Friday, October 17, 2014

Five "Long" Minutes

Why is it I am hard-pressed to find something positive about the word “long”?  The long times I remember most are the hard times.  

A long illness.  
A long term paper.  
A long time in the dentist’s chair.  
A long labor.  
A long time spent missing someone who needed to come home.

Isn’t the word “long” subjective anyway? Is there such thing as time spent with a cherished friend that takes just too long?  Or a great book that we wished we could finish sooner?  Or do the minutes and pages fly by and before we know it, the time is up?

I recently cruised the Caribbean with my beloved husband.  We were to leave on a Saturday, and not return for seven days.  When I thought about being away from my kids for a week, seven days seemed to be way too long.  But after boarding the most beautiful ship I had ever seen, relaxing by one of the many pools on board with a good book, experiencing superb shows each evening, and arriving at exotic islands in the morning, the days flew by. I could have stayed on that ship even longer.  

But most of the time, long and hard just seem to be life-long companions.

So, how do we do long, when long is hard?  I’m pretty sure it’s all about the focus. When I focus on the finish line, today is long and hard.  I was never promised grace for tomorrow.  The promise of joy and grace was for today.  So when long seems hard and the end isn’t in sight anytime soon, it's time to change my focus.  Focus on today.

Find joy in today.
Do nice today.
Love deeply today.
Tomorrow has enough worries of its own.

Sunday, August 31, 2014


I am considered somewhat tall for a woman.  It started in junior high, when three inch heels  or platform shoes were the rage.  Everyone wore them, and I was very conscious of the fact that with my two inch heels I towered over most of the twelve year old boys.

That doesn't work well if you consider height to be a deciding factor on whether or not a boy might consider asking you out.  Most taller boys played sports, so being the shy, unconfident person I was, I never even considered that a "jock" would ever ask me out.  So, it is quite amazing that I ended up marrying one.  But that's an entirely different story.

Being tall has one advantage.  You can reach things others can't.  I have been asked more than once by a stranger in the grocery store if I could help them reach something.  My mother in law has often used my height to her advantage to help reach a serving bowl on the top shelf of her cabinet.  

Reach.  It usually requires stretching.

You might even be a little uncomfortable for a time, straining to get something that is out of reach for most people, but barely within your own.

There is another kind of reach I have known--finally reaching your destination/goal/opportunity. There is a finality about that kind of reach.  It means overcoming obstacles, pursuing something over a long period of time, coming to the place where you realize what you had sought for so long--a finish line, a vacation spot, a master's degree.  

The destination I think about  reaching most often is more a place of maturity.
Reaching a place where the struggles of the past no longer have a hold on me.
Reaching a place where I no longer worry about what others think of me.
Reaching a place where I can love unconditionally.
Reaching a place in my where I trust the Lord completely and never doubt.

I would love to reach that place.

But I am beginning to realize that it is going to look more like the continual stretching kind of reach. A process.  It means it will be uncomfortable.  I will wonder if I will ever arrive.  I believe it is the process itself that is much more important than the destination.  The continual stretching and striving will produce the character He requires for me to enter a new place.  

Yes, reach is a slippery thing.  Once you think you have arrived, there is always more. A new destination, a new race to run, a new level.

One day we will finish our race, having run the entire course, and will truly reach what our hearts desire.  What we were created for.  Until then, we continute to reach…

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such away as to get the prize."  I Corinthinas 9:24.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thirty Years Ago

My knight in shining armor found me, swept me off of my feet, and we made promises to love, honor and cherish each other thirty years ago today.

We thought we knew so much.  We thought love would carry us through anything.

I chuckle now as I remember answering questions that our pastor/marriage counselor asked us, in order to prepare us for this lifetime commitment called marriage.

"Who will do the dishes and clean the house?"  Our answer?  "Why, both of us, together!"

"Who will shop for groceries, pay the bills, and cook the meals?"  "We will both do it together!"

And we did.  For about one year and a month.  We drove to the store together, washed and dried our clothes at the laundromat together.  We arrived home from work at about the same time,  so we carefully calculated what was for dinner (usually shake and bake chicken or a hamburger helper type meal), cooked together, and cleaned up the dishes together. We were on a shoestring budget, but that didn't keep us from our weekly trips to Baskin Robbins for our Coconut Almond Fudge ice cream cones.  At least once a week we would enjoy fine dining at the China House Restaurant where the world's best Cashew Chicken took place.  Sometimes we would play mini golf or go to a movie, or even sit by the pool at the local Howard Johnson's hotel.  We had been warned about the first year of marriage being the most difficult.  We were sailing through it with nary a bump in the road. Ah, wedded bliss.

