Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Ugly D Word, Disruption

I have worked this over and over and over and one more time over again in my head. Still, I feel there is no easy way to write about this subject. If ever there was a hot spot in the adoption world it will come when you hear the word, "disruption." Hello Trolls, I'm glad you found me today. I figured that word would bring you to me here.

I'm going to put my heart out here for you on this. Most of you know my story. If you are new, the short version is that almost three years ago we entered adoption with the adoption of our son, almost a year ago I headed to China to bring home our two daughters. Blind, they were blind and as far as I knew, a little delayed from institutionalization. Daughter one was placed in my arms and she surpassed my expectations while still being very fragile and very delayed and needy. Daughter two came one week later and my precious, longed for daughter who walked in videos and had language skills, slumped into my arms and growled. I chose not to disrupt. I had no idea how we would do this, all while desperately grieving the loss of the girl from the videos. I chose to verbally affirm that I wanted her, that I would never leave her. She was mine.

But I thought about it in that 24 hour harmonious period. I really did. I didn't think I could do this, not at all. In this last year I have discovered that the mind is a fragile thing. I never thought mine was weak until this year. I never thought of myself as fragile, and yet I found myself confessing those very words to my husband this year. It has been a struggle to get through some of the days. But one step at a time we have made it and I regret nothing. I adore my children, all of them. 

I strive to be gracious in my words and I know moms who have disrupted in country and moms who have adopted their children to new homes stateside. There are circumstances I have heard that you would never believe, but court documents prove their truth. When it comes to choosing to disrupt or not, to re-adopt or not I believe there are hard choices surrounding everyone. 

And I have been asked what my thoughts are. So, here goes nothing.

If you have disrupted, know this, I want to hug you, have coffee with you, pray with you. I know you are in pain, that this was not an easy choice, that your heart was broken, that you have your reasons that I know nothing of and I hope I can speak with kindness and grace. I am not writing this to you, although I am sure it may feel that way. 

I'm going to speak to those coming behind all of us. There is no point in throwing a stone at the past. It's gone, but tomorrow is still coming and planes are landing on the other side of the world with scared parents. The next adopters, this is for you. 

Disruption hurts a child while saving an adult. One can protect themselves, one cannot. One can make a choice and one has never known choices.  A child who has known nothing but loss, now knows one more. One more pain, one more rejection to add one more crack to their broken hearts. I can justify the decision for you in my mind. Yes, you save yourself and possibly other children in your home. But what about the one left alone? Who is saving that one? That is where I can no longer stamp approval on it. Maybe someone else will be a better match. But maybe not. Who is to say you aren't the last one coming for that child? Who is to say that your fragility is more important than theirs?

Maybe you are there right now. You have 24 hours. That's it. I know your fear. I can still feel it in my own skin when I remember my own 24 hours. My own heart can't remember how to beat correctly when I think back to that time. I know your fear. I know your questions. I know your aching pain, your loss of every dream. I know the future is just a minefield. Still I say to you, don't do this. Say yes, please just say yes. 

What if you move forward and have the hardest next year of your life? What if it never gets better? What if your entire family suffers? Here is what I need to say to you. You should have discussed this first. Are you willing to allow your current children to suffer for another child? Are you willing to lose your entire life? What if medical expenses leave you bankrupt? Discuss. Discuss. Discuss! Know your choice and make it well. There are no guarantees in adoption. You have no guarantee that your child's file will match said child. You have no guarantee that they can walk, talk, live a healthy life.

But neither do you have that guarantee when you give birth. I am towing a wiggling line here and I know it. But listen to my words. Adoptees are not second class children. Yet, they are treated as such with every disruption. They are not puppies in a shopping mall. Humanity should not get to treat them as such. We are talking about the oppressed, the hurting, the weak ones here.

Jesus, help us to be brave, because we aren't. 

When did autism/handicaps/mental delays become a reason that a child cannot have your home, your family? When you sign that LOA, or equal documents in other programs, you better have your heart ready for the "come what may." Treat them as your biological child from the very moment your pen stroke ends your signature. Say no right then, or never consider it again. Get on that plane, and come what may bring that baby home. You will survive this. You will. One day, one moment, one expense at a time you will make it work. 

I am not so foolish as to believe that even I would not make exceptions to this. As I stated, there are stories I have heard that I can hardly wrap my head around. My own exception is going to be that if your life or your children's lives will be at risk, don't do this. Yes, walk away. As much as my stomach rolls at the thoughts that brings to mind, I would say to you, "walk away." 

I have no crystal ball here. I can't tell you what your future will look like. But history tells me theirs. Perhaps there is no good choice. Perhaps it is a choice between two evils. Choose them anyways.

