Loyalty

I was recently featured in a Mother’s Day interview where I was asked to describe myself in one word. I chose loyal. I take the dictionary definition of loyalty a little too seriously for most. [Giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution.] So imagine my inner turmoil when my code for loyalty constantly put me at odds with my adopted daughter. The past 14 months have felt like my own home raging war on my own home. It’s been incredibly disorienting to not even recognize myself at times. To not be able to count on what I considered to be my character.

Today my daughter tenderized my heart with an invitation to be loyal to her. It came in the same form of hiding that I am so used to. It would have been easy to assume she was just trying to protect her public persona. Her therapist asked her about a difficult conversation our family had and she responded by saying that was private. When I was asked about it, and in turn asked her, she told me she didn’t want anyone to know how “unloving” she had been. That didn’t surprise me. But what did was the humility I heard behind that word. For the first time, I sensed she wished she was loving. Not because that is what the world expects so that is her performance cue. But because she genuinely wants love for me in her heart and is pained that it’s missing. She asked me if we could work it out, just between us. And in that quiet moment, I knew she was asking for a level of intimacy and trust that neither of us have known with one another.

I felt grace fall over my offenses. And I left her covered emotionally in front of her therapist. I think I just learned a deeper meaning of being her mama.

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Loyalty

Hallelujah Heather

Google my sister – Heather Faith Beyer – and you will find a photograph of my grieving mother. A photograph of my sister’s hallelujah tattoo that she chose after she was declared terminal. A wedding photograph I took that was framed at her memorial service. And a YouTube video made by lives she influenced.

On this day, in 2011, Heather went to heaven. Today I am left with one consuming thought.

My mom didn’t know. She didn’t know her olive skinned beauty would someday turn grey with chemo. She didn’t know the fight my sister had in her…that drive that helped her accomplish everything she ever wanted…wouldn’t win the battle with cancer. She didn’t know life would only give Heather 27 years.

I have tried to imagine what it would be like to watch one of my five suffer. In any way. That’s the unimaginable. As mamas, we spend our days and nights and every breath trying to spare our children from suffering. But which mama, since the history of time, has been able to do so? Not only will one of my five suffer. They will all suffer. At some point. From something. And so will yours. Ready to have a community cry yet, mamas? It’s their unavoidable reality. Life brings suffering to every last one of us.

So if all my sheltering and safe choices cannot keep them carefree, what can I do? Oh Jesus, give me something I can do!

I can do what my mom did before she knew. And what my sister did after she knew. Live Hallelujah. Praise Jesus, through everything. If today looks like raised hands to a God who knows the beginning from the end, I will be preparing my children for whatever tomorrow holds.

Jesus, thank you for my Hallelujah Heather’s legacy. 💛 Thank you that even though my five never saw her face, they can still learn from her faith.

Hallelujah Heather

Hosea | Unrelenting Love

She sat next to me. Right next to me. Close. Too close. Suffocatingly close. But I let her. As uncomfortable as I was. As threatening as her presence felt. It wasn’t her norm. So a part of me dared to hope she was bonding. She touched her foot to mine. Playfully. And her next emotional game began. At this distance, my 9-year-old adopted daughter told me all about the other mom she wishes she could leave me for. Not the biological one, as some might expect. But the foster one she said she should have chosen. It was as if my husband was telling me about another lover while in bed with me. It was undisguised, intentional, brazen rejection she wanted me to fully feel.

I am studying the book of Hosea with some wise women for 7 weeks. A bible story all about betrayal and unrelenting love. I have found myself on every page. In Hosea, the man who claimed a wandering heart as his wife and committed his life to her. In Gomer, the reckless woman who destroyed the gifts God gave her. In the Israelites, who were faithless and always relying on themselves. In God, who was deeply grieved by not being chosen by His people.

Through Hosea 4, God corrected me and held me accountable for making poor choices in my pain. He told me not to point fingers or pass blame. I am the one who is stumbling around in broad daylight, as if it is darkness. I, as the mother, am behaving as badly as my child. I am ruined by not following what is right and true. I am the one who is responsible for refusing to recognize the revelation of God. (Not my poetry. Read the MSG translation.)

