Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Fear of Love

How do you do it, I could never do it?!” I am often asked that question and after nearly three years I still don’t know how to answer it. I understand that people mean well and are offering a backwards compliment of sorts. This is one of the clearest callings on my life, that does not mean it is an easy calling.

As I approached our local courthouse this afternoon, I found myself filled with fear. The building itself is not the source of my fear, this is the place I finalized the Crew as my own and walked out with our Little One that December day. It is the dwelling of some of my favorite life moments.

Foster parents aren’t the only ones who never quite know how much time we have with our little ones. That is the reality and risk that every parent experiences, our children are placed in our care for no certain time frame. As a foster parent I am reminded that this is my sweet borrowed baby at every visit, court hearing and meeting. That reality is what keeps me awake at night and takes my breathe away, like a sucker punch to the soul.

Not even the security of adoption changes the reality there is a very bitter part to adoption. This past week one of the crew grieved their reality, the struggle of balancing someone rejecting them and someone choosing them will take a lifetime to sort out. I am reminded that adoption is redemption and that it is hard and messy.

I sat in the courtroom this afternoon watching this beautiful borrowed baby sleep, finding myself consumed by love and filled with fear. As I searched his little face unable to recognize who his little features came from. I am in love with this borrowed baby and that reality hurts, loving him is easy. Love is what brings many of us to the world of foster care yet for some it is the very thing that stops some of us in our tracks.

You are faced with a decision do you press in and love well every second you have them, fully aware of the cost while understanding the worth. Or do we give up and walk away from it all because it hurts too much? It is the fork in the road we all come to, and the choice is ours do we choose to love again or shy away because the sheer price tag of it weighs heavy on our souls.

I have seen something magical happen, in the midst of a broken heart there always seems to be more love. It is as if the process of breaking actually gets rid of the meaningless distractions, prioritizing your heart for more. So many people stop allowing their hearts to be broken, they stop allowing things to penetrate their souls so deeply that they can be heartbroken.

I wonder what would happen in our world if we all allowed ourselves to be a bit more heartbroken about things? When I am asked “how I do it,” my response is often, one day at a time. I realize that today is all I get for sure and so today I will embrace the fear of love.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Seeds

2017 has started out with such Holy Anticipation, things are happening. The season of healing and waiting is nearly over and I find myself in the midst of a field of opportunity. I watch as green swirls of life cover the ground. As the seeds begin to breakthrough many of them I have forgotten about for it was so long ago I planted them. I am remembering all of of those whispered wishes, hazy dreams and forgotten goals that have been dimly flickering in my soul for some time.

I find myself with desire burning in my soul, longing for fruition. I have been in the fields laboring hard, working the earth. The seeds all look different, some of them are quick to sprout, others have been slowly opening up rooting themselves in the rich soil of life experience. I look around at the tilled, fertilized ground and reflect on all of the blood, sweat, and tears it took over these last 30 years.

Experiencing such a season of Holy Anticipation, is both exhilarating and terrifying. God’s grace I realize has been working the soil ahead of me, preparing it all for the various seeds I would plant over time. He is the Master Gardener who knows the land and the soil, mapping out exactly where each seed best yields.

This week I started week four of my new position, I have stepped out of the roastery back into the shops where I am teaching, developing and investing in our staff. My job is to listen to people’s hearts over cups of coffee, my soul is satisfied at the end of the work day. I am so aware how these last two plus years have been preparing me for this role, something I could not of rushed through.

I have the tendency to dump miracle grow on my hopes and dreams, desperate for them to take root and grow...NOW! I am reminded that there is such beauty in the things that take time. The slower the growth the stronger the roots. Seeds we sow today will sprout, it may be tomorrow or next year but you can trust the harvest is coming. What kind of seeds am I choosing to sow? What investments am I making for the future? As the first month of 2017 comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the the harvests I am reaping now and the ones to come.

I am unsure of the things of 2017, the seeds I sow will not all make it. Some of the seeds will be choked out by the lies of self worth, others plucked by the birds of fear and some will wither under the intensity of the sun. Then there will be some that despite all the storms will grow, breaking through the hard cracked soil yielding a great harvest.

