Sunday, October 14, 2018

Making a Mama

8 years ago today I became a mama. I feel like I’ve told this story now hundreds of times. Like any mom, the day is very clear. I can remember most of it because I savored every moment. From the time we met him to the time he got to come home. I have told it over and over to anyone that would listen because every mom remembers all of that just like it was yesterday. I cannot believe eight years have passed and yet it seems like a lifetime ago. Almost like he has always been there. 

8 years ago today a 17 year old man child said he wanted to move into our home and become our son. We met him 2 days prior and he found out about us the day before that. He had all the odds against him and yet he had so much faith that a family could be out there for him. What courage that took after living through trauma from civil wars, refugee camps, immigration, the separation from family into foster care and then living in foster care. I don’t know if I would have had such courage. The sheer determination and hope that there still could be a family out there for him speaks of his tenacity at life. His bravery.

8 years ago today we said yes to parenting a teenager. We had no experience, good training but such a small amount considering, and dove head first into the water ready to embrace what came our way. We expected nothing and everything, the good and the bad. Yet it was nothing like we thought it would be. It was so much more than I could have ever imagined. Becoming a parent is like that. Somehow your heart stretches and grows in an instant. When you look at that child in the eyes, you have the ability to become a puddle of tears and a fierce mama bear simultaneously. It is something God creates in us mothers. We are protectors, encouragers, cheerleaders, supporters, weight bearers, mentors and more. Being a mom is a gift and a burden, but one I gladly and desperately wanted to do.

8 years ago a quiet child on the verge of adulthood stepped foot into our house and was gifted a room all to himself and a home to be a child in. He had the chance to safely grow up, however long that took. He chose to be part of a family. My world has never been the same. I have learned so much about love through him. He has taught me what love through tears looks like. I learned more about loving people no matter what they look like, talk like, sound like or act like. I learned that every person is someone else’s child and deserving of immense love. I learned how to laugh really hard and cry at the same time. I learned that being a mom is also being a friend.

8 years ago today my life changed for the better. Not only did I become a mom but I said yes to whatever that meant for that specific moment in time and for the years to come. For all the afternoons we spent pouring over books so he could learn to read. All of the evenings we spent learning history and rules and laws so he could become a citizen. For the many hours I spent (and still spend) on my knees thanking God for this son, praying for God to protect him and for him to trust in God.

8 years later even though he’s 25, my heart still breaks when things go wrong for him and beams when things go right. He’s a grown man to most and still my child at heart. He missed out on so many of the things normal children get to do. He missed out on growing up with grandparents and a strong support system around him, making him naturally rely on himself first. He has callused hands from working tirelessly because he would hate for anyone to have to do something he feels like he should be able to do himself. He has a strong heart because he’s put layers of protective walls around it after falling under tragic circumstances time and time again. Yet he is the first one to try and help the helpless. He recognizes the needy before anyone else even turns a head. He hears the brokenness in a person’s voice or face when others don’t even notice. He gives when he has nothing. He loves even though he has been wronged and scared and bruised repeatedly. He deserves the world even when the world has thrown the worst at him time and time again. 

Photo by: Arianne Ball Photography

8 years later and I am still learning from my first born and adopted son. Today I do not get to spend with him for reasons that are out of both of our control and I still cannot get him off my mind. I wish he were here to help me cook dinner as we try and decide what spices to add because neither of us like plain, ordinary food. I wish he was here to sit beside me on the sofa so we could look at pictures from when he moved in and was all skin and bones. I wish he was here to tell me to remember the fact that he doesn’t like sweets or dessert after dinner and then eat what I made him because he has a tiny sweet tooth every now and then he thinks I don't notice. I wish I could hear him ragging on his brothers for a mess they made or put them in their place when they boast about something in his presence or bring all of them to the ground when they wrestle him or watch him read a book to his brother 23 years younger than him. My 17 year old son now towers above me but still has that quiet and soft spirit, full of love for others around him and hope for the future. I am so glad he chose me to be his mama. Not a day goes by I am not grateful he said yes. Happy Gotcha Day my first born son. You are forever mine and I am forever yours.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Tainted Red Bullseye

photo credit: @shelliecarson

I remember those places I used to love going. I'd get off work and have an hour before needing to get home or a Saturday with no plans and I would head to the lovely place of red shopping carts, dollar spots, cute clothes, and fun decor. As I entered, I would make sure and stop for some hot caffeine I could drink slowly as I walked about. Slowly enjoying my leisurely walk, browsing and putting things in my cart that I knew I needed for the house or to give as a present to someone or just stuff that looked cute.

