The Lie About God and What We Can Handle

by Camille on June 22, 2016

Life these days is growing fuller by the minute.

My abdomen is expanding at a rate I find fascinating and mildly alarming as our little lime-sized human enters the second trimester. Simultaneously, our adoption binder swells with more and more paperwork as we prepare to send Charlie to China in another few weeks to bring home our son. And my phone’s contact list is performing some downright rabbit-like antics as it expands exponentially with the numbers of pediatric neurologists, orthopedic specialists, and the myriad of other support persons we’ll need on our team later this year.

There’s a lot of stuff going on, and all the time sometimes, it seems a bit overwhelming.

And some people say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” 

These people are dear to my heart, and I know it’s meant with the best of intentions. Love to all of you who use this classic line.

But folks, I’m here to argue that we must STOP saying this to one another. It’s lovely, but it’s also a complete and total lie.

Personally, I am not good at the handling.

By Christmas this year, I will be responsible for parenting a special needs six-year-old, a spirited five-year-old, a tornado of a two-year-old, and a brand new tiny, helpless infant. Honestly, there are moments each day (such as those absolutely precious moments when Micah is screaming “MaMAmaMAMAma!!!” from the back seat in rush-hour traffic while aiming her sippy cup at my head and Ellie whines about the fact I’m so MEAN because I NEVER let her have ice cream for dinner) that I hyperventilate a little thinking about two more. How in the world? Will my hearing or my sanity go first, I wonder?

But God won’t give you more than you can handle!

Except that sometimes, He totally will.

We begin as lumps of clay. Gray. Shapeless. Without function or purpose.

The Potter slams us down on his wheel and begins the crazy ride of life. Sometimes, we are nauseous from the spinning, longing to return to the safety and anonymity of the shelf. The Potter douses us in cold water and begins prodding, pushing, pruning. At times, He uses sharp tools, making deep cuts that encircle our entire being. And when the spinning stops, there is, of course, the fire. (I take comfort in the fact that the clay probably complains a lot and often has some choice words for the Potter. I feel you, clay.) But in the end, the clay is strong, beautiful, and ready to serve. The clay can’t handle it, but the Potter can.

God won’t give you more than you can handle. 

But then, other times, I don’t think we necessarily should credit God for the ugliness life throws our way. There is free will and evil and sickness in this fallen world, and sometimes, life. just. sucks.

A few days before I found out about this pregnancy, my father was diagnosed with cancer in a tumor in his throat. He’s several weeks into intensive chemo and radiation and is battling through the brutal fallout. His meals come through a tube inserted in his stomach as the radiation fries his taste buds and his throat. He’s had all his teeth removed to prevent the radiation from destroying his jaw bone. Painful new symptoms appear each day. As I grow a life, my father fights for his.

He can’t handle it.

My mother battles multiple sclerosis. She’s also my father’s primary caretaker. She pushes Ensure into his feeding tube every three hours, and carefully cleans the syringes, ready for the next round. Nightly, she rubs cream into the sores on his back, hoping he’ll get some rest. She spends hours cooking, trying to find something that will taste better than motor oil so that he might get down a few bites. She sits with him through the long hours of sickness stretching through the nights. She never cries in front of him.

She can’t handle it.

My sister works full time. She has a daughter, a husband, and a household. She’s in seminary to become a United Methodist minister. She lives near my father, and she drops in to see him almost every day, bringing food and making sure my mother remembers to feed herself. Though she can barely keep her eyes open, she puts her daughter to bed and comes to watch Star Wars with Dad, because he loves movies with his girls.

She can’t handle it.

And out in the world? A crazed men with a hate-fueled heart enters a nightclub and slaughters innocents by the dozen. A toddler is snatched from his parents’ arms at the happiest place on Earth. Drowned refugees wash onto beaches. Rampant rape culture and systemic racism allow yet another shameless monster to avoid consequences for his abhorrent actions.

Again and again, mothers call the cell phones stuck to the floor in pools of blood. Parents lose their grip on tiny fingers. Fathers scoop lifeless bodies from the sand, and a young, brutalized woman tries to find a path forward without the benefit of justice.

Certainly, they cannot handle it.

