Hope Is Slow: The Story of Adoption: Part III

Hope Is Slow: The Story of Adoption: Part III

If I’m honest, (and I’m going to be), I have been waiting since day one for the bottom to drop out of this adoption thing. Every time an email showed up in my inbox from the adoption agency, I braced myself for the news that for whatever reason we would not be able to move forward.

There is trauma involved in a terminated adoption.

But every step of the process was smooth. It was like floating out on the ocean on a calm morning, the water smooth as glass all around us, sun warming our faces. Each stroke of the oar pushed us further along without the glimmer of a wave to hold us back.

It was a bit unnerving.

I knew it couldn’t possibly remain so smooth. It’s not just the unpredictability of adoption that threatened to shake us. It goes much deeper than that.

Adoption is spiritual.

The battle for the life of a child begins at conception. Satan hates children. Their vulnerability makes them an easy target. Christ Himself esteemed children in a day and age when kids were not considered a commodity, but rather a property, good only for extra help around the home and the farm.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14

Children are the least of these. They are blessings and gifts, and they will always be in the crosshairs of the spiritual war we battle in this fallen world.

And the fatherless? Well, what better way for the devil to wreak havoc on a desperate and deprived world than to make sure children never find the security of a family?

Walking in faith toward adoption is a step onto one of the greatest heavenly battlefields, and there are bound to be repercussions.

The chaos in my dream was more than mere coincidence. It was more than the result of sleep deprivation and a movie. The chaos in my dream was a true representation of the battlefield we are traversing.

In the last few months, it has become more apparent to me than ever that we are under spiritual attack. From a hole in our roof that we can’t seem to get a roofer to replace, (we can’t even get anyone to call us back!) to a car accident, to tensions inside and outside our home, to a very bizarre glitch with the immigration code given to our adopted son that threatened to set us back months in going to pick him up.

I can easily wave all these off, pushing them aside as merely coincidental. We should have called a roofer months ago before the rainy season hit. I should have kept my eyes on the road instead of glancing at my daughter’s new ring. We just need to slow down and take a breath. That immigration coding issue could happen to anyone.

There is truth in all the above statements, and I’m certainly not one to look for the devil beneath every rock, but I also believe that satan wants to throw everything into chaos so that when we pick up our son, we are already worn down, beaten, stressed, and at odds.

We are on the bus, looking out both windows. Panic ensues. The world around us is in chaos, burning, tilting, crumbling.

And then someone hands us a child.

I think there are spiritual implications to my dream, and I’m not taking it lightly. I believe that the child represents our adopted son. Every time I held that baby in my arms, the panic and fear I felt abated. A calm washed over me, despite the fact that the world continued to rage.

Despite all the craziness that has been tossed at us these last six months, I don’t for a second doubt that Sawyer is meant to be our son. And so, despite the fact that water keeps dripping into my walls, my car is still in the shop, and the general feeling in life right now is we’re a half a step behind everything, I feel peace when I remember that this little boy is worth every battle.

Beyond that, it is apparent that the child in my dream is a representation of Christ Himself. The two are connected, our Chinese son and our God. Clinging to Christ is the only thing that makes the chaos less…chaotic.

We are in a battle, a war for the ages. Satan wants nothing more than to destroy this adoption, and why?

Because it is a picture of the gospel. It’s a picture of what Christ has done for us. It’s a picture of Christ Himself.

There’s nothing special about our family. We aren’t better than anyone else because we chose to walk this path. We aren’t stronger. In fact, we feel anything but strong right now.

But though the world rages, though the battle grows fierce, though the waves rise, interrupting our smooth as glass ride, though the roof above our head lets in the rain, though the path feels unsteady, still we take tentative steps forward, obediently walking toward not just a call but a command.

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God is this: To visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27

We believe Sawyer is worth the fight. We believe our four biological children are worth the fight. We believe that Christ is the sustainer, the protector. We believe that the world will keep raging, but our hearts don’t have to falter.

In roughly two months, we will pick up our son. This isn’t the end of our adoption story.

It’s only the beginning…

 

 

Sparkle in the Cracks

Sparkle in the Cracks

I’ve been at this parenting gig for awhile now. Not long enough to call myself an expert, but definitely long enough to feel like I’ve got a handle on a few things. Of course, I’ve got a teenager now, and a tween right behind him, so on any given day I pretty much feel like I’m winging it in some way or another.

Besides that, however, I’m pretty sure I’m nailing this motherhood thing. AS IF IT’S HARD!

