Loss

IMG_6511Our children have faced so much loss in their short little lives. The loss of getting to grow up with their bio parents. The loss of relationships with their extended bio family. The loss of love and comfort and safety and so much more. Loss is hard for anyone. For children who come from hard places though, loss is all the more difficult because they have known way too much of it. They constantly fear it. When will the next bad thing happen? And the thing is, that loss and walking through hard things hasn’t stopped since becoming a part of our family.

I will never forget our children’s excitement about meeting their new grandma for the first time, and then their fear when they realized she didn’t have any hair because of her cancer treatment. It’s been a year now since she died, and there are still plenty of days that our kids bring her up and shed tears for this woman whom they only met once. Sometimes I will be in church and look over and see my son crying. As I put my arm around him and draw him close to me he let’s me know how much he is missing her.

When I first told our children that their Pops (my dad) is really sick, there was no stopping their tears. They love their Pops and want him around for a long time. When we have visited with him, I can still picture one of our sons laying on the bed with him watching a movie. There are days when one of the kids will anxiously say to me, “I don’t want anything to happen to Pops.”

During the winter and spring there was no hiding from our kids that mommy and daddy were really hurting because of some hard stuff that happened outside of our family. We tried to protect them from it, but they are all too perceptive. They have felt great loss as they have seen us cry and feel utterly broken. When things were happening that didn’t make sense, we have had to hold them as they shed tears of sorrow time and time again.

Recently my kiddos were in church with me when they heard an announcement that someone they consider like an aunt to them was needing surgery on her heart. They turned to me with eyes like saucers and I could tell they were super scared. They love this woman. This woman has loved them and seen them when others may have been too uncomfortable to do so. When we got to visit her in the hospital after her surgery, they were so happy she was doing well.

Less than a week later and our children are standing in the hospital room of another dear friend who just had a double lung transplant. This woman truly enjoys our children, has taught them, has spent time with them, and has even let them sleep on her bedroom floor when our kids have been scared. As we walked together as a family through the hospital, one of our sons squeezed my hand as tight as he could and wouldn’t let it go. I held him close on my lap as we visited with this friend. They pray for her and their “auntie” every day.

Today our son just found out that one of the teachers that works one on one with him died last night. The unexpected blessing was that my hubby was there with him when he found out about her death. It is clear that God was at work and knew our boy needed his daddy who got to spend some time holding him and crying with him. Our boy’s heart is heavy. Through tears he said some precious words about his teacher, “She was the best teacher ever.” And with sadness, “my brother and sister never got to meet her.”

So much loss. So many hard things. Things that you wish you could protect your children from. Things you wish they didn’t have to go through. And yet, as we have seen them walk through so much even since becoming our children, we have seen their hearts grow. Their hearts have been broken, but not hardened. Broken, but not deadened. Broken….and softened. Broken….and enlarged.

We have witnessed our children pray over one of these friends in her hospital room. We have seen them gently hug and care for another friend while visiting her. We have seen them love on friends who needed extra care by seeking to make the day about them instead of their own desires. We have witnessed our kiddos pray for people who have hurt us. We have seen our children’s righteous anger over injustice and loss and seen them love despite their deep wounds. We have gotten to watch them lay down their own rights for the good of another.

I have loved the book The Broken Way by Ann Voscamp. In it she says, “There is no way to avoid pain. There is no way to avoid brokenness. There is absolutely no way but a broken way…being brave enough to lay your heart out there, to be rejected in a thousand little ways, this may hurt like a kind of hell-but it will be holy…Love only comes to those brave enough to risk being broken-hearted.”

I see my children being brave when no one would fault them for not. I see them beautifully, imperfectly reaching out to love and be loved even in the midst of their fear. I learn from this. I ask God to continue to help me be as brave as they. To love people who may not even want my love. To love those I have wounded and who have wounded me. To love our kiddos despite the rejection we feel when harsh words are said, when we are betrayed, or when one of them tries to run away when their past trauma is triggered.

