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.

The Chosen Heart

THE CHOSEN HEART

Longing for a child to love,
I’d wish upon the stars above.
In my heart I always knew,
A part of me was meant for you.

I think how happy we will be,
Once I adopt you, and you adopt me.

I dream of all the joy you’ll bring,
Imagining even the littlest things.
The way it will feel to hold you tight
And tuck you in every night.

The drawings on the refrigerator door
And childhood toys across the floor,
The favorite stories read again and again
And hours of fun with make believe friends.

The day you took my outstretched hand
A journey ended but our love began.
Still mesmerized by your sweet face
Still warmed inside by our first embrace.

I promised to give you a happy home
And a loving family all your own.
A house you’ve now made complete 
with laughter,smiles, and tiny feet.

A parent is one who guides the way
Know I will be there every day
Rest easy as each night you sleep
A lifetime of love is yours to keep

Longing for a child to love
I’d wish upon the stars above.
In my heart I always knew
A part of me belonged to you.

-Teri Harrison

This is another one of my favorite adoption poems.  I especially love that it speaks of the sense of belonging between parent and child, and of being meant for each other.  I know that I was meant to be the mother of my children, and they were meant to be mine.  They just traveled their way to me in different vessels!

Have a wonderful day!

Writing My Story

A few years ago I felt the urge to write.  It seemed as though the Lord was telling me to write my story down; although, I had no clue how to start the process.  The last writing class I took was in 1992 or so when I was in college.  My friend knew my desire, or perhaps the Lord’s calling on my heart, to start writing so she bought me some journals.  I carried them everywhere and would write down different thoughts or words that sparked my memories or pertained to my history.  I even used my iPhone to record thoughts that came to me when writing was not possible.  Gotta love technology!

I had no idea as to where this project was going or if there was really anything important to say.  The fact is that everyone has a story.  All of us have a uniquely designed existence that is of no greater matter or significance than the other.  We are all significant in the eyes of the Lord.  I personally feel that the most inspiring stories are those told from people who come from the most humble situations.

As I started writing, it felt as though my heart and my mind were pricked.  Suddenly, there was this release of all of the captive moments, long forgotten thoughts, and stifled persuasions that I had carried around for nearly my entire life; or at least, my life after age eleven.  Words were pouring out of me that brought me to tears.

Soon, I turned to my computer to start writing.  I craved it.  Early mornings and late evenings were often accompanied by the patter of my fingertips on the keyboard as I delved into my solitary world of infertility.  I had to reach out to others during this time for feedback, their memories of my story, and just plain old support.  However, for the most part, it was me, my computer, my memories, and the Lord’s prodding.

I finished the manuscript within a few months.  Once I started writing, I could not stop until I got it all out.  I grieved for the child I was who became so ill.  I fretted for the teenager who, despite seeming and acting like every other teen girl, held within her dark glimpses of despair.  I felt the anger of a young woman in her twenties who was torn between wondering if her future career would be her “baby” or if she was ever going to have a baby to call her own.  I celebrated the woman who ran to the Lord after years of ignoring Him.  Lastly, I shed tears of joy for the foster-mother whose life was impacted for the better by the humbling refinement that is foster care and adoption.

I still have the manuscript on my computer.  I do not know where it is going or what it is supposed to be.  That is okay though.  There is great cleansing in writing one’s life story even if no one reads it.  Writing my story down has brought about a desire to continue to bring to life the words my heart feels but often my lips cannot form.  Writing my story has also revealed the incredible essence of survival, faith, mercy, grace, and hope.

I would like to share an excerpt from it if you don’t mind.  I have already inserted a few lines  from the manuscript from time to time into previous blog posts.  Even though this is just a glimpse, I welcome any comments.  I may share more as I feel the need…

I do not remember much about the week I was in the hospital prior to the doctors discovering what was ravaging my body.  My memories are more like flashing images from a movie.  I do however remember waking up at one point with my dad and a doctor looking over me.  My dad simply and courageously stated “You can always make love, but you will never be able to have children.”  Or, did he say that?  I remember hearing it, but not sure if it was said to me or about me.  Nevertheless, in my hazy mind, I tried to comprehend what he was saying.  Make love?  What does that mean?  I had not even kissed a boy yet.  Have children? It really had not crossed my mind much.  But, I heard him loud and clear.  I knew something big had happened.  This event that occurred forever changed who I was and the path my life would take.  There was not a choice – it was either my life or my organs.  Oh, the agony my parents were feeling.  What irony really…the organs with which life begins had nearly destroyed mine.  I was eleven years old, I had never had a period, and now I was forever infertile.  I had just been thrust in to the world of infertility.  Trapped in a little girl’s body was a pre-menopausal woman.

