Complicated Contradiction

Mothers' day

When you are involved on any side of adoption there seems to be this complicated contradiction. The joy is unbelievable. Yet, the pain is unbearable at times. Each person involved experiences it. There can’t be adoption without loss. Yet, there can’t be adoption without gain. The biological family experiences it. The adoptive family expriences it. And the adopted child experiences it.

The contradiction between the loss and gain of adoption. The loss, the gain.
The bittersweet, the beautiful.
The loss. She lost her baby. My girl lost her connection of 9 months. I lost my chance to carry my child.
The gain. She gained the family she desired for her baby. My girls gained a family to grow in. I gained my purpose.
Both times we brought home our babies I felt caught. Caught between imagining the sorrow of their birth families and living the joy of having a precious baby in my arms to hold. Knowing my gain meant another woman’s loss. Knowing my loss meant a shattering in my child’s life. Knowing my child’s gain meant turmoil they couldn’t possibbly understand. Knowing my child’s loss leaves an emptiness I can do nothing about in my own strength.

Each time my baby cried, I wondered, I still wonder, are they crying fresh tears or are they lingering tears of the life they once knew. The first season of their life. The season their hearts remember, even though their minds do not.

The bitter with the sweet.

The trauma with the healing.

The loss with the gain.

The shattered with the reconciled.

What Satan meant for destruction, God used for His glory.

Dear One, I know Mother’s Day or any holiday for that matter can be painful. It’s supposed to be one way, yet you look at your life and it’s so far from what is “supposed to be”. Can you ask God to show you His glory? Right in the midst of messy? Right in the midst of the broken? Lord, show us your glory. Reveal to us Your sweet in our bitter. More of you, Lord, Less of me. 

What I Learned in March

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

March path

What We Read This Month:

Hinds’ Feet on High Places: Delightfully Illustrated and Arranged for Children by  Hannah Hurnard and JoAnn Edington (I cannot recommend this book enough! Even if you have never read the original version, both kids and adults will love this book. It is an allegory of how God transforms our fears and weaknesses when we fully surrender to him. My children and I love it and want to read more and more each day.)

Indescribable by Louie Giglio (We continue to enjoy reading this devotional each morning. My 10 and 12-year-old enjoy how Giglio combines science and Biblical truth.)

My Reading This Month:

I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir by Bart Millard and Robert Noland (This is the book version of the movie which is in theaters right now. The book is a more complete telling of Bart’s life story.)

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

My Learning This Month: 

Passport to Purity: My oldest daughter and I went away for a weekend, just the two of us. We brought along the Passport to Purity curriculum which includes, audio CD’s, parent guide, and a journal for the daughter to follow along in and answer questions. This curriculum includes learning about peer pressure, choosing friends, puberty, dating, love, and sex. We found it to be very well done. There were moments of awkwardness, which we needed to work through. Overall, I was so thankful to have the structure and framework the curriculum provided so that we could get through all the important information. Biblical truths were the base for the entire weekend. I would definitely recommend Passport to Purity for all famililies with kids around the ages 11-13.

1 Timothy 4:12, Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

This is the beautiful necklace Cate Florey designed for my girl so she could always remember our special weekend together! Check out her beautiful work here:  Cate Florey Studio

Thought Journaling: A counselor taught us about this helpful process she calls Thought Journaling. This process is a way of looking at how the thoughts we think and the messages we send ourselves cause us to react in positive or negative ways. Negative self-talk seems to just sneak right in. In becoming more aware of our reactions whether internally or externally, we can begin to see how false messages are sabotaging us. Or, the reverse is also true. When we send ourselves positive messages or quiet ourselves enough to hear God’s loving voice, we react in love, peace, and compassion.

thought journal page

Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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What I Learned in January

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

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What We Read This Month:

My Father’s Dragon Trilogy by Ruth Stiles Gannett and Robert Serva

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater

Indescribable by Louis Giglio

The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos

What I Read or Listened to This Month:

Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado (I love Max Lucado. This book will not disappoint!)

Your Teenager is Not Crazy by Jeramy Clark (When your almost teen recommends you read a book she heard about, it’s usually a good idea to listen to her!)

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul Tripp (This has quickly became my favorite devotional, ever!)

Launch (a podcast on iTunes about an author going through the steps of writing and publishing a book series)

My Learning This Month:

Bracelets = Time Together

Exactly a year ago, God began working in me to establish one on one time with my girls. I wrote a blog post called, Talk Time. Almost immediately after implementing Talk Time with my girls, I saw benefits: more peace between my children, more peace between me and my kids, more compliance from my kids, a greater knowledge of my kids’ interests, and an overall smoother running home. So why in the world would a mom ever fall away from this wonderful solution? My kids didn’t stop wanting this time with me. We didn’t stop enjoying this time together. We never saw the benefits of this time together diminish. But, one day, our schedule was full…too full, and Talk Time got pushed aside. Then, 2 days passed and still no Talk Time. Then stress and tension began to creep back into our home, and suddenly time together was the last thing anyone of us wanted.

