the pain and the glory

Monday, April 29, 2013

As tends to be the case in my life, I had three major foster care events three days in a row. I’m not sure why it tends to cluster, and I can’t decide if I like it or not. It often ends up feeling stressful and emotional. Maybe it’s better to get it all out of the way at once, or maybe I’d feel better about life in general if I would just split it up a bit. I don’t really have a choice in all of this, so it’s all just an exercise in futility to think about it anyway.

In addition to an all-day training, I was also invited to attend a volunteer luncheon at Juvenile Court for our county’s CASA workers and speak a bit about our experience with CASA. Unbeknownst to me, one of the items they were planning to go over at this meeting was a memorandum of understanding between our county’s FCS and CASA program. This memo was drafted recently as a direct result of the teamwork that was the hallmark of our children’s case. A legacy for an entire system, out of my children’s trauma. Beauty from ashes.

Honestly, though, the whole day left me struggling. I learned new things about our kids, about their case. Nothing was a shock or surprise, but I’m astounded by how emotional it still makes me feel. To hear what kinds of things were said behind the scenes, the decisions that are discussed and made while we were wondering and worrying and praying – those things are still intensely difficult for me to hear. It’s painful beyond words for me to think about how close our children were to being moved to a different home. Even still. Maybe it’s because I know how it’s all turned out. The glory of my children’s lives being healed. The beauty of their sister’s healing and her family and the promise of a deeper relationship to come…to imagine our families – both of them – without our children is just unthinkable to me at this point.

I know it’s over. Most days, I accept the miracle of our families with great joy. It wasn’t an accident things happened this way, but this particular week I’ve been working very hard to get past the memories of the pain, fear, and absolute helplessness I felt during that process. We advocated for our kids, we voiced our opinions, we parented the best we knew how, but we had absolutely no control over the outcome. Other people, most of them virtual strangers to both us and the children, made this decision, and it still terrifies me that they might have made a different one.

I love that we work with a county full of people who are good at their jobs, who care for kids, and who know that sometimes mistakes are made by everyone involved. I am grateful to be a part of a county that, for the most part, truly works to do the best thing for kids. We’ve been granted some incredible grace with different disciplines and workers in our area. We have some awesome opportunities in the works, and we are proud to be a part of this whole, big, messed-up, beautiful system. That’s the part I want to focus on, to talk about, and to find joy in. This is where we’re supposed to be, in spite of its imperfections, and this is what we’re supposed to be doing, even when we make mistakes in the process. It’s a privilege and an honor.

bread and wine (a giveaway)

Monday, April 22, 2013

With the lingering smell of still-fresh paint, in the middle of a favorite restaurant, we sat for hours, this old friend and I. In some ways, the things we have in common are far fewer than they used to be, but something about growing up together binds in ways that don’t dissolve easily. It’s all life and marriage and kids with careful steps around the spiritual, food and wine and tears together.

I’ve spent a lot of time praying for friendship. The older you get, the harder it is to make friends. I’ve spent so many hours feeling lonely. One or two friends didn’t feel like enough to carry me through. I wondered if I would ever have the kind of friendships where you literally share your lives together. Morning coffee, afternoon iced teas, coming over at the drop of a hat – not because you’re asked, simply because you’re needed. That’s the kind of thing I wanted. Honesty over the dinner table, tears over Earl Grey.

“I've long wanted to be better at accepting help, better at admitting weakness, better at trusting that people love me not for what I can do but just because they do. It would have been lovely to learn those things on my own terms, when I wanted to, the way I wanted to. But we never grow until the pain level gets high enough. Being so sick for so long was a crash course, not one I would have chosen, not one I handled well, certainly.