2017 comes with such potential, may this be the year we all invest in the future. The year we silence the lies and embrace the dreams. The year we look out across the field of opportunity feeling the sun warm our weary souls. 2017 is our year to thrive, and thrive we shall.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Daniel Joel 8

Sometimes I just watch him as he plays and my heart is overwhelmed. He has grown so much, I think back to the first days I had him, how his little baby teeth formed his smile and insecurities hid his charm. Our start was not in a hospital bed as most stories begin, in fact I missed exactly 5 birthdays before we were together.

My heart sometimes aches for the those years, the birthdays and milestones I didn’t get to see. I wonder what his first words were, his favorite toy and when he learned to walk. The things I missed make me more aware of the things I see. I have seen, first lost tooth, learning to tie his shoes, learning to read, learning he was safe and nights without nightmares.

This little boy has grown right before my eyes. He is nearly to the point, I will put him down one final time and never pick him up. I just want to soak him in. I am so proud of this little man, who has taught me about compassion and forgiveness. A little boy who sees the world around him as a new world come alive. I little boy who has fought hard to heal, forgive and change. 
 A little boy who loves well.

As we rewrite the trauma, heal the wounds and give space for the fears. As the past melts away I see him blossoming into a strong, brave, courageous, kind little boy.

My prayer for you Daniel in this eighth year of life is that you would be BOLD. You would be bold in what you say, who you are and in what you do. 

 Happy Birthday Bubba, I love you! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

We Have Arrived.

It never really is a simple equation. I am unsure of our “classification,” we don’t quite fit any of the molds perfectly. We can fit partially into many, having glimpses of typical blended, nuclear and single parent families, yet none of them are quite right.

I have always pictured a big farmhouse table surrounded by people. Upon entering our home, I want visitors to take a look at our diverse table and question, “how does this all work?” I love that we don’t fit a mold, I have found joy in the realization that all you need is intentional love.

There is no mistake or question of the divine intentionality of God building this family, we all have had quite the journey getting here. Upon arriving, even if just briefly we all connect on the basis that love is the language we speak in our home. At times I have more Baby Mamas and Daddys than I know what to do with, yet our family would be impossible without them. Adoption is a beautiful, redemptive, challenging experience. Adoption is messy and is the epitome of bittersweet.

As a foster parent your journey shows you the varying perspectives of the struggle of raising a child born to someone else. You find yourself getting territorial, receiving babies who have been hurt by the very people who should protect them best. You hear their stories, collect their tears on your shirt and cast many judgements on those terrible people, who did these terrible things. You find yourself positioned in between your children and their birthparents, with that protective bulldog stance.

You find yourself superior you know best, you do best and you love best. While maybe elements of this are true it can be a slippery slope when you start to define best. Most of the time our birth parents are not monsters, they are broken people. People with stories, wounds, addictions, people who never knew unconditional love or ever saw it modeled. They are people swept up in their addictions, themselves and the lies they believe to be true. I believe they do love their children to the best of their ability.

You find yourself ignoring birth parents. In between visits and encounters you simply forget they exist. We stand quietly in offices with them, we sit silently behind them in courtrooms and we look past them with eye rolls of judgement. We have the tendency to just wait them out, hoping they relapse and go away soon. Life is easier without them, with them out of the picture we win, the behaviors die down and victory is ours.

My question is this what is the price tag of those three thoughts? Honestly, my default wants those, those to me are easier routes to take but at what cost? I have realized that the cost is not mine to bear but the little faces I kiss and wipe clean. My attitude towards birthparents, directly affects the path of healing for my children.

In our training we are asked to build relationships with birth parents, to model parenting and to co parent with them. Honestly, that may be the hardest part of this all. That request at times feels heavy. That request causes us to evaluate our calling, our commitment and our pride. It is costly.

I have learned what exactly I agreed to with adoption, I have always said I was for open adoption. You feel good saying that, of course I am open to someday having a relationship with birthparents, I am not a monster. However, secretly deep down you hope they just go away.

