Let Your Heart Speak

It was a particularly rough day at our home. One of my kids struggled ALL DAY with making poor choices, being rude, etc. After a long night, my child said, “I bet you wish you didn’t even adopt me. I bet you wish I was just dead.” I took a breath, thought for a minute, looked at this precious little soul, and then said, “No. If something happened to you, I would miss you every single day for the rest of my life.”

My child collapsed into my arms, crying, and said, “That is the kindest thing I’ve ever heard.” We spent some time crying together and reassuring each other that we are okay, we love each other, and that I (and daddy) are so thankful to have been given the gift of adoption.

A few things come to mind regarding this experience. If you plan on building your family through adoption, please understand that your child(ren) might say things like this. This particular child of mine has been with us since infancy; still, yet, we find ourselves always having to show reassurance through our actions and words. It can be typical for a child who has been adopted to consider his or her “status” in the family. Don’t fear it. Just understand that it can happen.

It can be really hard to fall into the habit of parenting that is too regimented and scripted. I’ve been to lots of training regarding behavioral issues/special needs and I have taught them as well. However, when in the moment, it is hard to remember what is the right and most appropriate response to take.

It is recommended (at times) to hold your ground and be direct with your expectation, but in the moment I described above, I decided to let my heart speak.  My child’s words seemed to be about something more than being angry for some trivial issue. Instead of giving a consequence for the behaviors that preceded the statement, I chose to reveal a truth to my child, and I could tell that my words were unexpected, yet perfect for the moment.

Looking at my child in that desperate state and hearing my child’s words that tended to originate from a place of not feeling secure and good, I was able to see more clearly the power of grace. When I’ve said to God, “You’ve just forgotten about me. You don’t even care. I wonder if I was even worth being created”, I know that He has responded with, “You are loved. You are special. You are unique. You have worth. You mean something.” If I desire this response from God and all the grace that comes from Him, then how in the world would I not want to dish it out to my children or give them the response they need?

There is something pretty powerful when we choose to parent from the place of grace. It can be so hard, though. When the kids are acting up, embarrassing us, or saying mean things, the natural instinct is to defend oneself or give a directive. I’m learning that being an imperfect parent is okay. Not having the right or more disciplined response is okay. I’m trying to allow my heart to speak more, instead of letting my frustration be the author of my words. At the end of the day, when the years have come and gone, I know there will be a lot of regrets and thoughts of “I should have been better”, but I also know that my children will have no doubt that I deeply love them.

If you are building your family through adoption, my advice for you is this:  You will feel judged by others. You will be asked far too many personal questions about your child and your parenting style. You will not feel capable of handling strong emotions from your child. You might question what the heck you are doing and if you are just messing your kids up. You could face lots of obstacles and deal with issues and needs that you did not face as a child. Yet, despite all of this, if you stick to resilience and stand firm in the belief that YOU are exactly the parent that your child was meant to have and needs (however messy it is), then you will be okay.

Let your heart speak.

Of all the regrets we may have as parents, this is not one of them.

Worth It All

As November wrapped up and I was putting away our Thanksgiving decor, I thought about what an eventful month we had.  To be able to adopt a child in the month that is designated as National Adoption Month was a wonderful thing.  Recently, I was asked how I felt about adoption.  I’m not even sure I will ever find the words that truly describe how I feel about it.  My answer went something like this, “Adoption offered me the opportunity to parent my children, and in parenting, I am able to see glimpses of God’s grace and mercy.”

Maybe that is not the answer expected, or even understood, but it is one that I find myself returning to.  Of course, adoption means so many different things to me.  It has layers upon layers of meaning, but yet, I still come back to these two things:

GRACE and MERCY

Grace.  Parenting is grace in action.  It is a recipe made up of mistakes, successes, frustrations, celebrations, and growth for everyone involved.  Recently, I said to my daughter, “I’ve told you so many times not to do that.  Why are you still doing it?”  In the same breath after I said it, I felt a little jolt of the realization that I too have been told to not do things, and yet, I still do them.  Over and over.  Time after time.  Each day though, I wake up anew with the same thought that not only does my Heavenly Father love me, He also saturates my life with grace.

