I still think of you, birth mother

photo credit: http://www.freedomphotography.smugmug.com/
photo credit:
http://www.freedomphotography.smugmug.com/

I still think of you, birth mother.  You are always with me.  Each embrace, each kiss, each smile, and each moment of growth, I think of you.  This week marks the fifth year since the adoption of my son…our son, and yet; I still think of you.

It seems like a lifetime ago since we talked about him.  I remember our talks while taking turns rocking him.  We were in love with the same child.  Our love for him opened the door for our relationship.  You are the one who started loving him the moment you knew you were expecting.  I’m the one who prayed for a child to love. How could we have known that while I was praying for a child to hold, you were carrying my future son?

How can I ever thank you, birth mother?  How can I ever tell you how grateful I am that you chose life?  Because of your life-affirming choice, I am raising a bright, energetic, and spirited boy who filled the paleness of my dreams with color.  Your son was my first baby.  Your son was the answer to my deepest longings of the heart.

Your son is the embodiment of a life lived outside of oneself.

It is not a mistake that our process to get approved as foster parents took nine months; nine months of our child forming in your womb, nine months of our anxious thoughts, nine months of your difficult circumstances, and nine months until we met for the first time.

I remember that the first thing you said to me was, “So, that’s what you look like.”  Your words humbled me, birth mother.  There I was, a stranger, embracing your son, holding him in the middle of the night, and caring for his every need.  While I was doing this, you were wondering who I was.  My prayers to our God was for His will to be done, and for His strength to get us through whatever path we would end up walking.

I know that our path was probably the easier one.  Yes, we worried, we cried, and we prayed, but we ended up keeping your son.  We ended up becoming his forever family, his mommy and daddy, and his future.  Yes, we had it easy.  You, birth mother, you walked the difficult road.

You, birth mother, you must have felt the pain of loss that first Mother’s Day without the acknowledgement of him.  You, birth mother, must have felt an ache in your heart that went unfulfilled.  You, birth mother, must have longed for a different outcome; and yet, you did not fight the decision that was made.

You and I both had our hands tied.  We both had to adhere to the decisions made by others about the child we both loved deeply.  Together, we both had little control.  Together, we both had hopes of raising him.  Together, we both loved this child.

I still think of you, birth mother.  I still wonder how you are doing.  I still see you in him.  I still think of your kindness to me. There I was, a young foster-mother holding your son, and yet, you embraced me. You were kind to me.  You were interested in me, and you thanked me for the love I gave your son.  I don’t know if I could have done that.  I don’t know if I could have been as kind as you were if the tables were turned.  I just don’t know.

Thank you, birth mother.  Thank you for the courage it took to not fight the inevitable.  When I was told that you had decided to not fight the courts anymore, I fell to my knees in grief and in joy at the same time.  I cried over the hardship of the decision you must have made.  In that moment, I knew my life was forever changed.

In that moment, I knew that you truly loved your son.

It has been five years since your son became mine forever.  It has been five years since tears fell from my eyes while the judge was announcing our adoption.  You were on my mind that day, birth mother.  Our journey together ended that day; although, it will never really end.  As long as our son has life, I will think of you.  You will always hold a place in my heart. I will always remember your smile, your laugh, and your kindness.

Your son…our son…is a treasure.  He is a delight.  He loves dirt, bugs, art, gymnastics, basketball, and fishing.  He is always coming up with the most creative ideas out of simple household items.  He is a willful, curious, loving, and loyal boy. Oh, he has his moments of challenging us, but he is a wonderful son.  He is a child that has left his footprints on the hearts of many.  He means the world to so many, and is richly loved.

I still think of you, birth mother. I still see you in him.  I still think of our talks,and the mutual love we held for our son.  I’m doing my best to raise him in a way that will honor the difficult decision you made.  I want him to be a man of integrity, a man that nurtures life, and contributes to goodness in this world.

We have a beautiful son, birth mother.  Thank you, birth mother, thank you.

Wishing Flowers

photo (60)After playing around in the backyard, my son quietly opened the screen door, placed two “flowers” on the floor, closed the door, and then said, “Mommy, I got you something.”  I pretended I didn’t know that he had done this, and acted surprisingly thankful for his gift.

A few minutes later he said, “Do you know what those are?”  I replied, “Yes, they are dandelions.”  “No, they are not”, he boldly stated.  “Oh, well then what are they?” I asked.

“Mommy, they are wishing flowers!”

I thanked him again, picked up the wishing flowers, and then went about finishing up cleaning the kitchen.  I meant to make a wish with them, but my son and I got distracted, and moved on to other tasks to be done for the day.

My son’s vision about what most of us consider weeds got me to thinking about the perspective often used when looking at events or circumstances in life.  If something difficult comes my way, do I perceive it as having the possibility of hope? I’d like to say I do, but have to admit that there have been times where I’ve thought, “What a bad thing for this to be happening right now.”

In most respects, dandelions can become quite a nuisance when landscaping.  I actually think of them more as a weed than a flower.  Children love to pick them so that they can give them a slight puff of air which in turn sends their seedlings out into the world to create even more dandelions.  My son views them as opportunities for hopes to be fulfilled through unspoken wishes.

Like my son’s view of dandelions, God doesn’t see us as weeds, or nuisances either.  Instead, He sees us as having the great possibility to live meaningful and fulfilling lives.

God picks us up, and gives us fresh, loving air so that we can spread out into the world sharing light, hope, and most important of all, love.

my son making a wishphoto credit: http://sarahcarter.is/
my son making a wish
photo credit: http://sarahcarter.is/

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.

