The First Noel (thoughts from a lonely Christmas)

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This Christmas it will be just the four of us at home. No traveling, no family visiting. And while we (of course) will miss time with our extended family, we’re more than a little excited to have just the four of us. To form traditions and snuggle and stay in PJs all day. To explore our new city and to serve our neighbors. To make cinnamon rolls and start a new tradition of fish and chips for dinner.

Brandon and I will celebrate twelve years on December 31. And in that 12 years, we have only ever spent 1 Christmas Day with just us, in 2011.

On this particular year, Christmas was on a Sunday. Since we were sticking around, we volunteered to sing the special music at church. We chose The First Noel. And while it wasn’t particularly meaningful to us at the time, it became deeply meaningful to me in the 6 years since.

Why? Well let me back up a little bit.

This was the Christmas before Jamie was born. It had been 5 years since we had first started trying to have our first child. And we were spent. tired. defeated. As we approached that day, we were filled with great longing and sadness. We were exhausted emotionally and my body was exhausted physically.

And one might think (and they would have good reason) that this was the wrong year to choose a quiet Christmas with just the two of us. And it wasn’t our first choice. Brandon’s grandma had passed away earlier that fall and the expense of extra travel meant we didn’t really have the funds (or vacation time) for the Christmas visit. And, if we’re honest, we weren’t emotionally ready for what the Christmas would bring. We missed his grandma and we were grieving her. We were also grieving the four different adoption situations that had looked possible, only to fall through (at various places in the process). We were sad. If we we’re honest, we just couldn’t handle the questions and the pity and all the things.

So we stayed home. We had a quiet and lovely Christmas Eve with my brother and his wife. And then Christmas Day we made plans for it to be just the two of us.

And reflecting on this day, Brandon and I have realized something. This is where our hearts began to heal. On that lonely Christmas we found the hidden beauty of Advent. When you are longing and waiting for something that may or may not come anytime soon, it’s easy to lose hope. And we knew that we could either find God in the midst of where we were or we would crumble under the weight of it. We were too weak to make much of a choice at the time, instead God descended to us. He found us in our overwhelming exhaustion and weakness and He gave us his presence. He soothed our hearts and held our grief so tenderly. And suddenly we began to understand the magic and mystery of that Bethlehem night…The night when God’s people encountered the savior that they probably didn’t think was coming anymore.

He met us. He cradled us. He loved us. We didn’t know at the time, that Jamie was going to be born a few short months later. We didn’t know that God was preparing the answer to our prayers. We didn’t know that a woman sat miles away taking such good care of the baby in her belly. She didn’t know what her future held either. But she made the most selfless and loving choices. I imagine she was scared, but I also like to imagine that she held the same peace that God gave to us. That month of December none of us knew how the story would unfold.

And as I sit here 6 years later with tears in my eyes, now mom of two beautiful children, I just can’t help but thank God for that Christmas. For the tears. For the pain. For the longing and even for the loneliness. For God descending to us and covering us. For giving us a glimpse and a deeper understanding of his coming, of the beauty of the Incarnation…that the Savior of the World would come to the broken and the weak.

And so I leave you with the lyrics of that beautiful hymn.

The first Noel the angel did say 
was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay; 
in fields where they lay keeping their sheep, 
on a cold winter’s night that was so deep. 

Refrain:
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, 
born is the King of Israel. 

They looked up and saw a star 
shining in the east, beyond them far; 
and to the earth it gave great light, 
and so it continued both day and night.

 

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It came in like a wrecking ball…

Okay, that’s a bad title. I’ll admit to that. But there is something tender I’ve been processing for a while. And, well, I may just be brave enough to write about it. Or, you know, I may not. We’ll have to see.

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Brandon and I parent two amazing children. There is not a single day that I am not thankful that I get to be a part of their story. That I get to be the one to hold them and love them and encourage them and direct them. That I get to build never-ending Lego creations and pillow forts. That I get to kiss boo boos and talk about being kind to each other. I love being their mom. So much that it frequently makes me cry.

