Dear Birthmom,

Have you ever had a letter you wanted to write, but knew you could never send it? It would be too real, too raw, too vulnerable? What about talk to someone who is out of your life? Sometimes, I have so many things I’d like to say specifically to our daughter’s birthmom due to our unique circumstances. This is not a letter to any birthmom. I will share that letter soon.

Today is National Adoption Day and my spunky lil’ punkin woke up ready for Christmas. She has been a bright light all morning. She told us that to feel the Christmas spirit you have to stretch your arms out wide, take a deep breath, and spin. It is mornings like this that make me feel so blessed to have a chance to mother this tiny tornado, and wish I could talk to her birth mother.Christmas Spirt

Every year as soon as the first signs of spring appear, I start mentally preparing to write her birthday update to our birthmom; I carefully craft the letters and select perfect pictures to tell the story of her year. The first few letters came easily, I was just so grateful for this gift of an amazing child. But this last year I struggled more than usual. I always keep the letters light, warm, and open, but I have things I wish I could say to her.

Dear Birth Mother,

I haven’t heard from you since she was still in the NICU, the day you planned to come back to see her one more time, but never called and never answered a call or email again. How did you walk out of that hospital without her? She has your ears, you know.The first time I saw her yawn, I could see your mouth in hers.

She’ll lay in bed with me in the mornings and tell me her dreams. Her dreams of being a bear trainer and a circus clown, and I’m awed by your sacrifice that built my family. I want to call you or send a picture right that minute, hoping to catch the way joy sparkles in her with my clumsy iPhone camera. But just like my phone’s lousy ability to capture the truth of her beauty, a picture wouldn’t capture her spirit either. Although this video is one of my favorites.

Sometimes, I’m really angry with you. You put cocaine into her tiny body, and I couldn’t stop you. While they scanned for brain damage, I held her tiny head, frantic for her. Despite being premature and some early breathing difficulties, she seems alright, but tiny signs make me wonder. We can’t know the future battles she may face due to the alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs.

I also don’t understand not wanting to know her. I have emailed a few times, willing to keep communication open. Not one reply. There are moments that I feel like a mother is the one person who can celebrate all the tiny, insignificant, earth-shattering, wonderful things she does. Then, I wonder if you would understand, if you have that mothering instinct at all?

Or if that instinct is what encouraged you to give her away? Because you did bring her into the world. You gave her life. Not every woman would make that choice.

Maybe you’ve never answered an email because a single word to me would open a floodgate of regret. Maybe you have a hole in your heart, shaped just her size. I don’t want to remind you what you’ve lost. That’s why I stopped emailing so long ago.

Every time she calls me “Mommy” my heart wants to burst. The other day we were talking about her adoption and if babies remembering being born. I asked if she remembered her “real” mom. I don’t know why that word came out of my mouth, because I always use “birth” mom to describe you. Maybe it still doesn’t seem possible that she is mine. But, you know what, she looked right at me and said, “You’re my real mom.” And I am. I’ve been branded in snot, puke, poop, and hugs. I’ve played dress up and tea party, and had to discipline her when watching her chubby cheeks stained with tears was breaking my heart. I’m as real as it gets, but you’re still a part of her, too.

I try not to worry about how she’ll feel in the future. I don’t know if she’ll be more than curious, but I do know she will always have a hole in her heart for the people who gave her away. I pray I’m doing my job so well, it will be only a tiny thimble space of emptiness that won’t ever bother her. But I wonder if she’ll ever come looking for you. Will she turn toward your family, aching to know why you gave her away. Part of me doesn’t want her to need you, but I want to be OK with her loving you, too. Our hearts aren’t limited in how many people we can love.

I tell her that God always meant her for our family, that she grew in my heart as part of His plan for her. Yet, during those teen years, will she ever yell, “You’re not my real mom!” at me? I pray that she doesn’t ever feel like that, or even if she does, we’ll both know she didn’t really mean it.

