A Story of Adoption

I grew up always knowing I came from another mommy's tummy. I was told that I was my parents' special gift, and there was a lady named Catherine out there somewhere, who kissed me goodbye the day I was born. 

She was 19, fragile in the wake of her parents’ divorce and the unreciprocated love of the man she felt deeply for, who left town to study abroad. When another came along and pressured her to sleep with him, she thought he could give the affection she craved. She traded her virginity for the hope of genuine love, but what she got in return was the news she was pregnant.

Like most teenagers, Catherine was unready and unable to raise a child. She was still in school and had no committed partner to share the responsibility of providing for a baby. The only financial support she received was my biological father’s offer to pay for the abortion.

With no one to turn to, Catherine sought guidance from a crisis pregnancy center, where her counselors educated her about fetal development. She began to see a new story that God was writing for her if she chose to read it. As she turned each page one day at a time, she felt convicted that there was a new soul growing inside her and decided to carry the pregnancy to term.

Week after week, people poured into Catherine’s life who showed her the everlasting love and care she lacked belief in. Friends became like family. The man she loved and thought was uninterested returned from Europe and pursued a relationship with her despite the pregnancy. She found a couple struggling to add a second child to their family, and she committed to bless them with her baby.

While I grew up in a home of privilege and stability, Catherine was left to piece together the remains from leaving the delivery room with an empty womb and empty arms. She slept with my unwashed hospital blankets and tiny hat for a year after I was born and would leak milk for weeks at the sound of an infant's cry. There was no regret in her heart, but there was certainly pain all over for a long time.

When I turned eight years old, I asked my parents if my birth mom had left anything for me. That day I received a small Bible covered in white lace, with my name, "Lisa Marie," embroidered on the front. They also gave me a poem that had been written on a red paper heart wreath, like a Valentine. These gifts were from the woman who allowed me a life, and they became my precious treasures.

From then on, Catherine and I began to write letters. She would send me a birthday card each year, and I would write a thank you note in reply, updating her on my hobbies and interests. I learned that she was happily married to the man she loved, and they had four beautiful children of their own. I loved it when she would send me their family photos; I would study each of their faces to find any resemblance between us. We stayed in communication like this until the summer I turned eighteen, when I met her in person for the first time.

I would say our first time meeting was surreal, but really, it was just like catching up with a close friend I hadn't seen in a while. Catherine was always so intentional and transparent with me; I never doubted her love. Simply knowing that she sacrificed her body and emotions for my sake is one of the greatest ways I have ever been loved. 

If there is any area of my past that revealed my life has value and purpose, it is the way the Lord placed me into the family He knew was best for me all along. Jesus’ evident hand in bringing me home has led me to want His fingerprints to continue to saturate my life forever. He knew I needed the late-night "meaning of life" discussions I would have with my dad, the professor of theology. He knew that with my predisposition to fall into anxiety, I needed the grounded wisdom of my mom, a woman who never lets fear overtake her. He knew I needed the relationship and example of an older sister who has taught me what it looks like to be loyal, sincere and perseverant. He knew I needed to witness the radical generosity displayed by my grandparents, who invested in people and gave so freely. And He knew they all needed me too.

If I wasn't adopted, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to go to college in San Diego, where I met my husband, whose devotion and friendship are the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. We wouldn’t have our son, who is the most tangible joy in our lives. There is nothing about being adopted that is sad or less than perfect in my eyes. This wasn’t the backup plan or a lucky turn of events; this was the way my story was written from the beginning. The redeeming path the Lord paved for Catherine was not easy, it was not painless, it was not understood or condoned by most of the people around her at the time. But she followed it, and for this I am eternally grateful.

There is the bond of flesh and blood, and then there is something deeper that makes a mother. What being an adopted daughter has shown me is that a mother’s face is not a reflection of hereditary likeness to her children, but of God’s love, sacrifice, mercy, and faithfulness. Romans 8:12 says, “You have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” Knowing our identities as heirs with Christ has freed my husband and I from the idea that our family should be filled with exclusively biological children. It gives us the peace that God will paint a beautiful picture over our mistakes if we allow Him to use our lives as a canvas. We are free because we can be still and trust. We are free because we've been adopted.

