Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Come with me!

Hey friends and readers!  I've moved to writing and posting at:

I'd love for you to click and come with me!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

Friends, I've kind of been having a mid-life crisis. Thus the Boyz II Men lyrics.  Actually, I'm going to give life the benefit of the doubt and call it a pre-mid-life crisis.  (My two grandmothers are still living, turning 91 and 83 this year, so I have genetics on my side.)

This summer I'm turning 37 and am officially in my "late 30's."  (Can't say "mid" once you're to the 7.)  And although the looming 40 doesn't necessarily scare me, it does get me thinking a little more big picture and asking questions like "What do I REALLY want to be when I grow up?"

My sweet husband has listened so patiently as I've been talking aimlessly about hopes and dreams and plans and bucket lists.  And one thing that I've landed on is that I want to write.  I love writing, and I find a lot of fulfillment when people read what I've written and like it, are encouraged by it or connect to it on some level.  I especially love writing about motherhood and sharing moments when I've needed grace so badly and when He has given it so lavishly.  And of course, nothing pleases me more than conveying a hilariously awful parenting moment for your reading enjoyment.

So I've decided I'm just going write more.   I'm going to try to blog more, try a little more freelance stuff and maybe submit my work to some publications.  (Which may or not pan out.)  A book proposal is not totally out of the question.  It obviously will fluctuate with our family's schedule, and there's a chance that I'm really fired up about it right now and by October I'll be exhausted and go back to blogging irregularly.  But even if I don't make a single dollar for my writing, I know it's something I want to pursue.  Just for me.

One step in this direction is that I've decided to use my real name when blogging.

Guys, I'm going to say goodbye to Brazenlilly.  

Where's the emoticon for weeping and gnashing of teeth?  This alter ego has been so good to me, because no one else has it, so I only had to be creative once and then re-use it hundreds of times.  It's embarrassing to admit how long it took me to settle on this recent decision, because I'm so attached to that silly name.

But the point is to try to get more writing gigs and increase my blog readership.  And part of getting more writing gigs is to get my name out there.  The more you like what I've written and share it and re-post it, the better my chances of getting more writing gigs and increasing blog readership.  But that kind of defeats the purpose if my name is nowhere on my writing.  I've been worried about my family's privacy, but a reliable source recently pointed out to me that any weirdo with enough computer knowledge can trace my IP address and find out where I live, even if I never use my last name.  So, I'm going to move forward in faith and not fear.

Thank you, friends and family, for being so encouraging and sweet about reading my blog.  You'll always be my favorite audience.  And I hope you'll follow me over at:

Friday, May 23, 2014


My adorable little 5 year old redhead just learned to play tic-tac-toe.  She got a $1 "Hello Kitty" white board from Target as a reward for good behavior and it has 3 tic-tac-toe game frames on it.  It's been about three days and I'm possibly going to saw the board in half and put it at the bottom of the outside garbage can in the dead of night. You guys.  I'm serious.

Stages of losing my sanity by playing tic-tac-toe:

Stage 1, Wednesday morning.  So cute!  So proud!  She's learned a fun, basic game that all kids should know.  Of course I'll play!  I'm going to let her win.  Oh wait, even when I try to let her win, she still doesn't.   "You can win up and down too?" She asks me.  OK, so maybe she hasn't totally learned how to play, even though this is our 34th game.  I kinda need a break.

Stage 2, Thursday evening:  I'm done letting her win.  It's time for tough love and I'm going to cream her so maybe she'll get tired and we can quit.  "What's diagonal?" she just asked me.  Oh for the love.  I'm winning every game.  Why is she such a good loser?  It doesn't even seem to bother her!  OHMYWORD, she won't stop asking.

Stage 3, Friday afternoon.  I'm worried for my own mental health.  And also?  Hers a little bit.  Who wants to play this game over and over and over and over?  And over? I'm putting my X on the EXACT SAME SPOT every single time.  We're tied every game.  Each of our turns we are doing the same moves ad nauseum.  I've tried putting in something other than X or O just to mix things up, but then she makes us start over again.   Can't....take....it...any....more....

Stage 4, tomorrow morning:  "Oh, man!  Gosh.  Where could it have gone?   Hmmmm....that is SUCH a bummer, babe.   How about we try something different, like water paints?"

(I'm NOT EVEN KIDDING YOU, she just came up to me as I'm typing this and asked me to play again, even though I walked away from the 428th game to post this.)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

IMHO: let's not romanticize.

*I'm doing a short series to highlight and process some things I've learned in our adoption process.  I'm calling it IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), because I'm not a professional, I'm not proposing my opinion is always the right one or the only one, and I'm even saving room for the possibility in the future that my mind could change again!  I especially want to write these things for friends who are considering adoption and have asked me about our experience, but anyone is welcome to read and comment.  (Please be gracious!)*

OK, I think this will be my last post in this series.  It's hard mental work to process through all of this.  Someone commented the other day that they miss my funny blog posts.  I do too!  I want to do more of that.  But adoption issues have been a big part of my life lately, and adoption is many things, but "funny" isn't at the top of the list. 

So, let's cut to the chase and get the potentially offensive part out of the way.

IMHO, adoption is romanticized, maybe even a little more so by Christians.  

We really need to stop doing that.  But to be fair, adoption is just one of a long list of things that is often romanticized in our society.  Before I was married, I had an idea of what it was going to be like: my sweet husband giving me nightly shoulder massages; neither of us needing to watch television EVER because our delightful evening repartee would be so engaging; we'd spend our weekends walking farmers markets hand in hand and he would surprise me with huge bouquets of fresh flowers.  Weekly.

Now, I'm still madly in love with my husband!  He has proved his love to me over and over again in 13 years, but he does it by unclogging a drain full of disgusting hair or cleaning up a child's vomit at 2 am, not usually with fresh flower bouquets.  The reality is not WORSE than the dream, it's just very different.

Parenting in GENERAL is hugely romanticized!  How many of us, when we are expecting (in whatever form that comes) picture ourselves in clean, white houses with lots of sunlight, holding our precious infant as the child coos back?  Or we picture precious Mommy/child dates at our favorite coffee shop, enjoying all the other customers' looks of adoration as we sip with our little mini-me's and charm the world.   Fast forward a few years and we haven't slept for 4 years straight and our children happen to be the type that can clear a Starbucks in 20 seconds flat because of their wild behavior, and you're not sure if the whining or the constant crumbs on your bare feet will kill you first?  (Did I mention the vomit?  And, really, all the bodily fluids in general.)  I've only met a very few parents who feel like parenting has lived up to the dream.  It's not WORSE, it's just very different.

I'm afraid that a picture has been painted of adoption that is not exactly accurate.  Perhaps I should personalize it, because I cannot speak for everyone.  I had a picture of adoption, what it was and what it meant for my child and my family, and it was not exactly accurate.  So much of this is tied up in what I've learned from adoptees and how it has shaped how I now view adoption as an act of obedience and not a noble rescue mission.    Before our son came home, I dreamed of the exciting and long-awaited airport arrival, of introducing him to all the people who already loved him and helped us in our adoption, and how fun it would be to have three kids happily playing in our sprinkler.  (Even though all of that came true and was incredible.)  I read lots of books and did all my required training, and had so many people tell us how wonderful it was that we were doing this.  And when the reality hit, it wasn't WORSE, it was just very different.

