#weneedoneanother | part 3: writing out loud

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I’m back…finally. All that advent wore me out – ha! And then tending to daily life gets the best of me and my time, and then we’ve added the task of remodeling a home and all the fun and tedious decisions have soaked up my brain creativity and energy.

But in this last week of January, I wanted to say, HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I’m hoping to continue this #weneedoneanother series. If you’re just jumping in, WELCOME and it might be helpful to start here. If you’ve been traveling with me, so glad you’re still here. And breathing. And reading.

A huge THANK YOU to the six adoptive parents who I got to introduce to you this past November. I’m SO grateful for not only their words and voices, but the ways they are leaning in to the hearts of their adopted children. What a gift – to them, to their children. My hope is that each story spoke to you in helpful and hopeful ways. I know it was a risk to highlight the adoptive parent voice, once again, because I’ve come to realize that there have been and are many adoptees who feel like the adoptive parent’s voice has been raised and acknowledged and louder than the ones who have experienced the loss. My heart was to be intentional about highlighting adoptive parent stories who are awakening to the reality that “adoption isn’t just about adding, not just about gaining, not just about receiving…it’s also about losing and leaving and relinquishing and letting go of…everything.” These weren’t stories of “Look at what we’ve done” or “Look at how spiritual we are” or “We feel so good about rescuing a little baby who needed love.” These were stories of heart and soul, of journey and enlightenment, of pain and joy, of listening – to their own heart, to their child’s heart – and testifying to the reality that “holding the tension” and “listening” has the ability to honor both the adoptive parent AND the person who has been adopted. I want so much for adopted children and adopted adults to know that the landscape of adoption is changing, that there are parents who are listening to the hard as much as they are celebrating the good, that the adoption “process” is becoming more of a ground where seeds of truth and healing and redemption are being cultivated, where they are blooming. We have a long road ahead of us, so (again) I invite you – no, I beg you – no, I invite you, to “keep leaning in, keep being present, keep being still, and listen” to the heart of the adopted person…”because it just might change ALL OF US.” 

So, let’s just dive in to this “not-really-my-plan-for-the-next-post,” but since it came up on Facebook – I mean, since I brought it up on Facebook – I thought I would add it to this series. Because it’s kind of important.

I recently had a sweet adoptive mama ask me about some blog posts she wrote about her daughter, about how she was articulating her parenting story. I think that took TONS of courage! It was risky and I have a lot of respect for her – for being willing to gain an outside, adopted person’s perspective, but even more so, for following through on something that was stirring inside of her and for being open to a perspective she didn’t have, yet wanted to have. I loved her heart, her intent.

And out of that, like I do, I have some thoughts on writing and blogging “out loud.” I know this has been a BIG topic, a hard topic, a controversial topic. And that’s OK. Tension is OK. We don’t need to land in one place or in one stance or on one idea. We can be in process.

But let’s be moving, TOGETHER.

SIDE NOTE: We can only do so much “talking” and “processing” and “listening” online, on social media, via email, or even texting. Person to person is ALWAYS the best way. Feeling known happens in real time, with real people. (Later post on this.)

Relationships over rectangles. Amen? Amen.

So here’s my paraphrase of this adoptive mama’s question: Am I writing anything that would hurt my daughter 20 years from now knowing that nothing disappears on the Internet? I don’t want to hurt or damage our relationship because of something I wrote that she can read when she’s older. (Yes, I told this mom I was going to get some FB love and perspective on this.)

Here are some thoughts. My heart is to offer perspective, not tell you what to do or try to convince you to start or stop doing something. Just keep listening…

…to other adopted persons

…to your children

…to the voice within. 

This is an invitation to LISTEN, in a different kind of way.

And then…let’s all keep a posture of openness, because for all of us to keep moving forwards, together, we have to keep leaning in and listening, to one another.

When I read AP posts, I try to put myself in the shoes of their children, and at the same time, experience the post from my own perspective as an adult adopted person. I try to imagine what it would feel like to read the post – at age 5 or 10 or 20, or even today at 40 – as if my mom had written it about me.

When I read the parts where parents describe the child’s behavior that feels so hard, so annoying, so exhausting, it honestly makes me cringe a bit and I can easily conclude this:

ME + MY HARD BEHAVIOR = A BOTHER TO MY PARENT = BAD

Now as a mom of a 6 and 4 year old, I GET it. I’m WITH you. I EMPATHIZE with you. I FEEL your hard.

But…to have these “hard” or “bad” things written, about your child, in a public space…THAT is what feels hard for me (just as it would if someone wrote about a friend or spouse or coworker, just as it would if someone wrote about you).

Yes, yes, yes…we want others to resonate with and feel joined and understood. We want others to know that they’re not alone, that we’re in the trenches too, together. But my question is, “Is the Internet the BEST place to express this, about our children, using their ‘hard’ or ‘bad’ behavior?”

Ahhh! This is a really hard question to answer. So many parents and people are feeling understood via the internet in lots of good ways. But when it comes to the “personal” stuff, the personal “hard” stuff, about others (e.g. our children), is the Internet the best platform to help people feel joined? Does that become about our children? About others? About us?

I don’t know. I wrestle with it, even in my own writing. I could write SO much about my children and I often find myself pausing, wondering and imagining what they might think and feel if they read it and could understand what I’ve said about them and how their “hard” or “bad” behavior makes me feel (or even how it’s changing and growing me). They could perhaps interpret it as, “I am too much” or “I am not enough.” And I know from listening to you all that this is NOT the message you want to send your children, especially because we know that there’s something already inside of them that believes that lie. I think it’s imperative for us to think through “the message sent” VS “the message interpreted.” Just because we have really good and pure intentions, doesn’t ensure that someone won’t get hurt. So, since children are too young to process and talk through what is written about them, I default to the belief that it’s my job – our job – to protect them, their stories, but even more importantly, their hearts.

Oh, but wait…what if the “little girl” inside of me had something to say to you, too? Something like this:

“Mom/Dad – Why are you using MY hard to help others feel better about their stories? I can’t help that there’s so much hard in me, in my body. It’s not my fault. My hard is mine. And yours. It’s sacred and private – between you and me. So, even if you’re using it in a good way, it doesn’t always feel good to me. Someday I hope that I can use my hard, OUR hard, to help others, but please, please, please let ME be the person to figure out if/when/what/how to share it.”

So…

YES to helping others feel heard and understood and affirmed.

YES to offering stories of truth, of hope.

YES to discerning if/when/how/what to share on the internet – a public platform that will hold your words and stories and thoughts and pictures…FOREVER.

YES to finding creative ways to “post out loud.”

YES to being overly cautious rather than overly truthful…for them, for their hearts, for their dignity.

YES to fighting for our children’s hearts being more important than lots of comments on blog posts or LIKES on Facebook.

Sometimes giving our children YES’s means giving ourselves NO’s.

With much love and grace, from a truth teller who is learning every day what offering TRUTH in LOVE looks like and who is on this “writing out loud” journey, with you.

#weneedoneanother

MUSIC – I don’t have a song for this post, but I do have THIS video clip by Brené Brown called, “The Power of Empathy.” It’s brilliant. Perhaps what could help us in our discernment process of whether to post something about our kids or not, is to practice empathy. And after what’s inside of you connects with what’s inside your child, you’ll have a better understanding of what direction to go, to write, because you’ll have stepped into his or her shoes.

I would love to know what are you all doing and learning and changing as you write and blog and “post out loud.”