Mercy.  Adoption is mercy.  It is the collision of love, compassion, and the heart-felt yearning to devote one’s life to another.  It is the recognition that merciful love poured into all of our lives.  Merciful Love intervened.  It moved us to new places, and settled us into our places of belonging.  Through adoption, we are able to get a sweet taste of love that speaks, “Yes.  Yes, you.”

Our little boy with whom we adopted recently is thriving, happy, and very much-loved by all of us.  Since our son and daughter are also adopted, it was an awesome opportunity to teach them more about the process, and reasons behind it.  Throughout this experience, our children have learned that adoption, in many ways, involves sacrifice.  Our son and daughter both had to move to different rooms to accommodate for the baby. They both learned that mommy and daddy needed a little more time with the baby to meet his needs; which in turn, meant less time with them.

Big SisThey also learned that love was the motivator for helping out the baby who was in need. They knew that his birth parents were not able to take care of him, and that he needed somewhere to go.

In essence, they learned of grace and mercy.

I’m so thankful for this past year of our lives.  It has been a difficult one, but also one with enriching moments that included many valuable lessons.  Adoption has proven again that the Lord is truly faithful, especially during the times when I felt complete exhaustion and worry.BigBro

When asked my thoughts about adoption, I may continue to stumble over my words. Honestly, there are so many ways to describe it.

It is grace.  It is mercy.  It is love.  It is growth.  It is the notion that we are chosen.  It is sacrifice.  It is hard, and easy at the same time.  It is love.  It is incredible.  It is humbling.  It is redemptive.  It is compassion.

It is worth it all. 

The Egg of Grace

photo (58)

do you see the word grace?

We dyed eggs this weekend with our children like we usually do on the eve of Easter.  I wanted to add an element of learning about our faith in Christ during this Easter tradition.  After boiling the eggs, I took a white crayon and wrote words on them in hope that when the eggs got dipped into the dye, the words would appear.  Thanks to Charity at WatMattersMost blog for her wonderful ideas about incorporating our faith into Easter activities for children.

I chose the words justice, love, helping, forgiveness, kindness, hope, freedom, faith, humility, mercy, patience, and grace.  These words, in my opinion, are all characteristics of how Christians should walk in this world.  They are also characteristics of Jesus, and the words He spoke.  My plan was to talk about each word after we were finished.  My hope was for the kids to walk away not only with colorful fingertips from dying eggs, but also with little nuggets of wisdom tucked away.

Well, this momma’s plan didn’t exactly work the way I wanted it to.  I messed up by writing the words when the eggs were a little too hot.  One by one, as the eggs were pulled out of the dye, white blotches appeared.  It looked more like bleach spots instead of formed words showing up.  My kids were saying things like, “What is that?!”  They didn’t seem to mind and quickly moved on to the next egg. I was a bit frustrated and already figured out a plan of correction for next Easter.

As my son pulled another egg out of the green dye, the word began to form a little clearer than the others.  One might not be able to make it out, but since I wrote the words, I immediately recognized the word grace.  “What’s that say?”, asked my son.  I answered, “It says grace.”  He gave me a puzzled look and moved on to the next egg.

I didn’t have the words at the time to tell my children what grace means.  I was flustered from the whole project being awash, so I just let it go.  As I started to put the eggs up, I couldn’t help but notice that eleven of the dozen eggs were a mess. The only one that was clear enough to form a word was the egg of grace.

Immediately, I began thinking that life is just one big mess up over and over again, and yet, God’s grace is always present.  Grace cleans up my messes.  Grace doesn’t hold a grudge, and grace doesn’t change.  I also thought about how often I fail at showing more grace to my children for their messes.

