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Category Archives: Adoption

When Storms Like The Sea Billows Roll

I have a lot of roles. So do you, I’m sure. Let’s list a few. For me, there’s wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, aunt. There are a bunch of work titles. There are friendship roles that I fill. There are different things I do in my church community. And the list goes on.

Then there are the roles within roles. Let’s look at “mom”. Under that heading, I am menu-planner, grocery-shopper, cook, dishwasher, laundress, chauffeur, teacher, disciplinarian, drill sergeant, time-keeper, seamstress, personal shopper, hair stylist, cleaning lady…

I could break it down even further. I make fantastic bread. I can do amazing braids. I am the best at digging out slivers. And ain’t nobody organize a carpool like this mama!15713335_10154671530175351_137902662_n

But all of those roles aren’t applicable all the time. Nobody cares that I can make fantastic bread, unless of course, one of my cherubs offers to bring homemade bread to a school function – which is, to date, I think…never.

But should the need arise, I am the mom for the job!

Allow me to draw a comparison now to all the names and roles of God. Have you ever read a list of His names and attributes and kind of glossed over? Sure, some of them are relatable all the time, but others just seem like nice, random ideas.

Until a need arises.

This Christmas was all about “Emmanuel” for me. As I briefly outlined in my previous post, we’ve been dealing with an attack on our home. Now that the court process is finished and there’s no more “alleged” attached to the perpetrator, I am free to say that it was our son. (You may have figured that out, since I categorized the post under “adoption”. Was that cheeky of me?)

With all the questions about security and what attacks might still be coming, “Emmanuel, God With Us” has been more meaningful to me than ever before. I have always known that He is with me, and I have always had an appreciation for what that name meant to the Jews of the day. But over the past few weeks, the meditation of my heart has been “God with us.” GOD with us. God WITH us. God with US.

Another God-role that has brought me much peace during this time is the concept of Jesus as mediator and God as judge. Let me fill you in on more of the story.

There were numerous charges against our son, accumulated over the course of several weeks. Because our justice system isn’t perfect, we ran into a bit of a snafu with Victim Services. (Yes, I know what snafu means, Mom, but that’s exactly what I mean to say.) The two most serious charges against our son were dropped. That means, as far as all the records are concerned, Mischief Over $5000 and Unlawful Entry never happened – even though we’re still living in a cold, dark, drafty, boarded-up house.

I confess, I had a full day of feeling very bitter and angry towards our Victim Services representative and the prosecutor. They were supposed to speak for us, represent us, advocate for us. And they hung us out to dry. My heart screamed, “Isn’t there anyone who is FOR US?”

And the answer came immediately. “I AM.”

The picture of Jesus Christ as advocate was brilliantly clear in my mind. Again, there has always been a knowledge of Him advocating on my behalf, presenting me as pure and faultless because of His sacrifice, to God the Father and ultimate judge. That picture pertains to my own sin being washed away. But this new picture, with the issue being someone else’s sin against me, showed me so clearly that He is still advocating on my behalf. And I can fully trust the dichotomy of mercy and justice in the hands of our Judge.

These human advocates screwed up (from my perspective) and this human judge acted on incomplete information. But my Jesus advocate doesn’t say, “Meh. Oh well,” about overlooked paperwork. And my Almighty God judge knows all the details anyway.

Our house is still cold and dark and I can’t do anything about that. Our son is free to live his life as if none of this happened, and I can’t do anything about that either. What I can do is intentionally focus my heart and mind on the character of God – on His presence with me through all of it and His capability as advocate and judge.

And I can also make myself some fantastic bread.

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2017 in Adoption, God, Personal Growth, Recipes

 

A Crisis of Faith

This has been a rough month.

There is a person in our lives who has rejected the measures of help we’ve offered, but who feels very entitled to what he thinks would help him (basically enablement without any accountability). He recently decided to make us pay for destroying his life. He came to our house while we were out, and smashed in 3 of our windows and our front door.  He was arrested later that night, and then released with conditions until his court appearance. He breached those conditions by threatening to come back and do more damage, so he was arrested again, and held in custody until his court date. Last week, he was released on probation.

I can’t give many more details than that, as I’m unsure of what is yet to come regarding court dates and charges. But I wanted to set the scene for you. This is a person whom we welcomed into our lives because of our faith. This person deeply resents the boundaries that we’ve put on the kinds of “help” we’re willing to give him (see above re: entitlement, enablement, and accountability). This resentment has grown into a violent hatred towards us, which has been expressed numerous times in the ways he has verbally attacked us, made accusations against our Christianity, and now physically attacked the safety of our home.