And then life happened.  It was called colicky baby, move to a new state, and start a job in a new church, where every needy teenager thought my husband was their new hero.  All within two month's time, I had been catapulted from princess to mom, homemaker, pastor's wife, bill payer, cook, and bottle washer.  I landed hard.  All those layers of feather beds and feather matresses were pulled out right from under me when I had least expected it.

I felt like Cinderella, who had to stay home from the ball and take care of her responsibilities at home.  And my husband, the prince, had no clue.

Now mind you, he was an instant wonderful father.  After years of playing sports from little on, it didn't take him long to master the "football hold" for our darling, unhappy little daughter.  We would pass her off and pace the floor each night until she would finally fall asleep around midnight.  But his days at the church office were the culmination of many years of prayer and hard work, and it was very rewarding, albeit a little scary for him.  He was finally able to spend his time ministering, preparing sermons, sharing his faith, hanging out with teenagers, imparting wisdom and strength to those who needed him.

And although the bump in the road was unexpected for me, I soon found my new love, being a Mom.  I fell so deeply in love with my little girl, that it made no difference to me what our home looked like, what we had for dinner, or how much money was left at the end of the week (usually none).

Looking back on the last thirty years, six babies,  two little boys, two grand babies, three churches, hundreds of friends, and yes, twelve homes later, I believe we were right about one thing.  Love did take us through it all.

But our love looks a lot different now.  We used to love because.  Now we love although.  We used to count on feelings to carry us through.  Now we hold on to the promises we made thirty years ago.

On our wedding invitation, it read:  "Today I will marry my friend, the one I laugh with, dream with, live for, love…."

Today, I am still married to my friend.  We still laugh together, dream together, live together, and love very deeply together.  There are days we don't have a lot of feelings to hold on to.  But the promises we made to our Heavenly Father in front of our friends and family so many years ago have kept us from ever second guessing those words.

I'm grateful we had a love story.  I'm glad my prince came and scooped me up and carried me away.  And I'm forever grateful for the precious memories we share together now.  We are infinitely rich.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Serenity Prayer Revised

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Such words of wisdom.  I’ve seen them so often, they have become cliche.
But, I love that prayer.  Sure wish I could remember it.  Every day.

Because it sure would save me a huge mountain of stress if I would just put it into practice.

How much of my mental energy is spent being frustrated with the actions and attitudes of others? How much of my day do I ponder and stew about conversations that took place, frustrations over people that won’t change, regrets from the past, even society’s problems, dishonesty in politics, world hunger, the persecution of innocent people? It’s exhausting.

Really, the only person I can truly change is myself. I can learn to love myself and others in my present state. I can be willing to admit my mistakes and grow from them. I can know that until my time on earth is complete, He has more for me to accomplish.  How exciting it would be, to truly take all the mistakes of the past, learn from them, make adjustments, and continue on.

That could produce incredible results-- power and peace.
The potential is huge. But it will only happen if I put the principles of the Serenity Prayer into practice. But I would change up the wording just a little.

“God, grant me peace of mind to pray and leave at the feet of Jesus the things I cannot change, the courage and strength to work on the things I can, and by continual prayer, be equipped with the wisdom of the day to know the difference.”  

Wow, looks like that would make a great poster!!  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

It's Hard to Tell…or Is It?

“I’m telling!”

I have heard these very words so often during my years as mom and referee.  Soon after, a little person scurries through the doorway armed with a new story of injustice.  

Apparently, it is of the utmost importance that their mom know about it, because deep within all of us is a need to make things fair.  And if I can’t make things fair myself, by golly, I am going to find someone who can.

Isn’t that the pull of social media these days, to find an audience that will sympathize with any injustice I encounter?  

“I’m telling!”

Only, now that I am older and supposedly more mature, what seems to have changed is my method and audience.  It’s powerful to see how many people I can find to agree with me and “like” my status.  It helps me validate my own feelings of injustice.

The problem with this method is that it is shaky at best, and based on a false sense of security.  

