A difficult decision

This is going to be hard to write. First, because it is hard to explain all the thoughts and conversations and prayers that culminated in this decision. Second, because I fear what other people think of me (even though I shouldn’t). Third, because no matter how right we feel the decision is there is still the emotional and spiritual processing that has to occur.

This weekend my husband and I decided not to pursue having a child placed permanently in our home through adoption any more at this time.

This was not easy to do. I spent 3 days unable to eat anything, in prayer, in conversation with others who know us well, and in deep soul searching.

The simple truth is that something in my gut was telling me that this was not right. I was trying to gloss it over. I was powering through and saying all the right things that Christians are supposed to say about faith and doing hard things and making sacrifices. (I still believe all of those things by the way.) But last weekend I just couldn’t let it go any more. I felt that before we had any child placed with us I had to get to the bottom of these feelings. The process was not pretty. I looked deeply at who I am and who I thought God was. I tried to pull away the layers of fear of others, fear of failure, fear of spiritual weakness.

At one point my husband said to me, “I think you need to understand that no matter what decision we make we are not thwarting God’s will.”  And at that point I was freed from my fear of performing enough to earn God’s favor, or from getting a cosmic spanking if I didn’t “do the right thing”, and I finally said what had been lurking in my heart. “I just don’t want to do this right now. I just don’t want the added responsibility of another child 24/7.” When written down in black and white it looks c0mpletely selfish. I hadn’t wanted to voice the thought because it sounds selfish. But believe me, this decision was not made out of selfishness. It was not made out of a desire for comfort. It was made out of an honest look at who I am, what my strengths are, and what would be best for our family at this time.

In one conversation a friend said to me, “Sarah, you are selling yourself short. I know you. I know that walking away from a placement right now will be just as hard for you in different ways as going through with a placement.” That person was right. There is a whole new battle going on inside of me right now and there is a lot of emotional and spiritual processing that has to occur. I feel guilty. I feel weak. I feel like a failure. I feel like I will be judged. I feel like I wasn’t willing to sacrifice “it all” in order to serve God.

But those are lies.

I have felt God tenderly leading me over the past few days. In the midst of this heart turmoil I have felt His gentle love and care for me. He has cared for me through my husband, who is wise and patient and honest. The deep heart conversations that we have had over the past few days have brought a new unity and strength to our marriage. I have felt God’s love through my friends and family who took my phone calls and were insightful and encouraging and honest. Most of all I have felt God’s love in the depths of my spirit. I have felt Him whisper, “I love you. No matter what you do, I love you. You do not have to earn my love. Nothing you can do can lose my love. I have made you. I know you. I love you.”  I have felt deep peace and calm since our decision was made. I will still wrestle with the lies but the undercurrent of peace remains.

So that is where we are now. We are not glibly prancing away from this process or this need in order to resume our normal life.  We have been deeply changed by the process that we have already been through. We trust God to continue to guide our steps. We continue to care about our community and the fatherless. We remain on the list as a family who will provide respite care for foster and adoptive families, and there is a huge need for that.

I did not start this blog as an “adoption blog.” I started this blog to document my desire to delve more deeply into God’s love for me and to how I can share that love with others. I will continue to write that journey here, with all its twists and turns.

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“The Power of Your Love”

Sunday morning we drove again through the bright, yet waning, fall colors to join our church family for worship at the annual church retreat. It was a beautiful morning, the glory of the the Lord proclaimed in the brilliant early morning sunshine. My hands were wrapped around my warm coffee mug. Pumpkin spice creamer can always comfort me. The tried and true words of ancient hymns were wafting through the speakers.

I felt numb. Anxious.

As soon as we pulled into the gravel parking lot the boys were out of the van and running off in search of friends. This terrain was familiar to them. I walked slower. Not sure that I wanted to engage in conversation quite yet. I entered the lodge and sure enough, was quickly surrounded by women who have been praying for me. They were well-meaning and eager to hear how our day visit went. But I was still numb. And processing. And not really sure what to say. I mumbled a few sentences. Did my best to answer questions appropriately. But the whole time this tingling sensation was in the pit of my stomach, radiating out to my fingertips, the physical manifestation of my fears and doubts.

We file into the chapel and sit on risers in the back. The boys have requested this novelty. The band begins and we sing,

The joy of the Lord, will be my strength, I will not waiver walking by faith. He will be strong to deliver me safe. And the joy of the Lord is my strength.

