Wednesday, May 9, 2018

God Sacrificed His Son, Why Shouldn't I?

I am often asked when talking about older child adoption, "How will adoptiong affect my kids?" or "I don't know if we are ready to do this because it may be too difficult for my children."

I get it! Really, I do! I can promise you, adopting WILL affect your kids! It will expose them to things they probably were never exposed to before - and probably won't be for a long time if you don't adopt.

As a parent of 9 children, I often remind myself that the challenges of raising a large family with children who have special needs pale in comparison to dying on the cross. I know. That sounds dramatic! But really, John and I have for years reminded each other that we have not yet anguished to the point of sweating blood (Luke 22:44). Since Jesus did that for us, we really can't complain about the path He has asked us to take. I mean really, can raising my adorable children really be compared to that...

But a perspective I had not really considered about the cross vs adopting is the fact that Jesus is God's Son. Hang with me a minute...I KNOW Jesus is God's son! But when I think about how adoption (or really any act of obedience that has cost your children something - going into the mission field, making a move in order to follow a call, etc) has affected the children already in my home, I have to ask myself, "If God was willing to sacrifice His Son on the cross for me, why should I not be willing to sacrifice my child for Him?" Now before you completely write me off - I am not suggesting that you put your child on an alter or hang them on a cross! But I am asking where we got the theology that God would never ask us to do something that would make our children uncomfortable! Where in scripture does it say that we should wait until our children are out of the house to follow God's commands because they just might not be able to handle it? Who made your children? Do you not think when God knit them together, He had this in mind for them?

I am not suggesting that we don't take seriously our job as parents to protect the ones God has already entrusted to us! But I am challenging the Americanized religious answer to hard things that would require our children to be uncomfortable - even in their own home - in order to be obedient to God's calling and to serve another human who doesn't have what your child does - a family! I am asking you if you are hiding from obedience behind your child?

I recently had a conversation with one of my children about another child. Child A was complaining about how inconvenient Child B is to have in the family. I quickly reminded Child A that Child B struggles with some things due to Child B's beginning before Child B came to live with us! I reminded Child A that Child A did NOTHING to deserve being born into a family with a loving mother and father, a healthy home with everything needed to provide safety, love, and connection. And Child B did nothing to deserve being born into a family who was unable to provide the necessary ingredients for a healthy start! It is only by God's grace those of us with a happy beginning have a happy beginning! We didn't earn it any more than those with a rough start deserve theirs!

If you have felt God tugging at you to adopt, go into missions, move across the country, or anything else that you think would "damage" your children, can I encourage you to revisit it? Ask God again what He desires for you to do - even if it looks like something that will require you to "sacrifice" your children. Can I ask you to trust God with your children and say YES to what He is calling you to?! After all, He said YES to you when He sacrificed His Son for you! If God asked that of His own son - don't you think He might just be asking that of yours too? Just some food for thought....


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

An Open Letter to the Parents of My Child's Classmates

This is a message sent out after school today in one of my children's classes. Before you read any further in this post, stop and think, "What would I think if this note came home from my child's class?" I know the me of five years ago probably would have wanted to know what in the world was happening in that class. How did a teacher get scratched? Why do you feel the need to assure me my child was safe? Are they really safe?

But today when I read it, I just cried....it was my child. My child put the scratch on the teacher. As I read what the school sent out, my heart broke. Let me stop here and say that we have worked hard to get where we are - but we now have an amazing team of educators working with us for our child. I understand why they had to send a message - well, my head understands it, but my heart really just wants to yell at somebody! If I could have followed that message sent out to the parents by the school with my own message, it would go something like this:

Dear Parents,

It was my child. My child put the scratch on our teacher's face. She is just as horrified as you are! I wish you could have seen how she cried when she realized she had hurt the teacher she dearly loves. I wish you could have seen how brave she was as she sat in a room with a mental health crisis worker, a behavioral specialist, her principal, her teacher, her teacher's aid, and the special programs director as she told her side of the story. I wish you could have felt her heart racing, seen the look in her eyes as she apologized to all she hurt in her meltdown. I wish you could have heard how detailed she spoke about what is happening in her mind and body when her body takes over and her mind shuts down because of fear, sadness, and anxiety! I wish you could hear her tell the mental health crisis worker how she wants to sing "What  Beautiful Name" when she starts getting anxious to calm herself down, but sometimes she doesn't remember to. She shared that she wants to sing on stage some day - I wish you could hear her BIG, BEAUTIFUL voice! Did any of you notice last week that she stood on the top row, the ENTIRE music program and sang, and did motions?! Did you know how hard she worked in the days leading up to that moment to convince herself she could in fact do that?! While you were snapping pictures with your child's friends to document all their cute Seuss hair, we were congratulating our daughter on staying on the stage! Celebrating big just how brave she is! Alone, no friends coming to take pictures with her, but BRAVE! Thank you to the mom who did ask at the end if she wanted to take a picture with her daughter. I don't know who you are, but you made this momma's night!

I wish you could get to know my child! I wish you could see the light that shines in her eyes when she feels safe! I wish you could see how she loves to give big hugs when she feels safe - even though your child has probably told you she hits, and screams, and bites when someone touches her. I wish you knew that only happens when her trauma kicks in and she has little to no control over her actions because her natural instinct to protect herself takes over. I wish you knew just how much she loves Jesus and wants to be like Him!

I have heard the whispers. I see the stares as we walk down the hall after an incident. I have had my friends tell me over coffee or lunch that their friend talked about the girl in their child's class who acts so badly - not knowing that their friend is my friend - the mom of that terrible child. I have heard my friends tell me how they have defended us as a family and assured their other friends that we are loving parents despite what so many assume about us based on our daughter's behaviors. I have even sat across tables from some of you as you made comments about my daughter  while looking me in the eye.

I wish you could walk in my shoes for just one day. I wish you could love a child with all your heart who struggles just to make it through daily life because of no fault of her own - or of yours! I wish you could sit as a mom beside your child as they realize the horrors they have caused and are heart broken because of it. I wish you could hold my child while she cries because she knows no one wants to come to her house for a sleep over because she scratched her teacher in a bodily response she couldn't control. I wish you understood.

My daughter is kind, brave, beautiful, compassionate, brilliant, artistic, musical, strong, loving - and a victim of early childhood trauma. Please look beyond the latter to see the real her. And please encourage your children to do the same.

Sincerely,
One Proud & Heart Broken Momma





Tuesday, January 30, 2018

It Comes in Floods - Grief of a Special Needs Parent

I have talked before about how the being a special needs parent has left me in a puddle of grief at unexpected times. This morning is no different. I am sitting here at my office covered in reports needing to be completed, but now unable to do them due to the tears continually flowing - blurring the screen and watering the documentation needed for the reports!

It was a simple phone call from one of my favorite school employees. She loves our kids, she is a cheerleader for us and a champion of all! But this morning, her words hit me like a sucker punch to the gut - "when we meet about Ava's schedule for next year, do you and John want to talk about putting her in some life skills classes?" It's a simple question, right? And we have talked about it many times - I know the answer. Yet saying it out loud feels like a betrayal, or maybe just another bubble of denial busted right open! I don't think I live in denial - but moments like this teach me that I still hold onto hope against hope that in the end, it will all be ok. And it will - just not the "ok" you dream of when you hold your perfectly healthy baby girl.

 I was talking to a friend just this week about how blessed we are by Ava. How thankful we are for her sweet spirit, contagious laughter, and determination! It makes me feel guilty about feeling guilty - she will love life no matter what it brings!

We want her to be the best Ava she can be, and fulfill all God's purposes for her in this life! So that answer is "yes"! We will put her in life skills classes for some of the day in order to begin the preparation for adult living - something that for her, we truthfully have no idea what will look like!

The grief this morning brought will pass - I will reconcile again that despite what our expectation of "normal" is, Ava Claire is fearfully and wonderfully made, and we know this full well!

Monday, August 7, 2017

For anyone who thinks I have it all together....