I am just beginning to see the magnitude of power there is in the written word of social media.  The need to rally people around me to support my cause can blind me to the fact that my cause may have a false premise.  I just might be entirely wrong. If I base my sense of right and wrong on a system of popularity, how am I any different than the teen who dresses for her peers, whether or not the rest of society deems her appearance attractive or proper?

How often do I experience something funny, or sad, or maddening,  and I immediately think, wow, I need to post this!

Why?  Because, deep down is a need to feel validated. But, how many “likes” is enough? Twenty? Thirty?  Fifteen, with a few comments thrown in?  Well, yesterday, twenty made me feel good, but my friend got 55 likes on a photo of her kid and it wasn’t anything great or new, or even that cute. So, now, I’m gunning for at least 60!  It’s almost addiction!  I need to have more and more “likes” to make myself feel good.  

It’s time to step back and get a dose of perspective.  Who are those whose opinions matter most to me? Is it a friend I haven’t seen in 20 years, or even someone I have never met? Shouldn’t the ones I love and value most have the most influence on me and I on them?  

When all is said and done,  when I reach the end of my life, how many of my social media friends will do little more than like the status that informs them I have passed on to another world? It’s time to put time into the ones whose lives I have been given the responsibility to mold and affect, those with whom my heart beats. Those I like most.  Those I love.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Unrealistic Expectations

My husband and I sat in the counseling session with an obviously distraught couple.  She had drawn an imaginary line in the sand and stated that he had crossed over it one too many times.  He, looking shell-shocked seemed to have given up long ago.

As they described their relationship and their years of struggle and pain which had now turned to anger and surrender, a phrase kept repeating itself in my mind--"unrealistic expectations." As couples so often do, they had brought their list of unspoken expectations of how the other should talk, feel,  and act into their marriage, and when it did not play out as expected, the heartbreak began.

She thinks: He should know my needs and meet them.  When he doesn't, he demonstrates in full color that I am not important to him.  When I make my expectations clear and he continues to ignore them, it is proof that he does not love me.  Every mistake.  Every missed "I love you." "Every task put off screams that he has other things more important to focus on and I am an after-thought.

He thinks:  Nothing I do will ever be good enough.  When I do try, she interprets it as half-hearted, so even my best falls short.  If I reatreat into my own thoughts I am considered neglectful.  If I challenge her priorities I am considered unloving.  It is a lose-lose situation.  I can never win, so why try?

The Book of Lamentations has a song that I learned as a new Christian.  "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness."

Even as a teenager, the truth of these words gave me hope.  No matter how difficult yesterday was, today is a new day.  I get a "do-over", another mulligan.  The hope is that I can take the mistakes of yesterday and begin again, having made the necessary adjustments to imporove on yesterday.

The key phrase here, my friends, is make necessary adjustments.  How often have I repeated yesterday's mistakes, because I thought that repeating yesterday's actions with yesterday's attitudes would somehow magically reap new results?  Isn't that the definition of insanity, according to possibly one of the world's most brilliant minds?

I struggle with my own inadequacies daily.  Sowing unrealistic expectations for my husband and children yields a crop of anger and frustration.  Unrealistic expectations for myself lead to  guilt and surrender.  Oh, whoa is me.  Who will rescue me from this body of unmet expectations?

Thanks be to our precious Lord and Savior that we don't have to do this alone.  He promises to take yesterday's failures and wash them, purify them, and send us out with new clothes.  But we must put them on.  We must renew our minds.  It is in going to the feet of the only One that can make all things new that I can truly begin again.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Word Art

Writing is my therapy.  It is also my attempt to create.

My kids used to say, "Mom, draw me a cat." (or a snowman. or a house)
And in my feeble way, I would scratch out a cartoon version of the real thing.
And they thought it was amazing! Beautiful! How did I get to be such a great artist?

Well, I knew the truth.  It wasn't any of those things, but to a five year old soul it was perfect.

Not too long ago, I discovered that for me, words were a better way to draw pictures.  For most of my life, the pen had been a tool used for utility.  It wrote reports, it calculated numbers.  It sketched ideas for house plans.  It jotted notes to my loved ones.

