Thursday, October 1, 2015

Survival and Adoption

This picture cracks me up!  If you're trying to "survive" right now, feel free to steal this idea!
Don't worry, nobody was harmed in this activity.

One of the most read posts on this blog continues to be the one entitled How to survive a foster care adoption.  People literally search Google for "how to survive a foster care adoption".  Which says a lot to me.  Because when you are in the thickest of the thick, when your home is in utter chaos, when a little tiny person is making you feel anger you didn't think you were capable of, when you don't know if you can keep going, when yet another thing in your house is broken, when you're crying on the kitchen floor, when you just don't know what else to just don't know what else to do.  You don't know where to find help or answers.  But you know something's got to change.

So where to turn?

My previous "survival" post dealt largely with the practicalities of foster care adoption, but I wanted to address more of the parenting side.

So here's my advice on where to turn if you related to the statements above:

Find a support group.  Or if you can't find one in your area, start one.  If you're local, Reach has a couple.  Call them and ask about their support groups for adoptive families.  Some churches have adoptive parent support groups.  Ask your adoption agency if they know of any in your area.  (That's how I found mine). 

Another great way to meet other adoptive and foster families is through trainings.  I attended a training a year ago through Reach and met a group of people who were so relatable and so genuine and had such similar stories to mine.  When our training was over, we decided to keep getting together once a month to support and encourage each other.  It's become a really amazing group of friends for me. 

Sitting down with a group of people who get what you're going through and who aren't shocked and appalled by the things you tell them are happening in your home, but rather simply nod in understanding, is an amazing gift to foster and adoptive parents.  Plus it is so helpful to brainstorm solutions with people who have similar experiences.  I walk away from almost every support group meeting having learned something very valuable from another parent.

Get professional help.  I've been in that place where you are questioning whether or not you need to seek professional help and you just don't know for sure and you don't want your kids to be labeled and you don't want to put them through just another appointment and assessment because Lord knows they've had enough of those, but things just aren't working and you don't know what else to try.  I think if you're questioning whether or not to seek professional help, you should probably go ahead and do it.  Some families need therapy for their children, some need it for themselves, some need family therapy, some need it for the other children in their homes. 

By the time we finally got therapy, I remember telling the therapist what was going on in our family and as I heard the words coming out of my mouth, my thought was, "Of course we need therapy!!!  Why did I think maybe we didn't?!"  I wish I had gone there sooner! 

Check out Empowering Parents.  This website is not for adoptive parents per se, but it has been possibly the most helpful information I've found for the extreme behaviors we have dealt with in our family.  I sat in a wonderful adoptive parent training a while back and the videos were talking about different levels of behavior and escalation with our kids.  It was helpful stuff about how to engage and respond to your child at each level.  But then it got to the top level where a child is physically out of control, hurting, breaking things, using abusive language and it said something along the lines of, "At this level you would need to seek professional help."  I later talked with the other parents who were at this training and we ALL said we were sitting there thinking, "But that's where our children are."  We all had kids who were at that top level and even one of the best adoptive parent trainings I've attended did not cover how to deal with our children's behaviors.  They had nothing to offer us other than "seek other help." 

Empowering Parents has been that help for our family.  There are articles and programs that deal with these extreme kinds of behavior that I think are becoming more and more common among kids leaving the foster care system.  This website talks about child behaviors that nobody else really seems to talk about.  I highly, highly recommend spending some time perusing that website and maybe buying one of their programs.  We are going through their Total Transformation program and it's so good and so helpful.

Okay.  That's what I wanted to say today.  The longer I've been on this journey, the more I've realized that kids are coming out of the foster care system having been through more crap and different crap than I think we've seen before.  And they're coming into their adoptive homes with behaviors that are not their fault, but that are extreme, and that families simply don't know how to deal with.  After all, how could we?  So find some support.  Surround yourself with some people who get it and who will encourage you.  Get some professionals involved in whatever capacity you need.  And please go check out Empowering Parents. 

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up."  Galatians 6.9

Thursday, August 20, 2015

On Hold

Three months ago we decided to put our next adoption on hold.

I haven't told you all because I honestly didn't really want to talk about it.  It sucked.  It was a really hard decision.

We started the process of potentially fostering to adopt an infant, thinking it would take 6 months to a year to get matched with a baby.  But the week our homestudy was finished, we got a call about a possible placement.  We said yes to it and waited to hear whether or not we'd be driving to the NICU to pick up our new baby.  That happened to be the week the stuff hit the fan in our house, so to speak.  Regression splattered everywhere for one of our kids.  Things were hard, chaotic, and stressful. 

We ended up not being chosen for placement of that baby.  And so then we had a really raw, honest, tear-ful conversation about timing and our family.  We realized we needed to make more progress with the earlier mentioned child before bringing another baby into our home. 