 

The Breath of Life; the Posture of a Child

Sometimes being a mom feels like pushing an enormous, dirty tire up an insufferably steep hill. The weeks churn along as you fight to keep the tire above you, repeatedly losing ground and then gaining it back with each mighty heave forward, which lets you catch your breath until you are on the brink of being trampled again. Then one day you realize that the wheel has really been tumbling downward all along, and you suddenly turn around to chase after it - frantically. Time is a sentimental mama’s worst enemy, and motherhood is a series of emotions that are perpetually contradicting one another. The stresses pile high over a present struggle that always passes so soon and then too soon. The hours, even the minutes, of filling a child's afternoon can tick slower than the clock in an eighth grader's schoolroom, and yet each stage of my tiny son's life has vanished as a vapor. In the green days of our existence together, my world was consumed with milk - pumping it, leaking it, squeezing it, even silently cursing it…until one day our nursing communion ended, and all that remained were phantom pins and needles in my chest. And the recent notion of possibly trying to add a second baby to our family has made it seem as though I’ll never catch up to my toddler happily rolling down that hill.

As mothers, we are constantly moving - bending our bodies and spirits into new spaces that once never existed in our realm of reality. We learn to breathe again in these new positions as if practicing yoga, asking ourselves, are we open to the challenge and the change? Are our feet firmly planted? What is our intention for this hour, this day, this lifetime? And maybe the most daunting thought of all, are we balanced? Do we give enough to every other aspect of our lives that pulls at each different part of us simultaneously? Maybe not always, maybe never without struggle, but we continue our practice with a righteous vigilance, striving to shift from one new stage to the next as a seasoned yogi flows through a vinyasa sequence. She is mindful of every moment, aware of the discomfort, breathing deep from  asana to asana, ever reveling in the present with awe and thankfulness for the goodness right in front of her. When gravity pulls on her and tries to cripple her strength, she must focus in, locking her eyes on a singular steady object fixed before her.

For me, it is my faith that keeps my feet from losing their grip and keeps my eyes from wandering. Jesus is my solid rock, my firm foundation, the anchor of my soul. When my body is weak and my heart is heavy, the love of Christ is unwavering. He whispers, “Be still, and know that I am God” into the depths of my being. For when I listen to His words, I can no longer stay seated in my anger, selfishness or discontent. There is something about the presence of Christ that draws out even the most justifiable grievances and replaces them with a call to reconciliation and a new heart that beats thankfulness. Perhaps this is why He is called the Prince of Peace.

Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” I pray that every day I have the humility to fall to my face in a child’s pose, sinking my knees deeper into this truth. I pray I allow my son to see the strength that is within me only through bowing before and crying out to one who holds together all life and time.

For it is not our performance, but the posture of our hearts that will sit within the memories of our children. Therefore we can rise up, we can bend down, we can be stretched, we can fall over, we can improve, we can stand firm and unshakeable, we can teach others, we can be taught. We can approach our role as parents, teachers and counselors with intention, purpose and self-control. We can inhale truth and exhale self-doubt. We inhale gratitude and exhale self-pity. And we can inhale Christ, exhaling ‘self’ altogether, and drink the most freeing breath of all.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart by acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

This article was featured on The Village Magazine 11/07/2016

Travel >> Catalina Island

Last month my awesome in-laws treated our family to a fun weekend on Catalina Island! We took the ferry out of Dana Point and stayed at a gorgeous three-bedroom condo in Hamilton Cove. Zanden loved playing at Descanso Beach and running around the mini golf course. We even got to have a double date of dinner and karaoke with my sister-in-law and her boyfriend. Note to self: you DO need a carseat for a golf cart, so next time we will be bringing ours instead of renting one last minute out of desparation!

