Notes: THANK YOU to FosterArizona.org for being the original publisher of this article: THROUGH THE EYES OF A TEEN, HOW JACOB'S MISSION COMMUNITY CENTER CAN HELP CHANGE LIVES
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Notes: THANK YOU to FosterArizona.org for being the original publisher of this article: THROUGH THE EYES OF A TEEN, HOW JACOB'S MISSION COMMUNITY CENTER CAN HELP CHANGE LIVES
Monday, March 12, 2018
Hard times show true colors and actual abilities. Hard times can make or break us, and hard times also make us grow.
Back in the day (and because marriage is one of the most life changing choices in a young person's path) I made this list of qualities I wanted my future husband to have, and then I made a list of things I would do to also live up to the requests I was hoping to find in my future husband.
Ironically, with my mile long list of qualities, I happened to miss the THREE VERY MOST IMPORTANT THINGS I WOULD NEED in my life partner and eternal friend:
- HUMOR - I could have found ANY DRABLY PERFECT person with all the qualities on my list and lived MISERABLY ever after. But lucky me, Mitchell cracks jokes at just about everything--he's got good timing and a good memory that makes his humor an on-the-spot and in-the-moment stress reliever. It pulls me out of a funk every single time.
Like the times he photo bombs!
And the times he poses for the heck of it. 🤣
Or the time he drove around town with a pink unicorn on his work truck. 😂
- STEADINESS - I think I suffer wth ADHD. Mitch knows how to focus. I am emotionally here, there, and everywhere. Mitch is even tempered. When I panic and believe the sky is falling, Mitch builds something to hold it up. It's just part of who he is. He's logical, and steady (even if he knows how to be funny). And it's part of his persona to be steady by fixing things--it's the way he shows he is THERE for me and for others.
- GRIT - Some people say "after 3 kids it's all the same"...the joke was on us as our 4th, 5th, and 6th kids are the "hardest" for us. I used to live my life believing I could get thru anything I signed up for because of sheer grit, and determination to never give up. And I did exactly that in all my endeavors until my adrenal glands (aka stress managers) broke. Lucky for me, Mitchell Jay has a seemingly endless reserve of "sheer grit", and when my engine came to a screeching halt, he strapped his strong-hearted-we-can-and-we-will-do-this jet packs on. When life got rougher he pushed the turbo speed button and saved the day. Every day. Every time. I'm getting better and my adrenals are healing, but I'll never forget just how awesome this man is under fire. I get burned in the fire very easily, but turns out Mitch is pretty fireproofed. Who would have known--that's the quality I would need most in my future husband? It's the one thing he possesses that I had no idea our family would desperately need until I ran completely out of my own grit. When we were under flames and fire and in the moments I had nothing left to give is when God showed me the true gift He'd sent our family in this man of mine.He pulls his fair share as a husband and father, and he's a true teammate in raising our 6 kids.
Everyone I know who meets Mitch seems to like him or to love him. They like him because he's naturally funny, he is calm, logical and steady, and he's quite obviously a hard-working-family-man with a boatload of grit (I think it runs in his veins--I've got a lot of Bordens and Whitings to thank for that). I am grateful that this is the man I am blessed to call my husband.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Wearing "Sunday Clothes" to church is a tradition I've participated in since I was little. Who doesn't like to dress up once in a while (or once a week)? Wear your Sunday best and symbolically give "your best" to the Lord while going to church--that's the point of it, right? The idea also translates further to showing an outward expression of an inner commitment--or so that's how I interpreted it.
Until I met a friend who came to church in a tank top. He didn't just wear a tank top once. He did it every Sunday, and it showed his favorite bands and often his shirts exposed chest hair. But each Sunday he came I could see his humility, tho.
His humility was not expressed by adhering to social or cultural norms. His humility was evident in the way he carried himself--yes even while showing his chest hair in church. His humility was open for all to see when he walked to the pulpit on testimony day and gave the most honest testimony I have ever heard. He very reflectively said he wasn't sure if he believed in God and then he opened up about some difficult experiences he's been through and what he feels. He expressed so much more acceptance of "what is" than most of the people I have been around in church settings in my entire life. I cried like a baby thru his whole testimony. I felt so much closer to God by hearing about his struggle and the shards of hope and light that kept him moving forward.
