Friday, March 20, 2015

resurrection song: reunified

A couple weekends ago, I sat with tears flowing freely listening to a mama share her story of the day she gave birth to her first-born and subsequently relinquished him for adoption. The same day. That little conference room became a sanctuary while we listened to her pain and processed through our own. It brought me back to another conference room that I sat in, with a group of social workers, therapists, and administrators while they decided that the mama sitting across from me at the table would not be permitted to take her own baby home from the hospital when she was born. The mama’s flaws were enumerated for everyone in that room to evaluate, and she was deemed unworthy. She was judged, and she was found wanting. I remembered my own anticipation of the days when my children were born and felt the despair that surely that mama must feel thinking about the day she would labor in vain.

235183990_05d1c6d95a_oFast forward to 10 days after that same baby was born, I’m with this mama in the waiting room before a team meeting at the agency when the person who had actually taken that baby home from the hospital to care for her entered with that baby in arms. The first time this sweet mama had seen her baby since the day she was born. I’ve never in my life seen the kind of grief on a face as that mama’s face right then. The rawness and holiness of that moment caused the rest of us in that room to literally have to look away. It felt obscene to watch. Witnessing a family in the middle of death like that still makes my stomach clench and my whole body shudder.

Something shifted inside me that day.  I didn’t get that warm fuzzy feeling that you get when you help someone out. I came away from both of those days broken and grieving, for this woman I had grown to care for, for her children who were blameless in all of this, for a system that makes terrible decisions like this, and for this messed-up world where things are broken and sometimes never get put back together. This is a painful messy section of the world that our family has entered into.

My willingness to stand watch with this woman during the time when her family was being torn apart, my willingness to sit and weep with her while she tried to put things back together, those things are the very things that positioned me to be in a place where we’re now facebook friends – she and her extended family and me. I get to see happy status updates celebrating little kids’ milestones. I get to see pictures of birthdays and holidays and everything in between as they make their way together. This is the story I get to bear witness to now. It’s not just a story where all that there is is brokenness and death. I have plenty of those stories too, but this is a story that ends with this baby and her sibling back with their mama. That’s a story I want to tell again and again and again.

Reunified.
Reconciled.
Resurrection.

 

photo credit: P1070515-1 via photopin (license)

Monday, March 16, 2015

the rest of the stories

This might be a little later than promised, but here are some of the other beautiful stories shared last weekend at the Created for Care conference. A couple of these are just other stories written by the mamas who shared since not all of the stories read have been published online. The vulnerability it takes to read something aloud to a couple hundred mamas is far more than it takes to put your words online, and all of these women were brave and inspiring that evening. I am still just so honored to have sat among them. Take some time and read their stories, I think you’ll be glad you did!

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A Different Kind of Labor – Megan Atwood

God of My Children – Rebecca Radicchi

She Calls Our Names – Kristin Semmens

My Journey Explained in a Single Day – Jennifer Eber

A Much-Needed New Perspective  – Larisa Maibach

His Story – Natalie Cooper

 

 

 

photo credit: Project 365 #317: 131114 Microphone via photopin (license)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

slow bloomer

I was honored to read this story at Created for Care (an adoptive mama retreat) this past weekend at an event where around 12 of us shared stories of our journeys through adoption. There were lots of different perspectives offered, and tomorrow I’ll share some of the stories we heard from the rest of the participants. For today, here’s mine…

grape hyacinths in snowWe started foster parenting mostly because we wanted to grow our family. We enjoyed our training, and boy, did we think we knew a lot. We had two kids already, and, honestly, we thought we were pretty ok in the parenting department. We felt called to this path, we had righteousness and Jesus and, oh, so much love on our side. We settled down to prepare for a wait for just the right needy child to enter our home. It never occurred to me that we were the needy ones.

