Broken System

I hear so many people complaining about our social services system.

And I get it.

I do it too!

Right now our local branch is in the middle of a labour disruption and it is holding up the paperwork for our homestudy to be updated so we can pursue another adoption.  I know God uses bureaucracy sometimes to keep things in His timeline, so I’m holding onto that hope but I also see a tainted system where personal agendas and budget cuts are preventing families and children from what is best for them right now.

There are so many things wrong.  Sometimes it feels like the whole system needs to be reorganized and revamped!  Most of the time we are playing catch up instead of preventing problems from arising.

However,

While I am very comfortable complaining alongside other foster and adoptive parents as well as social workers who are frustrated with the handcuffs of this system, I am not okay with people complaining about a system that they are doing nothing to improve.

The bottom line is that the system is in desperate need of more families who are committed to caring for kids, even when it costs them personally.

We need foster parents.

People who are willing to love hard, even when the goodbye is heart wrenching.

People who are willing to fight for families to be reunified if at all possible, putting in their own time and energy to build uncomfortable relationships when needed.

People who will open their doors to kids who push, pull and threaten their way through life because that is the only survival mode they are familiar with.

People who will show Jesus to both these kids and their biological families at some of their most broken and vulnerable moments.

People who will advocate strongly for better lives for these children while realizing that their perspective on the situation may be skewed.

We need people who will follow through and become a child’s permanent family if need be, but are committed first and foremost to reunifying a biological family.

We need adoptive homes.

People who are committed to sticking with a child for EVER.  No matter what.  No ifs, ands, buts.  Just forever period.

People who are willing to go through the paperwork, the scrutiny, the headaches and the waiting time because they know that a child is worth all that times ten!

People who will restructure their lives to meet the needs of a child.

People to rise up and be parents to a lost and broken generation and usher them into the Household of Grace.

People who will believe in a God who redeems even the most broken…and realize that may be you, not the child you adopt.

People who will commit to laughter and joy in the journey, even when it gets hard.

People who will not shy away from the hard in a child’s story, but instead enter into that pain with them.

People who will be willing to enter into relationships today or someday down the road with birth family members.

We need churches, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers and neighbours that are willing to invest in a child’s life.

People that will not jump to hasty conclusions but instead offer grace and support.

People that will lend physical, financial, spiritual and emotional support when serving these kids leaves holes in hearts, homes and wallets.

People who will go the extra mile to make a child feel loved and accepted no matter where they are in life.

People who will pray for children, families and social workers in the system.

The best way to do something about it is to get involved and do your part to change the way things work!  Chances are as you get involved you will see the answers are not as easy as they may have seemed from the outside.

There is no way to evade all the pitfalls when you are working with a broken family in a broken society.

I can’t wait to see the Church of Jesus Christ rise up and take back the work we were meant to do from the beginning.

Love.

Protect.

Heal.

Restore.

AF

 

 

 

Claiming Your Adopted Child

For weeks, months or possibly even years you’ve been praying, decorating bedrooms, buying clothes and stuffies, asking questions, researching and observing.

Then suddenly, the time is here.

One of the toughest transitions in your adoption process may be when your child finally comes home.

Now it’s time to parent, and suddenly you realize that the child before you is a stranger.

On top of that, they may be dealing with the trauma of yet another move and disruption in their attachment.

How do you claim this child as YOURS even when you don’t feel that reality?

What if you don’t feel love toward this new person that is now in your home?

First of all, don’t panic!  It is perfectly normal to feel awkward, uncomfortable and even a bit resentful toward a new child in your home.  Your normal has been upset, and it’s going to take time to feel the comfortable familiarity we usually associate with “family” and “home”.  The good news is you have lots of time!  It will come, so just relax and admit that it may be harder than you envisioned.  If you have other children in the home, make sure you acknowledge this to them as well and give them space and assurance that the emotions they are feeling are perfectly normal and acceptable.

It’s ok for things to not feel ok for a while.

In these early days, try to find ways to imitate the natural bonding that would typically occur between a mother and newborn.  If the children are young, make sure you take full advantage of physical closeness (as long as they are comfortable.)  Help them bathe, rub lotion on their body, snuggle while reading a story or wrestle with them on the floor.  For older children you can brush their hair, give a back rub at bedtime, hold hands, do foot massages, have a spa day involving foot baths and face creams.

Another essential way infants bond with their caregiver is through food.  The act of meeting basic needs in a child’s life is extremely powerful to the brain.  One of the best ways you can connect with a new child in your home is to make sure you take charge of their food.  By this I mean that you offer them food regularly, take time to prepare it for them and constantly ask if they need anything to eat or drink.  Peel an apple or fix breakfast for a teenager who could do it themselves.  Pack their lunch, including their favourite foods and some treats.  Get them a glass of water instead of showing them where they can get it themselves.  Feed toddlers and preschoolers from sippy cups or bottles so you can hold it for them while they drink.

 Your approach in this situation is to do the opposite of what typical parents do.  Instead of encouraging independence you want to encourage their dependence on you.  It is in this way that trust is built and emotional connectivity happens.

Another way to connect with your new child and claim them as ‘yours’ is to make sure to give yourself space to be you.  It is amazing how the little things help it to feel more real for you!  Let yourself be a new parent.  Brag, spoil, buy and take lots of photos.  Your family has just gained a new member and you have every right to all the emotions a mother has in the first weeks after giving birth.