It was a painful education, but one I needed, one that forced me to embrace the the risky but deeply beautiful belief that love isn’t something you prove or earn, but something you receive or allow, like a balm, like a benediction, even when you’re at your very worst.”
-Shauna Niequist

Every other week, I sit in a living room with several other mamas. While our babies play, we talk Jesus and parenting and living radical lives in the middle of the everyday. If I need prayer, I go there first. When one of us is down, the others circle round and fill in the gaps. We finish our morning around the table, coffee cake on paper plates, our babies eating together on the kitchen floor. I leave energized and refreshed every single time.

I have new friends, friends who share my adoptive mama’s heart, friends who know intimately this road our family is walking. I wouldn’t have made it through these past few years if not for those precious women, holding me up with an email, with a phone call, across the miles. There are things I can share with these ladies that no one else in the world truly comprehends. I’ve sat across the table from understanding hearts at delis and conferences, sometimes with food, always with coffee, never without a good dose of truth-telling and encouragement.

There are those things I can only share with my old friends too. The ones who remember my birthday no matter how old we get. The ones whose birthdays I remember even when I can’t always recall my own children’s dates of birth. There is no substitute for knowing and loving someone for years on end. We might not get to share meals very often anymore, but every time we speak I’m taken back to the cafeterias and kitchens where we spent our childhoods together.

And then there’s family. Dinner together most Sundays for those of who are close. Special nights planned together for the rest of us who live further away. I love to call my sisters ‘friends’, but the unexpected surprise was how much I also depend on my sisters-in-law. If I need something, they are the first calls I make. I am more honest with them than with anyone else in my life. I love that they know me and love me, and even more than that, they know and love my kids, flaws and all. Long after the food’s been cleared, we’re lingering over coffees and waters, laughing and philosophizing and putting off children’s naptimes for just a bit more time together.

I’ve recently realized that somehow in the midst of all my crying and complaining and loneliness of the past few years, I’ve found my footing. Sometimes my dreams and my plans of how I want things to be, even my ideas of who I want to be…so many of those things were stripped away. In what remains, I find that I am already becoming who I really wanted to be. Unexpectedly, the things I’ve really longed for in life, I mostly already have. It might not look like a next door neighbor sharing my morning coffee right now, but I have everything I need. Hearts woven together over bread and wine. Love over us like a benediction. Dinner might be over, but we’re all still sitting at the table together. Friends.



*This week, I’m giving away a copy of Shauna Niequist’s new book, Bread and Wine: a Love Letter to Life Around the Table. I truly love Shauna’s books and her writing on her blog. This isn’t a sponsored post or anything – I just accidentally pre-ordered the book twice. I was going to send it back, but after reading it, I desperately wanted to give it away to one of you. It’s Shauna’s best work by far. Beautiful writing, beautiful truth. To enter, just leave a comment below. If you like, share something from your own experience with friendship and life around the table. For an extra entry, follow this blog via email or RSS. (Leave an additional comment for that.) Giveaway ends Friday, April 26, at 10 pm.

another random friday five

Friday, April 19, 2013

Here’s where I collect the things that aren’t enough for a full post individually. Truthfully, most of them aren’t even important. Just the things on my mind this week.

1) I feel like I’ve gained some significant weight this week because: Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter. You’re supposed to just eat it by the spoonful, right?


2) I’ve read this post three times over the past month. Just a beautiful picture of what it’s like to be a parent (at all), but especially a parent of a kid with special needs: on being a locksmith. - Nish Weiseth


3) When we were staying with our friends in Annapolis, we visited this lovely little shop there. It’s an old-world European cheese shop with French chocolates and charcuterie and fresh-baked bread and artisan honeys…and it was beautiful. It connected to the wine cellars next door – GENIUS. For our dinner that night we had a fromage d’affinois that was just spectacular. Still thinking about it…


4) I heard about this new book: The Child Catchers - Kathryn Joyce. I am in support of helpful critiques of the adoption industry, and I had read a bit from people who had read advance copies. Most said the book was challenging, that some of it made them angry, but the adoption world is definitely in continual need of oversight and reform. Then I read a Mother Jones piece, Orphan Fever: The Evangelical Movement's Adoption Obsession by Kathryn Joyce, which is quite inflammatory. To take the experiences of a fringe movement of Christianity (seriously. who has ever heard of these people or the so-called magazine they publish?) without attributing it as FRINGE is grossly unfair to the evangelical world as a whole. To blame all Christians for abuses that particular agencies or countries or families take is irresponsible. I was very disappointed in the piece.

