Adoption through my eyes

This is my adoption story.  I am not a spokesperson for or against adoption and nothing I share should be taken as a generalization about adopting.  Every story is unique and has its own qualities that make it what it is.  It is time for me to share mine.  It is difficult, emotional, and some parts are hard to admit.  I know it is a piece of my own healing process no matter what else comes of it.

We adopted our son when he was almost 13 years old.  We had never talked about adopting and had not prepared ourselves for it but we felt strongly that God spoke to us to adopt this particular child. And we did. He became our oldest child by 2 1/2 years, which we never heard anyone recommend.  The “experts” say that you should take a child younger than your birth children, but we felt God was bigger than expert opinions no matter how hard it might be.  We did not have anyone really who thought it was a fantastic idea because it would clearly come with a cost to me, my husband, and our 3 children.  We also did not know a single person who had taken this on before. No one.  But we went forward because it was what we were called to do.

The next 5 1/2 years were very demanding- the adjustment, the sacrifices made by the 5 of us, and the mere exhaustion of 4 boys in our family. We only had those 5 years to train our son up for the world- we had missed his first 13 and there was so much for him to learn.  Lessons came at a cost, discipline was constant, and the push back from him was ever present. But we stuck it out.  No matter what. That is what we signed up for when we became his parents.

I have probably had a  hundred people say to me, “I bet he is so thankful he got you!” I would smile politely, without a response.  There is no response to that statement because he did not know how to be thankful. He came to us with so much hurt, disappointment, and anger that there was no way he would let down his guard and think about what he had. It would leave him vulnerable and he had been through too much to open himself up to that.

His therapist said to him, “When are you going to stop pushing your parents away?”  The answer- up until this point…..never. The pain of those first few years made  him into a survivor- a child who can make himself exist in any situation and not be bonded. Bonding is too much.  Too personal.  Too deep.

So we were left with knowing that we would not get from him what he had hoped for. A parent/child relationship. One that involves the give and take of love and acceptance. We were a means to an end for him and after he turned 18 he just left. Took off for somewhere he thought was better. No real explanation or reasoning. Leaving just because he could. Not really leaving much behind because he is a survivor and he can make life work wherever he is. It was the most crushing experience of my life. Watching my son walk out and not look back.

My son graduated from basic training in the U.S. Army and we were able to celebrate the graduation with him.  We were so proud and so excited for his future. We were overwhelmed with his courage and strength to work so hard for something so honorable. We got back from his graduation two days ago and I was beaming with pride. He had become a respectable, honest, young man with credibility and integrity. But I still did not have a son who wants me to be his mom. That crushes me deep to the core. It burns from the inside out.

But here is where my journey has led me.  The picture of this angel is called the “angel of freedom.” I found it today and it spoke volumes to me. In order to be free, I have to let him go and stop trying to find something in him that he does not have to give away. It is not fair to him and it only hurts me. I pry and almost beg for answers I want to hear from him. I wait for the gratitude, love, and acceptance. And then I am devastated when it is not there. 

I pray God will give me freedom from my expectations. Freedom from the constant disappointment that I don’t have with him what I have with my birth children.  We cannot give away what we do not have. 

I have prayed for 6 years now that it would be “well with my soul.”  It is not yet but I am hoping that as I grow I will find the peace that passes understanding. That will be a time of amazing freedom.

It is just hair… me.

I can look at pictures and know about how old I was by my hairstyle.  Here I am in the 80’s sporting the BIG hair.  All I can say is WOW.

Then college days….


and NOW……
So much has changed!  It is with great hesitation that I post ANY of those pictures from the younger years and my children would die if they saw them but I do so with a greater purpose- loving people.
I have learned a lot since I turned 40…..and I have been set free by the realization that 
appearances really don’t matter.

