My Journey to Joy

April 24, 2017

Lessons from a Friend

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 1:21 PM

There’s a crooked fork in my silverware drawer.  The handle is bent to almost a 90 degree angle.  It isn’t fancy or expensive, but to me it is priceless.  When I see it, sometimes I sigh and sometimes I smile.  It used to belong to a friend of mine, and I keep it there to remind me of who he was and how he lived.

The year 2011 found me searching for a job.  And searching.  And searching.  Along the way I found a website that facilitated employers finding employees and vice versa.  I turned in applications and looked for opportunities.  I walked a dog who snapped at me and scared me to death.  I looked through babysitting jobs, and eventually opened up my profile for “Special Needs” to make myself accessible to more parents.  And that’s how he found me.  Soon I was headed to his house on a Sunday afternoon for an interview.

As Bob outlined the requirements for his care, I realized I was not suited for this job.  At all.  And so I told him of my complete inexperience.  And so he hired me.  A few weeks later, I started a “short-term” job that would last for almost four years…but I also began a friendship that has changed me forever.  I hadn’t planned on a friendship, but Bob had.  I’m so glad he did.

Initially, I watched other caregivers, taking notes and trying to soak in every detail.  All too soon Bob asked if I was ready to give it a try.  I wasn’t, but I did.  I was a nervous wreck the first time I lifted his broken body from his chair to his bed.  I know we were both immensely relieved that I hadn’t dropped him, but Bob had a courage that had been cultivated over years of struggle.  He was one of the bravest people I have ever known.  There wasn’t much that Bob couldn’t figure out, or that he was afraid to tackle.  He calmly talked me through medical procedures (which I was completely unqualified to perform!), wheel chair repairs, and precisely how to drive him to work (in which lane, at what speed…)

Over time, I discovered Bob’s wiiiiiide stubborn streak.  And he found out about mine.  With mutual respect, we maintained a great working relationship, while enjoying each other’s company.  As my tasks became second nature, we were able to talk about a wide variety of topics.  We argued about historical facts and which band sang a particular song.  We learned to leave our arguments at a draw until one of us could research and see who was right.  (It was usually him.)  I was no match for his brilliant mind and impeccable memory…but that didn’t stop us from the fun of our debates.  Over time, I saw what an asset his persistence really was.  With no feeling below his bicep and no use of most of his body, Bob worked a full-time job at a nearby hospital.  His extraordinary grit and determination drove him to accomplish amazing things.  He was a strong and independent man.  When I met him he had been paralyzed for almost forty years and utilized countless solutions to navigate daily tasks, including bending his forks to slide them into his hand splint so that he could feed himself.

But honestly, it wasn’t Bob’s intellect or perseverance that meant the most to me.  He was a kind man.  On days when he had abundant reasons to be grumpy or unkind, he was gracious.  When there was a problem, he was willing to apologize.  He was unfailingly generous.  One of our most frequent arguments was over how much he would pay me; he was always suggesting a bonus for this or that.  He seldom spoke of his pain and struggle, but often asked about what was going on in my life.  He was a wonderful listener, offering support and genuine sympathy.  Many days I left his home feeling better, lighter.  He had a knack for making me laugh with his corny humor and his sharp wit.  I was lucky enough to be able to return that favor.

I think one of Bob’s greatest gift to me was seeing him be gracious in the face of ignorance and even prejudice.  Bob knew who he was.  He knew his worth.  And people who couldn’t understand that simply missed out.  (We certainly chuckled together over their ignorance later!)  Bob was gracious to me when I made mistakes.  And I made some doozies.  Once I almost unintentionally let him smother, while I was standing right beside his bed.  As he gasped in big gulps of air, he simply said, “Just give me a minute.”  Later, he never mentioned it at all; eventually we were able to laugh about how I cried the whole way home.

One ordinary evening I tucked Bob into bed and wished him goodnight.  The next morning I got a terrible phone call and learned that my friend was gone.

I learned so much from Bob.  I still think of him often.  He has changed how I see the world, changed how I see others, changed how I see myself.

There’s a crooked fork in my silverware drawer…and there always will be.

