It’s Been a Long Time, Birth Mother

It’s been a long time, birth mother.

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of our son; yet, in many ways, it feels like it was just yesterday.  I often think back to when you and I were taking turns rocking him during visits.  Is this what other mothers formed through adoption think about?  Is this how other mothers formed through adoption feel?  In many ways, we are stuck in those first moments when little souls entered our lives.  In other ways, we feel far away from those moments.

To look back through this past decade, I still fondly remember the laughter we shared.  I also remember (with great appreciation) the tears we mutually shed in those last days when you were his “legal” mother.  Although the years have come and gone, I truly and honestly think of you all of the time.  You gave birth to this special and wonderful kid.

He is as loyal as they come.  He hardly ever (I mean rarely) speaks ill of anyone.  He makes friends wherever he goes.  He does not care about outer appearance or “coolness” or any of those things.  I’m not even sure if you realize this but you are the same way.

When we were fostering and working with you, you did not judge us.  You did not care what we looked like or if we were “cool” or not.  You completely accepted us for who we were – just some random couple who decided to become foster parents and won the jackpot by getting the call to become foster parents for your baby boy.

It’s been a long time, birth mother; one decade since the gavel fell, I looked into the eyes of our son and I knew he was home…forever.

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the day after our “forever” day

As a mother through adoption, I go through many emotions – elation, exhaustion, humility and guilt.  Is it fair that I get to raise the son you grew in your womb?  Sometimes, I don’t think it is.  How in the world did I get so lucky?  When people tell me that I have blessed his life, I negate that.  The truth is that he has blessed mine.  So much.  This truth never leaves my side.  It beckons me to remember the magnitude of adoption.

Yes, it’s been a long time, birth mother.  The first moments I saw our son are forever sketched into my memory.  They are real and tangible; as if they just happened.  I suspect, or at least, hope that they will forever stay that way.

I have had people tell me that we were so kind and good to you while we were fostering.  We tried our best, given the awkwardness of the situation, but you made it easy.  You were kind.  You were good.  You accepted us.  You even referred to me as his “Mamma” a few times.

During his adoption hearing, with the backdrop of sniffles and tears from our family and friends, you were on my mind.  When the Judge meticulously went through the case and our son was officially declared “ours”, you were on my mind.  While we celebrated that special day and all that it meant, I went to bed thinking of you.  Even now, a decade later, I often go to bed thinking of you.

I will never be able to thank you enough for that.  I will never be able to repay my gratitude of how you treated us.  Instead, I pray and hope that I am raising our son (yours and mine) to become an adult who repays kindness to this world.

It’s been a long time, birth mother.

Yet, it feels fresh and anew each day.  As I watch him grow up, I think back on that blonde, curly-haired, happy-go-lucky little guy and I just become so overwhelmed.  Who knew that one little boy could grab a hold of my heart and history and change it in an instant?  He means the world to us, to our parents and to his Father in Heaven.  I know he means the world to you.

Looking back over the past decade, I have failed many times.  I have succeeded at others.  I have cried.  I have laughed.  I have wondered if I am doing this whole (adoptive) parenting thing right, but…I have never questioned the love you have for our son.  Not once.  It breaks my heart and swells it with love at the same time.  It is an essential truth that will always resonate deep within my heart.

It’s been a long time, birth mother; a long time since you and I took turns rocking him during visits. 

Children who enter our lives through foster care and adoption have a funny way of grabbing our hearts.  Sometimes, we are blessed enough to have birth parents who grab our hearts as well.

You did just that.

 

 

 

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

 

“It’s Not About You.” {it’s about love}

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We were in love the minute we saw him.  The nurse rolled up a little, round peach of a baby and announced his name.  The crazy and surreal experience of waking up without a baby and going home with one is something that foster parents can relate to.  By the end of the evening, we were mesmerized by him.  Our hearts were completely captured and dare I say it?  We were instantly in love.

Fast forward 72 hours.  After a weekend of parents and friends stopping by to visit and discovering the joy of caring for a newborn, I received a call.  When you are a foster parent and the number of your case worker shows up unexpectedly on your phone, there is a bit of anxiety that runs through you body.

“Hello.”

“Caroline, I just want to let you know that we found a relative and I think she’s going to pass the home study so it looks like we will be moving him in about 90 days.”

“Oh.  Okay.  Great.  I’ll be at the next meeting.  Thanks for letting me know.”

“Goodbye.”

…Silence…

As soon as I hung up the phone, I stood in front of our little one asleep in his crib and then, I collapsed.  With hands held high and knees to the ground, I said, “Lord, your will be done.  Your will be done but if this is your will, you have to carry me through this.  You have to help me through this.”

Tears.

Shaking.