But I'm afraid that the Church, generally speaking, has become such a great cheerleader for adoption, that in some cases, we may need to tone it down a bit with the pom-poms and streamers.   Before you bristle--lemme 'splain. 

I believe Christians should be on the front lines of orphan care, foster care, ministry to the vulnerable and also adoption.  I want our churches to be full of more adoptive families.   But I don't want churches (or para-church organizations/adoption agencies/current adoptive families) to promote adoption with emotional pleas to families who do not feel called to adopt OR who are not fully prepared to adopt.  (Disclaimer for my peeps: I've never felt like this happened at the church I attend.)  I cringe a little when statistics of orphans are used to recruit adoptive families, because although the statistics are true and mind-boggling, MOST of the true orphans in the world are not adoptable and never will be.  In many cases, especially internationally, it seems there are more parents interested in adopting healthy children than there are healthy, legally adoptable children.  (Foster children in the US and "special needs" children around the world are always in need of more loving families.)  I would love to see some of the passion and excitement for adoption be spread around to include families who definitely are not going to adopt, but could have such an amazing impact in the lives of children.

I pray that as we embrace adoption, we do so with eyes wide open to what adoption means---for the children and for the families.  I still cry with joy and cheer loudly when someone tells me they are adopting!  It is and will always be an amazing way to grow your family and to provide a permanent, loving home to a child!  I just want to be careful that as we're cheerleading, we're having difficult discussions about what it means to parent a child from a hard place.  While we're working our way down a waiting list, our children are losing everything.  Or a birth mother is finding herself in crisis and making the most painful choice of her life.  Or our future son/daughter is being removed from another foster family. Yes, oh my word, yes, I want to get them home FAST!  But I don't want it to be all sunshine and roses, because this flower has some thorns.

The person who is the most affected by adoption is the adoptee, and I don't want to lose sight of that.  But I also have become passionate about adoptive parents being honest about their challenges, while still respecting their children's privacy.  (I'm equally as passionate about ALL parents being more honest about our challenges!  Let's get real, people.)  I know of several adoptive families who have had very few challenges while raising their adopted kiddos and helping them heal.  Praise the Lord!  But many, many more are surprised by how incredibly emotionally, physically and spiritually draining it is to be down in the trenches with a grieving child--that you just met and are learning to love.  Or that you met 4 years ago and his or her little heart still has not healed or attached.  But you know what: I still PRAISE THE LORD!  Because the kids and the parents are doing the hard work, day after day, year after year.  Because of adoption, they are not aging out of broken systems all over the world.  Instead they are struggling through in an imperfect, but loving HOME.  And I have heard story after story of how the only PERFECT PARENT (meaning God, in case that wasn't clear) has done amazing work of restoration and redemption in the lives of not only the adopted kiddos, but their parents as well.

So, hear me please.  I LOVE ADOPTION.   Actually, I wish all children could be raised by loving, capable, biologically related parents.  But we live in a fallen world and since that is not our reality, I'm so grateful for adoption.  I love it so much that I want families to pursue it, prepare sufficiently for it, and then shout from the rooftops how God has performed a redeeming work in their lives.    Adoption is beautiful and powerful as it is--no need to pretend it's anything else.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

IMHO: lose the rescue mentality.

*I'm doing a short series to highlight and process some things I've learned in our adoption process.  I'm calling it IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), because I'm not a professional, I'm not proposing my opinion is always the right one or the only one, and I'm even saving room for the possibility in the future that my mind could change again!  I especially want to write these things for friends who are considering adoption and have asked me about our experience, but anyone is welcome to read and comment.  (Please be gracious!)*

When we began our adoption process, we were drawn to the country of Thailand for many reasons.  It is a gorgeous country with beautiful cultures and traditions.  The particular adoption program we would be using was solid and had a long history of consistency, including the fact that the children live in loving foster families prior to adoption. Thailand is also known for rampant $ex trafficking, and in our minds, by adopting a child who had been relinquished by his birth family, we could be saving him or her from an industry that preys on vulnerable children.  I confess had visions of how fulfilling this grand act of nobility would be, and how much better off this child would be in our home.  I didn't envision myself with a cape or anything, but there was definitely a bit of a rescue mission mindset.  I admit this because I want you to know the thoughts in this post do not come from a place of judgement, but truly my own heart-learning.

Over the last four years, I have come to realize the dangers of viewing myself and other adoptive parents as the ones "saving" or rescuing a child, no matter how grim or dire their situation is prior to placement.  

In my humble opinion, adoptive parents need to lose the rescue mentality.

In a very gracious and honest conversation with another AP who does not share my same religious beliefs, I admitted to my friend that I begun this process with the desire to save an orphan.  She asked me how and why my perspective had shifted, and it was difficult to answer her concisely.   But I will try.  

As I previously shared in my post about listening to adoptees, hearing from some adults who had been adopted was pivotal in how my thoughts changed.   Carissa Woodwyk, an adoptee from Korea, was the first person to point out to me that there are many adoptees who bristle at the word "orphan," especially when used to describe adoptees prior to adoption.  The "O" word has such vast subtext, including connotations that children in this category need our charity and pity. (Remember, whether or not that truly describes HOW WE FEEL about orphans is not the point.  The point is that some adoptees feel that way.  In addition, many vulnerable and adoptable children are not technically orphans--that is, they still have one or more living parents.)  Carissa said that children waiting to be adopted don't want or need pity, they want what every human being on the planet desires: to be loved and wanted and well cared for.  They want to be seen as unique individuals with talents and dreams and quirks, not lumped into a large group. 

Other adoptees have pointed out that campaigns (t-shirts, slogans, etc.) that combine orphan care and adoption can sometimes make adopted children feel like they were a merely a fundraiser or another Christian cause.   Adoption is NOT just a form of orphan care.  Adoption is deciding to extend your family, raise a child forever, love a little person unconditionally.  It is an amazing gift and choice, and I absolutely believe it is a beautiful part of God's plan.  Yes, we often need to raise funds for it, and yes, it is a very worthwhile "cause" to support.  But I've found it's imperative to find the distinction between a family's decision to adopt a specific child into their family forever, with all the beautiful and messy aspects that are unique to THAT CHILD, and the Church's call to support and care for widows and orphans in their distress.  (James 1:27)

Foundational in my mental adjustment was the realization of how a rescue mentality would be communicated to my son and other adoptees.  The notion that I am rescuing YOU, elevates me and lowers you.  It implies that what I have to offer in my American home is BETTER than anything you had previously, or could have had.  Of course in some situations, this is not up for disagreement.  (You would hope.)  A loving family is always a better option than a child growing up in an institution or orphanage, no matter how wonderful the orphanage.  However, a loving, middle class home in the US is absolutely not better than a loving, poor home in Thailand.  Friends, I was in the foster home where Asher lived for 21 months.  It might be considered below the poverty line by our standards, but he was happy, he was loved and he was well-cared for.  Period.

