Adoption at the Movies {Adoption.Com Article}

Foster and Adoptive Parents,

Do you ever watch a movie with your children and become uncomfortable when the topic of adoption comes up?  How about when the theme of foster care and/or adoption is negative?  

There have been moments in movies when I have wondered what my kids were thinking when these themes come up.

Well, there is a way that you can now get a review of movies from the adoption perspective!  My friend, Addison, has a website solely devoted to reviewing movies in order to help foster and adoptive families.

I wrote about this in my article on the Adoption.Com website. I hope you find his reviews beneficial.  I know I have!

Click on this link to be taken to the article:  Adoption at the Movies

Blessings,

Caroline

Imperfect Families with a Perfect Purpose

In a recent email conversation with a friend, the topic of adoptive families being perceived or expected to always be happy came up. My friend expressed concern for the need to break this stereotype or expectation.

I wholeheartedly agreed with my friend. From the outside of things, our family looks pretty good. Three cute children, smiling faces, and the outgoing statements of how blessed we are seems to permeate the air that we surround.

However, the truth is that adoptive families are not always “happy”. We are not always happy. We don’t always see eye-to-eye. Our children (sometimes) exhibit behaviors and other issues that seem to be directly linked to genetic trademarks and/or other concerns related to when they were in the womb of their birth mothers. Sometimes, they are just being kids making really poor choices.

My husband and I attended a training today that was devoted to parenting children with unique needs (social, emotional, behavioral). As the trainer talked about brain development and the impact of neglect, I thought to myself, “This is not happy.”

The trainer went on to speak about children who put themselves last to take care of their parents and siblings, and the potentially destructive results of this. Again, I thought, “This is not happy.”

All of the families in the training are walking the difficult road of parenting children whose beginnings in life were estranged from normalcy, whose health and well-being were often the last thing anyone thought of, and whose lives have been dramatically changed by circumstances beyond their control. In many respects, I feel the most comfortable when around other families who share similar experiences.

Listening to families share their experiences was invaluable. Watching men cry over the heartbreak of their child’s history, while also reveling in just how far their children have come, was also very touching. Recognizing that we are not alone in our struggles was incredibly encouraging.

So tonight, I’m thankful for the shared experiences of foster and adoptive families who have stepped out of their own comfort zones, and stepped forward into the battle ground of child abuse and neglect.

I’m thankful for families who keep pushing ahead, despite the wounded pasts of their children. I’m also thankful for the opportunity to connect with others who have chosen to stand up to the stereotypes, and bravely care for children who otherwise just might not make it in this world where fairness and kindness do not always exist.

To say we are blessed is true. To say we have many joyful and happy moments is also true. To say that we strive to be resilient, mindful, and intentional is true as well.

But, to say that our hearts do not break for what our (meaning foster/adoptive families as a whole) children struggle with is not true. There are many foster/adoptive families waging wars against the painful realities of their children’s histories.

So next time you are around someone involved in the child welfare system, offer a kind word, tell them that you are encouraged by their courage, show them that you too care for abused and neglected children, and pray that the Lord would heal their hurts, give them wisdom, and surround them with His hedge of protection.

Don’t expect us to be happy all of the time.

Instead, see us as what we are – imperfect families with a perfect purpose.

What Every Child Deserves

I volunteered to write an adoption profile of a teenager in need of an adoptive home for the Heart Gallery exhibit in Missouri.  Eager to write it, I read the information sent to me about this youth.

As I started to write, the words just would not come.  I sat there, my fingertips on the keyboard, notes by my side, his picture staring back at me, and I was profoundly moved.  Athletic, loving, determined, compassionate…these are the words used to describe this child, and yet, he does not have a family to call home.

My heart broke a little.  The tears started to well-up, and I was lost in the thoughts about what he must be thinking.

Is he wondering if his moment will come?

Does he lay in bed at night, staring at the stars, and think about his family?

Does he fear a future without a father, or a moment without a mother? 

As I stared at his picture, I prayed for him.  I prayed that a family, HIS family, would be found.  I prayed that the words I eventually would type would prick the hearts of families reading them.  I prayed that God would surround this young man with His love throughout life.  I also prayed that even if he never finds Earthly parents, his heart will be held captive by his Heavenly Father.