I miss those days.

But today I decided I would try and attempt this with my 4 sons in tow. Why shouldn't I enjoy a little leisurely walk with my hot cup in hand? So I picked my kids up from school and told them that they would each get a piece of paper and a pencil. The rules were simple: no running, screaming, hands and feet to yourself. They were making a "Christmas list" to give to family. They got to go window shopping in the toy aisles (while mama walked on the main aisle glancing at cute decorations and clothes.)

Why I thought this would work is beyond me. In the first thirty seconds I should have loaded everyone back into the car and went home. It all started when I told the 7, 6 and 3 year old that the baby was finally asleep and they better not wake them up. After everyone got out of the car we start walking toward the store. One car past ours, the 3 year old yelled with every ounce of loudness expelling from his body "ROAR!!!"

There was of course a bird that needed to be scared (along with everyone in the parking lot.) Why are little boys with birds like dogs chasing squirrels? It doesn't matter where they are or what they are doing, they see one and they lose their minds trying to scare it away.

So here we are, 5 seconds into our venture through the parking lot and the baby was woken up. "But he's smiling mom. So it's okay" says the 3 year old bird scarer. Yes, for now he is smiling.

As we safely enter the store I beeline it for coffee. I am still determined this can be a relaxing trip. The coffee was calming, hot and delicious. Then I look over to see my 6 year old laying across the table and my 3 year old running around in circles and my 7 year old getting on to both of them while laughing. I snapped my fingers and they instantly knew from the look on my face that they better shape up in a hurry. 

We headed to the back of the store, towards the toys. The boys were all getting very excited about 'shopping', even though I continued to remind them we were not leaving with anything today. About that moment when the toys were in sight, the baby smiles turned into a frown. By the time we got there it was full blown loud crying.

So I remind the boys of the rules and let them get to their Christmas list making. I turn my main focus to comforting the newborn. Pacifier, rocking, singing, swaying, pacifier again, back in stroller, walking, back in my arms, and finally he drifts off to the sleep he desperately needs. At that exact moment I take a sip of my coffee and glance around, trying to decide what I can window shop from a distance when the 6 year old runs up shouting in my face "Mom!!!! I found what I want you to buy me today!!!"

Screaming erupts, both from the newborn and from inside of my head. I have the look of 'seriously' written all over my face. I mouth to the child "go write it down.”

A couple of minutes later, my phone alerts me that it is time to go. The 7 year old comes rushing up to me to show me his list. I cannot read a single word of the gibberish. So I asked him what he wrote down. He points to the item number. I had to laugh out loud at that moment. None of the boys had a single item title that I could look up later. Thank goodness for smart phones. I told them to go stand beside their favorite 3 items so I could take a picture.

I patted myself on the back for quick thinking, buckled the baby up, took a long sip of coffee and told the boys we were leaving. As we moseyed toward the front, I decided to make a pit stop to see if there were any Christmas shirts I wanted to get for them. The second I veered off the main path, one kid hit another and said "tag, you're it" while the other ran and tripped over the stroller and fell, waking the baby again of course. Nevermind, no shirts for them. 

We could not get to the car fast enough. And of course the baby was back to screaming with all of his might, deliriously angry. When we got to the doors and one kid had to tie a shoe, I turned around and saw the store in it's entirety. It was like a long lost friend that was passing through town and we waved from a distance. Hoping we could meet over coffee, but alas, it never came to be.

One day, in a few years, maybe I will be able to enjoy this again without children to taint my relaxing experience. But then again I think I'm better off just escaping after they've all gone to bed and all is quiet with most of the world. I would love to push a red cart with ample room to hold my newfound goods instead of a stroller with another hand holding whichever child needs help making good choices at the time. But such is my season of life as a mom. Cheers to all the others walking in the same tired shoes, celebrating the survival of each day.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Emotions Overflowing, Ending in Love

Emotions are an essential part of being a female. I truly believe we were gifted with such an assortment to make up for our counterpart. Most of the time we feel ours and some. And when those emotions bubble over or dig holes, it is just part of who we are.

