Thursday, December 13, 2012

Look at me! My life is perfect!

Hello Facebook Friend,
        Each day you see a glimpse into my little slice of the American Dream.  You've seen my 1/4 acre yard where the children help me grow a ridiculously productive garden (without pesticides, of course).  You've seen my children snuggling in pajamas while I read.  You've seen us camping, canoeing and wakeboarding.  You've seen our family baking, grilling and delivering food to a shelter.  You've seen choir performances, winning goals, perfect attendance awards and pints of homemade pickles.  You've "liked" pictures of my husband and I singing karaoke duets, swimming with manatees and pedaling a bicycle made for two.  We "check-in" at places like church, Texas state parks, Whole Foods, and community theater productions of "The Miracle Worker".  When I'm feeling transparent,  I might even upload a pic of the jar of spaghetti sauce my "little helper" dropped on the floor, or the un-rolled roll of toilet paper shredded by my cat.

But friends, what you have seen is one, giant, marshmallow-roasting-tent-pitching-cookie-decorating-completed-Pinterest-project-themed-birthday-party-throwing-my-house-is-always-clean illusion. 

An illusion isn't the same as a lie.  Those moments, the ones I choose to share with 1,472 of my closest friend on earth... they actually exist.  An illusion creates an altered perception of reality.  A distortion of what is true.  And one of the many things I haven't shared on FB, but will share with you in this blog is... I'm a talented illusionist.

Allow me to draw back the curtain for a moment.  Here's the truth, friends:

My life is very blessed.  My home is warm, my used cars are paid for, my closet runneth over (with clothes I wish were 2 sizes smaller), my children are amazing and my husband is hot.  But those precious, hilarious moments that fill up my FB feed... are simply mountaintops that overlook many sorrows, trials and mistakes in my life.

Not a day goes by that I don't struggle to be a woman of God, supportive wife, and gentle mother to my children. Adoption is hard.  It's the hardest thing I've ever done.  My children are all unique, growing, active and hungry for attention.  Some of them have experienced trauma and abuse which can make parenting them more intense and exhausting.  I yell at my kids more than I would ever want anyone to know or overhear, and some days I am just counting down the minutes until bedtime. My house is a disaster 6.5 days out of 7. My job is demanding and I have a hard time stepping away from my laptop, so often I work until the wee hours of morning.  My friendships and house plants suffer for lack of nurturing.  Some days I'm pretty sure there isn't enough of me to go around.  At times I question why God would ask so much of me.

And every once in a while as we're driving down the road, while my kids sing along with Raffi, I cry quietly behind my sunglasses because I feel so overwhelmed.

Then I pull into Sonic and eat some mozzarella sticks with my diet coke.  But the car-hop tells me the total, and I realize it's not Happy Hour, and I feel bad spending money because I over-spent at Walmart this week and bought myself a new waffle iron at Target and we're supposed to be setting aside money for new tires for the van. But who wants to see an Instagram shot of me, with bloodshot eyes, scarfing down fried cheese? No one! So I keep it to myself.

But why do I present a rose-colored version of my life to the world?
Do you want to know the ugly truth [for once] instead of my candy-coated song and dance?
Then keep reading.

I'm motivated by vanity, shame and fear.

I obscure the truth of my own weakness so I come off looking strong and brave.  I'm ashamed of what I'm lacking, so I highlight my own successes.  I'm afraid that the truth will ruin my reputation, so I present a false reality.  I laugh when I feel like crying, act fearless when my knees are knocking, and act like I have it altogether when I'm a hot mess.

“O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.” Psalm 139:1-5

He sees it all. Not just the Facebook version of who I am.  So how does God see me?

"His banner over me is love." Song of Solomon 2:4.  He knows my vanity, shame and fear (and SO much more), but what He sees when he looks at me... is love.

I'm letting you see what my life looks like when all those plates I'm spinning come crashing down.  When my son runs away.  When debt creeps in.  When I'm not the mom I want to be.  When we've had Ramen noodles for dinner 3 nights in a row.  I want you to know that although my life is beautiful, joyful, charming and adventurous... it is also sometimes hard, ugly, frightening, lonely and sad.  We all have struggles that we hide away from the world.  But God knows us.  Does that sounds creepy or scary to you?  God watching...  God knowing...  It may to some of you, but friends there is good news!  The world may not offer much grace for our shortcomings, but I have found the grace I am looking for in Christ.  And when we learn to accept grace from Him... we have more grace to offer those around us.  And that helps free us from our vanity, fear and shame.

So, can you expect me to start posting unflattering pics of myself or statuses that bare my soul? Nope.
Not a chance.
No way.
I'm still a work in progress*.

*And so are my cake-pops.  So, before I take a picture of them, I take all the lumpy ones off the tray, eat all the broken ones, then post a picture of the half dozen I managed not to ruin.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

From the recovery room

Dear Mattie Rose,

You are five years old and you had your tonsils out today. It was a brief procedure and, no less than an hour after they wheeled you back, I am holding you in the recovery room.  I am laying in your hospital bed pinned beneath the weight of your warm, sleepy body.  We are nestled in a heap of starchy blankets.  And while it may seem odd to some, others will understand.  I am pretending, in this darkened room filled with beeping monitors, that this is the day you were born.  I am gazing at your face and breathing deeply with my nose buried in your hair.  I'm caressing your palm and watching with wonder as your small hand wraps around my finger.  I delight at your dark fringe of lashes and cupid bow lips.  

Oh, I wish I had been there little one.  I think a part of me will always grieve those moments I missed. But there is no doubt, in this moment, that you are exactly where you belong.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Out of the ashes.

