#weneedoneanother | part 3: writing out loud

1975021_642862545785228_6029446129300372815_n

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.”

Advertisements

kindergarten? check.

K Celebration 2014

Ahhh! It’s my first “end of school” week. All the marvelous 7.5 hours a day with her gone and just me and the little guy or me by myself, are winding down. Fast. Shoot!

I’ve absolutely and totally LOVED this school season – all that’s been a part of her world, all that’s not been a part of my world in those 7.5 hours. And I say that in a very grateful way, in a way that says I can be a mommy who absolutely adores my little girl, while at the very same time also be a mommy who absolutely can feel worn out by all the needs of my little girl.

Both/And.

I think about ALL that each adult person has offered her this year – academically, socially, emotionally, physically. And I’m grateful.

And I think about ALL that each little person has offered her this year – friendship and fun and social skills. And I’m grateful.

And I think about ALL that each caretaker has offered this year and I want to give a shout out to YOU – marvelous you. Thank you for what you’ve offered your kids this year: the someone’s-gonna-lose outfit picking process, packing lunches, getting them to school with or without teeth brushed or hair combed, managing crabby mornings, getting their buns in the car or on the bus, saying NO to yourself because you needed to say YES to their sports and music and taxi ride schedules, the hours of helping with homework that was SO like 20+ years ago for you (that you now realize you needed very little of), and all the other stuff that happens in between this stuff.

Whether you’re a “traditional” parent, single parent, grandma/grandpa caretaker, full-time working parent(s) – you’ve done your best. They made it. WE made it.

WE ALL ROCK!

Let’s step into this last week, these last days, with a sense of pride and gratitude because WE DID OUR BEST with what we had to work with. And that’s what matters.

So as they sing their end-of-the-year-program song or walk across that stage, stand up and cheer and clap and smile…for them, for you.

HAPPY END OF SCHOOL 2014!

 

life at six. a letter from her mama.

six

Dear Skyla,

Girrrrl…happy birthday! My heart is smiling as I watch you skip into six with all the passion inside you. This day…you’ve been ready for it forever! It’s amazing how you, my sweet girl, look forward to turning another page, another chapter of your life. You can’t get there fast enough. And me, your mama whose nearing forty, wants to keep the page secure and in place – for you, for me – because right now, the innocence and wonder and softness of this world feels just right for you, so natural.

I wanna stay. You wanna go.

There’s something in you pulling you forwards. There’s so much in me that pulls me backwards.

You and me – we have this little dance we do. The pieces of who you are draws me in, shapes the way I embrace mothering, and keeps taking me to places I’ve never traveled before. Our relationship reminds me that I’m brave in really ordinary ways, just as much as it reminds me of all the ways I can get stuck, all the places that still need healing. And then the parts of me that spill out onto you…they’re shaping you, too. I see it show up in how you talk and how you move, in what you care about and don’t care about, and in your little, big personality.

We dance, we disconnect, we come back together, over and over again.

And about this little, big personality…it intrigues me, it ignites me, it infuses into me. I see you. I notice you. I’m learning what it means to know you – what frightens you, what delights you, what hurts you, what your heart needs to soar, how your body and brain crave to feel protected.

You have this charm that makes those closest to you want to stay right beside you.

You have this intensity that goes into almost everything you do, which keeps your independence and strength fiercely untouchable. (We believe this will become an asset someday.)

You have a curiosity and wonder about the world that makes the simple, everyday things in life new and alive, waiting for you to discover and understand.

You have this certainty – that life and people are for you to embrace, wholeheartedly, with conceit.

You have a desire within you to feel safe – with your surroundings, in relationships. You always have. It shows up in unpredictable and surprising ways, knocking me off of my feet, just as much as I presume it knocks you off yours too.

You have this sincere honesty that never makes us question what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling. It’s up front and forthright, learning to wrap itself with grace and kindness and respect.

