Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Don't Pray For Me

"Life is messy and people are messier." -Pastor George Ray

A few years ago I was driving a U-Haul with my one of my greatest, most special friends from Key West, FL back to the Motherland AKA Boston, MA.  As I was winding the box truck around bendy turns on a sub-highway in Pennsylvania I was overhearing her talk to her distraught daughter who was away at college and trying to get to the bottom of a mysterious rash without the aid of her present mother.  I was focused on the traffic and the scenery, my mind wandering in and out of day dreams when I heard her say, "At least you have your Christian friends to be there with you and help you with this."

She continued talk and my mind instantly processed that information into practical terms that I could describe to someone else.  What does it mean to be a "Christian friend?"  What is the difference?  Should there be one? What would it look like if the last question were true?  Thoughts started to spin.  I reflected on my friendship with my co-pilot on my current pilgrimage home.  I mentally filed evidence of a good Christian friendship versus a regular one or worse, a bad Christian friendship.  Oh, but maybe you don't want to know lest you be convicted but here it is anyway. 

The primary difference is active involvement.  For the women that I serve and mentor on a daily basis, it takes more than a just a phone call. It takes more than a canned response to things. It takes more than just, "I'll pray for you."  It is easy to say, isn't it?  When I say that I will pray for someone I mostly do but occasionally I forget and when I remember I burn with shame for letting it slip. I want to honor the request, of course.  Prayer is powerful, I don't wish to underestimate it at all. Still, how many times have we offered prayer when something tangible was needed?  Have we ever had the power to help with a need in some way and instead offered to pray for someone else to come through?  No, in order for a friendship to resemble that of Christ there needs to be skin in the game.  How involved did Jesus get with his friends and associates. Pretty personal if you ask me! 

Remember the woman caught in adultery.  Did He stand idly by the scene of a mob with rocks ready to hurl at this ashamed woman who'd been cast to the ground before them and say, "Hey, I'll pray for you?"  He got involved.  He stood at her side and defended her, because He should, because He could. He stood next to her even in the face of danger. That is love. 

It takes more than a warm sentiment to make a change to, to take a stand.  The work I do with women who are facing their unintended pregnancies and chosing adoption for their children is hard. It takes time, resources, tears, phone calls, late nights, sleepless nights, lots of prayer and a willingness to be there no matter what.  For a lot of them, I have been the only one in the whole world that they have ever been able to trust.  I want to honor that at all costs. 

Interested in this kind of work? Want to support what we do?  I do apppreciate your prayers. But if you are making a decision to just pray and withhold resources you know could help us, please don't pray for me.  Get involved. For where your heart is there your treasure will be also.

Monday, February 11, 2013

It's Just A Song

I sit here on day four of the great "Snow In of 2013" here in Boston, listening to the music on my iPhone and being grateful that my bored 6 year old is in bed and we can look forward to getting back to the normalcy of life for a busy single mom and a six year-old who loves Kindergarten as much as candy.

As I stared off into the abyss in front of me a song started playing into my ears.  It was the song I played during my husband's funeral service.  It was quite unorthodox to play in the sanctuary of a stuffy, moderately legalistic Baptist church but I didn't care at the time and I still don't.  It was given to me on a CD of music meant to lift me up in such a dark time, from my husband's faithful accountability partner and friend, J.  I remember listening intently to the songs that he brought me, stretching for any message, subliminal or otherwise that would help me understand my husband more. I grasped for any tiny straw that would help me make sense where to me there could be none.  He was gone and nothing I thought, said or did would change it.  The finality of God's sovereign will had been rubber stamped on my life.  No matter how I wished I could erase it, the indelible mark was there for all to see. 

The song was so powerful to me.  It was a plea, no a commitment to praise God when all seemed hopeless.  I tried, I really tried but in all honesty, I didn't want to.  I wanted Him to give back to me what He had, in my eyes, stolen and I knew that He wouldn't although I recognized that He could. 

Months went by of me trying to make sense of my life and find a balance. It was like trying to learn how to tightrope walk with Rollerblades on. The more I fought for control the more the rope swayed.  It was one day that I just decided to fall off, convinced that the learning wasn't worth it.  That was when I discovered that I was carrying Alex.

