Real vs. Not Real…?

“Mom, are you my real Mom?” My son asked as I started his bath water.  “I’m sorry, Honey. What did you say?”  I knew his question, but I wanted to hear it again so that I could listen for the slight change in his voice when he said the word “real’.

“Are you my real Mom?” 

I stared at him for a minute, poured the body wash into the running water so that bubbles would emerge, and said, “Why do you ask?”  He went on to explain that a boy on his gymnastics team kept saying to him that I was not his real mom.

“Well, I wonder if he meant biological mom.  If he did, then no, I am not your biological mother, but I am your real mother.  I love you and take care of you, and that is what makes me your real mother.”

“But he said that because I was not with you at birth, then you are not my real mom”, my son said.  “Was I with you at birth?”

“No, you were not, but you came to live with us when you were just a tiny baby, and I am your real mother.”

And just like that, he went on to talking about what happened at school.  Just like that, the conversation was over.

My children know they are adopted.  We have discussed what makes us different that biological families.  We have spoken the words of adoption, birth mommy, birth daddy, two moms, two dads, adoptive mommy and adoptive daddy to them since before they could barely speak.  My husband and I have always felt that our duty as adoptive parents is to only speak truth to our children.

They deserve to know that they are adopted.  They deserve to know that they were weaved in other women’s wombs, and that they have biological parents.

It has not been easy, you know.  I suspect that a lot of adoptive families have experienced random conversations about birth parents and adoption at the most unsuspecting of times.  I chuckle a little bit when I hear that adoptive parents are waiting for the “right time” to answer children’s questions about adoption.

The truth is that there will never be a right time.  The right time is when you are driving to school one day and your child suddenly pops you with a question.  The right time is when you stumble across a movie about an adopted child, and your child compares himself or herself to that character.  The right time just might be when your child is settling into a warm bubble bath.

As my son’s mind lingered off to the antics of bath time, my mind kept swirling around the word, REAL.  Why is it that we focus on that word (real) when we live in a time of a lot of artificial things?  There is artificial sweetener, artificial limbs and organs, and artificial insemination; yet still, when it comes to parenting, we use the word real.

Real or Not Real…?  I guess that is the question.

I do not know why we automatically jump to the terms of “real mom and real dad”, but this is what I do know:

  • If one is not real, then one is imaginary.  My husband, myself, and my children are not an imaginary family.  We are a very REAL family.
  • When it comes to parenting, why does “real” even matter?  Would you ask a parent if the discipline bestowed upon his or her children was real?  What about the sleepless nights with newborns…are they real?  And how about those cupcakes you baked for your child’s birthday? Are they real?  See?  It seems silly to question if discipline, sleepless nights, and cupcakes are real. Why then…Why do we choose the word “real” when it comes to motherhood and fatherhood?
  • The day-to-day tasks of parenting are all very real.  My husband and I are not faking it.  We get up each day, remind our children to brush their teeth (multiple times), get them to school on time, hold them while they are getting shots, comfort them while they are sick, encourage them when they are down, admonish them when they are acting in ways that will not help them, cheer for them when they are trying their hardest, discipline them when they need corrected, cry for them when they are struggling to make sense of their worlds, stand up for them when it seems the world is not, feed them, dress them, love them, and accept them.  This is REAL parenting.

If your children have friends who are adopted, then this is what you might want to teach your children about adoption:

Adoptive families tend to stray away from the word “real”.  Instead, we use biological or birth parents.  Adoptive families are just like other families.  We were just put together a little differently.  We live the same. We cry the same. We love the same.  

If you are wondering how adoptive parenting might be different from parenting biological children, or if you have friends who have adopted, remember this….

We are all fighting the same battles.  We have a separate history to consider, but for the most part, we are dealing with the same frustrations that biological families are dealing with.  We are all struggling with how to be better parents.

We are all yearning to raise children who feel they are the center of our worlds, but not the center of the world.  

We are all working to keep our children healthy. We are all considering the future, and what that will look like.  

We are all pouring our entire beings into the little souls we have been given to raise.  We are just like other families.  

We are all praying for our children, asking for protection upon their lives, and carrying a bit of them each day in our hearts.

We are all very REAL parents.

