Thursday, April 29, 2010

Getting what you want

I am trying to clean up files on my computer to make more room.  I really need to delete photos but I started with my word files.  I found a few things I had written to myself before I knew about blogging and thought I would use them for a couple easy posts.

Kids know what they want. And they aren’t afraid to ask for it. This morning I made myself a fruit smoothie, which my 1-1/2 year old daughter loves. As I poured it she came up and immediately started crying for some. I poured her a cup and she sat on the floor to drink it. After I poured myself some I sat on the floor across from her to drink mine. She sat looking at me for a brief moment and then crawled over got up on my lap just where she wanted and then reached for my free hand and put it around her waist. She desired that comfort and wasn’t afraid to come and take it.

How many times have I been sitting looking at my husband and wishing he would come sit by me and put his arm around me but I just don’t want to ask for it. Will it be less enjoyable if I ask? No. Will his desire to comfort me be any less real if I ask for it? No. And yet I don’t ask. Why?

How often have I wanted to participate in a sport, join a club or go with a friend to lunch and yet I missed out on the opportunity because I was afraid to simply ask?

My daughter knows I love her and she isn’t afraid of my rejection. Even though sometimes I push her away if I am trying to do something, still she comes again to try and sit with me. She doesn’t give up. She is secure in the love she has received and cannot be deterred.

I am loved. My husband loves me. I don’t have to be afraid of his rejection. He knows my faults and loves me anyway. I can ask for what I want. But I don’t. My family and friends love me. They have seen me through the good times and the bad as I have seen them through the same. If I need something they would desire me to ask. But I don’t. God loves me. He is my eternal father, he created me, he knows me, he knows my heart, he sees my faults and he loves me. He tells me that anything I ask for in his name he will grant me. But I don’t ask.

Maybe I don’t ask because I don’t really know what I want. Maybe I don’t really know what I want because I don’t really know myself. Maybe I don’t know myself because I don’t really want to. I don’t want to see my faults, I don’t want to admit my failures, I don’t want to face my fears. But if I know myself better I will be able to do more. I will know what God wants me to do. I won’t be afraid to ask for what I want because I will know exactly what I want.

It is interesting to look back on stuff I wrote in the past.  Although I only vaguely remember writing this I definately feel like I have been learning about myself for the past several years.  I think I am better about asking what I want and not being afraid of rejection.  There must really be something to putting your thoughts into words.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Painting the Barn

I blogged a while back about my search for balance.  I am still on the search but it is starting to come together.  I was able to see most of the Susie Larson DVD on balance that I mentioned and it was excellent.  I am not going to highlight the whole thing but will say that she started with a list of what balance is NOT.  It is NOT a perfectly put together appearance, a perfectly managed schedule and looks different on everyone.

As I spent time seeking God about my percieved lack of balance I was able to focus in on one particular activity in my life that really seemed to be tipping me over.  I suppose any number of activities could have been the one to go but this is the one that I really felt the least peace about.  Homeschooling.  I really want to do it but as I have continued to sit on it and pray about it I can clearly see this has to go.  It was amazing how easy it was to make the decision once I realized this was the thing pushing me under.  I still haven't gone into the school district to register Isabelle for school but at this point am pretty sure she will be the first child on my side of the family to attend public elementary school.  I feel completely confident that she will do great and am releasing any fears that come up to God.

My favorite thing that Susie Larson said in the balance dvd was in regard to getting ready in the morning.  She said, "paint the barn in the morning and get on with your day."  It was about not obsessing over your looks throughout the day but I think can be applied to so many things.  Making the decision not to homeschool could be something that I obsess about, and definately for the first few weeks after making the decision I did obsess about it, but instead I am going to simply "get on with my day".

Since then I have felt so much more peace about how to balance the rest of my activities.  I know which ones I need to focus on right now and what I need to know I will pick up in the fall when school starts.  I have been able to prioritize.

Here is another thought about balance.  My friend Naomi was giving me a swim lesson a few weeks ago to help me with a Triathlon I am doing in June.  She had me do a dead man's float, face down in the water, to identify the balance point in my body when in the water. (your lungs)  I have been thinking lately about the balance point of my life, God of course.   When we balance ourselves over our lungs we float.  When we balance our lives over God we will also float.  We will be maximizing our strokes when we don't use them for floating but only for moving forward.  When we balance on God we can move forward and grow rather than spinning our wheels trying to do something God can take care of.  

