Monday, February 5, 2018

Sometimes Cain Still Kills Abel

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

Should You Need to Find Yourself?

I have heard the theory before that if you know that you're a child of God, then you won't have the "need" to "find yourself", because it explains where you came from and why you are here.

For years that kind of logic was satisfactory to my soul and "knowing" or believing rather that I am a child of God helped me thru a lot of things...maybe almost everything that was difficult for me could somehow be related back to the concept that I was His child and He had a plan for me. Even in my "mid life crisis" about a year ago when I dyed my hair pink because that was the only thing I could control--even THEN, I remember a specific day in September 2016 where I believed it was God himself asking me in my mind: "Who are you Debra Jo?" When I responded out loud, "I don't know anymore," the words came back to me: "You're my child." It was powerful. That day His message was enough. It was strong enough to glide me carefully thru at least the start of the next season of my life.

But then something crazy happened. I gave my life--literally my whole life--to God because He called me to adoption, and then without losing everything tangible I still lost my whole life as I knew it. I lost supports that had ALWAYS been my go-to. I lost my health (dramatically). I lost my 10-year identity as a mom of just boys. I lost the mold I had devoted my life to: the stay-at-home-mom life that used to be the best thing for us. I lost my ability to cope with the stress of entrepreneurship. I lost the ability to enjoy home and family life. I lost my safe havens. I lost the approval I used to have from individuals who used to seem to approve of all my choices. I lost a lot financially.  I LOST MYSELF because I gave everything I had UNTIL I HAD NOTHING left to give. 

I did it all for God. 

Because I was His child.

And this was what He asked for me to do. 

The best of all the things I lost tho is the previous belief I was subconsciously living that success in life is about having a perfect little family with no real world problems. I never want to revert back into that belief system again because it was actually entirely contrary to knowing God and accepting Him.

Maybe "all of what used to be" was simply required in order to pay for the priceless gift of my girls. I would absolutley do it all again even knowing just how deeply dark and painful it would be for countless moments along the way. Perhaps what happened was a law of sacrifice. Maybe you cannot gain something so beautiful unless you fearlessly let go of everything you used to have.

However here I am now and I see that it is time to find myself again. I am not my old self. The old me is sort of here, but I gave her up for a rebirth in the cause of what my Father asked of me. What's almost terrifying to me is that this time God is the one who is telling me to find myself. This time He knows I know I'm His child, because for quite a while, everything I ever used to rely on was stripped away from my life until He was the only one left standing. Now I see that I can be His child and still have the need to FIND myself. I believe He is trusting me to do just that. There is a promise about it even (and I paraphrase)--"whosoever shall lose their life for my sake shall find it." Unfortunately or maybe fortunately, there is not a promise or requirement on the time limit for the "finding". 

So here I am in the season of finding. If you were to ask me outright and if I were to answer honestly, I'd tell you that I don't know who I am yet. 

But here is what I know about myself so far and here are some of the ways I can personally identify (in no particular order):