I suppose my son (and my other two children) may face questions and even ridicule in the future about being adopted.  This breaks my heart to consider, but also challenges me even more to be an intentional parent…to love with intention, live with intention, discipline with intention, and educate others with intention.

Real or Not Real…?  

Seems like a silly question.  After all….

We are all very REAL families.

our very real family

our very real family

ways of God

I do not understand the ways of God, but I understand this:

He continues to create, orchestrate, and demonstrate His faithfulness in the lives of His children.

My children are not of my own flesh and blood. I do not have any stories to tell about their growth in my womb, the experience of labor, and the subsequent delivery. I do not have much to say about any of that, but boy, I have a lot to say about their “births” into my life.

And this, you see, THIS is why I fully embrace and recognize the incredible scripting of God’s story in my life, and in yours.

I cannot fathom a life without the children that God has given me. I would not trade it for anything in this world.

I would not even trade it for the gift of pregnancy.

And this, you see, THIS is why I fully embrace and recognize the incredible scripting of God’s story in my life, and in yours.

The next time you wonder where God is in your life, I urge you to take a look around.

He is in the midst of the people He has chosen for your lives.

He is in the middle of your heartbreak, your successes, and your declarations of freedom.

He is in the valleys, on the mountaintops, and somewhere in between.

He is backwards, forwards, and in the present.

He is right where you are.

My children…my ornery, spirited, challenging, yet beautiful children are exactly what and who they are meant to be in my life. Praise God for that!

And this, you see, THIS is why I fully embrace and recognize the incredible scripting of God’s story in my life, and in yours.

I do not understand the ways of God, but I understand this:

He continues to create, orchestrate, and demonstrate His faithfulness in the lives of His children.

He is backwards, forwards, and in the present.

He is right where you are.

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! -Romans 11:33

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child {letter #4}

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

A year has gone by since the child of a stranger entered your home.  You look back on the year, and it seems like a blur.  On one hand, it feels like the slowest year of your life.  On the other, it has gone by in a flash.  So much has happened, but one thing that seems to stick out the most is this,

You are no longer loving on a stranger’s child.

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore.  No.  She is someone you have experienced an array of feelings over.  You have gotten angry at her choices.  You have felt pity for her own life story; especially the parts you have learned about her childhood.  You have been exasperated by her failure to respond, felt fear over her sudden motivation, and then, felt incredible sadness over her life falling apart again.

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore

You don’t want to care about her.  You don’t want to pray for her success.  Still yet, when you look in the eyes of the sweet little one that you have grown to love, you cannot help but catch a glimpse of her.  You see her in the way he gets a certain look when telling a little fib.  You see her when he smiles a certain way.

You catch moments of her when he holds his tongue a certain way while concentrating on what is being said.  You’ve seen it as well…at court hearings, in meetings, and in pictures.

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

It has been a year since your eyes first met the stranger’s child.  It has been a year since you tucked him in for the night, attended his meetings at school, watched him unwrap presents on special days, carried him while he was sick, cried with him when he was crying for his first Momma, stayed up all night to watch him just in case he needed you, and found yourself falling in love.

It has been a year since you sat quietly at that first meeting just taking it all in.  It has been a year since you heard the allegations, attended the court hearings, helped with visits, and started praying fervently for God’s will to be done.

It has not been easy.  You know that.  You have even thought to yourself, “I don’t want to pray for her life to fall apart again, but how do I pray about this love I feel for him? How can I separate my selfish love/desire to be his forever Momma while also praying for the very soul who birthed him into the world?”

You look back at the year and cannot believe how far you all have come.  The little one who entered your home is making incredible strides.  He still has his moments of complete melt-downs (which are all completely heartbreaking), but these moments seem to be further apart.  In their place, you are now witnessing the growth and gifts of a child to whom had been stifled by the chaos of neglect.

You look back on the year, and while you do not see a whole lot of progress in the stranger whose child you love, what you see instead is a human being that is and always will be near to your heart.  You see someone, once a child in need herself, who has failed time and time again, but you cannot help but yearn to see her through eyes of love.

After all, when you look in the eyes of the sweet little one that you have grown to love, you cannot help but catch a glimpse of her.