The days of hair spray, Sun-in, and perms are OVER!  Now it is a good day if I get out the diffuser on my hair dryer.  I confess that I do color my hair slightly and get it trimmed……if I did not like my hairdresser so much I might not even do that.
So where am I going with this?  IT IS JUST HAIR- TO ME.  But what could it mean to someone else?  Millions of children suffer from hair loss because of cancer treatments or alopecia. Some of them feel like they can rock the bald look or a cute hat but others want to have hair- real hair.  
 That is where we come in.
See, my hairdresser decided I should grow my hair out because it would look better-  I am of the thought process that short hair is less to fool with so the shorter the better.  I told her I would grow it out under one condition….that I donate it when it grows to 12 inches.  There began the journey.
As you can see, I am at about 4 inches now- if it is straightened and pulled.  Ok maybe 3 inches.  I figure that in one year it will be 12 inches if I am nice to it.  But I don’t want to just donate my hair- I want to get enough people together to make at LEAST one wig, which is 12 ponytails and $1500 to subsidize all the costs that go along with providing a child with a wig.
I started doing my research and came across Children With Hair Loss. It is a small non profit organization that makes wigs for children for FREE.  Did you know a lot of other organizations charge for the wigs?  I called them on the phone and had the best chat ever with one of their volunteers.  
It is that simple- 12 ponytails and $1500 and a trip next summer to meet them in person in Michigan. 
Why did I pick this project?  Because long hair drives me crazy and it is one way I can die to self and give it away.  Those who know me understand I do not do this without whining- it is hot, it is frizzy, it is a pain, it is….blah, blah, blah.  This whole experience has been one of God changing how I see things…..thanksgiving that I can grow hair.  That I have a shower to wash it in.  That I have the utmost privilege to give it away.
Children With Hair Loss takes color treated, bleached and gray hair!  I need at least 12 people from anywhere in the world to join me in this cause.  You have a year to grow it out…..and God will take care of the rest of the details.
Will you join me?  Really- it is just hair.  It grows back.  It has noteternal value.  And someone needs it a whole lot more than you do.
Please leave a comment if you are IN and I will get in touch with you.  
12 people. 12 inches.

We are not all winners…..

Yesterday was a big day in the 5th grade- the EGG DROP.  Students, teachers, and faculty gathered in the school courtyard to witness the students’ contraptions made of popsicle sticks and small cups that would be dropped from 7 1/2 feet with a raw egg inside.  The goal- no broken eggs.  My son was about 5th in the line up and as his teacher climbed the ladder with his project I could tell my little guy was on the nervous, anxious side.  

We all watched as it came plummeting to the ground……as it hit the concrete the egg did not crack at first- it actually LAUNCHED out and into the air and splatted yolk and white everywhere.  Disappointment.  Project fail. With his head hung low, he went back to his seat and we went on with the rest of the class.  As he sat there I could see the dejection in his face.  As a mom, I wanted to go rescue him….tell him it was a great try and he was AWESOME even though his project did not work, etc. but I had this nudge inside of me that said…, let him be for now.  So I was preparing myself the whole time as to how I would approach him afterwards.  Give him the motivational speech about how he is good at SO many other things or the “you are the best glue gunner in the universe” pep talk- which would it be? He came up to me and started talking about the tape that came off and ruined the project, etc. and I simply interrupted him and said, “Maybe you just need to improve the design next time. That one did not work out but I bet you can make another one that will.”  He stopped, thought, shrugged, and that was it.

I was not sure I was the one who actually said what I did.  Maybe someone else inhabited my body at that moment when I talked to him?  I did not coddle, lie, or help him make up excuses. That is not the me I know! See, I am a rescuer. I want my kids to feel good about themselves and I want to rescue them from disappointment….but I am now a RECOVERING RESCUER. 
In the moment when our children fail, we must stop enabling them to blame everyone and everything for things not working out. This never has to be done where it is hurtful, but it can be done where it is very helpful. Instead of blaming the wind or the humidity or the angle of the ladder, I needed to encourage him that next time he could do it better. Now in that moment he knew I loved him, was for him, and supported him unconditionally but helping him be the victim would never shape his character.
We came home that night and what did we do?  Bought more popsicle sticks and made a better design. Lesson learned- take the failure and let it shape the new outcome. This space ship looking glue gun masterpiece was dropped by dear ol’ dad from the ladder with no broken eggs- TWICE.
We must let them fail and not protect them from how that feels.  I firmly believe we learn more from our failures than we do from our wins.  Failing builds character and perseverance when our kids know we are not disappointed in them.  It should motivate- maybe not at first but eventually.
I am so thankful for the failed egg drop and the lessons it taught me.  As a recovering rescuer, I challenge you to stop protecting your kids from the wisdom that comes from picking themselves up and trying again and again.

Legacy….What If?