Fast forward a year and we are back to the beginning of January 2018. Much learning and growth has occurred in our family in the last few months with the help of an amazing adoption parent coach. But, my one on one time with the girls was NOT happening regularly. The parent coach shared with me the idea of using bracelets for the girls to exchange for time with me

This is how this works: Each morning, I place three rubber bracelets on the breakfast table at each girls spot, along with their daily vitamins. They place the bracelets on their wrist. When they want time with me, they are to come to me and request time with me and hand me a bracelet. Each bracelet equals 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with me doing something of their choice. They may even choose to use all 3 bracelets at once, equaling 30 minutes of time with me. The key is that it is just me and the child, it’s their choice of activity, and they must request it. So, when we have family game night, they would not need to use their bracelets for that. Also, going over to the park as a family, would not count.

bracelets

So rather than just setting the good intention of having Talk Time, we now have the visual, tangible reminder of the bracelets right on the girls wrists. As well as the plan for them to initiate and take the risk of asking me for time. I do enjoy this time, but I have to admit that when I am about to start the laundry and one child comes to me and says I want to use a bracelet now, I do struggle at times. But, what I have found is that 10, 20, or even 30 minutes of time goes quickly! I am able to pick back up what I was doing, or what I was doing gets pushed aside, while time with my girls does not get pushed aside.

A wise, good friend, has encouraged me several times with the phrase, “You will never regret time with your kids. You will never look back and regret the energy you put into your kids.”

Is sibling rivalry rearing its ugly head in your home? Are you having a hard time remembering the last time you had individual time with your child? Is your schedule so hectic it seems impossible to carve out time with your children? I encourage you to implement the bracelet plan.

Let us remember our children are gifts from the Lord!

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

 

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Attaching

My child doesn’t trust me. My child doesn’t trust me. My child doesn’t trust me. The words haunt me. Torment me. Cause an unending grief.

My child whom I gazed at all hours of the day and night as a newborn. My child who cried for hours and hours each night in my arms. My child who stole my heart from the moment I heard of her existence. My child who captivates my attention with her many gifts and talents. My child who serves her family.

My child was wounded before ever making her presence known on this earth. My child’s heart and brain were told this world isn’t safe. My child’s fight or flight response was on alert when she should have been experiencing the safest place she will ever know.

My child lost innocence too soon. My child faced toxins too soon. My child experienced stress too soon.

But, my Father is faithful. My Father is gracious. My Father is healer. My Father is hope. My Father is sovereign. My Father is true. My Father is righteous. My Father is all-knowing. My Father is all-seeing.

My child doesn’t trust. My child doesn’t trust. My child doesn’t trust…yet.

Looking in my child’s eyes each time we speak. Carving out one on one time, devoted to her. Refusing to engage in arguments. Seeking to understand her past and present. Becoming a consistently safe, available person in her life. Verbally and physically reminding her that NOTHING can separate her from my love. Praying daily to my Creator…her Creator.

My child comes to me. My child opens up to me. My child seeks me in times of trouble and joy.

My Father listens. My Father heals. My Father brings unity. My Father holds all things together and

my Father has not and will not ever leave my family. Amen.

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Chosen

In our house, we love to celebrate. We don’t love the planning, stress, preparation, and clean up of elaborate celebrations. But, we enjoy remembering special days with a meal, treat, outing, phone call to a grandparent, or small gift. Some of these occasions include losing a tooth, learning or achieving something new, a pet’s birthday, and our daughter’s adoption days.

August 17th and October 1st are our daughter’s adoption days, the day we celebrate having made their adoptions final before our family and a judge. The day they officially became Ostreims.

This year, we celebrated by giving each girl a shirt, which reads “Chosen” on the front. That one word summarizes so much of our adoption stories.

Chosen: selected from several; preferred; to want; desire.

“No, you didn’t grow in mommy’s tummy, sweet girl, but we chose you. We could have waited for a different baby, but we chose YOU,” I remember explaining to my inquisitive 3-year-old with her endless questions. This explanation seemed to bring her a feeling of importance and uniqueness.

But, as the years have gone by and parenting has become more challenging, I have come to accept that it wasn’t me who chose my girls, but it was the Lord who chose us all.

