Colors Don’t Matter

Family Pic Blue Wall 16x24RS (2)
Matt, Heidi, Jaz, Shiloh, Sean, Annika, and Isaiah
Freedom Photography

Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons 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 enemies in the gate.  -Psalm 127:3-5

One day while sitting at a park bench watching my daughter play, I sat next to a woman who was also watching children play.  Something about her seemed so familiar.  Although I rarely do this, I said to her, “Do I know you from somewhere?” This start of our conversation led to the realization that we have mutual friends. We also learned that we are both adoptive mothers of children out of foster care.  We exchanged Facebook info, and each went our separate ways.

I’ve been wanting to share more stories of the “Backyard Missionaries” that make a difference in our communities.  I think of foster/adoptive parents as missionaries serving others in their own backyards.  I’ve asked Heidi and Matt to share their story….here it is.

Heidi has always had the desire to adopt even before she and Matt tried to get pregnant.  After six years of marriage they opted not to pursue infertility treatments, and instead, put their pursuit and efforts into adoption.  Although Heidi yearned for pregnancy, once they began their journey of adoption, she quickly became excited about what was in store for them.

Their first son, Isaiah, was placed with them through a private adoption agency. They were blessed to be matched so quickly, but also noted that they were very open to race, and other issues such as prenatal drug usage.  This level of openness certainly helped to speed up their placement matching.

Throughout the next four years, it was just Matt, Heidi, and Isaiah.  They wanted  more children, and chose to become licensed as foster parents in the hopes of eventually adding to their family.  Within the first few months of licensure, they received a call about a sibling group of three children, ages 10 months, 2 years, and 3 years.  A few months later, they were called to take placement of another little one.  In a matter of months, they went from being a family of three to a family of seven!

They finalized their adoptions in 2011, and thought they were finished when they received a call from the local children’s protective services office in June 2012.  Matt and Heidi say “yes” to a newborn sibling of their children.  They continue to foster him, and if the case goal changes to adoption, they will add another little one to their amazing family!

For Matt and Heidi, the biggest joy is seeing their children grow and thrive.  They recognize that the road of life these little ones were walking before coming to their home was a difficult one.  It is indescribable to know that they have taken part in the incredible intervention of children’s lives.

Their oldest daughter really struggled when she came to live with them at age three.  She desperately missed her birth mommy, and was angry.  Matt and Heidi allowed these feelings, and helped her transition to their home by offering stability, love, and support.  The quick adjustment from a small family to a large one was quite challenging at first, and it took them a while.  Big is normal now, and they love it.

Questions from others such as, “Are you ever going to have children of your own?”, or “Which ones are brothers and sisters?” are ones that challenge Matt and Heidi.  Although they have two biological sibling groups, they are ALL brothers and sisters, and do not see each other any different.  As far as having their own children, Matt and Heidi know their children are their own, and quite simply do not understand why anyone else would feel different.

Adoption has changed their lives, formed their family, and has added incredible joy.  Adoption has taught them the value of diversity, and it is their uniqueness as Caucasian parents raising African-American and Bi-racial children that they embrace.  Their family motto is “Colors Don’t Matter” .  They have also learned that the ability to grow babies in a belly truly has nothing to do with the love and commitment of parenting.  Adoption has taught them that love truly has no borders and knows no bounds.

Heidi’s and Matt’s advice for people considering adoption out of foster care is quite simple:

“Be patient.  Have faith.  The system is not perfect.  Love the children.”

Matt and Heidi own a photography studio and are preparing to put together a gallery of images of families who have adopted out of foster care in an effort to promote this incredibly vital and worthy cause in our nation.  You can check out their website at:  www.Freedom-Photography.com

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.

Passage (poem about adoption)

Passage

Your mother loved you dearly
But that love was not enough,
With tears in her eyes and guilt in her heart
She had to give you up.

