My Child, There Are Better Days to Come

My child had a rough morning.  I could see it all over my darling’s body; eyes a bit wilder than usual, hair somewhat disheveled, and arms flailing with impulsive movement.  It reached a game-changing moment during a redirection.  I looked up and saw that hand, the one that often grabs mine when walking together, fly up in the air and smack hard against my skin.  Sure, it was a slap on the arm but it hurt.  It left a red mark.  It was not a “toddler testing boundaries” kind of hit.  It was meant to hurt me and it was full of pent-up angst.

First, came the shock, followed by a brief moment of anger.  Just as soon as my anger began to swell, I melted into tears; sadness took over.  My child fell back into the seat and started to cry.  I sat there for a moment not knowing what to do.  We were loaded up in the van and on our way to school but the last thing I could focus on was getting there before the bell rang.

While trying to find the right words, I heard, “You are going to just give me away to another family.”  I could not believe my ears.  With the sting of my child’s hand still lingering on my arm, I said, “No, of course not”.

Soon, my child said, “I just get so mad.  I have anger issues.  I’m sorry.”  I tried to find the right words but it seems during moments like these, words can be elusive.  I offered the knowledge of “Even if someone has an issue with anger or whatever, it is still up to them to make better choices.  You have to choose to do the right thing and ask yourself, “Is this worth it?”.  I don’t know if that was good enough or if that is what my child needed to hear but it was all I could come up with at that moment.

There was a hug, followed by an apology, and a statement regarding the worry about other kids noticing my child’s tear-stained face.  “Just tell them you had a rough morning,” I said.  The van door slid open and I watched as a piece of my heart formed in the shape of a child slowly walk to the doors of the school, pause for a moment, and then look back to make sure I was still there before entering.  My kiddos know I always stay put until they enter the doors to their school.  On this morning, it was especially important for me to stay a while.

Ugh.  Of all the things that happened, the saddest and hardest part was hearing the words, “You are going to just give me away to another family.”  Where does this come from?  My child has been with us since infancy and despite filling the space between us with love, this child still seems to meander carelessly somewhere between the knowledge of being adopted and the full measure of being in our family.

Sure, there’s counseling, training, and all sorts of ways to intervene.  We’ve set up boundaries, applied consequences, talked openly about adoption and biological parents, followed through with providing moments to build self-esteem and show our love, but there is still a void that is hard to fill.  When the void gets too deep, the claws come out.

My child thinks deeply and has big emotions.  This child is sensitive, inquisitive and always wants to know more and more…even when there’s not a lot more to offer.  Moments like these are tough to swallow.  Knowing how to respond is even harder, and I tend to receive the blunt end of all that emotion welled up inside a youthful body.

Being an adoptive family is a wonderful thing but it is not perfect.  It is filled with a lot of loss.  We do our best to weave the tapestry of our family with as much good as we can but there are issues.  We’d be foolish to think that everything is okay all of the time.

This is a part of adoption that others don’t see.  This is the part of parenting children with invisible special needs that are often unseen by many.  This is hard.

Even with all of the intentional efforts put into raising a well-rounded and secure child as one can raise, we still have to navigate these valleys and they are deep, my friends.  We put on a smiling face that does a good job of covering up some of the battle wounds we’ve endured.  We pretend that everything is great but sometimes, it just isn’t.

Telling an adoptive family, “Oh, kids will just do that, sometimes” is useless.  We know that kids, regardless of their histories, will do things that can break one’s heart.  We are well aware of that but there is a difference, you know.  When your child is exhibiting things that seem to carry an invisible message, it is hard but it is not impossible to manage.

I guess that is where the fortitude to keep going comes from – the awareness of possibilities covered in a glaze of hope.  Hope is found in the possibilities; hope for change, hope for better responses, hope for a recovery and hope for healing.  If it weren’t for the belief in possibilities and the endurance of hope, nothing would be gained and so much would be lost.

