Adoption · Anxiety · Grief and Loss · Infertility

It Is Well (Choose Joy Event 2018)

It has taken me one full week since the day I spoke for the first time at an infertility/adoption conference to formulate my thoughts and put them into words.  I am a high maintenance, anxious traveler.  It is not easy for me to go places, but I love public speaking (who the heck am I?…if you would have known me as a little girl…seemed super unlikely) and decided to offer to speak at breakout sessions on using the Lament Psalms as a framework to grieve our losses.  They liked the idea, so I was asked to speak at two sessions. I have been to many adoption-centered conferences over the years,  but my favorite one that I had been to (near Atlanta) six times ended their run last year (Created for Care).  I was devastated by this and was searching the web to find another conference I could attend this year when I ran across “Choose Joy Event.” I was immediately intrigued because it also had an infertility focus in addition to adoption.  In other words, those for whom forming a family is more difficult than the average bear.  So I decided to keep my eye on that conference on social media.  When I saw last fall that the organizers of this event were looking for speakers, I decided on a whim to send in an audition video.  I was delighted to find out they wanted me to speak.

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The conference schedule. So exciting!

Over the last several months I have put countless hours into re-studying the Psalms so I could refresh my memory (been awhile since seminary days) and make sure I knew as much as possible about this totally awesome book of the Bible. I wrote, studied, tweaked my writing, wrote out my own story, many times and was super excited to be a part of this.  However I didn’t really know what to expect as far as how many would show up to my sessions, what the conference would be like and whether I myself would come away with anything of value personally (I figured I would be hyper-focused on my own sessions to be able to let my guard down to receive anything).

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Maddy apparently wanted to go with me to Altlanta

But, boy was I wrong! First of all, I was taken aback by just the beauty of the decor! Emmy Blakely and her team did it up right! The theme was “It is Well,” and the colors were peach and white.  The decorations were simple and elegant.  Each table had beautiful flowers adorning a simple white tablecloth.  I didn’t know a soul (save for one speaker I knew from the Created for Care retreats) and many came with spouses or friends (or met up with friends they’d met last year at the conference when it was held in CA).  Although I was uncomfortable and felt like a lone ranger, I didn’t close myself off (the informal mingling thing is my kryptonite) but stayed with everyone.  I met some lovely ladies and gentleman and just took in the experience.

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Beautiful decor

The praise and worship band played and sang some beautiful songs, which of course tugged at the heart-strings and reminded me once again of the importance of giving God the glory, even in the midst of the struggle.  There were people who have been trying to conceive for months and years. People who have had heartbreaking miscarriages or infant losses.  Those who had experienced hope that an adoption was going to happen but for whom it has fallen through.  Those who have drained their bank accounts for expensive fertility treatments to no avail…so much collective grief in that room.  Yet also the resolve to trust Him and praise the One who makes all things well.  So the spirit of God was moving about that room, no doubt.

Beth Barker Forbus was our keynote speaker. She is the founder and president of Sarah’s Laughter-Christian Support for Infertility and Child Loss.  Beth spoke from the Word and her heart.  Because many at the conference are still trying to conceive, I figured her message would be one of, “don’t worry, there is still hope that you can conceive.” I am quite a bit past that point, and I know that I will never have a biological child.  Many of the conference attendees are hoping against hope that they will have that miracle baby they long for, and many of them will. Knowing this, I struggle to find someone with whom I can connect.  Someone that knows they are forever “barren.”  Someone who can celebrate they are a mother on one hand (through adoption) yet who still has not come to terms with their barrenness.   At any rate, when Beth shared that “some of you need to hear a blessing over your situation and to hear that God says “it is well,” I broke down in a quiet sob.  In that moment I imagined God looking into my eyes as he held my face and saying, “Valerie, I know.” And that is all. He is not giving me answers, or telling me “be grateful for what you have” in that moment. There is just the loving reassurance that He knows my deep pain and I do not need to explain it to Him or try to justify my feelings.  For that moment I will forever be grateful.  Even if I needed to go to Atlanta to hear it.

