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: 


(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 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 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.


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.

Friday, August 25, 2017

My Soul Is Hungry For Grace

I've spent a lot of my life feeling like if I could just do better, I would make it (to the end of whatever goal I was working on).

If I could just choose the right all the time, everything would be okay.

If I did everything correctly, then I would yield the desired results.

That's not actually how this world works, though.  In SOME circumstances those kinds of IF/THEN statements are true.  But in so many circumstances - especially in the circumstances that people like to turn a blind eye to - those same IF/THEN statements become false.

So what are you supposed to do when everything you've ever believed or understood to be true doesn't actually work out to be true all the time?  That's when you want to lose faith.  That's when you question.

In the end, though, you realize that you just needed to question the lens you were using to view the truth you'd been taught.  For example, your questioning will lead you to find the truth of Jesus Christ's gospel vs. the gospel as defined by __(fill in the blank)__.  And that's when you find that the truth has been the same yesterday, today, and forever, but the trick is that you didn't actually understand it all the way, and you still have a lot to learn in order to understand it completely.


I was talking to a friend about her Christian Church, and I had attended a similar service at another church for the funeral of a friend.  I mentioned that I LOVED the speaker system, and the worship team, and the band (I'm a music person, what can I say?).  My friend who attends that kind of church all the time said, "Really?  I think it's all a little over rated."

I was shocked.  After 30+ years of attendance at a traditional Mormon church setting with subdued organ playing, and after being "on the worship team" of sorts at various times leading the choir, or playing organ, when I've attended other churches I have LOVED the difference in the music found at these other churches.  I love the music at my own church, too, but I also loved what was found in the spiritual expression, and the lyrics of these songs that were new to me.

I have also attended a Catholic wedding - in the which the organ player played the most exhilarating, stunning, full-of-open-stops, breath-taking, spiritually moving, tear-welling kind of organ music I've never yet been allowed (or brave enough) to play at my church.

I guess what happens to us all in our different churches is that we get used to the things we have on a normal basis and then sometimes they don't feel new to us, and they seem over-rated, but that doesn't make any of them bad, or not useful.

I can't wait for the day that either all the believers of Jesus on their own accord, OR the Lord Himself in the Second Coming (whichever might happen first), will combine all the best music from all the churches, and we all feel spiritually uplifted by the expression as One Fold with One Shepherd, because there will be a style and message that reaches everyone (not to mention, we'll all know Him personally by then, so we'll all REALLY be singing our hearts out to the hymns at whatever congregation we attend).  So since that unity across all the believers in Jesus hasn't necessarily happened, yet, I have made my own hybrid worshiping experience - I listen to Christian Rock all the week long, and then I thoroughly enjoy the organ music at my church because it's different and I haven't heard it for a week, and then I daydream about the day that we can install amazing sound systems for the "worship team" in all the Mormon churches, and play organ with open & exhilarating stops, backed by a full gospel choir. :)


Dallin H Oaks gave a talk 9 years ago called, "Have you been saved"

It talks about all the different meanings people in our church ascribe to the word "saved" or "salvation".  Mormons believe in at least 6 different meanings or angles to that word.

SO THIS IS MY OPINION:  If Mormons have so much to focus on with this extra truth and knowledge that we proclaim to have, surely just because we have "more" restored truth than other sects of Christianity doesn't necessarily mean that all of us in the church UNDERSTAND all of the truth.  Sometimes we can get a little self-righteous because we say we have "all the truth".   However, the rest of Christianity is hyper-focused on GRACE (and Mormons are focused on it, too, but they tend to use the word "Atonement" in a synonymous way, so we think we believe something different, but it's not exactly true that we believe in something different because the word sounds different, but we're just using different words that have basically the same ascribed meanings in the way we're using those particular words). Essentially, IF the rest of the Christian world is hyper-focused on Grace, surely they may have discovered some beautiful things about Grace that we still might not understand as individuals, because across the board we're still trying to learn everything there is to know about all these other parts to being saved, so it can be easy to miss or forget some basic parts to understanding grace.

Let's talk lyrics:

Casting Crowns

"Jesus friend of sinners the one who's writing in the sand
Make the righteous turn away and the stones fall from their hands
Help us to remember we are all the least of these
Let the memory of Your mercy bring your people to their knees

Nobody knows what we're for, only against, when we judge the wounded What if we put down our signs crossed over the lines and loved like You did
Oh Jesus friend of sinners
Open our eyes to world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus friend of sinners break our hearts for what breaks yours"

This is a beautiful prayer that resonates in my soul.  It's everything that Mormons believe, too, but it wasn't written by a Mormon.  That doesn't take the truth away.  I hear this song and I see Alma 31 enacted in a new way - I view the story of the people who thought they were righteous up on their Rameumptoms, but in a new way.  This song reminds me of the Sadducees and the Pharisees who missed the whole point of the gospel with all of their extra self-imposed & made up rules.  I think about the way I've defined the gospel and held myself to certain standards that were not written anywhere else but in my head, and then judged others who didn't live up to those standards, and then subsequently judged myself when I couldn't keep up all the extra extras like the Jews and the Pharisees, but have realized that just like the people on the Rameumptom, I was missing the whole point of the gospel when I got caught up in that outlook...the trick is that I didn't think I had that perspective, and I certainly wasn't TRYING to have that perspective, but sometimes the pride of that kind of thinking can sneak up in certain ways.  So that's why I NEED this particularly beautiful prayer.

"Point to You" by We Are Messengers

"I know You want my heart
My bruises and my scars
I'm coming as I am
The only way I can
I can't forget from where I've come
And what my heart's been rescued from
Yeah when they ask me who
I owe my whole life to
I point to You
I point to You
I want so badly just to finally get well
But I don't want a quick fix and emotional self
I will be honest with my humanity
No I'm not perfect and I don't pretend to be
I need a miracle
Some healing for my heart
I need a revelation
A brand new start
I want simplicity
Where I can rest
But I need a miracle to put my past to death"

These words are SO REAL.

