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 

Friday, August 14, 2015


Today was a new beginning.
Something we have longed for, prayed for, and waited for.
Today we got to meet our sons.

They are precious, amazing, kind, funny, smart and loving.
They already fit into our family in so many ways.
And they are ours.

I will never forget today.
And praise God for the days to come,
full of laughter, joy, happiness, and craziness.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Carson - Party of SIX!

We've been itching at the gun to share this with you since we found out. Keeping secrets is hard! Seriously, I'm horrible at it when it comes to something personal that I'm thrilled about. I wanted to tell all of our families and friends. But, it's just not the same as when someone gets pregnant and can excitedly share with the world the day they found out. 

A matched adoption through foster care can be a beating. And everything can unravel at the last possible second. But speaking from experience, it is all worth it. The paperwork, the waiting, the getting irritated at the waiting, practicing patience, feeling nervous and excited, reading thousands of documents, and preparing for the unknown. 

Matched adoption with kids in foster care goes a little something like this:

July/Aug 2014: 
Go to classes (30+ hours and a binder full of paperwork)

Oct 2014: 
Home Study Interview

Dec 2014: 
Home Study finally approved

Jan 2015: 
Let our agency start searching for our future kids!

Jan-May 2015: 
NO news

June 2015: 
Would you be interested in this sibling group? 
Yes! Submit our home study!

July 2015: 
Staffing (CPS meeting to pick the family)
Read through the thousands of pages of PDFs from the past two years of their lives. 
Make a decision to move forward.

Aug 2015:
Yesterday: Hold final meeting with all parties (minus the kids) so they can ask us questions and we can ask them questions. 

Formally say YES - and officially become "Matched"
*For those wondering, yes, you accept the role of being their parent before meeting the child(ren). As crazy as it sounds, there is such beauty in this! Just like how God chooses to accept us as His children, no matter what our past is or what baggage we bring. He embraces us for who we are and loves us unconditionally. There is no return policy, we are forever in His family.

Next Week: Meet our future sons!

So will you join us in praying that everything goes as smoothly as possible during this transition. We are all very excited, nervous, and so ready to meet them. We've longed for this moment for a very long time. And although everyone is very excited, we know that our family is only growing larger because of great loss. Help us press into Him who is able to guide our footsteps, actions, mouths, and hearts as we grow our family. Lastly, pray for our sanity. Mine in particular. I mean 5 boys and leaving me as the only girl? What am I thinking?!?! 

Of course the Lord gently reminded me that on my first date with Kelly, I told him I wanted 5 kids and for at least some of them to be adopted. Be careful what you pray for. The Lord loves to show how well He listens and bless you beyond understanding. He's kind of awesome that way!

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

It's Not About You

A friend once tried to comfort me by saying those words:

"It's not about you."

I really needed that. 
Except that I actually did need to hear it, I just didn't want to.

Did I mention it was said when I felt like I was at my lowest of lows? And I've had some doozies!

We have suffered several years of infertility.
I was told my chances of getting pregnant are slim to none.
And that I will go through early onset menopause in my 30s.
In the process of adopting a second child, a birth mother invited us to the birth after secretly having the child 2 weeks prior and we sat on the other side of glass doors at a hospital waiting for a child to be born that wasn't even there.
I have grieved unbearable loss through miscarriage.
And these are just a few of the trials we've endured from the past 5 years.

I used to think that everything that happened in my life was about me. Growing up in church I heard countless times that every situation, every bad thing was about God shaping and molding me; drawing me closer to Him.

While I think that God uses situations to draw us closer to Him, I have grown to understand that it's not all about me. In fact, I think a larger percent of the time it is really not about me at all!

What my friend reminded me of was the fact that so many others watch me. They watch from the sidelines to see how I will respond. They watch when I fail to see what I'll do next. They watch as a I cry to see what words and actions will follow. As I go through the fire, will I come out smelling like smoke or will I trust in God to protect me and not have a single singed hair on my body? Will I step away from my faith or press in stronger? Who and what is really at the center of my heart? People are always watching.

Do you remember Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego? When King Nebuchadnezzar demanded they bow and worship his gods, their response was:

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown in to the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." -Daniel 3:16-18

Later, when they came out from the blazing furnace still alive, it says:
"There was no smell of fire on them."

You remember the last time you roasted marshmallows outside or sat around a camp fire? There is no way I can wear those clothes again without washing them unless I want someone to know where I was last. The smell of fire is strong. It takes hold of everything from your clothes to your hair. You need water, soap and serious scrubbing to wash it out.

Yet as we walk through the fires of life, we have the option to smell like smoke and make everything all about you, OR you can press into Him and realize there is much more of a global picture than just God molding you. Only God can surround us and keep away the smell of fire so He can use your story. He is drawing others to Him through you. He is using the story of redemption in your life so that you can share about Him to others through your pain. But if we smell like smoke and make everything about us - our pain, our situation, why me? - then others can't see Him.

I hate to break it to you but it's really not about you.
It's about Him. Our one true and perfect God!