Open Adoption is not merely being open to communicating with birth parents but choosing to co-parent. Encouraging our children to have a relationship with their birth family and creating space for that to happen. Open adoption costs the adoptive parents a lot, yet I believe the very price tag is the future health of our children.

This does not mean we should open up our children to their past pain without preparation. Open adoption must have boundaries, it only works well if those are placed. Each family finds their own versions of what that looks like. We have began our journey to fully embracing open adoption, next month we will begin visits with birth mom. It has been a year since they have seen her, our last visit was filled with emotion as they watched their birth mom sob and say goodbye forever.

That pressure cooker of emotion left very little room for my crew to process anything in that room. Our termination happened so fast at the end, we had less than 24 hours to prepare. We have had a year of processing that day. Reaching the safety of our van following the last visit, I listened as my babies experienced the grief no child should know. The car in that moment was filled with the weight that foster care has on a little soul.

Adoption happened and we celebrated, yet it has never been simple. I was their mom, a role I had filled two years before adoption was finalized, our story would never be simple. We will never move forward fully forgetting the past, for it was the very force that shaped us.

For a year we have healed, processed, grown and bonded. We have experienced stability, safety and so much love. We have loved others, celebrated life and grieved our baby sister. We have spent a year learning our new roles, identities and healing from our past.

Yet there seems to be something we can’t quite resolve, this well of confusing love for our birthparents. This we are unsure of what to do with, love that is complicated and overwhelming to a seven year old. It just sits there and we can’t quite figure out how to let it out or where it should go. We have decided it should go where it belongs, to our birthparents.

Early on in our adoption process I told the kids I would keep track of birthmom, so that they could focus on being kids. This was one of the best pieces of advice I had received from an adoptive parent. So I kept track, reminding them that when we were ready and it was time we would see birthmom again.

I know we are blessed in that fact, for I know the story doesn’t always end that way. Sometimes we lose our birthparents or the damage done to little hearts needs more time to heal. As adoptive parents I feel we must fight to keep the door open for our children. We must protect and preserve that connection. Even if they are not ready now, even if it is uncomfortable there will come a day when the questions will come and we will need to walk through that door.

So here we are, we have arrived. It looks different that I thought, but as I told them we will do this together like we have done it all before. From that first night together when we were all strangers to now, we have grieved, loved, grown and changed together. That day when we take the next step we will do it together.

Monday, January 16, 2017

To See.

We found ourselves struggling a bit this week, one of my crew shut down in class refusing to do the assignment. Not a normal response for this kiddo, I could see there was more to it than just defiance this time. I sat down with them trying to get to the bottom of it all. Our life is a little stirred up lately and some days it was just pick a topic and we are struggling with it.

I sat down with them and tried to brainstorm exactly what was going on. “I can’t see” they responded after a series of questions. “Like someone is blocking you and you can’t see around them?” “No, I keep squeezing my eyes but I can’t see the letters.” Oh you mean you can’t see (horrific light bulb moment for mom), suddenly I began replaying the last several months in my mind, repeated statements of, “move back, don’t hold that so close, lookout for that car.” A trip the next day to the eye doctors confirmed that was indeed the issue.

The call came that the glasses were ready, upon putting them on a simple “wow” was uttered. As we drove home joyful declarations and shouts of “Mom, look at that, look over there, look how cool those are” filled our space.

I have been mulling the power of sight over these last several days. Consumed by the thought that our perspective is powerful. It is that limited view of how we see things, and that changes what we see. How often do I choose to not see something that is there? How many things did I miss because I did not shift where I look?

Friday night I had the chance to slip away from the crew for a few hours and go see the movie, Hidden Figures. The entire time I sat their wondering how we could treat people that way, people who simply looked different? It has to do perspective, instead of celebrating differences, embracing change and challenging our view of things we choose to allow our vision to be limited. I was so humbled by this group of women who changed history, benefiting our space program.

Martin Luther King Jr, had a few clips in the movie and today we reflect on all that he did. He fought hard, challenging the world to change their perspective. In the midst of a world that still chooses to be blind in many ways there are a few who rise up and question the lenses of what we look through. We find ourselves limited by the prescriptions of life experiences, complacency and fear to name a few. 

