Y is for You #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter YToday is a shout out to those who carried us through this adoption journey, who prayed diligently for us, who prayed for our birth mom, who generously provided references, who encouraged us through the rough patches, who rejoiced with us when we were matched, who grieved with us when matches fell through, who counseled us, who reminded us of God’s tender mercies and perfect timing, and who ultimately praised the Lord with us when we brought our sweet son home.

You are appreciated.

You are valued.

You are important.

You are reflections of grace.

You are sources of strength.

You are cherished.

You are LOVED.

You-are-Loved

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X is for The eXtraordinary #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter XA couple of days ago, I wrote about all the unexpected things that happen as you navigate through an adoption.  They are countless and continuous.  Among them, though, are truly extraordinary details that regularly confirm that you are on the right path.  We had many of those along the way…too many to remember, but here are some of the biggies:

  • Being asked (entreated) to join the Domestic Adoption program:  There weren’t enough potential adoptive families to present to birth parents.  How is that even possible?  We had already decided to pursue adoption through the foster system, but we had not signed any contracts, and the phone call came.  How do you say no?  You don’t.  We didn’t.  In my heart of hearts, I wanted a baby.  From the beginning, I wanted a baby.  I was, however, cowed by outside concerns…concerns that if we didn’t make limitations on some issues, we would encounter problems along the way.  We set the limits.  In reality, I set the limits, and I was never comfortable with them, so when we started over after our move, I removed them.  And here we are.  I came to the conclusion long ago that God was working on me, bending & molding me, usa domesticforcing me to trust him completely, and when I finally did, he gave me exactly what I wanted.  A baby.
  • pca crossHaving a Christian social worker involved in our case:  She wasn’t ours, but she impacted us tremendously throughout.  She serves God faithfully and without reservation, and it shows all the time.  Her boldness and sincerity encouraged us and inspired us.  Her knack for mothering those who are in need made our birth mom feel safe and loved.  We were (ARE) all better for knowing her.
  • A volunteer doctor at Crisis Pregnancy:  I don’t know if this doctor is a Christian or not, but I do know that he is compassionate, and he believes in life.  When he saw our birth mom at Crisis Pregnancy, he offered to treat her himself at his private practice, and he followed through on that.  He is a good doctor, cautious and thorough, and he provided excellent care.  He treated our birth mom kindly and with respect, as he did all of us.  Org-AZ-Phoenix-Crisis-Pregnancy-CentersHe never withheld information, or acted as though anyone of us was an imposition on his time.  He is the type of doctor every pregnant woman should have, but especially those who are tempted to choose another alternative.  We were blessed to be under his care.
  • hippocrates symbolStellar hospital care for both our birth mom and our baby:  Without a doubt, our birth mom and our baby received top of the line care in the hospital.  The NICU, where our son spent four days while his blood sugar stabilized, was as good as they get.  The nurses were (are) phonomenal.  Further, they treated everyone involved with great respect. With two exceptions (attitude problems), our birth mom experienced the same stellar care.  The nursing staff in the maternity ward could not have provided better care, and they were kind and respectful to all of us.  The nurse manager personally cared for our birth mom one day, and I believe her lovely outlook sets the tone on the ward, and all of us benefited from her positive influence.
  • adoption symbolRooming in with our birth mom:  When you adopt, the maternity ward tries to provide a room (if one is available) to adoptive families, so they can stay in the hospital with their baby.  Such was not the case for us…the maternity ward was full.  Our birth mom, though, asked that I stay with her.  I was reluctant, because I didn’t want to be a constant (sad) reminder of what she was giving up, but she insisted that she wanted me to stay, so I did.  I will never regret doing that.  It enabled me to be there with our son much more than if I had been in a hotel, and it gave me the opportunity to spend a lot of time with our birth mom before we all (finally) went home.  Things were easy and comfortable, as they had always been.  I made sure to give her space, and I spent a lot of time with our son.  My husband was able to come every day to see us, and I was there when our birth mom discharged, and was able to say goodbye to her.  Those are memories I would not have had I not spent those days with her, and I cherish them.
  • The angel working in our county adoption division:  This paralegal secured an expedited hearing so we could finalize before our home study expired.  She pushed through paperwork at CPS when no one else – our agency included – would not make an effort, and she saved us a continuance (and probably some money as well).  She was kind, and she went the extra mile Jeremiah-29-11to make sure our hearing took place quickly and without problems.   At a time when I have lost faith in virtually anything to do with government, she proved that there are still good people working there, people who genuinely seek to help the public.

