Pro-life for All: Adoption

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For many years, I longed to give life. It wasn’t that I merely coveted the title of “mother” or felt obligated to take the next step following marriage. No, the yearning ran far deeper than external pressures or an internal ticking clock. I was an image bearer who wanted to bear image bearers. But I couldn’t, not when I wanted to, and the ache of it drove me to question God’s goodness. Why would the Creator of the universe withhold life from his child?

The answer came slowly, a trickle of awareness that sprang the day my husband and I attended a domestic adoption seminar. During a panel discussion, we heard adoptees and birth mothers share their experiences. The birth mothers explained how they had wanted to carry their babies and provide for them, but faced circumstances that would have made parenting extremely difficult. The adoptees described how they cared for their adoptive parents and also wanted to know their biological parents. As I listened to their stories, I could feel the sorrow that lingered for those who lacked contact with the children they birthed and the mothers who brought them into the world.

A revelation dawned on me then: I wasn’t the only person in the room who suffered. These adoptees and birth mothers also yearned for more ways to give and receive love. All of us experienced loss at some level; all of us wanted relationships that, at some point, seemed out of reach.

We needed a Shepherd to walk us through grief and usher us into new life.

Read full article at Morning by Morning.

[Photo courtesy Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash]

Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other Beginning’s End

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It’s here. A day I’ve been simultaneously dreading and anticipating. The first day in a chain of revolutions that will repeat and progress, accelerating toward spinoff.

Both my sons are now attending school full-time. They’re still under my care, still living at home. I hope to always represent home to them.

But they’ve grown up. Those wings they’ve so desperately wanted to spread unhindered are getting airtime. They get to expand their minds and explore new terrain, spending a good portion of their day learning from others. They’ll gain skills, make mistakes, help and be helped by friends, mature into men of wisdom and integrity, all without me present. I don’t have to supervise, referee, lecture, defend, or nag them ’round the clock.

Each of us is ready for the change.

Firsts and lasts
Going to school is exciting, as many firsts are. First words, first steps, first time sleeping in a big boy bed. Each new action precipitates wonder and possibility. We love celebrating all that’s new.

A first also necessarily brings a last. If something new is coming, something old must pass. You quit a job to start a new one. You dump singlehood status to enter into marital bliss. You leave home to move away to college. You drop your youngest baby off to his first day of kindergarten and end your role as an all-day caregiver.

It’s the end – not of the world, not of life as I know it. Some call it the changing of a season, or closing of a chapter. I’m calling it death.

That phase of scheduling my day around meals, naps, playdates, bathroom stops; of whipping out wipes like a gunslinger when a cup inevitably spills; of trips to the library and park and loathsome grocery store; of cozying up on the couch, reading away the afternoon; of losing my temper, again, and coming to them, sobbing, embracing them in sweet reconciliation – it’s done. I can remember, but not bring it back. That stage died.

Yes, of course, I’m being dramatic. No person died. My life isn’t ruined now that my kids are in school. My identity, though closely interlinked with my sons, doesn’t hinge on being a mom. I have a husband, for one thing. We like each other, and like doing activities together. I keep busy, invest in relationships and ministry, look for ways to create and connect. Better than all that, I know Jesus, and am known by him.

No, life isn’t over for me, even as a stay-at-home mom whose kids aren’t home all day, anymore. This next phase of parenting holds bright expectancy for joy. Yet I can’t deny, and don’t want to suppress, the real grief over the ending of an era.

It’s OK to be sad that I’ll miss it.

Mourning dust
That’s life for ya – an inexorable series of deaths and resurrections. It’s the circle that moves us all, if we’re to believe the philosophy espoused by The Lion King. From a tree centered in a garden to a tree staked in a skull-shaped hill, the cycle repeated throughout biblical times, and continues ad infinitum today. Like a line from a ’90s pop rock favorite of mine, “Closing Time,” copping a quote from Stoic philosopher Seneca, the world echoes:

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.

Endings come in waves – through a flood, across a tumbling wall, in a veil torn apart; by winter’s invasion and crushed dreams and relational doors slammed shut. Death never wins, though. Just as winter cedes to spring, so do ashes birth life. Jesus rose from the dead and raised us up with him, granting us a new home, new family, new richness in living for him.

