Monday, October 20, 2014

Letting Go of Perfect

 Today's pictures have nothing to do with the post, but are of our picnic with my mom and dad from our road trip vacation :).  This is what happens when you don't blog for a have many pics yet to use.  I love this first one as if my mom and Michael are having a conversation- ADORABLE!

So what happens to us when we wake up and realize our family that we prayed for, yearned to have, and strive to keep all our ducks in a row in order to build....and then you turn around one day and realize it is so far from perfect? 
 I think for us this has happened on numerous occasions.  There are plenty of times that we have gone through the process of "letting go of perfect".  Hey, let's be real there are times we have to let go of thinking we are even "just ok" in our family.   
 Don't get me wrong there is plenty of love in our family.  There is also plenty of grief and trauma (from us as well as our children).  There are plenty of times we just want what we want PLEASE - NOW!!!  There are times we have to walk through the mud and gunk of our children's past and present.  There are times I just want 10 minutes of peace and can't find it even in a closet with chocolate- although I highly encourage all moms to have it!! 
 There are times we feel we are in life's groove and have it all down pat. 

HA HA HA HA!!!!  That can be squashed in less than a millasecond! 
 There are days when we can laugh a lot in the midst of turmoil.  There are days when we love fiercely and set our minds on consistently trying to do the right things. 
 There are days we beg God to show us how to love in the face of hate that comes from our children's mouths, and days we fall on our faces before the Lord because sometimes this life asks everything of us with no reprieve. 
 There are days of JOY!!!  Days when we just almost feel like we have it all. 
 Followed by days we don't have anything - or so it seems. 
 But letting go of perfect is a practice we have to pursue because when we hold ourselves to a standard we can not achieve it only leads to disappointment, doubt, and resentment.  We ourselves can fall deep into despair.  We blame ourselves thinking if only we knew it was going to be hard we just would have ??  BUT we can't do that. 

Instead we have to dig deep and say - God I am not sure why I keep thinking that this will get easier with time.  Why can't I just stop being selfish, why can't I just stop my anger from taking over, why can't I just be a better parent, why can't my children just obey without a fight, why can't they see how much I love them.  
 That's when it hits me that our relationship with God is just as imperfect.  There are days I chase after God, days I spend my days in praise, and days I can't bring myself to come before His Throne.  I want to run away.  I refuse to put Him in my life as Lord.  I want to throw a tantrum and tell Him NO! 

Oh my how much adoption and parenting reflects the Lord's relationship with us.  Except HE IS PERFECT.  That is a pretty big difference and the reason we have to let go of perfect.
 So I read and reread other bloggers articles on letting go of anger, of how to connect more with my children, of how to be a better parent and spouse.  Then I have to set them aside and remember to die to self.  To let go of perfect. 
 I see the most perfect poses on FB (mine included)....and as I try to take them all in, I once again have to let go of perfect. 
 I see those that have what seems like the perfect family life, the best relatives that live close by, the wonderful relationships, the best ___________, and I have to set that aside, and let go of perfect. 
 I have to find the balance once again in my life of wanting to do better with my time, with my energies, and with my talents- and still letting go of perfect. 
 I have to examine the fact that I WILL FAIL- today, tomorrow, and next week with the fact that I am still alive and ticking.  Along with letting go of perfect. 
 So today may be a great day or one of your hardest.  It may be a huge step forward for you or the two steps back. 
I pray you know that God is not done with you, with me, with our children, with our neighbors, family and friends.  That God doesn't make junk and yes I am talking to myself here, but HE creates love and gives it freely.  That there is always hope because that is the whole reason Jesus came to Earth, shared with the disciples and people, why He chose to die on the cross, and rise again!

We all need healing in many different ways.  We all crave the touch of our Savior.  In order to attain this we have to let go of perfect and just simply seek HIM in ALL THINGS & IN ALL SITUATIONS!  

Here is to me reminding myself to let go of perfect :).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

When the grief of a birth mother hits you- an adoptive mom's perspective.

 You know over 13 years ago when we began doing foster care with our oldest sweetie- Abigail... no one told us a whole lot.  I mean we took the foster care classes and "adoption" through foster care classes - as they were back then.  They told us about the fact that children in foster care may have experienced some really not so nice things. 

They said they may only come with a few things from their biological parents home.  They told us about behaviors they may have.  They told us about foster care, how it works, what are the goals, and what the "steps" are in the process. 
 Of course I don't know if they really told us what to do about any of those behaviors, or how to help your child heal, or how to bond with your child.  Of course that is a whole other post. 
 BUT NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT GRIEF!!!  Specific to that of the birth mother.  No one explains that you are doing this because you care about the children, but that you will have a lot of emotional feelings for the birth family as well.  No one says it....or at least not out loud. 
 Clients I work with in domestic adoption say all the time, I don't know what kind of relationship I want to have with the birth family yet.  What do you think about that?  I know some of them are just not sure because it isn't something reading an article prepares you for.  It isn't something that you just know inherently.
 It is usually something that hits you!  RIGHT BETWEEN THE EYES!  Somewhere between getting matched, or taking in a foster child....and the consents being signed, or the stinging words of the judge saying from now onward you have no say over anything having to do with this child, or maybe on the airplane ride home from another country. 