But then I discovered that if I sat long enough to catch the swirling thoughts that raced through my head and weighed on my heart, I could transfer them to the page and it made sense. I was surprised  that those fragmented pieces that had floated randomly could be collected together and it sketched something.  Amazing.  Beautiful.  Complete.  I could tweak, trim, embellish here or there, but whenever I decided it was finished, it was.

That is no small thing in a life of endless washing, drying, folding, cooking, shopping, shuttling, packing, unpacking, budgeting, and, well, the list keeps going. None of those things stay finished.
But the written word wasn't, and then it was, and then it stayed.  Finished.

And I knew I had touched on some hidden venue of creativity that my Creator had deposited in me long ago. I just hadn't noticed it was there.

 Words are my therapy.  I know it to be true, because as I type, tears slip out of the corners of my eyes and run down my face.  And even days later, when I reread the carefully chosen words, the mist in my eyes tells me that the message is still true.

They may not paint the same picture for you.  I don't believe they have to.  Call it modern impressionistic.  That's the beautiful thing about art.  You don't know why you love it, but something about it rings true for you, and stirs your insides and you smile. And you think, yeah.  I have always thought that. I just hadn't seen it written out.

Word art.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How to Spot an Elephant and Other Important Life Lessons

When thinking about elephants, I can’t help but look back on my childhood and chuckle. This may date me, but there was a time when elephant riddles were the rage.  “What time is it when you have ten elephants charging after you?  Ten to one.”  “What time is it when you find an elephant in your car?  Time to get a new car.” “How do you know if there is an elephant in the refrigerator?  You can spot his footprints in the jello.”  

I would think it would be kind of obvious if I had an elephant in my refrigerator.  That’s what makes that joke funny.  When I wrote about the proverbial “Elephant in the Room” in the adoption world, I pointed out attitudes and prejudices that seems obvious to many people, but few are willing to address.  It’s really much more complicated than that.  

How do you spot an elephant in the room? Well, assuming he is invisible, you need to search for evidence of his presence, the most obvious being that most everything around him will be smashed.  When objects are smashed, it’s unfortunate, but most are replaceable.  When it comes to people being smashed, the ramifications are much more serious.  Smashed people have little voice left to cry out for help.  Those of us who witness the smashing of someone have a moral responsibility to jump in and help.  But we need to be careful, lest that huge animal take his turn on us.

So, let me step away from the allegory and put it in practical terms to which many can relate.  Bullying has become a very popular topic in the news.  Nobody likes a bully.  We all side with the victim and become insensed that someone would pulverize another individual either physically or verbally.  Tragic stories fill the internet of teenagers that demolish others so brutally that a person takes his or her life.  Reputations are destroyed. Lives are ruined.  

Most of the time, the bully feels fully justified.  Yes, there are cases among children where bullies pounce on victims just for sport.  I would guess that often the bully has himself been bullied and  is trying to regain something he has lost.  Still, we hate bullying in any form.  

But when it comes to bullying in adults, it becomes less obvious who is the bully.  It’s harder to draw the line and know whose side to take.  It’s harder to identify if he is a bully or not, because that person seems so justified in his actions.  

Have you ever tried to break up a fight between  children?  You need to be part crime-scene investigator to determine who is at fault.  “He hit me!”  “That’s because she scratched me first.”  “Well, he called me stupid!”  “She rolled her eyes at me!”  and so on.  It’s especially difficult when one of them comes up to you in private and says, “Mom, (fill in child's name) needs to get punished.  I was just sitting and doing nothing, just playing with my toys, when she came up to me and hit me!”  “Did you do anything to cause that?”  “No, nothing.”  I have yet to experience a fight between my children where the first story was purely accurate.  It’s because all they can see is their side of the story.  When I interview the other person, she gives me her side of the situation, based entirely from her point of view.  Both have their own side, in which they feel fully  justified in their actions.  As a parent, I often use this as an opportunity to help them to see the other’s point of view to somehow bring about reconciliation.  My goal is not to take sides.  If I am parenting correctly, the highest good is that these two children will learn to get along and try and be thoughtful of the other’s feelings.  Often, as referee, I am accused of siding with the other team, making bad calls.  As there are no perfect referees, there are no perfect parents.  I have made bad calls, usually due to a lack of information.  Nonetheless, the highest goal is to get these two little people to apologize for their side of the spat and hopefully learn a lesson that they can take with them into adulthood that they need to be nice to people, and can’t always have their own way.   

