Lion – An adoptive mom’s perspective

I first heard about the movie, LION, while watching the Golden Globes a few weeks ago.  I was instantly hooked when I saw the movie trailer – a young Indian boy, through a course of very unfortunate incidents, ends up adopted by an Australian couple living in Tasmania. The movie is Saroo’s quest to find his mother and family again – something he does after a 25+year search using Google Earth.

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That summary sounds so neat and tidy right?  It all works out in the end.  However, watching this movie through my eyes as an adoptive mom, I could not contain my deep tears and heart wrenching emotion.

My oldest child sat next to me, crying alongside me.  It’s a hard story to watch.  It has a happy ending but the weight of this young boy’s life and how one simple decision resulted in years of searching – that’s what broke my heart.

Saroo’s story is unfortunately the reality for millions of children.  Circumstances lead to a fracture in their family.  Some get lost like Saroo, some are sold, some run away and some are simply abandoned.  Each story, each child, carries with them a life long scar that holds a chant – “I need to go home but I’m lost.”

Sunny Pawar stars in LIONPhoto: Mark Rogers
Sunny Pawar stars in LION Photo: Mark Rogers

There was a scene in the movie between Nicole Kidman and Saroo in which he says to her, “Don’t you wish you could have had your own kids?  You’re not just adopting us but our pasts as well. ”

What unfolds next is a beautiful moment as Saroo’s adoptive mother shares her journey to adoption.  Her story is filled with pain and angst, but carries with it hope and assurance that she was supposed to have these boys, Saroo and his brother, in her life.

That scene continues to come back to me as I think of my journey as a mother.  We all bring our pasts with us, whether we adopt our children or give birth to them.  Until that child is placed in your arms, you do not know the depth of the wounds the past has dealt you and what their impact will be on your children.

Throughout the movie, there is a beautiful unfolding of Saroo’s deep desire to be found, to no longer be lost.  Perhaps this theme struck such a resounding cord with me is that I also have felt that deep thread of figuring out what is home.  As a child and young adult, I had my feet between two worlds – Africa and America.  Neither were fully home and there was a sense of wandering, “Where is home?”

As I live in this new decade of life called my 40’s, I finally understand that home is an emotional place of belonging not a physical place.  This movie, Lion, has so many rich and wondrous themes woven throughout it.

Themes and questions such as –  What is family?  Is adoption a good thing?  Do we really understand how our pasts determine so much of our decision-making?  What is the importance of searching for answers?  We all live in a broken world filled with pain. How are we willing to allow that pain to bring healing?  The depth and breadth of a mother’s love is the heartbeat of each of us.  Are we willing to relentlessly  pursue healing for those we love?  Can love overcome trauma?

These questions and thoughts continue to swirl in my mind as I reflect on this movie. In the movie there are references to child abuse and exploitation.  Those scenes are difficult to watch.  There is a beautiful portrayal of the deep love between Saroo and his biological brother – such love and care that you as the viewer experience great sadness when they are separated.

But at the end of the movie, as we watched the photographs and video of the real Saroo taking his adoptive mother to meet his biological mother, there is sense of contentment and hope.  This is not most adoptive children’s stories.  However, I believe that healing can happen in many ways.

Watch this movie please.  It is a very honest and raw portrayal of the plight of millions of children in this world.  It is a very honest and vulnerable depiction of the struggle some children face as they deal with their story.  I think each person who sees this movie can relate to something of Saroo’s story – as we are all born into a broken world.

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Do you feel forgotten?

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We’ve had incredibly strong winds in Colorado Springs over the past few days.  I mean, blow over semis on the interstate type wind.  It’s been relentless and formidable. Honestly I haven’t wanted to venture out too much as it just keeps coming.  Things have calmed down this afternoon and the sun is out.  It’s calm relative to what we’ve just been through.

The wind got me thinking of various times in my life where I felt like things would never stop.  When I was pregnant with Caroline, calamities kept coming.  First was bleeding and miscarriage scare. Then the ceiling in our second floor collapsed (flood).  While Matt was at his friend’s wedding in Florida, I severely cut my foot on garden metal sheeting. The final straw – 9/11.

Fast forward to later years…I remember feeling completely assaulted by trouble as we wrestled with money, or the lack thereof.  I felt overwhelmed with how decisions we had made were now negatively affecting us.  That lasted for almost 4 years.  It seemed relentless and unforgiving.