And then we sing, Power of Your Love, and all I can do is sit with my head on my knees, my hands palm upwards in surrender. Because surrender is all I can do. And deep down, trembling, what I really want is for my heart to be changed, my weaknesses to be stripped away, my eyes to be unveiled, and for God’s will to unfold.

His love will carry me. No matter what.

The Power of Your Love, Hillsong United

Lord I come to You
Let my heart be changed, renewed
Flowing from the grace
That I found in You.
And Lord I’ve come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the power of Your love.

Hold me close
Let Your love surround me
Bring me near
Draw me to Your side.
And as I wait
I’ll rise up like the eagle
And I will soar with You
Your Spirit leads me on
In the power of Your love.

Lord unveil my eyes
Let me see You face to face
The knowledge of Your love
As You live in me.
Lord renew my mind
As Your will unfolds in my life
In living every day
by the power of Your love.

All Day Visit

We roused ourselves early on Saturday morning. We were all tired and preferred to stay in bed but we had a mission. We were going to pick up little S man. A sleepy 45 minute drive through the final colors of fall lit up by the rising sun brought us to a parking lot. We waited. We anticipated. I tried to peacefully sip my coffee and calm my churning stomach. We listened to Matisyahu. A car drove up and I took off my sunglasses wanting my eyes to be visible. Sleepy, cautious hazel eyes blinked at us from his car seat. We did the car seat shuffle, he hugged his foster sister (whom he obviously had a bond with), and settled quietly into our van.

Snuggled with the blue blanket that he can never be parted from, his serious eyes watched us. We drove back the way we came. Homeward bound. Familiar to us, unknown to him. Jeremiah began to engage. Sparks of interest lit his eyes. Especially when there was a train to see. But for most of the ride he was quiet. Somber. I would even say resigned, as if being put in strange cars and taken strange places were par for the course. Every now and then I would turn and see his eyes on me. Just watching.

We made a detour to CVS when I realized that our house is not equipped with sippy cups.

Arriving “home” he grabbed Aaron’s hand to help him down from the van, and didn’t let go. We all came into the house, him still gripping tight. Jeremiah and Nathaniel eager and chattering. Wanting to show him their things. In their own ways wanting him to feel welcome. He was obviously hesitant and we let him wander. He ended up in the room we are setting up for him. A gigantic Pooh bear grabbed his attention and became his favorite toy for the day. He sat on the floor snuggling the bear, chattering unintelligibly, and playing with cars.

Our next plan was to play outside. We had heard that little S loves to be outside (what 2yr doesn’t?) so we took a snack and wandered out the back door. This was a hit. I held his homemade granola bar while he wandered from one place to the next. The swings. The area where the trucks are. The tight spot between the shed and the fence. He would wander then return to me with arms out stretched, fingers pinching the air, saying “more.” I would feed him a bite and off he would go ready to explore something else. He played on the swings, helped me rake, and followed the boys around amused by their antics.

An hour or so later it was time to think about lunch. I put lunch on the table and we all sat down. Except little S man who decided that he didn’t want to sit still. Exploring the living room and being kept from touching things resulted in loud grunting and yelling. So I bundled him up and took him to his room. He melted into to me. Snuggling his blue blanket he curled into me and relaxed while I sang lullabies. He is a heavy fellow so transferring him to his crib once a sleep was not accomplished easily. He cried when I put him down so the lullabies continued while I rubbed his back and he drifted to sleep.

We all enjoyed a 2 1/2 hour rest! Well, not entirely true. Aaron finished raking and mowing the yard. When I went to get him out of his bed he cuddled in to me again and we sat and snuggled for a few minutes. Aaron came in and he smiled at Aaron from his spot in the crook of my neck. There was more playing in the house and in the yard as we finished up out there. A favorite game was to go to a window and see if we could see Aaron outside. Little S would laugh when Aaron came inside. Somehow as we were getting ready to go he found a black crayon and in true 2yr old style proceeded to color on Jeremiah’s science text book. The situation was easily remedied with some paper that he was told he could draw on and a true orgy of scribbling commenced.

Time again to load up in the van. This time the ride was more animated. Little S loves music and on this trip he sang and moved to the music. We stopped at the dairy where we buy milk. Aaron carried little S in to see the cows. Which resulted in him repeating the “moo” sound in order to get a response out of Aaron. I noticed that his “moo” sound was almost identical to the way he said “more” earlier in the day.

