Tuesday, March 19, 2013

We are Called to Love

I know that I am prone to exaggeration and dramatics, but people?  
You know that "retreat for adoptive moms" that I talked about HERE?   I forgive you if you assumed I had given up on the idea.  I have been kinda quiet about it and the dream was based on an emotionally fulfilling experience, and that can often lead to an apathetic ending once the heat has cooled.  

In fact, I've been working my butt off, along with my planning partner, Amy.  We've been logging about 100 emails a week, almost as many texts and dozens of phone calls.  It started with serious prayer and fasting over the big picture and some Major Questions:
Are we really doing this?  Why? How big are we aiming here?  Why? What are we going to call ourselves?  Why?  What is our REAL purpose and goal?
It took a few weeks to dig through that rich soil, and then the seeds were firmly planted.  We continued to be very honest with each other, and continued to be very much on the same page.  I would bore you to death to cover all the things that have happened, the obstacles and the victories, but I'm going to cut to the chase.
Called to Love

The name of our retreat is based on Isaiah 43:1.  "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, and you are mine."  That verse still gives me chills!   It has a double meaning for us.  WE, Amy and Jen, have been redeemed!  He knows us and called us to be His.  And we both know he also specifically called us to adopt.  He did not call us to be perfect mothers, to be poster children for adoption or to have a cute bi-racial family photo.  He called us to love the widows and orphans--for us it is through adopting and parenting.  AND we know he has seen and redeemed and called our little ones.  THEY ARE HIS.  Before I had ever seen Asher's face, God saw him, called him, redeemed him, DIED FOR HIM.  Asher and Carson and Sydney and Amy's children and your children are wholly loved and valued just as they are.  We are imperfect people and parents, but we are called to love these little people and be the best mamas for them that we can possibly be.   And sometimes it's really nice to have some encouragement and support in doing that!

The Lord has SWUNG OPEN WIDE the doors for this retreat and this budding ministry!  All glory to HIM!    We have put a deposit down on the beautiful Oregon Garden Resort for the weekend of 
November 15-17, 2013.  Yes, that is THIS year.  In about 7 months.

We have assembled a team of 9 adoptive moms with various backgrounds, from 6 different churches, with amazing passion and gifts and talents and excitement to make this retreat a reality.  This would not be happening without their support and involvement!
We have already confirmed three major speakers, I mean high quality, high caliber speakers, for three of our four main sessions.  And each of them is coming for less than their normal fee or for FREE.
Professionals from sound technicians, web hosts, attorneys, graphic designers, book authors, foster care trainers---are all partnering with us to bring EXCELLENCE to this retreat.  I also can see God's hand orchestrating this whole thing, as Amy and I have been given the opportunity to coordinate retreats at our church for the past few years, and I know that experience has better prepared us for this task!

Because we are having our retreat in November, which is the off-season, we are getting a very reasonable rate at the gorgeous resort.  Amy and I have worked with the staff before, and we both just love the luxurious feel of the rooms and the resort itself.  We can't wait to have the mamas come and feel a little pampered.

I kind of feel like this little ministry is my fourth baby.  It is (and will be) so much work, but it has already brought me such JOY!  I want to tell EVERYONE about it! I love working with one of my best friends, and I love the idea of ministering, serving and maybe kinda spoiling some adoptive and foster mamas in the Pacific Northwest.  In a strange twist, I was the one who so badly needed refreshing in January when we attended Created for Care.  (The C4C team has been amazingly supportive and helpful, by the way!)  But the more I pour into this project to refresh and encourage OTHERS, I am the one who continues to be renewed and filled.  We are surrendering the entire endeavor to the Lord and are beyond excited to know that He can bless it beyond what we hope or imagine!  

Now scroll up, copy and paste that website, and go share it with all of your friends!  :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

9 months--how are you guys REALLY doing?

**Hi to my FB friends!  I know I'm technically on a FB break, but it's pretty clear that since I blog so sporadically, most people only check it when I link to FB.  This post and the previous one  (please read that one too! ) are specifically for our support group and future adoptive parents, so I wanted ya'll to see it!**

I have a confession to make.  I have harbored some frustration and a little resentment towards you adoptive parents who went before me.  The last nine months have been more challenging than I anticipated. I thought that nothing would be harder than waiting for my precious son.  It turns out that parenting my precious son is harder.  There have been days when I thought "Why didn't anyone tell me it would be like this?!"  But then I look at my own primary source of communication with other adoptive parents--this blog--and realize I, too, am suspiciously silent.  I remember THIS great article  by Jen Hatmaker, where she says when you are in the trenches of those first few months home, "You are starving for truth-tellers in adoption."

