All Just Souls

“All Just Souls” These words hit me while at the emergency room with my oldest son. A transgender woman entered the room and curled up on the chair. She sat there in physical and emotional torment. My son didn’t notice. He was too engrossed in his Ipad.

Soon, the family across from us began staring immensely at this person. “It’s a man”, I heard them whisper. Glaring again. Giggling. Whispering into each other’s ears.

She bent over in pain. My heart sunk. Soon, her name was called out. It was was a male name (meaning not a gender-neutral name). I knew the family would get a kick out of that and watched as they began all over again with the giggles, whispers, and stares. Not surprised. Sickened, though.

She came back and sat down near where I was. She was alone. Trembling. In pain. No one was there comforting here – unlike 99% of the others waiting in ER that evening. The internal battle in my mind started. “I can’t leave my son. What if she has something contagious? What can I do? What should I do? No. I’m going to mind my business…”

These thoughts coursed through me. Occasionally, I would look up and give a good glare at the family clearly enjoying their mockery. I looked again at my son. “Thank goodness he is oblivious to this.”

Before I had the courage to ask her if she needed someone to sit with, she was gone – whisked back to get the care she obviously needed. I sat there riding a wave of guilt over my lack-of-action and defiance to that inner voice that says, “Go.”

“Never again”, I thought.

My son was called back, checked out and (thankfully) able to leave the hospital that night. As we left, I thought about her. “Did anyone come up there? Is she okay? Does she have a family or anyone to support her anymore?”

For the next few days, my mind kept going back to that night at the ER. Yes, I am bothered that I didn’t get up when feeling nudged to do so. I missed an opportunity to try and love on someone who needed it. I’m also terribly troubled by the actions I witnessed.

The first moment I had with my kids actually paying attention to me (the struggle is real!), I said,

“Hey guys, you know that in life you will always be surrounded by people who look different than you, have different skin color, love differently, believe differently and make different choices, right? Well, it doesn’t matter how different a person is or if you don’t understand that person or don’t agree with their choices, what you are responsible for is always choosing to be kind. There is never, never any reason to be cruel.”

“Mom, you know I don’t act like that.” “Yeah, that is really mean.” Soon…their words in response to mine began to warm my heart.

I went on.

“Listen, guys. None of us are perfect or sinless. We have to remember that as we are sitting in judgment of others, God is watching us do that. We are being judged while we are judging others. Again, even if you don’t agree with someone, if they are different or you just don’t understand, there will never be a single reason to show cruelty or ridicule or laugh at someone – especially those who are hurting or in a bad situation. As Christians, we believe that each of us have souls. We need to start seeing each other not as people but as souls who want to be treated with kindness and understanding. We are all just souls. Does that make sense?”

“Yes, we know, Mom.”

It has been a few weeks since this occurred; yet, I keep thinking about the person…that soul….crumpled over in despair next to me.

It broke my heart – but in a good way – in a God way.

There are some who may think I’m leading my children astray by raising them as Christians but teaching them about acceptance and choosing compassion for those we don’t understand. We don’t just want to live by faith, we want to love by faith. That is the difference.

Gosh, when I visualize Jesus, I see him sitting next to those who are persecuted around us or walking right up to someone that others wouldn’t dare walk up to.

He loves those who are unloved by others. I can’t imagine believing so deeply in the love of Christ but not desiring to show that to others; to mock those who he gave his life for, to speak or act in cruelty towards the very ones he came to save.

“All Just Souls” Yes, we are. Let us always remember that.

Author’s Note: I could not leave this post without mentioning the high suicide rate in the LGBTQ community. It is absolutely heart-breaking. If you or someone you love needs helps, here is the suicide prevention hotline for the United States: (877) 565-8860 In Canada, here is the suicide prevention hotline specifically designed for the transgender community: (877) 330-6366 You are loved.

