Thursday, September 20, 2018

I'm Here...

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. -1 Peter 4:11

Not counting speech classes or school presentations, the very first time I ever did any kind of actual public speaking was at our first ever Sonrise Women's Retreat in the fall of 2008. I did one session. I was so nervous I nearly vomited and I think my hands were shaking the entire time. From the fall of 2008 through Christmas of 2013, I spoke twelve times. Retreats, conferences, brunches, and teas. Then, the emails and the calls stopped coming. I assumed the Lord was moving me in another ministry direction. I felt sad but truly believed that any speaking ministry I might have had was over. It seemed like He'd given it to me for a season. 

2014 had hit and with it came personal extended family trauma. While our own family's day to day life wasn't directly impacted, we were reeling and, looking back, I wasn't in any shape to have been taking time away from my family to speak. 2015 dawned with the death of our unborn daughter. Our grief was real and raw and a lot of personal spiritual growth happened in the weeks and months that followed. In 2016, our third son was born and with him came the exhaustion of an infant and, then, an energetic and rambunctious toddler.

In 2017, the Lord provided me with an opportunity to speak at a tea. Then, last weekend, I was flown to California to share at a women's retreat. When I was asked to speak at that retreat, initially, everything in me screamed, "NO!" I felt unqualified, over committed, inadequate. And I hadn't prepared for a multiple session retreat in years. After my initial panic, however, I quickly felt invigorated and excited for the opportunity. For weeks, I poured over scripture and commentary. I wrote and wrote and practiced and changed things and then I flew to California.

A couple weeks before the retreat, I wrote this on Facebook...

In two weeks I'll be speaking at a retreat in CA. I've been praying and preparing for about a month now. Please join me in praying for the women I'll be spending the weekend with. Pray that the Lord would speak through me, for safe travels, and that lives would be positively impacted. You guys, there are so many women more qualified to do this, more knowledgeable, more influential, less loud. "But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong..." 1 Cor 1:27

A friend of mine commented on the post and said, "Very exciting to have your calling come to fruition."

I replied, "Did God tell you this was my calling? I wish He'd tell me! Thank you for your support!"

She said, "I think I've known for a very long time that this was your path."

Now, I'm not saying whether it is or isn't. (There was a time, in those first five years of speaking, when I might have thought God was opening doors to a speaking ministry. But then it felt like that door had closed. Of course, looking back, I wouldn't have been effective--in the least little bit--if I'd attempted public speaking in those days.) But I did have someone ask me if she could consider me as a speaker for an event next year and I did have someone ask me if I was going to write a book and I did feel very much that the weekend had been a wonderful celebration of our Savior and His amazing, redeeming love. And I GOT to be a part of that.

I've always struggled with whether or not to "put myself out there" and sort of announce that I'm available to speak. On the one hand, I believe that God will absolutely bring me opportunities if it is in His will. On the other hand, I believe that He wants us to partner with Him in the work He chooses to do in and through us. All of this to say, I'm not seeking to actually build some sort of ministry. I firmly believe that, if it is His will, the Lord will build that house. But I had a jolly good time preparing to meet with the women of Harbor Folsom and I had an even more amazing time sharing with them, fellowshipping with them, and breaking bread with them. If I might be afforded more opportunities to meet like-minded women and hang with them--this side of eternity--I would welcome the chance.

I believe that if this isn't the Lord's will, nothing will come of it. I also believe that I know a lot of people who attend a lot of churches in a lot of different places so, perhaps, the best place to start is just to say to the Lord and to you, "I'm available. Here I am. Use me."

I know my blog is in serious need of an update (and a blogger who is actually attentive to it) but there is a tab up there at the top that says "Invite Lori to Speak" and you can click on it. If you (or someone you know) are looking for a speaker, please check it out.

I desire to honor and glorify the Lord in whatever way I can. He gave me a mouth. He gave me a loud voice. He gave me a heart for women. He armed me with a degree in Theatre which just means that I paid a lot of money to be taught how to stand up in front of people. If I can somehow combine all those things to bring Him praise, may it be so.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Creed

A little over a week ago, on my birthday, we stood by as a woman lost her life. I only mention that it was my birthday because, even at 37, I suppose that a birthday is designed to be a celebration of life. We've turned it into a festival of cake and presents but, really, it's an acknowledgment that we've made it around the sun once more.

It was first thing in the morning. We were on our way to a baseball game. It was a Saturday and the roads were mostly clear. We'd gotten up, raced around the house, brushed our teeth, combed our hair, and loaded into the car a few minutes later than we'd intended to leave. If we'd left on time, we'd have been ahead of her and none of it would have touched us at all. If Troy hadn't run back in for one last thing, delaying us an additional twenty seconds, we may have been involved in the accident. Who's to say?

As we drove along, suddenly, ahead of us, we saw dirt billowing over the road. A huge cloud of dust. We had a few moments to voice our opinion on what it might be. Someone commented that it was very weird to have seen it so suddenly. Later, someone said he thought it was someone riding on a lawnmower, chopping weeds on the side of the road. Just as we prepared to drive through the massive dust fog, we saw the car.

It was flipped completely. And, as we slowed we could see a woman moving, flailing her arm. Troy pulled our car over just past hers--the first vehicle on the scene--and as I called 911, he rushed to her. I'd noticed the bike rider on the other side of the road. He reached 911 before I did. A nurse pulled up behind the scene and ran to the woman. As I approached, on hold with 911 and unaware that someone had gotten through, I could hear the woman moaning. The nurse kept telling her she was trying to help, trying to get an air way. Troy told me that someone had reached 911 already and that I needed to pull our van forward.

Shaking, I moved our van farther down the road. I told the boys to pray. And then I went back.

Troy walked toward me. He shook his head. No.

No. She won't be making it out of this alive.

The nurse said she was guppy breathing but her pupils were blown.

When we pulled up, she was moving. Moaning. Seemingly attempting to extricate her own self from the rolled Suburban. Somehow, despite the squashed upside down vehicle, I assumed the woman inside would be just fine if help could just hurry up and get there. I've always thought myself a pessimist. Maybe I'm "glass half full" after all. Because when my husband shook his head, I couldn't believe it.

She was alive. Moving. And then, she was dead. I erupted into tears as we walked toward our car.

When we ate our breakfast and brushed our teeth, she was alive. When we pulled out of our driveway, she was alive. When we parked our car on the other side of hers, she was alive--if only barely.

Life. Blink. Snap. Gone. While a nurse tried to save her. While my husband and another man searched the vehicle for other passengers. While I talked to a 911 dispatcher. While my children prayed.

I obsessed. Searched the internet for her name. Then searched for an obituary. I had to know who she was and what she'd left behind. Three children, it turns out. One of them grown. One of them, a teenage girl. One, a little boy. I waffled. Should I? Would I? Could I? Finally,  I sent a message to the girl.

