Monday, April 28, 2014

Noah and Hard Things

Last week, Steve and I were tag-teaming bedtime.  It was my turn with Baby Z, so I scooped up a few board books and settled into my grandfather's rocking chair, the baby on my lap.

The last book I read him was Noah's Ark

I've been in church my entire life.  I grew up going to a good ol' Southern Illinois Baptist-ish church that had Sunday School, complete with felt boards to illustrate Bible stories and songs like "The B-I-B-L-E" and "Father Abraham."  Following Sunday School was church in which we sang all the old hymns, listened to old people shout out prayer requests, and then the sermons about God's love, the sins of this world, and, number one, gettin' saved to avoid eternal damnation and to instead walk the streets of gold alongside Jesus.   Everyone dressed up for church.  There were "alter calls" and revivals and baptisms in ponds and swimming pools.  We used the King James Bible, ONLY.  The picture of Jesus that was housed behind the pulpit was that of a white, somber Jesus.  Our communion table was engraved with "This Do Ye In Remembrance of Me."  There were oak pews and red carpet and at Easter, lilies.   If a "brother" or "sister" passed away, there was always a fried chicken dinner after the funeral, put together by the ladies of the church. 

It didn't end there.  We had VBS (that's Vacation Bible School) every summer, church camp (every summer), Wednesday evening church, Sunday night church.  There were special weeks set aside for revivals, homecomings, and special services for Christmas and Easter.

I think I've heard just about every classic Bible story at least twenty times. 

So it's interesting to now be the parent, sharing these stories with my kiddos, sometimes revealing a piece of the Bible to them for the first time. 

Noah and his ark is a rather magical story for kids.  There's a storm (the drama!), animals, a really big boat, and, Miss E's favorite, a rainbow.  

Honestly, Bible stories don't really excite me all that much.  (Truth.)   I'm more interested in applicable concepts, not history, genealogy, Jewish law, or parables.  I just want to get down to the heart of the matter, the bare-bones message, quickly, because I have three kids and very little spare time and an impatient personality.   I know, this doesn't sound very Christian of me...but it's the truth.

But as I cuddled my son and read him each line from the book, I realized something that I'd long forgotten.

God asked Noah to do some crazy stuff.  Some hard things.  Some not-very-popular, socially unacceptable actions.

Noah did it.

I'm sure he had doubts. Fears. Anxiety. Strain in his relationships. Maybe even anger at God for asking so much of him. Confusion. Resistance.

And I'm sure with each board nailed, with each animal gathered, with each whisper of humiliation uttered, Noah was feeling overwhelmed.

It would have been far easier to throw in the towel, chalk up his actions to a midlife crisis of sorts, and go have a beer with his buddies (or whatever they drank back then)...but he didn't.

God has asked many people to do hard things.

I've had to surrender control to Him not once, not twice, but three times when we waited to adopt.  And when we embraced transracial adoption and open adoption.  And now there is the aftermath of adoption and adoptive parenting:  with all it's joys and challenges. 

I've had to trust Him when the doctor told me my diagnosis was forever.  When my blood sugar would skyrocket to 500 and then plummet to 30.  When I had to poke my fingers with needles fifteen times a day, or inject insulin into my stomach.   When I had to sit in waiting rooms full of people three times my age, slumped in wheelchairs and holding baggies full of prescription bottles.

I've had to believe that He knew what He was doing when He told me to write a book and then (gulp) share that book with the world, even when it meant facing judgment.  Even if it meant putting a piece of my heart on the line and hoping others would be gentle with it.

Bible stories aren't just stories. 

They aren't in the Bible to be either adored or rejected.

There is something in each one of them. 

Maybe I've seen Frozen a few too many times lately, so I'm feeling the word "magical."  But I think there is something magical.  Something wonderful.  Something awe-inspiring, in the Biblical stories I've heard dozens of times.

Not every act of obedience ends in a rainbow. 

But it does generate and result in a peace which surpasses all understanding

I think God knew, when He inspired the Bible, that it would stand the test of time. That no matter what translation a person read, God would whisper hope, grace, forgiveness, conviction, and freedom into souls. 

That even a tired mom could get something out of a Bible-based board book. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Africa Sleeps: Discount Code for All My Sugars!

Sleep and swim caps, hair products, skin products galore!  And now, sleep caps for big fros. 

If you haven't yet purchased from Africa Sleeps, here's your opportunity.

For one week only, my blog readers can use the discount code BROWNSUGAR2014 at checkout to get $5 off a $20 or more (not including shipping) purchase. 

Africa Sleeps proudly uses many fair trade and certified organic ingredients!  And they donate 5% of sales to the Vulnerable Children Society, a registered charity that helps extremely impoverished and vulnerable children and families in Ethiopia.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Around the Web: Good Reading!

On Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children...