* I am a mother (bereaved, biological, foster, and adoptive). * I am spiritual and religious: I am a Mormon (raised and personally decided to stay), but inside my heart I am also part non-denominational Christian in daily radio worship, part Buddhist in the search of Nirvana, and part Hippie who wants to move to Sedona for a lengthy period of time (IF ONLY). I also understand my atheist friends and why they would choose to be atheist, but I personally believe in life after death because of Jesus' resurrection and bank on it for healing of the past and for so many future dreams. * I love rainbows no matter what anyone thinks that means--I actually love every single color (except for poop brown) and have never truly decided on one forever favorite color because it changes. It always changes! In elementary my favorite color was sparkly purple; in high school it was royal blue and neon green; at one point it was bright red; currently my colors are azure blue and sunlight yellow. You should have seen my wedding cake and decorations! Basically I like rainbows. * I am a wife to the most selfless, hardworking, handiest, bike-ridingest man who is still a 15 year old at heart, who dances with me in the kitchen, who takes me to spontaneous and late night movie dates for sanity, and who makes me laugh when I am stressed (it takes a special person to be able to know how to handle me, because I am still learning how to handle myself). *  I don't enjoy politics anymore and have major issues with the type of extremes that can do more damage to individuals than the good it promises (I used to fight against only liberal extremes but now I'm even talking about conservative extremes). * I am a teacher with a strangely eclectic resume and I don't entirely understand what it means about me or my life path that I happen to have experience teaching preschool, elementary, junior high, high school, and even college leveled students for subjects ranging from algebra, sign language, general education, music education and more (I obsess that I SHOULD edit my blogs because I know highly intelligent and OCD people will judge my grammar and faulty comma usage, not to mention I worry about all my capitalization, spelling, typos, and autocorrect issues, too). * I am awakening to the dire need for women to stand up for equality because I lived in denial for too long that women are treated as second class citizens even in circles that I belong to, and it's important for my own emotional health to add my voice when the topic needs to be addressed. * I am someone who needs to eat gluten-free. I have a toxic relationship with chocolate, I'm working to break up with dairy, and I care about alkalinity. * I am a homegrown, hometown, homebody girl who has suddenly found myself feeling like I would leave in a heartbeat if I could find any way out. Then I realized I have 6 kids, a husband, and a job, so I bought myself a passport instead. * I'm done pretending to be happy if I'm not. * I'm done with trying to be perfect. * I am accepting that I have no control. * I love Jesus Christ and I crave His grace. *

I still don't know exactly who I am, but I can accept that I am unfinished and being guided by the hands of a loving Savior. I understand now that it's okay for me to be on a journey of questioning, seeking, and finding.  Just because God is my Father doesn't explain everything about who I am or explain anything of what He actually knows about me; it's not shameful to need to find myself. He knows His children perfectly; I think He's also watching with trust and patience to see the person I (or any of us) will eventually unfold to be. I can definitely say that I lost myself for Christ's sake by accepting the path He called me to, and so I trust His promise that I will find myself again. And maybe just when I find it He could ask me to lose myself again, but I want to trust that He'll walk me through it no matter what losing myself might mean. 

It just turns out that the "finding myself" part of my life adventure is quite a journey. Unexpected. Deep. Soul-searching journey. And that's okay. Part of me thinks that's the way it was all meant to be.

💛d.jo












Sunday, October 15, 2017

How Do You Do It?

I can't tell you how many times people say to me or to my husband: "I don't know how you do it."

This week I took a trip with my 6 kids and some friends and their kids. We went to Sedona--inside myself I felt proud and empowered for doing something so brave as a mother. I may have even called my husband and said, "I'm a WOMAN, hear me ROAR! I'm doing this!" The experience was so awesome. The kids and I went hiking, fishing, site-seeing, and of course we also went down Slide Rock with water temperatures in the 40's! Haha! On my third and last run down the slide with a kid, I may or may not have had to ask my friend to help me out of the water because I could no longer breathe OR swim. 🤣 I laughed so hard drying off in the warm sun as it beat down on me and the red rocks.

A lot of people encourage me in my life as a mom with 6 kids, but I'm just a small-fry kind of crazy mom compared to my cousin Tiff.

Yesterday I had the chance to attend the kind of beautiful temple ceremony that Mormons believe connects families together forever. The highest, most sacred, most purposeful, most fulfilling assignment to have in this life to most people but especially to Mormons is to be in a family. To work together, to love each other no matter what, to never abandon, to assist, uplift, and cherish, to teach, to nurture, to protect, and to purposely focus on helping your whole family find God (in a nutshell) is what Mormons believe in the most. 

Well Brandon and Tiff Martineau are the kind of people who live that. They have 14 children, 10 of them adopted. The most recent two family members were sealed yesterday, and the service was beautiful. One-year-old Charlie may have been a little vocal about wanting to eat during the ceremony but the feeling in that room was full of love. All 14 were well behaved as something beautiful and spiritually moving happened for them in that sealing room. This was the last opportunity they'd have in the temple as a whole family before their oldest son, Tristen, leaves for a mission on Wednesday. 

Tiff has helped me a lot this last year through the adoption of my two littles who have been thru trauma. She's given me advice; she's  encouraged me; she's chatised me for not praying enough; she's listened to me; she's empathized with me in ways no one else I know could. She's been there for me IN THE FIRE. I asked her earlier this year, "Tiff, HOW do you do it?"