In the end, I decided it probably wouldn't hurt much of anything. I chose my words carefully. I wanted her to know that people stopped. She responded. Overwhelmingly thankful that we'd pulled over. I then told her that many people had stopped, including a nurse who did all she could. I told her that her mother wasn't alone when she passed on.

I don't know anything about this woman or what happened to her soul when her body stopped moving and her pupils blew. I believe in a narrow road to Heaven. I wish I could make up some truth about a wide path to glorious eternity but I believe in God and in His Word. Jesus Himself says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Salvation is free to anyone who would accept it, but it is a small and narrow road, passing only through Christ, who suffered, bled, died, and rose again. There is no room for wide views of eternity. Ask and you shall receive, but you must ask.

It sounds so unbelievable, a person raising from the dead and then ascending into Heaven. But my son told me that his friend believes we all came from germs. How is that any less ridiculous? We all have to ask the question, "Where did we come from?" Either we came from bitty materials that were somehow always there and eventually morphed into man, or we came from God who was somehow always there and who designed us with perfect precision. I simply cannot believe that we were ultimately created by something smaller than ourselves. Rather, it is infinitely more plausible to me that we were created by something so massive, our finite brains cannot even comprehend it.

I remember, in a profound way, a debate that took place in my high school English class. I don't know why we were talking about God and an afterlife but we were. Several students argued the insanity of a belief in God. Passionately, and with a lump forming in my throat, I said, "I simply have to believe in God. If there is nothing after this, what in the world is the point?"

I don't believe in a humanity formed by stardust because I don't even believe in the existence of stardust without first the existence of God.

I try not to be too vocal. So much of the world has already rejected my Savior, or walked away from Him, or outright denied His existence. I hate confrontation and I don't want to rock any boats. I'm terrible at sharing my faith--unless someone asks me. I've lived my life not hiding from my faith or my beliefs but not loudly proclaiming them to the masses either. But why? If I had the cure for cancer, I would most certainly give it to you. I wouldn't set it neatly on the table next to my bed--my own little secret. And so I will pray, now, boldly, for opportunities to share my faith.

A woman got up one morning, on my 37th birthday, and she started driving down the road. Something happened. A failure to negotiate a slight curve, is what the officer said. Her vehicle rolled. She wasn't wearing a seat belt and she was partially ejected from the car. A woman got up one morning. And it was the last time she ever rolled out of bed. The last time she brushed her teeth. The last time she climbed behind the wheel of a car.

YOU DO NOT KNOW WHEN YOUR LAST BREATH WILL BE.

If you don't know what's going to happen when you take that last breath, far be it for me to deny you the truth that I have in my Savior, Jesus Christ. I believe that an authentic relationship with the REAL person of Christ is the only way to Heaven.

I believe in God, the Father almighty creator of Heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into Heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit (and that the three are one),
one holy Church,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and I believe in a life that never ends.

If you want to know more, if the idea of being upside down in a Suburban on the side of the road guppy breathing your last breath has you as worked up as it has me, please ask me more about the Almighty God that I serve unashamed. I am not worked up because I'm afraid to take my last breath. I'm worked up because I'm afraid I'll take my last breath knowing there were people I needed to share my God with.

Don't wait. Don't shove life's deep questions to the back of your brain to be dealt with at another time. That time might never come...

Friday, August 31, 2018

Tell Them Why They're Great

I have never suffered from mental illness, from extreme anxiety or depression AND I PRAISE GOD FOR THAT. Of course, never really experiencing any of those things means that I don't understand it on a lived-through-it kind of level.

Last Friday, Andrew Stoecklein, the pastor of Inland Hills Church in California, took his own life. He attempted suicide inside the church and died hours later in the hospital. He was 30. He had three sons, a wife, a mom, a sister, and a brother. He had an entire mega church. And he had anxiety and depression that led him to end it all.

I wrote on Facebook that I cannot stop thinking about this. I really can't get his wife out of my head because I really keep thinking, "WHAT IF THAT WAS TROY?" What if he took his own life or, even, died tomorrow in a car crash or had a heart attack or a stroke or, or, or...

A friend of mine from high school just lost her husband. She is my age. He died suddenly. She lost him. Quickly and without expectation.

I know I shouldn't be consumed by this. I know I should pray and give it over to God because who of us can add a single moment to our lives by worrying? But it really makes a girl think. What if he suddenly wasn't there in the bed next to me? What if his smile and his laugh were gone from my life? What if I had to learn how to mow the lawn?

I don't want to mow the lawn.

And I don't want to sleep in my bed all alone.

I love him more than anything else on this earth. Oh sure, my kids are there with that unconditional love stuff but I know as well as anyone that one day they will grow up and leave me forever and it'll be just their dad and me again. Like it was in the beginning.

I would never say that my husband is the very best husband who ever walked the planet. I see that so often on social media and it always makes me laugh because usually I'm thinking to myself, "Well, but no." Because the bottom line is that your husband is (hopefully) the very best husband FOR YOU. But if I was married to him, the world would probably explode. Or something. Your husband and me would probably be a real mess. Honestly, I don't really believe in soul mates. Still, there just might be only one man on the face of the earth who could deal with me day in and day out and it's the one I've got. And you can't have him so there's no point in my telling you why he is the best. I don't actually want you to want him.

Kayla Stoecklein has been writing letters to her husband in an attempt to process her grief. They're beautiful and, for her, they are necessary. They're filled with how she's doing and how she vows to use his death to shed light on mental illness. I believe she'll have an incredible ministry if and when she comes out on the other side of her pain. I'm sure he knew--in his life--how much she loved him. But it's made me think about how we all need to say these things in the here and now, while we're all still breathing.

While I've never struggled with mental illness on any sort of diagnosed level (probably we all have mental health issues of some kind) I've found myself kinda freaking out in these past few days. I want to make sure I know where my husband is at all times. I don't want him to die. Even though I know I can't do anything to control that. So in my recent panic, I had a thought.

TELL THEM WHY THEY'RE GREAT.

We know this. But do we do it? Don't think about the myriad of things that you would change if you could. I can't make my husband taller and there's no point in wasting time thinking up ways to make him grow or make me shrink. And I can't get him to stop untucking the covers at the foot of the bed because his feet are hot. So why worry about those things? Where there are faults (and no, I don't actually think being a shortish man is a fault) pray and keep your mouth shut. I'm generally kind of a nag so this is as much for me as anyone. But their great successes need to be celebrated.

Troy tells me all the time that I'm a great wife. The best wife, actually. Best of wives and best of women. I mean, he stole those words from Alexander Hamilton but still. I'm not always entirely fun to live with and yet, he will often just wrap his arms around me and tell me how thankful he is to have me.