You started life, far from certain
Moving from home to home,
A search began to fill your void
A family to call your own

Days dragged on, and into weeks
And months turned into years,
Old enough to look for mommy and dad
But the horizons never near

Your life on hold, bonds incomplete,
Growing older with every day,
Hoping and dreaming every night
For a permanent home to stay

A call is made, “a child we have”
Of course we want this child!
More than ready to fill a heart felt void
Knowing your trust will be meek and mild

You quietly question another move
Is my search over or still continuing?
You keep to yourself, hiding here and there
As the question begins diminishing

You eye all the other children
Their love helps you on your way,
You see, once they were where you are
At the start of their first new day

You give us your trust, you warmed to our love
We’re finally now mommy and dad,
Our heart now filled, the bonds now complete
Your tears for a family, now glad

Your mother sent you on a journey
God’s destination she did not know,
So little, you made your passage
From her heart into our own.

-Ron Schutt

It is hard to find a lot of poems about adoption out of foster care.  I came across this one and thought I would share it.  Have a wonderful day!

 

Real Mom

The other day my son said something to me that stopped me in my tracks.  He was mad at me for getting on to him about needing to clean his room when he said, “You’re not my real mom.”  Whoa…I felt that gut-wrenching, knife in the heart, floor dropping out from under me twinge of pain.  After he said it, I sat down next to him and looked at him.  He had that look of confusion mixed in with a little sadness and anger.

I asked him, “Sweetie, what do you mean?”  Nothing…nothing but staring off at the TV screen.  “Honey, please help me understand what you mean.  Do you mean that I’m not your real mom because I didn’t give birth to you like your birth mother did?”  Silence.  Then finally, he looked at me and said, “You are not my real mom because you tell me what to do and you always get me in trouble.”  I have to admit that I was a little more relieved with his explanation, but still bothered.  I told him that he gets in trouble when he disobeys, and my job as his mom is to tell him what to do sometimes.  I also told him that we are his real parents and that we love him more than anything.  He looked at me and said, “Okay, but you’re still not my real mom.”  My mind was racing with how to handle this.  I grabbed the basket of laundry and used it as an excuse to escape off to our room to silently and quickly allow myself to exhale, gather my thoughts, and hold back the tears that were wanting to escape.

I returned to the living room and noticed that he went on with his after-school routine of building Legos, drawing, and eating a snack.  From time to time though, he looked at me and studied my face.  I kept it all together.  I acted as if nothing was wrong and that his words had not bothered me.  We went on with the rest of the afternoon like usual.  Later on in the evening, my son was quite clingy.  He wanted me to hold him, lay by him on the couch, snuggle, etc.  I took him up on the offer, and wondered if his words were still on his mind as well.

When I told my husband what was said, he responded “Caroline, you have to expect this.  If he knows it bothers you, then he will use it in the future when he is mad about something.  He was probably just testing you out to see how you would respond.”  My husband was right.  I do expect both of my children to refer to their birth parents as their “real” parents at some time during their lives.  I expect them to have a lot of questions about their birth family histories, how they ended up in our home, and anything else that has to do with adoption.  I guess I just didn’t expect it so soon, and I certainly didn’t expect it to hurt so much.

I don’t even know where my son got the term “real mom”, or why he would say this.  I know he was mad at me, but he had never said anything like that to me before.  Perhaps someone said something to him at school.  Maybe he overheard someone else talking about this.  Or perhaps, he is just starting to really process and learn how to navigate his own world of adoption.  Maybe he has a fantasy version of his birth mother, and in that fantasy she would never “get on to him”, put him in time-out, or make him clean his room.  I don’t know, but it reminded me that adoption is extremely complex and there are layers within it.  One certainly needs to have “thick-skin”!

One thing though that has been laid on my heart since all of this took place is that my husband and I need to be mindful of the adoption language we use around the home and in the community.  We need to be there to answer any and ALL questions our children have even if it makes us uncomfortable.  We need to not perceive questions about birth parents as a threat to who were are and the relationship we have with our children.