#weneedoneanother | part 2: show and tell

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Ready to roll? Again?

I hope that PART 1 of my musings got you thinking, at least a little. I know it was a lot. Keep processing and chewing on it – for you, for your child. Absorb what you can, (gently) spit out what you’re not ready for. Thoughts and comments and even push back are always welcomed. For real, I can take it. Additional perspective and wisdom and experience is something that always teaches me, deepens me, strengthens me. I love when I get to “add to” who I am.

Well, here’s PART 2 if you’re up for more lovely rainbows and unicorns.

One of the most surprising and enlightening things a mentor told me is that when she listened to me share my story, she sensed that I was telling it from my “head,” from my left brain. All the information and facts and data I shared fell right out of my mouth, with ease, like bullet points. I didn’t skip a beat. I knew exactly how to tell, how to “report” my story.

I’ve always been remarkably good at remembering and articulating the details. I haven’t always been good at feeling the details. Back then, and even now, my story can stay stuck in the events, in the data, which makes it really easy for my heart to stay stuck there, too. Tucked away. Closed. Protected.

There are experts and therapists who can help you know how and when (not IF) to tell your child his/her story in an age appropriate way – the really, really good parts AND the hard, messy parts. It’s all important to know, to tell, to feel. One thing I believe wholeheartedly, is that when telling a story, whether your own or your child’s, it’s essential to always tell the truth. Always. To some this may seem like a “duh,” but I’ve met so many parents who have a really hard time believing that telling the truth is going to be helpful, especially if parts of the story have the potential to hurt their child. And I get it. It feels awful to have to tell your child that someone made a decision that hurt him/her, that someone was sick or died, that someone wasn’t able to take care of him/her, that someone didn’t want him/her, that someone did something un-loving. And now you – YOU – have to be the messenger of that kind of bad news. Not fair. At all.

But here’s the thing: You are not the one who committed the “wrong.” The hard truth is not on you, it’s not about you. It’s on the story. You are the messenger, the one who tells what happened. And then, you get to be a person who feels and grieves WITH your child, who aches WITH your child, who mourns WITH your child, who helps make sense of the story WITH your child. YOU get to be the one who shows compassion towards your child, for his/her story, for what happened to him/her. Now THAT is a gift. That is a chance to show love and build trust. And believe me, YOU want to be that person! When you enter INTO your child’s story WITH him/her, you become a soft place that your child can always return to when he/she has questions and doubts and confusion and anger, when shame tries to sneak it’s way in. And when the understanding and acceptance and gratitude and healing find it’s way in.

And let me add this…when you tell the hard parts of your child’s story, let your heart show. Allow your anger and sadness and disappointment with the unknown facts, with the unfair decisions, with the unjust actions to surface, so that your child is able to see and know that it’s OK to feel the hard feelings, that it’s OK to say them out loud. Often times we don’t know that’s it’s OK to feel (or verbalize) all those messy feelings. And so we need your help, your permission, your lead. And as you show those feelings, what begins to happen is that your child begins feeling your compassion for what happened to him/her, towards his/her hurting heart. It’s kind of hard to explain, but when you experience someone’s empathy towards your story, it changes you. You feel seen. You feel heard. You feel known. And feeling known is one of the most wonderful and needed gifts that you can give your child. To feel like someone “gets” you, to feel like someone understands you, THAT is when the focus becomes less lasered in on the feelings and more on feeling compassion towards yourself, for that little boy or little girl inside of you.

SIDE NOTE: I know that many of you feel an urgency to tell your child his/her story because some of us keep telling you how important it is. Here’s my two cents on this: while your child is young, unable to make sense of what you hope they will make sense of, practice showing your heart and responding to their heart in the everyday things, like when it’s time to go to bed or get dressed or turn off the TV – anytime they show their feelings, anytime disappointment surfaces. Practicing here will help with there – what is to come.

For me, the more I’ve shown the little girl inside of me tenderness and grace and forgiveness, when I’ve told her, “I’m so, so sorry that you had to lose the two people who created you, who were first connected to you, who were “supposed” to love you and take care of you,” and “I wish that had never had to happen to you,” have been the very moments when something inside of me opens. It’s been the moments I began realizing how much she – the little girl still inside me – needed love, how much that I long for love, that I was made to love. It’s like that little girl was stuck “back then.” She shut down, became dismissive of her pain, hid her anger and fear and shame, and did what she needed to survive, to know that she mattered. For me it was (and can still be) performance and perfection, telling myself that I needed to be a “good girl,” but there are a million ways we can respond to life when our hearts shuts down. And whatever it is that opens up (I would say it’s our spirit), it begins to soften – not only to the truth and grace and love offered by the people in our life, but to the truth and grace and love that God has to offer. Truth about how lovable we are, how valuable we are, how much he sees and knows and delights in us, how much his heart grieves at what happened to us, about how lovable our birthparents are (no matter what choices they made), about how he planned for us before the beginning of time. Oh…so many tears as I’ve heard his truth. And, lots of resistance to allowing these truths to replace the lies I had believed (and can still believe) about myself and people, and even how good and trustworthy he was, back then.

You see for us, the reality that the two people who created us didn’t stay with us, for whatever reason – good or bad – messes with our goodness. It distorts our identity. It makes us doubt our significance. Even if a child received love and nurture and safety as they were raised by foster parents and/or caretakers in an orphanage, the loss of birthparents – not staying with them, not staying connected to them – is serious, grievous, unfair. Our lives hold the impact of that. Our hearts carry the weight of that. Forever.

I’ve often thought back to when I was in the hospital giving birth and what it would’ve been like to need to or choose to or be forced to “give my babies away,” and all I can come up with is that it would be excruciating painful, devastating, horrific. I would feel the impact of that loss every single day. To think about living through that experience as an adult and comparing it to what that would be like for my babies – my babies who were connected to me, who needed my touch and voice and smell, my love. And then to be carried away, “placed into” another family’s home, and expected to adapt, expected to reconnect, expected to disconnect from what was – their first people and surroundings? OH, MY HEART! How in the world do you do that? Even with a healthy family structure and environment? HOW IN THE WORLD does one ever “get over” that? How does one ever get over any other treacherous relational experiences like when one parent leaves the other parent, or cheats on the other parent, or is abused by another human being? And so on and so on.

What the adoption world (historically, but maybe even still) has asked of us adoptees dumbfounds me. And people wonder why adoptees seem so angry, why they just can’t “get over it,” why they just can’t be thankful for what they did get, for what they do have. (Later post on the “angry adoptee.”)

But you…we…can change that.

Friends, the loss of birthparents is traumatic for your baby – the vulnerable, tender, innocent, precious one whose body you hold. Please, please don’t negate or dismiss or cover up the impact of early trauma, of relational loss, or the other multiple layers of trauma that come after the initial separation. I beg you. We beg you. Hold all of this WITH us. You don’t have to fix it. You don’t have to take responsibility for it. You don’t have to heal it. You don’t have to take care of our feelings (or attempt to make us take care of yours). You can’t. I hate to have to tell you that, but you can’t. I don’t think any of us would ask this of you. But I do know that what we would ask of you is to be there, with us, in it, showing us all the compassion and tenderness and grace you possess. Giving us permission to be mad, sad, scared, shameful, disconnected, untrusting – to feel. Giving us permission to be on our own journey, to make sense of our own story. Giving us permission to find who we are, to heal, to experience redemption, in our own time. (Later post on acceptance and healing and redemption, because that comes WAY later in the story!)

