Welcome To valeriesvoice!

I have been thinking about this blog for so long.  This was a dream of mine for a good couple of years-yes, years!  For as long as I can remember, I have gotten in my own way.  I have remained quiet when I wanted to speak up, have burned with  deep conviction about certain issues and kept my  unique perspectives to myself. Oh I have written many things, but mostly kept them to myself.   I hesitated for a long time, thinking I would start sharing these essays and poems  when I knew more about blogging, writing, publishing, etc.  The truth is, I was afraid.  Afraid to fail and make a fool of myself.  Afraid of what others might think.  Afraid I was not good enough at writing or navigating the set-up.

Here’s the trouble with perfectionism: It can silence your own voice.  It can lie to you and tell you that you don’t even have a voice.  It  can ruin your life and rob you of so much more you could be enjoying!  I know this, because I let the pursuit of perfection keep me from trying new things for many years.  Since I turned forty (five and a half years ago), I have taken on many new hobbies and found  interests that give me so much joy.    Had I kept on being afraid to fail, I wouldn’t get to enjoy these new things. I may not be perfect at everything I do, but that will not stop me from living my life and having fun along the way.

So this blog is me, letting my voice be heard.  I will share blogs mainly about adoption, grief and loss, aging and spirituality, anxiety/depression,  advocacy for seniors and orphans.   Some of it will be “heavy” and some, more lighthearted.  Some of it will share spiritual truths I learned through my own experiences.  I will share pieces of my story related to all the above, hoping that many of you will be able to relate to some of it.

I am writing for anybody that has ever felt voiceless.  I know I am not the only one.  Even though I have experience with the topics above, I am just now learning about blogging for the first time.  Come along on this journey with me!

I would love to know who you are as well,   and I need your help!  If you like what you see here, follow my blog by leaving your email address to receive notifications on new posts.  Hit “like,” share a comment, ask a question.  Better yet, share this blog or its contents with someone else you think would enjoy it.

Welcome to valeriesvoice.  I am glad you stopped by.

 

 

 

The Day After Good Friday

I wrote the following piece on Good Friday 2012.  Like countless other things I’ve written over the years, it was scrawled out on a tiny piece of scratch paper and buried in a box never to see the light of day! Until now.

One of the things I always treasured about my upbringing in the Lutheran Church was the Lenten Season.  I really did take it seriously even as a wee youngster.  I participated fully in several church services, especially during Holy Week.  First the Maundy Thursday Service which commemorated Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane as he contemplated what was about to happen and prayed to His Father that “this cup would pass from him (Matthew 26:39)” And then, a candlelight Good Friday Service where the seven sayings of Jesus were read aloud by the pastor,  followed by extinguishing each candle until finally every light was snuffed out.  This was a dramatic moment of silence to signify that Jesus had in fact actually died.   Following the service we were all ushered out in silence.  I took this so seriously that, if anyone dared whisper on the way out, I was sure to give them the evil eye (in the nicest way I could).  And then, the vigil…waiting for Easter.  I always wondered what that must have been like for Jesus’ followers, after his death and burial.  Their whole lives had become about following him and now he was dead and buried in the ground.  For they did not yet know what was really going to happen.  Without further ado, here is the piece.  I hope you enjoy it on this night before Easter.

 

“What now, Oh Lord? What Now?”

Must have been the disciples’ cry

After all their dreams had died.

Hopes shattered, trust broken, or so it seemed.

“Nothing left for us,” they cried

The day that Jesus died.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

This man they followed, giving up their lives,

Believing he was Israel’s special son.

“Now it’s all over,” they cried, “it’s done!”

They must have thought, “our beliefs were for naught…

We’ve been played for fools, all…

Where will we go?  On whom will we call?”

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

With all of their sadness and hopeless hearts’ plea,

They dispersed and ran off their separate ways,

The day after Good Friday.

If you’ve ever felt this way:

Broken, lost, betrayed,

With no more hope to find,

Then we’re all the same in many ways.

Or maybe you’re in a fog waiting for light,

what’s to be your next move?

which way is right?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

If you’re like me you want to jump to the ending,

and see how those things all turn out, the ones pending…

You see one door closed, a dream’s door slammed shut.

And you wait with great hope to get out of this rut.

Still, we know, there can be no resurrection without first, a death.

And quiet. And wondering. And waiting.

So we wait together, longing….for our own Easter Sunday.

Don’t rush to an ending just be in the silence

and go on this journey with Him.

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Tulips don’t care

The tulips bloom when the time is right and not before they’re ready.

They have simple lines, so unpretentious, not the least bit heady.

once opened up, their beauty rings forth as from a bell, so steady.

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They are so pretty at once when they open up, no matter their surroundings.

their brilliant colors so glorious and bright, it’s really quite astounding.