Favorite Fishing Buddy

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“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” —John Buchan

My dad fished professionally for many years, and earned sponsors and endorsements from boat and bait/tackle companies.  He was featured in magazine articles, and won many notable tournaments throughout his career.  As a matter of fact, when I tell people around here who my dad is, most (if into fishing) “ooh” and “ah” over my dad’s knowledge of the lakes and his seemingly instinctual ability to catch fish.

Before the adoption of our son, we took him to the lake often to visit his “Papa” and play around on the water.  Once our adoption was finalized, and my son had the ability to hold a fishing pole, my dad headed out on the water with him and started teaching him all that he knew.  He is now 6-years-old, and has been fishing pretty regularly since the age of 2 years.  He can name virtually every type of freshwater fish.  He can top-water fish, use a variety of baits and tackle, and even use a bait-caster.  I think he would fish just about every day if we let him.

During visits with my son’s biological mother while we were fostering him, she often asked me if someone would take him fishing.  She wanted her son to have the opportunity to learn how to fish.  I’m not sure if this is something she enjoyed as a child, but it seemed pretty important to her for him to be a boy who fished.

She was quite excited to hear that my dad past-time is fishing, and that her son would learn to fish from one of the best around this area.  When I get images like the one above from my dad while on the lake with my son, I can’t help but think of his birth mother, and how often she talked about taking him fishing.

My dad may have won tournaments, earned money, and made a name for himself through fishing, but the joy on my son’s face and the time spent with his favorite fishing buddy is by far the greatest award he has ever received.

 

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

Days like Today

Tonight I had the incredible blessing of watching my 4-year-old daughter perform in a Christmas dance recital.  I helped her get ready by putting on her glittery leotard and pulling her hair back in bun.  I smiled as she gingerly walked onto the big stage, and giggled as she twirled in her fluffy white tutu.  As the evening went on and I watched the children dance, my mind escaped off to that place of sadness for the mom’s and dad’s of the little princes and princess’s who were not tucked into their beds tonight.  The shooting tragedy in Connecticut today has invaded my thoughts, and it was hard to get the families whose lives were abruptly interrupted off of my mind.

Christmas presents will be left unopened, family pictures will not happen, visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house will be filled with tremendous heartache, and parents will forever feel the silent emptiness of loss.  Gingerbread houses will go unmade, Christmas stockings will mournfully hang by chimneys, Santa will not be visited, and the sounds of laughter will not ring out on Christmas morning.  It is absolutely heart-wrenching to think of the precious lives lost today.  These children were just going about their day handing in homework, counting down the days until Santa visits, and telling their teachers their big plans for the weekend when darkness entered their lives.

The sad truth is that violence against children occurs year round and all over this world on a daily basis.  We discard them as if they don’t matter.  We ignore them as if they are not important.  We use and abuse them as if their little hearts and bodies will just “get over it”.  Scripture speaks of children being a reward, and yet, we take our time with them for granted.  I absolutely believe that we will not escape the Lord’s passionate and protective love for His children.

It is days like today that I hugged my Kindergartner and ballerina a little tighter.  It is days like today that I repeated the words “I Love You” to them often.  It is days like today that I am reminded that our children are not ours.  We are gifted with them for a while.  Some stay longer than others, but ultimately, they are the Lord’s children.

It is days like today that I long for His return.

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.

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

few words, big meaning

I thought I would share my son’s prayer the morning before we walked out the door heading to his first day at Kindergarten.  It has been a few weeks since he said this prayer, but it still lingers in my mind and on my heart.  I asked him if he would like to say a prayer for his first day at school and he said yes.  I waited for his cue to see if he wanted me to say it, but instead, he chose to lead.  It went like this:

Dear God,

Help me to make good choices at school.  I want to be good.  Help me Lord.

Amen

The prayer was straight to the point, had few words, but so meaningful.  He knew what he wanted.  He simply asked for it.  He stated his desire to be good.  He acknowledged his need for the Lord to help him.

I think a lot of us adults could learn a lesson or two in this…don’t you?

Samples for Jesus

the joy of my little boy
         www.sarahcarterphoto.com

A few Sundays ago, my almost six-year-old son asked me “Do you take samples for Jesus?”  I had no idea what he was talking about.  Samples for Jesus?  I asked him again what he said to make sure I did not misunderstand him.  “Do you take samples for Jesus?”  I finally told him that I had no idea what he was talking about.  In frustration, he said, “You know…those pieces that Mr. Richard passes out in that plate.”  Aha!  He was talking about communion!  After laughing for quite a bit at the joy of my little boy, I explained that, yes, mommy takes “samples” for Jesus.

As what seems to be commonplace lately in my life, the Lord used my son to deliver a message that provoked my thoughts about my life as a Christian.  Do I fully live out a life that is reflecting of Christ in me?  Or, am I just sampling the Christian life?  What can I do to show my children and others around me that my walk with Christ is more than showing up to church, saying Amen, and taking communion?

I want my children to see that being a believer requires full attention.  One cannot just pick and choose pieces of it as if sampling the foods at a local deli.  It is the choice between living as if this is the only destination or choosing to live with the full belief that there is life beyond this world.  It is the notion that everything and everyone matters to God.  It is the hope that only comes from salvation.  It is the faith of the glory of Jesus Christ.

Once again, I love that the Lord delivers quick, simplistic, and innocent messages through the words of my children.  I hope that their eyes and their hearts see their mommy as a faith-leaning, Christ-believing, and people-loving Christian.  I pray that my life reflects to them that their mommy is more than just a “sample-taster”.