Worth Fighting For {speaking love to children}

Parenting is hard, isn’t it? There are times when you just wish you could step right into your children’s brains and figure out what the heck is going on in there. Your desire is to speak truth to them but sometimes, truth can come out not as loving as you want. If given the opportunity to ‘get it right’ and speak love, worth and truth straight to your child’s heart, I’m sure every single parent would soak that moment right up.

Last night, I unexpectedly had one of those moments. Our kiddo was absolutely NOT willing to do homework. Keep in mind, the work was due Tuesday but this kiddo just kept putting it off. (Thank goodness for a 504 plan that gives a few extra days!) My husband promptly removed the game controllers and iPad from our child.

“NOT FAIR!!” My child yelled and then jumped into bed and covered up completely from head to those sweet toes.

I sat down on the bed next to my child and repeated the words we had already said. “You will get your games back once you do your homework.”

“NO! I want them back now and then I’ll do my homework.”

“Nope, not gonna happen. You do the work first, then you get them back.”

Silence. This kiddo of mine was not backing down, but neither was I. We sat there for about two minutes in total silence. My child remained covered up from head to toe. I closed my eyes and prayed for us both.

My child broke the silence and said, “I want my stuff back.” I repeated, “Not until you get this done.” Now, by this time, I was getting a bit ruffled up in my feathers. It was getting late and I had two other kiddos calling out for food and drinks because kids suddenly become starving and dehydrated once it is bedtime (which is always a fun time).

I found myself getting extremely agitated. Then, all of a sudden, I felt this wave of peace flow over me and I had a vision/remembrance of my child as a little one frolicking around the house. I remembered the feeling of fighting for this one – not literally fighting the foster care team, but fighting for this child through prayer.

My eyes began to well up a bit with tears. I looked at my child and said,

“You are worth the fight.”

Puzzled, my child softened a bit and looked up at me.

I said, “You are worth fighting for. You are deeply loved. You are capable. I know you struggle with paying attention but I also know that you can do this. You have a purpose. You might think that Dad and I are fighting you, but we are fighting FOR you. We are not going to stand by and let you choose to fail or cheat yourself out of what you deserve and are able to do. You can get mad all you want, but you were always worth fighting for and you will always be worth fighting for. You have a choice right now. You can either stay mad, not do the work and not get your things back, or I can sit with you while you do the work. Your choice, but just know that Dad and I will always fight FOR you.”

My child sat there for a moment and then softly said, “Sit with me.” I watched as my child finished up the work and the night ended peacefully. As I got into bed, I had such a sense of calm mixed in with parental accomplishment. The choice to let go of my angst about the whole situation and speak truth and love into it was God-given grace over us both.

Jesus tells us this every single day. The Word speaks love into our lives every time we read it. We lose that feeling during times of hardship. We forget that in Christ, we are enough. We don’t visit the Cross enough to remember how He fought for us, but the Lord continues to pursue us because He sees our worth and yearns to speak love into us.


I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well
. (Psalm 139:14)

Just like we have to be reminded that we are worth fighting for, so do our children – especially when times are tough. Next time you are in a heated battle over homework or anything else that can cause conflict, take a step back, inhale a deep breath and speak love and truth into your child’s heart.

‘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.

Why National Adoption Month Matters

In the US, November is National Adoption Month.  The goals of this month include increasing adoption awareness on a national level and bringing attention to the needs of children who are still waiting for their permanent families.

To read more about this subject, click Why National Adoption Month Matters

November is a special month for those of us whose lives have been touched by adoption.  May we all continue to fight the good fight for children.  May we all seek wisdom in decisions that need to be made and dwell within grace in each and every moment.  Let’s never cease in our efforts to find families for children around the world.

Blessings,

Caroline

Christians, isn’t this what Jesus died for?

Despite taking an intentional break from writing for a bit, this past weekend’s events that exploded in Charlottesville caused my fingers to find their way to this keyboard.  My mind is just reeling with furious thoughts about all of it.  Last night before bed, I asked my husband, “I wonder if what happened this weekend is even going to be brought up at church in the morning?”

