daughter of mine, Child of His (re-posted for a reason)

IMG_1514

I originally published this post back in July of 2012.  I’m sharing it again today in honor of the 3rd anniversary of our adoption of our little girl.  It’s been a rough weekend with family members undergoing serious illnesses and sudden changes in our routine, but nevertheless, the Lord is always faithful.  I’m so blessed to have a daughter!

daughter of mine, Child of His

Life as a girl can be difficult sometimes. The mirror reflects what you see but not what the world expects you to be. My hope for you is that you will only see how your Heavenly Father views you. Your blue eyes were made just for you. He designed you from the tips of your toes to the ends of your hair. That ever-so-slight dimple in your chin was carefully placed exactly where He wanted it to be.

daughter of mine, Child of His. You are beautiful.

There may be times in your life when you may not recognize who He created you to be. You may not always hear Him calling for you, or answering your prayers. Sometimes, you may feel as though you are trying to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, but you are not. Your Heavenly Father will always be calling for His child. He will always listen intently and mercifully to your pleadings.  He is carrying both you and the world in His hands.

I want you to get dirty, jump in puddles, grow flowers, dance until your feet hurt, sing at the top of your lungs, have childhood crushes, laugh yourself silly, and dress in a way that shows your creativity and personality. I want you to say no and mean it. I hope you never believe that you are not good enough for anything less than happy, loving relationships.

daughter of mine, Child of His.  You are good.

I hope your friendships have depth, your love has width, and your aspirations have height. I pray your faith will be a well of peace and solitude. Be who you are, not who others wish you would be. Find what makes you happy and run with it. Let your passions become your joy. May you wander the world, but never forget where home is.

The Lord gifted me with you and all the things that make up who you are. You are delightfully stubborn, sensitively sweet, and tomboyish tough all at the same time. I want you to never be afraid of showing your colors to the world.

daughter of mine, Child of His. You are colorful.

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!

The Gift of Life

The Gift of Life

I didn’t give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.

For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true!
No, I didn’t give you 
The gift of life,
Life gave me the gift of you.

— Unknown

This is probably one of the most well-known poems about adoption.  It is simplistic,yet, speaks great truth in just a few words.  Have a wonderful day!

Their Greatest Joy

This blog has been mostly devoted to my own personal journey from the valley of unknowns and barrenness to the glorious mountain top that is adoption.  I know that my story is not the only one out there.  There are many families whose stories include answering the call to care for children in need.  This is one of them.

In 1999, when Tamra was just 23 years of age and finishing college, her heart was deeply touched by the foster children who attended her daycare.  She was moved so much that she decided to become a licensed foster care provider through the state.  Tamra asked to be put on the so-called openings list for placements.  This list is how workers know that families are available to take children into their homes.  A few days had passed before any calls were made to her.  That all changed though on July 24, 1999.

Imagine, if you will, running into your home to change clothes after a wedding so that you can head out for the reception, picking up the ringing phone, and being asked “Would you be available to take in a two month old baby boy?”  That is exactly what happened.  Tamra excitedly got off the phone, grabbed her friend, and made their way to the hospital – so much for going to the wedding reception!  

This 8 week old baby boy had been intentionally thrown out and onto some lawn furniture and needed to be checked for injuries.  As Tamra was waiting to meet him, her mind was racing with thoughts of “What have I done? I don’t know how to take care of a baby!”  She also wondered if the nursing staff thought of her as being too young to be a foster parent. Tamra was not prepared, but felt the calling to say “yes”.  She did not have a crib, car seat, or anything really for a newborn, so after they left the hospital, they made their way to Wal-Mart to pick up all of the necessities for taking care of babies.  Foster families very rarely get a lot of time to prepare for placements, so they must think and act quickly.

It was very natural for her to fall in love with the little prince that came to live with her on that fateful night in both of their lives.  Tamra’s fiance, Shane (now her husband), also fell in love with him.  Their extended family worried that they would get their hearts broken, but they were also supportive and realistic about the primary goal of the foster care system in working towards reunification with birth parents and their children.  Although adoption was not their first intention, Tamra and Shane were very happy when it appeared that adoption would be the goal for him.

