Fulfillment

This time last year, in a moment of reflection, the word that landed in my heart for 2014 was fulfillment. Today 2014 draws to a close, I’m pausing to reflect. It has indeed been a year of fulfillment.

For me, adopting is something God put in my heart as a child. It came to pass in a rather difficult manner that left me feeling doubtful. Having already been with me a year and a half, the finality of adoption sent Raine into a tailwind of grief. As she came to grips with the reality of loosing her birth family and the last name she was born with, I became the target for all her anger. There were times Raine actually accused me of stealing her from her birth mother. We reviewed the reality of how she came to me many times. It’s a sad story to accept – parents unable to care for you properly. Her grief was real and complex.
I never regretted my choice to adopt her, but questioned my ability to parent her. Maybe the couple the adoption worker had wanted to place her with could do this better – with more grace, more patience, more joy. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s useless to ponder because I challenged the adoption worker’s decision and won. On dark days, I would reread the final verdict from the review panel. They were sure I was the right parent for Raine and Athena. So often I needed an infusion of certainty.
This past year Raine has settled in – accepting her fate with joy. She’s now at peace most of the time. Overall, our encounters are positive. Homeschooling is often fun instead of a daily struggle.
“Your girls are so peaceful,” a friend recently remarked. She knows it wasn’t always that way. After being away most of 2014, my friend is experiencing the final product after seeing us at our worst in the midst of 2013.
This is the reality of adoption. Change is possible. Healing can happen. But coming together as a family is a process – especially when we’re starting from a place of brokenness.
Growing up with the dream of adopting, the Lord often called me to a place of prayer. As a teen and young adult I would spend hours praying into the children who would one day be mine. Often I read the story of John the Baptist’s birth in Luke 1. I’ve always loved John’s determination. He went against the flow – a direction I often find myself going in.

And the child grew and became strong in spirit….
(Luke 1:80) I often prayed over the children who would come. That seemed to be the key – being strong in spirit. I knew then and know now that in myself, I can’t fix the many issues. I can’t take away the real pain of loss. I can’t wipe away rejection. There are things I can do to help. I can be a place of comfort, encouragement, and stability. There are things I can do and try to do consistently to ease the discomfort. But in the end, it’s the God of all creation who can bring healing. Knowing that, I prayed fervently for the day that I live in now.
As a teen and young adult, I could pray for hours at a time. I could delve into the Scriptures and discover His plans. Now as a single mom, I don’t have that kind of time. But I’m reaping the benefits of those prayers.
Not long ago, I was reading the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke. Raine kept trying to interrupt. I wouldn’t let her speak until we’d completed the section on John the Baptist’s birth – ending with the verse about growing and becoming strong in spirit.
“When I turn 10 we’re going to celebrate by taking a break from eating for three days. We’ll just pray all day and maybe all night. You and me, and Athena if she wants to do it,” Raine announced what was burning in her heart while I read to hear about John the Baptist. Her idea came from her spirit and she didn’t even have the word for it – fasting. That discipline has not been part of my life since Raine and Athena entered it. Nor is it something I’ve explained. All of a sudden, I remembered the years of prayer.
In those times of prayer, the Lord showed me my children following Him passionately in every stage of life. Raine embraces the things of God with fervency. She longs to understand more and more. Her spirit is strong and growing everyday.
DSC_8033This past year has been one of fulfillment. The daily battles, the discouragement, and the exertion of effort has given way to peace and joy. The dream I had of being a mom was technically fulfilled in 2012. But only in this past year have I reaped the joy of that relationship. There have been highs and lows, but in 2014 I’ve been able to enjoy my calling as a mom more often than not.
The theme for my church has been the year of the harvest. I am now seeing the harvest of the prayers I planted so very long ago. And I am reaping the rewards of the investment I made in Raine from the beginning. Even in the darkest times (after regrouping), I chose to return to her with love.
“It took so long because God knew Athena and I needed to be with you. He made sure you waited for us,” Raine said when I explained how long I’d waited to become a mom.
He knew. He knew how difficult it would be. He knew the joy on the other side. He knew I would be too tired and discouraged in the midst of our family’s formation to really pull on heaven. He knew. Existing outside of time, He held those prayers – releasing their fulfillment at the appointed times.
 
…You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.
Joshuah 23:14
The Lord promised me a family full of love and joy. This year I saw the fulfillment of that promise. It’s been hard but He’s been faithful. Though many times I fall short as a parent, He has not failed.
 DSC_8031
photos courtesy of Shannon Guiler

Time for School

All summer long I debated what to do about school this year. I knew for sure I wouldIMG_20140909_122125 continue homeschooling Raine. But what about Athena? Her teacher was very honest in the final Junior Kindergarten report card. Things weren’t going well for her at school. Athena was withdrawn and eerily quiet. Generally when teachers or children spoke to her she either ignored them or walked away. It was impossible to assess what she’d learned because Athena would not interact with the instructors.

