Friday, August 26, 2016

Asking the County For Help....

Five years ago I called my county for the first time and asked them to partner with me in caring for our family.  I was at the end of my rope - medical bills had piled up due to a cross country move - our health insurance had changed three times in 12 months and we were under a full IRS audit because they didn't believe that we were a family of 13.   I could not pay the bills, buy the kids medications or figure out where to turn.  I had run totally out of rope.

I know I cried on the phone that day -  as 16 years of parenting pride and idealistic naivety crumbled under the crushing reality that I needed to step up up at 43 and place my families actual and ongoing  needs before my own in a new and scary way.

It was a watershed moment - and one that has changed our life forever in ways that I could not have imagined on that day.

It's taken five years - but because of that first call and all of the work that a team of social workers, team members, case workers and nameless 'others' have poured in us........

I am no longer afraid.

We are stable.
We are safe and secure.
We are getting the ongoing help, support and services we need to thrive.

Which is exactly the goal of the programs we are involved with.

If you need help.  If you are stuck and over your head, please pick up the phone and let someone know. 

And if you don't get help the first time....CALL BACK. (thanks for that reminder Dawn - it's so true!)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Grey Suffering: Akward to Say the Least....

Some types of pain and suffering are hard to talk about and simply awkward to know how to respond too.  They are not the tragedies that come with clean, clear specific lines for us to follow or the socially acceptable ones we know how to talk about.  Cancer, car accidents, SIDS, tornadoes, house fires - those we do.  But how the suffering that falls into the grey areas between?

How do we respond when a friend confesses to us that they are having an extra marital affair or are consumed by anxiety?  What should we say and how do we love the neighbor who is being evicted, the woman whos husband has moved out or the relative who is considering an abortion?  Simply coping with our opinions created by the fact that a friend may be disrupting an adoption, placing a child in residential care or on the verge of leaving a marriage can put us into our own personal emotional crisis that leaves us speechless.  And there are no Hallmark cards to ease the way when you have unwittingly asked -if someone is doing better- unaware that they committed suicide a week earlier.

These are the grey areas of life that we wander into -where things are sore and tender and very much like stumbling onto an accident scene wrapped up in a Northwest marsh fog.  It's the real parts of life where we can reach in and speak love to those around us or do immeasurable harm by simply invalidating or ignoring their suffering.

These grey zones  -  where our own opinions and judgement can easily add layers of weight to already overburdened and weary people are the places where we have to choose - do I step in and help or am I going to move away and add to the fog that already surrounds and isolates them.

Not that we mean to make things harder for people who are suffering.
But it somehow becomes personal.
Not in the good - 'I love you and I want to walk through this pain with you' way.
But in the scared - 'I don't know what to say - maybe you deserve this bad thing - I want to tell you your reaping what you sow'  version.

Which doesn't help.

If we strive to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly we will not leave people alone to grieve in the grey areas.  We will bring the hot dish, send a card and weep with hurting people over the painful things.  We can sit together in church and around the kitchen table, passing the box of tissues because they will need them - and hopefully you will too.  Moving toward people who are experiencing grey suffering not away from them allows us to fully engage and not take the seat of judgement over them. Moving toward the fog allows us to lean in - not away and hold the ropes for them until they can stand on their own again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"Will They Weep With Me Or Will They Judge.......

"Will they weep with me or will they judge whether I should be weeping or not?"

Jason Meyer BBC 7.9.2016

This single sentence from last weeks sermon on the realities of racial conflict and separation in our society has rocked my world.  It's asking if we (I) am willing to go into the hard places, the dark places, the scary places, with those who are suffering without making any judgments first to see if they deserve what they got or somehow should have avoided where they are.

Which required a Full Stop.

To breath in and out.

And really think.

Because it's WAY easier to be the judge-than to show compassion.

Isn't it?

Honestly -

It's often more comfortable to move away from the hurting than to move towards them. 

To 'respect their space and privacy' rather than wading into the shallow end of their suffering.

To assume the best, hope things are not as bad as they say and expect someone else whos better equipped to move into the places we are uncomfortable going.

So we miss the opportunities set before us.

To heal relationships, build communities and change the culture.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

What If I Wore A Two Piece Swim Suit........

Last week.  For the first time in 22 years -  the skin on my belly was exposed to the light of day.  It was an utterly stupid event that took months to build up to and a huge amount of personal emotional effort to achieve. I wore a totally appropriate running style shorts and full coverage top to the beach.  It was a bikini - for a 48 year old mom with 11 kids ;) and I like it.