This is where heartbreak and hope meet.  These are the moments that child welfare gets very, very hard.  We go about our days completing assignments, checking up on people, returning phone calls, and attending meetings, but at the end of it all, we return home to our own families.

It is easy to get caught up in the trappings of the system.  Difficult situations, too much work with too little time, and a lack of appreciation for the incredibly hard job child welfare workers do, are all just a part of the game.  We go to work.  We do our jobs, and then we leave.

…But then…as I stared at his picture and looked at his eyes, I remembered that I was once a child his age.  I was once a teenager with hopes, dreams, and concerns about the future.  I was once a girl who had goals.  I wanted to achieve things in life.

I was not that much different from him, except for one major thing:

I had a family.  I had the same home to return to every night.  I had a mom who convicted me to achieve goals, and a father who came home every night.  

I had the soil to which my roots would grow. 

For this teenager whose feet have walked the earth just fifteen years, I pray that the same determination that has kept him alive through the years will wrap itself around him as he grows up.  I pray that the family meant to be his forever home will be captured by his image and his spirit.

I may never meet this child, but I’m so thankful that I can play a part (however small it may be) in finding him what every child deserves:

A soft place to land,

a vessel to grow in,

soil rich in wisdom for roots to grow,

and the warm embrace of a family.

*Please consider visiting the traveling Heart Gallery Photography Exhibits in your own state (United States).  The gallery has portraits and information about the children in foster care who are in need of adoptive families.

You can also visit:  www.heartgalleryofamerica.org

Adoption: A Portrait of Courageous Love (Adoption.Com Article)

A little over two years ago, I wrote Matt and Heidi’s story of adoption in a post titled, Colors Don’t Matter.  Their story involves infertility and adoption.  Well, since then, life has changed dramatically for this wonderful couple.

Heidi gave birth to a precious baby girl, and they have adopted another child!  I interviewed them recently for an article I wrote for the Adoption.Com website, and am still in awe of this amazing family.

In Heidi’s words, “Adoption is the best example of love being a choice.”

Read it, and be encouraged in your foster care and adoptive parenting journeys.

Love courageously!

Here’s the link to the article:  Adoption:  A Portrait of Courageous Love

 

Our Lot in Life: A Parenting Poem

Parenting is such a wonderful, yet complex adventure. I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed this week, but despite the circumstances, I know that this gift of parenting is exactly that… a gift.

While sitting back as my van was pushed through the car wash, I jotted down this poem. I’m not the best at poetry, but I hope you get the picture:

This is our lot in life, the one that we declare, To raise children in such a way that love fills up their air.

Although answers may not come, even when we seek, These times remind us children need us, especially when they are weak.

Children have a way of teaching us each and every day, To protect, guide, and open doors for their footsteps along the way.

Parenting is a task that humbles and refines, Yet, it also leads us to search for hope in between the blurred lines.

When feeling weary, worried, and worn from this world to which we roam, We simply need to remind ourselves that this is not our home.

Raising children from dusk to dawn with grace, wisdom, and love, ‘Tis the example given to us from our Father up above.

This is our lot in life, the one that we declare, To raise children in such a way that love fills up their air.

 

Blessings on your parenting journey!

Caroline

Just for Fun: Adoption Meme

htmu3 (1)This is a meme I made the other night just for fun.  Although it is meant to be funny, I have been asked this question many times about my children.  I also know other adoptive families who have been asked to same.  Thought I would share it for a little bit of adoption humor!

Our children are real siblings!  

Life Lesson: Adoption is Breathtakingly Incredible

I’ve signed a contract to write for an adoption website. I’m thrilled with the opportunity, and challenge of it. I’ve already been working on some stories of adoptive families, and have been moved to tears by their personal journeys.

I do not know a lot. It seems life continues to be a huge learning curve for me, and for that, I’m extremely thankful.

Life is made up of heartbreak. It is also made up of stress, struggle, and loss. We cannot escape life without having to make gut-wrenching life decisions.

We bear witness, either in person or via media, to the desperation of so many. We know there is so much more that humankind can do, and yet, we all get caught up in our own personal battles.

However, if we pay attention to the details, we see how our choices, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching and difficult at times, can become a catalyst in so many ways for the opening of paths, the exploration of opportunities, and the unyielding desire to fulfill our purpose that God has set before us.