During my carrying I had to once again be faced with a God who not only stole my husband but sought to seemingly exact His revenge on my disobedience for having dared to look Him in the face and tell Him to "kiss off". I was dutifully fulfilling my obligations and being allowed to be held accountable for my actions, amidst my temporary insanity.  I can't remember a time when I was so amazingly down-trodden.  I was like a trampled rose on the sidewalk on a hot Summer day.  Left to wilt through the heat of a Key West Summer and my sadness I went to vacuum my car one day when the song came on the radio.  The words pierced my heart.  Before I realized what was happening I was on my knees next to my car with the driver's side door open wailing aloud with the car wash vacuum hose in hand. 

I had to acknowledge finally that God had not done anything to me at all.  Life has trials, sorrow, grief, and loss.  No one ever promised us that we'd get through our existence without it. In fact, quite to the contrary. The book of James in the bible assures us that we will have trials and of many kinds.  It is what we do with the trial that makes all the difference.  No, I chose my path and now I had to walk it all the way out.  It just didn't look like I thought it would.  In those moments of brokenness I turned back to see what could be left of my torn relationship with God.  I haven't been sorry for anything ever since. 

Just this month, in almost 4 years, is the first time that I have been able to listen to this song for what it is and see proof of hope in the lyrics. Where I used to be reduced to tears, I find clarity and assurance.  It doesn't haunt me any more.  It steadies me.  I hope you enjoy it.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday -Audio of my message

Hi All!

As some of you know, I was asked by Fifth Street Baptist Church to deliver the message of Sanctity of Human Life Sunday this year.  Here is the link to the sermon.  I hope you enjoy it.


My Best in Him,

Friday, January 4, 2013

How to Corrode Everything in Your Life

I've spent the afternoon reading an amazing book.  It's one of those books that you want to immediately put down, look around you for anyone who gazes your way and shout, "Hey! You really ought to read this."  Not every book is for everybody but I am sure that everyone suffers the effects of loss to varying degrees.  The chances are, you thought of your most painful one as soon as you were through reading the last sentence.  Don't worry, I'll tell you its title. Be patient.

If you are wondering why I seem to write a lot about loss it's because how one deals with it be it the loss of a spouse, a career or a child through death or otherwise is the linchpin for everything else going forward.  I have also lost much in a short time span so loss is a daily part of my life.  No matter what kind of day I have, no matter what new things come my way, there will always be a quiet moment that brings them to mind.  I don't however, dwell on them.  Ever. 

There are times for mourning, grieving, asking "why me?" and thinking life is too hard or or not fair.  I have had them all and more than 100 times.  Believe me, I've shed tears and felt excruciating emotional pain.  Don't get confused, my current disposition has nothing to do with lack of severity in dealing with anything I've been through.  But there is a big difference between me and some others who burn with sadness and despair even years after their life has changed.  The polarity is not a coincidence.  The opposite of me is a decision or rather an assumption.  That thing is "if only".

"If only" tries to sprout no matter who you are.  In those quiet moments I talked about earlier are the conversations I have in my head that leave me asking, "I wonder what Greg would think about this?" or other things like, "I wish he could deal with this." The trailing, silent phrase that always gets stated in parentheses in mind is "if only..."  There are moments where I wonder if I really could have been mentally capable of being a single parent of two.  My wondering would paint me as a happy mom "just doing her best" and imperfectly, yet happily making the best of life with two smiling, giggling little girls.  Lie.  Taking any time to sit with those fantasies in my mind of a perfect world in which everyone behaves without flaw, everything matches up in just the right way and no one seems to bear any ill effects of a life with a single mom who works full-time with two children, neither of who have a father in their lives is a ridiculous delusion that needs to be stuck in a food processor until it is emulsified into the blundering mess it would have been.  Yes, I am better now. I am capable but the damage I would have done to two little lives besides my own could have been scarring.  No better efforts I could have made in the future would have erased those marks on the psyches of my children.  I am grateful that neither one of them knew that trauma.

I can't take any time at all to go about thinking that something would have been better another way. No matter how much I wish that certain someone(s) could be in my life and that I would be "happier" or more complete is a dangerous notion that will eat away at my soul until reality becomes trivial and my fantasy becomes the only thing worth pursuing. The harsh truth is this. I don't really know at all if person "X" back in my life would have any effect at all on my level of life satisfaction, never mind bliss. There is always an allure for the things we don't have. There is a place in our brain that kicks in when we aren't happy with life in general that boots up our database of things lost that wants to tell us that they are why we are not happy. Wrong.  Even if it were so, they aren't here.  Do I then throw up a flag in defeat and live a life of desperate waiting in vain? What about the people in my life now? What about them?  Do they deserve to be left with half a person who can neither be truly grateful that they are what I have because I am always silently wishing for someone else nor present because my mind is living in constant fantasy of what my life should be like?  What a tragedy. 

