‘Tis the Best Gift We Can Offer {a few lessons from reading home studies}

A part of my job is to read home studies for prospective foster and adoptive families. I have probably read somewhere in the thousands of studies. Although each one has a unique perspective on life and various layers of the human story, there are a few themes that run with each one.
 
1) People do not recall the “things” they were given as children. Instead, they remember vacations, family game nights, traditions, meals around the table, going to their grandparents’ house for family gatherings, feeling loved and knowing they are wanted.
2) People recognize that chores were good for them. Some had way too much put on their plates, while others did not have enough. Because of both experiences, the importance of appropriate chores is appreciated.
3) People recall the tempers of their parents and the fighting that occurs. Looking back on their childhoods, they are able to talk with detail about how fighting between their parents affected them and in some way, affects their current relationships – both in a good way and a bad way.
4) There is usually at least one solid adult who meant the world to them. For some, it was their mom. For others, their dad. For several, it was a relative or neighbor who mentored and loved on them when they needed it.
5) Children, who are not allowed to freely express their emotions, remember it as adults. They recall feeling stifled by not being able to show anger or being fearful if they showed anger.
6) Even in the worst home situations, most people walk away with a set of values taught to them. They can tell the difference between authentic values and false living.
7) Most people are forgiving towards their parents. Even as adults, people tend to still crave a decent, healthy relationship with their parents.
 
Reading home studies can be quite tedious. Interesting, but tedious. Each time I read one, I’m like, “Oh…yeah. I totally could be handling that issue better” or “Man, wish I could be as wholesome and loving as that mom.” Needless to say, reading the stories of others can be quite humbling!
 
However, with each study (basically a story) that I read, I am reminded that none of us are perfect. We each have our own insecurities, challenges, talents and imperfections. What is important in life is that we connect with our children, we give them experiences, and we never abandon or pull away from them.
 
Just a few reminders as we head straight into Christmas. Children will not remember each gift they open on Christmas morning, but they will remember us and the love we give.
‘Tis the best gift we can offer.

5 Things I Would Tell My “(pre)Adoptive Mother Self”

November is National Adoption Month in the US.  We set aside this month to focus on adoption stories as well as the plight of many children waiting for families.  I’ve been an “official” adoptive parent now for a little over ten years.  We’ve stretched out of our comfort zone, dealt with issues that we never thought we would face, and we’ve laughed…a lot.

Even on the hardest days – the ones where we have really struggled – my husband and I do not regret our decision to adopt our children.  We would have missed so many precious moments.

Ones like this, 20180607_144153_Film1 (1)

Or, this one…

20180815_083205_Film1 (1).jpg

Thinking back to my “(pre)adoptive mother self”, I totally wish I could say that I was 100% prepared for parenting – not just parenting in general, but adoptive parenting.  I know that there are many similarities, but I also know there are many differences.

If could go back, here are a few things I would tell myself:

  1. When the gavel falls and adoption is declared, that is when the real work begins.  Meaning, adoption can get much harder.  Sure, there are difficulties getting to the place where you are on the eve of adoption, but oh boy, all of the trials we experienced during that time seem kind of trivial compared to some of the issues we now face on any given day.
  2. Don’t take it personally.  There is a special kind of guilt that seems to tag along with adoptive parenting.  It is hard to not take things personally when you witness your child struggling or when your child says things to you that take your breath away (I’m not talking about the sweet statements, although there has been some of those).  When you work tirelessly advocating for and managing your child’s life to the point of not being able to capture just a glimpse of forward movement, it is hard to not take it personally.  Just don’t.  Or, at least, try not to.
  3. Listen.  Like, REALLY listen to others who have walked in the shoes you are about to walk in.  Learn what you can about trauma (in the womb and out).  Be prepared to have a host of professionals in your life (doctors, specialists, teachers, therapists, etc).  Definitely advocate and ask questions but also choose to listen and learn.  It will serve you well.
  4. It is not going to feel good all of the time.  The reality is that parenting (of any type) can break your heart from time-to-time.  With adoptive parenting, the things that break your heart tend to be ones that you really do not fully comprehend and certainly cannot control.  I’m talking about genetic issues that come into play as the years go on.  I’m speaking of the damage done in the womb that is hard to explain to someone.  I’m thinking of the challenges that you never faced growing up but now dwell in your home because your children face them.  Nope.  It does not feel good all of the time.
  5. No matter what, don’t give up and don’t you dare second-guess your importance in the life of your children.  Don’t do it.  Never do it.  Your kids need you.  They don’t need another set of parents to not come through.  It will get rough.  You will think, “Am I really being the best parent I can be?  What if I didn’t answer that question the way my child needed me to?  Maybe, I’m the problem?  What if I tried a little harder?”  These questions have circulated in my mind a lot through the years.  They are made up of guilt mixed in with a sliver of grief.  Just don’t go there.