Other things you can do:

  • Start new routines…or revamp old ones they are familiar with
  • Listen closely to the ways they are trying to communicate with you
  • Spend TIME together – there is no substitute for this!  It is the ONLY way to get to know your newest son or daughter and for them to get to know you.
  • Hang their photos on the wall, their artwork on the fridge and leave their sticky fingerprints on the window.  They are all physical evidences of the reality that your family has expanded.
  • Host an adoption celebration when you think you and your child are ready.  Make it official and memorable.
  • Pray for your child and for the Holy Spirit to guide you as you try to reach his or her heart.  Much wisdom and grace is needed…especially when your attempts are spurned.

I hope that by reading this post the overwhelming message you are hearing is that

YOU HAVE A CHOICE!

We all love the idea of love at first sight and happily ever after…but if we’re honest we also know that is usually not reality.

Love is not a feeling or emotion that is left to fate to decide.

Love is a choice.

Adoption is a choice.

When you choose adoption, you are choosing love.

Unconditional love.

That sounds big…and it is…but really it is just a life full of little choices.

Day after day,

moment after moment,

I will choose love.

Some days it will feel hard and the sacrifice will be great.  There will be tears, and yes, even regret.

But other days will be so full of genuine, authentic, life giving joy that you will catch your breath and think, “How did I ever live without you?”

And suddenly, you will know it.

I love this child.

He is mine.

AF

Adoption vs. Birth

I went into adoption absolutely certain that I could and would love children born to another woman.

I was right.

I knew long before I met my girls that my love could run as deep, steady and strong for a child I chose through adoption as a child I gave birth to.

But there was also a lot I didn’t understand until I gave birth to my son.

Before we adopted I naively thought that love for my daughters would come instantly and feel deeply maternal.

I was wrong.

While I did fall instantly in love with my daughters, it was a very different kind of love than the love I felt when I gave birth to my son a  year and a half later.

It took day in, day out, month after month after long month of choosing to love my daughters before those feelings of natural, instinctive, maternal love came to me.

In theory I loved them fully and intimately, but realistically

we were strangers

and we needed to get to know each other.

I hadn’t spent nine months feeling the stirrings under my heart.  I hadn’t held them for those first breaths and watched each tiny movement.  I hadn’t witnessed the steady growth and development and learned what experiences formed in them their character and who they had become.

I have missed so much and I grieve that deeply.

When my son was born his innocence and purity took my breath away.  He was…and still is…so unscarred by this world.

My daughters never had that experience.  Even prenatally they struggled against circumstances beyond their control.

They fought for survival even before their first breaths.

I would give anything to give them the innocence my son got to experience, but I can’t and that is hard.

It is hard to look into my daughter’s eyes and see longing there as she says, “Mommy, I wish I grew in your tummy.”

Or to hold her shuddering little body as she cries tears of grief and loss for her birth mother…tears that she can’t even understand they are so complex and raw.

When my daughters came to me at 7 and 5 years old, they had personalities, character traits and a whole life that I knew very little about.

Sometimes that still gets in the way.

Sometimes I see fear, and I don’t know why it’s there.

Sometimes I see pain, and I don’t know what it’s about.

Sometimes there are vivid memories of people and places that I don’t know and I have no way of knowing if these memories are accurate and true or distorted by a child’s memory.

They’re looking to me for answers and I don’t know what to say.

Sometimes I see anger and resentment and I have no words to unravel the pain behind it all.

Sometimes I am the one battling the deep feelings of loss, of insecurity, of resentment and of exhaustion.

It is so tiring to constantly battle the layers upon layers of grief, fear, loss and trauma written on the hearts of children who have seen and heard and felt the unimaginable.

There is always always an unknown factor to consider.

Just because I chose this doesn’t mean it’s easy.

It’s not always fun.

Hurt makes people hurt.

Fear makes people push away.

Betrayal makes hearts break and the healing is slow and painful.

Sometimes I just want a normal family.

Yes, it’s true and I said that out loud.

Sometimes the guilt of that tears me apart.

But so many other times I see love, and I feel honoured to be their mother.

I see happiness and it overwhelms me with joy.

I see healing and it makes me fall to my knees in worship to the One who can bring redemption out of so much pain.

So many people see all the hurt and pain that often goes along with adoption and they decide they could never do it.

Too many risks.

And it’s true…after having experienced both adoption and natural birth, I will atest to the fact that giving birth is probably easier.

It’s the natural way to receive a child, the way our Creator first designed for families to be born.

It’s beautiful.

But what about when the original design falls apart?

What about when pain and destruction and sin enter in?

Ripping, tearing, breaking;

leaving wounds upon both the innocent and the guilty?

Then what?

Is there any hope of redemption?

Yes!

A thousand times yes!

I cannot begin to pour enough passion into these words.

To let you see,

to let you feel

the incredible grace

that our Father pours upon those who choose to engage the pain.

How he takes the ashes and creates beauty from them.

How he takes the broken and uses the scars to proclaim His glory.

How he bathes us in grace upon grace.

How he heals and transforms and gifts.

How we see the gospel through this thing we call adoption.

It is probably true that nothing quite prepares you to face the pain of this.

But it is absolutely true that nothing will prepare you for the rewards you will experience and the victories you will be a part of.

Nothing will prepare you for the small things that will bring you joy,

the grace you will receive

and maybe most of all the love that will grow strong in your heart for these children you’ve chosen as yours.

Yes, yours.

It will become their identity.

Your children.

It’s my favourite thing to say.

My daughters.

One of my favourite narratives in scripture is the account told in Hosea of God lavishly loving upon the people who had turned their backs on him.

Hosea 2:23 says,

“I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, And I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!'”

When I read these words, there is something that resounds within my heart.