And then there’s this vulnerable and tender part of you. Sometimes I forget it’s there, but I see it. Oh, girl! I want you to know how much I see this part too. When it shows up, it melts away all the hard that comes with parenting in a matter of seconds. You let me in to the most true and sweet places of your soul, and it feels so good to be right there, with you. And even if it’s just for a few fleeting minutes, I hope something in you knows that during all the moments that this part of you is tucked away, it’s so worth it to wait for those few moments where it feels like we’re together, when all is right in the world.

And ohhhh, those milestones you reached this past year: switching from four wheels to two, losing your first three teeth, learning how to read, memorizing Christmas program songs, navigating around on the computer and iPad and TV, practicing “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” and “Let’s start over,” and the way you’re just about to finish all-day Kindergarten with flying colors. Each progression is part of growing up and being human, yet each one in it’s own way comes with great bravery and perseverance and a new kind of freedom, both internally and externally. We celebrate these accomplishments and feel gratitude for what has needed to develop and mature in order to execute each experience.

Oh, Honey Bee, there’s so much I want to show and tell you about the world – to protect you, to prepare you, to help you learn what it means to offer your truest, most best self. Yet what I’m learning, what I’m being humbled by, is that you have to experience the shortcuts and mountains, the edges and crevices, the tension and restoration, yourself. I keep being reminded that this parenting journey isn’t about carving out a perfect path for you. I think Jesus had something up his sleeve when he gave me to you and you to me. However his sovereignty impacts us, I know that what we’ve shared in these six years, he’s using to make my heart soften so that I can awaken to my opportunity, not duty, to teach you less about “my” world and more about “his” world, and how he invites you to jump into it with all of who you are. He’s so good like that. And however it happens, as I parent you differently from my own experience, there’s this profound sense that God is mysteriously reparenting me in the fragile places where I need a bit more nurture and grace and love. Wow.

And I love…the way your affinity towards your brother keeps growing, how you make him laugh so hard, how you teach and tell him what to do and what not to do, how you help him and care for him and play with him. I’m grateful for how everything that you are adds to all that he is, and more. And, I love that all of who he is, adds to all of who you are. I love my Korean/Norwegian/Dutch sibs. So much.

And that daddy of yours…you draw him in. He’s so proud that you’re his daughter. He tells me late at night when you’re all tucked in and sleeping. I love hearing him talk about you and what enters his life because of your life – the challenging and confusing and hilarious and entertaining and special things. I’m so glad he talks to me about all of these things, because that’s what makes me know he sees all of you. The eyes of his heart are wide open, and I watch him offer something I wish I could do more of…so much grace, so much acceptance, so much presence. Girl, you’ve got your daddy’s heart.

So, year five leaves you stepping a little more away from our influence and protection. We’ve watched how the “outside” world grabs at you in subtly powerful ways as more experiences have found their way into “your” world, defining what’s cool and what’s not, new words and “bad” words and hurtful words, clothing style and lifestyles, peer pressure and paradigms. They just come in, unannounced and uninvited – through technology and public places and people. We pray for God’s divine discernment in how to respond rather than resist. We pray that your heart will be open to all the good that we have to offer, alongside of all the good the world has to offer. May you know, deep in your soul, what you have to offer – in friendships, in our family, in our community, for the kingdom. And, as the world flies by you or sticks to you or confuses you or pleases you, may you lay your head down on your pillow each night knowing how good your heart is, how loved it is – by him, through us.

So, together we skip right into six, with you. Taking all that has been with us, and allowing it to to complement and be used for all that is needed for this year, a new year. There are parts of me that wish we could stay right here, in this season, but onward we go. And maybe on the way, we’ll get a glimpse of Elsa’s Ice Palace, or maybe first grade, or maybe new friends, or maybe even more love.

So, let’s go, girl!

Love you…so, so much.

Love, Your Mama

***My song, this year, for you: Never Grow Up (Taylor Swift)

six(2)

two years + five retreats.

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, and penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”(Maya Angelou)

phone2-17 017

I love when people show up, especially women. I have a bent towards the feminine soul – how it uniquely bears the image of God. Oh, don’t get me wrong! I love the masculine soul, too. I guess you could say that I lean both ways. But, well…you get what I mean, right? (I’m laughing right now.) The thing is, as a woman, I most understand and resonate with a woman’s heart. And I love it. I affirm it. I admire how it longs and loves and leans towards “bringing forth life.” In others.

