Sunday, January 25, 2015

Ty's First Dad

Open adoption has a spray of meaning, but for me, it's defined by my willingness to treat my kids' first parents with an open heart. This inevitably leads to discomfort, but at the same time, the circumstances that, years ago, were frightening, are now, every day, normal - and more importantly, beneficial.

Many of you contacted me in October, after reading/watching Rebekah's story , wondering about Ty's relationship with his birth dad. I haven't given him much air time in this place because, honestly, there isn't much to tell.

I've only met him once.

We took him and his wife to Applebees, days after Ty's birth, so that we could have a chance to get to know each other. The things I read online and in his file seemed softer after hearing his story, in person, but my insides squirmed for a long time every time we'd talk.

I had given him my cell phone number for contact (next time I will give Ben's), so it was up to me whether or not to answer the phone when it would ring. In the beginning he would call every month or so and alwasys started the conversation the same way. "How is MY son?"

Every time I answered, I swore I would never do it, again. He was arrogant and thoughtless and I, simply, didn't trust him.

But. I always answered.

I always answered because I never wanted to have to tell Ty, one day, that I was the reason he lost relationship with his dad. No way. I have enough stuff to be accountable for, I wasn't willing to take on his stuff, too.

As the years went on, time between contacts grew and my level of discomfort snuffed. Ty's dad is a broken man with a difficult past. His only other son is in prison for life and his story is textbook for generational dysfunction. I have a real heart for those....because God does.

Today, I look forward to his phone calls. I love telling him how smart, kind, and tender our boy is. I love filling his heart with hope that cycles can be broken.

In the beginning, I worried about the day that they'd want to talk, but it's yet to come. Neither has ever asked to speak to the other.

On the surface, we have always been wide open with the boys when it comes to their stories. We talk, openly (fairly often) about first families and life before our family, but Ben and I have always kept the discussion, general, until someone inquires further.

When Sweet Boy joined us, last year, it took dinner conversation to a deeper level, for sure, but because two of the three have unknown dads, our conversations tend to swirl around birth moms, foster parents and grandparents.

We do answer Ty's questions when they come; it's just not often. That might change in the future, but for now, he has a contented life without biological gap.

I no longer live concerned for the questions that surface or the hurts that individual stories might one day inflict. We've done our part in cultivating an environment that lives love and promotes dialogue.

The rest is in God's hands.

I could write pages about the benefit of fostering open adoption relationships. Each lovie has a unique story with a different path, but all of their beginnings are, equally, as significant. The poignancy in that truth is not lost on me.

LJ is the only member of our family that has a mostly hidden past, but I know who his mother is and watch her from a distance. I have written many unsent letters, waiting for God's "go". I depend on his wisdom every step of the way. This is, after all, his story...not ours.




Friday, January 16, 2015

Best Purchases of 2014

For fun, here are ten products, in no particular order, that I discovered in 2014 that changed my life (and I'm not being paid to tell you about it)!



 ONE

Bissell Lift-Off Floors and More Pet


It, literally, looks like a grizzly bear terrorized our table after the kids are done eating [every meal]. This has been the perfect solution...and the boys think it's fun when they're on duty. The hand vacuum snaps out which is essential for cleaning up Missy's high chair!





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Two
 

Fossil Cross-Body Leather Bag


I found this [best-ever bag!] at a Fossil outlet during one of our few date nights, this year. With a baby on the hip most of the time and three others running chaos around me, the cross-body is the only way to go! It's big, but body-hugging. The leather makes it luxury; the adjustable strap, practical; and it pairs with comfy and corporate, equally well! I love it!








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Three
EOS Lip Balm ~ Vanilla Mint



EOS Lip Balm: Vanilla Mint

Smooth, tingly, and tastes just like white tic-tacs...yum.





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 Four/Five

It's taken me 33 years to tame this mane. As it turns out - less REALLY is more.






Redken Water Wax 

Several months ago, I switched to a hairdresser that is not only a fellow curly, but our curl is, nearly, identical. She gave me her regimen and was baffled that this product was not in my arsenal. It is instant "good hair day" in a jar.



Redken Align 12 - Protective Straightening Lotion

I don't want to bore anyone with my routine (email me if you're a curly), but the magic is in this bad boy. I mix it with a cheap, but strong gel and I'm well on my way to natural, non-frizzy, hair! The beauty of Align, is that it can be used for both straight and curly days. I've never had so many compliments on this mop. If only I could go back to 8th grade... 
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Six

Merona's Ponte Shift dress. Target has totally stepped up their game when it comes to career wear and I probably have a dozen versions of this dress - long sleeves, short sleeves, no sleeves, patterned, zippered, plain. I pretty much cleaned Target out during every mid-season clearance, this year. As it turns out, wearing dresses to work, is much like being in pjs. They are so versatile. Pumps/boots/tights/leggings/sweaters/jewelry/no jewelry/church/wedding. There really is no wrong way to wear it. I have bought a few from other vendors, but the Merona Ponte is my favorite. My pants are jealous.