And if you are sitting in a puddle of tears (as I find myself often doing) find comfort in His presence.

"My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your Word." -Psalm 119:28

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior....Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you and people in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you." -Isaiah 43:1-5

So my encouragement to you is this:

As you walk through the fire, dust off the smell of smoke. Let others smell the fragrance of Christ as you show others love, grace, compassion, and your total dependence on God.

Because dear friend, it's not about you.
It's about Him!

Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Facets of Mother's Day

A few years ago, I used to think of Mother's Day as a day to celebrate my own mother. I did not really think about the other mother's surrounding me or the ones that influenced and shaped me. It came and went and that was all there was to it.

Then we started trying to have children and this day that once was a short celebration became a dreaded event. The days leading up to Mother's Day were heart wrenching.  The actual day I mourned ever so deeply because I was passed over and forgotten, even though I desperately wanted to be called a mom.  We even skipped church one Sunday because I was crying and could not handle going inside, the pain engulfing my soul too much to bear.

A few years later I became a parent, literally overnight, and began to see this celebratory event of sorts completely different. I smiled and I cried. I embraced the title of 'mom' and yet still hurt as I thought about what brought me to this day. My pain, and another mom's pain. My joy, and my heartache.

You see, suddenly a day that I thought was meant for one thing took a turn I never predicted. Now, this day held an abundance of various emotions and it took me a few years to begin to understand how to handle it all.

I became a mom by adopting a man-child 17 year old. I didn't get to birth him or rock him to sleep. I wasn't there for his first steps, first day of school or to save him from the horrible tragic things he has endured in his life. He called someone else 'mom' before me and it was not either of their choices to end that relationship. So the first couple of Mother's Day celebrations for me were incredibly hard when all I wanted was to be honored and yet it seemed to be so painful for him. Was I not a good mom? What did I do wrong?

But it wasn't about me. I'm not the only mom in his life. I'm his forever mom, but not his first. This day brings up memories, both good and heart wrenching for him. And to make it solely about me was just wrong. Wrong for me to expect that and wrong for me to think that was even okay.

You see, no matter how much heartache he might have experienced with his birth mom, there is good in every single person because we are all made in the image of God. She was a good cook. She was an incredible artist. She passed a lot of her greatness on to him and it shaped him into the person he is today. She loved him the best she knew how and gave him life. His birth mom is to be honored and cherished, especially around Mother's Day.

Two and a half years ago, a birth mom picked us to parent the son she was carrying and he came into this world less than 24 hours later. We sat in a hospital room and got to talk with her about her decision, what motherhood meant to her, and why she was picking me to be his mom. 

The next day, as I sat holding the son we shared, she walked into the nursery and said her final goodbye. The emotions that filled that room could have knocked walls down and yet you could have heard a pin drop. The heartache she must have felt as she turned around for the last time. The fear I had since he wasn't legally ours yet. The love we both intensely felt for this little baby I held in my arms. Before she turned, our eyes locked, her's telling me her love for him would never end and mine telling her I promised to love him forever for her.

It is love, though, that always wins out.

The love I hold for my two sons is the same love their birth moms feel. We share a desire for them to succeed in life, to grow up and become great men and fathers. There is a bond between myself and them unlike no other. And when we adopt again, I will embrace another birth mom into my life and celebrate the love we all hold so deeply for our children.

The Saturday before Mother's Day has become the day our family celebrates birth moms. We talk about good memories and the love they have for their children. Our older shares stories and we share stories with our youngest. I am grateful for these strong women and hurt for what they must feel each Mother's Day. 

One day I hope we will all sit in heaven around a table, sharing about the love that bonds us together. This might not be how God intended families to be created, but in our sin-filled and heartbreaking world, He is a God of redemption. And that has become my life song both as a mother and as a child of God. My redeeming Savior has shown me that He indeed causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for Him. 

My purpose is to love.
Love God.
Love others.
Love my family.
And love other mothers...

- - -

On this Mother's Day, I celebrate all of you.

To those that desperately want to become a mom and can't,
my heart breaks for you.

To those that have lost a child before they took a breath,
I grieve hand in hand with you.

To those that are "temporary moms" and foster children,
I applaud the way you allow your heart to swell over and over again 
with new children and birth families alike.

To those that made a choice to have someone else raise their child,
along with those that had children taken from them,
I mourn with you for the pain you must feel on Mother's Day,
birthdays, and every day in between.

And for those that share a Mother's Day with someone else,
I honor the way you allow your heart to be stretched.
I wish I could embrace you and silently share that
"I understand and you are doing an amazing job handling it all" look.

So instead of saying "Happy Mother's Day", I have changed it to "Mother's Celebration Day". For every single one of you are to be celebrated, cherished and loved.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Rainy Days

Sometimes the rain comes on days when you had other plans. 
And sometimes it is because you needed your plans, your focus to change. 
Sometimes, if you stop and look hard enough, the rain can be enjoyable.

Today was one of those days...