***Dear Trolls, I'm glad you read this. I have no desire to be any part of your hate. Any and all comments are moderated and calling any particular situation out simply won't make the cut. Comments filled with hate can stay right on your own screen, cause they certainly won't be on mine. Find a way to speak the truth strongly but kindly or expand your vocabulary.***

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

His Illogical Faithfulness

He is faithful and He always has been. 
When the third child comes into our bedroom at night,
He is faithful.
When my son's friend dies without ever knowing a mom or a dad
and my heart shatters,
He is faithful.
When I stroke the scars of a child who is my own and 
am wrecked with the irrational guilt that I should 
have been there,
He is faithful.

He is faithful when I let go of His hand.
When I doubt His goodness,
when I scream at Him for this desert,
when I beg for respite,
and when I throw a tantrum when respite never comes,
He is faithful.
When I can't stop the anxiety, the panic, 
He is faithful. 

When the screaming begins anew and I am surviving just one minute 
at a time, 
He is faithful.
When I ache over the aging out child whom nobody would claim, 
and am angry with all of His children, 
He is faithful.
When I find hidden food in the crevices of beds,
He is faithful.
When I live in the valley of trauma day in and day out, 
He is faithful.
When I reject His loving kindess, His ever-present mercy, 
He is faithful.

There is no reason to His faithfulness except this:
He is faithful because He is God.

God is faithful because it is not in His nature to be anything else.

When I am lacking, He is whole.
When I am filled with fear, He is peace.
He is faithful in response to my faithlessness.
He needs no reason, no logic.
He is simply faithful.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Superiority of Children with Special Needs.

I grew up in a world where special needs were all around me. My mom was a special education teacher and she brought kids into our home who had special and unique needs. It was perfectly normal to read books with pictures of children in wheelchairs or see hearing aids sitting on the counter at home.

With that in mind I walked into special needs parenting with rose colored glasses. I knew in the back of my head that moms have to stand up for their children and that not everyone is accepting of them, yet somehow it became a distant thought that I would be dealing with the ugliness of humanity as I drank in the beauty of my newest daughters. They are so lovely that it shadows the darkness that is out there.

But those rose colored glasses have been thrown in the mud and smeared so much so that I can no longer see through them. I'm taking up the battle of the special needs parent. Today, my post may seem like I'm starting a battle. So be it.

Adults have recoiled their hands when Ellie makes a loud sound. I have witnessed grown men pull back at the sight of the birthmark on Evie's face. I have stored these small grievances away and tried to simply believe the best of those uneducated, and lacking people. But then this happened and I refuse to sit and be silent.

Ellie sat at a table and felt with her hands for her surroundings. Those surroundings included children. A little girl recoiled with a sneer when Ellie reached out to touch her, to "see" who was next to her. It was that sneer that will remain with me for a long time to come.

It was the unveiling of the ugly underbelly of special needs parenting. I can understand that people need to be educated, that Sunday Schools will need assistance in learning, but parents, this is not okay. Children should not be sneering. Ever. For the LOVE, do better to raise the next generation.

Thank goodness Ellie could not see that sneer, but she sure as heck felt the recoil of that child's arm and spirit. She felt the loss of the possibility of friendship in that moment. And for the next hour she never once reached out to her surroundings again, she knew what was lost.

Surround your children with books of children who are different than your own. Buy toys of children who look different than your own. Do you really want them growing up and believing that they are superior because of how they look? Maybe you do. If that is the case I have nothing further to say to you.

Ellie is not a super hero who has special powers to fill in for her disabilities. Please don't blindfold your child in an attempt to make them feel like her. They won't. It will make them feel silly and giggle at their mistakes. It will cheapen our daily experiences. We don't need your sympathy. Really, truly, keep your sympathy. Run around my girls, go ahead, they will get knocked down. It's fine. That's just life as usual for us.

Here is your lesson for the day.

Superiority can never be gained by extra abilities. It cannot be had by extra training, heightened senses or making up for disabilities. It cannot be gained by having all of your limbs, or all of your senses, the color of your skin or how your family came together. Ellie and Evie are not superior because of super human smell or hearing. They are not superior because they can sense an object without seeing it. They are not superior because they have a harder life. Oh, please. Have you met them?

Here is what makes my daughters superior:

Ellie and Evie are superior because they know that differences are nothing to fear, differences make the world better and not weaker. They are learning that God does not define them by what they can or cannot do. He defines them by Himself. They are His and that is what they grow to learn each and every day. The little girl who wears a sneer has already bought the lie that her appearance makes her valuable. Ellie and Evie know that they have inherent value because of the God who created them with His perfect outstretched hand.

