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.

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!

Messages of Tears

“There is a sacredness in tears.  They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.”                              -Washington Irving

Gosh, I love this quote.  I L.O.V.E. it.  Each time my eyes skim over it and I soak it in, it  causes me to stop whatever I am doing.  I think about the tears shed worldwide on a daily basis.  I think about the tears that have been poured out of the deepest sorrow and joy throughout generations upon generations of humans.

I think about myself curling up in a fetal position sobbing from every pore of my being while mourning the loss of not being able to have a biological child.  I truly mourned this.  Those tears held within them my secrets, my grief, and my pain.  Those tears shed were not in vain.  I earned each one.  I deserved to let go of each one.  Those tears were for the girl I once was, and the mother I thought I would never be.

I also think about the tears of joy that have navigated their way down the landscape of my face. They too spoke volumes of resilience, thankfulness, and complete understanding.  Those tears released the power of love held within.  They too held their place of importance in the history of my life.  They too were for the little girl I once was, and the mother I was discovering myself to be.

I remember hearing the “sniffles” behind me at our adoption hearings.  I quickly looked around and saw family, friends, and even some child welfare professionals with tears rolling down their cheeks.  Each tear was a message of hope and hard work.  Each one represented the efforts made to keep my children safe, to help their birth parents, and to give them the permanent family they deserved.  The Judge stopped the court proceedings during my son’s adoption and gave me a moment to gather my tears back up.  He told me that he had seen many tears of sadness throughout his court room experience, and it was good to see tears of joy.

On a vastly more important level…the most important of all, I think about the tears that flowed down the faces of those who witnessed the crucifixion and death of Christ.  I think about those who must have had tears of awe-filled joy at realizing His resurrection.  The message of unspeakable love, unselfish love, and saving love that those tears gave is still heard and felt today.  At times, I am caught off guard during worship at church.  I find myself singing a song, staring at the Cross, and wiping away the droplets that resemble the overwhelming magnitude of my Savior’s grace and love for me.

I think I love this quote so much because it reminds me of the purpose and the purity behind each tear that falls from our eyes.  The voice held within our tears speaks so much more compared to the words that may or may not leave our mouths.  There is a sacredness there, and it should never be underestimated.

Don’t hold your tears hostage.  Don’t stifle their meaning.  Your tears may be speaking for you.  Allow them to.  Your tears may be speaking to you.  Listen to them.

Kids

Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music. ~William Stafford

Sunny Days and Ice Cream Cones

Working in child welfare for any amount of time forces the rude awakening of the troubles we have in our society and the daily struggles that too many children have in the United States.  There are children who are fatherless, motherless, or both.  Many are taking care of their baby siblings even though they are babies themselves.  Some can tell you how to prepare a crack pipe because they have witnessed it in their home.  Others do not understand boundaries or safety because they have never been kept safe.  Infants are born with the addictions of their mothers; or at least, the exposure of poor choices made while in the womb.  If you do not believe or understand this, then I encourage you to spend a day with a child abuse and neglect investigator.

It is deeply troubling when I hear people dismiss children as if they carry no purpose.  I have written about this before in my post Where is Your Treasure?

ALL children are vital to this world.  ALL children are precious in the eyes of the Lord.  He loves each one as if he or she is His only child.

They teach us to forgive quickly, to slow down, to laugh, and to dream.  They see things through the lens of innocence.  They have great purpose in this world.  Not to sound cliché, but they are the future and the potential fulfillment of all things good in this world.

When I took this picture of my daughter above at a family get together, I could not help but think about what the life of a child should be made of.  Their lives should be filled with love, silliness, warmth, and parents.  Their lives should be enveloped in family, memories, shelter, encouragement, and safety.  They deserve days filled with the warmth of sunshine, the laughter of playmates, and the sweetness of ice cream cones.

Six Years of Happy

Happy Birthday Bubby.  I love you so much more than I will ever find the words to express.  I am incredibly grateful to the Lord for choosing us as your parents.  I know I have said that over and over, but I suspect I will not stop saying it until my life on Earth has ended.  Just thinking about the person you are growing into, all of your strengths and sweet quirks, makes my heart leap with joy.

The night before you came to us, I prayed that the Lord would provide us with the opportunity to parent a baby.  We woke up that morning not knowing that by the end of the day, our lives would be forever changed.  He answered my prayer immediately.  We quickly rushed out the door to head to the hospital after getting a call from the local child protective services saying “can you be there in 30 minutes?”  Your first year was full of hope, tears, joy, fears, and the overall feeling of being a part of something bigger than ourselves.  We were caught between loving you desperately and the commitment we made to help your birth mother get you back.  We were sworn to protecting you; yet, we had to rely on others in your life to make the decisions on what was best.  We were broken down and humbled by the plight of your birth mother while glowing in the enchantment of who you were and by the Lord’s gifting of you.

I was so happy to have him for his first Christmas.

Your second year held the mixed up feelings of grieving for your birth mother and her loss of you while experiencing pure joy at your adoption.  Before your adoption, we did not know how long we would hold you.  We said “love you forever” as often as we could.  On that fateful day in May, we were given the blessing of you being ours forever.  So much was revealed to us during this time of life.  Your curly hair, sweet smile, and boundless energy kept us amused.  People were drawn to you.  Your charm and talkative nature took flight.

