Goodbye, Hello & His Goodness in the Uncertainty

And while the world slowed, we said goodbye.

In the middle of a worldwide pandemic, with all our normal routines suddenly readjusted, we did the bittersweet lasts. As usual it ended abruptly, not quite following the carefully constructed plans we had made…but we did get to say goodbye.

For almost two years our foster son was ours to love, care for, delight in; but now he has moved on. He leaves a hole in my heart that looks like the shape of his face, the sound of his voice and the presence of his animated, lively personality in our home. His leaving holds all the typical emotions of foster care; sadness, frustration, fear, surrender, peace and even relief that the chaos of transitioning is over. Unlike sometimes, it also holds new relationships forged with birth family, the hope of continued connection through the months and years and the sound of his voice on the other end of the phone.

As seems to be typical in the story of our family, we simultaneously grieve and look ahead with anticipation. As one child leaves our home, my womb swells and pulses with the life of another.

Sometime in the next two weeks we expect to welcome this new wee life into our world and we are all so thrilled! The past nine months have flown by in the whirlwind of family life and it is hard to believe we are already here, on the brink of our new forever. I can’t help but stop and smile at the timing of it all, and breathe in the sweet relief of once again seeing how perfectly God orchestrates these stories in our lives.

While so many things about this season of isolation, social distancing and elimination in the world have been inconvenient, it has also been a season of much needed rest and intimacy for our family, especially as we said goodbye and realigned our identity as a family of six instead of the seven we have been for so long.

I am so thankful for the sweet, uninterrupted time we have had together these past few weeks.

Seeing my children’s heads bowed around the dining room table over crafts, schoolwork, Lego structures and board games has been so good for my heart. Dirty hands and faces planting seeds, splashing through the creek, gathering eggs and riding bicycles. So much time to make memories together, to enjoy the quiet and to soak in the first hopeful signs of Spring. Freedom from schedules, obligations and social requirements.

We had our first bonfire, dressed in mud suits and mixing smoky hot dogs with dirt and the last remaining snow piles. We’ve taken walks, raked leaves, done Science experiments and moved our hens into their outdoor enclosure.

It’s been far from perfect; there have been tears, short tempers and insane amounts of glue and tape. There has been screaming and lack of impulse control and interrupted sleep and more screen time than I’d like. But still, it has been exactly what we all needed in this season of loss and growth.

I didn’t plan on bringing this little one into the world in the midst of homeschooling, social distancing and medical fragility worldwide, but I see the goodness of it all and I’m grateful.

I didn’t plan on having our foster care transition plan moved ahead by weeks and to suddenly, in the space of a weekend, realize we were at the end and it was time to say goodbye. We didn’t have the physical support and monitoring of our social workers that I had pictured as ideal, and I felt far from ready…not that you ever really get there anyway.

But still, I see His goodness in the details of this season and I trust that despite the questions that want to hold my heart hostage He has got these circumstances and this precious child I love securely in the palm of His hand.

He is not the least bit surprised, fearful or disappointed.

He is absolutely Sovereign over it all.

My stretched, shifting womb with the heartbeat throbbing inside.

The tears in both our eyes as I hold him and tell him how very much he is loved, my heart breaking with his as we try to understand our new reality-apart instead of together.

The spreading disease that makes us all suddenly stop and see the world’s fragility through new eyes.

And it’s enough.

Trusting that He is Good and Sovereign is enough to carry me through this and every season of life.

-AF

Every Life Matters

We’re just a couple weeks past Mother’s Day and my stomach churns every time I scroll through my Facebook feed.

Just a short week ago, we proudly posted pictures of our children, our mothers and our grandmothers.

We applauded women of all ages and validated the sacrifices they make to bring life to the world.

On Mother’s Day moms enjoyed breakfast in bed, flowers from their partners and tender thank you notes scrawled in preschool print. Everywhere we looked we saw the message that mothers deserve to be seen, valued and encouraged in their role; that what we are investing in is beautiful, irreplaceable and important.

Mother’s day proposes to us that women deserve to be recognized for the courage, resilience, and sacrifice they live out daily in their quest to give themselves to the next generation.

Mother’s day told women that they are strong, capable, remarkable and seen in a world that would have us believe otherwise.

But today, my Facebook feed stands in stark contrast to the messages of Mother’s Day.

Today women are saying,

We demand control of our bodies and our lives.

We are victims of a war against femininity.

We want a voice.

We deserve respect.

No one else gets to trump our rights.

All I can think as I watch friend after friend share outrageous, passionate, angry memes, posts and videos is…

Where are the women who, two weeks ago, valued life and motherhood? Where are the women who said they would willingly lay down their lives for the little people they birthed?