I had so much admiration for my friend that day. The truth for me was that behind the smoke screen of my beautiful Sunday dress with perfectly fixed hair and make-up, I was actually really hurting inside. I had been hurting inside for a long time (even tho I've been doing all the right things and even been doing them for the right reasons). I've been unable to understand how to accept what-is until only recently in my life and the path of bad habits makes it still quite a struggle at times, so his testimony resonated with me, and I knew that thru the eyes of his Agnosticism he was actually closer to God than I was. In my eyes he actually KNEW God better than he even realized.
What's interesting is that my friend had the opportunity to get "church clothes" for cheap or for free but he continued to come in his tanks because this was HIS personal journey and it was happening without a time-frame that was dictated by anyone else. It was happening in a real way and not in a fabricated way that anyone else thought it should look like. I actually respect him more for that because he was demonstrating self-acceptance--something that in my thirties I am barely coming to understand.
Each Sunday that he walked in I would find my soul filled with pain and wishing that the whole congregation could be more like him. Why can't we all come to church as we are? I wish we could. The truth is that WE CAN. The problem is that we are often running so much from what is going on--striving so much to "rise above" it, that we actually miss dealing with our problems altogether and often by running we create more problems for ourselves. Instead of wearing perfect Sunday clothes and slapping on happy faces, why can't we show up AS WE ARE? What would happen if we could SEE people as they are and what they're going through each week? Would we have signs at church on our clothes or hovering above our heads?
Maybe you'd see some messages like, "I'm struggling with my self-worth."
"I have a binge eating disorder."
"I look at porn and don't know how to stop."
"My marriage looks good on the outside but this no longer feels like a fairy tale to me."
"I get bullied at school."
Or what about "I get bullied at church."
"I was sexually abused and I feel like no one can relate."
"I feel differently than you do with your political opinions, but my religious reasons are as closely related to my stances as yours are to yours."
"I'm gay but I'm afraid to tell anyone about it because all the other gay people I know who are open about it no longer feel accepted at church."
"I am not actually happy as a stay at home mom but everyone else acts like they are. What is wrong with me?"
"I want to experience more from life than what I'm getting."
"I had to ask for help paying for my food box this week at the food bank. I don't know how we're going to make it."
"Reading scriptures, praying, and going to church isn't actually lifting my fog of depression, but I'm here anyway."
"My child has special needs and I'm beyond tired but I don't feel like I can ask for any more help."
"Sometimes I drink alcohol."
"I live with regrets and don't know how to move forward."
"I can't stop grieving the loss of someone I love."
Or what about, "I'm having a hard time believing in God this week, because believing in God in the past has hurt me."
The signs might change week to week--you'd never know what they'd say but they would be real.
What's interesting to me is that I don't personally believe that we're all as good as we try to make ourselves and others believe. It could be argued that we are no better than the worst that is within us. The trick is that the worst that is within is can never actually get better when we're continually in denial that it's there and continually running from it instead of facing what-is. We're told that Jesus Christ can heal broken hearts, but how can we even come to Him with our broken heart or our contrite spirit if we think that's not for us--if we think everyone else at church is the sick one instead of us? My parents used to tell me that church was like a hospital for the sick--and I agree with them.
It's not anyone else's fault that this has happened, but I personally feel like for way too long I've really misunderstood what "being sick" really looks like on the outside. For me, being the one who is sick means I'm wearing the perfect Sunday clothes and my whole family parades in to church looking like we don't have problems. While not originally intended to be this way, the premise of looking good at church can actually turn into a smoke screen for anyone (although I am not saying this spiritual trap happens to everyone). All I'm saying is that MY soul needs to be more real. Because that's how I'm coming to know my Savior better. I am coming to accept myself more and thereby I am beginning to accept my Savior more. I can say that this has happened to me in a large part because of agnostic friends on the church benches. My soul needs more agnostic friends in my life--and not so my understanding or interpretation of God can heal them--it's because I know their honesty and acceptance is the missing piece to the puzzle of what I need to bring me closer to Jesus so that He can heal me.