Please, please give us permission to be human. 

And so I had to feel. I had to feel what lay dead and distant inside of me for years. I had to speak my own truth, out loud, to myself, to others, to God. It felt so wrong and disobedient and unsettling to feel angry and resentful and sad, to wish I knew my birthparents, to feel unforgiveness towards my birthparents, to wish that I hadn’t needed to be adopted. Yet, I hated myself for not loving myself, for not accepting my story, for allowing shame to veil me. I heard over and over again, “It was God’s plan for you to be a part of our family,” and “Just think what your life would have been like if you had stayed in Korea,” and “God has a purpose in all of this for you.” Those sentences messed with me. Unknowingly for a long time, but as I grew older, something in me didn’t feel right when people said those things to me. Parents – these phrases might all be true, but speaking truth before acknowledging the pain will only force your child to be somewhere, someone, he or she is not.

SIDE NOTE: Maybe instead of saying, “It was God’s plan for you to be in our family,” you could say, “We know it makes God’s heart so sad to know that your parents weren’t able to take care of you (or died or made the choice to leave you or weren’t able to parent you or made choices that hurt you or chose the plan of adoption – whatever language you decide).” And then, “And at the same time, we know it makes God’s heart so happy that you get to be a part of our family.” Pain and joy – they always exist together.

And so when you hear that adoptees hold this belief that we should feel grateful for having been adopted, you (hopefully) can understand why we feel influenced to feel this way. When the missing story or awful story or just plain hard story – the past –  gets pushed aside and the focus becomes about the present, about the “forever family,” about what we have NOW, the gratitude feels forced. It’s like our past exists only as pieces of information to compare our current life to rather than a story to be told. And for many years, this was true. This is what parents were taught about our beginnings – that it happened, that it’s over. But our past – the time before we joined your family – is part of our story, part of our lives. It shaped us, our insides – the way we relate, the way we connect, the way we trust, the way we love, the way we see us and you and God. However mysteriously it happens, I believe that our brains get wired to begin believing the lie that who we are is not OK. This lie can turn more specifically into either, “I am too much” or “I am not enough.” And when we don’t believe that who we are is good, that feels badly. That’s painful. And like I wrote about in Part 1, when we feel pain, we have a choice: we can FLEE the pain or we can FEEL the pain.

I’ll be honest, fleeing feels WAY better. It makes you feel better about yourself. Well, in a deceptive sort of way. But the way you stroll through life gives off the sense that you have something to prove – that you’re smart enough, rich enough, funny enough, strong enough, cool enough, pretty enough, good enough. You get it. Some try to make people tell them that they’re OK. Others try to convince people that they’re OK. There’s something deep inside us all that yearns to know that we’re enough. That’s part of the impact of “the fall.” And after awhile, what we’re doing seems futile. It doesn’t give the return that we’re hoping for. And at the end of the day, when we lay our head down on our pillow, that sense of peace that we all want, just isn’t there. The striving get’s so tiring, and in time, will take it’s toll – sometimes within your marriage, sometimes your job, sometimes your children, sometimes your body. Spending all that energy proving to the world that you’re somebody because you believe you’re nobody is going to bite you in the butt. I’ll say it a little nicer: it’s going to cost you something. Maybe that’s a relationship or job or respect or money, or maybe even your own soul. And no soul is worth losing.

Fleeing will always lead you to a dead end.

But if you choose to FEEL, you’ll find more of you. And that comes with a cost, too. If you choose to enter the heart spaces, you choose vulnerability. And, unfortunately, not everyone has the ability or maturity to handle or hold the heart spaces with you. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to cry, especially with others. And for some, it’s just as difficult to feel and show anger. It feels so wrong. And what about shame? Who wants to admit that they think they suck, that they’re bad, that there’s something wrong with them? There are few people who will be willing to navigate through all of us with you which is not about you, it’s about them – their inability, their insecurity, their lack of practice with vulnerability, their belief that brokenness needs to be buried. (Finding safe people is hard and takes time, but critical to the process.)

But aren’t all of these emotions (and all of the others) human? Could feeling these emotions WITH your children show them that you’re human too? That it’s OK to be human? Could modeling humanity for our children actually allow them to feel what they need to feel at the appropriate age in the appropriate way? So they don’t get stuck emotionally, “back then”? And after you begin feeling what’s inside and naming it and owning it, then what do you do with all that mad and sad and scared and shame? It’s not in the feeling that’s bad or wrong, it’s what you DO with the feeling that either destroys and dismisses or repairs and reconciles. (Later post on what to DO with the feelings.)

Feeling will always lead you to your humanity.

(So, if you need a breather or a break, I guess this could be the place to take one. But I would keep reading if I were you.)

And so as hard as it was to tell God that I felt confused and angry and hurt and sad and scared, that everything felt so unfair, it was the beginning of a shift. A shift that went from me hiding from me (and everyone else) what was inside of me, to me seeing me, what was inside of me. I began allowing myself to be human. I started choosing vulnerability – with me, with others, with God. I started trusting, what was inside of me. And you know what? For many, many years, my vulnerability came from an invitation from someone else. I didn’t go there intentionally. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t seek it. Vulnerability was always shared. Others showed me their heart – the good and the hard – first. And then I chose to “go there,” with them. Little by little, pieces and parts of my story were told. And felt. And responded to. Each of these people showed me that they were safe – that all my feelings were OK to lay out on the table. No judgment, no criticism, no rescuing, no “You shouldn’t feel that way.” They responded to my heart. When I began naming out loud what was inside of me – the parts I felt scared of, ashamed of – it felt SO vulnerable. It felt like I was taking off my clothes, sitting there naked and exposed. But in their response – their eyes, their posture, their tone, their words – it felt like they were re-clothing me with dignity, with truth. Everything I showed, everything I told, was listened to, affirmed, empathized with, responded to, shown compassion. And it changed me. And them.

Vulnerability will always lead you to intimacy and connection and authentic relationship, to trust. 

First it was people. People came first. Then God.

People were the ones who showed me that God was safe enough to trust. People were the ones who displayed God’s heart, his character, his love. Maybe for some, there’s this amazing instinct and belief that God is trustworthy, but I think those of us who got messed with, not only doubted that people were good and would stay when it got hard or inconvenient, but also doubted that God was good and would stay. And then to be told that God “allowed it to happen”? Or that he “planned it” And “had a purpose”? What? It’s really hard to trust a God like that. (Later post on the huge word, “trust.” Maybe even a little on the topic of “God and pain” and the “Gospel of Adoption.” That is, if I find the courage. Rainbows and unicorns first.)

And let’s talk about God for a minute, and the church. Wanna go here? I do.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a theologian, not even close, but I do have some thoughts on God. Please know that these are my thoughts. They don’t need to be your thoughts. But, they could be “our” thoughts, together – ha! Please know that my faith, my view of God, his view of us – they’re always evolving and growing and maturing and expanding. (I hope yours are too.)

It seems, in my experience, that the “church” has been taught and told, “point your children to God.” For some, there’s been an intentional parenting philosophy that instructs parents to focus on telling their children who God is, what he expects of them, what he hates, what he’s against, what behavior is considered “holy,” what needs to be prayed for, what needs to be gotten rid of. Much of the evangelical church language can seemingly put demands and expectations on what being a “good” Christian looks like, acts like, talks like, believes like, feels like. The focus seems more on the outcome and results and behavior, rather than on the process of transformation and formation of the heart. Maybe for some, this way of thinking and living motivates and inspires and challenges. Yet, for others, it’s been confusing and shameful and destructive to the heart of humanity, to building authentic relationships. Where is God in the should and must and need to and have to? Yes, God is in the good, in the obedience. I think it pleases him when we choose to live under and in and with his authority. I believe that with everything inside of me. But…And…isn’t God also in the suffering? In the hurting and hard? In the unknown and blurry and messy? In the mad and sad and scared and shame? That we feel in our hearts? And isn’t the heart the very center of where Jesus lives and breathes and moves?