But the conflict comes because although parenting a child who has gone through this life-changing trauma is hard, you also already love this little person!  In your core, you want what is best for them, you want them to FEEL your love deep down--now and for years to come.  Every time I went to write about how frustrated I am, I stopped short, because I couldn't get the image of 16-year-old Asher reading it out of my mind.  I never want him to confuse the difficulty of this transition with any regret on my part, or lack of love.  I want my words, now and in the future, to honor and respect him.   Going into detail about naughty behavior, or attachment-related issues seems to just cross that line.  Notice I said going into detail.  I do believe that glossing over the rough parts and painting a picture that adopting a toddler is smooth sailing, easy-peasy, madly in love at first sight, is damaging to other families, and even to my own family.  This is, has been, hard.  But HE is worth it, and we will fight through it, because HE is ours.

The other frustrating thing about all of us being so vague is that I don't have an accurate reading on how our attachment journey is going...using others as an anecdotal measurement, so to speak.  To be honest, if I'm only judging from f@cebook posts and blogs, I get worried that we are in deep doo-doo.  But then I get one-on-one with some adoptive mamas, and I hear some hard truths, and I realize we're actually doing pretty darn well!   Although I think that there are many who have a very, very smooth process, the majority have some challenges.  This tells me that connecting outside of the internet (or even on the internet, but not publicly) is so important!

I know I'm still being vague (on purpose) and some of you who are waiting to go get your kiddo are saying--what is so hard?  I can only speak for our family, but let me speak in generalities.  First of all, I'm on my second toddler boy-son.  Toddler boys are crazy!  Often they are crazy/fun, more times they are crazy/exhausting and sometimes crazy/naughty.  Tearing, breaking, climbing, hitting, running (usually at break-neck speed away from you towards a busy street), grabbing, throwing, spilling.  This describes both of my toddler boys.  However, before a biological child enters this *fun* stage, you have about two years worth of positive interactions.  Snuggles, smiles, feeding, cuddling, milestones...simple things you take for granted, like the fact that a sad or distressed bio child often can be calmed by your presence and your touch.   When an adopted toddler comes home, you have zero positive interactions deposited in the emotional banks--YOUR emotional bank and HIS emotional bank.  Not only do you hit the ground running with the negative interactions (correcting very normal toddler behavior) outweighing the positive, but your kiddo is also dealing with MAJOR emotional trauma and stress and grieving, which affects every aspect of his emotional health, which affects his behavior, which affects your ability to attach to him and him to you.  Does this make sense? I guess the bottom line that I want to convey is that my kiddo, your kiddo--are not naughty or bad or problems.  The "hard" comes from the situation and timing, NOT from the adopted child.

I also want to briefly point out that I completely underestimated the fact that attachment is a two-way street.  A dear truth-teller who went before me said simply about herself, "I'm a slow attacher."  It gave me such a peace.  I realized the pressure I was putting on myself to go from 0 to 100% attached and bonded within days or weeks.  What I can say is that God knitted this family together in HIS perfect plan, and He is the great healer of hearts and minds.  He is doing an amazing work in our lives, and I fall more and more in love with my son each day!  If you are an adoptive parent (or not) and would like to chat more about our attachment journey--mine and his--I would love to connect!  Drop me a note or leave me a comment and we can chat more privately.

Last week I took our two older kids to a carnival, just the three of us.  I took a moment to ponder what our family would be like if God had not let us to adopt, and we still had only 2 kids. The first thing I realized is that I'd be getting more sleep. :) Trips to the store would be less chaotic.  Trips ANYwhere would be less chaotic.  But I know in my deepest heart that I would feel something was missing.  The experience of adopting and bringing our son home has enriched us in countless ways. Yes, even the challenges of the wait and of the last nine months have strengthened and improved us. His presence makes us complete, and our lives are more fun, more interesting and more blessed because Asher is our son and brother.  Thank you, dear friends and readers, for letting me be honest about this experience and not fear judgement.

So, how are we REALLY doing?  We're doing well, with good days and bad.  We are learning and struggling and loving and grateful for each day with all three of our kids.  We have zero regrets and want to shout from the rooftops that we love adoption!  I long for the day when Asher has the words to tell his side of this story!

Thanks for asking.  :)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

9 months--how are you guys doing?!