Every once in awhile, though, I’m thrown for a loop, and it’s usually by something fairly benign. Sometimes the old lessons that I feel like I should have mastered come back to bite me in the backside, and I find myself back at square one, looking at all these small people and wondering why there are so many of them and what on this side of heaven could they possibly want from me?!

Slime.

My 11-year-old is currently obsessed with making slime – making homemade slime in one of my tupperware dishes. And what does one do with homemade slime, you might ask?

Well, I asked the same question and I got “the look”. You know…the look that kids throw your way that make it ten shades of obvious you are completely clueless to anything really important in life. It’s the look that says you should probably just go ahead and give up, because clearly you are failing at life.

“You play with it, Mom,” she answered, and I felt like I needed to apologize for even asking the question. “It’s very satisfying.”

Then she had me stick my hands in the slime and squish it around, and…okay yes, the way it rolled through my fingers was kind of satisfying.

Then she took her tub of slime to her room, and I stared at the aftermath and felt my blood begin to boil ever so slightly, because making slime is a messy endeavor. It involves Borax and shaving cream and glue, and then you throw in food coloring, because obviously. And you top it off with glitter because everyone knows that the world spins on an axis of glitter.

The agreement we’d struck in this whole “slime making” ordeal was that she had to clean up after herself, and she did that as well as any 11-year-old would, which means there were faint streaks of shaving cream spanning the width of the table, half dried drips of glue running down the sides of the chair, and Borax crystals crunching beneath my feet.

But the piece de resistance was the glitter that now permanently resides in the cracks of my table. My brand new table. The table that Lee and I spent actual dollars on for the first time in our adult lives. Every table before this one was a hand me down. The last table was in such bad condition that it became a hazard to anyone who attempted to sit at it.

But this new table is a gem, and now it sparkles. Hot pink sparkles, to be exact.

My initial reaction was indignation. I mean, how dare she?! Why couldn’t she be more careful? WHY DID SHE NEED TO MAKE SLIME IN THE FIRST PLACE?!

So many questions, none of them with decent answers, and as I set to trying to remove as much of the glitter as I could the two year old came tearing by me, belly laughing at the top of her lungs while her brother chased close behind.

“Hi Mommy!” she yelled as she ran past, and then she crashed into the end table where someone had left a cup of lemonade, which immediately spilled and scattered across the floor I had mopped just moments earlier.

I wanted to cry. I wanted to erase all the glitter, and silence all the noise, and dump slime over all the heads, then drink wine and eat ice cream and wallow in my own self pity.

I opened my mouth to let out a sigh of frustration, but then I caught her eyes. They were big and wide, and full of toddler remorse, and it stopped me in my tracks.

I felt suddenly so foolish because hadn’t I already learned this lesson 100 times over? Don’t I know that these children don’t keep – that they grow and suddenly they’re not into slime, but boys and makeup and trendy clothes?

I knelt down in front of her and gave her a big hug, squishing her soft cheek against mine because it sinks in and feels so sweet. She threw her arms around my neck and squeezed hard, then kissed me straight on the mouth.

“I wuv you!” she yelled, then off she ran again while I pulled out a rag to mop up the lemonade that was sure to make our feet stick for days.

And now I’m sitting at my table alone. The kids are all in bed, and I’m here typing out the story of a day when I had to relearn the lesson that babies don’t keep, and that spilled lemonade isn’t worth losing my cool.

And while I write, the table sparkles in the glowing lights, flecks of pink glitter lighting up the cracks right in front of my eyes.

It’s really quite lovely.

3 Keys to Raising Confident Children in a Contentious World

3 Keys to Raising Confident Children in a Contentious World

We are now one month into Donald Trump’s presidency, and it has been a heckuva ride so far, hasn’t it? The world is alive with noise right now, everyone jockeying to make their opinions known, fighting to prove their “rightness” and everyone else’s “wrongness.”

And along for the ride, bouncing in the wake of this political madness, are our children. Young and old, they’re watching and listening, and make no mistake, they are trying to figure out their place in this crazy world.

I’ve seen a number of disturbing posts and articles from parents lamenting their fear at raising children under a Donald Trump presidency. While I can certainly empathize with these sentiments, the truth is they baffle me.

Parents, why are we afraid? Now is not the time for fear, but for action, and what better way to exact change in this world than by raising strong, confident children who care well for the needs of others?

Here are 3 Keys to Raising Confident Kids in a Contentious World

1.) Have Age Appropriate Conversations About Politics

My seventh grader is currently learning about Individual and Civil Rights in his Civics class at school.