OK – so keep with me here.

As a parent, when my child feels disappointed or mad or sad or scared, even shameful, it’s so easy for me to begin telling her what really happened, why she shouldn’t feel that way, give her perspective, tell her something truthful in an attempt to get her refocused off her pain and onto feeling better. But that’s all cognitive, all left brain. When I begin rationalizing or explaining or theorizing, that only speaks to her mind. But what about her heart? The center of where Jesus lives and breathes and moves?

What do we do when everything inside our children is questioning and doubting and hating and hiding and fleeing? Do we force them to step into their head space? Tell them what they should be and must do and need to feel and have to get over? Does God do this with us? Does he demand or force us to be joyful or grateful or humble or honest? Or does he invite us? To be and do and feel and move forwards because that’s the kind of person he created us to be. And if/when we’re open to hearing his invitation, if/when we accept his invitation, if/when we choose him, I think that has the ability to bring SO much more glory to him than if he made us, or demanded us or forced us. Maybe as parents, we could choose to let go of and release what we don’t have control of. And then allow our presence, the way we show love, the way we model trust, be an invitation to our children to enter into their heart spaces.

Maybe the “church” needs to (whoops – I mean, could) awaken (or re-awaken) more of her heart to more of God’s heart. Maybe she has spent an unbalanced amount of time gaining knowledge and passing down knowledge, circling around in the left brain (which is very useful and needed, in time), and asking everyone else to, too. And I wonder what the impact of that is. I wonder if there might be a lot of “Christians” who know a lot about God, but have very little experience feeling known by God because they’ve never invited him into their hearts. I wonder, adoptees, how much you’ve been told, how much you “know” about your story. But even more so, I wonder how much you’ve felt “known” in your story.

We want to know our story. We want to feel known in our story.

When a child is asking why his/her birthmother and birthfather, his/her first parents, didn’t or couldn’t keep him/her, I’m going to guess that he/she doesn’t want to hear: “Honey, I don’t know why, except that it was part of God’s plan” or “Sweetie, they placed you for adoption because they loved you so much” or “Baby, I don’t know all the details, but I’m so glad God gave you to us” or “God had a plan that we just can’t understand” or “I know that’s hard to hear, but you were meant to be with us, our family.” And on and on. NO. NO. NO. That is NOT going to help us feel known (even though some or all of this could be true and “might” be OK to say at some point in time). That’s going to rip us right away from our heart and force us into our head and expect us to make sense of something that you and I as adults can’t even make sense of. And I know, parents, what I’ve learned from listening to you, is that you don’t want that for your child. I believe that. You have shown me that.

So…I’m going to ask you to listen.

Go after the heart. Go after your child’s heart. When he/she is screaming because he/she is so mad that someone didn’t keep him/her or couldn’t keep him/her, or sobbing because he/she misses his/her first parents and doesn’t understand why he/she can’t meet them, or isolating himself/herself because someone in his/her life keeps being mean and he/she feels rejected, or even when he/she does everything perfectly right and seemingly has adapted, GO AFTER HIS/HER HEART. Meet your child where he/she is at – IN the emotion, IN their heart. I give you permission to do that because the church, historically, hasn’t given us permission to do that. We’re supposed to be strong and resilient, looking forwards and upwards, not backwards or downwards, focused on getting rid of sin rather than sitting with our shame. But, my friends (OK – I’ve calmed down now), I’ll say it again, the heart is the very center of where Jesus lives and breathes and moves. And if he’s there, in the heart, could it be, then, that he’s already in the story? You see, you don’t have to go looking for him. You don’t have to worry about if your child will find him. He’s already there. In the heart spaces.

(OK – take another breather and then keep reading.)

So, if God’s in the story and your child is in the story, then don’t you want to be in the story too?

We want you in the story, WITH us. The story BEFORE YOU WERE MINE! (Hey – that’s a good book title! (wink))

The heart is the very place where Jesus enters the story, where he steps into humanity to make himself known, where he creates space so that we are able to feel known. It’s not about inviting him into or finding him in the story. He’s already there. Smack dab in the middle. I think we’ll find him, I think you’ll find him, when we find the courage to go there, to the hard and soft and vulnerable places, in the heart spaces.

Maybe parents, you could focus less on how to “tell” (report) your children their story and spend a little more time on learning what it means to “show” them what’s in the story – showing them a true picture of Jesus by showing them his heart for them by showing your heart for them. And in doing so, maybe their heart will know it’s capacity to turn, to transform and soften, back from stone into flesh, how it was originally designed. Maybe you’ll give them an irresistible invitation to find more of their hearts, which will have the potential to awaken them to the powerful and mysterious and healing Jesus, who has been there all along. In the story. With them. Oh, and maybe…you’ll find more of your heart, too.

I think that would blow our socks off. It may even blow our hair back.

This is what you GET to do, GET to be. But here’s another really hard thing I have to tell you…just because you would offer yourselves to us in this way, doesn’t guarantee anything. Ahhh! That’s really hard to hear, isn’t it? And it stinks to have to tell you this. But here’s the deal: WE have to do our own work. WE have to go on our own journey. WE have to find our own truth, our own voice. We have to come to a place where we believe we are capable, lovable, good. No one can do this for us. But…you get to be there, right beside us, offering us a voice that reminds us that we are strong and brave and courageous. You get to remind us that it’s worth fighting for our hearts. You get to remind us of who we are. This is the gift we need from you.

And I’m convinced, that going on this journey, TOGETHER, could lead ALL of us to a new place, a better place – to more love, more intimacy, more trust. Oooh! I feel a little shalom as I type that.

Hmmm…(picture me sitting and having a thought, not making a statement, even though I might be)…

Maybe it’s not as much about the “act” of adoption that we need to promote or market or advocate for. Maybe the gift, the glory, the purpose in something like the “process” of adoption, is less about rescuing or saving vulnerable children and more about the potential for more of the “the story” to be told – a compelling heart story of entering in and letting go, of compassion and grace, of intimacy and love; a story of trustworthy relationship.

Now THAT could be a story worth writing.

So…

Parents: It’s a ripple affect. You gotta know your story. You gotta show the little girl or boy inside of you some heart, some compassion, and hopefully experience your own healing. And then, offer that kind of compassion to your children – their wounds, their brokenness, their frailty, their mistakes, their hearts. And as you do, I so believe that your empathy (and maybe sympathy), will begin to infuse deep into their bones, strengthening them. And the impact will be that they will learn that it’s OK and worthwhile to show compassion towards their own stories, their own bleeding heart. And as they step into the world, into relationships, they will have a secure foundation and space to always go from and return to. So, go with them, at their pace, as they’re able, when they’re ready. They’ll show you. They’ll give you clues and signals. Be alert, be ready, be prepared. And do this, BE this, not because you have to, but because that’s the kind of man or woman, the kind of parent, you already are. Maybe it’s that you just need a little more practice being who you are. Oh, and remember, storytelling takes time. Lots of time.