This past weekend (and in February), I got to be in the presence and aroma of 450 moms at the Created for Care retreat in Atlanta. And now, this week, I need a nap. I need to rest my heart for a while. I’m sure they do too. Because talking and listening and giving and receiving and crying and connecting can TOTALLY wear a woman out. In really, really good ways.

These moms – they stayed up way too late one day last August to register for what has become known as “the retreat you just HAVE to go to because you’ll feel like you just BELONG with all these other moms.” These women have met and connected all over the Facebook and blog worlds for months and years, and for many of them, meet at this retreat for the first time. And they immediately fall in love – with the feminine soul, with the unique hearts of other adoptive moms, with the stories of one another’s children.

They just “get” one another.

And I’ve learned to appreciate it…them…this love.

Because two years ago, I didn’t. I ran off to my room with cheesecake. And hid. And thought they were crazy.

But each retreat, each year, I’ve stayed a little longer. With them. Because we need one another. We need one another’s stories and mistakes and perspectives and truth-telling and strength and vulnerability and humor. We miss out on something huge when we try to do life alone. We actually may miss out on “bringing forth life.”

The adoptive parent needs the adopted person’s voice. The adopted person needs the adoptive parent’s voice. Because together, we can be known, we can love.

“…it is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love.” (Curt Thompson, Anatomy of the Soul)

NOTE: The “adoption world” also needs the birthparent’s voice…because there are many people in the adoption “triad.” This post, coming soon.

These past two years, I’ve been surprisingly invited to share my voice and step into the world of adoption. Still honored. Still blown away. And in each space, parents quickly begin sharing stories with me – stories of their adoption journey, stories of their child’s journey. I haven’t always known what to “think” or “do” with all of the details they share. Sometimes I feel like they want something from me that I can’t give them. Sometimes it feels like they’re searching for affirmation or encouragement or the “right” answer in order to prevent disappointment and heartache – for them, for their children. I’ve had to process these moments each time because usually, in my experience outside of the adoption world, people don’t begin conversations with me by sharing so much information about themselves and their children, within minutes of meeting me. So, it’s felt a little weird and awkward at times. I’m sure my little Asian eyes have widened as the stories have been told – eeek!

But here’s where I’m at today…

I sense that these adoptive parents are wanting someone to just “listen” to their story, to the miraculous ways they believe that God brought this sweet, sweet baby into their lives. I sense that they want to know how to love their children well, how not to “mess them up.” They want to heal their babies. They don’t want their babies to feel pain. They want their babies to know they are loved. They want to be “good” moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas. They want to know that their choice to adopt matters, that love will change their child’s story. They want ALL of this, for their child, with EVERY. OUNCE. OF. THEIR. BEING.

I’ve learned to honor that. I’ve come to respect that. I’m learning to listen – to their stories, to their longings, to their fears, to their miracles. Because you know what? I long for the very same things for my children. I think most parents do.

And so I’m learning that I don’t have to “think” or “do” anything. Or, teach or tell. All I can offer is me and my listening heart. And join them. And then maybe, offer a response – a blend of honesty and grace, a glimpse of an adopted person’s heart, a belief that the feminine soul was crafted in ways that can bring forth life in others, and specifically in their children.

But, my voice is only one voice. There are many voices and many experiences that can be invited into the conversation. I hope we’re listening to those voices too.

So after reflecting on these past five retreats with all of these tender and tenacious and beautiful mamas who hold some of the fiercest love for their babies that I’ve known, I have a few responses (below). Maybe they will be helpful. Maybe not. Either way, I feel deeply honored to have shared space with you these past two years, having my voice invited to speak into your stories, while at the same time allowing your voices to speak into my story. The Created for Care space has felt so safe…to be heard and understood, to feel loved and affirmed, to be known. THAT, crazy mamas, is a gift I hold onto tightly. Forever.

So, my message remains the same as it first spilled out during my first March 2012 retreat:

Please listen to the story and voice and heart of the adopted person. Because it matters. Deeply.