Things were moving along and then…new case worker….new ideas…a relative stepped in.  This little boy had been placed with her since age of 2 months, had been visiting his birth parents the entire duration of the case, and now was potentially going to be moving in to a relative’s home.  After 2 weeks of nail-biting anxiety, a decision was made to keep their boy where he was.

After 4 years and one month of loving and fostering him, their dream of becoming his forever parents came true.  Their adoption was finalized by the courts.  Their son is an amazing child, is in a gifted program and in advanced math classes.  They are very proud of him!

Despite the long haul through the system with their son, Tamra and Shane decided to pursue another placement of a foster child.  They really hoped for a girl and were blessed by the placement of a 12 week old baby girl. This precious girl only weighed 9 pounds and the 3-6 month clothing Tamra picked out for her swallowed her up!

Tamra and Shane fell in love with this little girl immediately; yet, they were realistic about foster care as they had just experienced a long journey with their son.  At their very first team meeting, they were asked if they would consider adoption of her!  They were so surprised and felt incredibly blessed!  Their adoption was finalized in 2004.

Their daughter has had some challenges.  She is autistic and has a seizure disorder, but she is an amazing joy in their lives.  They feel so blessed to call her their daughter.  Life would not be the same without her “sassyness” and her personality.  She has made great strides and they have great hope for her continued progress and well-being.

Tamra and Shane want those who are considering foster care and adoption to know that you have to give the children your all.  Foster parents have the opportunities to help set the foundations for these children that can last a life-time.  It is a risk and you can get hurt, but the impact you can make on the lives of children is worth it.  Perseverance, consistency, stability, advocacy, and trusting your knowledge about the kids you are caring for are attributes that Tamra and Shane feel are necessary when fostering children.

They believe that the Lord had His hand in forming their family through foster care and adoption.  Tamra and Shane do not regret a single thing and feel extremely blessed to call their children their own.  Their greatest joy is raising the children, witnessing their triumphs, and experiencing life that is free from abuse and neglect.  

In Tamra’s words “Adoption is a beautiful thing!”

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

Barren to Blessed (meaning behind the name)

The first night I started this blog, I had no idea really what the heck I was doing.  I just felt the urge to write.  It started when I began to journal about my hysterectomy a few years ago.  I guess I held so much in over the past 25+ years that once I started writing, there was not an end in sight.  I do not want to stop.  Writing is therapeutic, and each time I write, I learn from it.  I am pretty sure most bloggers can relate to this.

I know I am not the best writer and often make grammatical mistakes, but writing is not about perfection anyway (at least in my opinion).  Writing, like life, has moments of grit, sorrow, heroism, and laughter.  Writing has given voice to the imperfections of my life and to the yearning to be understood in the world.  Writing releases the words my heart wants to say.

I have to be honest, I really did not spend a lot of time coming up with my blog name.  Growing up knowing I would not be able to have biological children caused me to think of my barren self as being cursed.  I do not mean cursed in the witch-crafty, voodoo kind of way necessarily; although I wondered that from time to time soon after it happened. For whatever reason I felt that I was intentionally blocked from having a “normal” life.  Of course, now that I am an adult, I do not know of anyone who has had a “normal” life.

Adding children to my life has given me a taste of living a life outside of my own.  Parenting children continues to bring meaning and sense to life and the things that have happened.  But, the meaning behind my blog name is more than just about the children.  I walked a long and difficult road to see the Lord for who He is in my life.  I was void (barren) of listening to His will, reading His word, and leaning on His hope.  I did not see a purpose for what happened.  I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel…until I saw the Light that is Him.

The Lord was calling me back to Him long before I even gave a thought about becoming a foster/adoptive parent.  My blog name obviously represents the blessings that come from children.  If my life ended up without children, there would have been sadness of course.  I know that.  However, I also know that life in Christ is a life worth living and for that I am truly blessed.

