Thursday, August 30, 2012

an ending and a beginning

The end of this week marks the end of Hannah's Dream Adoptions. It's been an amazing ride these past three years and I wouldn't trade it for the world.


The Dream Team together for coffee one last time


I'll miss it like crazy. I'll miss sitting for hours with birth mamas over coffee listening to their hearts and their struggles.  I'll miss sitting with adoptive families and hearing their stories and passion for life. I'll miss hollering back and forth with my team in the office and laughing hysterically. But I'll definitely miss this the most.

Change is good they tell me. I'm not so sure after the privilege of working at Hannah's Dream.

But I'm on to something new. 48 hours after I found out about Hannah's Dream I was hired on as a consultant at Christian Adoption Consultants. I work advising, guiding, and supporting families through their entire adoption journey. For more on what I do, check out this post. I've been consulting for almost two years now through Hannah's Dream and this seemed like the next logical step. CAC is an amazing company launched in 2004 with a heart for adoption and Christ-centered service.  

It's an awesome gig. I'm blessed with a flexible schedule working from home or Starbucks and can focus on my family. I can answer calls, blog, and email all in the midst of throwing a load of laundry in or taking a break to volunteer at the kids school. And I get the amazing opportunity to help families be created. To work for LIFE.  It's thrilling to be a part of God's story.

So here's to change. Here's to adoption. And here's to LIFE.  

I'm thankful I can still say I have the best job ever.

Monday, August 27, 2012

my [im]perfect life

I was out with some girlfriends recently. Dear friends who not only share my career but also my faith. We met through a local adoption council that meets monthly here in KC and after several lunches at Chipotle and sitting through some horribly boring conferences, we hit it off. Now we meet for coffee or dessert. And most recently we've been crafting together (which is hilarious since none of us are really very crafty at all). It started when one of them got married in a barn and had gobs of leftover burlap.  So we had "Breakfast and Burlap." We've started something...

The dear Nikki and Heather

But back to it. As we were crafting, we were chatting it up and I was sharing the update on my life. They were shocked that it wasn't going well. And I was shocked that they were shocked. These two women have walked pretty closely with me through life this past year and LOTS has happened that has't been sunshine and unicorns.They explained that they were shocked because keeping up in between our craftiness, they follow me on social media. And here's where it gets wonky; they said through my blog and Facebook and Instagram it looks like I have it all together.

What?!  I've been pretty honest here (about my failures at cooking and losing my job to name a few). I recently Instagramed a pic of how the gospel is kicking my rear (see James 1:2-4). And last week Jamy and I decided to start sharing our story which was HUGE to say the least.  


[Insert rear-kicking]

But I've found the same thing with my friends. I think there's mostly two extremes on social media. You either have those that lead extremely dramatic lives and love to live out the drama a little too publicly. Their Facebook page reads like bad country song or a really personal diary entry from seventh grade. Or (the more popular) Twitter feeds of amazing pictures of amazing kids from an amazing husband on your amazing vacation of your amazing life. Only the most fabulous and perfect are blogged and tweeted.


We owe it to each other to be honest. To leave the charade that we have it all together behind and start being real for a change. Because the reality is that we all go through stuff. Hard marriages, lost friendships, cancer, betrayal, bankruptcy, job loss, depression, and on and on. In general, we don't talk about it enough. And if we don't talk about it, we can't talk about our faithful God and walk beside each other in true community. We end up missing real friendship with others when we put on airs of having it all together.

The truth is, no one has it all together. If we did, we wouldn't need Jesus. Which is the lie that we sometimes buy into. If only I had a marriage like theirs...if we could afford that cruise...if my kids behaved that way...if I could fit into those jeans... But then what? When you can fit into the size 4 bikini and look hot on the cruise ship deck, have you nailed it? 

Our hearts were made for more. While we worship created things, our Creator wants us to look to Him. It's only when we face the reality that we don't have it all together and never will that we can rest in what Jesus has done, stop striving, and (here's the kicker) stop making ourselves look better than we really are.  

