Oh, You of Little Faith {big things can come from small beginnings}

It was just a stick with a few leaves (and that may be generous to say) when my husband planted what he called a “tree” in the ground.  I laughed at it.  I said, “That stick is not a tree!”  My husband watered it, spoke of high aspirations for it, and tried to convince me that with time, and the roots have dug in, that little stick would become a tree.

This was several years ago, and indeed, that little stick with just a few leaves grew into a healthy, and vibrant tree.  My husband likes to remind me of how little faith I had in that tree to ever settle roots and grow into something of beauty.

When I look upon it, I often think about our own lives, and how we sometimes posses little faith that anything of substance will grow out of measly beginnings. When we look at people or situations that seem deprived of any hope, it is quite hard to imagine how powerful, beautiful, or strong that person or situation just might turn out to be.

I also think about the necessity of nurturing roots. This necessity does not just stop with plant and tree life.  It also is vital for the growth and development of human beings.  How many times have we all said, “That child will not grow up to be anything”, or “That person will not change”?  

How many children are trying to survive in soil that lacks nutrition? 

God’s Word says,

 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched.  And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

Matthew 13:3-9

Scripture not only instructs us on the importance of setting roots in good soil, it also speaks to us about the importance of faith.

He asked them, “Why are you afraid, you who have little faith?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Matthew 8:26

When facing difficult situations in life, it is important that we do not dwell on the beginning.  We should be encouraged to consider the future, but consider it with hope.  Something I have learned throughout my life, especially dealing with the trauma of my illness and subsequent barrenness, is that if we knew the outcome to every situation, or if we could know what happens in the future, faith would not be important.

Where would faith be in our lives?  Or, better yet, what would faith mean to us?

I suspect that our faith would become a secondary commitment, or more like a hobby, instead of a necessity.  I question if it would even exist.

When I look upon that tree that my husband planted many years ago (I can call it a tree now), the words, “Oh, you of little faith” tend to ring out in my ears.  I remember the planting of that nearly barren stick, my laughing at my husband’s hope for its growth, and how my husband tended to it.  And, I am reminded time and again, that from the most destitute, insignificant, broken, weak, small, and seemingly meaningless beginnings, people can grow into incredible creations.  Desperate circumstances can become turning-point moments in life, if we all just loved a little more, whispered aspiring dreams, and possessed a grounding of faith in them.20150714_172203

That little stick grew into a tree – a wonderful, pretty, and full of life tree.

Isn’t this what the Lord wants for all of us? 

I Had a Dream the Other Night {the wilderness}

I had a dream the other night. It was one of those types of dreams where you wake up with strong emotions. I even felt tears in the corners of my eyes.

The dream itself was rather confusing. I was at a conference, or something like that, and a woman started talking about her walk with infertility. I didn’t recognize this person at all. I could not pick her out if I had to, but her words were ones that stayed in my mind after I awoke.

She said, “I am not barren. I am infertile, but there is not a reason why. I don’t know what I am. I have feared this wilderness, but I have also possessed faith in it.”

I woke up remembering back to my own feelings, my own sense of confusion, and the wilderness to which I feared. Am I barren? Yes, for all intents and purposes, I am. Am I fertile? No. I do not have any organs that would make me fertile. Am I infertile? Well…no…I guess not…? How can I be infertile if I do not posses the organs that are fertile?

The morning after this dream I thought about all of the perplexing emotions and thoughts that plagued my life as an adolescent. After all, I entered into adolescence after a hysterectomy. Crazy, isn’t it?

I did not even know the wilderness that was set before me. I had no clue what the landscape of the years ahead would be like. In many ways, I feared it. I remembered wondering what my own definition really was.

My own life experiences were ones mixed with immense joy, and deep sorrow. In many ways, I feared the wilderness of childlessness so much, but in my imagination, dreams, and prayers, I also somehow managed to cling onto a little bit of faith through it all.

After thinking about the dream in the context of my own life, my thoughts then turned to so many who are now meandering their way through their own wilderness of confusion.

It is ugly, isn’t it?

It is confusing, isn’t it?

You may be wondering what your own definition is.

Friends, my heart sinks for you. I wish I had the perfect words to help you through all of the muck and mud of infertility. The truth is that there is not perfection in this journey you are on. It is going to be hard. It is going to feel like a vast pit of emptiness. It is going to make you angry, make you question God’s will for your life, and make you feel like the loneliest person on Earth.

However, you are not alone. There are so many others traversing the same path you are on. Find each other. Reach out to each other. Pray for each other. I didn’t have that growing up. I always wondered if there were other girls out there in the world like me, but I knew there wasn’t.

From this sojourner who has spent the majority of her life in the midst of barrenness, I want you to know that clinging onto that light you envision at the end of the tunnel is so important.

It is okay to fear the wilderness.

It is also more than okay to hold onto your faith in it as well.

