years.  He can name virtually every type of freshwater fish.  He can top-water fish, use a variety of baits and tackle, and even use a bait-caster.  I think he would fish just about every day if we let him.

During visits with my son’s biological mother while we were fostering him, she often asked me if someone would take him fishing.  She wanted her son to have the opportunity to learn how to fish.  I’m not sure if this is something she enjoyed as a child, but it seemed pretty important to her for him to be a boy who fished.

She was quite excited to hear that my dad past-time is fishing, and that her son would learn to fish from one of the best around this area.  When I get images like the one above from my dad while on the lake with my son, I can’t help but think of his birth mother, and how often she talked about taking him fishing.

My dad may have won tournaments, earned money, and made a name for himself through fishing, but the joy on my son’s face and the time spent with his favorite fishing buddy is by far the greatest award he has ever received.

 

One of the Lucky Ones

This is the story of my dear friend, Missy and her mom, Marcia.  She’s a special person and I’m so thankful she shared her story with me, and with all of you.

Missy, Marcia, and Missy’s sweet little girls

“We are often told that we look alike.  Our eyes meet and we just smile knowing that we are the only ones in on our little secret”, explained Missy when telling her story about her experience as a child in the system.  It was about twenty-four years ago that her life took a drastic, yet remarkable turn.

From the beginning of her life, one would not consider Missy to be lucky. Her biological mother was just eighteen-years-old when she gave birth to Missy, and already had a lot on her plate as she was mothering twins when Missy was born.  Missy’s toddler and preschool years were spent with her mom having multiple boyfriends.  She actually remembers her mom changing the pictures on the wall depending on what boyfriend was visiting.  Things were rough, but got much worse when she was five-years-old.  Her mother married a man who was not the kind of father she and her siblings needed in their lives.

Physical abuse was a part of her life as young girl.  Missy remembers being beaten for trivial things such as losing the pen to the Yahtzee game.  Sometimes, she and her siblings were beaten so severely that they had to miss days of school.  Her siblings experienced sexual abuse, but Missy did not.  She is incredibly thankful for this, but carried guilt as a child knowing that her siblings were exposed to this type of horrific abuse. 

One of the worst memories Missy recalled was when her step-father tried to force her to drown her puppy for peeing on the floor.  Missy always had a genuinely compassionate love for animals, so her step-father choosing this as a punishment for both her and the pup was incredibly cruel.  Although young, Missy stood up to her step-dad, refused to drown her pup, and instead took a beating that lasted for hours.

As time went on, things got worse.  She remembers her mom being beaten beyond recognition.  Her mom would tell the children that she was going to take them and leave, but never did.  Missy suspects she was scared and had such low self-esteem that she chose to stay.

After three years of living a nightmare with her step-dad, a knock on the door occurred and child protection services removed the children.  Although in desperate need to be taken out of that environment, Missy was scared, clung onto her teddy bear, and sobbed over being taken away from her mommy.  She and her siblings moved from home to home for various reasons, and she remembers the drive to each new home being very scary.  They would arrive at a new place full of strangers and a trash bag full of their belongings. 

Enter Marcia.  Marcia was a former neighbor of Missy and happened to be at the Children’s Division office when she overheard the social worker talking about needing to find another home for the kids.  When Marcia realized that the children being talked about were the three children she fed when they were hungry, she immediately stated she wanted to take them into her home.

Even though their home was filled with children, Missy remembers feeling loved as though she was the only child there.  Marcia and her husband, Jim, welcomed her and her siblings with an incredible amount of love.  Her birth mom was never able to reunify with her children.  Missy feels as though she chose the lifestyle she was living with her step-dad over her and her siblings.  Although never legally adopted, Missy chose to change her last name to Marcia’s and Jim’s last name when she was twelve-years-old.  In their hearts, they were already adopted in love.

Being taken in and loved on made an incredible difference in the lives of Missy and her siblings.  They were given safety and nurturing.  They were given the opportunity for normalcy.  The rest of their childhoods were ones free of abuse and neglect.  Marcia and Jim are heroes and helped to changed the lives of children who desperately needed a place to call home and the love of a family.

