viva la woodchip.

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I did it. I went camping. This INDOOR girl spent four days – FOUR days – in the OUTDOOR world. For the first time. With two children. Without their daddy. And we survived. Amen.

So…a few reflections:

DO camp with another mom who is an expert at camping because she owns basic camping necessities like a grill and a griddle and a real tablecloth with clips that hold it down to the table and special toilet paper and a wine bottle opener and an overall state of calm and confidence.

DO camp with another mom who has children near the same mental and emotional and physical ability that your own children have. Because if you do, you will both be managing similar meltdowns and quarrels and conflicts and whining for that $1 toy gem at the camp store. And, you’ll both observe how good it is, in this culture, to remove your children from rectangles and watch the sun kiss their skin and smile at all the humorous things they do and say. And, most importantly, all of the children will go to bed all at the same time.

DO search until you find a camper that meets your basic physical and mental needs – like a queen size bed and bunk beds and bathroom and kitchen sink and microwave (just to name a few). Your internal well-being relies on this. Trust me. (Yes, someone somewhere makes these types of lovely campers!)

DO ask for a camp site that is next to the playground, across from the bathrooms/showers, a skip and a hop away from the pool, and that has an eye-sight view of the massive trampoline pillow where the children will expend much of their 12+ hour energy. (I’m assuming that ALL campgrounds would have these parent necessities.)

DO choose the PERFECT weather week – like mid 70s/low 80s. Because this could make or break your camping experience.

DO choose the week when most of the bugs and mosquitos that surely swarm around every camp site fly away to visit another campground or your friends’ homes. This, too, could make or break your camping experience.

DO pack tons of liquids and snack foods because you and your children’s bodies will constantly feel the need to ingest more than it normally requires. And, most importantly, bring Coke and M&Ms. And, bring ingredients for summer recipes like fresh BBQ Chicken Salad and Limonada de Coco, because it will help you feel special. It will remind you that you really are on a “vacation.” But, do make these when all the children are running around the campground making new friends and spinning around on the merry-go-round, so that you can eat in peace, so that your taste buds can savor every delicious bite, so that you are able to feel each little lime-y coconut-y slushy piece of ice slide down your throat.

DO bring lots of firewood, because making a fire each night is a MUST in the world of camping (along with s’mores). And then, after the children are nestled in and then out like a light because they’ve jumped and ran and biked and swam hard all day, pull up your new, red Costco camping chair beside your friend’s chair, stare into the fire, and start talking – about things that matter, about things that don’t. Talk and laugh and be silly and serious until midnight. Or 1 o’clock. Or 2 o’clock. Because in those 3-5 hours, you can cover A TON – like friends and family and in-laws and parenting and your story and decorating and finances and how life is so very wonderful and so very hard and how important it is to be gracious truth-tellers and what it’s like to feel like you’re “too much” and bucket lists and what you’re learning and how you’re failing and how you hope your children will grow to be lovers and doers of good and how to offer yourself as a wife whose husband knows she loves him and is grateful for him and how the people camping next to you talk really, really loud. Basically, you can solve most of the world’s problems in those night hours. So…

DO have your first camping experience with a friend who is fun and neat and organized and flexible and experienced and silly and honest and open…to all that life has to offer. And, who will invite you into an experience that will give you perspective of the OUTSIDE world and perspective on all the things you unknowingly take for granted about your INSIDE world. And, who will post funny pictures on Instagram and tag you as you sit 1 foot away from her. And then laugh about it. And, who will partner with you in an experience that reminds you that you’re capable – of doing new things and hard things and unlikely things…for yourself, for your children, WITH your children. And, who will play her radio ALL day on a station that has ALL the songs you know, so that at any moment you can raise your thumb to your mouth and break out singing and dancing and partying, like it’s 1999.

And then, pack up, go home, wash everything really good and know…that at the end of the day, it’s OK to say, you’re a hotel girl. Hands down.

#VivaLaWoodchip

 

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giving face.

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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!

 

 

trust.

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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.”

 

I DO x 10.

Wedding Pic

October 3, 2013

Dear Lover (said in the very best SNL “hot tub lovers” accent),

Ten years ago today we walked down that aisle, ready for commitment and companionship, intimacy and trust. We held hands and kissed and said, “I DO.” We believed that God had brought us together – that wild, rebellious, adventurous guy and that independent, sweet, obedient girl – who defied the culture around us and dated and waited well through our late twenties. We felt mature. We felt ready. We were happy. We were about to take a leap into marriage bliss, into our future, into forever, together. That day, our day, was unique and classy and beautiful. Nothing extravagant, just simple and meaningful. Just perfectly us.