March 20, 2017

A Letter to My Godchild

Filed under: Uncategorized — aunthoddy @ 10:03 PM

Hello, Precious One.  We had hoped to meet you today, but God had other plans.  We wouldn’t take you from heaven, but we miss you until we can see you there.  Do you know how much you are loved?  Do you talk to your sibling there with you about us?  We remember you both and think of you often.

Your brother and sister down here will be dedicated to Jesus soon.  Your mom & dad are trusting them to God’s care, too.  (Your mom & dad are incredible.  You’re going to love spending forever with them.  Your momma may not let you go for a few hundred years…)

We don’t understand why you were gone so soon, but we are trusting God.  We promise we’ll see you someday.  All of our love…

 

February 24, 2017

Worthwhile

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 12:01 AM
Tags: , , ,

It amazes me to think that a few short years ago I had never heard of open adoption.  When we began to pursue adoption, our agency really pushed the idea. Quite honestly, I resented it.  I think mostly I was uninformed and afraid.  So afraid.  Of a million imagined things.  Eventually, I became convinced of the merit of open adoption as I learned more about how openness can benefit everyone in the adoption triad, but particularly adoptees.

By the time we were chosen by our first birthmom, I was excited about building a relationship with her.  I faithfully sent the required updates.  I sent cards for special occasions.  I sent albums with loads of pictures.  I wrote long, newsy letters.   I was crushed when she stopped receiving our correspondence.  (We respect her choice, but hope someday she’ll choose to be part of our lives.)

Our second adoption proved to be longer, and incredibly painful.  We “lost” three babies: September 2013, January 23rd, 2015, & February 3rd, 2015.  We were deeply grieving these losses when we met our precious second birthmom on March 13th, the day we adopted our second son.  She was wonderful.  Maybe our losses helped us understand some of her pain?  We all spoke cautiously, hoping to do no harm but only good with our words.  We found out many things we had in common, but most importantly how we all desperately loved the same baby boy.  My heart ached as we left to let her say goodbye.  I didn’t know if I would ever see her again.

The next few days we soaked in the joy of being a family of four.  We bonded with our sweet cuddle-bug and took an insane number of pictures.  I prayed for our birthmom, and worried and wondered about her, but all was quiet.  Then one afternoon there was a text on our Google Voice!  I eagerly wrote back, wanting to share how our precious boy was growing and thriving.

As we continued to text, my love and respect for our birthmom grew.  While I don’t pretend to know her feelings, I can honestly say that she is a hero in my eyes.

As time went by, we became more comfortable with each other.  She gave us an email address, so we wouldn’t need to go through the agency for pictures.  She told us her last name, we told her ours…we shared our addresses.  I learned how to send videos to her via Google drive.  We agreed to meet at Chick-fil-A.  And one day I realized we have an open adoption…

There is still so much that I don’t know, so much that I am learning.  I’m sure that I’ve made mistakes along the way.  Sometimes I send pictures & notes for weeks or months without hearing anything back.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m writing too much, or too little?  I pray that the love that we feel will come through in all of our correspondence.

I’ve had people ask me why I bother to send so many updates.  I’ve been looked at as if I were crazy for pouring into a relationship that isn’t always reciprocated.  I’ve felt like I’m on a thousand blind dates, wondering what is the right thing to say or not to say.  I’ve been frustrated by unanswered questions.  I’ve wondered if I’m doing the right thing, or if I need to give more space.  And then I get an email that makes me sob:  “…I am soooo happy I picked you guys to be his parents.”

I wouldn’t change a thing…

 

January 6, 2016

What’s It Like Raising a Child of Another Race?

Filed under: Shared Findings — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , , ,

One Sunday afternoon, I was chasing my one-year-old son around the foyer of our church building while services were taking place in the chapel. He was a bundle of energy, running in circles, climbing on and off the couches, and smiling with his beautiful smile at anyone who would look his way. As I chased him past a woman who was also waiting in the foyer, she suddenly asked, “So what’s it like, raising a child of another race?”

Her question caught me off-guard. While it’s true that my son is black and I am white, right at that moment, he wasn’t “a child of another race.” He was just my adorable child. I responded by telling her that, right then, it wasn’t any different than raising a child of the same race. He was just over a year old, so at that time in his life, “raising him” meant I changed his diapers, fed him Cheerios, cheese, apples, and milk. I tickled him, built block towers, sang songs, and, currently, chased him around the foyer at church.

