West Coast Adventures Part 1-The Enigmatic, Lonely Traveler

josh and mommy before trip unedited

After a lovely, relaxing morning together baking banana bread and watching a movie on Wednesday, I took Josh to school (as late as I possibly could and still make my flight), and I said goodbye for 4 days.  His friends greeted him excitedly, questioning his whereabouts for the first half of the day and eager to catch him up on everything he missed.  I kept returning for one more kiss, thinking of something to tell him or to say hi to a little friend.  Finally, he gave me a big hug, and, with a look of awareness and love, he smiled and said goodbye.  He didn’t grab at my ankle or cry.  He wasn’t shaky in his words or pouting at me for my decision to take a trip and leave him behind.  We said “I love you’s” and “see you soon’s” and he joined his friends.  I almost went back over for one last kiss, but I realized that would have been for me.  He was telling me he was okay, and I needed to show him that I could be, too.  I walked out of the classroom and peaked in through the glass window. (This is nothing new.  I do it pretty much every day.)  He knows I do this, and sometimes he indulges me by looking up and waving.  This day, he lifted his head and smiled.  I waved, mustered up all the courage I could find, and walked away.  And then I sobbed while singing along to the Frozen soundtrack in the car.

This might seem silly. I am sure plenty of parents leave their kids with their extremely trusting and capable partners for a few days or longer.  But I haven’t.  This is the first time I will be gone for more than 2 nights and the first time I won’t be an hour or two away from him since we brought him home.   I am reminded intimately of the drive away from him Dave and I had to make after the very first time we met him.  In that moment, we were leaving our son in a home that was not his with caregivers who were not his parents and there was nothing we could do about it.  We were driving back to our old lives 6 hours away knowing things would never be the same.  It was the best and worst feeling.

Today, almost 2 and half years later, I am leaving my son under very different circumstances.  He is home with his daddy.  He is looking forward to riding his bike at the park and playing Wii and wrestling and eating pizza.  A few days before I left, he said, “Mommy, it’s okay that you are going on a trip.  I will get a lot of good time with my Daddy.”  It’s like he had been thinking about it, and this was his conclusion.  Don’t get me wrong, he gets a lot of time with his daddy on a regular basis, but I knew what he meant.  It was an opportunity.  It was their own adventure while I was off on mine.

After a good cry in the car as I was driving away from his school, my travels began.  The sadness lingered, but another sensation came upon me- excitement.  I was eager to get to my conference and connect with a dear friend, but before that, I was actually looking forward to a day of traveling all by myself.  For those who know me, I don’t typically like the phrase “all by myself” to be associated with my name very often, but something about it felt sort of mysterious and adventurous.  For a day, I wouldn’t look like a mother or a wife or a counselor or a teacher.  I could be whoever I wanted to be.  I could be enigmatic.  I could be a loner.  I could be quiet.  I could be someone who orders a glass of wine and a rice bowl in the Charlotte Airport and eats by herself.  I could be going to California or going to Japan, and no one would know the difference.  I could be from anywhere in the world making a stop on any journey I want.  It was an adrenaline rush… for a little while.

airport meal

I got about halfway through my dinner before the loneliness hit me.  It wasn’t a consuming feeling, but it was there.  As an extrovert, airports are complicated for me.  On the one hand, I love that I am surrounded by all kinds of people moving in different directions and operating at a fast pace.  But being surrounded by thousands of people and not knowing a single person is like a tease.  And there isn’t much impetus to get to know anyone because there is little possibility for small talk with a stranger while waiting for your boarding zone to be called to turn into a meaningful friendship. (Although I am sure it happens on occasion.)  It is not just talking I want.  It’s connection.  It’s familiarity.  It’s relationship.  And it’s pretty difficult to have those things while being mysterious and stand-offish.  So maybe being enigmatic isn’t all that important to me after all.

By the time I boarded my flight for my final destination of San Diego, I threw all mystery and intrigue out the window and I Facetimed my family.  I talked loudly, I flipped the camera around to give Josh a full view of the cabin and held my arms up in the air as I waved it around.  I made kissy faces and said I love you about 12 times.  And it felt great.  The jig was up.  I could no longer pretend that I was a human rights activist in Africa or a French artist on her way to New York for an exhibit.  I was just a mom who loved her kid.