The spring day when we got the call, it was a shock.  I did, even in my excitement, think to mention an important fact to the worker, “Umm. But we’re not licensed yet.” And with our first true glimpse into the “laws” governing this system we were entering, she says, “You will be in twenty minutes.”

We were so excited and anxious and terrified and downright na├»ve. We dropped off our kids at the grandparents and drove to the waiting room of the local medical clinic. That’s where we met those children for the first time and picked them up. I still can’t even believe that’s how they transferred those children to us - in the middle of a waiting room completely packed with sick kids and tired families, in full view of all those curious eyes.

Regrettably, I was too nervous and excited at that moment to truly see those two hurt little kids. It didn’t even cross my mind what children who had been taken from their mama by a police officer from the scene of an accident and then escorted to a medical facility where they were examined before sitting in the waiting room for two strangers –STRANGERS - to pick them up must be feeling. Why didn’t that trauma occur to me?

The first night, we went to Target to buy socks and underwear for these two little bodies who literally came with only the dirty clothes on their backs. My husband set down the two-year-old, and within a second, he was gone. Sprinting. My husband ran to the front doors so he couldn’t get out, and I ran as fast as I could the other direction, finally catching up to him across the store. His sister said, “When he does that at home, mommy whoops his butt.” And in that moment while the adrenaline rush was fading, there was no judgment on my part towards that mama – ‘I bet you do, sister. Solidarity.’ In my mind, he was running from safety to utter stranger danger, and there was barely a passing thought for his perspective…that he was running away from the danger. WE were the strangers.

There were countless more moments like those over the next three months. Moments where I was too inexperienced, too scared, too busy to notice all of the ways they were telling me of their pain. In my defense, I hadn’t yet read The Connected Child. I hadn’t gotten to sit through trainings with Jayne Schooler. I was broken and prideful and simply uneducated. I would do so many things differently now. I would slow down. I would listen to their actions, realizing that they couldn’t use their words. I would help them heal in ways that I was incapable of doing then. Now, I know what it means when I see kids act out because of fear and insecurity and anger and confusion or when a kid requires not a single moment of discipline during three whole months of parenting. I would know better how to respond when 10 weeks in, the littlest came down the stairs, looked at me full in the face, and said, “Are you my mama now?” I would do better.

On that dreaded last day they were with us, I got dressed while the oldest watched me from my bed. I put in some beaded hoop earrings. “I love your earrings. They’re so pretty.” she said. “You wore those earrings the day we came to live with you.” I didn’t even remember, but that’s the thing that burned into her little memory. She proceeded to tell me every single thing I was wearing that day, picking the items out from the closet as she went.

I have flashes of memory, images from that day imprinted forever. But so did she. I can’t help but wonder what pieces of that terrible day and the ones that followed are still there in her head. Does she remember more than my beaded earrings and my outfit? Does she remember that I kneeled beside the window with her that evening while she wished upon a star? Does she remember the subsequent nights when I taught her to pray? Does she remember that I sat beside her bottom bunk for hours that first night until she fell asleep, holding her little hand, because that was the only part of her she wanted me to touch? Does she remember that even though I didn’t know how to help her heal that I loved her intensely? Does she remember Jesus?

We loaded them up into the backseat again. We drove them to their aunt’s house where they were going to live with their dad. He and their aunt left us with them in the backyard. I am forever grateful for their thoughtfulness, their gracious gift of that moment of privacy. We said our goodbyes through stifled tears, knowing that they didn’t really understand that this was forever. We got back into the car and drove home, clinging then, as we still are now, to the promise of our tender God – “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

You know what I know now, six years and seven foster placements later? I’m not the rescuer. I’m not the healer. Love isn’t enough. I’m just as broken as those little children that enter my home. I’ve spent a lot of time praying those seeds I planted will grow even if I’m not there to tend them, but what I know more than anything is that I’m the one who is being changed. I’m the one with too much pride, with weak knees and a faltering heart that God wants to bud and flourish. I can look back at this story and grieve the opportunities I missed (and I do. oh, how I do), but in the midst, I can be thankful for how far He’s brought me. I might be a slow bloomer, friends, but He who promised is faithful.

