Sunday, October 4, 2015

Awkward Beginnings

Our family and Baby Brother's foster family met, today, at the Cider Mill to get to know each other. The boys were in their baby brother's face for a few minutes, but then became, quickly, distracted by all the family fun activities.

This girl, however, was very interested in the new baby she's only heard me talk about.

She even shared her donut with him when I wasn't looking and made a sugary mess over all three of us. It filled my heart to see her nurture in ways I've never experienced before.

There sure was a lot of cuteness, but it was still a strange day.

The foster family is wonderful in every way. The awkwardness came from the fact that the son who is so, clearly, embedded into their lives and family is about to be transferred to ours. It doesn't feel right and it, certainly, isn't natural.

I held him for a few minutes, but mostly watched Baby Brother interact with his mother. She fed him his bottle and nestled his cheek, sharing words too soft for me to hear. I felt like such an intruder; a thief of sorts.

I felt nothing for him beyond normal "your baby is so cute - " excitement.

I am surprised that this phenomenon still surprises me, frankly. This was my fifth first meeting...and they've all gone the same way. I think my expectation was higher, this time, because of the difficulty of the decision to say "yes". the end, the familiarity of this scenario wins. I was introduced to a son that I will, one day, love as my own, but today, that sort of love privileges another woman's heart.

And the sadness in her eyes is too much to bear.

We return to court on Friday for mom's termination trial.

I don't know if mom received my letter, but I am hoping to be able to communicate through her lawyer, who I've had the opportunity to get to know over the last 18 months.

Two women are feeling tremendous loss, this week. Please remember them.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Walk Into Her Room

Dear Sweet Mama,
I know it’s been a long time since we’ve talked, but I hope it’s okay to write to you. I was in the courtroom, last week, even though we couldn't see each other, and will be there, again, in a couple of weeks. Even though I probably won’t be able to squeeze your hand or give you an update on your kids, I want you to know that I am there. I have so much love in my heart for you and never stop praying that you will feel God’s presence in your time of darkness and that you would know your worth...
I addressed my first letter to the women's prison that houses the mama to three of my babies.

Over the last 18 months, Sweet Mama has been in and out of jail more times than I can count. Several months ago I called the county jail to see what I needed to do to see/write to her. Unfortunately, the restrictions were such that we couldn't communicate without me revealing a lot of personal information that I just wasn't comfortable giving. The permanency of prison, makes letter writing much easier and gives me the freedom to just sign my first name to my letters.

We've been singing a (new to us) song at church, called When You Walk into the Room. The writer is (clearly) speaking of Jesus, but last week, Ben said to me, "That song is so powerful. I feel like we're singing about us and the light our lives are supposed to shine."

All week his thoughts and these lyrics have been the background to the turbulent terms of my heart. Birth mom. Foster mom. Baby Brother.

When You walk into the room
Everything changes
Darkness starts to tremble
At the light that you bring

When you walk into the room
Sickness starts to vanish
Every hopeless situation ceases to exist
And when you walk into the room
The dead begin to rise
'Cause there is resurrection life
In all you do

Two nights after the postponed trial, I laid in bed humming, When you walk into the room...every hopeless situation ceases to exist... The Holy Spirit prompted my heart, "You care for my daughter, when no one else does. Walk into her room."

I sat up and started writing. I opened and closed my letter with personal encouragement, but mostly shared every detail that a mama's heart hangs on...I told her all about her kids. Because the darkness is not dark to Him, I typed out Psalm 139 and sandwiched it between my words and pictures.

For now, I am using the agency as a protective layer. I included a self addressed and stamped envelope with paper in hopes that she'll write back, but my letters won't be contingent on hers.

This isn't just an adoption story because God's care doesn't stop at Baby Brother or our family.

He redeems ALL things and whispers good to the most gruesome detail.

Live open. Heart and hands. Say, yes, every time he calls.

You might find yourself in a garden once hidden.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Giving God Room

I'm not sure how many adoptions it will take for me to see the fullness of what God is doing in and with our lives.

I went to the TPR (termination of parental rights) pre-trial on Tuesday for Baby Brother. I sat through two hours of cases before it was our turn. Mom wasn't present and the judge wasn't messing around. He set the TPR trial three days later (Friday). That's unheard of.

Looking  back, I should have seen the signs. Something was amiss, but I was too wrapped up in conversation to notice. For an hour or so on Friday, I met the only family Baby Brother has ever known and soaked in every detail his precious foster parents shared. 

Their love for Baby Brother was so evident, I came home with a deep ache in my heart for the loss they are about to experience. In the courtroom, we exchanged one story after another, binding our families together in a bond so special, only a few can understand. Tears veiled their eyes with every story and I was taken back to a faraway place.