I believe this is one of the many ways where the first shall be last and the last shall be first, but sometimes we're so focused on fixing what's wrong with everyone else and their life perceptions that we forget how to let God speak to us in personal ways. Sometimes the way He speaks to us is in a lengthy, struggle-filled journey that might even make us question Him.
In the last few weeks I have worn less make-up to church, and when I was stressed about finishing my make-up in the parking lot I heard the echoes of my own words from this post I've been formulating: "Go inside as you are, D-Jo. PLEASE just come as you are."
Monday, February 5, 2018
Having a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder has been one of the most grueling and faith trying trials of my life. It was the very thing I felt I couldn't do. I told my husband that I could take on ANY issue in foster/adoption EXCEPT for that. I wasn't even afraid of Autism, Deafness, Hepatitis C, food allergies, Blindness, you name it, none of those things sounded impossible to work thru in my mind compared to the mental health and behavioral challenges found in a child with RAD. Ironically, I only understood the tip of the iceberg at that point. So imagine when not just one but two of my adopted children were diagnosed with it and when one of them began to get an alphabet soup of other diagnoses along with the RAD diagnosis. The weight of the challenge in front of us was crushing. I had a therapist tell me, "This isn't a death sentence." But try to imagine having a 3 or 4 year old make suicidal statements or act bipolar. Imagine darkness that doesn't seem to go away. And then imagine having your concerns being dismissed and invalidated everywhere you turn because everyone under the sun says to you, "Oh that's normal." Here's a video that shows how bad RAD can be: it's definitely NOT normal!
I knew one of my daughters before she came to our home and I told the case manager that some of her behaviors made me worry that she had RAD. He said, "Oh no, she doesn't have that." Well, turns out that the state just lies to keep children adoptable or they are entirely incompetent. My daughter had not just a handful, but 19 of the 25 risk factors that could cause enough trauma for a child to have RAD. Even so, we knew what we were getting into before the adoption was final, and we made the choice that we would be there for our children no matter what.
What's crazy is that as hard as it is for us, there are families who have it even worse. Those families have been so supportive to us.
So I am left to wonder. Why does God allow this to happen to children? Does Jesus' sacrifice really make all of this "okay"? The answer, at least for this moment of time, is no. None of this is okay. We have hope that SOMEDAY Jesus will heal us and that the pain will eventually be over, but in the struggle to fix everything now I have had to reconcile that some things are not able to be mended. Some mountains cannot be moved. Those are the mountains that have to be climbed.
I have had to redefine the miracles. I used to pray for the miracle that God would heal my kids and take away the negative effects of the choices made by others, because my kids and the rest of our family didn't deserve the consequences of those choices. I used to pray for it to all be better. But God is teaching me how to accept what is while I am on this journey to find healing with my children. We go to therapy and we see progress even if it's slow and I do believe there is great hope for my children to overcome their odds because they are already rising above some of their challenges, but even with the progress, our story is not over yet. I know many people on a similar journey as ours who are fierce fighters and advocates for their children and who have the literal faith to move mountains. Yet their children's mountains have not been moved (at least in the form of having their devastating circumstances fixed--I also know many individuals on this path who have had their circumstances get worse by taking on the burden and carrying the cross with these kinds of kids).
There is no sure guarantee for healing trauma in this life. And because of that I have had to find the internal strength to understand and accept that sometimes as awful as it may be, there are stories where Cain still slays Abel. There are circumstances where tragedy remains tragedy and that in the here and now there is no way to fix it. Living in denial of what is cannot change that.
In reflecting on the story of Cain and Abel I have wondered what made him so jealous, so angry, and so quick to lie. Those are the very same attributes you find in children who have suffered early trauma. He sounds exactly like a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder to me. I have seen that pattern over and over, hundreds of times. We revere Adam and Eve as the world's best parents...or at least I know I have. They were God's chosen -- the best parents possible to start out the earth, with the best genetic prints to begin the human race. All of Heaven must have stopped to watch their majestic wedding. These are the thoughts I have had before about our first parents because I do believe in God and in His word and I have always viewed things positively. I also have previously tried to fit His word into a box I have created of idealistic circumstances.