Monday, March 9, 2015

stand watch and bear witness

3361295448_8cb4a06d56_oI’ve spent the first part of my year studying and spending time in the book of John for various reasons and in various formats. I loved spending those days enmeshed in the life of Jesus, learning to know Him as He was here in our messy world, but the person I found myself drawn to again and again and again was Mary Magdalene. We first meet her (in this particular gospel) at the side of her dying Savior. Standing watch at his crucifixion and death.

“…but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.”
John 19:25

I want to stand watch. No one really wants to do the death part. Not the dying. Not the witnessing of the dying. But it’s a sacred space. There is no resurrection without first a death.

“Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark…”
John 20:1

We next see Mary Magdalene at the tomb. She comes to see the grave. The place where the One she loved and served with her whole life was laid to rest. In fact, she came in the darkness. She was still standing watch in the darkest of hours. Not wanting to step back from the mess and the pain and the grief, she stepped into it.

The thing that happened next is just the very best part, though. She ran to get a couple other disciples when she realized the body was gone. They came to see, but then, again, they left. They didn’t stick there with the grief and confusion and tiny piece of hope, they went back to their homes. Not Mary. She’s still there in the midst of it. That dirty tomb that represented death and decay…she stayed to weep. Not fix it. Not go figure out the answer to this weird situation. Not count all the ways that this death wouldn’t have happened if Jesus had just made some different, better, decisions. She stayed with. She still stood watch.

And as a result, who is the very first person who got to see the resurrected Christ? It’s Mary Magdalene. Jesus appears to her FIRST. He could’ve seen his own mama, he could’ve gone to see John ‘the disciple He loved’, he could’ve appeared to larger group of disciples first, but he chose Mary.

“…she turned around and saw jesus standing…Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him, ‘[Teacher]’.”
John 20:14, 16

He called her name. She knew His voice. She stood watch for His death, and He granted her that great privilege of standing watch for His resurrection. Then, THEN, Jesus does the most upside-down, beautiful thing in His revolutionary way…he commissions Mary Magdalene, a woman, as the very first preacher of the gospel. He sent her to tell the disciples. The men. The one who stood watch got to witness the resurrected Christ and then? She got to bear witness.

”Jesus said to her, “…go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’ – and that he had said these things to her.”
John 20:17-18

I want to stand watch. This is my holiest calling. I might not be the person who suffers the worst death of a relationship or dreams or child. I might not always be the one sunk to depths in that way, but even if it’s not my story, I can stand by those for whom that has happened. I can stand watch and weep with them as everything they know and love dies. I can visit that grave. I can realize the sacredness of that space. When you stand watch in that way, you position yourself not just for the worst of pain, but you also position yourself to be on the front lines when Jesus’ story rises. The resurrection. Just like Mary, you get to see that part too! And then you’ll know, like Mary, that you can’t just run back home from the pain and confusion like the other disciples. You’ll know to stay because that’s when the beauty happens. That’s the story you can tell. The good news you have to share. I want to stand watch, yes, but oh, how I want to bear witness!!

“…He who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son to me, in order that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…”
Galatians 1:15

As I go through the rest of this Lenten season (the season right before Easter where in the Christian church, we traditionally remember Jesus’ sacrifice and prepare ourselves to celebrate His resurrection), I plan to write down my resurrection stories. They aren’t all mine to tell all the details of, but I can bear witness to that which I know. There are stories I can tell. Resurrections that I’ve witnessed. It has been painful and messy to stand in those death-filled places, but now? I can preach the resurrection to the ones I love, the ones I know, the ones I don’t know. I can speak with authority of the God who works miracles, who brings life from the dead, who resurrects that which everyone else assumes is buried and gone. I can believe that there is no place too far gone, no person too ugly or sinful, no story that is past redemption. I can live and speak resurrection with passion, with truth, but only because I have stood watch during the death. This is my resurrection song.