WHAT???  Wait a minute?  What about the woman who carried this child for 9 months?  What about the biological father who may or may not even know about this child?  What are they feeling?  How hard is all of this on them?   
 It is at those moments that you feel the weight of it all.  The heaviness of the situation.  The pain of loss. 
 Oh some of you and maybe even myself at times tell ourselves that the gain is great.  It is for us we get to be their parents and we love them more than life so of course it is a gain too. 

But you can't have great gain without great loss.  That loss of being known to the family that once held you tight.  The loss of a relationship that God created.  The pain and loss of sometimes circumstances beyond your control such as poverty, addiction, or feeling trapped in a relationship that is harmful.  Those situations are HARD! 

They are not situations that I have faced or even really know anything about.  Which can make it hard to know how or what to feel, but grief comes because of compassion.  Compassion for them, and for how hard those situations are.  For how hard that decision must be!!  Love for them in what they are facing right now. 
 The list of reasons birth families place their child into another's arms is long, sometimes it may not be their choice, but a judge has had to make that tough choice for them.  Each one a real struggle.  Something they wrestle with for a long time.  When that reality hits for you...what do you do with that?   
 Grieve!  Grieve about it!  Let your child know you are grieving.  Share with them about it.  Share with them about their losses, because I know for a fact our children feel those losses.  When you open up and become real with them it helps them and you heal.  Let those emotions be real and don't hide them away! 
 I truly believe that when we are real and open it helps us, the child/ren, and their birth family.  It says we care and we want to help you and your birth family. 
 It says even though I may be out of my comfort zone I will send those pictures and letters.  I want to write to you about how amazing this child that we have in common really is!!!  Even if we meet up- I am not "threatened" I am empowering myself, the birth family, and our child to heal.  I am saying that YOU - THE BIRTH FAMILY MATTERS TOO! 

What if the Body Of Christ worked together like this more often.  Then we get inspired!  We start sharing that even though there are hurts that God created us to work through those for the benefit of ALL.  What if we got on our knees and thanked the Lord for the special people in our lives and that included our children, family, and birth families?  How would that change our focus in adoption? 
 Trust me I am not saying it is easy!  I am not saying it is something that comes naturally.  I am saying when that grief hits you, and you respond in a way that is honoring and loving our world can change in ways no one can describe.  We start loving more like Jesus! 
 After all isn't love the whole reason we started the adoption process?  We just don't always expect the love to be for our children AND their birth family.  I can assure you that even if you have never met and may not ever get to meet them you can still have a love for them.  You can still pray for and rest assured that God carries that love to them.  
 In the past couple of years our vacations have been awesome!  Because we have had fun- yes, but also because we have chosen to visit some of our children's birth families.  Were we nervous - ummmm....YES!!!!  We were very nervous. 

Things many adoptive parents ask and sometimes what keeps them away from doing visits are questions like:  What if our children love them more?  What if they don't want to come home with us?  What if we don't seem "as good" in our children's eyes?  We can break down with those nerves. 
I can assure you that this hasn't happened at all.  What has happened is experiencing the huge smiles on our children's faces (even though some of them were nervous too), the smiles on their biological family's faces, and of course on our faces too!!!  The joy of a time of healing, of something very different than we expected.  The time to say- wow look at these wonderful children!!  Aren't they the greatest?  And having them in total agreement!  How can that be negative? 

Oh and don't worry because from every experience I have ever had with birth mothers I have worked with and our own- both families are always nervous!!!  Both sides feel judgement in different ways.  So know that you are in good company, and that sharing the love of your children doesn't make it smaller- it multiplys!!! 

***Today's pictures brought to you by swim time on vacation.  Note daddy is chasing the boys playing the gotcha game.  It is a long family tradition.  Oh and the JOY of seeing Michael learn how to swim!!!  It is amazing to watch him figure out breath control, coming up for air, and loving splashing away!!  :)

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why we just cut up our credit cards.

 IS HE THE CUTEST OR WHAT?  Ok I am a little biased ;), but seriously!!! 