This is a post I have wanted to write for months....but for much of that time, I wouldn't have been able to collect the thoughts darting through my mind enough to communicate my point. Then fear kept me from writing it for awhile. However, I was reminded this week that the Word says we have overcome by the Blood of the Lamb AND the word of our testimony - I am not where I want to be, but I am not where I was either. Praise God! I was also encouraged to be transparent by two women of God - Lisa Terkeurst and my daughter CallieAnn - who shared their stories boldly, so I am sharing mine as well.

I don't share for sympathy or pity. I don't share to complain - although some of this will sound like toddler whininess I am sure! I share because twice in one week I had two different people say something along the lines of "I don't know how you do it! You are so put together!" Both times my immediate thought was, "If you only knew!" It wasn't that I was hiding things to put on a show. I wasn't sharing all that was going on because I was literally just trying to survive. I only share now because I truly desire to live a transparent life that glorifies my God. I share now because I have no doubt that I have friends who are walking the same path I was...and I want them to know they are NOT alone! I want them to know there is help. I want them to know they don't have to keep walking that path. For my fellow humans struggling with depression, you are not alone!

I woke up every morning with a heaviness and despair that would plague me util I went to bed that night. I would take about 30-45 minutes to talk myself out of bed - I still had to be mom and wife and adoption worker. I would go through the day trying my best to be everything everyone needed me to be. Then I would lay down to the only peace I had throughout the day - sleep.

I  am not sure when it started. I have battled this giant before in my life. I had pretty significant postpartum depression. I was actually in the process of weaning off the medicine when I found out I was pregnant with Journey. So for almost 4 years, I took medicine. When everything with Liberia happened, I battled depression again. It was different that time, though. I knew that was spiritual. I was able to battle back through spiritual warfare and get out of that pit that the enemy wanted to leave me in to kill my life's calling to be a voice and advocate for the orphaned. So I have personally know depression that is physical and depression that is spiritual.

One year ago, we heard God tell us to move. As we walked that out in obedience, we kept hearing that we were going to our Promised Land. How is depression part of my promised land? In short, it's not!

The actual move was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life...the loan for the people buying our house fell through, we were already packed with movers coming in less than a week! We helped them get another loan through a friend, but that set all the timelines off. So the first day of school, we moved into John's parents house for a week while the entire contents of our home was moved in to the garage of our new house. We would then embark on a three month complete gut of our new home that would include moving into the home, moving out to John's parents, moving back into the home, moving all 10 of us into the living room, moving back into John's parents, then moving into just the upstairs before finally being able to move everyone to their bedrooms and our living room furniture in! While doing this we had two kids start a new daycare, one kid start homeschooling, five kids start new schools, one of whom had such severe anxiety that I was making one to two trips a day to the school to help calm this one, one kid had an emergency appendectomy and one kid with a week long hospital stay that included another three weeks of maintenance care to ensure all meds were working and all was well. And that was just in the first 5 weeks of the remodel!

I knew I was stressed. I knew there were moments when it felt like I almost had to leave my body (not literally - but that's the only way I can explain with words the feeling I had of how much I had to disconnect on a daily bases emotionally to simply make it through the day without losing "it" - not really sure what "it" was, but I certainly feared losing it!) - so I felt like I had to leave my body to work in the circumstances I found myself in while also trying to meet the needs of all those dependent on me to be the emotional anchor as we made the move. I knew things were worse than I cared to admit when I started noticing that when my phone would ring with John's ringtone, my heart would start racing, and I would start to sweat. I was having panic attacks, but had no idea that's what they were. I just knew I had to hold "it" together - and part of that "it" was my family! But even though I knew things were tough and I wasn't handling it as well as I wanted to, I felt like much of it was circumstantial. I would tell myself, "I know it's bad, but when we get done moving, it will be ok." But then another crisis or stressor would enter my world. Again, I would say, "I know it's bad, but when we get through football, it will be better." And on and on....

I finally made the call to get on medication when twice I stressed out enough over circumstances that I had to call John to intervene. I knew I had made the right decision when one week after going on medication, for the first time in nearly 20 years of marriage, I had to tell John he couldn't travel for a work trip because I could not take care of things at home alone. I had reached the point where getting out of bed and doing my job was the most I had in me. One of the wake-up calls came when out of the blue, one of my younger kids asked, "Mom, do you like being a mother?!" I knew then something had to change...