He takes such very good care of me and our children. If I am sick or need to be gone for some reason, I don't worry at all that life will go on and he'll get it all done. In fact, when I am sick, he encourages me to just get in bed and rest. Or he tells me to see a doctor which I never want to do willingly because I'm a tightwad. And if I want to do something he almost never tries to dissuade me. "You were asked to speak at a retreat in California? Do it!" Even if I say I can't or spout a million reasons I shouldn't, he is quick to tell me I should. He believes in me SO MUCH MORE THAN I BELIEVE IN MYSELF.

He does laundry, dishes, vacuums, and scrubs the floors. I hate scrubbing floors. So he does it.

He's completely invested in our kids educations, sports endeavors, and, above all, their spiritual maturity. He is constantly teaching them about what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

These are just a few of the things I love about my husband. What do you love about yours? Tell him. Remind him of all the reasons you love him--while you can. I've seen, too many times in the past few weeks, how short life is. These women--my friend and this pastor's wife I don't even know--can no longer hold their husbands and tell them all the reasons they love them.

But we still can.

Song of Solomon 3:4 "...I found the one I love. I held him and would not let him go..."

Friday, August 24, 2018

Oh Hello Again

You know what will get a girl up and blogging in a hot second? Seeing her blog linked to on social media with the sentence, "...a link to her blog so you can get to know her better." Yikes! Maybe I should start blogging more than once every full moon. Right now, if you were trying to learn more about me from my blog you would think I never wrote anything. And also, maybe, that I want to move to New York. The last time I blogged was just on the heels of our New York trip.

We're all back at school now. I officially have classes coming to me on Monday but the boys have been in full fledged school mode for three days now. Three days down. 177 to go. Or something like that. But who's counting? ME, THAT'S WHO! I miss summer the moment it leaves and eagerly anticipate its next arrival.

Not that I don't love teaching drama to elementary school students. Because I totally do.

I'm off on Thursday and Friday and do you want to know what Will did today? He climbed all the things. All of them. Closet shelves, pantry shelves, counters. You name it. He climbed it. I'm going to need to invest $100 dollars into MORE baby proofing despite the fact that he is two and NOT A BABY. The kid is part monkey. I'm sure of it.

My schedule is packed full of work and ministry and preparing for our church retreat in October--not speaking, just singing and administrating--and preparing to speak in three weeks at a retreat in California and running Garrett to baseball and scouts and getting Matthew to his extracurricular events and keeping Will alive. The last one is a full time job for two parents. I assure you that raising that kid is not for the weak or faint of heart.

Garrett has a friend over now in my attempt to be THE HOUSE WHERE ALL THE BOYS WANT TO BE WHEN THEY'RE TEENAGERS. My theory is that if they're here, they're not out making bad choices and smoking pot and hanging with any ladies. In order to be this house, I feel like I need to have enough money to make the good nachos. If there are nachos, they will come. He's 12 now so I feel like Operation Nacho House needs to commence fairly quickly. I should point out that, at this point, my son is not the least bit interested in girls and he had better not be the least bit interested in weed.

Matthew didn't come home from school complaining about it so I will take that as a complete WIN. He did say that he took a reading test and his teacher wrote 0. Not gonna lie, the over achiever in me wants to send her an email right this very moment and say, "Help a mama out, did my kid fail reading on the third day of 4th grade?" But here's what I am doing instead. I am ASSUMING that meant that he made 0 mistakes and I will continue assuming this until told otherwise. I forced him to read all summer long against his wishes and often with the threat of maiming if he refused. (Actually, I didn't threaten that at all but it may be a new parenting tactic I've just landed on.) I can't bear to think about all that reading and a 0 to show for it.

I'm neck deep in Ruth. After spending all summer with her and then feeling the Lord's leading to talk about her at the women's retreat, I feel like she and I are the very best of friends. She, however, is A MUCH BETTER PERSON than I am. She's the girl that all the moms want their daughters to hang out with. She's the daughter in law that every mom wants. A woman of noble character. That's our Ruth. And boy do I wish I was more like her.

I feel, though, that my personality would overwhelm Ruth. "I need to find a new field, Naomi. There's a real weirdo in the one I'm working in. She is routinely dancing badly and singing show tunes."

Anyway. I was totally working on my power point when I decided that there should be something new on my blog. Something that isn't three weeks old and about New York. But I do really, really love New York. New York is not dead to me. You know what is dead to me? United Airlines. Because they still haven't gotten back to me and it has been much longer than the 7-10 business days they promised. Okay. Back to Ruth. Or maybe trying to call United again...

Saturday, August 11, 2018

NYC

My mom and I took Garrett to New York City and he hated Times Square.

I can't honestly remember my very first impression of New York. I'd flown in on a red eye and my friend deposited me in her room to sleep while she went to class. I'm sure I had an initial impression but I don't know what it was. And I don't remember at what point on that trip The City grafted itself into my blood so that I loved it in a magical kind of way.

On my second trip, I came up out of the subway station and there were fat raindrops falling. I was in Washington Heights which feels so different from other parts of Manhattan and I just remember smiling and feeling at peace even though New York is really not overly peaceful.

We came up out of the subway and into the edge of Times Square at 40th Street and 8th Ave. There was a weird door that led to an adult movie store. There was always a drunk guy passed out right in front of the door. It was never the same guy.

Garrett loves hotels and ours was a hit.

He enjoyed Madame Tussaud's.

He loves history and the day we spent at the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island/911 Museum/Trinity Church was right up his alley.

He laughed hysterically throughout the play we saw.

He liked going up into the Empire State Building.

He absolutely adored Central Park.

But he hated Times Square.

We'd be walking through and I would suddenly feel his hand on me--as though afraid he might be swallowed up whole. I tried to make it fun for him by taking him to the M&M store and Junior's for dessert. But he was scared for life by a grown man dressed like a baby trying to get money.

By the end of our four days there, he would say things like, "Does it involve going through Times Square?" If I replied no, he sighed in relief.

I think he enjoyed the experience of NYC. He saw things some 12 year olds only know from books and movies. But he was in his element in Central Park--where he could climb rocks and catch turtles. On our last day, in our last two hours, he asked if I would take him back to Central Park. I wasn't sure I could make it happen given our time constraint. But then I totally did and he got a full half hour with those turtles.

And then we came up out of the subway station. Past the adult movie store door. Past the drunk guy. Onto our street and back to the hotel.

And then it took us a full 18 hours to get home because our flight was delayed and we missed our connector. So he slept on the floor of the Denver airport. It was certainly a trip to remember.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Girls and Boys

I have to go back to school in a New York minute (thankfully, though, not before I actually go to New York next week) and if I think about it for too long I start to have some kind of panic attack and I hover on the verge of an all out toddler temper tantrum.

I love summer.

I never, ever, want it to leave me.

As I laid in bed thinking about my dwindling break, I decided we were definitely making today a pool day and we were definitely inviting friends.We ended up there with my friend, the boys' best buddies and another one of Garrett's friends from school. And so, it was a gang of two twelve year olds, an eleven year old, a ten year old, a nine year old, and a partridge in a pear tree who masquerades as a two year old.