Six Years of Happy

Happy Birthday Bubby.  I love you so much more than I will ever find the words to express.  I am incredibly grateful to the Lord for choosing us as your parents.  I know I have said that over and over, but I suspect I will not stop saying it until my life on Earth has ended.  Just thinking about the person you are growing into, all of your strengths and sweet quirks, makes my heart leap with joy.

The night before you came to us, I prayed that the Lord would provide us with the opportunity to parent a baby.  We woke up that morning not knowing that by the end of the day, our lives would be forever changed.  He answered my prayer immediately.  We quickly rushed out the door to head to the hospital after getting a call from the local child protective services saying “can you be there in 30 minutes?”  Your first year was full of hope, tears, joy, fears, and the overall feeling of being a part of something bigger than ourselves.  We were caught between loving you desperately and the commitment we made to help your birth mother get you back.  We were sworn to protecting you; yet, we had to rely on others in your life to make the decisions on what was best.  We were broken down and humbled by the plight of your birth mother while glowing in the enchantment of who you were and by the Lord’s gifting of you.

I was so happy to have him for his first Christmas.

Your second year held the mixed up feelings of grieving for your birth mother and her loss of you while experiencing pure joy at your adoption.  Before your adoption, we did not know how long we would hold you.  We said “love you forever” as often as we could.  On that fateful day in May, we were given the blessing of you being ours forever.  So much was revealed to us during this time of life.  Your curly hair, sweet smile, and boundless energy kept us amused.  People were drawn to you.  Your charm and talkative nature took flight.

The outfit he was adopted in. We “tried it on” just a few days before his adoption to make sure it fit. Of course, he looked perfect in it!
sweet curls for a sweet boy

Year three…well…let’s just say that year three was a wee bit challenging.  Your God-given strong-willed determination was your shining accomplishment!  You  started to see more of the world with curiosity and fierce independence.  Music also became something you were quite fond of.  You welcomed a baby sister!  You announced it.  You told us that you would be getting a baby sister before we even knew.  I can only imagine how your little mind must have been spinning when your baby sister arrived on our doorstep.  You took it in stride.  You noticed your friends’ mommies had babies in their bellies; and yet, you never questioned why your sister was delivered to our door by a nice lady with brown hair.  You just seemed to understand that your mommy does not grow babies in her belly.

Age 3 with sissy
He was so excited to have a baby sister!

Year four was the year of music, Legos, and all things super-hero.  You often dressed up, grabbed whatever sword you could find, hop on your big wheel, and ride through the house in an attempt to beat the bad guys.  Sometimes you even sang songs about being a super-hero.  One of the sweetest things you said to me was “Mommy, you are my super-hero.”  When at home, you seemed to always have a drum stick and your dulcimer in hand.  Your songs were also about rock stars, Jesus, Christmas, God, and of course, mommy.  You performed just about every night for us.  You would jump out of the closet, proclaim yourself as a rock star, spin around, then sing and strum away.  My favorite song went like this:

I’m a little rock star…for Jesus…for Christmas…for God…and my family.

Here he comes! (I promise he has some form of clothing on)

Year five seemed to slip away so fast.  You took your first airplane ride, went to a strange new place called Disney World, rode rides that overwhelmed your senses, and shook with excitement when meeting Buzz Light Year!  Painting became a hobby for you and we discovered your natural ability as a gymnast.  You graduated from preschool, got glasses, spent extra time with your Papa fishing on the lake, and started Kindergarten.  You started referring to yourself as a “school-ager”.

He was so excited to meet Buzz!

Sometimes, I just sit back and watch the videos of you throughout the years.  My eyes well up with tears at just how special you are and also at how swiftly time has gone by.  I wish I could back and push a button to slow down time.  I wish I would have kissed you just a bit more before night-night, or let you sing me one more silly song, or picked you up one more time when you said “holdu holdu“.  You are starting to show your growth in the way you get just ever-so-slightly embarrassed if I try to kiss you around other kids.  But, at the same time, you still reach for my hand and put your head on my lap when it is just the two of us.

