Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

I talk to you often in the work I do.  I hear you say, “We want to hang in there”, or “We are doing the best we can”, and even, “I don’t know if I am up for this.”  I hear these words through your shaky, weakened voices.  But, what I really hear is you saying, “I don’t want to be another mother who disregards this child”, or “If I could, I would provide this child with every ounce of my being in order to heal him or her.”  I see you, Foster Mom.  I see you loving on that child who has stolen your heart while living in your home.

You are walking in very heavy shoes.  You are feeling as though your efforts are disregarded, don’t matter, don’t work, and will be forgotten about in the fleeting moments of a day.  I’m here to tell you, they are not disregarded. They do matter.  They work, and they will never be forgotten.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, you are one of the bravest mothers of all.  You’ve ventured into the murky waters of loving a child whose hurts seem like they could go on for an eternity.

You are a broken-hearted warrior.

You hear from others, “You are doing a good thing”, “I could never do what you do”, or “Your faith is bigger than this.”  While you hear these words of comfort and affirmation, your heart is screaming in that silent, lonely place of wondering if you really are doing a good thing, if you really should be doing what you are doing, and if your faith really is bigger than this.  You question where God is in all of the hurts put on children in His world.

You…dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child…long for rest.  You grasp for answers, and you pray for healing.  You get angry.  You wonder why any mother would neglect, be absent, abuse, or completely disregard her child. You wonder why you are left to pick up the pieces.

You want the Lord to step in, heal, and completely restore the broken child in your arms.  You cry and pray for this so often that it feels as though you can no longer find the words, or muster up the tears.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s child, you were once a broken child, too.  At one time, you were lost in a world of despair.  You needed to be picked up, cleaned off, and captured by a love so strong that the greatest army could not break it.

You were worth it. You were not forgotten.  You were brought out of the darkness, and into the cleansing light.  

YOU were meant to make a difference in the world.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,  please do not give up.  You are the backbone to so many forgotten children.  You are a living example of an unconditional, incomparable type of love that is a rarity in the world we find ourselves in.

You will get hurt.  You will have many sleepless nights.  You will have some doubts, regrets, and desires for do-overs.  You will be exhausted and you will get angry.  You may even be ignored.

But….

Your Father in Heaven sees your actions.  He sits with you in the midnight hours when the stranger’s child is raging.  He is with you when you walk out of court rooms or meetings still not knowing what the future holds for the child in your care.  He hears your pleas and sings over you in your fretful night’s sleep.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, do you want to know why you are probably the most important mother in this world?

Perhaps someday, the child you are loving on, praying for, staying up all night with, advocating for, crying over, taking in or letting go, will grow up to be a (foster) Momma (or even a Daddy) of a Stranger’s Child.

Isn’t that worth it all?

New Year’s Road

Taken with my iphone as I rode my bike in a 150 mile ride.

This past year was one full of discovery for me.  Through blogging, I have been reminded that everyone truly has a story to tell.  We are all story-tellers in our own ways.  Art, in its purest form, also speaks volumes of insight and revelations about the world we are living in.  Some speak through poetic ramblings and short-stories.  For others, the lens of a camera captures images that their eyes first took notice of.  Each photograph tells a story.  Writing really has become my therapeutic release, my story-teller, my window to the world, my humbling remembrance of how blessed I am, and an extension of the yearning to live out my faith in Christ.

I continue to learn that  parenting is an art form.  Like most artists, parents don’t just figure it out with one stroke of a brush.  Mistakes are made, and often, we are our own worst critics,  Parenting is also something that love and passion is poured into.  I have yet to meet an artist who is not passionate about his or her masterpieces.  Children are the masterpiece that we are always working on, and for that, I am grateful for “do-overs”, grace, and the simplistic forgiveness of children.

Throughout this year,I have been made keenly aware of the tightrope we all walk when it comes to protecting children in our own backyards, and around the world.  Not to sound cliché, but they really are our greatest resource for the future.  Through this blog, I have been able to express my deepest desires for my children, and for others as well.  I have also been able to connect to the child I once was.

I began this road of writing because I felt I had a story to tell.  I felt I needed to speak of infertility.  I knew there were others out there suffering from the sadness that comes when the desire for children is not fulfilled.  I also felt that my story of barrenness includes the incredible journey that is adoptive parenting.  I may stray from time to time from the topic of infertility with the posts I write, but it is never too far from my thoughts and my heart.  I am deeply compassionate about others who continue to search for answers, and who live daily with the unfulfilled longing for children.  I hope my words will encourage each of them to believe in joyful beginnings and happy endings.

I am not sure what the Lord has in store for the road I will walk in 2013.  Will I be inspired to venture into other areas of writing?  Will there be heartbreak and heart-joy in this next year?  Will some doors open while others shut?  There is no way to tell what is destined to happen, but my faith in the Script-Writer of our lives is greater than the unknowns of the future.

May this New Year’s Road lead you all to delightful discoveries, faith-building experiences, and life-affirming moments that bless your sojourn in the world.

Raising Royal Kids

My son's version of a kid wearing a crown!
My son’s version of a kid wearing a crown!

Walking by the magazine aisle in the grocery story, I noticed a headline that claimed “Raising a Royal Baby”.  The article was apparently about the expectant royal couple William and Kate.  I thought how interesting, exciting, yet difficult it would be to raise a “royal” child.