Loss. Brokenness. Being undone.

May it lead to greater love!

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I Am Not a Super-anything 

She is the same. Yet she is different.

She is not a super-anything. She doesn’t want to be. She doesn’t have the perfect body. She has cellulite. She has stretch marks. She has extra fat. She has a sweet tooth. She loves food more than she should.

She is not a super-anything. She’s a normal woman. She desires to be real. She is trying to get healthy. She doesn’t want the perfect body. She doesn’t want attention from others. She’s not trying to get skinny.

She is not a super-anything. She is her. She wants to encourage people that they can do something that is really hard. She wants to inspire through her own struggles. She desires to give others hope.

She is me.

I am the same girl as I used to be. I am still a mom. I love Jesus. I’m always singing. My favorite person is my hubby. I cry over the sadness in this world. I laugh a lot. I’m a goof ball. I value relationships.

Yet I am different. I know more about myself. I have confronted my weaknesses. I am a stronger person. I have grown in patience and perseverance. I have fallen and gotten back up. Time and time again.

I am the same. Yet I am different. I am not a super-anything. I am me.

I. Is. Treasure. Daddy. 


Our dog does this adorable thing when you are petting her. The moment you stop, she makes these precious noises and takes her nose and tries to lift your hand. She is great at communicating that she wants more lovins. And she ALWAYS wants more lovins.

We were lying in bed petting her this morning when this exact scene was played out for the millionth time since we adopted her about a year ago. I found myself saying out loud, “She has six years of not getting loved on to make up for.” As a thought crossed my mind my hubby spoke it out loud, “Just like our kids.”

See, our dog came to live with us after not having a loving home for 6 years. She was so scared when we first met her that she ran away from us all. She was so scared of human touch. She had never lived in a home before and wasn’t even potty trained.

There is so much about her story we don’t know. So much that we will never know. Her trauma still remains. You can see it in her fear of strangers and her fear of kids. But she has also made great strides. She knows her momma loves her…we call her my mini me because she follows me everywhere. She loves her daddy and is no longer frightened of his height. After months of growling at her, she now loves our daughter and will lay with her.

I often look at our dog and wonder how anyone could have treated her poorly. How anyone could have not showed her how loveable she is. How anyone could have just hurt her and not taken care of her. And my conclusion is always that they missed out on the best dog ever.

The same can be said about our kiddos. Unlike a dog though, they deal with the emotions on a daily basis of what they have gone through. And the questions I ask about my dog are the same questions I ask about them, and even more importantly, they ask about themselves.

Here is something I wrote in May of 2016…a true story about our daughter that I shared last night at the adoption banquet that we had the privelage of sharing our journey at…

      I.IS.TREASURE.

Garbage day. Daddy gets on his blue disposable gloves. We look over. Daddy hunches down, being funny. Silly daddy. She laughs. Don’t catch me daddy. Don’t throw me out. She smiles and hides as daddy walks outside to put the garbage out.

I. NOT. GARBAGE. DADDY. She jokes on the outside. On the inside her heart wonders if she is. Trash. Thrown out. Used. Not important. Not worth keeping.

My heart is heavy. Sweetie, you are treasure. You are special treasure. She tilts her head questioning. I look into her beautiful eyes. God made you that way. You are chosen . You are a treasure and special to Him. You are a treasure and special to us.

Daddy walks back through the front door. She runs over to see him. A huge smile on her face. She looks as though she will burst. I is treasure daddy. I. IS. TREASURE. DADDY. Yes baby, you are indeed treasure!

When you see our kids…

When you see our children…You may see their excitement to get a cookie. Or their adventurous hearts as they play outside. You love their bright smile and the way they run up and hug you. Their manners astonish you. You think they are just like any other kid you have met.

When you see our children…You may see chaos. You may see their bad behavior. You may see their fits and extreme dysregulation. You may see them interact with your kids in ways you don’t like. You think they are troublemakers and need better parenting.