Sometimes emotions are hard to explain or put into words. Remember those teen years when tears would come over something trivial or you did not even know why? Women feel deeply, and it is part of what makes us amazing! We were designed to be this way.

The hard part is when people do not understand our emotions, or when we don't understand them ourselves and therefore cannot verbalize them to the best of our ability and they cause conflict.

Such has been the last 9 months for me.
Or should I say the last few years.
But for this post I'll stick to the last 9 months.

We tired to have children for YEARS.
God said no. He closed doors and opened others.
We adopted 4 beautiful children and had come to a place of contentment, albeit craziness, but still good with where our family was and not thinking about changes anytime soon.

Apparently that was the time for me to successfully get pregnant.
We never tried fertility treatments because we were told it wouldn't work. There was a 1 in a million chance I could get pregnant, and the odds were very high that I would miscarry a child (I had 3 miscarriages last year) and there was a higher chance because of my condition that I could deliver a stillbirth.

Yet in January, when we found out I was pregnant, we somehow just knew instantly that this baby was going to make it into our arms. This baby was going to complete our family. A pure gift!

So why wasn't I bubbling over with excitement?
I used to get excited over little things, let alone big things. For some reason, all of the hard things of life (infertility, adoption, trauma, fear, grief, etc.) had seemed to harden part of my heart. I wasn't letting myself get excited. I wasn't letting myself experience everything. I found myself very guarded and unable to let that guard down. It was a struggle to even think about what emotions were real and put them into words.

Part of me was guarded over my friends emotions. I had come to know so many others that had experienced infertility and I did not want to hurt them. I did not want to lose them and their friendship over this. 

Another part of me was guarded over my own emotions. What if this baby did not really make it? What if something tragic happened? What if something happened to my health as a result? What if's can eat you alive if you let them!

As the pregnancy progressed and I started telling friends, I honestly was overwhelmed by their love and excitement. I think they were more excited than I was. What I forgot was how they had grieved with me. They had walked this lonely, tearful road and were changed by it as much as I was. So my news was an answer to prayer, a celebration! Friendship can be such a blessing.

Family was of course overjoyed, especially our kids at the thought of yet another brother (did I mention this makes our 5th SON!) 

This entire pregnancy, I've had highs and lows of emotions. They have run rampant over my heart and have quieted my voice. When I experience so many emotions it is extremely hard for me to voice them until they settle. They swirl in my brain until it calms down and I can think again.

Last week they finally did.
I allowed myself to realize my son, my baby is actually coming.
I can rejoice and long to hold him in my arms!
This miracle child should be here sometime tomorrow!

As I reflect upon all the emotions I've had throughout the past nine months, I am so grateful for all of them. They have changed me, for the better. It has deepened my relationship with friends in a way I could never imagine. I feel encouraged to voice them, reflect upon them, and to grow from them. They have reminded me that it makes me into who I am. Always changing, growing, embracing life.

Today I'm checking in to the hospital to have a baby!
I'm quite certain I'm about to unleash a whole new set of emotions that rival the ones from the past 9 plus months/years on the world around me. But the emotion that stands out the most is love.

Love for this child I'm going to birth.
Love for the family around me that have been praying for this child and will get to weep with me when we all get see his beautiful face. Love for friends that have battled emotions over the past few years with me and still stand to rejoice! Love from a husband that has stood beside me as my rock through the mountains and the valleys and will hold my hand and stand beside me in the hours, days, weeks, years and decades to come. Love from a God that granted us this blessing even before we knew what was coming.

Today is a celebration of love, the best emotion of all!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Supernatural Blessings

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. - James 1:17

Lately the words blessings and blessed have been making the rounds in Christian circles like wildfire. I watched a video about Christian college students that made me die laughing because they used #blessed in every social media post. While it is definitely an overused word, and one I try to stay clear of, there are times when it is one of the only descriptors of a situation.

In my lifetime, there are situations I can look back on and see God's hand, His blessing on my life. He's protected me while in a car accident that could have easily taken my life, I grew up in a loving family in a country that lets me be whatever and whoever I want, a husband that is honestly my perfect match, a job I loved when I worked, etc. I could go on and on and on.

Those of course are the happy blessings.
Blessings that cause heartache are harder to call blessings. Going through something traumatic and heartbreaking just so that I would walk closer to Him, experiencing hurt in a specific way without knowing it could be even worse, etc. 