Love Wins – Let Us Not Forget That

Jesus is LoveThis week’s ruling regarding same-sex marriages has given me so many moments to pause, and to pray. I’m going to be brutally honest. Some of you might want to hit a “dislike” button (if there was one), and that’s okay.  I value the fact that we all have opinions, and they matter.

My heart is conflicted about the ruling. On the one hand, as a Christian, I believe in the word of God and His definition of marriage. I really do. On the other, I believe in freedom, life without persecution, and civil liberties for all.  I have always rooted for the underdog.  I have always felt great empathy for people who struggle.  Even as a kid, I remember talking with my mom about the social injustices of the world.

This whole thing has brought back a memory of mine that I had forgotten about. In my twenties, I worked in the mail room of a large grocery wholesale warehouse. One of the male employees of the warehouse asked me out on a date. I told him that it was very nice of him, but that I wasn’t interested in going on a date with him. Nothing personal, he was just not my type.  I had the right to say no.

The next Monday when I returned to work, the Human Resources Director asked that I come to his office.  I thought I was being fired or something, but could not think of anything wrong that I had done.  When I arrived in his office, he said, “Caroline, I need to tell you that there is a rumor going around the entire warehouse and offices about you.”  I sat there in a state of intrigue.  He said, “Someone spread the rumor that you are a lesbian.”  I laughed.  I knew it was the guy that I had rejected.  I told him my sexual orientation was no one’s business, but I liked men… a lot.

He assured me that it was being handled, and they would not allow for this to continue.  As I left the office, I felt the eyes of others on me.  Throughout the weeks afterward, I heard whispering and laughter when I walked by.  I felt the glaring eyes of the men in the warehouse, and I felt extremely vulnerable.  It was not a good feeling at all.  Being called a lesbian was not one of the worse things I could have been called, but the whole experience was disheartening.  I felt judged.  I experienced worry over how far this rumor could go.  I was angry, and sad.

For the past day or so since the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriages, I have witnessed both elation and bitterness from my friends who are on different sides of the issue.  I have read hate-filled messages on my Facebook news feed.  I have cringed when my friends who are not believers have taken this opportunity to bash Christians.  I have wondered, “Do they understand that in many ways, they are bashing me?” On the other hand, I have also read cringe-worthy responses from my Christian friends. I have wondered, “Are their words and actions representing Christ?”

Throughout the past few days, I have read where others have commented about the sanctity of marriage.  Let’s be honest, marriage in our current culture has been a bit of a mess.  If we include that this ruling has defiled the sanctity of marriage, then we must include that domestic violence, divorce, greed, emotional absence, and infidelity also defile it.  I believe that is something we can all agree on.  It is also something that we should all be in prayer about.

I have been praying about all of this.  I have asked God to forgive my thoughts about this whole subject.  I have asked Him for clarity in this confusing state I find myself in.  I have also asked God to convict my heart with a passion for His children – straight, gay, atheist, Christian, Muslim, conservative, liberal, and lost.

The one thing that has stuck out the most in my social media feed are the words, “Love Wins”.  Honestly, I cannot think of more sweet-sounding words,  My prayer is that love always declares itself the winner, and that Christians would respond in ways that show Jesus to the world.  After all, love has already won.  Let us not forget that.  

I’m not a perfect Christian.  In many ways, I fail God daily.  After reading this, you might think that I am not Christian enough if I am not completely against this ruling. That is okay with me.  I would just ask that you would include me in your prayers, instead of your persecution.

In many ways though, I am glad that I am conflicted about it.  Because of it, I feel closer to God.  I feel a deeper connection to the human experience.  I feel the need to converse with Him more, and to trust Him more.  I have this yearning to reach out to others, to share in their experiences, to understand their reasoning, and to show Christ to them.

“Love Wins”  This is something I believe in.  

On the cross, Love gave all.  On the cross, LOVE WON.  Despite the worry of many, the truth is that Christ gave His life for everyone – straight, gay, atheist, Christian, Muslim, conservative, liberal, and lost. I cannot think of a greater example of love than this.

After all, love has already won.  Let us not forget that.  

Adopted for Daily Life: A Devotional for Adopting Moms {Adoption.Com Article)

Several months ago, I was asked to be a contributing writer for a Christian devotional for moms who are in the process of adopting.  The devotional was a collaborative effort straight from the hearts of twenty-five mothers whose lives have been forever changed by the gift, and challenges, of adoption.

This was an incredibly special project for me.  My five-day devotion was on the subject of barrenness.  Obviously, this subject is one that I have lived with, and am passionate about.

Here is a link to an article I wrote for the Adoption.Com website about the devotional:  Adopted For Daily Life:  A Devotional for Adopting Moms

The book is available on Amazon Kindle and paperback.  One hundred percent of the proceeds go towards supporting children in need of permanent families in the country of Nicaragua.