Out of the Mouth of Babes

(photograph by Sarah Carter – http://www.sarahcarterphoto.com)

My daughter and I were setting up a room in a local church where I was scheduled to train foster parents on grief and loss.  The room is mostly used for youth so the decorations were different from the usual church auditorium.  Coming out of the stage and across the ceiling was a gigantic sculpted tree that was grey in color.  I could see where a child might find it a little frightening; although, I know that was not the intent of the designer.

My daughter said to me, “I’m scared. That tree is scary.”  I comforted her and told her that there was no need to be afraid as mommy was with her.  Again she said, “Mommy, that tree is scary.”  This time I told her that mommy and God were in the room with her so she did not need to be afraid.  When I told her that God was in the room she said, “No, He isn’t.”  I gently said, “Oh yes He is. God is with you wherever you go so there is no reason to be afraid.”

By now, I could tell she was quite agitated with me for saying that God was in the room. She put her hands out in an exaggerated manner and shook them while she said, “No He is not.”  I asked her “Where is God then?”  She looked up at me with her gorgeous blue eyes and sweet expression and said “God is in my heart.”

At that moment, the hustle and bustle of trying to get the room set up while tending to a clinging, somewhat argumentative 3 and 1/2-year-old melted away and I was reminded of how pure child-like faith is.

Do I walk around as if God lives in my heart?  Do I remember on a daily basis the implication of accepting Christ in my life?  Do I treat others in a way that truly reflects the love of Christ?  I love that God uses children to declare His truth and to gently humble us in ways that are so unexpected.

Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.  Psalm 8:2 (NIV) 

Where is your treasure?

(photograph by Sarah Carter – http://www.sarahcarterphoto.com)

A friend recently told me that when she and her husband started telling people they are taking foster parent classes, they were met with responses that were both surprising and disheartening.  People have said things like “why don’t you just have your own baby?”, or “why would you do that?”  Unfortunately, the majority of these statements have come from fellow believers in Christ.

It seems this appears to be quite common even in the Christian community, or at least perhaps in our area of the country.  Thankfully, my husband and I did not deal with this as much because people knew we were infertile and that we wanted the opportunity to be parents and hopefully adopt.  But, my friend and her husband have biological children, and could have more if they chose to.  They have felt called for a while now by the Lord to minister to little ones through foster care.

After our conversation, my heart was a little unsettled.  The Lord kept saying to me “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”-Luke 12:34.  After pondering on this, the thought entered my mind that while we are truly blessed in America, where is our heart?  In my opinion, it seems that it is in worldly things.  We treasure our actors and celebrities. We lift them up on pedestals and award them.  Yet, do they reflect our hearts?

We fight so hard with each other over our political opinions and opponents.  Our different views in policies and our abilities to express them are an integral part of our freedoms, but do they really reflect where our hearts should be?  We strive for big cars, bigger houses, and small waistlines, but still, are these the things that we treasure?

It would be a lie to say that I don’t enjoy going to movies, voting, or admiring nice cars or homes.  It would also be not truthful if I never worried about what the scale said.  But, I hope these things never reflect where my treasures really are.

It breaks my heart that in this country of opportunity where fellow Christians can walk freely without persecution, we overlook what is truly important.  The Lord has called us to minister to ALL people.  This includes the politicians we don’t agree with.  This includes the actors or actresses that we may find “weird”.  This especially includes children who have fallen into the foster care system.

I have worked in child welfare for eleven years now and have seen so many horrible and vile acts against children.  I have witnessed foster families get their hearts broken time and time again.  I have watched birth parents lose their battles with addictions, and ultimately lose their children.  Sadly, I have seen social workers become hardened to their hopes that they can change the world.

I still believe that one person can make a huge difference in the lives of children.  I choose to believe that people can change, but they need willing participants to walk along them in their battles.  Sometimes, it seems that we want children to grow up in safe homes, or want adults to change, but fail to recognize our responsibilities in these things.

We might say “I believe in Christ and love Him mightily”; yet, we turn our backs on the things that take us out of our comfortable “God bubble”.  Christ surely was taken out of His comfort zone.  He could have decided not to follow His Father’s calling.  He could have walked away, but He chose not to.

If we want the staggering statistics of abuse and neglect of children to end, we too must not walk away.  Foster care and being involved in child welfare issues will certainly take us out of our comfort zones.  It will definitely break our hearts at times.  However, our involvement in children’s lives and doing what God has called us to do is a reflection of where our treasure should be.

I saw a poster one time that said this “You have never looked into the eyes of anyone who does not matter to God”.  I have decided to recite this to myself daily as a reminder of the incredible responsibility and calling as a Christian to love people, especially those that can be overlooked by society.  My hope is that my treasure and my heart will always be focused on the One who is worth treasuring, and on the children He desperately loves.

Letter to my Lord

If I wrote a letter to my Lord, how would I start it? What would I say? Thank you for being there…or thank you for all of the good things that have happened through the years.  I could never fully convey the magnitude of what I am truly grateful for.  He deserves more than simplistic validations of what I appreciate.

