Being the Somebody

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I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last few years, as I figure do most of us in our 30’s. One thing that I’ve learned is that I tend to write on this blog from a place of pain. It’s no doubt an outlet for my introverted self. If you’ve followed our journey, you could probably gather from the absence of recent posts that it has been overall, a season of joy, and for that I’m so thankful. And yet, here I am writing once again.

Sometimes in the seasons that are void of heartache, I completely forget that I am parenting a child from trauma. I completely forget that he is still broken. I remembered this week.

Everywhere I’ve looked lately I’ve seen the phrase, “Somebody should fix this!” more than I could count. Part of me wanted to join the fight, to get caught up in the outrage of the loudest crowd. But, I just couldn’t. I’m too tired. You see, I am a “somebody.” I’m just doing my part to work on “fixing” something different. I am a “somebody” who adopted a child from the foster care system three years ago.

Summer is always a hard time for our adopted son, even after three years. Maybe he was taken into DHS custody during the summer. Maybe he was home more often in the summertime, and because of that, was exposed to more trauma over that period of time, maybe the relaxing of structure is just that tough on his still-too-vigilant mind. Whatever it is, we know this to be the case. So at the beginning of summer, my husband and I sat down and discussed the things we could do to ease his discomfort. A simple structure for the day along with some special time with friends was on the list of to-dos. Most importantly, this summer was my chance to work on my relationship with him, which has always seemed to be a struggle for both of us.

We were going along great, but I definitely should have seen the uneasiness in his manner. I think I was probably too pleased with how well our summer of bonding had been going. We had been sharing good books, intentional and random hugs, and good front-seat minivan conversations. It seems so simple and natural to most mother/son relationships, but it’s hard for us, and it always has been. Maybe the excitement over what I thought was progress was why Tim saw it coming before I did.

I wasn’t completely blind though. About a week ago, I saw it too, and braced myself somewhat, still thinking that maybe his frustration with life would manifest some other way, that maybe I would not be the target this time. But it wasn’t so.

I sat down with him after a particularly snide display of frustration and gently asked him what’s really bothering him. And then the floodgates opened, and all the sadness, sorrow, and disappointment came rushing forward. It was the same record, but a new song.

A day or two later, he confided in my mother that I was the problem. He had no idea why and nothing specific that I had done that made me the problem. All that he knew is that it was me.

When I heard that, I felt half relieved and half brokenhearted. First of all, the fact that he finally just said it caused me to be so thankful. I don’t have to guess anymore… now I know. I am the problem.

Secondly, I was relieved because I know without a doubt that it is not truly me. He thinks I am the problem. But I’m not. It’s really her, his birth mom. And if you really want to know, I am mad at her today too. Lots of people who are better than me at forgiveness today have all kinds of warm fuzzies about birth parents. I wish that I always did. Most of the time, I feel a great deal of sorrow for her, and I even feel empathy for the addiction that caused her to throw away everything good in her life. But times like these where I realize that I have a son who will struggle his entire life to trust me just because I share her title of “Mom”…well that does not make me feel particularly warm toward her.

While the brokenhearted part of me crashed under the weight of “being his problem,” I am sitting here in the coffee shop, writing away my woes, and I am feeling surprisingly freed. There is nothing I can do to repair this. Despite all my recent efforts, I still haven’t done anything to fix it. That can only leave one thing. This is all God. It has been from the beginning, and it will remain exactly that. Finally, I can rest a little. I can try a little less to win him over, and lean a little more into God and into the prayer that one day, all things will be new. I believe it to be true. Until then, I’ll continue to be a praying mom, showing him over and over that I am safe. And the rest I’ll leave to God.

Because I’m writing this from a first-person perspective, from a very raw place in my own heart, it’s easy for this to sound like it’s all about me. But that’s not my desire at all. This is, and always has been, about giving a real, honest account of the adoption process, start to finish. Childhood trauma is a disease that courses through my son’s veins every waking moment. It’s also about the journey of children I’ve never met. Children waiting for a mom who they can be mad at for no apparent reason, but that will still love them and stay with them anyway. Children waiting for a dad because they’ve never had one and wonder what it would be like. Children waiting to be reunited with their biological siblings in a forever home. I wish that I could be an advocate for something more popular. The kind of thing goes viral quickly, and gets maximum exposure in minimum time.

But here I stand, trying my hardest to shout above the roar of many other voices, all advocating good things, but like me, sometimes forgetting the people that need our help right here, right now. Forgetting to open our doors to our neighbors, to know them, to care for the children in our own community, to take them into our homes, to share their heartache, to participate in their sorrow, to bear the weight of their anger. Keep shouting loudly, “Somebody needs to fix this!” about all the problems in the world that you see, but don’t forget to support those “somebodies” right here, right now who are called to fix the things and more importantly, every once in a while…be the somebody.