I'm willing to say that sometimes my life is pretty jacked up...if it means it can spark real conversations about real life and a real Savior who's coming to redeem this messed up, grace-filled journey I'm on.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

bittersweet

I've written this blog in my head about a hundred times. I've struggled with finding the right words to tell our story. I've been wrestling with it awhile; but when it comes down to it, it's an issue of pride. What will people who haven't been walking with us this past year think after reading this? What will people who don't know us think?  And if I could, I would hide it. Truth be told, if I could, I wouldn't have lived through it. This morning I almost chickened out but Jamy encouraged me again to share what God has done in our family. We want to tell our story so God can use all of this brokenness for His glory. 


This weekend marks our eleventh wedding anniversary. To sum it up: year number ten in our marriage has been hard. Hellish is more like it really.

Last November our marriage hit the fan. I'm not sure if I'll ever get into details here, but suffice it to say sin entered our relationship and hit us hard. So hard that we separated for three months. Eleven weeks to be exact. Had anyone ever said that this was what we were in for ten years beforehand, we would have chuckled and dismissed them. And honestly, so would many of our close friends.  


We came face to face with the reality that our marriage was not perfect and was far from what God created it to be.  

During this experience, we've gone through incredible loss. I was a single mom for almost three months. I lost friendships. Our finances became a mess paying for individual therapy, marriage counseling, and play therapy for the kids. Pride? Out the window (that's probably a good loss though). And our marriage has been through the wringer.

But we also had incredible gain. Mostly in our relationship with Christ. When everything was ripped from me, I literally had no where to turn but to Him. My identity could no longer be found in "having it all together." My faith couldn't be harbored in believing God would make everything turn out right if I just made good decisions. I needed to trust that Jesus was enough while my life was falling apart around me.  

So our eleventh anniversary this year is bittersweet to say the least. I'm full of mixed emotions and there's been many times this week I've just wanted to skip this milestone altogether.   

But on Saturday, August 25, 2012, I'm choosing to celebrate. I'm not choosing to celebrate the heartbreak, hopelessness, and despair of marriage that has been turned upside down.

Instead, I will celebrate God's amazing redemptive power to heal a broken marriage. I will celebrate my God who forgives, restores, and makes things new. I will celebrate a husband who doesn't take the easy way out and strives to be the man God has called him to be. I will celebrate a family marked by suffering but glorying in our God who will make all things right.  


We're still in it. We're still in the thick of it some days riding a roller coaster of the effects of sin and betrayal and hurt. But we're still running to the cross.We're still learning about what repentance and forgiveness means in the most practical and daily way. And we've learned what real love is all about.  1 Corinthians 13 took on a whole new meaning when it wasn't our pastor reading it to us at an altar; when we're trying desperately to live out "love never fails" when the world tells us we have "good reason" to give up. God has been faithful in healing our marriage, in healing our hearts, and in healing our family. 



And when you get down to it, isn't that what every marriage is all about? Two broken, sinful people coming together to show a sinful, broken world what redemption really looks like.




I'll keep celebrating my marriage because God does. 

To see how we began our celebration, watch this short film. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

positive adoption language: a [mini] tutorial

The language we use says a lot about our thoughts and values. Using positive adoption language communicates that adoption is as much a way to build a family as birth is. Both are equally important and valuable.



Sometimes we don't even realize we're using language that detracts from the value of adoption. But within one week of a birth an adoptive mom can tell you dozens of times she's already been offended: Is that your real baby? Which of your children are your own?  

And the birth mother? She has stories too where she inwardly rolls her eyes or cries after the comments and questions she gets. Why don't you want your baby?  Why are you giving them up?

The truth is, birth parents make an adoption plan. They are not "giving up" their baby. In fact, the opposite it true. They are making a thoughtful, self-less decision to choose parents for their baby since they are not in a season in their lives to parent themselves.