Most of the time, blessings are deemed from things we wanted, desired, longed for, and can clearly see God giving you something you are desperately praying through.

But what about those times it just drops in your lap?
Things the world easily categorizes as a coincidence.
Do you go on with life or do you stop and realize that sometimes God just wants to give you a gift? To show you He knows what you need before you even ask. Something you hadn't even brought to Him yet because you weren't even ready yet to take the first step.

That happened to us a couple of weeks ago.

Our life is definitely crazy right now.
Kids start school tomorrow.
I'm pregnant with our 'surprise' baby and can go into labor any day now.
My car's in the shop getting fixed from getting rear-ended a few days ago.
Our rent house is empty and we were trying to get everything fixed so we could either sell or lease it again.

Then we get a random offer to buy it!
Seriously, it wasn't even on the market.
One day we received a letter in the mail asking about the house with a cash offer. Thinking this was too good to be true, we decided to chase the rabbit down the hole. We almost laughed about it wondering when the ball would drop and we would see the flaw. But it never came. Even after inspection and closing costs, it would still be a price above what we would have ever listed it for in the first place.
Two weeks after the offer and we closed on Friday!

I cannot even begin to explain how random this was. We have tried to sell this property before, to no avail, and yet it was like God said now was the time and just took care of it.

I say all of this not to brag or seem flippant, but because as I told a couple of people what happened, I found that our society was so quick to contribute this to dumb luck, a great selling market, or just randomness.

I can't get behind any of that.
I've seen God move mountains in my life and His timing is without a doubt always perfect. This entire situation was truly a blessing from Him. And it shocked me so much I wanted to shout from the rooftop how amazing His timing is. Of course I'm reminded of that with each hard kick I feel in my ribs or on my pelvis from a lanky baby He gifted to us, ready to come out.

We have a powerful, almighty God.
He's in the business of blessings.
Don't forget how amazing He is.
He's not random, He's perfect.

Thursday, May 05, 2016

Mother's Day - Just Partly Mine

Last year I wrote a piece about the Facets of Mother's Day.

It seems like that day was a decade ago. So much has happened this past year that as I sat and read the post this year I was brought to tears about how God has worked, remolding my heart into something different, something better.

Motherhood is such a work in progress.
I don't feel like I'll ever have it down.
The process of becoming a mom was HARD.
Full of heartache and sorrow, sweet and sad tears.
Being a mom to four adopted sons that all came to me through loss is even harder.

Trying to parent a 23 year old that I only see a handful of times (if that) a month. Still trying to bond and attach with our six and seven year olds that have only known us for 8 months while showing them what a parent/child relationship in a forever family looks like. Parenting a three year old that is embracing his terrifically terrible three's while he is about to lose his status as baby of the family when our first biological child enters in less than four months.

Five sons.
This time last year I never thought in my wildest dreams that our family would look like this. But here we are, embracing the future with open arms.

As this weekend approaches and I try to figure out how to celebrate Mother's Day with my boys, it overwhelms me so much. We need to spend time with grandmothers and their great grandmother. I want some time with them all to myself. Most importantly, however, I want to spend some reflection time with them on what Mother's Day is about. 

The four sons we have right now all have birth mothers that either made a decision for us to parent them or the decision was not their own as they lost their children. I do not want them to lose that part of them as they age and grow with our family. I know all of their birth mothers by name and this weekend we will recognize all of them. We will talk about the love they had for them, the goodness in their hearts, and we will share stories. 

This Mother's Day is just partly my day.
My heart grows with each child, just like their heart grew when they accepted me as their mom. There is room for both of us and there always will be. I cannot wait to hear stories and share stories this weekend. So much love to go around, even if some of it is through tears.

Happy Mother's Celebration Day to all the mom's out there.
Whether you are longing to be a mom, waiting for the birth of your first child, grieving the child you have lost, are parenting children you don't know how long they will be with you before they possibly return to family, parenting children that have other parents they mourn, or have a compilation of them all.

You are cherished and you are loved.
You are remembered and celebrated.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

My Story Unfolded

This story begins 13 years, 3 months, and 19 days ago.

