Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

I talk to you often in the work I do.  I hear you say, “We want to hang in there”, or “We are doing the best we can”, and even, “I don’t know if I am up for this.”  I hear these words through your shaky, weakened voices.  But, what I really hear is you saying, “I don’t want to be another mother who disregards this child”, or “If I could, I would provide this child with every ounce of my being in order to heal him or her.”  I see you, Foster Mom.  I see you loving on that child who has stolen your heart while living in your home.

You are walking in very heavy shoes.  You are feeling as though your efforts are disregarded, don’t matter, don’t work, and will be forgotten about in the fleeting moments of a day.  I’m here to tell you, they are not disregarded. They do matter.  They work, and they will never be forgotten.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, you are one of the bravest mothers of all.  You’ve ventured into the murky waters of loving a child whose hurts seem like they could go on for an eternity.

You are a broken-hearted warrior.

You hear from others, “You are doing a good thing”, “I could never do what you do”, or “Your faith is bigger than this.”  While you hear these words of comfort and affirmation, your heart is screaming in that silent, lonely place of wondering if you really are doing a good thing, if you really should be doing what you are doing, and if your faith really is bigger than this.  You question where God is in all of the hurts put on children in His world.

You…dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child…long for rest.  You grasp for answers, and you pray for healing.  You get angry.  You wonder why any mother would neglect, be absent, abuse, or completely disregard her child. You wonder why you are left to pick up the pieces.

You want the Lord to step in, heal, and completely restore the broken child in your arms.  You cry and pray for this so often that it feels as though you can no longer find the words, or muster up the tears.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s child, you were once a broken child, too.  At one time, you were lost in a world of despair.  You needed to be picked up, cleaned off, and captured by a love so strong that the greatest army could not break it.

You were worth it. You were not forgotten.  You were brought out of the darkness, and into the cleansing light.  

YOU were meant to make a difference in the world.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,  please do not give up.  You are the backbone to so many forgotten children.  You are a living example of an unconditional, incomparable type of love that is a rarity in the world we find ourselves in.

You will get hurt.  You will have many sleepless nights.  You will have some doubts, regrets, and desires for do-overs.  You will be exhausted and you will get angry.  You may even be ignored.

But….

Your Father in Heaven sees your actions.  He sits with you in the midnight hours when the stranger’s child is raging.  He is with you when you walk out of court rooms or meetings still not knowing what the future holds for the child in your care.  He hears your pleas and sings over you in your fretful night’s sleep.

Dear (foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child, do you want to know why you are probably the most important mother in this world?

Perhaps someday, the child you are loving on, praying for, staying up all night with, advocating for, crying over, taking in or letting go, will grow up to be a (foster) Momma (or even a Daddy) of a Stranger’s Child.

Isn’t that worth it all?

My children, I promise…

photo (37)My children, I am not a perfect mother.  Some days, I’m not even a good-enough mother.  I cannot promise you that I won’t lose my temper or get disappointed at times.  I cannot promise you that I will have all of the answers, save you from any pain, and agree with your choices.  I cannot promise you that I will be walking here on this Earth with you for all of your days.  I won’t promise you these things either.

The commitment made by my own mother to me while growing up, and even today, has spilled over into your lives as well.  Through her, I witnessed what it was like to put someone else before one’s own needs.  Through her, I learned that children should hear that their dreams can come true with hard work and heart.  Through her, I learned to not allow one’s circumstances dictate one’s future.  Through her, I learned that it is okay to not have all the answers, and that someday the answers might just be found.  Through her, I learned to not walk away from commitments and family.

My children, I promise you that my overwhelming love for you will stay with me until my last breath.  My protective instincts will linger throughout your growing-up years, and even while you too are feeling the instinct to protect your little ones.  I promise you that I will try my very best to take care of myself so that our days will be long together.  My desire to put your needs above mine, to sacrifice, to provide, to want more for you, to imagine better for you, to work harder for you, and to be your biggest cheerleader will not fade with time.  I will pray for the Lord’s protection over you.

Each day is a gift from the Lord that presents me with the opportunity to steadfastly work on this art that is called motherhood.  