When my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor at 18 months, I would have given anything to take his place and go into that operating room myself. Instead I placed him into the arms of a stranger wearing a gown and mask and stood sobbing in my husband’s arms as he was carried away from me.

I would give anything to go back in time for my four other children and take the betrayal, abandonment and hurt they experienced. I would give my right arm in a heart beat if it meant I could erase some of that pain or change some of their first mothers’ choices that have led to such difficulty in life for them.

Every mother I know would throw her life recklessly on the line for her child.

So what changes so dramatically when a baby travels down the birth canal and lets out that first feeble cry? At what point do they magically become human and worthy of protection when a mere few months earlier we say their existence is only optional?

If life does not begin at conception, when does it begin?

At 10 weeks?

20 weeks?

30 weeks?

40 weeks?

And who gets to decide at what point a new life is formed enough to have rights of its own?

We go to great lengths to get prenatal care and help women make healthy choices during pregnancy.

Why does it matter if my children’s birth mothers exposed them to harmful substances in the first two months of their lives if they weren’t really classified as a life at all?

And what determines our value?

Who gets to decide which lives are valuable and which ones are discarded?

Are we put on some type of scale to determine our level of significance to the world to decide whether or not we hold enough value to deserve an existence?

Maybe it’s our level of dependence on another human being, our physical or mental capabilities. Maybe it’s our IQ level or emotional intelligence that should dictate our worth.

Maybe it’s whether or not our birth was planned, if we developed fully in utero or if we were wanted.

Who gets to decide?!

I care about this because the ripples of abortion are deeply personal to me.

Four of my children deal with physical, emotional and neurological differences that set them apart from their peers. They learn differently, they process differently, they see the world through different eyes.

Would you put them on a scale and rank their worth next to their peers in accordance with their abilities?

If life before birth can be evaluated and discarded based on certain qualities, why not after birth as well?

What if someone could have seen the extent of my children’s struggles and abnormalities?

What if the years of neglect, trauma, turbulence in foster care, unusual chromosomes, neurological damage, physical weaknesses and difficult family circumstances they were entering into were deemed to be too difficult?

What if someone had decided they were not worth it, not wanted, not valuable enough?

“They’ll just spend years in foster care when their teenage parents cannot care for them.”

“They will struggle all their lives; it isn’t fair to them.”

“Their mother isn’t ready to have a baby. She’s so young.”

Who would have protected their right to the beautiful, rich lives they live today? Who would have imagined the unique, irreplaceable talents and skills they bring to the world, my world, today?

Where are those women?

Where are the women who will sit day and night beside the tiny plastic bassinet in the ICU while a vulnerable premature baby fights for life, surrounded by wires, tubes and monitors?

Where are the women who will take in the child who has lost their first parents, been abandoned, neglected or abused, believing that the life they are taking into their care is worth the sacrifice of comfort, time and freedom?

Where are the women who will fight passionately for the rights of every human life to be preserved, protected and valued?

I Believe women should have rights…but not for women’s rights to be placed above every other human’s rights.

I don’t want my rights to trump the rights of my children, my husband or anyone else.

That is not equality and that is not the kind of world I want my daughters to grow up in.

I want to raise daughters who value their femininity and see the incredible ability for nurture, intelligence, beauty and life they bring to the world as women.

I want to raise daughters who are willing to lay down their comfort, sacrifice their freedom and discipline their minds and hearts to serve their communities, families and the world we live in.

Women who can both lead and follow.

Women who will travel across the globe to invest in developing careers for women living in poverty, to dedicate their lives to raising the next generation, to empower their husbands and sons with strength and integrity that only a woman can inspire in a man.

I am pro life because I believe life begins at conception and that God is the author and keeper of each new life.

I am pro life because I believe each new life is carefully crafted in the image of God, and therefore every life matters and that every life deserves to be protected.

I realize I have painted this picture very black and white. I know there is unimaginable pain, trauma and so many complicated layers to this issue. Probably some of you have been triggered very painfully by this post, and for that I am so sorry.

The pro choice movement would lead us to believe that a woman’s choice to abort brings freedom, healing and empowerment to women caught in impossible situations.

However, they leave out the reality that abortion accepts sacrificing the life of an unborn child is necessary and acceptable. The ramifications and ripple effects of that declaration are devastating.

The pro choice movement also fails to acknowledge the incredible physical, psychological and emotional trauma women experience post abortion. Abortion rarely improves a woman’s difficult situation, but instead adds another toxic layer of grief and loss. It emphasizes the results of trauma as a problem versus the trauma itself.