I believe that instead of focusing on rescuing orphans, we should be more focused on finding ways to keep families together when poverty is the only reason a parent would relinquish their child.  When that is not possible, and a child manages to make it through the bureaucratic nightmare of becoming "adoptable," then we choose to parent them as a redemptive response to a situation of loss.  Even in situations where a child, for whatever reason, has waited years to be adopted, and it looks from all angles like these parents just rescued this child from a dire fate, that "rescue" only happens once.  There is one day when they cease to be an orphan.  The rest is just straight up parenting--and often it is a parenting road filled with extra challenges!  The feelings of nobility fade.  Fast.  

In our situation, we did not adopt JUST to add to our family.  (We could have had a third bio kid.) We truly felt the Lord directly leading us to adopt internationally, to parent a child who did not have a forever family.  I believe that adoption is ordained by God and part of the reason we should consider it is to be obedient to him.  But as with so many other things he calls us to, part of the calling is to HUMBLE ourselves in our obedience, not view ourselves as godly superheroes sent in to save the day.  In this journey, I'm continually humbled as to the ways God is asking me to serve my children.

I'm convinced that if I perceive our adoption as us "saving" our son, that perception WILL be communicated to him, one way or another.  When someone is rescued, it is usually implied that they should be grateful.  I never want to communicate to my son that he should be grateful for being relinquished by his birth mother, for being taken away from his foster family where he was loved and felt so secure, for starting over as a child with an understanding that he was losing everything familiar and comfortable, but no language to communicate that. I'm confident the Lord already has and will continue to do a wonderful work of healing in his heart, and I pray that he feels blessed to be a part of this family!  But I never intend for him to see us as his rescuers.  Just his mom and dad who love him like crazy, no matter what.

But I think the bottom line for me is that when I think of myself as a rescuer, it takes away the focus from MY RESCUE.   I will never be the rescuer in this big story of life, even in our family's story, because I am the one lost and alone and hopeless without Jesus.   David Platt has a well-known quote:  'We adopt not because we are rescuers. No, we adopt because we are the rescued."  HE is the rescuer!  JESUS is my rescuer AND my son's rescuer!  I long for Asher to understand how all of our stories are full of loss and redemption, grief and joy, and nothing here on earth will truly satisfy us until we ask our Heavenly Father to invade every part of our lives.  Through this process, God continues to refine me and challenge me and SHOW HIS FAITHFULNESS TO ME over and over and over.

No, I definitely did not rescue my son.  But the journey of him in my life may just have rescued me.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

IMHO: Listen and Read--birth moms

*I'm doing a short series to highlight and process things I've learned in our adoption process--and since.  I'm calling it IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), because I'm SO not a professional, I'm not proposing my opinion is always the right one or the only one, and I'm even saving room for the possibility in the future that my mind could change again!  I especially want to write these things for friends who are considering adoption or are in process, but anyone is welcome to read and comment.  (Please be gracious!)*

My last post was mostly about what I have learned from adoptees.  To summarize: a TON of important and relevant information which continues to shape my interactions with my son and the adoption community.  I loved people's comments here and on f@cebook, and wanted to point out what my sweet friend Wendy said:  not all adoptees have a platform opinion on adoption.  Being adopted, for some, is like the color of their hair.  It's a part of them, but does not define them and they really don't think about it that often or have a strong opinion to share.  They're just living their lives, thanks.  But especially since I've chosen to be involved in adoption-related ministry, I'm going to keep listening to the voices who DO still have strong feelings and think about their adoption loss daily, and just be prepared to inquire and be present with my guy no matter where he is in the process.

You'll notice this post is a bit shorter.  I've not read as much or heard as much from the birth mother voice.  I have found some insightful blogs (linked below) and read some powerful articles by birth moms.  The thing that stands out to me the most is how MANY DIFFERENT reasons a pregnant woman chooses not to raise her child, and how MANY DIFFERENT life situations they represent.  I've learned there is no "stereotypical" birth mom story.

Those who choose to voice their story almost always talk about the difficulty and pain of handing over their child.  No matter how resolute they are in their choice, the ache of surrendering this person that you carried inside of you for nine months is profoundly deep.  Anyone who has given birth can probably empathize with that inexplicable connection.  Some birth moms feel that they were coerced into choosing adoption for their child, by their own parents or even adoption agencies.  When this is the case, these birth moms seem to live years with pain AND resentment.  However, even those who stood firm in their own choice still often suffer immense sadness and depression, particularly in the first year(s) after relinquishment and on the child's birthday.  Some heal from this pain rather quickly, others never do.  Still others refuse to acknowledge the birth, and even when contacted by the adoptee, they deny any relationship. Some birth mothers have a lot of anger.  It is directed at different sources, but many feel betrayed or rejected by the adoptive parents and/or their child. Just like the angry adoptee online world, there is an angry birth mom online world as well. It's hard to read, not necessary to live in, but IMHO, still important to LISTEN.

Last year at Called to Love (holla!--retreat for adoptive moms you should check out) we had a panel of birth moms share their stories with us.  It was so powerful to have these beautiful, strong women give us a glimpse into their past and their present, their decision, and their dreams for their children.  They defied any stereotypes we might have.  The message I heard from each of them was: "I don't want to be ____________'s mom.  I just want to know about her life and how she's doing."  They had gratitude and respect for the adoptive parents, and simply asked for the same in return.

The topic of and relationship with birth mothers should be handled with great care.  But those of us who have adopted internationally rarely have the opportunity to interact with our child's birth mothers.  If we have a name, a bit of a story, or in the best of circumstances, a photograph, we are so blessed.  Many international adoptees have no information on their birth families whatsoever.   (I remember meeting a young adoptee from Southeast Asia, and I told her my son was born there.  The first question out of her mouth was: "Does he know his real birthday?"  I said yes.  Her face fell and she just said, "He's so lucky."  It broke my heart.  The simplest gift of knowing your date of birth, the teensiest bit of information about the woman who carried and delivered you is information that the majority of us take SO for granted.  But that's technically back to relating to adoptees, not birthparents....)

I will make one sweeping generalization regarding adoptive parents and birth parents. In GENERAL, there seems to be some tension between the two members of the triad.  IMHO, in GENERAL, I think more grace can and should be given by both parties, but TO birth moms in particular.  In the way we talk about them with our children and each other, and even our body language and tone.  In finding gracious responses when we read angry words directed at adoptive parents.  More honor and respect can probably be shown, even in rough circumstances.  I know that is easy for me to say, not having any dealings at all with my son's birth mom.  Some parents are trying to juggle a relationship with an emotionally unhealthy or mentally ill birth parent, an addict or even an abuser.  I won't even pretend to have any insight for those situations, because that is not my experience and I haven't talked with any parent in this situation who feels great success. But for the majority of families, we can make a decision to always speak of our children's first parents with respect, no matter what their decisions have been in life.