I think my personal application of this thought is in realizing some of the things I am trying to balance aren't my job to balance.  I have a long list of things I want to control and move in the direction I want them to move.  But sometimes you have to trust God.  Yes I need to be involved in my children's lives and help raise and guide them but some of my stress is caused by my desire to over-control the outcome.   I am responsible for women's ministry at my church but that doesn't mean I need to do everything.  There are other women with a heart for women's ministry and I can confidently delegate to them as well.  Being involved in the parts God directs me to and letting Him take care of the other parts.  Trying to do God's job puts the balance point on my shoulders instead of His and creates a life where I am frustrated, overwhelmed and out of control.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Do you get Weary?

Isaiah 40:31 (New International Version)

31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Since one of my friends told me my devotion the other day was outstanding, and my mom said, "Amen" in the comments, I figured I would try another one. 

Sometimes when I read a verse I get stuck on a word.  Today I am stuck on the word "weary".  I am often weary.  The word evokes not just a sense of physical exhaustion but almost more so for me of mental exhaustion as well.  When I am weary life just seems so overwhelming that I want to crawl in bed.  I don't know where to start a  to-do list so long it seems I will never finish.  I have to confront someone on a personal issue.  My family is needing me continually.  I have a problem I cannot solve.  I am weary.  I don't know what to do.  I don't know where to start.  I want to run away from it all.

I get weary.

This scripture tells me that if I "hope in the Lord" I can run and not grow weary.  Yes, that is what I want.  To keep going through the business of my life, running on and on without that weary feeling.  Without getting overwhelmed by the responsibilities of my life, the problems I encounter.  There is the answer, "hope in the Lord."

Oh Gee Thanks...For nothing.

As I have blogged about a couple times already this year I find the phrase "hope in the Lord." to be about as clear as mud.  What does that mean?

The Sunday School answer I have come to believe is that we need to be focused on our relationship with the Lord, spending time in prayer, reading the bible, general quiet time stuff and everything will come together.  And I suppose that is a good short answer but not always fully helpful.

Yes when I spend time with the Lord my burdon can be temporarily released.  But in the end I still have to figure out where Isabelle is going to school in the fall or how to talk with friends that are struggling.  Even if I "give it to God" it is still there.  I still have to deal with it.

I have come to understand that when I put my "hope" in the Lord or "trust" God, another common but useless phrase, it is about changing my perspective, my attitude.  We stop viewing life through the lens of what WE think and what WE need to do. Putting my hope in God means that I start wondering what GOD thinks and watching to see what GOD is going to do.  And that gets me excited.  My to-do list will be just as long and there are still things on the list I don't want to do but when I change my attitude from what I have to do to stepping forward excited to see what God will do I am no longer weary but am full of energy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Grandma's home!

My parents finally returned from their warm winter in Florida.  OK it wasn't really a warm Florida winter this year but still warmer than it was here in the frozen tundra.  The 3 month adventure came to end end on Monday evening when they drove into the garage of their townhome.  While I was excited for them to leave in January I did wonder what it would be like to not have my mom available for so long.  I was surprised by how easy it was as the business of life took over.  There were a few times I could have used a sitter or would have enjoyed a shopping companion but over all the 3 months went quickly and smoothly on my side and I think on hers as well.  However, Isabelle didn't think the 3 months went by very quickly and I know the other grandchildren here in MN shared her lack of enthusiasm for the extended separation.  By the end I was getting a daily question about grandma's return.  I mistakenly told her earlier than Grandma would be home after Easter.  I was thinking in terms of landmarking not in literal terms but hours after Easter brunch Isabelle was asking to go see Grandma who surely was home now that Easter was over.  It was hard to tell her it would be a couple more weeks.

But now she is back.  She has returned!  Isabelle spent time Tuesday afternoon at Grandma's right after she returned.  The business of my life continued after her return and so I didn't get to see her until Thursday afternoon.  The weather was beautiful and so we went for a walk at a park, had a treat and even did a little shopping at a boutique.

And Isabelle enjoyed every minute of it.

Oh, we missed you too Dad.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Birthparent Questions and Answers

So as a follow up to my Q&A about open adoption I asked Lauren if she wanted to do one from her perspective.  She was excited to participate and you can read her Open Adoption post HERE

It is so wonderful to share this experience with Sam and Lauren.