I will say to those who were once not my own

“You are mine!”

I will choose, despite all odds, to

lavishly love

upon these people who were once strangers to me.

And in it all, the unthinkable will occur…

we will become one.

A family.

A home.

A testimony of grace and redemption.

So even though adoption can be hard and messy and complicated

it is so worth it and in it’s own way

it is so beautiful.

I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.

AF

Finding the Right Child for You

You’ve completed your homestudy.

You’ve done all the courses.

You’ve made room in your home, your budget and your heart for a child.

Now, all that’s left to do is to find that child.

In Canada alone there are over 30 000 children available right now for adoption, and millions of orphans all over the world.  So how exactly will you figure out which one is meant to be yours?

It might be a photolisting page online, a specific profile in your hands from your social worker, a referral package in the mail, or dozens of profiles set up at an adoption exchange event.

How do I know which child is mine?

The doubts and questions invade your mind at this point and none of the answers are easy.

What if this causes our family to fall apart?

What if my children can’t cope with the attention this child needs?

What if we can’t afford the services we may need?

What if I can’t handle that?

What if I just can’t love this child?

What if I regret this?

It’s very important to honestly evaluate the skills and emotions you and your family possess.  Just because these children need a home and a family doesn’t necessarily mean you are the best home or family for them.

But in this post I’d like to challenge you to think a little deeper.

I want you to glance back up at that list and notice the common denominator in each of those questions.  If you look closely, you’ll see that they all express the feelings or worries of me, our, I and we.  In a nutshell…it’s a rather selfish approach.

Unfortunately, many of us enter adoption with this attitude.  We are seeking some sort of fulfillment for ourselves.  Emotionally, physically, and even spiritually.  We are looking for a child to fill a need we see in our own hearts or lives.

Maybe you’ve struggled with years of infertility and all you want is a child to love and be loved by.  You want someone to call your own.

Maybe you’ve been moved by the passion of others and you’re drawn to the drama of adoption. You want to be a Savior to a child and you envision a happily ever after life where gratitude and joy envelopes every moment of every day.

Maybe you’ve experienced the pain and joys of foster care or adoption personally and you want to heal that wounded place inside of you by reaching out to a hurting child.

Inevitably, most of us will come to foster care and adoption with some kind of agenda that is based on ourselves.

This needs to change before we can even begin to look at a child’s profile objectively and compassionately.  We need to look honestly at our motivations, grieve the losses we may have experienced and pray diligently for God to bring healing to the broken parts of our lives.  Once we can lay aside our own needs, we will be much better prepared to start considering the needs of a child who may enter our family.

There are a few myths I’d like to turn upside down in regards to choosing a child to pursue.

MYTH #1 

I NEED TO FIND THE CHILD THAT’S RIGHT FOR ME.

While I believe God can and will lead you to the child that is destined to become a part of your family, it’s important to get rid of the me in this question.  Instead of focusing on what we believe we can handle or what we would prefer…flip this question around.

What kind of family does this child…or any child,  need?

If that doesn’t match your skill set or preference then…

Can we become the right family for this child?

What skills or resources do I lack in order to be the family this child needs?  What can I do to develop or access those skills and resources?

It completely changes the focus…from me to the child.  No longer am I on a hunt for the child I desire, but instead I am on a journey of change to become the kind of parent or family that a child needs.  This places value on the children we are seeing and opens our hearts to God in a way that places us as clay to mold in his hands.  With this kind of attitude, God can speak clearly to your heart about the individual children you may be considering.

MYTH #2

I CAN’T CHANGE WHO I AM, WHAT I FEAR OR WHAT I HAVE TO OFFER.

“I have never been drawn to that kind of special need.”

“I don’t enjoy that kind of thing.”

“I don’t feel like I could handle that!”

“We don’t have the right kind of home/family/community/church, etc to accommodate that.”

“I don’t know anything about that.”

I think I have probably said all of these things at some point in our adoption and foster care journey.  It’s not hard for us to see what our own needs, desires, comfort levels, etc are.  In fact, it comes quite naturally to consider my own needs above anyone else.  But wait a minute.

Is that what the Bible teaches?

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:3-4

On the contrary, the Bible teaches radical love.  A love that puts others before ourselves and our ambitions.

The Bible also teaches radical transformation and power when we are in Christ.  Through Him, all things are possible!  This means I need to spend time in meditation and prayer, analyzing the things that are truly holding me back.  It means I need to get my heart in the place where I can truly say, “God what do you want me to do here?”  I want to be that kind of person, and I want to teach my children how to live that kind of life.  A life that is spent serving others.  A life that is constantly pouring out of resources only He can fill.  But as long as I stay only within the lines of what I think I can handle, what I feel is best, what I am comfortable with…that will not happen.  Think about this when you are looking at a child’s profile.

There is also a very practical element that comes in here.  When I decide that others’ needs truly come before my own, I may be amazed what I can do to change my life’s circumstances, my personal skill set, etc.  It is amazing what can be changed when I start to believe that I truly want it!  Maybe it’s time to honestly take a look at what you could do to benefit a child who is waiting for a family.  How could you change your life to best meet their needs instead of worrying how they will fit into your already busy, full life?  What changes do you need to make to your time, your budget, your home and your family?

Do you need to cut out some extracurricular activities or entertainment that is taking up time and money?

Do you need to move to a new neighbourhood or buy a larger home?

Do you need to clean out your spare bedroom or junk closet to create space in your home?

Do you need to volunteer somewhere or take some courses to gain a skill set you are missing?

Do you need to do some research on a specific special need?