Without putting ourselves in the shoes of a birth mother who is unable to parent, it's far too easy to ignore or look down on them.  Reading this article and seeing these pictures of birth mothers was one of the most emotionally painful things I've ever experienced.   In China there is (was) a "Baby Safety Island" also known as a "baby hatch" where parents can relinquish their children without penalty and with promise that the children will be taken care of.  A reporter captured these moments of PURE ANGUISH at the moment of relinquishment.  The laws and culture of each country are different.  The effects of systemic poverty are more than we can ever comprehend.  Most of us will NEVER know the feeling of being scared and pregnant, having no idea how we will feed and clothe the child.  We may disagree, we may feel strongly that we would have chosen differently, but God forbid any of us dare to cast judgement.

One last thought.  Recently I've become aware of a fantastically simple truth: in developing nations, access to prenatal care, counseling, safe options for labor and delivery, and real postpartum support are all forms of orphan prevention.  I love adoption, but I don't love how many children are relinquished by living, loving parents due to lack of resources. Many women relinquish their children because they feel hopeless and scared, for themselves and their children.  Ministrires like Heartline in Haiti provide support to empower these women to raise their children, even in seemingly dire circumstances.    If we truly desire to care for the most vulnerable, the least of these, it only makes sense that we support organizations that are helping women to be just moms--not "birth moms."  Please take a moment to check out their ministry.

Birth mom blogs and articles (opinions in links below do not necessarily represent Brazenlilly's opinions):





Saturday, May 03, 2014

IMHO: Listen and Read; Repeat.

If you're just checking in, I'm starting a series about things I have learned in the adoption process--and since.  I'm calling it IMHO (In My Humble Opinion), because I'm not a professional, I'm not proposing my opinion is always right, and I'm even saving room for the possibility in the future that my mind could change again!  I especially want to process these thoughts in writing for friends and acquaintances who are considering adoption or are in process, but anyone is welcome to read and comment (please be gracious!).

In my fist post, I indicated that I would write next about the discussion of adopting with a rescue in mind.  I'm putting that off for a few days, partly because I realized I wanted to explain some things that led to my heart-learning on that one, and also because I'm pouting that I had the post mostly written, then my computer crashed and I lost it.  [Insert grown woman stomping foot, crossing arms and sticking out lower lip with frowny face.]   So, let's back up a bit:

IMHO, the best thing that adoptive parents can do, particularly in the time between deciding to adopt and bringing a child home, is to be a stinkin' sponge.  I want you to read EVERYTHING you can get your hands on about adopting, especially anything that is about adopting a child about the same age as your child(ren) will be.  Read the attachment books that don't really make sense to you yet, then read them again when you are in crisis 5 months after your kiddo is home.  Read books about the brain and trauma/ abuse/ neglect and how it physically affects children and their behavior, then read the parenting books for kids like this, because a different style of parenting is needed.  Read magazines by adoption agencies full of joy and hope and beautiful, healthy, well-adjusted children.  Read lots of blogs by adoptive moms, but even better: find one who's been home a while, buy her a coffee (I mean, maybe she likes Nonfat Caramel Machiattos, for instance. Just a suggestion.), schedule an hour or two, look her in the eye and say: "Tell me everything--the good, the bad and the ugly," and then really listen.

(It's also OK to come up for air during the long wait.  If you are sick of talking about an adoption that seems it will never happen--that's OK too.)

But sweet friends, here's the thing.  You cannot stop there. I had that last paragraph down!  I was networking like crazy with other adoptive parents, researching my little brains out, proud of how much I was learning.   "Yeah me!  I've so got this." --Jen T, circa June 2010.  But the real and powerful changes in my heart happened when I began to read and listen to the voices of a) people with whom I disagreed, b) birth moms, and d) ADOPTEES.   This mostly came from articles and blog posts, a few books and also attending conferences and watching documentaries.

Sidebar editorial:  I feel like our social media culture breeds quick-reflex offense.  If we stumble on something that upsets us or that we disagree with, we feel the need to LOUDLY proclaim how wrong it is--usually how wrong THAT PERSON is.  May I propose, dear fellow adoptive parent, that we take our fingers off the trigger of that response gun, holster it for a bit, and truly process the article, the post, the status update, the tweet.  Consider the heart of the author, their story and how they may have come to that perspective.  It's very likely we will still disagree, but knee-jerk, outraged responses don't help anyone. ESPECIALLY when it comes to listening to adoptees and birth moms, it's best to close your mouth and open your ears.  (Like the old saying goes, that's why we have one of the former and two of the latter.) WE DON'T HAVE TO AGREE OR UNDERSTAND. But we still should read and listen. If the title of an adoption article makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, read it anyway.

I subscribe to a magazine called The Adoption Constellation (it used to be called Adoption Mosaic), which is for all members of the adoption triad: birth families, adoptees and adoptive parents. It is not a faith-based publication; I think the editors are working to even out the voices heard in adoption circles, to include adoptees and birth moms, not just adoptive parents.  A few years ago I came to an opinion piece titled something like: Why Evangelical Christians are Damaging Adoption.  WHOA...say WHAT?!  "OH NO HE DI'INT!"  -Jen T., circa January, 2011.  My heart started pounding, and my righteous anger was stirring something fierce.  I just knew I would disagree with everything in this stupid article.  But I read it anyway.  The author, who was not a Christian, believed that Christian circles are championing adoption very strongly right now.  So much so that, to this man, it seemed like a fad.  He believed that when people adopt for religious reasons they often had a romanticized view of saving an orphan, and as they pursue this cause, they often do so without adequate training and education.  In other words, they jump on the bandwagon, pat themselves on the back, and are completely unprepared for the harsh realities of parenting a hurting child, and end up causing MORE damage to the children, many times resulting in disruption.  (Quick note:  disruption is when an adoptive family is not able or willing to continue parenting a child who was adopted, and they go through the process of finding a new home for the child.  This happens for MANY, MANY different reasons.)

Did I appreciate the huge over-generalization of all "Evangelical Christians"?  Not at all.  Did he have some reasonable points.  Yep. Did it cause me to take a step back and give more thought to how we promote adoption in the Church?  Yes.  Did I agree with everything he said?  Definitely not. (For instance, I think people who adopt for ANY reason often have a romanticized view.) Did it stir in me a passionate desire NOT to be an unprepared adoptive parent who thinks my job is over the minute I walk off the airplane with my adopted child.  HECK, YES it did. (Was part of my motivation to PROVE HIM WRONG?  Lil' bit.) That blasted article helped me be a better parent.  I hated it, but I needed to read it.

I remember the first time I came across the blog world of angry adult adoptees.  Ya'll, I wanted to vomit in despair.  There are some blogs by adults who were adopted, and they HATE adoption, they HATE adoption workers and agencies, they HATE their adoptive parents and they pretty much HATE all adoptive parents.  I found a few blogs like this, but what shocked me was the amount of comments from other adoptees who felt the same way.   The reasons they felt this way ranged from physical and emotional abuse by adoptive parents to just the parent's inability to make the child truly feel like part of the family.