As I plunged into the pool this morning to swim my laps, I thought of my friend, Kristen, and how much she loved to swim. Kristen passed away almost 2 years ago and  I cannot think of her without the word LEGACY coming to mind.  Leaving a legacy. She gave me the greatest gift when she showed me what it was like to give your life away and love the people in front of you. That leaves an eternal legacy.  She taught this to me and I pray I can model it for those around me, in spite of my shortcomings.  
So I started to think….what if?  What if we approached life with a greater purpose and focused our attention on what really matters?  It would change everything.  In our busy lives, we miss opportunities that are right there. Such amazing blessings in front of us but we don’t see them. Well, today is a new day!  I love that about life.  So what if?
Many of us drive to church on Wednesdays.
What if we talked to some parents in our neighborhoods whose children are unchurched and asked if we could bring them each week? That reminds me of my neighbor, Kadeem, whose dad works 2 jobs and he was home alone at night and and he just needed a ride to youth group (and some mom love).
What if?
Many of us have our children in sports.  
What if our team decided to sponsor starting a team in a third world country where they do not so much as have a ball to play with- much less shoes? That reminds me of the students at our school in Haiti whose love for soccer could be channeled into an incredible team but none of them have any of the equipment.
And yes, the shoe peeking out from the side of the picture belongs to my son while the others have no shoes. We are all a work in progress.
Many of us enjoy a sport ourselves. 
What if we decided to take our love for that sport and make a difference for those who need us? That reminds me of a sweet friend who I met on an Inheritance of Hope retreat. A 42 year old mom with 2 children, ages 9 and 11, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer on August 10th.  We can run for Inheritance of Hope and raise money so that families like Lisa’s can go on a family retreat and make precious memories.
What if?
Many of us take family vacations. 
What if we decided this year we will take a mission trip together as a family instead? That reminds me of so many families who have decided that serving together is the ultimate family vacation.
What if?
Many of you are already fulfilling your purpose and your lives reach so many. That is LEGACY. That is what changes everything.

Overcoming the Obstacles in Haiti

We all have a story. We all have overcome obstacles.  I personally have never had mountains to climb like those in these stories…….

 This is Jolie.  She stays at home most of the time because of her cleft palate and only comes to see us when our nurse is seeing patients and her mom insists that she comes.  Because of the shame of her condition she and her sisters have never attended school.  She is embarrassed to be seen or even speak because of the way her speech is compromised by her cleft palate.  Four days ago I got a call from Operation Smile after they received a letter from me asking for help for Jolie.  They do not have doctors that go into Haiti but Lizet took the time to pass my name on to a group in Canada called Broken Earth who might be able to help her. Jolie’s life to date has been very difficult but with the generosity of others, everything can change.  Join me in praying for surgery for her. I hope she and all her siblings will be in our school very soon.

 Yslene has just completed the first grade at our school in Haiti.  She did not attend school the previous year because her mother was sick and one of the children had to stay home and take care of her and the household. That fell on Yslene. Last summer she and her father were waiting patiently for me up the hill from the school on a sunny afternoon.  I have no idea how long they had been there waiting to see if I would approach them. I ran to Yslene and embraced her because I had missed her in school that year. Her father begged us to take Yslene back into our school, which was obviously a big OF COURSE! She returned and finished the year at #3 in her class. She understands the value of education and makes me so proud.

Guideline is somewhere around 12-14 years old. No one knows her real age because she was found wandering the streets as a toddler and has been raised by Madame  (in the second picture) ever since.  No birthdate.  No family history….but Madame took her in, in spite of her thyroid issues that cause her protuding goiter and how her daily life is difficult because of it.  For years they have sold candy and fried dough outside the school and Guideline has watched all the children go to school, knowing that without a birth certificate she cannot attend.  In March, we started the process to get her a birth certificate so she can start school in September.  She will enter as a kindergartener and her life will be changed forever by an education.

Angeline has a heart condition and was forced to leave halfway through the school year 2 years ago.  Her parents were faithfully carrying her down the mountain to get her to school until it became too much. She returned to school and rose to the top of the class.  Her health is improving and she was #2 in her first grade class.  She is such an overcomer. I am proud she attends our school.

 Jean Marc has a condition called epiphyseal dysplasia.  Until June 2013 he had never seen a doctor and did not know why he was short in stature and in chronic pain.  Because of an amazing friend of ours, Frank, who works periodically at Cure hospital in Dominican Republic, he was diagnosed and is given medication to help manage pain.  He will eventually need new knees and hips but in the meantime he is a full time student and supports his education by making baskets and bracelets that we sell for him in the US. He is an amazing example of someone who overcomes the odds.  He is extremely bright and in his last year of high school.  He teaches me what it means to persevere.

Because of Jean Marc’s diagnosis, we were able to treat his brother, Reginald, at CURE as well.  He got a life changing surgery on his knee to straighten it out and will need continual surgeries as he grows.  Their condition is not curable but hip and knee replacements will lessen their chronic pain. Reginald is a happy go lucky, playful child in spite of the pain he deals with on a daily basis.  We are praying that one day he will get the extensive surgeries he will need.