Seeing their faces made me miss them, but I also felt a support that had been absent throughout my solo traveling experience up to that point.  This is my first real trip since becoming a mom, and I realize now that I don’t want to compartmentalize my life anymore.  I don’t want to leave my identity behind for adventure and excitement.  But I also don’t want to be afraid to step away from my normal life and explore unknowns, both with and without my people.   I carry them with me wherever my travels take me, whether it’s to the grocery store down the street or to the Pacific Ocean.  So I am not an enigmatic, lonely traveler.  I am a loved, supported and connected traveler with people and things I love on both ends of my voyage.  So I can wait it out in the in between and have a meal with my oldest friend.  Me.

My son is the cutest: Battling the ego of parenting

A stranger at the grocery store told me how cute my son is, and I said, “Thank you.”

josh butterfly

My son is so adorable. Sometimes I just stare at him for minutes at a time. I wish I could write down everything he says because it is cute and witty and insightful. He is extremely bright. He picks up on things quickly, and he remembers everything. (Which can be good and bad). He is a natural athlete. He loves to dance. He has great rhythm for a 5-year-old. He is a good little singer, too. He sang his prayer the other night, which was precious (and surprisingly on-pitch). He really is the greatest kid.

There are so many reasons why I love being a parent. But do you want to know my favorite thing about being an adoptive parent? The freedom to brag about my kid. Let me explain. I get to talk about how cute and smart and wonderful my child is and people don’t think I am the world’s most self-centered person because I did nothing to contribute to his looks or his athletic ability or his smile. I didn’t take excellent care of him in the womb, playing Mozart and eating organic foods. I didn’t have a natural childbirth in a birthing center or find the best doctor and the most reputable hospital for him to make his entrance. I didn’t sleep train him to teach him to self-soothe and be more independent. I didn’t co-sleep with him to increase his sense of belonging and create the most nurturing, safe environment possible. I didn’t start teaching him to read at age 2 or put a football in his hand as a toddler. I didn’t do any of those things. And because of that, I seemed to have gotten a “pass”. And I take full advantage of it.

After a year and a half of being a parent, I realized that something changed. The comfort I used to feel in not taking responsibility for the first 4 years of my son’s life seemed like a distant memory, and I found my own identity too often wrapped up in my son’s behavior, relationships and overall success. Any feedback that was not warm and fluffy felt like a personal attack on my parenting and Josh’s character. I have been quick to assume that people “just can’t relate” or that our situation is unlike any other so that I could maintain my position and keep my ego intact. All of that healthy distance I thought I had identified as an adoptive parent went out the window and I began taking complete responsibility for every action, word, thought and feeling that my son had. Of course, the irony is that I have been counseling parents for years on maintaining a healthy identity apart from their children and not letting egos interfere with good parenting.

After much reflection, I have realized that my initial tendency not to take responsibility for my son’s early years and my more recent over-identification of everything he does are both wrapped up in my ego. Eek. As painful as this realization has been, I am grateful for it. I tell my clients often that the annoying thing about raising your awareness is that you can’t keep pretending like you don’t see something. Okay, it’s blinding me a little now.

As a parent, I need to acknowledge that sometimes I get defensive because my ego is being bruised. But other times, I get protective of my child because it is my job. Sometimes, the line between the two is hard to distinguish, so I will keep working on it. I will stand next to all the other parents who fight this battle of ego, biological and adoptive alike.

And in the meantime, I will continue to enjoy my “pass” and talk about how cute and intuitive and precious my son is. Not because of anything I have done (or even anything HE has done for that matter), but because of the miraculous and awe-inspiring gift that children are. I want to grant all parents a “pass” to talk about how amazing your child is every now and then. You also have my permission to stare at your children for minutes at a time. Parents of teenagers, you may get some heat for this. That’s okay. I still see my mom look at me that way sometimes- like I fell from heaven and landed on her lap and she can’t even believe it. That’s not pride or ego. It’s gratitude. And it makes me feel extremely valued.

A stranger at the grocery store told me how cute my son is, and I said, “Thank you.” I don’t know why. It just came out. What I wanted to say was, “Yes, he is. And he’s loving and insightful and funny and full of life. And I am so honored to be his mom.”

Embracing my love-hate relationship with Christmas cards

I love Christmas cards.  I love the thoughtfulness.  I love the deliberateness.  I love the creativity.