She responded with, "You just do it, Deej."

So there you have it, Everyone. It's the answer from someone who has been through the fire and is in the trenches still. With all things considered in prudence and moderation, remember that everyone in this world has different capacities and capabilities and THAT'S OKAY. Not everyone needs to or is able to parent 14 children especially with the majority having a trauma history, BUT maybe people like Brandon and Tiff wouldn't have to do so much if more people in the world stepped up to do it, too. Could you imagine if every capable family not only took care of their kids but reached out to other kids in need? WHAT IF all the capable/qualified/interested parents reached out to just one or two kids in need? Then people like the Martineau's wouldn't have to have 14, right? Brandon and Tiff are a fierce Mama and Papa bear tho and they'd NEVER give even one of those 14 to ANYONE else because they love them so much--even the hardest ones. 

But WORLD OUT THERE, can you hear what I'm saying? As a society, do we force such a large burden onto one of the best couples among us because we don't have it within ourselves to be brave enough to do the same type of thing, even if it's something we want to do? 

Do we just ask how people do it and then never find out how to do it ourselves?

IF that's what we do, then we have a tragedy, because a lot of good in this world will never happen simply because we are afraid to try.

It doesn't have to be an adoption journey, but I think this family shows us a lesson we can all use because of their adoption journey. The next time you're facing the largest mountain you've ever climbed, the hardest journey you've ever been on, the scariest black hole you've ever been in, the heaviest weight that's been on your shoulders, OR if you're facing the biggest dream you've ever dared to dream, when it seems unattainable to you and you have the gall to ask yourself, "HOW DO I DO THIS?":

Reach down deep and let your inner voice scream back the words, "YOU JUST DO!"

If you can find that inner strength, you can find the solutions to your problems, and if you focus on one day at a time, eventually there will be a day that you'll look back and realize the strength was in you all along. One day you'll be able to say, "I did it. I really did it."

How do you do something that's bigger than yourself? 

You find a way.
You pray your way.
You make the way: 

YOU JUST DO.


(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?)

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dear Azure

Dear Azure,

It's been 10 years.

Over the last decade there have been countless moments where I believed the vividness of October 13th, 2007 would never fade.

Because I have adopted children who have lived through trauma, I understand now that what I was experiencing in all of those blindsiding moments was something that had a name. Those moments were called trauma triggers. In less than a second my mind, heart, and emotions would be taken directly back to your crash site. I can still see it all now: Melodie checking your pulse, dust in the air, the overturned car, the Priesthood blessing, the people calling 9-1-1, Mitch and the carseat he pulled from the back window, my dad and the other man taking turns with CPR/chest compressions, my cousin Marnie saying, "I think that's my neighbor," the shocked and crying bystanders, and (most heart wrenching for me) your baby with his wide eyes and cute PJ's, the painfully long amount of time for paramedics to get there, the chill in the the wind as it blew the tall mountain grass, the sound of the LifeVac, and more.

What's interesting is that over time the things that used to trigger flashbacks have faded in a way. I don't know if I've taught myself how to block the memory because it's too painful or if time really does have a way of healing all wounds like they say. I've noticed that certain milestone years are harder for me to deal with when your son and my son reach their own big life events (since our baby's are almost exactly the same age). The one thing I haven't forgotten is the way your baby looked that day. I hope I actually never forget his face.

He's growing up now, Azure.

But I know you know that. Whenever I have seen him, he has been doing great! Brian and Ginger are amazing parents and they teach him and all their children all the right things. 

I used to bawl every time I saw the decorative burp cloth my mom and I had used to wipe the dirt out of his eyelashes. It's yellow with tye-died frogs; we put water on the corner of it but Eric kept shaking his head so we stopped trying to get the dirt away. He had been through a lot and he just met us, so if he wanted us to leave the dirt alone we would. All there was left to do was hold him and cry for him and for you. I still have the cloth at my house, but now I don't cry when I see it anymore. Maybe that's because I know he's growing up beautifully and because now I know he's okay.