Looking back to my “(pre)adoptive mother self”, I totally thought I was prepared for all of this.  I thought I had a grasp of trauma-informed parenting, adoption issues, loss and grief, and a whole host of behavioral issues.  I totally was not.  I can’t even pretend that I was.

Yet, would I do it all again?  Absolutely.

Can I imagine a life without my children?  No way.

Without (foster parenting) and adoption, I could have missed this:

20171227_114332 - Copy.jpg

 

 

 

6 Lessons I’ve Learned From My Beautiful Children

I wrote an article for Adoption.Com recently regarding the lessons I’ve learned from my children.  It seems that as each year unfolds, I find myself learning more and more about children, adoptive parenting, parenthood (in general) and myself.  Thank, goodness!

1. Children have the desire and right to know where they came from. Adoption is a part of our language. Despite the openness or maybe because of it, our children feel comfortable about asking us questions. They know we may not have all the answers, but we welcome their questions. My kids taught me that history is important, and it is okay (more than okay) to want to seek it and understand it.

2. Children don’t expect perfection. They yearn for presence. I have found myself comparing the parenting of others to my own. I have carried guilt and grief over not showing my best side all the time to the kids. The truth is that my children do not expect the “best of me” all the time.  Instead, they just need “all of me”—my time, my love and my presence.

3. Resilience matters. My children did not have the best start at life. They each suffered less-than-ideal womb experiences (and describing it that way is being gracious). They each have struggled in various settings, socially and academically. We have had multiple specialists, medication regimes, and evaluations. Despite a few odds being against them, they are all incredibly fierce in their own ways. My children have shown me resilience, and I do my best to show it to them as well.

4. Love is greater than biology. I know that seems like a no-brainer, and if you are a parent through adoption or provide foster care, you live in this truth. It is hard to fully explain to people, who question the ability to love a child not born of them, how deep and true loving an adopted child is. Sure, there are areas and kinks that must be worked out. There might be lots of behavior problems and attachment issues, but sometimes, these things only deepen the feeling of love and protection. I have experienced this and continue to do so as my children get older.

5. Parenting does not have a one-size-fits-all standard. In our family, we allow certain things to fly. Our schedule is different. We are stricter about bedtime than other parents we know. We must advocate in a different way per the needs of our children, and we discipline in ways that others may not understand. It is not wrong, and it may not be completely right, but it is what our children need.

6. Adoption is a humbling experience. The statement, “Those kids are lucky to have you” often stops me in my tracks. Sure, they are safe, and we do our best to provide them stability and love, but I do not consider what they have experienced in their lives to be lucky. Instead, the reasons they needed adoption are heartbreaking. I know that while my husband and I strive to be the kind of parents our kids need, we will never be able to replace who their biological parents are, nor do we want to. So, yes. Adoption is humbling.

For the full article, click this link:   https://adoption.com/6-lessons-learned-from-beautiful-children

Blessings,

Caroline

Lessons Learned Growing Up Barren

In the late summer of 1983, I became gravely ill and ended up needing an emergency hysterectomy. I was just eleven-years-old, and did not fully understand the implications of this type of surgery.  That fateful moment in time changed my life in a drastic way.  Infertility became the shadow to which I danced around, but could never get away from.  Going through this experience taught me some vital life lessons that are translatable to other aspects of life.

