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

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.

The Mirror Moment

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

********************
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.

********************

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.

Regurgitated Ruminations: A Random Selection

Reunion:  I made a trip (home) to Tennessee to attend a sweet friend’s wedding.  What a fun weekend it was, seeing her googly-eyed with happiness, staying (and having a blasty-blast) with some of my favorite people, hugging more friends than I can count, and making a long-awaited visit to my very favorite used bookstore…McKay’s.  So glad I made that trip.  I have missed my TN friends so much, and it was nice to indulge in a weekend with them, and without responsibilities.

Relatives (relating to the above):  What did not happen last weekend was contact with the family I have in TN.  I had the time.  I even had a fleeting inclination to do so, but I could not make myself do it.  There has been a fair amount of rancor in our “relationship” over the past several years, and the geographical distance gained by my cross-country move has helped (me).  Nonetheless, I could not overcome the gulf, even for something as small as a “Hey!” while I was in town…even to save myself looking like an asshole.  Maybe next time…

Honey. Dripping out of the wall. Dead bees. Yep, that’s a new one for me!

Returning:  Back home to AZ and hitting ground running.  School, meetings, homework, another wedding, relatives visiting, piano practice, HONEYBEES in the front wall…it’s been a breathless week and a half.  My mom’s birthday came and went while I was out of town, and it was only yesterday that I finally was able to get to the post office and mail her gift.  I am such a slug with birthdays – all birthdays, not just my mom’s.  In fact, the only birthday I’m routinely ready for on time is my son’s.  Apologies to all who are affected, but it’s unlikely to change.

Click HERE to check out what they’re doing!

Relatives (relating to the above):  Our nephew and his beautiful wife of two years spent the past several days with us.  We had such a great time with them…catching up with them, going to church, playing games, eating good food, taking pictures with cacti (or cactuses, if you prefer), and watching our 7yo son absolutely soak in as much of their love and attention as he could get.  They left this morning, and we miss them already!

Racket:  There is a lot of construction in our subdivision right now.  When we moved in, things were fairly slow, but it has been non-stop for the whole of 2012. Good for them, but it does create racket…and dust.  LOTS of dust.

Racing…to November, when the NASCAR race comes to town.  More importantly, when one of my BFFs comes to visit for a week.  Yes, she’s coming for the race (it’s an annual thing), but she’s also my shopping (and thrifting) soul mate!  My husband gets kid duty, and I get to marathon shop with my bestie!  Happy, happy, happy dance!

ROSS, Dress for Less:  A favorite place to shop, because I am nothing if not a discount shopper.  I love a good deal…a good sale…a clearance blowout.  The less I have to spend for something I need (OK…something I want), the happier I am.  So tell me, why is it that, in order to procure these deals, I have to endure regularly horrendous customer service.  Honestly, Walmart often has superior service, and that is s-a-d, because they’re on the service sh*t list too!

Rude!  Don’t be.

Rogue Thoughts:  If it’s ribald or raunchy, It’s usually funny (to me).  Can’t help it…that stuff makes me giggle & snort.

Recurrent Rapture:  Pumpkin spice latte is back in season.  I love fall, and pumpkin spice latte…or indeed, anything pumpkin…is largely the reason.  Well, that and cooler weather.

Romney/Ryan:  No way around it, they’re the lesser of two evils.  In truth, I’m voting less for them than against Obama/Biden.  Hoping for change this November.

Ready or Not:  The older I get, the faster life flies by.  There are days when I just want to stop the race and savor what’s going on for as long as possible.  On this note, I am going to savor a hot shower, a working vacuum, and time to practice the piano uninterrupted.

Doing It Right This Time

An Adoption Manifesto

This is the second time in the past four years that we have been at the end of a home study and ready to add a child (or two) to our little family.  Our first attempt, undertaken in Tennessee, went smoothly through every step of the process, but the months ticked by as we waited for a match and I began to get discouraged.  We watched other families, who started their adoptive journey at the same time, bring their babies home.  I can’t imagine feeling any happier for them than I did (and do), because I intimately understood where they had been and how the struggles to expand your family can discourage even the most hopeful.  As we approached the anniversary of our approval, with no obvious progress, I found myself wondering what was wrong with us, what was wrong with me, what did birth parents not see in us that they saw in others.

Amazing, then, as we were contemplating having to renew all of our paperwork for another year, to have a job offer fall into my husband’s lap that we just could not refuse.  This was not out of thin air.  We had been open to relocation for quite some time, and my husband had even submitted his name for consideration on a four year international assignment in Santiago, Chile…one that ultimately fell through.  So my husband accepted this job offer, and we picked up and moved cross country so he could be a member of the start up team for a new office.  Our adoption file was placed on hold.  We settled in to life in the desert, sold our Tennessee home, and except for some truly precious friends we left behind, severed our ties to the Tennessee Valley.

It took me almost two years before I was able to tackle a home study again.  It is an arduous process, packed with lots of paperwork, interviews, and extremely personal questions.  It has to be that way…it should be that way…but it can feel really invasive.  After having been through it once, after having second guessed virtually every answer, every disclosure, every decision as we filled out the application, I was momentarily paralyzed at having to do it again.