There are adults who sadly, have never learned this lesson.  Their own way trumps others’ right to an opinion.  They use intimidatation when logic fails them.  They have no problem pulverizing their opponent, especially when they feel totally justified by their cause.  And the highest cause on earth that I have found to date is, “It’s for the children.”  

Well, who could argue with that?  If I can hide behind that phrase, I have so much power, I can smash any opponent who comes near me.  You don’t agree with me?  Smash.  You do something that I don’t like? Smash!  Understand, I am smashing you for a good cause, it’s “for the children.”  And since no one wants to be on the losing side, I can rally other people around me who can get sucked into my “ambivilent cause” and either help me smash, or cheer me on in the process.

I have witnessed this over the years in the church world.  A self-righteous group of people have done cruel things to pastors, their families, or other individuals in the church, all in the name of “excellence for the Lord.”  Their apparent cause fuels them to leave no one standing as they smash people verbally or with gossip.  Every pastor knows this, which is why so many who start out in the ministry end up working secular jobs at the end of their careers.  There comes a point when their own spirits or those of their family are bruised to the point that they wave the white flag and give up.  

I have recently witnessed this in the adoption world.  A few people, hidiing behind their self-imposed standard of right and wrong, rally others in the cause of “protecting children” and pulverize anyone who would think to question them.  It becomes a popularity contest of sorts.  How many people can I get to agree with me, so I can feel justified in my smashing of you?  It is really cyber bullying.  But  bystanders have a hard time recognizing it, since the cause seems so great.  How dare that person disagree with the group that is “for the children.”  They must be anti-children!  They must have a hidden agenda, so we can call them out on it.  They must be self-indulgent, selfish, heartless, inept parents who DON’T CARE FOR CHILDREN!  Gasp.  

Well, I felt a moral obligation to help out a victim recently, who was merely trying to share her struggle in adopting an older child, and got smashed myself.  Not anything too serious, but today I am licking my wounds, assessing my own rationale for entering the battle in the first place.  Nobody likes a bully.  When I saw it happen, I immediately took sides  for the victim.  That seemed easy until the elephant waved his “for the children” sword and ganged up.  Then it was ten to one.  Very hard to win that battle.

So, for now, I pulled away from that group of elephants.  I did so for self preservation, knowing that there will be other helpless victims who dare take them on.  I do so hesitantly, not admitting defeat, but knowing that battles of this sort are not won arguing with them on their battlefield.  I will continue this battle on my knees, knowing that there is a spirit that wants to destroy the people who can make the most difference rescuing children.  The God in Heaven who loves the children more than we,  instructed us to rescue the helpless, care for the orphan.  Our opponent is not a group of self-righteous people waving swords. Our opponent is invisible. He is ruthless and takes no prisoners.

Pray with me that the Lord of the Harvest would send forth workers into His harvest field.  And pray that their eyes would be open.

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”  --Eph. 6:12

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Elephant in the Room

There is an "elephant in the room" in the adoption world.  In fact, there may be more than one. We dust and vacuum around it.  We arrange our furniture so we can go on with our lives despite it's huge presence. And although we may make passing references to it, nothing is done to escort it to its proper place.   It continues to cast it's huge shadow, hindering our ability to effectively carry on our work.

Adoptive parents are some of the most amazing people on earth.  I have made new friends  via adoption groups that will last a long time.  Should we ever meet  in person, I am sure we would throw our arms around each other like long lost friends.  We understand each other.  Similar to teammates or fellow soldiers, we hold a camaraderie based on enduring a difficult process and finishing.  We have scaled the mountains of paperwork together.  We love children together.  Adoptive parents are generous, giving their lives to help the world's most helpless.  So what I am about to address is not meant to dimish any of them or their amazing accomplishments.  It is strictly to address an issue that I feel needs to be tackled head-on.

The proverbial elephant is a saying that depicts something that is very obvious to all involved, yet for various reasons, no one is willing to acknowlege its presence, let alone address. In the adoption world, the secret is this:  adoption is hard.   Not just expensive, that's a given.  Difficult.