And when you think about their humble start, a bulb deep in the ground

in the dark, secret place, from the dust their miracles abound.

The tulips take in the air, light and moisture, too

they grow tall and bloom and become themselves, just like me and you.

So I brought some inside in a crystal vase and arranged them to display.

At the end of a stressful week at home and a chaotic, messy day.

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Now the old me would’ve had to straighten,  clean and make the table just so.

Before I was able to enjoy the view

everything but the vase of flowers would’ve had to go.

Everything just right! That was the mantra on which I based my life

The problem with that? When things aren’t perfect, your days are filled with strife!

Enough of that, I’m done with that! Let’s do what the tulips do.

They bloom wherever they’re planted,

pretty just as they are wherever they are.

In contrast to the dust from which they were born

their beauty comes shining through.

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They reflect the Master Gardener in splendor, as do we.

But once they’ve bloomed and come to be,

what a sight to see!

No matter what’s around them, in dirt, or mud or storm,

or in a vase around a mess

they’ve got living down to a “t.”

They’ve got no excuses or reasons for just not being themselves,

declaring their worth from their Maker and being who He made them to be

and doing their thing and saying their peace for the world His glory to see.

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If I could be a flower, A tulip, of course I would be.

Once lying dormant in the dirt and grime,

with much to say, yet all closed up, and worried all the time.

So scared to speak, afraid to shine, except when conditions seemed just right.

Who’d have thought in middle age the time would come

when this bulb would force its way up with might.

God would tell me, “Now open up and show who you really are.  Your mind and over thinking, your empathetic heart, I love it all, it’s part of you,” He came to me and said. “Now write your story, write it down, the good parts and the bad.  And live your life, don’t wait.  Don’t wait a minute longer.  One child forever, or one more, in your family, we’ll see.  But stop waiting around to live.  Try those new things, dream new dreams, celebrate the life you already have.  Be beautiful, Be you.  If things around you are ugly, still bloom.  Be like the tulips. When they’re surrounded by messy, they’re still lovely.  The tulips never care.”

And so just like that I came alive.  I hope to reflect the Glory of my Maker in all my messy splendor.  A tulip in bloom I’ve become.  This blog, or rather, my beginning to publish all my writings (some of the pieces I will share were written a long time ago) is happening as a result of God speaking to me, some of it in dreams, and some of it as thoughts in my mind.

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Not Alone

Something from the archives: I wrote this poem over ten years ago, on Valentine’s Day 2007.  We were in the midst of our eighteen-months-long process of adopting our son, Liu, from China.  I had no idea when we would be through the last waiting phase and when we would be able to bring him home.  In hindsight, eighteen months was fairly fast compared to many others who have walked the same path.   I had no idea that ten years later at the age of 46 I would be in a similar “holding pattern” that’s length has already exceeded that of the first one.  I have to say the second time isn’t any easier.

We are not alone in this world.

Sometimes, yes it feels as though

there’s no one in charge

who knows what’s going on.

And we are left to wonder

How are we going to make it?

There is a great big God

Bigger than all my questions

A resting place for my weary soul

And filled with so much love for me,

that if I breathe it in,

really breathe it in,

I will have all I need to make it…and more.

If I could just remember to breathe.

Let His love permeate me,

body, mind, and soul.

I have all I need.

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South Dakota Sunset: Evidence of a Great Big God

Frederick

He only stood five inches tall.  Barely.  But, oh he was a looker!  Freckles on his face, bright black eyes,  his tan fur combed just so.   The little girl  could barely wait to get this little guy out of the cellophane covered box.   She had already ripped the wrapping paper off in one fell swoop, it being her birthday and all.  As soon as she saw this little guy, and he saw her…theirs was a love story for the ages.  He looked at her, she looked at him.  Through the cellophane she could see he was sucking his thumb.  So tiny, so innocent, she thought.  Suddenly his thumb came out of his mouth and  then  the shout she wasn’t expecting, “HEY! GET ME OUTTA HERE!”

Quickly she opened the box.  Her parents and brother all looked at one another with quizzical expressions.   They were not expecting this pint-sized polar bear to talk.  But they didn’t want to question it.  For sometimes things happened that couldn’t be explained.

“Hi there, little buddy!”  “Well finally someone got me OUTTA THERE!” The little girl felt sorry for him.  She seemed to know, instinctively what he had been through, first being made at the factory, then getting boxed up and made to wait on the shelf at the store.  “Well, little guy, you’re home now.  And I’m going to take really good care of you.  I already love you so.” “Good to hear.  What have you got for EATS around here?” With that, he ran into the kitchen.  The little girl’s mom thought they should call him Frederick, and everyone was agreeable, although it quickly got shortened to “Freddy.” Freddy made their house his home.  As the days went by, the two became dear to one another.  Wherever she went, he went.  Wherever he went, she went.  The two were inseparable!