When you see our children, you are not REALLY seeing our children. You are seeing their presenting behavior. You are seeing the surface. Sometimes, in terms of compliant behavior, you are seeing only what they want you to see. You are not REALLY seeing our children.

Children from hard places are skilled at protecting themselves. Often this looks like good behavior and great manners and sweetness when people are around them. If you get the privilege of seeing their outbursts and fits (and it IS a privilege), then it means you have actually gained some trust with them. They are beginning to trust you enough with all of who they are.

But even when you get to see this part of them, this is just the surface. They are not bad kids. They are not just being defiant. They don’t just need more discipline. They are hurting kids. Traumatized kids. Kids who need love. Kids who need connection. They need to know they are safe. They need to know you aren’t going anywhere.

As an adoptive parent, sometimes I forget this. Sometimes I forget my kid has been through trauma. As though their life has been easy and they don’t have extra needs. When it’s one hard behavioral thing after another…when it takes tons of work and sacrifice…its way too easy to begin to get frustrated instead of compassionate. But that’s not what my children need. They need my heart. They need my love. They need my patience. They need me to dig deeper and see what is underneath. They just need me to actually see them. Really see them.

I wrote the following last year….a moment of clarity when I actually saw my son.

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I’m sitting on a piece of tape ten feet outside your room. Every few seconds I hear the same thing. A whisper in the night. Are you still out there? Yes buddy, I am. More seconds tick away on the clock. I love you mommy. I love you too my boy. You sneak quietly out of bed. Mommy, one last hug. I squeeze you tight. You head back in. Again comes the whisper. Again I reassure you. Thirty minutes so far. I wonder how long this dance will last.

I see you differently tonight

I’m not irritated. I am not frustrated that you keep checking if I am here. Over and over again. One more time. One last time. Again and again and again. I’m not angry that I have to sit here on this hard floor, waiting for you to fall asleep. I’m not frustrated that I’m uncomfortable and exhausted and just want to be in my own bed. Tonight I’m not overwhelmed that we have been doing something like this for almost nine months. Nine. Months. About thirty six weeks. Approximately two hundred and fifty two nights.

I see you differently tonight

I learned something about your story yesterday. I hate what I learned. HATE. I hate it because it happened to you. I hate it because it was evil. I hate it because it should never have happened. I hate it because you are my boy. My heart breaks for you. These tears I shed are not enough. I could never shed enough tears for you my son.

I see you differently tonight

You are safe. I am still sitting here. I love you. Yes, you are safe. I am still sitting here. I love you. Yep, you are safe. Yep, still sitting here. Yep, I love you. Safe. Sitting here. Love you. Still safe. Still sitting here. Still love you.

I see you differently tonight

We twirl one last time. The music slowly fades away. Our dance has ended. You lay snug beneath your covers. Curled tightly in a ball. I cry out to God to give you sweet dreams. I cry out to God to give you good rest. I cry out to God to redeem nighttime for you. Please Father. Please.

I see you differently tonight

This won’t be our last dance. We will dance again tomorrow. I will sit. You will cry out to me. I will answer. As many times as it takes son. I will not be irritated. I will no longer think you just need to be brave. I will no longer question whether you are really afraid.

I. See. You.

lori

Giving Without Expectation

This week has been one of those parenting weeks that just feels like too much. A suspension from school, another almost suspension, stealing, bad and dangerous choices, and a whole lot of lying…all of these being their own separate incidences.

I am tired today. Honestly, this week has taken a lot out of me. Each of these situations have required a lot of physical time and emotional energy to enter into. For kids who come from hard places, actions aren’t what they necessarily seem. Often there is so much behind them. A trauma that was triggered. Something going on at home that has set them off.  Desiring more connection.  Something that upset them at school. Their brain not working the way it’s meant to.

But is is way too easy to forget that and to just be mad and dole out discipline. To drill your child with “Why on earth did you do that?!” To quickly send them to their room. To stay mad even after you have been apologized to. To not take the time to calmly sit with them and care about what is going on underneath the bad that they did.

