Life Lesson: Adoption is Breathtakingly Incredible

I’ve signed a contract to write for an adoption website. I’m thrilled with the opportunity, and challenge of it. I’ve already been working on some stories of adoptive families, and have been moved to tears by their personal journeys.

I do not know a lot. It seems life continues to be a huge learning curve for me, and for that, I’m extremely thankful.

Life is made up of heartbreak. It is also made up of stress, struggle, and loss. We cannot escape life without having to make gut-wrenching life decisions.

We bear witness, either in person or via media, to the desperation of so many. We know there is so much more that humankind can do, and yet, we all get caught up in our own personal battles.

However, if we pay attention to the details, we see how our choices, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching and difficult at times, can become a catalyst in so many ways for the opening of paths, the exploration of opportunities, and the unyielding desire to fulfill our purpose that God has set before us.

I’m learning that adoption is more than just a means to become a parent. It is a life-lesson that continues to humble, refine, teach, and expand our resolve that life is more than a singular experience.

Through adoption, we see how our decisions and choices open life-saving, opportunity-giving, and love-healing paths for children. And, in many ways, it offers the same things for us.

Adoption will never be second best. It will never be a means to an end, or a final conclusion to infertility. No. It is so much more than that.

I do not know a lot, but this I do know:

Life, adoption, and that mingled mess in between, is breathtakingly incredible.

Grace is a Gift

Lost Hill Park

Yesterday, we took the kids out to local park to take some pictures.  I planned their outfits, made sure their faces were clean, and properly instructed them to not wipe anything (crumbs from their snack) on their shirts.  I am not a “photographer” at all, however, have a decent camera and every once in a while, I get lucky and capture a fantastic moment!

As we were walking along the trail and stopping to snap off some pictures, I tried to instruct them to look at me more often, not walk into the tall weeds, or stay on the trail, etc….but I do not think they were paying too much attention.  Their agenda was to have a good time while mine was to get some good photos of them.

We came across a partially dried up creek bed where we stopped to let the kids throw rocks in the water.  I said to them “Do not get in the water. If you step in the water you will fall.”  I took a quick picture of them and was preparing to take some more when my daughter took one step onto the slimy rock and down she goes.

right before the fall

Being the drama queen that she is, she screamed at the top of her lungs while partially soaked in water with the slime of algae on her.  The people walking on the trail were staring at us.  My son just continued to throw rocks into the water as if nothing happened.  My husband was laughing, although he was trying to hide it from me.  I quickly pulled my camera up, took a deep breath, and said “I told you that if you stepped in the water, you will fall down. We have to leave now.”  To be honest, I was fuming inside and did not see any of the humor my husband found in it!

This morning while thinking about our day yesterday, the Lord impressed this upon me.  “Caroline, how many times have I told you to step back from the edge?  How many times have you fallen, and stood up soaking with the slime of sin?” 

Wow – our Lord never fails to turn life into a lesson.  

He is the best example I have of being a parent who finds joy with my children even when things don’t go “my” way.  He is the forgiving parent who does not pack up and walk away.  He is the gracious parent who still wants to capture my moments of beauty despite the fact that I just wallowed in the mud.

Thank you, Lord, for reminding me that grace is truly one of the most important gifts a parent gives a child.

Kids

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

Road to Joplin

Day 2 with Joplin flag

This weekend I had the privilege of riding in a cycling event called the MS 150.  Every  year hundreds, if not a thousand or so cyclists make their way to a small town in southwest Missouri to complete a 150 mile bike ride.  This is done to bring attention and raise funds for Multiple Sclerosis.

This was my third year riding in this event.  I always seem to walk away from it with a great sense of accomplishment.  It is also quite humbling to be cheered on at the start line by people who live daily with MS.  This year, a woman with MS said to us, “When you get towards the last few miles and your legs are burning, just remember me saying Thank You.  Just remember that you are riding for many of us who cannot.”  Then, at the finish line, the same man every year, bound to his wheelchair, holds his hand out with a medal dangling from it.  As one reaches for his or her medal, the man gently says “thank you”.  It is quite humbling and I hope to ride in future 150’s.

This year though had even more of an impact on me, but for a different reason.  This is the first year that the ride took us back to Joplin, MO after the deadly tornado which claimed the lives of so many in May 2011.  Last year, the ride had to be rerouted and completely taken out of the Joplin area due to the devastation of the storm.  I had been there about a week or so after the tornado struck, and was silenced by what I had seen.  Cars with windshields blown out laying on top of each other, buildings that looked like they exploded by the force of a bomb, houses upon houses crumbled up like sticks, and trees stripped completely down to the bark.  It was shocking.  Just shocking.  The city I live in is close to Joplin and we are so lucky that the storm did not rumble its way towards us.