And that makes them superior to the child who sneers. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

To The Broken Ones

Today you yelled, said words you never thought would pass your lips.
Yesterday you stopped holding fiercely onto hope. 
You chucked a piece of bread against a wall and watched it crumble to the ground. 
It seemed poetic to you.
The dishes are spilling beyond the boundaries of the sink and the counter is shining back to you with water as its mockery.
Some moms have weekly meal lists and you have a frozen pizza.
Your Pinterest boards hold thousands of pins. And they stay there, pinned, convincing you that you are worthless.
Your friends post pictures of being dressed up for a date night while you  hope for just one day without screaming at each other. 
Your children have watched you come unglued. They have heard words that rightly shame your soul. 

You are battered and bruised and your soul is begging you with every whisper to retreat into hiding. Hide this shame. Hide this ugliness. Hide the words spoken. Hide the terror of your heart. Hide the fears of attachment disorders. Hide the broken marriage. Hide. Hide. Hide. 

You are a broken woman today and can't remember what it was like to be whole. You wish for the sweet escape that sleep brings and then you know the betrayal that dreams bring to you in the night. Tomorrow the sun will rise again and you close your eyes wondering how you will manage to make it one more day.

What happened to the woman arriving at church on Sunday morning in clean clothes with her family smiling sweetly around her? What happened to the wife who greeted her husband as he arrived home with a kiss and words that healed?

Sister, Friend, let me tell you a secret. You are right where God wants you, broken, surrounded by the rubble of your dreams. Now, now, now is the time to speak. Tell us the truth of your brokenness. Tell us the reality you are facing. Tell us of the failures. Tell us how you cannot imagine walking one more day of this road. Because when you do we will see Christ. Your brokenness is the unveiling of the Christ within you. He has torn down every pillar that made you look righteous and all we will see now is Him. 

Your children will watch a broken mom clinging to a Savior who extends mercy. And they will wish for the breath of that same, merciful Spirit in their own hearts. They will learn that Christ is loving to the broken and the beautiful. They will stop performing for a demanding God and start rejoicing in His presence. As your acts of service turn into yearnings of a heart full of desperate and humbled love they will learn to stop checking a list and start being a broken, grace filled child of God. 

God is the Great Physician, the Redeemer of souls, the Lover of hearts. He never wanted your sacrifice of perfection. You were so much more to Him then your acts of service. He wanted you, all of you, all of the hidden broken pieces you didn't want to admit existed. He wanted your beauty, your ugliness, your hidden agendas, your whole heart. You hid behind all the pretty parts of you and He waited. This day, this one where you are so broken that you want to hide in shame, this one where you are sure He would never want any part of you, this is the day that He is rejoicing that you are bringing your whole self to Him. This broken person has been the one He has loved all along. He has waited all this time for you. 

It is not just okay to be broken. 
It is right. 
Bring it to Him. 
Lay yourself bare before the holy One. 
The end of you is the beginning of Him.
Every single day He is turning broken into beautiful.
I cannot wait to see what He makes of you. 

Tell us your story today. Together we will see His beauty. And I can promise you that it is far more beautiful than everything that you were before the day that you were broken. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Adoptive Family Survey

Adoption is hard. Broken souls and broken people trying to climb impossible mountains every single day. Sometimes we watch as those in our community are broken further by disruptions and dissolved adoptions. Both of these are the loss of so many dreams on every end.

We need to do better as a community. Can you help by taking just three minutes and filling out this survey? It is completely anonymous. I can't track it back to you. It give me no names, no IP addresses. It is just to collect data and help find ways to assist families after adoption.

I know you are busy people and three minutes is nearly impossible, but thank you for taking time to do this for yourself, for me, for our community. Together we will build a better and stronger adoption community.

Create your own user feedback survey

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Covering of Holiness


A. Number of kids on Reece's Rainbow from China
B. Number of orphans worldwide
C. Average number of Americans identifying themselves as Christian
D. Number of children I personally knew of that died alone this week.
E. Number of children I know of this month alone that were disrupted and sent back to their orphanages after a family came for them.

Christians you mock this being you call God. If humanity has failed in this, then surely you are far more culpable. I cannot release you  from your part in this tragedy.

Evil has lulled you into a sense of comfort and you never even saw it coming for you. Your church attendance, your Sunday School teaching does nothing to alleviate you of this guilt. One died this week, three in the last two weeks disrupted and were left behind. I cannot begrudge our sweet Katie for her entrance into heaven, but I can cry that my human race failed her during her time here. I can break for all the comfortable Christians raising their hands in worship and never seeing the evil in their own hearts.
I can and I am angry for these numbers.

I want to cover the shame of humanity from the gaze of a Holy God.
I have never felt so utterly ashamed of humanity as I have since I have seen the hundreds of faces cross my eyes in the last few years; the hundreds that I see daily who are never even inquired on, not a soul caring about them individually. I have never understood until now what surely Adam and Eve felt when they clothed themselves and hid in the bushes.
I have never known and felt the strength of His holiness as much as I have in my own shame. 