White flesh revealed and imperfect body out there in something that did not come with a skort and was not purchased at the thrift store or at the Lands End outlet on Super Clearance.

No one died.
No one was mortified and passed out.
And I stepped over an imaginary line that has been holding me hostage.

This may sound crazy to a lot of you.
But to others.....
It may resonate deeply as we start to ask questions about the choices we make and
the reasons behind them.

Exposing our motives and fear as well as our hearts.

The good news is that my belly didn't get burned.
Men and women talked and interacted with me in exactly the same way as they always have.
And I was not struck by lightening.

Which may sound rude or disrespectful to some of you - but again - there are others who may feel your own heart strings vibrating with the same simple questions.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Dear Haters and Trolls: I'm Still Playing The Same Deck of Cards.....

Good morning to those who leave nasty comments on this blog.

I pray over every one of them and each of you. For any truth to be revealed in my life that needs to be - and that the obvious pain which is driving them in your own lives to be removed.

I am dealing with the comments in the same way as the last time we went around this cycle.  With the same deck of cards.

I will not speak nasty about you.
About my ex husband.
About my church.
About my children's original families.
About strangers I have never met.
I will not take shame from those who do not know me.
And I do not endorse abuse in any form - including slander.

By commenting here you allow me the privilege of getting to know you.  But understand that I will not publish any comments which are written in a spirit of nastiness or that strike out blindly at others. For those who have left comments which ring with your own pain and anger know that I am praying you find peace today - because you are precious and valuable and worth more than you will ever know in this life.

Have a great day.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Facing The Reality of Broken First Families......

One of the hardest things I have had to learn about adoption is that it comes out of a place where hurt and brokenness occurred. Love is not enough to heal and erase the past realities and trauma doesn't just go away.  Newborn adoption doesn't ensure happy well adjusted kids and nurture cant simply trump nature.  As the mom to 8 wonderful kids who came into my life through the pain of a broken First Family I walk with them regularly down the trails of wondering and wishing and hoping for a different First Family story,  Even though we love each other dearly and they understand that there were perfectly logical reasons for why their First Families could not remain intact- their hearts are still deeply wounded and they would like a different reality.

With 16 years of adoptive parenting behind me I have come to realize  that each of their First Families is forever a part of our family- some of whom we know and others we don't - but all integral pieces never less.  It means that on Mothers Day I am the one present and they are truly aching for the ones who are not there.

It's no longer a threat to me - it's simply a reality of who we are and how we are knit together. Developing a toolbox of therapeutic parenting skills has simply been required to make it through any given day- but especially those Hallmark (Hell) Holidays - because they don't necessarily have words to describe their pain - they just lash out.  Or act out. Or withdraw.

I have never seen someone wear an 'Adoption Hurts,' or ' I wish my child didn't need to be adopted' shirt.   It simply wouldn't be an inspiring message.  But I think it would be the truth.  Because the breakdown of the family is so hard - even if they are newborns when it happens or If they don't remember anything about their First Family.

Thankfully no ones life story ends when they are an infant- it continues until their final breath.  Building upon that foundation brick by brick and year by year.   Adoption is essential in that it offers a solution to hurting families in our broken world.  But it is a excruciating decision for their First Family to come to and one that carries with it  a lifetime of realities and healing for every person involved.

Now that I am a single mom through divorce as well as an adoptive mom - my biological kids are experiencing this reality first hand also.  Our First Family is fractured beyond repair.  What they believed was solid and secure in their world was not - the things they trusted came undone and the structure that they knew no longer exists.  Slowly we are rebuilding a new life pattern together and learning how to simply live again.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Sick and Tired of Miracles......

Saturday I woke up and had a serious, thrown down my fleece, if-your-not-in-it- I'm-not-going-to-do-it and chat with God.  Because I'm tired.  I'm  weary.  I'm at  of what feels like the endless series of Red Sea moments - where the bad guys are on one side, the the ocean is on the other and there is no hope at all short of a miracle.  I've finally - at the age of 48 - learned that waiting on God to go in first, trusting wholly in Him to do what he says he will, be who he says he is and protect who he says he does - is sinking in.  

It wasn't a nice polite Sunday school type lesson.  But it could have been written straight out of the pages of Exodus and Deuteronomy.  Even though I had experienced two straight up Red Sea miracles last week -  I was DONE for the moment.   The adrenaline had washed out of my system, the fatigue had caught up, reality of the mess around me was evident and all I really wanted was to take a bottle of wine, head to my tent and go to sleep for a week.