All the eyes of the world would be on you.  If your children struggled with behavioral problems or other issues, what kind of attention would that draw?  The initial thought of being someone of royalty sounds quite intriguing, but, to be under the constant scrutiny would be tough.  Parenting is a hard enough job without having the eyes of the world watching your every move.

Tonight would not have been a good “parenting through the lens of the camera” moment for me.  Busy streets, long lines, and two very hyper, and slightly defiant, children pushing every boundary possible in the store, was enough to diminish the “merry-ness” of the last-minute Christmas shopping trip.  Thoughts of “I’m gonna wring their little necks!” ran through my mind all while I was smiling through my pseudo-calm words of “If you continue this behavior, we will have to leave the store.”

Reflecting back on the magazine cover I saw, it hit me that we are all raising royal children.  As a believer in Christ the King, I know my children are His.  This means that I am raising royal children!  What a wonderful, and challenging thought!

The next time I get a little….um….frustrated with my little ones while out and about, I need to remind myself that I am raising children of the King.  Now that should humble and refine me a bit!  That should remind me of the importance of striving to always grow as a parent, to learn more about what works and doesn’t work, and to remember that I too am a child of the King.

Give You the World – (re-posted with relevance)

The post I wrote earlier titled Yearning for Change was out of anger and anguish over what happened this past weekend in Connecticut.  It was also out of frustration as a professional in the field of social work who knows that those most often affected by cuts in budget are children and families.  After writing it, I was gently reminded that true change really does start at home.  Fathers and Mothers need to love their children.  Grandparents should, if possible, wrap their love around their families and provide support.  Parents should be building their children up, instead of tearing them down.  Parents just need to be parents.

I decided to re-post a piece I wrote for my children back in June.  Children are always on my mind – not just my children, but children of the world.  No child should ever go to bed wondering if he or she matters to this world.  Earlier in the week, I prayed to the Lord and cried out, “What are we doing to Your children, Father?!?”  I realized, though, that He who holds the stars, also holds our children.

This piece I wrote about in the post linked below is not just for my children, but for yours as well.  After this week, my desire penned months ago seems to have even more relevance.  If you wish, click on the link and read it.  Blessings to you and yours!

GIVE YOU THE WORLD

Beauty in the Complexity

Here is another insight I’ve discovered since becoming a parent through adoption:

Adoption is extremely complex, but there is beauty in complexity.

The closer we got to our first adoption, I was so eager to “get it over with”.  I just wanted the judge’s gavel to fall and for our son to be declared ours.  I did not want anyone else to be in control of my son anymore.  I looked at that day with fantastic expectation and with the thought that it will all be so much easier after adoption than when we were fostering him.

Our daughter was placed with us a few months later and I was also looking forward to the day that we could adopt her.  Right after our daughter’s adoption, we closed our foster care license.  What I have realized through the years since then is that adoption continues to evolve as our children grow older.  The gavel may have fallen, and the “cases” may be closed, but our journey really has just begun.

We see the look of confusion at times when the children are talking about birth parents and why they do not have the same birth moms.  We watch our son stare at his baby pictures and ask a million questions about the baby that he was.  We overhear the kids talking in the back of the car or in their rooms about birth parents.  I even heard my daughter say that she wished I was her birth mommy.

My husband and I have late-night talks on the couch after the kids go to bed about how we should address specific issues and questions as they arise.  Our son usually has a rough couple of days after visiting our daughter’s sibling, who is also adopted, because he doesn’t quite understand how his sister could have a sister of her own.

I often watch the kids and wonder how much of their lives will be affected because of adoption.  Don’t misunderstand me.  There are incredible opportunities, safety, love, and stability that they have because of adoption, but, it would be amiss of me to assume that it is always going to be easy for them.

I worry at times that we are being too open in discussing it, or maybe not open enough.  I used to weep for my children because of the losses they have endured without even knowing it.  I have wished to be able to wipe the slate clean for them.  All of these things are issues that my child-bearing friends do not have to take into consideration when parenting.

The complexity of it all makes me appreciate the opportunity to talk with other adoptive families about their experiences, and to learn from each other.  I love the diversity of each family and the journeys that many have been on.  I also have come to realize that adoptive families are unique and special in so many ways.  Yes, there may be worrying, wondering, weeping, and wishing, but in these things there is great beauty.

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!

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.

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!

John 14:18 (HIS children)

I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.

-John 14:18

I was talking in church several years ago to a woman who had spent some time in children’s ministry.  Through the years she had ministered to many hurting children.  An issue that always seems to affect and burden children are when their fathers are absent in their lives.  By all means, I believe that many single women do a wonderful and fantastic job of raising children.  My grandmother raised my mother, and several siblings, after the death of my grandfather.  However, there is something special about the relationship with a father.

In my experience, children long for their fathers.  They want to have a decent, healthy relationship and to at least know they are loved.  The former children’s minister seemed to always have the right words to say to children who mourned their absent fathers.  She said to them, “You may not have an Earthly father by your side, but your Heavenly Father will never leave you and loves you more than anything.”

When I read the verse above, of course, my mind goes to adoption.  Children who were once fatherless are given the joy of having Earthly fathers through adoption.  I also believe that this Scripture verse is a promise to all of us.  We will not be left as orphans.  He has promised His love for all of us.  The Lord loves every human being on Earth.  We are HIS children, and He will not abandon us!

Have a super Sunday~