For those who know me, they know this we the bottom of defeat for me. I am a strong woman - remember, everyone looks at me and says, "How do you do all that?" But the tower had crumbed. I was worn out. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. And also spiritually. My blood pressure which as been low all my life shot up to near stroke levels. Something in my body was definitely not ok.

I know there is stigma about medicine for depression at times, but I am here to tell you, when your body chemistry is off because of constant stress or other factors, medicine may just be needed! I love what Kris Vallatton says all the time about spiritual warfare and depression. He talks of the time that he had a breakdown and how he had to take medicine for a time to get his mind to where it needed to be to even be able to fight what needed to be fought on the spiritual side. That was exactly where I was!

I have been on medicine for almost 2 months now. It has helped me drastically - but as we all know there is no pill to fix everything! God is teaching me a new and deeper dependence on Him as I walk out of this valley of death. I have learned attributes of God's character in this pit that I would not have learned on a mountain top! Do I think God made me depressed?! Absolutely not! My God is a faithful, loving, gracious Father who wants me whole - mind, body and soul! But He did allow it - and He will use it for His glory and to shape and mold me into more of His reflection. He has taught me to fight on a new level on the spiritual battlefield. I still have days when the anxiety overtakes me. But I am able to fight back. The enemy wants to steal my joy - to steal the plans God has for me. My job is to stay plugged into the Source of Joy, Life, and Love so that I can fight back on the days the medicine isn't enough to overcome the circumstances that push in and threaten to take me under. Those are the days I have to fight even harder to keep my eyes on Jesus so I don't sink! Those are the days I have to remind myself many times a day - sometimes many times an hour- that my God is bigger than ANY problem I face! And I have good news for you too! He is bigger than any problem YOU face also! Greater is He that is in me (and you if you have accepted Him as your Lord) than he that is in the world! I've read the end of the book - We Win! Someone needs to hear that! You are not alone! And you WILL overcome if you will connect with the One whose blood shed for our sins overcame the power of darkness in this world, and will share your testimony! Reach out to someone close to you! Don't let satan shame you with what he gave you! Find a friend to confide in - and allow them to walk with you - right. out. of. the. valley!

You are not alone.....


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Our Ava...we have another diagnosis

It’s been over a month now, but still, it seems surreal. It still has not quite sunk in.
We completed a neuropsychological evaluation with Ava. We were hoping to gain more information on how to best help her be the best she can be. Much of what we learned we already knew. Some of what we learned was new information. And some of what we learned we knew, but we had been trying not to know.
The official diagnosis we have currently is Borderline Intellectual Functioning, but only because our Neuropsychologist is a “purist” – her words, not mine – and felt there were some scores in the functioning range that kept her form giving the Intellectually Disabled Diagnosis. She did note in her report as well as in our consult that she expects Ava’s scores to dip in the next few years as she gets older which means the ultimate diagnosis it Intellectually Disabled.
Borderline Intellectual Functioning
Intellectually Disabled
It really didn’t matter; the news was the same. We heard from someone’s mouth for the first time that they did not expect that Ava will ever be able to live on her own without support. And we were warned with what we have already known – we will have to protect Ava fiercely from those who might want to take advantage of her. We sat and talked about things that no mother of a 10 year old should ever have to think much less devise a plan.
I can’t say that we were totally blind sided. We knew it was a possibility. But hearing it. Seeing it in black and white. It took away our last bit of hope. Don’t get me wrong, with Jesus we always have Hope! It wasn’t that Hope that we lost. It was the hope that the things we saw were just delays. It was the hope that we would go in and they would tell us “It’s all going to be ok.” It was the hope that they would say, “She may have some delays, but she will function on an independent level at some point.” Those were the hopes that were gone.
I wanted to write about it then…when it happened. But I knew I would short circuit my computer with the tears that refused to be contained. I would hold it together until the last child was dropped off for school. Then the damn would break and the tears would flow. I would cry until I didn’t think I could cry anymore….then it would start again. I would text John because I couldn’t call. He would never have been able to understand what I was trying to blubber. I would pull myself together before everyone came home…then start it all over the next day. That went on for about a week.
I struggled with struggling. I mean, anyone who knows Ava loves her! We couldn’t ask for a more wonderful daughter…how could I be so sad? There were some days that it was just a totally selfish grief that overwhelmed me. The thought that I will never be an empty nester. I mean we already knew we would be ancient by the time we got the kids raised, but there was that hope of 10 good years after that to travel, do missions, REST! But the new news meant I will never be able to go on a vacation without making sure someone is watching our Ava. I told you it was selfish….but it’s real.
I have settled in my innermost being that God is good. We have been through enough in our family that battle is won and settled. So I didn’t get angry at God. But I did wrestle some more with the fact that her disorder is in her DNA! It IS how she was knit together in my womb by God almighty! It means that how she is now is her fearfully and wonderfully made. It means that how she is now includes ALL she needs for the plans and purposes God has for her. So can I even pray for healing? Should I pray for healing? Does she need healing? I haven’t settled those yet.
I have two friends who have always inspired me on their special needs parenting journeys. I had no idea God had been preparing me for the journey myself…still sounds weird…special needs parent. One of these friends shared a post a couple weeks ago that summed up all I had been feeling perfectly! She called it “special needs parent grief”. She is WAY further down this path than me, and her daughter has challenges that require much more of her as a mom than my daughter ever will me – so to compare would be insane. But she spoke of how it hits you when you least expect it. We were in the van and everyone was talking about what they wanted to be. I hear Ava’s sweet voice blurt out, “I am going to be a doctor!” Before I even know it the tears are spilling over onto my cheeks, and I have to feign something in my eye to not upset the kids who notice the water works.
Then the Sunday after we got the news, I was bawling my way through worship. I look over where the kids stand, and I see this…