You look back at the year and you remember when you started on this journey.  A bit naive?  Perhaps.  A bit of a superhero complex?  Maybe.  A bit scared?  Absolutely.  You recall that first phone call about placement, driving to pick up the little one, nervously greeting the case worker for the first time, meeting the stranger that you did not understand, praying and crying in your pillow at night, exhaling in exhaustion after the court hearings, and welcoming case managers, attorneys, and others involved in child welfare into your home on a routine basis.

You look back at the year and you remember those special moments of discovery and healing that you and the little one have embarked on together.  You recall the joy at first successes, the sadness of first disappointments, and the day in and day out of growing a child who belongs to someone else.

And then…

The stranger that you swore you could not begin to understand is not a stranger to you anymore.

She is now someone you have come to care about.

After all, when you look in the eyes of the sweet little one that you have grown to love, you cannot help but catch a glimpse of her.

Most of all though, you are beginning to recognize the gift of life that the Lord has given you.  You are able to see His hand-prints and His footprints that have marked the path to which you have walked this last year.  You see how He has answered your prayers. Each day, you have grown more in your walk with the Lord.  You feel renewed, refreshed, and refined.

You look back at the year and you now see how the very child you love, the stranger to whom you swore you could begin to understand, and the reflection of yourself in the mirror are all part of a bigger story that is still being written.  You see your part in the story of a precious life that was crafted by our Creator in Heaven.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

You are no longer loving on a stranger’s child.

You are loving on His child.

Psalm 139:1-18 (The Message Bible)-  I look behind me and you’re there, then up ahead and you’re there, too – your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful – I can’t take it all in! Is there anyplace I can go to avoid your Spirit? to be out of your sight? If I climb to the sky, you’re there! If I go underground, you’re there! If I flew on morning’s wings to the far western horizon, You’d find me in a minute – you’re already there waiting! Then I said to myself, “Oh, he even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration – what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. Your thoughts – how rare, how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them – any more than I could count the sand of the sea. Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! 

Moments of Renewal

I can’t help but think about the Lord making all things new. What does that mean, really? How does that translate into our own lives?

This is what I have discovered, and in some ways, continue to discover on a daily basis.

Our relationships are renewed day in and day out.

New friendships are formed, old friendships are re-ignited, and hardened friendships are mended.

Each day starts just like the days passed. The sun rises, the tasks are at hand, and we are given the unique opportunity to foster hope into the lives of others.

In my personal life, I feel as though the Lord has refreshed and made anew so many things lately.  Watching my oldest children meander their ways in their elementary school years has been a little nerve-wracking, yet refreshing.

Discovering the world through the eyes of a two-year-old is such a gift. I forget, sometimes, just how incredible creation is until I am able to witness it through the eyes of a toddler. He is such a gift to us.

And then, the relationship with my husband seems to be renewed daily.  Despite the grind of raising children, demands of work, and staying afloat in a world that seems to be sinking, I find myself loving and appreciating the husband, father, and person he is more and more each day. This is also a gift.

In these moments of renewal, I think back to barrenness. I think back to those days where the only thing in sight seemed to be desolation.

In these moments of renewal, I also think about the promises of the Lord. I revel in the fact that Scripture is relevant and alive today in my life, and in yours.

I can’t help but think about the Lord making all things new.  What does that mean, really?  How does that translate into our own lives?

This is how it translates in mine. Each day I am given a new opportunity to…

forget the past…

look forward in hope to a new thing…

embrace what is springing up…

and treasure the gifts of this life.

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
– Isaiah 43:18-19

a broken jar of clay

While studying the story of Hannah for a project I’m working on, I became a little emotional thinking of her. In some respects, I found myself yearning to be sitting next to her while she cried out to the Lord in her anguish over being barren.

I wanted to put my arm around her, comfort her, and tell her that everything was going to be okay.  Although it may sound odd, I felt a kindred connection to her. Tears flowed from my eyes in reading of her and picturing her during her time of need.

Hannah, a broken jar of clay, sought out the Lord in her greatest need.

She didn’t stray from it.

She didn’t make excuses for it.

She declared it.

I felt an overwhelming sense of joy for Hannah, and the gift of a son, Samuel, that she was given. Her story, her life, and her prayers, are so relevant in this world.