This morning, I said to him, “We need to do church at home today.  I’m not sure if our church is going to talk about racism and what happened.  We need to and we need to do it now.”  My husband and I have held ‘home church’ before with our kids. They actually enjoy it as we try to make it light-hearted and fun.  This morning, however, we brought them to the table with a more sincere tone.

The beginning of our conversation went like this:

Me:  “What color of skin do you think Jesus had when he was alive on Earth?”

My kids:  “White!”

Me:  “No.”

Kids:  “But, he’s white in the pictures.”

Me:  “I know but he was not white.  His skin was brown.”

My husband:  “He was from the Middle East.  Their skin is brown, not white.”

My daughter:  “I think his skin had all of the colors in it – white, brown, black.”

Me:  “Maybe, but he definitely was not white.  He was a brown man.  The reason why we are talking about this is because something bad happened in another state this weekend.  A group of white people got together, carrying torches and chanting things.  These people believe that only white people are good and that we are not equal in God’s eyes and some of these people would call themselves Christians.  So, if some Christians claim to love Jesus (who was brown) but do not love people who are a different color, does that make any sense?”

My kids:  “No.”

We were honest (in a kid friendly manner) about the violence and that tragically, a few people died.  In an effort to show them what God says, we went to Scripture.

Acts 10:34-35:  Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. 

Romans 2:9-11:  There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For God does not show favoritism. 

James 2: 1-9:  My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right.  But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.

Our children were immersed in the conversations and we told them that as white people and as Christians, we are NOT superior to anyone.  Jesus died for everyone – regardless of skin color and it is wrong for any Christian to feel otherwise.

As we finished, we watched the “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. King. It was a wonderful way to show our young children that the fight for racial justice has been going on for far too many years and sadly, there is still so much work to be done. There are still too many people in the world who do not see others the way God sees us – through eyes of concern, mercy, and love.

20170813_165848Anytime we have church at home, I ask the kids if they want to draw something that is related to what we discussed.  My daughter decided to draw Dr. King giving his speech.

I know my husband and I are not perfect and we are certainly not Biblical scholars, but if there is anything at all that we can teach them as Christian parents, it is this:

Love others as God loves you.  

Treat others as you want to be treated.  

We are ALL precious to Him.

 

As the day has gone on, I have thought a lot about the victims of the terrorism (which is what it should be called) that occurred when the young man decided to drive his car into a crowd of people.  My heart aches greatly for the young woman who lost her life as well as for her family.  However, I have also found myself wondering, “What if my son or daughter would have been behind the wheel of that car?”  As a parent, this question causes me to consider what we teach and show to our children and how we should be making every effort to train them in the education of love not hate.

It is up to us (Christians) to set an example for the world.  If we do not stand up for injustice and denounce hatred, then who are we following and where is Jesus?  It is not comfortable to stand up for others nor it is popular at times, but nothing about the life of a Christian should be comfortable.

Jesus was not comfortable when he hung on the cross for every single soul.  When I visualize my Savior literally pouring his life out for me, for you, for our friends, and for our enemies, I am embarrassed by what we have done with this grace we have found.

Hatred should have no home in the heart of a Christian, neither should silence.  We must consider our own feelings or lack thereof when we see displays of hate that occurred this weekend.  We must teach our children that Jesus is for everyone, we are not better than anyone else, and mercy always has a place at our table.

Christians, isn’t this what Jesus died for?

 

 

Foster Kids Are Not Unwanted Kids {Adoption.com Article}

Foster Care Awareness month has come and gone but the need for a better understanding of the foster care system, and the children in it, never goes away. There are lots of misperceptions and myths circling around about kids in the foster care system; troubled, unwanted.