Ava fully engaged in worship! Eyes closed, hands open ready to receive, fully basking in the Glory of her Heavenly Father. And in that moment the first sense of peace I had since the news. I have no idea what Ava’s future holds, but as we have always said, I know Who holds her future! I have no idea what it means for me as a mother, but I know the One who promises to provide me with ALL I need to do ALL He has given me…and He gave me Ava!
Then at a night of worship we had, our youth pastor gave an amazing Word that he received for Ava. He shared how he saw her dancing in a field of flowers GRACEFULLY! That means the jerky motions are gone. The instability is gone. The dystonia is gone! Pastor Ben said he believes we will see her dance that way in the physical, that it was not just a spiritual grace!
So God continues to be faithful. He continues to provide encouragement and give us His Hope for our Ava….His Ava!

Now I have to have that conversation with myself several times a day some days….and some days I just get stuck in the sadness of it all. We are still working through it all. But one thing that has never changed….I am blessed to be that little girls mom! I am ready for many more adventures with Ava!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Are we protecting ourselves out of obedience?

CallieAnn, my 17 year old daughter, and I were driving to the Celebration of Life service for the mother of one of CallieAnn's friends. This isn't just "some" friend, but one of her closest friends. She is one of the ones that spent enough time at our house that I consider her an honorary daughter and not just a friend of CallieAnn's. CallieAnn was making fun of me as I bawled as I drove because she had just played the new Ed Sheeran song Supermarket Flowers. If you haven't hear it, go listen! But grab the kleenex first!

It got quiet as we both reflect on where we were headed. Than CallieAnn said, "You know, we sure have had a lot of tragedy in our family!" I kind of glanced at her and said, "No, we really haven't had much tragedy at all." I mean we haven't loss many people. John's and my grandparents are really the only deaths we have faced, and they died when most of our children were not yet born and those who had been were young. But as CallieAnn clarified what she meant, I realized it wasn't tragedy that she was talking about, but trauma. We haven't had a lot of tragedy, but we have had more than our fair share of trauma...chaos.

And her next question was, "Why?" And immediately I knew the answer was obedience.

We talked for a few minutes about how we have chosen a life of obedience that has meant life was not comfortable. It really made me think about how we truly have said yes to God in so many ways that meant some sort of trauma entered out home. It has changed my children. It has exposed them to things that I know many work to shelter their children from. I have struggled from time to time knowing that our choices have brought heartache and trauma to our children that they would have avoided had we just chosen the safe path versus the obedient path.