We struggle to see beyond our circumstances, the weight of them can be blinding. Maybe it is the lies we believe those things that run on a loop through our mind, remind us that we can never do different. Or could it be that even at times we find ourselves refusing to see the things around us for we have our eyes closed shut. We remind ourselves that we are better of in the limitations of what we see and understand now.

There is a price tag in that all, for there are some things you can never unsee. The better our vision the more we see, I would imagine if my crew member would of had those glasses this summer when we saw the ocean, their response would of been different. Seeing things changes us, things look different and we are faced with more questions.

I don’t want to be settled in my prescription, I want to see. I want to keep myself standing before the lettered chart, seeking to see more, to know more. I want to notice the faces of the ones I walk by, I want to see their hearts and to see that I can learn so much for this world around me. I want to spend my days walking around declaring “wow!”
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Pouring In

Navigating the gift of a newborn, realizing the fact that beyond providing basic needs my only role is pouring in. Each kiss, answered cry, bottle and diaper change is creating neural pathways in his little brain. For the first in my parenting experience I am setting those neural pathways not trying to rewire them.

I am not having to rewind, facilitate healing or process trauma, this time I just get to pour in. That reality is a gift, born as a clean slate babies are ready to absorb the world around them. The quest of life for babies is quite the journey, growing for 9 months, the struggle of birth followed by a series of bright lights, sounds and cold air.

Most little ones at some point in all this chaos they are held, celebrated. Yet, some of these little ones come into this world fighting addictions to substances their bodies consumed for 9 months. Others will find no warm embrace nor is there a celebration awaiting them. For them the world seems like a cold reality, compared to the womb, as they grow and change so do the pathways of their brains.

I did not have to teach this little one to cry, to nuzzle, or to sink into my body as I hold him. He has no reason not to trust, when he cries he is heard. His eyes are bright and clear as they absorb the world around him. I did not have to uncover the light within, it was just there. Instincts kicks in and I follow his lead, he lets me know what he needs and when. Before my eyes the most beautiful little soul is growing and changing, soaking in the world around him.

Raising children with a trauma background is a gift in its own way. The things you celebrate are different, maybe it is a child who learns to sleep at night, learns that if you go outside for a moment you will be back, or a baby who has found their voice. There is a lot more focus on the past in hopes we can help the healing process, spending a lot of time on coping with what was.

I am soaking in the wins of all my children, reminding myself that holding a head up is just as beautiful as tying shoes. Celebrating the fact that each of those things are forever wiring their little brains, the things we learn now is the foundation for the future. Some of our foundations were a bit unstable but I am seeing that brick by brick we are doing it.

This little soul has brought such joy to our home, we are soaking him in. We have no idea of our future together so we just pour in. Embracing the fact that our home is his start.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Purpose

I have been mulling over these past few months the idea of purpose. More so the idea of purpose in our circumstances than the specific life calling kind of purpose. It is easy to view life as just a series of random events, one thing merely bumping us along to the next, until we run out of time. The moment we enter the world the clock starts ticking and with that we age.

I have had the honor of tracking the one month post womb life of my youngest crew member, let me say it has been fascinating. The rate in which growth and development happens is mind boggling, time has rapidly been zooming by as I am desperately try to slow it down.

2016 was a whirlwind of a year, some of my best and most painful moments were contained within that calendar year. While not all of my life events have found their happy ending or even a bow tying it all together, there is something very clear to me in the midst of it all, it all has purpose. It is easy to over analyze life circumstances, to read too much into them, to obsess over them. That is human nature, we tend to shy away from the pain of things as a coping skill.

There is a healthy balance where we learn to accept the circumstance, process it through and recognize that it is a tool being used to equip and validate the things to come. God is all of His grace uses the things of life to prepare us for the things to come. Do we find ourselves just unhappy with life events or do we press in knowing that these events have the potential to change us within. That they are preparing us in a bigger way than we can imagine.