They speak the feelings of my heart and the way the Lord saves me in grace every day. Christ wants me even with my bruises and my scars.  They make me who I am because I'm only as good as my entirely and truthfully broken version of myself.  I can only come to Him with a broken heart and a contrite spirit if I know where I am broken and stop pretending that I'm perfect so that others will think well of me.  Just because someday I hope to overcome these things doesn't mean that I have yet.  If and when I do, it certainly doesn't mean that if I overcame it I did it on my own with my own works and strength.  Jesus is at every step of the way. If you have a particular life circumstance that you think you earned, Jesus was actually the one who gave it to you.  If you have a particular life circumstance that crumbled apart no matter what you could do to save it, Jesus either took it away from you because sometimes He allows that to teach us things, or maybe the crumbling of that circumstance wasn't caused by His will, but He's going to be there for you and carry you as He manifests Himself by picking up all the pieces for you until you can get on your feet again.  There are other reasons that things happen to people, but these are some very consistent scenarios I've been finding in my own life.


At any rate, I'm tired now.  Not just because I'm up late blogging.  But I'm tired for a lot of reasons.  And that's why I need Jesus.  That's why sometimes I have to pray minute by minute.  That's why I have Christian Rock on all day.  That's why I play organ at church.

I need His grace more than ever before.

My heart and mind and soul is HUNGRY, THIRSTY, and CRAVING His beautiful, amazing, liberating, life-creating, perspective-changing, freeing, healing, renewing, & empowering grace.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

People Who Foster and Adopt for the $$$

We've all heard it before: "Why are those foster kids in daycare so long? Clearly that family only does it for the money."

It's true that there are news stories chalked full of grisly horrors enacted by individuals who were or who had been licensed to be foster parents, and who (while enacting crimes) collected checks from the state.  I've heard those stories.

Last May I sat in PS-MAPP.   There were times I found myself staring around the room and wondering about people's back stories.  Internally I evaluated what they thought of me, and what I thought of them, and what all of our lives might look like when the classes were over.  How well might we fair on the emotional journey?  I even raised my hand at one point to respond to a question during those 30 hours and said, "Well...maybe that's because some people are in this for the wrong reasons and do it 'for the money'."  Even now I wonder where that thought came from.  I've decided that particular idea was verbalized because the public eye and scrutiny on the system is palpable.  I can understand a small degree of the scrutiny as your tax dollars fund a broken system that limps along and scrapes to get by while trying to fulfill a feat much bigger than anyone understands.  However, too many scrutinize by stereotype and end there - the staring glare of judgement does more damage than good because their words cut down the very people who still want to believe in hope for the weary, and change for the weak.

Over a year later, I have come to know and understand what truly happens "in the system".  After 30 hours of training, I found that the first 30 hours and the subsequent days, weeks, months, and years of raising a child with trauma post family disruption was much harder, more deeply emotional, more taxing than any of the preparation classes could explain.

Many days I wonder - WHO in their right mind WOULD do this for the money?  COULD they do this FOR the MONEY?!?!?!?!

It sounds so extremely deplorable, doesn't it?  Maybe that's why the idea is entertained and maybe even romanticized into the only idea that is allowed to be heard.  This idea is proclaimed in "The Space Between Us" and enacted - a drunk and neglectful foster father collecting the check for himself.  Sure it's happened to real people, but why do outsiders looking in think this is the norm?

WOULD someone who needed cash sign up to foster the state's children if they knew it would take almost an entire year or more from start to finish just to get a license?  COULD they live for 10 months on negative income while waiting to get that paper?  A hungry belly can't quite make it that long.  Surely applying for a job, or even pan-handling would yield quicker results.  While desperately waiting for the funds could they drum up the money to get their house up to code, too?

WOULD someone stay in this for the income when they've been lied to time and again by case workers or professionals who hid large portions of the truth purposely in order to keep children "adoptable".  Even if they weren't purposely lied to, COULD someone stay in this life path for a lengthy amount of time while dealing with ignorance or incompetence from the inexperienced people who boss around the foster parents in the trenches?  WHAT IF people were told they were being given children with no special needs, but the the children really did have special needs...could the new parents handle that burden "for the money"?

WOULD YOU stay in it "for the money" if you lost life long friends (or family) who turned their backs on you or who took sides because they judged your intentions and didn't understand why you had to handle your situation the way you had to handle it?  What if they couldn't understand your new style of parenting and freely told you so?  Is that worth it?

COULD you stay in it for the money if your family couldn't immediately understand the WHY of this life choice you had taken to be a foster parent?

WHAT IF every where you turned, the therapists, your friends, strangers, family members alike, your spouse, and let's not forget YOURSELF all spoke to you with a loud voice of criticism and told you that you're handling the entire situation wrong?  What if they told you that what you're doing to your biological kids (by making them go without some of your immediate attention in order to take care of the secondary trauma crisis following a disruption of your newly adopted foster kids) is no better than what the original parents did to your children who were forced into care because of extreme and awful circumstances?  The bar of comparison won't even be close to true or fair, but you will be judged to the core and deeper on every move you make.  Could you stay in the fight for just $19.65/day?  Could you do this as a kinship emergency placement for a year or more on just $0.30/day?

If you were handed a child or two or three with screaming fits and PTSD, whose life experiences have rewired their brains, and you weren't ready to give up on the idea that healing is possible--if your mission to help them find a path of healing cost you uncounted hourly wages so that you could attend therapy after therapy, if you were to run out of gas money in the middle of the month because you couldn't afford all the medical miles of 12 appointments a week, would you stay in this for the money?

If your children with trauma ate more than multiple non-traumatized children on a daily basis....  If they cleared your cabinets, pantry and fridge faster than you could fill them because their first life experiences continue to tell them they don't have enough food....  If you HAD TO (not wanted to) turn to WIC or the United Food Bank or food stamps or any other program you could find just to get them what they need, even while participating in feeding therapy, could you actually do it "for the money"?

WHAT IF you had to let a child go because after all you could do, after all the tears you cried, and prayers you could pray weren't enough - is that heartbreak because you no longer needed the money?

WHAT IF your own emotional, mental, and physical health was affected along with every other member of your family?  Would it suddenly be worth $19.65 a day or $0.30/day?

WHAT if you had to pay almost $200 or more WEEKLY to take your foster kids to daycare, because even though the foster children get some help for those kinds of services, it's not covered 100% by the state, but you cannot stay home with them all day because you are legally required to prove that you can fund your personal bills on your own without foster care reimbursements, so then you have to continue working full time thru the trauma crisis, while also paying for daycare and/or respite with a qualified adult, but then you also have to take time off of work to make it to all of the medical and behavioral health appointments so your income including the state reimbursements starts taking a negative turn that isn't easily corrected, does that mean that your heart is only in this "game" because you "need the money"?  COULD you stay in it for the money if you get a month behind on bills?  What about 2?  What about 3?