There will be tremendously painful moments full of emotion throughout our life as an adoptive family.  Yet, in many ways, the complex splendor of life is often found in the midst of incredibly hard times filled with blood, sweat, and tears.

My child, the one with the big emotions wrapped up in a small frame,

I love you.  I have always loved you.  I will always love you.

Nothing you have done or ever will do would cause me to not love you.

I have never regretted adopting you.  I never will.  I am yours and you are mine.

I wish I could retell your story minus all the bad stuff, but I cannot.

It must be scary to feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Let Momma carry it for you.  If I could, I would swallow it up so that you never have to feel it again.

I will never be able to claim myself as your biological parent.  I know that breaks my heart and I suspect it breaks yours.

You are unique.  You have a gift to give this world, baby.  You’ll find it and when you do, hang on and hold tight.  I believe you could be a world-changer.  

You may feel broken at times but history shows us that the Lord uses broken people for mighty things.  That’s the incredible part of faith – knowing that our weakest moments can become part of our strongest testimony.

You have a place in our family.  You always will.  Don’t lose sight of that, my child.  Don’t lose sight.

My child, there are better days to come.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

-Isaiah 41:10

 

7 Billion Ones {The “YOU MATTER” Movement”} Adoption.com article

About a year ago, I met with professional photographer, Randy Bacon and his wife, Shannon.  I was asked to share my story for their project, 7 Billion Ones.  Since meeting the Bacon’s, I’ve become more involved with their project.  7 Billion Ones is now a movement and it is absolutely rich with humanity.

I wrote an article for Adoption.com about this movement.  You can read it by clicking on this link:  7 Billion Ones {The “YOU MATTER” Movement”}

I am a firm believer in the truth that everyone has a story to tell.  Everyone has a story that matters, and we can all learn from each other.  Whether it is substance abuse recovery, domestic violence, life-threatening illness, suicide, adoption, or any other life experience, there is always something to be learned from another person’s walk.  Sharing ourselves with the world promotes empathy, understanding, wisdom, healing, and connectedness.

Please go check out the article and stay a while on the 7 Billion Ones website!

Blessings,

Caroline

Dear Parent of a Sick Child

Dear Parent of a Sick Child,

Hello there.  How are you?  No, really…how are you?  I’m sure you are tired, worried, overwhelmed, desperately seeking normalcy, and wondering when your child will get better.  I hope my words bring you encouragement.

When I was a sick child, I remember being cared for by adults.  I remember the adults that surrounded my bedside whispering encouragement into my ears.  I remember never waking up alone in my hospital room, never wondering if I would be taken care of, and never imagining that I was not loved.

My memories are mostly like flashes from a movie screen.  These moments are frozen in time.  I knew I was in an immense amount of pain, but I don’t remember the pain.  I don’t remember the struggle to survive.  I don’t remember my body being ravaged by infection.  I don’t remember these moments at all.

I do, however, remember the love I felt in the room.  I remember the gentle rubbing of my arms, the softness of someone holding my hand, the brushing away of my hair from my eyes, and the kisses on my face.  I remember these things.

I remember receiving cards, letters, balloons, flowers, stuffed animals, and just about anything else that would bring a smile to me.  I remember waking up with my parents there….all of the time.  Even when I was in and out of consciousness, I remember them.

I also remember my parents never showing their fear, despite being filled with it.  I remember how they showed great strength; even though their bodies wore the trappings of exhaustion.  I remember their caring hands, their patience with my recovery, and their filling-in to meet my daily needs.  I remember being told I was a “little trooper”, and that my will to live was stronger than any illness.  I remember my mother giving me baths in the hospital, and my dad holding my hand as often as he could.

Please, dear parent, please know that your presence is precious to your sick child. Your bravery is beautiful, and your courage is contagious.  Don’t stop fighting for your child.  Don’t stop asking questions about treatment options.  Don’t stop whispering sweet words of hope into your child’s ears.  These words will resonate deep down in your child.