The past few weeks have brought unbelievable changes to our home and lives. Amazing opportunities. New arrivals. Relationships struggling and broken. Crisis. Adventure. Joy. Heartache. All in a swirling tornado plowing through our life. We've been steady and surefooted through most of this... but I woke up this morning and realized that my carefully laid-out plans for this year have gone up in flames.

At this point, you might feel like posting an image of a kitten clinging to a tree branch emblazoned with the words "If your plans don't work out... it's because God has something better for you!" on my Facebook page. Let me save you the trouble. First, I strongly disagree with that saying. Second (oddly enough), I'm okay with all this. Although we've suffered some disappointments... as the dust settles, I feel good... even joyful, about the changes that have come.

But I'm grieving, a little bit. I need some time to let go of "what might have been".

I walked confidently into the year 2012 knowing what to expect... because we'd made plans. Me, Bruce and God. And they were GOOD plans. I don't feel like I've participated in some God-hosted-swap-meet where I meekly turn in my lame "worldly" plans for his awesome, undeniable, outrageous, blessing-filled replacement plans. I feel like my flight has been diverted mid-flight and I’m headed somewhere new. Not somewhere better or worse, just different.

For the moment, I’m happily distracted with the excitement and newness of entering uncharted waters. But a small part of me is still in mourning. Looking back over my shoulder, watching those dreams fade in the distance. They were good plans, but it’s time to let go. Not for the promise of something bigger or better, but simply because God asked. Sometimes we foolishly boil God’s purpose in our lives into a series of upgrades. I hear faithful, Christian couples say things like this all the time: “God transferred us away from our home and family, halfway across the world... but LOOK at this backyard! Half an acre! What a blessing!” It’s great to be a “glass half full” person, or to look for the silver lining on a cloud... but it’s also okay to be real. To struggle. To admit that God is calling us to something that is hard. Or painful. Or overwhelming. But also, beautiful. To trust that God can grow something beautiful in the ashes of our sacrifice.

The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.” Psalm 37:23-26

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Does it feel the same?

I've been privileged to bring three children into this world.

I will never forget how it felt to see their faces at the moment of their births.

Exhausted and in pain... then suddenly the whole world stops moving... like all the church bells in the world are ringing at the same time, and a ray of sunshine straight from heaven is shining down on this child in my arms. Every detail of this little stranger's face is new, but somehow familiar.

On those first long nights in the hospital, although I was weary, I found myself unable to look away. I just held my baby in my arms and memorized every eyelash and dimple. I still marvel every day at their beauty and uniqueness. Each son and daughter a delightful combination of my husband and myself.

I was SO eager for the world to appreciate the beauty of this person we had created in love, so I mailed out announcements and pictures within weeks.

Let's be honest.

My babies were jaundiced, scrunched, blotchy, hairless little people. But I was convinced they were the most beautiful things to ever grace the earth. I was blinded by love. It sounds cliche, but this love is something only a mother can understand.

I'm an adoptive mom too. And there is something I want you to know:

It felt the same.

He was an awkward teenage boy with stringy hair and baggy pants, but when I laid eyes on this 15-year-old boy who would be my son, my heart caught up in my throat. Beyond a deep and sweeping love, I felt an emotion I can only describe as "mineness". In those first awkward moments of our first meeting I tried to act natural and relaxed. But I couldn't take my eyes off him.

I know that not every adoptive mother feels that way when they see their child for the first time. We recently adopted a sibling group of 3 children and I can honestly say, that although they are about the cutest kids on earth, I didn't hear any church bells ring when they came to our home. They were placed in our home for temporary foster care with a goal of reunification. I think it took many weeks for me to let down my guard and begin to fall in love with them. My love for them started as a tiny spark that needed time to grow into the warm glow of "mineness".

But I feel it now.

Biological children and adopted children are different. This is an inescapable truth. The children I gave birth to were thrust into my arms the moment of their first breath. I felt every kick and have seen every milestone. They wear my husband's light eyes and sprinkle of freckles. Their faces possess an almost mystical attraction to us... because they are ours.

But becoming an adoptive mother taught me something new.

The God who formed the stars and the seas from nothingness can create an attraction between strangers, through adoption, that is just as strong as the one created by biology. When I gaze at the faces of my adopted children, I don't see the likeness of my spouse or self. I see the faces of their birthparents. But God has taken our human hearts, that seek out familiarity and likeness, and created in them a delight for variety.

It is a beautiful thing when this magic happens in an instant. When your eyes see past abuse and neglect and medical diagnoses and race and you fall in love with your child in that moment... but it is also beautiful when this love takes time to grow. When you push past hesitance and insecurity and confusion and allow love to blossom in it's own time.

Whether this love manifests in a split second, or takes years of careful nurture to grow... when you get there, it feels the same.

Friday, February 10, 2012

After a long silence.

It might seem that there was much I want to say. To catch you up. There are many things in my heart I have written and deleted, or not yet found the courage to write. So I will share only this:

Let's suppose that, from the very beginning, a child's personality, potential, talents, strengths and weaknesses are already set. Every detail already written on their DNA. That "how they will turn out" is decided before they take their first breath. Alcoholism, depression, sexuality, narcissism, addiction, anxiety, obesity, violence. Imprinted on their being as clearly, and inescapably, as the color of their eyes.

Would we adopt a child knowing that no amount of "nurture" can change the course set in place by "nature" from the moment of conception?

I can only speak for myself, friends. But I say "yes".

I would choose you. If I knew that your path was destined to be troubling and destructive, I would take your hand and walk beside you. Maybe that is all I have to offer you. Even if my efforts cannot change the destination, you will not have traveled there alone.