My children, I may not be a perfect mother.  I may not even be a good-enough mother on some days…but….I’m your mother, and I will not walk away.  That is something I can promise.

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.

Raising Royal Kids

My son's version of a kid wearing a crown!
My son’s version of a kid wearing a crown!

Walking by the magazine aisle in the grocery story, I noticed a headline that claimed “Raising a Royal Baby”.  The article was apparently about the expectant royal couple William and Kate.  I thought how interesting, exciting, yet difficult it would be to raise a “royal” child.

All the eyes of the world would be on you.  If your children struggled with behavioral problems or other issues, what kind of attention would that draw?  The initial thought of being someone of royalty sounds quite intriguing, but, to be under the constant scrutiny would be tough.  Parenting is a hard enough job without having the eyes of the world watching your every move.

Tonight would not have been a good “parenting through the lens of the camera” moment for me.  Busy streets, long lines, and two very hyper, and slightly defiant, children pushing every boundary possible in the store, was enough to diminish the “merry-ness” of the last-minute Christmas shopping trip.  Thoughts of “I’m gonna wring their little necks!” ran through my mind all while I was smiling through my pseudo-calm words of “If you continue this behavior, we will have to leave the store.”

Reflecting back on the magazine cover I saw, it hit me that we are all raising royal children.  As a believer in Christ the King, I know my children are His.  This means that I am raising royal children!  What a wonderful, and challenging thought!

The next time I get a little….um….frustrated with my little ones while out and about, I need to remind myself that I am raising children of the King.  Now that should humble and refine me a bit!  That should remind me of the importance of striving to always grow as a parent, to learn more about what works and doesn’t work, and to remember that I too am a child of the King.

Give You the World – (re-posted with relevance)

The post I wrote earlier titled Yearning for Change was out of anger and anguish over what happened this past weekend in Connecticut.  It was also out of frustration as a professional in the field of social work who knows that those most often affected by cuts in budget are children and families.  After writing it, I was gently reminded that true change really does start at home.  Fathers and Mothers need to love their children.  Grandparents should, if possible, wrap their love around their families and provide support.  Parents should be building their children up, instead of tearing them down.  Parents just need to be parents.

I decided to re-post a piece I wrote for my children back in June.  Children are always on my mind – not just my children, but children of the world.  No child should ever go to bed wondering if he or she matters to this world.  Earlier in the week, I prayed to the Lord and cried out, “What are we doing to Your children, Father?!?”  I realized, though, that He who holds the stars, also holds our children.

This piece I wrote about in the post linked below is not just for my children, but for yours as well.  After this week, my desire penned months ago seems to have even more relevance.  If you wish, click on the link and read it.  Blessings to you and yours!

GIVE YOU THE WORLD

Beauty in the Complexity

Here is another insight I’ve discovered since becoming a parent through adoption:

Adoption is extremely complex, but there is beauty in complexity.

The closer we got to our first adoption, I was so eager to “get it over with”.  I just wanted the judge’s gavel to fall and for our son to be declared ours.  I did not want anyone else to be in control of my son anymore.  I looked at that day with fantastic expectation and with the thought that it will all be so much easier after adoption than when we were fostering him.

Our daughter was placed with us a few months later and I was also looking forward to the day that we could adopt her.  Right after our daughter’s adoption, we closed our foster care license.  What I have realized through the years since then is that adoption continues to evolve as our children grow older.  The gavel may have fallen, and the “cases” may be closed, but our journey really has just begun.

We see the look of confusion at times when the children are talking about birth parents and why they do not have the same birth moms.  We watch our son stare at his baby pictures and ask a million questions about the baby that he was.  We overhear the kids talking in the back of the car or in their rooms about birth parents.  I even heard my daughter say that she wished I was her birth mommy.

My husband and I have late-night talks on the couch after the kids go to bed about how we should address specific issues and questions as they arise.  Our son usually has a rough couple of days after visiting our daughter’s sibling, who is also adopted, because he doesn’t quite understand how his sister could have a sister of her own.

I often watch the kids and wonder how much of their lives will be affected because of adoption.  Don’t misunderstand me.  There are incredible opportunities, safety, love, and stability that they have because of adoption, but, it would be amiss of me to assume that it is always going to be easy for them.

