Thursday, August 9, 2018

On Birthdays {from the Adult Adoptee}

{{Disclaimer: This post is from my perspective as an adoptee. I am not going to "blanket" this on all adopted people, but I will admit that many I have talked to feel the same. I am also not writing this for any other reason than to educate. What I have learned about being brave and vulnerable is that my thoughts and feelings could maybe help someone else. So here I am. Here for the adoptee to not feel alone. Here for the adoptive parent to understand. Here for family to empathize. Please see it as nothing else. Also feel free to read more about other truths with adoption here.}}

Birthdays are traditionally a time of great celebration. There are gifts, stories, family, laughter, balloons, games, parties, and CAKE. Don't forget the cake. Birthdays are pretty special.

My experience with birthdays brought me great shame until my husband came into my life. He pushed me until I was able to put words to why my birthday was such a tumultuous time. And then at least I knew. And he would help in the best ways. Quiet, allowing tears, tolerating the lack of complete joy on turning the pages on a new year...understanding. I'm not sure if I even knew what a gift that was until now.

Birthdays are hard. They bring up thoughts of birth, birth mother, the story of why adoption is part of my journey. I don't know my story. I don't get to hear it each year as it builds up to the pivotal moment where mom holds baby, looks deep into her eyes, and forever is changed. I wonder if birth mom thinks of me on this day. Does she even remember this day? Does she even remember me? How does she feel about me? Is there shame? Was there doubt? {And truthfully, the questions don't really ever end.}

And so...about 3 days after Thanksgiving until the big day (my birthday is in early December), a cloud comes over me. It isn't life altering, but it is real. It never leaves, and it just makes the whole time heavy and sad. It really does. But that doesn't help those few weeks under a cloud.

I know something you're're wondering how long it's been this way. And my answer long as I can remember.

I specifically remember the year I got Rainbow Brite. I must have been 7 or 8. I remember the shame over feeling sad on my birthday. It wasn't right. I certainly didn't understand it. Here I was surrounded by my friends and my amazing smiling family. Those people loved me so much, they had a Rainbow Brite cake AND a new Rainbow Brite doll! Imagine the confusion of why I had to force a smile on such a joyous occasion. I remember my wish that year was that my birth mother would be well and remember me. I remember then being mad at making a wish I couldn't possibly know the outcome of.

I was a generally jolly gal. But birthdays HURT.

In college, my friends would try to just do anything to make my day fantastic and take away the sting. I have amazing memories. Chicago (the one year almost missing the last train out of town and running through several city blocks to get there), singing in the rain outside of Williams Hall, lots of fun restaurant birthdays with embarrassing songs sung for all to hear (and the occasional "yee-haw" @ TR), the time I turned 21 and they tried to literally drag me into a bar screaming and protesting. I didn't understand the "cloud" then. I am, however, incredibly grateful for the fun memories and intuition that my friends had to go all out for my birthdays. {Thanks, know who you are.}

Tonight I held and rocked my soon-to-be 7 year old as she wailed all of her fears out loud. She asked questions and demanded answers, and all of her "birthday blues" were laid bare for our ears. All I could do is whisper "I know...I've felt that way before...I'm sorry your heart are so loved."

You heart is broken for my kids and their brokenness. I can't fix it, though. I can't. I can't even try. And to be honest...answers don't fix it either. This is just part of our story, and it's ok. It's sad, but it's ok.

Here's what I want you to know:
  • The "Birthday Blues" are the worst. We already feel different than others. Now we grieve at birthdays instead of celebrate and anticipate like everyone else.
  • This is not something we can control.
  • We may never be able to put words to it until well into our 30s.

Here's what you can do:
1) Pray
2) Presence. (See that little period? But it's really a big thing. -- Presence, Period.)
3) Perception (Find a way to be comfortable with the hard questions and emotions while you're being present.)
4) Repeat Steps 1-3

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Book Thoughts: Confessions of an Adoptive Parent

Guys. I am so honored to be writing this post. I was selected to be a part of the book launch team of a new book for adoptive parents. As an adoptee who is now an adoptive parent, I have an interesting perspective to bring to the table.

As a long time fan of the author's blog, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book. They have such a beautiful family pieced together by adoption through domestic and foster care. They have also fostered numerous children to reunification. They live in the trenches of trauma.

As an adoptive parent, few resources are out there (especially written by other adoptive parents) that are specifically for us. This book is a quick read because it feels as if you are having a cup of proverbial coffee and sharing life with a dear friend who also experiences life as an adoptive parent.

There were several resounding messages in this book.

Hope. Such a small word with an impressive impact on our life...IF we hold on to it. It's easy enough to lose hope in the midst of caring for any children and the constant force of resistance we face when confronting life's challengers. Foster and adoptive parents face these challenges, as well as a slew of other challenges unbeknownst to those outside of our circle. On our journey of foster care and adoption, I have come dangerously close to losing hope several times. Hope is strung through every chapter of the book. Berry points us back to the place where we know, without a shadow of doubt, that hope never quits. And especially that you can find hope in the most unlikely of places.

Community. Though I believe this wholeheartedly, I haven't really taken full advantage of community until the last few years. There is power when burdens are shared and other like-minded, non-judgemental people can help you bear them. I have seen it time and time again. Berry gives lots of tips for how to immerse yourself in a community. Do's and don'ts that are pretty helpful (that I wish I would have thought through before sharing our story with some). The truth is, our realities are too harsh for some people in our lives. We can't share it all with everyone, nor should we. However, there is great power in the "Me, too" from another one who has stood or is standing in similar circumstances. I am so grateful for my people.

One of my favorite chapters of the book is in the telling of the stories of some children (his and others he knows closely). It was especially good for this momma's heart, as our family has dealt with similar situations. The hope that was thread throughout their stories, even in the most hopeless of situations, was a light for this weary momma. You see, only those closest to us know that each of our three kids have deep-seeded issues and they come out in completely different ways. My husband and I often feel like failures and wonder how we will ever meet all of their we will ever be on the other side of this. We don't know the end of their stories, and while I sometimes wonder, these stories reminded me of this truth: their stories aren't over. And a reminder to not base my children's future on their current behavior. {All.The.Praise.Hands,Y'all!} This is a truth I can hold on to.

My other favorite theme running throughout the book is a reminder to find beauty right where you are. Sure, this journey is unpredictable. Sure, it's hard. Sure, we don't know how the story ends, but today there is beauty. It's woven through the trenches and laughter and sadness and pain. I love how the author (Berry) keeps bringing us back to hope. If we can hold on to hope tighter, maybe we could be quicker to notice the beauty.

In the midst of the struggles that can come with adoption and foster care, this book is our very own form of "Me, too." Berry reminds us that hope can be found in the wreckage, in the beautiful, in the silence, in friendships, in "me, too"s, and in the past, present, and future. Hope can be our anchor. And must be, really. Hope must be our anchor.

I can't recommend this book enough. If you're an adoptive or foster parent, get it! I promise you will be encouraged and inspired. If you love an adoptive or foster parent, get it for them. I promise they will be encouraged and inspired.

To watch the video book trailer, click here.

To preorder the book, click here. There are tons of goodies if you pre-order, including a video series, and several other freebies. You should totally do that! Get it at your favorite book retailer or mine (Amazon)!

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 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 was both amazing and not. I'm entering the New Year with lots of hope and also gratitude that 2017 is closing behind me.

  • 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.

  • 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 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 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, 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." 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 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 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.