Somewhere Between Donuts and Blueberries

Enjoying and Sharing the Goodness of God



A Stroller and Permissible Grief

I donated a stroller the other day and then sat in my car and cried about it for a solid five minutes.

It was the best stroller I ever had. It was a double umbrella stroller that could recline for napping kids and fold up tight and was light enough to carry. It had carried two little boys numerous times through Disneyland, airports and had logged at least a hundred miles. It was convenient and helpful and carried a lot of hopes and dreams I hadn’t realized until I handed it over to the woman at the parenting center.

The boys grew out of it a few years ago but I held on to it because I knew we were planning to foster and adopt and I wasn’t sure if we would need it again.

We got our girls in March of 2019. We had started the process in 2018. We took the classes, read the books, got certified and waited. We said yes to a few different placements but were not chosen. It was disappointing and also good as I cherished these times with my two little boys knowing they were short lived, things would change soon.

When we got matched in Feb 2019 we were thrilled and scared. I started to grieve the life we were leaving and dreaming about what was coming, I had been around enough foster and adoptive families to know that you kind of never know what to expect.

Trauma and loss bring a whole host of hurts and changes and questions and tears. We were thrilled to have them and worked hard to connect and build trust. We tried hard to meet all the needs but going from two to four kids, 2-7 years old, that was impossible. But we did the best we could. It was hard, it felt overwhelming. Would the girls feel safe? Would the boys think we ruined their lives? Would we ever have a semblance of predictability again?

Yes. Yes to all of it. And also yes to things we never even thought to ask? Would our adopted daughter and bio son look more alike that any of the biological siblings and people would think they were twins? Yes. Would our special needs baby would grow so much and learn so many words doctors and therapists would be in shock? YES! Even though our oldest would question this addition would he love and protect his sisters? Yes!

Would we all grown and learn and change?

It’s been almost three years. We have more good days than bad and things are fairly predictable. Not to say they’re perfect, we still have melt downs and tantrums and hurt feelings, but even then I can usually see a trigger and anticipate where we are going.

We don’t need a double stroller anymore. They are 10, 7, 7, and 5 years old, they are too big for it. So it was time to give it away.

I cried tears I didn’t know I had. I had started driving away and realized I needed to park, this was not safe. I was not just saying bye to a stroller, I was saying bye to a part of me I was sad to see go. The mom of two boys with a fairly easy life. The woman who dreamed of adopting and didn’t know the hard that would come with it. I was saying bye to a life that looking back looked idyllic compared to the wild and crazy one I was living.

As I cried I felt the compassion of God. Like he was there with me, comforting me and letting this wave a grief hit and take it’s time, not rush me out. It made me think of when Jesus wept with those mourning the death of Lazarus. He knew he was going to bring Lazarus back to life, but first he wept with those who were weeping, acknowledging their pain and joining them in it.

I texted my mom and sister and sister-in-law, the one who had bought me the perfect stroller to begin with so they could mourn with me. We got those strollers because we each had two small kids. We both lived in Southern California when we had our first. We have been close since she joined our family. She is such a gift to me. When I moved we both cried so many tears, grieving the fact that we would not get to see each other so often. Since we now lived more than three hours apart when we could get together to cart those kids around it was a sweet reunion every time.

So as I sent the text about crying over a stroller I knew she would feel the depth of my sorrow. The next day she sent me such a comforting message. That in sharing my grief it gave her permission to acknowledge the things she misses too – the younger kids and the easier days.

And it made me realize how often we don’t really acknowledge our pain for a couple reasons. One, who has time to sit and cry when there are literally so many things that need to be done and kids with needs and the Target pick up I was off to next! And second, am I even allowed to acknowledge these hurts and losses when I literally signed up for this?

But let’s be real, no amount of books or people telling you really prepare you. I knew (theoretically) it was going to be hard, but I didn’t KNOW how hard until I experienced it. I knew with my head, but now I KNOW with my life and there is a difference.

And then I thought, how kind it was of God to let me feel my feelings and meet me there and not rush me out. As I dried my tears and finished the drive to Target I thought how thankful I was that I am a grown adult and could process these feelings with God and articulate it with those who love me and can comfort me. And it made me think of these precious kids in my care who are having their own triggers and reminders and waves of grief and maybe don’t know how to articulate it all.

Ah, poor babies! Poor Sissy and her big behavior, how many times is it more than just sharing or taking a turn, it’s a feeling of being overlooked or forgotten? Poor big brother who remembers what it was like to have years of mom falling asleep in his bed as I tucked him in and the last three years being mostly rushed or mom not there at all as mom and dad rotate nights between the girls’s and boys’ rooms. Maybe the bed time drama has more to do with feeling rushed or pushed aside?