This baby is due one day before my father’s birthday. And I’m terrified something will go wrong and bring him even more pain. I ache with my inability to sit beside him every day, cracking jokes and watching birds in the backyard. I ache that I can’t drop off lunch for my mom or relieve her during the long hours of chemo treatments. I ache that I can’t curl up in pajamas with my sister as assure one another that this will all be okay.

I can’t handle it.

I used to think I could. I believed, in fact, that if my faith were as strong as it should be, then I should be able to handle anything. In an effort to bolster my own confidence, I’d whisper the words to myself…God wouldn’t give you this if you couldn’t handle it. Pull it together. Be stronger. 

And then, I’d suffer the guilt, crushed under the weight of too big things and too painful hurts, angry with my weakness in “handling” things.

The truth is that we can handle very little by ourselves. If we could, we’d have no reason to grow in compassion, understanding, strength, and love. We wouldn’t need one another. We wouldn’t need a Savior.

But we so desperately do. Some days, we need our people to help us gather up the frayed bits of our sanity and dust them off for the next day’s battle. Other days, just to get out of bed, hurting people need the supernatural strength of the God who promises to hold fast in the storms.

I don’t know how much of life is part of God’s divine plan and how much just happens. I don’t know why we’re spared from some things and forced to suffer others. But no matter the causality or ultimate outcome of all the hard, I do believe that while we can’t handle it, He can.

I choose to believe that no matter the mountains and valleys, He will ensure our paths lead into His arms. I choose to believe that while we can never grasp the entire plan of an omniscient and omnipotent God, He is good, and He works for good in our lives.

Therefore, I’m trying to make peace with my weakness and welcome it with love. I offer these words in an invitation for you to do the same.

“…God has chose the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong…”      1 Corinthians 1:27-29

“He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40:29-31

“Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”    2 Corinthians 12:10

Because the truth is that He can and will take the torn fragments of any hurting life and create a new story.

And He seems to have a particular interest in doing that with the folks who absolutely cannot handle it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Picking and Choosing

by Camille on June 9, 2016

As I said in my previous post, I think it’s important to share our stories; thus, while I don’t always have time to write my own words, I often share the experiences of others on social media. When I come across something I find challenging, beautiful, true, thought-provoking, or completely infuriating, I share.

The other day, I shared this:

I shared because I found her words powerful and tragic. I cried thinking of the people in my life ripped apart by Christians so intent on hating sin that love is lost completely. I thought about people I cherish, nearly killed by the “love the sinner, hate the sin” refrain, and I wonder to this day if their scars will ever heal. I wonder if they will ever come to know the unimaginable grace of God. I lamented those who use the line as an excuse to practice bigotry, hate, and cruelty.

Recently, I discovered while scrolling through my Facebook feed late at night (stupid indigestion), that my sharing inspired a rather angry blog post from someone on my feed. Sigh. I seem to have a talent for riling folks up. Hey, we all have our gifts.

So, I’m a “rabid liberal.” My beliefs are “insane.” My Christianity is based on the worship of self. I’m in for a “rude awakening,” and it “doesn’t end well.”

All this, because I discussed with someone in comments that I stopped believing years ago that homosexuality is a sin.  I didn’t come to this decision lightly. I read opinions and Scriptural interpretations from God-seeking and well-learned individuals on both sides. I prayed. I listened. And I chose the path to which I felt God calling me.

I think it’s the choosing that causes this individual the most grief. He argues that we cannot follow the parts we like from the Bible while ignoring the rest, or we are simply creating our own faith.

Completely logical, right?

But if we’re being honest, we must admit that we all pick and choose. Every last one of us.

As I’ve written previously, “This is how the Bible that was used to support slavery, persecute women, and wage war, is the same Bible that teaches us to abolish slavery, honor women, and encourage peace.” 

The same book. Completely different interpretations.

The Bible didn’t change. What did undergo radical transformation were the hearts, minds, and understandings of people in close relationship with the Father.

If there was a singular way to interpret every word of the Bible, then denominations wouldn’t exist. But as it is, Christians disagree on whether or not women can preach, if they should cover their heads, or if they can use birth control. Christians disagree on playing musical instruments in worship and on how much water is required for a legitimate baptism. Even within denominations, members disagree on political parties, alcohol consumption, appropriate modesty rules, gun control, LGBT rights, and on and on and on.

My church calls these second and third tier, or open-handed, issues. Indeed, to identify as a Christian, one must hold true some central tenets. We call these close-handed beliefs. At the center is Jesus, followed by belief in the Trinity, acceptance of Scripture as God-breathed, acknowledgement of the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ, and a belief in salvation.