Kelly and I went on our first date.
We had been friends for about a year and a half and I had just moved 6 hours away for graduate school. We decided to hang out that New Years and went out on our first date 2 days later. Our first date lasted for 9 hours! He picked me up, took me to meet his family and eat dinner with them. Next we were off to one of those places you can race cars, play arcade games, etc. After having fun just hanging out (as we usually did as friends anyway), he drove me back to my aunt and uncle's house where I was staying for a few days. He pulled into the driveway and we chatted for a little while. Then it was decided that we needed to at least kiss and see if there was more than friendship chemistry so we didn't waste any more time figuring this out.  Following that kiss, it was determined that since this obviously was going to work, we might as well plan our wedding.

No, I'm not kidding.
For the next two hours we planned our wedding date, wedding details, talked about where we would live, and what our family would look like. I told him I wanted 5 kids, all boys (because who wants the drama of girls??? I mean I was a wretched teenager!) and I wanted most of them to be adopted. He said that he only wanted 2 biological children. I gave him notice that God would be working on him.

See when I was 10 years old, I was studying about orphanages and missionaries that worked at them and felt then and there that I would adopt. Or if I never met someone to marry that I would move there and just help work at one. So since I had now met the man to marry, guess I'd be adopting.

(On a side note, at our wedding my dad gave a toast and told Kelly he would be waiting for 5 grandsons to make him a super TALL basketball team! I never told my dad I wanted 5 sons either so Kelly and I died laughing.)

Fast forward 5 years into marriage when we started talking about children. Biological was what we wanted to try for first. Adoption wasn't really being talked about, but we wanted a baby. After trying for over a year, we felt God telling us to adopt. And not just a baby, but a teenage boy. We knew this had to of come from the Lord because #1 it was not the norm and #2 Kelly didn't even want to adopt to begin with! So we proceeded down that path and put aside trying to conceive.
*More of that story HERE*

After we adopted Kiir, we decided to eventually try once more to conceive. After trying again for a year we decided to go seek answers. Specialists came back telling me I had a blood disorder that can cause spontaneous miscarriages, along with very low hormone levels and an extremely low egg count. We had an exceptionally low chance of conception and very high probability of miscarriage even if we did conceive.

So we moved back into adoption mode, this time for an infant so I could have the baby my heart longed for. About 7 months after certification, we brought Lex home.
*More of that story HERE*

When Lex was about 18 months old, we decided to slowly start the process again. We would get certified and this time adopt a sibling group from foster care. Right after our home study, I found out I was pregnant! What in the world??? We didn't think this was possible! So we made an appointment with my doctor for a few days later. I was 7 weeks along. 36 hours before my appointment I started miscarrying. It was one of the most heartbreaking times in my life.

Why would God bless us with this miracle after all we had been through and then not let us keep it? Why after trying to be obedient and honor Him in our lives did we not get the happiness I felt like we deserved. Let's just be honest, I don't grieve well. When I lost my cousin who I considered a sister years earlier it took me over a year and several counseling sessions later to move on. Grief hits me hard and I take a long time to come through it to the other side. However, now I wasn't just taking care of myself. I had a husband, teenager and a toddler to think about. What made it harder was that this time I had to watch other babies around me growing in tummies while reliving the fact that mine died inside of me. Lots of tears were shed after church, play dates, meetings with friends and family. It was hard. But God did some major work on my heart during this grieving time. He showed me that He had grace for my selfish thoughts. He had compassion for my hurt. He had so much more planned for my life that I could not yet see. I just had to trust in Him.

So a few months later, we were officially certified to adopt again and I decided to move on. We were matched with our now adopted boys and proceeded in the process. We brought them home in August the week before school began and life was so busy, crazy, and honestly I could barely breathe enough to think about anything other than feeding everyone. We were deep into survival mode, parenting very traumatized children while trying not to traumatize ourselves in the process.
*More of that story HERE*

Nevertheless, during this time I had two more miscarriages, very early on, and finally decided to at least find out what was going on with my body. Something strange was happening and even if we didn't have a baby (which was the LAST thought on my mind right now), I wanted some answers.