Lesson #1 – You really cannot understand what someone has been through unless you have truly walked in his or her shoes. Unfortunately, I learned this vicariously through the things that people would say to my parents after my surgery. For example, my mom returned to her job at a local retail store after being gone for several weeks to care for my needs. A co-worker said to her, “Well, at least you don’t have to worry about her getting pregnant as a teenager.” My mother bit her tongue and kept on working, but I know these words stayed with her for many years. The woman would have been better off by either not saying anything, or letting my mom express her feelings about what just happened to her daughter.

I think about this often, and use this lesson to remind myself that I never really know what someone else has been through. It also reminds me that everyone has a back-story to life.  We live in a world of comparison.  We live in a world that expects nothing but the best.  Behind comparison and ideals are the battles that we all face. Everyone has a story.  Let us not forget that.

Lesson #2 – Infertility is a topic that most people avoid. I was always so amazed at how very little my circumstance in life was talked about. Even medical professionals would ask why I had a hysterectomy, but then the conversation would fall off or end with the statement, “You can always adopt.”   I learned that the whole subject made people very uncomfortable, and in many ways, it still makes people uncomfortable.  In particular, churches do not offer enough support for church-goers who are deeply struggling with God’s plan for their parenthood.

Within the past few years, there has been an increase in public awareness about infertility. Thousands of bloggers hit their keyboards noting their very painful and poignant journey to become parents. They seek comfort from strangers while feeling completely isolated from those closest to them. My advice after living with barrenness for thirty years is to talk about it with anyone who is able and willing to listen. There is nothing to be ashamed of, so unload your secret struggle on those who will provide you authentic support.

Lesson #3 – Adoption and infertility are two separate experiences.  We need to stop blending them together.  People used to give me advice on how to handle infertility. Most of the time, they ended up talking about adoption. I never understood the equation of woman minus being able to get pregnant equals adoption. It is true that a lot of couples who are unable to have biological children seek and become adoptive parents.

I, too, am a mother through adoption, but my adoptions do not represent my infertility; nor do they erase the grief I experienced through the years.  On the flip side, barrenness does not damper my experience as a mother.  If anything, it may just enhance and enrich it.  My hope is that society gets to a place where we recognize the authentic and deeply wounding loss of infertility, AND, that we can see adoption as a separate and remarkable experience – not just a band-aid for infertility.

Lesson #4 – Traumatic events that take place in childhood can linger throughout adulthood, but they do not define who you are. Trauma, whether through abuse, loss of significant person in life, or serious medical illnesses such as mine, stays with a person for the rest of life.  The flashes of memories while in the hospital, and recovering at home still play in my mind. The reality of the great loss that I suffered has never really gone away, and it probably won’t. I keep it tucked away in a corner of my heart.

I suspect most of us who have gone through traumatic events remember a life in the “before and after”.  Yet, (and this was a very important life lesson I learned) my surgery did not define who I was, and it certainly did not declare my future.  I encourage anyone who is going through a traumatic experience to please remember that what you are going through does not make up who you are.  It impacts you.  It changes you.  It even sculpts you in a way that is a little different from who you were, but, it does not constitute the rest of your life.  Do not give it that much power. Cling on to who you were before sadness visited your life, and celebrate who you will be in the future.

Lesson #5- Infertility is both an emotional and spiritual battle.  It is hard, sometimes, for me to express just how much of a spiritual and emotional battle that I have walked through the years.  Before I became a Mommy, I dealt with deep loss and confusion about what God’s will in my life was.  I wondered why I was born a woman if I could not give the world what is considered to be one of the most precious gifts.  I’m not sure if people fully understand what having a hysterectomy means to a female; especially one like myself who had the surgery at a time when every other girl I knew was having a period.