Although my work has taken me back to Joplin a few times, I usually do not drive through the area where the destruction took place.  This year, the MS committee planned the route specifically to take us through some of the path of the tornado.  Before I entered this area, my legs were screaming, my mind was off in some other place, there was pain tucked right in between my shoulders, and I was ready to be done.  I had been in the saddle for about seven hours, and my own “saddle” was telling me it was time to get off.

However, this changed when I entered the area where that beast of a storm stole normalcy from the lives of so many.  The few trees that survived were mangled.  Their bare branches looked like hands reaching towards the heavens in desperation.  Others bent over, all leaning to one side; yet, fresh green leaves bushed out from whatever spot they could find.

As I got closer to the eerily flattened area where houses once stood, I thought about the families and children who once lived there.  I imagined kickball being played in the streets, children swinging from swing sets, families walking their pet dogs or washing their cars.  All of this wiped clean.  Sure, there were new houses being built and definitely the vision of new growth could be seen, but I just kept thinking about how much destruction took place on those grounds.  The names of streets had been painted on the roads.  The ground was completely stripped of grass. There were partially crumbled buildings still being torn down.  It just went on and on.

As I drew nearer to the “end” of the destruction zone, I became overwhelmed with emotion.  I thought about the mothers who lost their babies, the babies who lost their daddies and mommies, and all the others who never woke again on this Earth to see the sun rise.  All I could think was “so much destruction, so much despair.”

But there in that moment on my bike with nothing but my own thoughts, I realized, or at least was reminded, that the Lord is not a god of destruction.  He is not a god of devastation.  He is not a god of despair.  He is the God of regrowth, rebirth, restoration, and life.  He lifts up our heads.  He carries us through the storms.  He gives us life.

The next morning as 800 or cyclists gathered around to start day two of the cycling event, small Joplin flags were handed out to each of us.  We placed them in our helmets, on our bikes, or held them in our hands as we rode through part of what was named “Memorial Miles”.  With just the sound of wind, the breathing of fellow riders, and the hissing-like noises from spinning our wheels, we rode in silence in honor of those killed by the Joplin tornado and in honor of the courage it has taken for the city to rebuild.

This year the road to Joplin became more than just a cycling event that I love to participate in.  Yes, it was done in an effort to support those struggling with Multiple Sclerosis.  However, I left the event with Joplin on my mind.  This weekend turned into a reminder of the blessing of health, of love, of family, of home, and of our incredible Heavenly Father who restores, renews, and leads us to Life.

Hello, World!

Hello, World!  My name is Caroline. I’m 40, married with children, and barren.  There, I said it.  I’m barren.  I’ve known nearly my entire life that I would never have children.  A devastating illness almost succeeded in taking me out of this world at the age of eleven.  The only way to save me was to remove my uterus, right Fallopian tube, and right ovary.  These organs had been ravaged by a bacterial infection – or more like invasion.  I am the youngest female known to have had a hysterectomy.  Then, at age 20 my left ovary was removed due to a cyst.

One may wonder why in the world I would consider myself to be blessed.  Well, I did not always feel this way.  Heartache, isolation, gut-wrenching grief, and confusion lurked within, behind, and around me nearly every stage of my life.  I dealt with infertility as a child, teen, and adult, but then, this funny thing started to happen.  As I drew closer to my Lord, the shadow of my surgery seemed to be just that; a shadow.  Grace was changing me.

In 2006, my husband and I became foster parents.  We fostered for about four years and were able to adopt our two foster children.  They are now 3 ½ years old and 5 ½ years old.  Many things have been revealed to me during these past few years…well, maybe the past 29 years since the surgery.  One thing I do know is that love is a miracle – pure and simple. 

Love knows no boundaries, no genetic markers, no birthing, and no bloodlines.  Love takes hold of opportunities and transforms them into beauty.

I still get the sense that there is great shame and silence with infertility.  There should not be.  Too many suffer in silence while people offer their two-cents worth on what to do about not being able to have a child.

I have gone from barren to blessed, silent to singing, and loathing to laughing.  Happiness is possible in the world of infertility.  I’m not ashamed.  I’m not desolate.

Hello, World!  I’m barren and blessed!  

I found my purpose in it and hope to share it with you through this blog.