Parenthood often feels like a big windstorm.  We work so hard to do the right thing, be the right parent, teach the right stuff.  Instead of a calm and peaceful household, we instead have added conflict, frustration and anger at times.

A group of ladies and I are starting to read through Genesis and Matthew. No help aids, no study books, no videos to watch – just simply reading and discussing.

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I’ve been knee deep in Noah’s world the past few days.  Funny how you can read a story over and over and still find something new.  For me, it was Genesis 8:1

“But God remembered Noah….”

Poor guy – 600 years old and in a boat with his kids and several hundred animals for a YEAR!  Yep, 365 days of relentless wind, assaulting rain, gray skies and no ability to run on dry ground.  I certainly hope yoga was practiced back then because Noah boy needed some zen in his life!

I can only surmise how he must have felt around day 350.  I’m sure he was SO OVER IT and wondering when everything would grow calm.  I’m pretty sure he had a few choice words for his people and his God.

I also am pretty darn sure he felt abandoned in the midst of the storm.  Did he do the right thing? Would God come through? What the heck was he going to do with all those freakin animals?  The food had gotten really monotonous and the company was getting old.

BUT GOD REMEMBERED HIM! And God remembers me. He remembers you.  We are not forgotten in the midst of the hard times,  in the center of howling wind and black despair.  He might take some time to show his presence but he’s been there and will be there.

 

 

2017 Resolutions

I went to the gym as usual on January 2. Same time, same plan.  Only I was greeted with an extra 100 or so people working out alongside me.  Every single machine was taken, the classes were packed and frankly, it was an awful experience.  People walking around with their ear buds in, oblivious to where they were going and who they were bumping into.

New Year’s Resolutions.  We all make them.  I’m always thankful for February when the gym goes back to normal.  While that’s not the best thing to wish on people – that they will forsake their resolution for health, I do think that often times we bite off waaay more than we can chew around December 31.  We make outrageous plans for our next year, only to find ourselves around mid February (or January 5) already disappointing ourselves.

For the past few years, I’ve chosen a word for the year.  Last year it was “breathe.”  I started back with yoga and worked my hardest to sit in the moment.  There were some successful moments but frankly, I need to take this word into 2017.

On January 1, I was cleaning the kitchen – went to put the garbage in the bag and this happened.  Yep, veggie peels all over the kitchen.  It was a mess and Matt was there to document it all.  Awesome.

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I post this picture to remind myself that while I have resolutions for 2017 – a few this year, I also need to keep perspective. Adding too many “to do’s” to the list only causes a mess. It’s so easy to want to start again, to “do over” and do well.  However, there is something for carrying on.  One foot in front of the other, one breath at a time.

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On December 31, we as a family of five sat down and crafted for a bit.  We also worked on plates  that represented our past year. While I’m most certainly NOT an artist, I do love the tangible reminder of what last year taught me.

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The Spirit of God has made me and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

This year I’m adding Isaiah 49:16, 23 to Job.  “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands….Those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”

Breathe each moment.  Rest in each second.  Know that my worth is not in what I do but in who I belong to.

The “Do Over”

Do you wish that you could do over something?  Wipe it clean.  You know, pick the right words, the appropriate actions and perhaps have a more kind or gentle spirit?

At our home, we’ve been practicing the “do over” often.  For children from hard places (a term Karyn Purvis uses often in her books), do overs are essential for retraining the brain. You simply walk through the same action or actions again, this time doing them in the right and appropriate manner.

It’s not often easy to practice a “do over.”  Emotions and shame can often cloud the opportunity to redo something that had been just done.  However, each time a do over happens, it’s amazing to see peace and calm arrive in our home.

Do Overs aren’t just for Desta though.  I’ve found myself sitting in the space of needing mental and emotional do overs as well.  While Desta might need a do over to train her brain how to kindly and without yelling speak to one of us, I need do overs to train my heart how to accept love.

I’ve been reading Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift this Advent season.  Daily I’m amazed at how that morning’s particular reading was exactly what I needed to hear.  This morning was no different.

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I’ve been reflecting on joy and happiness, particularly after Caroline mentioned to us the other day how this year it doesn’t “feel” like Christmas yet.  I remember the first Christmas when it dawned on me that I was in charge of making it happen – the adult responsibilities kicked in full force and if I didn’t do something, the “feeling” for others wouldn’t happen.  Ah, the joys of growing up.

I read this from day 18 and thought of that conversation with Caroline –

“Struggling and rejoicing are not two chronological steps, one following the other, but two concurrent movements, one fluid with the other.  