The term "put up for adoption" is actually from the orphan train era. During a period in America's history from 1854 to 1929 there was an estimated 200,000 children who were orphaned, abandoned, or abused and neglected. These children, many from New York, were placed on trains and sent to homes throughout the country. They were "put up" on platforms for families needing able-bodied children to work on their farms, etc. This is noted as America's first attempt at a foster care system. You can see why the term "put up for adoption" has negative connotations, to say the least.

By using the following positive adoption language*, you'll reflect the true nature of adoption; one that honors the child, the birth parents, and the adoptive family.

Terms to Avoid Positive Adoption Language
Real/natural parents Birth parents: expectant mother, birthmother, birth father
Children of your own Biological children
Adopted child/own child My child
Adopted child Child
Is adopted Was adopted
Illegitimate Born to unmarried parents
Give up or put up for adoption Place for adoption, made an adoption plan
Adopt out Adoption
Keep the child Chose to parent
Mixed race Bi-racial
Bi-racial family Trans-racial family
Foreign adoption International adoption
Hard to place/available children Adoptable/waiting children
Handicapped Disabled/special needs

*Adapted from my work with Hannah's Dream Adoptions

Want more adoption [mini] tutorials? Click here for more resources!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

to my kindergartner and first grader

Dear Isabelle and Jackson,

I'm joining with the masses of mommies at the beginning of a school year and asking where the time went. 


Seriously, how did you get so big?  I swear I filmed this just last year...



video


Every part of me wants to tell you to just stop. Stop growing up. Stop growing out of your jeans. Stop growing out of your toddler curly hair.  

And yet I know it's inevitable. Things will change and you will both get BIG and you will not need me as much. But today, I'm cherishing having a kindergartner and first grader who suddenly seem much older after putting your little uniforms on. 
  
There are certain moments I try to burn the memory of in my heart forever. This morning was one of them.  Both of you with your little backpacks with your names on them and matching lunchboxes (Isabelle with a butterfly and Jackson with your dinosaur). Both of you eagerly walking ahead of Mommy and Daddy into your school (did I mention it looks HUGE compared to my babies).  



And I'm glad you haven't grown out of hugs and kisses yet. Because I needed them just as much as you both did when we said goodbye this morning.


Happy first day of school, Bella and Jack. It's gonna be a good year...


Monday, August 13, 2012

my love/hate relationship with pinterest

So, Pinterest is basically amazing. I can get ideas for what to do with our old windows from our house on Lafayette, how to display my kids artwork, and what I want Jamy to cook next all in one place.  I was born to an artist/creative genius but sadly didn't inherit these genes from my mother. But who needs creative DNA? I just go to Pinterest where I can steal benefit from other people's creatively. It's genius.  

Jamy and I made this to hang over our bed.
(You should have seen the look on the scrap owners face
when we told him what we were doing with the pallet...)
And what better way to see what my friends are up to? I know who's planning on getting pregnant (come on, who are you really surprising by pinning the cute baby announcement?), planning a surprise party for grandma, or new ways they're decorating their classroom this year. (Seriously considering "unfollowing" all of my friends who are teachers, at least for the fall...ya'll are clogging up my boards!)

What I go through for a Pinterest project...
Recording memories 365 days to add to every year

BUT, it has it's drawbacks and quirks. Some things people find absolutely adorable I find absolutely creepy. And if you forget to recaption the thing you end up sounding creepy yourself sometimes. The time you can spend waste can be like a time warp. There's no limitations to what people can post. And I really do not need more half-naked women showing me how to get the flattest abs or great jeans for my tush.

Jamy and I made a huge chalkboard for the kids in the backyard.
However, Pinterest did not tell us we would be spackling the paint on.
The real issue is that I can find my heart leaning towards discontentment and longing at times while browsing on Pinterest. Oooooh, if I could only have the dream house with a 3 story library (then people can call me Belle) or the ability to make 3,437 different scarves or redo my entire wedding.  Comparison almost always equals discontentment for me. Instead of looking to Jesus for my hope and peace, I look to stuff. I'm at a Starbucks at the mall writing this right now. I can't take more than two steps without ads screaming for my attention or people at kiosks trying to catch me. 