Dear BirthmomToday is just another Saturday, even though we know it’s National Adoption Day. And I’m celebrating her and our family. Daddy made traditional Belgian waffles, so delicious they didn’t even need syrup. We’re gonna stay in our jammies until lunch time.

We’re having a pillow fight. We’ve never had one before. I handed her the pillow and walloped her. Her eyes got wide with surprise, she was allowed to hit me? Then the laughter started to bubble up bursting into huge giggles, dissolving into giant guffaws as we bashed and bonked, great reckless pillow fun.

And you’re missing it. You’ll never know how her tiny, baby chuckles could fill a whole room with laughter. You’ll never see her jaw drop in amazement when she learns something new.

When I write to you each year, I worry over ever word, wanting you to be happy you chose us to raise her, wanting you to agree that I’ve been the best mom I could be for her, but I worry you’ll judge her height and weight and wonder if I’ve been feeding her too much junk food. I worry that you’ll hate her haircut or the mural I painstakingly painted on her bedroom wall. I wonder if you’d approve of the deep faith she is developing. Then I think, you gave her up because you couldn’t take care of you, should your opinion matter to me? Two seconds later, I hope you’re doing alright and are making better choices.

And I have times, I wonder if letting her go left a huge hole in your heart, if there is anything I could say that would make it hurt less, feel better. You did the right thing. She has a stable home, a family that adores her, and close friends who practically live at our house.

She will ask lots of questions in the future, I’m sure. I know my feelings will change too. So for right now, this minute, I’m grateful but wonder if you know what you’re missing.

Packing Peanuts

My daughter had a science themed birthday party this year. I was searching for a cute gender neutral party theme, and thought science experiments would be something different and extra fun. All the kids wore labs coats and colorful safety glasses.DSCN7229 - Version 2 They blew touchable bubbles from test tubes, and we performed several easy experiments. We covered the lawn with mentos and diet coke, the kitchen with vinegar and baking soda. The party was a blast.

One of everyone’s favorites was the packing peanuts experiment. I took an empty 14 oz. can and on the sly, filled it with acetone. I had a large (2x3x2 ft) box FULL of packing peanuts sitting in the garage. I asked the kids how many packing peanuts I could fit inside the can. “Two?” “Ten!” “No, twenty!” Tiny voices shouted out estimates. I dropped a small handful into the can. The green styrofoam peanuts instantly disappeared. I added another larger handful, then another. Eventually, kids crowded around me, and we were all shoving packing peanuts into this little can as quickly as we could. They were disappearing as fast as we could get them into the can. Everyone was amazed, including me. I knew what it would do, but didn’t know how fast or that it would seriously devour the entire box of packing peanuts in minutes. Science is fun.

But the image of that empty can just consuming everything has really stuck with me over the past couple of months. God used this experiment as a tangible object lesson for me. That can represented my life, my heart.

Since my childhood, I’ve had a roaring emptiness inside me. Some of it has been there since the first day of kindergarten when my classmates teased and ridiculed me. I was bullied literally from the first day of school, coming to believe I was too weird and ugly for anyone to like me, too disgusting for anyone to love. Since that time, I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere. As a teen, trying to fill this yawning hole in my heart led me to make poor decisions. I longed for some social acceptance and sought it through a string of boys who further emptied my cup of self-esteem through various forms of physical and verbal abuse.

Of course the more I tried to fill my heart with the things of this earth and my flesh, the emptier I became. I tried to fill it with partying, drinking, men. Not only did nothing satisfy the aching need inside of me, the shame of my actions only tore at me more and more.

I had accepted Christ when I was six, but, after decades of falling away, I only became a disciple a few years ago after God had been gradually working on my heart for years. I can’t remember the date, but I can pinpoint the moment the Holy Spirit truly opened my eyes, helped me understand God’s love for me and others. I’ve realized now that my whole life, from boyfriends to husbands, even to adopting my daughter, I’ve been trying to fill my heart with things or people.

