An Adoption By the Numbers

Months in care: 30 (I cannot count the days… it hurts my heart too much)

Number of CASAs: 2 (one fantastic, one not-at-all fantastic)

Number of days lost from work because of sudden arrivals/removals from my home: about 8 (not including the FMLA leave I chose to take during the first two months)

Number of days lost from work because of court hearings that didn’t happen when/where I was informed they would: 3

Number of court hearings and other official meetings that I “accidentally” didn’t get notification about: 3

Child’s social workers: 5

Number of times I dropped the f bomb on child’s social worker (without children present): 1

Number of times dropping the f bomb on social worker got me what I wanted: 1

Supervisors: 2

Number of times I pestered supervisors because I didn’t like social workers’ answers: too many to count

Big Bosses: 2

Number of times I called in the big boss because I didn’t like supervisors’ answers: 2

Number of times calling in the big boss got me what I wanted: 1

Number of times the big boss told me emphatically to wait in the lobby and not come upstairs to his office: 1

Number of times I threatened to appeal a decision that actually had to do with me (most decisions in foster care don’t): 1

Number of times that threatening to appeal got me what I wanted: 0.5 (they met me halfway on this one)

Number of times I was late arriving for a required visit: 1

Number of times a professional was late or didn’t show for a required visit: 50? 100? These are actual estimates.

Number of times I would do it again: all of them.  Because Little One is worth it.  All of the little ones are worth it.

(To be fair, not all adoptions are like this.  My daughter’s adoption involved only one social worker and no f bombs.)

The Call That Changed My Life

Three years ago today, I got the second call that changed my life.

The first one was giddily anticipated… the call about the Little One who would grow into my big girl.  The one that proved the naysayers wrong.

This one was different.

I had just had my annual foster care reconsideration visit a few days earlier.

I had jumped through the hoops to stay licensed for another year even though I really, really wanted to be done.

I told my social worker that I didn’t know what kind of placement I wanted.  But that parenting my big girl had made me brave, and she could call me about anything.  And that I would probably say no.

It was Friday afternoon and I was just leaving work.

And there was a baby.

A tiny one ready to be released from the hospital on Monday.

I had no plans for childcare (not to mention that the baby was too young to be in daycare even if I did).  I had no baby stuff.  I had never even held a person this tiny before, much less walked into a hospital and taken one home.

It was crazy.

And I knew by the pounding in my chest that the answer was yes.

And so I took a few months off from work (yep, with a weekend’s notice!).  I filled my sister’s minivan with stuff I thought I might need.  And I walked into the hospital with my mama pretending that I knew what the heck I was doing.

As she told me all about specially mixed formula and follow up appointments, the nurse said she could tell I had done this before.

I told her that I was a good faker.

And I strapped this tiny Little One into a borrowed car seat and drove him right on home.

It’s true, he had me at one look into those deep brown eyes.

He was an infant, after all.  How can you not bond with an infant?

But I didn’t know what the future would hold.

It would be years before that Little One would share my last name.

Years of uncertainty and stress and jumping through one thousand more hoops.

Years of navigating a relationship with a birth family that loves him too.

Years of monthly visits by social workers and CASAs (some great, some meh).

One whole year, in fact, of hellos and good-byes that ripped my heart to shreds.

This Little One immersed in potty humor and obsessed with basketball was worth it all.

To know him, even for a short time, would have been enough.

To hold him still, to ruffle his perfectly messy curls makes my heart explode.

Friends, sometimes the answer is no.

But sometimes the answer is yes.  Even when it seems crazy.

Sometimes the call that changes your life comes when you’re least expecting it.

Fearless

I took my big girl to see the Beauty and the Beast movie yesterday (as an aside, some parts of it are really sad and scary—especially for kids with trauma triggers).

I’m not much for princesses and whatnot, but Belle is a girl I can get behind.

She loves books.  She’s fiercely protective of her family.  And in this version, she follows in the footsteps of her mom who is described as fearless.

We were in no rush to leave with the crowd stampeding out of the theater during the credits.  So we sat tight, enjoying every last kernel of popcorn.

And then we saw her, a tiny one, no more than four years old.

She had escaped from her mama’s grasp and made her way to the front of the darkened theater.  As the music from the movie played over the credits, she started to dance.

Twirling and gliding, in her own perfect way, she danced.

As everyone else rushed for their cars, on to the next thing, she danced.

In the dark, for no audience but herself, she danced.

Until the last note played, on and on, she danced.

The song ended.

A lump in my throat and emotion trapped behind my eyeballs, I clapped wildly (she didn’t care—she wasn’t dancing for me anyway).

Friends, I want to live like that.

Like this Little One, fearless in her pursuit of beauty.

Focused only on this moment and fully immersed in all of it.

Dancing in the dark, not for an audience, but simply because the music beckons.

Knowing that life is not a race, that the next thing is not as important as everyone else thinks it is.

Feeling it all, embracing it all.

Fearless.

Losing Season

My big girl had her last basketball game today.

It was a great season.

She met new friends and loved getting to know them.

She had two fantastic coaches who got to know her as a person and helped her develop good skills for basketball and life.

She ran around a lot, made a lot of good passes, scored a fair number of points.

And her team lost almost every game.

It was, by the numbers, a losing season.

My big girl is competitive like her mama.