There are so many more angles to the family and personal strain that is carried by these families, because every situation is different, but I think you get the point I'm trying to illustrate.  And let's not forget about private adoption families - we all know they pay up front to jump into the world of trauma - no one warns them how hard it will be.  Many lose homes, go bankrupt, have extreme marital stress.  Many of them are taken to a place where they need financial help to get them through the cross they have chosen to bear.  Did they do it all FOR THE MONEY?

Every foster and adoptive family's horror stories are different, and yet there are so many threads across all of them that are the same.

When it comes to these despicable people we've all heard about in news-stories and in movies, it makes me wonder where on earth these individuals really are.  I'm quite certain that if you know any foster or adoptive parents who chose to adopt domestically through the state, and who thereby collect a reimbursement to help their children navigate the rest of their childhood, the likelihood of you knowing one of the disgusting human beings we've all heard about is quite low - I have developed a relatively large network now of friends who live this crazy foster parent life, and let's just say, I haven't met a single person who is "in it for the money", yet.

What is more despicable than the idea of people fostering or adopting for the wrong reasons, is the truth that our collectively judge-mental perspective on the people in the trenches is unequivocally false.  Because our perspective lens is false it isolates and damages the people who are just trying to help and turns them into monsters.  What's actually true, however, is that across the board, foster and adoptive parents are just good people with big hearts who are trying to take on burdens that are far larger than they can imagine while hoping to make a small dent of change for one helpless child at a time.

If you're on the outside looking in like I used to be, it could potentially be high time for you to jump in and find out what fostering and adopting is all about.  The way this journey changes your life perspective, the way it teaches you to forget about everyone else's opinions and rely on God, and the way it helps you learn to love is worth far more than any dollar sign that exists in the entire world.

To my fellow fostering & adoption friends, many of whom are beaten down and have taken on far more than they feel they can bear, here is a quote a fellow trauma mama gave to me at a time that I really needed it.  Today this is for you:

 (Photo credit - quote shared thru facebook)

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Gotta Steal to Eat; Gotta Eat to LIVE

Did you ever watch Aladdin and wonder what it's like to be forced to steal food so you could live?

Most people would say, "I can't even imagine." 

{Photo Credit:;_ylt=AwrTccF8DIxZ_9UAEbInnIlQ?p=aladdin+gotta+steal+to+eat&fr=yhs-mozilla-002&fr2=piv-web&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-002#id=10&}

Thanks to early trauma and neglect in her pre-adoption life, my 4 year old daughter knows what that's like.  Her brain has been hardwired to think she's going to die if she doesn't eat the second she is hungry.

Maybe that sounds like an exaggeration.

It's not.

She's now safe in a loving home and has been legally considered "safe" for almost 2 full years, but still her every day experience is ruled by her early trauma regarding FOOD.  If her tummy even THINKS it might need to grumble in the near future, she can't break out of the first step on "Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs" to save her life.  DEEP INSIDE HER MIND, finding food is what will save her life, and it's always been that way for her. 


I have some cousins who adopted 7 children.  One of their kids has always LOVED food.  He loved it so much that for his birthday one year that was ALL HE WANTED.  Food is what they bought him - his own food - his favorite foods.  I remember liking their Facebook post with a picture of the special food bundle they got for him and I remember thinking it was cute.  I may have even ignorantly said, "That's hilarious!"

Now I have children from a similar background as my cousins' kiddo.  Let me tell you.  This kind of thing is NOT CUTE.  And it's NOT EVEN CLOSE TO FUNNY.

I will CLARIFY what Aladdin was alluding to since I currently have the time:

Early Trauma & Neglect can cause children to...

*Eat until their stomach is distended
*Say they're hungry (and seriously mean it) after eating everything off of a large plate
*Perform the Mother of all Meltdowns if they don't get a snack the second they want it
*Hoard food in their rooms, in their backpacks, in their closets, under their beds, etc.
*Spend any gift money they receive on food items instead of on clothes or toys
*Yell at the top of their lungs about anything and everything if dinner isn't ready by the usual time
*Continually play with food in the pantry
*Have most of their imaginary play centered around eating
*Avoid social activities with peers because they want to stay perpetually by the snacks
*Want food every time they are nervous or are in a new situation
*Dramatically increase your grocery shopping bill 
*Lose control or awareness of the internal sensor that let's them know they've eaten enough.

Those are just a FEW of the things that MIGHT happen. 


Recently I attended "Meet the Teacher Night" with all of my children.  Big Sister got a pack of Goldfish crackers from her teacher.  Each child had a different teacher, though, so not all the children got goldfish.  Almost everyone else in the family was content to allow Big Sister to have the goldfish to herself.  She was actually willing to share them, but it wasn't the right time to eat them yet.  Little Sister couldn't handle the idea of delayed gratification even though she knew we would eat in 10 minutes when we got home.  She knew the goldfish belonged to Big Sister.  I put the cracker package in my pocket to save for Big Sister while we were going thru the classrooms for the kids. 

As for Little Sister - she could not get her mind off the crackers even though there were many other distractions and attention getters.  As for boundaries?  There's no such thing when she's hungry (AKA HANGRY).  It doesn't matter what Mom says; it doesn't matter who the food belongs to.   Her mind was screaming to her that she needed to eat in order to live, and so when she thought I wouldn't notice, she stole the Goldfish right out of my pocket.  When I stopped her hand with the package in it, she lied that she didn't do it.

At 4 years old.

As awful as stealing and lying to cover up is, the crazy part is that she wasn't trying to be bad.

She LITERALLY felt and believed that she needed to steal to eat, and that she needed to eat to live.  Her impulses were all about survival of the fittest. 


One last memory - about a year and a half ago when Mitch & I were contemplating foster/adoption, I had a friend who was very close to a kind Christian family who had adopted 5 kids.  His girlfriend was a nanny for them, and he said, "They spend $500 a week on groceries." 

You know what I thought?  I thought $500 a week was absurd for that size of a family.  I had 4 kids at the time (so just one less) and our family was only spending $200 a week on groceries.  I figured they weren't shopping very wisely...they weren't getting deals.

Well, it just turns out that I knew nothing.

My 2 new children eat MORE food than the other children combined, and THAT is what Aladdin was talking about. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Good Feelings, Bad Feelings, and What God Feels

I recently heard someone say: "Jesus wasn't angry at the adulteress; He just forgave her."

There was a day I would have possibly interpreted that story in the same way.  But I've been viewing things in an entirely different light.  My reaction to this statement now is, "How do you know that?"