Unfortunately we had promised the boys dinner at McDonald’s because it has an indoor play place. Big mistake. The place was filthy, the food was horrible. We learned something about little S though – he loves to dip everything in ketchup. It was funny because Jeremiah and Nathaniel don’t eat ketchup so it never even occurred to me to get some out for little S. Then he started making noises and trying to grab something from Aaron and we realized it was ketchup. Noted. He loves fries and kept asking for “moo fi’s peas.”

We finally made it to his foster home. He seemed happy and good natured until the phone he was playing with was taken away. Then a complete meltdown ensued and we realized it was time to leave.

We drove the winding mountain roads home again in the dark. My stomach churning again because this is one more step toward the reality of having him placed with us. And I am still battling fear and doubt. As far as first day visits go this was a great one but the reality is that our life is about to change. And I am worried that I can’t do it.

Five Minute Friday: Stay

Joining Lisa-Jo Baker at The Gypsy Mama again for 5 Minute Friday. Five minutes to write – no over thinking, no editing. Go check it out.

GO

Last night a status from a friend blinked up on my Facebook feed, “Just remembered how much I like Lisa Loeb’s “Stay” courtesy of Reality Bites. You’re welcome. “You say…..I only hear what I want to….” That was all it took to start me down a rabbit trail of memories. College days with roommates. Us cranking up the volume on the radio and dancing wild when we were supposed to be studying for finals. One friend who could never get the words right and didn’t even try. Driving down the mountain, headed out for Thanksgiving break with the windows down, crisp mountain air pouring in, and our voices being sucked out and away.

Those days are long gone. I no longer pull giggling all-nighters or eat whatever I want without consequence or have a crush on a different boy every week. I can no longer just load up some stuff in a back pack at the last minute and head out in a car full of friends for adventures and destinations unknown. I hope that I no longer judge as harshly or act as selfishly or think that I know the answers to everything.

This life I have settled in to would probably look boring and thankless to my college aged self. It was nice to have a little reminder though, that even in the midst of another day in yoga pants and sweeping floors and folding laundry and refereeing yet another sibling spat I can still choose to crank up the radio, sing loud, and dance crazy! That part of myself has stayed.

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Faith – do i have it?

I have felt pretty calm and peaceful until now.

Then last night I flipped out.

I am not sure what brought it on but I had a full blown anxiety attack. To the point of feeling sick to my stomach.

This morning I woke up a bit better, but still with this lingering fear/doubt/anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was all I could do to get dressed and make breakfast. I sent off a quick Facebook message to a friend requesting prayer because I knew I was going to need it. I had come to the end of myself.

Usually, we do the Bible reading part of our home school curriculum during breakfast. For some reason we had not been doing that this week. So I decided to pull out our Bible and get back on track. The reading for today was about Abraham and his faith. The description that we read in The Awesome Book of Bible Facts by Sandy Silverthorne was:

What if God said, “Pack up everything you own, say goodbye to your friends and country, and get ready for a long journey. I’ll tell you when to stop”? That’s what happened to Abraham! And you know what? He did it. That’s one reason he is called the father of faith. He trusted God.

The account in Genesis 22 of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac says:

After these things God tested Abraham… -Genesis 22:1

And after God spared Isaac and provided the ram in the thicket it says:

So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide” -Genesis 22:14

Hebrews says:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. -Hebrews 11:8

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son…He considered that God was able to even raise him from the dead… -Hebrews 11:17&19

Coincidence? I think not.

I don’t believe for a moment that Abraham didn’t have moments of doubt and anxiety. Surely he wrestled and doubted and at times wondered what the heck he was doing. He must have, because he makes some pretty bad decisions at various points in his life (as accounted in Genesis). Obviously there were times when his faith was weak and he tried to control things his own way.

And yet, he is remembered as the father of faith because when it counted, he trusted and obeyed. God had made promises to him, and even though there were times when he lost sight of that, when God called him to do something he did it because he believed God.

I can’t say that I am completely over my anxiety attack. But I am feeling a bit more peace as I  finger my “be still” pendant and ruminate on Abraham’s faith. God called – Abraham obeyed. God called – God provided. Abraham obeyed – God blessed. So simple and yet so incredibly complex.

There is a laundry list of things in this whole foster-to-adopt process that scare me silly. When it comes down to it I am afraid that it will all be too much. That we just can’t handle it. Today, the fear is obscuring the promise.

Here is the bottom line (and I tremble to write this!) – if God called us to do this then we obey. We trust that He will provide. We have faith that His promises are true. We believe that He loves us and will bring joy and blessing. And even though we are nervous and anxious, by faith we keep walking this path as it unfolds.

