Monday, May 30, 2011

It Could Have Been Awkward...

The food was spread on the green table cloth. Pink and yellow flowers adorned the center of the table. Hanging from the spreading branches of a nearby oak tree a pony pinata awaited its inevitable fate. Maya beamed! This was her birthday party and she was excited!!!

Soon, family and friends began to arrive and the introductions began. "Maya, this is your cousin," her birthmother smiled. Maya hung back a little. She has always been shy around new people, even if they are related to her. I nudged her gently and whispered, "Say, 'hello.'"

The emotional struggle over whether or not we should continue contact with the girls' birth mother had originally been a difficult one for me. And, while planning Maya's party, I found there were still some internal battles yet to be fought. Do we allow Maya's birth mother to invite members of her family to attend? If so, how many? Will it be awkward having members of her family and our family together?

We decided to invite Maya's birth mother to ask various members of her family to attend and also to help provide financially for the party. She did both. At the party four cousins and her mother (the girls' grandmother) attended. After the initial, rather formal introductions, we ate, played games, broke open the pinata, unwrapped gifts, smiled, and laughed together. It was almost as if we were all part of one big family.


When it was over and the goodbyes were said, I breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was okay. My sister caught my eye and smiled, "It went very well." Her words echoed my thoughts. Maya had bounced between adoptive and birth family with ease, smiling all the while. Although we all arrived with our own set of adult-sized apprehensions, they were all put aside for the love of a child. Maya had her special day and we were all happy to be a part of it.

Open adoption does not work in every case. But there are times when all adults involved can, with God's help, put away their own fears and focus on the child's needs and make it work. That is when the child really benefits. I never understood that before, but I am learning it day by day. Maya's smile is helping me.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Foster Care Heritage

Growing up, the term "foster child" was common in our home. After all, it described the childhoods of our mother, uncle, and aunt. We had three grandmothers, when all our friends had only two, and a host of relatives. We never really distinguished who was a biological relative and who wasn't. It didn't really matter to us. We just knew we were loved by a lot of people.

It wasn't until I was grown and a foster mother myself that I began to fully grasp the trauma involved in all of it. At the age of twelve, my mother and her sister, age 10 at the time, were taken away from their biological parents, separated from their brother, and placed in a stranger's home. They had not come from a violent family or a family with substance abuse problems, as is commonly the case today. Rather, their family was quite poor and, according to my biological great grandmother, not fully capable of raising their children to adulthood. Great-grandma, who was already caring for another grandchild, stepped in, contacted authorities, and the move was made. My mother, aunt, and uncle became wards of the state.

It was in foster care that my mom and her sister met Jesus. They each made the decision to give their lives to Him and trust Him with the things they could not understand. Eventually, my aunt married a missionary and had three children. (They now have three grandchildren.) My uncle and his wife of 50+ years have one son and one granddaughter. And, of course, my mom married my dad. In December, 2007, they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, surrounded by their five children, thirteen grandchildren, and a host of friends and relatives -- including members of Mom's foster family.

As an adult, Mom reunited with her biological family, but she never lost contact with the family that helped raise her. She called two women, "Mom," who were gracious enough to acknowledge each other's role in her life. (Both dads were deceased by this time.) She is called "Aunt Evelyn" by both biological and foster nieces and nephews. We have aunts, uncles, and cousins who share no blood ties with us, yet are just as close as those who do. We laugh together at weddings, anniversaries, reunions, and bridal/baby showers. We cry with each other at funerals and memorial services. We email and Facebook and visit and share. It's what families are supposed to do.

On one of my visits with Grandma I asked her why she had become a foster parent. She told me she had once seen a little girl with a torn and dirty dress, disheveled hair, and empty eyes. Her heart broke for that little girl. Then and there, she promised God that one day, if she were able, she would open her heart and home to children in need. Over the years she made good on her promise.

By the time Andie (who is now 16!) made me a mom, Grandma's health was fading. She had become legally blind and had to be moved to a care facility. Not knowing how much longer we'd have her with us, my mom and I decided another trip to Denver was necessary. I had one burning desire -- to introduce Andie to Grandma as soon as possible.

At their meeting, Grandma's face lit up. Andie hung back a little, but Grandma knew just how to melt the ice. She rummaged through her cupboard and found a cookie! In no time, Andie was feeling right at home. After enjoying Andie for a bit, Grandma turned her face towards mine, "You will never regret this," she smiled.

About seven months later, Grandma was gone. Her great, big, loving heart stopped. Her hands, which had blessed so many lives with her care, comfort, and good cooking, were still. Her smile faded and her quick laugh was silent. A stone slab now marks the place where she awaits the resurrection.

But her legacy lives on.


Four generations! Two sets of foster moms and daughters.

Then I heard a voice from heaven say, "Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on." "Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.
Revelation 14:13.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sitting On Pins and Needles

Every once in awhile something comes into your life that seems entirely too good to be true. We are sitting on the threshold of a moment like that right now.


Checking our emails.

Jumping whenever the phone rings.

Sitting on pins and needles.



Hopelessly distracted!

Jittery and a little unsure.

Oh, please, please, God, let it be true!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

This year I have been truly blessed to discover the blogging community. To meet other mothers and hear their stories and learn from them has been priceless. I wish all of you a most wonderful Mother's Day!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Bad Dream

The other morning Maya stumbled out of bed and padded towards me with a very serious face.

"I had a bad dream last night," she said sadly.

"I'm sorry," I responded, "What was it about?"

"You already know," she replied as she snuggled onto the couch next to me, "cuz you were in it."

Every Night, I Pray for You...

Those words are encouraging to anyone at any time, but today they caught me off guard and humbled me completely.

I had called my three youngest girls' birthmom. We are jointly planning Maya's upcoming birthday party and I wanted to fill her in on some of my plans. As it turned out, she wasn't home, but her dad was.

I've met him twice. A kind and pleasant man, he carries his sorrows quietly, close to his heart.

After telling me how I could get a hold of her, he paused a moment and said, "Thank you for what you are doing for the girls. It's wonderful. Every night, I pray for you..."

Every night, I pray for you...

Those words stopped me in my tracks and have been echoing in my mind ever since I hung up the phone.

Every night, I pray for you...

I am raising his granddaughters--granddaughters he didn't get to see for four years while they were in foster care and probably never would have had we not agreed to an open adoption. Oh, what a struggle that decision was!

I fought. I fumed. I argued with God and gave Him all the good reasons why we shouldn't. I threw pity parties for myself. I stomped my feet. "I WANT TO BE THEIR MOMMY!!!!" I cried.

Finally, after much patient convincing from God, I relented, opened my heart, and allowed Him to work miracles. It wasn't long before I began to realize that adoption doesn't have to mean the ending of one family so another can begin. Under God's guidance, it can be the blending of families so that hearts can heal and God's love can be known. Open adoption can be a beautiful thing.

Every night, I pray for you...

Tonight, I sit here and wonder...

How long has he been praying for me? Was it his prayers for a chance to get to know his granddaughters that God was trying to answer, when I was thinking only of my needs? Was it his prayers for healing for his family, that eventually softened my selfish heart? Was he praying for me when all I was thinking about was ME?

Every night, I pray for you...

Tonight, I started something new. I knelt down and prayed for this dear grandpa. With God's help, from now on...

every night I will pray for him.