In my sessions where I spoke about the Psalms and took the participants through writing their own Psalms of Lament, God met me there, too.  I had mistakenly thought this was for the participants who have “gone through more loss than I have.” But in the sharing of my story I realized as I broke down while saying, “I was never able to conceive a child,” that I was saying that out loud for perhaps the first times ever.  Of course I apologized for crying, but the attendees were so gracious and reminded me that all of our stories are ones that would elicit grief and that they wouldn’t expect any of us to remain stoic during their telling.  I guess it further lends credence to the message that I was sharing anyway: Grief doesn’t have an expiration date and our losses and how we perceive them are unique to each of us. Yet God invites us to cry out before Him as the psalmists of old have done in beautiful ways.

I was delighted that the attendees at my breakout sessions all set out to work on their Psalms of Lament and seemed to learn from the process and enjoy it.  I so wanted all of them to benefit from what I was sharing.  My favorite discussion was around the fact that all the Lament Psalms end with a declaration of praise.  Not that we always FEEL like praising God in our storms, but that we declare we will praise Him simply because He is good.  And that is how we can “choose joy” even amidst the desire and struggle to grow our families. I feel like it was a sacred privilege to be let in on the tender heart-break each was going through and to, in some tiny way, enter into their grief with them. And they with me.  I absolutely want to do this again.

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Psalm of Lament worksheet

The other big takeaway I had was in a breakout session I attended that was led by author  (It’s okay about it) and speaker, Lauren Casper.  I went to her session because I knew Lauren from those other retreats and had heard her share her heart before.  Her session was on “waiting on God,” and since my life story seems a big waiting game at times, I figured I could use her perspective.  She briefly shared her story, and then in reflection on what she had learned through the years said something like, “chaos and peace can co-exist.” Whoa.  What? In that moment my mind was blown. For so many years I’ve had the mindset that once the chaos passes I can get to the peace.  Yet I’ve wondered why the chaos doesn’t pass.  I think It has less to do with my circumstances and more to do with my inner turmoil and anxiety over that.  Even though my beliefs about the world are that we are in an “already and not yet” place in life (we live in a fallen world yet can experience parts of God’s Kingdom on earth) and I know nothing is perfect, but I’ve not thought about it in the way she described.  What that gives me is the realization that I don’t have to wait anymore. For anything. I have what I need to experience peace already.  Does that mean all of life is hunky dory or that pain and grief are not a part of it? No, but I can experience God’s peace right now, today, even though nothing has changed in my circumstance.  And even as I still wait to see if my family will grow by one more child or not.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am so grateful to Emmy and the Choose Joy Event 2018 team, all the speakers, volunteers, and all the wonderful people I met for being part of my journey and for letting me be a part of yours.  All in all, I am so glad I embarked on this trip, and wholeheartedly recommend this conference to anyone who has dealt with infertility or desires to grow their family through adoption.  It will be of benefit to you wherever you are in that process.

May God bless each and every one of you and may you find deep peace amidst the chaos of this life!

 

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Anxiety · Faith · Poetry · Waiting

A Choice To Make

Those that want only positive vibes, don’t read this post today.

I woke up feeling down, to be truthful, I have to say.

I am stuck in this place. It is strange, dark, and cold.

Can’t see a way out, everything’s on hold

I’m lost in the forest.

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I don’t like where I am, but I have a choice to make.

Will I choose anger at what led me here,

will I choose panic, worry and fear?

Will I choose force-to make something happen

ahead of its time-force an ending so I can have

peace of mind.

Or

Will I choose to settle down and rest?

Enjoy the cool breeze and watch

as it blows through the leaves on the trees?

And let the time pass and not be afraid of the future that’s made

already by His Holy Hand?

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My choice is to stay and linger awhile, in the forest.