No, 'tis better to admit what is.  The situations cannot be changed no matter what.  To not accept reality and move on robs me of any true sense of well-being and burns away at those bridges to other people in my life.  I could think of nothing worse than to hear from my daughter after years of suffering with a mother who longed for the ones that she lost that she never felt truly loved or wholly appreciated for all that she is because she wasn't "Alex".  How could I stomach to hear from a frustrated future mate that he could never live up to Greg.  If I want to release myself and let others love and enjoy me then I have to be unafraid to let go of "if only" because it will never be. 

There is such freedom in letting go and being okay to say I can be me again.  I look forward to the future with an eagerness for what can rise from my ashes.  In fact, I have already experienced much healing and triumph. That which does not kill you will make your stronger, of this I am sure but "if only" corrodes the soul.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Of Grief and Gifts

It's that time of year again! Holiday gift-giving, festivities and scores of people scratching open those festering emotional wounds so they can reminisce about how miserable they are this time of year, every year and why.  I'll usually read enough of those blogs to wonder why I am not like that.  I mean, I have been through more loss in the last few years than most but I am not reduced to some Xanax and Vodka filled ball of despair every Christmas.  Is there something wrong with me?

I get hate mail and negative comments on this blog and the ministry's site all the time.  They don't usually effect me. I delete them, laugh and shake my head at their grinchy dispositions and go about my day.  There was one line in a message once that struck me.  I was confused by its meaning, then I was bewildered why they'd say that about me, of course never having met me or knowing much about me at all.  It took a while to digest.  Here it is, "She can't even appreciate her own humanity."  The reference was to the fact that I am not living as a shell of a person, like I should be, drowning in my own grief and never ending pain of having placed my daughter, Alex, for adoption.  To her and many like her I am supposed to resign myself to being cemented in the moment of placement and to decide to step out of the muck and say, "I can go on" is heresy, a deliberate lie even. 

In the widowhood circles I run in we have a coined phrase "a new normal".  That means that while we cannot go back and feel the way we felt before our husbands were in our lives, we can go on and live our lives in renewal and happiness.  It just won't be the same. To us there is nothing wrong with that. It is what it is. Can't change it, just go on and and live the life you know he'd want you to have. 

To me having to let go of Alex was a significant and painful event in my life but it doesn't determine how I am supposed to feel for the rest of my life just like having to say 'goodbye' to my husband didn't.  Grief is an interesting thing. Some want to shed it like an overcoat on a warm day and others would sooner have you pry it off of their cold, dead bodies before they'd let it go. 

Either case of extremes is not healthy emotional healing.  Trying to outrun grief, as I made the mistake of doing when my husband passed away created a backlash of risky behavior, over-spending and spiritual havoc in my life. It also resulted in Alex's conception.  No, being honest with where I was at emotionally and spiritually would have been the better avenue.  I have found that it can't be any other way.  To the other extreme, I have seen widows, parents who have lost or placed children and other significant relationships become completely paralyzed in their grief.  They seem unable to see passed a traumatic event that changed their lives.  All the therapy, pills, booze, food and whatever else does nothing to improve the emotional and spiritual condition of the sufferer.

I get it.  I didn't go through but I understand how someone winds up in that place.  I remember when I was a new widow and even a new birthmother, I had an anxiousness about when I wouldn't feel bad any more. As much as I wanted to get better, I still held on to this idea that equated feeling better with not caring about my husband or my daughter any more.  There seemed to be an emotional bond between my misery and proving to myself and others that I still loved them. 

At some point I started to see my life continuance as something more worthwhile than just feeling grief.  There was a part of me that felt an innate drive to make something out of what Id' been through not just live with.  I wanted it to be useful instead of hindering.  Instead of using pain to display my love, I could use my experiences to prove that it was valuable.  I didn't want my daughter to see me as the woman who let her go, I wanted her to see the legacy I am leaving that reminds both of my children that their mother is more than the circumstances of her life and her choices.  To me, I want them to say I can rise above the tide when the floods come in because I saw my mother do it.  She is a strong, courageous woman who made something of her life and look at all that became of a certain time in her life not that these events became the ruination of her.  The biggest insult I could give to Alex and Carli would be for them to see that Alex's adoption destroyed my essence.  I want be present for Carli and enjoy her as much as I can because I know how fragile life is.  I don't want her so see Mom in a constant state of wishing her life was different.  She makes life worth living in the present for and to live in the past robs her of her childhood and a solid relationship with her mother. Children are a gift from God, even if we are not parenting them. We still have a responsibility to be the example we would want them to emulate.  I live this every day in hopes that I could be at least a shred of a role model for my girls. 