And, we need to keep in mind that we are their real parents.  We are a real family.  We get on to each other.  We discipline the kids when they are being disobedient.  We lose our tempers at times.  We get frustrated at times.  We are not perfect.  But, if we were perfect, didn’t lose our tempers, didn’t get frustrated, didn’t discipline, and didn’t get on to each other, then we would not be real at all.

Adoption is Love!

A– Act of love

             D– Decision of love

                   O– Opportunity to love

                   P– Purpose-driven love

                   T– Teacher of love

            I– Intervention of love

                  O– Offering of love

                  N– Natural kind of love

In other words, ADOPTION is LOVE!  

Any questions?

After my son’s adoption in 2008, a neighbor asked me, “Are you concerned that you didn’t connect with him since you did not carry him?”  I was only briefly stunned by her question.  I knew that I needed to think quick and give her an answer.  After all, she asked me in front of a group of neighbors during our block party and I did not want to be standing in the middle of an awkward moment of silence.  I replied, “No, not at all.  Loving him is very natural…as if I gave birth to him.”  All she responded with was “Oh”.

When I told my husband about the conversation, he said, “She didn’t carry or birth her husband.  Does that mean she is not bonded or connected to him?”  (Good point honey, good point)  He has always had a great way of simplifying things.

Her question has stuck in my mind through the years.  I really cannot blame her for her lack of knowledge about adoption.  After all, she had only given birth to children.  She had never experienced the incredible richness of becoming a mom through adoption.  I am still not sure what she meant by the word connect.  Perhaps she meant to say “Are you worried that you have not bonded with him because you did not give birth to him?”.

Looking back on our short conversation, I wished I would have said to her the things that have been revealed since becoming a mother through adoption.  I have realized that my expecting was not in months, but years.  My labor was not in hours, but years as well.  I did not carry my children in my body.  I carried them in my imagination, my prayers, my hopes, and my dreams.

I carried them in that quiet space where it is just myself and the Lord.

Foster and adoptive families usually get asked all kinds of random and often insensitive questions.  When we were going through the licensing process to become foster parents, someone said to me, “You are not going to take one of those meth babies, are you?”  Was that a question or a directive?  I was not quite sure.  The truth is that many newborns who come into protective services in the state I live in have been exposed to prenatal drug and/or alcohol usage.  To call them “meth babies” though felt very cold and calloused to me.

Here are some more questions that I have been asked:

  • Are your kids “real” siblings?
  • Are you scared that their “real” parents are going to take them back?
  • Are you sure it is okay to tell them that they are adopted?
  • Do you plan on having your “own” child in the future?
  • Do you know their “real” parents?

I answered the first two questions with a “no” and a “yes”.  No, I am not scared their “real” parents are going to take them back….that would be considered kidnapping.  Taking them back is not an option.  Adoption is legally binding and permanent.

Yes, I am absolutely sure it is okay to tell them they are adopted.  It is a travesty for children to not know their history and to be lied to.  It damages every ounce of trust and relationship built through the years.  It also gives glimpses of the thought that adoption is something that should be kept secret, as if it is shameful.

As far as the kids are concerned, they are real siblings.  Trust me, if you spend any amount of time in our home, you will notice that they fight like cats and dogs, yet are inseparable.  There is nothing fake about their relationship as a brother and a sister.

The last two questions can be answered by this fabulous quote I found.

“Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial.  Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary.  Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else’s child.  Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all your own.”  -Rita Laws, PhD

 Any questions?