They played and swam and soaked up the sun and one of them pooped a big disaster into a swimmy diaper. After that mess, in which I tried to wash him off in a shower that actually felt like needles were piercing skin and he cried and cried and screamed, "Mommy, no more!" and I finally had to make it work with a few baby wipes, I dried him off and declared it a day.

I'd been told that my nine year old was doing flips off the tall springboard and I needed to see this for myself. I walked over to the diving pool with my toddler in my arms and my friend at my side. As we walked past the springboard, I saw one of the girls from Garrett's grade. She is one of the kindest and most beautiful girls. She's also a giant and my son is a shrimp. As a teacher, I adore her. I pointed her out to Garrett. "Oh!" he said, "Yeah." And then my barely twelve year old marched right over to her and said hello.

I was so proud of his friendliness.

"Oh! Hi Garrett!" she said and she walked toward him with an arm extended in what could only be interpreted as the beginning of a side hug. Just as she began to say, "Let me give you a hu---" he turned on his heels and walked back to his friends.

Oh. Man. Rejected.

She mumbled, "Nevermind..." and then vacated that particular pool immediately. Garrett walked back and I explained that he likely, without meaning to, had really embarrassed her. I knew he wasn't trying to be a jerk. I don't think he even knew she was going to hug him. But she clearly felt burned. It was so obvious to this former sixth grader.

I told him to find her and make small talk. "You don't have to hug her, but at least make sure she knows you're friends. Smooth it over, in case she thinks you were trying to be mean."

He and his friends found her and hers. They stood together for a few minutes. I don't know what was said, but it was a glimpse into my future. This future of cute girls and my son. And his buddies. Eventually he told her he was going to New York next week. He said, "I'm going to a Broadway show." Apparently she responded jokingly with, "What? I hate you!" and then she jumped in the pool.

As we got our stuff packed up, his best friend sat across from him while they both ate a few cookies. "She keeps looking at you."

"She does?" he asked.

"Yeah," his other friend said. "She's staring over here."

"Maybe she likes shorter men," I said. They all broke into laughter. On the way out, I heard the boys teasing each other about girls and I looked at my friend. "They were three. Do you remember that? They were JUST THREE."

My son has been 12 for a week. When I was 12 years and 9 days old, a boy asked me to "go out" with him. For a solid year we never actually went anywhere. We just ate lunch together and, on rare occasion, held sweaty hands. I told Garrett today that I was 12 when I first had a boyfriend. His eyes got huge. "Don't worry," I said. "I didn't kiss him or anything like that. We just held hands."

He wrinkled his nose. "Gross."

Phew.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

It's a Scary World or I'm Crazy

We live in a scary world. I suppose that, since Adam and Eve's eviction from the Garden of Eden, people have lived afraid. Afraid of other tribes and nations. Afraid of madmen. Afraid of anyone who wields power over us. But this world is terrifying. Because, in this world, I spend some time in Costco and wonder if the creepy man who is following us is targeting us for sex trafficking.

I first noticed him when the boys and I were waiting in line for a sample. He was staring at me and I wondered if we'd cut in front of him accidentally. "Sorry!" I said, in case we had. He gestured, as if to say, "No worries." I thought nothing of it. We walked up and down the aisles looking for samples. It was a sad sample day at Costco--despite being there at 12:30--and we were sorely disappointed in our hunt. I noticed the man because he seemed to be in every aisle we were. It dawned on me that he seemed to be alone and he didn't have a cart. I was only there for the optical department and free samples though, so I didn't dwell on this fact.

As we made our way toward the deli section, I stopped and looked at furniture. How odd that this man also wanted to stop and look at furniture, just a few feet away from us. It was this moment that I went into something-is-weird-here-and-I-am-feeling-uncomfortable mode. Now, honestly, this whole entire thing MIGHT be a strange coincidence and I'm on hyper alert because of #metoo and sex trafficking and modern horror stories. MAYBE he was a perfectly normal gentleman and the events that unfolded were just happenstance. But either way, my intuition flared and I started trying to lose this guy. I walked back by the chickens. As I crossed aisles, I could see him at the other end of each one. He was never looking at us. He was always VERY engrossed in whatever item happened to be right where he was.

"Come on!" I hissed quietly to my boys and we took off abruptly back the way we came. I whispered to my kids that I really thought this guy was following us. I walked quickly to the front, glancing to my right often. There he was, across the store but still keeping pace with us. I darted down a couple aisles, circling back. I finally lost him. As I had nothing in my cart except Will, I pushed through the checkout quickly and got in line at the food counter because I'd promised the boys and because I was fairly sure that this was somehow all in my head still. As we stood in a LONG line, I swiveled my head to the right again. Here came my shadow.

He walked right up to us and got in line directly next to us. Now, at this point, I definitely thought something was up and intended to not leave Costco until I'd told someone and we were assured that we were all safe. I also decided to memorize everything I could about him. Gray shirt. Black pants. Brown shoes. About 5'11". Balding in a patch on the back. I couldn't describe his face because I hadn't stared directly at him ever and I couldn't see his face in line because he'd turned his head and was scanning the mothers and children sitting at the tables. I made sure he knew I was watching him though. Because I thought that if he knew that I knew he was following me, his plan--whatever that was--might be foiled.

Suddenly, after he'd waited in line for about three minutes, he turned and walked straight out the front door.

The man behind me in line immediately started talking to me about Will. He seemed nice and I engaged in conversation. We got our food and sat down. Eating Costco pizza with Will is a bit of a production and it took us a long time to finish lunch. It was weird to me--but then again I was on hyper alert--that the guy who'd talked to me in line was just sitting at a table near us, his food long finished.

At this point, I convinced myself that they were somehow working together. I had Garrett throw away the plates and we walked out ridiculously fast. I turned, as we all but sprinted out and saw the guy put his hat on and stand up immediately. I told both boys on the way out that if anyone tried to grab them in the parking lot to just start shrieking right away. Thankfully the van was close and there were a ton of people right by our car--women and children and the like. I had no groceries so I just tossed everyone in the van and locked the doors.

I saw the second man emerge from Costco. He didn't look around. He just walked to his vehicle. I have no idea if he was part of anything sketchy. For that matter, I don't know if the first guy was either. It was just a series of unfortunate events, perhaps.

But we live in a scary world. A world in which there is the possibility that it wasn't all in my head. I made triple sure I wasn't being followed as I drove away. Maybe they were the two nicest guys. Or maybe they weren't. It troubles me that I have to wonder.