Whenever the family went out for dinner, Freddy went along.  He even got his own wardrobe, and the little girl would dress him in little pants and t-shirts to go out on the town with them.  The only trouble was, as he got comfortable with his new family, he started to act up a little bit.  For instance, at the Lemon Basket Restaurant, he would run around on the table and try to kick people and mess up the table settings as he giggled.  Or he would shout out “fire! fire! Everyone out!”  He was quite a menace, sometimes. The little girl tried to get him to behave, but he was so disagreeable, she soon wondered if she could continue to bring him with her or not when they went out in public.

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One day, as she was organizing his clothes and fixing his bed, she called him over.  “Freddy , I need to talk to you if I could.” He crawled over to her.  “What have I done now?”  “Oh Freddy, why have you been so naughty lately, and out of sorts? Don’t you want to live with us anymore? ”  Freddy rubbed his eyes as he started to cry.  “I’m sorry I’m naughty.  Please don’t take me back to the store.  I promise I will try to be better.  Just don’t get rid of me.”

The little girl was taken aback.  “Get rid of you?  Why would I ever get rid of you? I love you.  I only brought this up so we can work on this together.  The day you became mine, I vowed to always take care of you.  This doesn’t change just because you misbehaved sometimes.  I will always love you.  Let’s just start fresh, you and me.”  “Oh wow! You mean it? I’m yours forever?” And with that, Freddy jumped up into his tiny wooden bed and snuggled in under the covers.  “Nope.  You’re coming with me.  This small bed is just for naps.  At night-time, you can cover up next to me in my bed.  That way I can be sure to keep my eye on you.”

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So the two of them, Freddy and the little girl, snuggled into bed for the night.  She was tucked in by her mom and dad, right after their nightly ritual of saying , “Night. Love you. See you in the morning.” And Freddy felt pretty special right up there in the big kid bed.   “Well, since I’m stickin’ around here, can I get a brother?”  “Go to sleep Freddy!” And such was the beginning of their lifelong friendship.

There is much more to the story about the little girl and the tiny talking bear.  Because this is my story.  I’m the little girl.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Losing Mai Ling

Has it really been one whole year, already?  Early March 2016 and I was here.  Legacy Lodge at Lake Lanier, near Atlanta, Georgia.  I come here once a year for this very special conference for adoptive and foster moms, Created for Care (C4C).  Last year was my fifth C4C and a unique time in my journey.  B25E22B3-24DD-4B01-8CF7-7294483FE27A

Her name was “Mai Ling.” Such a sweet little thing, and I had seen so many pictures and videos.  We were early into the process of adopting from China again (after many starts and stops).  Our agency noticed her on a list of children needing homes, and thought they would run it by us: Could we adopt her?

From the moment I knew of her, I imagined her in our family.  It seemed feasible.  From the information our agency had, she carried diagnoses of cognitive delays and difficulty walking.    These appeared to be minor and manageable for us.  We know that any child that has lived in an orphanage will have some delays and special needs.  It goes with the territory.  So we thought the needs she had were in line with what we could handle.

My heart was all in.  ALL IN.  We submitted a Letter Of Intent to adopt Mai Ling.  Yet I had this odd feeling that I had seen this cutie’s face before.  Even as I made a special trip out to my parents’ house to show them her picture and share my excitement about hopefully adopting Mai, I had a sinking feeling..

At home that night, I started  my internet research.   About eight months prior, when I was trying to “kick-start” the process, I was looking at several advocacy pages.  These are usually Facebook pages where concerned individuals, often adoptive parents, try to find moms and dads for other orphans.  So on this night in February 2016 I retraced my steps and stumbled upon her picture once again.  I HAD seen her face before.  Only on this advocacy page she was much younger, more babyish looking.  But just as beautiful.  The odd thing was that her listed diagnosis sounded ever more severe: “Brain Malformation.”

What? How can this be? And what does that even mean? Surely there must be an easy explanation for the discrepancy.  Yet my gut told me otherwise.  Of course I found this out on a Friday night.  No offices open, no way to clarify.  Long wait until Monday morning.  Even on Monday, they said what we didn’t want to hear.  Yes, this could be the case.  Often the information available on these children is outdated, lacking, or just plain wrong.  Many of the children in Chinese orphanages have not had their charts updated in years.  That is just how it is.  There can be discrepancies for sure, even though now, there is a push to get many of these old charts updated.

