“It’s Not About You.” {it’s about love}

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We were in love the minute we saw him.  The nurse rolled up a little, round peach of a baby and announced his name.  The crazy and surreal experience of waking up without a baby and going home with one is something that foster parents can relate to.  By the end of the evening, we were mesmerized by him.  Our hearts were completely captured and dare I say it?  We were instantly in love.

Fast forward 72 hours.  After a weekend of parents and friends stopping by to visit and discovering the joy of caring for a newborn, I received a call.  When you are a foster parent and the number of your case worker shows up unexpectedly on your phone, there is a bit of anxiety that runs through you body.

“Hello.”

“Caroline, I just want to let you know that we found a relative and I think she’s going to pass the home study so it looks like we will be moving him in about 90 days.”

“Oh.  Okay.  Great.  I’ll be at the next meeting.  Thanks for letting me know.”

“Goodbye.”

…Silence…

As soon as I hung up the phone, I stood in front of our little one asleep in his crib and then, I collapsed.  With hands held high and knees to the ground, I said, “Lord, your will be done.  Your will be done but if this is your will, you have to carry me through this.  You have to help me through this.”

Tears.

Shaking.

Hands held high hovering and praying over the baby that we had fallen so much in love with.

In that miserable and silent moment, these words were whispered,

“Caroline.  It’s not about you.”

Wait…what?

“It’s not about you.”

This moment in time will forever be sketched in my mind.  I was vulnerable and tired and just felt that FINALLY I had a baby I could potentially believe was mine.  I knew that there were no guarantees with fostering.  I knew that this child was not “ours”.  I also knew that we had to do our due-diligence to support the biological parents and hike the terrain of foster care.  I knew all of this, but I did not fully realize how this whole experience was never about me in the first place.  It felt like it was supposed to be about me.

I know that sounds selfish.  I know it seems backwards.  I also know that it is very human to feel that way.

The Lord spoke to me while I was a crumpled, weeping mess in front of a sleeping baby that was already loved by two mammas.  He gently reminded me that fostering was not about me.  This carried me through each moment, step-by-step, until our adoption almost two years later.

Now, nearly nine years following our first adoption, these words still linger in my heart.  Two more kids; many years of laughter and of joy, of thankfulness and questioning, I still hear, “It’s not about you.”

Our three beloved children are wonderful and unique.  They are wanted and precious.  They are “ours” through and through.  Yet, it is not easy.  We deal with behavioral issues.  We manage medications.  We answer tough, heart-breaking questions.

We have extreme defiance.  We have hyperactivity and impulsiveness.  We have a learning disorder and developmental delays.  We go to bed weary.  We worry and wonder what the future might bring.

We get rejected.  We seem to live through it all.  Somehow.

We do this all because it’s not about us.  It’s never really been about us.

I’m not the kind of person who will ever paint the realities of life in a rose-colored glasses kind of way.  Doing so is a disservice and I just don’t think it’s right.  Folks, adoption is hard.  Raising kids with extra needs is hard.

There really is no comparison to that of a broken-hearted Mamma;  one who wants to transfer her own lessons learned from her Mamma but can’t seem to do it because the messages are not well-received, don’t seem to apply and do not take into consideration the needs of her children.

Despite the struggles and the daily trials, I get up each day believing that, “Maybe, today is the day that he will do things more independently.  Maybe, today is the day that she will open her heart and really listen to me.  Maybe, today is the day that he won’t have meltdowns.  Maybe, today is the day that we will have peace in our house.”

You know what is profound to me?  I know that what I experience is minimal compared to the heartbreak that the Lord must feel.  I wonder if He feels the same way when we (His children) reject Him on a daily basis.  I wonder if He thinks, “Maybe, today is the day…”.

When thinking about the unique experience of parenting through adoption, I know that there is a deep connection to our own relationship with God.  We are adopted.  We reject Him.  We struggle on a daily basis with following Him.  We fight.  We spit.  We struggle.  When Jesus hung on that dreadful and glorious Cross, it wasn’t about Him.  It was all about us.  Jesus took the hard road and He did it for love.

When Jesus hung on that dreadful and glorious Cross, it wasn't about Him.If there is one message that needs to be spread regarding foster parenting and parenting via adoption, it should always be that it is never about us parents.  It is always about the children we are fortunate to raise, despite the hardships.

Our example is Jesus.  He took up the Cross for His children and for love.  He did the hard thing.

May we all do the hard things because it’s not about us.

It’s about love.

“It’s not about you.”  Yes, Lord.  I’m thankful for that.

My Child, There Are Better Days to Come

My child had a rough morning.  I could see it all over my darling’s body; eyes a bit wilder than usual, hair somewhat disheveled, and arms flailing with impulsive movement.  It reached a game-changing moment during a redirection.  I looked up and saw that hand, the one that often grabs mine when walking together, fly up in the air and smack hard against my skin.  Sure, it was a slap on the arm but it hurt.  It left a red mark.  It was not a “toddler testing boundaries” kind of hit.  It was meant to hurt me and it was full of pent-up angst.