Monday, July 23, 2018

To My Son Who Is Somehow Twelve

Dear Boy,

We're two thirds of the way to eighteen. I can pretty clearly remember when you turned six and I realized that you were one third of the way to eighteen and I momentarily freaked out a little. Maybe it's because I have your tornado toddler of a brother now and in some ways it feels like I'll be actively parenting for the rest of my life, but I'm not lamenting this twelve quite like I lamented six. Perhaps I've just given up on trying to keep you little. Or, perhaps, I'm looking forward, in some warped and demented way, to watching you become a man.

The eye rolling, looking at me like I'm a complete moron, phase of our relationship has begun. I don't love that, not gonna lie. However, I know a lot of preteen boys and, I'm not kidding when I say that I wouldn't trade you for a single one of them. Oh some of them are great, to be sure. It's just that none of them are you.

There are more athletic boys in the world. There are smarter ones and more talented ones. I don't say that to be mean. I say it because you have enough ego strength to handle it. You always have. You may not be the best baseball player and you may not set the curve on the math test but you are incredibly well rounded. And you are respectful and kind. This summer, in particular, I have had several people tell me what an amazing kid you are. People who meet you for an hour or hang out with you for half a day and then send me glowing messages about your maturity and your manners.

I recently received a compliment on my parenting (BY THE GRACE OF GOD ALONE, KID). I was told that we are doing a great job--that we are stricter than most but that's okay. I suppose, as I look around me, that that's true. I'm sure you don't enjoy being the kid who has the "stricter than most" parents. I hope, though, that some day, you look back on your life and appreciate the rules and the boundaries. I hope you are grateful that we do not allow disrespect or entitlement. I hope that you can find peace and joy in the fact that we ask you to try to live like Jesus did and that we try (and oh how we fail) to show that to you by example. And I hope that, under all that weight of strict parenting, you know that I see you.

When we were recently in the Redwoods, I was speaking to a volunteer ranger. It was hard to keep you and your brothers quiet. Will, because he's a maniac. You and Matt because your voices and your countenance were alive with the mystery and majesty of those giants. For dad and me, we feel silenced by the awe of those woody sentinels. But for you, there was adventure in every moment. I apologized to the ranger. "We're trying to keep them quiet--" I couldn't finish my sentence. He interrupted me.

"Why?" he interjected. "They can be quiet when they're old!"

His statement rocked this boymom. I try to let you live, to watch you climb trees because they are God's gift to boys, to allow you to be loud and assertive, to be rogue in this society of screens and quiet whispers. But I still find myself apologizing for my boisterous boys. No more. God gave me larger than life, noisy boys--and He started by giving me you. And you, my dearest one, can be quiet and contained when you are old. (Except when your teacher is talking. Please also be quiet when your teacher is talking.)

You have made me so proud. This year alone, as I sat in our end of the year assembly and heard your beautiful name so many times. Making it to Regionals in the science fair--you just kept doing extra work to make it ready for the next level. You and your dad sat and sat and worked and worked and fixed and fixed that project until you took it as far as you could and got second place at the highest level. You finished the 40 book challenge. You participated in Monster Math. You took second place in the geography bee, losing only to a sixth grader.

Beyond your academic accolades, your teacher told me, on so many occasions in the faculty room, what an amazing friend you had been to someone that day. You served on student council after having to interview for the position. Outside of the classroom, you had an incredible batting average on the baseball field and worked so hard on the football field. You earned your Tenderfoot rank in scouts and are well on your way to Second Class. You participated in Kids Club and always memorized all your verses and completed all your homework.

You love the outdoors and want to be in the military. A free spirit at heart. A boy who loves travel and adventure and discovery. Your eyes--still the most unique color I have ever, ever seen--are deep and wise even if you are telling dorky twelve year old boy jokes most of the time.

We're going to New York. You and me and Grandma. I promised you a trip at the end of sixth grade if you were respectful and kind and didn't turn into a raging preteen jerk. But then we sold puppies and had the money now. And so we're New York bound for this twelfth birthday of yours. We'll kick off your last year of elementary school and celebrate your eclectic self. You are excited to see the Statue of Liberty and your history loving side can't wait to go to Ellis Island and visit Hamilton's grave. But you're also excited to go to a Broadway show and wander Central Park. I'm so excited to spend a few days with just my one oldest son--making memories and seeing one of my most favorite cities through your eyes.

I love you. Don't get me wrong, there are days when I'd pay gypsies to take you, but they are not the norm. The reality is that I wouldn't trade you for all the money in the world. You are such a very, very good egg. I love you. And if you ever, ever doubt that, I hope you will read these words and know that you were worth the wait. You were worth the tears and the fears and every moment that it took to finally hold you in my arms. I am so thankful that you made me a mama.

Always, all of my love,
Mom

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Interview with a 12 Year Old

1. What is your favorite T.V. Show? NCIS.
2. What did you have for breakfast? Eggos.
3. What do you want to name your future son? Troy.
4. Favorite Food? Snow crab (Same as last year and the year before that and the year before that.)
5. What food do you dislike? Sushi.
6. What is your favorite color? Brown. (Some things never change. It's been brown forever. He calls it, "a good, solid color.")
7. Favorite lunch? Pizza.
8. What is your favorite thing to do? Go camping. (Last year he said, "Go on cruises." His taste has cheapened in his old age.)
9. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would it be? A cruise to Cuba.
10. Favorite sport? Baseball.
11. What do you want to name your future daughter? I like the name Emily. (Last year he said, "Lori." I'm glad that ship sailed. I don't hate my name but it's a little dated. Emily though. Emily is timeless. I could absolutely get on board with an Emily.)
12. Are you a morning person or a night person? Either.
13. Pets? Hamster, dog, and cat.
14. Any new and exciting news you'd like to share with us? Baby Declan. (His cousin had a baby. We met him on Thursday. He's adorable.)
15. What do you want to be when you grow up? A pilot in the Airforce.
16. What is your favorite candy? 3 Musketeers.
17. Where is the farthest place you've ever been from home? Israel. That will never change.
18. What is your favorite book? My favorite series right now is Rings of Fire.
19. What are you most proud of? I'm proud of learning how to surf.
20. What is your favorite movie? The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.
21. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The chicken.

And, for fun, I asked him the same questions that James Lipton asks at the end of Inside the Actor's Studio.

1. What is your favorite word? Probably the. I also like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (Ha ha. Bit of a difference between those two words but okay.)
2. What is your least favorite word? Beeeeeeeeeeeeeep. Ef you badness badness after that. (Okay. So, the F word.)
3. What turns you on? (I rephrased with, "What do you like?") Fishing and camping.
4. What turns you off? (I rephrased with, "What don't you like?") I don't like getting sick.
5. What sound or noise do you love? I like air raid siren.
6. What sound or noise do you hate? Styrofoam. 
7. What is your favorite curse word? Crap.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? A Navy SEAL.
9. What profession would you not like to do? Plumber.
10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? (I omitted the "If Heaven exists" part)? Hello.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Home

When I was nine, my family went on a three week vacation through National Parks and into Canada. Then we came down through Washington, Oregon and California, finally reaching home in San Diego county.