I worry at times that we are being too open in discussing it, or maybe not open enough.  I used to weep for my children because of the losses they have endured without even knowing it.  I have wished to be able to wipe the slate clean for them.  All of these things are issues that my child-bearing friends do not have to take into consideration when parenting.

The complexity of it all makes me appreciate the opportunity to talk with other adoptive families about their experiences, and to learn from each other.  I love the diversity of each family and the journeys that many have been on.  I also have come to realize that adoptive families are unique and special in so many ways.  Yes, there may be worrying, wondering, weeping, and wishing, but in these things there is great beauty.

One of the Lucky Ones

This is the story of my dear friend, Missy and her mom, Marcia.  She’s a special person and I’m so thankful she shared her story with me, and with all of you.

Missy, Marcia, and Missy’s sweet little girls

“We are often told that we look alike.  Our eyes meet and we just smile knowing that we are the only ones in on our little secret”, explained Missy when telling her story about her experience as a child in the system.  It was about twenty-four years ago that her life took a drastic, yet remarkable turn.

From the beginning of her life, one would not consider Missy to be lucky. Her biological mother was just eighteen-years-old when she gave birth to Missy, and already had a lot on her plate as she was mothering twins when Missy was born.  Missy’s toddler and preschool years were spent with her mom having multiple boyfriends.  She actually remembers her mom changing the pictures on the wall depending on what boyfriend was visiting.  Things were rough, but got much worse when she was five-years-old.  Her mother married a man who was not the kind of father she and her siblings needed in their lives.

Physical abuse was a part of her life as young girl.  Missy remembers being beaten for trivial things such as losing the pen to the Yahtzee game.  Sometimes, she and her siblings were beaten so severely that they had to miss days of school.  Her siblings experienced sexual abuse, but Missy did not.  She is incredibly thankful for this, but carried guilt as a child knowing that her siblings were exposed to this type of horrific abuse. 

One of the worst memories Missy recalled was when her step-father tried to force her to drown her puppy for peeing on the floor.  Missy always had a genuinely compassionate love for animals, so her step-father choosing this as a punishment for both her and the pup was incredibly cruel.  Although young, Missy stood up to her step-dad, refused to drown her pup, and instead took a beating that lasted for hours.

As time went on, things got worse.  She remembers her mom being beaten beyond recognition.  Her mom would tell the children that she was going to take them and leave, but never did.  Missy suspects she was scared and had such low self-esteem that she chose to stay.

After three years of living a nightmare with her step-dad, a knock on the door occurred and child protection services removed the children.  Although in desperate need to be taken out of that environment, Missy was scared, clung onto her teddy bear, and sobbed over being taken away from her mommy.  She and her siblings moved from home to home for various reasons, and she remembers the drive to each new home being very scary.  They would arrive at a new place full of strangers and a trash bag full of their belongings. 

Enter Marcia.  Marcia was a former neighbor of Missy and happened to be at the Children’s Division office when she overheard the social worker talking about needing to find another home for the kids.  When Marcia realized that the children being talked about were the three children she fed when they were hungry, she immediately stated she wanted to take them into her home.

Even though their home was filled with children, Missy remembers feeling loved as though she was the only child there.  Marcia and her husband, Jim, welcomed her and her siblings with an incredible amount of love.  Her birth mom was never able to reunify with her children.  Missy feels as though she chose the lifestyle she was living with her step-dad over her and her siblings.  Although never legally adopted, Missy chose to change her last name to Marcia’s and Jim’s last name when she was twelve-years-old.  In their hearts, they were already adopted in love.

Being taken in and loved on made an incredible difference in the lives of Missy and her siblings.  They were given safety and nurturing.  They were given the opportunity for normalcy.  The rest of their childhoods were ones free of abuse and neglect.  Marcia and Jim are heroes and helped to changed the lives of children who desperately needed a place to call home and the love of a family.