Those of us who have contemplated the orphan crisis in the world are overwhelmed by the huge need of millions of children.  We have witnessed hundreds of stories of helpless children being placed in families where they have thrived.  We have seen the "before and after" pictures of toddlers from Eastern European nations who were literally on death's door, who had no chance of surviving let alone living anywhere near normal lives, had they not been given a second chance in a family.  Their new shining eyes and smiling faces hardly resemble the shadow they were only months prior. We have witnessed the deplorable conditions of overcrowded orphanages, pictures of children living twenty or more hours a day in cribs, devoid of any human contact.  We have held orphans in our arms and our lives have been changed.

I am fully aware of my own limitations.  I cannot rescue millions of children.  I can, however, do my best to encourage you to roll up your sleeves and do something.  Sponsor.  Foster. Adopt.  Something.  And I know that when you truly experience the redemption process, you, in turn, will influence others.
Albert Einstein stated, "the most powerful force in the world is compound interest." What begins as simple multiplication quickly increases exponentially.

Enter the elephant.  The elephant says that anything I do or say that will encourage you to adopt is good.  Anything I do or say that would cause you to think twice about adopting is bad.   The adoption world has created its own sub-culture.   We feel we must learn its language. While "in process" (of bringing our children home), we quickly "adopt" a new acronym-filled language.  Not wanting to be found wanting, we secretly investigate the meanings of these acronyms such as PA, LID, TA and CCCWA  so we can communicate intelligently with our new friends experiencing this same new language.

The elephant says we must also learn the taboo words and promise to never use them.  We must never refer to the children as "orphans". (After all, how do you REALLY know for sure that their "birth parents" are no longer alive?)  Never carelessly sling around the word "abandon."  (What if they found out that is what actually happend to them?)  For sure never refer to the process as "rescuing children." (How egotistical are you, anyway?) And the most recent word I so foolishly threw out there, NEVER refer to the emotion that our children experience, no matter how old they are, whether or not they show signs of tantrums, hitting, spitting, kicking, or spewing vomit in the form of  the written word in order to demoralize and marginalize another person as "anger."  Hurt? Yes.  Frustration? Yes.  Anger?  (How patronizing can you be?)

The elephant says we must protect these children at all costs.  We must hover, making sure no one will offend them by pointing out the obvious--they don't look like our biological children.  Pity the fool who stops us in the grocery store to ask whether the children are "ours" or not.  Gasp.  We must make sure they fit in to our culture perfectly, while at the same time keeping vigil to expose them to their original country's every holiday and observance.  We must continually attend to their every need, feverishly trying to take back what was lost during those years before they were with us, even to the detriment of our other children.  And if this process proves to be too much for us as parents, if we find that we struggle in the area of emotional attachment to these precious ones (including tantrums, spitting, kicking, incessant whining, etc.) we must promise to NEVER ADMIT DEFEAT.  Never let anyone know you're hurt.  Never acknowlege the struggle.  Oh, it's okay if you couch it in vague terms, such as "please pray for me.  I'm having a very hard day."  That is socially acceptable in this culture.  Anything more than that runs the risk of jeopardizing your child's very existence, at least their mental health and self confidence.  What if they somehow searched the internet in the future and found out that you actually wrote about them?  And it wasn't pretty?  What if you admitted publicly that your child hit you, pummeled you with words, acted in any negative way and the world found out?  What kind of parent are you anyway?  You must silently endure, "take one for the Gipper."  Your child's entire future rests on your ability to keep your mouth shut.

That is the hypocrisy that exists in this world.  The result?  A skewed portrayal of adoption.  The fairy tale stories of children redeemed fill the internet.  The silence of the many struggling parents are hugely ignored.  Parents experience guilt, shame, and loneliness, for they have no reference point for the anger,  (did I just use the "a" word?), depression and disillusionment they feel. And although much is written to better understand children from hard places and the struggles they face, almost nothing exists to help parents understand their own emotions and struggles in the process.  In our attempt to protect the children, we alienate the very ones that have poured out their hearts, souls, and finances to elicit change.  We ostracize the very ones that  helped.  We shoot our own soldiers.  Not on purpose, mind you.  Friendly fire is unintentional.  And we are often oblivious to the extent of the subsequent damage.

There is another term in the adoption world:  "disruption."  It is the "d" word.  A horrible word.  Technically it is dissolution, the breaking of a relationship between family and adopted child.  It refers to a situation where a couple (or single parent) brings a child home by means of adoption, struggles for an indiscriminate period of time, and eventually comes to the point that for the sake of their own mental health or the safety or health of their other family members, "re-homes" their adopted child.  The child is passed to a new family by means of an agency, or often by a simple legal document granting power of attorney to a new family.   Void of criminal background checks, home studies, or any other protocol followed to originally adopt them,  the implications are huge.  The danger cannot be overstated.