The day you died and in subsequent weeks I felt guilty that we couldn't save you. I felt this deep internal need to apologize to your family. We did everything we possibly could. Even after you were flown to the hospital and even after watching the paramedics have difficulty getting you to respond with the heartbeat machine, I still prayed and even believed that you could and would recover. I sort of imagined maybe we would meet you once and you'd be able to go on with living the rest of your life. But instead, God had another plan. Even with that other plan, sometimes I still feel guilty.

I have wondered if I was one of the reasons God wouldn't let you stay. Did you have to die because I needed to learn something from you?

Sometimes I wonder that because I feel like it's unusual and strange that even tho I never knew you in your lifetime, I feel now that you're one of my best and closest friends. Unless others have been thru a similar experience that kind of a statement might creep people out, but it is what it is.

There have been so many times over the last 10 years where I believed YOU helped me, but especially this last year I have recognized you often.

Last year on Oct 13th, my daughters came to my house for their first over-night stay. That day was actually a really hard day and I was up almost all night trying to comfort my littlest girl in the confusion, anger, anxiety, sadness, and stress of her massive life disruption. But overall I didn't think the date itself was a coincidence. I felt that it was a message from you to me that when I prayed for angels to help my adopted children find their way to our home that you were one of many on the path who helped answer that prayer.

It might sound funny, but earlier this year I did a visualization exercise that involved colors and when my stressors were gone, my remaining "happy colors" were blue and yellow (but not just any blue and yellow, specifically the color of the morning sky blue and the pale yellow of the sun at that time of day). Later I was searching to find the accurate name of that particular blue--when I realized it was called Azure, it felt like anything but a coincidence and it comforted me to know you were in it.

There have been some tragedies within my circles this year. When a friend in my old ward died I found it unusual that I had been specifically in contact with your family that day and I couldn't stop thinking about the things that have happened to me in knowing you and your family. I felt like you helped my friend and also helped me help my friends during that time.

A couple months ago my uncle, aunt, and cousins were in a terrible car crash. The kids were totally fine. That was the first sign that made me believe you were helping them. I feel like saving the children in a miraculous way is your signature mark of involvement. That's what happened when you died and your son was unscathed. That's what happened in the car accident of my aunt and uncle who you knew in your lifetime and their grandkids. My uncle is in Heaven with you now, too, but when he was in critical condition and I showed up to the hospital, I found it so unusual that not only was he located at a hospital hardly anyone I know tends to ever go to, but my aunt was located ON THE EXACT FLOOR that your mother worked on, and that despite my crazy family day traveling, that I walked around the corner at exactly the same time your mom did and that she was there to give ME a hug. The "coincidental" nature, the exact timings, the personal correlations between circumstances...it just seemed like everything was orchestrated perfectly. I just thought, "Who else do I know in Heaven who cares and is aware of Donna's schedule and MY schedule and would be able to coordinate the two precisely?" It just wasn't a coincidence to me and I want to thank you for being there for my aunt and uncle and cousins and me and I'm sure many others from your hometown circles during that difficult time. 

At my cousin, Danny's graveside service, I was on my way to leave but wanted to find your grave, too. I did, and was happy to see your family was there--your mom, Dad, and sister. I gave them hugs and felt love from them and a hello from you.

And one last memory, a little over a year ago, I sent your son a birthday present. The particular deal on the Lego set, the particular stop in your tracks moment walking by it, the way his name popped into my mind, the way it connected me to him and Ginger that week as we talked back and forth...it seemed to me like you were in it with us. I feel like it was your birthday present to him, too.

So Azure, I know you're there. I see you in miracles and involved with God's timing. 

You're doing so much good and I believe you're doing more for all of us who care about you than we can truly know. I'm not even your family member, but I feel a steadiness from you that has taught me to believe more than ever in life after death.  If you've done this for me as a mere acquaintance from your lifetime, I can only imagine the miracles and blessings and assistance you've been orchestrating for your family and for your little boy.

Anyway, I want you to know that I care about you and your family. I am grateful for them. We have become connected together thru the pain of losing you and also in the hope of seeing you again. I hope that my association in their lives is not a trauma trigger for them simply because the day I met you was the day you died. Because of that fact I feel like an imposter in your family's life who has no right to feel so close to you, but they have been so kind and have allowed me and my family to feel part of them. The Biglers and Starkes have such big hearts. Sometimes there is no easy way around sad life events and the way they can affect any of us. 