And he is free. And he is still angry. And we are not safe.

We have taken some security measures: motion-detecting lights and security cameras. Our conversations about ‘what to do’ have included the ideas of restraining orders, moving, getting a guard dog. We have been very communicative with the police, the court, victim services, and his probation officer. But none of these things, we realize, are realistic protection. The court did not rule in the way that we had hoped and prayed for, and now there is nothing stopping him from coming back.

And so, we come back to the faith that brought him into our lives in the first place.

We have to put our faith in Almighty God. It is a daily choice to focus on His capability. We adamantly cling to His promise to turn evil plans into His good purpose.  We resist the urge to live in fear, knowing full well that He might still allow another attack, but we stand firm in the assurance that He will also carry us through whatever evil may still come our way.

This is not easy. It has made me analyze my beliefs. There’s that old saying, “Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” – you may have seen those words on a poster, probably accompanied by a picture of a kitten dangling from a tree branch with one paw. It’s a stupid poster, and the words are cliché to the point of being nauseating. Oh, but the truth therein! Passive faith is just empty religion. A vague belief in the existence of God serves us nothing. Trust is easy when life is good. Faith becomes real when it’s all we’ve got.

lovewinsMy faith is work right now. But it’s refreshing work (even while it’s exhausting). As a reminder to myself (and to everyone who drives by our house), I painted one of the boarded up windows. Love wins. Not our own love (which is broken and insufficient and clearly more “conditional” than we want to admit), but HIS love. His love compelled Him to step into the midst of our mess – our brokenness, our neediness, our entitlement, our anger. His love brings healing and restoration. His love is the only security worth trusting.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Adoption, Beauty, Family, God, Uncategorized

 

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My $0.02 on the Mental Health Discussion

This is not something I wanted to talk about publicly just yet. I’m still working through stuff and I’m not sure what to share or how much to share or even if it’s worth sharing. But I do try to write about things that are going on in my own life as they relate to current events, and since the news of Robin Williams’ death yesterday, the whole internet has been buzzing with talk about mental health. So maybe I need to just throw this out there. Maybe there’s someone that needs the tiny bit of encouragement I have to offer.

I saw a counselor last week.

There. I said it. And it wasn’t all that hard to say, surprisingly. Perhaps because now that the first appointment has come and gone and it went really well, the whole concept of therapy isn’t quite as overwhelming. It was HARD to make the appointment and it was EXCRUCIATING waiting for the appointment, which was only 2 days later. I was an anxious, nervous, nauseous mess.

But the appointment was good.

I recognize that my one appointment (so far) does not qualify me as an expert in all things related to mental health. Far from it! But while everyone is talking about mental health and depression and suicide, I want to throw my two cents in.

Mental health is not limited to depression. There are a whole bunch of other issues that could be plaguing you, and which could be beneficially addressed by a counselor or other mental health professional. Anxiety, guilt, fear, grief, anger – if you are dealing with any of these things on a consistent basis, to the point that you aren’t sure you’re coping well and you can’t really remember what it was like to not be dealing with it, it’s time to get some support.

Many of these feelings overlap and can easily be confused with depression, but I would suggest that the defining point is when you start to feel that you’re not worthy of getting help.  That is a lie. You are worthy of help and getting help is not as scary as you think it is.

Mental health is not limited to chemical imbalance. That is certainly a common factor, and it can often be treated somewhat easily with medication. But there are other factors to also consider: spirituality, personal history (abuse or other trauma), current crises (financial, relational, occupational…), or an overload of stress from the chaos of day-to-day life. If yours is a chemical problem and medication works for you, great! If it’s a chemical problem and you haven’t yet found the right balance of the right medication, keep trying!

If it’s not a chemical problem, keep talking it out with a therapist or counselor that hears you. Being truly heard will go a long way in helping you to sort out how you feel – which makes it easier to express how you feel and then be better heard. It’s a positive, healing cycle. But in order to find that right person who’s a good match for you, you have to be willing to ask for referrals. Ask friends. Ask a pastor or spiritual mentor. Ask your doctor.

