Monday, January 8, 2018

Book Thoughts: Looking for Lovely

For inquiring minds, I will post reviews to books that I read this year. I just finished my first read of 2018, and it.is.lovely. Both literally and figuratively, the book is just...lovely.

Buy this book here.

I have had this book (and every single one she's ever written) on my wishlist since I first heard a podcast with Jen Hatmaker and Annie F. Downs. Who knew that this music gal would ever love podcasts, but I would say I listen to them as much as I listen to music nowadays. Starting with Jen's, which you can find in your favorite podcast provider as "For the Love with Jen Hatmaker." However, I anxiously await Annie's new podcasts each week, too. Find her at "That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs."

So now that we have that down, I want to tell you to read this book. I underlined things in the foreword, all through the book, the epilogue...and even the "thank you" section if I'm honest. So many of her struggles I relate to, and so sometimes it was as if I was reading my own struggles and thoughts in black and white (which is both scary and awe-inspiring).

Scripture is woven throughout the entire book. I love that she refers to stories, sections, people I know from the Bible. The chapter about tragedy was pretty much all underlined and read and re-read. Reading that sometimes looking for lovely in tragedy is about feeling the pain, calling hurt what it is, not pretending everything is ok, and just living without ignoring the hurt. (p. 76 loosely quoted)


She quotes Psalm 126:5 in another chapter, which I've read how many times but never has stuck out to me. But that day? Someone I loved was in crisis. I couldn't help. If you know me, you know that I cry when I feel anything, so I was doing a lot of prayer crying. It was perfect timing, or as I like to think of it - me being reminded that I am not alone, He sees, He knows.

She talks about music. This quote from p. 102 resonated so deeply with me about music:
"That's what music does. It holds you together when you think you'll fall apart. It reminds you of truth. It grabs your hand as you try to cross the finish line. It fills your ears with peach when it feels like there is no peace."
So good, right?

In another chapter, she reiterates the need for "your people." I need more people. I have some. I need to invest more in the ones I have and the ones God is laying on my heart. She talked about the story in Exodus 17 where Moses needed his arms held up because that's when the Israelites were winning, and how different people had to help because he physically couldn't do it after so many hours. So good.

One of my favorite quotes in the book...I could not underline it enough (may it be the cry of my heart):
"As I'm collecting these moments that matter, I'm actually just seeing more of Him. Because in the end, that's what it's all about. When you find Jesus, you have found lovely. He is everything we need."
Yes, yes, yes. All the praise hands.

Thank you, Annie F. Downs, for a beautiful introspective and honest piece of art. I can't wait to read all the others.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Sayonara 2017

I don't know about you, but I love a fresh new year. I do. I love the holiday season: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. My favorite days, though, are probably the ones between Christmas and New Years. The chaos of the holidays are behind and it's kind of a quiet week.

I typically spend a lot of time reflecting on my year. And this year? 2017 was a doozy. I mean...it was both amazing and not. I'm entering the New Year with lots of hope and also gratitude that 2017 is closing behind me.

Highlights:
  • I met my birth mother, Sarah. It was a highlight of my life for sure. I'm so grateful for the blooming relationship with her and a visit this year where I will get to introduce my hubby and kidlets to her. And as a result of meeting her, I've begun a relationship with her two daughters which I am enjoying. One day I will write about meeting her.
  • The kids turned 20, 6, & 11. They are both my joy and every bit of what exhausts me.
  • I continue to love my job. I get to work with babies, toddlers, and their mommas. I get to work at my kids' school, on their schedule with amazing people and teachers. SO grateful.
  • Mister and I celebrated 10 years. That's a long time. I am so grateful for his wisdom and leadership in my life. Cheers to 90 more.
  • Studying the Word. I have diligently studied and copied the Word this year. I am so excited to continue this habit. I am so grateful for how God speaks to us through His word.