On that Monday morning we spoke with an agency rep. “So that sounds like it is too much for you all.  I will go ahead and withdraw your letter of intent.”   And our response, “Now just hold on a minute.  We owe it to Mai Ling to try to get this clarified, find out as much as we can, and make as informed a decision as possible.”  I wanted to be absolutely certain that this wouldn’t work out before we just said no.  I had fallen in love with her already, of course.  I believed that this living, breathing,  wonderful creation of God was deserving of somebody to go all the way for her.  She deserves a family.   Someone to fight for her.  For me that meant digging deeper, studying as much as I could about her diagnoses to see if we could be her family.   And then to pull out all the stops to make it happen, if at all possible.

The rep agreed to dig for more specifics.  I was on pins and needles for days.  I was praying there was a mistake, and that there was no serious condition beyond what we would be able to handle.  I even began to consider “what if.”  What if she did have a brain malformation, and serious delays that would affect her entire lifespan. She was still so lovely.  A child of God.  No less worthy of a family, of love, of joy.  Could we still adopt her?

The documents started rolling in.  There were many.  Especially considering what we received for our son prior to adopting him in 2007.   Upon receiving that referral we were emailed one picture, and a couple of sheets of information with the diagnosis, “bilateral cleft lip and palate. ”  Yet through the years we would see there were so many more ramifications of his first 27 months of life in the orphanage.  Now here we were getting lots of pictures, videos, and diagnoses.  Lots and lots of diagnoses, including a brain malformation likely caused by a genetic syndrome.  Yet they were not sure which syndrome it was.

The videos are what got me.  So joy-filled.  Laughing.  Laughing during physical therapy.  Laughing during play.  Laughing during striving to use a walker and get her stiff limbs to walk.  Oh, she was a rambunctious one.  She did not seem to be the girl they described in the medical forms. She didn’t look sick.

I began to reason that, although she would need a lot of therapies, she seemed to be one who was determined to learn and seemed so happy to be alive.  She looked like she could bring so much happiness to anybody she encountered.  I wanted to bring her home.  I wanted to fight for her, get her the care she needed, and love her fiercely.

We submitted everything we had about her to the Adoption Clinic at the University of Minnesota.  It is a good thing to do when considering a referral to get the opinions of some medical experts.  We paid to have this done, believing they would give us the real nitty-gritty about what our day-to-day lives would look like together with Mai Ling if we adopted her.

It was early March 2016 now, and I came to the Created for Care retreat as we waited for word back from the U of M. I came here with a heavy heart, feeling so burdened by the weight of the decision that was upon us.  I held back the tears on the airplane.  I held back the tears when two fellow adoptive moms (and new friends) picked me up at my hotel near the Atlanta Airport the next day.  I held back the tears en route to Lake Lanier where the retreat was finally due to begin. 66935FC1-1645-4CA4-9F01-AECBC8205DE4

My husband surprised me and reserved a villa for me right down by the lake.  Once I stepped into my room, the dam burst.  I just cried buckets.  I held out a tiny bit of hope, but something inside me told me this was not going to happen.  Not because she had “too many diagnoses,” but because our little guy at home has considerable needs, too.  My husband had certainly brought that up earlier, and he was right.  Considering that along with my physical and emotional health, money concerns, our ages,  it was less and less realistic.

I pulled myself together and went to the opening sessions.   I lost myself in singing and worshiping the Lord with 450 other foster and adoptive moms. I remember the main session speakers and the Holy Spirit illuminating His Word through them.  It felt good to be in this community with others who understood this crazy ride we were on. Digging into the Word together, resting and drawing strength from each other and God.    I distinctly felt God speaking to me that weekend.  Not audibly, but in my heart and mind.  Even in my dreams!  That is a tidbit I can’t get into now.  I always have one of those, don’t I? Those, “I’ll write about that later” kind of things.DF904983-B44E-449D-99CC-3939D6174827

I spent a lot of time alone, too. It is always in my times of solitude that I hear most clearly what God wants me to know.  So I felt as though God was giving me this time to grieve over what was not meant for us. When I curled up in my blanket I felt as though God was right there with me reminding me of His love and faithfulness.  No matter how much it hurt, He was there.  Hearing my cries, soothing my hurts.   I even made a couple sobbing phone calls to my mom:   “How can we say no to a precious child of God?” I had studied quite a bit online about genetic syndromes and what the possible ramifications might be.  I realized if it was the one I feared, then her life expectancy could be shorter than typical.  I cried to mom on the phone, ” I want so badly to take her!” She encouraged me to wait until we heard back from the U of M.

Other adoptive moms I spoke to had a range of advice, everything from: “You can do  this,” and ” it will be a good lesson for your son to grow from,” to  ” listen to your gut if it is telling you it is too much,” and, “it isn’t fair for your son to have you pour all of your resources into this.”  Mostly, this all made me angry and I liked it better when people empathized with how horrible it felt to make this decision.