All too often we unknowingly project assumptions on God.  I know I have previously felt that anger is a bad emotion.  We don't have a lot of details from the scriptures on exactly what He was thinking in that moment, so people may assume He had no anger whatsoever.

What if He DID have anger?  He still chose compassion, and that's still a good lesson to learn.

Our favorite family therapist made the comment, "Well, He was half God.  We're completely mortal, so it's hard for us to entirely understand how He did the things He did."

That was a great point.

My cousin had the thought - "We don't know how long He was writing in the sand, or WHAT He was writing.  We also don't know everything He said to her.  Maybe He said some things to her that were just for her."

Another great point.

I've heard other theological views, one in particular said that Jesus' question meant not if you have no sin, but that if you were not guilty of THIS same particular sin, you could cast the first stone. And they all dropped it.

That's a really deep angle with heavier implications.

I've wondered before - perhaps this woman was a victim of mysogyny, and with the backwards things of the world, perhaps she was being raped, and then shamed for it (because how else would a group of men really be able to "catch her in the act"), so in that case how unfair that the perpetrator(s) were not also going to be stoned. And no wonder all the stones would be dropped.

But Jesus said, "Go thy way and sin no more," which is not something you'd say to a rape victim, so then it makes me believe there wasn't this hidden angle to the story...but...what if?  Would there have been some angry/heartbroken/disappointed feelings involved in the situation no matter who the feelings were directed at?  I imagine so.


(Photo credit: Google Search/reiki30.blogspot)

A few weeks back I was riding home from the Grand Canyon with some 4th graders.  We watched Enchanted, and Giselle demonstrated exactly what I've been thinking.  She didn't know what anger was - she always sugar coated it. She ran from it.  Surely such an emotion is something that SHOULDN'T be felt, but Robert had experienced divorce and hard-knocks, so his life perspective didn't include sugar coating.  It included harsh reality of dreams broken and love lost while Giselle still had pure belief in "unicorns" and the easy kind of happily-ever-afters. He made me laugh because he says to her in this scene something like, "I'm ANGRY.  It's an unpleasant emotion.  Have you ever heard of it?"

I think Giselle's type of mentality is the reason people like her interpret situations in the way they do.  They're running.  For the ones who are RUNNING TO the ideal of what they want to become, they think that in order to rise above what they're feeling they have to NOT feel it.

But the opposite is true.

You have to recognize and experience what you're going through in order to know - and "knowing" is more than having a book-smart knowledge.  You have to learn how to feel, but too often what we feel and experience here on earth is pretty crummy and so there's no way it logically seems to be the answer to get to the happily-ever-after goal we're reaching.  So that's why people RUN FROM what they're feeling.  They deny it.  They say they're okay when they're not. They say they're not really mad. They want to be Christ-like, so then they think that in order to be like Him, they can't experience what they're experiencing.

So what does God feel?

He feels everything.  And I think He still feels it.  So to clarify, I want to believe that He didn't just feel everything we have felt at one previous time...such as just in the Garden, or just on the Cross. 

He still feels it WITH US.  

I believe that in order to be able to live with Him and abide in His presence that instead of learning how to NOT FEEL, we will need to eventually be able to understand and be able to cope with feeling everything.

I believe that God feels all the feelings from all the angles.  In regards to anger, yes He feels it.  In Isaiah He says, "For all this, my anger is not turned away, but my hand is stretched out still."

When it comes to my situation with my adopted children, I believe that at the very same time that Jesus understands and feels the injustices of what brought my children here, that He understands the why of what happened better than I do.  He understands the addictions; He understands the sequences of abuse and events that caused their birth parents to end up where they did.  At the very same moment that I am mad at the mess that was created, and the wrong and terrible things that happened to my children as infants and toddlers, I am also grateful that they are with me now because of their broken paths.  It's hard - you'd think the gratitude would erase everything, but it doesn't quite.  It doesn't erase everything yet because I'm feeling everything at the same time and I'm feeling what my kids are feeling WHEN they feel it, too:  anger, gratitude, betrayal, grief, excitement, change, anxiety, joy, depression, hope, forgiving, frustrations, awakening, exhaustion. It's a total overload, because so many conflicting things are ALL TRUE.  

It's TRUE that their crappy beginning to this life caused trauma over and over, and it's also TRUE that their broken paths led them to a stable and happier path, but the 2nd hasn't magically erased the first - what happened to them was still wrong and crappy, but was it caused by choices or destiny, or a combination of both?  Destiny or not, we're in this vortex of feelings trying to make sense of it all. Ironically enough, in all these emotions I have previously felt alone, but I don't feel alone anymore and I interpret companionship of others placed in my life and of unusual coincidences of healing to explain and give proof to my belief that GOD HIMSELF FEELS IT ALL WITH US.  I believe HE FEELS MORE, because HE HOLDS ALL THINGS IN HIS HANDS, and HE IS WITH ALL OF US in our rotten choices, in our good choices, in our heart-breaks, in our triumphs -- He feels it all.

But He's not the one running.

I'm learning that when you have way too many feelings to run from, the only thing you can do is recognize what you experience and accept your feelings to learn from them.

I tell myself I can't be mad anymore at all these adults before me who had their chance to pick up the pieces of my daughter's lives, because if it weren't for all of their choices (even if I disagreed with them) then I wouldn't be here coming to know God, and I wouldn't have my beautiful children.  

But you know what? Sometimes I still get mad.

Some days I am at peace and content with what's happened.

Other days I'm broken-hearted for my kids because they're still suffering from the choices of others.  

I also grieve the time I didn't have with them.  I grieve just like they do that they weren't babies in my tummy.  They tell me at random times, "I wanted to be a baby in your tummy." It makes me feel bad - maybe I wasn't good enough to be able to be their birth mom because my body wasn't strong enough.  Maybe mentally I couldn't have handled having all those kids so close together if Miles & Embry were born as twins, and then if I had Ella a year later, maybe I would never have had Ace.  But that's just a speculation. I don't actually know WHY it had to be this way.  

Maybe it's just this way because my husband and I chose to be there for them when they needed it.  Or maybe it was pre-determined destiny?  I'm not 100% sure.  I couldn't control anything that happened to them, and maybe physically & mentally I wasn't strong enough to be able to be there for them then, but I know that my HEART is strong enough (SOMEHOW) to be there for them NOW, and that even though I am positive that I cannot do this on my own, I know that GOD knows how to do this, and I have to let Him carry me daily.

But even though my husband and I can be there for them now, it doesn't change the fact that I wish that I could have erased all their heart-ache and all of their let-downs. 