Receiving that long-awaited for, yet unexpected call from our attorneys’ office that a birth mother had chosen us to parent her child, we didn’t experience much of a choice. Well, of course we could have said, no. It would have been possible to say that. I guess it would have been possible but the Lord had a grip on our hearts and our minds so that it didn’t feel like we had a choice. Once we heard about this baby yet to be born, we were chosen. She still remained in her birth mom’s womb, but she filled our hearts every waking moment. She was all I could think about. She was all I could talk about. When my  eyes finally met hers, hours after she was born, it was like I already knew her. God had already knit my heart to hers. So, although, it was possible for us to have waited on another baby, God made the choice and let no man interrupt God’s choice!

The same is true when we heard about the baby that was to be our 2nd daughter. I remember being at a park with our first-born when we received the call about our 2nd child. I was speechless. Dreaming of this child, soon to be born. How could I explain my thoughts to my little 2-year-old running around at the park?  How could I make her understand that she was chosen to be a big sister?

When our youngest daughter’s adoption day came this year, she ripped into her package and was delighted to find that she had received a Chosen t-shirt, just like her big sister. “But, you know, I really feel like the one that was chosen. It’s the greatest honor I know to be your mom!” I hugged my girls closer.

“Mom, you need a Chosen t-shirt!” my oldest daughter exclaimed.

I really started thinking about that phrase “Chosen” and the privilege it holds. Of all the moms God could have chosen for my girls, He chose me. He chose me? He chose me.

Yep, I need a shirt, too!

Chosen fam pic

Chosen

Living as orphans,
In need of refuge
Chosen

Selected from among many
Esteemed above the rest
Chosen

Sought after
The preferred choice
Chosen

Redeemed, restored,
Remade and rejoiced over
Chosen

Longed for, planned for,
Sacrificed for, loved
Chosen

Before the creation of the world
Holy and blameless
Chosen

Amongst the living for a purpose
Created for more
Chosen

 

This Christmas season, dear one, can you stop and reflect on your Creator, choosing you? Before the world was formed, He chose you! You were planned for. You were selected. You were created for a purpose. You are loved!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I Learned in November

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

outreach path

What We Are Reading in Our Homeschool:

The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos
The Story of the World Volume 1
The Aesop for Children by Milo Winter
Indescribable: 100 Devotions abut God and Science by Louie Giglio
A Tree For Peter by Kate Seredy
Tree in the Trail by Holling C. Holling
What I Am Reading or Listening To:
20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge
Joni by Joni Erickson Tada
The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller
Sacred Parenting by Gary L. Thomas
The Honestly Adoption Podcast
Learning in November:
  • Eye Contact
Just simply looking my children in the eye and requiring them to look me in the eye when we are having a conversation is bringing about healing and connection. This past month, my husband and I learned that some of the struggles we are facing as a family are due to a need to improve attachment for our children. A parent coach we are working with explained how eye contact conveys and builds trust. Our goal is to not talk to our children unless we are looking them in the eye. The other half of that, is requiring them to also look us in the eye when they speak to us. This requirement initially brought about frustration for our kids at times when we told them, “I am sorry, I cannot hear you,” whenever they forgot to look us in the eye. But, as time has gone on, the frustration is gone and we are each reminding each other of our goal to connect through eye contact.
The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. Matthew 6:22
  • Jumping on the Trampoline

Another piece of learning the parent coach is helping us to understand has to do with our children’s brains. Due to our children’s unique beginning in this world, their amygdala is quite sensitive. We are learning it’s like an overly sensitive smoke alarm, constantly being on alert. The amygdala is responsible for the perception of emotions. One way to help activate the front portion of the brain and build on logic and problem solving is simply jumping on a trampoline. This brain learning is so exciting and it’s really another chance to be amazed and in awe of our Creator. He truly is a master creator, full of creativity, wisdom, and love.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

 

  • Sharing in Grief Brings Healing

About a year ago, our oldest daughter came to me and asked, “Mom, aren’t you sad sometimes that you never got to be pregnant and have a baby?” I thought for a minute and my mind immediately went to the idea of not having my children as my children. I looked her in the eye and replied, “No, I am so thankful for the children I have. If it happened any other way, I would not have you two!” But recently I began thinking about her question once more. I started to see it as an invitation from my daughter to share in her grief. Of course, in an ideal world, she could have stayed with her biological parents. They would have been healthy enough to care for her and she never would have had to suffer separation from them. But, that is not what happened. So, she has grief. My new response to her question is now, “Yes, I am sad I didn’t get to be pregnant with you. I am sad I didn’t get to know you in my own womb. I am sad I didn’t get to feed you healthy foods. I am sad I didn’t get to protect you from stress and other toxins you had to face in the womb. Yes, I am sad.” We cry and hug and then our bond is more pure, closer, filled with more trust. Thank you, God!