He has me here for a reason. But it will be just a season.

So for now, today

I will see it as a place of beauty…for He made it.

It can be scary or it can be

A place of divine worship, a holy sanctuary, a place of rest.

where I find Him

and wait until I am ready for where he will lead me next.

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Adoption · Grief and Loss · Infertility · Menopause

Bits and Pieces: The Unique Grief On The Infertility and Adoption Journey

First a word about this post:  I wrote this weeks ago.  My perfectionist tendencies got the best of me and got in my way of publishing this for a while.  Is it too delicate a subject? Too personal? Too long,  too twisty-turny, not straight-forward enough, not creative enough….such is my mind at work.  So good at standing in my own way.  It’s crazy.  I love to write and if I had my way I would publish so much more.  Quality is important, but I also need to remember why I set out to start this blog in the first place: I had something to say, and I was going to say it, perfect or not! So I am done with analyzing.  Going to put this out there.  I trust it will find the one person it may encourage today.  My hope is that someone may find deep affirmation in this post because it puts words to what they’ve been feeling, or that it may be informative for someone who “doesn’t get” this type of struggle. And P.S: It’s helpful for me, too. It’s part of owning my story, and coming to terms with it all.  Finally a Disclaimer: If you don’t like to see words such as endometriosis, infertility, or menopause this is not the post for you!

While this is about grief and loss, it is not a post about losing someone close to me.  I am fortunate so far in that I’ve got my spouse, child, sibling, and both parents still with me.  This is a post about handling transition.  One such bridge I am about to cross is that of an infertile woman knocking on the door of menopause.  Coming to terms with the idea that I will never know what it is like to conceive, carry, or give birth to a baby. Never. Not ever.

I will be very honest, not because I love to talk about this, but because I am determined as I grow older to use every bit of me: my life, gifts, struggles and issues if I believe it might resonate with one person somewhere.  Then, to me it is so worth the discomfort of baring my soul.  I want this unfortunate lot to do some good in some way.   It may be an attempt to take back some control.  When I was going through the thick of the struggle, I felt I had no control over my own body or the way it seemed to betray me.

It has been a little over one year since I wrote some thoughts on our infertility struggle.  I wanted to share  more as I’ve continued to wrestle with it. Even as I write these words, which is meant to be a post about how I continue to live in the face of loss-I still feel the sadness.  The anger.  The confusion…yet, there is hope. Because with time, the shedding of tears, prayer and reflection, my grief has changed and become a little less potent.

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Please understand, that while I speak in general terms, everybody will deal with it differently.  I do believe many struggle with these things and will do some grieving over it in the process.  Others may not have.  This is about my story, and others who might share some common elements in theirs as well.

Infertility is not a “One time event” that happens, is over and done with, and you have the grief afterward.  It comes in bits and pieces. Sometimes it gets to me just a little bit.  Sometimes it is a giant tide of emotions rolling in and knocking me over.

For me, it was a loss I already anticipated when I endured years of painful endometriosis and was told it could later affect my chances of becoming pregnant.  That diagnosis came in my late teens.  And then I didn’t meet the man I would marry until my mid-twenties.  Lucky for me, Mike and I both had dreamed of adopting one day, too.  I had my plan all figured out:  Two biological children and one adopted child from China.  But that specific plan wasn’t in the cards for me.  Oh, I would become a mom.  It would just look a little different.

A couple of surgeries for endometriosis and a couple of years of filling out those silly charts: Documenting everything like your temperature upon waking up, when your cycle is and blah blah blah. I had little patience for ANY of it.  The medicine I had to take did not agree with me and didn’t help the roller coaster of emotions already happening.  At that stage, the losses were piling up: Loss of the “spontaneous” ability to conceive, loss of being able to try for a family without having to share all about my personal life with doctors and others who asked.  Loss of dignity.  It was really embarrassing for me to have to talk about these things that should be (in my mind) kept private.  I found it horrifying to constantly sit on a cold table in a clinic wearing a  ridiculous paper gown that barely covered me while I  answered questions about topics not usually up for discussion (in my mind).  Ugghhhh! I HATED Hated Hated this.