Zanden Grows >> 18 Months

Zanden Guy!! You are halfway between one and two! 18 months, spunky and emotional...you wear yourself out with high highs and low lows but are still the happiest little person I know. You are down to one nap a day and sleep 12 hours at night. You are a great helper and take your jobs of feeding Khaleesi, throwing away trash, vacuuming, and mowing our nonexistent lawn very seriously. When you're not hard at work, you love scribbling, snapping your fingers to music, feeding your baby dolls, reading books, going down slides head-first, feeding the ducks with Grandma, and of course playing in dirt holes and cardboard boxes. Right now you're obsessed with 'tuck' [trucks], 'pum-pah' [pumpkins], and 'toe' [toast]. You can't stand being confined or strapped into anything, which means our babywearing days are nearing their end *tears*. Lately we love going to the safari park, the library, mommy and me preschool, Mops, Legoland, open gym, and park play dates with your adorable toddler pals. Every stage is my favorite stage, though they each vanish too fast, and time is overstaying her welcome. Baby boy, please never forget my love, never doubt your worth, never stop sharing your beautiful spirit. I love you.

The Village Magazine Article #1: Talents and Beliefs

Last month I experienced one of those weeks where mama-hood was a lot more exhausting than it was inspiring. My 16-month-old got Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (a mild case), which transferred more harshly to my body and manifested in painful physical sores. It was the first week of fall, and our calendar was packed with new toddler classes, play dates, workout sessions and a much anticipated moms night…all scratched out and replaced with lying nauseous on the floor while my son jumped on me and shoved books into my lap for hours. 

While housebound and feverish, I threw an epic pity party, hosted by the fact that moms don’t get sick days off like my 'lucky' working husband does. The discontent spread like a virus…my husband’s career accomplishments continue to be praised daily and compensated weekly; my labor is unseen and unpaid. I am one of many, many 'good moms' out there and there is nothing that makes my mothering special. Parenting is a selfish endeavor anyways; after all, no one forced me to further populate the earth with my offspring. Lies are easy to believe in loneliness. 

I turned to 1 Corinthians and was struck by Paul’s words, “What do you have that you did not receive?”

Is there nothing more humbling and true? With one sentence my vision was corrected, my heart examined. My mindset pivoted from an ill-perceived injustice to a reflection on what I really have: a loving husband who sacrifices his personal, social and family time to provide enough so that I can be our son's constant teacher. A little boy whose bright eyes and unbridled smile make the blood dance through my veins. A beautiful home in a coveted city filled with people with whom to share this life. Creative outlets that bring my soul joy. And I am not only filled with endless gratitude for every undeserved blessing, but through faith I acknowledge that they were given...and thank the giver. For there is no earthly belonging, no cherished friendship, no personal talent nor skill, no sacred family moment, no goodness in my life that was not carefully placed there from heaven. Not even one sip of air I've drunk that was not poured into the sky just for me by the maker and sustainer of all things. A truth for the masses and no less a truth for me. When I am approaching the second hour of folding laundry…Jesus sees. When I am reading ‘Goodnight Moon’ for the tenth time in a single day…He listens. When I lose patience and indulge in the luxury of self-pity…he forgives. The fragrance of the knowledge of Christ has filled our home with an aroma of peace, even when the work is banal and the days are unending. 

My family’s beliefs, rooted in evidence and watered by faith, have given us the authority to parent our children with a love beyond affectionate feeling. To raise up our babies to accept their divine value even when the world tells them that worth must be earned and peer-reviewed. To gift the generation to come with the heritage of a faithful marriage. To discipline and guide these delicate hearts and minds out of love, knowing even our precious children are bent to break just like us. 

The Lord says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” Today I will choose to live set apart from the woman the world wants me to be or says I have the right to be and instead pray for my happiness to be defined by a joyful obedience. I will not look for attention elsewhere, but I will be loyal to the one that God was faithful to give me. I will not ‘wing it’ and hope for the best, but I will search for wisdom. I will not settle for survival, but I will nourish my own desires and needs. I will not be blown away with the sands of lies but planted in good soil where truth and kindness grow. And when the pressure for perfect fruit mounts high upon my branches, I will remain grounded in His perfect grace instead.

I am ~mother~ and with this title I am both connected under a vast sisterhood and made perfectly unique. And this is the great reward God has for us mothers - that we are ~daughter~ too...an identity and that gives us all affirmation of individual worth and our eternal oneness as adopted children. A blessed assurance enough for me.

 This article was featured on The Village Magazine on 10/15/2016.