If you are someone, or know someone who is getting ready to adopt, this book would make an excellent gift!

Blessings,

Caroline

God Won’t Leave You In It {the wilderness of parenting}

Several months ago, I was contacted by an author regarding contributing for a devotional for adopting moms.  I was asked to write a five-day devotion, and agreed to do so.  The book is now out (future blog post to come about it).  I’ve been reading through parts of it, and came across this from one of the other contributors.

In the weekly devotion on the topic of love, she writes:

“Sometimes I feel as if I’m doing this all wrong. Being a mama is hard. My dishes are piled in my sink as I type this. I had to dig through dirty clothes that were in the floor to find pajamas for my baby because the flu has overtaken our house this week. It’s Monday and I haven’t bought groceries for the week. Toys are scattered all over my living room and if I hear Mickey Mouse Clubhouse one more time, I think I might scream.

However, these are insignificant to the despairs you might be feeling today. Loving children that come from hard places is difficult. You might have numerous therapy appointments scheduled this week. You might feel as if you’re the only parent who is still having trouble bonding with your child. You might feel as if this calling to adopt has taken you out in the wilderness and left you with nothing but pain, like Hagar. But God didn’t leave her there.”

Wow. Yep, this one completely jumped out at me. Life seems like a vast wilderness, sometimes. Parenting does, too. So thankful, though, that God does not leave us in our messes, and on our own as we tackle life.

If you are feeling as though your own parenting journey has become a wilderness, take heart. While the journey may be difficult at times, God won’t leave you in it alone.

Check It Before You Wreck It

My eight-year-old son was starting to get a little snippy with his sister, and soon, I heard my husband say to him, “Check it before you wreck it.”  As my husband came into the kitchen, I said, “That was a good one.”  He then began to tell me about a teenager on his caseload who has been exhibiting behaviors that could very well lead her into more troubles.

“I told her that she needed to watch how she is acting, and she then said, “Check it before I wreck it”, my husband said.  We both acknowledged that was quite insightful coming from a teenager who is prone to having behavioral problems,

“Check it before you wreck it.”

These words have been on my mind tonight.  How many times have we all wrecked important things in our lives simply because we did not check ourselves first?

And then, I think about my own life experience.  There has been many moments that I completely failed as a human being.  My anger, jealousy, or selfishness have all gotten in the way of making the best decisions, acting in a way that honors God, or restoring things that are broken.

When it comes to parenting, I’ll admit that I am far from perfect.  My children test me on a daily basis.  My oldest son and daughter are like oil and water in that they tend to aggravate each other most of the time, and our youngest, well…he’s almost three…so you know how challenging that can be.

Have I checked myself before I’ve lashed out in frustration towards my children? Have my words cut at times, instead of heal?  Have I truly checked myself before I’ve wrecked whatever it is that I’m dealing with?

I think about our relationship with God.  There is really not a lot that we can do to totally wreck it, except for perhaps turning completely away from Him and denying Him.  How precious that is…to think that even during our biggest fumbles in life, and our crazy wreckage that we leave behind, the Lord still welcomes us.

“Check it before you wreck it.”

Maybe we could all learn a lesson in this.

Check your desires before you wreck your marriage.

Check your loyalty before you wreck your friendship.

Check your temper before you wreck the trust with your children.

Check your motivations before you wreck your career.

And, check your heart before you wreck your life.

Little Reminders {how my son’s story encouraged my heart}

You know those moments when you think you *might* just be failing as a parent? Well, if you pay close attention to the fine details of life, you will be reminded that you may just be winning in this whole parenting journey.

My soon-to-be third grader son wrote a story for a school project. The story involved two friends who set out to find a castle with lots of precious jewels. They wanted to get rich. They found a castle full of gold, diamonds, silver ,emeralds ,and other fine things. They thought, “The people at this castle must be rich!”

However, soon after entering the castle, they were approached by an angry mob so had to run away without the riches. They ended up trying to find their way home, and found a deserted island instead. On this island, they came across a lonely, lost and stray dog.

They took this dog in, named him “Sparkey” and taught him how to fetch and play. Instead of setting out to find more riches, they decided to keep the dog, love on him, and teach him other tricks.

At the end of the story, my son wrote, “By the end of their adventures, they learned a good thing. Even though they were not rich, they had a dog, and that was better.”20150522_141653

Now, I know that my son’s story alone does not completely represent how I might be failing or winning at parenting, but gosh, it sure made my heart happy. I told him that I loved his story, that I was so happy that the characters kept the dog, and that they realized that being rich would not mean as much as helping out a stray animal. My son smiled. I could tell that he knew he had written a good story.

What his story means to me is this: Sometimes, when I consider all of the challenges of parenting, when I wonder if I said or did the right thing, and if, perhaps, I am in need of a “do-over”, I receive little reminders that, just maybe, I am getting this whole parenting thing right.