Finally, I heard this interview: How Evangelical Christian are Preaching the New Gospel of Adoption - NPR Fresh Air. This was way more balanced and not as inflammatory by half. Although, I still feel like this woman and her interviewers are attempting to attribute the causes of abusive, oppressive, and deceitful practices by adoption agencies and governments to Christianity and the evangelical adoption movement. Correlation is not causation, and Christians are not the only people who adopt. Not to mention that to criticize them for wanting to pass their beliefs on to their children is ridiculous. Every parent passes their beliefs on to their children in some way or another. That is the nature of parenting.

All of this to say, I’m still eager to read the book, and I think this is a conversation worth having, not only in the culture at large, but also within the Christian adoption movement. Also, I’m pretty thankful we didn’t choose to adopt internationally. I have enough concerns with adoption without worrying whether or not I adopted my children with full disclosure.


5) I hate it that I love this song, because I have so many issues with Rihanna. But. I love this song: Stay ft. Mikky Ekko – Rihanna. (She’s in the bathtub for the bulk of the song, so be aware that it might be NSFW.)


What are things that you’re loving or thinking about this week? Share some randomness below.

the very best, very worst day

Monday, April 15, 2013


Today is three years since my littles came home. I took three pictures that day, but only one was of Raniah. She cried the entire first day except for these precious napping moments I caught in the swing. I also grabbed a quick picture of Brenden when he fell asleep in the late afternoon watching a little TV. I can’t bear to look at the third picture, the other one of Brenden, and I doubt I’ll ever share it publicly. He’s not even looking at the camera, but the trauma is visible on him. Written straight across his face.

While these three years have been the best and hardest of our lives and while we believe with everything in us that both of our littles were meant for our family, that picture is the purest bit of evidence that all of the happy, glory moments we’ve enjoyed are a result of the worst kind of pain and tragedy. Adoption is joy and beauty and redemption, but before all of that ever happens, it is loss and brokenness and pain. For my family to be made whole, my children’s families were ripped apart by the worst kind of stuff this world has to offer.

When we tell Brenden about the day he came to live with us, we always call it ‘the very best day’. It was, you know. In spite of everything this whole journey represented up until that point, the damage had already been done in their little lives and in their family. We didn’t cause that. We didn’t want to happen; it was over before we entered the picture. Someday, our littles will process all of that part too. Those will be dark times, but I want the narrative of their stories to reflect this terrible, no-good, very bad, wonderful, beautiful, Very Best Day that they came into our home. This is the day their story started to turn around. This is the day this long road to redemption began.


I wish I could find this song somewhere online, but no such luck. I couldn’t even find the lyrics (which is why I can’t figure out one word). Today, this is the song of my heart, the prayer I’m praying over my children’s lives, and the breath that strengthens my frame.

Restoration is Your Song - Candi and Jonathan Shelton
(The link will take you to itunes, where you can listen to a minute and half of the song.)

though every change, in every season
we’re carried in your perfect peace
with tender grace and love abounding
you can cause the waves to cease

though we may find pain tomorrow
you reach out to catch our tears
and you make things new
you will right what is wrong
healing comes from You
and restoration is Your song

in winter’s chill and summer’s scorching
your arms embrace our weary frame
and in (refrain?) of pain and struggle
still our hope is Your sweet name

when all we know falls down around us
and we feel so far from home
your love will be our heart’s revival
you have claimed us for your own

and you make things new
you will right what is wrong
healing comes from You
and restoration is Your song

Amen, and may it be so.

a sweet Saturday song

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Here’s the song I can’t stop listening to this week. Actually, the whole album has been on repeat all week. I don’t care for 95% of modern country, but this girl sings sweet and pretty, her songs are thoughtful and well-written, and I’m hooked.

vacation wrap-up

Friday, April 12, 2013

In the spirit of a vacation wrap-up, I thought I’d share the rest of the highlights and lowlights in a numbered list because that makes me feel happy.