From a spiritual sense, I thought that God must have never wanted me to be a mother.  I was taught to trust His will, but when it came to being a mother, I often questioned why the will of God would include infertility.  Looking back at the years long ago, I know that I was battling a spiritual battle,

I thought for many years that I deserved what happened, and that somehow the Lord must have known that I would make a terrible mother.  I figured that I must not be capable of caring for a child, or that for some reason, I was being punished by the sins of those before me.  Hear me when I say this – these thoughts were real, all-encompassing, and took a long time to heal from.

While I went about being a typical teenager, twenty-something, and young adult, I battled the silent war of my own emotions and sense of spiritual longing.  I know many others who are battling this secret war behind closed doors, and through unseen tears.  It is a very real.

Lesson #6- Women complain about pregnancy….a lot.  Now, I don’t mean any disrespect by this, and I’m sure that at times, pregnancy is extremely uncomfortable.  Please remember though that while you are complaining about swollen feet, hot flashes, and back pain, there might just be a woman around you who feels a twinge of pain with each of your words.

There is nothing more uncomfortable for an infertile woman than being around a pregnant person.  Again, I mean no offense by this.  Do you understand what it means to not carry a child?  Do you understand that it is a deep longing that may never be fulfilled?  If so, then please, stop complaining about pregnancy.  I know it is uncomfortable, but at the same time, it is miraculous, beautiful, and incredible. Please treasure the nine months, and understand that there are millions (literally millions) who would trade places with you in an instant.

Lesson #7 – Life is unpredictable, but our reactions are not.  Life tends to throw us curve balls.  I was born a healthy baby girl and within eleven years, I underwent a hysterectomy.  I became the youngest female known to have this surgery.  This was the absolute last thing my parents would ever expect when raising me.  Honestly, it is the last thing probably any parent of a school-aged girl would think.

It took many years, and there were pitfalls, but eventually, life got back to normal. My parents raged in silence, and grieved even more, but they continued to show me a sense of stability and hope for the future.  Their reactions were what I expected – steady, loving, and what I needed.

Initially, when we are struck by incredibly traumatic events in life, we may falter a bit. Our knees may buckle.  We may feel like curling up in a ball, and wishing the world away.  After some time though, we can choose to get back up.  We can choose to react in a way that shows the world what we are made of, and better yet, where our faith is in our lives.  This a life-lesson that stayed with me.

Lesson #8- Hope is one of the most powerful human actions.  I always wondered with an excitement, and even a little bit of fear, what the Lord had in store for my life.  I remember thinking that maybe I could adopt some day, but, I really did not understand it at all.  I just knew that eventually life would make sense. Eventually, even if in Heaven, I would come to know the reason why all of this nonsense took place.  Eventually, I would know the answer to what my hope clung to.  And, do you want to know something?  I have found that answer in a two brown-eyed boys, and one blue-eyed girl.

Whatever you are going through in life right now, please do not give up hope. Hope is the confirmation that you declare a brighter future.  It truly is an incredibly powerful human experience.  It is one that has set many people free.

Lesson #9- Conception and birth are miracles, but the greatest miracle in life is love.  I knew that there was something quite special that I would miss out on. I knew that giving birth to a baby was a precious and vital part of being a woman, and that this had been tragically taken from me.

I also remember thinking at age twelve that birth is miraculous, but love is even more miraculous.  I found myself immediately defending love as being the most important miracle in life.  Without love, life would cease to exist, or at least the life that we all know.

Love causes us to be moved in ways that require selflessness.  It asks us to participate in moments that we otherwise might avoid.  It calls us to be the one person that makes a difference in another’s life.  It pulls us out of empty places, and commands us to re-position ourselves to the benefit of someone else.

This lesson of love helped me to survive the battle of barrenness.  I knew that one day, I would be able to pass on the love I received from my parents.  Out of love grew the desire of my heart to become a foster parent, to show kindness to my children’s birth parents, and to adopt.  And, it was love that called me back to my faith.

Love is truly the greatest miracle of all.  Love replaces barrenness.