But, there is also not a day that goes by that I am not acutely aware of the pain with which their story began. Because I was not their first mother. I am their complete mother, but I am not the only and I am not the first. (And I would appreciate no one arguing with me on this point. I don’t tolerate disparaging words about birthparents).

Lately I’ve been having a recurring nightmare that one or both of my kids are taken from me. And it has nothing to do with the “dangers” of the city. No, I feel way safer in a city than I feel out in the middle of the country (just ask Brandon). 

And to an extent it is a normal fear for any parent. Except our family was not formed in the “normal” way. If the world was not a broken place, my children would not have needed my home. Therefore, their pain is the reason I am their mother. And more than 5 years in, I can’t even write that sentence without tears.

IMG_5269Now, for our beautiful, spunky, brave daughter we have pictures and stories and actual real people who made a brave decision for her good. We have evidence of love in the midst of the brokenness. We have people she will meet and talk to and hear from one day. And her story begins with pain but it gets to redemption a whole lot quicker. But the pain. The pain is still there. Don’t think for a moment that it’s gone away. She and her birth family feel this pain.

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But let me tell you about my J. My sweet, amazing, beautiful boy. His pain is different than Eliza’s. And his pain sometimes bursts forth with quiet intensity that knocks us off our feet.

Our sweet boy left a whole network of friends back in Arkansas. Friends he loved. Friends he would boss around (let’s just be honest about that). And friends that loved him just as much as he loved them. Jamie didn’t lack confidence. He had it in abundance. He made friends out of strangers everywhere we went. He loved deeply and fully. He couldn’t get enough of people. He had a quiet confidence.

And then we changed his whole world. And, guess what? He loved it. Because if you know my son, you know that he LOVES adventure. And this adventure came with more time with mom & dad, and with airplanes and subways and buses…all the things he loves best.

But one day on the playground (the one right by our house) another kid was quite mean to Jamie. And that combined with the total life change was the spark for trauma to come crashing in. Since that day, something has changed in my boy. What was once confidence is now hesitancy. What was once peace is now anxiety. What was once a plethora of friends is now a mom, dad, and little sister.

Now don’t get me wrong, J is still creative and adventure seeking. He is still brave and willing to try new things. But now he does not approach other kids to become their friend. He does not leave his sister’s side at the playground. He meets his world with anxiety.

Photo Jun 16, 2 18 24 PMAnd on more than one occasion I have rocked my baby boy to sleep while he wept. And this is not my J. Except that it is. My beautiful boy has pain so deep that even his own mother forgets that it’s there. Until it comes in and wrecks us all.

You see, for a child who is formed with pain and trauma…this is how they handle their world. Our job as his parents is to teach him how to handle feelings that are too big to express. Feelings and emotions that 5 year olds just shouldn’t have. And, friends, don’t get me wrong. I know that a lot of this is just the nature of change. I know that boys are emotional. But I also know that this is something deeper. Because our journey together started with pain: My pain, their pain, their birth family’s pain. And there is far too much evidence that shows how this sort of pain totally devastates a child.

And, can I just be honest for a second? Society doesn’t make it easy for adoptive parents. Seriously. Society sometimes makes this all WAY harder than it needs to be. I mean, don’t get me wrong, for the most part, I like society. We get along. But I’m becoming weary of the way our family is so openly questioned.  Whether in Arkansas or New York City (or everywhere in between), we are viewed with a little more skepticism. Our motives are suspect. Our methods are scrutinized (down to the type of music we play for our children). We are watched.  And don’t even get me started on the comments. Well meaning or not, everyone has an opinion about our family and for whatever reason they feel free to share it. Many are positive. Many are intentionally not and they are said loudly enough for us to hear and to field disapproval. Because of our family’s makeup, we bear the weight of a lot of agendas. And sometimes it feels like too much.