This Momma (who happens to love animals) received the best and warmest feelings today while reading through her soon-to-be third grader’s story.

Friends, if you struggle with the daily challenges of parenting, remember this: Kind gestures and words you speak can resonate loudly in your child’s heart.

Whether it is other people or animals, the opportunity to teach compassion for every living thing, to show mercy even when it is not deserved, and to raise children who are aware that the little things in life really can be the big things, is truly a gift.

Be encouraged. Be intentional. Be yourself. After all, isn’t this what we want our children to be?

End of the School Year Gift Idea for Teachers {Teacher’s Poem}

With the end of the school year upon us, my children asked if they could give a gift to their teachers.  They decided they wanted to give their teachers a candle this year.

After purchasing the candles, I decided to write a poem to go along with it.  candleteacherpoem

Here is the poem that I wrote for the gift:

Each time you light this candle, I hope you think of me, 

For summer’s come, school is out, may we enjoy the days with glee.

Thank you for teaching me to learn, live, and laugh,

And, thank you for advocating on my little behalf.

The light that burns within us all is brighter than the sun,

It is something that does not extinguish, it cannot be undone.

A teacher’s impact on young lives will never really fade,

Thank you, teacher, for this past year, now I’m off to the first grade!

Since my children are in different grades, I simply switched out the grade they entering so that I could use the poem for both kids.  Their teachers were surprised by the gift, and my children could not have been happier to give it to them.  I have saved the poem to use in the years to come.

If you are looking for gift ideas to give teachers, consider writing something that is heartfelt and personal.  Teachers give so much to our children day in and day out. Gifts and kind words are just a few ways we can express how much we appreciate them.

If you would like to use my poem as part of a gift for your child’s teacher, please email me or comment on this blog.  Have a great summer!

Blessings!

Caroline

Ten Ways to Celebrate Foster Care Awareness Month (Adoption.com article)

May is National Foster Care Awareness Month in the United States.  There are thousands of children in foster care.  The number of children in care does not represent the amount of hotline calls made regarding abuse and neglect of children.  It also does not represent the number of intact families who are receiving preventive services in order to keep the children in the home.

Recently, I wrote an article for Adoption,Com listing ten ways you can get involved in bringing awareness to foster care, without becoming a foster parent.

You can read the article by clicking on this link:

Ten Ways to Celebrate National Foster Care Awareness Month

Together, we can all contribute to bringing awareness to the needs of children and families involved in the foster care system.

It’s today, birth mother.

It’s today, birth mother, the anniversary of our adoption of our son…your son.  Somehow, this year, it sort of snuck up on me.  The moment I realized it, I thought of you.

Our son is growing up too fast.  I look at him sometimes and wonder where that curly blonde-haired boy went.  I imagine, though, that you might think the same thing.

He does not want to snuggle as much as he used to.  Forget about hugging me in public.  No, those days are just a memory.  However, he still carries within him the same sweetness, loyalty, and love that he has always possessed.  I suspect, or at least I hope, these things will not fade as his youthful spring turns into an aging summer.

It’s today, birth mother, the anniversary of one of the most significant experiences in my life, and yet, I’m thinking of you.  It is odd, you know…two strangers whose lives greatly differ; yet, forever sewn together by the tapestry of a child.  Honestly, I cannot think of anything more beautiful.

Our son is smart, athletic, creative, and just a wonderful child.  His heart always seems to land in the right spot, even though his actions may not show it.  Behind that urging to fit in, be just “one of the guys”, and deal with the pressure of growing up in today’s society, is a boy whose future is full of adventures.

As I watch him develop, I gaze at his features, consider his personality, and marvel at his being.  That’s my job…to admire, to ponder, and to be amazed by him. However, it was once your job as well, and that is something I will never forget.

It’s today, birth mother.  Today is the day the gavel fell and he was declared mine forever.  Do you want to know something?  Despite the legalities of it all, I still believe that he will also be forever your’s.  How can I not feel this way?

I wasn’t there when he entered this world.  I didn’t hold him on my chest when he was breathing Earthly air for the first time.  I didn’t name him.  While this has grieved me some through the years, I cannot help but be thankful that you had those moments…those precious, unforgettable moments.

I don’t regret anything, birth mother.  No.  Instead, I am forever changed by the time we had together while we were all navigating the world of foster care.  The system isn’t pretty.  I know that you understand that so well.  It doesn’t create too many divine moments.  However, what happened between you, our son, and I was splendid.  The system cannot define it.

Today, birth mother, is the anniversary of our adoption.  Today, birth mother, I not only celebrate my son, but I also honor who you are, what you meant to me during our foster care journey, and how much you mean to me now.

Our son is wonderful.  He is everything you hoped he would be.  And that, birth mother, fills my heart with gratitude, contentment, and delight.