I hate Christmas cards.  I hate the pressure.  I hate the expectation.  I hate the reminder that so many people I know, even those much busier or more overwhelmed than I, find the time to send a meaningful card. 

I received a Christmas card from my husband’s grandmother who has been in the hospital the entire of month of December.  If that’s not humbling, I don’t know what is.

The truth is I want to be a Christmas card sender.  I really do.  I have done it twice.  The first time was 2009- the year I got married.  Our wedding was in July, and by the end of November, I still hadn’t sent thank you notes yet.  (For the same reasons that I struggle to send Christmas cards obviously.)  At that point, I had three choices: 1) Send regular thank you notes at the same time others are sending Christmas cards, 2) send a Christmas card that can double as a thank you note, or 3) climb into a hole to further avoid the pressure of both and slowly alienate myself from all meaningful relationships. So I sent Christmas thank you cards. (A serious etiquette violation, I am sure.)

Fast-forward to 2012.  My family underwent significant changes, culminating in the adoption of our son.  Our year had been so rich and full of blessings, and we received so much support and encouragement during that time from our family and friends.  It only seemed right to send Christmas cards.  I wanted to.  I had a second motive for that card, too.  (You notice a theme here?  I really like to “kill two birds with one stone” if I can).  Although my husband and I tried to be open about our process of becoming parents, we hadn’t had the opportunity to really share our story with a lot of people in our extended support networks.  I was concerned that some of our older relatives without Facebook might see our Christmas card and be extremely perplexed at the sudden presence of an adorable 4-year-old boy.  I also felt ready to share more of the story, and this seemed like the perfect time and venue.  I included an insert in the Christmas cards about our journey toward parenthood that culminated in the finalization of Josh’s adoption on December 12.  It was a year worth celebrating.  It was most certainly Christmas card-worthy.

I thought this would be the start of the new me.  The Christmas card-sending version of Karin.  I knew it would take energy and time, but it felt worth it.  So as the holiday season approached again, the plan was in motion.  We had scheduled to take family pictures with a photographer friend of mine, Linda Bainter, on December 12th-the first anniversary of our adoption finalization.  It was a beautiful day filled with love and cute poses.  I couldn’t wait to put the pictures on our Christmas card.  I knew I would be cutting it close since we decided to wait until our adoption day to do the photo shoot, but I felt ready for it.  I was embracing my identity as a Christmas card sender.

Well, here I am.  2014 has begun, and no Christmas card.  We just completed a whirlwind 12-day extended family and friends holiday tour, and now I am sitting down on my couch, heavy with the realization that I didn’t do it and contemplating how late one can send out Happy New Year cards.

Since the start of a new year is a good time to make changes, I thought about making it my New Year’s Resolution: Become someone who sends Christmas cards.  In fact, let’s throw in birthday cards and thank you cards, too.  But as  I thought more about it, I realized I had already told myself that before and it didn’t seem to work.  I realized I was missing something in this resolution.  I needed to dig deeper.  So instead, I decided I want 2014 to be the year of thoughtfulness.  Maybe that means thanking someone (in writing) for a sweet gift.  Maybe it means sending more letters (by hand) to dear friends who are far away.  Maybe it means calling someone instead of texting to say hi.  Hopefully, it means sending Christmas cards next year.  Not because I have to or feel obligated to, but because I want to be someone who can slow down and be thoughtful enough to remember and honor people in my life.  I truly do want to Wish them a Merry Christmas and send Love, Joy and Peace and say Happy Holidays.  I also enjoy the opportunity to celebrate my own family and invite others to celebrate with us.

It’s the start of a new year, and I want to start this year off on the right foot.  I resolve to be more thoughtful and deliberate this year.  I resolve to value relationships over expectations and performance.  And I resolve to continue to use this blog as a way to share my heart and connect with others.  Thank you for all the support and encouragement you have given me through this vessel.  It means more than I could say.  Whether you are family, a friend or an internet stranger, you are blessing to me.

So to all of you who take the time to read my posts, here is my Christmas card.

I hope you had a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year, and I wish you love, joy and peace in 2014.  I pray that each one of us will continue to grow more fully into the person we were meant to be this year and every year of our lives. God bless.