If death is merely a vehicle to greater life, why do we loathe it? Victors in Christ have nothing to fear; he defeated condemnation. At some point, you’d think we’d get used to it, the cyclical pattern of dust to dust.

Yet when the dust is beloved, and it flits away, accessible only by reminiscence, we cry. The end of something is the loss of something, and those left behind are made losers.

God has made us for eternity, and we crave its permanence. Even in small shifts from one season to the next, we feel the pains of labor, groaning along with creation for ultimate restoration – when all will truly be well. Our bodies of dust are continuously handed death in order to unveil resurrection.

Every passage of an age shows us greater glory awaits, and weighs on us in the meantime.

Paradox united
I recently read my boys a chapter from a children’s devotional that whacked me with irony.

“When Stars Die” explains how those big balls of gas eventually peter out, shrivel up, and soak in massive energy until they explode in a jaw-dropping supernova. The author compared this phenomenon to Christ’s death on the cross, and how it was both a horrible tragedy and beautiful spectacle of grace.

This paradox will never cease to amaze me. I doubt I’ll fully grasp the depth of the gospel mystery this side of heaven. Why would the only Perfect Person die to save a thoroughly imperfect me?

Only God knows.

I see him now, but dimly. I thought I knew him, but am just now awakening to how all of life points to Christ – the small and momentous ways that recite his miraculous narrative. Moments like saying goodbye to my youngest at his first day of kindergarten display a necessary death that initiates joy unfolding. It’s exciting and hard, as you’d expect any birth to be.

All the emotions that accompany the birth/death cycle – tears of anguish and rapture for arrivals and homegoings – coexist at the cross. Life doesn’t spin in futility. We have a Savior who secured a future without pain, fear, or sorrow, and who stays in us and with us, renewing our hope for the unseen.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ~ (Romans 6:4)

There’s a carpet unrolling before me, leading to new life ahead. Sure, it’s just one goodbye in a series of beginnings and endings that will repeat all the days I’m alive. Yet this one small goodbye reminds me that death’s next of kin is birth, and weeping for joy and grief can be exhaled within the same breath.

I’m sitting here, typing this, crying because I miss my baby; glad because we’re being reborn.

Image courtesy Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

How my love for my son who is adopted and my son who is biological is the same, yet different

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Only one person has had the chutzpah to ask me if I love my son whom we adopted less than I love my son whom I carried and birthed.

She didn’t phrase it that bluntly, of course. And I knew she was inquiring out of genuine curiosity, as she was contemplating adoption after having two biological children. It was good for me to recognize her naiveté; otherwise, I might’ve snapped back something less than cordial in response to what is, in fact, a thoughtful and weighty question.

This mama asked me what I think countless people wonder, but don’t have either the courage or guilelessness to speak to my face:

“I know you love both your boys. But do you, you know, feel differently about them? Do you feel as close to Calvin as you do to Linus, since Linus is the one you actually gave birth to?”

Somehow, by the grace of God most likely, this didn’t shock or fluster me. I simply stated that yes, I love them both tremendously. No, I don’t feel differently about them because they’re both my children. Yes, I feel close to both of them and believe we’re securely attached through the bonding that takes place over time not just in the womb, but also in and throughout the hours of feeding them, changing their diapers, reading to them, tickling their feet, kissing their wounds, holding them in my arms however long it takes for them to feel safe.

This incident occurred about four years ago, and I don’t think I’d answer any other way if someone else would dare ask me the same question today.

Yet this concept of different feelings lodged in my head, where it was treated to days of rumination as I considered how I truly felt about each of my sons.

And when I sifted through my sentiments toward either one, and realized how all of it is so precious beyond what I could’ve ever imagined to experience, I felt moved to share how my love for Calvin and for Linus manifests in both similar and unique ways because of the two different and surprising ways God brought them into my life.

My love for both sons

My oldest son, Calvin, was the sudden surge of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel of struggling to grow our family.

After years of aching over my empty womb and paying a good fortune on fertility treatments that amounted to nothing but tears, I had almost given up my lifelong desire to be a mother.

Then, only two months after enduring the devastation of a failed IVF cycle, we got the call from the adoption agency that changed our lives.

I was a mom. I had a baby – the most adorable, perfect, happy little boy – and he was my son, from the moment I first held him.