The following is how Missy ended her story.  I’ll let her words speak for them-self:

“I have not seen my bio mom since I was taken away.  It would be easy to be mad and full of hatred for her.  I chose a long time ago to let this all go.  The pain and hate only brought me down.  Matter of fact, if I ever see her I may thank her.  My past has made me the person I am and brought my new parents and siblings into my life. “My mom” and I are very close and I know we were brought together for a reason.  As she says “we are like peas and carrots”!  I now have two beautiful girls myself and cannot imagine letting anyone hurt them.  I realize not all foster children are as lucky as me.  I was able to graduate from college, get married to a wonderful husband, get a great job, and have two beautiful babies.  I guess I consider myself one of the lucky ones.”

 

Missy – I think those of us who consider you a friend are the lucky ones.  Thank you for sharing your story of how one person can change the life of a child, and for your personal resilience to rise above.  You, my dear, are an amazing woman.

Beautiful for God (quote from Mother Teresa)

“Do you want to do something beautiful for God? There is a person who needs you. This is your chance.”
-Mother Teresa

I find this quote from Mother Teresa to be simple, powerful, and truthful.  I think that if you substitute the word child for the word person, it makes this quote even more awesome.  I hope your day is one that shines beauty for the Lord’s sake!

Welcoming children, Welcoming Him

And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

-Matthew 18:5

I love working for a child welfare agency that is not only Christian in name, but in acts and philosophy.  The agency has been involved in the social welfare of children since 1886 and has evolved through the years as societal changes have occurred.  Although our services have developed through the years to meet the needs of children and families, our priority and reason why we do the work has not changed.  We know that we can serve the Lord by ministering to children who are hurting, youth who are struggling, and families who are broken.  We also believe and have witnessed the great miracles that occur in the lives of children and families through the love and acceptance of Christ.

One aspect of my job is to speak to families who have expressed an interest in foster care and adoption.  Like my husband and I, many families go into fostering with a desire to parent children and know that fostering is an avenue that could lead to adoption.  There are others who see it as a way to give back to children or their society.  Most of the Christian families I work with feel the Lord calling them to be foster parents and to adopt a child out of foster care.

Thinking about these families leads me straight to the Scripture noted above. Our Heavenly Father loves children.  They are near and dear to His heart.  One cannot also overlook the fact that He wants us to be like children when it comes to our walk with Him.

I really do enjoy witnessing the love of Christian families that is poured into children in need of foster and adoptive homes.  To see and know that change is happening in children’s lives is what keeps most of us in the field of child welfare going.  The Lord stirs the hearts of people so that they can minister to His children through fostering and adopting.  

Welcoming children in the name of the Father is a blessing.  Families who feel the Lord calling them out to become foster and adoptive parents are able to learn so much about their own personal journey with Christ.  One such foster parent who was hoping to adopt the child she was fostering, said to me, “The Lord reminded me that they are all His children.  We are just taking care of them.”

It is statements like the one above that confirm my personal belief that when people do what they are called to do, especially when it comes to caring for children, the Lord blesses them with His wisdom, His grace, and His power to withstand many trials.  When the Lord whispers His plan and His calling into the lives of others, they are able to whisper His love into the lives of children.  When one welcomes children, they welcome Him.

Trust Your Heart

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ – Matthew 25:40

Here’s another sweet story about adoption-

Although Scott and Cammie were blessed with three children, they knew their family was incomplete and yearned for another child.  They were unable to have anymore biological children and had been considering international adoption when Cammie came across an exhibit about adoption of children with Down Syndrome at a convention.  It tugged at her heart and she left the conference with an application in hand.

Upon returning home, Cammie approached Scott about the idea and showed him the application.  He quickly responded with “Why is it still blank?!”  Their family had some concerns but were also very supportive of their decision.  Cammie is adopted as well so it just seemed to be a natural thing for their family to do.  They followed their heart and went through an agency in hopes of being matched with a child who needed a home.