Adoptees: Maybe you’ve never shown the little girl/boy or adolescent or teenager or adult inside you compassion for what’s happened to her/him. That’s OK. That actually would be understandable. But that little girl or boy inside needs you – needs you to come after her/him. She/he needs you to see her/him. She/he needs to hear that you hurt for her/him, that you ache for her/him, that you mourn for her/his loss, for the way the story messed with her/him. And, that you believe in her/him – that she is capable of re-writing her/his story with truth, with compassion, with grace. And in doing so, somehow, some way, gradually the parts of you that feel so disconnected, so far removed from one another, will integrate, will come together, will be made whole, will find life. But at your pace, as you’re able, when you’re ready. You’ll know. And I want to tell you this: YOU are worth the work it will take to write this part of the story. It’s worth finding more of you. We need your story. We need you.

Friends: All you have to do – GET to be – is human. The kind of spaces that need to be created for healing to take place, are human spaces. Take the pressure off yourself to be the healer. Let go of figuring out what to “do” so your child will heal. As you sit in God’s presence and experience more of his truth, more of his love, you’ll know exactly how to BE – to your spouse, to your child, to your family, to the world. Because you will have positioned yourself right in the middle, in the heart of the story, the very place where God’s healing spirit lives and breathes and moves. And whatever happens for you in that space, however that sacred exchange of him giving and you receiving happens, you’ll find trust. You’ll know trust. And as that kind of relationship finds itself and secures itself and defines itself, a voice will rise. It will probably be a little quiet at first, but it will grow. It will find itself, and lose itself, and re-find itself, differently in different seasons. And as you listen for it, you’ll know it. It will become familiar, known. It will be a voice that not only tells and reports of, but also shows the world how good God is, how available his heart is. It will be a voice that is able to tell the world of the beautiful and redemptive story he is writing for the world he wildly loves.

And just to think, if we did this TOGETHER, if we came to see God in the story, TOGETHER.

#weneedoneanother

MUSIC – Again, some of my favorites. Just click and listen. Don’t watch the videos (unless you want lyrics). Just close your eyes and listen. And be.

Worn by Tenth Avenue North

Held by Natalie Grant

 

#weneedoneanother | part 1: it’s about you. it’s about me. it’s about us. together.

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Let’s start here…

This isn’t a neat, 5-easy-steps series. Although I’m not sure that anyone could really write a neat or easy post on anyone’s story, or on how to tell your child’s story. I’ve just been writing and writing as the ideas and thoughts and reflections have come to me. Words always spill out of me (just ask my husband), even when I don’t try and not always in an organized way! Eeek!

Something that is really important to me for you to know is that I’m still learning. I’m still evolving. I’m still on the journey. I’m still learning how to live from a loved place, a true place, a soft place. I’m still learning to trust. I’m still making sense of my own story – of the hard parts, of the good parts – and listening to how God wants to use it all and how I get to be a part of it. And, at the same time, I have become more comfortable with what’s inside me, I am OK sharing my story, I am practicing more vulnerability, I am finding my voice, I have experienced healing, I have witnessed God using what’s “bad” for good. And, the most beautiful and healing part of my journey has been that not only my view of God has expanded, but also his view of me. Oh, that feels so sweet, so peaceful, so safe to type that. So in my continued imperfection and questions and sarcasm and desire to right all the wrong, I know I can fall back and rest in this space, with him. And that is the place I write this from, to you.

Ahhh! I can’t even believe I’m gonna dive into these adoption-related topics over cyber space with you! (Later post on adopted person being known vs. feeling known via cyber space.) It totally humbles me. It totally intimidates me. I usually like to write about rainbows and unicorns, not hard stuff. OK, just kidding. But really, writing about the human heart is hard. And writing about the human heart in helpful, clear ways is even harder. And then writing about the human heart in helpful, clear ways, with an audience, is just plain vulnerable. But I’m willing. Because one of the best lessons I’ve learned in life is that sharing your story, what’s inside you, has the ability to help others feel joined and normal and seen and understood and free…to begin writing their own story, to find what’s inside of them. And that, friends, is a gift. It feels like pieces inside of us all begin being put back together when we listen, when we lean in, when we allow the mystery of humanity to be shared, together.

So let’s go.

Two consistent questions I’ve heard since I’ve stepped into the adoption/foster care world are:

“How do I tell my child his/her story?” and “What can I do to help my child heal?”

And often times, these questions come immediately after, “Hi. Thanks so much for sharing.” There’s no getting to know you or finding things in common or small chit-chat. It feels like a deep dive into an agenda – an agenda, I’ve come to understand, that has a parent’s heart for their child’s heart all over it.

And then the eyes – they keep looking at me like somewhere inside of me I must have a quick and easy and profound answer to give them. And I don’t. I give what I can, but I don’t have a quick and easy or profound answer to give. We would need a million cups of coffee (or coke) with hours and hours sitting on a couch or deck with really, really good food to feed ourselves. For days. Maybe months. Perhaps years. Probably a lifetime.

So for me, when I’m in the adoption world, a simple “Hello, my name is so-and-so and I’ve adopted so-and-so from such-and-such,” turns into something way bigger, way deeper. And I wish I could answer these huge questions. (You know these are huge questions, right?) Because I know deep down that you’re longing for your child to grow up in really healthy, whole ways. And if I could be of any help, give any clues, if my voice could help give voice to what’s inside your children, I would absolutely LOVE to do that. But I can’t. I can’t really do that in five minutes. So, I’ve been pondering and simmering and storing up the many thoughts that have surfaced since being “with” you all and blending it with and contrasting it with and balancing it with what’s inside me, my experience, my knowledge. In the midst of my daily routine with my family, my head has been spinning the past two-and-a-half years listening and observing and digesting all that my ears have heard. So many thoughts, new emotion, resistance, curiosity, shock, confusion, disappointment, gratitude, grace. And maybe even some love.

So, back to the questions.

I deeply respect that you are eager to learn, eager to do this “right,” hopeful for healing, open to telling the pieces of your child’s story that are hard and gruesome and messy in a redemptive way. That means you are thinking about it. That means you understand that there has been a rupture. That means you believe that the rupture can be repaired. That means you are aware that parents play a significant role in a child’s journey. That (maybe) means you get that there is more that comes with adoption than just the beauty of giving a child love and safety and a “forever family.” (Later post on this phrase.)

But I often wonder if you’re up for what it really takes – for your child, for you, for your marriage, for your family. Have you been equipped? Do you know your own story? Have you experienced your own healing? Have you witnessed and are you telling of the redemption in your own life? Do you believe that you are lovable? Needed and wanted, worth fighting for, worth being known? I hope so.

My prayer is that you, adoptive/foster parents, are on your own healing journey. That you are learning how to live from an identity grounded in truth, that you are finding what’s inside of you – your voice, your heart, your capability – so that the kind of eyes you are developing are the kind of eyes that can see what’s inside your child and lead him/her, walk alongside of him/her, through the places you know, in time, he/she will have to go. Instead of protecting your child from feeling pain, you’ll be able to sit with them, in it, telling them that you understand what it’s like to feel glad, mad, sad and scared, to feel shame. And along the way, because you intrinsically know what pain feels like and have entered into it and have allowed it to be used for good, you’ll know how to offer a voice that says, “You’re gonna make it. I’m with you.” And in the back of your mind, you’ll know it’s worth going backwards because it was there where you found the places that needed healing. It was there that you heard truth, that you felt grace, that you experienced healing. And when you get to do that – go on the journey with your child – it will change you. It will change both of you.

