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!

 

Stuck in the Middle

vinyl-decal-sticker-8951It was December of 1987 when I received my keys to so-called freedom by turning 16-years-old, and getting my driver’s license.  I drove through the quiet streets of my neighborhood before coming up to a stop sign. I stared at the traffic going back and forth in front of me.  I remember staying there for quite some time in fear of pulling out onto the busy street.  My mind was racing with thoughts like, “What if I hit a car?”, “What if a car hits me?”, and “I can’t do this. I’m too scared.”

I got up the courage, checked for traffic, and then hit the gas pedal.  I made it safely into the center turn lane and let out a big sigh of relief.  There I was, a new driver, sitting in the center lane on one of the busiest streets in my town.  I knew I had to make a decision.  I put my blinker on and waited….and waited….and…..

In that moment, panic came over me.  I was stuck in the middle lane.  I was scared to pull out into traffic to join in the line of cars, but I knew I could not go back the way I came.  The only way out of this situation was to either take my keys out of the ignition, and walk away, or take a deep breath, hit the gas pedal, and go.

Both options had good things about them.  Taking the keys out and walking away would have been a little easier on my nerves.  After all, I only lived a few blocks away, and could have walked home so that my parents could go back with me to get the car.  I would have not had to face this big challenge either.  The other option of hitting the gas pedal and pulling into what I perceived as a dangerous, yet exciting adventure appealed to me, if only I could build up the courage to do so.

After sitting in the center turn lane for what felt like a very long time, I sat straight up, grasped the steering wheel, checked for traffic, looked to the side, and hit the gas pedal.  I made it into the lane of traffic just fine.  Excitement came over me once I knew I had successfully overcome the fear.  I spent the rest of the night driving around and listening to music.  My new adventure of freedom as a teenager had just begun.

I have thought of this experience many times throughout the years.  Often, I have felt stuck in the middle of a difficult decision without knowing which way to go.  On one hand, turning back and continuing with the same direction feels comforting.  On the other hand, taking a leap of faith and beginning a new journey is quite exciting, and could lead to multiple open doors and a growing sense of His presence.

Are you stuck in the middle of some life decisions right now?  What would you accomplish if you were fearless?

Sometimes in life, you just need to get the courage up, hit the gas pedal, and go!  Regardless of what you decide to do, make sure to listen to the Lord’s leading.  He will not lead you into on-coming traffic that is harmful.  It may feel uncomfortable at times, but the same God who formed you in your mother’s womb is the same One who will see you safely to the other side of the road.

Blessings to you on new adventures in life!

Room 452

Envelope kept from my hospital stay in ’83

Room 452 is where my life lay in the balance back in 1983.  The beeps of machines and buzz of nurses and doctors scurrying in and out of this room were a stark contrast to the isolating existence of being stowed away in the hospital.  In this room, prayers were said, tears were shed, lives were changed, and courage was shown.  In this room, a miracle occurred – the miracle of my life being brought back from the thin edge of death.

My mom kept every note, card, picture, and letter sent to me while in the hospital struggling to survive the ravenous bacteria that had already killed my uterus, right Fallopian tube, and right ovary before the doctors discovered it.  It was working its way to my bladder and throughout my abdomen when found….just in the nick of time.  Looking through these mementos of that fragile time makes me realize how very fortunate I am.

Of course, I am extremely blessed to be sitting here typing my story.  I am also even more encouraged by the faithful loving Father who gifted me with the adoption of my children despite the barrenness that entered my life.  But, I am not talking about these things when realizing how fortunate I am.  I am talking about the kindness, encouragement, generosity, compassion, and faith-driven prayers that were lifted up to our Father in Heaven in room 452.

The notes from my schoolmates were all very sweet and humorous.  They still show the type of innocence that made up typical eleven and twelve-year-old’s back in 1983.  Their wishes for a speedy recovery and for me to get back to school to play paled in comparison to how desperately ill I really was.  While I enjoy glancing through these scribbled and colorful letters, I find myself most moved by the cards and notes from adults.