I had the realization that Hannah’s story has been told and read through generations and generations of women throughout the world. The power of one woman and her desperation to be a mother has given hope to so many….countless upon countless women….including me….another broken jar of clay.

This one woman, full of anguish over her barrenness, sought the Lord, trusted Him, and never gave up.  Hannah lived many, many years ago; yet, her life and her story continue to resonate in this very time.

Hannah, a broken jar of clay, sought out the Lord in her greatest need.

She didn’t stray from it.

She didn’t make excuses for it.

She declared it.

Are you full of anguish?  Are you in need of answered prayer, a glimmer of hope, and life beyond the sadness to which you dwell?  Are you a broken jar of clay?

Seek out the Lord in your greatest need.  Do not stray from it.  Do not make excuses for it.  Declare it.

Declare the Lord.

Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk, and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.” “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”
-1 Samuel 1:13-15

Thank you, Lord, for blessing Hannah in her greatest need. Thank you for her, for her life, and for her example for all of the “Hannah’s” in the world.

ReMoved (film that is a must-see)

I was approached by the writers/filmmakers of the incredible short film, ReMoved, to promote their Kickstarter campaign for their follow-up film, ReMoved, part two.  My first thoughts were, “OF COURSE!”

As a professional who has been in child welfare for the past thirteen years, and as a mother through foster care/adoption, I absolutely feel that there is an incredible need to stand up for the cause of foster children.

If you missed it, here is the original film titled “ReMoved”.  I urge you to watch it.  The first time I watched it, I was greatly moved by it.  I thought about the kiddos I have worked with in years gone by.  In some respects, I thought about my own children…

“What if they were left to grow up in the midst of chaos?”

“What would have happened to them if we did not choose to adopt them?”

The writers/filmmakers are making a second film that tells more of the story of the girl to whom your tears may have flowed for in the original video.  It also explores the relationships with case workers, foster parents, and birth parents.

Here is the link to their Kickstarter campaign.  Visit it.  Support it.  Pray for it.  Get involved.

Kickstarter campaign:  www.removedfilm.com

Walk Boldly Through It

If we could speak our own future into existence, know every nook and cranny of our lives, and look ahead with the knowledge of what is to come, then where would faith be in our lives?

At times, I often thought, “I sure wish I knew where this is going, what is going to happen, and what is going to come next.”

If we knew how our futures will unfold, where would faith be in our lives? Why would we rely on our Heavenly Father to reveal things to us in His timing?

Where would God be in our lives?

Dear friends, the future may not seem clear to you. You may just see a blank space, a repeat of the same routine day after day, or a hopeless void of what may not happen.

However, God knows your future.

He knows where you will lay your head. He knows where your feet will walk. He knows the colors of the canvass that will paint your life. And, He knows the void that is in need of being filled.

If we knew how our futures will unfold, where would faith be in our lives?

Have faith. Trust God. Walk in the assurance of His grace, and live your life.

You are only given one life on this Earth.

Live it.

Love it.

Walk boldly through it.

2 Corinthians 5-7: Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. For we live by faith, not by sight.

Happy Eighth Birthday, Baby

Today is my oldest son’s eighth birthday. Tomorrow, we will celebrate with a gaggle of hyper boys, cake, presents, and fun. Today, though, we spent time as a family.

On each of my children’s birthdays, I always escape back to where I was when they took their first breath of Earthly air.8thbday

For two of my kiddos, I had no idea they were even born into the world until those fateful calls from social workers. I did not meet my son until two days after he was born. I met my daughter about seven weeks after her birth. I knew of the birth of my little one, but I was not present for it.

Do you want to know something? While I have had moments when I wished that I was there to hold them the minute they entered this world, I do not regret our experience. It was an arduous path filled with sorrow, and marked with lots of waiting, praying, and clinging on to that space filled with hope, but it is one that I would walk again if I had to.

Being foster and adoptive parents completed us. It made us so incredibly aware of our own faults, our blessings, our trials in life, and just how rich our lives actually are.

I would not trade our experience for anything in the world.

Today is my son’s eighth birthday. Today, I thought of his birth mother. I thought of the moment I first saw him. I thought of years that have come and gone, and I thought of the years ahead.

I love my son. I love him with every single ounce of my existence. I love him despite my own flaws, his quirks, and our faults left somewhere in between.