It takes time…lots of it. Energy…both physical and emotional. It takes sacrifice…putting your own needs aside, your own emotions aside, and entering into their brokenness and loving them in the midst of it. It also takes letting go of your own expectations.

Expectations of how they will respond. Expectations of what they do or do not deserve from you in that moment. Expectations of what they will do in the future. Expectations of how they will treat you.

As I have thought about all of this, I am reminded of something I wrote this summer about a precious moment with my daughter. A moment that revealed my own brokenness. A moment that was filled with so much beauty. A moment that taught me a lot.

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Giving Without Expectation

The brokenness. The toll. The never-ending work. The sacrifice. The trauma. Always being on. No moments of solitude. Sleepless nights. Constantly giving of yourself. Constantly. All the time. Giving. Always giving. Not expecting anything in return. 

I have no expectations. She lays outside enjoying the warm sun. As I come out to join her…ugh. “What’s wrong mommy?” I explain that my foot is hurting and itching and I don’t know why. “Sit here for a minute mommy.” She points to the step. I’m curious. Some sort of game she wants to play? I sit. She comes over. She gently touches my foot.

“This one mommy?” Warmth fills my heart as I look into her caring eyes. Yes sweetie, that’s the one. I try not to choke up. She looks intently at my foot. She takes her hand and carefully rubs on top of it. She carefully pulls my toes apart, searching. She is determined.

I look down and see a little black speck. I know my girl. I know that she is going to think that this is the offending party. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy I found it!”She brushes it away. Her smile is huge. “All better mommy?” I already knew what I had to say. My smile matches hers. Yes sweet girl, all better. 

She gave to me. In her own brokenness and need, she gave to me. Freely. without being asked. Unbegrudgingly. Lavishly. Not expecting anything in return. My girl gave to me. 

I was blind.  I do expect. I expect a lot. I expect my  kids not to complain. I expect them to care when they hurt my feelings. I expect them not to do something they know they shouldn’t. And all these expectations are sometimes chained tightly to my giving.

The chains may be invisible, but they weigh it down. They dig deeply in, leaving bloody grooves. So heavy. I know my children feel that weight. I sometimes see it in the slump of their shoulders. In the flash of sadness written on their faces. In their defiant behavior. A weight too heavy to bear. A weight not meant for them. 

The brokenness. The toll. The sacrifice. Lord, You gave to me. You gave to her. Freely. Unbegrudgingly. Lavishly. Help me to give to my children like this. All the time. Giving. Always giving. Not expecting anything in return. 

lori

Not Giving Up 

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Not giving up on things in life is really easy when they don’t require much of you. For instance, persevering and continuing to make reading a part of my life is not hard because I absolutely love doing it. It brings me tons of joy. I love learning. It’s a way I can relax. Yep, easy to not give up on my reading endeavors. 😂

I’m purposefully using a silly example, but this reality is true nonetheless. We are very tempted to give up on things when they are hard.

Foster adopting our sibling set of three has taught me so much about this. Before we ever got our kiddos, we had to make the decision that giving up was never an option. We made this commitment ahead of time because we knew it could get really, really hard. And it did.

But we made that commitment. No matter how hard it got. No matter how much it hurt. No matter how much it cost emotionally. No matter how much we lost. No matter how much was sacrificed. It wasn’t an option then and it’s not an option now. No matter how hard it still is. No matter how much it costs us emotionally. No matter how much we have to lose. No matter how much we must sacrifice.

Has it been easy? I think you already know the answer to that. Has not giving up been worth it? Absolutely.

All of this came to mind this morning as I was working on something new exercise-wise. And while it might seem weird to relate this to not giving up on my fitness journey, let me assure you that it’s really not. My hubby can attest to the fact that I have always hated the pain that exercising causes. The burning in my muscles. The burning in my lungs. The exhaustion. The hard work it takes. The perseverance. Ugh…hated it all and was quick to give up. While my hubby would push himself more every time we worked out, I would do just enough to get by without it challenging me too much.

