you + me.

You are two years old. My mother always tells the story of the day I was born every year and tonight, as I rocked my one year old to sleep for the last time, I told you all about finding out you were Cooper, about waiting for you, about the moment you were finally in my arms.

Me: two years ago I was so tired, in so much pain, so ready to be over pregnancy. Before you I was physically stronger than I am now; two years later, I am more mentally and emotionally strong than I’ve ever been. You’ve shown me how to use emotion and empathy as a powerful source to drive my very existence. I have never been more confident of who I am, nor more apt to question every decision I make. I can not run as fast or bike as long, and my body does all kinds of weird things it never did before. But this body can comfort you when you’re sad, protect you when you’re scared, heal you when you fall, teach you about the world, and show you exactly how much I love you. Which is pretty strong after all.

You: People always ask me who you look more like, who you act more like, your dad or me. And you are unequivocally Cooper. Your personality is unraveling and is this marvel to discover every day. You are so smart- too smart for your own good sometimes. You argue with me over things like wearing shoes and you have way too many opinions for someone who is on their two-eve. You make silly faces to make me laugh, you give the sweetest affection when I least expect it. You tell stories and are testing your imagination, which I’m so excited to see blossom. When I have moments of feeling like the worst mom in the world, you sense it and give me the exact measure of hugs and “mo kisses” and wiping away tears that I need. You are favoring Daddy a bit these days, which brings out equal parts jealousy and beautiful redemption from my heart. This is a hard stage of your life, being a toddler, and I’ve asked so much of you by using these arms to help love another person a few months older, who wants everything you want the moment you want it, and treats you like an older brother. Sharing everything that matters to you in this world is hard and you have tackled it like a champ (most days).

Us: This has been a challenging few months as you explore this new season of life and as I try to understand parenting two kids in my new season of life. Lots of grace has been needed for both of us. But we are a team, and we’re getting through it. I love introducing the world to you and dream about all the things we will learn, the places we will travel, the things we will do. I can’t wait to discover more of who you are, my David Cooper. I miss every moment of the time I can’t get back, of you as a baby, and when you didn’t want to be independent with everything you do. But as much as I miss those moments are as eager as I am to see the next ones. I am so blessed to call you my son. Happy second birthday, sweet boy.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Found Things

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

There is a part of me that hopes someone clicked on this link and was quickly disappointed by the lack of information regarding a 90’s pioneer girl-power drama. For those that did, I’m sorry, and you may be excused.

For those that came here for the weirdly obscure and loosely structured metaphors, welcome home.

We are talking pretty seriously about moving to a small acreage on the outskirts of the metro, where we can have chickens, bees, massive gardens, maybe a couple goats. It’s got me in a tailspin of studying about mini farms, sustainable earth to table food production, food preservation, and using herbs medicinally by creating teas, tinctures and salves. I am addicted to research; I rarely do anything without analyzing all the possibilities and becoming a self-taught pro first.

Dreaming about owning land that will help us be less-dependent on grocery stores and a little more “off the grid” is a bit crunchy of me. But the more time I spend working with my hands to produce tastier and healthier opportunities for my family, the more I love it. I love the dream of living simply through our schedules and our nutrition.

If I’m being honest, though, this dream is not the only reason for the obsessive studying and planning of making it come to fruition. In this season of life, I don’t have a lot of control, and this is one thing I can focus my constantly running mind on so I don’t go crazy trying to control things I can’t.

There is a term in the foster care community called, “artificial twinning.” I learned about it recently, and it basically describes taking two children similar in age and forcing them into a sibling relationship. The results tend to be a lot of competition and struggle. I have learned about the negatives of this firsthand, three months too late. When we said yes to our first placement call, we thought it would be great because they would be great friends. Instead, they’re constantly fighting over wanting the exact same thing all the time.

A positive, however, is having a clear comparison of what a child looks like when they’ve been loved and well taken care of since conception versus not. I know where there are deficits and can clearly identify what areas we need to work on.