Maybe someday when Isabelle has grown up we can publish a book of our amazing shared adoption experience.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What might have been

I have a big chalk board in my kitchen which I use for various things.  Mostly I like to write quotes or scriptures that speak to me and inspire me.  I recently came across this quote,

"It's never too late to become the person you might have been." 

As I think about becoming a writer and launching into a whole new phase of my life that really resonates.  Although I have to say I never dreamed of being a writer, never had wonderful things writen on my papers in high school and really didn't learn to spell until the invention of spell checker.  I actually still remember I got a D in senior year english.  As I said, I never considered writing as being part of my future. 

I was going to do something in business.  Accounting was the direction I thought I would head.  And after high school I worked in various accounting clerk jobs where I did mediocre at best.  I knew what I was doing but wasn't particularly detail oriented.  Something apparently they expect you to be when working with numbers and money.

After Jake was born I found myself sitting on the couch for several months looking out the window while he nursed.  That time of solitude gave me an opportunity to look back on my little "career" and really consider what I did right and what I did wrong during my working years. It also gave me a chance to really ask myself who I was and what I was meant to do.  It didn't take me long to realize that accounting was definately NOT what I was meant to do.  I had the wrong personality and temperment to ever spend my life creating columns of numbers.  I felt so much relief to be able to free myself from that path but I did wonder what career path might be before me instead.

Well 15 years later I can safely say that wife, mother, homemaker was the career path before me and with a 5 year old still keeping me busy it will continue to be my primary focus for many years to come.  But here comes writing.  Something I am finding myself enjoying so much.  Something I don't feel like I am forcing myself to do but would do even if I was the only one who read what I wrote.  Or my 10 blog readers.  (Only 3 of which are willing to follow me...)  And the good news is that people actually are validating this new direction in my life.

I don't know where it is taking me but I know it is worth pursuing and I know that it is definately not too late to pursue becoming the person I might have been all along if I had understood myself at 19 the way I understand myself at 39.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rip your heart out

I thought I would share somewhat of a devotional today for a little variety.  I was looking back through my journals and came across this one that seemed worthy of sharing.

Joel 2:13 "Rend your heart and not your garmets..."

I have no idea where I came across this, some random bible reading of Joel, but when I read it I was stuck. You often read about people in the bible rending their garmets in an expression of great emotion.  They tangibly rip their clothing to express how they feel.  I thought about how easy it is to rend your garmets.  To do a physical, measurable action to express your grief, suffering or even your joy or love for the Lord. Compare that to rending your heart, opening ourselves up to God, allowing Him into our heart letting him change us, fix us, hurt us, love us, use us.  It is so much easier to be in control, so much harder to give our hearts to the Lord.  Easy to pray, hard to believe.  Easy to tell people you are trusting God in your circumstances, hard to actually trust him.  Easy to go out and do what is necessary in you daily life, hard to give each task over to the Lord and allow ourselves to be used by him.

So what will you rend today, your heart or your garmet?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Everyday Gratitude

Do you ever get the feeling God is trying to tell you something?  Lately I feel like the phrase "gratitude" and lessons about it are all around me.  One day I read a blog reviewing the book "Choosing Gratitude".  I was thinking it sounded like something interesting to pick up.  I then went to another blog the same day where the writer was making a list of things she was thankful for as a result of reading another blog about a Gratitude Community.  Among other things it had encouraged her to begin a list of 1000 things she is grateful for this year.  So at this point gratitude is rolling around in my head.  I am organizing the speakers for our women's retreat and was asking one of the women on the team what might be a good topic, she suggested Thankfulness.  I knew right away that had to be a topic and asked someone to speak on it.  I am looking forward to hearing what she has to say.  Finally, I was picking Isabelle up from her Wednesday night church and was handed a flyer about a mom's event they were hosting with Speaker/writer Susie Larson speaking on her new book, "Growing Grateful Kids."  It seemed pretty clear I needed to go.

It is funny how you can feel like an entire area of your life has been neglected.  Not that I would have told you I lacked gratitude, or that I don't teach my children to be grateful but when I look at life from the specific perspective of seeing or not seeing gratitude in my life I realize I could be doing better.