Seeing past my own white privilege takes lots of patience, practice, and failures. Many times I’m so blinded by it, I don’t even know it’s there. But, don’t fool yourself. It absolutely IS there.

However, the reality is that raising a child of a different race is not the same as raising a child of your same race. Of course the basics are the same. You fiercely love them, as only a mother can. You feed them, clothe them, teach them manners, kindness, and how to look both ways before crossing the street. But, you can’t teach them what it means to be a race you don’t belong to. As a white woman, I can’t teach my son what it means to be a black man. I can read all the books, listen to all the speakers, and watch all the movies, but it won’t matter. I’ve never lived it. Seeing past my own white privilege takes lots of patience, practice, and failures. Many times I’m so blinded by it, I don’t even know it’s there. But, don’t fool yourself. It absolutely IS there.

Raising a child of another race means stepping outside of all my comfort zones: physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. It means being willing to attend activities, churches, schools, and fairs where I am the minority and my child’s race is the majority. Surrounding him with people who look like him is essential to helping him become comfortable and confident in himself.

Raising a child of another race means being willing to learn how to care for his skin and his hair in the proper way. It means researching products, styles, and methods. It means I can’t simply take him to any salon or barber shop for a haircut, because most people around my town are not familiar with how to cut his kind of hair.

Raising a child of another race means listening to the voices of the people who have lived similar experiences; whether they be transracial adoptees or simply grown men of the same race as my son. It’s realizing that their stories are hard to hear. It’s realizing that I can’t protect my son from many of the things the world will throw at him because of his race. It’s realizing that these things may make me feel uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean I can ignore them.

Raising a child of another race means being the “poster family” for adoption. It means we are looked at, recognized, and questioned about our child and our family every where we go. It means being willing to navigate those questions with respect to our child’s privacy. It means being okay with the fact that, according to the world, we don’t “match.”

Raising a child of another race means being the “poster family” for adoption. It means we are looked at, recognized, and questioned about our child and our family every where we go.

Raising a child of another race means having my eyes opened to the world around me; both the good and the bad. It means experiencing things in a way I never have before. It means that familiar sayings, jokes, songs, and stories that meant nothing to me previously suddenly become racist. It means being willing to stand up for my child in the face of ignorance and educate those around me. It means learning to be courageous.

Raising a child of another race means that some nights, I lie in bed and cry over what was reported in the news that day. It means I worry about the kinds of things that will happen to him as he gets older. It means I know I have to prepare him for the world he will go into. It means I feel excitement for the great things he will accomplish, and fear that he will be held back from accomplishing them.

If I ever get another chance to answer the question of “What’s it like to raise a child of another race?” I know what I’ll say:

“Raising a child of another race means that I have learned more about life, love, and the world around me than I ever anticipated. It means knowing, without a doubt, that God created each of his children in unique, yet equal beauty. It means feeling gratitude for the diversity in this world. It means learning to love a new culture: its food, its music, its traditions, and especially its people. It means adding a fullness to life that I didn’t know was missing. It’s beautiful, hard, amazing, and agonizing. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

author image

Rachel Galbraith

Rachel Galbraith is a busy mother of five children, one of whom was adopted at birth. She has a Bachelors Degree in social work, and has worked as a medical social worker, specializing in the field of women and children. She was privileged to play a small role in the adoptions that often took place on her hospital unit. Writing has become her own personal form of therapy, and she is excited to combine it with her love of adoption. In her free time, she has a love-hate relationship with distance running. She readily admits to doing it only so she can eat chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

http://adoption.com/whats-it-like-raising-a-child-of-another-race

December 5, 2015

Ruth Schwenk on Purpose and Pain

Filed under: Notable Quotables — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM

I know that in God’s economy, no tear is wasted; no pain is unseen; no heartache goes unnoticed; no agony is unobserved.  ~Ruth Schwenk,  TheBetterMom.com

August 25, 2015

Our Journey to Family: A Love Story

Filed under: Contemplations — aunthoddy @ 3:44 PM
Tags: , ,

In 2008, my husband & I decided it was time to expand our little family of two to include children. We had been married for five wonderful years and I’d enjoyed a fulfilling career teaching kindergarten. We had prayed and planned, and we felt ready. What followed in the coming years shook my entire worldview. I had to choose to trust God as He remained seemingly silent while my dreams of having a child were shattered. When my cries of “why” went unanswered, I experienced a soul-deep sadness that went on for years. With a broken heart and crushed hopes, I begged God for help; I could not bear to live in such misery.