I DID NOT LIKE READING THESE.  But I think it's good that I did.  It only took that one horrid day of reading, soaking in the pit of hurt and hate, and I've never gone back.  But it was important for me to know that not every adoptee loves their story.  It was important for me to begin to understand the myriad of hurts that adoptees can (and most WILL) experience.  Not all of these adoptees were abused, some of their parents successfully created a loving home and attached with their child and it was not enough to heal their hearts.   LOVE DOES NOT CONQUER ALL.  "WHAT?! Then why are we even doing this?!"   --Jen T, circa October 2011.

Fortunately, I recovered from that trip down hatred lane, and stumbled into the even more powerful world of non-angry adult adoptees who still have hurts, who have not reconciled their entire stories, who love their adoptive parents but want us to know that a loving family does not erase or heal a broken heart.  Even better, some of them have entered into the world of adoptive parents and are helping us begin to view the world MORE through the lens of our adopted children, and LESS through our own AP lens.  I remember thinking that only adoptees who are conscious of change at the time of their adoption would suffer emotional wounds.  But I've heard story after story of older adoptees who still feel a VOID, even if they were adopted hours after birth!  For many (not all) the feelings of rejection and abandonment do not go away.  A grown woman can look me in the eye and say "There must be something wrong with me if my own mother didn't want me."  That LOSS has nothing to do with her adoptive parents.  It is just a part of her story, and instead of running from the pain, the only way I can help my child heal is to acknowledge and ENTER INTO the pain with him.  Every adopted child will process their story and their identity differently.  I just need to be emotionally real and present.

Early in our process, I watched the documentary ADOPTED.  One of the subjects is an adult woman, adopted from Korea as an infant.  I remember her trying to talk to her (adoptive) mom about her feelings of being different, of being the only Asian in the family.  Her mom just kept saying things like: "I don't think of you as different!  I love you!  When I see you I just see my daughter--I forget you are Asian!"  I think we used to be told these were helpful things.  Let's be colorblind!  Guess what?  NO.  Not helpful.  This woman/daughter articulated that when her mom said that, it made her feel invisible.  Or worse: it made her feel like the Asian part of herself (which, no matter what anyone says, is a HUGE part of her identity and appearance, and everyone knows it) was something negative or not as good as being white, so let's pretend she's Caucasian.    I have no doubt that is not what her loving mother intended, but that was a deep hurt that stuck with her long into adulthood.

This same documentary was also one of the first times I heard directly from an adoptee how strongly she needed to talk about her birth family, especially her birth mother.  This topic made her adoptive mom feel uncomfortable, so she would always change the subject or stop the conversation.  Again, the adoptive mom may have thought she was protecting her daughter from dwelling on the painful abandonment, but by refusing to talk about it, the message the daughter received was: birth mom = negative.  The daughter finally articulated--I think it was as her adoptive mom was dying!--that by doing that, mom had inadvertently sent very damaging messages to her daughter.  The daughter said something like: my birth mom is a part of me!  I am a part of her!  Even though I will never know her, she is IN me, and when you make me feel like she is bad or wrong, you are saying to me that a big part of ME is bad or wrong.   "I am going to remember this."  --Jen T, circa January 2012

I could write many more posts on what I've learned from adoptees, and I haven't even skimmed the surface of the birth mom stories, but I have to stop this post before it's a book. And I continue to learn!  Even last week I was surprised by a post on the Lost Daughters blog, but I'm so glad I read it and was able to hear and understand more about how these particular adoptees view life.  I so strongly believe that if we, as AP's are willing to listen to the voices of the others in the triad, it can only benefit our children and our families.  Each of us has to go through our own process of heart-learning and will be most moved by different words and stories.  When you have time, please watch THIS VIDEO of Carissa Woodwyk, one of the adult adoptees who completely rocked my world in a gentle way.  She has a bit of a poetic flair, and this is a reading of hers that is personal and so very important. I think every adoptive parent should watch.

"In my humble opinion, we must LISTEN."  -Jen T. circa May 2014

Have you learned anything by listening to an adoptee?  I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

IMHO: Adoption

**IMHO = "In my humble opinion," in case you are not up on the text acronym lingo.

I've been very honored and excited to talk to a handful of potential adoptive parents in the last year or so.  I am glad that my big mouth and loud blog fingers have not turned people away from the rather daunting and complicated process of adopting, enough so that sometimes people still want to ask me about it! I LOVE talking about adoption!  So, friends and acquaintances, keep asking!  I especially appreciate talking one on one, because although I'm not very private and have yammered a LOT, there are still some part of our experience that I haven't fully elaborated on via world wide web.  Let's have coffee!

Yet sometimes I find myself tongue tied in how to summarize or advise these friends at the beginning of the journey, because there is so much heart-learning that happens IN the journey.  This process changes you.  It softens you in many wonderful ways, hardens you a bit in others, and it absolutely, completely breaks you in the ways that count. I cringe with embarassment when I think about how I once said I wanted to be the "poster child" for the adoption process, which is why we went through it so publicly--I wanted to educate people.  Oi.  More than anything about adopting, it humbles you.  I'M the one who is constantly learning. My son has taught me so much about the nature of love and God and human nature.  I want to learn to view this process through his eyes more, and my eyes less. I'm not a poster child for anything; I'm just a mama who has traveled a path that has molded and refined me, with a God who made it possible.  And THAT I love talking about.

I bristled at the "been there, done that" cynicism I sometimes encountered when we applied to adopt.  It reminded me of when I was a blissful and newly pregnant mom-to-be and so many people took the opportunity to tell their labor horror story, toddler nightmare or say things like "Sleep while you can," while they gave a dramatic eye-roll.  My opinions on adoption theology, my philosophy and preferences and MYSELF have all changed fairly dramatically since we began 4 years ago, but I never want to patronize someone who is considering adoption, or imply that I know it all because I've been in this "world" for a few years and brought home just one child!  If you want some real wisdom, talk to the mamas with multiple adoptions under their belt.

But I decided to do a little series about what I, personally, have learned.  Every adoption journey is different, and if you are considering older child adoption, domestic infant, or foster-to-adopt, it will look very different than international toddler adoption, which was our personal choice.  But much of the perspective I have gained has little to do with our son's age, and more to do with adoption as a whole.  Adoption is often romanticized, which I believe is a serious detriment to everyone in the adoption triad.  (OK, I will do a teeny bit of educating in case you don't know: adoption triad means the three parties involved in adoption:  birth family, adoptee and adoptive family.)

My first post will be about one of the biggest changes in my heart in the last four years.  It centers on a basic adoption philosophy. It's an ongoing, complicated discussion regarding adopting as a form of saving or rescuing an orphan.  Stay tuned for some ruffled feathers.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's so simple.