Now that I think of it, it still makes me angry. I wasn’t angry at those other moms, just that this was a decision I even needed to make.   We shouldn’t even live in a world where a baby is abandoned. Ever. I know all the possible whys: They probably didn’t have the knowledge or resources to care for a baby they knew had health issues.  Lots of possible scenarios as to how this happened.  And of course it is “better” they took her to a place where she could be found and given the help she needs vs. doing the unthinkable to her.  Yet, she had been without a family of her own for over four years.  At some point, she was sent to live in a special orphanage where she would have access to better therapies to help her walk and try to “catch up” to where she should be developmentally.   Even so, there is much better medical care for her in America.  It is just so sad, all of it.  In an ideal world, her birth mother and father would have had the resources, skills, and available medical care to keep her and raise her.   But we don’t live in a perfect world.  Likely her birth mother did the best she knew how:  Wanting more for her daughter (life and a family, healthcare) she made the agonizing decision to  give her a shot at a better life by placing her in an area where she could be found.

Then, she was taken to an orphanage.  The woman who gave her life has vanished into thin air.  She receives precious little in the way of nourishment and it bears no resemblance to that which her mother would’ve given her.  She is held, sometimes, but has to share her caregiver with a lot of others who need attention, too.  Her cries in the night are not often tended to, so she learns the world is an untrustworthy place.  After awhile, she quits crying altogether.  For what use is it to cry? Perhaps she withdraws or finds some other way to soothe herself, like rocking back and forth, back and forth.  She has had many people look at her incomplete file, possible mommies and daddies.  None of them able to adopt her.  Now four years later,  this beautiful human life has some yahoo from Minnesota, as if she were shopping for a new outfit, debating her specs on a sheet of paper, trying to decide if she will take her or not.  It feels wrong to me, this whole process, you see.  She is a human being.  She deserves so much more than this!  It is not fair.  This is the ugly underbelly of life in a fallen world waiting for its redemption.

And yet, that process that seems strange and wrong is what is needed to give these children a home and family, to make the best out of a bad situation.   It is what led us to the adoption of our son.  Without that process, we would not have our Liu.  And Oh! How grateful I am for this boy! I look at him, and am reminded everyday of God’s faithfulness, His great love for us, His redemptive stories we get to be a part of. C588BCB7-8D18-4E39-87B7-BFB22A4B6CA7

In a better set of circumstances, we would have adopted Mai Ling.  I know many others have had to say no to a “referral,” and even two or three.  But nothing could have prepared me for how it would feel for me to have to say “no.”  As you might have guessed, after I got home from the conference, the U of M called to give us their assessment.  They said that Mai Ling had one of two genetic syndromes.  Regardless of which one it was, she probably would never be able to live independently and would need many things done for her, for the duration of her life.  They did not think she would live past the age of thirty.  She would likely never walk or talk.  She would be severely cognitively limited.  At this news, I knew at a gut level we most certainly could not do this. We were not the “right” family for her.

I still wanted to run and get her.  I wanted to love her and help her reach her full potential, whatever it was. To help her find her “voice,” however it looked.  I wanted her to know she is worthy of a family even if she didn’t ever walk, talk, or reach any milestones.  Whether she was in a wheelchair or used a walker.  If she lived to 30 or 40 or however long.   If I had to take care of her the whole rest of my life, who cares?  A person is a person is a person…

But..when I look at MY limitations :  My history of anxiety,  my history of depression, my considerable needs for my own mental health. When I look at my relationship with my son, how close we are and how much time, energy, patience, and help he needs.  When I listen to my husband being the voice of reason and saying, “this will be a lot and we don’t have the resources.”  The realities of how my life looks now versus what I would need it to look like to help my boy plus another girl (needing so much help and constant care), thrive.  It seems too much of a bridge to gap.   And I would be lying if I did not take into account giving him a sister, finally, only to have her living for part of his life…I feel guilty for saying that.  But I have to be honest.  No disrespect to those families able to adopt medically complex/fragile children.  I thank God for you.  But that is not the road we are able to take.

So we said no.  We thought long and hard about it.  Mai Ling deserved that.

Back to Created for Care 2017.  I have just learned that after all her waiting, Mai Ling has a family!  God’s faithfulness.  God’s redemption. I like to think that the time we took to consider her somehow helped orchestrate things just so.  I like to think this led to her new family being ready at precisely the time her paperwork was available again.  When I think of that, I feel happy to have been part of the story that eventually led her to finding her very own family.  Wow! So now I ponder these things with a confusing set of mixed emotions.  Happy that she will have a family, but sad that I won’t get to love her and take her into our family.

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I know this is not the end of the story for Mai Ling, or the beginning.  She has a story already.  And, she will have a big transition to make, leaving her friends and caregivers in China to come to America.  She will have a family that loves her  (and likely her birth family loved her deeply, too as did her orphanage family)  in America and will help her ease into her new life.