**Hey FB friends!  I interrupted my FB break to post a link to these blog posts, b/c I really want to share them with our wonderful friends and family who have been so supportive! Love that you still ask about our little guy.  Here's an update!**

It's been nine months since we became a family of five!  Insert cliche here about how time flies, sometimes it seems like yesterday, sometimes it feels like it's been forever.  I know I haven't been super informative or detailed on the blog about how we are all settling into the new normal, so I decided to give an update.  I'm still humbled to the point of tears when I think of the hundreds of people who invested in our family with their love, prayers, finances, and so many other types of support.  I love that you all care about our family deeply and want to keep in touch about what it's like to have Asher home!

I decided it would be best to split it into two blog posts, b/c there is no simple answer to how it's going.  I want to start with all the great things that have happened in the last year, and talk about how amazing and brave our son is!  A few weeks ago I realized I never posted a video of the first time we met our son, Asher Saran.  It it possible it was a subconscious mental block.  :)  Our sweet little guy was crying hard before he even got in the room, and that was the beginning of many, many tears that week.  I was able to do a very basic raw edit of those first few moments.  It will give you an idea of how they introduced us...what the scenario was like.  I included plenty of non-crying moments, as he just sat focused and solemn. Near the end of the video, Trent tried to toss him a ball, and he completely ignores it!  I especially want to share it for my fellow adoptive parents who will someday sooner or later be meeting their precious, long-awaited kiddos.  It's good to be realistic and prepared for the kind of possible grieving these babes are dealing with.  You can see on the other side of the screen that sweet Layla was on the opposite end of the spectrum!  Here's Asher on June 3, 2012:

When I watch this video, it reminds me of how incredibly brave my boy is.  He was taken from EVERYone and EVERYthing he had ever known at the tender age of 22 months.  In a matter of days, his entire world was gone and replaced with a new one that was NOTHING like the old one.  And he has continued to take steps towards adapting and trusting us day after day.  Although I'm happy that pictures and video of his foster family do not make him sad (he calls her Mae and says "Thai-yan!"), but it is bittersweet that I think he doesn't truly remember that amazing woman.  I think he knows that's her name b/c we tell him that.

Although I am certain that the illusive "attachment" is some mystical creature we'll be chasing for years, I know that Asher has made so much progress in the last 9 months.  We've seen measurable steps, like his ability to stay in his little sunday school class at church.   Although he occasionally still gets clingy, it feels so good that he finally trusts us enough to know that WE ARE COMING BACK for him.  He is still not a snuggler, and doesn't like to be rocked or cuddled (we're working on it daily!), but he does really enjoy reading books.  He will bring us book after book after book, which provides some great bonding moments.  He gives tight hugs and kisses and says "I yuv you!" to all of us...sometimes even to the girl at the Safeway bakery who gives free cookies!

To give you an idea of his personality at home (compared to the video above) here's a video of Asher and his sister providing a little entertainment last week:

It gives me such joy to see him interacting with us, singing, being silly (you should see him dance!), mimicking his siblings, asking to see himself on the camcorder, and just being a little boy! I love that his sis has to translate for me and that he's singing a song about his brother's basketball team. (And for you curious folks, that green thing is a physical therapy tool used to get knots out of your back, but it's used as a microphone or weapon daily in this house.)  One of the most incredible ways that bringing Asher home has affected our family is the way it has impacted his siblings.  I truly can see that his presence has changed them.  They are more aware of children around the world who have lives very different from ours, they know what it means to be an orphan, they are more aware (and excited about) other interracial families, talkative about adoption, but they would be the first to tell you that WE are the lucky ones to have Asher added to our family!  Asher is a sweet spot for both of them--they still fight between them like crazy, but they forgive their little brother with a lighting speed for some pretty serious crimes, and sometimes their fighting is OVER who gets to spend more time with him!

Probably my favorite thing about Asher is that he is more curious than ANY child I have ever met.  I mean, he makes George look positively apathetic.  We get excited when we get to take him somewhere new or different, because we know he'll be totally captivated.  Each new park is an ecstatic adventure.  A friend's house is a whole new world.  But sometimes his curiosity still surprises me.  He and I had to take the car for an oil change last week, and I was planning for us to take a walk while they were working on the car.  Well, we never made it out of the garage, because Asher was COMPLETELY enthralled with the oil change.  He was staring, squinting, squatting down with his head lowered to the ground so he could see the guys working below the car.  He started circling the car to try to get a better look from a new angle.  Then, it was not enough for him, so he LAID down on the ground, about 3 feet from the opening under the car where the mechanic was (chuckling and) working on our oil, so he could get a better look.  He makes it so wonderful to see our world through new eyes.