So it's not just Pinterest: it's LIFE. This world clamors to tell me I need things, or relationships, or projects, or careers, or acclaim, to fill the huge gap in my heart that we're all born with. But only Jesus can lead to that kind of peace and contentment. Satisfaction isn't in completing a Pinterest project. The work has all been done and I can stop striving.


Includes friends, family, world issues, and
fruits of the spirit we pray for as a family at meal times.

The other day I stumbled across this article pinned by a friend: Are You Pinning to the Glory of God by Trisha Wilkerson. Intriguing I thought. And then I read this "When our hearts are content, we can enjoy creating beauty, appreciating new and fun ideas, and undertaking creative projects without them taking over our lives. A heart like this can enjoy Pinterest with joy and without the pressure to keep up. We can save that new project I idea for the right time, and in the meantime feel satisfied." 

So I will continue to enjoy Pinterest (I have a 7th birthday party to plan). But I'll be careful to find satisfaction in things that truly bring contentment. The cute kittens will just have to take a back burner.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

open adoption 1.0: a [mini] tutorial

Those two words are enough to strike the fear of God in people: "open adoption." No matter who you are, I've found that nearly everyone immediately goes to the most recent Lifetime movie of the "big bad birth mother" who shows up on the doorstep of the adoptive family with a golf club demanding her baby back. Or the crazed tabloid story of the father that took the baby to the forests of Digibuti and never returned.

I've had this discussion with dozens and dozens of adoptive parents. And other mothers. And friends. And strangers who find out what I do. Because everyone wants to know what it really looks like and if it really works.

So let me just talk to you about open adoption like I would with one of my adoptive families. We're in your living room and you've brewed me some Starbucks to win me over. Done.

I would say this: "Get over it." (OK - I don't really say that.) But this is something like what we would chat about...

Years ago almost all adoptions were closed.  A young woman got "pregnant out of wedlock" and went to "visit Aunt Jean in Oklahoma" for several months. She would deliver, most likely not be given a chance to even meet her baby, and return never to speak of the life-changing event again. Then a sweet young couple dealing silently with infertility would be notified that a baby who matched their skin tone and hair and eye color was ready and waiting for them. Only close friends and family knew the baby was adopted and they would never speak of it again either. Until that sweet baby got to be an adult and they discovered the truth: "Happy 18th Birthday! Here's your original birth certificate - you were adopted [insert super awkward pause here]..."

OK - the story didn't always work out that way. But more often than not, this was a typical plot line. And you've heard it because many of these people ended up on Oprah or Regis and Kelly with tearful and dramatic reunions.

Today we know better. We know that closed adoption is usually not the best for anyone in the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptee). For the birth parents, openness offers incredible closure and solidifies their choice for adoption. For the adoptive family, they have important information (social and medical) that make up a huge piece of their child. And for the adoptee, they've heard first-hand from the source the reasons their birth parents made an adoption plan. The child also has more of a sense of identity (I got my brown eyes from my birth mom and my love for music from my birth father's dad) which is invaluable for their sense of worth.


This is Asher with his adoptive parents Carter and Courtney and his birth mama, Sarah.

Many people think openness will lead to second thoughts, confusion, and Lifetime movie drama on their own doorstep. Instead, it leads to honesty, insight, closure, and genuine relationships.


Openness is a continuum. For as many different families who have adopted there are just as many variations to openness.


  • Open adoption is typically when the birth parents and adoptive parents have open communication after the adoption of the child.  First and last names including contact information are shared openly between adoptive and birth parents. An ongoing relationship is developed.
  • Semi-open adoption allows the adoptive parent's contact information to remain completely confidential, but allows a meeting between the birth and adoptive parents prior to or at birth. A semi-open adoption also often involves emails or letters and pictures sent periodically throughout your child's life. 
  • Closed adoption is when the birth parents and adoptive couple typically remain completely anonymous.  Only a social and medical history is shared concerning the birth parents. They do not meet or even know first names. 