And here we are, a decade later, still together – still skipping and fumbling and wandering and wondering, still learning to cherish and honor, still learning to fall…in love. We haven’t “arrived.” We’re still traveling. I’m so, so grateful for how our love story keeps moving and shifting and becoming…truer, deeper, wider.

Here’s what I know today, that I didn’t know 3,650 days ago:

I know a lot more about what comes with commitment. It’s in the “staying” – when hot, angry words fly around, when wrong and reactive responses come spewing out, when a cold shoulder gets shoved in a face, when the heart shuts off and takes a hike, when money and property and home-owning don’t go as planned, when romance and adventure fizzle and flop, when negative family patterns and personalities flare up, when ideas and ideals get squashed, when children call out the worst in you. These are the war zones, where the battles take place, when we want to quit. They’re brutal. They’re ugly. We’ve stepped on some killer land mines. Yet, we’re here. We both keep showing up. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes God only knows how we’ve made it back to one other. But we did. We’ve stayed.

I know a lot more about what comes with companionship. It’s in the “playing” – together, and with others. Something really good happens when we take the time to be alone, to be adults, to be friends. We’ve always talked and listened and processed – in the car, on the phone, in restaurants, in the living room, on vacations. We talk about what matters and what doesn’t matter. We keep making each other laugh…hard. We explore and discover, we re-visit and reminisce. Your “bads” are my “goods.” My “goods” are your “bads.” You introduce me to your world of boats and beer and wide open country – of peace. I introduce you to my world of mindfulness and moscato and big cities – of adventure. And then we invite others into our world – people who laugh with us (maybe at us) and play with us and who feel comfortable with us. We’re totally “people” people who love to laugh and eat and play. These have remained essentials in our marriage.

I know a lot more about what comes with intimacy. It’s in the “sharing” – openly, honestly, graciously. We were both intellectually reflective people back in the beginning, but neither of us knew much about what it really meant to connect, emotionally. Neither of us had many positive, lasting experiences being vulnerable, with ourselves, with others. This didn’t set us up well. But I’ve been learning…what it means to put your whole self on the table and allow it to be heard, received, pushed back on, embraced. I’m learning what it means to get mad and sad and scared, what it means to soar. And then, what to do with all of that, how to “be” with all of that, how to respond to all of that. I’m learning to see more of what’s inside me. I’m learning to see more of what’s inside you. Sometimes I might not like what I see, but I’m wanting, I’m choosing, to see the remarkable and the perfectly OK parts…in both of us – with openness, with honesty, with grace.

I know a lot more about what comes with trust. It’s in the “believing” – in one another’s goodness. It’s easy to think someone’s trustworthy when the endorphins rage and the romance stays. But, now we know how easily the endorphins fade and the romance can drift away. I (kind of) thought I trusted people, especially you, wholeheartedly. Winds up I didn’t. Now I know, I trusted mostly myself. Winds up that doesn’t work, at least in marriage. Somewhere I learned that someone is trustworthy only if they never hurt you. Which means, somewhere I learned that people aren’t human. But, they are. You are. I am. We’re learning what it means to repair the ruptures, start over, re-do – with respect, with acceptance, with forgiveness. We’re learning how to be human, together. We’re learning this new of way of believing…in one another.

So I guess that over the past ten years, I’ve been learning what you sign up for when you say, “I DO.” It’s not about getting hitched and wearing some bling and building a house and growing onions and cranking out darling Korean/Norwegian babies. It’s not about the picture of the perfectly posed wedding couple, smiling, admiring one another. It’s about what’s IN them – in us – and how God wants to use what’s happened BEHIND each of us to create something redemptive THROUGH us, together, FORWARDS. It’s about building and breaking and re-building. It’s about staying and playing and sharing and believing. It’s about love – learning what it means and feels like and looks like from above. And then, offering that kind of love in ways that free you, free me, so that we can create something sacred and true, together, that gives an even a fuller picture of LOVE himself…to one another, to the world.

I’m quite certain, that’s what we signed up for that day. Let’s keep leaning and living into THAT love story!

I’m in this, with you.

Happy I DO x 10, Baby!

I love you…still…always.

With much love and gratitude for where we are, right now…

Carissa

PS – I still love that I married someone with big eyes for my babies!

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life at three. a letter from his mama.