When we arrive home on Saturday, we'll have been gone for 20 days. What an adventure we've had! Still, there is no place like Home, wherever that happens to be. Even ten years later, my hometown still feels like home. But Home is where my stuff is. Home is where my family lives and breathes and does the majority of our life.

I'm so thankful to have married a man who values vacation. And not just vacation to a place an hour or two away but real adventure where we see the world and spend long hours in the car. I'm thankful we share the same ideas on that. But oh boy, will I be glad to have more than five shirts to rotate through. I'm pretty ready to not be living out of a suitcase and trying to keep my toddler from destroying everyone's house.

I wonder if there was a time on our trip when I was kid when my mom said, "Hey. I'm ready to get on home now."

We've had a great time hanging out with family, seeing the Redwoods, exploring the northern California coast, driving on roads we've never been on before. Our kids saw San Francisco and Coos Bay, lighthouses and wildlife. They saw each of their 10 cousins. It has been good.

We're still going to hang with family, visit some friends, and celebrate Garrett's 12th birthday in Boise, on our way home.

But Home is waiting on Saturday and I'm thankful.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Zebra!

We just returned from several days in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. My favorite moment of the entire trip went something like this...

We'd driven into the park after dinner. It was evening and the park was alive with wildlife. We'd see many cars pulled over and a crowd of people pointing and taking pictures. As we looked to see what they saw, one of us would yell something like, "Oh! I found it. It's a deer!" or, "There it is! A buffalo." This went on for some time.

At one point, we were driving along. There wasn't an animal in sight. Suddenly, our barely two-year-old screams, " Found it! A zebra!"

We all basically died laughing and have repeated the phrases no less than 500 times. Toddlers are the best.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Make Today Your Day

In creating the Facebook community TRIBE, I have found myself thinking about many aspects of adoption lately. While this blog isn't intended to be only about adoption, it is a topic that I feel called to discuss with some frequency. It is my hope that even those who remain untouched by adoption on a personal level, can learn and grow through what is found here and within the TRIBE community.

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

It was obvious, from moment one of Matthew's life, that we'd be talking openly about adoption right from the start. There's simply no hiding the fact that I didn't give birth to him--not that I would want to. 

We had to figure out what to say to Matthew--from day one--so that he wouldn't have a, "WAIT, WHAT? I'm ADOPTED?" moment. And, let's face it, being Black, that moment would have come sooner than it does for some. After reading A LOT, I believe that parents should start early, be honest, and keep it simple. (But keep reading because if you didn't start early or you weren't honest, YOU CAN FIX IT!)

In an article in Paediatrics Child Health, Dr. Cecilia Baxter writes:
                  Telling a child his or her adoption story at this early age may help parents
                   to become comfortable with the language of adoption and the child's birth
                   story. Children need to know that they were adopted. Parents' openness
                   and degree of comfort create an environment that is conducive to a child
                   asking questions about his or her adoption.      

I was terrified of the moment when we sat our son down and broke it to him that he had another family. And so I sought to avoid that altogether. From day one, I told him his story. It varied slightly and was certainly scaled down to his level. Could he understand as a newborn? Absolutely not. But I wasn't sure when he would understand and when he would be cognitively ready to comprehend that information. I had no clue what to say and so I simply told him his story.

Once upon a time, there was a mommy and she had a baby in her tummy. That baby was you. She wanted the very best for you and that meant finding a family with a mommy AND a daddy. She looked and looked and she found mommy and daddy and Garrett. We wanted another baby in our family so so much. One day, your mommy went to the hospital and you were born. She gave you to us and that is called adoption.

That was a very abridged version of the story, obviously. But, also, he was a newborn. I whispered it to him on occasion. Over time, the story got longer and filled in with more details. As a preschooler, sometimes, he would beg me to tell his story. Sometimes, he would tell parts of it to me from memory. His favorite part was always when I told him that, when he was born, he locked eyes with me. I would always dramatically make a face where I bugged my eyes out as far as I could, just to be silly. This turned into a version of the story where I would pause and then whisper, "You popped out and stared at me just (pause) like (pause) this..." and then both of us would turn our heads, in the dark of his room, and open our eyes as wide as we could, our noses nearly touching. He would then dissolve into a fit of laughter. He also always loved the part where Garrett did a happy dance when they met.

I haven't told Matthew his story in a long time--we've graduated to discussing much deeper adoption concepts in his old age. He is, after all, a wise nine year old. But telling him that story opened up communication at a toddler level and then a preschool level and finally an early elementary level. It showed him that we're willing to talk about his adoption openly. It allowed him to ask questions on his terms and at age appropriate levels. "Is she brown yike me?" "What does she look like?" "Why did she not want me?" It allowed us to answer honestly but always positively. "Yes." "She looks like you except she's grown up and a girl and I'll show you a picture in the morning." "She did want you. Oh, sweet boy, she wanted you so much..."

We also pray with our children. Thanking God for our adoptions is just one part of those prayers. I occasionally tell Will his story. But I ALWAYS pray for his birth parents and thank God that they chose us to ADOPT him into our family. I make sure to use that specific word in conjunction with the concept of him being our son. Sometimes I show Will the one picture I have of us with his birth parents. I explain who they are and how happy I am that they picked us.

These are easy ways to talk about adoption before it gets awkward. We can build on what they understand and use a scaffolding method to increase their knowledge as they grow and begin to think clearly for themselves. If you are considering adoption or have a very young adopted child, I would highly suggest beginning by telling them their story. Or even just whispering into their ear, "I'm so glad we were able to bring you into our family through adoption."

If your children are older, it's obviously never too late to start talking to them. I know of a family who, when they met our family, were able to tell their 4th grader that he was adopted. They'd never mentioned it to him before. He said something about Garrett having a black brother and they used that perfect opportunity to explain adoption and share with him that he'd come into their family the same way. He handled it so well. She later shared with me and I was so grateful to have played some small role in their journey of full disclosure to their son.

You may not be able to tell your older child a super basic story anymore--their cognitive development is way too advanced--but you can still use the storytelling method. Kids LOVE stories and they're narcissistic little buggers so they love stories about themselves even more. "We are going to tell you the story of how you joined our family. It's a beautiful story filled with love and waiting..." Tell them how desperate you were for them. Because if we adoptive parents share anything, it's a knowledge that we all lived in blind desperation for the children we longed for and now have. Be completely honest with your children. This doesn't mean telling them everything if parts of their stories are painful or detrimental to their psychological well being. It just means that you don't lie. EVER. If you lie to them, and they ever find out, you have discredited yourself entirely. If you find that you have lied to your child regarding their adoption story, own it. Kids FORGIVE. "I'm sorry. I wasn't honest because this is sometimes hard for me. Can you forgive me. Let me tell you what really happened..."

