Wednesday, November 12, 2014

What is love?

Everyone is bobbing their head now, right? Baby don't hurt me......

Moving on, I'm doing a study with some girlfriends and we camped out in 1 Corinthians 13 (love is patient, love is kind, etc) for a few days and I've been beating myself up for not loving Caroline enough. I've been doing that for the past 18 months but it has intensified through this study.  Then, the boldest person in our group asked me the question everyone wants to ask but never does, 'Do you love her like you love your biological children?' Through tears, I answered no, not yet. Our relationship is deepening but not yet.

I was talking to Tom about it when I got home and processing some of our conversations. He brought up the point that he loves the boys in different ways and he isn't sure what that looks like yet for Caroline, as the relationship is still finding solid ground. It got me thinking. I love all of the boys differently too but never questioned it because my love for all of them is effortless. It's a given.

To love an adopted child is a choice, for most adoptive mamas I know. It is different. You never chose to love your biological children. It was innate. That doesn't mean the love you chose is less, however. I started breaking down some of the things that a mother's love does. In the Greek version of this passage, love was a verb used 15 times to show action. It was not an emotion showing itself through action. That is sticking with me. There are many times with Caroline that I choose to demonstrate love when I do not feel it and I always have this guilt attached. What I never considered until Tom and I talked is that I do that with the boys all the time, with NO guilt! 

For example, Caroline wants lots of physical affection, particularly when she first wakes up. I give that to her, gladly, but I am also thinking of what needs to be done to get everyone breakfast. Prior to my conversation with tom, I would have assumed guilt related to adoption about how I can't (or don't want to) cuddle together for three hours. Taking a step back, I see this happens with each child! Hayes is convinced he is superman and often wants to fly and crash land. I do it until my arms cannot bear the weight of his enormous toddler body. He flies, experiences turbulence, then crashes onto the couch. Every single time I end it first but he loves it. It's a bonding time and I've never associated my ending it before he did with not loving him enough. Frankly, I do not love swinging his 43 Lb body around. It's exhausting, I do it because it brings him joy. That is exactly why I do things Caroline wants but I assigned a negative connotation to that, for some reason.

Mamas, doing something purely for your child doesn't mean you love them less. It means you are putting your own agenda aside to love them in a way they can receive.

So. What is a mother's love.

A mother would die for her children, anytime, anywhere. 
Would I do that for Caroline? 

A mother chooses the best for her child even at personal sacrifice for herself.

A mother is a cheerleader, a safe place, a counselor, an advocate and a caregiver. A mother fixes meals, makes sure you do homework, gets you to your extracurriculars, arranges play dates, delights in your delight and hurts when you hurt. I am all of those for her. It does feel different. OF COURSE IT DOES! We just met 18 months ago! I'm not writing this to pat myself on the back. I want other adoptive moms to read this and give themselves some grace.

I get insanely annoyed with some of the boys' behaviors but I never once told myself I didn't love them enough. I love them oodles and I can still justifiably be driven crazy at some of the shenanigans. 

Mamas, we are loving our kids well even when it doesn't feel good. We kiss their faces with their crazy morning breath and take them to dr appts and tuck them in every night. We tell them they look beautiful and they know they are precious to us. We color together, paint nails, and applaud every achievement. We pack their favorite snacks and make sure they socks they like are clean. We are doing this thing already! 

There is so much freedom for me in understanding that different here doesn't mean less.  My relationship with Caroline will be different and why wouldn't it be?  My relationship with each boy is different; I just never dissected it. It didn't occur to me to do so. There is so much weight attached to this idea of adoption. I think I've assigned all my emotions/reactions to some adoption category and that's silly. Tom and I have attended great seminars, taken classes, read books, and watched dvd's about how to parent an adopted child. We are so educated in this that I think sometimes we got lost in the rhetoric and forget we are just people building relationship and that takes time. 

 I think moms are hard on themselves in general and adoptive moms have a whole other level to use to scrutinize themselves. So that particular relationship gets put under a microscope and every flaw is magnified and the enemy shouts condemnation in that. I think I've missed the forest for the trees in wanting so much to love Caroline well. I'm not doing it perfectly for her but I'm certainly not doing it perfectly for the boys, either.  I'm doing my best and she's precious to me. 

I want her in our family.
I would do this again, even knowing how hard it is.
I'm so thankful to be her mommy and call her my daughter. 
I love her more than my own life. 
That is a mother's love.
The end. 

The next time someone is brave enough to ask me that question I will have a different answer.