But life has shown me that when you're asked to "leave the Garden", the world you live in really can be a god-forsaken place. On my own journey of foster adoption I have thought again about what life might have been like for our first parents. Maybe they were doing their best but it wasn't good enough for Cain to be completely protected as a young child. Maybe they had to deliver him on their own and with no medical knowledge of what to do. Assuming it was her first successful pregnancy, perhaps the entire experience as a first time mother was terrifying (all of those feelings--especially prolonged and extreme emotional stress--affect your child's development in utero). Maybe she had terrible nutrition or serious illness during her pregnancy with Cain. They built alters and made sacrifices--maybe they burned plants that weren't good for them. Maybe Eve unknowingly or accidentally ingested plants that were equivalent to drugs or chemicals while she was pregnant. Maybe Cain was deprived of oxygen or had other medical issues that were not taken care of properly during his birth. Maybe Eve's milk didn't come in because of the stress of the circumstances and perhaps Cain was fed water or other fluids that weren't good for his development. What if He was a failure to thrive type of child? How much prolonged exposure to the wind and cold did he suffer? Did Adam and Eve know that babies should be loved and cuddled and spoken to, or did they think he'd be okay sitting at home alone even as an infant while they went out to gather food? Maybe he witnessed some violence with animals because the way they had to live was brutal and that's super scary for kids. The possibilities are truly endless. I'd say it's highly likely that Cain had a traumatizing childhood and that Adam and Eve didn't quite know what they were doing (because none of us do as parents and everyone's first child is a Guinea pig in some fashion) but their circumstances were way worse to deal with being the first humans all alone out in the dreary untamed world. Maybe by the time Adam and Eve had Abel, they had learned some things the hard way (like we all do) and they knew how to raise children in a safer and more protected way. Abel was likely to have had a better upbringing not being the first child. He was likely able to grow in a more neurotypical way, but Cain's first exposure to the world taught him that the world is a cruel harsh place and his deepest survival skills were firmly in place. I believe this because the natural stress responses of Fight/Flight/Freeze are all identifiable in this story. Abel was a threat to Cain because Abel had more favor with God so Cain fought his brother in jealousy and killed him. Then he took flight. When God found him and spoke to him, Cain froze up and lied--which is exactly what RAD children do all over the world every single day. Their brains are hardwired to do exactly that. Fight. Flight. Freeze. Jealousy. Anger. Lies. The disonnection from love and compassion is neuroscience and it happens routinely in cases of early and extreme childhood trauma. Cain was a child with RAD.
Image from pixabay.com
None of my theories can be proven of course. And even if God was merciful and gave Adam and Eve all the knowledge they needed to prevent medical trauma from happening to Cain and even if they did everything naturally and right and he still turned out the way he did, or even if he was just born with a darkly motivated disposition, there would still be a harsh reality in this story: You can be the best parent in the world with immeasurable faith, knowledge, and trust in God but sometimes you can still experience a story just as tragic as this one where Cain still kills Abel.
If you're a parent in the trenches of a life with a child from horrible circumstances, I just want to send a message from my phone screen to yours: This is hard, but you can do this. Don't stop praying for miracles on behalf of your child but also know that maybe the miracle you're praying for is actually already in you. The miracle is that you have a heart to love a child who is unloveable to others. The miracle is that you are there for them 'come what may' and 'no matter what'. The miracle is that no matter how dark it gets, you had the heart to stand up to fight for the impossible, and your child's story is better than it would have been (even if it's still tragic) simply because of you. Don't worry yet about how your child's story might end. Celebrate each small success when you have it, and know that no matter what comes, love doesn't have an end. And that's a beautiful thing.
Saturday, January 20, 2018
Sunday, October 15, 2017
(The Martineau's squoze me in this photo like I belong with them, because that's just what they do. P.S. I was more than honored when that cute blonde boy on the bottom left told me yesterday that I'm in his "Top 5 Favorite People". He's such a great kid and I definitely do love and care about him and pray for him. I have a husband and 6 kids, so don't even try to do the math and figure out how it works out when I say Paul is in my "Top 5 Favorite People", too! ☺️ It just works, okay?)