As the cold can move you deeper toward the fire, struggling can move you deeper toward God, who warms you with joy. Struggling can deepen joy.”

I go back to the “do over.”  Without retraining the brain to do the right thing, creating new neurological pathways, there is never the opportunity to see a failure become successful.  And when there is success, there is joy and peace.

It’s not an easy process – it requires intentionality and discipline.  It means setting aside pride and practicing humility.  Same goes with struggle and joy.  It’s easy to get bogged down in the blahs and failures, not seeing the good in the middle.

It takes us back to thankfulness and gratitude.  Ann says it so well, “A song of thanks steadies everything.”

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This Advent season I’m working hard on the gratitude bit.  Seems I can’t quite seem to learn that lesson so I’ll keep practicing.  This year I’m continuing in my quest to keep a 1000 phrases of gratitude.  Come with me and do the same!  It won’t change the circumstances but it will change the attitude.

Christmas Traditions Reworked – 2016

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It’s been a full Advent season for our family.  Caroline and I spent Thanksgiving in San Diego for soccer – delaying some of our usual traditions.  I’ve accepted that Thanksgiving, at least for the next two years, will look very different than in the past because of high school soccer.  As our kids grow older, I’ve had to work on leaving behind rituals and instead, create new traditions.

For this former missionary kid, doing that creates, at times, angst, frustration, loss of control and grief.  Funny how simple things like gathering together over a meal of family favorite foods, putting up decorations the day after Thanksgiving, running the turkey trot and a myriad of other small things  – when no longer available to do – can create a sense of loss.

This year, we’ve added new things and I’m learning on holding on to these things loosely – realizing that for this year, they’ve been a gift but not necessarily a tradition.

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One of my favorite, personal finds has been reading “The Greatest Gift” by Ann Voskamp each day for Advent.  I was given this gift from our church and when I started on day 1, I exhaled.  It was as if the devotionals/readings were meant just for me.  Most days I sneak downstairs around 5 am and find my spot next to the tree.  With a strong cup of coffee, I enter a world of expectancy and hope.  This little corner has been my tiqvah – my red cord of hope – as I navigate the rest of the days.

Instead of one tree, we chopped down two trees.  A few years ago we got a tree permit and headed up the mountain to chop down our tree.  While last year we didn’t do a tree as we were in Hawaii, this year (though not during Thanksgiving weekend) we still managed to drive to Woodland Park for our trees.  The pictures on Facebook show a fun, family centered time.  Reality?  It was 7 am, Desta was three days post op from tonsil surgery, Annie was a wound up ball of energy creating quite the stir with the child who had to hold her leash.  After shlepping down one hill, we settled on two trees and Matt and I were the soul tree tenders.  The kids sat in the car while we did all the hoisting, rope binding, tree holding work.   However, every morning when I sit next to the “Melody Glass Ornament Tree” I see wonderful glass trinkets reminding me of so many great memories.

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There was lots and lots of baking this year.  I did my usual cookie boxes for friends.  This year I made 30 boxes.  After posting online, a friend asked if I’d bake for some of her clients.  So I turned the on button again on my oven, bought a little bit of butter and made over 600 cookies this past week.  A day after I completed the boxes, my oven began to protest and I’ve since learned the “small fire” was from a defunct heating element.  Here’s hoping the repair man can get my oven back working tomorrow.

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This year I volunteered to be a mentor mom for our church’s Moms and Beyond group. I’ve met the most amazing women and have served along side a wonderful woman, Joanna. She and I hosted a mom’s only party here last week and I haven’t laughed that hard in a very long time. Who knew a white elephant exchange could bring such laughter!

Desta began a new school this year.  As she’s worked hard on meeting new girls, I’ve worked hard on being a bit more extroverted and meeting new moms.  Tomorrow we are hosting Desta’s first ever gingerbread frosting extravaganza.  Facebook will have a few photos and I will be mopping my floors tomorrow night.

This was Caroline’s first year in high school. Gone are the days of fun holiday parties. Instead she had exam week which meant getting out of school at 11:45 each day.  I covet my time alone at home, especially the week before school is out and we’re in vacation mode.  Turns out, the week with just Caroline was wonderful.  We did errands together and chatted over her studying and my baking.  The house was a bit more alive with her home and I realized that these moments with her home are fast coming to an end.