The following is how Missy ended her story.  I’ll let her words speak for them-self:

“I have not seen my bio mom since I was taken away.  It would be easy to be mad and full of hatred for her.  I chose a long time ago to let this all go.  The pain and hate only brought me down.  Matter of fact, if I ever see her I may thank her.  My past has made me the person I am and brought my new parents and siblings into my life. “My mom” and I are very close and I know we were brought together for a reason.  As she says “we are like peas and carrots”!  I now have two beautiful girls myself and cannot imagine letting anyone hurt them.  I realize not all foster children are as lucky as me.  I was able to graduate from college, get married to a wonderful husband, get a great job, and have two beautiful babies.  I guess I consider myself one of the lucky ones.”

 

Missy – I think those of us who consider you a friend are the lucky ones.  Thank you for sharing your story of how one person can change the life of a child, and for your personal resilience to rise above.  You, my dear, are an amazing woman.

The Adoption Creed

2009

Not flesh of my flesh,
Nor bone of my bone,
But still Miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute,
You did not grow under my heart,
But in it.

-Fleur Conkling Heyliger

This is another well-known poem about adoption.  I did not carry my children in my body.  I carried them in my prayers, hopes, dreams, tears, imagination, and heart.

The Chosen Heart

THE CHOSEN HEART

Longing for a child to love,
I’d wish upon the stars above.
In my heart I always knew,
A part of me was meant for you.

I think how happy we will be,
Once I adopt you, and you adopt me.

I dream of all the joy you’ll bring,
Imagining even the littlest things.
The way it will feel to hold you tight
And tuck you in every night.

The drawings on the refrigerator door
And childhood toys across the floor,
The favorite stories read again and again
And hours of fun with make believe friends.

The day you took my outstretched hand
A journey ended but our love began.
Still mesmerized by your sweet face
Still warmed inside by our first embrace.

I promised to give you a happy home
And a loving family all your own.
A house you’ve now made complete 
with laughter,smiles, and tiny feet.

A parent is one who guides the way
Know I will be there every day
Rest easy as each night you sleep
A lifetime of love is yours to keep

Longing for a child to love
I’d wish upon the stars above.
In my heart I always knew
A part of me belonged to you.

-Teri Harrison

This is another one of my favorite adoption poems.  I especially love that it speaks of the sense of belonging between parent and child, and of being meant for each other.  I know that I was meant to be the mother of my children, and they were meant to be mine.  They just traveled their way to me in different vessels!

Have a wonderful day!

Embracing the Noise

joyful noises

Recently in the community I live in, there has been several tragic situations that have led to the deaths of children.  One toddler passed away following a valiant fight against cancer.  His family’s faith and their bold witness of it is extremely humbling.  Yesterday, two mothers buried their children at the same time.  All three siblings, their father, and a family friend died in a plane crash just minutes away from the local airport.  Just this weekend, I learned of a former classmate whose 18-year-old son passed away suddenly.

My heart feels so much sadness for these mothers.  I cannot imagine the despair they are going through.  I have known the pain and the notable silence of a life without children that my barrenness once caused.  But now that I am a mother, I cannot even wrap my head around going from sitting in a home that used to be filled with the chatter of a teenager engaging in an energetic conversation, a television in the background blasting a video game, or the imaginative sound effects children make when they play, to sitting in that same home that is now silent.  I cannot fathom what it must feel like to walk into a home that once housed children with great dreams, loving embraces, and inquisitive yearnings about life, that now houses empty spaces, thick tears, precious (yet painful) memories, wounded hearts, and sorrowful aches.

Sometimes I long for just one moment of complete silence in the home or the car.  Sometimes I wished my little ones could dial down the volume a bit; or at least, maybe not like the sound of their own voices quite as much as they do.  These recent tragedies in my community have helped me to keep it all in perspective though.

I will take the squeals, the laughter, the “I’m gonna tell mommy”, the fights, the cries, and the constant chatter.  I will take the background noise of a television that is too loud, or the bang of a drum from a little boy who thinks he is rock star.  I will take the non-stop questions of soon-to-be 4-year-old who still thinks it is never too early to get out of bed in the morning, or implores for her questions to be answered.

Actually, I am not just gonna take it.  I am going to embrace it.  I am going to remember the gift of noise.  I am going to be grateful for my Heavenly Father who has given it all to me.

I am going to embrace the noise.