Lowlights:
  • Pain. Oy. It started at the beginning of 2017. It was a slow fade. Answers didn't really start until the fall, but I know my phlebotomist by name. So. Much. Blood drawn to find answers. I'm bringing in 2018 with some relief, but still a lot of unanswered questions. Living with chronic pain is NO JOKE. No one understands it except maybe those who live with you and those who also have chronic pain. Praying for answers, relief, and hope in the coming days and year. I have to put a plug in for my dear Mister here...he has pushed me to get answers and picked up a LOT of slack around the house, which I am ever so grateful for. I am really hoping for more answers and relief in the coming months and year.
  • Parenting. The good news on this front is that I'm not alone. This has been one of the roughest years of parenting. Each of my kids has had unique challenges that have caused quite the struggle for me. I don't ever know if I'm doing it right (which really is the rally of parents, isn't it?), but the fear of failing these kids is just...so big sometimes. I'm not alone. It's hard across the board. It would help if we could parent them all the same, but you know...that's just not a reality. I will continue to love them with all my heart, seek the Lord for wisdom and grace, and take it day by day. My prayer is that I won't take it in my hands, but keep pushing them to Jesus. At the end of the day, that's all I really know to do anyway.
  • Depression. Oh man...there was a very, very dark 8-12 weeks in the fall. I've never experienced a darkness quite like that before. I am so grateful to be on the other side of it. I completely had pulled away from any support that I had. Only my hubby and one friend even knew what was happening. 
Photo Cred: Megan Rockwell Photography
What I've learned:
  • That whole "faith, hope, and love are the greatest of these" is legit. Without hope, it's pretty dark. Without faith...there is no hope. Without love, who would take care of you and pull you up and put hope in front of you and remind you of your faith?
  • You don't need 47 friends. You need like 3. And only one deep one...maybe a few others to keep you grounded and real. Sometimes friends cross that line into "framily" and they become irreplaceable to you. So grateful for my framily...family that I got to choose. You are my light and my constant. I love you.
  • There is no manual for being a momma to three completely different human beings. What works for one won't work for another. And sometimes my love and effort isn't enough to "fix" anything.
  • God alone is my source of strength. What an honor to be loved by the Creator.

Cheers to the New Year! May 2018 be a time we seek Him first.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Raising a World Changer {aka joy sprinkler}

We spent 4 days in Chicago this past week. You get to know some of the hotel staff as you come and go. The manager at the fitness center (aka pool) {where the kids and I spent the days Daddy was in meetings} loved to interact with the kids. After a few days, he came up to me and tell me he thinks Ruby is a world changer...that even though she's young, he believes she has quite a calling on her life. This is not the first time I've heard this.

And now I officially have some thoughts to share on my blog. (It's been a while. Oy.)

Parenting a strong-willed child, as many of you know, is more difficult than I could have imagined. It can be lonely, confusing, frustrating, and entertaining....a whirlwind, if you will.

She struggles to build relationships, but yet encourages and includes people who might be considered "unseen." She sprinkles joy everywhere she goes.

I've had a lot of people just say we should "break her spirit," and she will eventually obey. I'm so glad we haven't done that, even though it might make our journey more difficult, isolated, etc. Sure...breaking her spirit would {possibly} give us obedience. Dare I say immediate obedience?

OR I can try to rough out the edges with grace, understanding, and patience. Is it easy? No. Is it trying? Um, yes. Do I feel like it most days? Nope. Do I see fruition after all this time? Yes...and THAT is awesome.

I watched her time and time again this past week sprinkle joy everywhere she goes. She made businessmen, fancy ladies, and pet owners in the middle of a big city smile and chuckle with her silliness. She drew people in when they didn't even know they wanted to be drawn in.

And that, my friend, is why I know she will change the world. Even if it's just one smile at a time. Because she already has made a footprint. Handfuls of people over the course of this week smiled over a silly girl who sprinkles joy wherever she goes. And this momma is tired but so so proud of her girl.


                     

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The real heroes

 I hear lots of interesting things as a foster/adoptive momma.

"They're so lucky to have you." No, really...you have no idea. I am, indeed, the lucky one. And unfortunately, my 3 kids have experienced deep loss {and will continue to do so for most of their lives}. So...I'm not sure luck is involved here. I'd like to think I'm an answer to their prayers, as they are an answer to mine. My kids have given me such gifts in themselves. Resilience I literally don't comprehend, determination to live fully, compassion that comes out of their own injustice...they all give these gifts freely and walk on. I am so grateful to have a front row seat to their stories.

"I don't know how you do it." Um...how I...parent? It's hard. It kind of simulates a roller coaster, actually. I haven't known a parent that doesn't say the same. So. Many. Ups. And. Downs. Where are the praise hands, y'all? Is there one among us that doesn't have a rough day now and again? So that's how I do it. The power of parenthood. It cuts through any child-brought-on-crisis in 3 seconds flat with unconditional love. Hall-e-lu-jah.

"What a heroic thing to take in these children." You guys. I'm no hero. Not in any sense. Heroes save the day. Heroes rescue people from burning buildings. Heroes fight battles for people they don't know. And my heroes? They are my children...all three of them. To walk through and live in a world when they belong to another one...that's heroic. To smile and love and hug and dream and LIVE while sorting through the continual fog of grief...that's heroic. To lose so many important people {and even places and things} and then still keep going with a smile on their face...that's heroic.


I fear that we, as a society, fail to recognize the heroic measures these kids go through by keeping on. As for me...I see it. I live it. I walk in it {sometimes it's more like trudging in it}. I breathe it.

