Wading in the Water {best laid plans}

IMG_2177We celebrated the little one’s first birthday today.  He had a good time seeing familiar faces, and squashing the bright orange and white icing between his stubby little fingers.  Grandmothers, a great-grandmother, a “Mamoo and Papa”, uncle and his birth mother were present to celebrate the first year of this sweet boy’s life.

I know that by honoring his birth mother, I honor this child.  I also know that loving him is loving her, and vice-versa.  I feel quite blessed to raise him, and to have an open relationship with his birth mother.  Truthfully, I’m honored that she trusts me enough to parent her son.  I’m not going to pretend for one minute what it’s like to be in her shoes, nor am I going to judge.  The important facts of the situation are that we all have a vested interest in the safety,well-being, and love of this little boy who is a gift to us all.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I tell people how many children I have. Three.  Three children.  I remember moments of anxiety while we were getting approved as foster parents as if they were yesterday…moments like this one

It was the mid-summer of 2006 when my husband and I had finished up our foster parent training classes and were waiting to become licensed as foster parents.  Earlier in the year I had met a little girl in a foster home and instantly fell in love with her.  She was a pixie of a girl with blonde wispy hair and big blue eyes.  I truly felt she was supposed to be mine.  She was the reason we sought to become foster parents.

Months passed by, and we were not approved yet.  In the meantime, the little girl that I swore was going to be my daughter went to live with another family so that she could become their daughter.  Our process to become a licensed foster home took longer because I had previously worked for the state, and I figured that they needed to make sure it was all on the “up and up” that we were approved as foster parents.

During that summer, I went to the lake to play on the water with my parents, cousin, and her young son.  As I swam away from the boat a bit, I looked back and watched my cousin interacting and swimming with her little boy.  The vision of this mother and son reminded me of what I was missing.  Before I knew it, I started sobbing.

I quickly turned myself around so that my cousin and dad could not see my tears.  I felt foolish, but could not stop.  I was floating in the middle of a lake having a full-blown, heart-wrenching breakdown.  The water usually gives me a peaceful sense of weightlessness, but not on that day.  The weight of my broken heart made it hard to keep myself above the water.  My mother saw what was happening, and made her way over to me.  I don’t remember if we really even exchanged words, but she knew why I was crying.

My best laid plans for that summer were to become a foster parent, accept placement of that little girl I fell in love with, and go about our merry way in becoming a family.  My plans fell through.  Just like the drop of my tears into the lake, my plans quickly dissipated into a vast sea of confusion.  I had no idea what was going to happen, and was tired of worrying about it.

After crying it out a bit, I pulled myself together, swam back to the boat, and put my sunglasses on so that my red eyes would not give away what just happened in the water. I put on that familiar mask of a smile that I’ve worn so well through the years.  I don’t think anyone except my mother knew that my heart broke apart a bit while wading in the water.

A few months later we were approved as a foster home and received a call about a baby boy who would become our first foster placement, and then our forever son.  A few years later, we would get a call about a baby girl who also became our forever daughter.  And now, seven years removed from that moment of despair in the lake, I watched with eyes of love as another little one dug his hands into his first birthday cake.

That moment of wading in the water plays in my mind quite often.  I remember the feelings I had, and the thought that my plans….my best laid plans….would never happen.  I think about my worry, about my struggle, and about the sorrow I once experienced.  If I could go back and swim alongside my broken self, I would say, “Don’t worry.  Don’t let your sorrow weigh you down.  Your best laid plans are nothing compared to His plans for your life.”  

Dear readers, If you find yourself wondering when or if you will become a mother, please do not give up hope.  You are not alone in this, even though it might feel like it.  Reach out to others who understand what it feels like to be walking in your shoes.  Be encouraged, and know that your Father in Heaven hears you.  He sees you, and He holds you.  Blessings – Caroline

Messages of Tears

“There is a sacredness in tears.  They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.  They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.  They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.”                              -Washington Irving

Gosh, I love this quote.  I L.O.V.E. it.  Each time my eyes skim over it and I soak it in, it  causes me to stop whatever I am doing.  I think about the tears shed worldwide on a daily basis.  I think about the tears that have been poured out of the deepest sorrow and joy throughout generations upon generations of humans.