So what do I do? I weep with my strong boy. I weep that he will have to answer more difficult questions than many of his peers. I weep because he won’t even have to question his identity on his own…society will do that for him. He will have to account for decisions beyond his control. And I feel his anger and his frustration. I share it with him. Because that’s my job.

And I trust that this too shall pass? Why? Because we’re facing it. And it’s messy and hard and difficult, but we’re handling it.

So where do we go from here? I’m hoping to write a blog post very soon with a lot more practical advice and do’s / do not’s for people. But, in the meantime, here are my two pieces of advice for two different groups of people who didn’t ask….

  • Fellow parents of kids from hard places: Stop what you’re doing and grieve with your child. Seriously, hold them and cry with them. Listen to them. Even a 5 year old can tell you what they need (which is why I’m about to stop this blog posting and play Legos). And, reach out to your surrounding community. Emotional breakdowns don’t come up naturally in conversation, so it can become isolating when it happens. Don’t let it be. Text those who get it, text those who may not “get it” but love you best. I waited too long to do this but when I finally did, a flood of encouragement came in. And while they didn’t offer practical “fix it right now” solutions (those don’t exist anyway), and while many of them may not have understood, they made me feel less crazy and gave me permission to just cry it out and then to take the next right step.
  • Those watching from the outside (i.e. friends or family of those with adopted kids): Listen to the concerns being offered. And just let them be concerns. I can’t tell you how many times well meaning members of my community have tried to explain away my concern by downplaying it…it leads to more isolation, not encouragement. The times people listen, and simply allow me to be worried. Those are the times I leave encouraged. Also, unless you are a very good friend or family member…it’s probably best not to comment. I have never ended a day wishing I’d had more comments from strangers about the makeup of my family. When in doubt, just smile and move on.

And, so, I have full confidence that this story ends well. Because it has already been so good! So today and tomorrow we will take one step forward and rejoice in the small things. We will make cookies. We will stare right back at those people who stare at us and we will speak with boldness (and kindness!) to those who question us. And, above all, we will give grace to all because we all have missteps. We will continue to laugh about the fact that our skin is so beautifully different. We will talk seriously about how Jamie will have to behave differently than some of his friends (not just because of his color but also because of mine).

And we will continue to enjoy our family. We will build forts, visit museums, try new foods, make new friends, and continue to explore this beautiful city we have the privilege of living in.

Because what’s the answer to the brokenness? It isn’t ignoring it. It’s choosing joy in the midst of it. It’s choosing mercy right in the mess. And that’s where Jesus is, friends. Right there in the midst of the mess.

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My Husband is not the One for me.

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It’s true.

Now, before my friends and family start worrying about the future of the O’Briens, maybe I should back up.

When I came to college, I was determined to meet “the one.” I was on the lookout for the man God created for me. The man who would be my partner for life. The only one in the entire universe that I could be happy with. The one who had been formed and molded in his mother’s womb in order to someday be my husband.

But, after a few failed relationships I came crashing into the truth that there was one problem…

This man. This “one”…

Well, he didn’t exist.

I was dating Brandon at the time that I finally came to this realization. A few weeks after a very honest conversation with a professor, I said yes to Brandon’s proposal. And a breezy 11 months later (long engagements are the absolute WORST), we were married.

10 years later, I have never been more in love with my husband. I plan to be married to him for the rest of my life. I love the life we have created. I love our family. I love my partner.

But, I don’t believe that God created him just for me. I don’t think he is the one my whole life was leading to.

Brandon is just a man. He’s a very good man. A smart man. A creative and resourceful and caring and encouraging man. He’s loyal and honest and tender and compassionate. He is absolutely hilarious.

But he’s just a man.

I firmly believe that Brandon could have been happy with any woman he chose.

I believe I could have been happy with any man that I chose.

(assuming, of course, that they were equally committed to their faith)

We aren’t together because the universe wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re together, because we chose one another. We love God deeply, we are committed to serving Him our entire lives, and we see in one another the possibility of doing that together.

We fell in love and we love doing life together. God is active in our midst, in our home, in our family. But it’s not because this is the only way it could have been. No, it’s because this is just what God does. He takes two imperfect people who are committed to one another and he makes a family.