Another hilarious thing about Asher is that he will eat ANYTHING.  I think part of it is a cultural, and part of it is just his beautiful appetite for food and life.  He puts my picky eaters to shame when I toss him an apple and he eats that thing down to a nub!  He gnaws through most of the core and only leaves the very, very center and seeds.  He'll happily eat orange and watermelon rinds, although I ususually try to stop that.  If he spies the leftovers of some treat in the garbage, he'll go dumpster diving for that last bit of popsicle or string cheese.  Yes, it grosses us out, but it also cracks us up!  He's also very aware of what other people are eating.  Sometimes I try to sneak my own little treat--my go-to is dark chocolate covered espresso beans--and he will smell it on my breath!  He'll point accusingly at my mouth and frown and say "MOMMY EAT!  MOMMY EAT!"  Nothing gets by this kid!

A dear friend met me today for coffee, and I had my little man in tow.  I was armed with drinks, snacks, books and an ipod to keep him busy.  She complimented me and said I made it look easy!  That truly made me feel good (I don't like feeling frazzled and out of control in public!) but I told her that if she ever hears anyone who wants to adopt say that about me, tell them to come talk privately ASAP, lest they get the wrong idea.  :)  I think it does a disservice to future adoptive families when we only highlight the happy stuff.  Soon I will write another post about some of the harder parts of the last nine months, while still trying to convey to you how crazy we are about Asher Saran and how happy we are that he is in our family!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cash Stash to help fund an adoption!

Some of you may have heard about a program called Financial Peace University.  If you go to our church, you absolutely have heard of it!  Over 1,000 of us are going through it together.  It's a class that promotes a way of handling money that is smart and also biblical.  One of the main tenets of this class is to use CASH more often, and not credit cards, or even debit cards.  The concept is that the more you FEEL your money, the harder it is to spend, and the easier it is to know exactly how much you have!  The class provides a very efficient cash envelope system, made of paper envelopes, for you to keep track of your budgeted cash.  It is also very ugly.
My friend Jodi, who lives here in the NW, decided that all of us committed to stick to our cash budget really deserve something better looking to take around town!  She has designed and created some AMAZING cash wallets.  I volunteered to be a temporary spokeswoman, partly because I know so many people taking the course right now, but also because ALL THE PROCEEDS FROM THESE WALLETS GO TOWARDS JODI'S ADOPTION!  Jodi and her husband Joel have an amazing testimony, which includes a kidney transplant, deep loss and pain, but also hope.  I'm so excited to see how and when God is going to unfold their family story through domestic adoption.  I had her send me a handful of wallets (she lives a few hours away) to see if I could sell some to my local peeps. 
Now, let me tell you about these cool wallets!  First, they are each made from gorgeous laminated cotton fabrics--just wipe them clean.

There are pockets all over these things for different budgeted items.

Each one has two zippered pockets.  (On this sample, the zippered pockets are the red and white polka dots.)  On the left side, you'll see four debit sized slots.

Each comes with four envelopes, and you can custom order up to 6.

 I'm not sure it will show up on this picture, but if you zoom in, there is a special, tiny clear pocket for you to put in a label for what each envelope is for.  YOU choose the categories.

The price for these wallets is $35.  If you could see them in person, and see the incredible attention to detail, you would see why they are worth $35.  If you live near me and are interested, let me know and I'll find a way to get them to you. 


These are the styles I have on hand.  Click on the picture to enlarge. 
 Let me know ASAP if you are interested!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Spirit guided social media

The other day, Carson and I got into a conversation about the Holy Spirit.  This child doesn't shy away from the deep stuff.  It started because he asked me why I sometimes give money to the panhandlers on the freeway off-ramps, and other times I don't.  I didn't have a good answer, really.  I said sometimes I have money handy, other times I don't.  Sometimes they seem too pushy, other times they don't. But I tried to explain to him that sometimes I feel the Holy Spirit nudging me to do so, and other times I don't.  We talked about how I believe God gives me heart-whispers--that's a hard concept to explain to a very literal 7 year old boy.  But I said that "listening" to those whispers takes practice, and I don't always get it right.  But I usually have a very specific feeling of regret when I get it wrong.