What if every thing we experience in life gave us the opportunity to help another human? When confronted with the hard moments it is easy for us to just shrug it off as luck or the way it is. Can we for a moment change the way we view these things and begin to look at them as ways to connect with others.

When we show up with vulnerability and credibility sharing our story people listen, take note and meet you with their own. Such healing comes when we see painful moments turn into connection tools with others. Validations slowly begins as we see the purpose behind what we have gone through. Walking even a little bit down the road of life we discover that distance and other experiences show us that there was more to it all than what we could see or understand in the midst.

Life experiences guide us along in this life, each event leading us to the next. Some things we will never fully make sense of nor will they ever have their pretty bow wrapped around them. Every time we share our story we find that another little piece is validated and given purpose.

I am discovering when I share my life stories I am seeing that there are sweet moments of redemption along the way. Things begin to make a little more sense as life unfolds when I choose to welcome others in. The very things of this life, give us the very chance to share our stories with a boldness that only comes through experiences and credibility. Challenge yourself to change your view on the things you don’t understand by sharing your story, you never know who needs a little bit of hope that only your story can bring.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Adventure.

2016 has gotten a bit of a bad rap, it seems that it was a bit of a doozy. The trials were great and the days long, our only reprieve from reality was sleep. Upon awakening we felt it all, the pressure, ache, struggle and loss. The News delivered stories of loss, wins and true heartache, we all were left to process it all of us finding ourselves a bit more tattered. 2016 left me with a few life lessons.

Every day should be cherished. In a blink months zoom by, I am begging for time to slow down. This last year taught me to cherish every moment for time slips by so quickly. Our household has changed so much over this last year. We have been on a quest to love well and intentionally whether our stay 7 days or 7 months. Our 24 hours given each day are used up scrolling news feeds, hitting next on the episode buttons and so distracted we hardly notice the world around us. The promise of each day awakens with such purpose, potential and power awaiting us to take hold of it all.

Fear is never a good enough reason not to. We are taught at a young age to avoid things that hurt, it keeps our behavior in check, keeps us alive and causes us to pause, we are conditioned to avoid pain. The other night I sat with our sweet little bundle on my lap and suddenly I was completely overwhelmed by fear. I have fallen head over heels in love with this tiny human the realities of foster care make that fact bittersweet. My heart remembers the goodbyes, those wounds still fresh in my heart. At times I am terrified of this calling, it hurts. The fear is real and the pain cuts deep the moments that are painful have turned out to be some of the more beautiful seasons.

Healing is a long and hard road. There is no check list, plan or schedule. You just have to be in it, you have to deal with each emotion, thought and realization as they come. You have to process each and every day. You have to protect your heart, your time and your emotions from the world around them, confronting them with truth. Some days you take 2 steps forward and 8 steps back. Just when you think you can check a behavior off of the list, it ss back and it brought friends! When you think we are fine and healed, the scar tissue aches. It is a process that unlocks a sweetness, unlike any other thing.

Life is made up of a series of course corrections and choices. Each one leads me down a different path, it is on that path that faith is found and character built. I can make the plans but they fall through, learning to adjust as we go sharpens our skills. The key is to have a vision of where I want to be and go along protecting that vision.

This past year, I loved well, had my heart broken, saw redemption and questioned circumstances. I had the honor of celebrating our Little One’s first birthday and waking with her each day for seven months, collecting her first words and steps. We celebrated becoming a forever family I watched them step into new identities and claim new heritages. I showed half my crew the beauty of the ocean, enjoying quality time as we ventured across the nation. I started sharing our story with the world and have gathered so many beautiful stories in exchange. I celebrated and embraced 30. Hiked through the mountains of Oregon in the fall. Watched as my crew loved on a sweet ginger baby boy for one week, enjoying the honor of him waking up to the world around him. I experienced the joy of bringing a baby home from the hospital and soaking in the beauty of a newborn.

2016 had my highest highs and lowest lows. My heart has never loved more intentionally and deeply as it did this last year causing it to break deeply. This last year showed me just what I am being called to and how my story is giving me credibility. As 2017 begins to unfold I feel a holy anticipation for the things to come aware that this is my year to thrive.