Okay, so now that I have that out of the way, I have something else I need to get off my chest.

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I do not believe that my children were created in order to be my children.

We weren’t destined for one another.

And I can’t even count how many times people have said this to me.

Here’s my beef…

I do not believe that my God caused my children and their birth families pain in order to give me a child. Similarly, I don’t believe that God gave me infertility in order to teach me a lesson.

Instead, I believe that God brought something beautiful out of the pain. What a world marred by sin meant for bad, God used for good.

What a body devastated by brokenness couldn’t do…God did in a way that only he could do.

And here’s my point in all of this. I believe the beauty of our God is that He brings beauty out of ashes. He brings victory out of failure. He brings wholeness out of brokenness.

Our family is whole. But not because we were always intended for one another from the beginning.

No, I think this whole thing could have worked out very differently and still just as sweet.

Our family is whole because that’s what God does.

 

 

A whole new kind of family

One year ago today we woke up in our home as a family of four for the very first time.

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Eliza was born early in the morning on June 28 and it took a week for the state of Oklahoma to let us leave. It was a stressful week with a lot of the unpredicted things coming up.

But I don’t think I’ve ever written how it ended.

The state of Oklahoma had been giving us lots of conflicting information. We had all of our paperwork done and completed, but after Eliza was born they asked for brand new paperwork and told us of requirements they had never mentioned before. My long suffering, incredibly patient husband had just about had his full.

At the end of the week, on Thursday, July 3, the state of Oklahoma tells us that Eliza’s birthmom (J) needs to go before a judge. This was a one more requirement they had never mentioned before. And we had to find someone get it done before the holiday weekend.

Through some very kind individuals we are able to get an appointment with an Oklahoma judge for 2 p.m. that day. J and her dad met us there.

At this appointment J held Eliza while the judge asked her if she understood her decision. I couldn’t take my eyes off the two of them. J looked at Eliza most of the time as she gave her statement. Then we went into a court room to wait and the judge said everything was done. J hugged Eliza one more time. Her dad did the same and then we said our goodbyes. A few minutes later we got official permission to leave the state and return home. That night we were home.

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This image has been forever burned in my mind. J knew what she was doing. And she did it out of love for her child. The state of Oklahoma gave J and her parents a lot of extra things to do. And they did them all.

There is a misconception about adoption that if a mother loves the child, she wont go through with it.

Adoptions get disrupted all the time for a multitude of reasons. And many mothers change their minds and make the decision to parent. And they have every right to do so.

(And there are many adoption situations that arise out of abuse or mistreatment. I’m not talking about those. )

Both the decision to parent and the decision to place your child for adoption can be loving decisions.

Many people have asked us about our relationship with Eliza’s birth family. And they don’t often understand what it must be like. If we’re honest, we don’t really either. We’re all figuring this out as we go. But the fact is, these people have become our very own family. We love them. They are a part of our daughter, they love her deeply and so they are a part of us. But it’s not just Eliza, they also love Jamie. We keep in touch and they are just as eager to hear how he is doing. They love him. They love me. They love Brandon.

We don’t know when Eliza will get to see them all again. We are praying for wisdom to know when it’s time.

But we are so incredibly thankful, honored, privileged and humbled that they would entrust our sweet baby to us.

Adoption is a beautiful and incredible thing. It’s hard. It can be uncomfortable. It’s messy and unpredictable. It’s full of brokenness and heartache. But the grace is so very rich. The mercy is overflowing.

And I love it.

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A child of my very own

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As an adoptive family, we get lots of questions and comments. They provide for lots of awkward moments but they rarely keep me up at night.

Except one. One eats away at me and it comes in many forms.

The other day in the grocery store, it was just me and Jamie. Jamie was being his normal, silly and inquisitive self. As she was scanning my groceries, the checkout lady looked at him and then looked at me and simply asked, ‘Is he yours?” When I responded that he was, she followed up with “Is he adopted?”