And I have never been so humbled to recognize His grace. As one people, we have committed genocide. Our hands are stained with the death of millions of children. Do you feel the weight of our combined sins against humanity? Hear me in this, He sees our evil, our complacency, our willingness to allow children to die, be bought, be sold as the cost of our comfort.
And yet, His hand extends to us....

Grace to cover the cost of these lives. Grace to make us flawless. And I sob knowing what He chooses not to hold against us.
In this understanding I found myself late last night on my knees, asking God to help me choose this unacceptably generous gift for myself and for my human race and more achingly for those who claim His name, His holiness, and yet mock him in their comfort.
I want to tell you to do better. 
I want to tell you to do more.
But that isn't grace.
It angers and humbles me.
Grace is scandalous that way.

I do not deserve to be seen in the light of His righteousness.
You do not deserve the covering of His holiness.
But Grace has been given to you, to us.
Let's hold it well.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Growing into Slow

I am a watcher of time. Being on time means being late to me.
I like things orderly and on time. Precision makes me very, very happy.

As it turns out being the mom to kids who have special needs doesn't really work out that well with this whole little quirk of mine. 
And I get frustrated. 
Why is it so hard to move quickly? People, people, step to it. 

I am being taught some difficult lessons right now and this is one of them. 
Perhaps, just maybe, the world moves too quickly and we have bought into it.
Appointment to appointment. Checklist item to checklist item.
Where is the time to slow down and savor each small, momentary success? Do we even enjoy this race we are so determined to win? 

We live in a world where being slow is frowned upon and speeding up is a sign of your character.

These thoughts have been running through my head since last week. 
I had reached out to hold my daughter's hand and take her to play in the yard.
I wanted to push her on the swing and watch her smile.
The swing was my goal, and irritation quickly set in as I realized it would take a good ten minutes just to get her down the stairs of our porch. 

My dilemma was this, was the swing still the goal at the cost of teaching her how to use stairs?
I took the ten minutes to teach the stairs and then there was grass, uneven grass.
I wanted to just move, get to the swingset, but again she needed me to be slow. 
And so I held her hands and shuffled my own feet to the pace of hers, trying really hard not to drag her forcefully to that swingset. 

Eventually we made it, and she sat on the swing and let me push her. Her face was devoid of that smile I had worked so hard to see. And it hit me, that despite my ever moving slowness I had not JOINED her in those small steps. It was me trying to get her to go faster, trying to move my feet slower, but not really slowing down WITH her and feeling each step, hearing each movement of the wind. I was exclusive in the way that I handled her. 

And so, with great pains, I am learning not just to slow down, not just to take the time to do things, but rather to join with my child in her stillness. 
I am coming to understand that the slow pace has it's purpose and I am going to choose to honor the stillness in my life. 

Sometimes we have to go backward to move forward. This is just one of those times. Slow is often far better, carrying more significance and stealing from time in order to teach us important life lessons. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The End of a Generation

The last month we had a lot to do. The month ended with my grandfather's Arlington Cemetery burial and family reunion. I wasn't able to be there for his funeral and this was my chance to honor the hero that he was. Ellie was strapped to me as we placed a rose at the resting place of her namesake and I wish for everything that both of those amazing people had been here to meet my darling girls. They would have wondered what I was thinking and probably told me that this was too much for me. I'm pretty positive my spunky grandmother would have dropped a few "Good God's!!" 

But they would have choked up when my girls slipped their hands into their life-worn, aged hands. They would have loved them well. Shirley Jean Moschell Penny would have loved sitting with my Ellie and drawing her out of her traumatized shell. She would not have minded Ellie's rough, too loud voice. She would have told her to keep talking, keep yelling until she got it right. And she would have believed, despite any other evidence, that Ellie was going to be okay. Robert Flood Penny would have been first in line to take Everlyse on long, slow walks around the block. He would have described those stars that he navigated so well in ways that would make my girls see them and reach for their sparkling light. One hand would be looped behind his back awaiting the return of his other hand as he pointed to the North Star and the Southern Cross, knowing that my girls would follow the tilt of his voice and lift their faces to the night sky. 

I grieve that Ellie and Evers won't know the smell of his starched shirts and sweaters or smell the leather from his loafers as he entered a room. I grieve that they won't associate the aroma of a good roast with their Great Grandmother. I grieve that Everlyse won't be able to share tiny shoes with her Great Grandmother and that I won't have that moment of horror seeing those gaudy things on her feet. Every child should know the taste of plastic fruit and the knowledge that some strange insanity exists in the world because non-edible food somehow became a staple decoration in homes. My girls would never be fooled by the plastic chocolate that bore the marks of too many children trying to steal a sweet bite. My girls would know by feeling them that the rest of us were all fools. 