While both of you, Carli and Alex, celebrate Christmas this year with ribbons and bows, my gift to you both is a mother who is healthy, strong in her faith and striving to be someone you'd be proud of and I hope you can receive it with the same thanksgiving that I have for both of you, in grace instead of grief.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Brought to you by the letter "N" for National Adoption Month

November amongst the pumpkin pies and cranberry stuffing marks National Adoption Month. For all of the NAM clueless less out there, don't feel bad.  I didn't know it even existed until this year.  What you'll also find amongst all of the perfect Thanksgiving recipes on the 'Net around this time is a ton of blogs writing on the subject of National Adoption Month.  It shouldn't surprise you to know that there are a bunch of birthmothers who hate it.  They hate the day, the idea of celebrating, the fanfare that adoption agencies put around it, the posts from adoptive families, if it says 'Adoption' and has the word 'Month' at the end, you can expect to be blasted with angst on their pages.  I read because I have to, you might want to save yourself the onslaught. 

Nevertheless, it brings something to mind that should be discussed if we are going to have to talk about it.  One birthmother's blog that I read recently did so rather poignantly, and while I could have done without the language I celebrate her intelligence and desire to tell the truth.  She called to mind what most birthmothers know. For the most part, what you will find is a stark lack of mention of the birthmother at all during this time of celebration.  Why I even  read the letter from our President declaring the month National Adoption Month. He failed to give even one line for the birthmother.  Not even a passing note of acknowledgement.

 I was invited recently to attend a dinner given by and adoption agency last month. It was their annual fundraiser.  I wasn't invited to speak and I am glad that I wasn't because the letters that I received in the mail leading up to the event were written in grand marketing splendor heralding the plight of the orphan and the opining of the waiting adoption family.  I would have reached for my box of tissues if I wasn't scanning the pages looking for that all too familiarly missing word in the document.  Down and down I read, one paragraph, two paragraph, three. She got a single line at the bottom of the letter. Two lines above the salutation.  She wasn't even worth an explanation I guess, just cover your bases by making sure she was included. If that is what you want to call it.  I decided that it wasn't worth my time since the only reason that adoptive couples can even have someone to adopt aside from DSS hardly seemed worthy enough to call to mind.  What a pity.

It's not all bad.  I had a good experience with my adoption as you all know and I am very comfortable with where I am at with my decision, her family and the days and months afterwards.  There is an overwhelming amount of birthmothers out there who aren't.  There is a staggering amount of them who were offered no aftercare following their adoptions.  80% of open adoptions close at the behest of the adoptive family with our without prior notification to the birthmother disclosing a reason.  Some have claimed coercion either by their families, clergy or adoption agencies prior to placement.  Celebrate? There are many who wail at the very idea, I can't say as I blame them. 

What it does call to mind is why I do what I do.  I want to make it a good experience for the ones facing a decision now and in the future.  I want to work with national organizations on how we can come together to make this a better decision for all involved, not just the ones who stand to gain something.  We need to run shady agencies out of town on the horse they rode in on.  We need to equip ministries and churches, along with other institutions with resources and materials to provide correct information on adoption and a valuable aftercare program for grieving birthmothers.  All this takes work and people willing to do it.

I am grateful for those who have made a positive impact and even more grateful who see a need for change and have made some positive steps to make it better.  I am grateful for those who write about their negative experiences because it has taught me a lot about what needs to change and the gravity of what the situation really is for the majority of birthmothers out there, young and old.  I am grateful for the hate mail and negative blog articles written about me because even in the chaos I can still read objectively, take a step back, evaluate the message and look at how we are coming across.  It has given us pause to see what changes we can make to bring about a clearer picture of what we are about and what we are trying to accomplish.  So you know what, Monica? Thanks.  

Will I feel like celebrating Adoption this month?  I have reason to be grateful.  I think I will just focus on giving thanks for what it is and what I have and look forward to celebrating a better tomorrow for birthmothers when it comes.  How's that?