I remember the first time I realized Rebekah loved Tyrus as much as I did. When his eyelashes started to come in, we "oohed" and "ahhed" as if it was the first time such a miracle had been performed. One boy; two mothers. Both, fiercely protective and crazy about him in every way.

Over the last few weeks, God has given me a deep love for our new little guy. I don't know if it was the emotional decision or place of sacrifice, but I know Baby Brother's placement in our family is significant.

As I sat across from his foster mom, on Friday, I experienced her profound affection for her son and saw the breaking taking place in her heart. When parental rights were being terminated on "all known and unknown fathers", the court used language like, "no father has stepped forward to care or support this child", and I could hear the silent shouting of his foster father beside me.

Baby Brother's biological mom is in prison, but was present in the court room via two-way video. The trial ended before it really started, when her attorney argued under statute such and such that mothers must be, physically, present for termination trials.

Why these people can't pull the law together before wasting everyone's time, I will never understand.

All I really heard from the two-way feed that wasn't visible to me was uncontrollable sobbing.

That's when it hit me.

The brokenness no longer lies between two mothers. Now, there are three.

Adoption can be beautiful and redemptive and regenerating. But it's also ruinous.

It leaves ache in its wake to which some are unable to recover.

Foster families are one of God's greatest treasures. Baby Brother's family was thrilled to hear that we already consider them an extension of ours and look forward to a lifetime of friendship. My gratitude will never be able to offer repayment for what they have done for our son.

Baby Brother spent many weeks in the hospital  after his first breaths of life, as his little body required special surgeries and attention. Many days went by before he was matched with a family and when they walked into the nursery for the first time, it was evident how loved the surrounding babies were. Baby Brother's corner was not loud and cheerful. It didn't support attention, affection, or thought...Until. Until this gift of God walked into the room. Everything changed.

Knowing what THIS family did for my family, clogs my throat with tears. They showed up when no one else did. While most say no for fear of falling in love, they stood up. While most would have turned their back on his medical condition, they opened the door. They cheered and cried and nursed Baby Brother through surgery and health.

Families like this deserve medals and honors and floods of public affirmation.

I am more than humbled by their quiet generosity.

They waved off my thanksgiving and, instead, thanked me for saying, yes. I couldn't help but feel inadequate in the presence of such giants.

As if my heart wasn't wrecked by this growing story, already, I felt sick over the casual regard the courtroom displayed for mom.

I get it. This is baby number three. Same story. Same progress. The courtroom sees a drug addict, a convict, an unfit mother.

I see a girl cycled in curses; broken by addiction. And I believe in her.

My heart is so inter-tangled with the heart of our Father, I only see a horizon of hope for her. I know this is her time and I am thankful that she is, finally, serving a prison sentence. I was never able to write her in county jail due to restrictions that existed, but, today, she is at a long-term facility that will allow me to write and email and send pictures.

Sometimes I step out and look around me and I can't believe where I am. Sure, the girl who couldn't have babies is about to have five. But it's so much more than that. The girl who couldn't have babies understands deep treads of love that rest on painful stories; the reward that comes with embracing all those who loved my little people first; God's heart to pursue the lost at all costs; and, of course, the inexplicable joy of offering Light in a world of darkness.

I have no idea what our  new time frame is. We left the courtroom without a re-scheduled trial date. The foster family and I have already exchanged several communications since Friday, which included the most life-giving photos of Baby Brother. He looks just like Little Miss! I scroll through the pictures at least once every few hours.

In the eaves of heaviness, I have great peace. I know this time is on purpose and I'm giving God enough room to move as he sees fit.

Friday, September 18, 2015

FF: Buttermilk Banana Muffins

So...this isn't really a meal per se, but Little Miss and I did have some fun in the kitchen, this week! Our schedule has been so busy with school starting and preparing for a baby (transition starts next week), that my cooking hasn't been noteworthy.

I reduced my hours at work and have been soaking in the extra time with Little Miss. She has become such a little person - sassy as they come. This week, we got rid of some browning bananas and made a few dozen banana muffins. Thirty-six muffins only make it so far, with a house full of boys, but it was a fun addition to our morning breakfast routine, this week.

Missy, was so cute putting all the paper cups in the muffin pans I just wanted to squeeze her!

And then when I went to put the first batch in the oven, I came back to this:

This is my favorite banana bread recipe. I swap out white flour for whole wheat and sprinkle in some flax. I also make my own buttermilk (who keeps that on hand???) by mixing a cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Just let it sit for like 10 minutes.

These were a huge hit with the family. After Missy bit into her first (cooked) one, she said, "Yummy, Mama!"

Give 'em a try!