I get this question a lot, so I had an answer. I knew the drill. But there was something very different this time.

This time Jamie was listening. After our exchange, Jamie looked at me and very innocently asked, “What did she say?” And when I told him, he immediately asked, “Why?”

As I looked at my precious boy, my heart broke. As I responded politely to the woman asking the question, I felt tears in the back of my eyes. And as I told Jamie a better version of what she had asked, I realized that I need to teach my children how to handle this question.

And the question comes in many forms:

Is he/she yours? Are they adopted? Do you have any children of your own? Are they real brother and sister? Are you their “real” mom / dad?

In addition to teaching them to brush their teeth, go potty, ask polite questions and pick up their shoes … In addition to family dance parties, group hugs and Lego building … I need to teach my kids how to handle someone questioning whether they belong to me or to their daddy or to each other.

I need to help prepare them that people will ask questions in such a way that it will call into question everything they have always known.

I need to prepare them.

And I’ve got to start now.

I know that this woman and the many, many others who have asked don’t mean any harm. I tend to assume the best of people, and this case is no different. And, most of the time, the comment I get most is about my children’s eye lashes and beautiful smiles.

I don’t blame that woman. She didn’t know me or my children and she was making polite conversation.

I’ve been wrestling with this blog post for some time. Adoptive families will tell you that this is a constant theme, especially if your family is very obviously formed by adoption.

And I’ve written lots about this subject. Some I’ve published, others are still too intimate, too personal to let the world read.

In the end, here is what I want people to know. Questions aren’t bad. I’m a teacher. I love questions. If you ask one, I will feel compelled to answer.

But, I need you to understand something. This is personal. Asking questions about our adoption story is like asking someone for their birth story. It’s not necessarily as graphic, but it is just as personal.

So, here’s my unsolicited advice: If you are interacting with an adoptive family that you have no personal relationship with, think about the question before you ask the question.

(For help knowing if a question is appropriate, I suggest you watch this.)

And, if you’re never going to see them again, don’t ask. Instead, squelch your curiosity and simply say, “they’re precious.” And leave it at that.

If you have a relationship with the family and are sincerely curious, my best advice is to admit that you don’t know exactly how to ask the question and proceed from there. As I said earlier, Brandon and I are very open and we love answering questions in the context of a personal conversation.

But here is my one request. Do not (I repeat) do not ask the question in front of the child. Just don’t. They hear more than you think and, even if they’re 18, they probably wont enjoy the question.

So, seriously, don’t.

In conclusion, here are my very own children, a very real brother and sister, at around the same age taking a bath. They both have beautiful curls and the kind of eyes that cause (and convey) all sorts of feelings.

Aren’t they beautiful?
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It’s an adoption thing

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Adoption blogs are everywhere.

There’s a part of me that loves it. I love the awareness. I love the spotlight being on such an important topic. I am thankful for the other adoptive moms who get it. Who understand our family. Who put words to feelings I had not yet acknowledged.

But another part of me is. so. tired. of. them.

I’m tired of everyone having an opinion about how my family was formed. I’m tired of adoptive parents complaining. I’m tired of people who haven’t adopted feeling that they have the right to offer sweeping commentary. I’m tired of the savior and rescue language.

And the problem is: it’s everywhere. Encouragement and discouragement… awareness and opinions… helpful advice and butting in…Buzzfeed article, after buzzfeed article, after buzzfeed article…

There are many times I’d prefer to just not talk about it. I’d prefer that people not feel the need to clarify that my children are not biologically mine. I hate the constant commentary on my kid’s skin tone, or the traits they most surely got from their birth families (because we couldn’t possibly deserve any credit)… And, somedays, I’d like to just shut off all the noise and just simply be a mom. A mom who may look differently from my children but loves them just the same. A mom who cleans up vomit and changes diapers (this is what my last two days have held). A mom who kisses boo boos and reads bed time stories. A mom who tickles and laughs. Who disciplines and provides structure. A mom who just loves as best as I know how.