Hands held high hovering and praying over the baby that we had fallen so much in love with.

In that miserable and silent moment, these words were whispered,

“Caroline.  It’s not about you.”

Wait…what?

“It’s not about you.”

This moment in time will forever be sketched in my mind.  I was vulnerable and tired and just felt that FINALLY I had a baby I could potentially believe was mine.  I knew that there were no guarantees with fostering.  I knew that this child was not “ours”.  I also knew that we had to do our due-diligence to support the biological parents and hike the terrain of foster care.  I knew all of this, but I did not fully realize how this whole experience was never about me in the first place.  It felt like it was supposed to be about me.

I know that sounds selfish.  I know it seems backwards.  I also know that it is very human to feel that way.

The Lord spoke to me while I was a crumpled, weeping mess in front of a sleeping baby that was already loved by two mammas.  He gently reminded me that fostering was not about me.  This carried me through each moment, step-by-step, until our adoption almost two years later.

Now, nearly nine years following our first adoption, these words still linger in my heart.  Two more kids; many years of laughter and of joy, of thankfulness and questioning, I still hear, “It’s not about you.”

Our three beloved children are wonderful and unique.  They are wanted and precious.  They are “ours” through and through.  Yet, it is not easy.  We deal with behavioral issues.  We manage medications.  We answer tough, heart-breaking questions.

We have extreme defiance.  We have hyperactivity and impulsiveness.  We have a learning disorder and developmental delays.  We go to bed weary.  We worry and wonder what the future might bring.

We get rejected.  We seem to live through it all.  Somehow.

We do this all because it’s not about us.  It’s never really been about us.

I’m not the kind of person who will ever paint the realities of life in a rose-colored glasses kind of way.  Doing so is a disservice and I just don’t think it’s right.  Folks, adoption is hard.  Raising kids with extra needs is hard.

There really is no comparison to that of a broken-hearted Mamma;  one who wants to transfer her own lessons learned from her Mamma but can’t seem to do it because the messages are not well-received, don’t seem to apply and do not take into consideration the needs of her children.

Despite the struggles and the daily trials, I get up each day believing that, “Maybe, today is the day that he will do things more independently.  Maybe, today is the day that she will open her heart and really listen to me.  Maybe, today is the day that he won’t have meltdowns.  Maybe, today is the day that we will have peace in our house.”

You know what is profound to me?  I know that what I experience is minimal compared to the heartbreak that the Lord must feel.  I wonder if He feels the same way when we (His children) reject Him on a daily basis.  I wonder if He thinks, “Maybe, today is the day…”.

When thinking about the unique experience of parenting through adoption, I know that there is a deep connection to our own relationship with God.  We are adopted.  We reject Him.  We struggle on a daily basis with following Him.  We fight.  We spit.  We struggle.  When Jesus hung on that dreadful and glorious Cross, it wasn’t about Him.  It was all about us.  Jesus took the hard road and He did it for love.

When Jesus hung on that dreadful and glorious Cross, it wasn't about Him.If there is one message that needs to be spread regarding foster parenting and parenting via adoption, it should always be that it is never about us parents.  It is always about the children we are fortunate to raise, despite the hardships.

Our example is Jesus.  He took up the Cross for His children and for love.  He did the hard thing.

May we all do the hard things because it’s not about us.

It’s about love.

“It’s not about you.”  Yes, Lord.  I’m thankful for that.

Be Bold {let your light shine}

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I wish I could tell you that it is “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy” (as my 5-yr-old likes to say) to parent children who have been adopted or to be a foster parent.  I’d love to say that once a child enters your home either for foster care or adoption, all problems go away and it’s just downhill and smooth-sailing from there.  It would be fantastic for me to declare that I never second-guess myself and that we are all about lollipops, rainbows, and laughter.  However, if I were to say any of these things, my words would be false.  They would not bear a truthful witness to what it is to be a parent through adoption.

A few months ago, I started praying/speaking these words to God, “What do you want me to do with my life?”  “What do you want from me?”  One morning while praying, I heard the words, “BE BOLD.”  A little startled at the immediate response, I asked, “What do you mean?”  

“BE BOLD.”  The words were clear, concise and not complicated.

Several months have passed and to be honest, I just kind of ignored this answer.  I know the Lord told me to be bold but it was just too simple of a declaration.  I am a detail-oriented person and the two-word response to my prayer just didn’t cut it.

With the dawning of a New Year, the Lord’s answer of “Be bold” has never strayed too far from my mind.  I wonder, friend, if His words are not only meant for my ears but also for yours.

For prospective foster and adoptive families, you need to know that being bold is imperative.  It’s more than just declaring an injustice in what you are witnessing.  It requires a stillness of faith AND a movement of courage.  