The adopted person’s voice…let’s keep finding it and listening to it and leaning into it.

The adoptive parent’s voice…let’s keep equipping it and supporting it and encouraging it.

The advocate’s voice…let’s keep using it to fight for what’s good and true.

Let’s keep sharing with one another – not just the easy and fun and good stuff, but also the hard and hurting and hidden stuff, because then we will know the places where life needs to be breathed in…gently, compassionately, graciously.

Let’s keep writing this story together – not just the adoption part of the story, but the whole story – the one that begins with loss and ends with redemption.

You, I, we…get to be a part of that story!

So, so grateful to have you journeying with me as I continue to learn how to articulate what’s inside of me, as I continue to experience more of God’s love and grace and healing.

Thank you, from the Korean adoptee, the marriage and family therapist (don’t forget those holidays and birthdays), the glow in the dark fox, and the mama who is cheering all of us on as we, together, create sanctuaries and cultivate shalom all over the world, in our homes.

With deep gratitude and respect, Carissa

So…a few responses to what I hear from the deep hearts of adoptive parents. I’m always allowing ideas and information (and theology) to work themselves out within me, with God, so my disclaimer is that I don’t have anything “figured out.” I’m in process, with you. I just might have the crazy notion to actually write and say some of these things out loud! Ahhh!

Let’s keep the conversation going. Let’s keep moving, forwards, together.

  • There’s nothing that’s hard or bad about your child’s story of loss that takes away from all the good and joy in your decision to adopt. Nothing.
  • Adoption includes both beauty and brokenness, gain and loss, suffering and redemption.

“My story bears too much heartache to be ignored and too much beauty to be hidden.” (Dan Allender)

  • Parenting is not the process of figuring out how to do things “right” so we won’t mess her/him up. It’s about entering in – into their pain, into the brokenness, into their GLAD, MAD, SAD, SCARED. It’s about going to the hard (and good) places, with them. I think we’ll be blown away at what happens in our own life and story when we do that, and how it will change our capacity to love. When our hearts enter into another person’s story, it will just know how to “be.” It won’t be focused on what to do or say. The control will be gone, but the healing will be initiated.

“To console does not mean to take away the pain but rather to be there and say, ‘You are not alone, I am with you.'” (Henri Nouwen)

  • Jesus – He does the healing. All we have to do (get to do) is create the kind of space for healing to happen.
  • You don’t have to, but you get to…you get to offer a sacred, stunning, glorious, beautiful picture…of Jesus, of shalom.

 

perfect pictures.

NOTE: a bit late, but you know how life goes.

We love seeing them. We hate seeing them. We think all sorts of thoughts when our eyes fall upon those perfect family/kid/selfie pictures swirling around on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, on Christmas cards. What is it about all those pictures I post (I mean others post) that makes people’s minds turn from the story and life behind the eyes to the judgment of the intent?

I get it. I really do. It’s so easy to impose meaning and messages behind what we see over social media – pictures of people’s kids and in-laws and food and double dates and guys/girls nights and vacations and pets. I think most of us love the “real” pictures – the ones that help us believe that our “friend” or “follower” is just as normal and human as we are, our life is. We have a responsibility to discern if/what/how/when to post pictures – ones that tell true stories rather than give a false identity or appearance. And then take note of how our brains are interpreting them.

We see SO much.

So here’s my sidetrack thought for today…

First, a confession: I totally blow up people’s phones on IG and I totally hold back on how many pictures I post on FB. In fact, I don’t even have my IG settings set to automatically post my pictures on FB. Why? Because I don’t want people criticizing my love and gratitude and celebration and momentous moments with my kids (or my life). I don’t fear criticism of my pictures, I fear the criticism, by adults, of me, my intent of why I post each picture. The thing is, I hear women all the time saying nasty things about other people’s pictures on IG and FB. It’s so easy to be critical of how much and what kind of pictures are posted. And each time I hear a negative comment I think, “But what if there’s more behind why that person posted that picture?” Because actually, I may be that person.