Through Hosea 6 & 7, God related to me and left me feeling understood.  He addressed the two-faced and double tongued nature of His people. Every time He gave them a fresh start and got things going for them again (His effort, not theirs), they soon filled the slate with new sins. He talked about wanting a love that lasts. Not simply a declaration of love from them that was gone like the morning mist. The Israelities found sin entertaining as if life was a circus and their lies were acrobatics. But God clearly didn’t and that gave me room to feel the same.

Through Hosea 2 & 3, God instructed me. He encouraged me to start all over again. To love my daughter the way He loves the Israelites. The way Hosea loved Gomer. To court her, so to speak. To turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope. If anything will lead her to respond like a young girl would who isn’t jade, it’s love.

Last week was a defining moment for us. After what felt like the last betrayal I could bear, I released her to her own words. She didn’t want to talk to me? Okay, no meaningful conversation. She didn’t really care about her sisters? Okay, closed door between their rooms. She didn’t want me as her teacher? Okay, online school only. Etc, etc, etc. Like in Hosea 14, my anger was played out. I wanted God to heal her waywardness. I wanted to love her lavishly. I genuinely mourned that she wouldn’t let me. I wanted her to burst into bloom, just like her middle name prophesies. I wanted her to put down deep oak tree roots into our family. I wanted her to be blessed and to prosper. I wanted her to be finished with other moms and finally find satisfaction in the one she already has – me. After 5 days of disconnection, she admitted she missed me. As a mama. As a teacher. As someone she hides her heart in. We agreed to a fresh start.

Today, I put Hosea 10:12 on my felt board as my promise to pursue her. Lord, may she finally be ready earth because I am ready to dig.

SOW RIGHTEOUSNESS
REAP LOVE
IT’S TIME TO TILL THE READY EARTH
IT’S TIME TO DIG IN WITH GOD
UNTIL HE ARRIVES

Hosea | Unrelenting Love

Circumcision Regret

Yesterday I epically failed my son. But today another mama came alongside me. She acknowledged my regret while offering to pray and believe with me that no irrevocable damage was done. That is the holy combination of caring as Jesus cares for us. Genuinely understanding but never neglecting to speak life. This is the raw conversation we shared. This is her leaving me with light and hope.

Take care of one another, mamas. This is how the world will know Jesus. By your love.
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Circumcision Regret

Corban Kingdom | Birth Story

Corban Kingdom, my love for you is the closest I have known to long-suffering love. I asked for you for nearly all of my marriage. And you were named in my childhood. You are somehow everything I hoped for and nothing I imagined. So was your birth.

I feel like Sarah in saying I am old now. I am not the 22 year old who pined and prayed for you. I am 35. And I have aged exponentially since birthing your sister 2 1/2 years ago. In that short time, I went from raising my first miracle – to birthing my second miracle – to fostering her twin at 4 months – to adopting that twin’s sister the very day before my pregnancy with you began. From 1-5, including you. God’s timing is intentional. There was more than just Daddy and me waiting for you. You had four girl hearts who were anxiously asking Jesus to tell them your birthday.

You were due on February 27th. But I was cautioned to expect you in March. Your sisters made me wait 10 and 7 days after their due dates to meet them. So it only seemed natural you would too. But I had a burning request of God for you to be born in February. I needed you and your sister to have separate birth months so that my oldest and my youngest could feel individually celebrated.

Your due date became your birthday. God answered my prayer. From the birth of desire for you in my heart (all those years ago) to your actual birth on 2/27, God answered my prayers. Your life is marked by answered prayer! Son, know-believe-trust that God is gracious (divinely kind) and good.

12:45am I was stirred from sleep with period-like cramps. A feeling you’ll never know. I laid in bed next to Daddy, counting the minutes. “1-2-3-5-10. Here the cramps come again.” 10 minutes apart. A birthday pattern!

2:35am My body responded to the cramps by dilating and sending me a bright red sign known as bloody show.

3:10am Recognizable contractions started. I was certain I would be holding you in my arms before days end. I wanted the world to wake up so I could announce you were coming!!!

8:15am Our household and hearts were buzzing. Everything was prepared for labor. Your sisters were ready for the day and for you. So I finally retreated to my labor room to “get to work”.