In March of last year the dentist informed me that Athena’s habit of skewing her jaw was creating lasting effects. Her mouth was beginning to grow incorrectly. At that point it was correctable. I started keeping her home from school most days and we worked on putting her mouth the right way among other things.

Based on those two factors I was planning to homeschool Athena this year. Still, as the summer wore on, I wasn’t sure. Her primary interest became making her sister scream. Raine’s come a long way in her ability to interact with other kids. It took a great deal of effort to get her upset. But Athena devoted herself to honing that skill. Our days were filled with lots of angry shouting from Raine followed by riotous laughter from Athena. I was not amused.

Then there was the actual school part. We kept working a bit over the summer. I would give Athena a task to complete – for example a page of the letter K. After writing one she would shout, “I’m done!” My request that she wait a minute fell on deaf ears. She’d continue shouting, “I’m done!” until I looked at her sheet.

“You’ve only written one letter. You still have lots more to do there.”

“I know,” she’d answer with a smirk. “I just wanted to tell you I was done one.”

After the next one the scene would repeat.

So……I decided to send her to school. It wasn’t my proudest moment. As a mom, I like to think I can make every decision based on what’s best for my child. This choice was in favour of what was best for me and Raine. Based on last year, I had no reason to expect school to be good for Athena. It was with a heavy heart, I got her ready to go on September 2nd.

Excited for Senior Kindergarten.

Excited for Senior Kindergarten.

Surprisingly, Athena was eager to pose for pictures. Normally she refuses to and hardly ever smiles while I’m snapping shots. This morning she was beaming. She walked to school carrying her backpack. And ran into the fenced kindergarten yard without a second look at Raine and I.

When I picked her up, Athena was happy. Last year she was always miserable at the end of school. Never did I know what was going on because she’d angrily tell me, “What I do at school is not your business.” This year, she chatted all evening long with story after story of what went on.

Her good mood and eagerness to share have continued. Even her teacher has noticed a marked difference, commenting that, “Athena is a completely different child. She’s talkative and interacting with the kids.” The teacher and a few friends have asked what changed over the summer. Nothing that I’ve noticed. She’s remained herself – a little more bothersome at times.

With Athena my focus has been confidence. She arrived very insecure and fearful. Time and prayer have brought her to a better place. I didn’t expect going back to school to increase her confidence. Honestly, I expected her to be shy and withdrawn like last year. Instead she’s confident and self-assured.

The information I had while making the decision didn’t indicate such a positive outcome. Yet, sending her to school felt right. Guiltily, I thought it was only going to be right for Raine and I. We would get some much needed quiet. Maybe if I’d taken the time to listen a little more to Holy Spirit, I wouldn’t have picked up that guilt. He knew going to school would be the best thing for Athena. Glad I at least listened to that nudging.

IMG_20140909_122545

1st day of school

Perfect Love

Raine is absolutely in love with horses. Before ever having ridden one, she’d already planned her life around having one. Everywhere we go, despite my discouragement, she asks people how much they get paid for the work they do. She’s gathering information to select a career that will give her enough money to own a horse (and buy me an electric car – but that’s another story).

When a friend told me she was putting her 3 foster children in horseback riding daycamp, I decided to send Raine as well. I was sure she’d have the time of her life.

heading to camp Monday morning

heading to camp Monday morning

Monday went ok. But Tuesday was a disaster. She refused to listen to the teachers – repeatedly running away from her group into a small cluster of trees. My friends girls went after her. That didn’t help. When my friend’s husband arrived to pick the kids up, Raine was completely out of sorts – telling people to leave her alone and shut up. There’s a lot of power in her verbal punches.

At home, I sat Raine down to talk to her. She dished out more of the same attitude telling me it was none of my business what she did at camp.

Instead of being happy about camp,  Raine took it as an act of rejection on my part. She thought I was pushing her away when in reality I was giving her an amazing opportunity.

The more I talked the more hostile Raine became.

“If you keep acting this way at camp, you won’t be able to go back,” I said.

Apparently, the camp instructor had been completely overwhelmed by Raine. I know how forceful she can be. I thought her love of horses would prevent any major upsets. Clearly, I was wrong.

Raine’s attitude stopped when I told her she wasn’t going the next day. Suddenly she relaxed. Then we could talk about the real problem.

“It’s too long to be away from you,” she explained.

“She needs to get used to it,” I’ve been told before by friends and social workers.

It’s true. At 6 1/2yrs this type of separation anxiety isn’t natural nor is it healthy. Before the adoption, when Raine was my foster child, she did really well at daycare two days a week. There were never any issues. But something happened with the adoption. It introduced a deep rooted fear in Raine. Likely because she was completely cut off from her first mother she worries about loosing me. She knows it’s possible. At the age of 4 1/2 Raine found out parents can change. You can be disconnected from one family and attached to another. Staying with me soothes some of the fears.

So she stayed home on Wednesday. Maybe I should have pushed her. I don’t know. Were she plagued with a physical illness, no one would think anything of me deciding camp turned out to be too much for her. Wounds of the heart are not so easily forgiven.

