May 132010
 

She sat quietly, blinking away tears, as she read again the mother’s day poem.  Next to her lay a stack of construction paper cards and colorful trinkets made by her kids to honor the day.  But this gift – it was different.  It was straight from the heart of her daughter. 

Her mind drifted back four years to the day the girl came to live in their home.  They had interacted at the occasional family gathering, but this was a whole new kind of relationship.  The nearly 13 year-old brought very few physical possessions, but the emotional baggage that tagged along could have filled up the house. 

Abuse.  Brokenness.  Anger.  Sadness.  Distrust.  Rage. 

There had been many good days, that was sure.  But many struggles as well.  Often the relationship between the two was like being beaten by the wind and rain of a hurricane.  Yet somehow they struggled together against the storm – held on to each other. 

Survived.  Cared.  Healed.  Redeemed.  Loved. 

The storm isn’t over, but on Mother’s Day, they were able to rest for a little while.  As words from a chosen daughter filled the heart of an adoptive mom.

You

You pulled me

Out of the

Dark

You saved me

From could’ve

Beens

You’ve been

Here with me

Through

Good and bad

Thick and thin

And

Haven’t given up

You’re strong

When I’m weak

You’re peaceful

When I’m out of

Control

You’re my mom

My role-model

And my hero

I love you and

I wanna be

Just like you!

I love you mom

  

 

Apr 142010
 

I pulled a muscle in my back a few days ago. Wish I could say I was doing something exciting, but the truth is, I was just getting out of the car. That’s all. I spent much of the weekend taking handfuls of ibuprofen and trying to find a comfortable position, all the while dealing with the nagging, gnawing pain that was physically and mentally exhausting. While it was present most of the time, occasionally it would let up and for just a second I would forget about the injury. For a very short time. And then when I moved, the pain would come back, worse than ever.

She was 17, and counting the days until her birthday so she could be “out on her own”. She was going to move in with a friend, she told me, and try to get a job, although she had only completed the 9th grade so far, and thought that being employed at a fast food restaurant was her best option. She answered my questions in a somewhat robotic, monotonous voice, and she seemed almost able to predict what the question was before I had asked it. Until I asked about family. Then the robot vanished. Her voice shook, and her eyes filled with pain.

Lots of it.

First in foster care at age 2. Back and forth between the system and home until she was school-age. Parents rights terminated. In several foster homes. Then adopted. Until it got hard. Then back into foster care. Now, almost on her own. But with no hope, no future, no life. Just pain. Chronic, long-standing pain.

Ibuprofen won’t fix that. Only one thing will. Love. Massive, overwhelming, unconditional love. And she hasn’t found that yet.

Mar 242010
 

I saw her crying, and it caught my attention.  It was family night at a local restaurant, and while my kids played, I was people watching.  And that is when I saw her.  Crying.  She looked to be early 30’s – not much younger than me.  Her husband was trying to comfort her.  Occasionally a 3 year old burst from the play area to come check in with them, and when she did, the woman would quickly dry her tears and smile at the girl, but then the tears would come again.  Next to her was a baby carrier with a small infant inside.  He was a different race than the family, and I wondered what their story was.  When her husband wandered into the play area and sat down, I saw my opportunity and followed him in. 

Didn’t take much to get the story.  They were foster parents who wanted to adopt.  A month ago they had been called about a newborn who the worker felt certain would be adopted – bio mom had lots of history with DHS and had lost other kids.  It was a done deal.  At least in the minds of the worker and the parents.  They went shopping.  They bought baby furniture.  Their friends threw them a shower.  They celebrated.  The baby came, and they fell in love.  Took family pictures.  Visited grandparents. 

Then, a call.  Can you bring the baby to the office?  There is an aunt, and the baby is going to live with relatives.

Devastation.  Grief.  Anger.  Loss.  Exhaustion.  Emptiness.

The mom mustered enough energy to say “no, it is supper time for my family.  I will meet you tomorrow.”  This was their last supper together.  Family night at a local restaurant. 

I sat with them for an hour.  Answered questions about the system.  Cried with them. Encouraged them.  Talked with them about life and faith and purpose.  When we parted, the tears had stopped, but the grief was still present. 

I bumped into them again a month later, again at family night.  This time smiles.  Excitement.  The mom came straight over to me and began telling the story.  She had taken the baby to the DHS office.  Along with diapers, and clothes, and bottles.  And a photo album, full of many pictures of the baby.  And one of them together.  She met the aunt, and the bio mom.  Both were amazed that she had brought all the baby items.  But mostly they were amazed at the pictures.  There was hugging – a lot of it.  And gratitude.  And tears – but this time they didn’t hurt so badly. 

It was a reminder that moms love their children, even when they aren’t able to take care of them.  That they are grateful to others who come to love them too, even if they aren’t able to fully express it.  That even in the face of loss and grief, love wins.  It wins. 

I saw them again a month later.  Grinning ear to ear.  A new baby boy with them – the adoption was in the works.

Feb 222010
 

When I was a kid, one of our family Christmas break traditions was working on a jigsaw puzzle.  We would always get a new one with some beautiful landscape or cool collage, and we would start putting it together on the kitchen table.  Anyone who wanted could take a turn at finding just the right location for each piece, until the puzzle was completed. 

That all sounds like a nice family project, but the truth is that I stink at jigsaw puzzles.  I can get the border together, and maybe figure out some small patches with bright colors or unique objects, but by and large, the middle of the puzzle escapes me.  I get frustrated.  And I start jamming together pieces that don’t always fit.  Thank goodness for my mom, her geometry skills, and her patience.  She could see the shapes better that I did, and could figure out how to connect them.  And when she was done we all got to share in the glory of a finished piece, one that we had done together.

A dozen years ago I saw a picture in my mind of what a world without child abuse would look like.  Since that time, I have been working my tail off to put the puzzle together and see that again.  I found gaps in the system – needs that weren’t being met, and I met them in the best way I knew how.  Health care.  School supplies.  Training. Hope.  But the truth is, the border is barely together, and there is no way anyone can tell what the puzzle looks like yet. 

And yet the pieces are coming together.  Many people who hear my stories about foster kids want to know where to plug in, how to help.  I have some basic answers, but the truth is that I am not very good at the details of connecting people.  It is the middle of the puzzle for me.  I have desperately needed to find those with different eyes, with different skills, who could complement my story-telling and connect people to needs. 

The Spero Project may just be one of those.  Spero’s prime objective is to connect – to bring together groups and individuals with a heart to change the world in some specific way, and to put them together so that the puzzle is complete.  One of those projects is Spero:Legacy – connecting  those who are interested foster kids as well as adoption.  Tuesday evening Spero is hosting a meeting to discuss foster/adoption and to help individuals and groups who can see the struggle of foster kids, but don’t know what to do about it.  Spero can help – you will leave the meeting with specific “next steps” for how YOU can impact the world of foster kids and change lives.  You are a piece of the puzzle – it can’t be completed without you.

Avenue Class for Foster Care/Adoption – Tuesday, February 23, at 7:00.  Location – 4646 N. Santa Fe, OKC, at the Spero:Resource center.

If you can’t attend, check out the website and contact them:  www.thesperoproject.com

Feb 112010
 

“I’m not adoptable,” he stated flatly.  “What?”, I replied, surprised by his comment.  “I’m.  Not.  Adoptable.”  He repeated it louder, as if perhaps he thought I was hard of hearing.  He was sitting on my exam table, and I had just been looking in his ears and asking him about school and friends.  Then the conversation turned to family and why he was in foster care.  His parents had been involved with drugs for many years.  His dad was now in prison, mom was nowhere to be found – he wondered if she might be dead.  He had been in DHS custody since the age of 5 – he was now 15. 

“I went to this adoption party, and I overheard some people say that I’m not adoptable because I am too old.”   At that, tears welled up in his eyes and began to spill down his face.  I grabbed him, held on to him.  Not exactly what we are trained to do in medical school, but it was a reflex- I couldn’t help it.  He took a few breaths and went on.  “I met some people who wanted to adopt a son. They talked to me for a little while but then moved on to meet other children, and I overheard them saying that I was too old, that no one would want to adopt someone my age.”  His eyes were dry now but sad.  “All I used to want was to be adopted.  I am a good kid – I am not the smartest, but I do OK in school.  I know how to take care of myself.  I don’t get in any trouble.  I don’t understand why no one wants me.” 

My mind was spinning, quickly assessing my own family situation.  A toddler at home and another baby on the way, in a three bedroom house that was quickly becoming decorated in “toy.”   Both my husband and I working full time, and me taking night classes in health administration on top of that.  Did I want to add a 15 year old boy with 10 years of foster care and a lifetime of baggage to that? 

No.

I told him that I thought he was perfectly adoptable, and that I was sure someone would come along who wanted him.  It sounded lame even to me. 

“Do YOU want me?  Would YOU ever adopt me?” 

I was frozen.  Of course I wanted him to have a family, I just didn’t want the effort of being it.  He could sense my struggle, and his face changed again, this time looking reserved and emotionless.  “It’s OK,” he said.  “My case worker says I need to spend the next couple of years learning how to take care of myself anyway.”  Head down, I left the room and went on to the rest of my day, but I never forgot him.  And I didn’t sleep for a week.  And I felt like a fraud.  And I have always wondered if he should have been MY son. 

“If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal.” – 1  Corinthians 13:1 (NIV)