Another loss along the infertility journey many might experience is the feeling of having no control of what happens with your body.  I had this growing awareness becoming pregnant was happening spontaneously to everyone else BUT me.  I was confused.  Why is it so simple for so many others, but not me? What did I do wrong? Was God punishing me for something? (I do not believe He was, but the thought occurred to me at the time).  So during the “trying to conceive” phase, I felt a sense of loss everyday, along with this constant panic:  “What if I can’t have a baby?”  But then, I would push it away because, well, there was still time and still a chance.  And since I was so intolerant of the medications, appointments, and mental anguish of the monthly ups and downs, why not take a break from all this and start the adoption process?

So we went to a church in Sioux Falls to see a presentation about adopting from China.  Actually, it was about International Adoption and that was where our future agency was presenting.  But I was always interested in China.  So that is what my heart grabbed onto.   I was eager to find out about the programs the agency offered, yet was filled with angst when we arrived about “would anything work out for us to have a family at all? ”  As we got there and took our seats near a few other couples, I was nervously holding back tears.   When they turned on the video, it happened to be placed right in front of a beautiful sculpture of Jesus hanging on the wall, with his arms raised.  In that moment God told me “This is what I have for you.”  I felt an inexplicable, undeniable pull toward adopting from China. I was overcome with emotion and knew this was, in fact, the future God wanted us to embrace. I believed that God was telling me, “I heard the desire of your heart for a child, and here is the path I have laid out for YOU.”

 

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On the drive home, Mike said the words I longed to hear. “Let’s fill out the paperwork and adopt from China.”  And that is what we did.

At this point in my story some might be inclined to say, “well what was the problem then? You got a child, right?” That is correct.  We began the long journey to adopt, except  none of that was “easy,” either.

The idea of “getting a child” fulfilled a deep need I had, and throughout the paperwork process that hope kept me going.  But there was still the unanswered question of, “have we exhausted all our possibilities for biological children, if we cannot afford a second adoption in the future?”  Will this process to adopt even work out? So the anticipatory grief of possible permanent infertility loomed over my shoulder and followed me around for the entire decade of my 30’s and into my 40’s.  It wasn’t always at the forefront of my mind, rather it hid in the shadows, revealing itself to me more clearly every so often.  Like a dark specter.  I couldn’t shake it.

As far as grief goes, somewhere along the line it dawned on me that I had to give myself permission to separate the two issues.  I had to realize that adopting a child, which I wanted to do, was something I could celebrate, while still grieving the fact that the biological part was possibly going to end up unfulfilled.  In other words, don’t mistakenly assume there is no need to grieve infertility because we adopted. Infertility has layers of loss, not just the absence of a child.  

The complicated part of my journey was that this question of unresolved infertility   hung around for my twenties, thirties and part of my forties:  “Can it happen, will it happen?”  After we adopted our son, Liu, we revisited the idea of the biological route.  But in the time that had elapsed, roughly two years….what was once a door slightly ajar became one that was mostly closed if not quite slammed shut.  The doctor told me that “At this point, you wouldn’t even be a candidate for In vitro, unless you use donor eggs.”   I decided that I would rather adopt a child that needed a family rather than try to “create” another one.  No disrespect to those choosing the latter option. I just knew in my gut that route wasn’t for me.