While some kids in the system struggle with emotional and behavioral issues (given the impact of trauma on a developing child), it is extremely rare to find a foster child that is not wanted by someone. Here’s the link to an article I wrote about this subject:  Foster Kids are not Unwanted Kids

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject!

Blessings,

Caroline

Sweet Mom, Judgy Mom, & a little bit of caffeine

20170505_150607Standing in line at Starbucks, I sparked up a conversation about coffee and children with a mom (I’ll call her Sweet Mom) of two little ones as my soon-to-be 11-yr-old son eagerly waited for his special treat of an Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte.  Caffeine does not negatively affect my son.  It actually helps him concentrate.  This is a part of ADHD that most people do not understand, but that is not what this post is about.

Sweet Mom looked at her little guy and said, “Grandma gives him sips of her coffee, sometimes.  He LOVES straight, black coffee!”  We both laughed a bit but as we did, I noticed a lady (I’ll call her Judgy Mom) standing at the counter and listening to our conversation.  Sweet Mom had her back to the lady and had no idea Judgy Mom rolled her eyes and shook her head in disgust at our conversation about allowing our kids to have caffeine/coffee every now and then.

The longer I stood there and watched Judgy Mom’s utter dismay at us, the more I found myself wanting to come to the defense of Sweet Mom and all of the other moms out there who are just trying to do the darn best that we can.  By the time Judgy Mom got her own caffeinated beverage, Sweet Mom swiped up her drinks, told me it was nice visiting and went about her merry way.  When the barista called my son’s name, I proudly grabbed the drink, handed it to him, and said, “Here you go, bud.  Enjoy.”

As I walked to the car, drinking my own strong little number, my imagination decided to embark on a conversation that I chose not to have with Judgy Mom (because I’m not a confront and destroy kinda girl).

Here is what I really wanted to say,

“I’m assuming by the look of disgust on your face, the rolling back of your eyes, and the shaking of your head, that you just can’t believe the nerve of some “young moms” these days allowing their kids to have a little caffeine from time-to-time.  You might think it is abusive or neglectful or just bad parenting, right?  You might wonder what on Earth we also allow our kids to have.  

Well, here’s the deal, Judgy Mom. (Okay, I wouldn’t call her that to her face.)  If you really want to see “bad moms or dads” in action, why don’t you join a Child Abuse and Neglect Investigator on a home visit to investigate allegations?  I’m sure arriving at a home and finding a neglected baby in a crib whose diaper hasn’t been changed for four days would probably alarm you.

Or, how about you take a look at pictures of a blue-eyed, 4-yr-old child who was beaten so severely for not eating her dinner fast enough that the imprint of the perpetrator’s boots was left on her skin?  (Yes, this is a real situation.  I’ve seen the pictures.  I still have the images engraved in my mind and it’s been 10+ years since viewing them.)

Perhaps, you can become a CASA or other type of advocate for children so that you can learn how a lot of kids don’t eat over the weekend because there is no food in the house and their only meals come from school.  Once you do any of these things, you won’t be as tempted to roll your eyes and shake your head in disgust at two moms having a chat about the antics of slightly coffee-fueled children.

How about that?”

I know some of you might think this is a little extreme, but one thing that gets my goat more than anything is the amount of parent-shaming that exists nowadays. Perhaps, I’ve seen too much.  Maybe, working in child welfare has skewed my perception of what is a “good mom” versus a “bad mom”.  All I know is that once you truly learn what is happening to children and what some parents either do to their kids or allow their kids to go through, it is really hard to get all worked up about things like caffeine, sugar, screen time, red dye #40, or whatever other items that have become a trendy thing to frown upon.

I believe that most parents are just like my husband and me – trying to balance work, parenting, social activities, sports, spiritual development and medical needs all while raising kids to be half-way decent human beings.  There are some days where we literally eat on the go and high-five each other in passing.  There are others where we eat home cooked meals all day, stay inside and just be together.  Either way, I do believe my kids are going to be just fine and that we are doing our very best at this glorious, God-given task of raising future adults.