Which isn't really an option for a single mom to 11 - or Moses after the whole Red Sea parting - watch your enemies drown adventure either.   Because both of us knew that dawn was coming and we still had to find water and food - that no matter how we felt about yesterday we had to get up and do that next thing.  And as tempting as it was - a  hangover really would not help me make good decisions.

I suspect that Moses might have wrestled with God in this way also.  "Enough with the miracles! How about a nice normal boring day tending sheep? No displaying Gods power and glory?  No demonstrating who you are and why.  No more - lets drive Moses to the very edge and let everyone think it's the end and this time - ... Come on Lord... Please???? "  I can see him pounding that snake changing staff on the ground stomping his foot and then realizing exactly what he is doing.

Just like me.

And as he and I stand divided by centuries the tears start rolling down....because that's what its all about.

The same God of Moses and Abraham and Sarah....of Luke and James and Christ.  The same promises.  The same story.  The same need to know that we are not in control of the miracles or the everyday,  Nothing has changed.  God is still God and we are not.

And that is good.

So as tired as I am - as much as my humanness longs for a 'normal' life.  I can finally see that these miracles are not about me any more than they were really about Moses or the people of Israel.  Sure they save me from more suffering - that usually comes before the miracle (thats why I need one - no one needs a miracle to be saved from the Monday morning laundry)- but the deliverance. It's all about showing something more.  Telling this old - old story.

Monday, April 18, 2016

I Do Like Babies.....

Sometime, a long time ago,  I started telling myself I didn't like babies.  I can't identify when it happened or why.  It's deep in there like the idea that I don't like butterscotch ice cream. This morning I work up and realized that it is simply not true.  It's something I have repeated (or has been repeated to me) so many times that I believed it - but that doesn't make it true.

I do like babies.
2009 photo from when the youngest was born - a true gift to us all
And toddlers.
And teenagers.
And adults.
And the elderly.
I like all the ages.
I like people - period.

Part of this transition journey right now is testing and seeing if what I think is true is actually true.  Even down to these small things that I believe about myself and the world around me. I have been blessed with 11 babies - and they are that to me - untold and amazing blessings every one.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Telling Our Own Stories......

"When we tell out own stories 
we avoid being trapped as characters 
in stories someone else is telling."

This Brene Brown quote is posted on my kitchen wall alongside a cluster of others which remind us of what can happen when we stop engaging in the practice of wholehearted living.  When we become  silent, passive, or uncaring - simply going along with what 'others' think rather than living our own lives.

This isn't a 'womens lib,' newly divorced - acting out -  statement.  Though to be honest, I was raised in Seattle in the 70's so I may consider chaining myself to a tree or throwing myself in front of a bulldozer just to to protest something (ha..anything) once in a while

No - It's a reminder to myself to stop -  wait. think about this and not just take the easy road out when others ask me to trust/believe/agree with them. I need to remember to check and see if words and actions match,if memory is correct,  and if the people I am trusting with decision making are who they say they are.  

It's learning not to be swept up in other peoples ideas of what is going on or what should happen. 

It's growing up, standing up and learning to tell the truth even if it isn't pretty or if others don't agree. It's believing in the strength of every family member to own and tell their stories also.  Because I need to and so do they.

Which is really, really,  hard.
Because people get scared
   And mad.
       And well.....
              Don't like you when you do it.

But I am learning
     the long hard way
        that I would rather live
            honestly and painfully
                out in the open
    than in the shadows of the truth.
Where everything is 'fine'
     but it really isn't .
And everything 'looks good'
     except it's falling apart.

    My life.
    Our life, shared as a family.
          separate people  within it.
    is a very good thing.
12 Individuals woven together
      into a rainbow of chaos
          Uniquely telling our own stories.

Because each of us has our own journey
 through hard things
     our own hurts
       our own healing
            and our own dance through life.

Is a beautiful, messy thing
    and we are going to tell each other the stories.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

I Am Still Me.....

I've been too busy building a new life to write much lately.  Shifting and sorting half a lifetime of no longer relevant world view into a new semblance of order takes a lot of energy and often the first - or second -shot at it is just a mess rather than something I can work with.

It's very much like going back to Jr High and reliving everything from in-school politics and how to work the combination locks on your locker to the new growing up boy/girl rules. It's icky, unsettling and I have so much more empathy for the world -turned-upside-down feelings my own four Jr High kids are experiencing.

But just like them - I need to go through it. In order to grow and not just be stuck at this particular developmental place....forever.  Because I know there is more to life than this moment and though my economic status, security and marital state has changed - I am still me.