Do you need to pray for a heart of compassion for a certain group of people, social issue or special need?

MYTH #3

I CAN’T CHOOSE WHO I WILL LOVE.

So in all this choosing…where is the romance?

Where is the moment where I fall in love with my child or my heart skips a beat as I stare at the profile of a beautiful child?

What about all the stories of those people who just ‘knew’ from the moment they laid eyes on their child that this was the ‘one’ for them?

“I want that!”

Yes.

I know.

Me too.

But the reality is…that doesn’t always happen.

Again, we live in a world and culture where we are so bombarded with selfish messages we don’t even realize how much they’ve permeated our worldview.

You will fall in love with your child…but it probably won’t be right away and the ‘falling in love’ is a mere feeling.

Real love, constant love, forever love…that is made up of much more than emotion.  That is made up of choices.  Daily choices.

You can choose who you will love.

You can choose to love.

The feelings will catch up when you put what you know to be true and right into action.

Just like a marriage, adoption will have it’s romance, it’s drama, it’s cloud 9.  But it will also have it’s struggles, pain and irritations.

Love is a choice.

MYTH #4

IF IT’S RIGHT I WILL HAVE PEACE ABOUT IT.

“I just don’t feel peace about it.”

While I completely understand where this comes from…I think at times we as Christians sling this word ‘peace’ around without any idea what we are really saying.  True peace does not depend on our circumstances and it is not something we can acquire by following a list of steps.  Peace is a gift from God that has given to us when we choose to place ourselves, including all our worries, doubts and fears, into His sovereign hand.  

Peace comes after true heart surrender and steps of faith.

What’s important to distinguish here is that what is RIGHT will not always result in a feeling of peace, contentment, or comfort.  In fact…often the right thing is not easy at all and may put you in a place of struggle emotionally and spiritually.  The Bible promises us that if we follow the example of Jesus our lives will not be easy, comfortable or ‘peaceful’ in the sense that we often think of it.  Doing what is right often requires much sacrifice!  

Just because something is hard does not mean it is not right.    

If we are to use this word ‘peace’ to govern our decision making we must first recognize the true meaning and origin of this peace.

Instead of using our emotions and a sense of ‘rightness’ as our guide, we must go to the scriptures.  I believe as Christians we spend a lot of time praying and asking for God’s guidance in areas that He has already given us more than adequate insight into through the Word.

Go back to the Bible.

What does it teach about orphans, the vulnerable and the marginalized?

What part are we as believers supposed to play, and at what cost?

If you are currently in the middle of wading through the list of special needs, trying to check yes or no or maybe and wondering what your future holds, know that I have been there and understand how hard it is!  You are the only one who can know what God is asking of you, which makes this a very personal journey.  I hope this blog has been encouraging to you, most of all.

My intention is not to give anyone the impression that this decision should be made rashly or lightly.  But I hope I’ve also challenged those of you who may have wrongly put yourself in the middle of this decision.

I say this as the mother of two girls who spent spent over two years waiting for an adoptive home and were labelled as ‘hard to place’ children.  Many families looked at their adoption profiles and eventually backed out, feeling they were ‘too much’ or ‘too old’ or ‘too scary.’

I say this as an adoption advocate who has seen the faces of hundreds of children waiting for a family to see beyond the pain, brokenness and despair they carry with them each day.

I say this as a discouraged Jesus follower who has had too many conversations with fellow Believers that are all about the adults, all about what makes sense, all about what makes us feel normal or comfortable or happy.

When people ask about our adoption process, it’s hard to know what to say.  Do I talk about how it took a year to complete our homestudy and then almost another full year before placement?  Do I talk about all the paperwork, the classes, the search for the child who would be ours?

See…usually what they want to hear is about me…

but what I really want to say

is that it started long before I walked into the CAS office.

Our adoption story is not just about me and my husband’s journey.

It’s really about my girls.

It’s about the weeks my youngest daughter spent in the hospital as an infant, alone and struggling to survive.  It’s about the constant movement she experienced from home, to home, to home, to home.  It’s about the seven long years my older daughter spent in foster care…not knowing what her future would hold or if she’d ever see her birth family again.  It’s about the tearing apart of families that loved each other.  It’s about the struggle to trust, to cope, to thrive.

 It’s about God bringing four people together and making them a family.

 Not built on biology, but on love.

AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daddy’s Day

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Just when I thought I couldn’t love you any more than I already did…

You became a father.

Watching you love our children makes me

so proud

and so grateful.

I know it’s not a glamorous job, this fatherhood thing…

and I know you get tired.

Tired of little hands reaching up to you,

tired of little bodies…and bigger bodies

crawling all over you

begging to be tossed and turned;

snuggled and tickled and

loved.

Tired of my weary arms handing over babies

and diapers

and squirming toddlers

and dishes.

Tired of fixing the broken doors

and handles

and toys.

Tired of reading stories

and tucking in little girls

and rocking babies in the middle of the night.

Tired of holding us all together after a bad day,

of sorting through the squabbles

and tears

and dirty laundry.

You work so hard all day,

then come home to us and still..

still you love us

with your strong, weary arms.

You love us with your kisses and your smiles

and the words you say.

I say it over and over again:

how grateful I am for you,

how I couldn’t do this without you,

how I need you.

We need you.

You hold us all together with your strength,

your confidence,

your faithfulness.

You will never know what it means to us that you come home every night.

That the first thing you do is reach out to hold us.

You will never understand the great mountain you are in our eyes.

How we lean on your greatness;

so steady and sure.

You will never see the light and joy

that I see in our children’s eyes when they look at you.

Daddy.