Whatever it is, by taking the time to acknowledge and grieve myself, it let me also feel the comfort and compassion of God. He does not despise our weaknesses. He made us, knows us, and already accounted for it. He loves us and in giving me that compassion he refilled my heart with compassion to pour out to those who need it most, the very kids I always dreamed about, the precious sons and daughters, full of life and love.

He is a gracious God. He gives us good things so we can give them to others. Life is hard and beautiful, heart breaking and yet there is much healing to be had. It was just a stroller, but it was much more. It carried hopes and dreams, giggles and crumbs, grief and so much compassion.

A little TED Talk and a lot of Prayer

I read someone was having a tough time with their adoptive son and I wanted to help but didn’t want to give unsolicited advice. I reached out and told her I would pray and if she wanted to chat I would love to. She was busy but said she would be happy to read the resources I had to share. I didn’t mean to give a Ted talk, but once I started I realized I needed to preach this to myself as much as anyone. So in case you are needing the reminder that parenting is tough but also a sacred privilege that God can help us in, pull up a seat and welcome to my talk.

Here’s some thoughts on what’s been most helpful for me and you can take what you want and ignore what’s not for you. Ask God he’ll help you know what is what.

Don’t take their bad behavior personally, it’s not you they hate even if their words say it. They feel sad, angry and hurt. The devil wants to steal, kill and destroy and the best way to do that is to sabotage the relationships they do have.

It’s not us vs. them, it’s us and them vs. fear, hate and despair. We have to fight for them not against them, which is hard because they are trying to fight against us.

Remember that fight is part of the fight or flight instinct that happens when we feel fear or danger. So instead of fighting them we can ask, “what are you afraid of?” “How can I help you feel safe?” “What’s making you feel sad right now?”

We need to be calm and with compassion we can be honest with our feelings too. “I’m sorry you are hurting, the way you are talking to me, disobeying me, etc is making me feel hurt too. Do you want other people to hurt like you? Why?”

We can’t correct until we can connect, we can’t connect until they trust, they will not trust until they feel safe. You can ask, “what makes you feel unsafe right now?” And in those answers find answers together. Maybe covid is making him feel like things are out of control or going to change and change reminds him of his mom dying or being separated from family and maybe it’s making him miss her and be afraid of someone else dying. Trying to help them talk about what he’s thinking and feeling will help foster conversation which can help him feel safer.

When our older daughter has a bad attitude or get’s real difficult I always get mad and want to yell and give consequences but when I remember, I can stop and consider: she might be thinking and feeling things that I don’t know about or haven’t realized. So I try to pause and sometimes consciously whispering when I want to yell helps me remember to use self control like I want her to and I ask what she’s feeling, what she’s thinking of and what or who she is remembering. 9 times out of 10 she says something about her bio family. Now might she be manipulating me? Totally possible, but I didn’t yell, which is a win, she got to say something and we can still have the consequences for her behavior, but now I can approach it with some compassion and hopefully I have cooled down enough to have a reasonable one that fits the crime and not a dramatic, harsh one.

It’s also important to apologize for when I do yell or over react. We usually will review the whole interaction so every guilty party has a chance to say sorry for the part they played. Because rarely is it just one person’s sin. Usually everyone played a part in whatever trouble we are having.

And probably the most important one, that I forget all the time, before I even start talking, TO PRAY, and ask God to help me see their heart like he does.

We can’t do this on our own, only God has what we need to do this. But he is more than able.

Let’s find a way to talk and communicate because whatever they cannot get out in word will come out in negative behavior!

Friends, you are doing good work, even when you feel like you are failing.

It is better to error and repair than to never have errored at all. For in the repairing we build bonds and help heal what’s been broken.

God, you love our kids. You love our whole family. You want to be our hope and peace. God please pour your Holy Spirit on us and give us all more love and compassion and understanding for each other.

Give us divine wisdom on how to parent and how to help our kids.

And Jesus please come and fill our hearts with hope that you can make all things new, that you can heal broken hearts and relationships. That you forgive all sins, big and small and that we can even model repentance and forgiveness for kids.

God I pray your blessings over them and ask that today would be a turning point for all of us and that we would look back on today and how hard Covid has been as the time God came and met us and rescued us and made good and beautiful healing out of what was broken and scary. We know you can do anything and we pray for soft and willing hearts for all our family.

Amen! And thanks for coming.

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