As I was tucking my son into bed, I asked him, “Do you remember the egg that had grace written on it?”  He said, “Yes.”  I said, “The other eggs had messed up words on them.  We mess up in life and make mistakes, but God offers grace to us.  God doesn’t get mad when we mess up.”  I went on to tell him that we are to offer grace to others when they make mistakes or upset us.  I kissed him goodnight, and walked out of the room.

I learned from this that I should never disallow a lesson that the Lord is placing in front of me.  I should never assume that I messed up so bad that nothing can come from it.  I also learned that my offering of grace needs to supersede what I expect to be offered from others.

There are messes all around me, within me, and because of me.  Most of all, I was reminded that when it seems that nothing good comes from mistakes, and that things are just too messed up to be worth anything, grace appears.

I Pick the Cross

photo (56)Last Friday, we took our children to an amusement park not too far from where we live.  My parents came along to enjoy the day, and to help out with little ones.  My son was quite determined to find either a shark tooth or alligator tooth necklace, so naturally, his Papa assisted in finding and purchasing him one.

My 4-year-old daughter and I looked at a few of the charms for necklaces, and I kept pointing out the butterflies, hearts, guitars, etc…basically the ones I thought she would want.  She carefully picked up and inspected each one, thought long and hard about her choice, then picked up a yellow cross with small red dots on it and said “I pick the Cross”.  I have to admit that I was a little surprised by her choice.  I just didn’t guess that she would choose a cross for her necklace.  After all, there were far more shiny, decorative, and cute ones that little girls tend to find appealing.

I asked her again if it was what she wanted, and she said, “Yes, I pick the Cross”.  My heart was warmed by this.  Our daughter seems to have always been a child who embraces God.  She has reminded me time again that God lives in her heart.  She leads the prayer at dinner time, and if we get a in hurry to eat, she reminds us that we must pray first.  She wakes up nearly every day wondering if it is Sunday because she is excited to go to church.  She has asked time and again if she was a little baby in Heaven with God before she was in her birth mother’s belly.  I probably shouldn’t be too surprised that she picked the Cross for a necklace that her Papa bought her.

In thinking about this again today, I  thought of why Jesus reminds of being like a little child and having a child-like faith.  I know there have been and still are times when I do not pick the Cross.  Instead, I have picked the shiny, appealing, and popular things the world has to offer.  I still struggle with wanting more of the world’s charms, and find it a constant battle to focus on desiring the Lord over anything else.  If I told you otherwise, I would be a liar.  Even if I didn’t admit it out loud, God would still hear the words of my heart, and the longings of my desires that often sway me from Him.

The world tells us, “Pick me! Pick me!  Don’t do what you think God wants you to do.  Do what is best for you, what will put you ahead, and what will serve you.  Don’t listen to Him.  Don’t pick the Cross.”  In those times when I have listened to the world, I have missed out on the blessings that come from walking in His light.  On the contrary, in those times that I have ignored the world and focused my actions on His calling, I have been abundantly blessed with grace, insight, and strength.

I often learn wonderfully humbling things from my children, and am sure that I will continue to as I raise them.  I am also quite sure that I will walk the fine line of balancing my desire for the world with choosing to follow Christ throughout the rest of my life.  I know though, that living a life in faith and choosing to pick the Cross will never cause me to fail or lose.  I will have gained everything that is worthy of gaining by choosing the Cross, and by choosing Him.  After all, Jesus gave everything up, and carried the Cross for me.

Father, Thank you for using my daughter to teach me about You.  Thank you for instilling in her a heart that longs for You, and I pray for Divine protection over her.  Father, help me, and help us all to always pick the Cross, and our Lord and Savior over anything else in the world.

“I Can Do It Myself!”