Maybe one of the greatest gifts the adoption/foster care community could offer the world because of the unique woundedness it invites into the home, because of how families are uniquely positioned to experience brokenness and suffering, which has the ability to create a deep longing for healing and wholeness, is that more and more people would become aware of how much potential there is for healing to take place, TOGETHER.

So, my friends, there are no simple answers or formulas to these questions. There’s no specific time frame. There’s no guarantee.

But, there is a process. And that process? Maybe…

It’s less about doing things “right” and more about how to respond to the “wrong.”

It’s less about if/then’s and more about what if’s.

It’s less about what parents are DO-ing and more about who they are BE-ing.

It’s less about being adopted/relinquished and more about feeling known and knowing love.

It’s less about getting your child to trust and more about learning what it means to trust.

It’s less about healing your child and more about a journey of formation.

It’s less about you, less about him/her, and more about you, together.

Go ahead and cue the rainbows and unicorns, but hang on and keep reading…

We all want a redemptive ending, right? But you know what? Redemption doesn’t just happen. When I think about the stories of Jesus, I’m always struck that for him to “make things new,” there had to be an old, a bad, a broken. He took the old and made it new. He took the bad and made it good. He took the broken and made it beautiful.

BOTH parts are always in his stories.

So maybe before we (or our children) can write and tell a redemptive story, we have to take a peek (or maybe a long look), at the old stuff, the bad stuff, the broken stuff. But looking at all of that – like REALLY looking at it – totally sucks. Why? Because if you linger for any length of time with stuff that doesn’t make you feel good, you may actually begin to see it. You may actually realize it’s real. You may actually begin feeling – the loss, the disappointment, the injustice, the ache, the sadness, the doubt, the shame, the anger, the resentment, the fear, the “my life totally got messed with,” the “my child’s life totally got messed with.” And because you’re human, when you feel that badly, you’ll want to flee. Everything inside of you will want to get the heck out of that place dripping with negativity and weight and despair.

And you can. We all can. We can flee.

Adoptees can flee. Adoptive parents can flee. We can all sprint past the hard stuff or take a detour or pretend it doesn’t exist (or matter). We never ever “have to” confront it. But if we bypass it, we’ll keep wondering why we still don’t feel OK, why we still don’t feel healed, why we still feel too much (or not enough), why all the money and things and people and vacations and working and exercising and drinking and eating and perfectionism never make us feel better. We’ll keep wondering if redemption really wins. And most likely, we’ll always fall back to relying on ourselves to make things better. Maybe we’ll even rely on ourselves to make healing happen.

So adoptive parents AND adoptees (and everyone else): No one – I repeat, NO ONE – can make you go on this journey or initiate this process. YOU are the one who decides to open yourself up for more – more awareness, more insight, more love, more grace, more intimacy, more freedom. MORE OF WHO YOU REALLY ARE. You don’t need a formula or a manual or that expert speaker (even though all of these will give insight), all you have to be – GET to be – is open. And then watch what God’s healing spirit can do.

Parents: There’s not a magical thing you can do to get your child to begin his/her healing journey. But you CAN create the kind of space where it is safe and secure to move away from and return to if/when your child chooses to go on that journey. (Later post on “the kind of space.”)

Adoptees: You’ll go on this journey when you’re desperate for something more than what you have, when all that you hold inside begins bursting and rupturing and not working anymore, when you’re open to finding more truth, more love, more grace, more trust, or maybe even more people.

But here’s the thing, we know that we are wired for relationships, right? So, you don’t have to do this alone. You could, but that would be pretty lonely. Safe, but lonely. Since healing and wholeness is a life long process, you’re going to need different people at different times for different reasons. People bring perspective and insight and laughter and good distraction and encouragement and a deck with lights and summer slush and on and on and on. Invite people in. Let me clarify: Invite safe people in. Take all the cheerleaders you can get. Take all the love and support and kindness you can get.

Friends: Let me be at least one person who will say to you:

YOU CAN DO THIS. YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO DO THIS.

YOU WERE CREATED WITH THE ABILITY TO DO REALLY, REALLY HARD THINGS. 

YOU ARE WORTH FINDING MORE OF BECAUSE THIS WORLD DESPERATELY NEEDS ALL OF YOU.

YOU HAVE THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE ON YOUR SIDE.

So, let’s do this. Together. Not just the adoptive parent. Not just the adopted person. Us, together.

So whether you need to start writing or need to keep writing, know that the story is going to be so, so good. It’s just going to take some time to write it.

#weneedoneanother

MUSIC: I love music. It moves me, so I’m going to try and give you a song or two for each of these posts. They’re songs that have meant a lot to me because their messages have been so strong. And, music touches the soul like nothing else.

So just click and listen. Don’t watch the video because videos with words and moving backgrounds can be distracting. And cheesy? For real, close your eyes, and listen.

Mended by Watermark

Healing is in Your Hands by Christy Nockels

NOTE 1: Please know that in my mind as I type this I’m thinking, “Eeeek! This is A TON!!!!!! A ton that I’m downloading on you, a ton that I’m inviting you to, a ton to process, a ton of work. Offer yourself loads and loads of grace as you continue to read these posts. Take in what you can for where you’re at. I didn’t know all of this at the beginning of my journey. I probably would have never been open to going “inwards” if I had. This is what I know at almost 40 and I’m still learning and soaking in and digesting and understanding and experiencing. And most of all, still healing. God takes us at the pace we’re able to move. He’ll never take us where we’re not ready to go. He’s good like that. He’s gentle like that. He loves you right where you’re at. Promise!

NOTE 2: I’m not a child or adolescent or abnormal (what an awful description) psychology expert. Nor am I an “adoption” specialist. These posts are not therapeutic or professional advice (even though that part of me is always part of me). This is from my own personal journey and some big picture thoughts on the two questions above. There are hundreds of adopted person’s experiences and paths of healing that we can all glean from and learn from and apply. This is only my two cents in the million dollar answers everyone wants. I’m “one voice giving voice.” My hope is that at least something small will resonate with you and/or your child’s story that could be helpful, that could help initiate more healing and wholeness, and more belief of how much we need one another’s stories and perspectives and gifting and healing.

giving face.

triad

I have these moments when I’m completely struck by what’s happening around me and what’s happening within me, simultaneously, and how holy it is.

A few weeks ago, I listened to two stories. Two stories filled with brokenness and beauty.

The first one was about what it was like to live in the shoes of an adoptive mom. She described what it was like to wrestle with herself, with her body, with her dreams, as she walked through her infertility. She shared of her deep longing and ache to love and nurture a child and how God brought about his gift to her…from the womb of another woman. She spoke up and out about what it was like to stand in that hospital room watching a baby enter the world – her baby – and then being passed from the arms of his first mom to hers. She talked about that moment when she and her son’s – their son’s – birthmom hugged goodbye – with compassion, with gratitude, towards one another…each life changed forever.

OH. MY. HEART

The second story was about what it was like to live in the shoes of a birthmom. She described how her physical ability and finances and circumstances were adequate to raise the little girl growing inside of her, yet how her fiancé’s fear and feelings of inadequacy invited him to leave her…alone. She talked about her choices – abortion or single motherhood – and the cultural and religious stigmas that surrounded each of them. And then, how a third choice, a new choice, emerged…creating an adoption plan. And then that choice – the hardest choice of all – to choose to relinquish her daughter, to place her daughter, into someone else’s home, away from her care, but never from her heart. She described the thoughts and questions and fears and hopes – that she, that her daughter, would face someday because of her decision, because of the desire she had for her daughter to experience life more fully, wholly.