Most of the time I believe we made the right decision.  So this year the conference finds me wondering, “what next.”  As I say goodbye to this chapter, I find myself asking God to give me a sign of what is to come in our own journey to another child.  Is it too late? Is it going to work out, or should we give up?  God didn’t give me answers or clarity.  Instead he introduced me to a new friend over by the cake table.  All I was going to do was run down to the ballroom, grab my cake and take it back to my room.  I mean, I was planning on ordering a pizza anyway.  But this wonderful new friend struck up a conversation and then her friend joined us at a table.  I started sharing my story, then they saw my “ugly cry,”in between my sobs of “am I too old? Should we just give up? I can’t do it anymore!” And right then and there they took my hands and prayed for me.  They reminded me that God has a plan! It is not really in my control.  They reminded me we all have preconceived notions of how this forming a family thing should go, but God often has different ideas!   They reminded me that this is a marathon, not a sprint.  Oh, this was awesome.  Now I have two new friends (you know who you are).

Incidentally, I went back to my room after this.  I wanted to read the Bible, and I have been reading Romans.   I opened my Bible up and it landed on the page which has these verses: Genesis 18:10-13,”I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife Sarah will have a son!…Sarah and Abraham were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children.  So she laughed silently to herself and said, ‘how could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure…?’ Then the Lord said to Abraham, “why did Sarah laugh?..Is anything to hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”  I thought that was a funny coincidence since I had been asking my new friends if I was too old.  When I did end up opening Romans, it opened to this: Romans 9:9, ” For God had promised, ‘I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”  Well now, that gave me pause for thought.  Either God was trying to tell me something or that was the oddest coincidence ever.  IMG_1076

No matter what happens, this I am sure of: God is good. period. end of sentence.  If we are able to adopt again, God is good.  If it does not work out, now or ever?  Guess what? God is still good.  I am starting to realize this important distinction: My greatest desire, no matter how good it seems to me, means nothing if it is not what God wants for me.  My greatest desire has to be Him.  To bring Him glory and to grow closer to Him every day of my life until He calls me to my Heavenly Home.  To become more like Him.  My gosh… I have a long way to go on that! And to chase after something with more zeal than I chase after Him…well that becomes idolatry.  So no matter how much I WANT something, the sad truth is that God may not want that FOR ME.  He knows best.  The trick is, living in the unknown spaces…waiting for the answer.

So now, I wait. And continue to wait with hands open to receive whatever He has for me, for us.  Listening for God’s answer, whatever it will be. The real miracle now seems to be what God is doing in my heart: Softening it, breaking it, molding and shaping it into a Heart Like His. Wanting, more than anything, to want more of Him!

If I am lucky enough to attend C4C again next year, what will my story be then? Maybe I can meet up with my sweet new friends again over chocolate cake.  Maybe I can return the favor and pray for them as I hear their stories.  Maybe I can once again be the quieter one riding in the backseat of a car of chatty women, listening, thinking and enjoying the scenery.  Either way it will be a picture of God’s faithfulness. I look forward to finishing this blog … down the road!  IMG_1066

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On infertility, grief, and our long road of adoption

I can remember when, as a young lady in my early 20’s I first learned of some health issues that I had which might make it tricky for me to have biological children.  I was not yet married, but knew in the back of my mind that once I found my future spouse it would behoove us to try sooner than later to begin a family.  Yet I also, from as early as I can remember, carried a desire in my heart to adopt a child who needed a family.  Both of these pathways to adding to our family were possible, in my mind.

Fast forward ten years.  I was now married, had moved away from family, and was trying to settle in to a new state where I didn’t know a soul.  It was not so easy to imagine that “jumping into” having a family was a good thing so early into our marriage.  In the back of my mind, I knew about the possible difficulty my health issues would cause. But we were not settled into a good place in our lives yet.

When I was thirty-three, we moved back near my hometown.  I finally felt like we would be able to pursue having a family, because we were settled nearby family.  I was not surprised when we had difficulties because of my age and my past surgeries due to endometriosis.  We delved into the world of fertility treatments.  After a few failed attempts and side effects from  medications, we stopped.  Why spend tens of thousands of dollars on the next steps in treatment that may not work out when we could adopt a child in need of a family?  I truly wanted to adopt, yet thought  we might later revisit having a biological child, too.  I was a little worried  that nobody could ever tell me what the exact problem was. I was given the diagnosis “Unexplained Infertility.”  But I kept a door open to figuring this all out at a later date.  We simply decided to pursue adopting, first.