 

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Seven

I am crazy when it comes to clutter. With four kids, I can't keep the baseboards [or kitchen floor] clean, but everything is usually in its place...because everything has a place! I bought this vintage bread bin re-make from Amara, earlier this year, and it makes my heart smile every morning when I pull the bagels from their neatly-kept home.


Garden Trading - Bread Bin - Shutter Blue 

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Eight

 
An absolute must-have for any home with three five-year old boys learning to use their shooters.

 
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Nine

Ben & Jerry's Salted Caramel
Ahhhhmazing.


 



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Ten
I made a concerted effort this year to make our new home a "home" by hanging meaningful pictures and prints on the wall. I've so many of these awesome pins on pinterest, but didn't realize you could actually buy the prints from the source (usually Etsy) for really cheap! I bought this download for $4.00 and downloaded/ordered a blown-up version from Office Max. The whole project, matted and framed cost me less than $20.00. This print hangs above my nightstand and reminds me to hand every day over to my King.
Etsy Print "Give me Jesus"

In The Morning When I Rise, Give Me Jesus - Orange Hues - Instant Download - Printable - Typography - Water Color Script

This one hangs outside the bathroom that all four kids share:

There's No Place Like Home

There's No Place Like Home



Wednesday, January 7, 2015

It's a New Year...so what?

Two-Thousand Fifteen.

We are still the crazy-fun family that has lots of energy, many littles, and big faith. On the surface, I still love the new year because it's a time to reflect...plan...dream. And mine are supersized.

We each made goals:






But if you dare scratch my heart - even a little - I might start sobbing. I don't feel my usual excitement for the new year and my abilities are stretched to the point of near-balloon pop.

My seasoned faith doesn't question God or beg for relief. I know he's here moving. But I do cry. I cry because I'm tired and sad and because - really - there's not much else I can do.

We are heart-deep in mud.

Little Miss is our daughter in every way, but one. We are well-beyond the days of turning back or reminding case workers that we didn't sign-up for this. We're invested. We're family. There's no other option but to drag through.

Her biological dad is early to every visit. He dotes and plays and plans. He tells her about their family and his GiGi (her namesake). He talks about all the things they will do when this is over.

We plaster smiles and make brave.

We lie in bed at night staring up, lost in the hardship of it. Sometimes Ben reminds me, "My gut says we'll say goodbye."

I choke back tears.

Life goes on as usual.

School, work, dinner, bedtime. It all goes in perfect rhythm. In the car, Ben says, "Sissy, who's number one?" and she throws her chubby finger in the air, squealing, "Dad-eee!"

It's a new year, but the fresh beginning escaped me and the dark challenge rolled forward. Unlike Ben, I don't have an instinct on this. I feel too much. I see too much. I know life well enough. Every scenario exposes heartache and disqualifies any right answer.

Yet, people keep asking me what I "think".

I think we've done everything asked of us.

It doesn't wash the mud from my fingers or dull the sadness in my heart, but it does provide one massive blast of sunshine up above the cloud.

So, can we survive the new year without hearts full of prospect and rainbow?

Yeah. We can.

It doesn't always have to be a storybook start.

Sometimes, it's a dark and stormy night where gusts of wind are violent "rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggle against the darkness." --Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)


Sometimes, God's presence is most palpable in the disorder.

Always, God's goodness finds its way.



Friday, December 5, 2014

When God Asks for More

I absolutely hate city driving. The one way streets; the parking frenzy; finding meter change. I'm a country girl and I want to stay in the country.

Our agency is not in the country.

I rushed three blocks with baby girl in my arms, fighting the clock to make it on time. I rounded the corner and saw him through the large glass windows. He was pacing; my heart was racing. I heard my phone buzzing in my pocket. I just wanted to yell, I'M COMING!

There was no time for last minute jitters. As I waited to be buzzed in, I saw him staring at me through the door. I introduced myself. His response was polite, but his eyes were locked on Little Miss.

I knelt down to take her hat and mittens off. When I looked up his eyes were spilling with tears.

"It's so good to finally meet you..."

I thought he was talking to me until I saw his face light up when she started walking toward him.

