Category Archives: Adoption

No more petting

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I have a jacket that is crazy soft and so comfy. Literally it feels like a warm blanket with arm holes but WAY better than a Snuggy. I LOVE this jacket. When I wear it around the house it is inevitable that my family will reach out and touch it. Once they do, they fall in love and find it hard to stop petting it. They love how it feels so much, when I am out of town they have been know to ask if they can sleep with it!

I also have a teal pillow on my over sized chair in the living room that if you ever visit my house, I will force you to touch. I am slightly embarrassed that I even spent $30 on a pillow but making people touch it helps me feel better about the indulgence b/c once they do, they will understand. Its life-changing.

Im telling you all of this to emphasize from the get go: I am a lover of all things soft. I too process feelings through the art of touch. In fact, my secondary love language is physical touch so if you’ve been around me you know I, like Olaf, love a good warm hug. Touch in and of itself is a beautiful way to connect with another human being.

But there are times when it would be most appropriate to ask permission to touch someone or something. For example, when I was pregnant, it took a little getting used to how people would approach my belly like a separate piece of my body and start petting it and talking to it. Some people don’t think twice but I would prefer it when people took my feelings into consideration and asked first.  Or if someone was walking with their dog, isn’t it common knowledge by now that you should always ask the owner IF you can pet the animal BEFORE reaching down your hand to do so? It just makes sense.

So here is the rub for me and I will say it as nicely and as plainly as I can…

Please stop petting my daughter.

I know Jaydn has beautifully soft skin (I do too- shameless plug for Rodan+Fields). But a smooth skin texture does not warrant the same form of touch as my comfy jacket or life-changing pillow does. It also doesn’t equate to how you would approach touch for a pregnant belly or an animal.

Think about this a little … Let’s say you give me a hug and notice that my skin is really soft (it is thanks to Rodan+Fields). I don’t know anyone who would spend the next 5-10 minutes rubbing their hand up and down my arm while we carried on in conversation. Yet that has happened on multiple occasions to my daughter.

Why?

Of course I have my speculations but I won’t project them onto anyone else unfairly. So for now I will just challenge YOU to ask yourself the question WHY? Is that appropriate? Would it be socially acceptable in any other circumstance? I am relatively sure you will conclude that it’s not

It seems preposterous to many that I am even having to address this issue but you have NO IDEA how often this comes up in regards to my daughter.

If you’d like to know where I got my jacket or pillow, I will be happy to pass along that information. I will even lend you one of my many soft blankets and let you pet my dog if you need to but my daughter is a different story entirely. So please, no more petting.

 

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Ink stories

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During the days of the Bible people would often build alters of stones to mark a place in their journey when they met with or experienced God in some way. They did this to remember what they had seen.

In a day and age where most people are trying hard to forget, I have always held a deep appreciation for the art of remembering. I don’t want to dismiss the painful or powerful moments of my life as insignificant, because they aren’t. They have played a role in shaping me and therefore I acknowledge them.

Not long ago I realized that instead of building alters out of stones, I mark the main highs and lows of my life journey through tattoos. Like a Chinese tattoo artist once said, “Tattoo on body, tattoo on heart.” Basically what I share with the world about my story through my tattoos has already had a deep impact on my heart. This is just my way of painting a picture or writing a book – Im telling my story.

#1: My first tattoo was the typical, “I just turned 18 so I can do whatever I want” tattoo. Although not rebellious in image, it was certainly an expression of my instant adulthood. I was really into sunflowers at the time, still am really. Sunflowers just exude a joy and brightness that cause me to light up when I see them so for a few years I decorated with them everywhere. I tend to be a negative thinker so sunflowers help me see a bright and beautiful side to life. When I got the tattoo the petals of the sunflower were bright with yellow and orange tones and the leaves were a deep green- it was really pretty. Nowadays, not so much. Inside the center of the sunflower you will see a cross. You see I became a Christian at the age of 18 and I didn’t know anything about the Jesus fish or any other religious symbol but I knew it was the cross that set me free so I made sure that was in there.