Now let me tell you a tiny bit about my session. After explaining the situation that was (is) causing my anxiety and anger, the counselor validated my distress and walked me through some advice to address the cause. I truly expected that the focus would be on fixing my craziness, so it was a pleasant surprise to think that maybe there is hope for addressing the root cause instead of just letting that cause fester and giving me tools to cope with it better. That made me feel less crazy.

The counselor also asked me how this was affecting our marriage. I told her that my husband thinks I’m starting to lose it. “Are you?” she asked.

“Maybe,” I answered. “I don’t know. I think I’m on the verge of losing it, but I’m trying really hard to still be objective. But would I even know if I’ve already gone off the deep end? I know this isn’t me. I used to be strong and capable and optimistic… and right now I don’t know if I will ever be that person again. Does that mean I’ve lost it?”

Her answer was so freeing, it’s bringing me to tears just to reiterate it here. She said that I am still that person. I am strong. There is no strength in thinking you don’t have a breaking point. Everyone has a breaking point. Strength is recognizing that you have reached the breaking point and then getting help before you actually break.

I think that’s all I want to say about this right now. I may be able to share more eventually. But for today, I hope this has been helpful to someone.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Adoption, Personal Growth

 

Winter of the Soul

I try not to be a complainy kind of person. “Do your best with what you’ve got” is my anthem. An attitude of gratitude, and all that jazz. When the silver lining wants to play hide-and-seek, I can find it in less time than it took for Adele Dazeem to get a Twitter handle.

I especially try not to complain about the weather. First, because it is out of my control and whining won’t fix it. And second, because I know there are so many people who have suffered absolutely catastrophic weather; I dare not compare the cold to their tragedies.

That said…this winter. Oh, this winter. The profanities are welling up within me! I am so near the point of eruption that I fear for myself and everyone around me. This bone-chilling, joy-sucking, mind-numbing, psycho-stabbing cold… When will it end?!?! Why, oh why, won’t it end?!?!

This winter sucks buffalo chips and I am so over it. I want to be Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry: “I had enough so I said ‘when’.”

Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.

This indefinite wait for warmth is an apt analogy for those times in life when you are so very desperate for the pain to be over – or, what some might call “the winter of the soul”. It can be absolutely excruciating to feel like you’re at your breaking point and know that you still have to get up and face the next day and it probably won’t be any better than yesterday was. Or the day before that. Or the day before that.

And sometimes when we’ve gone through all the healthy, normal and expected responses (grief, prayer, counseling, anger, Bible studies and other self-help materials, carefully constructed cheer, more anger, more anger, more anger), we find ourselves at the end of our reactionary capabilities. We have no emotional energy left to expend, and yet the life crisis is still going strong. We are empty. Numb.

What then?

I was at a conference recently, and the keynote speaker said he was angry. Actually, his wife told him he was angry, and that took him aback. Yes, he realized, he was angry. All the time.  At everything and everybody. He wanted to kill people. The conference audience laughed at that. I think they laughed because they thought he was joking. I laughed because I knew he wasn’t.

What he said next went right into my soul – yes, even into the winter of my soul. “We need to grieve. When we don’t grieve, we harden our hearts. When we harden our hearts, we refuse the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

Friends, I do not have an answer that will make the winter melt. I don’t have a secret formula to make everything okay. But there is comfort in the pain. Comfort is one of God’s names, one of the attributes that makes Him Who He is. He is more than Creator, more than Redeemer, more than Holy, more than Judge…He meets us in the very deepest pain.

Whether you are already numb or still in the anger-hurling stage, it is okay to let yourself grieve. Grieve the loss of whatever it is your life crisis has taken from you. Grieve the brokenness of this world. Grieve the unknowns of tomorrow.

And be comforted.

That doesn’t mean you suddenly enjoy the winter (metaphorical or literal). It means your grief is valid and you are not alone in it.

You are not alone.

 
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Posted by on March 4, 2014 in Adoption, Personal Growth

 

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“Colour-blind” is a Detrimental Goal

All this talk about raising a “colour-blind” generation is quite baffling to me. No, it’s worse than that. It’s disturbing.

I, for one, am raising my kids to see colour!

On the surface, skin colour is a basic, physical trait – just like height or hairstyle or the length of one’s toes. I believe it’s healthy and worthwhile to notice and discuss the way our differences make for a more beautiful collective. It should not be an insulting thing, nor an exalting thing. (Unless it’s the toes. Obviously a longer second toe is indicative of superiority.) It is a simple fact that people have different colours of skin, and ignoring that variety is, well, ignorance.

