The Gift of This Day

photo (36)Following a day that has shaken most of us, my husband and I decided to get the kids out of the house and visit the local nature center. We are trying to keep the news channels off our television, and to shield the little ears in our home from hearing about the tragedy that took place in Connecticut.  To be honest, we both can barely keep it together when thinking about the precious six and seven-year-old boys and girls whose lives were taken.  All of the children who died were born in 2005 and 2006.

Our son was born in 2006.  He thoroughly enjoys Kindergarten, and is learning so much.  He doesn’t know a stranger and says “hi” to every student and teacher he passes by.  Our walk in to the school building every day has become a ritual of sorts.  I thought about stopping this and letting him off at the door to save time, but after yesterday, I will continue to walk him into the classroom, say hello to his teachers and friends, hug him, tell him that I love him and to have a “blue” day (color card incentive for good choices), and walk back out greeting people along the way.

My husband and I cannot really talk about the school shooting without getting tearful.  The thought of losing a child; especially in such a violent way, is so unbearable.  The lesson that I was reminded of yesterday is not to take any moment for granted and to love our children for the incredible gifts that they are.

photo (40)As the day turned into evening, we baked up a batch of gingerbread cookies for the kids to decorate.  The smell of sugary comfort filled our home while our children gleefully awaited for the cookies to be done.  During this time, I was reminded again of the stark difference between what my day involved and what this day must have been like for the grieving parents, siblings, friends, and grandparents who all lost loved ones, and the sense of security they once had.

I know as the days go on, our family will go about our business of staying busy, gearing up for Christmas, and creating new memories.  I also know that we will get to a place where we can talk about the school shooting without getting tearful.  We will be able to discuss rationally (at least in our home) the pro’s and con’s of gun laws in our country.  I know we will return to a sense of normal.  For today though, I’m choosing to cherish the laughter I hear from the living room, the off-key singing of a boy in a bathtub, and the gift of this day with my children.

Every good and perfect gift is from above… – James 1:17

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

Writing My Story

A few years ago I felt the urge to write.  It seemed as though the Lord was telling me to write my story down; although, I had no clue how to start the process.  The last writing class I took was in 1992 or so when I was in college.  My friend knew my desire, or perhaps the Lord’s calling on my heart, to start writing so she bought me some journals.  I carried them everywhere and would write down different thoughts or words that sparked my memories or pertained to my history.  I even used my iPhone to record thoughts that came to me when writing was not possible.  Gotta love technology!

I had no idea as to where this project was going or if there was really anything important to say.  The fact is that everyone has a story.  All of us have a uniquely designed existence that is of no greater matter or significance than the other.  We are all significant in the eyes of the Lord.  I personally feel that the most inspiring stories are those told from people who come from the most humble situations.

As I started writing, it felt as though my heart and my mind were pricked.  Suddenly, there was this release of all of the captive moments, long forgotten thoughts, and stifled persuasions that I had carried around for nearly my entire life; or at least, my life after age eleven.  Words were pouring out of me that brought me to tears.

Soon, I turned to my computer to start writing.  I craved it.  Early mornings and late evenings were often accompanied by the patter of my fingertips on the keyboard as I delved into my solitary world of infertility.  I had to reach out to others during this time for feedback, their memories of my story, and just plain old support.  However, for the most part, it was me, my computer, my memories, and the Lord’s prodding.

I finished the manuscript within a few months.  Once I started writing, I could not stop until I got it all out.  I grieved for the child I was who became so ill.  I fretted for the teenager who, despite seeming and acting like every other teen girl, held within her dark glimpses of despair.  I felt the anger of a young woman in her twenties who was torn between wondering if her future career would be her “baby” or if she was ever going to have a baby to call her own.  I celebrated the woman who ran to the Lord after years of ignoring Him.  Lastly, I shed tears of joy for the foster-mother whose life was impacted for the better by the humbling refinement that is foster care and adoption.

I still have the manuscript on my computer.  I do not know where it is going or what it is supposed to be.  That is okay though.  There is great cleansing in writing one’s life story even if no one reads it.  Writing my story down has brought about a desire to continue to bring to life the words my heart feels but often my lips cannot form.  Writing my story has also revealed the incredible essence of survival, faith, mercy, grace, and hope.

I would like to share an excerpt from it if you don’t mind.  I have already inserted a few lines  from the manuscript from time to time into previous blog posts.  Even though this is just a glimpse, I welcome any comments.  I may share more as I feel the need…

I do not remember much about the week I was in the hospital prior to the doctors discovering what was ravaging my body.  My memories are more like flashing images from a movie.  I do however remember waking up at one point with my dad and a doctor looking over me.  My dad simply and courageously stated “You can always make love, but you will never be able to have children.”  Or, did he say that?  I remember hearing it, but not sure if it was said to me or about me.  Nevertheless, in my hazy mind, I tried to comprehend what he was saying.  Make love?  What does that mean?  I had not even kissed a boy yet.  Have children? It really had not crossed my mind much.  But, I heard him loud and clear.  I knew something big had happened.  This event that occurred forever changed who I was and the path my life would take.  There was not a choice – it was either my life or my organs.  Oh, the agony my parents were feeling.  What irony really…the organs with which life begins had nearly destroyed mine.  I was eleven years old, I had never had a period, and now I was forever infertile.  I had just been thrust in to the world of infertility.  Trapped in a little girl’s body was a pre-menopausal woman.

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.