Love Is Not Enough

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When you are a woman that longs to have a baby and to be a mother, you dream of what it’s like to be pregnant and to finally hold that tiny one in your arms. You think about motherhood . . . a lot.

Baby fever. I have had it for more years than I haven’t, now.

I know not every woman experiences this. But I certainly did/do. For me, I wanted to give birth to biological children before becoming a foster or adoptive parent. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. It’s what I believed would be true in my life.

Apparently God did not hear about my plan. So when I became a mom through foster care, there were moments – many moments when I did {and do} grieve the loss of biological motherhood.

Now, before you tar & feather me, let me just say that I love my {foster} son with all of my heart. I would die for him. And I’d make every last person on earth hate me if it meant I could find him the best of everything – the best therapy, the best school, the best teacher, & the best resources.

For nearly a year, my sweet boy has done so well. He’s grown and changed by leaps and bounds. Somewhat recently though, he started regressing. And while I won’t tell that story, I’ll tell mine.

It has been hard on me – watching how hard this is on him. I’m exhausted. He’s exhausted. I long to be past this. What’s this? There’s a lot happening at once. But one of the primary issues is that we are now in the “I want to go home,” phase of foster care life.

You’d think that would have happened sooner. But it didn’t. He was asking me if I was going to adopt him and said his last name was Avalos, months and months and months ago.

My desire to be a mother had been realized, right? It had. It has. But there’s this other side of foster care. In the broken and messy places of biology and our hearts and trauma and our emotions – lies the deepest pain. For a child, it’s also terribly confusing at best.

My boy loves his mama. How could he not? She is mommy and always will be. He has fantasies of what that life used to be. He once said that he wanted to live with her because he didn’t know what it was like to live with her. His memory only gives him bits and pieces of that life.

He longs for her and the life his very inner being, was woven from. He was not woven inside of me. He loves and trusts me. We have bonded and I know he feels loved and I know he loves me. But mommy is mommy.

So when the little boy you’d lay your life down for, reacts in anger to his hard days, by telling you hard things about your future together {I just want them – not you}, it hurts in a way I can’t explain.

Rejection, right? It’s a rejection. When I’m the one who’s lap he crawls into {though he’ll be taller than me soon enough}, who comforts him on hard days, or is there in the hardest fought battles and the greatest victories, you long to know that you’re finding your way through his pain and trauma to his heart.

Winning hearts and minds . . .

But love isn’t enough. It just isn’t.

Which brings me to my comments about biological motherhood. When you haven’t known the joy of carrying that little one that was woven from your innermost being, the pain of the messy & ugly moments in foster care, when you are raising a child that is another’s, hurts in the deepest way you can hurt.

But that’s also where the beauty can find its way in. In a hard moment today, as I heard another rejection {just one day after he announced his last name would be Avalos}, I also had this very clear truth flash across my heart & mind.

He knows how this feels. He knows. He knows what it means to be rejected. But He also knows what it is to love and chase hard after one He loves desperately. And yet, even still, be chosen last. You do that to Him. He chased hard after you. And time after time, you chose Him last.

Friends. Phewie. That was some heavy stuff. I prayed that I’d know how to deal with my emotions when my sweet boy says not so sweet things. I prayed I would know how to feel, what to say, and how to act. As we sat at McDonald’s and I longed to get away, where I could cry my whiny heart out, I realized that I, who have far less reasons than my boy, do the same to God.

Somehow, this moment cleared up the cloudiness in my heart. I rejected Him so many times. But His love was faithful even still. I might as well have spat in His face. He loved me even still. So what does one do when you long to have the love of your child, returned?

You keep loving.

And because love isn’t enough, you press forward finding every way you know how, to beat back the six years of trauma and the toxic relationships that his biology created. You read. You search. You send Facebook messages to acquaintances and friends who know so & so and such & such.

You listen to Brene Brown read her book, Daring Greatly, because frankly, there should be no more vulnerable person than that of a parent – especially one who is fighting hard for the heart of her boy – for his healing, freedom, peace, and future. But you listen hoping for some nugget of wisdom to teach him with words and actions.

You ignore friendships and feel terrible. But you don’t have the emotional energy because he needs it more than you. You make your son’s school hate you. You tell social workers that all you care about is your little boy & that while they may not have time – you will get what you want – because what you want is your boy’s healing and wholeness.