I see so many articles on social media by well-meaning Christians warning about the "dangers" of this and the "dangers" of that. But every time I read one of those I have to ask myself, are we as Christians, charged with protecting our families? Are we supposed to view our life experiences through a lense of protection? I really don't see that to be the example we were left with in how Christ walked out His life.

He walked with the ones no one else would walk with! His followers were imprisoned for the obedience they chose. CallieAnn's question just made me ponder if in America we have chosen to value comfort over obedience. When I meet Jesus face to face, I want to be hear that I said yes when He asked not that I chose the safe path...even if it means life is not comfortable.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

God's Timing: A Lesson from a Tree


This is my favorite tree on our property. I was walking past it a couple weeks ago and saw that it had budded out. My immediate reaction was, "Oh no!!! It has budded too soon! We will have another freeze, and it will lose all these buds!" I would be extremely sad if this tree wasn't able to leaf out. As I stood contemplating the fate of my tree for this season, God whispered, "Timing is important! If you bloom too soon, the frost will get your buds." I think I laughed out loud! God knows how much I struggle with His timing, and like the good Father He is, He was taking advantage of this teachable moment.

We are on the verge of one of the largest growths in the agency we have had since we created it 12 years ago. How many times over the 12 years have I wondered if anything would really come of the agency? How many times did I wish it was "bigger" because I felt like what I was doing was insignificant or worthless? All of those moments came flashing back as times I thought I was ready to bust out my blooms, but God knew if I were to do that, a freeze was waiting to take it all away!

I smiled, thankful for the gentle reminder of the lesson of waiting on God's timing that I had learned from those experiences. I started to walk off. Silly me! I have walked with God long enough to know, if He started this conversation, there was problem more than just a fun reminiscing of lessons learned. There was a Truth for today.

Just a few days earlier, a friend had shared a prophecy warning of holding an umbrella over dry, cracked ground that was thirsty for the rain God was sending. The message was to allow the rain that God was sending to saturate the dry ground. I had been tossing that around praying through what it meant. As I started to walk off from the tree, God brought some clarity. He reminded me that blooming before I was ready was not the only timing issue I had to trust Him with. As I glanced over to Jim, our horse standing just a few feet behind the tree that had become my object lesson for the day, that small voice whispered again. "Not only do you not need to bloom too soon, but you also don't need to pull back on the reigns when I send the vision into full motion!" Ouch! I would have been just find to look back on those memories of wanting more but learning to trust Him to bring it in His timing. But no, God had to go and remind me that I was afraid of the things He had shown me needed to be happening because I just did not see how it would work.

We are in one of the craziest seasons of our lives! We are still trying to crawl out from under the crazy moving/remodel experience of this summer. We still don't have all the remodel completed (lack a few things in the kitchen and an entire bathroom), we still have boxes to unpack, systems to get into place, and some painting to do. The agency has become busier than it has ever been all while our children's needs are at a place where they need us advocating, and loving, and connecting and providing for them more than we ever have. John's job is also going through some transition that is pulling him in different directions and brings more stress and demands. Then my parents had a serious car accident last week, and I saw my daughter and oldest grandson for the first time in three years, and met my youngest grandson for the first time ever! It seriously could not be a busier, more demanding, emotionally exhausting season of life. So I find myself pulling back on the reigns of the things God is saying to let run, NOW! I find myself throwing up an umbrella afraid of the rain that is falling.

The buds have grown out more now. I can see them from my windows. We haven't had a hard freeze since they started coming out, but I suspect we will. I do not really know what it will do to the tree for this season. But every time I catch a glimpse of a bud, I smile because I hear that small voice saying, "Do you see how big that tree is?! What is happening in this season will be another ring. Another year of growth. Another layer of strong bark turned to an inner ring. Don't stop by just looking at the buds...look at what I have done over years and years. Trust me with your season! It's just one piece of the puzzle I am working in your life to build and mold and shape you into who I have called you to be! Listen. Trust. Obey. Then leave the rest up to me!"