For all the rest of it, the church attempts to create a safe space for people to work out their own faith with fear and trembling, confident that if God is the well of life-giving water in the center of a field, we can take a million different paths around the pasture, but tired and thirsty, we’re all headed to the same place.

Theologian Peter Rollins writes, “In being faithful to the text we must move away from the naive attempt to read it from some neutral, heavenly height and… read it as one who has been born of God and thus born of love: for that is the prejudice of God.” 

Author Rachel Held Evans argues in her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, that the important thing is how we pick and choose. Evans writes, “Are we reading with the prejudice of love or are we reading with the prejudices of judgment and power, self-interest and greed?”

Organizations or individuals who purport to have all the answers scare me. They leave no room for the questioning. No room to grow. With vindictive words, weaponized Bible verses, senseless boycotts, and never-ending judgment, they tell the hurting, “You are out. You are not welcome here,”  and in doing so, they rip away the grace of God from those who need it most. When a person devotes himself to legalism, constantly policing the perceived moral infractions of others, is there any room for Jesus left in his heart?

I don’t have all the answers. I hold my faith in one hand, and the other often trembles under doubt, anger, uncertainty, and unanswered questions. However, I hold on, accepting that tension isn’t inherently bad. I hold on, continuing to pick and choose, with Matthew 22: 36-40 as my go-to compass. I hold on, confident that for those that seek God and His direction, we will find Him…rabid liberals and all.

 

 

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A Twist in Our Story

by Camille on June 5, 2016

It seems to me, that life insists on providing the most to write about when one cannot find a scrap of time in which to write. The best stories—the blood, sweat, and tear tales—don’t leave much room for quiet reflection in the moment. They’re demanding, exhausting journeys with few rest stops.

However, we need stories. We need to tell our own and then weave them together with the yarns of those around us in order to make some sense of the stretched and tattered but oh so brightly colored threads that make a life.

Author Glennon Doyle Melton says that for her, reading is inhaling and writing is exhaling.

Exactly.

And if I’m honest a moment friends, I realize that I’ve been holding my breath for the better part of two years while flying through the pages of my story. I’m running out of air.

Thus, it’s time to pause and start catching up on the business of breathing.

If you’ve read this blog much in the past or know me personally, then you likely know that my husband and I struggled with infertility for years. We always discussed adoption as a way to build a family, but we planned to have a biological child first. Like most, we wanted that quintessential life experience. After four years of marriage, we were ready to be parents, and pregnancy seemed the most logical, direct, and well-traveled route.

However, after one positive pregnancy test ended in an early miscarriage, I could never get pregnant again. After a myriad of embarrassing tests and uncomfortable and expensive procedures, I was told it would never happen. For a while, I thought that part of my story was going to define the rest of my life, if not destroy it completely. It was lonely, heartbreaking, and so painful, but it moved us forward to the next chapter.

Eventually, we began the adoption process, and we brought home our sweet Ellie two months after submitting our paperwork. Over time, we found a real peace with our infertility, and began excitedly traveling down our path as an adoptive family; we added Ian, Herdest, Karlos, and Micah in the next three years.

Last year, after much prayer and discussion, we decided to pursue our first international, special-needs adoption, and we fell in love with the profile of a five-year-old little boy from China, our precious Chen Shuo.

And this, dear readers, is where the story takes a most unexpected turn.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Pregnancy Test

Yup. I’m pregnant. (That’s the test I took in a Kroger bathroom….after the one I took at home.)

After years of no birth control. After going round and round on the crazy Clomid train. After carting Charlie’s sperm through the Starbucks drive thru, the sample cup nestled between my breasts to keep it warm, on my way to the next of four intrauterine inseminations. After all the pain and tears and doubts and humiliation. After finally finding peace and bidding an accepting adieu to the reproductive parts of motherhood. After firmly deciding we were done with the baby thing. After selling 90 percent of all our baby-related items in a consignment sale earlier this year.

I’m pregnant.

We’re bringing home a special-needs son in August who does not speak English to join my baby Hulk-smash two-year-old and my super spunky five-year-old, and I’m pregnant. Therefore, by Christmas, I will have four children—ages barely 7, 5, 2, and tiny infant. <Insert massive slight panic attack here.>

This isn’t news, of course, to anyone who knows me.

