Thursday, March 26, 2015

Two Kinds of Guilt

 
 
"When we wallow in guilt, remorse, and shame over real or imagined sins of the past we are disdaining God's gift of grace." - Brennan Manning The Ragamuffin Gospel

Guilt.  There's an unhealthy kind and there's a healthy kind.  Do you know this?  I do.  Until I forget. 

During this past year, as we were thinking and praying about adopting again...

Side note:  I realize I haven't "announced" on here that we are adopting again!  I'm not one for big, creative announcements so here it is:  WE'RE ADOPTING AGAIN!  We are in the process of fost-adopt with our home study being updated as we speak.  We should enter the matching phase by the end of this month and then we just wait.  It could be 6 months, it could be a year.  We don't know.  We're nervous and excited and just trusting the Lord to bring us the child He wants to bring us.

Back to this post!  During this past year, as we were thinking and praying about adopting again, the enemy reminded me of all my failings and all my times of falling short in parenting my boys.  (he can be a real a-hole like that)  I began to wallow in guilt and shame.  I questioned myself and my understanding of God's calling.  I wondered if I was the right person to do this all over again.  Parenting kids from hard places is HARD.  And sometimes I don't have enough patience or gentleness or kindness.  Sometimes I respond with too much anger.  Sometimes I act more like another kid than like the adult in the situation.  And all those times kept haunting me.

Brennan Manning explains unhealthy guilt so well in his amazing book The Ragamuffin Gospel:

"The language of unhealthy guilt is harsh.  It is demanding, abusing, criticizing, rejecting, accusing, blaming, condemning, reproaching, and scolding...Christians are shocked and horrified because they have failed.  Unhealthy guilt becomes bigger than life."
 
Have you been there?
 
I have.  But eventually God reminded me of the difference between unhealthy guilt and healthy guilt.  I felt like He said, "Okay, Laurel, you sinned.  Don't try to justify it or make yourself feel better about it.  Own it.  Confess it.  And then move forward because I have forgiven you." 
 
"...healthy guilt is one which acknowledges the wrong done and feels remorse, but then is free to embrace the forgiveness that has been offered.  Healthy guilt focuses on the realization that all has been forgiven, the wrong has been redeemed...you can forgive yourself because you are forgiven, accept yourself because you are accepted, and begin to start building up the very places you once tore down."
 
So good, right?  I love that!  Yes, we should acknowledge our sin and feel guilty about it, but we don't stay there.  We move forward, realizing we are forgiven, it's done, it's washed away.  God is a God who redeems and restores.  And so we repent and we figure out how we're going to work on doing better next time. 
 
And then we let go of the guilt and shame.  We accept God's grace.  And we live in that grace.  Free, redeemed, grateful.  That's where God wants us to live.  In celebration of His grace rather than in disdain of it.
 
Let's live there, friends!  It's time to leave the guilt and the shame. 
 
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free"  Galatians 5.1
 
 
 


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Adopting From Foster Care

To be honest, ya'll, I'm not feeling very inspired this week.  It's been an all-around stressful week and I just haven't had it in me to write any new posts.  So I'm re-posting one I wrote a couple years ago about our fost/adopt process and experience.  I hope it's helpful and informative for those of you interested in fost/adopt. 

Fost/Adopt

We began our fost/adopt process in 2011.  We had already used a local agency called Chrysalis House for our international homestudy during our first adoption, and were so happy with the experience, and with our social worker, that we decided to use them again for fost/adopt.  Because we had already done one adoption through them, our paperwork and training process went quite smoothly.  We really just had to update things and attend more trainings.  It only took us a few months to finish that side of things and officially begin the matching process. 

We were hoping to be matched with a child 18 months or younger.  Our oldest son was 2 at the time and we thought it would take us about a year to be matched with a child so we figured our boys would be about 2 years apart.

Three weeks into our matching process, I got a call from our social worker telling me to check my email for a brief profile of a little 18-month-old boy.  I was shocked and also so very excited!!!

I read the brief info, talked with Chris, and we decided even though our boys would only be 6 months apart in age, we would, of course, take this little boy.  Our social worker was quickly able to send me a couple pictures of this adorable curly-haired toddler.  I melted.

J-Man was living about 4 hours away from us at the time so on our anniversary, we went to a social services office to receive full disclosure on his case and to play with him for a couple of hours.  He was so adorable we could hardly stand it.  It was incredibly awkward to play with him while two social workers watched and observed.  We sort of felt like we were auditioning to be his parents.  But we were also infatuated with him so we had a great time!

Then we began a very difficult month and a half of back-and-forth visits with J-Man.  First we spent a full day with him in his hometown.  Then he stayed a couple of nights with us at our home.  The case kept going to court and the judge kept delaying his decision for various reasons.  So we kept taking J-Man home for a few nights, taking him back to his foster home for a couple nights, bringing him home for a few nights, back, etc.  It was hard on the heart, let me tell you!  We knew we had to love him like he was already and for sure ours because that's what he deserved.  And yet, fears hung in our minds because we knew the judge could still say he was not going to be placed with us.