And so that's what this summer has been for us.  A major time of growth for our son.  He has made incredible progress.  We have learned so much more about parenting him and what he needs.  We have made major changes to our strategies and game plan with him and it has shown fruitful.  The Lord has been working in our home and revealing things to us that needed attention. 

Things are getting better.  Much better.

We all know parenting kids from hard places is a 4 steps forward, 3 steps back kind of journey.  And so hard days still come.  But they aren't as hard and they don't last as long and I know how to handle them now. 

I'll tell you, it seems like every time I think I have figured out how to parent kids from hard places, or that I finally learned the missing piece, I realize I still have so much to learn.  Thank God for His grace, forgiveness, and faithfulness!

So our next adoption is still on hold.  We originally started the process, thinking fall would be the time we'd actually be bringing home baby #3 and it still might be.  Or it might not be.  I don't know the future.  For now, we continue to work and wait. 

At church last Sunday, we heard a sermon on Joshua about when the Israelites were finally getting ready to enter the Promised Land.  God again parted the waters for them to walk across, but when "the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing.  It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam." (Joshua 3.15-16)  I didn't realize how far away that town called Adam was.  Apparently it would have taken hours for the water level where the priests were standing to inch down before all the people could walk across on dry land.  God didn't instantaneously dry up the water this time.  He slowly, slowly lowered it.

I feel like that's where we are standing right now.  We're in the water, waiting to cross and we can see the water inching down, but it's taking time.  And so our job is to rest and wait for it to go all the way down, knowing God has already put in motion the day we will be able to walk across on dry land. 

I love that!

But it's hard to wait.  Thanks for sticking with me as it's been a slow blogging summer for me!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Church and Folly

You can do anything.
But you can't do everything.
I read this the other day and it resonated with me.  This season of raising little children is ALL-CONSUMING, people.  It's hard.  It's a lot of work.  And we're thinking it's time we accept that that's okay.  It feels like we keep trying to fight and deny that fact.  We think we can do everything we're supposed to do in our lives, all in the same season.  And I just don't think that's it.  I think we're in this season of raising small people and we can just focus on that for a while.  Now, our family should be on mission, of course, but I don't have to be an actor right now and Chris doesn't have to be a working pastor right now.  Those things can come back into our lives later.
We've been leading this little home church for over a year now and it's been exactly what I think we were supposed to be doing.  But now it's not.  And that's okay. 
The Lord used it and it was a beautiful thing.  We're very grateful we got to be a part of how God moved in our friends' lives and in our own.  But now it's time to stop meeting on Thursday evenings.  And when my husband and I started realizing it was time for this home church venture to end, I heard familiar little voices start to pop up in my mind. 
But we committed to this.  We can't just end it.
What will people think?  Will they think we failed?
But then I realized... who cares?!  Right?!  I mean, if the Lord tells you to do something or to stop doing something, you do it.  Following Jesus requires "a touch of folly" as Brennan Manning called it.  He also said, "In the final analysis, discipleship is a life of sublime madness."  It requires looking silly and foolish.  Because God's ways are not ours.  His thoughts are not ours.     
We live in this culture that tells us we have to pick one thing we're going to do for the rest of our lives and we have to stick with it, move up the ladder, get the promotions, and retire at a reasonable age to drive around in a motor home for a while.  I'm not trying to bash any of that, I'm just saying these are the pressures we feel, right?  These seem to be the things that are expected of us.  Otherwise we're flaky.  Or we lack direction.  Or our lives just don't really make sense. 
But what if they're not supposed to make sense?  Really, I think the Bible is very clear that they're not.  Not to us and our world, anyway. 
In our family, so far, the Holy Spirit has truly moved like the wind, pushing us this way and then that, and then that, and then that.  He seems to sort of change course pretty regularly.  And I often worry that that looks foolish to the world. 
But I pray that I do it anyway and that my life will indeed look like one of sublime madness by the time it's over.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Hi friends!  It's Tuesday, but sort of like Monday and I'm tired and I thought I'd share some things that have been of interest to me lately in hopes that you might find something new to enjoy as well.

A couple weeks ago, I was over at Sweet Goings sharing about mom guilt and onions and grace.  Hop over HERE to read it.

This weekend, my husband worked the closing shift so I had time to finish the miniseries North & South on Netflix.  It's from the good old BBC and it's a super sweet love story.  Fair warning, it takes a couple of episodes to get into it, but when it was over I really wished there was more!

This website, Empowering Parents has become my lifeline.  Our sensory therapist recommended it, but I had actually discovered it a day earlier and it has changed the way I parent my most difficult child.  If you have a hard kid, check it out!  Fantastic articles that cover issues I haven't been able to find anywhere else.