So we move forward, learning how to feel all these feelings.  Learning how to heal by accepting all of it: The good and the bad.  The right and the wrong.  Somewhere in the minutia of it all we end up finding what is.  That's when we become stronger - when we face "what is" and choose not to run.

So that's why I believe God knows how to BE and exist with ALL the feelings in the world.  I don't believe that God is above feelings.  We need to realize that we're not less for feeling, whatever the feeling is.  It's all part of what it means to be alive.  You're not a bad person if you're angry about something. What you DO with your anger is another topic, but too often we blame ourselves for simply feeling.  We shame ourselves, and hurt ourselves by telling negative messages to our minds that we shouldn't feel the way we feel. 

But it's time to quit running.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Blaming God - From Anger to Faith

The first time I was angry at God I was personally stunned by the emotion.  It seemed that I'd always had a deep and convicted faith so I couldn't understand how I allowed myself to get to a place of true anger with God.  How could I be mad at the only person who could really fix my problems (even if He wasn't going to fix them right now)?

But I was broken.  I was hurting.

I had lost 3 babies.

In a row.

I was a good person; I was making good choices.  But there were people in the world who didn't want their babies, I thought - "Why couldn't someone who wanted babies have a chance to get them?"  (Looking back however, I realize that thought in and of itself was pretty judgemental.  As one of our favorite family therapists pointed out, "No one actually says, 'I want to be a Meth addict and lose my kids.'")

Well, ironically - now I have children coming out of my ears.  I have 4 in Heaven, and I'm up to 6, now on Earth - my husband and I have both biological and adopted children (well almost adopted).  And lucky me - now I'm sitting here wondering how on earth God thought I could handle all of this.  Of our 6 kids, 2 of them have special needs, but they're the "invisible" kind of special needs - the kind where people just look at you and your kids like you're completely unfit to parent when their meltdowns are out of control...we have the "RAD" and "Autism" and "SPD" and "ADHD" and "Speech Apraxia" and, and, and.... 

God and His plans for me feel a little crazy once again.  Or else I'm the crazy one, and He's just humoring me?  I may never know.

But back to when I was mad - I was so hurt that I couldn't hear Him speaking the words to heal my pain.  It was 9 years (N-I-N-E) before I could hear Him and actually believe Him when He told me - "Your kids are okay - they're with Me right now.  You're going to see them again someday."


So fast forward - I had reconciled my anger with God and decided it was a bad emotion. I would avoid it at all costs.

Until recently in the last year when our family was exposed to kids with trauma.  Their trauma rubbed off onto everyone else in the family causing something very real called "Secondary Trauma". 

Amid the mountain of struggles, I couldn't find or see that seemingly inspirational ball of light that He had promised me at the beginning of this particular journey, so I had to deal with anger all over again. Where was the promise when all I could see was the mess?  The anger started with the people closest to the situation who "caused" my kids' problems, and the people before them or around them, and then the anger shifted to myself who chose to take it on and affect all the other kids in then family, and then I eventually blamed the One who put me on this path to begin with.

The methodical shifting of the anger I felt from every bad thing that ever happened to my kids eventually landed right back at the One I had decided I'd never be mad at again.  HOW DID I LET MYSELF DO THAT AGAIN? 

But this time something has been different.

I can't quite pin-point what it is.

Maybe I'm older and have more experiences so I just know better now that He's going to answer me, so I'm trying to listen better through the pain.

When it all boils down I think that God is trying to teach me that He is the One who is in control.  He really is at the helm.  No matter how badly anyone or everyone involved has messed things up (in my life, in your life, or in anyone's life), He is there.  He actually knows the end from the beginning, and He is trying to guide us if we will just try to listen. Even if we're not listening well, He's still got this under control. No matter whose choices did what to my kids and to my family, He bought it ALL with His blood.  No matter how inadequate I am to be this mom of this many kids, He paid for it, so that's why He is the One who can help me.

Honestly, it really is all His fault, and it's all really in His hands.

That doesn't mean we don't have to feel what we need to feel so we can move past it.  That doesn't mean we can just wave a magic wand and rush the healing of our children.  That doesn't mean that a bunch of crummy things weren't along the path to get us to this place, and it certainly doesn't mean we're even close to out of the woods, yet.  But knowing that GOD is in control helps me in shifting the anger that comes...because it does.  Each time my child has a physical or mental "disability" from choices of others, I have to take the anger and move it.  Putting it all on God is actually something that helps me to forgive others.  "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."  Or rather, "Father forgive them for they had no idea how long lasting or how far reaching the consequences of their choices would be."  And "Heavenly Father - I'm actually in this big giant mess because You thought I could handle it, so please, I beg for You to show me and make me able."  And "Heavenly Father, I have no idea what I'm doing, so please tell me what to do and help me find the right path." 

What I'm really trying to say is that sometimes being mad at God is the very thing that can help you trust in Him.

So if you have a reason to be angry with God, maybe the Lord is trying to tell you through all of your fears and sadness and anger, that you're just a half-step away from understanding His grace and glory.  If it's all His fault now - just wait until He fixes it!  You wouldn't actually be mad at Him for not fixing it yet, if you didn't know DEEP DOWN that He can. You likely have a true hope that someday He will make it better, but maybe you're just really mad that it's not better NOW.

And you know what?

It's okay to feel that way.

He bought that with His blood, too.  He actually understands every feeling you've ever had.

So just wait for Him.  Keep doing your best, and do what you can, but trust that He's in control.

Somehow - someday - every problem will be fixed.  He will wipe away all tears from all faces.  In this life we've blamed our pain on Him, but how beautiful when ALL of the peace, all of the healing, will be because of His glorious name.

In that day we will be eternally grateful that He is the One to blame.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Shame Culture vs. Mormon Culture

Is SHAME CULTURE part of your congregational experience at church?

Are you so caught up in the details of what's right and wrong (like the Sadducees and Pharisees of old), that you don't truly know who your Savior is?

Are you so busy trying to save the world that you've forgotten the beautiful message that JESUS HAS ALREADY DONE THAT?

At church we learn that we're supposed to be good, or rather, we're good because we're there, right?


In going to church every Sunday, have you gained book smarts about the word, but haven't come to KNOW it in the way God intended you to?  You may have a temple recommend, but are you still one of the 5 foolish virgins?

These are all questions I have been asking myself since my recent awakening (click here).