I’m learning that adoption is more than just a means to become a parent. It is a life-lesson that continues to humble, refine, teach, and expand our resolve that life is more than a singular experience.

Through adoption, we see how our decisions and choices open life-saving, opportunity-giving, and love-healing paths for children. And, in many ways, it offers the same things for us.

Adoption will never be second best. It will never be a means to an end, or a final conclusion to infertility. No. It is so much more than that.

I do not know a lot, but this I do know:

Life, adoption, and that mingled mess in between, is breathtakingly incredible.

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child {letter #5}

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

It is winter where you live.  With the snow comes playful days of building snowmen, frolicking in the wonder of it, and warming up with a warm cup of hot cocoa.

IMG_0645These moments…these times…are ones that will forever be written on your heart.

These moments are passing by too quickly.

As the winter turns to spring, and the spring turns towards summer, you know the clock is ticking.  You know that next winter the child you are tucking into bed tonight may not be with you.  Still yet, you embrace each moment as if they could last forever.

In many ways, Momma of a Stranger’s Child, these moments last forever.  Memories are not seasonal.  They do not melt away with the warming of the sun. They do not stop growing.  Even though the seasons change, memories remain.

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

Although you are carrying the weight of the child’s life in your hands, the child you are caring for is experiencing a life of magical moments.  With each snowflake that falls, the child’s eyes are opened to laughter, joy, and the things that matter so deeply to children.

Freedom from abuse, the warmth of embraces, and the wonderment of what life can be are all experiences that you, Foster Momma, have given.

The seasons tend to relay a message to us.  They remind us that change is always around, and that as much as we try to predict the future, we often wake up to a changing of our circumstances.

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

As you watch through the window while the stranger’s child is playing in the snow, you think about how simple life should be for children.  Childhood should be made up of days that humor, shape, and build up children.

Yet, you know there are too many children who never seem to escape the seasons of neglect, invisibility, and strife.

As the little one comes running to the door, shakes off the snow, and awaits your welcome, you do what you always do.  You smile, ask about how fun it was, and then wrap a layer of warmth around him or her, just like you have done since the moment this stranger’s child entered your home.

Dear Foster Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

As winter melts away, and time goes by, the day is drawing near to when the child you cherish may not be with you.  You want so desperately to freeze these moments in time, to slow down the clock, and for this season of your lives to stay.

Still yet, you also know that the seeds of hope you have planted will sprout despite the changing of seasons.  Because of this, you embrace these days.  You work even harder at providing memories of goodness in the child’s life.

As the winter turns to spring, and the spring turns towards summer, you know the clock is ticking.

Yet, you know that memories remain, and this season of your lives will be remembered not by a ticking clock, but by love.

the blog post I never had to write

Recently, I read and cried over a blog post by a foster mom who ran into the boys she fostered several years ago.  Time went by, and the boys failed to recognize her, but something instinctual in her knew that the boys she saw in a store were the precious two-year-old twins she once held in the deep hours of the night.

My heart felt heavy for her while reading.  The post quickly brought me back to the first time we stepped into the world of fostering a child who really was not our’s.  Our son, then a newborn, was on borrowed time in our hearts and lives.  He was just an innocent babe, yet caught up in the downfall of poor choices and a legal system.

With every milestone he made, I felt joy, yet strife because I knew the time was drawing near when some very hard decisions were going to be made by the professional team.  I remember thinking that if he did indeed leave our home to go with a family member or reunite with his birth parents, then I would try my best to find out where he lived throughout his life so that I could watch him play in the front yard.  I would forever love and wonder about the little one that captured my heart. 

The thoughts of losing him totally collided with that part of my being that has always rooted for the underdog.

I wanted his birth family to succeed, yet I didn’t.  

Is that even fair?  Is that even right?  Confusion.

I have spoken with many Christian foster parents who struggle with this.  On the one hand, they completely and wholeheartedly desire to raise the child who meandered his or her way into their lives.  On the other, they also want the birth parents to get clean, get their lives together, and live a good life.  Praying for success of birth families, while also recognizing our own selfish desires, is a struggle.

I remember saying to God, “I know You know that I am in love with this child.  I know that You know my heart is forever changed by the gift of loving him.  God, I do not want his birth mother to fail.  I just want things to be abundantly clear, and for You to intervene when necessary.”