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#2: I didn’t have any tattoos done for the next 10 years. But on my 28th birthday my oldest sister Kim was in town from California for my “golden birthday party.” While she was visiting, I asked her to come with me as I got a tattoo in honor of our sister Tiffany. Tiff fell between us in age so there was a definite gap left when she passed away. Our sister died in a tragic drowning accident on her 12th birthday. I was a witness to the whole event. It was a turning point for our family and we all struggled with the loss. I was 6 at the time and the couple of years that followed her death were some of the hardest, darkest and ugliest days of my life. By age 8 my life was completely different. I was completely different.

Tiffany’s death did teach me something most people don’t ever learn though: life is precious and family is forever (like it or not). So I got a tattoo b/c even though my husband and children would never meet her, I wanted everyone to know she existed. Tiffany was a part of me and I didn’t want to ever forget that.

 

#3: I think I was about 30 when I got my next tattoo but it was a year in the making. Nathan and I would often wander into tattoo places and ask about pricing or look up fonts but then walk out b/c he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. But finally we found a place that would do it and he knew what to get, so we had each others’ initials put on our ring fingers. For me it was symbol of our commitment to each other. Yes a ring does that too but in today’s society, rings can be removed. We had no plans to exit our marriage but we had already been beat up a few times over the years and we saw this as a way of sealing the fate of our relationship. We will always be together, even when we are apart.

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#4: My Africa tattoo is the one that gets noticed or commented on the most b/c its on the inside of my wrist. A lot of people would assume its for our daughter Jaydn who was born there but my ties to Africa go back much further. I have felt a connection to Uganda since 1998. I didn’t know why until I did some research and started learning about the plight of children out there and how they were being terrorized by the LRA. I started joining forces with organizations such as ONE and INVISIBLE CHILDREN to raise awareness and contribute to relief efforts and support. I was constantly burdened for these people and promised one day, I would travel there myself. After a few attempts to travel there, I finally got to go in 2006 with an organization called WATOTO (which means children). When my feet hit the ground, I felt like I was home. We heard a phrase while we were there that says, “If you come to Uganda, you will find that you bury a piece of your heart there, in the red soil and when you leave, it will always beckon for you to return.” That was so true for me. I love Uganda. I love the people, the country, the culture, all of it! When we went back in 2010 to gain guardianship of Jaydn I was so excited to be home again. We lived there in an apartment for a little over a month and it was hard for me to leave again. So my tattoo of Africa has a heart over Uganda b/c that is where part of my heart is buried and where part of my heart was born.

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#5: My most recent tattoo is on the inside of my left foot. The placement of this one has significance b/c as a soccer player back in the day, this was always my weakest foot. So it was there in my weakness that I had an anchor placed. Over the course of the past year or so the waves have been crashing against me and ripping every aspect of my life to shreds. The only thing I had to hold onto was God and He was constant. God was the anchor in my storm. He was faithful to me when all I could do was bury my face into His promise to make “all things work together for the good of those who loved Him.” So no matter how high the waters rise or how hard the waves crash in the past or in the future, MY ANCHOR HOLDS.IMG_8471-3

 

#6: This is my biggest tattoo and honestly, I didn’t intend for it to be so prominent. But when I saw the drawing and how it looked on my back below my neck, it felt right. So there she is! This tattoo was for me. Many dark and ugly things have happened to me throughout my life and I always knew that they were meant for harm but that God had used them to produce a depth in my character that wouldn’t have come about any other way. But after the recent desert experience I walked through I noticed that there is a victim inside of me. I have always been the one that bad things have happened to and I have always tried to do my best with it. I am a “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” kind of girl and I have powered forward almost ignoring the hurt or at least not allowing myself to really feel it. But after everything I went through this year I felt like I was broken into a million pieces and now I have the opportunity to almost reinvent myself. The same elements are there but I get to choose which ones to put back in and which ones I won’t allow to carry weight with me anymore. Despite what you may think, I decided to hold onto my wounds. They are woven into every fiber of who I am. What I did though, is change what they were saying to my heart. They used to say things like, “You will never” and “suck it up” but now they say things like, “use this to fuel you” “I am a part of your story but not the end of the story.” Truth is a lot of junk HAS happened and it HAS shaped me but I get to decide what it will shape me into. So for the first time in my life I am choosing to no longer be a victim but to be victorious instead. So this tattoo reflects my new attitude with the lyrics of one of my favorite songs. Its a feather breaking off into birds with the saying, “Take these broken wings and learn to fly.” I intend to.