I was invisible; the door closed.

As I walked toward the lobby, I ran into LJ's adoption worker. She hugged me tight and asked how I was holding up. All I could do was shake my head.  My eyes flooded and no words came out.

The hour went by rather, quickly.

The supervisor called out that their visit was done, so I went in to say goodbye. Little Miss, ran to me and gave me a big squeeze around the neck. I stood back up and looked her dad in the eyes.

"Did you guys have a nice visit?"

"Yes. Thank you. Really. Thank you for taking such good care of my daughter. She's so beautiful and happy. You are doing a great job."

I was taken aback by his demeanor. The man I witnessed in court was arrogant and nasty; the man before me was humble and kind.

"She is a firecracker. Did that come out in your visit, today?"

"Yah...I noticed that. She gets that from me."

We talked for several more minutes. When I picked Little Miss up she waved goodbye and lit up the room with her blown kisses (traitor).

 He touched my hand as we were leaving and, tenderly, thanked me for the third or fourth time, telling me how grateful he was for our family.

I smiled, genuinely, and squeezed back, "It's a privilege."

I managed to make it out of the city before the tears came. I choked them back so that I could call Ben. I wasn't angry that he showed up...I was angry over how much I cared.

Ben put the perfect words to my turmoil.

We should be experts at this by now. Someone is going to lose. Someone always loses. Before, this morning, I had every justification for why it shouldn't be us.

Then I met him.

And because God has given me His heart for His people, I cannot turn my back on Truth.

God loves this man more than I love his daughter and HE, alone, has given him a second chance at life. It would be anti-Christ for us to be anything but loving, encouraging, and supportive. What if Little Miss IS enough reason for him to stay clean and make life-altering changes? We cannot, with godly conscious, root for Dad to lose. Losing leads to further destruction of his life and others. We care, too much, to wish that for him.

It's our job to be pliable...sensitive to the Holy Spirit's whispering. Even if we take the loss in the end.

I sobbed on and off all day because loving this man is a sacrifice...and could end up costing my daughter. I know not who asked the question, but all day I kept hearing variations of "Will you do it?"

Without hesitation, my answer was always, "Yes."

Our hearts are shattered. We're not broken by defeat; we're broken over the call. Every time we start feeling comfortable, God moves the boundary line and asks for more. And it's always more than we want to give.

Today, I thought through the dozens of teenage times my nose was smashed to the alter asking God to ignite passion for people into my heart. Feeling such a burden, throughout the day, I got lippy and asked if it was too late to take it all back...but, He knows as well as I do, once you taste His goodness, there is no going back.

This case has so many layers; there's no way to know how it will end. Or the story God is unfolding. We could drive ourselves crazy (and have) considering all the possibilities.

All we can do is press DEEP into the Father and remember his great love for us.





Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Not Part of the Plan - Take 52

I stood next to Ben at the kitchen sink with a lump in my throat. I could hardly stand next to him his heart's heaviness begged my knees to buckle. Even though his "clean-up duty" time gives me a much looked-to break, I offered to dry because...well, no words would do.

Our caseworker had called and the news wasn't good.

Little Missy's father (I hate even using the term) is out of jail and ready to be super dad to the daughter he has never met. I can't get into the details, but this will, likely, be a long battle. I take her to her first supervised visit on Friday.

Our heads say - this is a career criminal with numerous obstacles, no resources, multiple children and a new one on the way, soon - it will never happen. Our hearts wrestle the unwavering love and protection we feel for our daughter and the failures that exist within an imperfect system.

As our caseworker laid out what the next six months will, likely, hold, I took the information in stride and felt tremendous peace. When she finished, I told her that we would continue to take it one day at a time and trust God for baby girl.

"You are, seriously, the calmest person I have ever met," she said.

I reminded her how crazy the inside of our house is. I can't, possibly, concern myself with the craziness that exists OUTSIDE.

She laughed and we hung up.

My peace is genuine, buy my heart heaved for Ben. I dreaded telling him. We are not in the same spot and I knew how the update would affect him.

I don't know when God gave me complete assurance, but I remember our conversation well. It was at least several weeks ago and I walked away feeling deeply loved. Here's the thing. In my worst case scenario, I am forced to hand my daughter over to a man that I don't like, trust, or believe has any business raising children. I wouldn't argue that the tragedy of that event would devastate my heart and leave me sadder than I can even imagine. But. I trust God more than I trust my plan. He has never failed me. He won't fail Little Miss. I want Little Miss to be forever part of our family, but if things don't go my way, I will trust God to protect her and to give our family what we need to make it through.