To Sweet Mom, whom I met at Starbucks today, your kids are precious.  Don’t worry about Grandma sneaking a sip of coffee to your little guy.  You’re doing just fine.

To Judgy Mom, I’d love to meet with you and talk about parenting over a nice, large cup of coffee.  I bet I can figure out a way to give you an outlet for your obvious concern about children.

To all the other parents out there, if you are meeting your kids’ physical, emotional, and social needs, plus working each day to raise them to be half-way decent human beings, then you are also doing just fine.

Let’s stop parent-shaming.  There are far too many issues going on with children and families to worry about a kiddo getting a little bit of caffeine.

How about that?

Foster Kids & Family Vacations {Adoption.com article}

‘Tis the season for holiday travel and planning vacations!  Vacationing while providing foster care to children may seem a bit overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.  For many children in care, taking a vacation is an awesome experience filled with memories.

Here is an article I wrote regarding some helpful tips when planning your family vacation:

Click on this link:  Foster Kids and Vacation

Happy Travels!

Caroline

Six Things I’d Like You to Know About Adoption {adoption is not perfect}

November is National Adoption Awareness Month in the US.  It is a month when we celebrate and advocate for adoption.  Being an adoptive parent myself, I fully understand the highs and lows of it.  If you are considering building your family through adoption (especially after years of infertility), here are a few things I’d like for you to know.

  1. Even with the joys of adoption, there is sorrow.  You will find that you love your child or children so much that you grieve for their life stories.  You know that they have come to you after a tremendous amount of hardship and despair of their birth parent(s).  With adoption, comes loss.  Helping your children understand and grieve this is part of your responsibility as a parent.
  2. You won’t and can’t have all of the right words at the right time.  People may say things to you that just throw you off.  You usually find the right response hours later and after the moment is gone.  There are also questions and statements that your children will state at the most random of times.  Just be prepared to not be prepared times like this, because they will happen.
  3. Adoption doesn’t stop at the declaration of the Judge.  I’ve said it before, but in many ways, adoption is an evolutionary process.  As your children grow up, they will yearn for answers from you, and they will want to know more about their histories and birth families.  This is natural and should not be taken as a negative.  Your children love you.  They just want to know more.
  4. You will have moments when infertility still sneaks up on you.  Let me give you an example.  Recently, I spoke at an infertility conference hosted by a local church.  I had prepared what I was going to say and tried to stay on target.  About mid-way through, I found myself struggling to hold back tears.  I said, “I would not trade my kids for anyone else’s.  I just wish I would have carried them in my body.”   This statement was not planned.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  These feelings and waves of emotions will stick with you long after adoption.
  5. You have to be flexible and adaptive in your approach to parenting.  As much as family members adore and deeply loves my children, I still catch them saying things like, “You never acted like that as a child.”  Typically, the way we parent is either very similar to our parents or it can be the exact opposite (if raised in an abusive, neglectful or troubled home).  I recall being a sensitive child and just the thought of making my mother cry was enough for me to stop whatever I was doing.  I’d like to be able to parent the same way or have the same expectations of my children, but I’ve learned that I cannot and must not do this.  I’ve had to adapt and be flexible about my expectations and approach to parenting.  What works for my friends’ kids or worked for me as a child, won’t work for mine, and that’s okay.
  6. Adoption is so amazing.  There is a deep joy that dwells within you when you look at the children whom God picked for you.  It is hard to describe and a bit ironic in how you just know that your kids were meant to be yours.  Is it perfect?  No.  Does it always go smoothly?  Absolutely not.  However, it is hard to deny that adoption is an amazing and incredible experience.

In celebration of National Adoption Awareness Month, we should focus not only on children and older youth in need of adoption and adoptive families but also on the authentic and honest sharing of experiences and lessons gained through adoption.

Adoption is not perfect, but my friends, neither are we.