As I sat in the fertility clinic (yet again) and looked around, I could see that longing for a baby in the eyes of all of the women around me. I honestly did not have the yearning anymore. We had the one baby given to us at birth that I longed for and I just wanted to figure out what was going on inside of me because I felt out of sorts. So after all of the blood work and tests, the results came back in even crazier than anticipated. First of all, the blood disorder I knew I already had from my first round of tests apparently has been disproven to cause miscarriages in the beginning like they thought. It can just cause issues later in pregnancy if untreated properly. Second, I was told that my low egg count was not going to send me into early menopause like I was told 6 years prior. Okay, so now that my mind was spinning, I was then told I had another blood disorder that was more serious and can actually cause issues such as blood clots, strokes, etc. I had not had those issues yet, but it can cause miscarriages if not treated properly when you become pregnant. Also, I needed to immediately start taking meds to thin out my blood for the rest of my life. Great. That was lovely news. I was feeling fantastic at this point.

So I left this specialist with instructions to find a new doctor that saw high risk patients. I promptly made an appointment with the new doctor I found for a week later. He sat with me for over an hour answering all of my blood disorder and miscarriage questions, and looked over all of my test results.

Then he said something that stopped me dead in my tracks. My hormone level was not super low due to my egg count anymore. In fact, my hormone level had gone back up to that of an average woman for my age. What??? How is that possible? He even agreed it was strange, but then kind of jokingly said "Well, God moves mountains."

Um excuse me? What do you mean by that?
I left feeling better about my condition and puzzled by what my body was doing. I was supposed to go back in a month later to get some more blood work done to recheck my levels. But 3 weeks after that appointment, we conceived. When I walked back into the doctor's office, he just laughed and said "Well, that was fast!" and promptly started me on some medication to help prevent a miscarriage. He told me not to worry about anything, that he had high hopes for this one, and I would need to come in weekly for blood tests to see how everything was progressing until I hit 10 weeks.

I prayed and prayed for this baby. I started praying when I was 25 and wanted this child. And now I was praying even more that I would finally not meet the heartache I had come accustom to. I prayed that this baby would be the one that stuck!

It wasn't like we really needed a 5th child! We had our hands full and with the most recent adoption, I actually was at the highest stress level I had ever been at in my life. Every minute of the day was hard, draining, and I couldn't even envision adding another to the mix. But for some reason, I felt like God was whispering in my ear that this was the one, the answer to my prayers long ago that I had given up on. This one was going to make it and it was the final Carson kid for us. Kelly had the exact same feeling and we joked often about it. Did we feel more dread at the thought of another child or happy that our prayers from years ago were answered. It was a combination for sure!

We had been trying for over 7 years and now was God's perfect timing. We didn't understand it, but we fully embraced it. It could have only been God's plan for this to work out the way it did.

Now as we prepare for the 7th Carson member of our family, God reminds me daily that He had a plan all along for our life. I think I was a pretty stupid 19 year old when I told Kelly I wanted 5 sons, mostly adopted. But apparently God is in the business of answering prayers in His way and His perfect timing. It is almost laughable how He gave me exactly what I asked for many years ago.

Lord willing, in late August/early September we will meet this precious baby boy. The one to complete our family. And I can relish in the testimony He has given me as a mother to many stinky, dirty, gross, handsome, smart, tall, crazy and amazing sons. Maybe one day I'll get some daughter-in-laws I can go do girly stuff with, or better yet, granddaughters! Until then, I'll bask in the rich blessings the Lord has granted me. They are indeed too numerous to count!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

In the Raw

You might not know it with the hat, glasses, make-up and accessories...

But behind the filter,
I feel unnaturally and painfully exposed.
Like layers and layers of flesh are being constantly removed.
Wounds are being reopened, sores resurfacing.
I feel inexperienced, untrained, and completely ignorant.
I'm not prepared, dressed, finished or refined.
I feel stripped, naked down to the soul.

But I'm going to be brutally and grossly frank.
I feel utterly and completely
(in every sense of the word)

Parenting in general can do this to you. But becoming instant parents to children that have been to hell and back and suffered more trauma in two years than you probably will experience in a lifetime can send you into a state of shock faster than lightening can strike.

When I signed up to become a parent through adoption, I knew the road wasn't an easy one. I read up, educated myself, found new friends that had traveled this path before, and prayed. Our first rodeo with adoption with a child from foster care was five years ago. Our son came to us as a 17 year old that towered above me, had pants falling off of him because he was so skinny, was super shy and quiet, and still struggling to learn the English language since he came to the states as a refugee with no education or schooling at all in his past. We struggled with language, culture, attachment, dealing with trauma and the effects it had, along with all of the normal 17 year old issues of being a senior in high school like graduating while still learning to read, learning to drive, learning about money and that there is not an unlimited tree it grows from, etc.