 

 

photo credit: Happy St Patrick's Day! via photopin (license)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

dream big

DeathtoStock_CreativeSpace6 11.45.06 AMDreaming big has never really been my strong suit. I leave most of that to my husband who dreams big enough for both of us. However, with adoption finalizations come a transition in status. I’m not really sure what to do with myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anxious to invite the agency intrusion as well as another child into this crazy mix right this minute, but I can’t help but wonder what’s next. Are we still a foster family? Our house is full, no doubt. 7 people in a little less than 1300 square feet is a challenge in and of itself. Does this mean we’re absolutely done until we move? What if we never move?

I do have dreams for what’s next. I wanted this coming part of our journey to look a specific way. I have a bigger home in mind. Not too much bigger, but one with enough space for us. The specific home I’ve been eyeing has an extra little apartment type area even. What if we could take this foster thing one step further and help a teenage mama? What if we could rent out that space super-low-cost to kids aging out of the system while still giving them some oversight and familial structure? Oh, I have dreams, and right now I have no place to make them come true.

In the meantime, we’re fulfilling that dream in a bit of a different way. We get to be involved in a kids’ life even though he doesn’t live with us. Just that small bit of life we get to share has changed me. Watching him meet his birth mom for the first time, watching him succeed and fail at becoming an adult, seeing what the lack of a family does to a kid who has never known one that is for keeps…it’s changed me. Now I have all these new questions: who teaches him what it means to be a man? Who is there to tell him that he needs to keep his license and registration on his visor instead of in the glove compartment? Who teaches him the value in going to bed on time and waking up earlier in the day? And who is there to tell him he’s worthy? That he matters? That he can dream big too?

I watch my parents struggle with what their role is in his life as unofficial foster parents of a technical adult, and I wonder the same thing for myself. Is there room for me to interject? To confront? To just simply give him a hug? And is this what we’re supposed to be doing right now? Is this the final answer to my questions of what’s next?

Don’t mistake this for discontent with where I’m at – it’s not like that. It’s more of a heart tug, a sense that there’s something else, just beyond my reach, that I haven’t quite figured out yet. The real conflict comes when my dreams collide with God’s plan. When things don’t quite end up how I hope. If I never get my dream house (and let’s be real honest, that’s not going to happen since it’s for sale right NOW), and I’m here in this tiny space with no room for anyone new forever, then I might feel a little boxed in. I might have some things to say about my hopes and dreams then. For now, I’m going to sit with them a bit. Share some of them with my people. Share some of them here. Hold some of them, the most precious, close to my heart.

I don’t know if this is what it should look like to dream big. Is it enough to stay put and wait it out? Is there a step I should take? Like I said, I’m not very good at this part of life. What I do know is that tomorrow I have to wake up and follow Jesus right where I am, even if my children are home on another snow day – Jesus, have mercy. Tomorrow, I will do what’s put in front of me. That’s big enough for me for tonight.

Do you have any dreams, friends, that you’re hanging on to and want to share with somebody? I’d love to know I’m not alone with all these questions tonight.

 

[image: death to the stock photo]

Saturday, February 21, 2015

winter redemption

behavior_picThis past fall found us in a fairly dark place again with our son. The joy over a committed and engaged teacher in a new school had faded to paranoia, bitterness, and uncertainty. The shame that we thought we had left behind with last year was back in full force. Sometimes I feel like I literally see the chains that still bind his soul in ways that I just cannot fully comprehend. We had a lot of theories about why all of it hit at the time that it did. We had a lot of theories on how to best deal with it. We had some disagreements with the school over what to do, and then after the fact, whether what we did was appropriate at all. It was painful and confusing for us, and it was a terrible thing to watch our child in so much pain.