And I am that mom. But, the fact is, I am also an adoptive mom. And that comes with certain responsibilities. And, whether I always feel like it or not, it means I need to talk about it. It is my responsibility to educate others about adoption so that my children have a better world to live in. It is my responsibility to talk with my children so they are equipped to handle the challenges that will inevitably come. I have to tell pediatricians and doctors that there are certain biological questions I cannot answer. I have to learn grace for the stupid, insensitive and insulting questions. Because I’m the one my children will look to.

As tired as I am by these questions and comments, I’ve been convicted lately that I’ve got to step up. In order to parent my children fully, I have to become a part of the conversation. Because one day they will be playing on the playground and will be asked insulting and demeaning questions by other kids (who heard it from their parents). They will be asked about their “real” parents. They will be required to answer for their status as an adopted child. And I need to do my part to pave the way. To prepare them at home, but to also change the world they are growing up in.

And, you know what? I don’t mind. I would do infinitely more just to be able to parent these precious ones I have been entrusted with.

So, this is my first of several blogs about adoption. (It’s also my attempt to resume this regular blogging thing.)

Why add to the overwhelming amount of adoption blogs? Well, I guess you could say it’s an adoption thing.

Now back to those dirty diapers…

My Spirit Revived in Your Story

I am a broken woman.

In the past 8 years I have come to God with multiple requests. Many of them have been answered. I am married to a wonderful man who continually makes me better with his grace, humility, humor and kindness. I am mother to a son who has taught me to love in a way I never dreamed. He has helped me discover a fight I didn’t know I had. (My mother bear instinct is apparently very strong). My guys have given me more joy than I can explain. I laugh harder, sing louder, dance bigger and love more because of these two.

I am blessed with wonderful family. A father who has taught me so much. A mother who challenges me daily with her grace. Brothers who are my fierce protectors. Sister-in-laws who are such a joy to spend time with.

And I am blessed with in-laws who love me like I am their own. They have been gracious as Brandon and I figure out what “becoming one” really means. And they. love. my. son.

And for these I am thankful.

But I am a broken woman.

I am a barren woman.

There was a time that I couldn’t even say the word “barren” without tears. For years I refused to utter it. I wept and I plead for God to fulfill this deep desire. Adoption had always been in my heart. It was not a second choice or plan B. I had always dreamed and believed that it was one way that God would grow my family. I am thrilled that this is how I became a mom.

But I (like many women) always assumed and desired to bear a child. I expected and looked forward to being pregnant, giving birth, breast feeding. I eagerly anticipated having a child with red hair just like their daddy. Brandon hoped to have a child with green eyes just like me. We dreamed of our red headed children and our black haired African or Asian children running around together.

But this wasn’t how God chose to unfold our story.

Barrenness. I am barren. 

And lately something has happened that I never expected. This word “barren” and the reality it represents have lost their sting. They have begun to taste sweet. I’ve begun to love this part of my story.

Why? Because it is here, in my brokenness, my barrenness, my failure and loss… it is here that I see my Father. It is here that I see salvation. It is here that I sense God’s presence.

Here, in this place, I am revived. And I’m not revived because God has fulfilled all of my earthly desires. I am revived because God has revealed himself. I am revived in His story.

I have spent the last few weeks reading through the book of John with a wonderful group of women over at If:Equip. And I was reminded of one of my favorite passages.

In John chapter 6 Jesus has just called himself the Bread of Life. And He has begun describing to those around him the sacrifice that is involved in following him. It was and is a hard teaching. Following this, the scripture says,

66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 67 So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69)

Friends, I am not a follower of Christ because He fulfills every single one of my dreams or requests. I do not follow him because He makes life easier.

I am a follower of Christ because I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Barrenness and all, I choose the Father.

In the last few months I have felt God’s healing. He didn’t suddenly make me able to bear a child. He made it sweet that I cannot. He has taken away my shame by revealing His goodness. In a lot of ways, I feel like my barrenness has let me in on a secret.  A secret I don’t plan on keeping to myself.