And finally, be okay with the questions and the statements. If they hurt your heart, so be it. You are bigger and older and more mature and you can handle a little, "I want to live with my mom and sisters." I promise you can handle it. I did. My son told me this very thing when he was about six. I knew he didn't want to leave me or the only life he'd ever known. He just wanted to meet them and know them and his language skills could only go so far in conveying his emotions. I recognized this and survived it and, I'm certain my son is better for my not having freaked out on him. "YOU WANT TO DO WHAT?"

It's never too soon to talk to our children. Day 1. Day 2,792. Make today your day. If you already talk honestly with your children, bring it up again today. Allow them to set the tone but make sure that you always have open lines of communication. If they are hesitant to talk about it, do not force them. Simply tell them that you are always, always willing to hear from them about this subject. In allowing them the chance to discuss their adoptions, we create foundations of trust and hem them in tighter to the family God has placed them in.


1. Baxter, Cecilia, MD. "Understanding Adoption: A Developmental Approach" Paediatrics Child Health. 2001 May-Jun; 6(5): 281-283. Web. 22 Jun. 2018. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804559/




Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tribe

TRIBE n.
1. a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations
2. a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest

I recently started a Facebook community designed for adoptive/foster families, birth families, adoptees, and those who love them. All are welcome! It is a place where we can learn, inquire, and grow as we share our stories, relate to one another, and seek to understand.

The members differ in situation, position, religion, location, political views, approach, and opinion, but we show respect to every member of the adoption triad as we strive for growth. We practice empathy and love, knowing that we can gain a wealth of knowledge through the gift of one another. It is a place where you can find an adoption tribe as you strive to build your child's familial one. Members are invited to contribute, discuss, and explore as well as invite others to join. 

I have been a mother through adoption since 2009. The deeper into my journey I get, the more I realize that I want to use my own voice to advocate for healthy adoptions. In order to shape others, I must first be sure that I am growing and gaining knowledge in my own relationship with the sons who came to me through adoption. I feel that the very best way to do this is to listen to the voices of adult adoptees, birth families, and other adoptive families.

In May of this year (2018) my nine-year-old son and I traveled to Texas to see his birth family (maternal side). He hadn't seen them since he was an infant. The experience had a profound impact on us both and I returned home wanting to do more to be a voice for healthy open adoption. I have been blessed to have had the friendship of a now adult adoptee for the past 29 years. Her perspective and insight has been invaluable as I walk through the parenting of my children. I have also been given the gift of friends who have placed children for adoption. When we open dialogue with members of each point of the adoption triad, we enrich our lives, gain perspective, and learn from one another.

If you feel you would benefit from a community in which you can share, ask questions, seek advice, and meet other people involved in adoption, please consider joining us.

Tribe is a closed community designed to protect its members and the sometimes sensitive things they share. If you would like to join, please send an email to loribassham@yahoo.com . I will use your email address to send you an invitation to join our group. 

I look forward to "meeting" you and learning more about your adoption story.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Day He Came

What is born in the sea
even if carried deep into
the breast of land
made dry in the desert
sage in the mountains
or sweetened in the orchards
shall yet and always carry that
old and familiar salt
-Jaiya John

Matthew is an introvert. He doesn't get that from me and he doesn't get it from his mother. But there you have it. He is quiet, shy, and anxious around others until he becomes completely comfortable in a situation. Then, and only then, does that funny and bubbly boy emerge. To this end, he doesn't make friends easily. He'd rather have one or two good buddies--or a backyard and his own imagination--than a room full of friends.

And so, I worried about our trip to Texas. I didn't lose sleep but I was prepared to watch my boy "turtle up" as we met his family. His quietness has, on more than one occasion, been perceived as rudeness and that was the last thing I wanted him equated with on this trip.

I needn't have worried. "What is born in the sea...shall yet and always carry that old and familiar salt." It was as though he'd known them forever. And, in some way, he had. All those 40 weeks spent dwelling inside her body. Swimming. Growing. Kicking. Hearing her voice. Knowing the gentle sway of the steps taken by her feet. His older sisters were there those 280 days. Buried somewhere in the recesses of his mind, is there the memory of Mama singing them to sleep while he struggled to Begin? Has he known them all these years because he knew them then?

He is there, in the car with me. Every step he has taken to this point has been difficult. He has only shared moments with me but it is there on his face when we board the plane. It is there over his eggs and bacon in the hotel--he seems somehow smaller and he uncharacteristically asks me to help him. It is heard in the nearly inaudible sigh from the backseat as we make the drive. And yet, his eyes dance with the excitement of what is finally coming.

"I'm really nervous," he says as we pull up in front of their home. I have every intention, the moment those words hit my ears, to take his hands, look him in the eyes, and tell him to breathe. I will pray over him. I will let him take as long as he needs before we make the journey from car to front door. But she appears from thin air, bending down, her face at the driver's side window. Her smile, broad. It is the smile I remember from our time together in years gone by, identical to the one that spreads joy across the face of our boy. 

As I open the door I say, "Well she's here..." We throw arms around each other and, like water over stones in a brook, she spills, "I had to take a walk. I got so nervous."

I whisper, almost silently, into her ear, "He's nervous too." Whether to give him time or out of sheer excitement, she turns and runs up the walkway, yelling to her daughters. Two of them pour from the house. Everything is happening so quickly. I glance at Matthew and he is stoic. A small smile tugs at the corners of his mouth but he walks cautiously, a trait that comes from his father, no doubt, because it isn't from this maternal side of the family.

One sister calls to another, "Get out here! It's Matthew, he's really here!" and then, before speaking to him, she runs back inside. "Come on!" I hear her yell, "Matthew's here!" I realize I'm holding my breath. It is as though she's played this moment so many times, but he was always just a figment of her imagination.

This day, though. This day he has come.

They bubble. All of them extroverted and clamoring for his attention. He is the audience they have waited for all these years.

There are hugs and introductions. The littlest one, no doubt the most confused by all of this, is enamored and spends the better part of two days touching him. Holding his hand. Kissing his face. Glued to his side. Matthew slides into the role of big brother. I've seen it with Will. It's the role he was born to play. 

My boy has always hated germs. Slobbery kisses from five-year-old girls, forget about it. Unless it's his little sister. She is not a stranger. She is instantly his girl. 

He finds his family hilarious. I can tell by the soft chuckle he emits and the coy smile he employs when they say something funny. He is hilarious, too, and it seems to dawn on him that his silly sense of humor might run through the blood in his veins. He hears stories and sees pictures that make him smile.

At the end of the first day, we are both exhausted. He falls fast asleep while I'm in the shower. I crawl into bed next to him and place my hand on his soft cheek. I feel like the luckiest mom in the world--this amazing kid is asleep on the pillow next to mine. I'm processing things I didn't plan to process. Like the fact that when he says, "Mom," he means me and it makes me bristle a little. I feel like I've stolen the title and a part of me wants to sit down and really explain that I know how blessed I am that she allows me to use it. She is so easy on me and with me and she always has been. Whatever she has struggled through behind closed doors, I have been shown great grace and mercy and love. I stare at his face and I start to cry.