I will never stop praying for my heroes {and the hundreds of others that I know personally} to come face to face with their grief and work to overcome it. I know the One who holds tomorrow. I know He has a plan. And that is where I rest.

My heroes? They show up and live fully.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Thing About Hope...

Hope can be so elusive...so far away. And yet, isn't it true that sometimes it's the only thing we have to hold on to?



Hope that we won't always be in a certain situation.
Hope that we won't always be sick.
Hope for a deep, soul-quenching friendship.
Hope that tomorrow will be a bit brighter than today.
Hope for a change in our children...a change of heart, behavior, etc.
Hope for rest and relaxation.
Hope that a new job will come along that will meet our family's needs {soon}.
Hope for new life...a fresh-smelling baby to join the family.
Hope for our significant other to notice us again.
Hope for encouragement {from anyone...anything...any song or Word}.
Hope for a vacation in the next few years.
Hope for a family member's salvation.
Hope to find/meet "the one."
Hope for a decent, safe car that can get us from Point A to Point B.
Hope for a good, solid night of sleep.

Truthfully, these are all things I have hoped for in the recent past. Every one of them. Maybe you can relate. If not, add yours: hope for [fill in the bank].

And another honest statement: though the above mentioned quests were great, no matter how long they had been hoped for...there was still something else to hope in. The next thing, if you will.

The truth is, the only hope I will find is in Jesus. These situations are great. Fresh-smelling baby that you'd prayed for for 5 years falling in your lap...I mean...you can't beat that. But hope? That's literally the business Jesus is in.

We so easily lose hope. By we, I mean all of us. Every single one of us. Some of us are maybe more prone to it than others. But we all lose hope sometimes, whether it's in a particular situation or in general.

But Jesus...



Hebrews 6:17-20 paraphrase {by me}: We have this hope as an anchor: Jesus paid it all. He literally handed us the rights to God's love and heaven. The end.

It's not about how good we are {though we try to be good}.
It's not about how much we've done in His name {though we try to do things in his name}.
It's not about what we do or don't do.
It's not about what we believe or don't believe.
It's not about who we love.
It's only Him.

So my hope...I keep trying to redirect it these days. It's in Jesus alone....Jesus alone. In Him I will put my hope. And that's a hope I can cling to.


Friday, February 24, 2017

On telling their story

I am surrounded by adoption. When I mean surrounded, I mean sur.round.ed. My sister has 6; I have 3; One roommate from college spends her days matching families, supporting birth mommas and new adoptive parents (check her out here); My best friend has 3; My "people" where I live all have adopted children. You could say we just kinda...gravitate toward each other and need each other and our experiences.

Each of those families is filled with adopted children, biological children, step-children. And each of those children have their own story.


One of the concerns adoptive parents often have for their child is how to tell their story.

Many have been warned not to tell ANYONE. It's not our story to tell. However, those of us who have adopted transracially or globally will often be asked {by strangers sometimes} about our family. Advice: have a blanket quick-tell of the version of the story that most involves you. Maybe share why your family chose to adopt. Read on for more advice, but I promise it's not to keep it all a bit fat secret.

Many are wanting to keep adoption private. Often there's so much loss involved in the decisions made around adoption that some people prefer to keep it quiet. You do that. Advice: please know...there are so many of us out here that can help support you. We can hold your hand or hold you up. We can whisper promises that God has set on our hearts through our journey. Sometimes it feels better that we aren't the only one walking this road.

Many are proud to tell their family's story. Maybe even eager. You want to spread all the news to all the people. You want your story to maybe push another family into this journey of love. You want to share, share, share. Advice: Do that. Be eager about your adoption. Tell the impact it's had on your family. Tell the way it has blessed you personally. Be careful, though, about personal details you share about your child's family and past. This is especially important in foster care, where there is so much grief and loss in losing a parent (no matter how long they had with them).

While I offer no judgement, I can offer my experience {for what it's worth}. I was adopted domestically through an agency, and now as a grown adoptee, I am now an adoptive parent through foster care (for now). We have three children who have all blessed us in more ways than we can tell.

The truth is, adoption is hard. It's beautiful. But it's hard. Bonding is hard. Loving kids from hard places is hard. There's so much loss (often on both sides) that makes it hard to navigate. On the "telling of their story," it's not ours to tell, parents. It's just not.

As a child, I remember being told "you don't have to tell people you're adopted." Somewhere along the way, even though it wasn't part of the language my parents used for adoption, deep down, I felt it {being adopted} was something to be ashamed of. As if the loss and abandonment feelings aren't great enough.