Here's the concerns and questions I'm asked almost every time I get into a conversation about open adoption:

We don't want to confuse our child.  We want them to know we are their parents.
Usually we're the ones that make things confusing. If the birth and adoptive families are clear about their roles and aren't rivals, the child won't be confused. Just like some of us know and have unique relationships with two sets of grandparents, it doesn't mean we don't understand the important and often different relationship we have with each of them. Ignoring or undermining the significance of a child's birth parents can undermine the child's identity.
We don't want the birth parents to change their mind.  What if they see us and have second thoughts?
Open adoption actually solidifies a birth parent's choice for adoption.Rather than wondering "did I make the right choice? Are the adoptive parents really who they said they were? Do they love him as much as I do?" - the birth parents actually get to SEE their child being loved like crazy and know they made the right decision.   
What if the birth parents are intrusive or don't approve of our parenting style?
The birth parents have chosen the adoptive family to raise their child. Usually, they have received excellent counsel and fully understand the adoption process.Birth parents recognize that they are not in a season to parent and are giving up the ability to parent their child in the traditional sense of the word. After consent is signed and the adoption is finalized, it's understood that the adoptive family is the legal parents in every sense of the word.
So what does openness look like, really?
I've seen families walk this out literally hundreds of ways. I know a family who has set up a private blog and they update their birth parents (and the birth grandmas!) with picture and video updates. Another family sends pictures monthly to add to a scrapbook they made for the birth mom. Many families text updates and pictures. Most families send picture and letters through email. Some celebrate holidays together. I know one couple even who babysit for their now 3 year old daughter! 
Here's the crazy thing: these same fears that adoptive families have are the exact same fears birth families have. I've sat in numerous coffee shops with mamas saying they want to be sure not to overstep boundaries and want their child to know they've chosen an adoptive family to be parents. Big bad birth mama complex?  Right out the window.

You see, these are women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. They are the antithesis of selfish women who only want what's best for themselves. In an open adoption, they have hand-picked a family to raise their sweet baby. Birth parents aren't baby-snatchers. Because of their immense love for their baby they have chosen adoption. Is it hard? Yes. Do they waver and second-guess? Almost always.  But they are the heroes that deserve more than our questioning raised eye-brows. They have chosen LIFE when the world tells them otherwise. They deserve our awe, respect, and honor.

Below is an amazing video of some open adoption stories from The Adoption Center of San Diego. I give this video to many adoptive and birth parents when discussing openness.



Really, openness happens best when it's organic. I didn't sit down with my best friend at a coffee shop the first time I met her and chart out our friendship: OK, I need email updates from you every three months, pictures of your family every 6, and these are my plans for celebrating your birthday... Real relationship  is a gradual and slow process. I can't tell you how many families I've worked with who were scared to death at first at the thought of an open adoption, and then met the birth mama and fell in love with her. I've had many families who feel like they've also adopted the birth family and all become like extended family.  

My only caution is this: it's much easier to slowly open the door than to need to slam it shut. Openness happens in a healthier way like other relationships: gradually and slowly.  

I was reading my twitter feed awhile ago and came across this: "I woke up this morning and heard my son's mother reading scripture to him." I immediately had tears in my eyes. It was Mother's Day and one of my sweet birth mamas had traveled across the country (as she has several times now) to visit her son and his adoptive parents. And she was celebrating her first Mother's Day with the mother she had chosen for her son. They are like family now. I can't think of a more beautiful picture of open adoption.

Here's the bottom line: is open adoption hard? YES. But what relationship that is truly valuable isn't. My only "easy" relationships are with the barista and the grocer. Hard, messy, genuine, and worthwhile relationships usually happen in my living room.  

Want more adoption [mini] tutorials? Click here for more resources!

Monday, August 6, 2012

love is...(for parents)

I've been using this book, "Powerful Prayers for Your Children" by David and Heather Kopp, to pray out of the Bible for Isabelle and Jackson recently. I came across this prayer and it was too good not to share. Such a good reminder for this mama's fickle heart.