My struggle for control is in the positive. I want to fight for this kid so much more, than it seems, anyone else in the world does. When no one shows up for visits, or when a judge clearly explains to parents they are about to lose their kids and they STILL do nothing, when I see a behavior that ties to another tragic event in this short life that’s been undocumented, or when I have to beg to be in the loop on services this child needs for a chance to succeed in life. I just want to rage at the injustice that’s being doled to this little soul at such a young age. Nearly the exact same age as the little soul that has my husband’s eyes and my smile and both our hearts from the first moment we knew of his existence. The same age as our son, who has been loved, protected, nurtured and cared for since the beginning.

I want so badly for the world to understand how much God loves this kid, even when family doesn’t show they do. I want to question every person that claims they are pro-life but doesn’t fight for the lives in foster care. I want to scream that God knew this child before knit in their mother’s womb only to feel my screams fall on deaf ears.

Maybe it’s because I need a little less reminder of this child, and all these other children, being knit in their mother’s womb, and a little more reminder that the Lord will fight for you, you need only be still.

Because I don’t have control over the future of this little life that will most likely be out of my arms before the year is up. But God knows the future of this little life. He knows what He was doing when it was placed in my arms to begin with. And I need to trust in the end, He will fight for every injustice and provide every opportunity, if only I trust in Him and be still.

So I dream of protecting and nurturing land, watching plants and animals grow to further nurture my family and the little lives that join it for only a season. If you ever want to watch scripture come to life, grow a garden. Learn about pruning and weeding and good soil and how little you have to do with the process of creating life and the ecosystem that supports it. You plant the seed and water, but God makes it grow into food and medicine and beauty. You need only be still.

Leave a comment

Filed under Found Things

To be known.

Today we got a placement call for a five day old baby coming out of the NICU. He was there because at birth, he and mom tested positive for meth. He showed no withdrawal symptoms and had nurses training him on a good sleep and feeding schedule. Part of me jumped at the opportunity to have a new baby in the house; I miss the new baby phase and I’m definitely not done with babies in this house. But I had no idea if my daycare could take a baby that fresh, I had no idea if I could convince Brian of taking on another placement, and I didn’t want to waste time finding this baby a home on me trying to get these pieces together. I said no, regretfully, and asked if I could have his name so I could pray for him. And of all the things the placement worker told me about this baby, the response was the most heartbreaking: “his name is Baby Boy. He doesn’t have a name.”

I got off the phone and took a walk, which I do every time we get a placement call, so I can pray over the child and help take a moment to realign my mind. Placement calls always mess me up a bit- there’s so much hurt on so many children and I can’t help them all, but the guilt still exists. I call Brian and tell him the story, and I start to cry when I tell him the baby doesn’t have a name. I don’t know why this affected me so much. Maybe it’s because Cooper’s name was written on my heart for years before it appeared on a birth certificate. Maybe it’s because we all want to just be known in this world, and his first days in this world, he is anonymous, unidentified, unknown.

But God knows his name. God knows his heart. God knows the intricacies of his soul more intimately than any name.

I think one of the more difficult things I’ve encountered in this journey is understanding the minds of my baby mamas. I watched this video today about a dog who kept escaping the safety of her new rescue owners every day, crossing a busy highway and dangerous areas, only to return later and then repeat. They followed the dog to discover she left every day to make sure she could nurse the puppies that hadn’t yet been rescued from an abandoned farm. It was this natural thing for the dog to just risk everything to make sure her babies were taken care of. I struggle with understanding how a mom would NOT love her baby that much.

Obviously circumstances are much more nuanced than that. I have a great example and have lived a pretty privileged life, and that’s how it’s easy for me to understand how to be a mom. Drugs, abuse, mental health, poverty- these are all things that would answer how loving a child sometimes isn’t enough.