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Stand Sunday

It’s Stand Sunday, a day we set aside to bring awareness to the orphan crisis. I’ve thought and pondered for some time what I wanted to say on this special day, because I know I need to use my voice when given the opportunity. But really, what I do best is tell our story, and that’s what you’ll find on every page of this blog-the story of a family doing their best to follow God.

stand sunday

 

Adoption is something that I’ve always had in my heart. Of course, in my dreams, it looked much more perfect and picturesque than reality has proven to be. But I would, without a doubt, do it all over again. In the beginning though, it took some nudging to move us to action. I think that’s how the Holy Spirit works oftentimes. It’s small nudges, knowing someone who has been touched by adoption, hearing a sermon…lots of little things prompt us to action. It’s my prayer that this blog and my words can be that nudging for someone.

 

What I want to do today is share some of my older posts in hopes that you will look around, read our story, and feel that little nudge from the Holy Spirit…you know it–it’s the one that says,

 

We have that extra room.

We’ve always wanted a boy/girl.

There’s really no reason not to just look into it.

 

So grab your coffee and a snack, and make yourself at home here on the blog. Take a look into our life to see how challenging, emotionally taxing, and exponentially rewarding adoption can be. 

 

 

The Adoption Process

So You Want to Adopt…Now What?

Do You Have What it Takes?

Adoption Day

Pre-Adoption-Surviving and Thriving

Twelve Seventy-Five

Committing to Love

A Future and a Hope

ADHD vs. Hypervigilance

It’s Just a Tongue Depressor

A Year of Trusting God

It’s Different

Bonding

Bonding Part II & Grace for Us in Parenting

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

We Can’t Watch That

When Love Doesn’t Come Easy

21 Things You Should Know About Adopting an Older Child

Spoons, Forks, and Family

It Was Worth It

Redemption

Waking Up

There’s no good reason, no excuse to not be involved in orphan care. If you can’t foster or adopt, you should support someone who can. Period. This is one case where “We’re too busy” just doesn’t cut it. It’s biblical. God told you to. Everyone plays an important role in the orphan crisis. So if you aren’t in a position to foster or adopt, please reach out to your local foster and adoptive families and find out how you can support them. Here are some ideas to get to you started:

How to Provide Support to Foster/Adoptive Families

 

If you live in Conway County, here are some local resources to get involved with:

Room 29:11

If you live in Arkansas, check these out:

Project Zero

The CALL in Arkansas

One of the best resources is someone who is or has been “in the trenches.” Search out local people who will point you in the right direction. Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me anytime. I pray to be the “nudge” that is needed for many people to accept the call to orphan care.

 

Waking Up

We’re approaching three years with James. Time has flown by, and I’ve been quiet here on the blog for quite a while, and for good reason. I’ve been super busy, and honestly, we’ve kind of just been plugging along without much to report. Until now…

On Mother’s Day of this year, James was baptized. He was saved a few days before in the bathtub of the old Schoolhouse where we spend much of our time. You can read about that in the archives. But things were kind of quiet for a while after that. We definitely noticed a change in James, but it was the still, quiet, small changes that you probably wouldn’t notice unless you knew him really, really well.

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Then school started, and in the last couple of months, James has awakened. One night we came home from church, and James told Tim and I about a child who was there who had acted up. Instead of being mad about it, he said so sincerely,

“It made me sad to see him that way, because I was just like him a couple of years ago. I was mad all the time, and I just felt horrible. I know what he’s going through.”

Tim and I kind of looked at each other, half puzzled and half thrilled, and said, “Yeah, James, that’s what it’s like when God softens your heart toward someone. He probably wants you to pray for them.”

A little while later, he came to Tim after the Wednesday night service and expressed concern for a friend who hadn’t yet been saved. He was so intent on seeing his friend come to know Jesus. We told him to keep praying for his friend…and he has. Faithfully.

Every morning, he starts with his Bible study, and instead of blowing over it, he looks up every single verse, and really considers his answers carefully. He keeps a Bible beside his bed, and often tells me what he’s been reading lately.

We also noticed that his heart is more recpetive to correction now. Where he used to argue, complain, and defend himself, he seems to be content with confessing and making it right.

He asks 1.2 million questions per hour. But we don’t mind (for the most part). They are the great questions, the ones that grow faith and strengthen our spiritual walk. He’s compassionate toward the plight of less privileged people all around the world. He seems to have a deeper understanding of hurting people than I ever will.

And then there was that moment in the hallway at church the other night. A little boy in foster care needed some extra love, so Tim asked James if he would mind talking to him. James patiently sat with him, and told his story, and then he said, “It’s hard. It’s really hard. It’s so hard.” And he started tearing up.

And then I tear up, and I think, Wow, God, you sure can surprise us, can’t you? 