Psalm 34:18 (NLT) The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

He answered with Himself. And, eventually, a call on our hearts to pursue adoption. Along the way many people tried to comfort me by saying “you can always just adopt…” I was eager to begin, excited about the possibilities, and very, very naïve. In the years since, I’ve learned a lot about adoption. The joy it has brought to our lives has been immeasurable. And the pain has been incredible. Each family’s story is different, but here is ours…

In February, 2011, we sent in our application to adopt through a local Christian agency. Our homestudy was completed six months later, double the time we’d hoped. Being fairly private people, we were bruised by the process. The interviews were invasive, the home visits nerve-racking, the paperwork seemingly endless, the fees breathtaking, and the delays frustrating. Five days after approval, we received our first birthmother profile.

We were giddy; we might be parents soon! Then came the dreaded e-mail: “she chose another family.” This began an emotional roller coaster ride that went on for the next nine months. During this time we were told that “maybe God just didn’t mean for you to be parents,” “you should just relax,” and many other well-intentioned-but-hurtful things. People contacted us about possible birthmothers of their acquaintance. We were shown fifteen times without being chosen. Our wounded hearts and egos reeled from the perceived rejection, as we pasted on smiles and tried to carry on with our lives. God walked with us in our grief, and gave us the strength to just keep going.

Psalm 28:7 (NIV)  The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.

Our world changed forever on a Tuesday afternoon in April, 2012. Our social worker called and said, “We have a baby boy…are you interested?” Unable to speak for tears, I frantically motioned for Daniel to say “yes”! Our precious son had been born that February, while we grieved what we thought was a miscarriage, in the midst of being shown to several birthmoms. God was working, and we didn’t even have a clue! We drove to Mississippi and brought home our sweet miracle 19 days later, on the Friday before Mother’s Day.

Lamentations 3:21-23 (ESV) But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

When God began again to stir our hearts toward adoption, we were sure it would be easier. Our darling boy had brought so much joy and happiness to our lives. We weren’t coming from the aching place of empty arms. We were wary now, knowing more of what the process could entail, but we were determined to follow God’s leading. In August of 2013, we submitted our second application. In September, my 89-year-old grandmother was murdered. We knew by now that adoption involved spiritual warfare, and were committed to staying the course God had laid out for us. Some very close friends and family once again took up the burden with us, praying & waiting. Again, ironically, our homestudy took six months, despite all of our best efforts. We were approved February 7th, 2014, and had our first profile 45 minutes later! We were back on the roller coaster…

Romans 8:28 (KJV) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Each time we received a profile of a prospective birthmom, we prayed, discussed the information given, and measured it by the criteria we had initially determined. Only when we were both in agreement would we give a “yes, we’d like to be shown” answer to our social worker. The decisions were agonizing. We were shown to birthmoms of every ethnicity, from age 16 to 36. Some of these brave women were single, some married. Some were pregnant for the first time, while some were expecting their second, third, fourth, or fifth child. Their reasons for choosing placement were different, but their motivation for considering this agonizing choice was the same: an immense love for their child, and the desire for him/her to have a life they knew they couldn’t provide. We ached for the pain in their situations, and prayed earnestly for God to work in their lives.

Proverbs 13:12 (NET) Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is like a tree of life.

Months went by, with opportunity after opportunity, but still no baby. I met a precious birthmom who asked me to parent her child. We were cautiously excited when she followed through by calling our social worker, then crushed with her when she miscarried. A dear friend called about a baby in immediate need of parents, and we scrambled through a breathtaking whirlwind of calls to lawyers and social workers…only to find out that the birthmom was not interested in our family. I became close to a twelve-year-old who was very interested in adoption. I wondered if she might choose our family to parent her sweet boy, but in the end she chose to parent him herself.

