Thursday, March 19, 2015

Choosing to love

When Scott and I were just friends, there were parts of that friendship that were inconsistent to say the least.  (Our love story is another blog or book or something :)  One day I knew where I stood, I knew we were friends and thought he cared about me and that was fine.  But the next day, it was as if I was invisible or annoying and certainly not anyone he seemed to get real excited about seeing.  The back and forth drove me crazy.  After years of friendship, I figured out it wasn't me.  I remember the day standing in his kitchen when I told him I had had it!  "Pick a mood", I said!  "Your inconsistency is driving me to drink!  Pick a mood and land and I'll let you know if I want to be friends with that guy!"

Fortunately, "that guy" handled my honesty well that day.  He understood what I was trying to tell him and for the most part, years of friendship and now years of marriage later, he tries to pick consistency.  He's still not really a cartwheel kind of guy but I know where he stands.  Especially on how he feels about me.

I've always been a believer in your ability to choose your mood.  And maybe not totally choosing your feelings as your circumstance may just be plain sad or angering or crappy.  But I can choose the mood I wear in those feelings and how I act in that state.

So when we were waiting for what felt like a decade to get our Peruvian kids, it gave people loads of time to ask questions.  Some were okay but many left me with a raised eyebrow, not exactly sure what to say.  Like do you really think you can love kids you didn't birth like you love your own? Well.... you're talking to a step-mom (I never use that term unless I absolutely need to draw our family tree for someone) who married into a kid I didn't birth at the age of 25.  I sure hope I can love a kid I didn't birth! 

And isn't that what marriage is...don't we choose to love someone when we stand in a frilly dress and say I do?  Someone that, let's be honest, we don't know all that much about living with and doing happily ever after with.  Even later, don't we choose to love on hard days or when real life is happening and you just didn't even have time to be all sappy and starry eyed?  If you're going to say you wake up every day feeling like you're married to Matthew McConaughey and you gallop through tall grass and lilies like a scene out of Twilight together, you're either lying or you've been married for 30 seconds. Some days, the feelings just aren't there.  

Of course I could do that with kids.  In order to choose Scott, I also chose Logan.  So then when God said go get these 5 siblings, I think I loved them immediately.  Because God began to build something incredible in me that I can't explain.  Being real though, was it as if someone handed me an infant straight from my body and wrapped their naked self up and handed them to me?  Maybe not.  And I didn't connect with each of the 5 kids exactly the same way on the same time line.  I would say 2 years later there are still ebbs and flows to the connection with all 8 of my kids.  Biological or not.  It's part of my humanness trying to learn to love like God.

I think if more moms were honest and felt safe, adoptive or not, I think they might say so too. I've had friends say that they didn't feel all warm and fuzzy when their newborn was handed to them and they thought there must be something wrong with them!  I thought I was supposed to feel a bond like I've never felt before and be able to read my baby's soul!  Adoptive moms often struggle with connecting differently with their first adoption because being a mom after waiting is filled with "romance' and wonderment!  But sometimes the next adoption creates a resentment that they didn't expect and can seem scary.

Why don't more moms talk about that though?  Why don't we circle around each other and say hey, you're normal.  Or hey, I think you're really struggling, let's talk.  Part of it is I think we have a unrealistic, glorified version of love.  Like the way movies do with sex...I think instagram and facebook do that with motherhood sometimes.  Everyone else seems so happy and they're floating around on clouds like June Cleaver.  

Love isn't a feeling that falls on you and never leaves.  It's actions that require attention daily.  It's steps towards knowing someone and showing them value, sometimes in ways that are completely foreign to us.  It's learning sports we never cared a lick about.  It's allowing haircuts and clothing styles that are not our preference.  Even bigger, it's showing love and value, even when we don't feel like it!  When we're tired.  Or hurt by that particular kid.  Or when the feelings for that child may not have ever been there...trusting that if we act in patience and kindness and gentleness...that the feelings will follow.  

I used to think that was the least romantic thing I'd ever heard of.  I didn't want someone to have to think so hard to love me.  I wanted them to be so overcome by my amazingness that they couldn't help but fall into the deep pit of Lauren-love.  Ha.  It makes me laugh now!  But that was the movie-esque romance in my mind.  Over time, I learned that one of the most powerful things was for someone to choose to love me.  For someone to know me and still love me.  Whoa.   Was that possible?  So when Scott said to me "You're my pick" and got on a knee with a ring, that was romantic and surreal.  But ultimately, that's only a tiny glimpse of the gravity of how God loves me. The God of the Universe that knows my intricacies, my insecurities, my inadequacies, my sins and flaws loves me.  Holy moly, the power in that!  And that power lives in me!  