Tomorrow we go to court to hear the case for this exact situation we’re in. And I’m nervous. I’m nervous to see the parents and to hear what the judge decides, and to see the parents after I hear what the judge decides. I’m nervous because I know I probably won’t get to see the end of the story for this life I’ve been entrusted with. I pray that it’s filled with love and everything I would give to my son. I pray that this is just a blip in a little life, not something that destroys a human from the inside out as they become an adult. I just want someone to KNOW this child, to LOVE this child, at least as much as I have, as much as I love my child. Whoever that person may be.

This is the heartache I didn’t prepare for. I prepared to love and see children leave to go home. I can deal with my heart breaking. What I didn’t prepare for was this need to keep a little heart from breaking, and not being confident that won’t happen.

The need is great, and being in the actual trenches of the mission field is a lot harder than missions trips to paint churches and do service projects in exotic locations, like I’d known up until this point. But there’s this distinct picture God has painted of how exactly a loving adult can heal a child and protect them in their adult life, even if that adult is no longer in their life. An adult can look back in hindsight and identify specific people who loved them and knew their heart as a child, and can create a structure of resilience from those memories. It’s science. So this mission we’re doing is hard and it doesn’t always feel like anything is coming from it, but it’s important and life-changing. The business of being possibly the only person who knows and desires to know a heart can change a heart forever.

Leave a comment

Filed under Found Things

This is the why.

I’ve talked a little about why I’ve felt so drawn to foster care. It’s something we considered in growing our family for years; the desire to love other children as much as I love Cooper; and because it’s pretty clear what God thinks about loving the orphans and innocents.

However, I would say if there is one moment that completely altered my future and this heart for foster care, it would be the moment my mother trapped me in a bathroom and sat on me.

It’s a running joke between us now, but it certainly wasn’t funny at the time. I was about 12 years old and my parents were getting a divorce. I was never the kid who believed I broke up mom and dad; in fact, when they would tell me it was nothing I did wrong, I would bite back, “I know. You guys are the ones who screwed everything up, I’m not taking the blame for it!” I was angry, bitter, hurt, pubescent and the only one of the children old enough to fully grasp what was going on at the time. The divorce was not easy or happy, either. It was messy and I was often caught in the middle of two adults while being caught in the middle of childhood and adulthood.

While I was content firing my wrath fueled by heartbreak and hormones and confusion at just about any adult in my family, including my dad and my grandparents, it was my mom that got most of it. Because she was there and I subconsciously knew she wouldn’t ever leave me or hate me.

This subconscious action of firing my rage only at people I knew would never leave plays a big role in the rest of my life, including how I knew Brian was the one for me. But that’s another story for another day.

I don’t remember specifically what I was so angry about that night, but I was screaming at her from the top of my lungs. I was ready to run away or do any number of things to make her feel like I felt. She somehow caught me in the bathroom and blocked the door so I was trapped. Being unable to escape only furthered my rage. I tried every method I could think of to get out, all the while sobbing and screaming, until she had her arms around me and I was pinned to the wall on the ground with her sitting on me. She was relatively calm, even through tears and working through my anger, and the theme of her words was clear: there is nowhere you can go, there is nothing you can say, there is nothing you can do that will make me stop loving you.

That’s it.

Before we started foster care classes, my mom asked me why we were doing this.

“What if you get a bad kid, like what if they try to set your house on fire or something?”

And I told her it was because those “bad kids” just need someone to lock them in a bathroom and sit on them.

Which is to say they need someone who loves them so much that even though that someone may be going through their own personal hell, it doesn’t pale in comparison to the fire of their love for that kid.

Because see, for each person that calls us saints, or selfless or generous for taking on foster care, I’ve got a hundred stories about how fiercely I’ve been loved, even when I didn’t deserve it. The only thing that separates me from those “bad kids” is someone telling me over and over again that there is nowhere you can go, nothing you can say, and nothing you can do that will make me stop loving you.

This woman worked her tail off to make sure we had every opportunity that every other kid got. She wore clothes until they came BACK in style a second time so we could have new clothes regularly. She constantly set aside her own needs and her own pain to try to take away every pain she possibly could from her children. I can only imagine how difficult and lonely this time in her life must have been. She is absolutely why I am a strong, opinionated, determined, feminist woman. Not because she necessarily is determined or feminist (though I’m definitely giving her strong and opinionated), but because she has laid her life down so that my life could be set up to freely become those things. This woman loved me like Jesus before she even knew what that meant.