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Oh how He loves us.

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Some times I fall prey to that line of thinking that my life is too small for God to pay attention to. I mean there is global famine and world peace to work out, there is no way God cares about my emotional instability and difficult circumstances. But every time I am in His Word there is this underlying message that I am a high priority on God’s to do list. (Matthew 10:30 – Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.)

This “God is too busy” idea is a misconception. God is not limited in His attention span or capacity for love. He is perfectly capable of keeping the universe on course and still knowing and loving us intimately and individually. That reality humbles me. (Psalm 8:4 – What is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him?) Even with so much else going on, He cares.

Every once in awhile I am prompted to text someone I haven’t spoken to in a long time and check in with them. Every time I do, they respond in a way that communicates, “Thank you for taking time out of your busy life to touch base with me. It made me feel special.” There is something so life giving about being remembered. For that moment we feel important to at least one person. We were all created with a valuable role to play in The Big Story. But day to day life in this culture of rushing to and fro can leave us feeling insignificant most of the time.

Isaiah 49:15-16, a verse I had read many times before, came alive to me in a new way this week.

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands, your walls are continually before Me.”

The first part is easy to understand as a mother of 4. Regardless of what my children do and how they treat me (yes I realize the teenage years are coming), I can’t imagine forgetting or not feeling compassion toward them! But it was the second half of that verse that I grasped in a whole new way recently.

You see, I have a tattoo on the inside of my left wrist. It’s in the shape of Africa with a heart placed over the country of Uganda. I fell in love with Uganda as a college girl long before I had the privilege to travel there. The first time I went in 2006, I felt as if I had buried a piece of my heart in the red dirt of that beautiful place. I knew I would return many more times over the course of my life. Uganda is also the place my daughter Jaydn came to us through adoption from. Its a very special place that remains near and dear to my heart always. Hence the tattoo. Its obvious location opens up doors for some great discussions because people ask me about it all the time.

As I read those verses in Isaiah this week my tattoo came to mind. You could never guess how often during the day I will look down and see that tattoo. I am reminded of my love for that country, how special and beautiful it is, and I get swept up with a strong desire to be there again soon. It is constantly brought to mind- just as each of us is constantly on the mind of our Heavenly Father.

I try to imagine Jesus catching a glimpse of my name on His palm and it bringing a smile to His face and a warmth to His heart. Perhaps He leans against a heavenly gate nearby just to dwell on how special & beautiful I am while the story of our relationship replays in His mind. Then a longing sets in to be in communion with me again as soon as possible. This imagery is true of all of us. Oh how He loves us.

Its so easy to forget our position with Christ but just b/c we forget doesn’t mean He forgets. Our lives are not too small for Gods attention and affection. He takes one look at His sons calloused-like-a-carpenter hands and He remembers how loved you will always be.

Giving permission

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I was watching a food documentary the other day- its honestly one of my favorite things to do- and a doctor being interviewed was talking about the high levels of stress we are constantly under in this day and age. She said one of the best things you can do for yourself, since your body was built to self-heal, was to “Give yourself permission to sleep. Sleep when you can, as long as you can, and as often as you can.” She even went as far as to say that b/c most people don’t give themselves permission to sleep, she would often have to write them a prescription so they would feel “given” permission to take care of themselves. While the whole idea of sleeping when I need to sounded wonderful, it was the “give yourself permission” part that captivated my thoughts for the rest of the day. I have always referred to it as giving myself grace but I thought it even more poignant to have it said in this new way.

I think what we lack as human beings is the ability to give ourself and others permission. By our actions we indicate what is “allowed” and what is not. For example, if you grew up being told it was “weak” to cry, then most likely you tighten up when the moment arises and your emotions are so strong you want to burst into tears but you can’t show that sign of weakness. What is even more saddening is that when we don’t allow ourselves to respond in a moment that completely warrants brokenness, we are inadvertently telling others they can’t break either b/c it would indicate weakness.

As humans we fear showing weaknesses. But as disciples we are encouraged to celebrate our weakness b/c it is yet another area in our life/personality/self for God to show up and utilize His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

I think moms are the worst at giving themselves permission for anything. I call it “mom guilt.” Society tells you to take care of yourself and then your family but if you set aside time to go work out or take a break or relax you are bombarded with the thoughts of being selfish and ungrateful. Your “break” becomes ridden with guilt and you return to your family feeling worse than before. As a mom its hard to say YES to yourself when others depend on you on a regular basis. We aren’t giving ourselves permission.