Because it wasn’t that long ago that I was crying for a very different reason, wondering if anything that we said or did was getting through. Frustrated because it seemed like we were up against a brick wall.

And we were. But God wasn’t. He knew what He was doing, and He wanted to make sure that we all knew that it was, in fact, Him doing it. Not me, not Tim…Him.

And once again, I’m in awe, getting a front row seat to see a visible change in someone. A spiritual awakening. I’m seeing the Almighty, the One and Only, the Alpha and Omega, transform a heart right before my eyes. And I think, Why me, Father? Why do you lavish such love and blessings on me, a pitiful sinner? 

Birthing an Adoption

James when he had been with us for about three months.

Maybe it’s because we were just crazy enough to say yes to this mission that God put before us. Or maybe He just loves to work in our lives and point us back to His glory.

I’m not ready to say we’re at the finish line…I mean, are you ever at the finish line with your kids? I didn’t think so. I know that his little mind still has questions and whys and what ifs. I know we still have plenty to deal with as he grows and changes. But right now, I’m basking in the glory of a changed soul.

In school, we’ve been studying five of the major worldviews (besides the Biblical Worldview). This is always a two-edged sword. It’s great for opening kids’ eyes to the world around them and softening their hearts toward people who need Jesus. But it’s also tough to learn. Yesterday, James asked me, Mom, there are so many religions out there. How do we know that this one is the right one? How can we be sure, sure, sure?

I know, it can be a scary question, but everyone grapples with these questions at some point. I was excited to see him thinking and seeking truth especially in a world where truth often seems either non-existent or fluid. And I believe that the Holy Spirit lead me, because I don’t think fast enough to be able to come up with a multiple-point apologetic response. So I wanted to share it here with you…in case you need it.

James, that’s a great question, and it’s one that pretty much everyone deals with at some point in their life. There are a few ways that we know that our God is the one, true God. First, there is evidence that supports the events in the Bible and you’re reading about that in The Case for Christ series right now. Second, somewhere around 40 authors were inspired by God to write the Bible. They lived at different times and different places, and yet, they all had the same central message..Jesus. Of course, there is an element of faith. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” (John 20:29) And finally, James, I know that our God is real and true because even though I can’t physically see Him, I see Him at work in my life, and I see Him working in yours. 

And then I shared some specific times that we have seen God clearly at work in our lives and encouraged James to look for God in his every day life. Pray in accordance with God’s word, and watch Him deliver on His promises.

It is one of the greatest blessings of a parent’s life to see their children being transformed by God. It is the prayer of my heart being answered before my eyes. But this one…this almost feels like a double blessing.

 

Redemption

bath tub

Who gets saved sitting in a claw foot bathtub? I thought.  Sitting on the closed antique pull-string toilet, where I found myself so often in the last year, I couldn’t help but chuckle at the story that this would be for him.  You see, James regularly goes to that old bathtub to sit and think.  Sometimes he goes when his behavior requires some extra thinking time.  Sometimes he goes to get away from the world for a bit.  Sometimes, he takes a clipboard and gets his schoolwork done back there.  Most of the time, that’s the place where we have the hardest and the best conversations.  So, I suppose that it makes sense that he was sitting in the bathtub and I was sitting on the closed toilet when he said, “Mom, I need to talk to you about being saved.”

We’ve had the conversation several times now, but I could tell that this time was different.  There was an urgency in his voice and I had the feeling that he was serious about it this time.  As I began to talk to him, he said, “Mom, I know that I have to believe with my heart and confess with my mouth, but I’m just….I’m just….well, I’m just so bad sometimes.  I just can’t get it right.”

Haven’t we all felt like this sometimes?  My heart went out to him, knowing what it’s like to feel the weight of your sin.  I think it’s particularly so for kids like James.  I think they not only carry the weight of their own sin, but also the weight of their past, and the weight of sin that isn’t even their own.  So, I talked to him a bit more explaining, and then Dad came in and climbed in the claw foot tub with James and took over the talk.  Yeah, it was quite the sight.

After a while, they came out of the bathroom and announced that James had accepted the wonderful gift of salvation.  I don’t think anything is a better moment for a parent.  Birth is amazing, but this rebirth…it’s better.  And for a child that wasn’t naturally born to me, it was almost like a make-up for that missed time.  Isn’t God crazy good like that?

He is in the business of redemption…sweet, beautiful redemption.  And nobody does it better.  No one could orchestrate this scenario.  No one could ever dream up being saved in an old bathroom in a schoolhouse.  Just God.

We have prayed for that moment…many times over, but I know that it’s not by our strength or power that he was saved.  It was by the grace of God.  It was God who placed him in a Christian foster home.  It was God who placed him in our home.  It was God who gave him family and extended family and a church family and friends who prayed for him.  It was God who gave him a story that paralleled our story so perfectly.  It was God who used trouble to lead to restoration.