God didn't call us to the warm and fuzzy club.  Thank Him for that because I would be kicked out!  But He said He is love.  And that love was demonstrated when He laid His life down for us.  Laid His life down.  Action.  Putting yourself out there and loving when it isn't reciprocated.  Actively living out selflessness.  I think as we take steps to choose love, (which is like choosing God), he takes step towards us and changes us.  That's how the feelings change.  Even better, that's how deep seated ugly things about me change.  

Monday, March 9, 2015

What's the Struggle?

At a recent function with other adoptive/foster parents, I got a question...."What has been your biggest struggle?"  Sounds loaded.  Like today?  Last year?  From the beginning of our adoption journey?  In some ways, I think which one?  But on the other hand, I think, are there any worth mentioning? Things are good and status quo most of the time.

We of course have some normal struggles with having a lot of kids.  Is everyone getting enough attention?  Are we missing any major needs?  Whoops, I took a kid to a soccer game he didn't even have!  
And even bigger, more stereotypical things, like lying, and hiding food under the pillow.  And those are noteworthy of course.  But they make logical sense when a child has lived in an institution of any kind and built habits and doubts (like will I get to eat again soon?) that my brain can wrap itself around.
And my kids have had struggles.  Learning a language in a hurry so they can be successful at school.  One kid literally had to re-learn to walk.  Another got thrown into college a little sooner than he was comfortable with.  And the adjustment of my kids who were already living here can't be discounted either.  I could write legitimate posts on these things.  And maybe should so that we paint a very raw, real picture of this life.

But for me personally, not speaking for my kids which I can't adequately do anyway...for me the biggest struggle has been a huge surprise.  It's as if as while God was writing this incredible story for us, for me, that I could never have imagined, Satan was getting equally incredible ideas on how to kick me in the pants. 
And not that the enemy left me alone before.  I've felt warfare and temptation like others.  But I have always been so grateful that overall, I listened to God more than I listened to the lies.  I have always felt fortunate and humbled that God would choose to lower Himself to speak to me and hear me.  And even love me.  
But these new ways Satan was trying to wreck me were hard for me to recognize.  They came in waves of self doubt and feelings of failure that were so sly and wrapped in a way that I thought they must be truth.  They crept in the most unguarded moments and deceived themselves as advice that I needed to heed.  Failures that needed to be on my grade card and signed off by those that loved me.  I believed them. 
I believed that I was the wrong mom for this job.  I believed that I was failing.  I believed that I had been arrogant to think that I could handle this story.  And the pressure was too great.  I was ruining these little people God had entrusted to me.
I actually wrote an honest post over a year ago that was so sore I never posted it.  It's been sitting as a draft for that long.  I'm not sure why now.  Because fortunately, I muddled through that season.  And chose to kick the enemy off my front porch.  I chose to remember what God had said over the years of adoption process.  And even before. 

But this last weekend when the question was posed, I couldn't help but think....this has still been one of the biggest struggles to date.   Today,  I might call it the biggest fight instead.  The thing that I have to protect against.  The thing that I have to have armor for.  Not just because it knocks me down and makes me unproductive for God.  Because that's important.  But it also makes me a completely different mom than I want to be.  It makes me insecure in a way that misrepresents how I feel about my kids.   Because these feelings about myself get masked in impatience, grouchiness, tiredness and a lack of joy.  It's really a misrepresentation of how I feel about me but it comes across as an attack on them.  So I have to guard against the take down and fight instead for joy and truth and celebration of all that God has done and is doing.

Recently, I got the incredible privilege of God using something I spoke to students, to begin to change something inside one of my own kids.  It humbled me to tears to think that God could use anyone but he used me.  That couldn't have happened if I was wallowing in my self doubt and pitiful self.  I wouldn't have heard from God and been confident enough to say exactly what He told me to say if I was worrying about whether or not God really spoke to me or if anyone cared to hear it.  I wouldn't have fought off the warfare I faced even that day!  What a gift we would have missed!  I'll have to tell that whole story when I get permission some day to put it in writing. 
For now, know this, women and moms.  You're right, you're not enough.  You're not perfect and you will never be.  But God is.  And He knew exactly what He was doing when He put the lives in your home that He did.  He knows you.  Like nobody knows you.  And picked you out to be that woman and that wife and that mom.  And he picks well!  Cut yourself some slack.  Breathe.  Laugh at your mistakes.   Sing some Justin Bieber, Never Say Never loud in the car with the windows down.  Be silly.  Choose joy.  Because your God is enough and is writing a beautiful story for you and through you.

Deuteronomy 30:19
...I have set before you, life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him..

Hold fast.  Hang on.  But only let Him whisper while you ride.