This baby filled my heart with joy, relief, and overwhelming gratitude. Those words people spoke with good intention but in reality drove a dagger right through me – “everything happens for a reason” – actually made sense now.

I see him today – a lively, smart-as-a-whip 6-year-old – and I burst with affection for my cheerful little mister. He looks so much like his kind-hearted birthmother, and takes after her nurturing, creative personality. His appearance and character remind me of her love, her sacrifice, and the fact that he belongs to two families who care for him immensely.

He is a long-awaited miracle, the fulfillment of oft-uttered prayers, a testament to God’s faithfulness and delight in astonishing His children with blessings beyond expectation.

He is the baby I’d longed for, delivered to me via another remarkable woman’s womb, and I love him dearly.

My youngest son, Linus, was the realization of a dream that had nearly died.

When Calvin turned 1, we began talking about our options to expand our family again, and cautiously proceeded with finding a new doctor and re-starting the whole miserable process of fertility testing and evaluation.

Then came the day I was stunned to find two pink lines I had never seen before, and I have never seen since.

I was pregnant. I had a baby growing inside my body, and I loved him the moment I discovered that blessed little plus sign.

From hearing the thrum of his heartbeat to feeling him tumble around my belly, I got to experience the sensations of my son developing within me, as well as endure the fatigue and pain of carrying and delivering a baby.

I see him today – a sweet, social, wears-his-heart-on-his-sleeve 4-year-old, and I smile with amusement at my expressive little bud. He looks like me, as well as my husband, and displays some aspects of both our personalities. This combination of physical traits resulting from the mixture of our genes reminds me that nothing is impossible with Him who loves me.

He is a long-awaited miracle, the fulfillment of oft-uttered prayers, a testament to God’s faithfulness and delight in astonishing His children with blessings beyond expectation.

He is the baby I’d longed for, delivered to me via my womb, and I love him dearly.

My love for both my boys is equally deep and wonderfully multifaceted. I feel close to both because I’m their mom, and they’re my sons. Neither relationship is greater than the other, but each has its exceptional qualities.

My son who is adopted made me a mother, gave me a fuller life and larger extended family through his birthmother, and demonstrated God’s redemption of my broken heart.

My son who is biological made me a mother of two, granted me the amazing experience of pregnancy, and demonstrated God’s redemption of my broken body.

Both my babies are undeserved blessings, and I will forever thank God for the vast and varied joy they bring into my life.

If I Had a Daughter

Hair bows, leg warmers, ballet flats – things that shimmer, things that tie neatly, things that smell pleasant – sequins, ruffles, and all the shades of pink that could ever be squeezed out of the palette.

This is a world that is foreign to me, a culture I don’t belong in, much less comprehend, because I don’t have a daughter.

I have two sons, the rough and tumble kind, children awaited and prayed for – and I absolutely wouldn’t have it any other way. I embrace the boymom role full on, arms wide open, anticipating the tackle and dogpile to come.

There are times, though, that my mind wanders to that sparkly realm of possibilities, like when I’m venturing into the princess section shopping for a friend’s daughter’s birthday. It makes me wonder, or I guess you could even say, dream:

What would it be like to have a daughter?

Read full post at Her View From Home.

Ain’t No Shame Feeling a Little Mom Guilt

I wasn’t a cheerleader, but I don’t have anything against them. I mean, I might find them a tad annoying, but just when they overdo their performance beyond the average person’s tolerance level for perkiness.

It only takes a quick scroll through any popular parenting blog site to find cheerleaders of another squad than your local high school baton-twirlers. Mommy bloggers ’round the Internet are stepping up to the social game, rooting for fellow beleaguered moms in the trenches with empowering posts that chant for us to bring on the solidarity, sister:

Good job, mama! Hang in there, mama! You’ve put up with your whiny, messy, unswervingly disobedient children all day, mama, so when bedtime rolls around, treat yourself to a glass or four of your best $7 Cabernet and binge watch the heck out of a season of “Gilmore Girls.”

One major impetus for this maternity pep rally is retaliation against those who shame other moms for any and all possible reasons.

To me, there’s a difference between playing Sanctimommy and feeling a personal sense of mom guilt. We all judge ourselves for falling short of expectations, especially when comparing our lives to other mothers’ social media personas.

Read full post at Her View From Home.