1) The US Capitol Tour
Let me tell you about something I don’t understand: people who go to DC and do a public tour of the Capitol. It’s craziness in there. If you would just contact your representative ahead of time, you will get your very own intern to guide you at a specific time instead of waiting in an infinitely long line, in a small group instead of with 45 others, and if you’re one of the lucky beneficiaries of new redistricting in Ohio, you might even get to do it with the Speaker of the House. Yay redistricting? Oh yeah, and it’s all free.
Congress was on recess - refrain from jokes please - and the Speaker was out of the office, so we got the super-special tour. When you look at the Capitol building above (which isn’t the best pic I took, but it does show what I need it to show), the very middle section under the rotunda with the columns is the Speaker’s offices. He has four floors, and those balconies look directly out onto the National Mall. I hate to be seduced by power, but it’s fairly heady to touch the table where the Speaker lunches with the Dalai Lama, see the real-gold painted murals on the ceiling, and thumb through his personal books on his desk. His offices are something, that’s for sure. It’s no joke to be the Speaker of the House.

2) The Space Shuttle
While I am still swallowing the bitterness over the Air Force Museum not receiving one of the space shuttles, I will admit that this is one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life. It’s amazing. You just can’t comprehend the size of this thing, and once you’re there, it’s impossible to stop staring at it. I don’t even particularly love flight stuff, but I loved this thing.

3) Vacation readiness
More of a low-light, but I’m really bad at vacation. I feel more tired than when we left, and I really, really, really missed the kids. It also turns out that I need more music than is provided on a typical day walking through Washington D.C. I was seriously feeling a bit depressed until day 3 when I realized it’s because there hadn’t really been any music so far. I did enjoy being with Wendell, but we decided that it was both too short and too long all at the same time…we are really glad to be home.

4) The Poetry Exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery
Something about seeing the portraits of the people who penned the words I was reading was extremely moving for me. The older I get, the more I appreciate poetry, and this exhibit was powerful.

5) The Metro
I am in love with public transportation now, and I think it should be everywhere, all of the time. I don’t know how this would financially or practically make sense, but I’m nearly convinced to make it my life’s work. If I never had to drive again, I would be so very happy.

Have you been to Washington, D.C.? What was your favorite part?

15 years

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Today, I’m celebrating 15 years of marriage with the man I love. 15 years that were both harder and easier than I could ever have imagined. I didn’t realize how happy I would be, how much capacity I have to love, how it feels to be loved absolutely unconditionally. (at least by someone who is not my parent)

I just deleted two paragraphs of my thoughts on marriage, what makes it successful, what it is, what it isn’t. That’s just not what I want to post today. What I want to post right now is that I love my husband. He loves me. We’re in the middle of a hard and messy life, but the lovin’ is easy. For that, I am overwhelmingly grateful. We worked hard to get here, and we’ll work hard again in the future, but right now, today, I’m reveling in 15 years, 2 states, 5 moves, 3 churches, 4 jobs, 8 children, 4 dogs, 5 ill-advised cats, and a lifetime’s worth of love – it’s all good. It’s all grace.

may I see your fake documentation?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Today I signed my son up for kindergarten which was all kinds of emotional for me. I haven’t had him for long enough, and it’s breaking my heart a little that he’ll go to school so soon. I missed two and a half years of his life. I know that keeping him home from school won’t give me back those years, but I still grieve what all that I missed, all that he missed during that time.