“…and I will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.”  -Hosea 2:15

door of hope

It was God who chose James Wood.

So today, with joy and gratitude in my heart, I have to recite one of my favorite passages:

“I will show my love to the one I called Not my loved one.

I will say to those called, ‘Not my people’,

‘You are my people’;

and they will say, ‘You are my God.’

-Hosea 2:23

Lighten Up

 

I was being played…like a fiddle. Like a fiddle on the song “Devil Went Down to Georgia” actually. You can talk to any adoptive parent, and they will tell you that their child goes through cycles.  They will do really well for a while and you will feel like you’re making progress, and then, sometimes slowly, sometimes in warp speed, they will head downhill.  Behavior will take a turn for the worse, and a lot of the problems that you thought were over, rear their ugly head once again.  This is typical.  What’s that saying in Ecclesiastes?  “There’s nothing new under the sun…”

flower 2

That’s where I was going wrong. Tim had been telling me this for some time now, but it’s much more fun to pretend like it’s your idea, right?  Anyhow, the problem was that every time he went on a downhill slide, I was surprised, and let me tell you, being surprised that a kid misbehaves is like walking outside in the wintertime and being surprised that it’s cold.  Kids are going to misbehave.

So this time, when the downhill slope began, I was once again, surprised. And because I was surprised by it, I went down with him.  Now, I’m not saying that this was the only reason for my meltdown.  It wasn’t.  But, it certainly pushed me over the edge.  A week ago today, I left school feeling utterly defeated.  I had failed as a mother.  (If you watch The Goldbergs, say that in a Beverly Goldberg voice).  So I sat and pouted about all my shortcomings for a bit, and I felt so defeated that I didn’t even feel like talking to Tim about it.  I knew that the only way out of this feeling was to go to The Source.   The Bible.  I needed to hear from God.  So I turned to Hosea, and I read the passage that gets me through every single time:

“There I will give her back her vineyards,

And will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope….

…I will betroth you to me forever;

I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,

In love and compassion.

I will betroth you in faithfulness,

And you will acknowledge the Lord.

….I will show my love to the one I called, ‘Not my loved one.

I will say to those called’ Not my people’;

‘You are my people’.”

-Hosea 2: 15, 19, 20, 23

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Every time I read this passage, I am reminded of why we chose to adopt. I’m reminded of the fact that we wanted to give hope to a child who had been robbed of it.  We wanted to add to our family through this beautiful process called adoption.  And through it, I am learning more than I ever imagined.

So after I read Hosea, I sat down and made a list of all the behaviors that James tends to fall back on. I realized that all of those behaviors were attention-seeking.  So I could see pretty clearly from my list that he’s craving attention by the barrel-load.  Unfortunately, this is an impossible situation for parents with more than one child.  When you have a child that craves infinite amounts of attention, you will never meet their need.  It’s a situation of a person trying to fill an emotional need through you instead of through God.  It’s absolutely exhausting, but it can be better.

Once I had my list, I announced to myself…”I will not be surprised by any of his attention-seeking behaviors. This is what he’s craving, and I know that.  There’s no surprise here.”  So, beside each behavior, I wrote what I would do in response to that behavior. I made sure that my response was not giving attention, but simply cut-and-dry dealing with the issue.

For example:

If James doesn’t get his way, and starts slamming things and crying…I will calmly tell him to go to the bathroom (his favorite quiet place…he likes to sit in the clawfoot tub) until he collects himself while I go ahead with my work.

There was an entire list of things. However, since I had determined to no longer give him negative attention, I knew that I would have to give him some extra positive attention.  So I also wrote down a list of things that I can do to provide him with the positive attention that he really needs.  That list included writing him notes in his assignment book, taking him to breakfast, etc.

We’ve been at this for a week now, and I have to say that our days have been as smooth as butter. It was time for me to lighten up…big time.  I had been so focused on progress that I forgot to enjoy the present.  I was so zeroed in on his future that I had forgotten to just enjoy being his mom.

This past week has been absolutely delightful. I have to tell you a funny on James.  I had noticed that he had suddenly gotten really bad chapped lips, so I had been treating him for a couple of days for it.  Yesterday, I was wondering aloud how he got that level of chapped lips in the summer time just out of the blue.   He said, “I know how it happened…I was sucking on half of an egg shell and this happened.”  I inspected it closer, and sure enough, his entire chin was purple and red.  It wasn’t chapped, it was bruised!   My child had a gigantic chin hickey!  I laughed so hard tears were rolling down my face.  I laughed every time I thought about it.  It was the cutest, funniest thing I think I’ve ever seen.  I’m so glad that I decided to enjoy motherhood more and stress less.  I might have missed the great comedy in that “chapped lips” fiasco!  So my advice for all adoptive parents and all parents:  Lighten Up!  Enjoy your kids.  They’re pretty hilarious after all!

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