I don’t join protests, tout political jargon or support all the people, movements or bills that are passed under the name of pro life.

But I am pro life and I choose to stand firmly by the truth that life begins at conception and that every life has value.

~AF

“For You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.” -Psalm 139

Yes, it’s true…I’m pregnant! :)

First, there were 2.

Then, we became 4.

Now…we are anticipating number 5!

Yes, it is true!  I am pregnant! 🙂

My daughters, my husband and I are all over the moon with excitement about this next step of our lives.  It is still a little hard to believe in the midst of the craziness we live, but Little One is growing and I am becoming more and more aware of a new presence in my body every day!  My daughters regularly scrutinize me to see just exactly how fat I have become and my clothes are starting to make some real complaints at being stretched and pulled.

I smiled when I met a woman in the grocery store and she said,

“Oh, isn’t that something!  You know, it happens so many times!  After someone adopts they end up pregnant!”

I grinned at her surprised expression when I said,

“Well, this one was actually part of the plan.”

Yes, we may be crazy.

But we are all very happy and confident that this new little person is entering the drama at just the right time, all in the hands of our Creator.

I feel a little guilty some days.

I have two beautiful daughters, and now I am pregnant with a third child.  I know there are so many women who enter the world of foster care and adoption because they’ve been unable to bear children from their womb for one reason or another.  I know there are hundreds of women who long to be able to carry a child.

I don’t know what to say.

But I do know this.

This life inside of me is valuable and precious, and I will choose to celebrate it with as little guilt and as much confidence as possible.

I am so excited to meet this child, just as I was so excited to meet my daughters last Spring.  They can’t wait to be big sisters, and I am so thrilled they are here to enjoy this journey with us!  Just as I was in awe at the arrival of my two beautiful girls in our lives, I am in awe that once again…even after all the mistakes I’ve made…God has chosen to place a child in my care.

My favourite passage of scripture these days is found in Psalm 139.

I found this passage shortly before I realized I was pregnant, while putting together lifebooks for my daughters.  I wanted to start their stories with the message that even though I wasn’t a part of their beginning, God was.  He was always there, and their presence here with me is not a mistake.  When I found these words in Psalm 139 I was filled with both awe and incredible joy.  It felt like such a gift to be able to etch these words into the beginning of their stories when there is so much I cannot tell them with confidence.

We are blessed to have pictures of their birth parents…even a picture of their Mommy a few weeks before giving birth, her belly swollen and a smile on her face.

Beautiful.

Yet her presence in my daughters’ lives is mixed with so much uncertainty, pain and even anger at times.  I have longed to be able to tell them without a shadow of a doubt that their birth mother loved and cherished them from the beginning; that she made choices for them out of a deep love and selflessness inside of her; that she dreamed of a bright future for them.  It would make the story so much simpler to be able to tie it up in a neat bow of heroism and sacrifice all for the good of them.  But their stories are not quite that simple, and there are a lot of questions without easy answers.  They know much uncertainty and rejection for their young age, and all I can do is to give them honest, age appropriate answers to their many questions…and to say the words “I am so sorry.”  It is not my story to twist, paint in bright colours or finish with a flourish.

So imagine the gift of these words.

YOU MADE

ALL THE Delicate INNER PARTS OF MY

BODY & KNIT ME TOGETHER

IN MY MOTHER’S WOMB.

THANK YOU FOR MAKING ME

SO WONDERFULLY COMPLEX!

I PRAISE YOU, GOD!

YOUR WORKMANSHIP IS

MARVELOUS!

HOW WELL I KNOW IT.

YOU WATCHED ME AS

I WAS BEING FORMED IN UTTER SECLUSION;

As I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

YOU SAW ME BEFORE I WAS BORN.

ALL THE DAYS YOU HAD PLANNED FOR ME WERE

WRITTEN IN YOUR BOOK

before

EVEN ONE OF THEM CAME TO BE.

Psalm 139: 13-16

A few weeks later when I found out I was carrying one of these tiny miracles within my own womb, I went back and smiled as I read these verses again.  All my children’s names will be written in my Bible beside this verse.  No matter who their birth parents may be, what truths their stories may hold or what devastation life may bring…I know this to be life-giving, sustaining TRUTH.

He has seen us long before we were ever born.

We are HIS intricate creation.

Our existence is not a mistake, and before our first breath He could see each day of our lives stretched before Him like the seashore.

We are loved.

We are wanted.

We are in his capable hands.

And that is enough for this Mama to cling to.  If I accomplish nothing else I hope to give this knowledge as a gift, buried deep in the hearts of each of my children.

AF