I don’t know what the future holds for us in this process. I don’t know if the plan involves adoption or more biological kids or what ages/races/stages we are in for, but they were all taken out of their homes because they weren’t taken care of as they should be. What I do know is every kid is just one unconditional love away from being labeled a “good kid” or a “bad kid” and I have a flawed, imperfect, but still absolutely incredible teacher in how to be just that.

1 Comment

Filed under Found Things

This is the mission.

We are three weeks in to our foster care classes and we’ve got this week off for the holiday.  We’ve had mountains of paperwork asking a wide range of questions from where are the smoke alarms in our house to what were the worst memories of your childhood and how have you processed them as an adult. We’ve had one homestudy  visit so far and have a list of things to do to get licensed, including locking up all paint, chemical cleaners, prescription medicines and exposed wires.

We keep getting asked how the process is going and it’s all much more complicated than I can so simply answer. Every week we leave our perfect little boy with a sitter and spend three hours learning how to become professional tragedy managers for children who’ve never been given the love, protection and opportunities that Cooper is given daily. We hear stories about real-life cases and analyze plans of how to best care for these children. We practice thinking like parents whose children have been taken away and like children who’ve been ripped from everything they know (for better or worse) and dropped into a stranger’s house. All of the things we try to protect Cooper from as his parents, heartache and hunger and abuse and people out to hurt him, we now have to learn how to work through the aftermath of those exact events in children we know almost nothing about.

So we can’t say it’s going great. In a perfect world there would be no need for foster care because children would be loved exactly as they should be loved. But in this world, there are unspeakable horrors put on innocent children who grow into adults that pass on what they’ve learned. So while we can’t simply exclaim our excitement as if we were expecting children in a more traditional manner, I’ve never felt more like this is our mission field and we’re preparing for battle.

We’ve fielded lots of questions, so I thought I try to cover as much ground as possible to give some answers and insight. Questions we’re commonly asked:

1. Don’t you want any more kids of your own?

From the moment Cooper took his first breath, I knew I did not love him because he came from my body. I love him because he came from my soul. So while I don’t entirely know God’s plan for our family, I know it is not confined to DNA or even permanency. I imagine many pieces of my soul will be all over the world before I’m done in this life.

2. What if you get a really bad kid?

I serve the Creator of the stars and this God, knowing every unholy thought that’s passed between my ears, chose to descend His throne and rescue this bad kid. If He can do that for us, this is a small thing we can do for them. We’ve been learning a lot about looking at kids not as problems, but as children having needs that aren’t being met. A child that’s acting out is expressing some major grief the only way they know how.

I’m not saying this to make me look great. I’m partially saying it so when things are terrible and I want to give up, this will be here, ready to kick me in the butt. I’m partially saying this so you will see what I see. And I’m partially saying it so you will help me see it when I’m dealing with phone calls from principals or kids that scream how much they hate me. I’m not saying it will be the easiest form of parenting, and I’m going to need help.

3. How could you possibly give them back after you got them? I would be way too heartbroken.

Listen. There’s risk in every great decision you make. Buy a car, you risk a car accident. Get married, you risk divorce. Your house could burn, you could lose your job. You could lose your baby.

We can’t base our decisions on the chance for heartbreak. Life is only this beautiful because of the risk for heartbreak. Moreover, we have a chance to share the immense amount of love we’ve been filled with from our people to a little person or two. Our hearts can take this much more than a little heart can take us not risking heartbreak. We know we’re jumping in to some really hard stuff in our future, and we’re choosing it because we’re called to do some hard stuff in our lives. This isn’t just some step to check off for which we haven’t weighed the risks. This is the mission.