Buttermilk Banana Bread - I always cut back the sugar by half and replace with a regular scoop of protein powder. I also don't use real butter but olive oil margarine.:

Buttermilk Banana Bread/Muffins

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dare to be Disciplined

Back to school, today.

I love and hate the rigidness of the schedule.

Because mornings are too crazy for extras, I built focused time into our bedtime routine for family prayer and devotions. I don't know about you, but for me it's easy to let the discipline of studying God's word slip. But, I have an ever present awareness that my kids haven't experienced what I've experienced nor do they grasp the greatness of God and his faithfulness. I know it's my job to make the transfer and feel even more strongly that it must be purposeful.

All that to say, we are spending time as a family (even Missy) studying the Bible and learning to pray.

Such things don't come without challenge. Tyrus is discriminating in whose hands he will touch based on hand washing probabilities. Little people get wiggly and aren't always respectful and holding hands during prayer can, quickly, turn into let-me-show-you-how-hard-I-can-squeeze fests, but we're doing it. And I'm really proud.

Little Miss closes her eyes really hard and repeats every word that is spoken. LJ wears his mind outside and prays for God to protect our home from being blown to pieces. Ty thinks about the girl who shares his desk and how her grandpa is sick. Cisco offers a few quiet words and does his best to understand this world he still hasn't fully committed to be a part of.

I am certain they don't sense our time is noteworthy or lasting, but I know God is using these moments to sure the direction of their lives. I've always had this sense that our faith can be felt in our feet. Small murmurs of vibration that grow and hum as we walk along. They sure our footing as our intimate experiences with the Lord bring about victories. It's never been difficult for me to understand why mountains are thrown into the sea. Surely, they begin to crumble, miles before our approach, as our steadfast steps hold the remembrance of God's power in us.

Prayer isn't something I've ever been good at. Faith is easy because, frankly, I don't know how nor desire to live any other way.

Prayer is different because it takes time. Something I don't have a lot of. And it requires quiet development. This summer, I have been teaching myself to be more disciplined. The results are reward enough. My petitions to the Lord are thoughtful and specific. I'm noticing changes in my kids that I would have missed otherwise.

When my secret prayer time collides with our family time, I feel a real shaking in heaven. I know we are exposing our treasures to the power of intimacy and teaching them to be relentless. I am not interested in a form of godliness devoid of power. I want all of them to experience the real deal. Right along side me. Right along side Ben.

I know if they taste genuine Truth, they will never walk away.

I was not emotional, today, dropping the boys off for another first day. I think I was in awe. God's goodness and care for our family is so great and I love all the light I see reflecting from their hearts.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bringing Home Baby

The last three weeks have done a number on my heart.

Processing and preparing for a new addition with only a few weeks notice, while most get several months, is an interesting experience. I am a lover by nature, so finding love for Baby Brother isn't what keeps me up at night. It's the freakish everything-must-have-a-plan-and-purpose-and be color coordinated when possible part of my nature that can't rest until everything is in order. Some think such coordination goes to the wind when you are raising your own basketball team. I beg to differ. It's worse.

From new crib to new vehicle, there were so many things to do. Within a week of making the decision, however, support flooded our doorstep and filled our nursery with every necessary item that I had sold two weeks prior. I am always stunned by the generosity of others and have learned to honestly answer messages like, "Tell me what you need and I will order it, now."

Of the five (babies), I had the most advanced notice with Tyrus. Rebekah asked us to adopt him when she was four months pregnant and if you were reading in those early days you'll remember, my nursery was ready six months prior. The rocker my sister bought had miles of praying before he ever arrived.

Today, when I think back on those intimate memories, I am overwhelmed by God's goodness.

Back then, the ache for children was so great it nearly crushed my spirit. But the perseverance sharpened character that followed that season of drought was a reward that I will treasure forever - because I can trust God in all things.

The same rocker that held my secret thoughts for months, listened to me read countless stories to Ty and helped me find rhythm when LJ needed to be swaddled like a baby so that trust could melt his trauma.

Cisco and Missy did their best to bypass my chair, as Cisco struggled with intimacy and Little Miss screamed for three months straight, preferring to work it out on her own. Over the last 18 months, however, I've watched these siblings push through the curses of the enemy, and just this summer I often found them reading books together in the same chair they avoided early on.

Moving this memory soaked rocker into Baby Brother's nursery was deeply meaningful and I praised God for his rescue, once again. My body won't make babies, yet, miraculously, baby number five is on his way.

I know it's part of the journey, but I wish I could go back.

I wish I could encourage my former self to push on and stop giving up. I wish I didn't need a picture of my own unfaithfulness to prove God's.

I would sleep more.

Date Ben more.