I can't decide if it's exhaustion or life or both.

The next day he makes more memories. Little Sister hangs on to him as though he'll disappear if she lets go. Big Sister asks me to promise to come back next summer and I swallow the lump in my throat. Because I cannot make promises even though I want to. For these siblings. For this mother. For this boy. But I have always said that in adoption we must take it one moment at a time. I cannot plan for 525,600 moments from now. Mama spins him in a circle and says she won't ever let him go. I can't possibly know the feeling. Biggest Sister hitches a ride from me to a friend's house and shares an extra five minutes with him. This doesn't surprise me at all. She's an adult now but I will always see the nine-year-old girl who wanted her unborn baby brother to have a golden retriever and a good life.

Our adopted children are their families. They look like them. They sound like them. They share character traits and blood. If they are born in the sea, they may leave and prosper and grow and change in remarkable and wonderful ways but, they will always carry with them the ocean's salt.

We fell right back into our life here when we returned. At nine, my son seems content to live in the world he's always known. This is, of course, a current peace that I will not take for granted. When an adult adoptee friend found out we were going to see Matthew's family, she said, "I promise you are...creating the strongest foundation of trust with him."

My hope is that he finds a way to thrive in the sage of the mountains or the sweetened orchards but that he always feels accepted as the savory salt of the sea.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Who Does This Child Belong To?

"We should not be asking who this child belongs to, but who belongs to this child." -James L. Gritter

I'll lay it out for you. Nice and honest. I felt defensive and threatened when I first started learning about open adoption. But this will be MY child. I will change this baby's diapers. I will kiss this child's boo-boos. I will rub this kid's back when the flu strikes and the vomit flows. I didn't really want to share. Somewhere along the way, someone told me that open adoption is biblical adoption and somewhere along the way I began to research the effects of open adoption on children and somewhere along the way, my views began to change.

But what would it look like?

Pictures and letters. 

It would look like pictures and letters because my child would need the comfort and stability of knowing that we are his family.

Right?

You see, I hadn't met my child yet. And I hadn't met his mother.

Every circumstance within adoption is unique. Some children are taken by the state for reasons. Some parents are absolutely incapable of raising their kids. Sometimes there is abuse and it is not in the best interest of the child to see his parents. I know this. I am so thankful that isn't Matthew's story but I know it's the story of countless children.

Perhaps, in those situations, open adoption does look like pictures and letters only. And that's okay. But what's vital, for our children, is that we do not shame their first family. For in shaming the family, we inadvertently shame the child. In refusing to talk about the first family, we silence the child. In failing to discuss adoption openly and honestly, we express to our child that their past cannot be a part of their future--that it is to be forgotten. In waiting to tell our children about adoption at all, we suggest that it is something of a secret. We turn our trust into a bomb waiting to detonate.

From the moment I laid eyes on my newborn son, I wanted the very best for him. I wanted what was best for him at one, four, five, nine years of age but I wanted to make every decision based on what was best for him at eighteen, twenty, thirty years old as well. If I can make a decision now that will help him to create positive relationships with his family when he's an adult then I'm going to do it. People have asked me if it's hard. People have told me that they could never "share" their child. I'm sure it is nothing less than the Spirit in me--guiding me, convicting me, growing me, sanctifying me--but I can't imagine not sharing my child. I believe, simply, that it is impossible to be loved too much. Why would I deny my child more love? From the woman who bore him, no less.

And so, when Matthew's mom called me up and invited us to his older sister's high school graduation, my heart screamed yes. He's been longing to meet them and this presented the perfect opportunity. There were hurdles to leap, schedules to arrange, bosses to ask for time off work, but I would have lassoed the moon to get him there.


Our two days were filled with family fun. I had thought that I would be in full time therapist mode as I helped Matthew through whatever this experience meant for him. Instead, he sailed through, in some ways, as though he'd always known them all. As for myself, I had to unpack a little more psychologically but it was absolutely worth it. Because whatever we have to wrestle with--as adoptee, as adoptive parent, as birth mother, as birth siblings--the smiles and the laughter, the memories and the stories influence it all.

I can tell you that no question and no feeling and no expression of that feeling is off limits for Matthew. Over the course of his life, there have been nights of hysterical tears and questions I can't answer and questions I try to answer. My friend, an adult adoptee, who was once the only seven-year-old I knew who'd been adopted, said, "No matter how young, adopted children experience a loss that every cell in their body experiences, even if mental cognition is too young to consciously grasp it yet."

I have always wanted to acknowledge the primal wound and the adoption related grief--to never force my child to be quiet or to process it like an adult would. I'm sure I'm screwing up on a daily basis, but I want to be a part of the solution and never a part of the problem. 

The school my children attend happens to be the school that employs me and happens to be a Leader in Me school. We use Dr. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to teach and inform our students. Habit #5 says, "Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood." 

                      The essence of this habit is a temperament that favors curiosity,
                      open-mindedness, empathy, and patience--all rolled into one.
                      In order to really seek to understand, you cannot have already
                      judged a person or situation. You need to develop a desire to
                     understand--meaning a desire to see things from others' point
                     of view, to see their reasons, and feel what they feel. --Mike Strum

The children who have come to me through adoption need to know that my shoulders are broad enough to hold their pain. They need to understand that I am mature enough to put their insecurity before my own. They need to believe that I am confident enough to handle their emotion without making it about me. They need to know that I will seek to understand them before I insist on being understood.

I am an advocate for adoption and for adoption reform. That means that I will honor their first family's place in their lives. I wish that more adoptive parents understood that sharing the title of mother and father with another--in whatever way that manifests itself within their unique situation--is not a threat. It is absolutely vital for our children.

I want to reiterate that this looks different in every situation. It will look different for my two-year-old than it does for my nine-year-old. Some birth parents will desire distance and some will long for closeness. Some adoptees will push for connectedness while others push against it. Some birth parents have made egregious mistakes from which there is no turning back. Some have made choices due to circumstance and situation and they will learn and grow and change. We must understand that adoption is like the ocean, ebbing and flowing, twisting and turning. It is new every morning. The adoptive parents must adjust and process and accept that the only way to navigate this is to be willing to listen, to understand, and to take each moment at a time.

Open adoption is not what I thought it was. Praise God. It is not the threat to my family that I once imagined. It is his shy smirk when she tells him he ferociously kicked her morning, noon, and night in the womb. It is his birth mother giving him the things that I cannot. It is me giving him what she cannot. In truth, it is the beautiful white flash of the identical smiles of my son and his mother. And it is the mess of the life we all live and the child we all love.