When I was around 3-years-old, my mom recalls that my first day at preschool started with me jerking loose of her hand, boldly stating “I can do it myself!”, walking down the stairs, opening the door, and heading right into the preschool.  I’m sure she stood there for a moment just a little speechless and saddened that her baby didn’t need help moving on to the next little adventure in life.

I am now parenting an extremely stubborn and strong-willed 4-year-old daughter who absolutely feels the need to do all tasks by herself, even the ones that cause her frustration.  As her parent, I look on with impatience as she tries to tie her shoes.  I know the end result will not be what she wants, but nevertheless, she attempts the same thing time and time again.  In the end, she gives up, crying, throwing her hands up, and states “Can you just do it for me?”  Even walking into the dance studio, she looked at me and said, “Okay mommy, you can go in, pay the bill, and then leave.  I don’t want you walking me in.”  Oh my!

Often, I tend to get frustrated with my children’s ever-present and willful streak of independence.  Both of my children are fearless, very social, impulsive, and will walk any boundary line we set with one foot hanging over the edge.  While my husband and I have learned to adjust to parenting two children who are boundary pushers, we have also learned that life with strong-willed children can be very exciting.

There are very few dull moments in our lives.  Our children are not really shy about trying anything, and can usually create a buzz of energy just about anywhere they go.  Sometimes, though, we worry about just how far our children will push boundaries throughout their lives.  We want them to make choices that are safe and healthy, and yet, we do not want to break their spirits.  We also know that life lessons are mostly made by mistakes, “do-overs” can be quite humbling, and natural consequences often teach more than any of the words we can use.

Thinking about the challenges we face as parents causes me to wonder how the Lord must feel when we cross the boundaries He so desires us to stay clear of.  He too watches as we push to try to do everything ourselves, live with one foot hanging over the edge, and attempt to do the same thing OUR way even though we usually end in failure, frustration, and heart-break.  While I have thrown my hands up in moments of parenting frustration thinking, “Why are they doing this?!?!”, He has thought the same thing about me.

Our ways of telling the Lord, “I can do it myself” are ones that potentially could be quite destructive.  I think of thoughts and words that have been whispered off the lips of people such as, “I can quit drugs anytime I want”, or “I know how to fix this marriage”,  or “I’ll let go of that issue when I’m ready”, or “I doubt my future will be worth anything”.  For me, it was thoughts like “God really must never want me to be a parent”, and other musings that coursed through my mind.  In other words, I was thinking “Lord, I don’t trust that You have my barrenness in Your hands.”

I am so thankful that the Lord allows natural consequences, do-overs, and mistakes to mold us.  His words teach us how to live, but more importantly, how to love.  I am also grateful that He continuously loves His stubborn children despite our attempts to turn away and not listen.

Mostly though, I remember that when He threw His hands up in the air because of us, they were nailed to a tree.  This act was not done out of frustration, but of intense love.  My salvation is not something I can do myself.

 Then said Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they parted his clothing, and cast lots.  –Luke 23:34 

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.

Heavenly Permanence

For my last post in recognition and celebration of National Adoption Month, I wanted to write something so bold, fresh, and new that everyone would want to become a foster and adoptive parent.  I wanted to try to list every well-known person (alive or deceased) who has either been adopted or who has adopted children.  I considered writing about persons in Scripture who were considered to be adopted, or at least, raised by persons other than their biological parents

I realized, though, that none of this compares to the incredible and profound blessing of our adoption by our Heavenly Father.  Through the sacrifice of His son and our acceptance of Christ as our Lord and Savior, we have been given an Eternal inheritance, and the promise of His love and His care.  We are sealed  by His grace.

The word permanency comes up often in child welfare.  Permanency refers to the goal of achieving something permanent in children’s lives.  I like to refer to it as the final place a child gets to call home.  We talk about the goals to attain permanency for children in the system all of the time.  Well, with the Lord, the goal has already been met and achieved!

Our permanency is in Heaven!  Now, isn’t that something to celebrate!!

“I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” -2 Corinthians 6:18