The worst thing about the whole experience for me, however, was giving them the documentation they needed to register him, including birth certificate and social security card. I don’t spend a lot of time looking at my children’s documentation, so it was somehow shocking to me when I pulled that birth certificate out of the safe. I almost attempted to register him without using it at all, except I’m not certain they would have allowed it.

Because it’s a lie.

The whole certificate is a lie. It is not a certificate of his birth. It’s a certificate of his adoption which they’ve fabricated to look like the certificate of his birth. It looks just like every other birth certificate in the nation, which I’m sure is partly the point, only I know and Wendell knows and Brenden knows that I was not there. That wasn’t his name when he was born. He happened to be born in the same city we adopted him in, otherwise, that part would be a lie as well. The dates are totally false – it lists the date of filing as about a month after his birth, even though it was actually issued a couple months after his adoption. It’s just all a lie.

Fortunately, we have a great county agency and good workers in a state that has some only semi-restrictive laws regarding this issue. They gave us copies of the original birth certificates for the kids’ records. Then all the records are sealed. No one is permitted to access them without a court order for a very long time. If they had not given us the copies, the kids could access them with the appropriate documentation and identification once they are 21 years old. This isn’t the case in every state, and it’s not even the case for Ohio adoptees who were adopted between 1964 and 1996. Those adoptees can’t access their own adoption records without a court order.

It’s not that I’m completely offended by the birth certificate. I understand it serves a purpose. It’s that it comes out of a culture that shamed and secreted adoption practices for so many years that it’s nearly impossible to imagine it another way. What about the rights of my children? Don’t they deserve to know the truth whenever they want to know it? Thankfully, knowing the truth isn’t an issue for our kids, but it doesn’t change the fact that the official documentation they will present for the rest of their lives will not reflect the truth. In some states, adoptees never have access to the truth of their birth. What a terrible thing to do to the children of our nation.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic or advocating for adoptee rights, check out this link: Adoptee Rights Coalition

If you live in Ohio, please contact your state Senator and ask them to support Senate Bill 23. The House Bill regarding this issue is scheduled to be voted on today. This will change the antiquated adoption laws to allow access to original birth certificates by the adoptees. Adoption Equity Ohio is fighting to make these bills become law. If you visit their page, please click on the learn more button to access some quick facts about the laws here. It is easily read and well explained.

Let’s hope that the secrecy and shame that have fueled adoption practices for so very long in this country are being changed for the better.

witnessing history

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


People keep asking me what my favorite part of our vacation was, and I’ve been lying every single time. I do have other favorite parts, but I’ve been keeping my very favorite to myself. Partly because it was a moment I had, not a ‘thing’ I saw. Partly because I don’t particularly care to discuss politics with just anybody and everybody, and nearly everything about Washington D.C. traces back around to politics. But mostly because the moment was so powerful, so emotional for me that the first time I tried to tell somebody about it, I had to stop myself from crying, and I don’t intend to repeat that in every casual conversation I have.

My favorite moment of this entire past week, maybe even the past year, happened in the National Portrait Gallery. It’s an amazing art museum. I am continually in awe of the power of a portrait. The Presidential section is just spectacular. (I think they have an app should you want to peruse it without actually going there.) After you circle through the Presidential gallery, you come out into a foyer of sorts where there’s a set of staircases to go down to the other floors. In this hallway is where the large portraits of President Obama that you see in the picture above are located.

When I came out into that foyer, I saw a young man, about 11 or 12, take his place in the middle of those two photos. His mom was close by with the camera, taking a ton of shots, and there was a small line of other parents and kids behind her. All black Americans, all waiting to capture this moment in history, this promise for the future with their kids. The beauty of that moment took my breath away.

I don’t often speak about my voting habits (unless it’s to the 8000 pollsters that continually call our house), but to be a part of this moment in time, to watch those young men smiling beside the portraits of this man who represents a true change in our culture and our nation, to know that my very own daughter has one more barrier knocked down for her future…I have never been more moved and proud to be alive at this particular time in history. This isn’t about politics for me, and I sense that it’s not about politics for all of those families in line either. This is about progress and freedom and change and hope. I wonder if this is just a small taste of what it felt like to be alive during the civil rights era, to see and take part in changing the very structures of our society in the name of freedom and equality.