I did a crappy job of waiting to tell people, but in my defense, I had to tell. I process freak-outs socially. In order to handle big news, good or bad, I need people who will sit on the couch with me and squeal and cry and crack jokes. I need people who will read my crazy-long, rambling text messages and assure me things will be okay, and that it’s perfectly acceptable to eat half a box of Honey Combs in one sitting. I need people who will show up at my door with crazy generous gifts of baby equipment (even though the baby was only then the size of a blueberry) because it makes me feel less panicky. And I’m immeasurably grateful for all the friends who have been there to do all these things and more the past few months. I love you.

Now, for those of you who like the more practical details, here you go:

Due: December 21, 2016.

Currently: 11 weeks, 5 days. The baby is apparently the size of a lime.

Here’s my 11 week ultrasound.

Ultrasound #2

Everything is looking good so far. Our little lime was jumping all over the place—waving, dancing, and stretching. I had no idea they moved that much this early. Completely amazing. Of course, I cried.

Ultrasound #2 Waving

Hello world!

First trimester symptoms: All the things. The “my breasts are on fire, those eggs cooking are going to make me barf in the sink, I’m sobbing over an unforgivably cheesy Nicholas Sparks movie” things. Though lately, nausea has given way to an insatiable appetite, which is kind of fun. The exhaustion remains, and I could easily sleep 20 hours a day. If only….

So for now, this is our story, and it’s full of so many emotions. Joy. Hilarity. Fear. Stress. Anxiety.

Incredulity.

Several dozen times a day, I look to the heavens and shout (not always in my head), “What are you thinking?!”

He chuckles, I think, but he doesn’t answer. The greatest Storyteller rarely reveals his next plot device, after all. We just have to keep turning the pages and trust we’re in the hands of a master, who holds the perfect ending in His hands.

 

 

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Proudly Announcing Our Son

by Camille on October 9, 2015

I have waited for weeks to write this post because I keep thinking I will find time to get all the people clean and dressed and together in the yard with some hand-made, Pinterest-inspired prop set against perfect autumn foliage at the photogenically perfect time of day to create something like….

PopSugar AnnouncementCheck HERE for more cute ideas I won’t do.

 There are a million beyond adorable announcements, but clearly, I am delusional to think that we’ll get there in this season of life. Letting it go, folks. But I absolutely cannot wait a single moment longer to share some BIG news. We’ve informed most of our family, friends, and support groups, so now it’s time to share with you, dear world!

We are adopting! Again. (Okay, if you know us at all, you’re not really surprised. It’s kind of our thing, but we are still EXCITED!!!)

This time, we’re bringing home Shuo, a five-year-old boy from China. Prepare yourself to meet Mr. Adorable.

He likes singing, painting, and connector blocks. And did you see the way he smiled at the camera at the end? Oh. My. Heart.

This will be our first international adoption and our first experience adopting a child with medical special needs. Shuo has mild cerebral palsy and clubfoot, so we’ll be incorporating frequent therapy and some surgeries into the next few years.

Here’s the timeline so far…

The Journey to Shuo

July 1, 2015 – I succumb to peer pressure from other adoptive mamas sharing photos and impassioned pleas on Facebook for waiting children in China, many from the CCAI program.

Anyway, I send a general inquiry e-mail to CCAI….just to see what the first steps would include. I’m clearly not serious. We’re not ready. Charlie and I have decided that we won’t pursue any further adoptions until at least December.

July 2 – There’s nothing on television, so I start clicking around on CCAI’s waiting child list. And I keep clicking. And clicking. I become completely entranced and find myself wanting to know more about several children. So I go ahead and fill out a CCAI Family Information Sheet so I can make specific inquiries. But again, I’m just doing some initial exploring. Getting a head start, if you will. We’re not ready, ready? Are we? What defines ready, again?

July 3 – I go ahead and fill out the Medical Conditions Checklist, because if there was some tiny infinitesimal chance that we wanted to be matched immediately, CCAI would need that completed. And besides, there’s nothing on TV. Googling random medical disorders is educational.

July 7 – Accepted into CCAI’s Waiting Child Program

July 28 – CCAI shares the file of a little boy they want us to consider….at which point I fully confess to Charlie the extent to which I’ve jump-started a process we had planned for December. He’s….well, there are some feelings. I start sharing reasons why maybe we shouldn’t wait. He grumbles.

