Why I love my birthday…

I feel a little bit like a 2nd grader writing that title.

But, being born in December I have always had a stressful relationship with my birthday. I’ve even played with the idea of moving it 6 months so that I get presents twice a year, but that idea was a non starter.

I’ve spent my fair share of birthdays at Christmas parties, or taking final exams. I’ve gotten more than a few birthday/Christmas presents over the years. Combine these things with a childhood spent caring WAY too much what other people thought of me, and an obsession with being “cool” and it meant that most birthdays were a mix of both excitement…and disappointment.

For example…one year, my mom used those trick candles on my cake that you blow out and they re-light. I’m sure she thought they’d be funny…but they caused me so much anxiety that in a moment of panic I ended up spitting on my cake just to get them out. I was like 9 or 10 but I still remember that feeling…it felt like everyone was laughing at me for being so dumb that I couldn’t put them out…but also being mortified because I had ruined the cake for everyone.

While childhood birthdays were stressful, adult birthdays were a full on anxiety inducer. Suddenly I was far from home and no one was obligated to celebrate me on my special day. Should I tell people my birthday was coming? Would people plan something for me or should I? Did the people I called friends even love me enough to take time during finals week to acknowledge my birth? Would anyone buy me presents?

There was this one year my sweet cousin drove to campus to spend my birthday with me and make me feel special….which it totally did…and it was good she came up, because she ended up having to take me to the hospital where I would spend the next week fighting off a double kidney infection.

So yeah, the birthday and me have had a bit of a love hate relationship…and honestly while I don’t mind at all getting older…I had come to dread my birthdays a bit.

And then one year things changed.

On December 13th 2013 Ian and I sat in a courtroom and listened as Andrew’s dying mother surrendered her parental rights, making the way for us to adopt him. She was so sick at this point she couldn’t make it to the courthouse and she had to call in to make her statement. We listened over the speakerphone as she shared why she was making the choice, and why she had chosen us.

Less than a month later she had left this earth to be with her Savior.

I remember sitting in that courtroom…my mind swimming with thoughts of sadness and gratitude and an overwhelming sense that this woman was giving me not just my greatest birthday present ever…but the thing her heart treasured the most.

It was beautifully awful and the most painfully joyous thing to experience. To be trusted this much…with something so precious…but to know that loss was the thing paving the way for me to receive this gift.

4 years later we were sitting in the middle of the week that rocked our world. It had been a few days since we had found out about the pregnant young lady that wanted to know if we might adopt her baby, and we hadn’t shared anything with Andrew yet because we didn’t want to get him excited until we knew for sure. Then we got the text “I’m due the 17th.

4 days away

So last year on my birthday we told Andrew he might be a big brother…in 4 days. We spent the day getting fingerprints and background checks and filling out paperwork. We walked around Target staring at bottles and car seats and diapers unable to make any sort of decision we were so overwhelmed. We went to dinner with friends…most of which had no idea what was happening…and had quite, secret conversations with those that did.

Last year’s birthday was another jumble of emotions; excitement, joy, fear, uncertainty, grief. It was a day where I found myself deeply aware of the incredible calling placed on my life…to be mom, in the absence of mom.

This year, my birthday feels different. I’m not worried about how we’re going to celebrate, or who will show up. I don’t care about the gifts or the cake. I have just found myself reflecting on this life, on this family I’ve been given, on the children I’ve been entrusted with.

Before, I loved my birthday because of gifts and parties and things being all about me…but now I love my birthday because it’s this reminder that in an instant life can change. Grief can turn to joy, fear to peace, and loss to overwhelming blessing.

This year has been hard, and it’s easy to remember that, to remember the hard. But looking towards my birthday this year has brought me so much joy as I remember two of the greatest gifts I have ever received.

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Stuck on Saturday

Last week was a hard one for me! I came up against something I wasn’t prepared for, a sudden grief that caught me by surprise and affected me in ways I wasn’t really prepared for.

As I sat in Good Friday service feeling the pain of my own grief, my heart began to understand in new and deeper ways the good in Good Friday, I began to learn a lesson about hope.

What sadness the disciples must have felt, what overwhelming grief Mary had to have experienced as she watched her son upon that cross. But we call it good, because that is what came of it, the goodest good…there ever was…but that Friday…I am confident…it did not feel good.

How awful that Saturday must have been. How painful. How confusing. To think of Mary, who KNEW Jesus was the Messiah. More than anyone else she knew He was the one. Not because of His miracles, not because of His teachings, but because she had been told by an ANGEL.