But of course it’s much deeper than that.

I am a white Canadian, married to a white Canadian. Together, we produced two white Canadian daughters. And then we found ourselves living in Ethiopia for two years and expanded our family portrait with two beautiful black faces.

Our sons are now Canadian as well. I’m willing to say African-Canadian, because they are indeed both. Their African heritage, history, culture and memories are an integral part of who they are – as cherished as their personalities, senses of humour, talents and aspirations. To overlook their skin colour is to dismiss their whole being.

Race is so much more than skin colour. It is the history of a person’s lineage. It is triumph and failure. It is courage and perseverance, strength and independence. It is shared sorrow and collective victory. War, slavery, genocide, hostile occupation, religious persecution, governmental tyranny – every ethnicity has its story, either on the side of the villains or the victims. Those of us with oppressors in our family tree now have the opportunity to demonstrate a generational trend towards humility and atonement. Those of us whose ancestors barely survived unspeakable atrocities can establish a continual growth of perseverance and forgiveness. Colour-blindness repudiates those things which are at the core of our selves.

Skin colour is only one indication of what our heritage may include, but let’s not deny it completely.

One of my sons is much more open to talking about Ethiopia. The other one is somewhat reserved. His story is more painful and private to him. But that doesn’t mean you should studiously avoid talking to him about it. You can ask, and then just be respectful if he doesn’t want to tell you everything. That is much more validating than trying to pretend you didn’t notice that he is black and his parents are white.

It’s also better to ask than to assume. Point of fact, not every trans-racial adoption is international. (And not every similar-race adoption story is local.) But all of them are rich with history, and it is a beautiful thing to celebrate that history.

I absolutely am not saying that race should be used against someone in a discriminatory or demeaning way. I am not racist or pro-racism. But I do see colour. I love colour. I want my kids to see and love colour. I firmly believe that sanctioning a colour-blind generation is not only an extreme perversion of political correctness, but it strips us of our depth of heritage – as individuals, families and as a society.

Whether you’re with me or not, I choose to celebrate colour, instead of pretending I can’t see it.

 
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Posted by on July 29, 2013 in Adoption, Beauty, Family, parenting

 

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Is It Worth It?

Despite the boundless amounts of info, stories and expert advice out there, we did not really know how hard it would be to parent an older adoptee. We thought we knew. We tried to gather all the out there stuff and bring it in here before we made the decision. But it all stayed out there. Until it became our own experience. Until it was too late.

People have asked me some tough questions. Questions like, “Would you do it again?” “Do you still recommend adoption to other families?” “Would you have done it if you’d known how hard it would be?” “Will you ever get to a point where you can look back and say it was all worth it?”

Those are pretty ballsy questions. And I like that my friends are ballsy enough to ask them. I’d like to explore my answers with you today – just in case some of you have been dying to know but haven’t felt free to ask.

“Would you do it again?”

This question could be interpreted in two different ways. 1: If we could relive that time in our lives, would we make the same decision? 2: Would we consider adopting again now? My answers are yes and no, respectively.

Our biggest reason for adopting in the first place was because we felt very strongly that God wanted us to do it. My husband and I place a rather large emphasis on trying to live obediently to God, and that priority hasn’t changed since our adoption. We would obey again.

But would we do it again now? At this point in our lives, there is no part of me that feels like God is calling us to that, so I feel somewhat confident in saying that it’s not on our horizon. Our family situation is so different now. Six years ago, our desire was to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, offering what we had for God’s purposes. What we had was a healthy family with room for kids who needed a healthy family. Realistically, we don’t have that to offer right now. So my basic answer is no. But hey, with God all things are possible. If he wants to move us in that direction (and that would be moving a mountain!), we would obey.

“Do you still recommend adoption to other families?”

Yes. As long as there are children in the world who have been traumatized by death, abuse, abandonment, or extreme poverty, I wholeheartedly endorse embracing those children and providing them with safe and loving families. It is unfathomably hard. But it is necessary. It is our global and communal responsibility.

“Would you have done it if you’d known how hard it would be?”

I don’t know. I’d like to think so, but I don’t know for sure. It’s just better that we didn’t know. But guess what. The same could be said of my biological children. It’s not an adoption question. It’s simply a parenting question. It’s all hard.