OK so today I wanted to just put something out there.  Why we just cut up our credit cards.  :)
Some of you may have just gasped.  Some may be cheering us on.  Some may be rolling your eyes. 
 I can assure you that whichever reaction you have- I am totally fine with it.  No for real, I am not offended.  What I did want to do is explain why because it is important to us and for us as we explain it to our children. 
 You see we have been taking the Financial Peace University class - Dave Ramsey.  Our church has emphasized wanting everyone to take the class.....because imagine what a large group of believers who are getting debt free could do?  I mean think about it!!!  I have, and I LOVE IT!!! 
 So I have to say- we are debt free except our mortgage.  That is still debt- yes.  We are working on that.  So why did we take the class?  Because we wanted to learn more!  There are always things we can do better.  When we do better we can be "free" to follow what God has for us.  Believe me we have learned more!!!  It has been great.   
 So my credit card story starts with when I was in college.  I got a credit card when I was a senior doing my practice teaching.  I was completely responsible, although I know my mom just about had a heart attack over it.  She didn't need to fear because she did an amazing job at teaching us as we grew up about spending, saving, and giving.  I literally kept track of all purchases in my check book- so I always knew I had enough money to pay my card off every month.  I told myself I was making sure I had good credit. 
 When we got married we had a couple more credit cards, and got rid of some.  Again, we always paid it off- except 2 times.  Once when we miscalculated our expenses from a vacation we took.  It left a pit in my stomach I can not even describe!!!  Literally felt sick :(.  The second was a simple oversight....mistake....oooppppssss forgot the deadline.  UFFDA!!!! 
 We have happily enjoyed the benefits of credit cards without the bad parts, or so we thought.  We got Hilton points and enjoyed free stays, we got cash back, and more!!!
 So it comes back again- why did we chop up our credit cards??

Because Dave Ramsey was doing his teaching and explaining why we cut up credit cards.  Having fun because he is an extremely good speaker.  It occurred to us that our children have seen us use credit cards their whole life.  Sure we use cash- on rare occasions, but 90% of the time we use credit cards. 

So in our children's mind- we are constantly using debt to pay for things.  Now this is NOT to bash anyone at all!!!!!  Know my intentions are not that, but when I saw the Barbie doll that has a credit card going shopping with "mommy" who has a pretend credit card saying- "let's go shopping" (part of the video he does).  It hit me like a MACK TRUCK!  I don't want to leave that legacy to my children. 
 Proverbs 22:6-7 (NIV)
Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
The rich rule over the poor,
    and the borrower is slave to the lender.
 When he pointed out the scripture we typically know as a parenting scripture- start children off in the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. 

Then the NEXT VERSE says- The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. 

It hit us that we are slave to the lender.....even if we pay it off every month.  So why don't we use cash?  Sure we can say because we love the credit card benefits.  Maybe, but is going into debt- being a slave to the lender worth it? 
Romans 13:8 
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

So we decided to cut up the plastic!  I mean the thing is that even though we were getting benefits- we will more than earn those and then some because of the fact that when people use cash- they spend a LOT LESS.  Because we "feel" the money and cash has an emotion attached to it that credit cards just don't have.  They just have a swipe and a number that we are numb to.  Cash has a feeling as we count it out and hand it over.  The feeling of- how hard we worked to save that up in order to spend it.  It is emotional to do that, and therefore we typically think twice about our purchases on a whole different level. 
When we buy something online we will buy it with a debit card.  We know sometimes for work you can't get away with it.  We know that this is not for everyone and that is ok. 

What we are saying is that we were convicted.  We want to change our patterns and habits to do the best we can with what we have.  We truly believe that this is part of that journey for us.  I am pretty sure there are a million other lessons we need to learn.  ;)  Daily!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

How our day typically goes....

How our day typically goes....  or doesn't in a lot of cases. 

This is irritating- sorry...this picture is sideways help???
 Our day typically starts off with daddy waking early to do devotional time at 6am or earlier.  Yes I know I am a horrible person....but I have a huge issue with trying to get up and right away focus.  Jason however loves having the house completely quiet.  So it works. 

We wake the kiddos around 6:35-6:40....while they start to get up, we do T25.  Hey, doing this together has helped encourage us both.  Although I am definitely following the moderator- hey, it works. 

By 7:20ish we are sitting down for breakfast & Jason shares with the kiddos about his morning devotions.  Sometimes they listen....and well you know sometimes not.  BUT the important thing is to keep trying!!!! 
 Around 8-8:30 we start school.  You ask that is a huge variance?  Well, the story of my life!  God has grown me a lot in this area.  There were times when I would really lose it if things were not exactly on time!  It wasn't me.  I have tried to let go of the perfect schedule.  ;)

I do "large group" school time- science, language arts, basic math concepts, history, geography, Bible lessons, praise and worship, etc.  Yes, I know you are thinking, but Dawn you have children from 4 to 14 how does it work.  Each thing I do I know not all the kiddos are going to pick it up.  That is fine.  I try to draw some questions easy for the youngers to answer and harder questions for the olders to answer.  I review, review, review- A LOT!  This gives everyone opportunity to ask questions and really learn those basics.  I do go more in depth as well, and when the littles are wandering- I let them....  it's fine. 