You're probably busy so I'll let you go, but thanks for letting me be connected to you. I still don't understand why you had to go 10 years ago. I think this day and the weeks leading up to it each year will always feel heavy to me, but there is beauty that has come from the sadness along with an internal calm and reassurance that you're still there--that you're still looking out for people you love in very specific ways to show them you care. It gives me a true hope and belief that life after death exists. Because of that I believe it's true that someday I really will get to see you again and I look forward to giving you a hug and being able to thank you in person for becoming my friend and for being there for me and my family in a way no one else could be.

Love,
D-Jo




Friday, October 6, 2017

Blood-line vs Spirit-line

So my children who are adopted do not feel like my adopted children, they feel like my biological children (except for the time that they missed in our home and the struggles they deal with because of their birth families and also except for their biologically related health issues that are not in my other children's genes).  But even through those struggles, I literally love them LIKE I love the other kids.

I try to explain this to people, and very few understand.

A few months ago I found myself trying to explain this to friends who do understand, but I'm used to people not understanding and so on the 2nd or 3rd time of me saying it, "I love them LIKE my biological children - it feels EXACTLY the same way."  They were like, "WE KNOW!"  It made me laugh afterwards because I could see it in their faces - a peaceful knowing smile.  They KNEW 100% what I'm talking about.  They have biological and adopted children, and they GET IT, because they know it's the same unconditional feeling, the same forever-destined-and-connected meant-to-be-together feeling.

It's absolutely NOT a begruding love feeling, NOT an I'm-baby-sitting-someone-else's-kid-for-the-long-term feeling, NOT an I'm-sealed-to-you-so-I-might-as-well-learn-how-to-live-with-you feeling. 

It's such a BEAUTIFUL feeling. 

I didn't get to have my girls through domestic baby adoption.  We got to get our girls after struggle and mid-heart-ache.  The pain of their former childhood life is cause for us to rock them like babies in therapy; and even feed them like babies at times, even tho they are preschool age--we are trying to make up that time in a way.  I didn't get to meet them at the hospital and be there for every milestone and for every cry.  I didn't get to carry them in my womb and protect them from the instant I was aware of their existence.  But the SECOND I knew spiritually that there was a child or children in the world that were meant to be with me and I didn't know who or where they were, it was a gnawing, terrible feeling that I didn't know where my kids were.  For 10 months (sort of the same as gestation of a child) I would count my 4 children and I was always wondering where the others were so I would pray for my kids that weren't with us. It never felt like I had all my children, UNTIL the day we had both the girls together, and Embry looked up and smiled at me - this beautiful, "please-keep-me-I-want-a-forever-family-so-badly-don't-you-think-you-could-love-me" smile.  INSTANTLY it was like the heavens opened.  There was sunshine all around. My husband and I BOTH felt it.  We both KNEW.  These were OUR KIDS.

It didn't matter that I didn't birth them, they found us, and they fill a part of my heart that was empty without them. I could never imagine my life without my girls; I call them my baby girls, even though they were older when we found each other.

So this conversation led us to a concept I'd never really thought about in this light before.  As a society, and in genealogy, we put so much emphasis on our blood lines, and the importance of family.  But you know what?  Sometimes that's all messed up.  In a lot of ways, the blood line means literally nothing compared to the spirit line.  

One of my grandfathers was rejected by his birth father & by extension his birth father's family (because my grandfather's existence was unconventional), and then he also struggled to be accepted by his step-father who I have heard had never fully accepted him.  I believe that for Grandpa's whole life, he never fit in completely.  He was a lone man carrying on the name of a father he never knew, being raised by his mother's birth family and rejected in a way by his mothers new husband.  Did my grandpa have ANYTHING to do with his unconventional beginning?  Nope.  But he suffered the consequences and the internal heartache of not belonging his whole life.  He worked through it, and he found a beautiful woman and they built a successful life and family together. He chose to be different than the fathers who weren't there for him, and he learned life lessons from his aunt and uncle who stepped in to raise him.