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September 25, 2013

Dear Zane,

Happiness and love to our boy – our tough and tender three-year-old! It’s a day to celebrate, a day to remember fondly upon, a day filled with wild life and excessive joy as you literally jump out of two and march triumphantly into three. Oh, how you’ve made our hearts enlarge and soften as we’ve watched you grab onto everything around you with peaceful intent and calm curiosity. We’ve loved watching you play and laugh, process and figure out, soak in and execute. With each new experience your world bursts with possibility and excitement.

Since you follow the first born, your eyes and ears and body were plunged into a routine that’s been mostly patterned for her. Yet, as we’ve navigated her path, we’ve also attempted to help you create your own path, your own rhythm, inviting out your personality and style and passions. We’ve wanted you to be uniquely you, and the things that set you apart from her shine. She’s introduced you to a pink and purple princess world, along with her colored-haired ponies and mermaid tails. You’ve introduced her to a world of objects and wheels that move fast and furious, on the ground and in the clouds. You watch her. You imitate her. You giggle with her. You compete against her. She antagonizes you, and in the same breath, applauds you. There’s something that fascinates her, us, about you. Maybe it’s the way you move about with ease and comfort, maybe it’s your growing independent spirit, maybe it’s the strength of your masculine soul. Whatever it is, we’re intrigued by both your differences and similarities. We watch, we participate, we manage, we rally. Mostly, though, we delight in how you complement one another and enjoy one another and need one another. Pals, provokers, teammates.

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You’ve got this way of grabbing our hearts (and ears) the moment your mouth opens with that high-pitched, soft, sweet (until you get mad) voice. Your wavy brown hair, your deep, brown eyes that smile, your love for blankie and puppy and “baby,” your tender heart and courageous leaps, your giggle and scream and soft, little hands – they naturally draw us in with ease. Oh, how we marvel at the precise and spectacular ways God made you and how he is maturing the little spirit inside of you. We stand in awe that he chose to give you to us, and at the same time, acknowledge that he made you for him. We can’t wait to see how you will continue to express his very nature as you keep moving and defining and expressing who he’s created you to be.

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You’ve transitioned from diapers…to more diapers. The potty chair is entertainment and exercise and duty. Your crib is still your bed, which most nights, we’re grateful for the ways those wooden bars keep you confined . You’ve gained opinions about clothes and shoes, and what tastes good, and what shows are worthy of your eyes and time. The Maxwell sugar gene assuredly has been passed on to your DNA, which means candy and chocolate and cake and ice cream are not options, but rather necessities. Your preferences are clearly stated and loudly retorted when denied. Let’s just say, for as easy-going as you are, you know how to use your voice.

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Our trips and excursions this past year brought wonder and thrill as you journeyed your way into water parks and splash pads and beaches and parades and restaurants and play lands and barnyards and museums and parks and carnivals and boats and swimming pools and hotels and cottage trips and fairs and train rides. There’s no question that you were made for fun and adventure. There’s no question about what excites you and fires you up and invites out your brave spirit.

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So as you jet into this next year, eyes wide open, we pray God’s protection and love and grace and truth over you. We continue to ask for discernment for what it means to nurture your sweet soul, and what it looks like to invite your voice and heart and mind to the table, in our family, in this world. We, without hesitation, believe in you – your strength, your tenderness, your goodness – but even more, how when God looks upon you, his eyes smile too.

With much love and adoration,

Your Mama

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children of light.

Thrilled to introduce you to Jen Wise, a woman who’s voice invites me to lean into more of our Creator through story and food and reflection and beauty. I have the privilege of being a part of an amazing team of writers for Restoration Living, of which she is the wise and inspiring gatekeeper that pulls us together, keeps us in line, rallies our voices (aka Managing Editor). So, after a year-and-a-half of writing for her, I thought it was time to ask her to write for me – so I could share her voice with my little world, and her passion for people and wholeness and truth and living life to the full. So, what better topic than parenting as we approach summer and the shift that happens when the kids come home…to us, to our care. I know you’ll be moved and challenged and empowered to offer your best self, your whole self…to your children.

light

“Sir, are you really calling the police because there is a squirrel with a long tooth in your yard?” – Police Department to my husband.

In his defense, he had to call. It was Saturday morning and we were wrapping up a leisurely waffle breakfast when I noticed a new squirrel in our backyard. This little guy stood out because he was eating his waffle (don’t judge – it’s their weekend too, you know!) on the right side of his mouth. Sticking out of the left side was a gigantic tooth that looped up and around, rubbing the fur off his face. A quick Google search told me that this squirrel was not going to survive unless someone caught it, sedated it, and trimmed that crazy tooth. I knew we needed to get help – call animal control – this is an emergency!

My husband didn’t share my concern.

That’s when the tears started. First me. Then the kids. Then he caved.