First, I'm so honored!  I happened to stumble upon an interview on Jezebel with MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry where I saw this response Melissa gave to a fan asking about transracial adoption:

"But I've learned from talking with transracial adoption families that love is critical and important, but not enough. There are complicated issues of identity, culture, and belonging that sensitive parents must deal with, not ignore. It sounds to me like you are a sensitive and proactive parent.
We had an amazing guest on the MHP show about a year ago who is white and raising black adopted children, Rachel Garlinghouse. I love her book Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children. You can also visit her website and follow her on Twitter. Rachel is lovely and insightful and may be of help as you navigate this process."
You can follow my book on Facebook or find me on Twitter for updates!
On adoptive nursing...
Last week I participated in a Huffington Post Live segment on adoptive nursing along with two breastfeeding professionals (both adoptive mothers).  This is a topic dear to my heart and one that is increasingly intriguing to adoptive mothers.
On type 2 diabetes and minority kids...
Did you know that minority children are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes?  The disease can lead to major health complications, including early death.  Read more on, learning how to be proactive to protect your child.    
On coping with emotions while waiting to adopt a child...
"Waiting for the news that you have been referred or chosen can be incredibly frustrating, confusing, disheartening, and anxiety-inducing."  Here's how to cope, from    

Monday, April 7, 2014


You may be inclined to believe this post is about one of my children throwing a fit, shouting the classic, "It's not fair!" 

But the injustice perceived and proclaimed isn't coming from my children.   It's resounding.  And it's coming from waiting adoptive parents.

Why is it not fair?

  • You've paid good money.

  • You are better than they are.

  • You are entitled to a child.

Let me explain.

It's normal to have feelings of resentment, jealousy, anger, frustration, and confusion during one's adoption journey.  The waiting is excruciating at times.  Numbing.  Even debilitating.

I've been there.  I've stalked my agency's waiting-family profile page online.  I cringed every time I saw a couple's face with "placement" stamped across their faces.  (A family we waited alongside with our first adoption got placed not once, but TWICE, while we waited.  REALLY?!?)  I would congratulate pregnant or adopting friends and family members with a fake smile on my face while mentally cursing them and their cute baby gifts.  I threw epic pity parties.  I couldn't figure out why we were passed over AGAIN by ANOTHER expectant mother.  I think our profile was viewed over fifteen times in our first year of waiting for our first child.  

So, here we go.

Everyone around you is pregnant.  Everyone around you is parenting happily with rainbows and butterflies and shooting starts and frolicking unicorns in the background.  You are getting an ungodly amount of baby shower invites.   And all those pregnant women, they are complaining that they are experiencing nausea or have gained weight or are having a boy instead of a girl.  Or worse, your best friend is pregnant with not one, no, but two babies.  Twins.  TWO.   And your seventeen-year-old niece:  she's having an "oops" baby with her jobless boyfriend of two months.

And then there are, as I recently heard from one waiting mom, the crap parents.  The ones who yell at their kids (maybe even curse at them), who don't engage, who just suck at your definition of parenting.  And not only do they suck at parenting now, but they keep. having. babies.  The parents who have seven different babies with seven different partners.  The parents who let their kids walk around Wal-Mart without shoes.  The parents who let their kids suck on cart handles or gulp Mountain Dew. The parents who live in trailers or with Grandma or are living off government assistance.

And then there are the other adoptive families, the ones who get picked before you.  And you look at their online profiles and think, "What's so special about them?"  You analyze their personal descriptions, the photo of their homes, their weight, their clothing, their obsession with pets or outdoor sports.  You snarl.  You stamp your mental feet.   "What do they have that we don't?"

So then, since the ball is rolling, you build an ever-growing tower in which you lock yourself in so you can, of course, throw more pity parties.

  • "I've paid good money!"  My hard-earned/donated/fundraised money is just sitting.  For what?  For a service unfulfilled.  For a dream not yet attained.  For the social worker to tell me to "be patient." For family members to tell me that my time will come.  For someone to say that it must be God's will that we don't have a baby yet.  I did everything the agency asked of me.  I was fingerprinted, background checked, medically examined.  I answered questions.  I put covers on my outlets and locked up the cleaning supplies.  Dammit, I ordered up a baby, and I expect a baby!

  • "I'm better than those other parents." I don't get it.  I mean, my profile book shows it all.  The nursery is set up and decorated beautifully.  We go to freaking Disney once a year!  DISNEY!  The most magical place on earth!  I have researched vaccines and BPA-free bottles and making my own baby food  And these other parents with their shoe-less toddlers and their willingness to yell at their children in a store for all to hear...And don't even get me started on teen mothers.  Why does a 15-year-old child get to have a baby and I don't?  How is that ok? 