I’m thankful to be surrounded by people whose hearts have been set on missions similar to mine but also those with missions different than mine. This newly emotional me can’t handle the weight of every flavor of brokenness in the world and sometimes when I try I am quickly crushed. But I have many friends and family members who have been called to love refugees, or the homeless, or those with medical diagnoses, or who fight against abortion or sex trafficking. If you don’t feel called to foster care, that’s fine. I’m not asking everyone to get on board with my mission. But you only have this one life, and it would be terrible to waste it all on yourself. Find your mission and change the world with it.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Found Things

Step Two.

Nearly five years ago, I wrote a blog entitled Step One.

Five years ago. A lot of life has happened since then. The day after writing it, I found out I was pregnant. Shortly after I found out I was pregnant, I heard that heartbeat. And then I didn’t hear that heartbeat. And my world crumbled.

If I’m being honest, even when I thought I had emotionally healed from my second miscarriage, it still was a big scar that I would often touch absentmindedly. I don’t think I could fully handle the weight of all of it, so I just stopped. And I think God did an amazing work on me in that season of life, because He knew the end of the story and what I needed to do to get there.

When Cooper came along, everything became infinitely more complicated. Pregnancy was not just hard, it was terrifying. I believed the only hope for this child’s survival was to get him out of my body, the body that kills babies. And then he was born and within a day, was whisked to the NICU. This boy burst my heart like I envision the galaxy exploding into existence, like that moment in the Wizard of Oz where everything that was gray turns to color. Everything that was dark was suddenly so intricately and precisely beautiful. I’m sure Cooper’s doctor had no idea to do with the heaping pile of mother in the corner, crying over this child that in comparison to the other children in that NICU, was in perfect health, just needing a little observation. He didn’t know I was sobbing for the loss I’d already experienced and how I would survive a black hole in this brilliant new galaxy of mine.

It didn’t take long for me to realize there are children in the world who aren’t as loved as fiercely as I love Cooper. And that idea was heartbreaking. Instead of a biological child diminishing my desire to adopt, it ignited it. I have the power to love someone like God does as much as I possibly can, no matter how damaged or hurting or unloved they’ve been.

Our plan was to wait until Brian graduates in the spring and then we’d start training for foster classes. But then Brian’s class was cancelled; his graduation postponed. I was disappointed. Brian suggested we just do classes now.

img_4869

So here we are. Step Two. Fingerprints inked, backgrounds checked, classes enrolled. We start in one week.

Ironically, the day we got the phone call that we were accepted into the foster care classes, I was feeling like a pretty worthless mom. Motherhood is hard and messy, and I’m not just talking spit up and diaper changes. It’s constantly exposing who you are when someone won’t stop crying and you’re out of solutions. It’s constantly wondering if you’re doing the right thing when just a few years before you were so confident. It’s being challenged by all these emotions that are foreign and hard to fully understand and I had child who was in all kinds of pain and sick and I felt like a failure as a mom. And then someone calls and asks me to take the next step in becoming another human’s mom.

Grace is a beautiful kind of thing. As quickly as I started freaking out wondering how I could possibly make this work adding more chaos and stress to the pile, I realized I was believing lies. I had been so confident this was my path and then I actually begin to walk it and I immediately have a force trying to pull me off.

That’s a pretty clear sign we’re going the right way.

Today Cooper is healthier and full of affection. He takes such care of my heart when I need it.

We know it’s going to be hard. The stories we’ve heard about children in the foster care system is nothing short of heartcrushing. We live in such a broken world where babies are brutalized and unloved, more often than not because their parents were also brutalized, unloved, and don’t know better than what they already know. It’s a cycle of brokenness and sin, and we have the power to intervene and break that cycle.

I don’t fully know what this looks like. In the process, you can be as specific as the age, the race, the eye color, the disposition of the child. They just have that great of a need that you can be picky. I don’t know that I want to be that picky. We know we want to make sure any children that come in to our house wouldn’t be susceptible to harming Cooper. We want to challenge him to love people hard, but I don’t want to hurt him physically or emotionally in the process.