Some individuals are more sensitive to shame than others.  Some have an alert internal sensor on what shaming is and that it's not right even from a young age.  They're the kind of people who will NOT be manipulated into doing what's right - they need to know for themselves, and they need to choose for themselves.  I used to be a bit judgemental of this kind of a path, but I am now firmly of the opinion that this is okay and even essential for many - without questioning, how will they ever KNOW who God is?  Or without questioning how will they come to know who they are?  I believe we should not shame others for questioning.

I used to think it was best to understand God's word and learn from the mistakes of others and to just be believing - without questioning.  Maybe that can be argued to be best when it comes to topics like doing drugs, but it's not the best method when you apply it to everything.  And it's important to remember that all is not lost if someone you love has tried something like drugs.

Through trauma parenting, I'm learning that manipulating someone into doing what's right, or shaming them into doing what's right is not only the wrong method to choose, it DOESN'T EVEN WORK, no matter how much you wish it could.  I am also learning that even if you have a non-traumatized child who responds with "positive" results from shaming & manipulation, it still doesn't make that method right.

Honestly, I've never thought in depth about what shame can mean until the effects of past trauma on someone I love showed me.

It's real.


When our child purposely seeks negative attention to trigger cycles of shame, we have to drop it - drop the shame.  We must show NO EXTREMES IN EMOTION.  We're getting better at it with practice, but at first it felt so hard because it's different than parenting in any other scenario I've ever faced in the last (almost) 10 years.  I've been thrust into a journey of finding out what shame is (both blatant and subtle), because if I don't come to know what it is and what it isn't, MY FAMILY WILL NOT SURVIVE. 


Can shame culture be found in politics?  Absolutely!

Do Conservatives shame other people?  Yes, many do.

Do Liberals shame others?  I have seen it.

Is shame culture present in the family you grew up in, or the one you're currently raising?  Maybe.

Can shame culture be found in the Mormon church?  Yes - I can only speak for where I've lived, but at times it can be found in those congregations.  Over the years I have been a part of it or contributed to it, but I am currently working on my awareness so that I do not do that to myself or others anymore.

Can shame culture be found in other churches?  Yes - I have a friend named Tiffany who does so much for the "Without Walls" church.  One of her recent posts said, "People in the church have no problem gossiping but we can't get them to witness... 🔥👊🏼 Isaiah Saldivar bringing truth!! BOOM! #wearewithoutwalls"

This post showed me that people in their congregations are experiencing the same kind of obstacles that hold us all back from God.  Gossip is part of shame culture.  Are they preaching shame culture?  No, they're speaking against gossiping, which is a good thing to do, because gossiping is harmful, and they're lamenting the way it can get in the way of knowing God & being able to witness of Him.

So here's the nitty gritty:

Is Mormon Culture also Shame Culture?

What I have come to understand is that there are many Mormons who live in a fog of shaming themselves (that was me) and shaming others (sometimes it happens without realizing it).  Those very same imperfect people go to church (because church is not for perfect people) and sometimes they give their spin on the doctrine with their opinions when they raise their hands as they're trying to make sense of the Word.  It is possible for the people who live in shame culture to do damage to others, and sometimes that damage is a factor that pushes people away from going to church.

But when it all boils down...for those who are wondering if Mormon Culture in and of itself is Shame Culture, the answer is NO.


Mormon Culture is...

...lifting up your neighbor through visiting teaching and home teaching - checking in on each other and serving, shopping at Down East Basics because they have cap sleeve tanks, celebrating Pioneer Heritage whether or not you have pioneer ancestors, being obsessed with Family History, magnifying a calling (even if you have never done it before), knowing way too many Disney quotes, building temples to give our best to God, prosylyting about the Book of Mormon, engaging in public speaking from a young age by sharing talks or testimonies, inviting others to learn of God, participating in or attending church plays/pageants/or community events, centering your life around God and Family, "mourning with those who mourn, and comforting those who stand in need of comfort."

Some silly parts of Mormon Culture is demonstrated in movies like "The Singles Ward", and it is also found in the drink menu at Sodalicious - I never knew you could sum it all up on one menu until I went there and all of my teenage and college age years came flooding back in an instant - "Boy Scout" "Amen" "Eternal Flame" "Civil Marriage" "NCMO" - I have never laughed so hard!

And this post would not be complete if I didn't mention that Mormon Culture is also about Jell-o - there is such an uncanny connection at least in the United States to Mormons and Jell-o.  My brother's catchy, original, and melodious tune is even now running through my head from Sunday dinners...he sings the words "Jell-o Salad" with an operatic musical theater voice, and it cracks me up every time.  I have to join in with my own refrain.  Irresistible and cheesy, but it brings us together.  Families and Jell-o can be forever. ;)


I'm 32 and I've been going to church every Sunday that entire time.

For a large part of that time I've also been trying to sub-consciously earn my salvation.  I didn't think I was. I thought I knew my Savior.  I thought I understood Him.  But the way I understood Him was actually blocking who He really was.

I thought that living a righteous life in and of itself was what would help me to know God.  Maybe in a way all of my good choices led me to Him, or maybe it prepared me to to know Him, but what I know now about God is that He loves me when I'm broken.

And what I know now about repentance is that it's not a one item at a time kind of thing.  It's really important, I have found to LET IT ALL OUT and lay it ALL down at the feet of the Lord.  A friend encouraged me to pray out loud and say every negative feeling I was experiencing, then focus on what I wanted to repair, and then focus on gratitude.  I was told not to stop talking until it was all out - no matter how big or how small, no matter how recent or old the things were that I needed to get out.  You know what happened?

I was praying out loud for 2 hours.


I had SO MUCH I was holding on to.  I had so much pain. I had been living a "perfectly" righteous life (when you're a Mormon, that looks a lot like attending church every Sunday, reading your scriptures regularly, and praying always, paying your tithing, being temple worthy, and serving in your callings), but I had never TRULY put it ALL down at the feet of the Lord.

I always would focus on trying to repent of one thing at a time.  I'd work on it between Sacrament meetings and I would think little by little I was getting closer to God.  Maybe I was closer to God because of it, but I was still trying to be "good enough".

So as I kept striving for the ideal I became harder and harder on myself.

I was so hard on myself, because I was NEVER enough. Nothing I had was good enough, either, because even though I knew I had the types of things that are supposed to make you happy, I was waking up unhappy every single day.

EVERY DAY as soon as I opened my eyes, my first thought was, "I'm not happy."