  • "I am entitled to a child."  Everyone has the right to be a parent.  And apparently, everyone else around me has a child except me.  I have done anything and everything to be called "mom," yet I still don't have a baby. I deserve to be a parent after everything I've been through.  And no, I don't want an invitation to another baby shower.  I hate those stupid games of "guess how big mom's tummy is." When is it my turn?!?
Here's the deal.   It's ok to have feelings about your situation.  It's normal to experience a myriad of emotions.  Adoption is complicated, it's bittersweet, it's challenging...

and here's news:  the journey doesn't end once you are placed.

You see, you have to find healthy ways NOW to deal with emotions that will resurface time and time and time again throughout the rest of your life.

So, after three adoptions and an ongoing journey in parenting and adoptive parenting, here's where I stand on the issue of "It's not fair!":

1:  Recognize the thoughts and the resulting feelings you are having.  Don't pretend you aren't struggling.  Probably everyone around you knows you are struggling via your comments, the look on your face, your attitude.  If it helps, speak your experience to a trusted friend, spouse, or counselor.  For me, writing is cathartic.  Keep a personal journal or a private blog.  (But please, please, do not take out your anger/jealousy out on your friends and family members who are pregnant or parenting.  It's not only incredibly hurtful and selfish, but it could ruin relationships with people who would have been rejoicing with you when it became your turn to be a parent. This means no passive-aggressive remarks or Facebook posts!  Don't squander others' joy!)

2:  Realize that thoughts aren't always a choice, but what you do about them is.   As Christians, it's important to reconfigure.  Personal responsibility and accountability to Christ are critical, not only when you are waiting for a child, but in all life situations, and particularly in parenting!  Begin your healthier pattern now. 

3:  Give yourself some love and grace.  Wasting numerous hours relishing in fear, jealousy, anger, and judgment cloud your vision, take up too much heart-space, and hinder your ability to make the right choices when opportunities come your way.  Dr. Phil has said many times on his show that you need to replace bad habits with other habits:  healthy habits. You cannot expect to just eliminate bad habits without a healthy replacement.  I cannot stress enough (as a mother of three who waited three times for children through adoption, as a type I diabetic, and as a type A personality) the importance of exercise, de-stressing time, dating your spouse, and eating healthy.  Pick a healthy habit (or two or three!) to go to when being to slip back into a dark place.

4:  Join a support group.   Or start a support group.  I think it's so important to have a "village" of like-minded friends.  This is your safe place to vent, to confess, to rejoice, to encourage, and to educate.  This is not the place to gossip, to exclude, or to get your inner "mean girl" on.  Contributions of honesty, advice, and support will be much appreciated by all! 

5: Step away.  You know the saying, "Garbage in, garbage out"?  Be very selective about who and what you let in to your heart-space.  If you find a particular Facebook group to be overly confrontational and negative, leaving you feeling angry or drained, leave.  If you cannot handle attending ANOTHER baby shower, it's ok to decline the invitation.  (But if you do, don't make a huge freaking deal about it!)  If you find a particular place, like the mall (full of babies and moms and strollers!), triggering for you, go somewhere else.  And please, please stop reading other adoptive parent profiles and comparing yourself to them!  Give yourself the opportunity to thrive by stepping away from those things and people which don't offer neutral ground or don't fill your heart-space with good stuff.  Recognize that you aren't necessarily saying good-bye forever, but you are choosing to intentionally spend your time elsewhere in order to prepare yourself for motherhood and adoptive parenting. 

Tend to your hearts, friends. 

I believe in you.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Target and Jesus

I see it on Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.  I hear moms express the same sentiments in conversations. 

The magic of Target.

Target is where moms can go in the evenings and wander about:  aimlessly, thoughtlessly, or excitedly.  We can meander.  We can glide behind our cart.   There aren't interruptions.  We can daydream.  We can buy the things on our list, those necessities for our families:  milk, diapers, and toilet paper.  Or we can load the cart with everything we don't need but looks appealing.  Or the clearance....oh, the clearance!  Or we can buy a few things for us:  a chocolate bar, a scented candle, a book, some new eyeliner, a new pair of yoga pants or sunglasses.  Or, the occasional mama with a Dave Ramsey angel on her shoulder, may buy nothing.

Target is an experience.  An escape. It offers possibility and peace.

But a trip to Target, I realized the other night, is magical for a much more significant reason.

Target is less than five minutes from my home.  Yet in that short drive, made in my gray minivan full of car seats, crumbs, and toys, I'm able to completely transform and re-focus.

First, I slide behind the driver's seat and adjust my radio.  Or I may turn the radio off for some much-desired silence.  Then I back out of the driveway, noticing the empty car seats in my rearview mirror. And then sighing in relief, because I'm missing bedtime hell. Feeling a tad guilty that I've left my husband to put three young children to bed which is nothing less than a miracle if it's accomplished.  Then I put it all---the kids, my spouse, along with my writing deadlines and chores---behind.