How the belly laughs and joyous shrieks

and outstretched arms are

special for you.

You’ve captured their hearts.

You will never know how much we all adore you

and  how safe you make us feel.

 You are a really great Dad.

Thank you.

 

Valentines & My Love

Yesterday was Valentines Day.

It also happens to be my husband’s birthday.

To me, that makes it the day I get to celebrate the two most important things in my life.

Him.

And our Love.

I don’t usually write about him here…because he’s not the kind of man to broadcast his life to the world.

But this one is for you, Kirby.

I want the world to know that I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.

Because I am…because of you.

How do you describe the kind of man who makes you feel like the Queen of his universe?

Who fights for me daily, loves my broken places and pieces my dreams together with his calloused hands.

Who gentles the wild in me and quiets the chaos,

all while celebrating my passion and spirit.

How do I begin to explain someone who has more of myself than I do locked in his heart?

Whose soul seems interchangeable with my own?

Who lights up every room when he walks in, just because his presence fills the empty places in me?

He is everything I love,

more than I need

and all I’ve ever wanted.

I adore him.

Without him, I wouldn’t be me.

He’s my best friend, my safe place; my Lover and my Home.

He has taught me to be brave, to be honest and to be free.

Every single day he makes the choice to love, and because of that he is the rock I know will never crumble beneath me.

His love does not depend on what life brings us or what I can offer in return.

It doesn’t ebb and flow with the tides of change that seem to be so constant in our lives.

It’s been a decade of Love.

Always together.

We’ve laughed together through our favourite movies and sang our favourite songs.

We’ve done marathon movie nights together, played sexy date night games together, ate too many gummy candies together and driven too many long hours together.

We’ve spent hours planning, waiting, dreaming and praying our daughters into our lives.

We’ve crawled on our rooftop and laid beneath the stars.

We’ve been stuck in Mexico together, listening to the huge waves crashing on the shore as we slept in our seaside palapa.

We’ve created a child together and you were the one by my side staring in awe and amazement as he entered the world, a beautiful testament of the two of us, forever entwined by this tiny one.

We’ve sat in comfortable silence together and screamed side by side down the dip of a huge roller coaster together.

We’ve stared in exhausted, shell shocked silence at each other at the end of a long day.

We’ve given away our hearts and cried together as we said goodbye to the first little child who made us parents.

We’ve slept crammed on a single size hospital bed and rotated through bleary night time feedings.

We’ve sat together by the bedside of a tiny little boy fighting for his life and took turns stroking his trembling body.

We’ve talked late into the night, tangled in each other’s arms and hearts.

We’ve knelt together in front of the toilet, you holding my hair as my body hurled every last ounce of strength from me.

All the best and probably worst moments of my life have been with you.

I love doing life with you, Babe.

You are an incredible man.

Thank you for all the times you give your heart, your space, your time and your love to me and our children.

Thank you for creating a home for us that is safe, fun and so full of love.

Thank you for working so hard to provide for us and for letting me stay home to be a mother to our children.

Thank you for loving me even when I am so unlovable and for being proud of me even when I fail.

Thank you for leading me and our children closer to Christ through your life and example and for guarding His presence in our home with courage and zeal.

Thank you for riding this crazy roller coaster we call life with me and for throwing your hands up alongside mine while we careen out of control!

I love you more than I can ever say!

~Yours

Foster Care

It’s official.

We are back on the “call” list for our local foster care agency.

Any day now we could have another little person walk through our doors and stay for a night, a week, a month, a year…or forever.

We did not predict that we would be ready this quickly.  Less than two years after our daughters’ placement in our home and just over 3 months after our son’s birth, we are jumping back in.

I can see the raised eye brows,

the widening eyes.

I can hear all the questions you are asking.  I’ve asked them too.

I can hear you saying that we have no idea what we’re getting into; that we are putting our children’s lives in jeopardy; that we should draw our limits.

But there’s something you need to know.

We don’t get to choose.

When we dedicated our lives, our home and our family to Jesus Christ, we surrendered the right to choose how, when and what we do as well as the right to follow whatever our feelings dictate.

God has made it very clear to us in the past month that it is time.

It’s time to jump back in.

It’s time to serve.

It’s time to love.

It’s time to once again offer our home and our family as His hands and feet.

And even though it doesn’t make sense; even though we have every reason to say no, I trust Him.

My girls are ecstatic.  Naive, but ecstatic all the same.

They know what it is like to be in foster care.

To feel alone, unwanted, unloved and frightened by life itself.  So their hearts are jumping at the chance to show another child what family can be.

In our home we don’t just play “house” or “dolls”, we play “foster care”, “adoption” and a pretend life that is shadowed with the tragedies most children aren’t yet aware of.  Our dolls have been hurt and abandoned.  Our play phones ring with calls at 2 am from social workers.  Our precious little babies leave us at a moment’s notice and return to biological parents.  They’ve suffered head injuries, malnutrition, long hospitalizations, broken limbs and bruises.  They cry and throw tantrums.

This is our reality.  We’ve been there.  As the kids in care and as the foster parents loving them.

This time around I have battled a lot of intense emotions and fears that I didn’t experience the first time we entered foster care.  Three and a half years ago when we started fostering I was so excited, so confidant and so ready.  This time?  Well, I’m still filled with all those feelings, because God’s been nudging my heart for a while now and preparing me for this.  But I’m also incredibly overwhelmed, exhausted and fearful heading into this new season of our lives, because this time there is so much more at stake.  It feels like there is so much more to lose.

I am keenly and painfully aware that I am throwing my three children into chaos.  Painful, challenging, heartbreaking chaos.