After waiting for two years, they were matched with Addysen, and were so overjoyed!  She was 7-months-old at the time.  Their adoption is considered open and Addy’s birth parents visit once per year, and they exchange emails.  Cammie is pleased to have the level of openness that she does with Addy’s birth parents. This is something she wished she would have had as a child.  She is not sure if Addy will ever completely understand adoption, but they continue to openly talk about it.

Scott and Cammie feel the biggest joy of their adoption of Addy is watching her develop and grow to the best of her ability.  Because of her special needs, they celebrate each skill she accomplishes.  They enroll her in dancing and other activities so that she can develop her social, physical, and emotional skills.  Addy is loved and accepted by her extended family and community.  She brings great happiness to their lives.

The biggest challenge is dealing with Addy’s health issues.  She has multiple complications and spends many days in the hospital.  Scott and Cammie have developed a team approach to taking care of Addysen’s medical needs and lean on each other for support during the difficult times.  They are wonderful parents to her.

Adoption has taught them that each family is unique and special.  It has taught their children that every person is a child of God who is loved deeply regardless of where the person comes from or who they are.  Their advice to families considering adoption is trust your heart.  If you desire to adopt, then you should follow your heart.  Adopting a child with Down Syndrome or other special need may not be for everyone, but they just knew it was meant for them.  Adoption has been a tremendous blessing and they cannot imagine life without it!

On a side note, Scott and Cammie are now foster parents and are taking care of a little one with special needs!  For information about adopting children with Down Syndrome, please click here.  The ministry linked is call Reece’s Rainbow.  They advocate for the adoption of children with Down Syndrome from all over the world.  Many of these precious babies are abandoned, and in need of loving homes.  Here is a link to Cammie’s blog as well The Heflin Family.

Thankfulness

Happy Thanksgiving!  Here’s my top ten list of things I’m thankful for:

  1. Grace – the Lord knows I’m a mess, but He loves me anyway.
  2. Love – my husband knows I’m a mess, but he loves me anyway.
  3. Adoption of my children – my life is much more colorful because of them.
  4. My job – I’m blessed to work for a child welfare agency that understands that our own families come before those we work with.
  5. Freedom – to get an education, to go to church, to live without fear.
  6. Salvation – Jesus chose us over His life.  What a beautiful Savior!
  7. My parents – for their support & for never allowing me to be a victim of my own set of circumstances.  I cannot imagine how painful my hysterectomy must have been on them.
  8. Revelation – the Lord has spoken His will into my life and has shown me that His plan had a purpose & for that I am so grateful for.
  9. Friendships – my friends also know I’m a mess, but they love me anyway
  10. Reading/writing & fellow bloggers – I’m so glad I stumbled onto writing.  I always knew I enjoyed it, but never realized how much of an outlet it is.  Thank you all for reading my blog, and thank you for sharing your worlds through writing your blogs.

Oh yeah, I’m also thankful for moments like these, and so many more!!

Four Years of Firsts

My girl, Happy 4th Birthday to You!  I didn’t know about you the day you were born.  I wasn’t there to welcome you into the world, and to see you take your first breath of Earthly air.  I didn’t greet your sweet face with a gasp of joy.  My arms were not the first ones to hold you.  I didn’t hear your first cry or witness the doctor say how precious you were.  I didn’t feed you your first bottle, change your first diaper, or pick out your first garment.  I didn’t lock you safely in your car seat and drive you home to your first crib.  Our home was not your first one, but our family is yours forever.

1st birthday!

Your first year was so special.  I celebrated your first taste of real food, your first embraces, your first steps, your first words, and, of course, your first birthday.  I cared for your first boo-boos and scared away your first fears.  I bought several pink outfits for the first time.  There were many firsts that you only had with me.  No, I wasn’t there for your first breath of Earthly air, but I was there for your first year.

2nd birthday!