I have seen how God’s redemptive story transforms. Not by making all the pain go away, but by resurrecting the dead. Not by solving all my problems but by drawing each and every soul to His presence.

In my brokenness, He reveals himself. And it is here, in this place, that He will use me. He doesn’t make the brokenness go away, He transforms it and makes it His.

Many of you will recognize the above title from a fairly new worship song by Hillsong. It’s one of my favorites. So I’ll close with this video. May we each find refuge in the shadow of His wings. May be revived in His story. And may we watch with wonder as He brings the ruins to life.

More than a blanket

Almost 3 years ago, I received a very special gift from some very special young women.

Brandon and I had been waiting for over a year for any movement towards adopting our first child. This was only after having spent 2 years down the infertility road.

Needless to say, we were emotionally spent. But God was continuing to show himself in incredible ways.

One Sunday morning I was asked to come to the 4th & 5th grade girls small group at the end of the morning. This was a class that had always been special to me in my role as Children’s minister, but I had no idea what they had planned.

When I got there they presented me with a blanket they had worked together to knit (with the help of their awesome teachers). They had spent the entire year knitting and praying for our sweet Baby O.

Allie, Serena, Becca, Bella & Lucy (and Hannah who couldn’t make it that day!)       Can you tell I’ve been crying?

Jamie came home almost a year later and during that time I kept this blanket out and visible. It was a constant, consistent reminder that our community was praying. That they loved this child. And, most importantly, that God was working. And after we brought J home (for the past two years) it has laid on the back of his rocking chair. I love seeing it each and every day as a reminder of the community that has prayed for and loved this child.

Tomorrow Jamie turns 2. t-w-o. Truth be told, I’ve been more emotional about my baby turning 2 then I was about myself turning 30.

At bedtime tonight we followed our usual routine: books, prayer and then a song. Jamie only had two requests: First, that I sing Jesus Paid It All and, second, that I put this blanket on him.

And this Mama’s heart nearly burst with the incredible honor I have of not only raising this little boy, but what a blessing it is to be surrounded by so many that. simply. love. him.

The girls pictured above have each grown into such lovely young women. I am amazed by their faith, their talents & abilities and their capacity to care for and minister to those around them. They love others well and are just plain fun.

Jamie insisted on taking this blanket to bed with him. And I can’t think of a better way for him to wake up on his birthday.

 

 

Proving that he’s mine

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This week I took Jamie to his 18 mo check-up. I had heard great things about the doctor. I did everything I could to have information there ahead of time. I even talked with them on the phone beforehand. Needless to say, I was prepared.

I got there early for the appointment to fill out paperwork. After completing all of the paperwork, I brought it up to the receptionist. As she was thumbing through, I mentioned to her in passing that the reason I didn’t fill out some of the medical history was because my son was adopted.

This got her attention and she asked for Jamie’s adoption paperwork. I was a little stunned. Legally, Jamie’s mine. His birth certificate shows us as his parents. He has a social security number that would also list us as his parents. This was not something our previous doctor had requested, so I didn’t even bring it with me.

She quickly got the office manager who very kindly informed me that according to HIPAA laws, they had to have a copy of the adoption paperwork on file in order to treat my son.

So we rescheduled for next week.

And I quickly gathered our stuff and left the office. And barely made it to the car before the tears started flowing. (Thank goodness for sunglasses!)

In that moment I felt myself at first angry and protective that someone would deny my son medical care. But that quickly subsided to embarrassment. You see, by this time the office was full and I felt fairly conspicuous.

And I’m pretty used to that. If you see the three of us together, it’s fairly obvious that Jamie is not our biological son. And, honestly, I love this about our family. I love my beautiful brown child. I love his long eye lashes, and curly hair. I love his soft, silky skin. I am so deeply in love with my son. I am so deeply proud to be his mom.