Foster care is no walk in the park.

It’s hard.

It hurts.

It’s intense.

It’s unpredictable.

It takes a lot of time and effort.

The truth is, I don’t want them to have to give up the secure, predictable environment we’ve worked so hard to create in our home for them.  I don’t want them to have to share their clothes, their games, their stuffies, their rooms, their parents and their home.  I hate that this might mean I have less time, less energy and less patience for them.  I don’t like the idea of putting extra strain on our marriage.

I’m afraid I will crash and burn physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I’m afraid I will not be able to be the Mommy, the wife, the home schooling mom or the foster mom that I want to be.

I’m afraid my daughter’s education will suffer.

I’m afraid we will fall back into old patterns and habits that go along with insecurity and change in this home.

I’m afraid I will not get to enjoy my beautiful baby boy the way I want to.

 I’m afraid I will not possibly be able to love another as much as I love these three.

 I’m afraid I will fail.

Miserably.

I am so aware of my own short comings and my own limitations.  In the eyes of the world and all it’s logic we are not prepared!

Yet God says,

“Go.”

While I stumble through the questions and fears in my heart and mind I hear Him say:

“Have you forgotten so quickly who sustains you?

Have you forgotten how small you are?

Are these three precious little people I’ve placed in your home and your life more important than all the rest I have made?

Have you forgotten they all belong to me?

In your weakness, I can best show My strength and glory.

It is not out of confidence, ability, power or strength that you serve.

It is out of gratitude.

Humble gratitude for all I have done for you.”

So what can I say?

To the One who intricately formed each of my children, as well as the child who will walk through our doors next.  To the One who loves them each the same with His everlasting, unbreakable love.

To the One who can give me strength and energy for each long day and night.

To the One who is waiting to pour His love into the gaps my own heart cannot fill.

To the One who has given us everything we have and blessed us with abundantly more than we could ever need or want.

All I can possibly say is YES.

I will go.

I will serve.

I will love.

I have no promises that this will be easy or that we will not have to sacrifice anything dear to us.  In fact, I am quite confidant that it will most definitely be very challenging and that we will have to sacrifice some things that are very dear to us.  But I also know that if He is calling me, He will provide enough for each day and that I would rather live in the center of His will than in my own carefully crafted security bubble.

So are we ready?

No.

We are not ready…and yet…we are more ready than we’ve ever been.

We understand things we never did before.

We have more love to offer in the shape of two young hearts who have gone through their own journeys.  They are so eager to love, and I am humbled by that and reminded what exactly my job as their Mom is.

My job is not to shield them from all hurt…though I wish so much I could.

It is not to give them everything they want, but to have the wisdom to see what they really need and realize that sometimes this includes hardship; hardship that produces character and spiritual maturity.

It is not to make them the center of our home and world, but to point them to Jesus, the One who needs to be the final Voice in all our decisions as a family and the center of our home and our lives.

It is not to teach them to weigh pros and cons, as if life is all just a big game where we are all looking out for ourselves alone…but to teach them that we are here to serve those around us.

“But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”                Matthew 25:34-36

“And whatsoever you have done to least of these my brethren you have done unto me.”  Matthew 25:40

“”And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”  Matthew 10:42

“In humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Phillipians 2:3-4

 

 

 

 

We Are Home Schooling!

Yes, you read that right.

Me and my littlest A are homeschooling!  It’s been 2 weeks and maybe we are just honeymooning but it has been AWESOME!   I love it!

Now I can just about see some of you rolling your eyes, making that skeptical face and going…yeah whatever.

I get it.

I never wanted to home school, either.

In fact, until I read through my daughters’ adoption files I always said that I would never do it because I would have hated it as a child, myself!  I thought that home schooling was for really large families who like to hide away from the world or display their family on TV shows!  I thought children who were home schooled were all really smart, a little socially impaired and just not normal!  As you can see, I really hadn’t spent much time thinking about it or taking a look at people who actually did home school!  These were just my misguided perceptions, which I am thoroughly embarrassed of now.

But when special needs walks into the picture, everything changes.  Suddenly I could see that even though I loved school and it would have made me miserable to be at home, for some children it may be the exact opposite!

For some kids, school causes so much stress that they spend all their time just trying to cope!  This may be a result of trauma, attachment issues, learning disabilities or any number of other special needs.

There are tons of supports available, but you have to fight for them and it’ll take time.  I certainly don’t recommend that every parent experiencing difficulties with their child at school should just pull them out without exploring their options, but sometimes all the support and time in the world won’t meet the real needs of your child.   This is especially true in adoption.

For months, I had been saying…we’ll just give it some more time.  Or, I’m not ready yet so that’s just where she needs to be.

In truth I wasn’t confidant enough that I was ready to commit to this journey or that it was the right path for my daughter.  For some reason I was really afraid that I would pull her out of school and then fall flat on my face!  I was afraid she wouldn’t learn, that it would all be a mess and that we would all hate it!

But somehow God has a way of making things clear and as things got worse at school my mind lingered more and more on the idea of home schooling.  Part of me fought it…simply because I love school!  I love the specific school my daughters were attending, and where my oldest daughter still is.  I love the community.  I love the staff.  I love the atmosphere and all the kids.  I love the special projects and events that are connected to school.  I love the opportunities school brings to experience life alongside others and to have a broader view of the world.  I just love it.  I am a teacher, after all.