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A very special thanks to Linda Bainter at Lovin’ the Light for capturing the spirit of our adoption day.  My son keeps asking when we can play with you again. 🙂

Nesting: Honoring the journey on the anniversary of our family

Nesting: The emotional, psychological, physiological, relational, spiritual, and practical process of preparing for parenthood. -K. Fields

IMG_1490

My appreciation for my own nesting process feels close to me these days in light of the the 1st anniversary of our adoption finalization (known around my house as “Joshua Day”).  12-12-12.  That was the day when we stood in front of a judge and swore to be Josh’s parents for the rest of our lives.  By that point, we had already been living with our son in our home for almost 2 months, but there was something significant about that act; the formality of it.  The permanence.  The symbolism of raising my hand and swearing to love, support and take care of my son no matter what. (Hmm, do you think we could initiate this type of symbolic commitment in hospitals before parents bring their babies home?  Or better yet, prior to the moment of conception? That was a joke.  Kind of.)

On January 1, 2012, my husband and I both believed that we would be parents that year.  We didn’t know how or when, but we felt confident that we were supposed to move toward it with openness and determination.  So you can imagine my astonishment and awe when I realized on the drive back up to South Carolina to finalize our son’s adoption on December 12, 2012 that our vision had been fulfilled.  Everything we went through to get to that point- every disappointment, fear, negative experience, blessing, struggle, connection- was all worth it.  We were parents.  And we would never not be parents again.

Although we tried to become parents biologically prior to the start of 2012, I mark that day on January 1st as the official start of our nesting process; the beginning of our gestational period where 9 months later we would bring our child home (even though we had no idea at the time what our journey would look like).

So this other part of my life creeps in every now and then. I am a doctoral student, and occasionally I have to do “student” things. It was difficult for me to stay invested in school during my process of becoming a parent, especially when Josh came home to live with us.  Thankfully, I had kind and understanding professors and I discovered my love for qualitative research.  Through this vessel, I found a way to connect my personal journey to my professional endeavors, and I found a renewed passion for research and my academic pursuits.

I became fascinated with the concept of  nesting, and I was curious about how the nesting process for adoptive parents compares to the nesting process for biological parents.  I had to conduct research and complete a project in my qualitative data collection class, and after struggling with where to start for several weeks, I eventually decided to begin the research with my own journey of preparing for parenthood. I interviewed myself and made a video comparing the nesting process of biological parents to my own journey toward parenthood.

I wrestled with whether or not to put this on my blog, but in the end, I decided that leaning on the side of vulnerability has been meaningful and worthwhile.  So, why not?

I will refrain from inserting my own commentary here because I have already done that in the video.  However, I do feel the need to include a disclaimer that, despite my attempt to be “artsy”, I realize that my production quality is below that of most 5th graders.  Next time, I hope to enlist the help of a middle schooler to teach me more about video production.  Okay, enough disclaiming.  Enjoy.  *Vulnerability Hangover commence.*

*The term Vulnerability Hangover is borrowed from an amazing therapist/researcher/writer/speaker Brene Brown.  If you aren’t familiar with her work on vulnerability, I urge you to become familiar with it.

I’m Adopted, Too: A story of gratitude for the man who chose to be my Dad

In my life, family is not defined by blood.  It is defined by love and choice.

  karin pop and josh at karin's 30th bday                      pop grammy and josh at tee ball

When I picked Josh up from school last week, his teacher came up to me and said, “I didn’t know Josh was adopted!”  I was a little thrown off guard because she said it right in front of Josh, and, although it is clearly not something we hide from him, it seemed odd for her to bring it up out of nowhere with him standing at my heel.  I assumed that one of the other teachers told her, but before I could respond, she said with a smile, “Josh told me today!”

“Really?” I thought.  I almost never hear him use the word adopted.  Even when we bring it up, he never really seems to dwell on that word.  I was surprised and also curious.  His sweet teacher gave me a big smile and choked back tears while she told me the story.  During a Thanksgiving activity where all the kids were instructed to say one thing they are thankful for, Josh said, “I am thankful for my adopted family.”  My eyes met hers and we were both fighting back tears.  I touched her arm and thanked her for sharing that with me.  I tried my best to pick up the puddle of emotions that fell on the floor and walk to the car with my son.  As we were leaving, Josh stopped to show me the Thanksgiving wreath his class made.  Next to his name, it said “I am thankful for my family who adopted me.”  He gave me a big hug and told me he loved me.  “Thank you God for these moments.” I thought.