My very favorite photo ever taken of our President is the one below. It moves to tears every time I see it. For one of the most powerful leaders in the world to bend down to a child, just to say, “hey, my hair is like your hair. You’re just like me.” That photo evokes every feeling that I felt in this moment in the portrait gallery as well. That young man whom I saw standing before those portraits in our nation’s capitol now can believe his parents when they say he can be anything given the opportunity, attain any goal he sets his mind to, achieve any accomplishment he can develop the skills for, regardless of the color of his skin. That’s an amazing thing to get to witness, and that’s why it was the best moment of my entire week.

Pete Souza/The White House

saturday music

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I recently learned Patty Griffin has a new album coming out in the beginning of May. I love her. I love her. She’s one of the artists who would make my desert island music short list. This is one of my very favorite songs.

story, legacy, grace

Thursday, April 4, 2013

This post was first published on February 15, 2012

This post by The Gypsy Mama is resonating within me as I write this. I’m in a bit of a writing slump. I think it’s mostly because my schedule has not been writing-friendly lately. I need some space to sit with my writing sometimes, to work it over, to refine and condense. I haven’t felt like I’ve had much space lately. There are days, today especially, when I long for a laptop and babysitting so I can head to a local coffee shop and just write. By myself.

I need to write stuff out. I know not many people read this blog, and while I am humbly appreciative of every single one of you, I would write it if no one read it at all. I had my settings to private when I began to write here, and although I’ve changed those settings since, my motivations are much the same now as they were then. I knew as we opened this particular chapter in our lives, that I needed to record it.

Our story is not more important than anyone else’s in the grand scheme of things, but it is still important. My father-in-law has journals that he has hand-written in for years. My mother has kept prayer journals for as long as I can remember. I remember my mother writing short articles about mothering for our church newsletter. I have not succeeded in hand-written journals or semi-published articles throughout my adult life, but I have this blog. A bit of a legacy for my children. I want our children to have roots. To know that their mama’s roots run deep. I want them to know the parts of my life, of their lives that they would otherwise not remember. (Even while I try to protect their own stories as much as possible, leaving them the privilege to tell it themselves someday.)

I don’t know the future. Sometimes parents are lost far too soon. Sometimes relationships don’t turn out the way we hope. I may never get to share any of this with them in the future, but I want them to know who I was. What I loved. Who I loved. I want them to know where I succeeded, but more importantly, I want them to understand where I failed. I want them to know that their father and I not only loved them, but also one another. I want them to know that we followed Jesus with everything we had.

On the one hand it sounds a bit selfish, like I think life is all about me. On the other hand, I am continually humbled and gratefully inspired the more I learn about my mama’s story, about my grandma’s story, about the rich and rooted heritage I come from. I want my children to know just a piece of that. I hope as they read about my part of in this great, big, exciting Story, that they understand how God uses broken people to make something beautiful. All of it someday redeemed, all of it eventually restored, all of it, all the time, grace.

what if

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

This post was first published on October 7, 2011

The most powerful word that I’ve received during the past couple months is this: Our adoption process is done. Our adoption journey has just begun.

Really and truly, I kind of just wanted this to be done. I want everything to be over. I’ve been thinking that the journey is over, and I think that’s at the heart of my struggle over the past few weeks. I just want it to be over. All the hard parts. All the painful parts. I want it to be easy. I know it’s not. I know God called me to this, no matter how long it takes. I know that it’s exactly what I should be doing, exactly where I should be. I know all of this in my head, but my heart has had a little ways to catch up.