It still feels like if I could just find the right road in Sarasota I could loop my car around, passed the gourd making neighbor, and pull into the driveway. If I could hear the screen door closing and smell the laundry detergent wrapping its scent around the garden I could knock on the door and hear the shuffle of slippered feet one more time. I would turn the knob and slide my shoes by the door and listen for the TV guide to rustle to the side table. A voice would say, "Well, come in, come on in. Shirley they're here." and back to him "Robert, I know that! Come on in, come on. Have you eaten? Do you want a root beer? Robert, take them to the garage for a soda." 

They were the very best of The Greatest Generation and I know that every time I have the will to go one more round with Ellie that it is because they taught me these lesssons. 

*Every person is valuable.
*There is evil in the world. Fight it.
*Don't quit, ever.
*Love each other, always.
*Today is enough.

What I wouldn't give for one more soda from the garage.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Being Branded

Fallen, hard, impossible, failure, pain, agony, rain, tears, lonely, inadequate.

These words were subtly whispered. I felt their slight breeze as they sneaked into small cracks of my heart but never recognized when they made themselves at home. They were small and subtle and I thought nothing of them until all of them combined  and together found strength in my exhaustion. Together, as one whole, they stood as an intangible force intent on becoming my ruin. They worked so hard to become words with importance, with weight, words that could define my soul. They were eager to finish their work. 

Before I even had time to recognize their existence they left me broken and bruised. Whispering their own names over and over again in my heart, they found solace in creating misery, every action creating a branding on my soul. Ever so slowly I noticed changes, a head that couldn’t lift itself all the way, tears that constantly begged for release, insecurities and lips that leaked poison.

I can’t say that they don’t deserve their day in the spotlight, because at one point or another in the last week they have all had moments of defining a hard truth in my life. However, I can say that they deserve clothing, covering, and smothering. 

Because one man, God in flesh, bled for their destruction. 

Truth meet the One who defined you. 

He left me branded with one word, one beautiful, glorious word. 


Today I choose to clothe myself in mercy, sweet,blanketing and smothering mercy. I wrap my wounded, shameful soul in this gift that the cross has left for me.  Despite the words that deserve to be branded on my name, I choose to grasp the one that leaves me humbled and knowing that I can never be abandoned. 

Mercy is branded on top of my name. 

I choose one over the thousands. 

I choose mercy. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Anatomy of an IEP

Days before, weeks before, you begin to research.
Because, frankly, you are an awesome, rockin', momma.

Because you have these amazing kids who 
deserve every ounce of who you are
to help them become every ounce of who 
they can be.

You beautify and try to look professional.
Probably changing a million shirts because they 
all definitely have some sort of kid stain.

And then, THEN, you remember to forget it all.
Your kid is at stake. Time to gear up and 
take on this IEP

You arrive to the meeting place.

You inevitably find these members:

The one who looks like you did before your third shower.

The one you feel sorry for in the way that you
are sure she has had the kind of day that you probably call normal.
Still, your sympathy is with that one. 

The one who is geared up and ready to fight with you
and for you 
and against all the others who dare to cross paths with her.

The fashionista. Enough said.

And the one who is totally, 100% off their rocker.

And you secretly think to yourself that this 
more or less sums up the group of you.

 You work together.

At some point around the halfway mark your mind wanders.

Around the one hour mark you see this happening around 
the table.

And then this... 

which ends in this...

The two hour mark finds you feeling like this.


Then just as you are about to give up on life...

The objectives and goals begin and the end is in sight.
Which is good because you have resorted to this.

And wondering if there are any of these,

And you feel as old as this...

And then you remind yourself why you are there and 
what you are working towards, your child's future.
So, you find yourself thankful for all the time everyone
has taken to put into this.
And you get in your car to go home.

Which actually looks a lot more like this,

At long last you arrive home,

To study everything you just learned,

Because they are always worth it.

P.S. In case you think I exaggerate. I just came home yesterday from a four.hour.IEP. 
My girls were and always will be worth every second of that time.
And I handled it,

Sunday, May 24, 2015

A Perfect World for Special Needs Moms

In a perfect world

*People wouldn't lean over my shoulder to peer into my child's face and walk away.

*I wouldn't hear that small, sharp intake of breath as the truth dawns upon them.

*I wouldn't have to be afraid of other people's thoughts and comments if my daughter growls in a restaurant.

*Churches without special needs programs would not exist

Suffer the little children to come unto me?
Which children?
The ones with good families, the ones who can control their impulses?
What about the children who are harder to reach?
What about the children who blurt out things in the middle of quiet prayers?
The middle schooler who cannot sit still?
The teenager with too many piercings?
The child who stims and hums and hits the wall?
Suffer the little children, Church.

*People would understand when it takes months, perhaps longer to figure out how to make church work after adoptions.

*Six kids would seem like a blessing to everyone.

*My daughter would just give up and sign more instead of screaming in my face.

*Food wouldn't lead to utter meltdowns.

*I wouldn't find hidden food in beds.