Some days I think it would be so much easier to forge through the difficulties with my adopted son if we were working from a foundation of mutual affection. But on the flip side, I sometimes think my bio-kids’ drama would be easier to bear if it didn’t stab right through my mother-heart of affection. These burdens look different, but their weight is the same. Parenting is hard. It’s just better all-around if we don’t fully understand that ahead of time.

“Will you ever get to a point where you can look back and say it was all worth it?”

Yes. It is already worth it – because I choose to measure worth not by my personal benefit (the “return on investment”, if you will), but by the simple fact that an investment has been made.

That is the opposite of how we typically think of worth and investments. Let me use the analogy of a floundering business. I might choose to give that business $1000 a day knowing full well that I’ll never get my money back – nevermind earning interest on it. Due to how that business manages my contributions (which is completely out of my control), that business could easily go bankrupt next month, a year from now, or ten years from now. Financially speaking, my money may be wasted. But relationally speaking, each day’s investment is worthwhile because it is what that business needs to survive that day.

That is all I can do as a parent. I cannot control how my investment is managed, but as long as I continue investing, I know it is worth it.

My children are worth it.

 
 

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Stupid Things People Don’t Say

I have been wanting to write about all the stupid things people don’t say for quite some time now. And over the past couple of weeks, that post has been coming together in my mind – how I started reading books and blogs before our adoption ever became a reality, and one of the most discussed themes was the ignorant comments frequently directed at adoptive parents.

“What happened to his real mom?”

“How much did your baby cost?”

“Your child is so lucky.”

I was prepared to respond – and, truth be told, was actually looking forward to it!

But alas and alack, I guess my friends and family just aren’t that stupid. They already know that I, as the mom, am actually real. Beyond that mind-blowing factoid, they have been very protective of our privacy when asking about my sons’ biological moms. Sigh.

Regarding adoption-related expenses, our story is different from most people’s. Because we were living in Ethiopia at the time and we were legally excused from using an international adoption agency, the whole process to adopt both our boys ended up costing us less than $1000. That’s not private information. It’s more about our cultural experience than it is about our children. And it’s a cool story, so I’m happy to discuss it. But nobody ever asks. Sigh.

It seems like it would be a lot of fun to set some people straight on the whole luck aspect. If you think it through logically for a nano-second, you would have to conclude that any child in the position of needing to be adopted has been through trauma of some kind. It is downright evil to label them lucky for that. I believe that God brings good out of awful circumstances, and adoption is a beautiful example of that. But again, luck diminishes the profound blessing that adoption is – for the adoptee and the adopter. Sigh.

I was very excited to be on the receiving end of The World’s Stupidest Question just a couple weeks after our adoption was finalized. I was holding our two-month-old son and someone asked me, “Does he speak English?”

Wow. I did not see that one coming. “Uhh…not yet,” I answered, wide-eyed.

But that was it. All those books and blogs…all my prepared answers…and nothing.

Over five years have gone by and I have waited and waited. In a final act of putting my hopes to rest, I started to compose this blog post.

And then – today. Today it happened.

I was grocery shopping with my now five-year-old Ethiopian son. An older woman approached me in the baking aisle and opened with this awesome line: “I have mixed-race grandchildren.”

Okay then!

She followed me all around the store. My son even asked me why she kept following us (quietly, thank the Lord! It’s the first time he’s ever said anything quietly. There’s the silver lining to his being home sick today and not having much of a voice.)

She asked me, “Is he yours – ?“ (which I interrupted by answering, “Yes”) “- or is he adopted?” (which I also answered, “Yes.”)

Then she got in my son’s face and asked him, “Where are you from?”

Bless his sweet little soul, he told her, “Canada.” And then when I asked him if he could say where he was born, we told her Ethiopia.

She told me about a bookstore in Toronto that has lots of great books about mixed-race children and they even have people of different races on their staff!

Merciful heavens.

At the check-out (yes, she happened to arrive in the same line as me), she wished me well in my parenting journey and cautioned me that it is hard sometimes. I thanked her and assured her that I was well aware of the difficulties. Teensy-weensy bit of an understatement, that!

I am pleased to report that I did not launch into a sarcastic tirade at any point. Grace won out, as it should. Although I sincerely wish I had responded to her introductory comment (“I have mixed-race grandchildren”) with “Congratulations. I hope I will, too, someday.”

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Adoption, Family, Humour, parenting