A Perfectly Flawed Puzzle

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Impatience, desired perfection and the lack of tolerance of noise, do not make for a beautifully connected puzzle. Actually, I am, in my opinion, the worst mother. Ever. Self doubts, too many days, cause me to wonder if the puzzling progression of daily life will get the best of me.

As an adoptive family, alcohol abuse and opiate addiction, along with a woman’s right to choose self gratification over a baby’s health, outline our daily struggles. Psychological and inherited differences etched deep on their DNA, sometimes grate on my very last nerve, and every single day, scare the bajeebers out of me.

As I’ve said before, I never dreamed that I would be psychologically able to mother 6…5 perfectly rough Dudes and 1 precious Princess. Noise, dirt and chaos are not wished for in my “Safe Place.” Full nights sleep, quiet mornings, perfectly lined books in height order, and sparkling white toilets are a distant memory of a life long ago.

It’s amazing to me how God, in His Heavenly warped sense of humor, and with mercy and grace, could piece one’s life together in a perfectly flawed puzzle, where all the pieces, though from different puzzles, still miraculously interlock.

If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be the matriarch of a family of 8, I would have laughed you right out of Appalachia. Speaking of Appalachia, who would have wagered that I would still be here. Even more surprising is that right now…this very noisy and chaotic day, I am content. Choices that were made for me 30 years ago have made my contented life as it is today. As hard as it was then, I’m so very grateful today.

So in all of my anxiousness, in all of my self doubt and impatience, the Puzzle Maker doesn’t need me to work out all the details. My job is to “do the next thing.” My placement in this simple yet chaotic puzzle, is to say “Yes!” My obedience is required, as He will work out all the frightening yet miraculously perfect details…one puzzle piece at a time.

The Grace of God and Cheese Quesadillas

I will not deny the fact that without the Grace of God and cheese quesadillas, my family would not make it. My life is busy, noisy, dirty, chaotic, expensive and scary…but so worth it! Sometimes in my busyness, I forget that it’s God’s grace that makes the overwhelming chaos, peaceful. His grace can shine thru the dirt of little boy faces and turn the terrifying into a glorious ending. Hopeless has no place when grace reminds me of the hope I have in Him.

In the middle of the chaos, the hands of time swing around to dinner time. Once again, despite the hope I have, dinner must be served. Every. Single. Day. Now my secret for survival is displayed for all to see. Cheese Quesadillas sit right up there, just slightly under the grace of God.
Some call my dinner time panic, a lack of planning, but I prefer to refer to it as resourcefulness. Everything tastes better in a tortilla. There are so many options for quesadillas…cheese, chicken, beef..and so many ways to decorate them…salsa…sour cream…

So now that the tortilla is out of the bag, you can imagine my desperation as all hope of a quiet day at home is dashed when I find the empty tortilla bag on the counter after a hungry boy’s midnight snack. A desperate race to the grocery store begins and ends with grace as the winner.

Experience has shown me that friends and enemies are made in the grocery store check out line. I’m not sure if it is the Hollywood tabloids or the chapstick and tic tacs that force strangers to step over the boundaries of propriety and ask the most personal questions. Although the memories of check out line conversations are many, I remember one tortilla run in particular. On this day, as the finish line was in sight to a particularly grueling grocery race, I struggled to entertain 2 preschoolers, a toddler, and an infant…not to mention $467 in diapers, wipes, and quesadilla supplies. The woman behind me watched with disdain as I maneuvered the heaping cart and 4 short people. At first I thought the tabloids were talking, but soon realized it was the woman, put out by the hurdles that prevented her from finishing her race. “I guess you’ve not figured out where babies come from…?” It took me about 6 seconds to turn from my load of humans and groceries to look her deep in the eyes; apparently too deep because her eyes wandered from my face to the floor. “Yes ma’am, I do.” At that moment, Sam’s tiny fingers found mine and I said in the sweetest, kid friendly, voice I could find, “This one came from two-timing dependency.” I touched Joe’s chubby cheeks and told her, “This one from abuse and neglect.” I kissed Doc on the forehead as I said “Addiction and hopelessness; and this precious baby, abandonment. By the Grace of God that’s not where they stayed.”

My response to her careless question was more than she could process, so she hurried away…to the line 3 checkouts away and 4 people deep. I’m not sure what surprised me more; the words that came from my mouth, the quiet children by my side, or the fact that she didn’t stick around to finish our intiment conversation.