She had carried him in her womb…yet had done nothing to conceive Him. She raised several children, so she knew how sinful they are…but she watched Him grow up sinless. She knew He was the promised one, she had received a promise, lived it out, seen in so many ways how He was so different…but He had died, she had buried Him.

WHAT? That wasn’t supposed to happen! This wasn’t the way it was suppose to go! This was not what she was promised!

Had God finally given up on them? Had His patience run out? Had His love for His people dried up?

Maybe that’s not what Mary was thinking, but I’m pretty sure it’s what I would have thought.

Honestly, those are the kind of thoughts trying to overwhelm my mind right now. The thoughts that creep in when pain runs deep, when promises seem to be broken, and when what’s happened just doesn’t make sense…when you’re stuck on Saturday. 

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That’s where I am right now…stuck on Saturday. I’m in this place of grief, of pain…of sadness…and my mind is fighting the battle to keep from getting lost in the whys and my heart simply feels too weak to hope.

But…oh how I love when there’s a but…on Sunday the world changed! That glorious Sunday death was conquered, the table was turned on the fate of the souls of men, and hope burst forth victorious.

Saturday was a day that felt so hopeless…but that was not the truth. In fact, the world was pregnant with hope that Saturday. And it wasn’t because the disciples or Mary or anyone else had this great abundance of hope…it says they all left and just went back to life…but in spite of their lack of hope, hope broke through!

I received two beautiful reminders this week before and then after pain came for a visit…

All I need is a tiny bit of courage and He will strengthen my heart!

Hope is not something I need to feel or conjure up. It lives in my heart and remains even when I don’t have the strength to grab hold of it.

I may be stuck on Saturday right now…living in the place between sorrow and joy…but I know true Hope, Hope that does not disappoint, Hope that is more faithful than the morning and in Him my heart takes comfort and finds peace.

Mary didn’t get stuck on Saturday…and neither will I.

 

Is it harder?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about throwing in the towel, closing this joint down, and pretending like this blog never even happened. Because, my life isn’t that interesting, and what could I really even have to say, and being open with all of you is HARD!

And then, as I’m going about my day something strikes me. A thought, a phrase, a situation that brings my heart joy or deep grief…and I find myself wanting to share this thing with you, to encourage you or challenge you…maybe sometimes even to make you laugh.

So, after weeks of silence this is where I find myself, with a thought that I want to share with you so badly that I’ve decided to allow you to see into my heart a little bit.

I have had this thought for a week or so…or this stream of thoughts really…about adoption, and parenting, and teenagers…I feel like I’m ALWAYS sharing about this, but this is my reality so it probably is going to be something I talk about…anyways, back to the thought.

It began as I left a brief conversation with a kind and loving woman that left me a bit unsettled…not angry and not hurt, it’s just that something about the conversation didn’t sit right with me…it’s a conversation I’ve had before, and the words she said I will most likely hear again.

“Adopting a teenager is such a hard thing to do.”

Why does this statement bug me so much? It’s true. Adopting a teenager is hard. But, I think what bugs me about it is the implication that adopting a teenager is somehow harder than adopting an infant, a child, or having a biological child…but is it?

Is there some sort of scale I don’t know about, some sort of system for quantifying and measuring the difficulties of parenting that I have been left in the dark about? Do biological moms sit around discussing their child raising and the one that has it the easiest gets some sort of all expenses paid trip to a private island, and poor me doesn’t even get to be in the running for it because I adopted a teenager (insert dramatic music here)!?!

Sure, there are things that are harder. Walking through his grief and trauma with him is hard. When behavioral issues arise, weeding through what’s learned, what’s instinctive, and what’s teenager is challenging.

The moment I became a mom was hard. It wasn’t simply an elated moment of joy where the child I had spent 9 months growing and loving finally arrived. Instead it was a moment where the child I had spent years praying for and loving from a distance was finally here, and that moment of joy was shared with deep grief, because to acknowledge me as mom means to recognize the loss of the two moms that came before me. The moment I became his mom meant choosing to open my heart fully, to love him with abandon as a mom should, and then to grow into that in time…and to pray he would choose to love me back…it is still a bit terrifying! So yeah, that’s hard.

But, how do I quantify if this is harder than parenting any other child, if these pains are worse than having the child of your womb telling you they hate you…because I’m pretty sure that HURTS!!!