August 2 – After careful prayer, consideration, and consultation with medical professionals, I realize that Charlie is right, and this child’s medical needs are too much for our family at this time. Also, he just doesn’t feel like ours. We decline the referral. However, Charlie and I have been talking about moving up our timeline non-stop. I live on the waiting child list, and I keep returning to the video of this one little boy, Shuo. His face radiates joy, and I find myself wanting to climb into the screen and hold him. Charlie hesitantly agrees to at least view his file.

August 4 – We receive Shuo’s file, and I fall in love. He is supposed to be in our family, and I just know this in my gut. Charlie, the brains and balance of our duo, freaks out at the rapid progression of the process, and retreats into a grumpy silence on the matter.

August 11 – After a dozen late-night conversations, prayers, and lists, we must give CCAI an answer. I’m reading back through the file while Charlie has gone upstairs to watch Transformers. (He processes best during action movies, y’all. It’s a thing.) I’m texting him random information from the file. And then, I get this.

Text

He comes downstairs, and tells me he’s in. 100 percent. He’s crunched numbers and considered the 10-year and 20-year plans, and he’s reached a peace. He wraps me in a hug, and we start joyfully imagining life with our son. Apparently, one can make decisions while watching Transformers. (And yes, we are so lazy we regularly text one another from different rooms in the house. Don’t pretend you’ve never done it.) 

August 12 – We receive our primary to-do list from CCAI.

August 14 – I send our Letter of Intent (LOI).

August 19 – We decide to use New Beginnings to complete our home study and contact them for initial paperwork.

August 24 – I upload our adoptive family application to CCAI and pay the first program fee.

August 25 – CCAI e-mails to tell us they’ve formally locked our file for Shuo on the CCCWA (China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption).

September 2 – Application approved with CCAI. Parent Training and Dossier Instructions sent. The paper chase begins!

September 8 – Submit our application to New Beginnings for the home study.

September 9 – The CCWA grants Pre-Approval!

September 17 – Mail Care Package #1 to Shuo

Box

September 21 – Fingerprinting for background checks

September 28 – Camille’s physical, drug test, TB test, HIV test

September 30 – Home Study Visit

October 6 – Finish on-line parent education requirements

October 8 – Charlie’s physical, drug test, TB test, HIV test

There have been over 100 e-mails thus far involved in the above steps, as well as a million or so words typed on dozens of forms. And we haven’t even really dug our heels fully into the dossier process yet, but we’re working steadily, and we’re incredibly grateful for the support of friends who have traveled this path.

We hope to travel by late next summer if all goes as planned, and we’ll plan on spending approximately two weeks in China.

And if you skimmed the above timeline, I hope you understand why we’ve been a little preoccupied the past few months and will likely continue to be so for awhile. We’re going to need a little grace. We’re going to miss events. We’re going to forget birthday parties and be ridiculously late with baby gifts. We’re really going to need the freedom to say no to some things. We may be rather absent friends.

Please forgive us and know how much we love and need you.

We’re overcome with so many emotions at this point. We’re slightly overwhelmed by the volume of paperwork and anxious about missing a step or making a mistake that will delay the process. We’re trying to plan financially and emotionally for the demands Shuo will bring to our family and the certain challenges of transitioning from two littles to three. But most of all, we’ve started imagining each moment of our lives with this precious little boy—moments pushing another swing, hearing an extra voice scream-singing “Shake It Off” for the ninth time in one car trip, snuggling another warm body, asking for just one more story.

We’re not completely naive to this process. We know the work of forming attachment will be long and hard. We know there may be medical or developmental issues yet to be revealed. We know that the redemption of adoption is balanced by the brokenness of a world in which so many children end up orphans.

But we also know that God is in charge of building our family, and we do our best each day to trust and follow Him. So mostly, we are overcome with the aching desire to hold our son in our arms.

Please join us in praying for a smooth adoption process, Shuo’s continued health and well-being, and patience for a certain four-year-old who wants her brother home NOW.

 

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My Love for Zir

by Camille on September 2, 2015

I have always identified as female. I do get irritated with gender stereotypes and generally think too many aspects of society are unfairly and often absurdly based on gender identity, but I’ve never questioned my own gender.