Once I was able to process the worst case scenario and lay the mess of it at the altar, I was filled with irrational peace. No matter what happens, God will give me what I need. And I know he did not rescue sweet Miss to abandon her. He will give her what she needs too.

Fast forward to the kitchen sink.

My Ben is the most tender, loves-beyond-himself man I have ever met and his heart bleeds for the fatherless. He is one big sap ball when it comes to our little tribe. And I am crazy for him. Watching him process my words and vent his frustrations was almost more than I could stand. I wish I could, supernaturally, infuse him with the peace in my heart, but it doesn't work that way.

While I can't run this part of the course with him, I can stand by...and dry dishes.

And I can pray. I can pray for another miracle; this time for our baby girl. And pray that God softens our hearts toward this man that is about to become a part of our, weekly, routine.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Crown of Life

As I cleared out my phone alerts, before bed, last night, I thanked God for the peace in my heart and clicked on the scripture of the day. James 1:12:

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

Our case worker had visited earlier in the night, adjusting my expectations of how court would go, today. The white man who couldn't possibly be Sweet Boy's father was a no-show for his DNA test, but another man had surfaced from the past, demanding additional DNA work and possible custody.

I knew that resolution wouldn't come, today, but I was able to sleep without heaviness. I can, honestly, say (probably for the first time in my life), I trust God. Fully. Even if that outcome ends, tragically, for our family, I know God will have purpose. I'm sure I've never reached this state of peace before, but I like it and refuse to let it go.

We sang a song in church, last week, that I haven't heard in years ("If You Say Go"). The chorus has been running on loop for me, this week:
If You say step out on the water
And they say it can't be done
We'll fix our eyes on You and we will come
This morning, I drove the hour to the courthouse in silence. All by myself. Reflecting; thinking; praying. A few minutes outside the city, I whispered, "Lord...I am asking for a miracle, today."

We got our miracle. I wish I could reveal confidences and share every last detail so that you would know what we were up against...but the monster couldn't stand in the presence of our God.

I cried through the entire hearing.

After the judge was done terminating all "known and unknown fathers" for Sweet Boy, he asked to address me. He acknowledged my presence in the courtroom every month over the last year and noted that I was the one doing the "real work". He thanked me for giving Sweet Boy an environment of love and stability, while the legalities were worked out. He hoped that I understood why the process was so lengthy and why "right" is necessary in place of "rushed."

I don't understand why the process was so drawn out nor why every grace was extended to convicted criminals, while my baby battled for his life...every day...desperate for normalcy and permanency. 
That being said, I appreciated the judge's address.

I walked out of the courtroom, thanking God for his goodness, and leaving the burden of injustice at the door. I called Ben and sent my text messages, but the only person I really wanted to talk to was Sweet Boy. I could  hardly wait to tell him.

As soon as everyone was buckled in from school pick-up, I turned around and said, "I had the BEST day and I have SUPER news!"

When I told Sweet Boy that the judge told me, today, that we could adopt him, his smile lit up the backseat and he said, "You mean it? I'm, a real Pinchback, now!?!?"


His excitement was contagious and I cried the rest of the way home.

One victory down; one more to go.

Both belong to the Lord.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Happy Birthday Sweet Boy!

This guy turned five, today!
His teacher told me it was a "no tear" day (progress) to which he responded, "It's because I'm five, now!"

I couldn't be more proud.

In the last nine months, I have seen this tenacity and commitment to persevere. A couple of weeks ago we taught the boys to ride their bikes without training wheels. Sweet Boy was the only one willing to try over and over and over, again, until he was riding with ease. As I ran alongside him, I heard his quiet chant "practice makes perfect - practice makes perfect - practice makes perfect..."

He's unassuming by nature, but his determination is unparalleled and seems to be fueled by a desperation to thrive. I thank God for his quiet, fighting spirit...he wouldn't have survived his circumstances without it.

I love all of my kids without debate, but I feel something special for Sweet Boy. His fight for normalcy has left deep wounds, but he never stops pushing through...and, all the while, he does it with a little song in his heart.

We turned DNA testing into a "date day with mom" and I soaked in the special one-on-one time that included making one very sprinkle-y birthday cake and learning how to kiss like a fish.

Our relationship has taken the most work, but that is, exactly, what makes it the most rewarding. I am so very grateful for the creativity in our story. I am thankful for the hardships and setbacks and emotional cliffs...because without them, I wouldn't be as kind, patient, or forgiving. And my heart wouldn't love without borders.

There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. 
Romans 5:3-5 (MSG)