The days I start to wallow in self-pity, these and many more stories like them scroll through my mind. Perseverance. Overcoming obstacles. I think we could all learn from their stories. I know I have.

We Don’t Always Have to Be “RIGHT”……

I have been married for 20 years and 3 days. I have been shaped by my marriage in so many ways but the one that really stands out is:  I don’t always have to be RIGHT.  “Winning” an argument accomplishes nothing and only puts a wedge in the relationship.  Have you been with couples who argue about everything?  What they had for dinner last night or who the actor was in the movie they saw 14 years ago?  You see it all the time and it is such wasted energy and completely unproductive.  Why do they do it?  I don’t really know- pride, boredom, and maybe insecurity?

In this world where politics and social issues are understandably “hot topics” I see so much bantering back and forth of opinions and “convictions” and often it only leaves others feeling like prisoners to the harsh words thrown at them.  What if, before we spoke or wrote something, we considered who might be hearing it?  Before we make blanket statements about prostitutes, illegal aliens, and addicts, we think about them as real people.  Instead of throwing stones and political views we imagine what it would be like to be Venus, the stripper who was raped at 14 years old, had the baby, found herself homeless and was picked up by a guy who “said he loved her” and now she is working so he won’t kill her.  Or Steve, the 30 year old heroin addict who was given his first joint at 12 years old by his drug dealer father and told “real men can handle it.” We don’t have to agree with the behavior but we also do not need to be self-righteous and judgmental.  Everyone has a story.  Instead of getting on the bandwagon of being right, what if we sat on the curb in front of McDonald’s and listened to David’s story?  You know- the homeless guy who sips his 65 cent coffee and stares off in space…..instead of bashing the government for not doing enough, how about if you did something?

Then there are the issues that many of us face:  how to birth our children, how to discipline them, what to feed them, how to educate them, how to talk to them about dating…..the list goes on.  What if we did not need to be “right” about how we choose to handle these issues?  When we talk, post, tweet or whatever we don’t know who we are reaching.  And guess what?  Your way is not the “right”way.  I believe the Bible to be the true word of God and no where does He tell me if they should eat organic carrots or go to Christian school.  We, as families, come up with what is the best for us as a unit.  Amen to that.  But when we broadcast that we have found THE Way we are being arrogant and prideful.  Epidural or not epidural.  Homeschool or public school.  Breastfeed or formula.  Gluten or no gluten.  Does it really matter if I choose a different way than you do?  Is that the dividing line between us?

There are so many jabs on social media about all these issues.  But what if before we posted something, we thought to ourselves- I do not have all of this figured out and each person is just finding his or her way the best they can and God is not displeased that one mom breastfeeds and the other bottle feeds.  Those are not eternal issues and they never will be.

I am not saying that we don’t have personal beliefs that we should live by.  We do.  We should.  But are we arrogant about it?  Do we have “hills we would die on” that are hardly worth it?  Do we hurt those around us because we are so stubborn and insensitive?

A last issue that I have to address is how we talk about abortion.  We all have a strong feeling about it one way or the other and we should.  But how about before we make general statements and accusations we realize that there are many women out there suffering greatly because of a past decision to have an abortion? Before we throw daggers of hate, we just stop and pray for those women who have so much self-hatred for what they did.  We need to think before we speak or write.

I am a recovering “I need to be right” individual.  What I have learned to be true is this:  we all have a story.  What if we listened more and spoke less?  What if we stopped drawing a line in the sand between how we do things differently than other people and how that makes us incompatible?  It would change everything.

Lessons Learned from Yard Sales

Today was yard sale day….well, actually just about every Saturday is.  I love to get up at 6:30 AM on Saturday morning with my destinations written down from craigslist and start to drive all over town looking for deals.  I look for clothes, shoes, anything I can take to Haiti, and craft materials I can use for a few outreaches I do.  It is pretty simple- drive by, check it out, and stop if it is a good one.  Actually, I left out a simple detail- check and see if I know the person having the sale.  If I do, I weigh out whether it is REALLY worth stopping.  Why?  Because I am prideful.  Plain and simple.  You might be able to come up with a less accusatory name for it but I know that at the heart of it, it is pride.  YUCK!  I don’t want to be worried about what people will think of me if I buy their used stuff but I do.  Character flaw in me that I am working on.