Several of the cards and notes were from adults with-whom I had never met.  They were friends of my parents, friends of my extended family, and other adults who had become aware of a girl whose life had just been turned upside down.  These loving letters were sent to lift my spirits while they lifted me up to the Lord.

Years ago the wife of the doctor who performed my surgery disclosed that she led a small prayer vigil in her home that fateful night in 1983 when her husband had to perform one of the most difficult tasks in his medical career and adult life.  Again, there was a group of adult strangers tucked away pleading with the Lord to bring me through the surgery and for complete healing.  It blessed me immensely to hear she this.  I know the surgery greatly affected her husband as well.  He will always be one of my “angels on Earth”.

I do believe that prayer is quite simply one of the most authentic ways that Christians can express their beliefs in a loving, powerful God.  It is a mighty powerful thing, and I believe that the Lord listened to the cries of those who loved me during those days and nights while I fought to survive. It continues to make an incredible impression on me twenty-nine years later when coming across prayerful messages jotted down and sent to me during that time.

My life was forever changed in room 452.  My life was greatly impacted by my name being whispered to Heaven by the lips of adults.  As an adult now, I hope that I do not fail in lifting up children to the Lord.

In a world where it seems that children are the last things on politicians, leaders, and adults minds, we need to commit ourselves to being mindful of their futures.  We need to pray for this generation of young ones growing up in a fast pace, quick fix, and digital world.  Children need this now more than ever.

I wonder how many lives could be changed if Christians remembered to pray with purpose and passion for youth of this world.  It matters to people to know they are being prayed for.  There may not be a room 452 where a child needs prayer.  It could be in a hut, one room apartment, mansion, or even a street.  Will you commit yourself to lifting up children to the Lord?  You never know what kind of eternal impact can be made in the life of just one child in need.

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Mother’s Resilience

During Mother’s Day weekend, one might expect me to write about my adoption experience and the incredible love I have for my kiddos. Instead, I’m choosing to focus on my own mother. Mom is quiet, doesn’t seek attention; yet, strong. She is stronger than she gives herself credit for being. She is also faithful and fiercely loyal. It was not until I became a momma that I realized her resiliency, courage, and unselfishness.

To say I was blessed growing up is an understatement. My childhood home was often filled with the smell of sugary sweetness from mom’s baked goodies. It was fairly common to have homemade French toast waiting for me when I woke up. I did not just have a mother; she was a “mommy”. Often, she would be waiting after school to walk me home, after having made a sweet surprise that would greet me when I got there. Fresh brownies, hand-made ice cream sandwiches, and sugar cookies drizzled with icing that spelled out my name were all part of the wonderment of my mom’s love through her baking. I would collapse onto the soft couch with a morsel of something delicious, feeling the love and comfort of home. It does a child good to feel as though she is the center of someone’s universe.

My mom, though reserved, was also very much liked by the kids in the neighborhood and dance studio. Girls would stay the night with me and thoroughly enjoy the vast array of mom’s meals and desserts. I just assumed every mother was like my mom. Although on a tight budget, I never went without anything. She often bought second hand clothes for herself, so I would have the best. My hair was always fixed, clothes clean and ironed if needed, and shoes matching… Mom took pride in taking care of my needs.

Life was pretty normal for us until my illness at the age of eleven. Now, I’m not talking just a little sick. I’m talking going from running in the countryside while visiting my uncle at his farm to facing certain death. A week passed by and all my mom or the doctors knew was that I was dying from massive infection. Exploratory surgery had to be completed to try and figure out what in the world was going on with me. They suspected cancer, but were not certain.