Here’s what I know…There are lots and lots and lots of parents whose lives are spent managing really, really hard stuff with their kids – tantrums and meltdowns and dis-regulated emotions, shame and blame and self-harm. They’re engaging in “investment parenting techniques” (thanks ETC!) which takes tons of time and lots of grace. They’re trying to move their kids to brush their teeth and hair and eat and get dressed without them falling apart, and in fact, they’re trying themselves to not fall apart! There are lots of moms (or spouses) who stay at home with the laundry and dishes and toys and school work and stove – with the mundane. And, there are lots of moms (and spouses) who go to work everyday who aren’t with their kids, and still come home to all of the above. And, I’m finding there are lots of stay-at-home parents who are struggling to find their identity and calling (outside of being a parent) now that their children are in school (or out of the house). And yes, we know, that there are lots of people who are just plain bored and dissatisfied and jealous and use social media sites in really unhelpful ways.

We all have a lot going on.

When you’re in the season of growing and cultivating “family,” it’s so, so easy to forget the tenderness and vulnerability and fragility and goodness behind your children’s eyes, deep in their souls. We get weary. We get discontent. We get frustrated. We get busy. We crave anything that reminds us that we’re breathing and beautiful and that our life has a purpose beyond taking care of other people’s needs. And so maybe, just maybe, when we post a sweet or silly or amazing or entertaining picture of our kids, it’s because we need to visually be reminded of why we give…our hours and intention and body and money and emotion, and maybe even our mental health – ahhh! And maybe, for one moment, we catch a picture of our child’s true self, the child that we believe in and love with all our heart – the brave and precious and focused and listening and joyful parts – that maybe don’t show up as often as we would hope, or as often as our friend’s or sister-in-law’s child does. And for a split-second, or 15 minutes, we can breathe because the fear and shame and anger and guilt and “I don’t know if I can make it through this day” subsides.

We see him. We see her. We see what’s happening…

…and it’s a defining moment in the day. And it makes us smile. Gratitude swells, perspective returns, the re-set button gets pushed. And we move forward. Again…and again…and again.

Maybe all these pictures people post help remind them of the story they’re in, but also of the bigger story – that the loneliness and longing and really hard days – the ashes – can be and are being transformed into beauty…in their our children, in them us, one snap shot at a time. And I think we would all agree that the more glimpses of what’s true and beautiful and good in this world we can get, we need to take. Amen?

There’s always a story behind what we see with our eyes – at church, at the grocery store, at school, at Christmas parties, on platforms. No family or couple or parent or child – or day – is perfect. Right? So, let’s not even go there with our minds. Let’s remember that every family is experiencing their own challenges. They all wake up with bad breath, bed heads and clothes they would never dare wear in public. Every home is rupturing just as much as it’s finding its own way to repairing and reconciling. Maybe we could try to halt our evaluation and criticism and jealousy, and instead, celebrate what lies behind the eyes and smiles and smirks and poses of those pictures – pure goodness, pure “life” – and then celebrate it…that family, their story.

So keep posting, people! Mark your significant moments and days and people with photos. Let’s cheer each other on. Let’s celebrate the “life” in one another’s homes. We need one another in the outrageously grand moments of life just as much as we need one another in the most boring and hard, soul-sucking moments.

NOTE 1: Please, please, please, don’t ever, ever, ever replace your human relationships with social media relationships. (Someday I would love to write a post about this!)

NOTE 2: There might be some unwritten rule about over-posting, but don’t send it to me – ha!

So here’s a slide show of our “perfect” pictures from 2013. A few years ago we started the tradition of making a slide show to send to our friends and family instead of a Christmas card. Nothing against Christmas cards, but in hopes that they would see and sense the story building in our family, behind our eyes. But know that behind all the fun and joy and activity you see in these pictures, there is also the reality of our bad breath and scraggly hair and piles of toys and dishes and laundry and dirt behind toilets and numbing out with rectangles and multiple mornings when we groan for our children to sleep through the night, and…a longing and desperation for more healing and hope.

But, here we are, another normal breathing family, sitting in the reality that both brokenness and beauty exists, together. And that’s a good thing. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have one without the other.