My story is amazing. My parents are amazing. My family is amazing. My life has been amazing. Being adopted is part of who I am. I wanted {needed} to tell people. I did. And not everyone does, but it's not our jobs to tell the stories of our kids.

People want to hear them...boy howdy, do they. But I say a lot..."That's not my story to tell." So what they hear instead is my portion. 

As a parent, my story is full of gratitude that he/she is mine. I am broken and sad about the loss they have encountered. And I am hopeful of the plan God has for all three of my children....simply because He's already ordained so much.

As an adoptee, I am an open book. My experience and loss and grief might be able to help someone along the way. Ask away. My story is full of Gods timing and grace and humor and the best family I could ever ask for. ❤️

The truth is - adoption = the gospel. It's messy and ugly. It's redemptive and beautiful. It's hard to grasp, and so full of love that you can't contain it. So let's tell our story...not theirs. When they're ready / able / willing...they'll tell theirs.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Adoption: The Truth About Our Hurt

I have a unique perspective. As an adoptee who has adopted, I get both sides. The only leg of the adoption triangle I'm missing is the birth momma.

Adoption is this...amazing experience I have had the pleasure of knowing so intimately. It's who I am. It's my past and present and future. God gave me this amazing family who nurtured me and led me up in Christ. I was loved. I am loved. My family is such a gift. And now I get to love and nurture three souls that I have been hand-picked to parent through foster/adoption.

To say that this road is all roses and butterflies would be...untrue. And to be honest, no parenting road is smooth sailing. If someone claims that it is, perhaps they haven't hit certain stages yet. Or maybe they're lying. 😜

The truth is, parenting kids from hard places is both incredibly challenging and terribly sad. It's hard.

So...in the essence of true transparency, I thought I'd write a little about the hurt and pain we adoptees go through. Please read this with no judgement and no "psychological answers," because the truth is...it's there. The older I get, the more I feel like one day (or year) it will go away, but it doesn't.

And remember: this doesn't mean we don't love the life we've been given and blessed with. I'm just hoping to let light in to your adoptee's mind...even if they can't put words to it.

There are days when we're sad and we don't know why. Only to realize later that it's because we didn't sleep last night as we thought/dreamt/imagined our birth family and how life maybe would have been. Does it mean we want a different life? No. {For me, never.} But does it mean we wonder? Yes. We do. And then our feelings drift to why? That "why" will hang over our heads until we get the chance to ask the ones who can answer it, which some of us never will.

Birthdays are much harder than one would think. Not because we're growing older. No. It's because we can't stop wondering if the proverbial "they" are thinking about us. Do they remember this day? What are their memories/feelings/regrets about this day? Or is it just another day for them? Do they remember? Do they miss me? Do they wish they knew me?

There's a lot more guilt than we talk about. We wrestle with our desire to want to know more (everything) about our heritage/birth family/genes. We worry that will make our adoptive family think we love them less. We don't. But we need to know basic things that most people automatically have given to them upon birth into a family. Let us explore. Let us search. Let us meet. Let us love and be loved by both of the families who made us who we are. Without abandon. And maybe help us along the way.

Don't assume gratitude. This is a hard one for me to type. I am impacted greatly by gratitude; I believe we all are. But don't assume that we should be grateful for the life we've been given. Especially in those teenage years, when all we search for is autonomy, sometimes all we can think about is how life would/could be better/different. Don't say to me, "You should be grateful for the family you have." I am grateful. We are. We adoptees are. But why should we assume that our life is greater without our "roots?" That's a hard pill to swallow for us.

I look into my 3 kid's eyes and I sometimes even admittedly think that. That I wish they'd be grateful for the sacrifice and love and hard issues we sludge through with them. But the truth is, I know they are silently fighting a battle that they don't even want to be in.

And so in our home, we provide safety and (hopefully) transparency. We talk about birth family and birth parents as fluidly as we talk about our own. We talk about what could have been, what might have been. We talk about how all of our family has shaped who we are. We talk about how we have to choose which way to lean....how to pick the good parts of all of it and learn to be comfortable with who we are. We talk about how hard birthdays are. And sometimes, when relaying our conversations to my husband, tears are shed. Because I don't want my children to know how I understand both sides now. I get them wanting their roots. And I also get me wanting to protect them from whatever possible harm there could be in their roots.

We celebrate big days (birthdays, gotcha, adoption, etc) with the realization that the only way our family can celebrate these days is because our child has experienced such a great and devastating loss. That can not be forgotten or left out.

Similar to life itself, great beauty rises from the ashes of hurt. And though no family is perfect, mine was perfect for me. I pray when my three are grown, they will say the same of us.

And most importantly, the beauty outweighs the hurt. Always.