A little while after that, we were snuggling on the couch and I decided to ask him about his decision to tell his class he was adopted.  He couldn’t really give me an answer, which is not surprising since he is 5 years old and that is a fairly abstract concept I was asking him about. (Sidenote: Why do we parents do this?  I have training in play therapy and I teach counseling students how to do play therapy by tracking and reflecting and avoiding direct questions, and I still feel the need to ask my son abstract, complex questions with no clear answer to amuse my adult mind and satiate my curiosity.)  Although he couldn’t answer my initial question, he told me that one of his teachers told him she was adopted too!  He seemed really excited to know that, and I felt really grateful.  I was so glad that someone was there to connect with him as he shared this personal information with his class.

Then Josh looked at me and asked, “Mommy, are you adopted?”  My immediate response was “No”, but he challenged me by saying, “Yes, you are!”  I couldn’t tell at first if he just said this because he wanted us to have that common ground, but then it hit me and I knew exactly what he was talking about.  My step-dad, Richard.  I thought back to the way I talked about my dad and step-dad, using language with Josh like, “I have two dads who love me.” and explaining that even though my step-dad didn’t know me when I was little, I was meant to be his daughter.  I thought about the meaning of adoption and the significance of loving a child that is not your biological child, and also loving a child that you didn’t know since birth.  I have the best step-dad.  I really do.  He loves me and supports and honors me.  He accepted me as his own when he married my mom, and he never made me feel like I didn’t belong.

hull wedding

Beyond loving and accepting me, my step-dad also honored my father and did everything he could to show respect and even gratitude toward him.  He never tried to replace him, but he also wasn’t threatened by him.  He recognized that there was room for both of them in my heart.  And because of this, I made room.  A lot of room.  He filled voids I never knew I had and met needs I hadn’t identified before they were filled.

I remember the first time my step-dad told me he loved me.  My parents hadn’t been married long, and my mom got in a minor car accident with us in the car.  I had just turned 15, so naturally I wanted to go to a friend’s house later that night despite the circumstances.  In fact, I am sure I was more concerned about the prospect of having to miss my sleepover than I was about the car or anyone’s physical well-being.  I was dropped off at my friend Emma’s house before my step-dad got home from work, so I didn’t see him that day.  That evening, while my friend and I were watching a movie and talking about boys (undoubtedly), I called to check in with my mom before going bed, and she told me Richard wanted to say hi.  He got on the phone and asked me how I was feeling after the accident.  I could sense the concern and care in his voice as he spoke, and before hanging up the phone, he told me he loved me and he was glad I was okay.  I was a little caught off guard, but it also felt natural to return the words to him.  I hung up the phone, and instead of talking about boys, my friend and I talked about my step-dad and how glad I was that my mom married him.  I will never forget that night.

Our relationship continued to deepen and strengthen after that.  My sister and I renamed Richard “Pop” because it just didn’t seem personal enough to call him by his first name.  We made up a game where we would talk about all the things we did together when we were little and all the family vacations we took.  He would say, “I remember when Karin was just a little blonde girl with pig tails running around.”  For senior prom, we all went to my friend’s house to take pictures, and one of the other parents told my Pop how I looked just like him.  Without missing a beat, he said, “I know.”  When I was 19, I crashed my car (at 11:30 pm on New Year’s Eve), and my Pop was the only person I thought to call.  The person I trusted most to help me.  (And the one who I hoped would be the most forgiving, which proved to be true.)  When I was away at college, I called him regularly to ask for advice and feel “taken care of”.  When my heart got broken, he reminded me that no guy is worthy of me and that, to him, I am the best.

pop and karin dancing at wedding  karin wedding family pic

On my wedding day, we danced a choreographed dance to Mama Mia’s “I have a dream”.  It was his idea, and he said it was the perfect song for us.  We laughed because, in the movie, the daughter has three dads that love her.  And they all agree to “share her” in the end because none of them can imagine not being her father and none of them care enough about the biological connection to let that push them away.  The love of her fathers gives her strength to set sail on her own, with their love and support as the current behind her.  I don’t remember much about my wedding day.  But that dance is embedded in my memory.