There were a few factors going on at once to cause this: 1) I developed a thyroid condition after my 3rd child and have been working with my doctor to maintain chemical balance ever since - I have thyroid medication and a regimen of daily vitamins to help with this.  2) I have been under some extreme stress.  3) I was viewing the world with a lens that was contributing to my depression.

When the ideal of righteous living becomes your whole purpose, you're actually never going to be good enough.  You're going to be depressed.  I know, because I was.

But what was amazing about experiencing and accepting my own shame is that while it felt excruciatingly painful, it also felt so freeing at the end.

I can honestly say praying this way is different than what I was doing before, and I can say that I am learning what it means to have a personal relationship with my Savior.  I have not seen His face, but I know without a doubt in my mind that His grace is eternal, and when I am able to accept His grace, it allows me to walk in His Spirit, and that Spirit is the kind that motivates me to WANT to make right choices...not make right choices because that's what you're supposed to do to know God.  The way I am viewing EVERYTHING is changing because His Spirit is changing me, and it feels so much better this's a way I had never known before.  And I know I have so much more to learn about walking in the meekness of His Spirit and having peace in Him.

One thing I have been learning about getting past shame is that to get rid of it, you have to move past what is right and wrong, and somewhere in the middle find what is.  Right and wrong still exists, and making right choices is still important, but when you're able to come to terms with "WHAT IS", you're able to accept it.  And when you can accept it; that's when you're able to let go of the shame.  I was beginning to see this in some small ways and was able to see some small progress with the kids, but until I was able to understand what it really meant on my very own personal level, I could not actually help my children through it.

It is important for each of us to experience on our own the Savior's love, and grace, and that He suffered FOR OUR SHAME, and that's why HE IS ABLE TO TAKE IT AWAY.

If you seek Him, you will find Him.

When you find Him, you will KNOW Him. He will bring you peace in a way you've never felt before (even if you've been going to church your whole life or even if you haven't).  And when you know Him, it will change you, and He will heal you.   He wants you to have this hope and peace in Him, whether you feel you deserve it or not, because He loves you, and He wants to turn the pain you've experienced into joy and wholeness.

I know it is possible because He is healing me of my depression, and making me aware of my anxiety.  The Lord is showing me what God's love and grace really is.

You don't have to be perfect to know God.  When you come to know God, in time, He will make you perfect, because you will be perfect in Him.


 OTHER RELATED ARTICLES:  Mental Health and Being Mormon by Dr. Alan Bradford, My Awakening,  Blanket Statements with the Atonement,

OTHER HELPS FOR DEPRESSION (Thanks, Jeff!):  Take an Epsom Salt Bath & send all of your vocalized negative thoughts into the salt and down the drain - if they come back remember that you washed them away, Visualize a color as you move from negativity to gratitude and let it all out - see if your color changes (my happy colors are yellow and blue - like the same color of the sunrise), See a counselor or life coach, Do breathing exercises - in for 4/hold for 7/out for 8,

Music that helps me:  Magnify by We Are Messengers,  Rise by Danny Gokey, Speak Life by TobyMac

Sunday, February 19, 2017

My Awakening

I grew up in a bubble.

I didn't think I did. I thought I had when all my friends were busy on the weekend and I felt left out.  I thought I knew how to live and love. I thought I knew what life was about.  I thought I understood success and the model to achieve it.  (EXCEPT...TO ME, part of "success" included having a perfect Husband/Wife/Bio-child family WITH NO REAL WORLD problems.  It hurts me now to even say this out loud.  It makes me sick that even sub-consciously that particular goal or definition of success was hidden underneath everything else I did.) 

Then my husband and I were MOVED by indisputably miraculous events & timings to become foster/adopt parents.

The entire process of becoming licensed seemed to change my life at the time. (I have many posts written but they remain un-posted, as the journey to "get there" at the time was some of the most trying I'd ever faced, including a deep personal conflict of self realization on my path along with the clash of outside opinions or warnings.  I knew I was doing the right thing, and didn't have the words to help anyone else FEEL what I was FEELING.  "Come what may"... & "No matter what"... Doubts from myself and others were expressed, but I knew I couldn't back out.)

Then the kids moved in.  And they brought their trauma with them.  And it rubbed off onto the other 6 family members.

....Trauma is something the vast majority of the people in my "bubble" don't seem to understand...the ones who really know what I'm talking about are the ones who have lived trauma....

There's so much to say, but the most important to say is that at time it's felt like hell. (Except when I prayed and told God that it felt like hell, and He promptly said, "Hell is worse.")

It's flipped my whole world of parenting upside down.

I've never had to work so hard to be a Christian in my entire life.  EVER.  Especially not in a 24/7 sort of way.  And then I realized - I wasn't as Christian as I thought I was!!!!!

My friend Trey posted something on facebook that got me thinking...if I remember correctly, it said something like, "You're not Christian unless you bear a cross."

(Photo credit - Pinterest)

For the first time in my life I'm truly learning what it means to bear a cross, but it's not because of me or anything I've done.  I'm also learning more intensely, how Jesus bears our personal crosses for us, if we'll let Him.

When you're fatigued and depressed and facing the biggest mountains you, your spouse, and your kids have ever faced -- you're in it with them and when their trauma BECOMES YOUR OWN TRAUMA, and you live and breathe it, and all you can do is be in survival mode from moment to moment....  That's usually when someone says to you, "You're doing the greatest thing for these kids."  Or they say, "You're saving them."  I usually stare blankly for a moment as I try to process the shocking words, and internally I have screamed, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN?!  I'M NOT DOING ANYTHING!!! NOTHING IS WORKING!"  I have also screamed inside, "TRYING TO SAVE THEM IS HELL, AND NO MATTER WHAT I DO, THEY DON'T WANT TO BE SAVED!"  In fact these kids never asked to be saved.  Their "saving" is often a loss to them and a reminder of what they'll never be able to get back - some of the dearest and precious things in their hearts - their bio family, and it doesn't matter how good or bad their bio family was, and it doesn't matter what kind of trauma they experienced there, the loss is so deep inside.

I've had people say, "This is taking a toll on you.  Surely God wouldn't want this to happen to you or to your kids (implying bio kids)."

Well, let me tell you, HE ABSOLUTELY DOES!  I KNOW HE DOES, BECAUSE HE PUT ME HERE!  And you know what?  MAYBE HE WANTS YOU TO DO IT, TOO!  In regards to trauma rubbing off some onto my bio kids, this is so far the hardest thing they've ever done, too, and you know what?  They still have it pretty good. While trauma of any sort (primary or secondary) is nothing to be reveled in or encouraged, I feel that if my bio kids will allow it, they will understand the GIFT they're being given - a gift in their young age to be able to empathize with others in a way that wouldn't have been able to come if I kept them 100% in a bubble.  I know that IF God has a plan for me to do this (which He does as He is the one who put me on this path), THEN He absolutely has a personal plan for them to get through it, too!