Our time of being together on Wednesday wasn’t pretty. Raine unloaded all of her anger. She was down right furious that I’d sent her to camp for two days. I wasn’t much help, feeling like a failure. After all this time together, my daughter should be doing better. At least I think she should. I want her to because I can see how the fear cripples her. I know my God is capable of instant miracles. That’s what I want for Raine – a miraculous healing of her heart.

After a few hours of lamenting the state we were in, I realized in many ways we’re ahead instead of behind. Attaching to adoptive parents can be difficult for children – especially in the case of older child adoption. The fact that Raine values our connection so much she’s afraid to loose it is a good thing. Fear isn’t helpful, but the valuing is incredibly significant. She really loves me and wants to be with me. As we move through our day, Raine intentionally imitates me. So much of her pursuits mirror my own interests – gardening, cooking, sewing, and so on. She wants to be like me and wants to be with me. Those are healthy signs of attachment. Maybe we’re not doing as poorly as I thought.

Yes, Raine’s behaviour is completely unacceptable. I’m not excusing the outbursts at camp. In speaking to her about it, Raine reminded me, “I live in fear.” We prayed together. I prayed breaking off fear of rejection.

Thursday Raine was ready to go back to camp. She managed without incident.

Friday, we got to watch her and the other children perform their new found skills.

I wish, for Raine’s sake, the week had gone better. I hate that fear holds her back.

“How do I get it out of me?” she asked.

“The Bible says: perfect love pushes fear out,” I answered. “You need more love.”

“From Jesus.”

“Yes.”

love fear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small Graces

Yesterday I took Jake* for a hair cut. Just before dropping him off to me, Jake’s foster mom finally got permission to trim his hair. It’s been too long since he came into foster care but the go ahead from his birth mom was required. Finally getting it, Jake’s foster mom didn’t have time to complete the task before leaving for vacation.

“If you want to you can,” she said. It did seem wise, he was looking unkept and hair blocked his view. But it was frightening. I didn’t know how he would respond. Baths and showers bring on absolute panic. Jake kicks, pinches, and screams. I was anticipating something of the same with a haircut.

My plan was to put it off as long as possible. Then when I woke yesterday with an urgency, “We need to do this today.” So we set off, stopping at the park briefly. The local chain of discount hair cutters wasn’t too busy. We had to sit through the cut of one other customer. I brought ketchup chips, cheesies, and pretzels. Not ideal – they were pretty messy – but novel so it kept everyone occupied. My own kids don’t have much experience with hair dressers so I was expecting a million questions.

Then there’s Jake who is a handful in the best of moments. We all managed beautifully. The male hair dresser was kind and enthusiastic. His parents fostered when he was growing up. He understood and was willing to work with the situation. I held Jake trying to keep him still which never happened. The hair dresser did what he could any way he could.

Just before we began that balancing act, a lady from church arrived with her grown daughter who needed a haircut. The lady kindly occupied my own girls, answering their questions and carry on a lengthy conversation with Raine. That enabled me to completely focus on Jake without Raine & Athena feeling neglected. They were very happy to have someone else enjoying them.

The urge to go to this place at this time was a small one. It could have easily been ignored in favour of fear. I’m glad I listened. We got the right hair dresser and the Lord even provided someone to help with the other kids. These small graces remind me the Lord is mindful of my situation.

*name changed

new hair cut

Jake recovering at home on the floor after his hair cut

 

*name changed

Father’s Day – Celebrating what We Have

 

Today is father’s day. It’s true – my girls don’t have an earthly father. As Athena is quick to point out, “we have God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. That’s three!!” More than the average kid.

Our life is wonderfully unusual, I know. Intentionally I chose to become a single mom. I’m ok with that. And so are my kids. Since their arrival, I’ve been it – the only parent around. To us it’s just the way it is.

Of course in a perfect world, I would have married when I was young and the foster children who come to me would be greeted by a lovely mom & dad. That didn’t happen. I’m grateful God isn’t hung up on perfection. He’s willing to bend the rules. In doing so He brought me two delightful girls that I get to keep forever.

Today I’m focusing on what my kids have instead of what they don’t.

They have a mom who loves them. Even though I fail repeatedly, I’m not giving up on them or myself. Relationships aren’t easy. Each is an opportunity to grow in grace and compassion. I’m making the most of every opportunity!

My girls have a great community who love them. We’re surrounded by other families and individuals who come alongside us. My daughters have friends they’re growing up with – something that was and is a very special part of my own life.

My own family have embraced Raine & Athena. It’s hard to believe that some extended families don’t welcome adopted children. Sadly, this can be the case – especially when the children come broken and, at times, resistant to love. Thankfully my parents, siblings, and their spouses have all welcomed the addition of my children.

My daughters have a stable home life. They lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10). The Lord has provided a beautiful home and the necessary finances to keep us afloat. He’s opened the doors for me to be home full-time with my kids. This means the world to them and me.

Most importantly, my daughters have a Heavenly Father who loves and cares for them. They live in abundance – lacking nothing.

Still-Saturday-Psalm-23