And hunker in hope during the season of wait.

I hate when people say everything happens for a reason. It's not biblical. Plenty of unreasonable things happen that God's not part of.

Yet, I praise God, that he redeems all things - people, events, situations. He redeemed my life and Ben's life, and all the lives of our five little people.

We're kind of a raggedy group, over here, with mismatched stories, each one filled with its own kind of heartache. Yet, none of us were so gnarly that God chose to overlook us or breath life elsewhere.

Each day closer to welcoming Baby Brother home, I am overwhelmed by this reality. Our Father loves Ty so much that he esteemed him to be firstborn and set him in a place of leadership over his tribe of siblings.

God loves LJ and Cisco and Missy and Baby so much that he, literally, ripped them from the enemy's grasp and declared a new name over each of them.

And every time he asks, "How about now...will you say yes to this one?" he redeems my barrenness and pours love into deep, hidden cracks of my heart that I didn't know needed attention.

His love is easy and available and it's paving the unknown path before me.

I am ready to bring home my baby.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pinchback Party of SEVEN

Little Miss has an announcement and mama wakes up with a little panic in her belly every morning.

FIVE children. Five children six and under. Lord, help me.

Two weeks ago I spent an hour digging through all of our bills, prepping the financial section of our foster license renewal and Ben hunched over our house plans looking for room dimensions. Every year I say I'm going to make a copy of the paperwork and every year I am filling it out at the last minute and don't have time.

I am never doing this, again, I said. I hate the paperwork that much. Because Missy's adoption is still not finalized, we didn't have a choice. As I finished up, I muttered to the Lord, "Any additional children you have for us have to come, this year. I can't do this again." 

I need a break from all of it.

Of course, our licensing worker came and asked us if we would adopt Baby Brother. That's how God works in our life. He never lets us get too comfortable. 

Remember this post when Ben begged me not to fall in love with Baby Brother - when Little Miss and I went to meet him? I'm not sure why we never did a visit after that. I didn't ask because we had enough chaos in our schedule.

I remember the exact moment she told me she was pregnant with him. The moment I laid hands on her and prayed that God would help her push through and conquer addiction. I can't explain the love I have for this young girl and even though I hoped that Baby Brother's foster family would adopt him, I think I always knew we would say yes if needed.

Earlier, this summer, we were told that Baby Brother's case was going to move toward parental termination, quickly, because mom wasn't participating and that his foster family wasn't sure about adoption. We were already overwhelmed and started asking some of our closest friends and family if they would consider adopting him to keep him close. 

Three weeks ago, my girlfriend and I prepared for a garage sale and I sold all my baby stuff. I was confident that we were done with babies, but at the last minute, I did pull my toddler boys clothes "just in case". It never crossed my mind that Baby Brother would need an adoptive family this soon. He's only five months old.

The case worker asked us last Wednesday night and we had until Monday morning to decide.

From the moment she asked, my heart screamed yes. I didn't even have to think. I'm a lover and jump in with both feet every time. Ben didn't have to say a word...I knew his answer was no.

He is our provider and protector and already feels stretched beyond capacity. He humored me, that night, and I talked through solutions to every challenge (there are many). Before we went to bed, I asked him to keep his heart open and, prayerfully, consider his answer through the weekend. 

I trust God in all things and I also trust my husband's leadership. My reckless love can lead me astray sometimes. I appreciate Ben's steady heart and told him so. He needed to know that if his answer was "no", my heart wouldn't hold anger or resentment. Frankly, I would have been relieved.

I felt pressed all weekend and I was in and out of tears for most of it. The pressure of such a major life decision weighed, heavily, on both of us. Our four babies were at the forefront of our concern.

On Sunday night, my mom came put the kids to bed and Ben and I headed to the grocery store. The perfect environment for long, meaningful conversations. By the time we walked in, our decision was made and tears were flooding my face.

I have spent all week praising God for giving me a husband whose love reflects the Father's. Ben gave me three reasons that led to his yes. And each one made me love him more.

He couldn't think of a greater way to honor our kids' mom and dad than by giving them the peace of mind that their babies are together; he felt that his greatest reasons for saying "no" were self-focused; and in the middle of worship on Sunday morning, when he cried out to God, he knew.

Ben asked the Lord, "Are you really asking this of me?" and not only did he hear "yes", but it was followed with a gentle, "I will find someone else if you can't do it." 

Ben didn't say yes to a five month old baby because I pressured him. He didn't say yes to caring for #5 because no one else would. Ben said, yes, because he never wants to be passed by.

Just like young Samuel, we shout, LORD! Here we are! We are ready for service. We can handle the work. Please don't ever pass us by.

Baby Brother should be home in September.