You might assume I fully grieved after that revelation.  Yet I held out for a miracle to somehow occur, not ready to admit I would forever be barren.   So the ghost looking over my shoulder kept following me around.  And I began panicking about possibly never having a sibling for my son.  When I say panicking, I really mean obsessing.  Not every minute, but some of every day was spent thinking about it, researching adopting again, asking Mike when we might start the process, etc.  It made some days difficult to think or do anything else.pexels-photo-720260.jpegThe biggest “hurdle” in my adult married life has been the fact that I’ve been in some type of “limbo” for all of it:  The struggle and question about “will I have a family?”  I haven’t had the benefit of having a couple of babies and saying, “okay, our family is complete now” like I know others have.  I have had days where I’ve felt like I couldn’t go on without some type of clarity.  I love clarity.   First with the biological question and then most recently wondering if we will we adopt again.   If you wonder why I don’t know if we will adopt again,  it is because there are many rules and regulations for International adoption, more so in recent years due to what is called the Hague Convention, meant to ensure safe practices in International Adoption.  So, although we are pursuing this route, our time to complete this is dwindling.

 

 

 

For China specifically, the avenue which still makes the most sense for us, you’ve got to meet the qualifications: The right amount of income, an acceptable Body Mass Index,  lack of serious health issues, and both applicants must fall in an acceptable age range.      For lots of reasons (those reasons could be an entirely different blog post-maybe later), we have been in the home study phase for over three years.  Along the way, we have had two almost/not quite situations ( Fostering Hope: The Princess Dress) that took time to get over (Losing Mai Ling) yet we continue to persevere.  Because it is so important, I believe, for my son to have a sibling.  And I have a big heart that wants to lavish so much love on another little one.

And yet, I’ve had to begin re-imagining what “family” looks like.  This too, is part of the cycle of grief.  If one works through the stages of grief made popular by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, eventually one hopes to get to “acceptance.”  But I like to think of it more as “integration” of the reality of the loss into my life, into my personhood.  I think with the work I’ve done this past year (with God’s help),  I am on my way to that.  By “work” I mean staring it dead in the face and telling it, “you won’t ruin me.” Work means talking with a therapist about it (let’s end the stigma! Talking with a therapist doesn’t mean you’re “weak!”), expressing my sadness in writing, prayer, laying paint down on canvas, singing in my car…all ways to get my feelings out.  And finally, beginning to visualize a new and different future for my family and me.

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Putting paint on canvas proves cathartic for me. It’s more about the process than the end result.

So what does this re-imagining look like for me? I always thought it would be best to be “young” when I had children.  Isn’t it “unfair” to a child to have parents in their forties and fifties? I thought that for most of my life.  But, when you think of a child who has NO family, spending years of their life inside an orphanage with barely enough food to go around, what’s the alternative for them? I’m sure if you ask any of them, they’d be glad for somebody, ANYBODY to take them home and love them for as long as they’ve got.  So, if, this second adoption works out, I have to come to grips with the fact that I am older than I thought I would be as a mom to young children.  But just because I had a picture of how my ideal family should look, that doesn’t mean anything beside that is “less than.”

That has been the toughest thing to work through: Letting go of the picture I concocted as a youngster of the “ideal family.” Tougher still, is coming to grips with a possible future with only-gulp-one child, if for some reason the second adoption does not work out.  There were days in past years when I have thought, again, being totally transparent, that my life wouldn’t be worth living without more children in it… It was such a deep longing for as long as I can remember. Not just for me, but for my son who has special needs.  Please don’t tell me he can “have friends,” or that “it’s not so bad being an only child.”  I know that many only kids turn out great. I just see our situation as different.  And do you know how hard it can be with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other needs to make friends and to otherwise navigate in this world?

So I have tasked myself with making a life worth living–regardless of what I have or don’t have.  Perhaps a better way to put that is opening my eyes to the fact that my life is already worth living: Cultivating gratitude for life itself and the gifts it offers. It is true I have loved ones already in my life.  But if I woke up tomorrow and lost everyone dear to me…what would I have to live for? I have to love life itself and all the beauty it offers, from the Creator God Himself.   I don’t want my happiness in life to be contingent on everything turning out the way I had planned. Rather, I am taking what has been given, and thanking God for it, enjoying it for what it is. This is my task at hand. I am working on it.