One of the lessons I learned when I got smacked in the face with depression after our adoption took place, was that I was one of these people. I thought I was giving people permission to be broken around me but truth is, I wasn’t. I wasn’t b/c people still saw me as so strong. When people see you as some kind of hero or super mom/dad/wife/friend etc then you lose your ability to meet them where they are at. You can’t take people to a place you aren’t willing to go yourself. Depression was a tool God used in my life to show others that I wasn’t anything more (or less) than they are.

And before you write this off as some new age or self-help technique look at Scripture. All over the place you see people crying out to God b/c they can’t fulfill His calling on their own strength. Does God or Jesus ever respond with “Suck it up! It’s not that hard.” NO! Often the response is gentle. He gives an invitation to seek comfort from His arms b/c they are not only capable to help but they have done it before (Hebrews 4:15). He doesn’t sympathize with us- meaning He has never been there but can imagine its difficulty, He shows empathy. Empathy is a feeling that can only come from having been there Himself and knowing from personal experience what its like to do something/ be someone that you don’t feel up to the task to do/be. He gives you permission to not be “enough” on your own.

So ask yourself: Are you giving yourself permission? Are you allowing yourself to be seen as weak/broken/vulnerable/normal? If not, then I can assure you that people who are weak/broken/vulnerable/normal won’t come to you when they need advice or a friendly face. You haven’t given them permission to.

It takes a village

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There’s an old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I thought I knew what that mean’t: friends watching your kid once in awhile or teaching them from their wisdom. But it wasn’t until we brought Jaydn home that my understanding of the phrase began. And now after Lyrick has joined us, it has become a very deep rooted truth for my family.

When Jay came home from Uganda it was a rough transition. I will spare you the details but lets just say it wasn’t the romantic “welcome home” life I imagined from other adoption stories I had seen or heard. I was desperate for help. I didn’t know where to turn when I needed a break or wanted to vent. I am not educated in the ways of child development and could not assess what Jaydn needed most. I couldn’t figure out how to meet her high demands while maintaining the health of the rest of our family, let alone myself! There were plenty of opinions being thrown at me but no hands offering to help carry them out. And with three kids at home, a ministry and a priority marriage, my hands were full! Im not saying it was anyone else’s responsibility to care for my family but I could have used a reprieve from the front lines from time to time or just someone to clean my bathrooms. All that life had for me weighed heavy and I ended up experiencing Post Adoption Depression Syndrome. Its a lot like Postpartum but its after you adopt rather than give birth to a child. My depression was deep and it was dark. I had never felt so alone, helpless, or scared. Thankfully I had Christ and I had my husband. Together they worked tirelessly to keep me getting out of bed in the morning to try again another day. Eventually I could motivate myself and I started to manage. About that time my mom and stepdad moved to where we lived and became the hands that I so desperately needed to help me fulfill what God had called me to be and do in regards to my children. It wasn’t easier, but the load was lighter and I was grateful for their sacrificial willingness to help. That’s family.

When I found out Lyrick was on his way I panicked. Like Jim Gaffigan jokes in his stand up routine, “Having 4 children is like you’re drowning and someone throws you a baby.” How in the world was I going to pour my heart and soul into another one? I barely had enough energy to muster up each day for the three! During my pregnancy Nathan took a new ministry position and we moved to FL. Even before we arrived we had people lavishly serving our family. They painted our rental house, set up a schedule for meals to be brought to us each night, and when our furniture didn’t arrive on time they gathered air mattresses and a card table and linens etc for us to survive in our house for over a week without our stuff! It was amazing. Once school started and the three kids were gone for most of the day I could turn my attention to our coming addition. I rearranged rooms, bought some stuff off craigs list and online groups, put together the crib we had thankfully not gotten rid of etc. Other than the staples though, we had nothing for the baby. We started having people give us swings, strollers, car seats, bouncy chairs, a boppy, toys, clothes, you name it! It wasn’t the stuff you would find in a yard sale either- it was all really nice! I even borrowed all of the maternity clothing I wore throughout my pregnancy! Then these gracious people threw me 2 baby showers where I got even more great baby stuff. You don’t usually get a baby shower for your 4th child let alone two of them! I was set up for a great start with this little one. After he was born we had people bringing us dinner at night so I didn’t have to cook and even bringing me Subway or a quinoa salad coupled with a friendly visit for lunch when I was isolated at home with a new baby.  It was such a warm feeling. Then Lyrick started to have some complications. I was driving to and from Dr. appointments and hospitals for tests and treatments and our friends were praying and helping the entire time. People were picking up our big kids from school or coming over to babysit so Nathan could be with me sometimes, bringing meals to my house for my family while I was at the hospital, and bringing me Starbucks and Chipotle as I sat in the hospital with my sick newborn. I can’t even list all of the millions of ways people have helped me but I can say it has been completely humbling!