However, God began to speak to my heart and show me that my daughter needed something different.  My husband and I had always promised that we would make decisions about our children’s education according to what was best for each child, one year at a time.  We could no longer claim that we were doing that, and that bothered me!  Even worse, I was scared and discouraged as I watched my daughter start to fall back into behaviors and patterns that we hadn’t seen in a long time!  I felt like we were losing ground instead of gaining, and I missed my happy little girl.  Though we had a great team at school and communicated regularly, I realized that my daughter didn’t need a teacher.  She needed her Mommy.  She needed me.

So in some ways I chose to home school out of desperation and because school was not working…but even more I chose to home school because I realized that I wanted to!

I missed the first four and a half years of my daughter’s life.  I want to spend more time with her!  I want to be there all day, every day, even though it truly does drive me crazy sometimes!  I want to know every little thing that happened in her day, and to be the constant that she comes back to.   I want to be the one who laughs with her, gets frustrated with her, explores the world with her and watches her learn and grow.  Because even after 18 months together, I’m still getting to know her.  I’m still trying to figure out who she is and how she thinks.  I’m still learning her challenges, her strengths and her learning styles.  I am still figuring out her love language and her sense of humor.  I am still proving to her little heart that I am her Mommy and I will always love her; that even though others have come and gone I am here to stay.  There is nothing that can replace TIME.

So, here goes nothing!

The next half year is a bit of an experiment, but I am so excited.  I am excited to be able to focus on the things my little girl is good at, and remove some of the things she is not yet ready to handle.  I am excited to use the teaching skills I have to figure out how she learns and to make learning fun for her.  Choosing to home school a special needs child is completely different than choosing to home school a child who is gifted or even just average.  For the special needs child, you need to lay aside curriculum expectations, most typical teaching styles and any methods that conflict with your child’s exceptionalities.  I have to fight against the temptation to follow a book, accomplish too much in one day or copy other’s home school structures.  Home schooling is all about finding what works for your child and your family.  Once you embrace that, there is immense freedom!  It is wide open from there!  You get to decide what you study, how much, how long, where and when.  You get to decide everything.  This can feel scary, but chances are if you set out on this venture your gut will let you know the answers to these questions.

 So far, it has been the best decision I’ve ever made.

I have my little girl back.

I’m seeing peace where I saw frustration and agitation.  I’m seeing happiness where I saw a constant edginess.  I’m seeing success where I saw failure academically.  I’m seeing gentleness where I saw anger.  I’m seeing a glowing pride in her bright blue eyes where I saw confusion.

It’s not all perfect, and I’m still figuring out how we’re going to handle all this.  I don’t know how long we’ll be doing this, but for right now it’s the right thing.  I am sure of that.

I was given some great advice from another home schooling mom.

Pray.

Pray over everything you do.  Pray over the math, the spelling, the reading books and the colouring.  Pray for wisdom, pray for patience, pray for grace and perseverence.  Pray for courage and a sense of humor.  Pray for yourself, your child, your husband and your other children.  Pray blessings over your child and their school work.  Pray blessings over your home and family.

Know that this work you have chosen to do…been called to do…is valuable and important in the eyes of God.  At the end of the day, you are Kingdom building, not just teaching ABC’s.

This is the perspective I want to embrace as we dive into this new venture.  I want to teach my daughter out of a sense of gratitude, and hand all the work of our hands over to the One who can make it beautiful and valuable.

 

 

Family of 5

So…in the space of a week my husband and I officially, legally became the parents of 3 children!

First, our 2 gorgeous daughters, whose adoption was finalized on October 16, 2015.

Second, the birth of our son on October 22, 2015.

And then we were a family of 5.

And they lived happily ever after!

Right?

Oh, except for…

crazy hormones,

sleepless nights…which turn into harried mornings where we miss the bus,

attachment issues revisited,

the barrage of colds and flus on stressed out bodies,

the physical recovery after being stretched to 10 cm (have you looked at that on a ruler!?  10 cm!!)

The impossible balance of learning how to divide your time between 3 little people and realizing that means you’re never, ever alone!

The never ending “Can I hold Karter?”…which turns into a competition of

“Is it my turn yet?”

“I think he wants me.”

“Mommy, she won’t give me a turn!”

“Don’t pull his arms!”

“Stop!”

and the inevitable cry of a baby.

Lest you all jump to the conclusion after my last two posts that we are living in some sort of sparkle land filled with rainbows and unicorns I thought I better fill you in on the realities of life around here.

Let me clarify.

We are incredibly blessed and over the moon in love with our little man, but the arrival of a new little person in a home invariably means adjustments for all involved and we are no different.

Throw adoption in the mix and some of you will understand very well what I mean when I say that a new baby triggers all kinds of emotions, memories and insecurities that make their appearance in all kinds of erratic behaviour!  (Aka: a little bird chirping in its nest…really?!?!  Sigh.  Don’t even ask.)  Despite one’s deepest determination to be sensitive and kind and gentle and patient…the notes home, phone calls from school, jealousy, defiance…it all gets old really fast even when you know your child is struggling with feelings of insecurity.  It’s so much easier to say that you’re going to pick your battles and leave the ones that don’t matter.  So much easier.  I’d like to say I’ve responded perfectly every time in the last month, but that would be lying.  I’m never a perfect parent and lack of sleep apparently doesn’t make it easier!

And then there’s the hormones.

They’re actually real!

I really never thought I’d be that Mom that was flooded with all kinds of thoughts and emotions that to anyone else seem completely irrational!

Leaving the hospital I totally had “that” moment.  The one where I froze inside and went, “They’re actually letting me take him home?!”  Which was followed by the intense desire to run back the other way and keep my newborn safe inside the hospital walls.