8:35am I filled my diffuser with peppermint and applied clary sage essential oil. I connected to you and to my body! “Let’s do this.”

8:50am My contractions were not consistent. A common theme in all my labors. So I determined to walk our neighborhood until I felt something shift. It was drizzling the entire time, which was refreshing and spiritual. At first, when I was hearty and ambitious, Witness by Jordan Feliz was on repeat. But as my energy left me and I wrestled with my own expectations, I scrolled through worship music restlessly. I never settled in labor after that until my water broke. This is when my specific, desperate labor cries to God started. “Jesus, I am tired of walking. Give me 1 good contraction.” A few houses down from our front door, I had my first contraction I could not walk through. Answered prayer. When it passed, I went inside and rested. Rest was a foreign or forced concept in my other labors. But the fatigue I felt was from life, from seasoned mamahood, from waiting over a decade for you…more than from simple steps. I let my body contract, while curled up in a ball on the bed, as I rested my heart before the Lord. Only He could supply the continued strength I needed to get to you.

10:47am There it was. The loudest instinct ever. I h-a-d to go internal. Contractions had been legitimately painful (I refuse to use the word discomfortable) for at least 30 minutes. I was feeling nauseous, which was new for me in labor. I asked Daddy to finish up his errands and come home so I wasn’t alone. I pushed into the pain and positioned myself to make each contraction count. I knew embracing the hard was the quickest way to end labor and make it to the reward of birth.

Sometime after, your grandparents arrived to love on your sisters with chicken nuggets and ice cream. Daddy filled the pool so you could have a warm transition from womb to world.

1:35pm My midwives arrived for labor support. I was concerned I wasn’t progressing in the active stage of labor. I believed you had flipped sides. I needed them to tell me the “more” I could be doing because I was doing everything I knew to do. Was it enough? Your heart rate was good but you were no longer in the ideal position. The cervix check confirmed I was already in transition. They whispered that to one another, to not discourage me. But I was so thankful I overheard them. I guess most mamas want to hear they are already at a 10 and done. But 7-8 was another answer to a desperate prayer that I wasn’t stuck in early labor. My contractions were intense but not the 5-1-1 pattern officials tell you to expect. They were 30-40 seconds of physical and mental wave riding, separated by 2-6 minutes of prayerful hesitation about how much longer I could do this. Dawn guided me through squat contractions while Brandy applied counter pressure. It was the first interaction I really needed in labor. The midwives quietly assured me I was making the right decisions. I was peacefully groaning and working through each contraction. But inside, I was still so needy of intervention.

2:27pm A contraction came while I was positioned backwards on the toilet and I prayed that I would feel you move down in the birth canal. I needed a sign that you were imminent because I was weary, even though I was determined. God answered with my water breaking and me immediately getting the urge to push. He was consistently the God of breakthroughs when I needed them most! I made my way into our family room. Full couches and benches all around the birthing pool. Four generations who have waited for you! The men, women, and sisters you will look up to as you grow! Daddy joined me in the pool so he could apply counter pressure through spontaneous pushing. I closed my eyes and panted through each strong surge that moved you through me. I felt everything burn as you stayed crowned, with my final contractions still a minute away. You were so close and yet much too far away, it seemed. Everyone was in awe, seeing part of you unveiled and waiting impatiently for the rest. I prayed for this to be the grand finale. And it was. One push and your head was out. One more and your body followed.

3:07pm You were here!!!!! Hallelujah!!!!! I am crying writing this but I did not cry then. I lifted you from the water like a scene out of The Lion King and held you to my chest, in complete disbelief. Emotional shock. You were too good to be true. Was this real?!!!!!!!! I praised Jesus with one breath, expressed my shock with the next, and repeated the cycle. I could not comprehend the waiting was over even with the weight of you physically against my heart. You are in that same position now. My tears are falling on your sweet sleeping face. And now I feel it. The feels I could not even begin to feel in that fated, holy moment. You are overwhelming in the best way, Corban.

 

Corban Kingdom | Birth Story

Thanksgiving | A 6 Month Adoption Update

If anyone is willing to admit adoption is hard, it’s the two of us. Me and my adopted daughter.