And I can’t quite explain how it feels for someone to require you to verify that with legal documentation. I can’t quite explain how hard it is for someone to deny me the right to take care of my son. Even now, almost 48 hours later, the tears are still pretty fresh when I replay the scene over in my mind.

You see, I’m an adoptive mom who has generally embraced the fact that Jamie’s medical history is fairly simple to fill out. I don’t mind at all that there are huge sections I just skip over. It makes paperwork easier. And I’m okay with that. To be honest, I enjoy it.

But thisthis was different. It was much deeper. And I’m still trying to figure out how exactly to move forward. Here are a few thoughts:

I want to make it clear that the office staff was incredibly gracious. I’ve thought about sending them a thank you note. They handled a tricky situation well. Our doctor’s office in Wheaton never required such documentation, so I’m not sure who had it right.  But whether they have interpreted the law correctly or not, they were kind. They were just doing their job.

And this made me realize that Jamie’s adoption paperwork will probably be used often in his life: new doctors, registering for school and who knows what else. Knowing that ahead of time will help.

But friends, this simply stings. My heart aches a little. We’ve experienced lots of insensitive comments about the way our family looks, and, honestly, I find them funny. We joke that we will probably always need to take family photos in natural light if we want everyone to look good. I’ve learned all sorts of things about taking care of Jamie’s hair that I didn’t know before. We enjoy the way God knit our family together. And we don’t mind that people comment.

But thisthis was different. This wasn’t about the way our family looked. This felt like it was questioning the fact that we were a family. And it was done so matter-of-fact. To the office staff they were simply asking for paperwork. But for the adoptive mom, it wasn’t nearly so routine. For me, it was deeply, deeply personal.

And I’ve been trying to draw some great spiritual point from all of this. And I don’t know that I have one. Actually, that’s not totally true. Brandon will be preaching this weekend from Galatians, highlighting the fact that we are all adopted into God’s family. I’m excited for him to share what God has placed on his heart. There is such beautiful truth in that book, and I love seeing how God has woven together his church.

And I’ll let Brandon tell you about that.

But here is what I know: we worship a good God. He is faithful. He is loving. He is creative. And He has wonderfully and beautiful brought together our family. We may be fairly conspicuous, but I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

The day he came home

On March 12, 2012 we brought our sweet James David home. We had received “the call” on March 9 and waited all weekend to meet our little boy who was just over a week old. Our caseworker had told us to get some rest.

We didn’t sleep the entire weekend.

But, finally, the day came. We walked into the office at 1 p.m. and sat down in the waiting room. Within a few minutes Cristina, our caseworker, walked out holding our son in her arms. She met us in the waiting with room with him and handed him to me.

I’m in tears now thinking of how surreal that moment was. I was holding my son. The child I had prayed for. The child I had longed for. The child we had waited for. Our son. And they didn’t even make me sign anything first, they just handed him to me.

We walked to the back room and signed all the necessary papers before leaving (just 15 minutes later) as a family of three.

Jamie screamed the entire way home.

We had been warned that he hated his car seat and that proved true on this trip. What I find amazing, though, is he never cried in his car seat again. His life had been fairly traumatic up to this point, but once he came home, it’s as if he knew. He never screamed for an entire trip ever again.

Our sweet friend, Annika, came over to our house that afternoon to take pictures. Annika is an amazing photographer. If you’ve been to our house, you’ve seen many of these photos. But I thought I would share them here. If you need a photographer check out http://www.annikadurbinphotography.com.

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This one may be our favorite!

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Our first Christmas after we had started the adoption process, a dear friend gave me a necklace. It had my birth stone, Brandon’s birthstone and a charm that said “faith” for the faith we had that God would provide our child. I wore it nearly every day until we brought Jamie home 1 1/2 yrs later.

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So, now, today we celebrate a very special little boy. Our precious James David. He’s a ball of energy and loves to entertain. He is cuddly and sweet and simply a joy.

We love you, baby boy!

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March 12 is also Jamie’s Aunt Tilly’s birthday. He’s so lucky to have her as an Aunt. Happy Sweet 16 Tilly!