First, came the shock, followed by a brief moment of anger.  Just as soon as my anger began to swell, I melted into tears; sadness took over.  My child fell back into the seat and started to cry.  I sat there for a moment not knowing what to do.  We were loaded up in the van and on our way to school but the last thing I could focus on was getting there before the bell rang.

While trying to find the right words, I heard, “You are going to just give me away to another family.”  I could not believe my ears.  With the sting of my child’s hand still lingering on my arm, I said, “No, of course not”.

Soon, my child said, “I just get so mad.  I have anger issues.  I’m sorry.”  I tried to find the right words but it seems during moments like these, words can be elusive.  I offered the knowledge of “Even if someone has an issue with anger or whatever, it is still up to them to make better choices.  You have to choose to do the right thing and ask yourself, “Is this worth it?”.  I don’t know if that was good enough or if that is what my child needed to hear but it was all I could come up with at that moment.

There was a hug, followed by an apology, and a statement regarding the worry about other kids noticing my child’s tear-stained face.  “Just tell them you had a rough morning,” I said.  The van door slid open and I watched as a piece of my heart formed in the shape of a child slowly walk to the doors of the school, pause for a moment, and then look back to make sure I was still there before entering.  My kiddos know I always stay put until they enter the doors to their school.  On this morning, it was especially important for me to stay a while.

Ugh.  Of all the things that happened, the saddest and hardest part was hearing the words, “You are going to just give me away to another family.”  Where does this come from?  My child has been with us since infancy and despite filling the space between us with love, this child still seems to meander carelessly somewhere between the knowledge of being adopted and the full measure of being in our family.

Sure, there’s counseling, training, and all sorts of ways to intervene.  We’ve set up boundaries, applied consequences, talked openly about adoption and biological parents, followed through with providing moments to build self-esteem and show our love, but there is still a void that is hard to fill.  When the void gets too deep, the claws come out.

My child thinks deeply and has big emotions.  This child is sensitive, inquisitive and always wants to know more and more…even when there’s not a lot more to offer.  Moments like these are tough to swallow.  Knowing how to respond is even harder, and I tend to receive the blunt end of all that emotion welled up inside a youthful body.

Being an adoptive family is a wonderful thing but it is not perfect.  It is filled with a lot of loss.  We do our best to weave the tapestry of our family with as much good as we can but there are issues.  We’d be foolish to think that everything is okay all of the time.

This is a part of adoption that others don’t see.  This is the part of parenting children with invisible special needs that are often unseen by many.  This is hard.

Even with all of the intentional efforts put into raising a well-rounded and secure child as one can raise, we still have to navigate these valleys and they are deep, my friends.  We put on a smiling face that does a good job of covering up some of the battle wounds we’ve endured.  We pretend that everything is great but sometimes, it just isn’t.

Telling an adoptive family, “Oh, kids will just do that, sometimes” is useless.  We know that kids, regardless of their histories, will do things that can break one’s heart.  We are well aware of that but there is a difference, you know.  When your child is exhibiting things that seem to carry an invisible message, it is hard but it is not impossible to manage.

I guess that is where the fortitude to keep going comes from – the awareness of possibilities covered in a glaze of hope.  Hope is found in the possibilities; hope for change, hope for better responses, hope for a recovery and hope for healing.  If it weren’t for the belief in possibilities and the endurance of hope, nothing would be gained and so much would be lost.

There will be tremendously painful moments full of emotion throughout our life as an adoptive family.  Yet, in many ways, the complex splendor of life is often found in the midst of incredibly hard times filled with blood, sweat, and tears.

My child, the one with the big emotions wrapped up in a small frame,

I love you.  I have always loved you.  I will always love you.

Nothing you have done or ever will do would cause me to not love you.

I have never regretted adopting you.  I never will.  I am yours and you are mine.

I wish I could retell your story minus all the bad stuff, but I cannot.

It must be scary to feel like you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.  Let Momma carry it for you.  If I could, I would swallow it up so that you never have to feel it again.

I will never be able to claim myself as your biological parent.  I know that breaks my heart and I suspect it breaks yours.

You are unique.  You have a gift to give this world, baby.  You’ll find it and when you do, hang on and hold tight.  I believe you could be a world-changer.  

You may feel broken at times but history shows us that the Lord uses broken people for mighty things.  That’s the incredible part of faith – knowing that our weakest moments can become part of our strongest testimony.

You have a place in our family.  You always will.  Don’t lose sight of that, my child.  Don’t lose sight.

My child, there are better days to come.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

-Isaiah 41:10