 

at loose ends

I have been staring at this blank screen for a few days. I just don’t really know what to say. It seems like our situation with little S man changes daily. I thought that I was handling it all okay, but I wonder if I haven’t just shut down. I am person who likes structure, order, consistency. I like calm and predictability. Ha!

Last week we had a great heart-to-heart talk with the foster mom. We felt like we were all on the same page. We didn’t want to just move little S for no reason so we agreed to continue visiting and having him spend time with us, but not make any decisions about moving until January. We felt that by then we would have a clearer picture as to what was going on with his birth parents. Then on Monday night we received a call from foster mom. She feels he needs to be moved sooner. She wants us to make a decision.

We are praying. And talking through options and scenarios. My mind is spinning. And then my mind just stops because I can’t control any of this. I can’t predict what his birth parents will or won’t do. I can’t predict if the judge will grant TPR when DFCS asks for it. I can’t predict any thing.

The only thing we can do is prayerfully make the best decision we can for little S and our family with the information that we currently have. And once we do that we have to trust God with the details.

I don’t fee like my confusion over this situation comes from being too emotionally involved or attached. I actually feel like the Holy Spirit has protected me from getting too emotionally attached at this point. What is exhausting me is the constant change in the planning. I felt so peaceful and thankful after our conversation last week. I felt like a clear path had been laid out and God was definitely guiding our steps. Then one phone call, on Monday night, on our way to my birthday dinner, sends me reeling again. Or maybe not reeling – but re-evaluating. It is a bit exhausting to wake up every day and wonder, “What will happen today?”

Does this mean we abandon this? This process is clearly not in sync with my personality and personal life style! Maybe we really are not the best people to do this?

No.

Believe me, I have been tempted to scrap the whole thing. And by whole thing, I mean the whole adoption thing. I have been tempted to call our case manager and tell her to close our home study completely and just leave us the heck alone. But if we do that, then we are turning our backs on a clear call that we feel from God. We would miss out on a lot of joy.

This daily up and down and back and forth is teaching me so much! It is teaching me to hold my plans lightly. It is teaching me to focus on just this day. It is teaching me to be more fully present with the kids who are in my care right now. It is teaching me how to be in touch with, and control my emotions in a healthy way. It is teaching me what it means to practically trust God to provide for each day of my life.  It is teaching me a whole new level of prayer. Most importantly I am so much more aware of my complete and total dependence on God.

I am not really sure how to end this post. I feel at loose ends, so maybe that is fitting. I took a break for a minute and a friend posted this on her Facebook feed:

“God will call you to face the unthinkable in order to form in you what is unachievable apart from his grace.”- Paul David Tripp

That pretty much describes how I feel right now.

 

Five Minute Friday: Quiet

Linking up with Lisa-Jo Baker for Five Minute Friday.

Five minutes to write. No over-thinking. No editing. No backtracking. (Not that I do any of those things regularly anyway.)

GO

Two very different me’s this week. One part of me is quiet and still. Taking one day at a time. I feel that part of me calm and trusting even as we visit a new little boy and think of the transition and receive news that throws a wrench in things. I feel the Holy Spirit doing hard work in the deepest parts of my heart.

The other part of me rages and rants. The flip side of the coin. I have been quick to anger with those I love most. Words spilling out of my mouth that cut and shame and berate. As the words flow faster and louder I watch their impact on the faces of my dear ones. I know I should stop. I see the damage in their eyes.

What a wretched woman am I! I know the good I ought to do, and yet I do not do it.

This is my constant struggle: the quieting of the tongue.

STOP

First visit

I finally have time to post about our first visit with little 2 year old fellow.

We had an insanely busy week and weekend last week. One thing after another on the calendar with no time to breathe or process or anticipate or worry. Finally on Sunday afternoon Aaron and I found ourselves driving through the brilliant fall colors on our way to meet little guy. We talked about our expectations (low) and wanted to be on the same page regarding talking to the foster mother about future visits. We held hands and chatted and enjoyed a few minutes of quiet together. Neither one of us was particularly nervous or uptight.

We found the house and were greeted at the front door by the foster mother. She was friendly and welcomed us in. Little guy was standing in the middle of the living room. We casually said hello to him when he was introduced to us. He took one look at us and made a bee-line for his 18 year old foster sister. He curled up in her lap, keeping a wary eye on us while he listened to music on her iphone. We chatted with foster mom for a few minutes, trying to keep everything casual and low key. She filled us in on little guys likes and dislikes. Aaron got on the floor and started playing with little guys favorite toys, Duplo’s and blocks. Foster sister put the iphone away and little guy pitched an all-out royal fit. Normal 2 year old behavior with just a touch of extra desperation. Foster mom held him in her lap and rocked him and he calmed down. From her lap he was eyeing Aaron who was still calmly playing with toys. He got down from her lap and edged over to Aaron.