During the surgery, mom escaped off to a room and sat by herself for about three to four hours pondering the thought of losing me to cancer. She tried to prepare herself for the grim news. “How can it be?”, mom must have thought. It was so out of the blue. With the exception of the previous surgeries (appendectomy and adhesion’s), I had been healthy, active, adventurous, and full of life. How do parents truly prepare themselves for hearing the worst possible news about their child?

Once the surgery was over, mom was told devastating news. The doctors had to remove my uterus, Fallopian tubes, and right ovary. It was not cancer though. They had not figured out what type of bacteria it was or how I got it, but if left in, I would have died. Not long after she was told, she and my dad went off to a room by themselves and let out a wail. I wonder what this sounded like. It must have been one of those guttural sounds that come from deep pain…not just the ones you can hear, but ones you can feel. Yes, I was alive, but the impact of what had occurred was life-long.

Sometimes I close my eyes and picture mom and dad huddled in a sterile white hospital waiting room. They must have been holding on tightly to each other. I wonder if they were shaking out of anger, fear, or exhaustion…perhaps all of them out the same time. My seemingly normal life had just come to a screeching halt. It would never be the same. But, neither would theirs. Their daughter’s tragedy; their own parenting experience forever indented with sadness.

Three and half weeks passed by while I was in the hospital fighting the infection. Mom was there all of the time. She put on a brave face, smiled at me through her pain, and held my hand during those long days in the hospital. Her daughter went from being vibrant and energetic to lying in the hospital bed with one foot in this world and the other in Heaven. Yet, she never let me see her scared.

Mom was also grieving as she knew what the surgery meant for the rest of my life. It was more than just a brief illness that I would hopefully recover from. She grieved for the fact that something very special was taken away from me. People would try to tell her things or come up with “reasons”, but she was still trying to figure what the purpose of it all was. Yet, she knew it was important for my life to go on and for me have a sense of normalcy. This must have been difficult for her. She carried this burden by herself so that I could get back to being a pre-teen girl. I was not aware of the full gravity of the situation, but she was.

Mom fought to regain life for me. She made sure I went right back to doing the things I loved; dancing, socializing with friends, etc. However, the surgery did not just affect my life. Through my tragedy, she had to bear witness to and experience the impact of infertility. She too had just been dealt a huge blow. She would never have a biological grandchild. This must have saddened her. Yet, there she was strong, silent, and smiling.

Mom might say that I am the one who was the most resilient during that fateful time in my life. I definitely had the fight in me to survive. Yet, she’s the one who had to navigate raising a daughter who was unlike any other girls. She had to walk through life parenting a daughter who would never experience the joy of announcing a pregnancy, the surprise of finding out the gender, and the moment of seeing her child be born. My mom would also never hear the delightful words of “You’re going to be a grandma”. She would never be able to await anxiously to find out the gender. And, she would never have the opportunity to sit in a waiting room for hours before gazing upon her grandchild for the first time.

But, mom is also the one who modeled how to face the darkness with courage, how to look to the future, and how to seize control back from something that was totally out of control. She’s the one who held in her fears so that I would not absorb them. She’s the one who told me “if you want to achieve something, put your heart into it”. She’s the one who went right back to being the mommy who made home made goodies that brought great comfort and sacrificed her wants so that I would have the very best. She’s the one who never allowed herself to be victimized by this; thus, teaching me to not be a victim of my circumstance. And, she’s the one who didn’t run away from her faith in God.

So, mom, thank you for being resilient. Thank you for modeling to me that when life deals you a blow, you just get up, dust off, and walk strong. Thank you for showing and telling me that I was the most important thing in your world. Thank for you giving me security when the floor fell out from under me. I know your grandma experience started out different from others, so thank you for standing by and supporting me while we were foster parents, and for the love you give my children.

See mom? The Lord does work all things for good for those who believe in Him. My story didn’t end with infertility. Oh, it may have altered it. It may have brought doubts, anger, and tears. But, my story is now filled with love, hope, grace, faith, and your sweet grandchildren.

Happy Mother’s Day. I love you…Caroline