OH. MY. HEART.

And then I shared my story – about what it’s been like to live in the shoes of an adopted person. I talked about the missing pieces and people, the missing messages my heart needed. I shared what it’s been like to wonder and wander alone, longing to feel needed and wanted and fought for. I described what it’s like to hear others talk about adoption as only something beautiful when everything within me has felt so broken – the fear, the grief, the shame. I talked about how my unraveling and wrestling and need for others and “leaning into” my story keeps bringing me to a safe place, with Him, allowing me to find more love, more trust, more voice.

OH. MY. HEART.

We had been invited to share our stories – these stories – in front of one another. We were listening…to one another.

Overwhelming. Sacred. Healing.

We were listening to what the other person has lost, what the other person has gained.

We were listening to how the other person’s heart has ached, how it has aspired.

We were listening to one another’s fears and shame and guilt and fragility, to their sorrow.

We were listening to one another’s beliefs and expectations and dreams, and how they got messed with.

We were listening to one another’s longing for hope and healing and redemption – for ourselves, for the people we love.

We were listening to the story of one another’s hearts. And it changed us.

As we listened to each other, we heard ourselves. As we entered into “her” reality, we felt “our” reality. As our eyes looked at “her,” we saw “us.” The “other” person’s heart? It was our heart. Sure, the context and content were vastly unlike, but the feelings…they were so a-like. The feelings each person expressed, with raw emotion, were so close to what swirled around in our own hearts.

Different shoes, different paths, same humanity.

And in those moments, those 3 hours, we felt joined.

Our stories felt known…by one another. Our stories felt needed…by one another.

Our stories connected – birthmom, adoptive mom, adopted person – with one another’s. There wasn’t one story that didn’t include or depend on the other story.

We each came from a very unique and different place, a different journey. Our stories had pain and disappointment and ache – for something we didn’t have, didn’t want. And, our stories contained truth and healing and hope – because we’ve seen a bigger story being put together, because we’re experiencing how each of our stories can be used for good. Yet in some regards, the very thing that connected us all – adoption – has been the very place that has kept us all disconnected and distant.

We want to change that.

Maybe naming the disconnection and distance could open the door for needed relationship, for being known, to more creative love.

Maybe naming these divided and silo-ed relationships could give us a chance to experience more connection, more healing, more wholeness – in the adoption triad, in our families, in the “adoption world.”

Every story of how a child came to the place of needing to be adopted is different. Some of those stories are tragic and traumatic. Many of those stories are unknown. But I know that when I heard this birthmom’s story and how her choice to create an adoption plan was necessary for her, I know without a shadow of a doubt that everything inside of her made that decision out of love, for her child. She wanted her daughter to have two parents, siblings, a cohesive family. Something that at that time, she wasn’t able to offer her. But her ache, for what she couldn’t give – it was so, so intense. I could feel it, deeply…with her. Her tears as she told that part of the story – they rolled down her face. They were unstoppable. They were heavy. They were sad. And in that moment, there was no judgment, just heartache. Not for her, but with her. She made a choice that changed her life and her daughter’s life forever without knowing where the story was going to go. She let go of herself – the belief that she needed to create an environment for her daughter alone. And so she chose to invite others into her story, into her daughter’s story. And in that moment, as I listened, something inside of me shifted from, “But why didn’t you fight for her? Why didn’t you keep her?” to “Her decision to create an adoption plan took mountains of courage to admit that she couldn’t do this alone, that she didn’t “have” to do this alone.” And in that moment, as I listened, my perspective changed a bit more from “I” versus “her,” to “we.”

And now, as my heart and mind continue to make sense of this experience, within the context of my own story, I feel her heart. I see her face. Her face – birthmom’s face – it’s been hiding. Maybe I’ve kept it hidden. Because you know what? It’s a hard face to picture, to see, to confront. It’s a lot easier and feels a lot better to keep it tucked away, back in Korea, back into the unconscious parts of my brain. But you know what? I need that face. I need that face because it’s part of my face, it’s part of my heart, it’s part of who I am. It’s not honoring to her to crop her out of the “picture.”

And so, my prayer is that God will gently and compassionately show me what I need to know and understand and see in her face – that he will reveal to me the pieces of her that bring more fullness to my story, more healing to my heart. Because in my experience, the profound and holy moments of truth-telling, of love, of healing – with Jesus – is when I’ve been face to face with him, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

So, my friends…are we up for inviting ALL of the stories, ALL of the people, to the table? Are we up for giving one another voice? Ahhh! But before we can give someone voice, we need to give them face. Maybe by giving birthmom a face, you will be able to help your child – her child – give her a face, too.

Let’s invite birthmom’s face (and voice) to the adoption world, to our world. We need her. We need her voice. Not out of pity, but out of love. Because we value her. Because in doing so, we honor her – her heart, her story, her dignity. She completes the “picture.”

NOTE: Clearly, the birthfather’s face and voice need a place to be seen and heard too.

Perhaps for us in the adoption triad, we need the birthparents story in order to bring a fuller picture of the bigger picture of what God is able to reveal of himself, his love, through the process of adoption.

That could be overwhelming.

That could be sacred.

That could be healing.

Because as you’ve heard me say before:

You (we) have this profound opportunity, this profound calling, this profound invitation to provide a place, a space – for healing, for hope, for rebuilding, for renewing, for restoring, for redeeming us (her)…you.

No, you certainly don’t have to, but you get to…you get to offer a sacred, stunning, glorious, beautiful picture…of Jesus, of shalom.

But first, we (she) need(s) you to listen.

Please, please take the time to lean in, be still, be present, and listen to our (her) heart(s).

Because it just might change…all of us.

NOTE: Picture above represents the adoption “triad” – Adoptive Mom (Kim Scholten), Adoptee (Me) & Birthmom (Lindsay Walters). So, so grateful to be able to share an afternoon of storytelling with them. I respect their courage, their faith, their love for their children. Thank you Kim and Lindsay, for being a part of this post, for being an influential part of my story, for offering both your face and voice to the world. Both are SO needed!

 

 

one voice giving voice. #summit9

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I did something that I’ve never done before last week. I stepped onto a stage in front of 2,500+ people…people who have a heart for those who have been hurt and rejected and wounded so early in life, people who have a deep conviction to create spaces where healing and love and hope can be birthed, people who believe that God is asking them to respond to the plea of the orphan.

And there I was – the “orphan” – standing right in front of them, ready to invite this orphan and foster care movement to “listen.”

NOTE: It’s important to be careful how we use the word, “orphan,” but that’s another post for another day.

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Christian Alliance for Orphans – Summit 9

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Let me back up…I keep learning about this big adoption world – this mass of people who have chosen to grow and change their family through adoption. But, for me, I never wanted to be in this world. Adoption has often felt like a distant “event” that includes loss and grief and silence, dismissal and denial. It’s been a world where (seemingly) lots of people focus on rescuing the needy and forgotten and hopeless. It’s been a world (seemingly) where the gospel has been twisted and mis-used to help make people feel good about doing good.

But the gospel, the good news, is that Jesus came to initiate new life, hope, restoration, freedom…for ALL of us.

That means we get to be a part of one another’s healing, not just the “orphan’s” healing. That means we need the “orphan” just as much as the “orphan” may need us.