*I would have two dishwashers.

*School systems would actually do their jobs.

*Teachers would see the potential and not the checklist.

They are beautiful, untapped creations beyond our imaginations.
They are the very image of our God.

*People would offer words of encouragement to tired moms.

*My daughter would speak.

*I wouldn't clean up drool. Ever.Again.

*My heart would move on from the girl in my dreams. The ache would cease to exist.

*Children would never starve.

*Babies would not learn to not cry.

*Little girls would not pull out their own hair or hit their heads harshly.

*Patience wouldn't be so hard to attain.

*I would never lose my temper.

*I would be fine volunteering for one more activity.

But it's not a perfect world, is it? Every single one of us wakes up every day and faces our own battle. There is no small battle or insignificant battle. Every battle requires more of us then we think we can give.

And I am plumb tired out most days. This is tough and requires me to not.ever.break.down. Keep going, keep running, stay stronger then the strongest stubborn streak, demand independence at the very cost of my own sanity.

So I do what I know how. I acknowledge Him in this tired, worn out heart. He is seeing what I cannot and He calls it beautiful. He is making what seems to me like this twisting, winding road with no end, a straight path. He is saying, "Walk, walk, walk straight ahead. One foot in front of the other. Walk."

Jesus, I acknowledge you.
Here, now, I acknowledge that you
know better than I.
You are my King.
You are God.
And I will keep walking in Your Paths.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The boy who called me mama

The hallways were stripped bare and I heard every flip of my flops and the nearly silent swish of my long, navy maxi skirt. My hair was pulled up and braided to avoid lice, my stomach trying to hold onto breakfast. The lights in the room were yellowed and cast a strange brightness to all of the chipped tiles on the walls.

I stepped through the threshold and saw a small children's couch on my right side and noticed how few children were in this room. They scooted, crawled, demanded to be scooped into my arms. As my knees found the floor the very air seemed rife with knowing. The word "mama" escaped the lips of a small child. "Mama." Before recognizing the moment and closing the doors to my soul, I scooped him up into my arms and breathed him into my memory. I willed the tears not to fall. "Mama."

My heart would have spilled over into a prayer if my lips had cooperated. I remembered just enough not to tell him I loved him. It would cheapen those words. I could not be the one to love him and I knew that. The reason was standing in the doorway. I had chosen the other boy in the room over a year before to be my son. I was here for him and only him. My heart choked on the truth that this one was not mine, and wouldn't become mine.  I had not earned the right to tell him I loved him. I had not fought for him, committed to him. And as much as I wanted to stay in that moment forever, I knew the future. He called me mama, but he was not mine. But I told him that my Jesus did. And my heart soared to Christ in that moment, begging Him to stay with this boy, to be His healer in all ways.

And I kissed his extra sixth finger on each hand and my stomach betrayed me knowing my lips had kissed the reason for his abandonment. Such a small thing, extra fingers and such a huge, irreversible tragedy caused by two tiny fingers. I kissed them one more time.
"God. In. Heaven."
"Now, now, come back to us. Let this end. Let this not be true. Let this world not be so cruel, so tragically wrought with evil." My heart was spitting it forth in sputtered breaths. And as I put him down and held my chosen one's hand and tore my skirt from his grasp with my other hand, I cursed my long skirt for having so much to grab. My hand sneaked down and pushed his six fingers off and behind me as I walked down that gray hallway I heard the echoes of a lost soul, "Mama, Mama, Mama."

Seven hundred and ninety days ago I chose one and left another one behind, one who called me mama.
God. In. Heaven.
Forgive us all.
We know better.

There are moments in time that our souls fail to remove from the over crowded memories in our minds. They are moments that change us indefinitely. They find their way into our life decisions. They make us remember that the smartphones are not what really matters. They are what make us question our very existence, the purpose of why we breathe.

Why do we worry over dinner plans? Why do we research phones? Why do we need bigger homes? Why do we exist if not to ease the burdens of other people? Why does God allow us to breathe while turning our backs on children who need us? Why do we worship in song and not in life?

The little boy who called me mama was one such moment in the memory of my heart.
And I am sorry, Little One. I am so sorry.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Seeking Hope

In the last year I trained myself well to focus on the task before me and not worry about tomorrow. However, somehow in the middle of this self training, in the forcing of tunneled vision I lost sight of one of the most basic things. In my quest to make it through the day I left behind the inspiration, the sustaining of hope that breathes life into tired hearts. It hurt too much to hope. The fear of having a child die is overwhelming. And so, I was just surviving and for a time survival mode is absolutely necessary. I needed to just finish one more piece of paperwork. I needed to call one more government official and not be emotional. I needed the fortitude that survival skills bring.