It is not just the good things that I should be thankful for, anyway. The hard stuff – those moments that have torn me into pieces – also deserve their place in gratefulness to God. It would be a false statement for me to say I’m totally 100% grateful all of the time for being barren. Certainly, this has brought me a tremendous amount of strife. However, I sincerely appreciate the journey of it.

One might expect me to say that the best part of the journey is the adoption of my children. Well…they certainly are incredible, that’s for sure. However, for me, the best part of it has been the revelation of all the small moments, twists, turns, ups, downs, and in-betweens that helped to write the story.

Often, it is far easier to look backwards and say “I get it” than to look forward in faith. I don’t really think I could appreciate the road it took to become a mother if I had known in advance that there would be a little boy with blonde hair and a fantastic amount of charm, and a girl with bright blue eyes and blend of sugar and spice (mostly spice) who would enter my life. The road was full of painful ruts, sudden curves, and sadness as thick as tar, but still, it was the road that led to my children.

My sojourn into the world of infertility seemed so long; yet, not really. When looking back all those years ago after my surgery, I truly thought I would forever be stuck in the darkness of being barren. I know now that all those thoughts and years are just “blips” on the radar screen compared to the brilliance of the ride I’m experiencing as a parent.

I have found and continue to find great peace when realizing what all occurred to get me to this part of my life.  From the moment I woke up in the hospital bed following surgery, to the recognition as an eleven year old that I was different than my peers, to the angst as a teen wondering if true love would ever find me, to the despair of nearly convincing myself that I would never be a parent, to the longing of wanting a “normal” mommy-hood, to being captured and redeemed by God’s grace, to signing our application to become foster parents, to the nervous drive to pick up the baby boy who needed us as his foster family, to the humbling conversations with his birth mother, to leaning my head on the steering wheel following court hearings exhausted from the unknowns, to the dripping of my tears onto the court room table at our son’s adoption hearing, to jumping in heart first again by saying yes to accepting our foster daughter, to staying up night after night with a newborn, to the day she was deemed eligible for adoption, to picking out her adoption dress, to explaining the best we can to our children that they are adopted, to each moment with them….the list goes on and on.  I suspect it will until my eyes gaze on Him.

Perhaps the letter to my Lord is not really one I would write at all.  Perhaps it is my life, or better yet, how I choose to live and recognize the spaces where all I was clinging on to was His mercy, His love, and His promise.  God filled in the story line.  He flushed out the details and colored the canvas.  Living a grace-giving, mercy-showing, Christ-seeking, and love-leading kind of life would speak more than a thousand words anyway.

Yes…

my life, the letter,

my heart, the message,

and His hands, the ink.

The Wonder of You

Look at you, my precious girl, with your eyes of blue.  It looks like God Himself dipped His paint brush into the sky when coloring your eyes.  And you, my son, with your brown eyes and wavy blonde hair.  I swear angels spun your hair out of butter.  Sometimes, when admiring you both, I think to myself “the wonder of you”.  You truly are wonderful.  You challenge me.  You cause me to get up early on the weekends.  You leave food and toys and just about anything your hands touch strewn all over the floor.  But still, I’m amazed by the wonder of you.

I had no idea how truly incredible you would be.  Whoever said blood is thicker than water surely never experienced the supreme delight of adoption.  At one time, I could not imagine ever having you in my life, and now I cannot imagine my life without you.  My children.  My sweets.  My love.  You have captured my heart.

You are not second best.  You are not statistics.  You mean more to this world, your family, and your Heavenly Father than you will ever fathom.  You may have been born into a world of chaos and less than desirable circumstances, but you will leave this world a better place.  You have inherited the fullness of God’s mercy and love.  He loves you both as if you are His only children.

For you my son, your entry into our home was sudden.  We had just a few hours to prepare.  But, the moment my eyes focused on you, everything came to a screeching halt.  I was in awe.  You took my breath away.  There you were, so small and vulnerable, and yet, so significant.

And you, my daughter, you literally arrived on our doorstep by the first angel who took you in.  One look at you caused me to realize how incredibly blessed I was.  You were more than an abandonment.  You were more than a legal status.  You were purposefully, wonderfully, and intentionally made.

Fostering you both was humbling, heart-wrenching at times, joyful, and full of so many life lessons.  Actually, raising you is full of these things as well.  Your imaginations inspire me.  Your silliness tickles me.  And, your love of all things new creates in me an excitement to explore the world with you.  You both have colored my world with shades of goodness, lightness, and love.

You are both more than I could ever imagine.  Adoption completed us.  I am mightily aware of the blessed responsibility bestowed onto me.  I would never go back to life before you.  I don’t think I could.  I thank the Lord daily for filling my life with the wonder of you.