National Adoption Day 2015 – My Starfish

I always hope that I’m going to have something inspirational ready to post on National Adoption Day, but here it is, and I don’t know what to say this year except being an adoptive mom makes me .  .  .

a mom, maybe not the same kind of mom as someone else, but the one I was meant to be.

Having a biological child was never possible for me, and I’ve grieved that loss. Yet, I realize now, that if I had, I wouldn’t have the daughter I do today. And she is perfect, sometimes perfectly rotten, perfectly loud, a perfect disaster, but my perfect starfish child.

Sometimes, raising just this one child feels like a drop in the bucket compared to the millions hurting in this world. But God didn’t ask me to save the world, He asked me to raise this child, and I’m reminded of the starfish story, the one about the little girl throwing stranded starfish back into the ocean. She couldn’t save them all, but she didn’t stop trying because her efforts mattered to ‘this one’.I didn't rescue her, she rescued me. She is my starfish and I am hers. This National Adoption Day we soak up our time together, knowing it is just a season.

Sometimes, I hear my daughter say “Mommy” and it sounds false, too good to be true, too fragile with all the extra dynamics of adoption and biology and legality.

But it is true. For today, I am her mom, her only mom. I guess that is what I wanted to say. She is mine. We are really family. Sometimes though, I think we forget our real place in the equation, when we talk about our kids being ours.

I have had to share all my children. My three children from my previous marriage called me mom, but we shared custody. We share my two current stepsons with their mother and stepdad. Now, we share this child with a biological family that may someday be in her life, and with God who adopted her before we did.

Sharing children is difficult and challenging for all sorts of reasons, but entirely beautiful because I’ve learned that these children are mine only in the sense that I’ve been put into their lives for a time, and what I do with that time is mine to claim responsibility over.

For me, the fact that she is only mine through God’s plan has made a huge difference in my parenting. I’m only borrowing her. God plucked her off the beach into my hand for a season. I’ve been given this window to reach into her life and be her mom. That’s it. Temporary.

When people tell me how lucky she is to have me as her mom I feel like a fraud. Don’t they know how selfishly I wanted to be a mom? She didn’t just fall into my lap. It was hours of copying paperwork, weeks of gathering documents, months of preparing our home for a study and a baby we might never get, years of saving money, and decades waiting to be a mom.

Even the starfish allusion, implies that I’m somehow saving her, but like to think we’re part of saving each other. I like it because it reminds me how powerfully one life can matter to another, how much responsibility I’ve been graciously given. She changed me. Watching her relate to me made me see myself in relation to God so clearly.

And just like that, I’m like every other mother, nothing about being a mother was what I expected. I didn’t expect to love this much. I didn’t expect it would change me this much. I didn’t expect that being a mom would break my heart into a million pieces daily and yet be what my heart beats for. I really didn’t expect how mothering would bring me to the feet of the Father.

I’m so thankful I’m His adopted starfish, as she is mine.

To Homeschool or not to Homeschool, that is the question!

To homeschool or not to homeschool, that is the question! Whether it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of playground bullies, or to take up workbooks against the common core and by opposing – teach common sense. Oh to wonder no more, and by making a decision, to say we end the heartache of forever scarring our children by choosing incorrectly. . .

Okay, that Hamlet allusion was probably only amusing me. My students either loved or dreaded Shakespeare units. I always started with a Monty Python-esque British accent and Hamlet’s soliloquy, attempting to inspire them to love the bard.

I was a dedicated public school teacher for 17 years. I hope my students look back and feel I was part of a good argument for sending your children to public school.

But myself, I’m not so convinced. We live in an area that has an emerging school system. Things are improving, but not quickly. We’ve really been torn about whether we should homeschool.Trying to decide if homeschooling is the right answer for our family. Weighing the pros and cons is hard when we don't know all of the potential results of either choice. Heaven Not Harvard

Part of me feels like I’m cheating her from the childhood experience of “the first day of school”, making friends, and meeting other adults who might love and nurture her in a different way than I do.

Local pre-registration for next year is already finished. We chose not to enroll her at this time, but I still struggle with the questions of whether homeschooling is the right choice for us, for her.

I feel like I’m sitting on the fence, making my Pro/Con list without really being able to see all the items on either side of the list.