We don’t like to try things if we think we can’t master them.

We are still working on losing gracefully.

***

It’s been a rough school year for me.

If I rated each day as a win or a loss, it would, without a doubt, be a losing season for me too.

Can I be honest for a second?

I hate this.

It’s easy for me to tell my big girl that basketball is not that serious.

That I love her just the same when her team wins and when they lose.

And still I hate to lose.

I struggle not to let my self-worth get tangled up with what feels like a spectacularly terrible performance.

Friend, if you too are in a losing season, here’s what I want you to know.

What I want my sweet big girl to know.

What I want to know, deep in my bones.

Your performance does not impact your worth.

What you do is not who you are.

You are loved.  Deeply, passionately loved.

If you are winning at basketball, at teaching, at Christian-ing, at life, you are loved.

If you are putting up a spectacularly terrible performance, you are loved.

Settle down into your true identity, Loved One.

Slip into it like a pair of comfy pajamas.

Wrap it around you like a suit of armor if you must.

And then get back out there—you’ve got a game to finish.

Dear Sister, You are not a disgrace.

Dear sister who marched on Saturday, taking a stand for women, you are not a disgrace.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sister who marched on Friday, taking a stand for Little Ones, you are not a disgrace.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sister who didn’t march because you were working to provide for your babies or because you were nursing your babies or because you are flat scared of what might happen when that many people get together in one place, you are not a disgrace.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sister who is celebrating this season, you are not a disgrace.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sister who is weeping, truly grieved for what feels like a huge setback, you are not a disgrace.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sister who is overwhelmed, too stressed by the actual real life in front of you to take a stand on political issues, you are not a disgrace.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sister living the American dream—a husband, two kids and a white picket fence, you are not a disgrace.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sister whose family looks different—whether through your own choices or the choices of another, you are not a disgrace.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sister courageously raising babies that you know our world will “other” and judge harshly, you are not a disgrace.  You are not alone.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sister who longs desperately to snuggle a baby of your own, to have what seems to come so easily to everybody else, you are not a disgrace.  You are not alone.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sister who has been victimized or violated, you are not a disgrace.  You are not alone.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sister who looks back and cries for what might have been, you are not a disgrace.  You are not alone.  There is a place for you here.

Dear sisters, all of you, listen hard.

None of us are a disgrace.  None.  Of.  Us.

We don’t agree.  We fuss and pout.  We fight for what we truly believe to be right and can’t fathom how our sisters could disagree.

But we are not a disgrace.

We are loved.  Desperately, passionately loved.

And we are created to love.

Our voices matter.  Our stories matter.  Our babies matter—born and unborn, American and not.

So, sister, love hard.  Yell loud.  Agitate for justice in the ways that you can, the ways that you must.

But, dear sister, don’t let anyone tell you that you are a disgrace.

Uh oh, uh oh, Jesus!

We have a ton of books in our house, but like lots of kids, Little One gravitates toward the same ones.

One of my words for 2017 is “connect,” so I’ve started doing some tasks the night before so that I can spend a few early morning moments snuggling and reading instead of rushing around like a maniac.

So we snuggle, and Little One chugs his apple juice and inevitably, he brings me one particular Bible story book.

I’ve read and paraphrased these stories hundreds of times, I’m sure.

Jesus finding Zacchaeus, Jesus healing Bartimaeus, Jesus welcoming the children, Jesus calming the storm, Jesus healing ten lepers.

Again and again and again.

This morning I was tired.

Mama read it! Little One chirped.

No baby, you read it today.

Ok!

Snuggled in my lap, he dutifully turned each page and “read” the familiar stories.

Uh oh, uh oh, Jesus!

Uh oh, uh oh, Jesus!

Uh oh, uh oh, Jesus!

And, just like that, my two year old nailed the story of the Bible.

The story of humanity.

We are a mess.  Too small.  Too near-sighted.  Too narrow-minded.  Too scared.  Too isolated.

And into all of this walks a Savior who chooses to love us anyway.

A Savior who chooses to walk with us, to redeem the mess a little more with every step we take together, to love and keep on loving.

A Savior who moves us from the uh oh to the exclamation point.

Sometimes all at once and sometimes little by little.

And usually both of these.

 I listened hard in church today, but the truth is I didn’t hear any better explanation of the gospel than the one Little One read to me snuggled in the brown recliner.

Uh oh, uh oh, Jesus!

Who You Are

God I need you, oh I need you.  Every hour I need you.

We sing, and it’s true.

I watch a dear one wipe away tears, perhaps suddenly self-conscious (or maybe not) because no one else seems to be so visibly moved.

I see it here.

Fingerprints of the Creator in our neediness for him.

Imago Dei.

You are the light of the world

We read, and it’s true. (Matthew 5)

Maybe it’s the freshness, the possibility of a new year, but it’s hard for me to listen and not be stirred.

If only we could get this.

If only we could embrace who we are.

Friends, you were created to be light.

You are not here by accident.

You were loved into being by the true Light and you are passionately, ridiculously loved by him still.

His fingerprints are all over you.

Most especially in those places where you cannot be strong, only honest about your neediness for him.

This light is not something that we do, something that we muster up through willpower and resolve.

It’s who we are.

It’s who we’re meant to be.

Friends, you were created to be light.

Go ahead and shine.