In the summer of 2005 I was on my lunch break at work as I sat outside on a park bench.   A distinct feeling came over me that there was a baby in the world that needed me.  It was a clear sense that there was a specific  baby that had already been born that God had identified as one that was going to be in our family.  It might interest you to know that at the time I had this thought, our future son, Liu would have just been born (April 2005).  Isn’t that interesting?  I had other taps on the shoulder from God that made it clear to me that we should pursue International Adoption. Someday I will perhaps write about those, too.

Soon we were in the adoption process.  Any questions or issues of fertility were pushed to the side.  Well, actually they were pushed back out of my mind.  I won’t say they were gone, just pushed down somewhere deep.  Later on they would come back, begging for attention.

The adoption process was long.  That’s putting it mildly.  I thought it would become easier once we received our referral-a picture of an eighteen month old boy with the chubbiest, rosiest cheeks I have ever seen-but now we knew who we were waiting for.  And while the idea that MY little boy was languishing in an orphanage a half a world away,  we were trying to justify our existence-or so it seemed, as we filled out reams of paperwork to prove we would pass muster as parents.  This idea grieved me so. At that juncture, I was NOT grieving over not getting pregnant.  But I WAS filled with anger over the seeming injustice over the fact that many…even those who DIDN’T really want to have children would haphazardly hop into bed with someone one time and then suddenly announce, “Surprise! I’m pregnant.” I just didn’t understand why the world worked this way. And if I’m honest, I felt like this was somehow “God DOING THIS to ME.”  I sooooooo wanted my little boy to come home to me.  It hurt my heart as the months went by and he got older and older…and we just had to wait….I was grieving over the difficult process we had to go through to bring our son home.  It’s. Not. Fair.

While I grieved, or got anxious and angry, during that process, I did not let myself express or even feel much sadness over what I considered the “betrayal of my body,” or my inability to conceive.  Two reasons kept me from doing so: I NEVER wanted others to think I was adopting as a second choice.  I believed with my whole heart that had we conceived or not we would still be pursuing adoption at some point.  I always wanted to do that.  And, because I still told myself that we would try the biological route again later.  I didn’t want to think my body was broken and couldn’t be mended.  Yet as I aged, I knew the chances were small…but there was a chance.  So how do you grieve over the chance of future loss that might happen, but wasn’t for sure yet?

This is what is particularly tough with this type of grief…Anticipatory grief…It is complicated because you can see the handwriting on the wall. You can see what might happen and it is tough to imagine how you would handle it if it actually becomes reality.   In my case, I knew that I would grieve long and hard once this door was truly closed. But the door always remained a tiny bit open.  My mind was telling me that we would maybe find some way to beat the odds.  The mind has many defense mechanisms.  Maybe it is its way of protecting itself from taking in too much, too soon before it’s ready.  I just could not fathom any possibility that something I had wanted so badly, a “good” something, no less,  could actually never happen.  It couldn’t happen for me, when, for so many others it seemed so easy and natural.  I pushed those thoughts away the best I could.

So finally the time came in July 2007, after an eighteen month process, to go to China to bring our son home! The moment we met was absolutely stunning.  I felt that this boy was without a doubt MINE.  I felt like he was a part of my heart that had been missing all of my life and  it was GLORIOUS.  I will give that story the treatment it deserves in another entry…not here.  It should be said, that I realized, too, the magnitude of this little guy having to soon leave everything he was familiar with.   He would  have his own grieving process.  You see, there is nothing “easy” really about adoption.

I was then plunged into the world of being a first time mom…to a hyperactive, malnourished toddler with a history of cleft lip and palate and many delays in development.  But my heart was all in.  I loved him and felt so much empathy for him from the beginning, knowing how much he had been through. All kinds of losses in his little life.   But I didn’t know how to handle his constant motion.  I am not exaggerating when I say the boy Never. Stopped. Moving.  Not even when he slept.

I remember even in China, he would cry as soon as I put him down.  So I would not put him down.  My arms were so unbelievably sore from holding him all day long. The only reprieve from that was when we would push him around in his little stroller.  He loved that, yet he would turn around every so often to make sure I was still there.  My exhaustion started then.  I felt the huge weight of being the one that met his emotional needs.  I did NOT want to let him down.  I was ever so aware of what he had endured in his young life and I never for a second wanted him questioning  if he was lovable or safe.  I didn’t want him to feel any more  abandonment.  My natural instinct was just to hold him and nurture him like a new baby even though he was 27 months.  As it turns out, that IS the way many experts say to treat a newly adopted child.  The missing piece for me was that I wasn’t letting my guard down even for a moment.  I wouldn’t let go of the guilt if I had to leave him.  In the beginning I felt guilty even going to the restroom or taking a shower.  So I rushed everything I did.  I didn’t even feel like I could enjoy a break such as a hot shower or bath.  I went as quickly as I could, so as not to have him questioning my whereabouts…My self care pretty much fell by the wayside.