There were many other moments like this, but these are the ones I remember the most.  Even if they were the only ones, they would be enough.  God is extraordinary.  He loves in extraordinary measure, and he moves in profound and extraordinary ways to show us.

K is for “Choose a Name that Begins with K” #AtoZChallenge

A to Z Letter K“Please try to choose a name that begins with K.”

It never occurred to me until that moment that naming our child could become controversial.  It never crossed my mind that she would ask to participate in the naming, even if it was as simple as asking that the name start with a certain letter.  For the record, that was not a simple request.

We have discussed names numerous times over the past five years, trying out different name combinations and trying to come up with something we both liked.  This is nothing new…not for us, not for any couple who is expecting.  The sticking point for us was that when we named our first son, I reluctantly agreed to let my husband use a name for our second child (assuming that child was a son) that I didn’t particularly like, provided that it was a middle name, and not the name by which he would be addressed for the rest of his life.  So though I wouldn’t get to choose a full name that I liked, I would get to choose his first name.

boy names kThe birth mom’s request derailed the direction we were going completely, and I (we) had to start over.  She made the request because she has two other kids, both of whom have names beginning with K, and even though she wasn’t keeping this baby, she still wanted to have this connection.  And though I didn’t love the idea, I was sympathetic to her desire.  So we started experimenting with new name combinations, still incorporating my husband’s choice, and we came up with something we liked.  I told our birth mom at her next doctor appointment, she seemed to like it.

whyAt the meeting with the counselor (where we met the birth father for the first time), we learned that she (they) had vetoed the name.  They didn’t like it.  Not only that, they had chosen a name they liked, something they thought would go well with our choice for a middle name.  Wow!  I was not prepared for that, and I left that meeting – an otherwise positive meeting – feeling very irritated about that change.  It ultimately boiled down to the fact that I got removed from the name choice entirely, and it hurt my feelings and made me angry.  I wanted to be involved, and if we decided to accommodate them, I didn’t get to be.  This never occurred to them, obviously…they were simply thinking of something that would make them feel connected to their (our) baby.

Whats-In-a-NameI talked to both our social worker and our birth mom’s social worker, and I learned something else about naming.  When it comes to adoptions, names can cause huge problems.  HUGE.  And they can derail an adoption plan.  They have derailed adoption plans.  No one felt that it would in our case, and we had no obligation to use the name they wanted, but I was reminded that, when measured against the fact that they were surrendering their child to us, the name was not that big of a deal.  They were right.  I didn’t want them to be, but they were.

I talked to my husband.  I asked my husband if we had to use the name he wanted.  His response?  “You promised.”  He was right…I did.  I just never anticipated not getting to choose at all.  we continued to discuss it.  He knew I was really, really hurt by this, and ultimately he became, “Whatever.  Choose whatever you want.”

do what is rightI didn’t want that either.  I didn’t want him this to be a point of contention for us, which it would have been for a while, and I was really struggling with doing what I knew was the right thing.  After some real soul searching, and some begging (yes, begging) God to turn my heart on this and make me OK with what I knew I needed to do, I agreed.  The caveat was that I got to choose the order, and that he would be called by the other name regardless of the order.  My husband agreed, though he did say at first, “Well, I’ll just call him “…”, and you can call him “…”.

No.  Really, no!

In the end, the birth parents got the name they wanted, and that was the right thing.  My husband got the name he wanted, and that was the right thing.  I got to choose the order and the name by which he would be addressed, and yes, even that was the right thing.  And the truth be told, the name – his whole name – suits him perfectly.  It is masculine and strong, just as he is and will be, and it is just right.