I'm still working my way through my second reading of The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning.  It is such a beautiful reminder of God's love and how much more it is than the trivial thing I often convince myself of.

I hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend.  I'm with those of you who didn't have a weekend off with the family all husband works retail and I had a photo shoot on Sunday.  But we still found time to hang out with my visiting grandparents and to swim and relax poolside.

Have a great week.  Enjoy the last bits of routine before school ends!  Lord help us as we try to entertain our littles for summer!

Here's one genius idea I'd like to share:

(Don't worry, he had fun.  But seriously, cheap entertainment, ya'll!)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mother's Day and Expectations

Mother's Day was a little different this year.  My husband had to work all day and one of my sons was grounded to his room all day (except when we were celebrating).  So most of the day was me hanging out on the couch with my other son. 

But the weekend overall was a good one and I felt loved.  This was my first Mother's Day with kids in school so I was surprised when they both brought home all kinds of sweet gifts on Friday.  E had made me a corsage and a beautiful painting of his handprint as a flower.  J-Man wrote an "All About My Mom" paper, which was quite entertaining, made a handprint on a ceramic plate, and a beautiful card.  I loved it all!

On Saturday, my in-laws gave me a much-needed break since Chris had been out of town all last week for a work training.  While Nana and Papa watched my boys, I joined my mom and sis-in-law for a little Mother's Day lunch and shopping. 

And then on Sunday morning, E woke up early to make me cinnamon sugar toast, which he brought me in bed with my coffee.  Chris helped him, of course, but the whole thing was his idea and it was adorable.

We celebrated with my mom-in-law and then with my mom in the evening to wrap up the day.

Do you find that Mother's Day carries with it a certain amount of pressure?  I feel like there's this pressure on our families to just spoil us all day and there's this expectation that our family has to sort of pretend to be perfect for a day.  At my adoptive parent support group the week before, we talked about Mother's Day.  We talked about the big feelings our kids often have surrounding that day as they think about their birthmothers and where their loyalties should lie and as they grieve, once again, their most profound loss.  We talked about our children from hard places and whatever behavioral challenges they are experiencing at the moment and what that was going to be like on Mother's Day.

I really didn't want to ground my son on Mother's Day, people!  But consistency is key in parenting and I had to follow through.  It helped that one mom at my support group had talked about Mother's Day not needing to be this huge all-day pampering affair.  We could just hope our kids tell us "Happy Mother's Day.  I love you."  And that could be enough. 

I purposefully released any expectations that I had of the day before it arrived.  I decided all I needed, all I wanted, was indeed for my kids to acknowledge the day and tell me they loved me.  And you know what?  It made every other sweet thing that happened all weekend that much sweeter, even the little stuff.  And it made every disappointing thing not really matter much. 

This goes for all of life, really, right?  It's our unmet expectations that really cause most of our frustration in life.  If we can let go of our unrealistic expectations, how much less disappointment we'd have!  And not that we shouldn't live lives full of hope.  But sometimes our expectations aren't realistic.  Sometimes we have to adjust them or throw them out and come up with new ones.  I've learned that's a big part of parenting children from hard places.  Letting go of my expectations of motherhood and finding freedom in celebrating what I have instead. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

I'm Still Here!

I've been quiet on here lately and I apologize for that.  Thank you for sticking with me!  Sometimes I just can't get myself to write when life is chaotic.  My thoughts are so disorganized that the idea of organizing them into a blog post is overwhelming.

My husband started a new job this month.  At Target.  Hello "Family Discount"!  He's an Assistant Manager.  It's a great job and a great thing for our family, but he is working more hours and different hours and so we are getting used to that.  And by "getting used to" I really mean one of the smaller people in our house is throwing big old hissy fits and breaking only the most important household rules.  Lord help us!

Also, J-Man is starting preschool tomorrow.  Can I get a "hallelujah"?!  He needs it.  I need it.  We all need it.  Three mornings a children at home.  What?!  Until baby number 3 arrives.  Which could be any day.  Or four months. 

Anyway, new job.  CHANGE.  Preschool starting.  CHANGE.  New baby expected soon.  CHANGE.

And we all know how kids from hard places deal with change.  Remarkably well.

No, I'm kidding!  My kids sort of fall apart.  Send reinforcements.

What I really want to tell you today is that about three weeks ago I wrote a guest post for my friend Kate's blog Sweet Goings about parenting and what that does and doesn't mean.  I forgot to tell you about it so now I'm telling you about it!  You can go read it if you want!

I guess I should be a little clearer on Adoption #3!  We are in the matching phase of adopting through foster care.  We have requested to be matched with an infant 12 months or younger.  So we are just waiting and praying.  I'm freaking out a little bit.  But I'm also really excited.  Please pray for us and our future child!

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 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

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