I am nothing and no one. I don’t hold any special positions or titles. I was raised with very little. Our toys came from yard sales. And my clothes were hand-me-down clothes. I’ve got nothing in the eyes of the world. But I know one thing for certain.

I am a mother – who was handpicked for this boy – because God knew he needed a fighter. I don’t care about systems or rules. I will fight until I have nothing left, for him. Whether he rejects me in the end or someday looks back and sees how hard I fought.

By the grace of God, love is not enough. But He is. So for now, I’ll rest in that.

And I’ll keep fighting.

Learning Life Lessons from a Seven-Year-Old

Today didn’t go quite as planned. My disorganization at home has caught up with me. I was frustrated and irritated. It’s all an inside job. I could’ve saved myself the trouble by slowing down & relaxing. I turned a moment that should’ve been fun – baking Christmas cookies with my kiddo – into a chore.

Granted, I had plastic covering the walls in my dining room making unpacking my office a challenge, a hole in the wall of the hall closet (a closet I need to store boxes – now kept in the second kid bedroom), and other issues about the house. I keep putting off unpacking and the longer this goes on, the more frustrated I become. By the way, if I fill the closet with boxes again, I’ll just have to move them back out when the drywall and painting is done. Phew. So . . . it’s no wonder I couldn’t find my Grandma’s old cookie cutters.

I searched frantically – making even more of a mess. I had to have them. How could I make cookies, for the first time as a mom, without them? My office went from unruly to a disaster area (also when I ripped the plastic down from the walls – the room will get drywall and paint & I’ve been looking at plastic for weeks). Meanwhile, all my little guy wanted to do was bake cookies.

But I made it into a chore.

We started making cookies and then ran into another little kerfuffle & our baking came to a halt. My kiddo lost his electronics privileges, I was stressed and tired, and we still have about 3 dozen cookies waiting to be made.

After getting through dinner, we sat down to do our Advent devotional and read a verse from his Advent calendar. We read, “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.”

The question was, “Why were the wisemen joyful? What brings you joy?”

I asked my sweet kid – who’d only an hour before gotten in trouble & who was driving me bonkers – what brings you joy? His answer? “You, Mama A. You bring me joy.”

Talk about a punch to the gut. Talk about learning life lessons from a seven-year-old.

The only thing that really matters is what really matters. In this season of rushing, picture-perfect wrapped packages and Pinterest worthy entertaining, I hope I’ll remember these moments with him, always.

My kiddo doesn’t care about all the extra stuff. He just wanted to bake cookies with me. Nothing is more important than his little heart and it doesn’t matter if our house is Pinterest perfect, if I have it all together, or . . . I don’t. All that matters is making memories with him. And that doesn’t require a picture perfect moment. It requires my presence fully there with him – not distracted by things that don’t last and don’t matter.

Healthy Attachment

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My son’s last day of school was more than a week ago. On the 7th, I was there for his end of year awards, which I shared about, here. The following day, I left work to pick him up at 3:30. When I arrived in the parking lot of the school, I realized there was a text from his teacher – he’d been crying for a half-hour – inconsolable, really.

I asked her if I needed to come in. Her initial response was no. And then within a couple of minutes, as I waited in the “car rider” pick-up line, she said he’d begun crying again. I parked, signed in at the office, and walked to his classroom, nervous about why little guy was feeling.

I could hear him before I saw him. When I walked in, he fell into me. He was weeping – body-wracking, sobbing, tears falling down his face, weeping. There were a couple other kids crying too. But my little man was beside himself.

He sat on my lap and I rocked him as his teacher walked the other kids to the bus and then the car rider line. We sat alone in the class as he wept. My heart has never ached so. The pain he was feeling was so real and intense.

And yet, this foster mama who knows, also knew this was a beautiful moment.

My little man is learning healthy attachment.

It hurts to lose people you love. But when you get yanked around from place to place and the people in your life can disappoint you, you don’t always know how to form healthy relationships and attachments. You build a wall. You don’t know what’s a good relationship or a bad one. You may feel intense emotions, but they may not always be about the actual thing you’re expressing emotion over.

My kiddo is so tired of not knowing a permanent home. He wants that so desperately. He aches for it. Truly. He wants forever. He tells anyone and everyone that he plans on living with me “forever.”

But after what he’s been through, attaching and forming the bonds and relationships most of us take for granted, is not easy. To say the least. His sadness over “losing” his teacher and his friends, was so very painful for him.