If it's the least bit warm, I crack the windows.

Then I wait to see what comes to me. 

I'm ready, God.   I'm listening.   I'm present.  Fully. 

I get very little "God time" these days.  Almost every Christian book and blog talks about God time and how to get it in and what it should look like and feel like.  It usually goes like this:

  • Wake up early.  Like before everyone else.  Light a candle, pour yourself some coffee or tea, and have your Bible, a pretty journal, and your favorite pen handy.  Have a seat on the floral chase you placed in front of your sun-filled bedroom window.   YOU ARE READY, SISTER

  • Confess all your sins, you sinful sinner.  You need to be desperate for Jesus.  DESPERATE.

  • Call on the Holy Spirit to get you through every uphill battle you face:  at work, with your spouse, your children, your mother, your friend, that annoying neighbor. 

  • Memorize a few Bible verses. 

  • Learn Biblical history.  Geography.  Law.  Tradition.  Characters.  Heritage. 

  • Reflect on the great women of the Bible and how awesome they were.  They were JUST like us. 

  • Write down all your praises and prayer requests.  Be sure to reflect on past praises and prayer requests.  ISN'T GOD SO AWESOME?

  • Pour your heart out to Jesus.  Keep tissue handy.  You'll probably cry a lot.  Now, dab your eyes.  It's time to shine! 

  • Begin your day spiritually prepared and fulfilled.  Smile.  You are going to have a GREAT day!

I read these things, and I laugh. I don't mean to mock.  I'm sure some of these methods and routines work.  But they aren't the reality of 99% of moms I know.

A few months ago, I was part of a Bible study.  It actually ended up being more of a mom-confession time:  our needs, our struggles. 

I talked about my frustration with Christian female writers who tell us what we should be doing to have the best spiritual lives EVER.   A mom of three boys said something that I replay in my mind often:

Don't you think God knows how crazy life is with young kids?  Don't you think He's ok with how we are? 

And I thought, could it be true?  I mean, you know that saying that God loves us too much to leave us the way we are.  

How can He change us, work through us, and give us what we need when I'm not lighting a tulip-scented candle, reflecting on all the fulfilled prayer requests, and starting the morning off bright and early with an all out sob session?  

I think the danger is that we are never enough, in anything in life.  There are always ways to improve.   So when we read what a good Christian mother should be, we fail, every time.  

And I wonder, who came up with the standards I explained above?  And who in the world thought it was a good idea to perpetuate them?   And why do we, everyday Christian moms, believe in them even though we aren't ever going to be able to do them all?

My spiritual life is not going to fit into a box.  I refuse to contain myself and God into standards set by others. 

(I know, I know.  We should mature spiritually.  We shouldn't be spiritual babies.  (I've been a Christian for 23 years.)  Yet we should have faith like a child:  open, trusting, accepting.   I know the verses. I grew up in church.  I hear these verses echoing in my mind.   But whose to say that spiritual progress isn't being made. Perhaps progress comes about in simple ways, everyday interactions, and divine intervention where God sprinkles grace and blessing and peace upon us even when we aren't sobbing for it?)

My Jesus-time occurs the most:

---In the heat of moments when my kids are driving me nuts, or ask me a really tough question, or a friend shares with me some scary health news, or I read a story about a missing child:  I utter urgent prayers to God.  

--Reading my kids a story, usually from The Jesus Storybook Bible.  No, it's not a fancy "women's Bible" with a pink leather cover in the latest trendy translation.  It's a Bible with colorful pictures.  Yes, it's for kids ages 4-8.  And believe it or not, quite meaningful and encouraging.  

---On the way to and from Target.  

I'm rarely anywhere alone.  I always have a child with me, uninvited, in the bathroom.   Half the nights, my middle child is sharing our bed.   I'm being touched at all times:  tugging on my pants, pulling up my shirt, tapping my shoulder, hugging my leg. 

On the short trip to Target, with my windows cracked open, with my van easing down side roads lit by streetlights, I talk to God.  Or I listen to God.  Or I just be with God.

I sometimes listen to our local Christian radio station.

Or I drive in silence. Waiting for whatever God will bless me with.  An urging.  A thought of encouragement or conviction.   An idea.

Or I pray for what is heavy on my heart.

Or I just relish in the fact that I am His, and He is mine.  (And it dawned on me the other day that despite all of life's ups and downs, I'm built on God, and this has sustained me for as long as I can remember.  God is why I'm able to persevere, to have peace when circumstances aren't peaceful.)

After shopping, I load the van, shove my cart into the corral, and plop my tired self into the driver's seat.  

And I start the care and drive home, enjoying more quiet time with just me and God.

And I'm refreshed.



Ready for what will come next.