Trying to decide if you want to homeschool? Here's our pro/con list that made our decision… Click To Tweet

Pro Homeschooling

  1. She has recently been labeled as possibly having ADHD. Homeschooling would allow me to build in wiggle time between lessons.
  2. I can also teach her to deal with her attention issues in a way a classroom teacher wouldn’t be able to in a classroom with 30 other unique children.
  3. She can learn at her own pace, allowing for remediation or enrichment activities and additional subjects, like Spanish and art that our area school may not have.
  4. We can schedule piano lessons or doctor appointments during the day, leaving more time for family in the evenings and weekends.
  5. We can create our own calendar and schedule, which allows us to take breaks when her brothers visit, when her dad has a random day off from the army, or when we want to travel to visit family or friends.
  6. We can reduce or eliminate bullying.
  7. We can control her introduction to the adult subjects of the world. I don’t want to shelter her so much as mindfully guide her using our faith to give her the tools to navigate the world.
  8. I get to watch the world unfold for her. Watching her learning to read for herself has been absolutely magical. Everyday she makes a new discovery, like learning she has a super power.
Here is my pro/con list from our decision about homeschool. To homeschool or not to homeschool? Click To Tweet

Con List

  1. She is the center of my attention all day, every day. She doesn’t learn to take turns or be patient with others.
  2. She misses out on the good memories of making friends, giggling on the playground.
  3. As her only teacher, she may not learn to respect or deal with other authority.
  4. As her mom, our relationship is different, she pushes back at structure and discipline with me in a way she wouldn’t at school.
  5. I have to sit with her during every lesson right now. It is time-consuming and challenging.
  6. Can she learn to be independent if she spends all day with the safety net of Mom and home? Will she be too attached to me?
  7. I can’t seek paid employment while homeschooling, which is difficult for our budget.
  8. Will my attempts to create curriculum be successful and meaningful?
  9. Will playdates and co-op be enough to socialize her? Will she learn social skills as a primarily only child being homeschooled?
  10. Will I have the patience and temperament to make homeschooling a fun adventure instead of daily drudgery?

Stepping into this new realm as a homeschooling parent is less terrifying as a teacher, because in some ways I’ve been teaching her since she was born, but it puts so much responsibility on my shoulders for her social and academic success.

Are you a public/private school parent or are you a homeschooling parent? Are you a product of homeschool? Please share your thoughts and ideas for me.

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Haircut Failure

Have you ever known you were making a mistake while you were doing it, and kept at it anyway? I think that pretty much sums up my daughter’s recent, unplanned haircut, for both of us. *SIGH*

Being a mother challenges the worrier in all of us. I’ve struggled with worry. I’m learning to take my worry to God and doing better at leaving it with Him. I hate the scary things in this world, but am learning to seek wisdom and understanding what things I can actually control, and to know when to pray and let it just be on my radar instead of blocking my entire path. And I think I can really see some growth in my heart.

2nd Birthday 014
Hair barely long enough to barrette at 2

Which is why my failure to keep perspective this weekend really threw me for a loop. A vain and silly worry, for sure, but I’ve always been afraid my daughter would cut her own hair. (Let’s just say many women have childhood trauma relating to this issue.) It took 3 1/2 years for her to have enough hair to even get her first “trim”. She only plays with scissors in supervised situations for this very reason. She is my only little girl and selfishly, I wanted her to have pretty hair for me to style.

When she came home from the neighbor’s house on Sunday, something wasn’t quite right. Then, I saw it, several chunks of her hair were missing. The more I looked the more pieces became evident. Someone had made several snips on both sides of her face. My instant emotion was not pretty.

I even heard God whisper, “How you react is important” and I barely paused. My reaction could have been worse, but it certainly did not reflect the grace and love of God, at least not at first. I cried and got loud. I knew it was wrong.

She immediately claimed the neighbor did it. And she isn’t a good liar, but, man, she had commitment, took us 30 minutes to get her to admit she did it.

While she was in time out for lying to us, my husband convicted me of losing control. He was kind and gracious, and acknowledged that I handled it much better than he would have expected from a couple of years ago, but that I still needed to calm down before saying anything more to her. God whispered to me again, “How you react is important.”

I didn’t want him to be right, but he was. And I told him so. We talked and processed, then called the kiddo back into the room. We set punishments for 1) cutting anything other than craft paper, 2) breaking the rules at a friend’s house, 3) lying about what happened, 4) trying to get her friend in trouble. Then she apologized to me and her dad. I apologized for being too upset about her hair when it really isn’t important. Then we prayed. She apologized to God, and so did I. We talked nose-to-nose, our tears mingling as we prayed. Then I scooped her up and wrapped her in love and forgiveness.