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The highlight for me this Advent season so far was last night.  Matt and I took Caroline to Denver to see the Messiah live.  We explored a bit of Union Station/downtown Denver in 5 degree weather.  Brrr…cold.  As we sat in the auditorium, listening to the words of prophecy foretell Christ’s birth and story, I was struck by the simplicity of the story.  Each time I hear this cantata, a new truth is revealed.  It was such a privilege to share this night with Caroline and Matt – a memory that I will treasure for years to come.

Maybe you’re in my shoes this year – life happened and previous traditions have to be pushed aside.  Or your kids are growing up and things that happened every single year just aren’t cutting it any longer.  Have hope.  Creating new memories, letting go of hard earned practices might open the door to wonderful moments you never thought existed.  Take heart, have hope and Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

A terrible lie

I am an introvert.  Some doubt that’s true when they meet me. I can put on a great extrovert show – chalk it up to years of being a missionary kid.  However, for all the days I’m out with people, I need just as many or more days at home with myself.

I had the privilege of sharing some of my food and cooking journey with a large group of women yesterday.  It was so fun to talk about simple things I’ve learned and gathered along the way which have brought life and wholeness to my family.  However, I got to noon and I was fried – body and spirit.

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Today I’ve filled my morning with yoga and calm quiet at home.  The fall air is finally crisp and cool.  The sun is shining and I have my green tea and figs as I hunker down to journal, read and meditate.

So many books, so little time.  I was drawn to the Jesus Storybook Bible this morning.  If you’ve never read it, get a copy and start!  It’s intended for children but I’ve found the words to speak power to me.

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This book stopped me in my shoes this morning.  In the beginning was all I needed – The Garden of Eden story.

In the garden, Adam and Eve are having a great time.  They’ve got it made – all the food they want, no clothes to have to launder or spot clean, animals who listen and don’t pee in their house.  It’s a good set up.  Then this snake comes along.  Here’s what happens next….

From the Jesus Storybook Bible

“He slithered silently up to Eve.  ‘Does God really love you?’ the serpent whispered.  ‘If he does, why won’t he let you eat the nice, juicy delicious fruit?  Poor you, perhaps God doesn’t want you to be happy?’

The snake’s words whispered in to her ears and sunk down deep into her heart, like poison.  Does God love me?  Eve wondered.  Suddenly she didn’t know anymore.

‘Just trust me,’ the serpent whispered.  ‘You don’t need God.  One small taste, that’s all and you’ll be happier than you could ever dream…’

Eve picked up the fruit and ate some.  And Adam ate some, too.

And a terrible lie came into the world.  It would never leave.  It would live on in every human heart, whispering to every one of God’s children:  “God doesn’t love me.” 

My heart skipped a beat as I read these sentences over and over.  A terrible lie.  God doesn’t love me.  And then the lie grows.  If God doesn’t love me, I’m not worth anything. If I’m not worthy of anything good, then I must be bad.  I am a bad person.

I believed this lie for a long time.  I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I was convinced I was good.  I did all the good things.   I attended church, went to Bible study, asked for my sins to be forgiven. On the outside, I appeared to be a pretty decent God follower.  Inside though, I struggled with love.  Growing up, I was immersed in God.  We went to church ALL THE TIME!  We read our Bible and did family devotions. I attended a Christian high school and college.

Yet there was a missing piece – I was missing love – Love for myself.  Love from God that encompasses EVERYTHING I DO.  Deep down I wondered if I really was loved unconditionally by God.

I love how Glennon Doyle Melton says it referencing a picture she sent a friend right before she went on stage.  ” There I am. Waiting. Listening to the crowd. Sweating. Feeling unworthy, uneverything.  So this is what the voice says to me at times like this: “Are you kidding me? You’re gonna go out there? In front of all those people? And pretend you have something to say? Who do you think you are?” And for a second I panic.

But then I REMEMBER. And I say: “Me?  Who am I ? I am a child of God. Worthy of the space I take up on this Earth. And I have some things to say. So Here I go.”

I think of my daughter – this magnificent person who from the moment she came into the world FOUGHT HARD TO SURVIVE!  This strong brave soul teaches me every day about love and understanding God’s love.  And she wrestles like no one I’ve ever seen with the thought of accepting love.  From her deep wound, her scar this girl has taught me more about being real and understanding my core pain than anyone else I know.

This girl of mine, her life began with broken pieces.  There is deep deep loss of all that was in order to gain a new reality.  It is not easy, it is broken and it reeks of lies telling “God does not love me.”