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4. 

 

What have you been learning this month? What is the Lord doing in your life?

 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

 

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The Power of Sisterhood—Our Adoption Story Part 2

My good friend over at Rich Faith Rising is sharing beautiful adoption stories on her blog this month in honor of National Adoption Month. I had the honor of telling our two adoption stories. Here is the story of our first adoption: A Diagnosis Changed Everything—Our Adoption Story Part 1. Head over to Rich Faith Rising to read more inspirational adoption stories and be blessed!

Our oldest daughter was about 18 months old when I got the wild idea that I was ready to try the process again. We had been told that it could take 2 years or even longer to adopt, and I didn’t want our children to have a big gap between them. My husband agreed to begin the process again thinking it would be at least a year before we welcomed another baby home.

We decided on independent adoption again, using the same adoption attorney and social worker as we did the first time around. This time, the home study was quicker and easier as we just had to update it. Plus, we were experienced now. We now realized the social worker wanted to approve us and wasn’t looking for us to fail.

Once again, we completed the home study in December, but this time it was 2006. We again received many hope-filled calls while we waited. One birth mom had twins in Florida. One was 32 years old. But, none of these were the situation the Lord had for us. Eventually, our attorney contacted us to tell us about a birth mom who was interested in our profile. She had narrowed it down to two families and wanted to meet us both.

We went to meet with her and her family and were instantly at ease. We really liked the whole family. How could we actually feel comfortable in such a situation? Because the Lord had brought us together.

There was something about the other family she met with that was drawing her to them. And, we were told that although she did like us, she had decided on the other family.

This was disappointment down to the core. Disappointed but yet still drawn to this birth mom and her unborn baby.

A couple of weeks passed when we unexpectedly received a call from the birth mom’s adoption counselor. She informed us that the other family had decided they wanted to adopt a girl because they already had two boys. So, although we were runner’s up, we were now the top choice as the other family was out of the running. This particular birth mom was expecting a boy and we were open to either a boy or a girl.

A couple of more months passed, and it was nearing the birth mom’s due date. We were able to get together with her and her family a couple of times and our relationship grew closer. Finally the day came when the birth mom’s adoption counselor called us to tell us the baby was here! Even while on the phone with her, I began getting our stuff together to head to the hospital. “Wait!” she said, “there is something I need to tell you about the baby.” She kind of hemmed and hawed a bit and then finally spewed out, “It’s a girl!”

“What?”

“A girl.”

I was speechless. The ultrasound clearly said male but the baby was now out of the womb and was definitely a girl!

A flood of emotions rushed over me. “You mean that other family could have had their girl? But, we get her? We were the 2nd choice but yet here we are…blessed with another girl!”

We were overjoyed. Abby was perfect. Another perfect baby. Full-term and beautiful. She was calm, slept well, and ate well.

Mikayla and Abby first pic

Down the road we have discovered some sensory and learning difficulties. The Lord is refining me as her mom and teacher to see her wonderful uniqueness, her precious heart, and her love of fun.

One of the reasons I was overjoyed by the discovery that she was in fact a girl was because of my own sister.

Abby and Mikayla babies

My sister and I had a rocky relationship growing up. Ours was one full of competition, envy, bitterness, and anger. But, when our parents divorced when I was 12 and she was 15, we were drawn to each other in a way that no one else could compare. Our parents were hurting and were not yet able to truly be there for us. But, we found that we had each other. God had given us the gift of sisterhood. This gift has only become stronger in our adult life.

Our 12 year old is really beginning to go through the grieving process of adoption. She is experiencing the loss in a deep way. We have had several heart to heart talks about the pain and also the healing and hope that is coming. The other day as we were processing some adoption pain together, she looked at me with big eyes and asked, “Is Abby going to feel this deep pain, too?”

Abby and MIkayla jammies

“I can’t say for sure, baby girl. She might.”

With pleading eyes she said to me, “Oh, I don’t want her to have to go through this, too. No, I don’t want her to feel this pain, too.”

“But, what better way to use your pain for good? We can work through this pain together, relating to each other like no one else can.”

Sisters. Theirs is a rocky, at times even unsafe relationship right now. But, the healing. Oh, the healing that is coming. The bond the Lord is bringing. The connection through grief.

Sisters, thank God for sisters.

Abby and Mikayla girls

And, thank God for choosing me to parent these jewels.

My girls each have shirts which read, Chosen. They proudly wear these shirts. But, oh sweet, girls, it is me that is the chosen one. Chosen by God to be your mom, the greatest title I will ever know.