I also have many activities that are for the youngers to do while it is over their heads too!  Big puzzles, coloring, shape activities, fine motor skill things, lacing, etc. 

Oh and don't forget snack time between 9-9:30!!!  Or little miss will remind you!!!  :)
 Around 10-10:30 we start doing individual or paired lessons like math, reading, spelling, pre K specifics, and working with Michael.  I keep working with the kids as well as doing work phone calls and emails too.....depending on the day ;). 

HA!  Well pretty much each day is a crazy adventure because some days we spend a lot of time one on one with a child struggling.  One needing our time.  It is hard....often frustrating feeling, but then we are here for our children.  So we put one foot in front of  the other......and keep plugging along.  Today was definitely one of those days.  Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming....... 
 Somewhere in there then is an hour break for the kids....until lunch (some may do lessons and then go outside...some may go outside and I call them in when it is their turn).  We keep our lunch simple- PB&J, meat and cheese, sandwiches, roll ups, toasted, pizza on flat bread/tortilla, leftovers, etc. 

After lunch from 1-3:30 we do a quiet time rotation.  Home work (work books, Explode the Code, Wordly Wise, and others), writing assignment (something from a book, something we worked on earlier, or something off of pinterest- things like if you were to go on a dream vacation where would you go and what would you do), copy work (typically of scripture passage- in cursive for the olders, and printing for the youngers), Math (we do xtra math which is drill, and Teaching Textbooks for the olders, other math curriculum for the youngers), computer time- Switched On Schoolhouse or Jump Start, quiet play.  **Michael naps- sometimes ;).

This is my time to focus on devotions & work until dinner time.  Jason works during our homeschool and in the afternoons as well.  Our work times are varied.  There are times I am answering emails at Disney, or calling people on Saturdays.  I do home studies in the evenings or on weekends.  It all balances out and we are careful to make sure we keep time for our family.....just may not be traditional work times.   There are many advantages to it as well.  We get to work from home!!  We get to work together!!  And when it all hits the ceiling- we are both available to help. 
 3:30 is time for some free play- outside preferably and again snack time!!  Then 4:30 or 5 is chore time....then eating between 5:30-6.  Bed times are at 7 for the youngers and 8 for the olders.  (At age 8 they stay up until 8).  The oldest- get to stay up later at times depending.... 
 We have church Sunday mornings and everyone is up not later than 6am!!!!  I and the older children volunteer during the opposite service.  I volunteer with the Emerge (middle and high school students).  The older children help with children's programs.  Of course we are going to 3 services soon - so that will be different.  We plan on attending one service together as a family, go to "Sunday School" one service, and volunteering one service??   Jason typically once a month or so is a part of our church's worship team as a vocalist. 

We do small group on Sunday evenings. 
Tuesday nights we do Bible Study with our children. 
We have first Wednesday services, second Wednesday is Emerge Rallies, other Wednesday's are Emerge small groups.  We also have prayer times at noon on Wednesdays which we try to go to as often as possible.
I typically do couponing time on Wednesdays (1-2 hours depending), and shop on Thursdays.
Thursdays right now we are teaching Empowered To Connect.
First Saturdays are typically serving days where our church does specific projects.    Our kiddos do Wii nights, board and card game nights, and movies.  It all depends on timing and we just don't stress about it.

Fridays and Saturdays are date nights for us, as well as for us taking our kiddos out on occasion.  Important for sanity!!!  I also believe that whenever possible take at least some of the kids with you to run errands.   
 When do we go to bed......well on average 11.  There are definitely exceptions usually if there are we are up later.  Sometimes we just sleep in because we can....and we need to.  Typically Saturdays if I don't have to do a home study or if we aren't doing a volunteer project somewhere- we sleep in!!!  As you know what this really means is I set out a snack the night before- write a note to the kids to eat a piece of fruit, have a snack, and watch a movie----- so we can "relax" this morning. 
 We live a crazy life, but as most of  you know we go to Disney pretty much once a week...or to the beach...or to a park!  This is our Family Day!!!  I try not to work too much on this day if at all possible. 
 The pictures brought to you by vacation....yes.....there are still more!!!  The first pictures are from Iowa State Fair.  The corn fields are surrounding Wesley Woods love the Iowa scenery!  These last few pics are of our meeting with one of our families Mendy and Ryan and their children....including their youngest who we were excited walk with them on their adoption journey with Christian Adoption Consultants!!!  They came to the camp where our friends Deke and Su live (who also brought home their littlest man too through CAC).
It was fun to cook over the fire with new and old friends!!!  Enjoying the miracles of adoption and those fun memories :)!!!!