Ann Voskamp says it so well.  If you have time, go here and read it.

“Take all the time you need to find out for yourself how this is the most proven kind of true:  The best kind of intensive care for a broken heart is to let the words of Christ intensively care for you. 

This can be hard to swallow—- when we want easy serum for our veins, cheap comfort bought with plastic, quick fixes that cost little and let us be fine without refining anything. But if you let His Word wash your wounds, let His grace caress your pain, let His Truth touch your bruises, let His hope heal your ache, you can feel a kind of resurrection on earth. His promises are more than true — they are your resuscitation.”

 

Am I willing to dig deep and acknowledge my soul issue – that I doubt God’s love?  When I do, I am able to finally let the words of God care for me.  I’m finally able to acknowledge the lie that I’ve allowed myself to steep in – and begin to find healing.

“Did you know that God is always listening to you?  Did you know that God can hear the quietest whisper deep inside your heart, even before you’ve started to say it?  Because God knows exactly what you need even before you ask him.  You see, God just can’t wait to give you all that you need.  So you don’t need to use long words or special words.  You don’t have to use a special voice.  You just have to talk.” Jesus Storybook Bible

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Getting an “F” in parenting

Every.single.year. October kicks my butt.

I love October. Two of my three babies were born in this month.  The weather turns cool (well, it’s supposed to, this year has been quite the exception with 80 degree days!).  The leaves start to turn amazing hues of orange, yellow and red.  School is mostly in swing (though I still can’t understand the elementary school multiple days off each week!  It’s hard on our kiddos who have high structure needs.)

This year we added Homecoming to the docket and a third child in sports alongside another sport – flag football.  Every.single.thing was good.  But as you add up each item, it makes for a super full calendar.

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It also makes for some spectacular fails.  Last night Matt and I got a big fat F in parenting. Our third child thrives in a high nurture, high structure environment.  We make plans and we have to stick with them.  Each day we discuss the happenings – sports, driving, expectations, homework, etc.  We all do life as individuals, each of us having specifics ways we thrive.  For our daughter, regular routine is a GREEN zone – she thrives and lives to her fullest potential.

For those not familiar with the Fire Engine wheel of emotions, it’s been a valuable tool for me.  Take a half moon shape, divide it into three zones – one red, one yellow and one green.  Red zone means I’m DONE – angry, out of control, belligerent, out of balance.  This is the hot button zone that we want to avoid.  Yellow zone means I’m starting to lose it. My patience is slim, I’m frustrated and I need to self correct or else I’m headed to RED.  Green zone means that while things might not be happy and wonderful, I’m okay.  I’m stable and I can handle this.

For many of our kids who come from hard places, this little tool is a wonderful way to begin learning how to communicate feelings.  A three year old can point to the zone they are in and you, as the adult, can help them out.  Perhaps they need some food or water, maybe a few jumping jacks or a hug.  As our kids get older, they can begin assigning words to how they feel.

It takes a lot of work to live in the green zone.  Matt and I have to be super intentional communicating with each other and with Desta.  I will admit, there are times, even for this highly organized mama, that I wish we could just “go with the flow.”

After a super busy weekend celebrating Caroline’s birthday, attending 5 sport’s games and being chauffeur, Matt and I were ready to be “off the clock” for a few hours last night. A simple dinner out to chart out our week plan.

For those of you with high nurture, high structure kids, you know that any deviation from “the plan” can create chaos.  Last night we made a few simple changes, thinking “no big deal” and ended up having to cut our date short and came home to chaos.

The good thing, the thing I’ve learned since therapy is how to take chaos and turn it into a loving and supporting environment.  For us, it’s essential oils rubbed on Desta’s feet and hands while listening to Hillsong.  It takes time.  It takes patience to go from RED to GREEN.  It’s hard work and it’s easy to feel as if it will never get better.

Yet when I look back at past Octobers, I can see how each year we get better at this month.  We are learning balance as a family.  We are working hard to make sure every.single.person in our family feels loved and safe.  Every person has a voice – they can speak how they feel and there is not judgement.  It’s not intuitive and it’s not always easy to do.  It takes intentionality, it takes work, it takes patience and it takes communication.

I’m okay with getting an “F”last night.  Because they are far more Green zone “A”s than red zone “F”s.  Each failure teaches Matt and I how to be better parents – how to love our child in the way she can feel and know.  Along the way, I have become a better person as well.