This was my message. This was my one BIG idea.

We need one another.

So, I walked onto that stage feeling the weight of all those little babies represented in that really, really big church. Hoping, praying, pleading that the Holy Spirit would awaken and refresh and reframe the hearts and minds of those really, really good people.

I was nervous. I was calm. I was in total awe.

It felt risky. It felt dangerous.

But…

I had this sense, that that platform, in that moment, was holy ground…for me, for my voice, for the adopted person’s heart.

And it was.

I’m not implying that I know how thousands of people felt that night, but there was something profound and beautiful happening in those 8 minutes – I mean 13 minutes (ha!). Maybe, in that moment, people were beginning to lean in, be still, be present, and listen…to the adopted person’s heart, maybe even to their own hearts.

Perhaps they listened.

I’m quite certain that I (we) was receiving as much as I was giving. I’m quite certain that when all those hands stretched forwards and upwards, God’s Spirit was moving.

My prayer is that all those really, really good people would walk away knowing that the more they are able to connect with the heart of Jesus, the more they will be able to connect with the heart of the vulnerable – those who have been given the title, “orphan” – and in return, together, experience more of heaven on earth.

I offered my voice on behalf of those the world has defined as “voiceless”…and on behalf of the 13-year-old girl who was watching me from the “green room” who turned to her mom and said, “She gets me.”

This is the heart I was echoing. This is the story that needs to be listened to.

I’m so, so deeply grateful and humbled to have been invited to speak…up, on behalf of adoptees, representing their our hearts. Perhaps this is why tears rolled down my cheeks. I just happened to be the live human standing there, speaking, asking…but I tell you, it felt as if the adopted voices around the world joined one another in that moment, rallying together – unified, courageous, hopeful, strong – saying,

“Listen. Please listen. We need you to listen to our hearts.”

And that is why I agreed to do this – this crazy, risky, daring thing.

She…that 13-year-old girl…she is why I use my voice.

Me…that little girl inside of me…she is why I use my voice.

My voice…it’s one voice, giving voice.

Some of my favorite Summit pictures:

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Me, Tara Bradford, Melanie Chung Sherman

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Melanie Chung Sherman (Tapestry), Me, Amy Curtis (Tapestry)

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Breakout Session: Finding Me (haha!)

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Bill Blacquiere, President, Bethany Christian Services and Hudsonville, MI buddy

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Finding my roots in the airport.

healing…a two-way street.

 

“Nothing that’s hard or “bad” for adoptees takes away from what’s beautiful or “good” in a parent’s choice to adopt. Nothing.”

 

Oh, my heart!

I’ve just returned from a weekend spent with 450 beautiful mamas at the Created for Care retreat. Some had adopted, some were waiting to adopt, some came just to support their friends. Lovely, inspiring, challenging, raw, surprising, healing, holy.

Profoundly holy.

I entered into that space a bit weary and looking forward to restoring the parts of me that have become so drained and rugged and discontent, all the parts where love has felt so absent, so depleted.

For those of us who were planning and speaking and leading breakout sessions, we had been praying for all the hearts that were going to enter the gorgeous Legacy Lodge. We asked God to speak to us about what he wanted to share with each woman, knowing that he knew exactly what each person needed. We asked God to breathe new life into each soul, refreshing the places that felt lonely, fearful, inadequate, angry, shameful, worn. We asked God to send his Spirit into each corner and crevice that may be hiding from him, numbed out to him, felt forgotten by him. And he did.

He loved BIG.

I got to see and experience God cover that room…with his love, with his grace, with his mercy, with his forgiveness, with his peace, with his truth, with his shalom. With himself.

Oh, my heart!

I stepped into that space having been invited to represent the heart, the voice, the story, of the little ones not in that room, but yet who were so present in that room. Over 1,000 little souls who were home or on their way home. Over 1,000 little souls who bring so much beauty, so much brokenness, into the lives of each family they are welcomed by.

I was up for the invitation, but to be honest, I wasn’t sure if all those mamas would be up for what God had called me to share. That’s a scary feeling, especially when you know that all those mamas were coming to feel encouraged and equipped and empowered, not jolted or disoriented or challenged. That’s a risky feeling when as an adoptee you desperately want to feel accepted and approved of and liked. That’s a vulnerable position to be in when you know that all those mamas were coming to find assurance and affirmation – that what their Creator had called them to do was right…for them, for their children, for their families, for him.

So, I had to trust…that what God called me to share, my voice, was exactly what I was supposed to offer. And so I did. Unnerving, unsettling, unbelievably frightening!

I don’t know exactly how God will use my voice, my message, my heart, (trying to let that go), but I do know how God is already using the weekend, the conversations, the lyrics, the voices, the love in those mamas…for me.

I never expected that part of my healing could come from the adoption world itself.

I never expected to feel affirmed and embraced and loved through other adoptive mamas.

I never expected the longing and desire and love that adoptive mamas radiate for their babies to connect with my own longings to feel wanted and needed and loved.

I never expected that this one adoptee’s voice would be invited out in such unique ways, and then in return find healing because of what God is doing in other family’s lives, through their stories.

I never expected that having people truly “listen” and respond to the impact of relinquishment and abandonment on an adopted person’s mind and heart would bring a more solid, stronger, securer sense of self.

I never expected that God would turn my words into your words for your children into his heart about how he sees me. (You may have to read this one again!)

But he did…and I’m in awe.

I feel tender, open, moved. I feel ready…for more of him, more of his BIG love, more of his deep healing. And I know it will come because I’m giving myself a little more permission to let go…of her, of him, of what happened. As my hands slowly let go, I feel them opening, little by little, receiving more love, deeper connection, with those who are ready to love and connect with me, especially my husband and my babies.

Oh, my heart!

It’s still raw and bleeding and being gutted out, yet at the same time, it feels more free, more brave, a little more gutsy, ready…to trust. Again. Differently. Wholeheartedly.

Oh, mamas…the ways in which you offered yourselves last weekend, your presence, your posture, it was deeply moving and incredibly healing for this one in a million adoptee. I write with tears and say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you….for listening.” I feel humbled and blown away that God would take my words, my voice, my ache, my fear, my story, and use it to be helpful, even if it was just a little bit, in your journey, your child’s journey. And, please, please know that your words, your voice, your ache, your fear, your stories…they brought SO much to me too. It feels like a two-way street, like this natural and fluid giving and receiving. It feels full circle. It feels like we’re in this together. It feels hopeful.

And, it for sure feels WAY different from last year’s C4C retreat when I snatched a piece of decadent cheesecake and snuck back to my room to hide! I’ve come a long ways, mamas! Get ready, March 2013 women! Can’t wait to meet/re-meet you!

So, to ALL of us, may we remember and “listen” to God’s voice, “Where have you come from? Where are you going? I see you.” We have to name what we’re running from and leaving and fleeing in order to know where we’re going, running to. Because where we’ve been, where we’re going…it matters. It’s seen.

Big Korean adoptee Michigan hugs and love to ya’ll!

PS – Would love to hear about your C4C experience too. Feel free to post your blog posts in the comments or on my Facebook page!

PSS – If you have some great pictures to replace these IG ones, email them to me!

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“Healing is in Your Hands” (Amazing worship by Candi Shelton)

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“Adoption from Both Sides” (a conversation between an adoptive mom and an adoptee)

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Ummm…I may have stopped chatting and started preaching. Oops!

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The new “Charlie’s Angels” (with Amy Monroe & Andrea Young)