First off, I know this is a little ridiculous. Parents have much bigger worries for their children than mine. If you haven't already read this story, you'll be blessed by reading it.
A Miracle for Rebecca/

This little girl had life-changing, life-saving, rare, dangerous surgery yesterday and is starting the long recovery process, after over four years of constant pain and unanswered questions. PRAISE GOD, it went well! I don't know this family well but we have many mutual friends and I've followed their story. It is amazing to see their faith in the middle of real suffering.

In the grand scheme of things, my worries are much less significant and one part of me knows that. However, they're still there and the only way I know to start disarming them is to write about what God has already done.

The holidays are coming. Then February will be here in the blink of an eye and that means it's time to make decisions for school for next year. Walker is five. He turned five 8 days after the kindergarten cut-off so he will already be one of the oldest children in his class. I don't think holding him back is a viable option. He's smart and I think will welcome the academic challenge of it too.

However, the thought of sending that boy to real-live kindergarten terrifies me! I know what kindergarten is like, having had experience with it with the older two. They loved it, it was fun and a good experience for them but I see too well all the pitfalls where Walker could get stuck. The cafeteria is outrageously loud. There is lots of ambient noise in the classroom. There are numerous transitions to new rooms, with new teachers. The rooms are big. While there is structure, there is also more freedom and that's not good news for him. He's high functioning enough not to qualify for services through the school so it will be on the teacher to decide how to provide for him. Terrified is an understatement.

I'm writing this as I spent another car ride in tears realizing that I won't be dropping him off next year in the bubble of protection that is his current AMAZING pre-school. So, I need to remember God's provision for him already and pray and trust that there will be provision in the future. I need to list out every thing I remember about what's been done for him to help me in my unbelief.

First and most importantly, God changed him. I wrote about it here. He is still autistic but SO high functioning. He was most certainly NOT high functioning. One day, he couldn't answer a yes or no question or even understand what I was trying to communicate and the next day he could. This happened while Tom was praying at a men's retreat. Truly, God rescued him from this place in himself where he was unreachable. Today he is a funny, interactive, loving little boy.

When we go to get Hayes at school he's usually still sleeping. Walker likes to gently stroke his hair and sweetly talk him out of his sleep. He now wants to be a helper in a way that he NEVER did. When I came out from putting Hayes down for a nap the other day (a lengthy process) Walker had put away all groceries and was so proud of himself! These are all developmental stages Hayes is in now that Walker hadn't hit at three and a half and was not on the trajectory to ever get there. He was veering a different direction. God changed him and there is no doubt.

Also, the Holy Spirit told me to go be friends with my sweet friend Amanda.  She is the one that saw things in Walker I never understood and gave me tools to equip him and our family. I'm not sure I ever would have actually sought help for him because the professionals we'd seen at that point did not guide us down that path. A doctor gave me a handout on anger management and the director of the school he was at told me I should have him pick up rocks as a punishment. Amanda was a voice of reason. Amanda is also a blessing to me because she's such an awesome friend but this is about Walker.

Amanda is the one on the far right, looking like she's about to sprint away because she was. The full marathon started before the half and her race had already begun. I know that she would also like to point out that even though she isn't wearing an official race number she did, in fact, pay for the race.

Another way God provided for us is his wonderful school! He was not able to successfully be in any environment without us. Tom and I had started alternating going to church so we didn't have to take him and I rarely went to the gym because it was such a disaster. All social functions had to be at our house so he could stay in his room or we got a sitter so he didn't have to come with us. Once he entered his beloved Mrs. Marshall's class, all of that started changing. I think God gave her a deep love for him and he flourished! 1 John 4:18 says perfect love casts out fear and one of Walker's biggest issues is anxiety. While you cannot 'love away' all the issues of a child with autism, love goes so far in creating an environment where they can be successful. That confidence translated into other areas of his life and he's able to handle situations where he previously would have fallen to pieces. I can't imagine where he would be without his experience in "The Moose Class." His preschool in general has been a tremendous blessing to our entire family. That is certainly God's provision as well.

One of the therapists that comes to our home for Hayes has great insight into Walker and is a believer. She has spent hours talking with me about different ways to help him and is an awesome resource for me. My awesome friend Megan (far left in the pic above), the only other person I've ever felt led by the Holy Spirit to pursue friendship with, is equipped to be an advocate for him within the public school system, if we need that. She already talked me off the ledge this summer after an unsuccessful stint in summer camp renewed all my fear.