Obviously, I process things through words. I find it difficult sometimes to process at all without the actual words to do so. So when this word was spoken to me, my heart just settled into it like my head on a soft pillow. Yes. Those are the words I’ve been missing. That’s the release I needed. The process is finally, at long last, over. But our journey…

Brenden is sick. He didn’t tell me he’s sick. He didn’t say anything. He woke up this morning, moving very slowly. Quiet. Not disobedient or defiant. Just slow. I asked him what was going on. He wouldn’t talk. We stopped by the office to see Wendell. We went to the store. He wouldn’t talk. We got all the way into the store, and finally I just said, “Brenden. I love you. I want your day to go well. I want you to be happy. I want to help you with whatever is wrong, but I can’t do that unless you use your words to let me know what’s going on.” Still, he wouldn’t talk. After a couple more cajoling pleas, he finally said, “I don’t feel good.” I asked if his tummy hurt, and he said, “Yes. I threw up in the potty at home.”

Seriously? You’re so sick that you’re vomiting, and you can’t tell your mama? We drove all the way to the store. We stopped at the office for awhile. We’ve been shopping for 10 minutes. You couldn’t have let me know?

He said he wanted to come home and take a nap. So, we came home. I take him up to his room where I discover that he did not, in fact, vomit in the toilet, but instead, all over his bedroom carpet. Terrific.

I spend time with him. I let him know that it’s my job to take care of him. That I want to take care of him. That when he’s sick, I feel sad for him. I want to help him get better. I want to help. Those are the things that I try to impress on his heart. But my heart? It hurts. It’s so very painful to parent a child that doesn’t trust you. On a basic level, it hurts my feelings. But truly, it hurts because I hurt for him. I want him to be whole. I want him to be free. I want him to trust, to love without reservation.

What goes through his tiny little head that he doesn’t feel safe to even mention to me that he’s sick? To let me know that he needs help, that he needs holding, that he needs his mama. Our journey is far, far from over. We have so much healing to do. Sometimes, it fills me with fear. What if this doesn’t get better? It should. I believe it will. But what if it doesn’t?

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the past year is to turn my ‘what if’ into an ‘even if’. Instead of ‘what if’ things happen, I say ‘even if’ those things happen, what then? Will I still trust? Is God still in control? Is He still good? Do I still choose Him? It’s been a freeing practice in my life. I challenge you to do the same with  your fears.

So today…
What if Brenden is always full of fear and never truly trusts us?
EVEN IF Brenden is always full of fear and never truly trusts us, I will continue to work to help him learn to trust. I will love him anyway. God is still in control. God is still good. I still choose God.

when there’s no defense: sad, mad, and loss

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The unedited version of this post was first published Thursday, February 3, 2011

On Sunday, some of my brother’s friends came to visit our church. They brought with them their two little boys, both of whom are foster children. They were adorable, attached to their foster parents, but by now, I have learned to recognize the signs of traumatized children. When I went down to the nursery to pick up Raniah after the service, one of the little boys was trying to turn off the DVD player, and a little girl who was helping in the nursery was trying to stop him. He was hitting her, yelling at her, and I could clearly see the horrified look on her face. I wondered what she would go home and tell her mom after the service. I really had to restrain myself from asking her to give him a break, which is silly, because she’s just a kid herself with no capacity to understand this. What went through my head is all the stuff this poor kid is going through, the trauma, sadness, and pain in his little life, and how everyone is just going to judge him by his behavior. Because sometimes sad looks like mad. This is one of the things our therapist has said to us from the beginning, you read it a lot in adoption literature, and I just read a blog post about it this past week. (When Sad Looks Like Mad)

For Brenden, sad looks like mad an awful lot. I want to defend. I want to explain his bad, weird, and crazy behavior to everyone I meet. For awhile, I thought it was just because I was embarrassed by what people would think of me and my parenting skills and techniques. To be honest, there is definitely some of that there. My parenting skills are far different than what they were with my oldest two. Some of the things that I currently allow, I would never allow with my first two children. Some of the ways that I currently parent are definitely not ways that I would've chosen before. I do what Mr. B needs. I parent him how he needs to be parented. It's gonna look strange to some people; sometimes it even feels strange to me.