I think about myself curling up in a fetal position sobbing from every pore of my being while mourning the loss of not being able to have a biological child.  I truly mourned this.  Those tears held within them my secrets, my grief, and my pain.  Those tears shed were not in vain.  I earned each one.  I deserved to let go of each one.  Those tears were for the girl I once was, and the mother I thought I would never be.

I also think about the tears of joy that have navigated their way down the landscape of my face. They too spoke volumes of resilience, thankfulness, and complete understanding.  Those tears released the power of love held within.  They too held their place of importance in the history of my life.  They too were for the little girl I once was, and the mother I was discovering myself to be.

I remember hearing the “sniffles” behind me at our adoption hearings.  I quickly looked around and saw family, friends, and even some child welfare professionals with tears rolling down their cheeks.  Each tear was a message of hope and hard work.  Each one represented the efforts made to keep my children safe, to help their birth parents, and to give them the permanent family they deserved.  The Judge stopped the court proceedings during my son’s adoption and gave me a moment to gather my tears back up.  He told me that he had seen many tears of sadness throughout his court room experience, and it was good to see tears of joy.

On a vastly more important level…the most important of all, I think about the tears that flowed down the faces of those who witnessed the crucifixion and death of Christ.  I think about those who must have had tears of awe-filled joy at realizing His resurrection.  The message of unspeakable love, unselfish love, and saving love that those tears gave is still heard and felt today.  At times, I am caught off guard during worship at church.  I find myself singing a song, staring at the Cross, and wiping away the droplets that resemble the overwhelming magnitude of my Savior’s grace and love for me.

I think I love this quote so much because it reminds me of the purpose and the purity behind each tear that falls from our eyes.  The voice held within our tears speaks so much more compared to the words that may or may not leave our mouths.  There is a sacredness there, and it should never be underestimated.

Don’t hold your tears hostage.  Don’t stifle their meaning.  Your tears may be speaking for you.  Allow them to.  Your tears may be speaking to you.  Listen to them.

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.

Well With My Soul

“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul.”  

These lyrics are part of a classic Christian hymn by Horatio G. Spafford (1873). Mr. Spafford wrote this following a series of tragic events in his life that included losing his entire investments in the Great Chicago fire, and the sudden deaths of his four young daughters in an accident at sea.  His despair put into words has brought comfort to generations of Christians.  Out of one man’s tragedy, a song was written that continues to this day to bless people and bless the Lord.

This song has been on my mind for a several weeks.  We typically sing contemporary songs at church; however last Sunday, the worship minister closed the service out with It Is Well with My Soul.  I stood there and smiled at the Lord’s perfect timing in everything.

Years ago when singing this song, I did not always believe, find solace, or live out the words coming out of my mouth.  I was “well” with my job, education, husband, parents, friendships, etc; but I was not “well” with infertility.  The sorrow I felt was deep as if it came from the inside of my bones out to the rest of my body; the kind of sorrow that literally aches.  There is a line in the song Absence of Fear by singer/songwriter Jewel that goes “This vessel is haunted, it creaks and moans.”  That is how I felt.  I was living in a haunted vessel.  My body creaked from the hardship that it had endured, and it moaned for what could have been.

Since my foster parenting experience and the adoption of my children, I have been completely overwhelmed with the sense of peace with all that has happened.  It is difficult sometimes to put into words as there are not enough to describe how nothing else can replace the peace-maker that He is.  His peace does surpass all understanding.

It is an experience that begins with the full acknowledgement of who He is in our lives and what we choose to believe about Him.  Is He a father?  Is He a maker?  Does He offer His love freely to us or do we have to earn it?  Does He truly plan our lives with purpose far beyond our imaginations or understanding? I once questioned these things and wondered how a father, maker, love-giver, and planner could, or better yet would allow pain and loss in His children’s lives.  My earthly human instinct is to protect my children and prevent pain in their lives, so the vision of God allowing tragedy to happen has been a struggle for me to wrap my head  and my heart around.