Disruptions and dissolutions are the blight of the adoption community that, left unchecked, have silently spread throughout the Western world.  It is the silent epidemic for which no one wants to admit any responsibility.  We characterize "those parents" as abusive and neglectful.  We dismiss them as careless and irresponsible.  We gasp at their inability to cope.

Yet, should we in the adoption world be held accountable?  Do we unknowingly contribute to a family's demise?  Are we in any way responsible for the irreparable damage inflicted on the once-again abandoned children in this underground re-homing process?  In our effort to protect our children, have we unknowingly caused further injury to other children?

The elephant in the room is not a cute, pink domesticated pet.  It is a large dangerous animal that is silently wreaking havoc on innocent lives.  It is our duty to admit its presence.  It is our responsiblity to address its damage.  And it is our obligation to corporately obliterate it.

The world's children and those who hope to make a difference depend on it.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Making the Most of Plan B

They spent their first precious years on the other side of the world.  Abandoned at just a few days old their stories are remarkably  similar.  Both of our sons were born with special needs that were obviously too much for their parents to handle.  The joys of bringing a new life into the world had suddenly turned to grief when two unrelated, probably young mothers realized that they could not keep the precious children they had birthed from their bodies into the cold cruel world.

Adoptive parents spend a lot of time and mental energy trying to make sense of a terrible story.  We try to climb into the minds of people we never met, from a culture we have mostly gleaned bits and pieces from, and try to piece together a story we can give our children.  When they start asking the difficult questions, our goal is to field them from the experienced professional parent status we think is possible.  Did their birth parents really love them?  Was it heartbreaking to leave them? Were they too poor?

We wonder if they were slaves to social stigma that told them that any imperfect babies were to be discarded as bad luck.  Were there grandparents or in-laws involved that gave them no choice, because it was their responsibliity to carry on the family name?  Yes, these are all options, albeit terrible ones.  Which one makes the most logical sense to share with a boy who wants to know why he wasn't valuable enough to be kept and raised by the mother who bore him?   

Do we go for logic, anyway?  What about kindness?  Which story gives them the confidence that it wasn't their fault, that they had nothing to do with the choice that was made for them before they barely could see the world around them? It is impossible to sort through the why's and what if's to make sense out of something we had no control over, nor complete knowledge of, but often we still try.

They were four and five when we finished the final form in the mountain of paperwork that makes adoption possible.  We boarded planes, survived crazy taxi rides, and eventually landed in the proper places at the proper times, recited the proper words, signed the proper documents, and took the proper photos to make it official.  We raised our hands and solemnly promised to raise them to their full potential, never abandon or abuse them, and teach them about their country's heritage.

Yes, now they were part of a real family, a place to belong.  But is it quite that simple?  I have read countless blogs of adoptive parents that proudly announce that these children from hard places were always meant to be in their families.  That they knew deep down that those children were connected to them by some mysterious "red thread" that joined their hearts together from the beginning of time.

I can't believe that.  Plan B has always been an inferior substitute  to God's Plan A.  Ask the parents that struggle for weeks, months, and even years with broken children that are trying to make the best of this plan B called adoption.  Try to convince them that the trips to doctors, counselors, psychologists, the night terrors, the fits of rage, the periods unconsollable crying were all a part of plan A.

The truth is, we are all a part of Plan B.  But He always had it in control.  Plan A was that we were to live in a perfect place with no sin, disease, heartache, and death.  Plan B was that He would take care of the darkness with the Light of His Son.

Yes, we are all adopted into Plan B.  That levels the playing field.  We will never know what life would have been like in a perfect Garden--at least in this lifetime.  But someday we will see that our real home, our real family isn't here anyway.  Until then, we make the most of Plan B, knowing that "He Who began a good work in us, will carry it on to completion."