Once in China, faced with more trauma then I even allow myself to remember right now, I needed to survive. I needed to bathe my daughter, make rice cereal, walk to the store, avoid the human trafficking rings, block out the rude stares, wipe a runny nose. I needed to survive on little to no sleep. My heart didn't even have room for hope, and what little I may have had was chipped away each time I had to verbalize my daughters needs, both daughters. Little by little I continued to let hope be pushed away.

Navigating the trafficking rings and avoiding 
thieves with three young girls with me was relentless
and terrifying.

I was so afraid of losing her to the evil of malnutrition.
Her screams for food would last for hours upon hours.

And that she would never interact with me.
In one sweeping moment I lost every dream 
I had held for this one.

Fear has such a devastating effect on our hearts.

I have been home two months now and have seen so many doctors. Each day is more survival than anything else still. It takes me three to four hours just to feed everyone lunch each day! I'm still mostly, "just surviving." But the tenacity of hope is finding its way back to me. Little by little I find myself thinking of tomorrow and smiling as I do.

It isn't that life is suddenly becoming easier or that the girls are becoming so independent. They aren't. They still don't speak or really express their needs verbally at all. It is still loads and loads of screaming. Both girls still have massive insecurities about food. When they are nervous that is their comfort. When they are hungry there is no time to make something or buy something. It is a constant game of trying to anticipate their need before it gets ugly. It is constant and never ending decisions on when to allow the babying and when to force independence.

But, God is answering my prayers for the restoration of hope. I need it. I need Him. I need Him to breathe hope into the dark corners of despair in my soul. I want to be done surviving the day and I want to find joy somewhere in the midst of all of this. He is graciously answering me with hope that lifts me up each day.

I am training myself to search for joy, to seek out hope in my day. I am daily sitting and basking in my daughter's rare smiles. I am sitting and feeling the wind blow through my fingers with my daughters. I am going through my house and looking at pretty things. I am jumping on the new trampoline for just a few minutes, despite the screams in the background. I am seeking this hope.

It may be my greatest exercise of faith to seek this hope. But that is my goal. I will hope. I will dream of a better tomorrow. I will allow myself to believe that this will get easier, better, more joyful. I will trust that I am becoming a better mother, wife and person. I will have hope that God is planning a future of the deepest joy found in Him for my family.

I will allow hope to find rest in my soul.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


A few months back a friend of mine lost her son. The ache was felt by so many. There were too many losses. He was the baby of promise. However, he was born too soon. His momma had lost so much, so many babies. I cried for her. I prayed for her in the night hours. And then I heard his name, Emanuel.

"God with us."

I cried even more. What faith! It rebuked and inspired me all at once.

And I knew God had given us a gift, a reminder that He is indeed always and forever with us. Emanuel.

Tragedy does not negate the gift. Death does not erase life.

God used that tragedy to encourage my heart in ways I am still comprehending. When I was scared of our coming adoptions I would remember Emanuel and with every remembrance I was reminded "God with us." It is a present statement, always evolving and never changing.

I was asked at one point if I was ready to bring the girls home and I told them the truth, no. No, I wasn't ready. I was only ready for the step I was on, which at the time was fighting paperwork problems. I wasn't ready for them yet. But I would be. Emanuel, God was with me, is with me, will be with me.

And as I struggle through the busy parts of the day with too many things to get done I remember He is with me in my triumph and in my failure. As I fill my calendar with doctors appointments, and deal with the outfall of our first Sunday in church, and clean skin infections God whispers the name to me again, Emanuel.

I say the name often as I claim the promise of what it means. And I cry out to Him, "You are here, aren't you? God, help me, right here and now. Be Emanuel. Be with me now."

Lauren Daigle's Song "Light of the World" has played on repeat many times in the last few months.
"Behold your King. 
 Behold Messiah.
 Glory to the Light of the World." 

Somewhere in the middle of this life, in the middle of changing diapers, in the middle of my failures, I pray that my heart will behold His presence. Will you behold Him with me today? Find Him in the midst of the ugly details of your day. He is weaving His story of grace and mercy and redemption.

Perhaps, you have recently experienced tragedy beyond comprehension, or are walking in that valley even right now, claim Him for who He is, Emanuel. He is with you even in this tragedy, even in your weakest moments, in your anger, in your doubt, He remains Emanuel.

It was a tragedy that left hearts hopeless and filled with longing and aching. But God has used the life of one baby boy to inspire me each day to take one more step forward, knowing that He is with me.

God with us.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


He is my refuge, my ever constant help, my anchor in the storm. He keeps my feet from slipping, He sets me in the high places. He saves me.

And I stand in awe of what He is doing in my heart. 

Two months ago I would have said I wasn't prepared for today, had I known what today would bring to me. I would have turned and run the other way. And I would have missed it.

I would have missed the shouts of Hallelujah, the giggles in the middle of the night. I would have missed learning how to feel the wind in my fingers, and how the sun draws me into its warmth. I would have missed snipping bottle tops, rocking for hours, singing songs to silly tunes. 