However, full acknowledgement of who I am in Him has led to further understanding of the dark times.  The revelation of God in my life and how He has planned it has only brought me closer to Him.  I look at my situation now and see His Hand working in all of it.  Total acceptance of my infertility has been possible because of Him, not me.

I wonder sometimes if peace amongst each other could be a possibility if everyone were able to truly say “it is well”.  It is usually not the violent act, illness, or ruined relationship that lingers on in our hearts and minds.  It is the bitterness and resentment caused by these things that stain us.  It is our expression of whatever is ailing us that can cause great strife.

I am so thankful to be able to live life without resentment about infertility.  I am so thankful to know that I am His.  The song It Is Well with My Soul has a deeper meaning for me now.  My singing it is an act of saying to the Lord “whatever Your will is, I accept it and trust you”. 

My writing and speaking about infertility is a testament to the Lord’s faithfulness.  Whenever I am able to share just a bit of my testimony, it affirms me that the Lord can take tragic situations and turn them into ones that will bless others.  Thank you Lord for carrying me along the path where I can not only sing, but shout, it is truly well with my soul.

I thought of you today, birth mother

I thought of you today, birth mother.  I watched him graduate from preschool.  You would have been so proud.  His name was called and he was handed his first diploma of sorts.  The years have swept away from the three of us since the last visit we had together.  Four years ago tomorrow, your child became forever mine.  You did not choose to give him to me.  He was taken from you.  I know in the rhythm of my heart that you never imagined not raising your son.

I owe you nothing; and yet, I owe you everything.

Our lives are woven together by poor choices, heartache, legalities and love.  Just like the energy that is poured out of a quilt maker’s hands into the quilt, our lives are sewn and patched by the hardship of the years.  Surely, God knew when He created this precious child in your womb that you would labor to bring him into this world, and I would labor bringing him up in it.

I see you in him. birth mother.  He smiles your smile.  His left eye is just a little lazy like yours.  Your love of family poured into him.  He is rarely at a loss of words…just like you.  I wonder if you long for him when you watch children play.  I wonder if you feel haunted by this child you will never raise.  The loss you have suffered must be felt from every cell in your body.  The hollowness you feel at times must resonate deep down.  Sure, we send pictures to you, but pictures don’t breathe.  Pictures don’t smell.  They don’t bleed, hug, speak, cry, or do any of those things that remind us of our humanity.

I owe you nothing; and yet, I owe you everything.

I too have felt that sorrowful ache.  I have cried thick tears.  I have longed for a child.  Barrenness created a stale world for me; a hollowness that never ceased.  I felt haunted by a child I would never have.  What at one time seemed pointless, lifeless, and void of purpose has been replaced by immeasurable significance.

The selfishness I feel from time to time benefiting from your great and terrible sadness overwhelms me.  To be honest, all of it overwhelms me.  God’s blessing of your child has given me more than the mommy experience.  It has refreshed the staleness, filled the hollowness, and brought to life the child I thought I would never have.

I owe you nothing; and yet, I owe you everything.

I thought of you today, birth mother.  Truthfully, I think of you nearly every day.  Perhaps, the world might expect me to not care for you so much.  I wonder, “Is it really possible to separate you from the goodness and richness of this child?”  I don’t think so.  There is goodness in you, although others may not see it.  You are a part of him and he is a part of you.

I delight in his quirks.  I fret in his worries.  I am challenged by his willful spirit; yet, I love him with every pore of my being.  I hear him say “I love you, Mommy” and it stirs my soul.  I know you would feel the same way.

The hug I gave him was for you today, birth mother.  I imagined your arms wrapped around him….how good that would feel for you to touch him.

I thought of you today,  birth mother.  I said a prayer for you today, birth mother.  Your son is mine, and my son is yours.

I owe you nothing; and yet, I will not forget that I owe you everything.