If he does go to the school H and C attend, there is a kindergarten teacher that would work with him. I developed a close relationship with Harris' teacher last year and found she has special education students integrated in to her class this year. I've not had a conversation about faith with her but she is clearly a woman of faith. It's present in all her interactions. She is very funny and constantly cracked jokes and Walker would love that. Harris told her he was getting a haircut after school and she told him bald would be a good look for him, which he still giggles about. She's playful and her class atmosphere is both highly nurturing and highly structured. Whether he will do that I don't know but God's grace in allowing me a glimpse into the heart of a public school teacher that would be willing to accommodate him is merciful. I know they exist.

Caroline is a provision for him, too. She has patience and tolerates his lack of social graces far more than most children would. She is a safe place for him to develop his skills. He trusts her. Why on earth she wanted to push the stroller I have no idea but she was so happy to be doing it!

I feel like the father in Mark 9:

17A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.18Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered. 22“It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23“ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

I believe, help me overcome my unbelief! I see God's provision for him. I believe he will continue to provide. And I am also terrified because I can't see the next step yet. 

For anyone that made it to the end of this post, thank you for reading it. It helps me to write it all down and I'm motivated to put it together coherently by the thought that people will read it. 

"For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.
Luke 1:49

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Orphan Sunday

You Today is Orphan Sunday, a day to focus on the awareness of the plight of those who have no voice. Here are some statistics from Show Hope.

'1. There are roughly 400,000 children in the US foster care system. Of that number, approximately 100,000 are waiting to be adopted.1

Every child is created in the image of God and deserves to belong to a loving family! Starting in your own community, research ways that you can help meet the needs of children in foster care. If you are considering adoption, know that Show Hope is here to help! We provide adoption aid grants to families in the adoption process. The average Show Hope financial grant is $4,000.

2. Of the children waiting in foster care,30,000 age out every year, without families.2

One of the greatest needs for the children who age out of foster care is to connect with a loving mentor who will guide them through important decisions. If you have a small business that can provide vocational training or if you have experience with college applications and scholarships, this may be the perfect way for you to care for those who are aging out of the system! Contact your local Department of Human Services for more information about becoming a mentor.'

There are over 6,000 kids in Bexar County ready to be adopted today.

On top of that, babies are born daily that leave the hospital with foster parents. I know three children adopted that way! Of the children ready to be adopted today, I'm sure many, if not most, are older. Once a child hits five, their chances of being adopted drop dramatically. We brought home an almost six year old and it sickens me to think of the Caroline's languishing in foster care right now, without a true home.

Before we adopted, bringing an unknown child with a traumatic past into our home would have been terrifying. God knows that I am not strong and therefore didn't give me lots of time to agonize over the decision or I would have gone to worst case scenario. Instead, He dropped Caroline in our laps. 

She is not scary. She is probably the most civilized child we've got. She is tender with the boys. She helps out because her nature is to be helpful. She dotes on Hayes. She shares with Walker, tolerating his sometimes unreasonable demands. She and Harris are best friends.

The child that didn't know colors at almost age six is working above grade level at age seven! Her teacher was floored when I told her Caroline was adopted and had only been home for 15 months. She had no idea she wasn't our biological child, given every advantage since the womb.

Adoption has without a doubt been the hardest thing I've ever done. Like marriage and biological parenthood, it's shown a light on all my inadequacies and faults.  The idea that Tom and I are extra holy or patient is laughable. I am no better than any other mother. God didn't wait on me to be a great mom to start Caroline's healing and redemption. He just did it anyway and rained down grace like I didn't know existed.

Our family has been held so closely in God's grip through this and it's the only explanation as to why we are still standing on the other side, 18 months in. We've had people come out of the woodwork to help and truly unexplainable developments in Walker. As this unfolds, we see relationships put into place years ago to carry us through the last 18 months and beyond and it's overwhelming. 

Adoption is terrifying and insanely difficult but it's God's business. He will show up in astounding ways when you go about His business. 

It's hard and ugly and so is any other childbirth. This is hard and ugly in a different way but it is also beautiful and worth it. God fights your battle while we do the mundane of brushing teeth and checking homework. Without even noticing, we went from strangers to family.

The end of the story is: God wins.

We don't have to fear the fight because it was never our battle to begin with.

This is what adopting an 'older child' looks like. 

If adoption is on your heart, I pray this Sunday that fear doesn't hold you back. It is worth the risk. A child without a family is worth fighting our what-ifs.

Here are a few ways to be involved. 

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress....

James 1:27