Once I realized that she was not coming back, I continued rebounding groceries as they were tossed from the grocery cart to the conveyor belt. Halfway thru the scanning and bagging, the cashier stopped and said, “Some people really ought to mind their own business. Thank you for doing what my wife and I wanted to do but never did.” The tears slid down my cheeks as he said, “May the merciful God show her that without His Grace, we are nothing but broken pieces. God bless you sweet Momma.”

Not another word was spoken as my groceries were bagged and carted. Payment was made and I was on my way. Before I made it to the automatic door, I stopped and whispered to my precious, God given gifts, “I love you more than you will ever know. Now lets go get a cheese quesadilla.”

Seven

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Today, there were 7 beautiful babies at my house…7 happy, healthy and loved babies…4 playful boys and 3 princess girls…7 giggling, exploring, playing babies…7 hungry, squealing, crawling, running, eating babies.
Seven.
And now my heart is so overwhelmed; not in the sense of the amount of busyness, not in the aftermath of the volume of 7 excited voices…The quantity of laughter, squeals and noise is not the source of the heaviness I’m pondering now. Seven doesn’t cause me to stress or twitch uncontrollably. Seven is no match for me.
What tears at my heart is that these 7 will not be kissed by their Momma’s tonight. These seven will not be protected by their Daddy’s as they sleep.
These 7 are cared for, fed, rocked, kissed, protected and loved by another. The natural instincts of their Moms and Dads, have been wasted on selfish pleasures. The love of themselves out weighs the tender mercies of a parent that would do anything for their baby.
Now really, seven isn’t that large of a number. Teachers triple that number every single day and the number seven, compared to 400,00 is really minuet.
7<400,00. So why the comparison? These 7 are, or have been members of an exclusive club....Not in the sense of desirability, but in the actuality of neglect, abandonment and abuse. These seven, along with 400,00 others have been or are waiting in foster care. These 400,000+ precious lives are waiting. Waiting for a parent to choose them over themselves...Waiting for judges to rule in the child's best interest...Waiting for lawyers to finally present the evidence...Waiting for some imperfect humans to give them the perfect family...The perfect home. Waiting. Tonight, as I lie next to my sleeping husband, I think about these 7 and the 400,00 others. Thankfully, these seven loves that have stolen my heart, tonight, rest safely, peacefully. Their tummies are full. Their hair and toes are clean. They were rocked, kissed and hugged good night. Tonight they sleep peacefully as prayers surround them. Tonight the doors are locked and for one more night, these 7 have nothing to fear. Thankfully, 3 of these precious ones, will never remember the days of neglect...the nights of abuse...the fear of abandonment. My heart aches for the 4 still waiting permanency...The 400,000 waiting. Waiting. Now that I think about it any number of children waiting is too many. Seven is just my reality tonight.

Half Full

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It seems as though I think more on rainy days than sunny ones. Rain pours today and my thoughts do too. I’m thinking about something an adoptive parent and friend was asked…”Could you possibly love an adopted child as much as your biological child?”

So today as I ponder this, my thoughts bring me back to a few days after sweet, smiling Sam came to live with us. Sam was a pre-adoptive placement so we knew our choice to love Sam could be risky. We also knew that many factors had to fall into place and that it would be at least six months before his adoption could take place.

I remember so clearly those first few days getting to know Sam and realizing that our hearts could so easily be broken. I remember reading book after book to him and rocking him as I sang every “Jesus” song that I could think of. Sam was such an easy boy to fall in love with. He smiled like the sunshine and loved without limit. He was, and still is, a protector. He will fight “to the death” for one who holds his trust.

The memory is crystal clear of one night as we were cleaning up after dinner. The novelty of having a little one around the house was still very fresh; we treated him as a guest or a “new toy”.

Sam was 19 months old and did not have a tooth in his mouth, yet he could mash anything with his smiling gums and swallow it like a champ. We thought he was the cutest toddler there ever was.

On this particular night, one of our children asked, “What if they take him away? What if they don’t let him stay?”

There was so much more to his question! What he really wanted to know was “Is it okay to love him? What if it breaks my heart?”

I didn’t answer him right away. We all just thought about the possible endings to our adoption story.

As I was scooping the dinner remains into the trash I said, “What if we only fill his plate half-full? What if we only feed him half of what he needs to grow? What if we choose to only give him soft foods and liquids, and never let him taste the good stuff?”