Tell your child how much you love them.  Tell your child that he or she is the bravest little one you have ever seen.  Tell your child stories of healing.  Tell your child that he or she is a superhero.  Give your child the hope that you are clinging to.  Pray for your child; pray over child; and ask others to join in your prayers.

Your child knows you are there.  He or she knows it, even if not awake.  Don’t forget that.  You are the most significant person in his or her life.  You matter. Please, dear parent, please know how much you mean to your sickly child.

Hang in there.  You are in a situation that you never dreamed you would be in.  You would give anything to trade positions with your baby, but you cannot.  I know how hard that must be for you.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child, get some sleep.  Ask for help.  Take care of yourself.  You are a superhero.  You are a trooper.  Your will is strong.  Don’t forget these things.

 Your child needs you.

Bless you, dear parent, bless you. Thank you for striving for the best care for your child.  Thank you for holding his or her hand in the middle of many sleepless nights.  Thank you for putting on the bravest face you can during this difficult time.

Dear Parent of a Sick Child, what you are doing matters.  Your strength, your wisdom, your love, your hope, your courage, and your presence are the greatest gifts you can give your child.  Don’t forget that, and don’t be discouraged.  

Your child will remember your presence more than the pain.

Other posts you might like:  Mother’s Resilience 

                                           Valley of Death, Mercy of Life

                                           Dear Parent of a Sick Child (letter #2)

Journey of Infertility (my post for National Infertility Awareness Week)

Photography Credit: http://freedomphotography.smugmug.com/
Photography Credit: http://freedomphotography.smugmug.com/
Quote: Author Unknown

Apparently, this is National Infertility Awareness Week.  Who knew?  Right?  I certainly didn’t until I stumbled upon a few blogs about it.  I kinda find it funny that there is just one week to be aware of infertility.  Those of us who have experienced it, are experiencing it, or, like in my case, lived a life of it, are always keenly aware of the presence of not being able to have a biological child.

I so wish that there would have been attention given to infertility when I was a girl.  Instead, it was a hushed topic.  Some of the reasons why I never had deep discussions about it with anyone while growing up was because of my age.  I mean, what in the world do you say to an eleven-year-old who had a hysterectomy?

Most of the time people would say things like “God must have a plan for you.”  My thoughts after hearing these words often went something like this, “Why yes, I’m sure He does and it obviously doesn’t include biological children.”  Or, I was given the advice of “You can always adopt!”  Again, the thoughts behind my smile went like this, “Oh wow, thanks.  I had not thought of that before.”

Now, I know that sounds a little sarcastic.  Looking back now on my life experience and the pain of growing up infertile, I know that I kept these thoughts to myself.  I could not control what happened, but by golly, I could control how I responded to it.  I know God had a plan for my life, I just didn’t know what it was or if it included children.  Throughout the majority of my life after the surgery, I did not want other people’s advice.  This was my battle to win, my life experience to navigate, and my journey to seek the answers.

One thing that I find ironic about infertility is that it creates a sense of isolation and loneliness, but it also creates an unspoken bond with others going through it.  There have been moments where I felt I could almost read someone’s thoughts by their expressions when speaking about infertility.  I just find that to be interestingly ironic.

Just a few weeks ago, I was speaking to another adoptive parent.  She and her husband spent many years trying to get pregnant.  Although she expressed  great joy and love over her little boy, she also agreed that infertility really is a life-long process to deal with.  Missing out on having a biological child does not go away.  However, the incredible and genuinely loving experience of adoption does not go away either.