Monday is my grocery day.  It has been for years.   But it's MONDAY, as I mentioned, so things are usually crazy, cranky and chaotic. I barely get the kids to school without losing my mind or doing the demon-mommy arm grab while talking through gritted teeth, then I bring Asher home and let him have a little Curious George time while I menu plan and list create.  I have about 30 minutes to do the list, grab my cash and my re-usable bags (I live in Oregon, people) and head out the door.  I can do my shopping and get back to the school for kindergarten pick up, then bribe the younger two with some snack from the store (that we surely ran out of last Friday) while I put the groceries away.

Have I mentioned I hate grocery shopping?  Just do not like it at all.  Especially with kids.  Bless them.  But I hate it.  In the summer when they are all home, I often go at 9pm rather than take all three.  No matter how I prep them and myself, create elaborate "help mommy" games and put my creative parenting hat on, 99% of the time it ends in tears and whining.  And that's just from me.

My youngest is notoriously NOT good at sitting still for longer than 30 seconds.  So taking him shopping is almost as frustrating as all three.   I am just used to it being an exhausting 40 minutes, with him whining and yelling and grabbing things off the shelves and climbing out of the cart, me buckling the buckle and him immediately unbuckling it.  (Locks and buckles are a joke to this child!)  In his defense, he is an energizer bunny and it's got to be boring as hell for his active body and mind to sit in that cart doing the EXACT SAME THING we did 7 days ago and not getting to swim in the lobster tank or sift through the bulk food candy like he wants.

This last Monday was no exception, and as we checked out, I did my usual juggling act of bagging my groceries, calling out instructions to Asher ("Sit down please.  Hands in.  Please sit down.  Put the bread back.  Put the bread back in the cart.  PUT THE BREAD BACK IN THE CART.  We don't throw.  No throwing.  Play with your toy! You have a fun toy!  Don't throw the toy.  I have to take the toy now.), and walking back and forth between him and the food.   Then he tried to crawl out of the cart again, but he got stuck and started to scream in pain.  I dropped my food and ran over, trying to figure out where he was wedged between hip/knee/ankle/toe and try to calm him down.  It took about 10 seconds, which felt like an eternity.  He was crying sad tears, and so I cupped his face and quietly told him I didn't want him to get hurt and he needs to SIT DOWN IN HIS SEAT.    Life with this kid is a loud whirlwind, so it honestly wasn't anything extra crazy or stressful, just normal crazy and stressful.  I was irritated, but didn't freak out.  Yeah, me!

But I don't think I realized how high-strung I was until the older woman on the other side of the bagging lane just picked up her groceries and smiled at me, looked straight in my eyes and said "You're a good mama."  And she left.

And hot tears started streaming down my face.

It's not that no one has ever told me that.  Dear people in my life have encouraged me.  But it's just in the bone-weary, day-to-day work of pouring into these little guys that sometimes it feels a little bit like a losing battle.  It's so much easier to notice how I'm failing to live up to the mom I want to be than it is to notice the times when I actually AM the mom I want to be.  Maybe it's also that my measure of success is pretty skewed.  If my children's behavior and my level of inner peace and calm is the barometer for "good mom" then it is quite rare for me to achieve that coveted label.

And I know I'm not alone!  Fortunately I am surrounded by honest moms who express many of the similar struggles to live up to our own ridiculous standards.  Most of us admit that at least one or more of our kids are in really challenging, exhausting seasons.   Over coffee and muffins and park benches and juice boxes we talk about how crazy we are about our kids, how we never knew a love could be so strong it physically hurts.  But we also admit it's harder than we thought.  We don't want to mess up these precious lives.

So when that lady in Winco rocked my world with those four little words, I thought: It's so simple.  We need to be told we are doing well.  We need to tell each OTHER that we are doing well.  I want to notice small ways that the mamas in my life are pressing in to their children, doing hard work when easier is an option, and continually striving to be molded and crafted into the mom our children need us to be, the mom God has created us to be.   The other moms in my life do things differently than I do--we make different parenting choices.  But we ALL are doing the best we can to love and guide our kids into healthy, well-adjusted, kind people.  And we need all the encouragement we can get.  So today I make a promise to be better at telling those in my life:

You're a good mama.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Treasure, part 2.

Wow.  As I cut and paste the second half of this treasure, (you can find part ONE here) I'm overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of lessons learned. Pace yourself, because it's a lot of information, but it is SO VALUABLE!

When I was praying about this speaking engagement, I kept asking God to place on my heart what He wanted these mamas to hear.  An image I kept getting in my head over and over again was one of our physical homes--apartment, condo, house, whatever it is.  Each night we lock the doors and windows, securing our families.  I cannot tell you why, but the Lord kept bringing my mind to the verse in 1 Peter talking about how our "great Enemy, the Devil" prowls around like a lion, looking for someone to devour.  I continually was picturing Satan prowling around our marriages, looking for a crack in the door.  If we let our guard down, if we fail to secure our homes, he will find a way in and pounce.  That crack may be a moment of discontent, of comparison, of bitterness...anything that the devil can use to put a wedge between and husband and wife.  We are all imperfect and vulnerable. 

Satan CRAVES broken marriages.  He works overtime to tear down what God has joined. But just as fiercely as Satan craves them broken, God longs for them to be thriving and healthy.  Healthy, God-centered marriages very often produce healthy, God-centered children.  And healthy, God-centered children?  CAN CHANGE THE STINKING WORLD.   Let's not let these treasures go unheeded!   


-Give him some space.  Let him go camping, or play basketball or golf without being a martyr. He will be grateful and glad to come home to you.

-Take your finances seriously. Take an active role. Set financial goals TOGETHER.   Remember, you are a team!

-Make your new family unique.   The process of building your own family can get mixed up with each of your original family dynamics so it is important to decide what you want to keep, change or eliminate from your childhood family traditions.

-Find community you can trust. Walking through marriage just the two of you is lonely and dangerous. Find other couples you respect and trust, perhaps those who have been married longer or have more wisdom, and ask them to tell you all their secrets. Never stop learning.

-Create a habit of not keeping secrets from each other.   Train your heart, your eyes and your mind to love your one and only, "forsaking all others.”

- Plan appreciation surprises.  Make a special day on any day.  I have done post- it parties in his car, special treats, notes in his lunch, notes on the mirror when he got up, set up a good morning treat, doing a chore he hasn’t gotten to, signs on the garage door when he pulls up. 
 This is something we involved our kids in as they grew, and it was a wonderful family practice to encourage each other with surprises.

-Date night can save your marriage.  We committed to a weekly date night years ago and believe me, there are times when going out, getting dressed, making that effort was the last thing I wanted to do.  But it got us through the crazy years and continues to be a touch point for us.  It’s a connection place to keep us from becoming isolated.  It's not always fun, but always important.  :)

- Leave your kids and go on vacation. Start with one night if it’s hard to get away.  Once you start doing it, it becomes easier and well worth all the effort to get your kids situated while you are gone.  This man will still be around when your kids are gone, so you better figure out how to enjoy him now!

-NEED HIM.  Our culture sends a message that as women we should not 'need' our men.  It is a vicious ploy of the enemy that leaves us fragile and anemic. But our 'need' of our husbands helps them grow into the men they are destined to be!  Moral of the story: you can need your man and still be strong and capable! 