God has blessed us so much by choosing us as your parents.  You continue to amaze us, challenge us, stretch us, refine us, and love on us daily.  You, my son, are a precious wonder.  Happy, happy, happy birthday my sweet one…love you forever…

Thank You, Lord, For Giving Us Six Years of Happy

Road to Joplin

Day 2 with Joplin flag

This weekend I had the privilege of riding in a cycling event called the MS 150.  Every  year hundreds, if not a thousand or so cyclists make their way to a small town in southwest Missouri to complete a 150 mile bike ride.  This is done to bring attention and raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis.

This was my third year riding in this event.  I always seem to walk away from it with a great sense of accomplishment.  It is also quite humbling to be cheered on at the start line by people who live daily with MS.  This year, a woman with MS said to us, “When you get towards the last few miles and your legs are burning, just remember me saying Thank You.  Just remember that you are riding for many of us who cannot.”  Then, at the finish line, the same man every year, bound to his wheelchair, holds his hand out with a medal dangling from it.  As one reaches for his or her medal, the man gently says “thank you”.  It is quite humbling and I hope to ride in future 150’s.

This year though had even more of an impact on me, but for a different reason.  This is the first year that the ride took us back to Joplin, MO after the deadly tornado which claimed the lives of so many in May 2011.  Last year, the ride had to be rerouted and completely taken out of the Joplin area due to the devastation of the storm.  I had been there about a week or so after the tornado struck, and was silenced by what I had seen.  Cars with windshields blown out laying on top of each other, buildings that looked like they exploded by the force of a bomb, houses upon houses crumbled up like sticks, and trees stripped completely down to the bark.  It was shocking.  Just shocking.  The city I live in is close to Joplin and we are so lucky that the storm did not rumble its way towards us.

Although my work has taken me back to Joplin a few times, I usually do not drive through the area where the destruction took place.  This year, the MS committee planned the route specifically to take us through some of the path of the tornado.  Before I entered this area, my legs were screaming, my mind was off in some other place, there was pain tucked right in between my shoulders, and I was ready to be done.  I had been in the saddle for about seven hours, and my own “saddle” was telling me it was time to get off.

However, this changed when I entered the area where that beast of a storm stole normalcy from the lives of so many.  The few trees that survived were mangled.  Their bare branches looked like hands reaching towards the heavens in desperation.  Others bent over, all leaning to one side; yet, fresh green leaves bushed out from whatever spot they could find.

As I got closer to the eerily flattened area where houses once stood, I thought about the families and children who once lived there.  I imagined kickball being played in the streets, children swinging from swing sets, families walking their pet dogs or washing their cars.  All of this wiped clean.  Sure, there were new houses being built and definitely the vision of new growth could be seen, but I just kept thinking about how much destruction took place on those grounds.  The names of streets had been painted on the roads.  The ground was completely stripped of grass. There were partially crumbled buildings still being torn down.  It just went on and on.

As I drew nearer to the “end” of the destruction zone, I became overwhelmed with emotion.  I thought about the mothers who lost their babies, the babies who lost their daddies and mommies, and all the others who never woke again on this Earth to see the sun rise.  All I could think was “so much destruction, so much despair.”

But there in that moment on my bike with nothing but my own thoughts, I realized, or at least was reminded, that the Lord is not a god of destruction.  He is not a god of devastation.  He is not a god of despair.  He is the God of regrowth, rebirth, restoration, and life.  He lifts up our heads.  He carries us through the storms.  He gives us life.

The next morning as 800 or cyclists gathered around to start day two of the cycling event, small Joplin flags were handed out to each of us.  We placed them in our helmets, on our bikes, or held them in our hands as we rode through part of what was named “Memorial Miles”.  With just the sound of wind, the breathing of fellow riders, and the hissing-like noises from spinning our wheels, we rode in silence in honor of those killed by the Joplin tornado and in honor of the courage it has taken for the city to rebuild.

This year the road to Joplin became more than just a cycling event that I love to participate in.  Yes, it was done in an effort to support those struggling with Multiple Sclerosis.  However, I left the event with Joplin on my mind.  This weekend turned into a reminder of the blessing of health, of love, of family, of home, and of our incredible Heavenly Father who restores, renews, and leads us to Life.