“I have the right to say whatever I want!” he boldly proclaimed at the dinner table the other night. “It’s my freedom of speech. I can say anything because it’s my natural, individual right.”

Ah, seventh grade is fun, isn’t it?  Sometimes I have to remind myself of how cute he was as a toddler so I don’t throttle him now as a teenager.

“Yes,” I responded, my voice sugary sweet. “You do have the right to say what you want. And I have the right to take your phone away if I deem your speech hurtful or inappropriate.”

I had to bite my lip to keep from ending my comeback with a good old fashioned, “BOOM! Take that sucka!”

Because my first-born is older now, we’re able to have deeper conversations about what’s happening in the world and how we should be responding. He’s privy to a little more information because he’s old enough now to process it, and to dialogue with us through it all.

My nine-year-old, however, is still a little boy. He doesn’t need to hear everything that I perceive to be wrong with our nation and the world. He’s not ready to process that information, so I don’t share my every concern with him.

Our kids are bombarded with enough messages on a day to day basis. Let’s not fill them with undue and unnecessary fears over political messages that we may or may not agree with.

2.) Teach Them to Be Kind

Most parents are already doing this. It’s a pretty second nature response when we have children. From a very young age, we admonish them to share with others, to speak kindly, to treat one another with gentleness, and so on.

That training has to continue, though, and as the children grow into young people we need to change our tactics.

We need to be teaching our older children to be kind to those who may think or feel differently about things than they do. Basic kindness may already be ingrained into their youthful hearts, but grace toward others is a skill that needs to be honed over a lifetime.

Today’s youth are bombarded with messages from the world, and social media takes the nuance out of difficult discussions. We need to work with our kids to help them navigate conversations, both online and off, with kindness.

3.) Show Don’t Tell

When I was a senior at Baylor, I took a class called Writing for the Popular Market. Our only assignment for the year was the write the first draft of a novel.

Every week, we met at a local coffee shop (there were only six of us), and we exchanged papers, reading and editing one another’s stories. And over and over in the editing process, our professor would repeat the same basic principle of writing:

Show, don’t tell.

Don’t just tell the reader what happened, show her. Give her the action that paints a mental picture.

The same is true for parenting. We can talk to our kids until we’re blue in the face, but our actions will have a greater impact than our words.

So let’s show them how to care for others, how to put the needs of our neighbors (both near and far) above ourselves.

Raising children in this contentious time feels like a gigantic hurdle, but really this time is no different than any other in history. Now is not the time to fear for our children, but rather to dig in and fight for them. And that fight starts at home.

What are your thoughts? How are you working to raise confident children in a contentious world?

We’re all Aly Raisman’s Parents, and We All Deserve a Hug

The Olympics are killing me.

This happens every four years. The greatest sports competition in the world takes the stage, and I forget to sleep for two weeks. I try to be a responsible adult, and I tell myself over and over that I won’t stay up and watch every event, but I’m a sucker for human interest stories, and the Olympics drags me kicking and screaming into the arena.

United States' Simone Biles bites her gold medal for the artistic gymnastics women's individual all-around final at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

United States’ Simone Biles bites her gold medal for the artistic gymnastics women’s individual all-around final at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

We’re a week into this event, and I’ve got the bags under my eyes to prove it, but it’s been worth it to cheer on the athletes. Plus, it’s provided a tiny bit of motivation to get back to the gym and actually put in a modicum of effort.

Because when you watch the sacrifices these athletes have made, it sort of obliterates any excuses one may have to skip that extra round of crunches.

Last night, I watched once again as athlete after athlete finished first, second, third…

I watched Michael Phelps smoke the field in the 200 IM. I watched Simone Biles soar to the top of the podium in what I’d call her destiny (if I believed in destiny).

And I blinked back tears as so many of them rushed into the stands to hug their moms after it was all said and done.

Parenting children is the ride of a lifetime.

We know everything about these kids of ours, from their greatest strengths to the weaknesses that threaten to hold them back, and we walk the razor thin line of knowing when to push, and when to step away.

We make mistakes along the way, and we will always wish we did something better. At the end of the day, most of us know we won’t watch our children get a gold medal hung around their necks.

But all of us, without doubt, will watch as our children navigate the world of growing up. We’ll cheer them on from the sidelines of life, sometimes with our hands over our eyes, waiting with bated breath to see just how far they’ll go.