I was so utterly overwhelmed.  I needed a break.  Yet when I got one I felt guilty and horrible. I didn’t have the first clue what I was doing. I was tired all the time and I got depressed.   I couldn’t tell people I was feeling that way because they might say, “Well this is what you wanted. You chose this, didn’t you?” There is a real thing called “Post Adoption Depression Syndrome.”  I wish I had known that, and gotten help sooner.    I didn’t know how to handle his needs, my needs went unmet, and I was afraid to tell people what I was going through.  My husband, I know was overwhelmed, too.  I didn’t know where to turn for help.  I didn’t want people to think I regretted adopting our son.  It was never that.  But I did have some anger around, “why is THIS way so hard?  That, too, is grief…but I hated to admit and label it as such.  To do so seemed to me like it took away from the beauty of the way our family was formed.  I didn’t ever want my son to think that because I regretted some of the hardness of the process that… well, use your imagination.

This is why it’s complicated.  Something that you grieve can also be…something good? I mean I was so happy to have adopted our son, but I was also pretty stressed out at the time and even went through depression.  It seems odd that one can be depressed during good changes, such as the birth or adoption of a child.  Yet it is true.  I wish I had realized that all the feelings I was having were normal, understandable, and OKAY.  Things just got harder.  Just because I couldn’t admit the grief, doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.  It kept begging to be acknowledged, until I was barely functional.  The good news is I did eventually get help for what I was going through.  I learned better coping skills and started giving myself permission to take care of myself.  I believe that no matter how much we tried to prepare ourselves for the adoption journey, it just wasn’t enough to truly equip us for the road we had ahead.

Now, back to the biological issue.  After Liu, we did in fact revisit the idea of fertility treatments.  But the time that had gone by took its toll on what little chance was there to begin with.  Now I heard that our chances were little to none.  At that time, much as before,  I pushed it away.  I could not take that in.  I told myself that “little to none” was still a chance.  I chuckle about that now.  Can you say “denial?”

For the past several months, I have found a new strength I never knew I had.  I began to let those feelings of sadness come.  At times I would be driving somewhere, just listening to the radio and suddenly my eyes would fill with tears.  I realized that the time had come to face up to the truth of the situation.  So, I would spend a little more time talking to God, Telling him how bad it hurt in my heart.  I let myself cry if I felt like it.  I would play music and paint a picture or knit or crochet.  I figured those too were forms of lament.  The repetitive motion of the crochet hook in my hand was soothing to me as I worked out my feelings and gave them up to God.  I began to feel that God was holding me quietly through my hurt.

I know at this point that I will never have a biological child. Let’s just be honest.  I never thought I would be THAT woman.   But I am that woman.  I still can’t believe it.  I will never know why.  I will never understand it, and that is okay.  I can now admit it.   I am beginning to move towards accepting it.  And that makes me happy, it makes me smile.

I also believe that had I conceived at some point, that would have altered everything.  We still would have wanted to adopt, but I don’t believe we would have gotten OUR son.  I cannot imagine our lives without this boy in it.

So, now, I find myself in a strange place.  I am middle-aged, close to that “change of life” place, yet hoping for more children.  It is indeed curious.  The biological clock in my own body is “over it” already.   But the one in my brain and heart is ticking as loud as ever.  I never thought such a thing could be.  Or that it would be MY reality.

Another important realization I have learned along the way: To grieve the inability to conceive or bear a child does not mean I am not, at the same time exceedingly grateful for our son.  At times I have thought that others felt I had no right to be sad.  I mean, we have a family, right? Why be sad, if you have a child?  Well, they are two separate issues.  By having grief over not conceiving, I am NOT saying that way is the BEST way to have a family.  It is just that I wanted to experience both ways.  Having gone through adopting, I know there is so much beauty there, despite the difficulties.  But there is no “better” way to a family.  Just different ways.

Ultimately,  I am very thankful for our son, Liu.  I feel fortunate to have family at all, when others have none.  All in all, I am much stronger now than I ever was.  Not just because I went through those things, but because I have allowed myself to struggle.  I pleaded with God for answers, I wrestled with my feelings.  I went to the dark places, when I was ready, feeling the despair and not running from it.  Time DOES NOT heal all wounds.  It matters what you do with the time you are given.  If you want healing from your wounds, you have to pursue it and work at it.  Our Supreme Healer, so accustomed to deep sorrow is waiting by our side to hold us during our own sorrowful days.  He wants to bring us great joy!  “He came so that we might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10)”.

That is my prayer, for you too.  As you find yourself facing up to hard things you never thought you could, I pray that you would find a great inner strength that surprises you and the strong hand of the Savior holding you close.