Praying from I Corinthians 13:4-8

Today I pray that none of my efforts will be wasted because every aspect of my parenting is backed up by the true qualities of love.

When I feel tense and short-tempered, help me to take a deep breath and remember that love is patient (v.4).

When I am wrapped up in my own to-do lists, remind me to take time to pay attention and be kind to my children (v. 4).

When I am tempted to compare my kids with other people kids, help me to remember that genuine love doesn't express itself through envying - or boasting, either (v. 4).

When I discipline or reprimand my kids, help me to check my tone of voice and my expression, remembering that love is not rude (v.5 ).

When my kids argue, beg, or whine, remind me that love is always slow to anger (v. 5).

When I'm at my wit's end and tempted to give my kids a quick rundown of all the things they've done wrong the past few days to bring me to this point, remind me that love doesn't keep a record of wrongs (v. 5).

When I feel twinges of smugness about another parent's failure, remind me that love doesn't rejoice over bad news but when good happens (v. 6).

When I'm ready to take a foolish risk with my child's safety because I'm too distracted or too tired to insist on precaution, remind me that love always protects (v. 7).

When I'm reluctant to let my child take on challenges he seems ready for, remind me to trust You and what You're doing in my child (v. 7).

When I'm discouraged about my child's progress in a certain area, remind me that love always hopes, even in the face of setbacks (v. 7).  

When I'm tired and feeling like I just can't parent well, remind me that love never gives up (v. 7).

Amen and amen.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

redo & the west bottoms

So, this winter I got restless. I needed things to be new around me for more reasons than one.

I've been going to this amazing place in the West Bottoms, a place in historic Kansas City where the Missouri and Kansas rivers meet. The area was originally called the French bottoms since it started as a trade site for French trappers and local Kansa Indians. At the evolution of the railroad system, it became the site of the Kansas City Stock Yards in 1871 and home of the Livestock Exchange Building, the largest of its kind in the world. This brought Hereford breeders and the famous American Royal Livestock and Horse Show. Some stats show that close to 90% of young Kansas City’s wealth resided in the West Bottoms until the massive flood of 1903 stopped further development. Another huge setback for the area was the end of WWII which halted much of the industrial economy. Today it's full of old industrial buildings that are a hot spot for the arts industry and local shops.




We love it so much we had our family pictures taken there by our dear friend, Brad last fall. Yes, that's our family in the middle of the road on a church pew.  




So every month on the first weekend, vintage shops open to the public. Each shop is crowded with dealers, antiques, crafts, and vintage items. Most of the furniture has been patinaed or distressed or worn and faded. It's fantastic.


In the basement of my fav shop:
RE: Restoration Emporium


Every month is an adventure. I have a list in my mind of what I'm looking for and get amazing ideas to decorate. AND I make mental notes and take pictures of what I think I can do on my own or find out how to do on Pinterest. I usually go with a girlfriend or Jamy on a hot date.


Women waiting in line at Good Ju Ju


It's out of hand. Think opening day ticket sales for Justin Beiber. Instead of pre-adolecent teenagers insert crazed stay-at-home moms on a mission for some vintage furniture. In a line with their Starbucks with one hand and measuring tapes in the other waiting for the doors to open at their fav shop. I've literally seen fights break out with elbowing and cussing.  It's insane.  And I love it (not the cussing part but the adventure of it all). It's an experience. On top of the soccer moms vying for the patina finished dressers, there's flea markets, food trucks, and [my fav] local coffee. 




So our house was still decorated in the we-don't-have-style-yet/first-married-but-we're-registered-at-Bed-Bath-and-Beyond. Traditional. Non-nondescript. And I was longing for something new. So we began to redecorate with our finds. It's been fun going on the "hunt" every month. AND we've actually come out on top. We've sold the old stuff on Craig's List and actually ended up making money. You can't beat that.









Post Script: After looking at the horror of some of these pics (my photographer friends are all cringing that they made it in a blog) I may break down and see if I can ask Santa for a shiny camera for Christmas...for the benefit of the reader of course.
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