May this year bring you a refreshed sense of self, a new perspective of others, a deeper love for God, and a growing belief of his deep love for you.

Happy, happy new year!

Love, The Woodwyk Family

Woodwyk 2013 Year in Review Slideshow (plays better on computer than phone and you should hear music).

 

trust.

trust-torn

I just returned from a little trip to Dallas, a little Tex-Mex food, a little speaking, a little fun with friends, and a whole lot of vulnerability practice. Loved it all. (Well, maybe not the crying in front of hundreds of people part.) It was worth it. It was worth finding more of myself so that I could offer more of myself to the gracious audience at the Tapestry Conference – a ministry and team who I have developed such a respect and admiration for the ways in which they are serving the adoption and foster care world. I want to live by them, laugh with them and enjoy them EVERY day! I continue to find healing by being in relationship with them. Deeply grateful for the opportunity to be hosted by such fine Texans, both this year and last.

This time when I spoke, I revealed all the ways and reasons why it’s really hard for an adopted person to trust…people, God. I shared how awful it feels when people leave, fall passive – physically and/or emotionally. And then, how when that happens, the human heart is left fearful of people and wandering – by itself, unprotected and without direction. How does/why would, a heart trust when it begins believing so early that it needs to navigate life and relationships and its feelings…alone?

How does a heart learn how to sink and soar when it has no place, no one, to explore from and return to?

And then, because you can’t leave hundreds of people in despair during a keynote, I shifted my focus from sharing all the ways that I had labored so hard in order to not need people, to how it was only in my awakening to the reality that I actually needed Jesus more than people when my process of learning to trust could begin.

The lies I’ve believed are being named.

The truth of how God sees me is being heard.

The veils my heart have worn for so long are being removed.

And then compassion…God’s compassion, his “rachum.” Oh, how it’s pouring over me. Oh, how it’s beginning to settle in me. The kind of compassion that was designed to flow like a mother’s love to her baby, in the womb – the very space a child is most vulnerable. That’s what I’ve needed. That’s what I’ve longed for. That’s what we all were created for – to be loved like that. To sit in that tender space that rests between us and God…and receive…perfect love, the kind of love that drives out fear. To allow a holy and sacred exchange to happen…of giving, of receiving…so that trust can emerge. And then, offer that kind of space in our relationships, with one another, to our children.

Trust begins with a holy and sacred exchange.

Parents – we need you. We need honest, vulnerable, forgiving, restorative relationships where our healing has a place to work itself out. You are the people I believe God is calling to be a part of your children’s healing. God will do his part. All you have to focus on is your part. And here’s your part…practice entering into the tender and intimate space that God has created between you and him. Practice spending time with your advocate. Practice listening to what he is whispering to you, what he is speaking over you. Practice spending time without your veils. Practice being loved, so that you can be love. Allow the holy and sacred exchange to happen. And in doing so, I believe that in that space, you will begin understanding what trust truly is. And then, because you know what that space feels like and because you know how good it feels there, you will begin realizing that perhaps trust is nothing that can be proven or earned. It’s only something that will happen when a space is created for love to be experienced. And then, create that kind of space for your children, invite them in. Show them how loved they are. Maybe as our children witness our belief, our trust in God, it could pave the pathway for their belief, their trust, to form and deepen with that kind of God, in that kind of love.

Maybe all of this good movement forward, this progression in the parent-child world, is directly related to the extent in which we as the parents, we as the advocates, allow ourselves to be on a healing journey too. We get to model God’s love – how deep and wide it is – and the mystery and beauty that he is, and who we need, to experience trust.

Maybe, trust transforms. All of us.

You create the space. Let God do the healing.

With much love and gratitude for not only the ways you are “listening” to your children, but also “leaning in.”

 

day one.

FB

She did it. She stepped into the world of academia. With flying colors. Four days down. Nine months to go.