But I stayed sad inside. Her hair! I can’t fix it. She cut it in such a way that I don’t think anything but time can mend. And then I felt like even more of a failure for letting vanity be more important than setting a Godly example.

Proverbs 31:30 ESV  “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

If teaching her to be Godly is the goal, then demonstrating true beauty and obedience to God needs to be my default reaction. How can I go into a tailspin over something that really doesn’t matter? Especially when I know His truth.

Matthew 6:25 ESV  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

I’ve been told my value is in my appearance by every magazine, movie, and billboard. And now that I’ve kind of gotten control over most of my self-esteem/vanity monster, I realize that maybe I’ve just put energy into making her cute and adorable instead of myself. Looks like some time for more growth. God says not to be anxious over any of it, that what we really need, He will provide.

So I’ve spent a few days asking for God to help me grow in this area.

Psalm 119:37 ESV “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.”

And then I felt like a failure for not obeying God, for throwing away a chance to witness to my husband over a few (albeit importantly placed) locks of hair.

But then I was doing my Bible study, A Confident Heart by Renee Swope, this morning and came across this verse.

Revelation 12:10 ESV  “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.”

The accuser lies to us day and night, whispering to us things like, “You’re a failure.”

IMG_4329
Side braid to hide the four different lengths

Well, I failed, I sinned, but I accepted correction. I prayed in front of my family for forgiveness. I am doing my best to change my heart about this issue and learn some new funky hair styles to hide the mismatched strands.

What did Jesus say to the adulteress (caught in the act) that people wanted to stone?

(vs. 10) “Has no one condemned you?”     John 8:11 ESV  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

That is the truth. I have to trust that I’m forgiven because He says I am. I have to learn and do better. Her hair will grow back very, very slowly. And side braids are cute, right?

Too Late

This will be a short post today because I have written in-depth about Saving Eliza before in my post The Last 365. When I wrote the last blog, her parents were still hopeful. They had months to raise the remaining funds and Eliza was not showing any symptoms of degeneration. They began a social media challenge (#sing2lines) in order to raise awareness and funds. If everyone reading this gave $25, we could save her life today.

Sing2linesBut today I was heartbroken anew. An article on People.com shared that she is losing words. I cannot imagine watching my child be slowly erased by a missing gene, knowing every step backward is a step towards a prolonged deterioration and painful death.

The treatment is sitting in a hospital in Ohio, the FDA is in the process of approving this very unique trial, but the trial hasn’t been funded. From my understanding, there is a deadline of the end of October to get this funded in order for it to start in January.

I am reminded of being in the NICU when my daughter was born. Every three hours we got to scrub up, don gowns, and have 30 minutes to change her diaper, hold her, feed her. But it was on a schedule – 8 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m., 5 p.m., 8 p.m. If a physician was making NICU rounds or another child was having a crisis, no one was allowed inside.

During the week we were there, twice we rushed excitedly through the hospital only to be turned away. Standing at the door of the NICU, there was no reprieve, no one to appeal to, just a sign letting us know to try again at the next visiting time. My baby was on the other side of that door. I wanted to break it down, be the exception, get to my child. Inside I felt like a momma bear raging as I walked away dejectedly, trying not to cry until the privacy of the elevator. iphone 810 115

I can only imagine how the O’Neills are feeling. They are standing on this side of that door figuratively, knowing their daughter is gradually being pulled away from them. They have given every thought and moment to fighting for her, but are losing the fight.

They are clinging to hope, and their efforts are raising money.  $15, $20, $40 come in one at a time from anonymous people just trying to do what they can, but it is slow, and the days are running out for sweet Eliza. Her abilities to focus and speak are already noticeably affected.

If this gene therapy trial is effective, it could save her life, but literally every single day is doing permanent damage. Funding this trial now is absolutely the only hope to save Eliza. Any delay will make it too late for Eliza.

Too late. We use the words too late for the ice cream truck that turned the corner before we found our change purse; too late when we miss the start of a movie by more than the length of the previews; too late to go to a friend’s house last-minute. No one should ever have to use these words to describe saving a child.

Why is this on my heart? Why do I share every post and tweet? I just remember Jesus speaking to his followers about how he sees children.

Matthew 18:5 ESV “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me”

There is nothing I wouldn’t do for Jesus, and if I can serve Him by helping care for this little angel and her family, then I’ll do whatever is in my strength and ability to do.

Please join the movement, #SING2LINES for #SavingEliza, share this blog or her cause on every forum you can. Give whatever you can. If everyone who read my first post had donated a single $1, we would have raised over $15,000. Make this go viral, we have to do something before it is too late.