Kids

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

Visions of Pregnancy

Before the adoption of my children filled my home and my heart, and before the Lord’s revelation in my life, I used to wonder what I would look like if I were pregnant.  Here is another excerpt from my memoir in a chapter where I talk about the deep longing that existed when walking around with the feeling of emptiness.  I cannot believe I am admitting this, but…deep breath…here it is:

I secretly envied my pregnant friends.  I wanted what they had.  The joy, excitement, and love they shared with their spouses throughout their pregnancies were clearly obvious and I was jealous of it.  It felt really childish for me to think “why can’t I be like that?”  Or, “why does she get to have more children when I cannot even have one?”  It was almost shameful for me to think that way, or at least I felt ashamed of having those thoughts about them.  I love my friends and I love their children and I know it is wrong for us to covet what others have, but I honestly did.

Just once I wanted to know what it would feel like to carry a baby in my body, or hold a baby and believe that he or she was mine.  Every so often, I dreamed about being pregnant.  I do not know what made me feel worse – the dream itself or waking up.  Often, I stuck a ball under my shirt, stood in front of the mirror, and just stared at myself.  I surveyed the shape from every angle.  This was the closest I would ever come to seeing my “pregnant” belly.  I always thought I would have made a cute mom-to-be.

It is a mistake to assume that women who cannot have biological children never wonder what their pregnancies would feel like.  Most of us, although sympathetic to those going through it, would give anything to know what morning sickness was like, or to have the moment when a slight kick is felt from the inside.  We would give nearly anything to have an ultrasound done that reveals the life growing inside of us.

Most of us have dreamed about pregnancy.  Most of us have had visions of ourselves pregnant.  Many of us still do.

I never, ever told anyone close to me that I used to stand in front of the mirror daydreaming of being pregnant.  It was embarrassing and I felt as though I should not have even considered it.  But, why not?  Why not wonder what it would feel like to be pregnant?  This is not wrong, silly, or senseless.  It makes perfect sense to me.

If your path to pregnancy is jagged right now and you find yourself hiding away in front of a mirror staring at your belly, it is okay.  Do not be embarrassed.  Do not feel as though you should not be doing this.  Give yourself a break and daydream all you need to.  I get it, and my guess is that nearly every one else who is struggling with infertility or barrenness gets it to.

May His vision of you fill your life with love, peace, and understanding.

.

Moments Like This

I watched my first baby walk through the doors of Kindergarten today.  His backpack was nearly as big as him and even though he has grown so much over the years, he still seems too small to release into the big, new world of the school system.  I have written before in my post Motherhood Dreams about certain things that I worried missing out on if I never became a mother.  Well, sending a child to Kindergarten is one of those things.  It is one of my so-called Bucket List Items that I can now check off as having completed.

As someone who is barren, I truly never thought this day would come.  Now, as my mind is racing with a hint of sadness, nervousness, excitement, pride, and appreciation, I cannot help but think about the first time I saw him.  As his (former) foster mother, I did not know for sure if I would even have him long enough to celebrate his first birthday so thinking about sending him off to his first day of Kindergarten was just a dream.  Today, this dream came true.

I know sending a child to Kindergarten is not exactly the kind of action-packed, adrenaline-laced bucket list item that most people aspire to do.  I get that.  I too have wishes of high-flying adventures tucked away that I would like to experience in my lifetime.  But, at the end of my life, I want to be able to look back at moments like this and remember them.  I want to hear them, smell them, and feel them.  I want them to be the moments that leave my heart happy and that remind of the gift of life.

His birth mother came to my mind a lot today as well.  Another moment in time of great relevance has passed her by.  I am so glad that I was the one to kiss him goodbye and take one last glance over my shoulder as I walked out the door of his classroom.  Yet, at the same time, my heart felt a twinge of sadness that she was not able to.  In my post, I thought of you today birth mother, I wrote down my feelings about her on the day he graduated from preschool.  Today was no different.  I suspect every milestone in his life and in mine will remind me of who she is, what she is missing, and the grace that has covered the both of us.

Today was more than just sending my first baby off to Kindergarten.  It is one day that I am so thankful to have to cherish.  I get another chance in a few years with my daughter, but for right now, I am going to soak up this moment as much as I can.

This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

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.