The extent of help I’ve received since moving even reaches into the areas of educational support for Jaydn. She started preschool this Fall and with the help of our teacher friends and the school board, we have been able to get her the resources and assistance she needs to help bridge the gap between her self defense strategies and what she needs to thrive in a family and peer environment. She has made noticeable strides in speech and social awareness. We meet periodically with a panel of people that work with her to discuss progress and problem areas as well as what our goals should be and what kind of placement she will have in the future. Nathan and I feel so vindicated hearing people who can help, talk about the areas that need work that we have observed and experienced with her but could not articulate well or get support for.

Now the saying about “a village” has a whole new meaning to me. A village is a community of people working together for the good of one another. Its Christians being the Church at an individual level. Its seeing a need and filling it, not just when its convenient but always. Its knowing what it feels like to be overwhelmed and alone and making sure the ones around you don’t have to feel that way unnecessarily. Its living within 2 hours of family and them being able to come to birthdays and football games. Its holding a person’s baby so she can sing in the church services that weekend. Its coming over unannounced, not caring if your friend smells like spit up & poop and is still in their pjs at 2pm. Its offering to clean someone’s house. Its bringing big kids home from school or taking them to church each Sunday so mom can feed her new son instead of driving around town with a hungry, crying baby. Its coming over to help a mom struggling to breast feed her baby even though you just got off from a long shift at the hospital and could really use some sleep instead. Its buying fishing poles for your friend’s kids and taking them out to the lake behind your house to teach them how to fish. It’s coming over to help move furniture. Its making a family crafty items to decorate their house with because mom simply doesn’t have time to fulfill her Pinterest dreams. Its praying with and for a family as they journey along life’s road. Being a village member is a long list of ways you just do life with someone and treat them the way you want to be treated.

So if the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” then my village is stacked because it’s helping me raise 4. Thank you for being a part of my village. I couldn’t do this without you guys.

Baby #4

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Im learning a lot of hard lessons about myself. Parenting has stretched me more than I ever imagined was possible and adopting has crushed any belief I may have had about being a good mother. With #4 on the way I am nothing but scared. I feel like such a failure already that adding another life into the mix (that I am responsible to shape and mold) is a completely overwhelming thought. I knew I was never the stay at home mom type but I am learning that I am even more selfish than I thought. In the back of my mind I was counting down the moments until our nest was empty and then the news hit that we were starting all over and had to add at least 4 more years to any of our child free vacation plans. I was looking forward to going back to work while the kids were in school and having regular adult conversations again.

But God has other plans for me, as He so often does.

Apparently He wants this precious little one on planet earth and has chosen our family to be the home “it” is raised in. I don’t know why but if there is one thing I’ve learned along the way it’s that God knows better than I do. So here we go… baby #4 is due in late December. News as to gender will be posted as soon as we know, likely in mid August. Pray for a boy or start praying for my sanity now if its another girl 🙂

 

 

Extraordinary Women Interview #2: Mary Beth Picker

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Today I present to you the specialness of my friend Mary Beth. She is a believer, wife, mom, friend, and so on and so on. Yet somehow she manages to save the world in her spare time. I hope you will better understand the impact of the individual as God has proclaimed through her story. Sometimes we all just need to ask ourselves, “how much more can I do?” Mary Beth has learned that she can always do just a little bit more. Read her story in blog format at www.caseypicker.com.

Once again I apologize for my lack of tech savvy-ness and our faces being cut off the entire time but I am working out the kinks as I go.