Being bold, in the sight of others who do not understand, is necessary.

When you are asked, “Why in the world would you want to do that?”, be bold.

When people say to you, “I would never subject my own kids to that”, be bold.

When you are quivering in fear over what is going to happen with a child you love, be bold.

When you have the opportunity to love on biological parents, please, by all means, be bold.

Foster parenting and adoption both have this funny way of knocking people to their knees.  We fall down time and again, but we get up.  We wonder what we are doing and why in the heck are we doing it, but we keep on.  In the face of many obstacles and trials, we stand up.  We are bold.

When parenting children who come from extremely difficult situations, we learn of our own blessings and our own stumbling blocks.  Their histories collide with ours and we realize how different life could have been for us if we were handed down the same hardships these children have been dealt.

I know the saying of “What would happen if you weren’t afraid?”  It’s fine and everything but I like this version better:  “What would happen if you were bold?” 

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold… -2nd Corinthians 3:12

How could your courage and boldness literally change the course of a child’s or adult’s life?

What would your boldness show to children who look up to you?

How could you make an eternal difference for someone?

What if you took that darned thing called infertility, grabbed it by the neck and said, “No. I’m not going down that way”?

What if you become a foster parent and take in kiddos that absolutely soak up your love and attention?

What if you step outside of your preconceived comfort zone and foster a large sibling group, older youth or ones with special needs?

What could happen if you decide tomorrow to wake up declaring that boldness is the only way to live?

We are well on our way into 2018.  We don’t know what we will have to face or overcome as the year unfolds but let’s live this year with a boldness that leaves an impression.

Shine your light, friends.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

 

If you are considering foster care or adoption, my wish is that fear would not stop you.  It isn’t easy, but it is so worth.

Goal for 2018:  Let others see that boldly living and courageously loving is a remarkable way to live.

Question:  How are you going to live boldly this year?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Could YOU adopt a teen?

The is a great need for families to foster and adopt older youth.  It is a constant challenge that those of us in child welfare deal with.  During various recruitment events and other types of meetings, we often speak about how long too many kiddos, age 12+, are lingering in the system.  The challenge is to get people to understand that older youth in the system are just as “adoptable” as young children.

I get it.  My husband and I fostered infants.  This was our desire.  There’s nothing wrong with it.  It still fulfills a need.  However, as we get older and as our children age, IF we were to ever foster again or adopt, we would absolutely consider older youth.

Could YOU adopt a teen?  Maybe so.  Here’s an article I wrote for Adoption.com regarding this very subject.  Click this link to read more:  Could YOU adopt a teen?

Blessings,

Caroline

“Kids Who Need Love the Most Often Ask for it in the Most Unloving Ways”

I’ve heard the quote, “Kids Who Need Love the Most Often Ask for it in the Most Unloving Ways” (Russel Barkley) more than once.  I never really understood it until I began my own parenting journey many years ago with a relative of mine.  Now, as a parent to three children who all have some special (yet not obvious) needs, I totally understand the essence of this quote.

Recently, I was asked to write about this subject for Adoption.com.  (By the way, if you haven’t visited the site (www.adoption.com), you should.  It is a fantastic site for pretty much all things related to adoption.)

For more on the subject, click this link:  Kids Who Need Love the Most

As 2017 comes to an end, I hope you all find yourself surrounded by love, encouragement, and hope.

Blessings,

Caroline

Teens Need Families, No Matter What

Hi there!  November is almost over with and Christmas is on its way, but we still have a few days left for National Adoption Awareness Month.  This year’s theme is “Teens Need Families, No Matter What”.  It is such an important theme and speaks of the reality of older youth in the system who are waiting for their permanent families.

To learn more, click this link for an article I wrote about this subject:  Teens Need Families, No Matter What

Wishing you all well!

Blessings,

Caroline

Nine On My Mind

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See that sweetie right there?  That’s my daughter before she came to live with us.  Her first foster mama sent us the picture after it was decided that we would be her new home.  They loved her dearly but made the decision that they could not be a long term home for her (in case she needed one), so we were called.

I remember it so vividly.  As I was sitting in the parking lot of Goodwill (which is a bit ironic), my phone rang.  I saw the number and knew it was our state’s child protection services calling.  My stomach flip-flopped a bit and I answered, “Hello?”.  The social worker on the other line explained my daughter’s situation and asked the words that so many foster families know, “Are you interested in being a placement?”

I told her that I needed to call my husband first.  We agreed to talk about it after work.  After his call, I called my mom for her advice.  Even as an adult, I knew I needed to speak to her.  Technically, we were not even on “the list” for placements but we did tell our licensing worker to keep us in mind.