Holding my daughter’s little girl body, my heart bursting with love, I realize she is already 4, growing up way too fast, and even though she’ll always need me to some extent, being her mommy is only a temporary identity. I must have a permanent identity in Christ.  Loving her has come the closest, but even that falls short. Nothing of this earth can come close to a relationship with God. There’s a hole in my heart that can only be filled by You, Lord.

This may seem like a strange praise song. But the lyrics, can completely be pointed toward God. As I listen to it over and over now, writing this blog, I am teary-eyed, praising God for finally showing me the futility of my hamster-wheel-life, for softening my heart and teaching me to let Him fill my needs, be my comfort, my truth.

Life’s ambition occupies my time
Priorities confuse the mind
Happiness, one step behind
This inner peace, I’ve yet to find

Rivers flow into the sea
Yet even the sea is not so full of me
If I’m not blind why can’t I see?
That a circle can’t fit in where a square should be

There’s a hole in my heart
That can only be filled by you
And this hole in my heart
Can’t be filled with the things I do
Hole hearted
Hole hearted

This heart of stone is where I hide
These feet of clay kept warm inside
Day by day less satisfied
Not fade away, before I die

I spent years chasing ambition, earthly priorities, ‘happiness’, but could never find lasting peace. Why couldn’t I see that I couldn’t fill that hole with the things I do? My sin and pride had hardened my heart to such an extreme I was almost purposefully self-destructing. When I was near to crushed, I would call out to God, but, once the storm had passed, get distracted by self and flesh yet again. This last time, my husband’s fourth deployment, his absence during our daughter’s first year, his year in combat, another long separation, had just about destroyed us both. I called out for God in desperation, brokenhearted.

Psalm 34:18 ESV “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

And He, beautifully, pulled me out of my sin, graciously wrapped me in His arms, comforting me, drawing close to me.

James 4:8 ESV “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. . .”

God is putting verses, wisdom, and people in my life, showing me that He loves me and is calling me to Him. I am learning that I am forgiven and redeemed by grace, no sin too great to forgive. He continues to demonstrate that He is my portion, my comfort.

Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

As a Sunday school kid, raised in a Christian home, I should have known that I couldn’t fill my heart with my works, that I couldn’t ever do enough to earn salvation. It is a gift. He takes us as sinners, and cleans us up.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

My heart sings these words. What freedom to know that Christ has washed me clean, my old self has passed away. I am new in Him. And this glorious truth, brings me to His feet, wanting to learn, to follow.

Proverbs 3:5 ESV “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.”

My own understanding got me nowhere fast. I was broken and so violently destructive that I was unwittingly breaking everyone around me. God put my daughter in my life because He knew that my love of her and for her would challenge me to want to give her a heart full of Jesus, to do my best to protect her from the empty life I’ve lived.

Psalm 51:10 ESV “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

What a fantastic prayer. I am a new creation, and God will clean my heart and renew my spirit. I don’t have be a slave to my sin or shame anymore.

Hebrews 10:22 ESV “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

I was talking with my closest unsaved friend the other day. He said, “Man, you Christians must feel so beat down all the time from not being good enough.”

Ephesians 4:18 ESV “They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.”

My heart broke for him, knowing that he is still in that struggle with the emptiness inside. I’ve been there.  Yet, I rejoiced that he opened the door to tell him the Truth.

2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

I said, “You might think that from the outside, but there is freedom in God’s grace, acceptance in His forgiveness. I don’t have to be good enough. I can’t be. I just have to accept God’s gift and follow Him.” I can’t know if he could hear me, or if his heart softened towards God at all in that moment, but I can pray that continuing to let God fill my heart, be my portion, lead my life can be a light to others still lost in their sin.

And be grateful . . .

Romans 6:17 ESV “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,”

 

 For more on a similar subject by a wonderful blogger, check out Kimberly Suchta “To All The Girls Who Didn’t Say No”