The blog post I never had to write is one about grief and loss.  Each child that entered our home stayed.  They stayed.  Somehow, in the miraculous answering of prayer and the desperate tragedy of someone else’s loss, our children became “our’s”.

Forever.

Instead, the blog posts I have written embrace the fact that our experience as foster parents resulted in lifelong parenting.  Our experience ended with glorious days when the Judge’s gavel fell, and the children we stayed up late nights with, held while crying, disciplined, and celebrated milestones with, were declared to be our children.  We are now several years out from our foster parenting journey, and yet, it still kind of feels like it all happened yesterday.

Know this.  Foster parenting changes you.  Long after the meetings are over, the court hearings are no more, the visits cease, and the children either stay or go, being a foster parent leaves an imprint.

It stamps your heart with knowledge that if you grew up in a safe home with loving parents, then you are truly blessed.  

It reveals to you that if somehow, despite your choices, you walked into adulthood without addiction, then you are truly blessed.  

It humbles you to realize that the battles you face are minimal compared to the wars some are battling, and for that, you are truly blessed.

The blog post I never had to write is one that I will carry with me through the years. I never had to let go and wonder what happened to the babes to which I loved.

 For this, I thank God.  For this, I am truly blessed.

 

Just be Still

“Just be still, Caroline.  Just be still.”

These words have echoed in my mind and heart through the past several weeks. Okay, maybe for the past few months.  I’m someone who has always seems to have a plan, goal, and mission in mind.  My to-do list does not seem to have an expiration date, and even time off is filled with a handful of items to check off of it.

In other words, I am used to being busy – physically, emotionally, and even, spiritually.

Several months ago, I went to work out at the crack of dawn (literally), came home, got ready for work, got the kiddos ready for school, and then had a bit of a coughing spell.  I felt a “pop” in my lower back.  I even said to my husband, “I think I pulled a muscle.

Even with pain, I still went about keeping up with my daily regimen.  I also continued to train for an annual 150-mile cycling event that I have completed for the past few years.  However, that nagging pain I kept feeling wouldn’t leave me.  That voice that gently encouraged me to “just be still” didn’t go away.  With the coaxing of my husband, I went to the doctor.  Turns out I bulged a disk in my back out (from a coughing spell, no less!).

I had no choice.  I had to be still.

“Be still?!?” I thought.  That is NOT for me.  I’m not a “still” person.  “I’ve got things to do!  I’ve got a household that needs maintained, a job that needs fulfilled, children to navigate through the day, and a cycling event coming up!”

As I sat in my home, heating pad on my lower back, waiting for the doctor to let me know if I would need surgery or not, and wondering when the back pain would go away, I kept staring at the very things that needed to be done around the house.

I began to think about the past several years, and have they seem to have flown by.  I’ve been really busy, you know.  With working, raising three children, tending to my home, keeping up with this blog, cycling, and starting a handful of other writing projects, it seems as though I was never still.

I even thought,

“I was not born into this world to be still.”

I did get that call from the doctor, a follow-up visit, and the most positive outcome from having a back injury (no surgery needed) that I wanted to hear.  This was the best case scenario.  However, through the course of it all, the words, “Just be Still” kept echoing through my spirit.

The time following my injury I was forced to be still.  No lifting, no riding my bike, no carrying children around, and staying off my feet as much as possible.  I thought I was going to be miserable, but instead, I found peace and renewal in being still.

Instead of looking around at the things in my home that needed to be done, I watched my children play in the living room.  I observed my husband’s care of them, and my daughter’s concern for my health.  It seems that being still is exactly what I needed.

After I recovered, I got back into my normal routine which includes driving my son to and from gymnastics training.  Typically, on the way home from a long day, I am usually flying to get back to the house to start the nightly rituals of getting the kids in bed.  On that night, though, I slowed down, enjoyed the car ride with my son, and caught a glimpse of God’s artistry in the night sky.  We noticed it together, and pulled over to take a picture.Night Sky

“Just be still, Caroline.  Just be still.”

Friends,

That nagging pain you are feeling….

That whisper of “just be still” that you can’t seem to shake….

That rest you have been mandated to do….

Perhaps, these things are drawing you closer to your Father than you think.

Perhaps, being still is exactly what you need.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

-Psalm 46:10