We don’t really know what things like childcare, school, all that stuff will look like. In our experience, any time we’ve made specific plans like that, God gently corrects us to remind who is in control.

So the biggest plan is to trust God has a plan. And He’s going to put us in front of whoever He wants us to be in front of for as long as He wants us to. We know we’ll probably experience some big heartbreak and big growth. And in that amount of time, however long God gives us with them, we will love that whoever with everything we’ve got so that child will know, at least once, what it’s like to be loved as fiercely as we love our child.

1 Comment

Filed under Found Things

Feelings and other things I hate.

On nearly a daily basis, I’m asked some variation of how I like parenthood or how I like my baby. Usually I respond something like, “It’s great. I’m a fan.” Maybe I’ll add a joke about how I like him and we’re going to keep him. I’m not good at sharing the depths of my heart in a conversation that was more intended for small talk about the weather. Let’s be real: I’m not good at sharing the depths of my heart even in situations that call for it. Because that answer isn’t the whole truth.

How do I explain to a random person the sense of euphoria I get when this bite-sized human grabs all of my hair he can fit in his tiny fists and yanks it toward his head so he can drool all over my chin with a giggling open mouth for his interpretation of a kiss?

The idea that someone who really can’t offer me much of anything bringing me so much joy is a little outlandish. But there he is. Doing the simplest thing like grasping a toy and I’m enraptured. I’m beaming with pride and I’ve become “that mom” who tells really boring stories about her kid because to her, they are THRILLING. Words do not do justice in describing how I feel when watching Brian play on the floor with our baby. It’s intense. And I don’t really get it.

Feelings are mostly new to me. I had spent a good measure of my life shielding myself from feelings that were used as weapons against me until the shield became my world. It was an opaque perspective of all the people around me; distorted and not quite sharp enough to be full reality. Becoming a mom was that moment in Wizard of Oz when everything turns technicolor; the view instantly became sharp and more colorful than I could ever have imagined.

It wasn’t all beautiful and full of bright colors; it’s new and sometimes scary and not unlike what my kid experiences discovering this life. I find myself aching for the poor, the refugees, the orphans in a way I could never even comprehend before. There’s so much hurt in this world that I can get overwhelmed with anguish. I regularly look at the people in my life who have always lived in this technicolor world and ask them how they even bare it. Where I used to think emotional and overly-compassionate people were weak, I now find them to be more brave than the rest of us. They face this world in all its hurt and sorrow and still see the beautiful bright colors while I had always hid behind a shield.

It’s a process, discovering this new place. I use this metaphor in my daily life as I try to explain my frustrations. Sometimes I feel like I’m in a foreign country and I’m starting to learn the language, but there are still barriers. Brian was always so good at understanding how non-mom Megan felt because there wasn’t that many options to choose from on the emotion menu. But mom Megan isn’t even sure what some of these new feelings are, so the best I can explain it to him is having a language barrier and how do you say, “I think I might be hungry,” in Feelings language?

If I stare at my boy long enough, I’ll start crying. If I watch a show and the main character’s loved one dies, I’ll start crying. If I see a video of a soldier surprising their family with their return, it’s game over before the reveal.

I’m sure most of the people who have dealt with me and my emotionally stunted responses over the years are rolling over this. That Megan. She’s ridiculous. Welcome to the real world. It’s about dang time.

I was always repulsed by people who responded with their emotions, because Jesus used logic- his brain, not his heart. But the reality is he used both. To be only one or the other would make him fallible and logic does not always trump emotion. If that were true, logic would state if someone accuses you of being the savior, you show them all your power to shut down any argument. Logic would not go to the cross for all of humanity. The brain says save yourself, the heart says save others.

I am not yet fully immersed and fluent in this new place, but I’m learning. I doubt anyone would yet accuse me of being emotional. The result has mostly prompted me to action- I have a much greater fire to fight for those unable and love people aggressively. It’s a response of deciding to be brave. I’m choosing to set down my shield and step out into this world, no matter how scary it might be. Because it’s also pretty incredible too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Found Things