Thoughts swirled through my head.  “What about our son?”  (He was only two at the time and we had just been through close to two years of fostering him before we were able to adopt.)  “How will it impact him?”  “Are we ready for another kiddo?”  “Can I handle the sleepless nights again?”  “Are we ready to not be in control and unsure of what is going to happen with this little girl’s case?”  “Can we do this?”  You get the point.  It was overwhelming and exciting all at the same time.

I called the social worker back and asked, “Could we have a few days to work some things out and talk about it before we make a decision?”  She said, “Of course, that is fine.”  So we did…and we said, “Yes.”

This past weekend we celebrated my daughter’s ninth birthday.  With each of my children’s birthdays, I relive the day they came into my life.  It’s like reliving a birth story but of course, I wasn’t there for their births.  I wasn’t around to watch them enter this big world.  I didn’t get to swaddle them up and hold them close as they cried out, “I AM HERE!”  However, I was there when social services called.  I’ve been here ever since.

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Watching my daughter grow through the years has given us much joy.  It has also come with a whole lot of challenges – some unique to adoptive families, some typical of any family raising a girl.

She’s a bit mysterious, generous, ornery, charming, super strong-willed, and creative.

She’s interested in learning about the world around her and feels every ounce of emotion that enters her mind.  If we can just teach her to harness all of these qualities, I dare think she could be a force to reckon with in the future.

I’ve had nine on my mind; nine years of watching a baby who literally arrived on my doorstep grow into a girl who makes an impression on just about everyone she meets.

Foster parenting is something that never leaves you.  The experience is surreal, emotional and so worth it.  When we began, we had no idea what would happen.  When we decided to close our license, we walked away with a wealth of knowledge, a big dose of humility, and two children who became ours through adoption.

Yes, I’ve had nine on my mind; nine years of loving and training up a daughter who just might change the world.  I know she’s changed mine.

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Happy Birthday, Sis.  Love You Forever.

 

 

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

That’s Just Fine with Me {perfection is not a guarantee}

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This past week was parent-teacher conference time at school!  I always look forward to meeting with teachers (not because my kids are perfect angels. Sorry to disappoint).  I look forward to it because teachers are spending nearly all day, five days per week, with my children.  They watch them interact with others, learn their quirks, discipline when required, and encourage when needed.  That’s big, people.

Yesterday’s conference started out like most other ones.  We reviewed grades, etc and then my child’s teacher asked, “How is the school year going?”  My reply went something like this, “(Child) is having a hard time.  Not wanting to do homework, lots of behavior issues, threatened to run away this week, questioned a lot about adoption…”

The teacher shoved the grade card aside and we sat and talked about my child and what is going on.  At one point, the teacher showed me an assignment that my child wrote titled, “My Favorite Person”.  She then read it to me.

Here is some of it:

“My favorite person is my parents.  They protect me.  They make sure I am safe on the streets.  They watch me when I am playing outside.  They are respectful of me.  They have manners.  They listen when I am talking to them.  They forgive me when I say sorry to them.  They don’t let me down.  They adopted me.  As you can see, I have a very good Mom and Dad.”

While the teacher was reading it, I started to cry.  Soon after, she did, too.  She said, “You’re doing a good job, Momma.”  I cannot stress enough the importance of the timing of this.  My child has been questioning a whole lot about our adoption history and I’ve had to answer some pretty tough questions.  This parent-teacher conference was not just about reading, writing, and arithmetics.  It was about life and I needed to read the words: They don’t let me down.

Some people have questioned why we chose to tell our children immediately about adoption.  (Like as soon as they were adopted – age 20 months, 14 months, and 13 months).  We knew they didn’t understand or comprehend it, but the word became a part of our language and adoption, a natural part of the make-up of our family.  My husband and I have come to realize that if we hide or mislead our children about the smallest of details of their adoption stories, then we shouldn’t expect them to trust us with any of the details.

We know that if we chose to hold tightly their adoption stories, it would have been a mistake.  Even with our openness, it is tough at times.  There is nothing like watching your child grieve for a mother that one has never met, or felt.  It is heartbreaking, deeply moving and can render one at a loss for words.

When your child spits venom at you that encompasses the full measure of grief, anger, and confusion, it does cause you to question whether you are good enough and if you have this whole adoptive parenting thing down.  After reading my child’s letter, I know that while we are not perfect, we are good enough.  Just good enough.  That’s fine with me.

Surely, we will have tougher days ahead.  Perfection was certainly not promised when we signed on the line for adoption.  It is not guaranteed for any family, regardless of how children come.  With adoption, though, I’m learning that we do have more to prove, we do have to be intentional about our efforts, and we must work hard at never letting our children down.

I’m also learning that while perfection is not a guarantee, love is.

That’s just fine with me.