8 Reasons You Should Laugh at Your Kids

Raising children is serious business. You’ve got to feed them, clothe them, wash them once in awhile, teach them right from wrong, and train them to become decent human beings who hopefully contribute something worthwhile to society beyond the dissemination of daily selfies.

Raising children is also hilariously entertaining. They say ridiculous things, pull crazy amusing stunts, and act like drunken idiots (which is probably much funnier when they’re toddlers than when they’re teens).

I believe it’s possible to poke fun at the whacked out things your children say and do without insulting or belittling them. In fact, your shared merriment can strengthen your connection with one another and provide other mutual benefits.

Read full post at Her View From Home.

When you can’t use a gift because you’re giving another

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I have an unusual entry in my Top 10 list of favorite Christmas movies. Growing up, during the insufferably lengthy holiday break, my mom tried to snatch a moment of sanity by popping in a VHS of the luminous masterpiece that is the BBC’s version of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” My siblings and I merrily binged on the B- grade videos, captivated by the monstrously sized animal costumes and enthralled with the child actors’ British accents and whiny line reads.

One of the memorable scenes in the first movie, “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” is when Father Christmas makes a surprise appearance and delivers gifts to the children – to Peter, a shield and sword; to Susan, a bow and horn; to Lucy, a dagger and bottle of healing cordial. The St. Nicholas doppelganger explains that the presents “… are tools not toys. The time to use them is perhaps near at hand. Bear them well.”

While Peter and Susan use their tools/weapons shortly afterwards, Lucy doesn’t implement her potion until much later in the storyline, right after the battle, when she dispenses the remedy to save her other brother, Edmund. The youngest character – and inarguably, most loyal believer in the Lion/Redeemer Aslan – has to wait through most of the plot to use her incredible gift of healing.

There’s a gift I had to wait many Christmases to impart. I knew it was an ability I possessed – a longing God placed in my heart – I just lacked the opportunity to carry it out because I could not conceive or carry a child.

God did what He does, in providing mercies beyond what we ask or deserve, and blessed me with two loud, energetic boys that allow me to fulfill the gift of motherhood and engage my skills of nurturing, teaching, and cleaning all manner of messes.

Now, the tension between which gifts I want to give and which gifts I can give is different. Being a mom is gratifying and challenging and joy-bringing and humbling, and it also takes a lot of time. Sometimes I wish I could do more, cultivate other talents – specifically, writing. But my parenting style and annoyance threshold are such that I can’t ignore the chaos long enough to concentrate at the computer. So I can’t do more; I can’t give more.

And honestly, it can be frustrating. Buried talents bear no fruit.

Others might understand these feelings of gift neglect. I know individuals who are talented speakers, teachers, and medical professionals who cannot readily implement these skills because they’re caring for their families, and tending to sick loved ones, and guiding important ministries – doing hard and good things to serve others at the cost of letting certain gifts lie dormant.

This holding back can make you discouraged, upset that your current commitments are stifling your other abilities … making you ashamed for feeling discontent about your present acts of service … making you become disillusioned with the idea of who you thought God created you to be … making your work now seem labored, overwrought from all the overanalyzing you’ve done about this whole gift thing. Or maybe that’s just me.

Maybe God is simply stashing away our gifts to mature us, or to teach us some truth during our wait, or to preserve them until the exact moment someone needs saving, as in the case of Lucy and her cordial.

Regardless of the reasons for His timing, we know from God’s Word that gifts should be used for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7) and for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). Sure, we can find joy in our jam, but the main purpose for any special abilities God grants us isn’t our personal gratification. They’re for the edification of others and the exaltation of His name (1 Peter 4:10-11).

There’s encouragement to be gained when we recognize the ultimate goals for our gifts and focus on the truth about God’s character and our worth in Him.

Be patient. God is honing that beautiful bent of yours – the one He gave you through the overflow of His abundant goodness – and He will not fail His purposes for it, and for you.

Live now. Each day is full of new mercies and opportunities to draw on the Lord’s strength and diffuse His blessings to others through whatever services your hands find to supply.

Walk by faith. The Spirit gives gifts as He wills according to His manifold grace. We can live assured that His love poured out to us for others will not be wasted.

We can bear our gifts well regardless of whether or not we can yield them immediately. All we must do is trust God to let us use them when and how He wants and take the present step of obedience glorifying Him as the Giver of life everlasting.