Your second year came so quickly.  I listened as your vocabulary took off and saw how your shy spirit took a backseat to your ever-emerging confident self.  I noticed that your first friend was your brother.  You were not quite two when our adoption was finalized.  I penned your new name for the first time!  I took you on your first “girl’s day” shopping spree, and tucked you into your first big girl bed.  No, I wasn’t there for your first breath of Earthly air, but I was there for your second year.

3rd birthday!

Year three seemed to fly by so fast.  You learned to dress yourself, and I laughed at some of your first outfits you pulled together.  I took you to your first dentist appointment and applauded at how well you brushed your teeth.  You and I squealed with excitement at your first tube ride behind papa’s boat.  I noticed how quickly you learned to spell your name for the first time.  I was amazed at how easily you seemed to pick up on your first numbers and other preschool lessons.  I took you to your first dance recital, and wiped tears away while watching you twirl on the stage.  No, I wasn’t there for your first breath of Earthly air, but I was there for your third year.

Here we are at the start of another year of life together.  How many firsts will we discover this year?  I may not have been there to watch you take your first breath of Earthly air, but I am here now.  We are here now.  I love you so much daughter, and thank the Lord for gracing us with the blessings of you and your four years of firsts.

4th birthday!

Much More

Adoption: The act of transferring parental rights and duties to someone other than the adopted person’s biological parents. (Concise Encyclopedia/Merriam Webster)

I ran across this definition of adoption when doing some research.  It seems so simple; too simple.  It doesn’t take into account the emotion, waiting, persistence, patience, grief, giving, receiving, love, and joy that travel along the way towards adoption, and it certainly doesn’t describe life held after adoption.  It is so much more than just transferring parental rights.

Adoption is hope.  It is commitment.  It is patience.  It is waiting.  It is grief.  It is joy.  It is giving.  It is love.  It is receiving.  

I gave myself away to my children before they were legally mine.  I did not wake up the morning of their adoptions and discover new-found love based on transfer of parental rights.  I dreamed of them.  I yearned for them.  I grieved for them.  My soul grasped for them.  My imagination sculpted them.  Truthfully speaking, I loved them before I even met them.

In return, I received so much more than the legal status of being called mom.  I have been given the chance to push a little harder to make the world better for them.  I have been awarded the opportunity to imprint their lives with love.  I have received living, breathing, laughing joy.

I have received those moments of feeling full well the Lord’s penmanship of my life. I see the Lord in my children’s eyes.  I feel Him in their embrace.  I hear Him in their wonder of the world.  I still remember being that girl who didn’t know when or if I would ever be healed from the pain of barrenness.  I still think about her and who she used to be.  I still grieve at times for what she went through and for the pain she carried through the years.  But then….I look at my children, feel His presence, and know full well that I am healed.

Adoption deserves so much more than a legalistic definition.  It is defined by the path that one walks – whether birth parent, adoptive parent, or adopted child.  It is shaped by the loss along the way.  It is refined by the waiting.  It is colored by the emotion and highlighted by the joy.  It is enhanced from the giving, and humbled by the receiving.  It is love in action, hope in process, and life lived in the full awareness of Him.

Yes…adoption is so much more.

Stop Bragging

This is post #15 of National Adoption Month!  I thought I would pass along a short, but sweet story told to me by an elderly lady when she heard that my children were adopted.  Here it is….

There was a little girl and her mother at the grocery store.  The little girl kept running up to people and saying “I’m adopted!  I’m adopted!”  After doing this for quite some time, her mother said to her, “Sweetie, stop bragging.”

I don’t know about you, but it made me smile the first time I heard it.  Adoption really is something quite sacred, special, and worthy of bragging about!

Have a blessed day!

The Adoption Creed

2009

Not flesh of my flesh,
Nor bone of my bone,
But still Miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute,
You did not grow under my heart,
But in it.

-Fleur Conkling Heyliger

This is another well-known poem about adoption.  I did not carry my children in my body.  I carried them in my prayers, hopes, dreams, tears, imagination, and heart.