We’ve been praying and preparing for this day…school shopping and conversations about friendship, what it would be like in the classroom, in the lunch room, at recess, on the bus. The focus has been on treating others with love and respect, especially the ones who look like they’re hurting or shy or being picked on, instead of focusing on all the potentially hard and scary stuff (at least for now). We’ve reminded her of how special she is, and then how special EVERYONE is, and that it’s her job, her opportunity, to treat them like Jesus would treat them. And, of course, we reviewed what to do if and when the butterflies should appear in her tummy (thank you, The Whole-Brain Child).

The night before, one more pep talk, then we tucked her and her stuffed bunny and blankie into bed. And one last word from her to me, “Mom – if I sleep in, it’s OK if you get me up so I don’t miss the bus.” We knew she was ready ’cause this girl NEVER sleeps in!

The sun rose, she arose. GAME ON. Clothes, teeth, hair, sparkly lotion, tiara, breakfast. The house was calm, yet laced with anticipation and excitement and adrenalin, for all.

Pictures galore. Princess back pack. Packed lunch. Ready.

To the corner of Hope Street we went…skipping, running, smiling. Her eyes on the 5th grade neighbor boy. His eyes on the big yellow school bus.

Without hesitation, her little feet strided right up to the bus, turning around for one last picture. A smile, a wave, an eager walk to the back of the bus. And then, the bus took off…with our little girl – our innocent, naive, sweet, sassy, independent, feisty, hilarious, realistic, energized, loveable, capable little girl – who in that moment had just become a school-ager.

And the heaviness in my chest came. I felt it. I noticed it.

Perhaps it was the feeling of relief that she actually made it through the morning without any kind of push back or fear or attitude. Perhaps it was that I knew she had just stepped into the real world, the dangerous world, the exciting world. Perhaps it was a healthy fear of what could happen to her, who could hurt her. Perhaps it was the realization that our world with her as we’ve known it was done, completed, history…and we now step into a different kind of world – harder in some ways, better in other ways – and totally foreign. Perhaps it was the Holy Spirit resting upon me because there was this sense of gratitude and satisfaction in knowing that these past five years, although done, have been good (so, so good) in the midst of how hard (so, so hard) it’s been, and that I made it – I made it, to school, with her. All the make-my-hair-gray and body-fall-apart years – the past five years – are done. We close the door on them, we say goodbye. And if God works this way, I feel as if when my eyes followed that bus forward, he was standing right there, right beside me, whispering, “She did it. You did it. We did it. Together. I gave to you, you gave to her, and she takes ALL of that with her. She’s gonna soar.”

We returned to the house, my husband left for work, my son played with his race cars, and I went and sat on our deck, with my coffee, alone.

And I just breathed. No meaningful or profound thoughts. I just breathed. And it was good. So, so good.

And then he and I played and went to the park and looked and listened for bears on a nature hike. I didn’t really do much that day. Perhaps my mind and body and spirit just needed to rest…and perhaps numb out. And so it did.

The bus returned. She wore a smile. I knew it had been a good day. She ran to me, we hugged. I said “Hi girl!” and she showed me a piece of gum some kid on the bus gave her, and then ran down the sidewalk, to the house, and got her bike. The “show” began for the neighbor boys and within minutes – BOOM! She fell. Sure enough, the sidewalk won. Her face lost. Intense crying began, neuropathways started to disrupt and re-route. All that good? Well, it fell apart.

Shoot.

Comfort, nurture, empathy. The crying stopped. We washed and treated and bandaged the wound. And then those words came out of her mouth, “Mom – I can’t go to school looking like this!” Oh, my heart! When did self-esteem and self-image show up at my house? A five year old just told me that she was concerned about what other people thought about her looks. My heart sank a bit, but we quickly came up with some responses she could say to people who might ask. She was a bit satisfied, but still concerned. I added that boys might think it’s cool because sometimes they look at scars and scrapes as having been brave. Hmmm…not sure if that was helpful, but that’s what came out.

She recovered. We recovered. We rested on the couch. All my questions about her day went on pause. The routine evening activities unfolded. The puffiness diminished. The first layer of scab began to emerge. Clothes laid out, back pack ready. Stories and kisses and hugs like we do, and then she slipped off, deep into her dream world.

And it was good.

And that was the day in the life of my Kindergartener.

**Our Smilebox video here.