Then, this week, clarity came in the form of a shared video on FaceBook and I heard these beautiful words…

“Healthy seems easier, healthy seems normal, healthy seems nice. What I didn’t know then is that easy, and normal, and nice would do little to make me a better and more complete human being.” Heather Avis watch the video here

Those two sentences welled up a crazy mix of emotions in my heart and I found myself overwhelmed with grief and joy…seriously, I can’t even write about it or re-watch the video without becoming a crying mess…they are written not about teenagers, but about adoption in general, and adopting children with special needs specifically. But, they spoke so clearly to my heart because I suddenly realized why that statement above had bothered me so much…

IT’S A LIE

It’s not harder…it’s scarier, more complicated, messier, and abnormal.

But so many of us have bought into the lie that somehow adopting older children is harder. Adopting children with special needs is harder. And when faced with the opportunity or the challenge this is the lie that many of us tell ourselves to justify inaction…I’m so guilty of this when it comes to special needs.

But, the truth is, our lives were never meant to be about easy, simple, or normal. 

My mom-ness may be more complicated than most. I may not have memories of my child as an infant or toddler. I didn’t hear his first words, or see when he took his first steps. I wasn’t there to send him off to his first day of school. But I have been given an incredible gift. Because when those moments come when I’m discouraged…as they do for all parents…when I feel inadequate, and like there’s no way I can be the parent I need to be, there is a sudden gust of wind that rushes in and lifts me back up and reminds me…I was chosen for this…I was chosen for him…he was chosen for me.

Is adopting a teenager hard…yes. Is raising a young man hard…yes! Is being a parent hard…YES!

But this was never meant to be about simple and easy. Because what growth, what depth, what demonstration of true love ever came out of simple and easy?

…HOPE…

I’ve been seeing lots of posts in the last week about people choosing 1 word to define their 2017…I guess it’s the new resolution…and while at first I thought it was a little bit silly and a bit lazy…how much easier is it to pick a word than set an actual goal…but then I realized that I have a word…HOPE.

It’s not a magical word that suddenly became meaningful or important as the clock struck midnight on 12/31/2016…in fact my most recent tattoo and a recent blog post Faith>Fear are both focused on HOPE…but it is the word I want to hold on to as I walk boldly into 2017.

Four years ago Ian and I were waiting for a child. We didn’t know how God would choose to bring this child to us…but we knew there would be a child. We didn’t know when He would bring our child to us…but we knew there would be a child.

 And then sometimes I didn’t know…sometimes I doubted. Sometimes I felt it would never happen…the obstacles seemed too great. Sometimes fear took over and it drove out hope and I found myself afraid to even speak my desires for fear of the pain that would come with failure.

One night Ian and I had the privilege of speaking with a couple that had adopted. They shared their story with us, it was powerful and incredible, but then at the end of the conversation the husband said something that spoke straight to my heart…and continues to run through my mind over and over…

“Don’t be afraid to hope.”

That moment changed my heart. I decided to share with people the things God had put on my heart, I began to speak openly about our path to pursue adoption. When God began to place specifics on our hearts about a 12 year old boy, HOPE is what gave me the boldness to pray for my child, to begin to write him letters, and to share with others to pray for him…because I knew there was a child.

Our boy would have come to us even if I doubted…but would I have been ready for him, would I have been so quick to answer the call…how many people got to see this AMAZING thing God did, because I choose not to be afraid…because I choose to HOPE.

A few months ago “don’t be afraid to HOPE” began playing in my head again…over and over and over…I don’t know if this is the year we grow. I don’t know when or where the next Dizon is coming from, I don’t know how old…or even how many…their will be this time…but I know there will be more children.

I will not be afraid to HOPE!
I will cling to HOPE with all my might!

I will remind myself that my HOPE lies outside of life’s circumstances, that my HOPE is constant and steady, that with all 2017 throws at me…good, bad, disappointing, joyous, and painful…that HOPE will remain.

This may seem crazy to some of you…most of you…but I know I have more children, I know some of them are already in this world and my heart is sick from waiting for them…but I will HOPE and I will trust God’s perfect timing.

Please join my family as we pray for direction, timing, and provision on bringing more of our children home. Step 1 is finishing the basement so we have room for more.

This Christmas

It’s December! The cold has arrived…kind of…snow has fallen…a little…Christmas lights are going up all over the neighborhood, the shopping has begun, the Christmas worship rehearsals have begun…goodbye lazy Sunday afternoons as a family…and the plans for Christmas Day have begun.

So far, this holiday season has been the hardest on my boy. I don’t know if it’s because it will be just the three of us this Christmas…no big trips to London or grandparents visiting…or if it’s because he’s getting older and emotionally processing the losses he’s experienced differently…or if it’s simply because with time he’s finally allowing himself to remember and to miss those he’s lost.