The flip side of it is that people DO judge.  A few will greet you with kindness and dignity and the rest will either give you that “I am sorry you need to yard sale” look, start yelling at people around you for trying to get the price down, or give you the impression that having a simple yard sale is sending their nerves into overload.  Really?  It is a yard sale- sell it for 50 cents and move on.  It is stuff you don’t want and money you would not otherwise have.  I vividly remember a time when I was at a yard sale of a wealthy family and her children’s clothes were priced way too high no matter what the brand was.  A lady asked if she would take less and she began screaming at her saying, “That is the price!  If you don’t want to pay it I will go donate it somewhere and someone who appreciates it can have it.”  WOW.  The lady asking was clearly poor and the lady selling was a doctor’s wife.  When did it come to this? Everyone, no matter the situation, deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

I have started looking at having yard sales in a different way.  How can I bless people?  How much of my stuff can I give away for free for people who really need it?  I can use the money- I am not going to lie.  But do I really?  Every time we have a yard sale we are able to give away clothes and shoes to families who go out to yard sales faithfully so they can send things back to their families in poor countries. They cannot afford the prices at Salvation Army and Goodwill.  A lot of people can’t.  So the opportunity rises to give and bless. It is so simple and everybody wins.

As we look around our houses, how much stuff could we give away?  Just give it to a friend who would love it, take it to a shut in, or put it on a neighbor’s doorstep anonymously.  Believe me- you won’t miss it.  I have a new thought lately- if I love something I own, someone else probably will too.  Instead of letting it become an idol, give it to someone and let it go.  It has changed how I look at everything.  I love clothes.  Yesterday I had the chance to give a ton of them away to a friend starting at a new job.  A few I was attached to but to see her excitement about them was way better than wearing them myself.

Let’s go love people.  Treat them kindly.  Bless them abundantly.

Learning to Embrace the New

I have no idea what people are talking about when they quote the latest Disney movies- I know nothing about Brave, Tangled, or anything else that came out after 2005.   I am from the Toy Story/Mary Poppins era. (For the sake of my son’s dignity, I won’t mention here which of my boys seriously crushed on Mary Poppins and I think still does). My boys were the ones dressed like Buzz going to the grocery store and carrying Woody around for weeks on end.  I always thought I was out of the loop with the princess movies because I had all boys.  But yesterday enlightened me…..

Cooper and I were at Disney yesterday and found ourselves sitting in the Beauty and the Beast Show (he was definitely not thrilled but was taking one for the Mom Team).  I did not think much of it besides it is a cute movie and we could finally sit down.  As the show started, I knew EVERY SINGLE word to the songs AND the dialogue.  What???  Where was that coming from?  Then a slide show of pictures ran through my head of my sons as little guys with pacifiers and blankies curled up for a long awaited movie in the late afternoon, and Beauty and the Beast was a favorite- more for the Beast part than the Beauty.  I had to catch my breath as I reminisced.  The tears welled up and I was homesick for those days.  The days of a warm snuggle and “I love you, Mommy.  You are beautiful.”  Even as I watched parents manuever big strollers and diaper bags through a hot, crowded Disney, I was a bit envious.

How do we treasure the memories of when they were small and embrace the next season of independence and adulthood?  This may be disappointing to hear, but I don’t know really because I am in the thick of it and feel like a boat without an oar sometimes.  But I have learned something as I have been pondering and praying about it lately.  Here are my thoughts…..

I have become much more aware in my 40’s of my mortality.  We have one shot at life on earth here.  If we live in a season that has passed, we are cheating everyone around us.  Our kids need us NOW right where they are.  When Coleman wants to watch and quote The Office for the 500th time I need to sit and watch it and laugh even if I have no idea what is going on!  When Cooper wants to play ping pong in the 110 degree heat I need to go out there and play.  When Connor wants to talk about his job at Chick-fil-A, I need to listen and act like I have a clue. When Kobe calls from basic training, I need to engage and encourage even if he is talking in Army language.

They change, but they still need us.  It has been hard for me to put my head around that lately.  It looks so different but they still value our opinions even if they don’t show it.  Sometimes I hear them retelling something I told them and I think- they were actually listening!  Amazing.

They especially need us to pray for them.  They live in a whole different world than we did.  Snapchat, kik, instagram- they have a world at their very fingertips and it is scary as a parent.  We have to be detectives- check their phones, delete apps, check the history.  There is a lot of evil that many are tapping into and parents have no idea.  One of my children dared to call me a stalker and I corrected him and told him that we call that PARENTING.

They live in the “selfie” generation. We need to be the balance- pulling them away from themselves long enough to see those around them.  Entitlement and selfishness are rampant.  They need to hear “it is not all about you” and we need to act on it- put them in situations which has no gain for them except the spiritual growth that comes from giving.

We can do this.  Our kids need us.  They don’t need a friend…..they need a parent to lead them.  They are listening.  In spite of the sighing and eye rolling, you are getting through.  Keep on keeping on.