When I told my Pop that I was adopting my son, he didn’t miss a beat.  He didn’t question my motives (or sanity), and he didn’t express concern or hesitation.  He embraced me.  And then he embraced my son.  Looking back, it doesn’t surprise me that my step-dad so readily embraced the concept of adoption.  He lived it.

pop and josh christmas 2012                          pop grammy and josh at dinner

All of these thoughts and memories and feelings flooded my mind as my son looked at me and told me I was adopted, too.  I smiled and responded, “You’re right! I am adopted! We both are!”  Then we hugged and laughed, and I could feel the connection between us deepen.  I also felt an immense gratitude and love for my step-dad; my Pop.  He loved me when he didn’t have to.  He chose to be a father to me.  He received me as his own even though I wasn’t his biological child.  And he modeled the significance of adoption years before it would be present in my own family.

During this Thanksgiving season, I just want to take a moment to say thank you, Pop.  Thank you for choosing to be my dad.  Thank you for standing by me and showing me what it means to commit to loving someone.  Thank you for teaching me that blood is overrated.  And that love stronger still.

The Madness and Sanity of Parenting

josh in tree

While sitting in a research meeting on campus yesterday, my phone rang.

Oh no. My son’s school. 

“Josh is fine, but there was an incident, and we want to meet with you.  Today.”  My heart is beating out of my chest.  I am told that I don’t have to come now, but that it needs to be before pick-up.  “Wait…But hurry.”

Uggh.. This part is so hard.  The waiting.  The uncertainty.  The fear.  That out-of-control feeling when you realize your kid, however young he may be, is a real person capable of having his own thoughts and making his own decisions.  She wouldn’t give me any details over the phone, but after hearing the director’s tone and choice of words, I was pretty sure my son was the offender.  This filled me with a range of emotions from fear to guilt to concern to helplessness.  “What if it’s really bad?”  “How will I respond?”  I realized that allowing my imagination to run wild was not productive for my stress level or sanity, so I tried to quiet those voices and pray.  I prayed that I would handle the situation graciously and thoughtfully.  I prayed that I would be receptive and not quick to judgment or anger.  (Both toward my son and toward others involved).  But mostly, I prayed for my son.  I prayed that he would know the love and forgiveness of God and trust in the love and forgiveness of his parents.

I didn’t know how I would feel when I found out the specifics of the incident in question, but I knew this.  I wasn’t going to reject my son, no matter what the school told me or what he had done.  I know my boy.  He is sensitive and empathic and intuitive, and he knows the feeling of rejection so acutely already.  My mind was imagining the worst possible scenarios, and as I played them out, I pictured myself moving toward my son in love and grace, reminding him that even when I am mad and disappointed and hurt (which I will be at times because that is a part of relationships and the impact our actions have on others), his offenses will never be greater than my love and commitment to him as my son.

In typical Karin fashion, I have now built up this story to an anti-climactic point where I tell you that, although the offense was definitely disobedient and even dangerous, it was not among the worst of the fears that bounced around my head on my drive over to the school.  That is a technique I use as a counselor, too.  Think of the worst case scenario.  Process how you would handle it and what it would feel like.  Now imagine an equally plausible scenario that is not so horrible.  How does that feel?  Okay, if I am being honest, my approach in the car may not have been as therapeutic as I just described.  But the relief I felt was palpable nonetheless.  And for the record, I can say that his sweet and intuitive teacher handled it superbly, and I am grateful for that.

After a positive and encouraging interaction with the director and teacher, I was eager to walk down to my son’s classroom and receive him with grace and love.  When I came in, he gave me a sheepish smile and wavered before walking over to me.  He was trying to read my face and body language to see if I knew, and he was watching me to see how I would respond.  I smiled and said, “Let’s go home.”  He walked slowly next to me, looking at me every so often, then looking back down.  I didn’t make much small talk, but I didn’t give him the cold shoulder either.  I just walked with him.  I put him in the car, then came around and sat next to him in the back seat.  He was surprised and kind of laughed, not knowing what I was up to.

I looked my son in the eye, told him I loved him, smiled slightly but intently, then asked him to tell me what happened today.  As we sat there together, I watched my son wrestle through the events of the day painfully in his mind, telling me bits and pieces, then withdrawing.  This cycle went on a few times, then finally, after most of the story had been retold from his perspective along with remorse and guilt, he said the thing I had been fearing and praying through since I first got the call.  He said he was afraid I wouldn’t forgive him.  He spoke the words with such raw emotion and genuineness, and he wouldn’t look at me after he said them.  I turned my son’s face to mine, kissed his nose, and told him that I forgive him and I love him, and I always will.  Always.  Then we had a serious conversation about obedience, respect, and thinking about consequences before acting.