I feel like an old veteran of a battle waged many years ago whose wounds have healed and are now a source of strength to carry on.  I feel the need to encourage others, motivate others, and testify about how the Lord does work it all out.  For those of you who are just now experiencing a life different than you expected, hear me when I say this:

  • There will be times when you feel like crawling into a hole where no one can find you.
  • There will be those moments when the words of other’s will sit on you like a heavy weight.
  • God is NOT punishing you.
  • You ARE still able to be a parent; it may just take you a little longer to become one.
  • It is okay to avoid the baby departments at stores (stop beating yourself up over it.)
  • It is normal to be a little envious of your friends who are having babies…ALL at the same time (again, stop beating yourself up over it.  This is a process of healing and does not reflect on how much you love your friends.)
  • Baby showers are the worst when you can’t have one, and going into an ob/gyn’s office is miserable when you are the only non-prego chic in the room.
  • There are others who feel the same way you do.  Find them.  Seek support from them.
  • Most people really don’t know how you are feeling.  This is just a fact that you need to accept.
  • Whether you become a parent through birth or adoption, all of these hard times you are going through will seem like a blip on the radar screen compared to the lifetime of love you will be able to give and receive through parenting.  

Infertility is more than about pregnancy.  It is a sojourn into the pits and valleys of despair.  It is a path where each step taken leads to healing.  Like the quote on our family photo above, we were not separated from our children when they were born.  We had all embarked on a journey that led to each other.  Our journey together really did not end at our adoption.  We began a new one with new stories to be written, lessons to be learned, hopes to be fulfilled, and new revelations of the Lord’s presence throughout it all.

Rest in a Restless World

I’m tired.  I’m tired of pretending that I’m not tired.  I’m tired of getting up each day and going to a job that I know exists because people abuse and neglect their children.  I’m tired of worrying about whether or not there will be enough families out there who want to take in kids who have suffered great trauma.

I’m weary.  I’m weary from trying to shield my children from the news of the day.  I’m weary from the knowledge that humans willfully damage each other, kill each other, and downplay the importance of one another.  I’m weary from the frustration that Christians often worry more about politics than people, or at least, give that impression.

I know that part of my weariness comes from the ups and downs of the human experience.  People are killing each other for their ideologies, perversions, or greed.  Children are left abandoned on the streets to suffer at the hands of evil.  Fathers are turning away from their families to seek what they perceive as greater things.  Mothers are choosing wickedness over their own worth.  People are forsaking compassion for their passions.

Weariness has been on my mind all week, and yet, I fully recognize how lucky I really have it.  I’m not a single mom working three jobs to keep food on the table.  I’m not a small child living off of scraps in a third world country.  I’m not homeless.  I’m not sick.  I’m not hungry.  I am loved.

While meditating on these things, I looked up Scripture that specifically address weariness and rest.  I know there are many more, but here are just a few that I’d like to share.

Exodus 33:14 – 

And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28-30 – 

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.”

Psalm 62:1-2-

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

Psalm 62:5-

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him.”

John 14:27- 

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you.  Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.”

Psalm 37:7-

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

In my opinion, the last verse I am sharing is the one that turns that fading flicker in my heart into a flame.  It is the one that renews my hope for things to come, and strengthens my resolve to continue yearning for a world where compassion leads.  It causes me to strive to live a life that continues to breathe love.  It especially reminds me that in this world of chaos and confusion, the only true rest and peace in this restless world is found in the glory of the Lord.

John 16:33-

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

Thank you Father for the Blessed Assurance of You.

Wishing Flowers

photo (60)After playing around in the backyard, my son quietly opened the screen door, placed two “flowers” on the floor, closed the door, and then said, “Mommy, I got you something.”  I pretended I didn’t know that he had done this, and acted surprisingly thankful for his gift.

A few minutes later he said, “Do you know what those are?”  I replied, “Yes, they are dandelions.”  “No, they are not”, he boldly stated.  “Oh, well then what are they?” I asked.

“Mommy, they are wishing flowers!”

I thanked him again, picked up the wishing flowers, and then went about finishing up cleaning the kitchen.  I meant to make a wish with them, but my son and I got distracted, and moved on to other tasks to be done for the day.