I foolishly anticipated her adoption would have some kind of natural rhythm to it, the way welcoming her 5 month old sister from foster care did. But welcoming a stranger who is grieving the life and Mommy she left behind has proved anything but natural. There have been no motherly instincts to rely on because, sadly, my instincts tell me to protect my life from her. She came in looking more like her broken biological parents than she did an 8-year-old. Emotionally immature. But worldly-wise. Filling my younger daughters’ once innocent play with talks of death, hate, divorce, sexual awareness, and every form of dysfunction. She had a mouth full of lies and a heart to wound. Her choices fulfilled the adoption nightmares that keep people from adopting. In her own words, she tried her very hardest to be her very worst, hoping we would “send her back”.

Thanksgiving marked 6 months of adoption for us. I’d like to say my heart was full of thanksgiving for the healing, connection, and healthy ground we gained in this half-year together. But that wouldn’t be honest. Chaos, destruction, heartbreak, helplessness, and discouragement were still my daily companions. Moving from victory to victory wasn’t her tangible reality, yet. Jesus was the only reason we were all even trying. It was the irrevocable truth He declared over her life that we held up to our souls. And that those closest to us tied to us when we were weary.

Adoption is worth it. But we have had to repeat that like a spiritual mantra. Every Single Day. Because, if I am being raw, it hasn’t felt worth it. Until today. Today is my thanksgiving. Hallelujah.

It started with another breakdown two nights ago. But when that ended in real breakthrough, I wondered what Holy Spirit would seal in her heart as she slept. Would the truth finally set her free?! When she woke up different yesterday, I noticed. Still, I held my breath. I waited for the hard to hit. Something familiar. But it didn’t. By the end of the night, I found myself thanking her for being “so peaceful” all day. I laid in bed, marveling at this Red Sea miracle. Was it truly the only day like it in the last 6 months?

She woke up this morning with the same lightness. This time, I let myself feel it too. I held back a million billion trillion tears. Feeling freedom made me profoundly aware of the constant attack we have lived under. Our home has been a landmine of triggers and we have all been casualties of the war the enemy waged.

But resurrection is real. Jesus conquered His cross and every one of mine. That breath brought life back into me today. And I am ready to shout VICTORY. We will triumph by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, as Revelation 12:11 promises. Yes, after just one day, I now remember what I knew before adoption. LOVE WINS. JESUS CANNOT BE DEFEATED. AND HE WILL HAVE HIS WAY!

As someone who once saw adoption as immediate redemption, I want you to know it hasn’t been like that for us. It’s been much more like salvation. The lifelong commitment has been made. But the relationship that will lead to change is being built. If you are considering giving an orphan somewhere to belong, know your weakness will be put on display. And your family will hurt. (That’s the hardest part on a mama’s heart.) Look to Jesus as the author and finisher of your child’s redemption. And trust it will come.

Thanksgiving | A 6 Month Adoption Update

Unity

My children are hurting my heart.

Before you think I am just another venting mama on social media, hear me out. I guard my children in conversation. I respect them with my words. I think about their hearts and how they would feel if I shared my frustrations with the public. So I don’t.

But with all honor, I am crying out to all who will listen. Every mama ear, far and wide. My children are hurting my heart. And they are teaching me, like nothing else ever has, how I hurt my Father God’s heart.

“I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity.” John 17:23 Oneness is something God clearly longs for in His children. Scripture is relentless about this. But I am only beginning to understand why.

My four girl hearts are battling a spirit of competition. Who is first. Who is right. Who is greater. They are fighting for identity in the aftermath of adoption. And it makes me ache in a profound way. I want to gather them in my arms, into a healing group hug, and just say: We are one family. We all belong. We all have a place here, with one another. We are meant to be connected.

Oh, the weight of those words on my spirit these days. I hear God’s heart in them in a fresh way. He is pierced by our competition. By our disunity. By our arguments and our discord. By our constant conflict. We justify it, the same way my daughters do. But to a parent’s heart, nothing justifies division. We just want them to be one, in us. He just wants us to be one, in Him.

Holy Spirit, help me love my brothers and sisters in Christ deeper still.

Unity