The rest of the time proceeded much as expected. Little guy played a lot with Aaron. We were there for about an hour and a half and by the end of the visit he was chattering away (we couldn’t understand him though) and even allowed a cautious hug as we left. We were able to observe him with all of his foster siblings and his foster mom and it was clear that he is well attached to them and sees himself as part of the family. It is also clear that everyone in the family cares about him and that he is being nurtured in their home. He is a relatively calm little guy who loves music and building things.

Our goals for the visit were to introduce ourselves to little guy and have him and the foster family start to feel comfortable with us. That was accomplished. We were also pleasantly surprised at how the foster mother initiated and laid out more transitional visits than we had originally expected, since she seemed a bit hesitant at first in our other meeting and initial phone calls.

So, that is all good right?!

Well, as always seems to happen in the DFCS world there was some news that took us by surprise.  Halfway through the visit foster mom casually mentions that the parents have petitioned the court for increased visitation and have started to do one of the things on their case plan. Aaron and I just looked at each other.  What did that mean?

On the way home we tried to talk through all the issues. Our conclusion was, this little guy seems like a good fit for our family and we see no reason not to continue with his transition to our home. However, we do not want to be foster parents right now. We do not want to be another stop/disruption on his road to reunification. If his biological parents can show they can care for him then we don’t want to stand in the way of that. His current foster family loves him and the only reason he is being moved is because DFCS plans to petition the court for TPR and adoption.

So what do we do?

Monday morning I called the case manager. Obviously I can’t give details, and there is still a level of legal risk, but there is a bigger picture. Basically at this stage we are being asked to weigh what level of risk we are willing to take.

We have decided to take each day as it comes. We are holding everything lightly and not making any long term plans.  Right now we will continue with the transitional visits. If we get new information that changes the picture then we will re-evaluate.

I will admit that some of my initial reaction was selfish. I wanted Sunday night to be the night that we could finally have the joyful anticipation of this process. I wanted to come home from the visit and make positive phone calls to family. But I still feel like I have to hold my emotions in check. My wise husband said, “We have to trust God to provide for our emotions. When it is time for us to be joyful we will be able to be joyful.”

The thing is, I feel God tenderly taking care of my and protecting my emotions right now. I am not obsessing. I am able to think clearly and pray about the situation without it taking over my whole thought process. I feel calm. I am able to take each day as it comes. I am able to give my kids the attention that they need from me. That is only the Holy Spirit.

So we continue one day at a time. Learning the deep lessons of the heart. Realizing again our complete lack of control. Trusting God to care and provide for us.

Five Minute Friday: Roots

Five Minute Friday

Joining Lisa-Jo Baker for 5 Minute Friday. Write for 5 minutes flat with no editing, back-tracking, or second guessing. Link up on her page and encourage the person who linked up before you.

GO

I keep thinking that I don’t have roots. My brain isn’t wired for permanence.  My childhood is marked with the constant coming and going of people and places. I am always missing something or someone. Roots are dangerous because when they get pulled up it hurts.

So imagine my surprise when in conversation with another mama beside the soccer field one night I did the math and realized that I have lived in the same area for 18 years and in the same town for 13.  That should make for some roots right?

The rest of my family has settled nicely into a northern city. They get to have dinners together and go shopping and take impromptu walks and generally live daily life together in a way that makes me just a tad jealous. And yet…I find to my surprise that I love these mountains that surround us. I love our seasons, none too long or intense, all just long enough to savor. I love the consistency of attending the same church and being part of its growing and reaching, watching couples fall in love and marry their babies grow and become teenagers.

And recently, as my boys have grown and we have spent countless hours beside ball fields, I have come to love being part of this community. Knowing people. Knowing needs. Caring about its future.

This week we attended our 15th annual Harvest Party and are wrapping up our 4th soccer season. On Halloween night I was standing in golden autumn light in front of the church I have attended for 16 years. The front field was full of children running from game to game in candy-crazed excitement. Adults were manning booths, chatting with friends, loving on children from the neighborhood. I saw friends I have known for years and friends I have known for weeks. I was so proud of my church family for organizing this community event.

I guess it is time to admit that, much to my great surprise, I have in fact put down roots. And maybe it feels good to feel them burrowing deep.

STOP