Another aspect still, of grieving the family I could have had, but don’t yet have is embarrassing to admit.  Jealousy.  Of other families, bigger families.  Those that had it easier, that had no difficulty getting the family they wanted.  Envy.  It is why, for so long I could not, would not go to a baby shower.  Just too painful.  Or why I would get a lump in my throat when I would see the baby clothes at Target and see the moms-to-be with their swollen bellies excitedly filling their carts with all the necessities for their baby.   And I would sometimes just get angry when I heard moms talking about their birth experiences and about bringing the baby home from the hospital.  More than one time I asked God, “Why this one thing? You KNEW how important this was to me! WHY?” Luckily, I knew that God was never going to abandon me, even though I was really hurting and struggling with all those feelings.  But I ultimately end up realizing God doesn’t owe me a thing.  My plan might not be His plan.  Yet I have much to be grateful for.

Not every mom can say they had such a beautiful, one of a kind experience of meeting their son for the first time in a dark hallway in China: Liu ran up to me with open arms ready to hug his mom-One he’d only seen in a photos and never met. Yet he was open-hearted and trusting enough to embrace this new life waiting for him across the ocean. It’s breathtaking.  I might not have a birth story, but my heart grew ten times bigger that day, and I wouldn’t trade that moment for anything in the world.  So I have much to be grateful for even though it is different from many other women’s experience with “meeting their baby.”

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The biological question is OUT of the question now.  I haven’t reached menopause yet.  However, fate stepped in and gave me a medical issue that required medication which for all practical purposes will make it impossible for that “miracle” to occur.   So I can FINALLY be done with THAT question once and for all.  I have my answer. I will never have a biological child. And while that sentence is still difficult to say,  I am relieved I can finally deal with that and work to move past it.

Now the limbo, or possibility of the second adoption is still here.  It moves forward, at slower than a snail’s pace. Just when we seem to move forward, some piece of paper expires and we have to redo it.  I have just come to realize that clarity on this will continue to elude me for Lord knows how much longer. And in the mean time, will we not meet the criteria and get nixed? What stands between me and a bigger family are some pieces of paper and rules about age, weight, health and finances.  That makes me angry, and so, so sad. Some days, like today, I just want to scream.  It doesn’t sit well with me that I had to go take the MMPI (A psychological test) to prove I am fit to parent since I have a history of anxiety.  Imagine if all those folks that become pregnant had to take that 567 question mental health screening! But, rules are rules. Such is the world of International adoption.

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Hope is a little dusty, but still present!

I wonder, too, as I see many friends from high school have already become grandparents some time ago, why I am still trying to form my own family at this point.  It is a strange phenomenon.  It wouldn’t have been the future I saw for myself, but I have to trust that all will work out as it should, perhaps not with the ending I wanted, either.  I know that the Rolling Stones famously sang, “You can’t always get what you want,” but why do some get want they want and others don’t? Just sayin.’ This will make a good blog post in and of itself, too.

How I have dealt with all of this? To be honest, some days I haven’t.  Some days I throw myself a giant pity party (although this too is part of a grief “process,”) or drown my sorrows in chocolate chip cookies and stuffed crust pizzas with extra cheese. Yum.  But then, I wake up the next day and realize I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and hang in there until we have a resolution.  The adoption process is stressful, in and of itself.  But one day, it will end. It has to. And when that day comes, I will work to accept whatever answer God, and the Chinese Government, gives us.  And then I will go on living.

A final word on the topic of grief in general.  Sometimes I questioned why I was sad, when there was still a chance for me to get pregnant or to adopt.  I would tell myself, “don’t grieve until you get to the end and have your answers, be happy or hopeful. ”  As if I could push it all away until the one day the adoption process ended for good and I completely knew I was in menopause.  Well, that’s kind of silly.  Life doesn’t work like that.   It works out best for me when I honor my feelings.  Give myself permission to be sad or angry.  Write out my feelings.  Don’t push them away.  Paint a picture that represents how I feel.  Write a prayer, expressing my feelings.  Talk to someone.  I always feel a little better and able to keep moving along when I allow the feelings to come, whatever they are, whenever they are…and sit with them for a time… as uncomfortable as that can be.  This is a way forward.   It is only when I tell myself I SHOULD feel a certain way that I run into problems.