Finally, the judge ruled for J-Man to be placed in our family!  We fostered him for 8 months before it became an adoptive placement.  Then it was all about waiting for a court date to finalize our adoption.  A couple months went by, and we finalized everything, officially becoming a forever family! 

Adopting and raising children from hard places has probably been the most challenging thing I've ever done.  It's been more difficult than I could've ever known.  I am reminded of James 1.27 in the Bible, which says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress".  That last part resonates so deeply with me.  When we enter into caring for orphans, when we enter the world of adoption, we don't find a world neatly packaged where everything is tidy and easy.  We enter into a world of great distress.  But that is where the Lord is and that is where He tells us to go.  Adopting me was not easy for Jesus, it required great hardship and pain.  But He did it because He loved me that much and thought I was worth it.  And that is the story of adoption.  That is what we have the privilege of doing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Meet Laurel



A lot of new readers have been hopping over lately so I thought I'd reintroduce myself to you guys!

First of all, welcome!  Thanks for stopping by this blog of mine!  I write as a way to process, learn, and hopefully serve my readers.  On this blog, you will find a lot about adoption, family, and faith.  I hope you stick around and leave some comments because I love hearing from you!

So, I am a California native who feels like I probably belong in Portland.  I'm 6 feet tall and wear size 13 shoes.  I have a degree in Theatre Arts and a passion for telling stories through theatre, tv, and film.  After doing some professional theatre and some independent tv/film stuff in Los Angeles and Orange County, my husband and I decided we wanted to start a family and so we moved back to the area where we grew up.

My husband, Chris and I have been married for 7 years and we have two sons, both age 5.  We have formed our family through adoption, which for us was Plan A!  We adopted E from Ethiopia when he was a baby and we adopted J-Man through fost-adopt when he was a toddler.

I stay home with my kids and I do a little photography on the side as a creative outlet.

My husband and I are part of a new home church and we are learning and discovering what it looks like to do church in such a small, intimate setting.  We're finding it really quite beautiful and are blessed to be a part of it.

Chris and I often feel like we're still trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up!  We are more short-term planners than long-term.  We enjoy change, but have had to realize our kids do not!  We have no 5-year-plan and God seems to lead us on more of a week-by-week basis.  Really, we're just trying to fight the constant battle of keeping our hearts set on divine things rather than earthly things. 

I hope you stay a while.  Subscribe to the blog via email at the right side of the page or follow my Facebook page to keep updated. 



Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Conversations That Become Normal



I heard that age five is one of the biggest for kids to process their stories, their adoptions, their lives.  So I was prepared.  I was prepared for big and hard and ugly.

E will be six in a few months.  (It's hard for me to wrap my brain around.)  The beginning of five was difficult with him.  But the rest of it?  The rest of it has been big, but not ugly.  He has processed so much this year.  There have been so many conversations around birthparents, orphanages, Ethiopia, adoption, forever and always, death, genetics.  You know, the usual stuff 5-year-olds talk about.  Right?  Maybe.  This is my first 5-year-old.

But the conversations have been good and sweet.  The conversations have been a success simply because they happened.  I have congratulated myself because my son felt comfortable coming to me for this stuff.  I recently heard that we parents need to be our kids' go-to people for these types of conversations.  That's one of the most important things.  We don't want them to go somewhere else, we want them to feel safe coming to us for all these big things. 

There has been so much talk of birthparents this year.  Before I became an adoptive mom, and maybe even for a time after I did, I thought I'd feel a bit threatened by my kids' birthparents.  I thought I'd feel a need to own all of my kids' loyalties and not share them.  I thought I'd be a bit stingy with their love.

But the Lord has changed me on that point.  I've learned that if I can love more than one kid, my kids can love more than one set of parents. 

I've learned that my kids' birthparents are part of our family, even if we never meet.  I've learned that there is no competition in love or in family.  I've learned that there need not be a discussion of who their "real" parents are because I am real and so is my husband and so are their birthparents.  We're all real.  We're all important.  We're all a part of our kids lives forever. 

But I'm still learning to make birthparents a normal part of conversation.  I don't want to force the subject on my kids if they don't need/want to talk about it regularly.  But I also want them to feel free and safe to say whatever they think or feel on the matter at any time.  I don't want there to be any taboo when it comes to the topic of birthparents.  So I'm learning to just casually bring it up at times. 

The other day we took our kids to meet their new baby cousin, recently born to my brother and his wife.  As we were getting in the car, E said, "I wonder if he'll have brown skin."  My brother and his wife are both Caucasian so this seemed like a great opportunity to talk about genetics and skin color.  Chris and I explained that the baby would have beige skin because both of his birthparents have beige skin.  (We've been talking lately about how everyone has birthparents.  Some kids' birthparents are also their forever parents and some kids have different forever parents.)  My kids were surprised by this idea that skin color comes from birthparents so we talked about it a bit more in depth and gave examples for both of them.  Then we went into eye color and hair color and talked about how I look a lot like Grandma because she's my birthmom, etc.  This was fascinating to my 5-year-olds.