Lesson #10- God is faithful.  I look around my house now as it is over-run by children’s toys, and pictures of smiling kiddos.  I enter into my children’s rooms while they sleep and see the love that lies before me.  I get up each morning to the sounds of needy and active children.  I feel frustration over their messes, bad choices, and just plain hardship of being a parent.  I cry at their successes, and their struggles.  I live life thinking about how I can make their lives better.

I look at life now as a mother and believe wholeheartedly that the God I believe in is faithful.  Of all the lessons I have learned in this unique walkabout, this lesson is the one that I cling to the most.  It is the one that delivers me from whatever hardship I am going through, and it is the one that my soul is able to rest on for the future.

These are the life lessons learned while growing up barren.  These lessons are ones that molded a life that went from barren to blessed.  These lessons are ones that have added depth to my Earthly experience.

In many ways, perhaps, I was not so barren after all.

The Egg of Grace

photo (58)
do you see the word grace?

We dyed eggs this weekend with our children like we usually do on the eve of Easter.  I wanted to add an element of learning about our faith in Christ during this Easter tradition.  After boiling the eggs, I took a white crayon and wrote words on them in hope that when the eggs got dipped into the dye, the words would appear.  Thanks to Charity at WatMattersMost blog for her wonderful ideas about incorporating our faith into Easter activities for children.

I chose the words justice, love, helping, forgiveness, kindness, hope, freedom, faith, humility, mercy, patience, and grace.  These words, in my opinion, are all characteristics of how Christians should walk in this world.  They are also characteristics of Jesus, and the words He spoke.  My plan was to talk about each word after we were finished.  My hope was for the kids to walk away not only with colorful fingertips from dying eggs, but also with little nuggets of wisdom tucked away.

Well, this momma’s plan didn’t exactly work the way I wanted it to.  I messed up by writing the words when the eggs were a little too hot.  One by one, as the eggs were pulled out of the dye, white blotches appeared.  It looked more like bleach spots instead of formed words showing up.  My kids were saying things like, “What is that?!”  They didn’t seem to mind and quickly moved on to the next egg. I was a bit frustrated and already figured out a plan of correction for next Easter.

As my son pulled another egg out of the green dye, the word began to form a little clearer than the others.  One might not be able to make it out, but since I wrote the words, I immediately recognized the word grace.  “What’s that say?”, asked my son.  I answered, “It says grace.”  He gave me a puzzled look and moved on to the next egg.

I didn’t have the words at the time to tell my children what grace means.  I was flustered from the whole project being awash, so I just let it go.  As I started to put the eggs up, I couldn’t help but notice that eleven of the dozen eggs were a mess. The only one that was clear enough to form a word was the egg of grace.

Immediately, I began thinking that life is just one big mess up over and over again, and yet, God’s grace is always present.  Grace cleans up my messes.  Grace doesn’t hold a grudge, and grace doesn’t change.  I also thought about how often I fail at showing more grace to my children for their messes.

As I was tucking my son into bed, I asked him, “Do you remember the egg that had grace written on it?”  He said, “Yes.”  I said, “The other eggs had messed up words on them.  We mess up in life and make mistakes, but God offers grace to us.  God doesn’t get mad when we mess up.”  I went on to tell him that we are to offer grace to others when they make mistakes or upset us.  I kissed him goodnight, and walked out of the room.

I learned from this that I should never disallow a lesson that the Lord is placing in front of me.  I should never assume that I messed up so bad that nothing can come from it.  I also learned that my offering of grace needs to supersede what I expect to be offered from others.

There are messes all around me, within me, and because of me.  Most of all, I was reminded that when it seems that nothing good comes from mistakes, and that things are just too messed up to be worth anything, grace appears.

“I Can Do It Myself!”

When I was around 3-years-old, my mom recalls that my first day at preschool started with me jerking loose of her hand, boldly stating “I can do it myself!”, walking down the stairs, opening the door, and heading right into the preschool.  I’m sure she stood there for a moment just a little speechless and saddened that her baby didn’t need help moving on to the next little adventure in life.