And as weird as it is to say it, that was such a good thing for him. His pain poured out of him and it’s like every pent-up emotion from the last few years of his life flooded to the surface.

Though I believe his emotion came from a few places, underneath it all was the awesome reality that my little guy is learning, in just a few short months in my house, what it means to form healthy relationships.

As I held and rocked him, I said so many times, “It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to be sad.” My heart has never ached more over the emotion pouring out of anyone. And yet, I felt it was a turning point for him and for us.

My little man is learning what it means to form healthy relationships. I am so proud of him.

He is a warrior.

He fights through some tough stuff (most adults don’t know how to work through), to be strong, smart, sweet, and full of joy.

He is brave. He is hilarious. And though he can be quite fearful at times – he’s actually fearless at the end of the day because he will not let anything hold him back.

I am convinced that I’m in the presence of a boy who will be a great man, someday.

What a sweet privilege I have to love on him and be there for him on days like his last day of school. He is learning what it means to love, form bonds, and say goodbye in a healthy way.

I am so very proud of my boy.

Mama

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I don’t know about you, but for me, there are things I know I am meant to do and be. I am a mama.

I have spent a lifetime looking forward to motherhood and to the family I prayed for, for so long.

My future family & being a mama looks a little different from where I stand now. I never dreamed I’d be here.

I have been on a long path to be a foster and {or} adoptive parent for decades {about three of them}. But I never saw myself embarking on this journey as a single woman.

But here I am.

I started foster parent training last year. I had to put the stops on that but knew it was “temporary.” I’ve kick-started this thing again with a new foster parent agency. They’re a Christian agency & I feel at home there. My training will be complete in December. The remainder of the licensing process will continue on for several months after.

As I’ve jumped in again, I’m even more convinced today than I was a year ago that God has put the pieces of my life together in such a way that I was made for this.

Did I want to do this alone? No. Did I plan it this way? Oh heck no. But here I am. I am a mama. And there are little ones {and not so little ones} who are precious in His sight who need a mama. They desperately long for a home and to be loved and cared for as we all need.

So without all the answers and uncertain about how to juggle singleness and parenting, I’m jumping into the fire again. I’ve been thinking a great deal about the babies or children that will make this their home – for a time – or forever.

I don’t know their stories. But I know that God will take the brokenness that brings them to me and will give me the gift of breathing hope, healing, and love into their lives for a season or forever.

I still have moments of grief over what isn’t or what was lost long ago. But here I am. With four bedrooms, a huge backyard, and a passion for the lives of his most precious ones, I am opening my heart and home.

Books, Babies, & Change

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A couple weeks ago, on June 10th, I released my first novel on Amazon {and CreateSpace}. It’s technically not the first book I’ve written, but it is the one I most needed to publish first.

Earlier this spring, some things happened in my life that put everything in perspective for me. I won’t rehash all of that but, I needed to face my own mortality. In other words, I ain’t gettin’ any younger, ya’ll.

The push to take a few leaps of faith catapulted me headlong into this new determination to adopt an infant and to publish my books. What do I want to do with my life? What have I always wanted for my life? I want to write novels and raise kids. It’s all pretty simple.

And yet, my life has been lived in such a way that I have literally had nothing left to give to the two things I most wanted. Why dude? Why do we do this to ourselves? I know I’m not the only one.

We aren’t all meant to write books or screenplays or open small businesses. But some of us? We are actually meant to do those things! We live in fear of taking the next step. Or we become distracted by others’ expectations. Sometimes we’re distracted by our own expectations.

I have loved my job with as much of my heart as I have to give. But I also know it has come at a cost. I personally have paid a heavy, heavy price. This is not unique to me. There are many others in my profession who feel the same way. But this spring was my crossroads. This reality has been driven home in more specific ways, as spring has turned into summer.

actual cover chasing hope

And now here I am. I have been overwhelmed, in the best way possible, by the feedback people have given me so far about my book. I have reviews/ratings on Amazon and GoodReads. But I also have had messages and e-mails, too. They have touched me in a way I just wasn’t expecting.

The biggest compliment any fiction writer can receive {maybe I should just speak for myself, here?} is to have readers fall in love with your characters and to feel they’re right there in midst of it all as it’s happening in the book. For those who have shared your thoughts with me, thank you. It has encouraged me to take some additional leaps of faith.

inside chasing hope
Seeing your words in print is awesome, dudes!