Had you told me what I would have missed I still would have wanted to run away if I had known what I know today. 

But God is greater then my weakness.

He set a love in my heart for these girls that is fierce and lovely, and cannot be explained. 

I know what is before me and I know that the road is crazy, ridiculously difficult and with each turn I won't know what is coming. 

But I love them.
I love them.

I don't like to even say the words "regardless of." 
No, I just love them. 

To me they are not:

  • Dandy Walker
  • Small pituitary
  • Growth hormone deficiency
  • Globally delayed
  • Cognitively impaired
  • Malnourished
  • Non verbal
  • Blind
They are just my daughters. 

And it reminded me of how God has loved me, just me, not who I am becoming or what I have done, just me. 

He is teaching me every single day just what I am to Him. 
I am his daughter, His orphaned daughter. 

And He is my Father, my Abba. His love for me is not conditioned on my daily devotions, my worship of Him, my sacrifices to Him. 

It exists because He has chosen to love me, unconditionally, to remove my sins and place them so far away I could never find them again if I spend every waking moment looking.

He really does love me.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

When Mom Rocks

"Mom, sliding in the house is the BEST."

"Thank You, Mommy."

"This is so fun!"

My house is a mess. Like, if you show up at my door I will refuse entry type of mess.

Food is scattered on the floor from a big brother dumping cereal out for Evers to eat off the floor.

School is all over the kitchen table. 

Dinner from last night is still sitting on the stove.

But, the kids think I ROCK!!!

Want to know my secret?

I sprayed Pledge on the wood floor, threw some sofa cushions against the end wall and TADAAAAAA!!!!!

Slip N Slide in the house, Friends!

P.S. I totally count this as P.E. for today.

P.S.S. Daddy walked in early for lunch today and said, "You know Pledge isn't good for the floor, right?" And I said, "You know you weren't supposed to see this, right?!?"

Ahem....he totally slid down the hallways himself and giggled like a school girl the entire way. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Get out, Yo'

I know I may get some rebuttal on this one, but here it is.

Get out!

Attachment is hard work and we are so afraid that if we leave we will ruin everything we have worked for and so we wait, and we wait, and we follow all the rules.

We put our marriages on the back burner while we wait.

Whoa. Girls.

There is something very wrong with that statement.

This is not okay. This is not Biblical. This is a lie.

Take time with your husband. Go out with him. It may only be an hour of walking around the park while your friends sit with your kids. But get out!

If the marriage fails, that attachment is going to take an even bigger hit. You need this. Your kids need you to need this. It is not just okay, it is necessary.

Maybe you are stuck and don't have friends or family that you trust. Then plan a date night in. Buy some wine, or sparkling grape juice (whichever floats your boat) and some nice steak and chocolate.

Do your hair. I am aware that this may take several attempts to comb through since it currently is the neighborhood birds nest.

Throw on something that doesn't have drool or other bodily fluids on it.

And get out!!

Last night I got out for the first time and remembered how wonderful freedom is. I was able to look into my husbands face and think through what I wanted to say. I could actually tell him about my time in China and the trauma it is still causing me.

I have a really awesome pediatrician who sat me down at the girls first check up and looked me in the eye and said, "I am advocating for your marriage. This is a whole lot to take on and you need to work hard on your marriage right now."

Hi. I love you, Dr. You rock. You get this. You know the road before me.

Ladies, do something special for your spouse tonight.
Here are a few practical ideas:

Make him a cup of coffee when he walks in the door.

Kiss him until his toes curl when he gets home. Let the screaming continue and give him just ten seconds to remember how very much you love him.

Clean up his side of the bed.

Wear the perfume that makes him smile.

Give him a gift card to his favorite store.

Write him a sweet note and put it next to his favorite snack.

Tell him out loud that you love him and appreciate that he spent all week working so that your family needs could be met. (even though you seriously, seriously wish that had been you all week!)

And if it is at all possible, even if you think your kids will regress in leaps and bounds, and the whole dang house will burn down while you are gone,

Get Out!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015


It was a long night, followed by a long morning.
At 10:35 I'm in agony that it is STILL morning. The same doggone one.

This is how the morning started.

But to my relief it was chocolate.
To my horror, daughter two had the same issue....unrelated to chocolate in any way.
I shall hold my hand over my mouth to resist saying what I'd really like to say right now.

Laundry. Screaming. Breakfast burned. House destroyed.

But I reminded myself that God is doing something beautiful here even if I can't see it now. So, I gave my self a survival task of taking pictures of beauty surrounding me.

Tiny hands

Colored gifts

Encouraging friends dropping beauty in my life

Friends who get it and give accordingly,
Don't worry, these will not enter any beds tonight.

And last but not least

AKA, Promoter of World Peace