And if I’m honest, isn’t that how I want all of life to be? Not too challenging?  More easy than hard? More simple than complicated? More full of play than work?

But that’s not how life is, is it? But the hard work is worth it. The not giving up is worth it. As I recently told my son, we have two choices when something is hard. We can give up, or we can keep trying over and over again. One road leads to complacency and the other one leads to growth.

Am I a perfect Mom? Nope. Do I always react the best way when my child is dealing with the impacts of trauma? No. Am I always patient with my children? I wish I could say I was. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I have to ask my kid’s forgiveness. Does that mean I should throw the towel in and not continue to seek to love my children really well? Heck no! I get back up. Over and over and over and over again. Every single day.

I don’t doubt that foster-adopting has grown my ability to persevere in ways I needed desperately. In ways that have effected other areas of my life…even exercise.

When it comes to my fitness journey, I have learned that not being good at something right from the start is okay. I have learned that failing and not being able to do something is actually an opportunity for growth. I have learned that being a beginner is totally acceptable. I have learned that the hard work is worth it.

So, for the sake of keeping it real like I love to do, here is me trying a new yoga move today. The L shaped handstand. I tried it. I did it wrong. I tried it again. My legs slid down the wall. I tried it again. I could not get my body in an L shape. I just kept trying. Did I ever accomplish it? Not today. Will I keep trying? Definitely!


Where in your life would you like to continue to grow in perseverance?

lori

Your only Competition is Yourself 

I love this quote when I think about fitness and any results I see… “Your only competition is yourself.” It’s not about comparing myself with others or trying to have someone else’s body. But don’t we so often live that way? We see a woman whose hips are smaller and wonder why we can’t have those hips. We see how thin a woman is and wonder if we could ever get there. We spot a woman whose muscles are so defined and envy her. We see the woman in a bikini who has no cellulite and want to hate her.

These beachbody fitness groups I have been a part of since November have done so much internally to change my mindset. Today I can say that I feel confident in my own skin. Yes, I’ve now lost about 25 pounds and a lot of inches. But guess what? I still have some extra fat. I still have cellulite. And my hip bones are larger than some women, so I will never have tiny little hips.

My fitness journey is mine. It will look different than anyone else’s. And it’s not about how good I can get my body to look. It’s about being healthy and being okay and content with who I am…with the size of my body, the limitations of my body. It’s about pushing myself. Persevering. Growing as a person. Not giving up.

So when I think about the fact that my only competition is myself, these are the wrong questions to ask:

  1. Do I look as good as so-and-so?
  2. Are my results as good as hers?
  3. Do I now look as thin as she does?

Instead, I need to be asking myself:

  1. Did I push and try my hardest?
  2. How have I changed and grown these past 30 days?
  3. What differences do I feel or see in my own body?

Results. Differences. Changes. Growth.

Well, I just finished my last day of the current 30 day beachbody challenge group I was doing. I did two workout programs together…one was a weight lifting one and the other was a yoga/Pilates/cardio combo. And I am going to share my results with you in the hope that they will encourage you to step out and try something. Your results will be different, but you will see results nonetheless. And remember that your only competition is yourself…don’t give in to playing the comparison game.

I am honestly a better person for having gone through these challenge groups and being pushed beyond what I thought I could do. After these 30 days…

1. I am so much stronger

2. I have lost 5 pounds, even though I’m gaining muscle and it weighs more than fat.

3. My inches didn’t change much

4. My muscles are slowly getting more defined

5. My body shape has changed

6.  I can do one tricep push-up on my toes now!

7. Balance and flexibility have improved

8. I can do some burpees now!

9. I feel a lot more confident in my own skin

Three challenge groups ago, I never would have imagined I’d be where I am at today…internally and externally.

I would love to hear about your own health and fitness journey…both the struggles and the victories.