As it turns out, the Police had absorbed Animal Control due to budget cuts. To say they weren’t concerned would be an understatement. We were to “let the squirrel take its natural course”.

This, obviously, led to more tears.

I know what you’re thinking: It’s a squirrel, toughen up, this is life. And you’re right – this is life. And that’s why I cried. Hard.

SPROUTING

There is something heart wrenching about watching your children stumble upon the realities of our world. Sometimes bad things will happen. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do. Sometimes (many times) other people aren’t going to care about what you care about.

So yes, I cried about a squirrel… but really it’s so much more than the squirrel. It’s grieving what’s broken in the world. It’s grieving that this world is broken at all. It’s grieving that my young idealistic children are slowly making this realization.

And don’t most of us go through this ourselves? As our lives sprout we believe that if we’re good, the world around us will cooperate. We believe that if we’re kind, others will respond likewise. We believe that if we do the right thing we will be safe and successful and life will play out the way we believe it should.

By the time we have roots and branches we’ve seen and felt enough to know better.

EYES OPEN

An introduction to brokenness comes as a tidal wave for some: sexual abuse, chronic sickness, natural disasters, or the death of a parent. I cannot even pretend to understand the profound impact these events have on a young heart. For most of us though, our realization is more of a trickle. Throughout our days we encounter moments that highlight the truths we’d rather have kept in the dark.

Our family has walked through many of these ‘enlightening’ moments over the last few years, necessitating some difficult and sometimes painful conversations. Some of these include being hurt by friends, the disparity of wealth in our community, and the death of a family member. Beyond that, the extinction of dinosaurs, where meat comes from (and what makes it more or less ethical to purchase), the marketing and selling of things that are bad for us, and the sickening reality that some people just want to hurt kids.

The thing is, no matter how much I want to tell my boys that the world is whole – no matter how much I want to shield them from knowing that it’s not – I can’t. And I shouldn’t.

We keep media to a pretty innocent level in our home – there are certain topics we generally steer away from – and we don’t alert them to every tragedy that crosses our headlines. Still, we don’t lie to them. We do let them know, on their level, what disappointments and dangers loom. We are open about the brokenness that they are sure to bump up against.

UNSHAKEN

Rather than a reactive stance of explaining-away or putting a rosy spin on everything, we take a proactive stance of preparing our children for what they will inevitably discover. We take opportunities now, while they’re young and under our care, to get their toes wet. We let them experience a bit of unfairness. We encourage them to take risks with new opportunities and face fears out of their comfort zone. We resist the (very strong) urge to protect them from every feeling of discomfort or pain.

Help them face fears and hold up against disillusionment now while they have the luxury of your support. They’ll be better equipped to remain grounded in the years to come.

And this goes for us as well. Step into that new social scene – take on that project that’s a little intimidating – volunteer in a place you’d rather pretend doesn’t exist. It’s good for us, it’s also good for our kids to observe us stepping forward, taking risks, opening our eyes, facing fears and coming out the other side.

FORWARD, UPWARD

Ultimately, the key to coming out the other side well, as children and as adults, is a deep understanding of identity and purpose. When we know who we are and the value we hold – when we know why we’re here and the role we play in all of this – we’re less likely to be thrown for a loop when the landscape shifts.

There are so many opportunities to help your children understand their identity, for us these moments are some of the strongest. Upon every hard realization, every burden, every tear, we have a chance to invite our children to walk with us – a chance to remind them that this is why we’re here, this is what this is all about. We’re binding wounds, working for wholeness, bearing light, and loving this world.

This points them forward, upward. It helps them, and us, have a grounding that is not dependent on a pain-free sheltered life. It turns those moments from despair and disillusionment to moments that propel us forward, stepping more fully into who we are, stepping more confidently into our role as healers.

Our family has an identity, we know who we are, we know our role in the world – the darkness does not change that. The bad things that we see from our path, that cross our path, and that sometimes will explode on our path do not change who we are, what we are called to, and what we are working towards.

When this is rooted in our souls – we aren’t easily shaken.

May we embrace who we are and our role in this world. May we walk confidently forward with eyes wide open to see the brokenness around us and where we can extend healing. And may we, with grace and strength, invite our children into the process of restoring their world as well.

BIOPICFINAL_WEB Jen is a compassionate theologian, obsessive foodie, constant hostess and voracious reader. She attended Cornerstone University and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary earning a MA in Theology. Jen is the managing editor of Restoration Living. She lives with her husband and their two sons in Philadelphia. Catch up with her on twitter @jenlwise.

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.