Mother’s Day 2014

As a blogger, it can be hard to write about holidays or events on demand. I’ve spent all week trying to approach writing about Mother’s Day.

My entire blog is about being a Christian mother, and I covered a lot about becoming a mother in an earlier post, Seriously Harvard? that dealt with Samuel 1, Hannah’s story.

Plus, many of my friends are struggling this year with having lost a mother or a child, or never having been a mother in the traditional sense. I understand that pain.

Being barren myself, Mother’s Day has been hard for me for a long time. I’ve never even gotten to experience the tiniest hope of life growing inside of me. Part of my heart will always grieve that loss.

Happily, God’s plan was for me to be an adoptive mother to this wonderful little girl. My first mother’s day was the day after I met our precious baby girl in the NICU.

Mother's Day is full of perfect images, but we're imperfect and that's how God's plan works best.
Love at first sight

It wasn’t the way we imagined, but God’s plan was, as always, perfect. We got to spend a few hours with her in the NICU every day for a week, which prepared us to care for her enough that we felt a little less insane when they let us drive away with this tiny human.

I took responsibility for her. Every memory she will ever have, I will be her mother. The weight of that is heavy. I promised God that if He saw fit to make me a mother, I would raise this child for Him. I’m doing the best job I know how to do each day. Some days are better than others.

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)

Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.

My Christian walk is blossoming, but the race is long, and I have much to learn about knowing which way to go myself. Motherhood itself is fraught with a million decisions a day, balancing needs and wants, instant solutions with long-term consequences.

Motherhood is a million decisions, balancing needs & wants, with forever consequences. Click To Tweet

Today, we were on our first mother-daughter bike ride. She got a big girl bike for her 4th birthday and is still learning to use coaster brakes.

After a tricycle, she is having a rough time adjusting to this new bike. Five minutes into our ride, she dissolved into screaming tears.

I will climb mountains, slay dragons, fight bears to soothe away her tears.

I tried talking her down, but she was using her tears to refuse to learn. On this undeveloped cul-de-sac, I decided to do what was best for her in the long run – let her get independent. I told her what to do, told her to catch up, and rode toward the circle at the end of the block.

Stomach in knots, I listened for her tears, but heard nothing. I started to turn to check on her, and she pedaled past grinning and laughing. “This is so much fun, Mom!” she shouted whizzing by, sparkle streamers waving in the breeze.

She hadn’t needed me to physically push her at all. She needed me to push her to leap into independence. We ended up riding 2 1/2 miles together up and down the empty roads, learning a lot and having a hot, sweaty, sunshiney, wonderful day.

But I had to think about who she needs to be tomorrow, her first days of school, the first time a bully pushes her around or a friend hurts her feelings, high school peer pressure, college.

Letting her cry for five excruciating minutes today, helped her find her strength and courage inside. I still feel horrible that she had to cry at all. I struggle with not feeling like all her tears are some sort of parenting fail on my part, but the reality is, she has to learn control over her own emotions and persevere when she faces challenges.

What I can do is teach her who God is, who He wants us to be, and who she is to Him. So we pray, we talk about making choices, we talk about God being with us all the time.

Sometimes, all I know how to do is to talk out loud walking through my learning how to be a Godly mother.

At the end of the day, and this one had parenting wins and failures, I have to do my best to be a mom, a wife, a woman of God, and a human being. My strengths and failures will be part of her story, part of what she brings to the Lord as her gifts and wounds. The bible is full of miraculous stories of broken people God made whole and used to create miracles.

The Bible is full of miraculous stories of broken people God made whole & used in His plan. Click To Tweet

Moses murdered someone and hid in the desert for 40 years, stuttered terribly and didn’t respond enthusiastically to God’s command to free the Israelites from Egypt.

King David had a man murdered so he could marry the pretty neighbor lady he impregnated.

But God perfectly used these imperfect men, and so many more. We don’t come perfect, we just need to surrender all. His glory is made more obvious in our weakness.

1 Cor. 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

So how do I train her up in the way she should go? Imperfectly, and demonstrate through my faults how I lean on Christ, so she knows how to do that someday as well.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you, whether you’re celebrating with your mother or missing her, an adoptive or foster-mother, have 1 child or ten, or are a mother in different ways as part of the body of Christ. I hope your day was blessed with joy, peace, comfort and laughter, even if peppered with tears. May God hold you and all you call family in His hands tonight.

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