We told them when they wonder what their birthparents look like, they can go look in the mirror because they probably look a lot like them.

Today E was talking about how much he likes math.  So I brought up the idea that one or both of his birthparents were probably good at math.  He didn't seem to really go for that one.  "No, I just like math," was his response. 

But the point is that I said it.  The point is that I'm helping them find their identity and their connections.  I'm reminding them and myself of the good in their birthparents.  I'm aligning myself with their birthparents and establishing that we are on the same team and we are all family.

Sometimes I look at our lives and laugh.  I never thought these were the conversations and topics that would be normal in our home.  But I love that they are.  Because the fact that they are normal is so beautiful.  The level of comfort we all feel talking about these things is something that has grown over the years and I so grateful for that.

I'd love to hear from you!  How do you help your kids talk about the big stuff?  How do you help them feel safe coming to you as their "go-to person"?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Abide



"Abide in my love." -John 15.9

Abide means to stay, remain, live.  I'm trying to let this really sink into my heart.  What does that mean for me to stay in His love, remain in His love, live in His love?

Most of the time, I don't really get it.  When I come face-to-face with my fallen-ness, with the sinful nature that still lives in me, I realize I still don't fully understand His love.  Because I doubt.  I doubt that He really does love me with that never stopping, unconditional love.

So what does it look like for us to live there, in His love?  I'm still working it out.  "Remaining" in His love means I have to keep pulling myself back there.  It means I can't let myself leave His love.  I can't go to that place of questioning His love or questioning His forgiveness.  I must accept it and stay in it.

Harder than it sounds, isn't it?

Join me in this conscious effort to live in His love.  And may the truth and reality of His love change us.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Soul Rest



One time our son took a picture of his birthfamily out of his room and left it on his dad's nightstand.  He didn't say anything.  He just left it there.

Another time he took "his story", a little photo album I made for him that tells the story of his adoption, and he left it on his dad's nightstand.  Again, no words, just left it there and walked away.

Eventually it dawned on me how beautiful and significant what he was doing really was.  He was taking the hard stuff and letting his dad take care of it for a while.  Each time this has happened, it's been when our son was having a particularly hard time with his past, his story, his feelings and processing of it all.

It's beautiful, really.  He takes that thing that's just too hard, or that he's just too tired to deal with anymore, and he leaves it for his dad to hold onto.  He lets Dad worry about it for a while, carry it for a while.

This speaks to my soul about my relationship with God.  I want to be more like my son in this way.  When I get weary from the load I'm carrying, when it's all just too overwhelming and too hard, oh, how I need to just leave my burden on my Heavenly Father's bedside table. 

And my son trusts that Dad will take care of it.  He trusts that Dad won't question this action or shame him for not being able to carry this load on his own.  He knows that Dad is big enough and strong enough to handle it, even when he himself is not.

When I am weak...

His strength is made perfect in weakness.

What is wearing you down today?  What is too overwhelming to even think about anymore?  What feels too heavy, too hard, too much? 

Leave it with your Dad.  And trust that He is capable.  Know that it's not too much for Him.  Approach the throne with confidence.  Cast your cares upon Him.  Leave your burdens. 

Find "rest for your souls."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Don't Take It Personally



They tell us not to take it personally.  Heck, I even tell other people not to take it personally. 

But when our kids from hard places yell that they hate you, that they wish you weren't their mom, that they're not a part of this family anymore, when they hit you, when they throw something at you...it's hard NOT to take it personally.  Are you with me, adoptive parents?

True confession.  I've always taken it personally.  Every time.  It's my human nature.  It's my mom nature.  Truth be told, it hurts every time. 

Sure, I reason it out in my head.  I remind myself that he doesn't really mean it, that what he's going through really has nothing to do with me.  I remind myself that he takes most of it out on me because he's actually closest to me and because he feels safest with me and because he trusts me more than anyone else.

But it still feels personal.  It still stings in a very personal spot.

There was a period of time where these not-to-be-taken-personally-things happened every day in my house.  We're not in that season anymore, Hallelujah!, but sometimes it rears its ugly head again. 

And so I sit here remembering the mom in the trenches today.  The one who's heard those hurtful words every day for a while now and everyone tells her not to take it personally. 

To you, mom in the trenches, I want to say, it's okay to take it personally.  It's natural.  It's normal.  It's okay to feel it and to be hurt by it. 

But then, pull yourself up out of that place.  Remind yourself that it really has nothing to do with you.  That it's really not about you.  That he doesn't actually feel that way toward you.  Ask your partner to remind you of those things as well.  Go through all the "clich├ęs" because they're actually true. 

And even if he does truly hate you today, one day he won't. 

One day you won't live in that season any more.  You will probably still visit it from time to time, like I did the other day, but you won't live there anymore.

Hold on to that hope today.  And may God bless you.



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