Habakkuk 3:18 (ESV) …yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

We had sixteen opportunities through our agency, then were ecstatic when we were finally chosen in December of 2014. The holidays were an agony of hope and fear, as a meeting with birthparents was set, then rescheduled twice. Finally in January of 2015 we got to drive to Georgia to meet the birthparents. Our meeting went very well, and we made a real connection. A couple of weeks later, I woke on a Friday morning at 3:30am, the day baby H was to be born. I prayed all day, then cried great gasping sobs for this precious woman when we got a labor update around noon, completely undone by the magnitude of her choice. It all came to a devastating end that night when I got a text as I was preparing for bed: “It looks like she’s decided to parent.” For a brief moment I thought of just not telling my husband, not wanting to see him hurt. Ultimately, I couldn’t tell him; I just handed him the phone.

Isaiah 30:15b (ESV) In quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

Grief hit us hard, with the loss of this much-loved baby boy. Yet we agreed that God’s call hadn’t changed, and that we should stay our course. I called our social worker the following Monday, to let her know our decision. Somewhat surprised, she sent us two profiles that day, asking for an answer almost immediately. We were able to say “yes” to one, and again began the process of being shown. One week later, we were stunned to hear that we had been chosen again! Our hearts still numb with grief, we began again to try to imagine a sweet baby soon in our arms. The following day, our social worker called to say that the birthmom had changed her mind. Our social worker broke down and cried, then prayed with me over the phone. We agreed that it was hard to see what God was doing, but that we both knew we could trust Him, always.

Psalm 66:5 (NLT) Come and see what our God has done, what awesome miracles he performs for people!

A few weeks later, in February, we had another opportunity to be shown, and doggedly continued on our journey, with a tenacity that could only be from God. We laughed about how crazy it would be to be chosen “three times in a row,” hoping to lessen the sting of another disappointment. As the weeks went by with no decision, I found myself calling and e-mailing our social worker often, hoping for any news. Until the day she called to say we’d been chosen. I froze, sobbing on the stairs, as she said “you knew he was yours!”  One week later, we got to meet our incredible second birthmom. We saw each other in the parking lot of the adoption agency, and she recognized us from our profile. She walked over and said “you’re adopting my baby.” We hugged and walked into the agency together. At our formal meeting, I looked into her pain-filled eyes, and told her that we will love her son as long as we live. The only thing she asked was that we tell him that she loves him. We went out to give her time to tell him goodbye. A short while later, we came back to sign the massive stack of paperwork, then it was time. We walked down a hallway, opened a door, and met our second cherished son.

This is our story, so far. I wouldn’t change any of it. People ask if we will adopt again, and our answer is: we don’t know. We’re trusting God to build our family exactly as He sees fit. He’s done an absolutely amazing job so far.

March 28, 2015

Kristen on Mourning

Filed under: Notable Quotables — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , , ,

“When I face loss – big and small – and the mourning hangs on, I sometimes imagine God tapping His foot, telling me to get over it already. Heaven knows I say these words to myself. But He doesn’t. Loss is one way Love is made visible, and God does not trivialize our pain or set expiration dates on our mourning. Yes, there is a time for everything, a time to mourn and a time to dance. But in the transition from one to the other, God is patient.”  ~Kristen

 

http://chasingblueskies.net/?p=5837

March 21, 2015

Joni on Suffering

Filed under: Notable Quotables — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
Tags: ,

If anything impresses itself deep, deep into the wet clay of our souls when we hurt, it’s the stamp of Jesus.  ~Joni Erickson Tada

March 14, 2015

Russell Moore on Adoption

Filed under: Notable Quotables — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM

“Adoption is not just about couples who want children- or who want more children.  Adoption is about an entire culture within our churches, a culture that sees adoption as part of our Great Commission mandate and as a sign of the gospel itself.”

Russell Moore, Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families & Churches

March 7, 2015

Steffany Woolsey on Rest

Filed under: Notable Quotables — aunthoddy @ 5:00 AM
Tags: , ,

“…resting is about more than nourishing body and soul; it is also a picture of surrender.  When we seek our refreshment in Him, we choose to follow His path for our lives, we lean into Him, and we accept His gifts of forgiveness, guidance, and sustenance.”  ~ Steffany Woolsey, A Jane Austen Devotional

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: