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Category Archives: Christian

Living in 3D

Writing used to be cathartic, therapeutic.

If necessary, I’d write in the middle of the night.

For the last few months, I’ve struggled to force it. Until this week, the reluctance to record has baffled me.

I don’t easily admit, even to myself, “I have a problem.”

As you may know, the last 6.5 years have been a true roller coaster. When I scrolled through a few posts from a couple years ago, I read HOPE. I read PROGRESS. And I realized

I’ve been living the last few months in 3D.

But not the thrilling “let’s see a movie with those fun glasses” 3D.

Discouraged. Depressed. Distracted.

These three D words have ruled my life of late—and I didn’t even realize until now.

Discouraged

I drive Hubby a little nuts sometimes. I am the Optimist who makes everyone roll eyes at least once in our friendship.

Hitting every red light? Maybe God knows if we get to point X in ten minutes, we’d be crushed by a falling tree. He’s slowing us down on purpose. 

Traffic is at a standstill because a tree is blocking the road? Well, thank goodness it didn’t crush us. 

Cashier had a horrible attitude? Maybe she just found out her mom has cancer. 

Lost that job (this has happened to both Hubby and me)? God’s got a plan. We’ll be fine. 

I have an immune disorder? (This one took a few months to find silver lining…) Well, I guess this will force me to take better care of myself. 

Our boy is in residential treatment? This will give me the ability to focus most of my attention on helping our daughter excel in school. 

Give me your worst scenario and I can find a silver lining or a probable reason it can all turn out for good. It’s a gift and a curse, because sometimes I can come across as flippant, but I generally have this belief that God will work it all out in the end.

I’ve always applied this belief to our kids. I still believe.

But this boy is wearing me out.

He doesn’t seem to care about coming home.

I’m resigned to the knowledge that he’s not coming home anytime soon. And that even if/when he does come home, it’s likely many of our dreams for him will never happen.

All that is okay, but without even realizing, I’ve become discouraged.

Depressed

The discouragement has pressed down on my soul for weeks. They say expectations are the death of everything. Our lives would be better without the word “should” in our vocabulary.

Unmet expectations destroy relationships. Bring destruction to the best-laid plans. Decimate optimism.

Underneath it all, here’s the narrative my heart wrote when we brought these two kids into our home:

Siblings experience trauma and too many re-homing disruptions until they are 5 and 7. At that time, they find stability with a loving couple who provide them with everything they need. Although the first year is terrible, subsequent years grow easier and within three years, they are well-adjusted, happy, bright, inquisitive children in love with learning about the world around them. The entire family enjoys traveling, playing together and finding ways to help others. When the kids turn 10 and 12, the family travels to Peru on a missions trip, where the children are thrilled to bring love to others who may have had an even tougher early life than the one they experienced. 

I have recently confronted this narrative I didn’t even know was lurking under the surface of my thoughts.

This is not our story.

Right now, our girl is flourishing, although she periodically reminds me (usually when I praise her for progress) that “it’s all still in there, in my head. It might come back.” And it might, but we’re prepared.

Our son has been in residential treatment since October 1 and shows no sign of wanting to come home. Although I do understand that trauma played its ugly part, on some level he’s choosing this.

In recent conversations, he’s informed us that he wants to stay at the center because they “let us watch lots of TV and you don’t” and he likes to play basketball. Ironically, when they have gym time, he usually plays in a corner by himself—something he can easily do at home with our hoop. (His TV complaint…totally valid. Not going to change.)

He also informed us that he sees the situation in the following light:

You’re putting in a lot of effort, and I’m not putting in any effort.

At least he’s honest.

The death of my narrative has depressed me more than I was able to acknowledge until now.

Distracted

Discouragement and depression are not my usual modus operandi. I’ve felt a dissonant fracture within…and been unwilling to address it.

Giving me relief for a short time: Once Upon a Time, a series about happy endings.

I’m a sucker for fairy tales rewritten, as well as pirates in leather and guyliner. Win-win.

The show is true Brain Candy; almost a soap opera with fairies. And SOOOOOOO distracting.

As I watched Emma Swan learn to BELIEVE, there was no room for discouragement or depression.

As Regina the Evil Queen became my favorite character (the reason for her Evilness was underlying trauma and heartache), I forgot my own heartache.

Finally realized I had a problem.

Hubby went on a business trip and I watched the series until 3 am.

Used the Netflix app to watch in my spare moments.

And I didn’t really want anyone else to know, which was my first clue I needed to quit.

The second clue? Realizing I’d burned through hours of the show, time I could have used for…ANYthing else.

Sometimes I’m a little slow, but when I finally get it, I get it.

This week, I faced my 3D life.

I listened to an audio version of the Bible to fight the Discouragement (audible.com is fabulous—and no, they don’t pay me to say it).

I admitted to Hubby that I’ve been dealing with Depression lately. He’s incredibly supportive, giving lots of hugs (my favorite) and a package of amazing cupcakes (my less healthy favorite).

My Distracting Netflix app went the way of Candy Crush (an earlier addiction I needed to delete from my phone).

And now, I’m ready to go

4D

Discouragement, Depression and Distraction will always be with me, but I’m also

DETERMINED

I’m sure the 3 D-words will sneak up on me from time to time, but I’m Determined to stand my ground.

Letting go of “my” narrative will likely be a battle I fight for the rest of my life. Remaining vigilant and keeping myself focused won’t be easy.

Admitting my flaws and weaknesses is always frightening, but one of the great lessons in Once Upon a Time is this: your flaws hurt you when you try to hide them. Out in the open, they simply make you human.

Our son described us to his counselor as “The Grizzly and the Pit Bull.” Hubby is the Grizzly Bear, fiercely protective of our family. I’m the Pit Bull, ferociously hanging on to keep us together and make sure the kids get whatever services they need.

Pit Bull.

Determined.

This week, I live in 4D.

Ephesians 6:13

New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can, you will still be standing.

*Verse from BibleGateway.com

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Military Mama

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Photo Credit www.amenclinics.com

Tonight, I lost my cr*p.

Monday is Cub Scout night. Every single week, I hear gravel crunching under Hubby’s tires.

And I wait.

Every. Week.

Always something.

Unless he is 100% supervised, our boy always finds trouble. And every week, they burst through the back door in the middle of a reprimand.

Since Dad passed away, our guy has regressed to the impulsive equivalent of a five year old.

I understand from the many, many articles and books about childhood grief that this is normal, but seven weeks of the behavioral equivalent of Chinese Water Torture has chipped away my resolve to stay calm.

He almost made it through the evening this time.

But then, some pestering little kid he can’t stand ran by and hit him (probably explains the “can’t stand”).

Instead of coming to tell Hubby (which is what we tell him to do, every…stinking…time…), he ran after the kid, knocking people out of the way as he tracked his prey.

Hubby happened upon the scene in time to collar him.

We are exhausted.

We can’t leave him alone for five minutes unless he’s asleep.

It’s like we’re back to year one, minus the screaming (THANK GOD at least he’s not screaming. Yep, I can find a blessing anywhere. I’m pretty sure this means I’m mental).

I have another meeting tomorrow about whether the school will allow a one-to-one behavioral aide. I’m trying to get approval for an in-home counselor to help him cope. I am doing EVERYthing I can think of.

I know being at the end of the rope is not an excuse, but tonight, I’d just had it. I went all

Military Mama. 

It was either that or have an aneurysm, and I just don’t have time for that.

In less-than-quiet decibels, I explained to our boy that although I spend hours and hours and HOURS every week in meetings and filling out paperwork and researching and reading and trying to find solutions that will help them, he and his sister are NOT my top priority.

Hubby is.

And I am

DONE

watching the kids disrespect, ignore and disobey my husband.

I went nose-to-nose with the kid.

Imagine this, but with longer hair (probably the spit is accurate):

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Photo by KoiQuestion

 YOU WILL OBEY, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME SOLDIER?!

Not kidding. I went there.

By the time I was done, he was yelling, “SIR, YES, SIR! I MEAN—MA’AM!”

I don’t really know if it will make any difference.

I know the kid is grieving; we all are. Military Mama is probably not what he needs right now.

Why am I telling you this? Mostly because I’m still pretty upset, both about his behavior and about my reaction. Writing keeps me sane.

I’m telling you this because I think I come across as got-my-stuff-together a little too often, and that’s just not real life. I’m totally winging this.

Also, I want you to know that if you’re in the middle of

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Photo credit: Alonzo Lawhorn

you are

NOT ALONE.

Joshua 1:9 is one of my favorite promises: Be Strong. Be Brave. You are NEVER ALONE.

Even in the moments we fail, God is still there.

Even when Military Mama takes over.

Stand strong. Be brave.

You can do this.

 

 

 

 

Targeting Target, Part 1

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Photo Credit: Mike Mozart

Hooooo-kay. I stayed out of this as long as my sense of right and fair and safe would allow.

Just to be clear, let me start here:

I am a no-holds-barred, Jesus-following, Bible-quoting, EVERYBODY-loving kind of person.

When one of our friends complained about hypocrisy among Christians who claim to love but won’t get their hands dirty, Hubby paid me the highest compliment I’ve ever received.

That’s true about some people, but Casey doesn’t care if someone is a CEO, a gang member, the President, a prostitute or a homeless guy who stinks to high heaven. She’ll sit right next to any of them. And she’ll talk to them to death and probably end up hugging them. 

I think everyone should be treated with fairness, respect and love. EVERYONE.

EVERY. ONE.

What people choose to do in their own time—and what people choose to believe is right or wrong—is not my responsibility or my problem.

Telling others what they’re doing wrong is not my job.

Some of my friends would argue that if we don’t help people see that they’re not perfect, they’ll never see a need for Jesus, since he died to take the punishment for sin.

Here’s how I see it: if we don’t LOVE them, they might never see a need for Jesus. Why would anyone want to join a team that picks on them?

Let’s apply “tell them they’re bad” logic to regular life:

Job Offer

“Well, your resume isn’t that great, and you don’t really have the experience we want, and you didn’t dress appropriately for the interview and honestly, we don’t really like you. But we’ve got an opening we have to fill. Want the job?

Vs.

“To be honest, your presentation could use some work. However, we feel you have incredible potential and we’d love to train you. Want the job?”

Marriage Proposal

“Hey, would you like to marry me? I mean, you’re not really good enough for my family, and in fact, they don’t like a lot of the things you do, but if I vouch for you, they’ll accept you.”

Vs.

“I love you more than life itself. I would die for you. Will you marry me?”

Adoption

“You come with a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT of baggage. You make it insanely hard for anyone to get close to you. In fact, you’re actively pushing us all away with your horrendous behavior. But, I’m going to sacrifice all the fun in my life to find a way to help you, because that’s the right thing to do.”

Vs.

“I know you’ve had a tough life, but my love for you is bigger and stronger than any hurt you’ve experienced, and we’re going to survive this together. I love you forever and always, no matter what. Would you like to be a part of my family?”

Love, not hate, is the answer.

Jesus never taught his followers to be judgmental.

In a recent conversation (okay, argument) with a friend, I stood my ground as he clung to the idea that we should tell people they’re sinners. We discussed the story of the woman caught in adultery (that story is a whole other post in itself) and brought to Jesus by the religious leaders.

My point: he didn’t let any of them judge her, and in fact he embarrassed them so much that they all left.

His point: Jesus told her he didn’t condemn her, but to stop sinning.

My point: Jesus is perfect. If he wants to talk with someone about sin, he can. That’s HIS job, not mine (because I’m certainly not perfect).

Side note: Jesus loves you and has a beautiful plan for your life. If you’d like to discuss that, I’m happy to help.

Jesus never taught his followers to discriminate.

In fact, he was always in hot water with the big-time religious leaders of that time because he hung around with SINNERS. Prostitutes, thieves (the tax collectors were notorious), drunks, liars, potty-mouths* and guys with anger issues.

He helped them change their lives by teaching and loving them.

If you can find an example of a time Jesus was mean to a person because they weren’t following him, let me know.

AND

If you can find a time when Jesus fought back against something he didn’t approve by using deception, I’d like to hear about it.

Up Next: The Point.

 

*You know the story of when Peter denied he knew Jesus during his trial? The third time someone bugged him about it, he got so mad he cursed. Ever thought about the fact that someone could spend three years with Jesus and still be a potty-mouth? That sort of blows my mind. And makes me feel like less of a failure when I screw up. 

“Do You Even Like Her?”

I try to give an open, honest view of opening our home to older siblings—and the aftermath.

Adoptive families who live Happily Ever After Signing Adoption Papers might exist.

Our family isn’t one of them. 

Neither are any of the other adoptive families in our circle.

Most of us adopted older children with physical or behavioral special needs. Each parent agrees we were aware, although none of us understood the depth of the issues. 

Topics that make me squeamish abound.

“If I talk about ___, will everyone think I’m awful?” Hypervigilant conversations get a bit raw for me sometimes.

This is one of those. 


 

A visiting friend asked, “Do you even like her?”

I’d just sent our daughter back to her room—and homework—with a less-than-patient tone, but I didn’t think I’d been unreasonable.

My friend’s question gave me pause. “Why do you ask that?”

“Well,” she said, “when your son asked for help on his homework, you helped him with a problem and sent him back to work on the rest. You didn’t even give her a chance to get out of the hallway.”

I thought back over the encounter and ruefully acknowledged I’d been a little harsh.

Then I fell back on the old “yeah, but you don’t live here 24/7,” although I made a mental note to be more kind next time I sent her back.

But since then, interactions with our daughter have been on my mind. Far too often in the past weeks, I’ve allowed myself to react, rather than act. My attitude tended toward annoyance. My patience waned. My tone was sharp instead of kind.

This morning, Hubby (who does live here 24/7) whispered, “be nice,” as he left to take our son on a Scout camping trip.

I need to change.

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Photo Credit: Robert Plaskota

Our homework battle is ongoing; since the kids first arrived, one of her favorite ploys has been pretending she can’t do the work. The “I-had-two-years-of-Elementary-Education-classes-before-switching-majors” part of me loves to teach.

Her first grade homework took hours to complete as I diligently worked with her on reading and math. When I mentioned the amount of time spent on homework during a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me to let her stop after half an hour if she wasn’t getting it.

I did.

Our girl began failing. Everything.

We went back to full evenings of practice. Testing showed she had processing problems but her inability to handle simple math and reading stumped me.

I worried that she might need more help than I could provide when I asked her to add one plus one and she came up with three, or didn’t recognize easy letter combinations.

We used manipulatives and charts and play dough, because I thought she might have a sensory issue. I spent hours researching learning disabilities.

Hubby said,

She can do the work. She’s playing you.

I didn’t believe. The learning deficits were so obvious.

Then, her teacher told me our girl wasn’t having major problems in the classroom. Yes, she struggled, but she could complete most tasks.

That afternoon, I called Hubby and told him what the teacher said. When he arrived home from work, the girl and I were deep in a math lesson.

He asked what we were working on. He asked me what math problem I’d just given her. He asked her the same question I’d asked three minutes ago (with no answer forthcoming).

She, blithe, answered immediately.

Hubby looked straight at me, eyebrow cocked. He looked at our girl.

Are you pretending you don’t know the answer so Mama will sit with you longer?

She squinted at him. “Yep.”

He grinned at me. “Told ya. Playing you. Like. A. Fiddle.”

So began the longest struggle of my life: determining whether she actually needs assistance (which is sometimes the case) or whether she’s just pulling out her bow to test the strings.

By the time my friend asked whether I liked our girl, I was plain exhausted. So tired of the fight that I almost didn’t care.

But I have to care, because the woman who gave birth to her didn’t bother, which is why we’re in this mess. (“Mess” being the academic problems, not the adoption.) I will NOT be the second Mama who didn’t care enough to help her succeed.

But being the Mama who cares is wearing my best intentions to a nub.

Academic struggles aren’t the only problems. She fights me on pretty much everything, because she is a child of RAD.

Reactive Attachment Disorder kids have difficulty creating more than superficial attachment. These children miss out on a bond with the original caregiver (usually the birth mother) and are unable to attach to subsequent caregivers. And they transfer their anger toward the birth mom, focusing it on another caregiver.

Although the problem is not isolated to foster children, they are more likely to experience RAD than the general population. About one percent of “typical” children are diagnosed as affected by RAD.

Consider this:

In the U.S., it is estimated that half of all children adopted from orphanages, along with 40% of children in foster care, are affected by RAD.

Shawwna Balasingham

The problem is compounded when children are allowed to remain with a foster family, become comfortable, form ties and then are removed without notice.

Yes, I understand that it’s less traumatic for the foster family, and especially if the kids have special behavioral needs, the family must be considered. Good foster families are rare; social workers don’t want to lose them.

When we finally received approval for the kids to live with us, I asked the interim foster mother when she’d tell them. “Two hours before I bring them to your house,” she said.

I thought that was awful.

A year later, we finagled approval to take the kids to Disney with other extended family. At the time, they weren’t free for adoption and we wanted them to have a memory to keep forever. Just in case.

We told them about the trip three weeks in advance. Those might have been the longest three weeks of my life. After the fifty-millionth “when do we leave?” I called my friend.

“This is why I didn’t tell them they were coming to live with you until it was time to pack up,” she said. “Imagine three weeks of screaming and crying because they had to move again.”

So yes, I understand why most social workers wait until the last minute to tell the children. But there has to be a better way. One that doesn’t contribute to Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Our kids were moved seven times without warning.