So this is where I am.  Hoping for one more child.  Grieving some aspects of the difficult road to a family, and a family “half-realized,” yet starting to see the beauty and blessings of a one-child family: All the time I’ve had with him. The special relationship we’ve cultivated because he hasn’t had to share me, the things we’ve been able to do together, the time I’ve had to learn about his special needs and become a tiger of an advocate for him…and so much more.  Our family has been such a gift to me, a source of so much joy!

It should prove exciting to see what an update one year from now will look like.  I really hope I have my answers by then.  I am weary and discouraged.  I want off this roller coaster.  There are so many more things I wish I could explain about this journey, but it is not the time.  Since I am still in the thick of it, I can’t share too many details.  But one day, I will tell the whole story.

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I hope that if you are reading this and you are in a similar struggle, you will feel and know that God will see you through all the twists and turns.  Don’t give up! He sees you, knows you and wants to meet your deepest need.  God bless you.  There are many gifts waiting up ahead for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adoption · Christian Poetry · Grief and Loss · Poetry · Prayer · Uncategorized · Waiting

A Beggar’s Plea

What do you do, when someone you know is feeling the weight of the world?

She’s a middle-aged woman, at a crossroad, her mind: In

a spiraling, downward swirl?

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Bible journaling helps me tremendously to process my feelings.  It is a time of worshipful reflection. Here I was spending some time in Job.

 

She has a good life, husband, house, child…to start,

but what she so misses she thought would be here,

and it leaves an ache in her heart.

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Two times she lost out on what might have been,

yet another problem, a delay comes along.

Her strength, her resolve’s growing thin.

Not again! Don’t do this to her, don’t make it end like this!

She wants another child, that’s all.

Is this so wrong, to wish?

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If it’s not God’s will, in time she’ll understand.

But the years have dragged on and she just wants to know,

What should she do, disrupt it? Move on? What’s His plan?

What would you do, about this woman, about this beggar’s plea?

If you would be so inclined, dear reader, just pray-

For this pleading beggar is me!

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Here today is my honest prayer: Gracious God, you owe me nothing.  You have already blessed me immeasurably.  You know my heart’s desire for another child, and we took this road to pursue another adoption because we thought that was what you wanted for us.  If we read that wrong, then close every door.  But if it is in your will for our lives, please dear Lord, would you bring this to a positive end, soon? I had thought, honestly, there was a little girl that we were supposed to parent. A sister for my boy.  I wonder, was I wrong? Did we mess it up? When it drags on, I have days where I think I can’t do this any longer…I’m too old, our family is set-just the three of us, I should give it up and move on.  But then, for some reason, I find myself still holding on to this dream even when it makes no sense in some ways.   And I find myself coming to you in the middle of the night, down on my knees begging that you would grant us this miracle.  I know you have the power to make this happen.  I come to your throne, boldly, as you have invited us to do, to ask you specifically.  Lord, will you give us a daughter to adopt? if it is not too late, will you help me hang in there just a little bit longer? It is so hard to live in limbo. Yet I know I am not alone, and will never be.  You are always with me, no matter what.  Dear God, thank you for hearing my plea.  I will follow you all the days of my life, no matter what. I love you, Lord.  Amen.

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For you, whomever you may be, I pray, also that YOU may feel the freedom to unburden your heart and spirit “To Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20).”

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).”

 

 

 

 

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/disrupt/

Christian Poetry · Grief and Loss

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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Adoption · God With Us

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
Adoption · Grief and Loss

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