After all, it's not our plan anyway.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Secret is in the Exhale

I don't  consider myself an expert in many things. Never fought any bad guys that I know of.  Definitely not faster than a speeding bullet.  Never even budged a locomotive.  Positive that I would not attempt to leap a tall building in a single bound.  But this one thing I do have as a notch on my imaginary  belt--I successfully birthed six babies, the difficult way.  No epidurals, no pain killers.  Beautiful, bouncing, big babies. Understand, there were times when I really did try the epidural road to childbirth.  But each time, different circumstances prevented it.  So, even though the birth videos are not pretty, I can hold my head high and share birth war stories with the best of them.

And my advice to all those moms who would like to know the secret to my success?  The secret is in the exhale.  Really.

Long, steady, focused exhales.  One, two, three four.  The inhale takes care of itself.  If you force yourself to relax, mentally sharp, MAKE every part  of your body go limp and exhale slowly, you can scale the most difficult mountains of  contractions and make it to the downhill side.  Exhale.  Steadily.  Slowly.

Years ago in a pediatrician's office, we held our precious daughter as she once again labored to breathe.  At four months old they had called it bronchiolitis.  At eight months old  the diagnosis was bronchitis.  The familiar wheeze that came whenever she caught a cold brought us once again to the kind doctor who listened, diagnosed, and then prescribed again.  This time, though, at age three, her diagnosis had a new name.  Apparently she had reached the right of passage  to call it asthma.

I secretly wondered why the familiar symptoms magically got a new name.  The wheezing and coughing were not any different than before.  But the one thing the doctor said stayed with me.  She said that asthma can be identified  by the wheeze.  The difficulty was not inhaling.   The wheezing only came when my sweet little girl breathed out.  The inhale took care of itself.  It was the exhale that was hard.

I had often considered myself to be a type B personality.  I actually prided myself in my ability to keep cool and calm when others lost their tempers.  Rarely raised my voice when a controlled steady answer would suffice.  Over the years I had juggled many balls, spun many plates, all while keeping cool, calm and collected.  I was the go-to girl.  The supermom.  The backbone of my husband's endeavors.

Eventually my red cape began to wear thin and I started manifesting  symptoms I had never experienced before--loss of sleep, shortness of breath, even chest pains.   The culprit?  Stress.  Too many responsibilities, enduring emotional trials without a release, trying to please too many people too much of the time.

I needed to learn to exhale again.  The inhale had always been easy.  The responsibilities never seemed to end.  But the exhale took more of an effort.  I needed to learn to rest.  I needed to retrain my family that when Mom sat down, it was not their signal to find something for me to do! I needed to realize that it was okay to schedule fun and relaxation.  A pedicure was not just something that the rich, pampered wives on the other side of the train tracks did for fun.  It was okay to spend time and even money once in awhile on myself.  Make myself relax.  Focus on the exhale.

I would love to say that I have since arrived and become an expert on exhaling--resting.  The truth is, I still struggle in this area.  The Lord commanded his people to remember the Sabbath rest many times throughout the Bible.  It is not an option.

Lord, teach me to exhale--to be obedient to You and rest.  The inhale will take care of itself.

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Lost Children

I have had recurring dreams over the years where I come upon a newborn baby that I had apparently lost or forgotten, realized they hadn’t been fed or changed in days, and quickly scoop them up, hoping no one notices that I have been a very neglectful mother.  Apparently I had recently delivered a new baby, got too busy, set him somewhere and forgot.

I have had other dreams where I find the toddler versions of my kids, and often they have been forgotten, too.  So much emotion wells up in these dreams.  How could I have ever forgotton one of these precious ones?  

Since dreams have their own counterparts in reality, I believe that I dream these dreams because in the far recesses of my mind I feel that my children are lost.  Understand, they are very much alive and well, living wonderful lives as adults.  I see them often, and cherish my relationship with them.  But the two year old versions of themselves are gone, and doggone it, I have no idea when it happened!  How could all of those days and weeks and months and years have slipped away so silently without anyone noticing?  Didn’t we cheer each milestone along the way? Did we not celebrate each accomplishment they made, each skill mastered, each award earned?

Since I love each one of my children huge, I would never trade them for anything. And since there is no option of having their two or three year old selves back again, I do have a choice.
I can cherish yesterday, yet live today.  It is yesterday's stories that keep these little people alive in our hearts.  It is in the telling of those silly stories together that makes all of those days make sense today.  

The lost children are not really lost at all.  They are still here.  They just live in our hearts and in our memories now. And it is in the telling and re-telling of the stories that we get to see them again.