 

 

 

Writer’s Block

stressI am stressed these days…in fact, I am a walking illustration of what stress can look like.  Every skin issue I struggle with has flared up.  My back pain has flared up.  I wake up frequently with a headache.  My shoulders & neck feel stiff and sore all the time.  I grind my teeth at night.  My energy level has tanked, and even working out (which I do) does not give me the boost it usually does.  Sometimes I can’t sleep, sometimes I sleep to much because I can’t turn off my thoughts and quiet my frustrations & worries.  I eat the wrong things…comfort foods that don’t really comfort.

writers_block_400

The problem with stress is that, when I least want it to, it leads to writer’s block.  So the very thing that has provided relief for me on myriad occasions seems just beyond my fingertips at the moment.  It is frustrating, and made more so because of part of what is troubling me is a personal brouhaha over my writing.

I want to sit down and spill it all a the keyboard.  I can’t…I can’t find the words right now.  Instead, I internalize everything and then talk my husband’s ear off in the middle of the night.  To his credit, being the incredible man he is, he understands that those late night rantings are sometimes necessary, and he listens…or suffers through them…until I wind down, or he kicks me out to the couch because he needs to sleep.

god healsThis will pass.  I know it will, but in the meantime I’m muscling through the anger, anxiety, frustration, and sadness the best that I can.  If you pray, please say one for me.  God is a miraculous healer, and I could use some heart healing right now.

Perhaps a Perspective Shift Today…

phil pirate

My silly, lovely, wonderful husband!

I’ve been reading Natasha Metzler’s blog for a few years now.  She inspires me with her graceful willingness to be transparent in pain, all the while giving God glory for the beautiful, blessed life that he created for her.  I am humbled by her faith, and by her conscious decision to take every situation in her life and find God’s blessing(s) in it.  What a beautiful testimony to the power of God’s love and grace, and how it can so magnificently transform us through our pain and disappointment.

This month she is writing a daily post on what she loves about her husband.  One new thing each day.  I love this, because each one has caused me to stop and reflect for a moment on my own husband.  Today she wrote about how her husband blesses her with his gift of conversation.  I love that something so common, so taken for granted, so quotidian (to quote my friend Bri), is described in such a way.  I love it because my husband blesses me in this way, too.

How many times does he allow me to talk his ear off when we go to bed…too late to talk…but knowing that I need to decompress?  The answer is too many to count  And so many times has he offered a perspective to me that I have not yet considered.  So many times he has offered a Biblical framework in which to see my concerns anew.  So many times he has thoughtfully expressed his understanding of a Biblical principle that opens up a new level of understanding for me.  So many times…in the middle of the night…when I am downloading all my worries and rants to him.

I am so very thankful for him, and for how he helps me reshape my thoughts and worries.  I am thankful for his depth, and for his willingness to be tired the next morning because so many of these deep conversations happen in the middle of the night.  I am thankful that he listens (even when he’s tired), and that he hears…that he seeks to know my heart intimately, and that he prays for and with me.   I am so very, very thankful that God saw what I needed and provided in such extraordinary measure.

Bullying

Exodus 14:14 The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

elevate ideas.

BULLY

Discouragement is a bully.

It comes at you on the playground when you’re running and laughing and enjoying life and delivers a sucker punch that brings you to a heap on the ground gasping for breath and crying silently.

Discouragement is a bully.

It interrupts the moments of contentedness and peace and just when you’re feeling on top of things and like the vision is actually a possibility, it throws a ball directly at your head and it knocks you to the ground and impairs your vision.

Discouragement is a bully.

It yells obscenities at you, tells you you’re ugly and not good enough and confirms your deepest fears. It preys on those fears and taunts you with them and convinces you it’s best just to quit — quit showing up , quit working hard, quit trying.

Discouragement is a bully, and I just realized it today.

When I…

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The Mirror Moment

Or What I Need (and Want) to Do, but Have Not Yet Succeeded in Doing

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Matthew 18:35:  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Mark 11:25:  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Luke 6:37:  “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

Luke 17:3-4:  Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

1 John 1:9:  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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cs-lewis on forgiveness

C.S. Lewis talks at length about forgiveness, and what it means to really forgive.  It is a task much more significant and difficult than simply uttering the words “I forgive you.”  It is a radical action, like love, that when done with the same desire and fervency that God has shown, wholly reconciles the relationship.  It is not forgetting, but putting it in the past and leaving it there.