We made some hard choices. We took initiative, under the guidance of his therapist and with his approval, to share hard things with the teacher and principal during the parent-teacher conference. We later got an email from the principal about ‘keeping home stuff at home’ and being ‘concerned’ about how much we shared in front of our son. As if he isn’t aware of his own past. As if a seven-year-old is capable of separating his schooling from all the stuff happening inside him. I get it. I get that they don’t understand why a kid doesn’t feel safe in a safe place. It’s hard to explain to some people that just because something isn’t factual doesn’t mean it’s not true.

We started driving him to and from school. This probably doesn’t sound like that big of a deal to those of you who take your kids every day, but we’re school bus people. Our district is semi-rural and because of the organization of our district, our kids go to three different schools. Driving him is a sacrifice. I pick him up during naptime. Which means there is never naptime for the littlest. It’s a big deal for us, and it’s been a hard thing.

All of it though? Worth it. Since that terrible, no-good, awful, very-bad meeting with the principal and teacher, since we started driving him to school – no more ‘bad’ days. Night and day difference. We can see it. The teachers can see it. He walks cheerier, he stands taller. Those chains? They may not be gone. They may never be gone, honestly. But for right now? That overwhelming heaviness is exchanged for a lightness of spirit.

Two weeks ago, we had another conference. Every report was glowing. I found it hard to hold back the tears during that meeting. That same day, I signed a permission slip for a school video that he was invited to participate in. A few of the teachers were asked to nominate one child to film a welcome video for the school as well as a video that highlights their positive behavior system. He came home practically skipping to tell me that the teachers were going to act out the inappropriate behaviors, and he gets to the one that is the good example. Maybe ten or fifteen kids in the whole school are in this video, and my son got to be one of them. From a kid who was the worst behaved in his class to the kid who got picked to highlight what good behavior looks like. This is redemption, and I am humbled to get to bear witness.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

cabin fever strikes

There is nothing like a hard week of an absentee husband, a couple snow days and delays, and just all around routine mix-ups to make you reevaluate everything in your life and second-guess all of your decisions as a mother, wife, and woman of the 21st century.

Here are the things keeping me grounded this week:

 

30-days-of-yoga-day-30-700x4001) Yoga with Adriene: Adriene is my favorite at-home yoga teacher, and right now I’m working through her 30 days of yoga. Babies and puppies make it more of a challenge than I would prefer, but at least I’m getting a work-out.

 

 

 

netflix-Peaky-Blinders

2) Peaky Blinders: Tom Hardy. Cillian Murphy. 1920s British gangsters. I can’t stop with this show. It’s spectacular.

 

127493) Proust: I undertook Proust as part of my 2015 Reading Challenge with a great amount of trepidation. I figured it would be too esoteric for my tastes. I just finished Beloved by Toni Morrison, and while I can appreciate some of the beauty of her writing, I just wasn’t impressed by the book as a whole. I didn’t enjoy it, that’s for sure. I figured Proust would be just be another tedious checkmark on my challenge list. To my surprise, I’m loving it. His words flow off the page like music. He’s funny, insightful, and even though he’s prone to writing sentences of despairing length, I am quite enjoying my time with Swann’s Way.

 

 

 

4) This song:

 

5) Jonathan Martin is back writing again. He’s as brilliant as ever, and I have missed his voice in my life. I spent a good portion of a morning this week weeping through his posts. If you don’t have time to read them all, just read these two: Into the Abyss and Learning to Breathe.

“No longer sitting at the head of Christ’s table with the people who decide who is or is not worthy to receive from it, I was the one in need to be loved and accepted. I was given a place at a table that was not my own. I was the wounded one, being offered bread and wine I did not deserve. There was no hope or expectation that my new friends would see Jesus in me—only an opportunity to see Jesus animated in the faces of my friends, these icons of grace.” – Jonathan Martin

 

What are the things keeping you grounded this week? What are the things breathing fresh life into your stale cooped up winter days?