(Fast forward)

A couple days after adoption, my 4 year old looked at me and said, "Thank you, Mama!  Thank you for calling me Borden." It made me want to cry because she KNEW and could FEEL a different level of belonging simply with the name change alone.  And now I think about my grandpa and the belonging that he never was fully allowed to have.  How much different would it have been for him if he had been able to or allowed to change his last name to his mom's maiden name or to his step-father's name?  It would have been a different level of acceptance that transcends so much more than the implications of what the "blood-line" is. 

I believe that eventually my grandfather rose above the implications of not belonging anywhere with his name, but it's also because he had no other choice.

This past Spring we were in the Easter Pageant, and my girls had no problems detaching from me and attaching to new people in our backstage groups. I remember being frustrated one night and I prayed in desperation, "Will this EVER feel natural?" The inner voice that came back immediately said, "Does your relationship feel natural with Me?" 

It turns out our personal relationships with God can feel completely detached or completely personal depending on the seasons of our lives. But generally speaking if you want to know God, the relationship gets closer and more natural OVER TIME. 

It also turns out that we are NOT God's "blood" children. It turns out WE ARE ALL ADOPTED. God doesn't love us any less because we share the same blood-line as our earthly birth-parents. He doesn't accept us any less because we are only spiritually and not biologically called His, but He still let's us carry His name and be called the children of Christ. 

So I have found that it can be true that in some family situations there are times where blood lines can literally mean NOTHING. When it feels that way, adoption itself can be a beautiful thing because THIS family is OUR family. End of story.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Suffocating Love and Liberating Love

Have you ever loved someone so much that you were heartbroken over their choices? You knew it was their right to do what they were doing and yet you were crushed to the core that they chose something you believed was wrong for them?  You could see the way ahead was full of treacherous consequences and you knew that path would not bring them happiness, so you mourned their choice and you mourned their path. Maybe your reaction even made them feel bad or like less-of-a-person, but you were in so much pain over their choice that maybe you couldn't see it amid your own world crashing down from your giant and broken heart.

OR, have you ever loved someone so much that you wanted to teach them things? Maybe you wanted to teach your little helper how to crack an egg, how to fold laundry, or how to disinfect a toilet.  Did you do it FOR them or walk them thru it with directions? Did you let them try? Did you let them fail? Did you ever get to a point where you trusted them to do it on their own? 

Have you loved in a way that required you to give EVERYTHING, until you had NOTHING left to give?

Have you loved in a way that made you so exhausted you became apathetic and dropped all the expectations? Has your love taken you to a crossroads where there was nothing more you could do but throw someone you love to the wolves in a tough-love style and make them figure it out on their own? 

Have you loved so much you wished you could force someone to do what you felt was best for them? Has your love actually hurt others even tho you didn't intend to?

When it comes to all the ways the human heart can experience love for another, I have most recently found that true love--the way I currently understand God's love--is the kind of love that allows you to want for someone else to have the very thing they hope and dream for themselves, whether or not it is what you would choose for them.

That is a liberating kind of love. It involves trust. It will literally free the person you love from the suffocating trap your original love had actually built for them and it just might lighten your own heart in the process. 

Love can be painful and difficult. You can love someone with your whole heart and still get it wrong. True love for others is the kind of love that lets them become, in their own way and on their own terms, exactly who they desire to be.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Great and Abominable & The Wheat and the Tares

Have you ever wondered WHICH church is "The Great and Abominable"?  I know I have. It's super easy to look around and finger point. That's what humans do best it seems.

But you know what's harder? To look inward.

What if The Great and Abominable Church was IN us? What would that mean? How would you forsake it? How would it change the way you view everything (yes, EVERYTHING)? How would you deal with that? How would you rise above it? How might you break free from its chains and cling to the truth that was also in you all along, but you just now have been able to start listening to its sermon?

What about "The Wheat and the Tares"? Have you ever looked around and wondered WHO the tares were all around you and shivered in fear about how they might hurt you?

What would you do if you realized the tare was actually inside you? Perhaps you would start shivering in fear for the damage you've unknowingly done to others. How would you cope with that? How would you change? Could you uproot the tare that was in you, and also work to protect the wheat you now see around you?

It's painful to look within--that's why it's easy to NOT do it. But it's important to accept what is or has been, forgive yourself, and also move forward as you heal from the denial that had previously chained you up in the very things you didn't want to be.