My son’s vision about what most of us consider weeds got me to thinking about the perspective often used when looking at events or circumstances in life.  If something difficult comes my way, do I perceive it as having the possibility of hope? I’d like to say I do, but have to admit that there have been times where I’ve thought, “What a bad thing for this to be happening right now.”

In most respects, dandelions can become quite a nuisance when landscaping.  I actually think of them more as a weed than a flower.  Children love to pick them so that they can give them a slight puff of air which in turn sends their seedlings out into the world to create even more dandelions.  My son views them as opportunities for hopes to be fulfilled through unspoken wishes.

Like my son’s view of dandelions, God doesn’t see us as weeds, or nuisances either.  Instead, He sees us as having the great possibility to live meaningful and fulfilling lives.

God picks us up, and gives us fresh, loving air so that we can spread out into the world sharing light, hope, and most important of all, love.

my son making a wishphoto credit: http://sarahcarter.is/
my son making a wish
photo credit: http://sarahcarter.is/

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

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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.

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.

Favorite Fishing Buddy

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“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” —John Buchan

My dad fished professionally for many years, and earned sponsors and endorsements from boat and bait/tackle companies.  He was featured in magazine articles, and won many notable tournaments throughout his career.  As a matter of fact, when I tell people around here who my dad is, most (if into fishing) “ooh” and “ah” over my dad’s knowledge of the lakes and his seemingly instinctual ability to catch fish.

Before the adoption of our son, we took him to the lake often to visit his “Papa” and play around on the water.  Once our adoption was finalized, and my son had the ability to hold a fishing pole, my dad headed out on the water with him and started teaching him all that he knew.  He is now 6-years-old, and has been fishing pretty regularly since the age of 2 years.  He can name virtually every type of freshwater fish.  He can top-water fish, use a variety of baits and tackle, and even use a bait-caster.  I think he would fish just about every day if we let him.

During visits with my son’s biological mother while we were fostering him, she often asked me if someone would take him fishing.  She wanted her son to have the opportunity to learn how to fish.  I’m not sure if this is something she enjoyed as a child, but it seemed pretty important to her for him to be a boy who fished.

She was quite excited to hear that my dad past-time is fishing, and that her son would learn to fish from one of the best around this area.  When I get images like the one above from my dad while on the lake with my son, I can’t help but think of his birth mother, and how often she talked about taking him fishing.

My dad may have won tournaments, earned money, and made a name for himself through fishing, but the joy on my son’s face and the time spent with his favorite fishing buddy is by far the greatest award he has ever received.

 

My Life’s Song

Here we are in the last few days of November and the last week of National Adoption Month.  This past month I have posted something each day that I hope has inspired people to take care of children through adoption and foster care.  I’d like to share some insights I’ve learned as an adoptive parent.  Here’s the first one:

Through the adoption of my children I have learned that my life was planned and designed with great purpose.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that growing up I never really understood or appreciated the concept of a life planned in advance; especially if the plan included the heart-wrenching grief of infertility.  I did not comprehend how a loving God could or would allow infertility, even though barrenness is written about in Scripture.  I certainly never envisioned myself as a mother.  I just didn’t think it was “in the cards” for my life.

Seeking the Lord and the adoption of my children have both revealed to me that mothering was written into my life story.  My children were planned for me, and I was planned for them.  Despite the medical problem I had that resulted in being barren, I was still designed with the great purpose of motherhood by the God that created the Heavens and the Earth.

Some call it fate.  Some may say I lucked into being able to adopt.  I choose not to call it either of these things.  I call it the grace of the Lord and His Divine Plan.  I call it the presence of a living God whose works are ones of love.  I call it the pouring out of His blessings.  I call it a mission-filled and purposeful design.

Adoption really is my life’s song.  My children are the instruments.  Our experience together is the melody.  The Lord is the composer, and, from time to time, you just might catch me dancing to it.

“For I know the plans for you, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11