I am now parenting an extremely stubborn and strong-willed 4-year-old daughter who absolutely feels the need to do all tasks by herself, even the ones that cause her frustration.  As her parent, I look on with impatience as she tries to tie her shoes.  I know the end result will not be what she wants, but nevertheless, she attempts the same thing time and time again.  In the end, she gives up, crying, throwing her hands up, and states “Can you just do it for me?”  Even walking into the dance studio, she looked at me and said, “Okay mommy, you can go in, pay the bill, and then leave.  I don’t want you walking me in.”  Oh my!

Often, I tend to get frustrated with my children’s ever-present and willful streak of independence.  Both of my children are fearless, very social, impulsive, and will walk any boundary line we set with one foot hanging over the edge.  While my husband and I have learned to adjust to parenting two children who are boundary pushers, we have also learned that life with strong-willed children can be very exciting.

There are very few dull moments in our lives.  Our children are not really shy about trying anything, and can usually create a buzz of energy just about anywhere they go.  Sometimes, though, we worry about just how far our children will push boundaries throughout their lives.  We want them to make choices that are safe and healthy, and yet, we do not want to break their spirits.  We also know that life lessons are mostly made by mistakes, “do-overs” can be quite humbling, and natural consequences often teach more than any of the words we can use.

Thinking about the challenges we face as parents causes me to wonder how the Lord must feel when we cross the boundaries He so desires us to stay clear of.  He too watches as we push to try to do everything ourselves, live with one foot hanging over the edge, and attempt to do the same thing OUR way even though we usually end in failure, frustration, and heart-break.  While I have thrown my hands up in moments of parenting frustration thinking, “Why are they doing this?!?!”, He has thought the same thing about me.

Our ways of telling the Lord, “I can do it myself” are ones that potentially could be quite destructive.  I think of thoughts and words that have been whispered off the lips of people such as, “I can quit drugs anytime I want”, or “I know how to fix this marriage”,  or “I’ll let go of that issue when I’m ready”, or “I doubt my future will be worth anything”.  For me, it was thoughts like “God really must never want me to be a parent”, and other musings that coursed through my mind.  In other words, I was thinking “Lord, I don’t trust that You have my barrenness in Your hands.”

I am so thankful that the Lord allows natural consequences, do-overs, and mistakes to mold us.  His words teach us how to live, but more importantly, how to love.  I am also grateful that He continuously loves His stubborn children despite our attempts to turn away and not listen.

Mostly though, I remember that when He threw His hands up in the air because of us, they were nailed to a tree.  This act was not done out of frustration, but of intense love.  My salvation is not something I can do myself.

 Then said Jesus, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And they parted his clothing, and cast lots.  –Luke 23:34 

Waiting on God

photo (32)I prayed today for concrete answers to multiple situations going on in my life of which I’m trying to keep my anxiety level to a minimal.  I asked told the Lord to let today be the day that I got ALL of the answers I needed to hear.  Quite selfish, I know, but I’ve been a little overwhelmed lately with all of the “stuff” going on in life.

The stuff I’m referring to consists of (1) wanting an answer for something I’ve been working on for years, and feeling so close to getting, and, (2) needing to hear with clarity what the Lord intends to do with a situation involving a family member.  In the middle of these things lies my normally busy life consisting of children, work, and a home to tend to.  If the truth were told, I would eliminate the work part and focus on the home and family; thus, leading me back to wanting answers!

Even as I write this, I’m daydreaming a little about it all.  As the day grew into evening, I did not receive that phone call or that email with an answer.  I did not receive a letter or phone call telling me what the next steps will be regarding a family member.  The Lord did not break through the clouds declaring the answers I am yearning to hear.  However, as the day went on, I started to realize that He has waited on me multiple times throughout my life, and will continue to as long as I am breathing Earthly air.