I had to force myself to let other people hold him the first few days and I could hardly bear to watch him lying somewhere not being held even if he was perfectly peaceful and content.

I didn’t turn off the lamp in the nursery at night for at least a week…just because it felt so dark!

Karter slept in his crib instead of his bassinet for the very first time last night.  One month old.  The difference being only that the bassinet is small and cozy and the crib is just so, so big!

I’ve cried.  A lot.

I’ve been irritable and easily overwhelmed.

I’ve called my sister at 5 o’clock in the afternoon in tears with the words, “I’m a terrible Mom!” and “I am so tired!”

And the crazy thing?

I’ve had such an easy baby!   All this with the sweetest little angel on the planet.  He is so chill and just such a happy, content little guy.

But you know what?

It’s still an adjustment.  It’s still a huge life change.  You’re still inevitably going to go through that moment where you panic mentally and go, “What have I done?!  Can I handle this?!”

But I knew that was coming.  I’ve experienced that moment of panic every single time a new child has entered our home.  And it’s perfectly ok.

What’s made a huge difference is something a friend of mine told me…no, showed me.

With her third child she made a conscious decision while she was pregnant that no matter what, she was going to enjoy this baby!  She was going to hold him as much as possible.  She was not going to complain about the sleepless nights and the aching breasts and the dirty diapers.  She was going to choose to see this tiny human being as God sees him…a wonderfully, beautifully crafted gift meant to be treasured.

I watched her love her little boy so beautifully over the next year, and I saw Jesus in her.

That made a huge impression on me, and I knew I wanted to do that…to feel that.

I wanted to be the Mommy who sees my children as blessings.

To see every moment as one of a kind; a gift I get to enjoy.

So I’ve been trying really hard.

When it’s 2:15 am and I’m bleary eyed in the rocking chair, I’m trying to remember to look down at that little boy and trace the lines of his face.

When I hear his cry while I’m busy I am trying to remember that he is so much more important than anything else I could be doing.

When he poops all over the clean diaper I am just about to put on, the change table, the floor, the door, my hands…I am trying to grin and just shake my head that he got me…again!

When I can hardly see over the car seat perched on my shopping cart I am trying to take the time to notice the joy in the eyes of the old woman who stops to peek at my precious cargo.

I am trying.

To see my children as Jesus saw the ones He scooped up in His arms and loved.

To love my children and offer them grace even when they don’t comply with my schedule or my plans.

To remember that my daughters are still healing, still growing, still learning my love is limitless.

To face the realities of children damaged by trauma and prenatal alcohol exposure with courage and unwavering optimism even when the trenches feel dark.

I am trying to say yes more than no; to ask “Does it really matter?”

To draw her body close for a cuddle even though my personal bubble is screaming not to be touched!

To cheerfully repeat instructions the third, fourth, fifth, tenth time.

And most of all I am trying to count my blessings every day.

I am so incredibly blessed.

That is the one thing I want to sing to the world.  I want everyone that sees me to see in my eyes that these little people are valued.  That their lives are cherished and nurtured.  That I believe they were created in the image of God.

Yes, God.

He has been so good to me.

So are we blissfully revelling in a happily ever after wonderland?

No.

But we are very blessed and honestly…

I wouldn’t trade any of it.

It’s mine, and I’m blessed to own each and every little flaw of our life’s canvas.

We’re real, we’re scarred and we’re a little cranky some days.

Still a masterpiece in the making!

AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karter Jax Freeman

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My sweet boy,

You have forever changed my world.

I had no idea I could experience such a huge array of emotions in such a short time.

Pain, anticipation, helplessness, elation, relief, awe, adoration and the deepest joy I have ever known.

Your birth was beautiful, terrifying and humbling.

On October 22, 2015 at 1:06 pm you entered the world and I immediately fell blissfully in love with you.  Holding you in my arms and seeing your bright eyes gazing up at me I felt as if my heart might tear at the seams.

You are almost 5 weeks old now, and still I have not lost that sense of wonder when I look at you.  It’s remarkable how just when I think my heart could not possibly hold more love, you smile and it fills my entire being with joy.

Adoption and foster care has made me a different Mommy to you, Karter.

A better Mommy. 

Every other baby I’ve cared for, loved and kissed goodnight has already been dealt some of life’s ugliest blows…even at only a few weeks old.  Their worlds quickly lost the innocence and purity yours still holds.  They knew pain, fear, rejection, abandonment and loneliness so incredibly early.  So when I look at you, sleeping peacefully with no fear, no pain, no awareness of anything but gentle love and the security that you will be nurtured with the deepest of adoration…it shapes in my heart a vow to be the very best I can be.

To you, I am everything. 

Your favourite place is in my arms, pressed closest to my heart.

You are so innocent and unblemished, and I would give anything to protect that pure beauty.

Anything.

I find myself wanting to shield you from all the harsh realities of this world we live in.

Your cry cuts straight to my soul, and I know this will never really go away.  In the blink of an eye you’ll be as big as your big sisters and still I will be trying to protect you and be your safe place.

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I know too soon I will no longer be your everything;

Your favourite place to be,

And the arms you never tire of being wrapped within.

So today I hold you. 

I hold you and hold you until my arms ache.

Even while the dishes and laundry pile up and the clock ticks the hours away, I hold you.  I breathe in your scent, kiss your soft crown and let you hear the beat of my heart right next to your own.

Eventually the world will come and force its way between us, and I will be proud as you spread your wings.

But for now, I will hold you close, and I will enjoy every second.

I love you, Karter Jax

Forever adoringly yours,

-Mommy

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