8th selfie
Happy Eighth Birthday, Baby. You are such a gift to our lives. You have colored our world with more than we could ever ask for. You are an incredible God-given treasure.

We love you forever.

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.  -Psalm 127:3

Life in the Wasteland

“When I look at my kids, I think about my life. I think about the wasteland of broken dreams, shallow impulses, thick tears, and sorrowful ache. This is what my life could have and even perhaps should have been consumed by. However, during my walkabout, I found meaning. I found life in the wasteland.”

This is an excerpt from my story that I have been writing for the past few years.  I’m not sure what the Lord wants to do with it, but I’m so hopeful that it will touch the lives of those walking sterile in a non-sterile world.

For many years, I walked around feeling as though I was absent of anything that gave life. I was sterile. I was empty. I was broken.

I was a wasteland.

In my brokenness, the Lord met me. He lifted my head. He reminded me that my life is not a wasteland. It is not devoid of life, or anything that gives life to others.

In His mercy, I became a parent. Through my experience, I have learned that I am a broken vessel, but I am mended. I am mended through the gift of salvation, freedom, and grace.

For my friends who are walking barren, I want you to know that you are not destitute. It may feel like it. The emptiness may feel as though it will swallow your soul, but dear friend, it will not.

You are filled with the very Love that has seized the hearts of many. You sway to the rhythm of Mercy.

You are sculpted with incredible, grace-driven Sacrifice.

I am not a wasteland. We are not wastelands! We are children of the Lord. We are unique. We are not perfect. We are broken…but….

We are Redeemed!

For my friends who are struggling with infertility, whose every breath is filled with the desire to be a Mamma, I encourage you to cling to the Anchor of Hope.

Photo Credit: Ann Conn

Photo Credit: Ann Conn

Through the Lord, we are filled with life.  We able to bloom despite the seemingly insurmountable odds surrounding us.  We are not wastelands.

Ever have one of those days? {hope in the promise of Christ}

Ever have one of those days or nights where you wonder, even wish, that the Lord would return? Do you ever feel a longing as if your soul is wanting to settle into the Home to which it belongs?

I’ve been feeling that longing lately. I’ve been doing my duties on Earth, but with thoughts of a life Eternal with my Savior. There have been times during the days when I know I’m not ready for His return, and yet, there are moments when I’m practically begging for His return.

I recently went to a Hillsong Worship service.  Normally, maybe I would call it a concert, but it was far from one.  Yes, the band was welcomed by admiring fans, but the shouts of joy, clapping, and praise were all for Jesus.  It was not a concert. It was a worship service.  A multitude of fellow believers were packed into a church with ears, eyes, and hearts settled upon worshiping the Lord. It was beautiful. It was inspiring. It was incredible to be a part of.

I felt the Lord’s presence during that evening. I felt the love of His church, the desire to draw closer to Him, and the gentle reminder of His presence in all of our lives.

The next day, I got up and felt sadness. I wanted to go back to the night before when hands were raised, hearts were open, and God was present. I even thought, “If that is a taste of Heaven, then I can’t wait to be there.”

Several days out, I’m still thinking back to that night of worship. I look at the heavens and wonder, “Where you are You, Lord? When will You come?”

And then, I am reminded that it is all in His timing, not ours. There are far too many who are not ready for His return. Perhaps, my own heart has some mending to do.

So, for today, I will hang on to the joy found in the treasure of a relationship with Christ. I will sing songs. I will speak His love to my children. I will lift others up, and I will pray for my own deficits that do nothing for the Kingdom of God.

Friends, hang on to that joy found in your relationship with Christ. Cherish those moments of worship where you feel His touch in your lives.

Pray for our world, our children, and our enemies. Pray for our friends, our family members, and our neighbors.

Pray for those to whom you would otherwise turn away from.

Pray for opportunities to show the love of Jesus to others. Pray for moments that will draw others closer to Him, and in turn, will draw you closer as well.

Ever have one of those days or nights where you wonder, even wish, that the Lord would return? Do you ever feel a longing as if your soul wants to settle into the Home to which it belongs?

Me too, sweet friend, me too. And for this reason, I cling on to the hope of a future found in the promise of Christ.