I had a mirror held up to my face heart over the holidays, and realized that I have become that which I hate most.  I seek forgiveness from Christ for the most inexcusable in me, yet I have not done this for others.  I seek reconciliation and redemption from Christ, but I have not offered this to others.  I ask for God’s mercy and grace in my life, but I am reluctant unwilling to spare even a measure of it for others, even those who have granted me an undue portion.

cs lewis obeying godWhat do you do when you realize that all the navel-gazing in the world…that which you thought would give you a release from the bitterness, anger and frustration that has plagued you for so long…does so only minimally, but has the very real consequence of hurting others more than helping yourself?  When the mirror was held up and I saw SAW, I realized the bill of goods that I’d been sold…and believed.  In the effort to make others see, really SEE, I failed to see for myself.  And what I see…finally…is this:  I can not claim forgiveness for myself until I am willing to forgive trespasses against me.  I can not be reconciled to Christ unless I am willing to be reconciled with those in my earthly life.  With my family and friends.

forgive others

And it is HARD.  I have had this crutch, this safety net of anger & pain, for so long that to try and break it down is unbelievably daunting.  Tim Keller talks in Counterfeit Gods about how we don’t realize what becomes a false god to us until we recognize that we have made it more important than God Himself.  Why can’t I trust God to protect my heart?  I know He will.  Why can’t I rely on God to show me the way to redemption?  He always does.  Why can’t I lay at His feet the shackles of hostility, bitterness, pain, grief, anger, frustration, worry…and know that He is bigger than all of those barriers, that He is more than enough, and that He has only been waiting for me to cast aside my counterfeit god and truly rest in Him?

I hate being vulnerable.  I hate being in a position to be attacked, vilified, and ridiculed.  I hate feeling as though knowledge about me constitutes ammunition that can be used on me later.  There is a sense of protection in putting things out into the world in writing, so that I can say what I need want to say without immediate repercussion.  So I have taken the easy road.  I have written about the litany of hurts and slights in my life.  I have wallowed.  And I have hurt others.  I have made targets of people in a manner that allowed (I thought) for as little consequence as possible.  Except that now it is out there, and the bell can not be un-rung.

no-new-years-resolutionsI stopped making New Year’s Resolutions many years ago.  What was the point?  We all start the new year with expectations that it will be different from last year, and from the year before that.  2013 was no different for me…I started the year with no list of things to do better, no list of changes to make, no list of goals to meet (other than to try for the gazillionth time to read at least 100 books).  Then came the mirror moment that reflected how empty my soul has become, because I keep digging at the bottom instead of turning around and letting God fill me up.  I am tired.  I am tired of only partially trusting God, and in still thinking that I have to do the heavy lifting in my life.  I am tired of propping myself up with grudges and grievances.  rather than laying them down at His feet and moving on.  I am tired of what so much navel-gazing has rendered in me…which is nothing.  I am tired of being empty.

Here are my resolutions for 2013…a very different lot than had I made them 17 days ago:

  • Make God the biggest part of my life, rather than the grudges I have held onto for so long.
  • Think of others before myself, care for others before myself, serve others before myself.
  • FORGIVE.  My single, biggest impediment to quieting the personal demons, and to reconciling relationships that have been hurt by my inability unwillingness to forgive.
  • Understand that forgiveness is both an action and a process.  Do it daily, sincerely, and continuously.
  • Read my Bible every day.  Let it infuse me, and change me.
  • Stop making excuses.
  • Be joyful always.  In fact, do just as 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us:  16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

be silentPractically speaking, this means the blog will change.  A number of posts will go private, and I will not publish them again.  I have hurt and angered others by writing them, and that stops now.  I will not publish new posts airing grievances against others.  If I can’t find a way to focus my thoughts in an uplifting way that points no fingers, it will not go live.  I want to do something better with my time and my passion.

reconciliation-lizbydesignDoes it seem strange to look at this chain of events and thank God for the crushing blow of clarity?  Sometimes – MANY times – it takes exactly that to get it.  How many times do I need the mirror to be held up before I realize my brokenness is by my own hand, and I am crushed by the weight of my own sin?  I don’t know…I’ll let you know…this year…as I let Him help me out of this spiritual, mental & emotional pit I have dug for myself.

I believe, Lord.  I truly believe.  Please help me to take it to heart and live it out.