My highlights of her talk:

Model Thankfulness--How often am I clearly grateful, specifically grateful to God on a daily basis?  Not nearly as often as I would like to be. 

Practice Restraint--She talked about looking for things that have a stronghold in your life, that are taking the place of God in your life.  How often do we not appreciate all we have and fill the void in our lives with things or time on computer or whatnot rather than going to God.  If she noticed something was beging to have a strongold in her life she would fast from it for a week or two, afterward she found it never had the grip on her that it originally had.  I have found this to be true in my life as well.  After going a few months without sugar a few years ago I suddenly lost my taste for pop, something that had always been important to me.  And at the beginning of this year I spent a week off the computer.  While I still think I am sitting here too much I definately feel like its grip is weaker as I see how else my life could be structured.

Take Time to Play--This one particularly struck me.  As we have had financial ups and downs over the past several years I sometimes feel like a fraud.  I have a hard time enjoying fun activities because I think I don't deserve them.  Some days I feel like I should be living in a trailer park eating beany weany's not standing at the park chatting with my neighbors as if I didn't have a care in the world.  Yet she makes the point that it all rests on God's shoulders not mine and so I am free to play and have fun.  This is exactly where God has put me right now.

Teach Forgiveness--I felt pretty good about this one and didn't take alot of notes but some bullet points were: pray daily for those you can't forgive, recieve fresh mercy's daily, ask God where you are wrong, ask kids for forgiveness when you are wrong, walk through forgiveness.

Give a blessing--She is deliberate about speaking blessings over her children.  We shouldn't assume our children know who they are and where they are strong.  We need to see their potential and tell them.  She also talks about truth telling.  Don't tell your children they are the best at everything.  When they go off into the real world and find out they are not it will be quite an adjustment for them.  We need to be real with them.  She also encouraged her children to give blessings and truth telling to each other during periodic family times.

So what to do with all this information?  Well at the moment I am rolling it all around in my head along with teaching Isabelle about the Lord.  Jake had such a sensitve heart for the Lord from a very young age.  It was so easy to teach him about Christ.  Yet Isabelle doesn't have that same sensitivity and the methods I used to mentor Jake in his faith are clearly not what Isabelle needs.  I am wondering if my opportunity to introduce God to Isabelle will be through creating an awareness of all He does for us each day and thanking Him for it.  Learning to appreciate how we are blessed in every day life no matter what happens, good or bad.  And in teaching her I bet I just might teach myself as well.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

Happy Easter! We are having a lovely day.

Jake and Isabelle both found their Easter baskets.  I thought I hid Jake's pretty well but we will never know because as soon as he walked in the room Isabelle, who had already found hers and Jake's, said, "look over by the tv".

Feeling like a rock star over this precious dress and shoe combo.  Found the whole outfit for under $10 at a thrift store.  She loved it and got lots of complements.  She wore it at Saturday's Easter Vigil as well where she got to dance down the aisle during one of the scripture readings.

Our sweet godson Leumas.  His parents were both part of the worship team this morning so we got to hang out with Leumas for part of the service.  He pretty much always has that serious look on his face.  I brought him a little easter sand pail.  Since his parents are from Kenya I feel it is our job as godparents to introduce all the american traditions to Leumas.

On the front lawn after the service looking for chocolate Easter eggs.  Isabelle was trying to get Leumas to pick one up.
Jade joined us for our Easter service.  Her family had just returned late last night from their spring break trip and weren't going to church this morning but Jake and Jade couldn't wait to be reunited after a week apart.  That is her standing behind Jake.

After church we headed over to Crave for our Easter brunch. 

John and Jake got the buffet.  We rolled them home after the meal where they have been relaxing all afternoon.

Happy Easter to All.

Friday, April 2, 2010

questions and answers about open adoption

I get alot of questions about Isabelle's open adoption and recently a friend sent someone to my blog that was doing an open adoption and had questions so I thought maybe a nice organized post with all the information would be helpful for others who might stop by as well.  I am also inserting pictures from our recent trip to the zoo while they were home from Texas.

The basics:  We met Sam and Lauren 5 weeks before Isabelle was born.  At the time Lauren was still in high school and they were not ready to be parents.  Today 5 years later they are married and living in El Paso where Sam is stationed with the US Army.  We adore them and they have very much become part of our extended family.

Why did we choose open adoption?

To be honest when we decided to adopt I was not thinking open adoption.  I was thinking that I have one biological child I don't share and I wanted our adoption to be as much like that as possible.  As a result we chose the agency we worked with based on 3 criteria; one it was a christian organization, two it was close to our home and three, most important, they did foster care to adoption which meant we would be able to bring the baby home from the hospital as foster parents before the adoption was finalized rather than having to wait the typical 3 months most agencies had before placement because the birthmother can change her mind during that period.  I wanted this baby right away, like if I had given birth.  It is a riskier place to be knowing we could loose the child during those first few months but the agency we worked with, New Life Family Services, only does fos adopt with birthmothers they feel very confident will not change their minds.

So there we are looking to adopt a child that we will pretend is just like our biological child and carry on with our lives.  As part of our home study the agency had us reading books about raising adopted children and about open adoption which were both eye opening and exciting books.  They helped me realize I would need to be aware of the unique emotional needs my adopted child would have.  It then became so clear that I would want the support of the birthparents in this journey.  They are the only ones who can really explain the decision to her and reassure her of the love she will need from them.  Having emersed myself in raising my son the best way I could for his unique personality I knew I would give nothing less to our next child.

Is your adoption totally open?

Totally.  We share pictures, notes, visits, met each others family, facebook.  They are like members of our family.  Sort of like an Aunt or Uncle.  Or like godparents.

What was it like when you met them?

It was scary and exciting.  We met with our social workers, we each had our own, at the agency.  We just shared about ourselves.  They knew a little more about us than we knew about them because of the profile they had read in choosing us.  We hit it off right away.  They were so much like John and me.  We talked, shared stories, asked questions.  They were honest with us and we were honest with them.  At first I wasn't sure how much to share.  I remember Sam telling us where he worked and it was only a couple miles from our house.  I started to say something but stopped myself because I wasn't sure I was supposed to tell them where we lived.  We still didn't know exactly where this was all going.  However, the third time we met them, a few days before Isabelle was born, we had them over to the house for pizza and to show them the beautiful pink room which we had spent practically every spare moment working on since meeting them.

Were you there when Isabelle was born?

No, although I know that sometimes happens.  Lauren had lots of support between her family, Sam, her social worker and friends.  We got several phone calls throughout the day letting us know how the labor was progressing.  When she was finally born we got permission to call Sam directly so he could tell us all about her.  I wrote about my feelings the day Isabelle was born here.

What if they changed their mind? Aren't you afraid they will take her?

No. While the news loves to cover those kind of stories the odds of that actually happening are minimal. And with a legal adoption they cannot have her back even if they want to. Adoptions that are over turned happen because the adoption was not legal. All the paperwork was not filed properly. That is a big part of the security of using an agency that has done lots of adoptions. All the I's were dotted and the T's were crossed. She is ours forever.

Does Isabelle go stay with them? What are the rules?

No. Open adoption isn't like shared custody where they get her every other weekend. Before she was born we got together with our social workers and agreed on various details such as regular visits, pictures, notes, etc. This helped to put parameters around what we would be doing in those early years when we were getting to know each other. Today as Sam and Lauren have gotten older and their lives have led them to new things and to a move outside the state it would be impossible to keep up the regular visit schedule that we originally created, however, our relationship has developed in a way that allows us to continue to be part of each others lives even long distance. 

What does Isabelle know about her adoption?
At 5 Isabelle has surprised us all with her understanding of what has transpired in her life.  I blogged here about her expressing a desire to go live with Lauren after realizing what it meant to be born from someone.  She had known for several years, because of pictures, that she grew in Lauren's tummy but had never asked questions or given any sign of really understanding what that meant until recently.  I encourage her to talk to me about it and try to answer her questions as best I can looking for what she needs at this young age.  She is currenly into referring to them as "birth parents" and I can tell is rolling all that is meant by that around in her mind. 
John and I attended a panel discussion on raising adopted children a couple years ago before Isabelle started putting this all together.  My biggest take away was that the most obvious question will not be your child's first question and the things you think are so obvious they don't need to be explained aren't necessarily so.

And just like the obvious questions for Isabelle aren't going to be the ones I think of, I bet there are lots more questions I didn't think to answer in this post about open adoption.  Feel free to comment your question about open adoption and I will try to answer.