The outfit he was adopted in. We “tried it on” just a few days before his adoption to make sure it fit. Of course, he looked perfect in it!
sweet curls for a sweet boy

Year three…well…let’s just say that year three was a wee bit challenging.  Your God-given strong-willed determination was your shining accomplishment!  You  started to see more of the world with curiosity and fierce independence.  Music also became something you were quite fond of.  You welcomed a baby sister!  You announced it.  You told us that you would be getting a baby sister before we even knew.  I can only imagine how your little mind must have been spinning when your baby sister arrived on our doorstep.  You took it in stride.  You noticed your friends’ mommies had babies in their bellies; and yet, you never questioned why your sister was delivered to our door by a nice lady with brown hair.  You just seemed to understand that your mommy does not grow babies in her belly.

Age 3 with sissy
He was so excited to have a baby sister!

Year four was the year of music, Legos, and all things super-hero.  You often dressed up, grabbed whatever sword you could find, hop on your big wheel, and ride through the house in an attempt to beat the bad guys.  Sometimes you even sang songs about being a super-hero.  One of the sweetest things you said to me was “Mommy, you are my super-hero.”  When at home, you seemed to always have a drum stick and your dulcimer in hand.  Your songs were also about rock stars, Jesus, Christmas, God, and of course, mommy.  You performed just about every night for us.  You would jump out of the closet, proclaim yourself as a rock star, spin around, then sing and strum away.  My favorite song went like this:

I’m a little rock star…for Jesus…for Christmas…for God…and my family.

Here he comes! (I promise he has some form of clothing on)

Year five seemed to slip away so fast.  You took your first airplane ride, went to a strange new place called Disney World, rode rides that overwhelmed your senses, and shook with excitement when meeting Buzz Light Year!  Painting became a hobby for you and we discovered your natural ability as a gymnast.  You graduated from preschool, got glasses, spent extra time with your Papa fishing on the lake, and started Kindergarten.  You started referring to yourself as a “school-ager”.

He was so excited to meet Buzz!

Sometimes, I just sit back and watch the videos of you throughout the years.  My eyes well up with tears at just how special you are and also at how swiftly time has gone by.  I wish I could back and push a button to slow down time.  I wish I would have kissed you just a bit more before night-night, or let you sing me one more silly song, or picked you up one more time when you said “holdu holdu“.  You are starting to show your growth in the way you get just ever-so-slightly embarrassed if I try to kiss you around other kids.  But, at the same time, you still reach for my hand and put your head on my lap when it is just the two of us.

God has blessed us so much by choosing us as your parents.  You continue to amaze us, challenge us, stretch us, refine us, and love on us daily.  You, my son, are a precious wonder.  Happy, happy, happy birthday my sweet one…love you forever…

Thank You, Lord, For Giving Us Six Years of Happy

Motherhood Dreams

There she is. The picture above is from my daughter’s first dance recital.  It represents the ending of her introduction to dancing and, hopefully, the beginning of her interest in it.  It also represents something deeply personal for me.  It connects me to the dreams I had before becoming a mother.

As the recital was going on, I frequently looked around the room and noticed how proud the dads were of their little princesses.  I especially noticed the expressions of admiration and complete love the moms had while watching their little loves.  Watching their granddaughter dance brought back memories for my parents as well of when I was a young one twirling around on the stage.  Regardless of what may have occurred during the day, watching innocence on a stage brought us all back to what is truly important in life – children.

Children matter.

My eyes teared up while watching my sweet one dance around the stage.  I once dreamed of moments like this.  Growing up and into adulthood with the thought that I would never be a mother made me wonder about all of the precious little memories I would miss out on.  Things like watching a child walk for the first time, hearing the word “mama”, seeing excitement on Christmas morning, putting artwork on the refrigerator, passing on traditions, and watching recitals or various other activities.  My thoughts and longings were more than about not being able to have a baby.  I grieved over the possibility of not being able to explore talents, interests, and just life in general with a child.

I fretted over what my life would be like without children.  I wanted so much to pass on the good things I have learned in life and to steer a child away from the things that have caused me pain.  I believe that raising up children assures us that perhaps a little bit of us will linger on throughout life even when we have passed on.  If I never was able to do this, then there would not be any reminders of who I am after this life is over.  This is one thing about infertility that I am not sure a lot of people understand.  The simple act of watching a dance recital brought back the flood of emotions regarding my previous childless life.

Infertility is so complex and rears its ugly head from time to time when least expected.  But, in some respect, I am thankful that it catches me off guard.  I do not know if I would be able to run on the mountain tops with the full knowledge of how truly gifted I am to be a mother if I did not have the experience of being barren and walking through the valleys of infertility.

Thank You, Lord, for gifting me with the responsibility, hope, and simple joys of children.  Hold me accountable Father to Your will for my children.  Remind me, oh Lord, of my previous sorrow so that I will never take for granted the delight I now have.  Thank You, Lord, for walking me through the valley of infertility.  I praise You for running me along this mountain top of parenthood and for fulfilling my dreams.

PSALMS 127:3-5

Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. 
They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.

JAMES 1:17

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

MARK 10:14

14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these”

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.