He’s waited on me to open the Word instead of opening my Facebook page. He’s waited on me to have a heart pursuing Him with the same passion that I have pursued others and things of this world.  He’s waited on me to write that check in full faith the He will use it for good; instead of writing a check for something temporary that I desired.

He’s waited on me to relinquish my fear of the unknown, and let Him lead my life. He’s waited on me to understand infertility as a part of my life story, so that He could unfold the script.  He’s waited on me to give the same amount of grace for the indiscretions of others that He’s given me.  He still waits on me to let His peace be the answer I need until He moves the mountain that seems insurmountable, or opens the door to the next step in my life.

Today I found myself thinking, “I’m just waiting on God for answers.”  In essence, though, the Lord answered my prayer today.  He answered it with the vision of those times where I’m sure He stood quietly waiting.  He answered it with the sobering remembrance of those moments in my life where I refused to listen.  He answered it with the knowledge that I know is true – He is the keeper of my past, the shepherd of my present, and the lantern for my future.

He answered it with, “Be still and know that I am God.”

your words, His action

Have you ever been in a situation that you thought was somewhat insignificant, but ended up finding out that it was quite significant to someone else?  I have, and I would like to share it with you.

At the age of twenty, the doctor discovered a Dermoid cyst on my left ovary.  My left ovary had barely escaped the bacterial invasion that caused my hysterectomy at age eleven.  It was somewhat risky to leave the ovary in my body because of the rapid pace the bacterial infection was spreading, but the doctors decided it was worth the risk.

This ovary became the one thing in my mind that “kept” me female.  I know that is quite ridiculous now to say that, but I was so young when all of this nonsense happened.  Even at the age of twenty, I struggled with making sense of my “female-hood”.  By the time the cyst was found, it was too late.  My survivor ovary could not survive any longer.  The decision was made to remove it.

The surgery was scheduled to happen on my 20th birthday.  Yes,I lost an ovary on my 20th birthday!  Before I go any further though, I should explain that I am not exactly a great candidate for laparoscopic surgery.  Let’s just say that my insides are a little jumbled around and there is a tremendous amount of scar tissue.  All of my major surgeries have been done the “old-fashioned way”; meaning, cutting right down the middle of my abdomen.  This surgery to remove my ovary was not any different, so naturally there was a lot of prep work that had to occur before the surgery.

I was admitted to the hospital in the evening and stayed up most of the night before my surgery talking with my roommate.  She had her gall bladder removed and was in a great deal of pain.  I could not see her as the curtain was pulled the entire time.  We were both on pain medication, but talked about our medical histories and thoughts about life in general.  Of course, my medical history was a little more colorful than hers.  The next morning, she was gone before I got a chance to see her.

About three years later, when walking out of a college class with another student, the topic of my surgery came up.  I do not even know why the surgery came up, except maybe to explain my absence from classes.  Partly through my explanation of what all had happened, she stopped dead in her tracks, turned to face me, grabbed my arms, and said, “Caroline, You are the one.”

She went on to explain that her very good friend had her gall bladder removed and was feeling depressed and sorry for herself.  A young woman was admitted to the bed beside her.  Her friend shared that this young woman had been through so much and was still trying to be positive about health and life.  She never got the chance to see what this person looked like, but strongly felt the young lady was put in her room for a reason, and that reason was to help bring her out of the self-loathing slump she had been in.

That young woman was me.  I do not take credit for any of this.  I really do not even remember my exact words said to her or what all I may have shared.  Instead, I believe that the Lord placed me there at the right time and in the right circumstance to bring comfort to someone else.  The credit belongs to Him.

I decided to share this because of the potential impact all of us can make in the lives of others.  What may seem as insignificant events or simple conversations might just end up being exactly the things that someone needs to hear or witness.  We are all witnesses of a loving Heavenly Father.  He is able to use all of us to share hope, love, and our lives in a way that will glorify Him and help raise up humanity.

So, next time you think that conversation you had with the person standing behind you in the grocery line did not mean anything, think again.  You never know how the Lord will use your words to lay out His action to reach someone else.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. – Psalm 19:14

Kids

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

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