Sometimes people make jokes about “following dreams.” I actually do get it – it sounds kind of silly. But sometimes our dreams are set deep – way down deep in our hearts because they are our calling. They’re what we were meant to do with our lives. It may look very different for you than it does for me. Nonetheless, the dream that’s written in our soul, is where we need to start living.

I am starting a new journey down another road. What does this mean exactly? It means that nothing can get in the way of this dream and hope on my heart – to write full time and to be a mom. Nothing. I have poured my life into a job I have loved.

But now it’s time to pour my life into this dream.

“The things that excite you are not random, they are connected to your purpose. Follow them.” – Unknown

Changes are always hard. Transition isn’t easy. In fact, times of change and transition often open the door to great stress. However, when we reach the point when we know that without change and transition, our greatest dreams aren’t possible, nothing in all the world matters.

It’s time to pour my life in this dream.

Nothing Will Fall Out As You Expect

north topsail island, topsail beach“Nothing will fall out as you expect. Your guide will keep to no beaten path. He will lead you by a way such as you never dreamed your eyes would look upon. He knows no far, and He expects you to fear nothing while He is with you.” – Streams in the Desert

I’ve been reading the Streams in the Desert devotional on and off for many years. I don’t read it everyday anymore. Sometimes I open it on the exact day, in the exact moment, that I need to read it. Today, I opened it to the April 16th entry and it met me right where I’m at.

Nothing has happened like I expected and certainly not how I “planned.” There are days when this overwhelms me with grief. Today started off that way. It’s a holiday. That usually happens on holidays. I watched a video on Facebook {this one} and that threatened to take me a little further down the path to being overwhelmed.

I cried. I’m not going to lie. I started to wander down that ugly path that takes me to the inevitable end: wondering why it is that this life I’ve always wanted and dreamed of still remains so far off. Usually when that happens I don’t come back very quickly or easily. It takes me awhile to work my way back from the hurt.

But something different happened entirely. The sadness happened for the briefest of moments. And then I turned my thoughts towards what God has for me. The questions were there . . . why is what I want so far off? Why do You – God – keep all of this from me?

Something stirred in me though. Something different. The reminders of what I don’t have, were met with reminders of those who clung to hope, and their faith, long after it made sense to do so. The verse that goes along with the April 16th devotional is Hebrews 11:8. Hebrews 11 is always described as the faith hall of fame, in one way or another.

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. – Hebrews 11:8

Whether it was Joseph {his story always means the most to me}, Abraham, Sarah, or Moses, yjey clung to promises long after reason and logic would tell them to do so.  They didn’t know where they were going. They didn’t take hold of the promise within an amount of time that seems reasonable {to me anyway}. And yet, they held on.

Holidays are always the hardest. I miss what is missing {obvi} and on these days I fear that it will always be this way. But today, against reason and logic, I know it won’t be. I know I’m just gearing up for the next adventure. My prayer today has been – lead me to the next adventure, Lord.

I’m ready.

The Kid’s Room

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From an Instagram post last night:

The door to the “kid’s room” has been closed quite a bit. I’ve been trying to keep Abby from adopting another bed as her own. This week has been a long week. I haven’t been feeling well for days. By the time I got through Thursday evening’s first walk-through for foster care licensing, I was spent.
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I have a list of to-do’s that seems sort of overwhelming. I have things to buy that I hadn’t quite planned on buying (rookie mistakes). And I’m trying to complete, in what feels like a rushed timeline, everything needed within the next couple weeks.
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By this afternoon, after unsuccessfully searching for a solution to the double-locking storage I need for things like medication, I was just tired. Like have an existential crisis over Christmas cookies I wanted to make for work, can’t find a locking storage cabinet (that’s not ridiculously expensive and/or ugly), “falling down into weepy tears” (name that movie), meltdown.
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Guys…it was stupid. But somehow a stupid locking cabinet and my inability to muster the desire to bake oodles of Christmas gifts for work, caused me to stop in my tracks yet again. What is all of this for? And why am I doing it? Certainly not to get a pat on the back for my beautiful furniture (that is also locking storage mind you) that fits into my dining room like it stepped off my Pinterest boards.
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“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27
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So after a wake up call, and praying for peace & wisdom, here I am…planning to buy an ugly, plastic locking case because no one needs my house to be Pinterest perfect to be safe, cared for, and loved. The door to the kid’s room will stay open from now on. Because every time I see it, I’m reminded of why I’m doing this.