Five years later and we are still learning.
All of us.

We have grown. Deepened our understanding of what adoption means. What healing looks like. What a family can be. That forever is a process. And we are only five years into it.

I also learned that God was doing something to my life then. Cutting away at my soul. Making it bleed so He could heal it and mold it as only the perfect surgeon could. Rerouting arteries, stretching muscles, and amputating dead limbs.

He brought me to a state of feeling raw, numb to the outside world.
I felt alone, hurt, and sensitive to the touch.
Nobody understood, except Him.

-  -  -  -  -

So you would think that with our second adoption through foster care that I would know more, be more prepared, armed with more arrows in my bag and an impenetrable shield.

There is nothing more far from the truth.
In fact I have deepened my belief that I am perfectly flawed.

Two weeks ago, our world was beaten, twisted, knocked senseless, and displayed for the world to see in a distorted upside down picture.

Sure we had read all the thousands of papers, reports, talked to specialists, friends that had been down a similar road, and prepared ourselves the best we could. But it didn't matter.

The crap hit the fan the minute we stepped foot out of the car at home exactly two weeks ago and from that day forward, we've been living on a battlefield.

A battle of how to parent 3 children at home 3 drastically different ways.
I don't have a three-way lightbulb in my brain that I can switch from one setting to the next quick enough and this has lead to many melt-downs from both children and parents alike and LOTS of apologies, especially from me to them. I'm still learning, and I don't think I'll be able to stop anytime soon. Probably never.

Battles with severe effects from multiple traumas that leads to PTSD. 
My children might have fared better growing up in a war zone than the heartache they have experienced before coming to live with us. Trauma does wonders on a brain, heart, and soul. Just ask the soldier that just came back from their third tour of duty that have witnessed unspeakable events. And unfortunately, this can be labeled by others as severe ADHD, or can cause tons of sensory issues, or for some kids can turn into violent and angry outbursts, and for others a state of silent depression that can last hours. 

Battles with the opinions of others/my flesh...
I'm not a sacrificial parent that anyone should look up to. I have more flaws than most. My self image suffers when I get looks from strangers in the grocery store because I have a child laying on the floor crying and I have to raise my voice because normal talking doesn't get through the smoke screen in his brain that his trauma puts up in a heighten state. Can people hear the screaming from my kids while walking their dog in front of our house? What do they think about me? Has their opinion changed for the worse? But that's the problem right there. It's not about me! It's about parenting each child the way that will help them grow up to become a child that feels loved and part of our family. Why would I put what other people think above parenting my children the way they need to be parented?

And then there is the battle of the mind.
This battle is the worst kind because it's the one the enemy gladly and ferociously attacks.
The sound of this battle is something like...
Why did I do this? I'm not cut out for this. I don't love my children. Why don't I love my children? Will I ever learn to even like them? Was this a mistake? Why did we do this?

And those words are daggers to the heart and can eat me up if I let them, because they are the devil's way of creeping into my soul and feeding me lies. They can consume me if I let them.

The truth is, I didn't sign up for the perfect life I wanted.
I thought I did when I went off to college, got married, 
and had my little goal sheet I checked off each year.

But really I signed up for following Christ - to the ends of the earth.
It's painful, dirty, messy, ugly, full of heartache, tough, 
excruciating, defeating, utterly exhausting,
and leaves me feeling raw.

But it is only in the raw
that Christ can do what He wants with my life,
if I let Him.

"Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,
for His compassions never fail. 
They are new every morning;
great is Your faithfulness."
-Lamentations 3:22-23

Five years from now, I'm sure I'll still be learning, calling friends for advice, and on my knees in prayer, desperate for my Savior. But what I have learned is that in this raw state, God does vast amounts of work on my heart and soul. And through great pain and refinement, I come out of the fire closer to Him.

My life is not about me.
It's about the process.
And although the night might be long and full of many tears,
praise and joy comes in the morning.

I'm starting to see the light of the morning, little by little.
Tomorrow is a new day,
full of new beginnings, blessings, and a fresh start.
And for that I am grateful.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
-2 Corinthians 4:16-18