There is a line from the movie Spanglish that reminds me of my feelings yesterday.  The main character says, “Worrying about your children is sanity.  And being that sane is enough to drive you nuts.”  In the midst of all the stress and anxiety I felt yesterday afternoon, I also experienced a deep sense of gratitude.  I have wanted to be a parent my whole life.  Now I am a parent, and sometimes my child drives me nuts.  I love this little person so much and so deeply that it makes me feel crazy sometimes.  But in those moments when I get wrapped up in my own craziness of worrying about my child, I also remind myself that I cannot control him or protect him from the world’s problems or make all of his decisions for him.  He is his own little person with a will and a mind and a heart and a body and a soul.  I have been given the privilege of being his mother.  And with that privilege comes a great deal of responsibility and diligence.  But every day, whether we put our kids on school buses or home school them, whether they live in our house or have a house and a family of their own, we have to release our children into the world and hope and pray they will be okay. (Mom, I get it now.)

Being a parent is the most maddening and sane thing I have ever done.  And even though yesterday was a tough day, it was important.  Josh needs those moments.  He needs to make bad choices and mess up sometimes.  And I need those moments, too.  I need to be reminded of my lack of control and trust God in my parenting.

The poet Kahlil Gibran sums up the complicated and beautiful mystery of caring for your children and releasing them at the same time.  Here is an excerpt that is meaningful to me.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I pray that I will be a stable and glad bow for my son, the adventurous and spirited arrow.

And I hope for no more school phone calls any time soon.

Adoption Awareness Month and Our Charge to Care for Orphans

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November is Adoption Awareness Month.  Last week, our church participated in Orphan Sunday, which is a day designed to raise awareness in churches about the plight of orphans and the serious call Jesus makes in the Bible for caring for this innocent and vulnerable population.  My husband and I were asked to speak about our adoption story and our personal views on caring for orphans.  It caught me off guard at first, and I thought to myself, “I am all about helping orphans, but how does that relate to our adoption story?”  Maybe I have had the definition wrong in my head of what an orphan is.  So I looked it up.  No, the dictionary clearly defines the word as “a child whose parents are dead.”  Josh’s biological parents are very much alive, so I wrestled with this idea of my son being an orphan.

According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there were almost 400,000 children in the foster care system in the United States in 2012.  Many of these children have at least one living biological parent, so technically, they would not qualify as orphans either.  So here’s the catch.  We read over and over again in the Bible to take care of orphans, but the existing definition of the term orphan isn’t comprehensive enough anymore.  Orphans are also referred to in the Bible as “fatherless”, which seems to get a little closer to our modern day foster care children.

As I dug in to this idea of “What is an orphan?”, I realized with much sadness that my son was an orphan.  He was fatherless and motherless and in need of a home.  That pretty much sums up the concept of orphan to me.

My son and I love to watch the movie Hook.  I love any story that can capture the beauty and magic of childhood, but beyond that, there is also a powerful adoption theme.  The whole reason why Peter goes to London, leading him to have to return to Neverland to save his children from Captain Hook, is to honor the Wendy character for her lifetime dedication to the plight of orphans.  I felt a tremendous weight on my heart as I watched it this past week because, maybe for the first time, I realized how powerful and serious the call to care for orphans really is.  It was Wendy’s life work and passion.  And we have no evidence from the Peter Pan story that she was doing it to fulfill God’s call.  She just knew it needed to be done.

I know that adoption is not for everyone, but what are some ways you can care for orphans?  Have you been defining the word too restrictively also?  Where are the needs in your own community?  I don’t think it is a coincidence that Adoption Awareness Month is in November.  This is a time for us to be thankful for all that we have.  And in our thankfulness, it is also a time to challenge ourselves to give.

I would love to hear your stories about what the call to care for orphans means to you or some ways others can get involved (including me!).

If you are interested in learning more about adoption from a Christian viewpoint, I strongly recommend the following resources:

Adopted for Life by Russell Moore

The Spirit of Adoption: At Home in God’s Family by Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner

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