I thought of a time when I was pretty sure the Spirit was convicting Carson: it was a couple years ago, and he had set up a game of Candyland in advance so he would get all the good cards and win.  I figured it out right away, but feigned ignorance, and about 2 cards in, he collapsed in frantic, anguished tears and confessed that he had cheated.  It was almost comical at the time!  But it was a great example of his conscience, which I believe is a tool of the Holy Spirit. So, back to the car, I shared one example in my life: that Trent and I felt a strong nudge from the Lord that we should adopt, and so we did.  Carson, bless his heart, said "I'm SO glad you listened to God! Otherwise we wouldn't have Asher!"

After this conversation, I started asking myself a similar question.  These days, everywhere I turn, there is another cause/organization/ministry that is doing good work and needs help.  Sydney's saving coins for kids with leukemia.  Carson's jumping rope for kids with heart disease.  The neighbor is selling cookies for girl scouts.  We know of a dozen different people doing good work around the world, but my heart beats strong for only a few of these causes.  Only occasionally do I find myself digging deeper, wanting more information, trying to find a way to support.  I know it seems obvious, but I believe the Holy Spirit draws me to certain causes.  I think He has wired me and charted the path of my life experiences to feel more invested in some ministries.   I have seen that He has caused my heart to break for what breaks His--and even with that criteria, sometimes I am more stirred than others.

A long time friend and I were talking a couple months ago, and she was asking similar questions.  Her kids are older than mine, their family is settled into a good groove of life, and she said she feels like something is missing.  She feels like she wants to give more of herself, but has no idea where.  She said she doesn't know what her passion is.  I asked her if she had $100,000 to give to ANY cause, but had to give it all to one place: what would it be?  I think if you can answer that question, it reveals where the Spirit is pulling you.  I pondered for a bit and answered the question for myself.  I have found myself, in the last few years, deeply brokenhearted over the issue of human trafficking. For instance, on the day of the Superbowl, I read THIS ARTICLE  about how this sporting event is the largest single incident of human trafficking in the US each year.  I was so upset about this information, that I had to leave the room when I was telling my husband about it, because I didn't want the kids to see me sobbing.  My mind and heart just cannot fathom the horror that is reality to these victims around the world, even in our own city.  When we drive by a particular major exit off the interstate, there are two large hotels.  My heart sinks when I look at the window of these hotels, wondering if there are victims being abused and sold in this very moment.  It is not unlikely.  Why do I think about it so much?  Thanks be to God, I do not have a history of abuse in my life.  I have no idea why God has caused this particular current issue to cause such an ache in my heart.  I know that when we decided to adopt from Thailand, one factor was the well-known prevalence of trafficking in that country.   But other than that--why?  And furthermore, what's a busy stay-at-home mom to do about a worldwide epidemic of evil?

But on January 11, which is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, I used my big mouth and our society's current obsession with social media to talk about it.  I posted a few times that day on organizations that I know are doing good work to rescue children and women from the $ex trade, and also some that are working to prevent it.  I got only a few comments and "likes" and then I started to doubt myself--am I turning into one of those annoying "causey" people that is always preaching about something?  Is this issue too horrible and ugly to talk about on f@cebook?  But then, something awesome happened.  A friend of mine messaged me that my post had convicted her to sponsor a child through Compassion International.  God used my big mouth and social media and my friend's willing heart to protect a little girl in India.  I was really humbled.  And excited.  And validated!   If the Holy Spirit flags me down for a specific cause, I should not keep it to myself.  It may only nudge one or two other people, but even so--it is worth it.  Posts on FB and blogs by other like-minded people have moved me to action more than once.  It's not in vain.

You know where this is going, don't you?!  Recently, I stumbled on a ministry that, in my mind, has 3 powerful things going for it:  A) It's Christian based, B) It works to free and restore victims of human trafficking and C) They are heavily involved in Thailand.  Destiny Rescue is doing amazing things in southeast Asia, and they are growing quickly.  An adoption friend connected me with a young couple who are moving to Thailand to work with Destiny Rescue.  Check out their blog here.  I love finding things like this.  My heart leaps!  By buying a t-shirt or a tote, I can support this ministry by helping to send them talented workers, which will make them more successful and able to rescue more victims.  Yes, it's a small thing.  It's a little tiny piece of a big, overwhelming puzzle. However, the Holy Spirit has drawn me to take part in solving this particular puzzle and tell others about it.  And whether it is with my checkbook or my blog or my status updates, I want to practice listening to those little heart-whispers.