-Choose the right time to discuss a problem issue. Don’t ambush him or bring it up when you both don’t have time to talk, or if one of you is exhausted. Make a date to talk when you are both rested and calm. Okay, sometimes issues have to be discussed when they need immediate action.

- Remember that he can’t read your mind.  YOU HAVE TO TELL HIM WHAT YOU ARE FEELING.

- Make sure to make time to just talk.  When the kids went to bed, instead of a book, computer, or TV, try to just sit down and catch up.  We noticed when we did that other things would run better. 

- Laugh together often. Like, laugh HARD together. We make each other laugh, we find TV shows and movies that make us laugh, we've established inside jokes from when we were dating up until now that make us bust up every time.

- Communicate! I used to be silent when I was upset, but I realized it was a type of manipulation. I would hang out there for a few days, shutting him out.  The Lord showed me that was sin, and I had to have a conversation with my husband even if it was so hard for me.  We had to learn how to talk in a healthy way about everything--sooner than later so we weren’t tripping over the carpet all the unspoken stuff was under.

- My husband and I have found some good freedom in making a point to get so honest with one another. Talk about the small things before they become big.

-Communication is key. I once read an article that challenged couples to rid their marriage of rhetoric. Instead of asking, "How was your day?" Ask specific questions that solicit honest answers like, "when did you feel frustrated today?" or "When did you feel the love of God today?"

-Have a yearly big girl talk with your spouse. Ask specifically how you can meet his needs. Where you are falling short as a Christ follower, wife, mother. Be ready for it with lots of prayer and acceptance.

- Stop stressing over the little stuff.  Get over it!  Life is too short with the one you love.  I have so many dear friends who have lost their husbands.  That has had a huge impact on my marriage.  I want to live each day like it’s our last day together.

-Take vacations together. The planning process can be fun. It gives you a reason to dream and look forward to time together. When we can't afford it, we do staycations in another part of the city that we haven't seen to keep costs minimal.

-At the end of the day prepare the kids to go crazy with excitement that daddy's home, then set the timer for 20 minutes and let dad change his clothes and unwind before you unload about your day or the kids tackle him.

-Go to a marriage conference once a year.

-Daily ask yourself—would I like being married to me right now?

-Fiercely fight for your marriage, not because it is fragile but because it is precious.

-Pray, pray, pray for your husband, even when you are mad at him. We often have no idea how the enemy is trying to weaken him, and undermine him as a believer and a godly husband and father.   

-Ask your husband how you can pray for him.

-God is in the life-changing business. You are not. If you have a problem with your husband.   Tell him once, and let God work the rest.

-Invest in your own spiritual growth.  Never stop striving to be more like Jesus.

-Ask God to make you the wife that your husband needs you to be and asking Him to make you the wife that God wants you be.

- Marriage is a battle so it must be fought for day in and day out.  You and your husband are on the SAME SIDE, fighting against the enemy. It can't be taken lightly and especially during those crazy baby years.  It still needs to be a priority.  As a wife I must make a choice, even when I don't always feel like it to get up and love my husband.  Maybe choosing to keep the house a bit cleaner, change out of my sweats and take a shower, serve him, it's in those small daily choices that I can tangibly love my husband beyond myself.

- Don’t try to change him. Let God do that. Work on your own actions, and ask God for the ability to see your husband through His eyes.

-Find a godly couple you can look up to.  It might be your parents or someone in your church.  It’s important to see a healthy marriage and be encouraged and challenged by that example. There’s a lot of wisdom that can be passed on and shared so don’t miss it.

- FORGIVE. It is so worth it. A marriage can survive even the deepest and biggest of wounds because of the power of forgiveness.  We have hurt each other so much and have forgiven miles and miles of sins and offenses, and I don't regret it one bit.  Being married as long as I have has ONLY happened because of forgiveness--radical, ridiculous, life-giving, Jesus motivated forgiveness. The season of marriage down the road (where I am now) is SOOOOOO sweet!  Having said that, it required a sturdy and solid and 'out loud' vow to the Lord in the midst of the hardest year of our lives that "Lord I will NOT divorce him and YOU WILL HAVE TO HELP ME forgive and stay put!”  Our God is in the resurrection business! He can bring back to life a dead love! 

-Spend time with the One who put your together in the first place. We’ve had seasons of being really consistent in our devotions and times when we haven’t, but it always blesses our marriage when we make a commitment to starting our day that way.  We’ve done devotions together, individually and then later shared what we’re learning with each other, either way…do them! You’ll never regret it, and pray, pray pray.  Pray with your spouse, for your spouse, for yourself as you work toward being the wife you are called to be…He hears each one.

- Praying together as a couple hasn't just "happened." We have to make it happen, be intentional. It's totally something we want to do, to pray over our future, to pray for each other, pray for others, and we we do we are SO blessed and realize how important that is and feel so unified in our marriage. It's something we're still working on.

- As a wife, if I remember I am first called to serve Jesus, and He has called me to respect and serve my husband.  Remembering this makes it easier sometimes when I don't feel like it.  I have even seen this played out for wives in seasons when their husband wasn't respectable.  When their heart was determined to follow Gods calling, by respecting their husband they were respecting Jesus.

Sunday, March 09, 2014


Recently I was honored to be asked to speak at a moms group at a friend's church.   They have an awesome and active young moms group, extremely well organized with over 50 moms!   I've been doing a little bit more speaking lately, so I was feeling good about it until I heard the topic:  marriage.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very happily married.  But I'm no expert.  In fact, I'm such an imperfect wife that the thought of telling others how to do it better was beyond humbling.  We're coming up on 13 years and I feel like I need about 13 more before I could fill 45 minutes with wisdom that came from my own head and home.  But I knew that at the season these moms are in (kids under 5, which I'm working my way out of, but am still very much in), we CRAVE practical wisdom from seasoned, godly women.  

So, I decided not to fill the time with wisdom from my own head.  I had plenty of things to share, but I needed more.  I went to a bunch of those seasoned, godly women and asked them to lay it on me.   I asked them to share with me some lessons they have learned in their years of marriage, which ranged from a couple years to over 40.  What they sent to me, in email after email, was more than just bullet points.  It was AMAZING.  I kept thinking of each one as a gem.  And you know what you get when you compile gem after gem?  You get TREASURE.   I can't keep it to myself!

And can I tell you a theme I saw running through?  Die to self.  Even the most strong, confident and capable women need to learn to be selfless in a marriage for it to grow.  The act of surrendering what is best for me and the CHOICE of choosing what is best for US--that is where the sweetest and deepest joy can abound.

But there are so many gems that I divided them into 4 categories:  Relational, Sexual, Practical and Spiritual.  Today I'm only going to post the first two, and then in a couple days I'll do part 2.   I pray you are as encouraged and empowered by these words of advice as I have been.  They are from imperfect wives who serve a perfect God, one who LONGS for our marriages to be strong and thriving.