Let’s face it – We’re all Aly Raisman’s parents. Some of us mask it better, but all of us feel like a nervous wreck at times watching our kids grow up.

Today is a shout out to all the awesome parents who are doing the hard work. This is for the parents who are pushing their kids to succeed, and the ones who are cringing when they fall short.

This is for the parents who are wondering if they’re not doing enough, and for those who feel like they’re pushing too hard.

This is for all of us who are trying to do the best that we can, wishing we had a crystal ball to give us the outcome and save us so much emotional stress.

This is for the parents of potential Olympians, future business leaders, possible missionaries, someday stay-at-home moms, and young men who will work hard to provide for their families.

This is for all of us raising kids in a world that feels scary and dangerous.

Maybe we will cheer them on to gold someday, or maybe we won’t. Either way, we’re doing a heckuva a job. 

We will all deserve a great big hug at the end of this road.

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The One Where We Win the Prize

We looked over at each other across the couch last night and offered weary smiles. He held up his glass, and I held up mine, and we lightly clinked them together.

“Well done,” I said with a grin. “You made it to today’s finish line. You win the prize.”

The flurry of activity at the end of each long day is enough to drive one to drinking…if I really thought that drinking would help. By the time we get home from evening practices, get everyone fed and showered, and then go through the rigamarole of getting them all in bed (and getting them to stay there), we’re exhausted.

Glennon Melton likens it to a game of whack-a-mole, and she’s not too far off.

Another drink of water? Whack!

Your stomach feels funny? Whack!

You just remembered you have homework due tomorrow? Whack!

Your toe hurts? Whack!

By the time the dust finally settles and the house quiets down, we are utterly spent. I’d love to tell you that we spend those last quiet hours of our evenings finishing up the day’s work, or reading rich books, but usually we’re so busy trying to recover from the trauma of bedtime that we find ourselves staring numbly at a wall.

Going to bed at night feels like a prize. I climb into my warm, soft sheets, and they greet me with a holy kiss. As I lay my head on my pillow, I hear it whisper, “Well done.”

Last night, Lee and I leaned our heads back on the couch after a particularly long evening (so. much. noise.), and we let loose a collective sigh.

“You think when we’re sixty-five we’ll look back on this and miss it?” he asked.

“Maybe,” I answered. “But probably not.”

Everyone tells you to enjoy it now because you’ll miss it. “You’ll miss the noise and the chaos when they’re all out of the house,” they say, but sometimes I’m not so sure. Maybe I will. But what if I don’t? What if I relish those quiet evening hours when they belong to me again?

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Can I share with you one of the things that gets me through the never ending bedtime routines? (I hope you said yes because I fully intend on sharing it.)

I dream of the day when the children are all grown and out of the house.

In those future evenings, Lee and I will sit in our quiet house and perhaps we’ll feel a pang of longing for those bygone, hectic days. Maybe we’ll find ourselves blinking back tears as we remember her wanting to practice her recorder one last time at 8:30 pm, while he asks how to find the surface area of a cube, and the toddler screams in her bed, and the other boy wants to play indoor soccer with a hacky sack.

We’ll be past all of that, and maybe the silence will feel deafening. But then the phone will ring, and it will be one of our adult children, and in the background we’ll hear the screeching sounds of a recorder, and a basketball bouncing against the tile floor. There will be a baby crying, a dog barking, children bickering. All the sounds will greet our ears and we’ll duck our heads, the vestiges of parenting PTSD still lingering.

“This is so hard!” the grown child will tell us. “They won’t go to bed and I’m exhausted.”

We’ll nod and offer a few sympathetic words of encouragement, and then we’ll hang up the phone and look at one another with a smile.

“We did it,” I’ll say to him. “We did our time and paid our dues, and we won the prize.”

Then we’ll laugh maniacally on our couch inside our clean, quiet house.

Sometimes the only thing getting me through the endless bedtime hours is the promise that I won’t have to do this forever.

So it is with full acknowledgement that I come to you and tell you to hang in there. Every time you make it back to your bed, you’ve won the prize. That day’s game is through, and you’re on the other side.

And when it’s all said and done, your chicks having flown from the nest, you’ll sink into your soft, warm bed with the silence of the evening pushing in at you from all sides. Maybe the silence will hurt a little. Maybe it’ll bring a pang of longing, of nostalgia for the days when bustling life spilled through the room.

But it may also bring a pang of relief, and that’s okay, too. Because you made it. And as you lay your head on your pillow it will greet you with a holy kiss and whisper gently in your ear:

“Well done.”

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