I remember the boy child’s answer. He said “He will not grow. He will not grow into who he is supposed to be.”

Really? Our boy child got it! His innocent questions that night caused us to see that our half-full could not give Sam a life of half empty.

We had to choose to love him fully or we needed to get out right then.

That night we, Sam’s family, realized that we were in for the long haul. We knew that night, that he would get our love, completely and fully.

Our half full would not be his half empty.

Our choice to love Sam would not be based on anything other then our promise to each other to teach Sam how to love.

So to answer the question “Could you love an adopted child as much as your birth children.?”

We chose yes. Absolutely yes.

The Ride

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This is our story. It’s an action-packed, faith-led story of terror, excitement, frustration, encouragement, anticipation and love. We hope our journey from fostering to adoption encourages you to jump on board!

We crept up to the station neither of us knowing what to expect. After all, we had never been on a ride like this. It was hard to determine if the screams ahead of us were of terror or excitement. Nevertheless, we held onto each other a little tighter and moved forward.

I gazed into the faces of our fellow passengers as we inched forward…kind of like cattle being led to the end. Some were filled with excitement; anticipation of the ride ahead. The seasoned veterans were easy to spot out as they had either a look of confidence or a cloudy daze. They faced the ride with total and complete trust or with resigned determination.

The first time riders, like us, we’re also easy to pick out. Uncertainty. Fear. Excitement…Something unknown was drawing us and we walked on.

While inching forward in line, we heard screams coming from outside the station that almost made us turn and run…”Are you crazy?” one yelled. “I hope they’re paying you!” called another. Encouraging, gentle voices made their way to our ears over the cries of the doubters. “You can do this! How can we help? We love and support you!” These were the words that pushed us to board the train.

The screams on the track we’re getting closer; pulling us in. We tried not to look at the twisting track and the brightly painted drops and turns. We creaped a little closer as we clung to each other.

The last bend in the line brought us into perfect view of the first hill. An incline so tall it left us speechless; breathless. The train, ascending, was so full of emotions. Up, up it groaned as it’s riders were in for the ride of their life. Seeing the height of their journey, we wanted to turn; to run back to the comfort and safety we knew far from here… we couldn’t run. The screech of metal called us; the anticipation lured us and the encouraging words cheered us on.

The train screamed into the station and loads of relieved passengers scrambled out. The faces of fear were hard to seek out. Excitement lit their eyes and emotion fed their words… “Let’s go again! I’m going for the front car this time…” a few crazy ones screamed, as they raced for their place back in line.

We were next. The train was empty. Those behind us were waiting for us to take our seat in the unknown adventure. It would have been so easy to walk through; to step over and out; to run away from the unknown ride ahead. Instead, we fell into our seat. The safety harness cinched us in. There’s was no escaping. There was no turning back.

The train lurched out of the station. Up, up we jerked. Higher than we’d ever been. It seemed like an eternity until we reached the top. Higher and higher. A few brave ones threw up their arms. We held onto each other and cautiously looked over the edge. Up there you could see things you never wanted to see…We reached the top. There was nowhere to go except down. Down. Down. Halfway through the descent, we threw up our arms and screamed with the crowd. Up. Down. Twist. Turn. We rode on. Screaming, laughing, crying, smiling we raised our intertwined hands and rode on. Twisting, turning, lunging, jolting we rode on. The tunnels were dark but we passed through quickly to lighted, plunging hills that turned our insides out. We rode on. Left, right we hung on a little tighter. We knew the end was in sight.

Screeching Metal returned us to the station. If not for the harness, the ending jolt would have throw us out…kind of like Jonah being vomited on the shore. We were back. Safe. Together. The memories of terror were replaced with laughter. Clings of fear were forgotten and replaced with slaps of victory. Like the crowd before us, we stumbled out, making way for those behind.

We ran out of the station celebrating;  crying and laughing, but the screech of metal behind us has etched a track on our hearts. Gentle voices urge us to return to line… “We love and support you…” is all the encouragement we need.

So here we are, once again, in line for one of the most terrifying, exciting, frustrating and fulfilling, faith-led rides of our life. We are addicted to the adventure, lured by the anticipation and led by encouragement. Want to join us? We will do all we can to encourage you! Just beware…you might end up in line more than once!