-Be the first to laugh at yourself.   Do NOT take yourself too seriously.  Try not to be easily offended or overly sensitive.  Your mood affects the entire home.
-Practice saying “I’m sorry.”  Say it often for the little things, and then it won’t be so hard to say it for the bigger things.  Don’t be that person who physically can’t form the words.  That’s not attractive.
-Wives, your husband is not a woman.  He doesn't communicate, think or act like a woman. Keeping this in mind will help your expectations, ultimately your appreciation for him.  
-Do not correct your husband in public. So what if the event in his story really happened on a Saturday instead of Sunday like he told it?  Don't nag or demean him in front of others.  I’ve seen strong men's dignity crumble in front of my eyes because of the way their wives treat them in front of others.  It’s UGLY!  Don’t be an ugly wife.
-Please, please do NOT berate or mock your husband, in front of him or behind his back. This is a real temptation when girlfriends are venting about their husbands.  
-Fix your own crap.  We all bring emotional baggage into our marriages.  Go to counseling, talk to a wise friend, whatever you need to do to deal with it.  You'll find that his issues seem smaller and you will be more content.
- Make your kids believe their dad is the smartest, strongest, wisest daddy in the entire world. NEVER roll your eyes at Dad to make the kids laugh. Never put him down if front of the kids or anyone else for that matter. Don't make him out to be the goofy, bumbling kind of dad the media loves to portray. 
-It is important that you agree before moving forward on big decisions.  If you struggle with the concept of submitting, pray for a joyfully submissive heart!  Yes, it goes against what the world tells us, but it is God’s plan for a better marriage.
-Dream together!
-Don't forget your manners!  Even after years and years, when you are extremely comfortable around each other, it is still important to speak with kindness.  Saying please and thank you is important!  
- We always work on keeping confidences. If I’m not sure if I could/should share something about him with others, I ask him.  Some things I thought were not a big deal to share, but I found they WERE to him. He does the same for me.
-Don’t wait for your spouse to “figure out” what is bothering you. Find a loving way to tell him and allow him the opportunity to work through it with you.  Wasting time brooding is just that…a waste. Help each other.
- A guy wants to be pursued too.  Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking that is the guy’s job.  Not so. Also as a mom I get so wrapped up in being a mom or keeping things together, that I forget to give my husband the attention that he deserves.  Figure out his love language beyond sex.  Text while he's at work and tell him you love him or why.  Talk face to face for a few minutes when you can, even if that means turning off the TV, phone or computer. Don't wear a hoodie and yoga pants everyday even if they are uber-comfy.  Buy lingerie or plan a date, make his favorite treat, etc.  Husbands want to see you making an effort.  They understand we are busy, so even the smallest gesture means a lot!
- I'm not married to my father.  My poor husband had to endure my issues with my father for so many years.   Wives, get counseling for your issues before it messes with your marriage.
-Never stop being thoughtful with your spouse. Take time to write him a note, plan a fun surprise date for him, make a special dinner you know he loves.  It’s a way to show him you love him. If you know something is weighing on him offer to help or if it’s something you can do jump in and surprise him by doing it yourself.  Yes, I’ve mowed the lawn and taken down Christmas lights.  
- Forgiveness & grace must be present in my attitude towards my husband. (I’m so prideful! I so want to be right. )
-Guard your family's emotions, be completely trustworthy with vulnerabilities.  Know when something is really important to your spouse and handle that the way you want your important stuff to be handled.  Usually this involves sharing personal information, weaknesses or fears - we need to guard the information that is important to the others, even when it might seem silly to us.  
- This one is a real gem…are you ready?  Husbands do not like bathrobes worn all hours of the day.  :) It may sound silly, but taking time every once in a while to “dress up” for your husband means a lot to them.
-Decide your personal wills and won'ts.  Example: I won't use a threat of divorce, violence or gossip to manipulate.  I will make my relationship with God a priority, the only one above my marriage.  I will protect my husband and stand with him.  I won't cause others to think poorly of him.  I won't leave in a huff, making him worry for hours.  I will express my fears, frustrations, desires and needs.  We will handle disagreements and disappointments with each other in private. 
-Be sure you are honoring your husband when you speak about him to others. You should be his biggest fan so present his best to your friends….don’t fall into the trap of being a complaining wife.
-Support. Be your spouse’s number one fan. Tell and show them how much your support them. Support and understanding works WAY better than nagging.  Ephesians 5:22-23 "Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.  The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing." 
-I’ve learned how important it is to accept my husband’s LOVE for me.  He loves me to the moon and back. I had to get over myself, understand how God loves me so I could receive my husband’s love in a healthy way.   We’ve come SO far, but it was my heart that changed, not my husbands.  
-Understand each other’s love language.  It is a HUGE help to know that!
- I want to find out about things he is interested in.  When my husband was in law school, I took a class on "law for laymen.”  I wanted to understand more about his world.  Our conversation time was much more interesting. 
-Be proud of your spouse!!  Tell him that you are proud of him.  Text, post-it note, it’s never too much.
- If you are grateful for him, or appreciate something about him, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell him. Even if it seems like a small thing.
- Choose the right time to discuss a problem issue. Don’t ambush him or bring it up when you both don’t have time to talk, or if one of you is exhausted. Make a date to talk when you are both rested and calm.
- When you are disagreeing, always ask yourself if proving your opinion as the “right” one is worth the harm done to your relationship.
-Remember these words and use them often: I COULD BE WRONG.  Saying it in the midst of a disagreement will help you not dig a hole out of pride.
-Trust your spouse. There is really no point in with-holding parts of yourself, as if you can keep the pain of disappointment and hurt at bay. You are married to an imperfect person, they are going to fail, fall short, wound you - you knew this when you said "Yes." Even still, trust that person. Love them completely and let them love you.

Make your relationship a place of refuge and safety. I want my husband to feel the freedom to fail, to make mistakes, to mess up, to be the person I don't really want him to be - and to know he is still loved. To know that I'm not going to be another voice saying he should be something better or that he's messed up. He has the rest of the world for that. Marriage is really sacred and God-like when it surpasses being just a relationship and becomes this sacred place of safety on earth for us. It is a gift. And this perspective helps me to choose my words and choose my silence in a way that builds him up. We are seeking the betterment of each other, not merely just raising a family together, although that's really fun, too.”

-Sex matters.  It really, really does.
-Do whatever it takes to get your mind and body in the moment. Do it often. Repeat. 
-Try to understand that sex is one of the, if not THE main way that he feels connected to you and loved by you.
-Don’t make your husband feel guilty about wanting sex.  The alternative is not desirable.
-Just get laid, ladies.  Seriously.  Do it.  It is one of the keys to a long and happy marriage.
-Have sex with your husband even if you're tired, even if you have a headache, even if you just don't want to. Do it out of obedience to God.  You'll probably even like it after a few minutes!
- HAVE SEX MOREHere is my brilliant, million dollar insight on the matter....wait for it....IT DOESN'T TAKE THAT LONG!  I mean really.  Nike got it right. Just do it.
- Sex.  It gets better and better.  Really, I promise!  Our husbands need it.