Sometimes the adoption world is like the weirdest Twilight Zone experience - often, people will glorify what adoption is, but not many actually know what it actually means to live the life.


Easier said than done.

My cousin Tiffani has FIFTEEN kids...and 11 of them are ADOPTED.  I honest to goodness have no idea how she does it. People would tell her, "You're saving these kids."  And she would say, "Actually they're saving me!" 

She's also the one who recently told me to quit grieving over the "loss" of my "perfect little family", and to drop to my knees and pray multiple times a day.  And I DO (I thought I had been doing it before she told me to, but obviously it was not enough).  Wherever I am standing in the house in my brokenness, when it's too much - in the middle of their screaming fits, I fall to my knees. And I pray.

Even after I took some kids in, I could not understand how on earth Tiffani could say they were saving HER and genuinely mean it....

UNTIL I got to a place where I was so broken, so frustrated with everything, so lost on how to even parent because NOTHING I'VE EVER DONE WITH MY OTHER KIDS WORKS WITH THEM.  It wasn't until I'd experienced Secondary Trauma myself and could see more clearly what happens to people when they have trauma that I could start understanding.   

My friend Jeff (a dear friend who has experienced Primary Trauma in hard ways) said to me, "You're not saving them.  You're just giving them a different path. And it looks like they're providing YOU therapy."

Then he very compassionately offered advice to help our family get through the trauma - mostly encouragement to let go of the negativity & suggestions on how to do that, and he also gave us lots of reminders to take it one day at a time. "Time has a way of healing all wounds," he says.  He would know.

So anyway, here I am today.  Four months into our life change.  And I have a message:

My mind and heart are awakened in ways I've never experienced before!

I never ever want to return to the person I used to be.

I believe I was an inherently good person with good intentions before, but the ignorance of that person I used to be was making me sick.  

Literally. Sick and full of intense disdain...

First my disdain was directed at others within my bubble who couldn't possibly understand trauma or trauma parenting for what it is.  But I woke up this week and I found the root of this disdain - it was disdain for myself in my former state...from many years ago when I had a circle of many friends who were experiencing very difficult struggles.  They desperately needed someone to understand them, but no matter how much or how deeply I cared about them I couldn't help in anyway whatsoever, because I was so much in the bubble of a perfect life that I could not relate to them, empathize or sympathize appropriately, or even offer any advice or help to pull them out of the hell they were experiencing.  It still hurts my heart to think about those times -- it makes my heart hurt that my ignorance kept me from helping anyone else find true healing.

But the Lord is good, and in my own recent phase of hurting, He sent me people who knew personally what I was facing and who knew how to overcome it. He sent me people who could help me in the same ways I so desperately wished I could have been able to be there for them when they were suffering.  How sweet (and cruel) life experiences can be.  Both depression and joy can be painful in a way.

I have been waking up to painful truth.  Ugly truth.  Sometimes truth that is so ugly I cannot bear it.  But somehow the TRUTH is setting me free.  And I am finding ways to move beyond it, to accept it, to forgive myself, and to let go, and I am finding it in my heart to be grateful.  I love being grateful!

I am learning how to live one day at a time.  I am finding peace in the struggle.  Real and internal peace that is pulling me out of a deep depression and back into the light of day.  But the difference is that this time in the light of day I'm not so ignorant (not that I know everything, and even what I've now experienced sort of could be described as "seeing through a glass darkly").  But I have walked so far into this path that I can finally say I CANNOT ever be the same. And that in itself makes me SO HAPPY!

It's not just that I don't WANT to be the same as that person I used to be, but I literally am so far into this life changing experience that I now CANNOT ever be that person I used to be.  It feels so good to know that I will never go back there...if I do regress at all, at least I know it can never be completely...and that gives me hope in the future and my ability to do this.  I can do this. I CAN do what I've been asked to do, and I know that each member in my family can, too.

I can say that I have finally been born again.  In a way I've never been born before.

It's a true awakening or enlightening -- it's still happening and I'm still learning.

What would you do if I told you that a person who doesn't necessarily believe in God (at least in the way that everyone tends to define God) is the one who showed me or explained to me rather, what it means to truly repent of your sins, pray and meditate out loud, forgive yourself (accept grace), and be able to move forward in faith and wholeness by meeting God in a personal way?  This is what I've been seeking for a long time.


Maybe don't be so surprised about all of that.  I am not surprised about it in the least any more, because I believe that the Lord is calling all of His children home, and that He knows how to speak to us individually and with purpose no matter who we are and where we've been.  He knows how to help us find healing when we need it the most, and His love and power can surpass all of our understanding.  When He heals us, it motivates us to do good and be the best versions of our selves that we can possibly be.

As I've been pondering more in depth how the Lord lives and how He loves me I have come to know Him in a closer way.

I finally feel free.

I finally feel awake.

I finally feel alive again.

I'm waking up happy.  That's something that literally hasn't happened to me for over a year.

And because I know and feel in a whole new way, I KNOW that the same kind of healing can come to my spouse & kids no matter what we face together in life, and I know it's a type of healing that can happen to anyone who is open to it.

I am achieving happiness and inner peace in a way I have never found before, but the trick is that it hasn't come by trying to achieve - it has come by complete surrender to God in my brokenness, and the honest acceptance of ugly truths that have been within myself (not just one sin, but MANY, including the sins of clinging on to embarassments, self-hate, deeply personal inner judgement, and holding on to the shame & regret of things that I need to repair) and because of this process, a new bi-product of gratitude is opening up within my mind and soul.   It literally feels good all over.

I can say that in a very real and personal way I am finally accepting the grace of Jesus Christ and I am learning how to forgive myself and literally LET GO.  I'm putting things in the Lord's hands in a way I've never done before.  

I can tell you that the Lord has personally healed me.

This is my Awakening!

It's still fresh, so there is a part in my heart and soul that is terrified I will lose these feelings of happiness and peace.  So if you're a praying person, please pray for me that I can always know my Savior and His love in this beautiful way that helps me be FREE.  If you haven't found this for yourself, start praying that you will find it, too, and don't ever stop seeking UNTIL YOU KNOW you've found it!