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Photo Credit: AdamKoford

Friends say I’m the most patient person they know. Part of this comes of being married to Hubby. (Just kidding.) I’ve worked with kids for years. But tonight I had to admit to myself, I let her behavior get to me.

And I remind myself again: it’s only been four years. Children of trauma need double the time to recover. We’ve got six years to go. I’m expecting too much.

I won’t even try to explain what we deal with. Some of it, you wouldn’t believe. Part of it sounds like no big deal.

And occasional drops of water hitting your forehead sounds easy to ignore.

Yet water torture sends people out of their gourd.

Sufficient description: she drives me crazy.

But I try to see people the way Jesus sees them. If I look at her through His eyes, she is the picture of a broken, wounded creature.

Yes, she’s combative. Because she’s hurting and angry.

Yes, she destroys things. Because she’s checking to see if she is worth more than our stuff.

Yes, she shuns me and snuggles up to almost anyone else. Because she’s scared to death that if she lets me in, I’ll destroy her heart, just like her first Mama.

Tonight, in front of God and all of you, I admit that I’ve let my hurt feelings affect the way I speak to my daughter.

She may continue to push me away, but I have to keep trying. I must reach her.

I’m committing to this adoption, again. She’s not the enemy.

I’m heading back to the basics.

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Photo Credit: Courtney Carmody

 

 

 

 

If I Stay

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but the trailer describes what’s inside my head.

Temporal. Fleeting.

A short time. Like a mist. Snap of the fingers. Don’t blink.

We are separated by so thin a fabric from the other side. We ignore reality, go about our business. Our lives.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the knowledge of how quickly life can end. I gaze around the room, arrested in the realization that one of us could be absent at any moment. The immediacy of impending change.

An unexpected gust extinguishes the flame. The Daylily blooms in the morning, opening bright colors to the sun and by evening shrivels to nothing.  In an instant, our bodies become a shell, a container empty in sudden finality.

I forget, at times, that this is not ‘my’ life. It is easy to settle into comfort, expecting certain players and characters to appear, disappear, reappear.

But we are reciprocal performers, all bearing roles in The Grand Masterpiece. Every performance, every pageant demands the inexorable curtain call.

Nothing but a moment separates us from leaving it all behind.

I wrote the above while sitting in a church service. A heavy feeling descended; the almost-knowledge of impending change. That someone would soon lay down the script.

I make no pretense of having a direct line to the future, but the weight of that sense was undeniable. Looking around the room, I wondered who it might be.

The retired Army general, always at attention? The empty-nest mother? The ancient farmer decked out in his silver and turquoise-studded leather string tie? The young woman with a heart condition? The middle-aged man with cancer? Me?

What bars our heart from stopping, keeps lungs from failing, prevents our brain from declining to send messages?

No one died that day. Or that week.

I felt better. But still, the visual of the Daylily haunted the edges of my thoughts.

The following Saturday, I attended a ladies’ create-something-cool event at our church. I learned how to pronounce decoupage.

My friend Ana, curves added by her pregnancy, approached with questions about heart surgery. Her baby girl had a heart defect similar to my son’s. They would perform surgery soon after birth to close the hole. She even had the same wonderful surgeon. Still, she twisted her coarse, dark ponytail with nervous energy.

She relaxed as we talked, as I praised the surgeon, as we smiled over my son’s quick recovery. She walked away.

Four days later, I received the message from another friend. Ana had a stroke. She was unresponsive. The baby might die.

I thought of the movie and wondered if she could hear everything around her.

Texts, phone calls and prayers—sad, desperate, hopeful—punctuated the night.

Moved to a better hospital, she did not wake. More prayers, more calls.

Eclampsia.

While souls hovered, her two beautiful boys said goodbye to their mother and the sister they would never know. Her husband released his wife and daughter. His loves.

Within hours, they were gone.

Sons bereft of mother, husband lacking loving partner, friends without her shining presence. All left destitute.

Just before the funeral, I found the note and remembered the feeling. It returned with concussive force.

I’ve only now been able to write this.

We have no promise of tomorrow. For that matter, no assurance of today. No guarantee that I will draw another breath.

But I have hope.  Do you?

1 Peter 1:3-5

Give praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his great mercy he has given us a new birth and a living hope. This hope is living because Jesus Christ rose from the dead. He has given us new birth so that we might share in what belongs to him. This is a gift that can never be destroyed. It can never spoil or even fade away. It is kept in heaven for you. Through faith you are kept safe by God’s power. Your salvation is going to be completed. It is ready to be shown to you in the last days.

 

 

 

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