My husband told me that the first time around, he felt like he was the one running point, pushing me to get everything completed and submitted, and though he knew I wanted to do it, he felt a little like he was dragging me along, and he wasn’t going to do that again.  If we were really going to do this, I had to run point this time.  I had to take the lead in getting the paperwork finished, scheduling the interviews, prepping our 7yo son for his interview, getting our house prepared, and basically moving the process along.  I think he wanted to make absolutely certain that I was in this 100%, and he was right to put the responsibility on me.  I needed that to get me moving, and here we are now, having completed the process once again…waiting for a child (or two) to add to our family.

And this time, we are doing it right.

My husband and I have had a lot of conversations about our experience in Tennessee.  He didn’t realize at the time how discouraged I was, in large part because I felt like the agency was not taking good care of us once our home study was complete.  I had sensed that our social worker (also the head of the agency) did not seem to have an aura of joy about her job.  She didn’t exhibit excitement about what she was doing.  She didn’t seem energetic or filled with an eagerness to find a match for us.  She didn’t seem excited to present us, and over the course of a year with them, our profile was viewed twice.  After all the hours spent making it as good as we possibly could, making sure it accurately represented our family, making sure it was well put together and error free, it seemed to languish on the shelf most of the year.  This is devastating to a family who has such high hopes that this (very expensive) process will culminate with a beautiful child to call our own.

He also didn’t realize that I had been feeling profound regret about some of the choices we made regarding the type of child we wished to have.  I made these decisions against my personal convictions, and I knew when I did so that I would regret them.  I hated myself for compromising what I believed was the right thing to do in the name of avoiding some really difficult conversations.  I’m no stranger to conflict.  I’ve dealt with it all of my life, but I have capitulated many times when I wished I had not (even though it was to keep – or make – peace), and here was yet another example of doing just that .  Again.

Not this time.

There were many, many conversations with friends and family over the course of our first home study.  We were grateful beyond words at the outpouring of support & love, at the willingness of those closest to us to provide references, and at their unabashed happiness for us as we pursued what was in our hearts.  So I was completely taken aback when I was cautioned:

  • to think long and hard before we decided to adopt a black child
  • to think long and hard before we decided to adopt a mixed race child if one of the birth parents was black
  • that adopting a black or mixed race child would be fraught with problems throughout our lives
  • that black people value their culture highly, and that would be cause for conflict and frustration in our family
  • that only white people adopt trans-racially and trans-culturally, because we don’t put as high a value on our own culture and traditions
  • that adopting a black or mixed race child would cause the child to have problems being accepted in both the black & white communities
  • that a black or mixed race child would have identity issues being raised in a white family
  • that a black or mixed race child may not be accepted by their own families
  • that people would talk about us having a black or mixed race child

AND:

  • to think long and hard before we decided to adopt a child with any special needs
  • that we would not know what we were getting into
  • that we would likely encounter more difficulty than we anticipated
  • that we needed to be very, very sure we wanted to take on those burdens

I was utterly unprepared with any answer to these cautions, especially the reservations voiced about race.  It NEVER OCCURRED to me until that moment to exclude certain racial or ethnic backgrounds when indicating the children for whom we wanted to be considered.  My husband and I had talked at length about what special needs and/or health problems we felt competent to handle, but the truth is, you never know how special needs and health issues will manifest themselves…until they do.  Adoption is no different from biology in that regard, and the only difference is that in an adoption, you can withdraw.  But if you have discussed it, and prayed about, and know that God has your back in all things…well…

We had also discussed all of the racial issues, and we had no racial concerns or exclusions…until some reservations were verbalized to us.  And I did what I have done some many times throughout my life…I made the decision that would not ruffle feathers, and I nearly choked on it.

Not this time.

If you attended church when you were a child, or have attended regularly with your own children, you are probably familiar with this little song:

Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red or yellow, black or white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

I was reminded of that song as we started our current home study, because “red or yellow, black or white,” all are precious in MY sight, too.  I do not care what color my child is, what race my child is, what ethnicity my child is, or what culture my child is.  I want my family to reflect the body of Christ, and that means actively seeking not to exclude certain of those whom God may entrust us to raise, but rather to be willing and open to whomever God brings into our family.  I can’t do it any other way.  I am compelled as we go on this journey to make decisions I believe are right in the eyes of God.  I believe that includes making practical decisions regarding the health and safety of our biological son.  I also believe it means cleaving to our convictions, and if it ruffles feathers…well, we are prepared for that.

I’ll leave you with one final thought.  We had a discussion with our son a few months ago about what kind of child he might want for a brother or sister.  After telling us he wanted a big brother, a little brother, a big sister, and a little sister, we had the following exchange:

Mom:  What color brother or sister would you like?  (I was teasing, because he’s as likely to say green or orange as any other color)
Dad:  What about green?
Son:  No Daddy!
Mom:  So what color would you like?
Son:  Like us.  You know, human color.
Mom:  Well, what if we get a brother or sister that is the color of D____? (a black/Hispanic kid at school).
Son:  Mommy, D_____ is not a color, he’s a boy!!

What a perfect response from a child who sees people, not colors.  May God continue to keep his heart that pure and unencumbered with prejudice.

Thank you for reading my heart.  Please, pray for us as we pursue adoption once again.  Your prayers are a life raft for us during this journey.