All I know is that my boy misses mom #2.

She LOVED Christmas! She loved decorating, went all out with décor and throw pillows and lights all over the house.

I am just not that person.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, I’m just not a major decorator. I have some simple decorations I put around the house…and then forget about and leave out the whole year…sometimes we put some lights around outside…but I don’t have throw pillows and garlands don’t hang gracefully from my ceiling.

Andrew misses that. He misses the decorations and the garlands and Christmas throw blankets…because they remind him of his mom and his Grandma…and they are who he really misses. He wishes he could have just one more Christmas with them. One more Christmas full of tradition and routine…because his Christmases now are anything but routine and we have weird traditions…

As mom #3 I find myself in this awkward place of being fully mom…but also not…sometimes I find myself wondering what mom #2 would have done…if she would have been better at handling a situation…and this Christmas I have found myself wondering if I should be better at decorating to fill that spot in his hurting heart.

I want to help his hurts, to fix his pains…but these are hurts that can not be fixed, they can heal but they will forever leave scars, they will forever be tender spots in his heart…even if our house turns into Santa’s workshop it will still hurt…it may even make it hurt worse, because it would be me pretending to be her

So instead I bought him a tree for his bedroom…I set it up for him so that when he came home from school it was there and ready to be decorated…because I wanted him to know I love him and I wanted his heart to find comfort, and I thought that instead of me pretending if it was him finding joy in decorating his space it might be healing…he loved it!

But then…

I get all ugly on him because he wants lights to hang all over his room, and he wants to use lights I had planned for decorating the porch…yeah right like that will happen…and he asks if he can get some of those $3 wired lights from the dollar spot at Target and I suddenly transform from loving mom to selfish beast…I grinched outwhy would I buy more lights when we have a box downstairs that work perfectly fine you just don’t like the color and you’ll just have to use what’s there…he leaves to go back upstairs and “make do” with what we have.

He doesn’t give me attitude or get yucky back at me, he just says ok and walks away…but I can see the disappointment on his face.

And that’s when the quite, peaceful, and loving voice inside me starts to talk to me…why did you do that? Isn’t it the most important thing that he knows you care, that you see his pain and that you are a place of comfort? Are your things and plans really more important to you than bringing his heart joy? Just spend the $9 to make his heart glad!

So, we went and got him lights and now it looks like Christmas exploded inside of his room!

As mom #3 I recognize how easy it would have been for this child to take the stance that he already has a mom…two in fact…and to lock me out of his heart.

I am so grateful for my boy who has a heart open to all three of his moms. He calls us all mom…he says things like my mom before this, or my birth mom, or this mom so casually it both blesses and breaks my heart…he loves us all for different reasons and in different ways, but he loves us all as his moms…and the weight of this is not lost on me…even when I have grinchy moments!

“A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy & depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”
-Joy Landers

Vacation is over…

 

We are home!!!

It’s been just a couple of days since we got back, not quite a week, and it’s good to be home. It’s a bit strange to wake up and not have my parents, my niece, my sister-in-law, or my brothers around. I miss them. I miss being on vacation…but then again I came home to no job…permanent vacation

Actually, no…vacation is over.

It’s back to laundry and grocery shopping, cleaning house, pulling weeds, paying bills…oh yeah, and starting a business. Yesterday I decided to jump head first into Frippery House stuff…and it felt a bit like I landed against a brick wall. Seriously though, I kind of just sat there for hours stunned and dazed. I was suppose to be writing product descriptions, but instead I spent about an hour staring at half a sentence on my computer screen…More than just an accent piece, the Faye… That’s not enough to sell the product…at least I don’t think so.

So, product descriptions will wait for another day. Instead I’m going to take some time to reflect on the trip, on the people I spent it with, and on the things I learned. It was an incredible time! I don’t know how much my son or my 9 year old niece will remember, but I will remember it always.

I learned a lot about myself on this trip. I learned a lot about my family. And, while it wasn’t necessarily all good…some of the things I learned about myself I didn’t really like…here is my biggest take away.

I have an incredible family.

 

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I have the most generous parents ever…seriously I would enter them into a contest if there was one. My father has energy that won’t stop, and my mom carries with her a peacefulness that we all benefit from. They’ve been married for ever, have lived on four different continents, have moved what I’m sure feels like a million times, have watched their children grow into adults…and all the good and bad that came with that…and now they are watching their grandkids grow up from a distance….for now.

They are the coolest!

Later this week I’m going to post my next Inspiration Page with a sneak peak at the latest design in Frippery House’s first collection!!!