I'm trying to let go of the urge to defend. It's no one else's business. I don't have to defend myself, and I do not always have to defend my children. Sometimes it's OK if people think badly of them or of me. It doesn't matter what people think as long as we're doing what's right. What's right for us is not going to look like what's right for other people, that's for sure. But do I want to defend at every moment? You bet I do.

I want to explain all the stuff that's gone wrong in Mr. B's life. I want to describe the horrors of the life that he was used to living. I want to go into the research about how trauma literally changes how a child's brain form. How their brains work differently, how they are coping with the pain in their lives, and why their sad looks like mad. I want to take them through the identification exercise that we do in training, brought back to my memory by another blog post (The List) in the past month. Since I can't do that with everyone I meet, I'll just do it here. Follow along, for kicks:

First, write down the name of the most significant person in your life.

1. Wendell

Write down your most important role.

2. mother

Now, write down your greatest support group. Church, family, a friend, etc.

3. family

Write down your heritage.

4. Christian

Next, write the word “knowledge.” This represents the information that gets you through the everyday tasks of your day.

5. knowledge

Then, write down your favorite place.

6. home

Write down “Cultural Information.” This represents everything you know about your culture.

7. cultural information

Now, write down “Resources.” This represents all your material possessions, everything you own that has worth.

8. resources

Next, write down “Values.” This represents your faith, concepts of right and wrong, priorities, likes and dislikes…

9. values

Last, write down the activity that brings you the most joy.

10. playing games with my family, just hanging out

Now, mark off the four things that you think you could do without.

1. Wendell

2. mother

3. family

4. Christian

5. knowledge

6. home

7. cultural information

8. resources

9. values

10. playing games with my family, just hanging out

"Now, it's OK. You're gonna be fine; we're going to keep you safe."

Go ahead and mark off two more.

1. Wendell

2. mother

3. family

4. Christian

5. knowledge

6. home

7. cultural information

8. resources

9. values

10. playing games with my family, just hanging out

"Sometimes it's not safe to live with the people you love. You just have to learn to trust that we're safe. We want you to be safe. We have a better, safer place for you to live now."
Go ahead and mark off two more...

Who of you has gone through that much loss? What right do I have to expect more from my children who have endured such loss? What defense could there possibly be for this? Fostering and adoption are, in reality, comprised of pretty terrible things. There is pain. There is grief. There is loss. There is bad behavior. Because sometimes sad looks a lot like mad.

vacation week

Monday, April 1, 2013

I’m on hiatus this week. On a 6-day, slightly early, 15th anniversary celebration vacation with my husband. We’re not visiting family. What? Even typing that out seems strange. Our days aren’t mapped out by a conference schedule. In fact, we literally have two things pre-planned for the whole week. One dinner reservation and one scheduled tour. It’s kind of freaking me out a bit since we’ve never had this kind of free time to ourselves.

This week, I’ll repost a couple of pieces from the archives. In the meantime, pray for us, me in particular, since I’m a bit anxious about the whole trip. I hate leaving the children. I’m stressed about how they’ll do and how much burden it’ll be on my parents and how I’ll do without them. I’m worried that I won’t have a fun time, that something will happen and I’ll get sick or hurt or won’t be able to enjoy anything. I kind of, sort of don’t want to go at all.

But that’s my homebody, anxious mama-self talking, and I refuse to listen to her seriously.

It’s gonna be fun and relaxing, and I’m going to enjoy it.

I’m going to take a shower uninterrupted!
I’m going to sleep as late as I want (so probably 7:45).
I’m going to eat at fun adult restaurants that don’t serve tacos in a Dorito shell.
I’m going to hold hands with my husband, give thanks for the past 15 years, and talk about our goals and dreams for the future…..maybe you should pray that I want to come back at the end of the week.

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