Therefore, I have absolutely zero idea what it might feel like to be physically trapped in one gender while my brain is another. I have no knowledge of what it would be like trying to navigate today’s world as an intersex person born with genital or chromosomal ambiguity. I can, however, imagine that none of these things would be easy.

Which is why I really just don’t get some of the callous vitriol I saw on Facebook recently over a tiny little pronoun change. A suggested pronoun change, at that. A news story announced the the University of Tennessee in Knoxville included a list of gender-neutral pronouns in a newsletter, encouraging students to make students feel welcome by using a pronoun of choice.

There was no ZE! HIR! MANDATE necessitating the use of non-traditional pronouns. It was merely a proposal from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  A discussion starter. An idea.

But this guy in my Facebook feed apparently interpreted the pronouns as a personal affront and proceeded to rant. He called the idea stupid and ridiculous, and suggested that anyone who supports this idea is crazy and needs therapy. (Counseling, by the way, should never be used as an insult.) So here are a few thoughts for Mr. Pronoun Protector:

I happen to know you’re a church-going guy, and hopefully, therefore, a man who loves God and wants others to know Him. But as you likely know, when you post stuff on social media, a big ole bunch of people can read it, and likely, not all of them are going to agree with you. Yes, you are welcome to your opinion, but that rule goes for others too. So let’s pretend that some folks in the following categories read your words: A transgendered person. A gender-confused teenager. An intersex person. The parents, friends, siblings, or coworkers of any of the above.

Do you know what they saw in your words? Hate. Judgment. Deaf ears. Hard heart. A line in the sand telling them, “You are not welcome. You are out.” I’d like to tell you, there are enough of those angry voices already. Will the people above beat down the doors to your church? Will they seek you for counsel or friendship? Will they see God in you?

There is a person I love dearly who struggles with gender identity, and when I read words like yours, my heart aches for ze.  Because it doesn’t matter if you understand or agree, ze is God’s beloved child and deserves, at the very least, our willingness to listen.

So to any transgendered person, I’d like to say, God created you and adores you. And though I haven’t walked your particular journey, I will humbly listen to your story and seek to understand. I will support your right to be treated with kindness and respect. And if a new pronoun will make you feel more comfortable, accepted, and loved as you travel a difficult path, then I’ll do my best to incorporate ze into my vocabulary.

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Hey folks! Life has been rather busy the past few weeks. There are BIG HAPPY EXCITING things I’m dying to tell you all about, but I have to follow protocols and wait just a bit longer. There are also several SERIOUS CHALLENGING WEIGHTY subjects rolling around in my upstairs brain, but I currently have limited time and want to write about something fluffy. So I’m going to steal.

I recently finished Jen Hatmaker’s latest book, For the Love, and perhaps I will share a full review later. But for now, I’d like to say it made me laugh out loud, and who doesn’t need that? I particularly appreciated the book’s several chapters of thank-you notes–Jimmy Fallon style. And since she clearly admits that imitation is the greatest form of flattery, here’s my own little tribute to Jen and Jimmy.

Thank-You Notes

Thank you, Axe-body spray, the sacred anointing oil for every teenage boy (and girl) who joins this family. You are the air we breathe. (Really. You have consumed all oxygen in this home in some odoriferous reaction.)  Now I know the scents of Dark Temptation, Anarchy, Phoenix, and Apollo, and I find them all strangely representative of Irish Spring…if the soap were to enter into a loveless marriage with Seabreeze. You creep through the house, adhering to every surface, impairing my ability to breathe and my will to live, but hey, based on the look of the Diaper Genie, you may the lesser of two evils. Love, Mom’s Nose.

Thank you, my son who insists on sleeping with our pets. I love discovering that the cat has been trapped in your room for 24-hours after your departure to college. After all, accessible litter boxes are for privileged felines, and we don’t coddle pretentious aristocats around here. P.S. The corner of your room could use some Axe. Best wishes, Mom

Thank you, children who take my silverware to work and school and friends and outer space, never to return.  I’m down to two-ish spoons, but hey, plastic really cuts down on washing time. You are so thoughtful. Love, Mom Who Better Start Finding More Finger-Food Recipes.

Thank you, baby poop. You keep life real and give me so many opportunities to practice humility. My kid is in an “I only want to eat blueberries and fiber-loaded pea crisps” stage, so we are frequent visitors. Before my first cup of coffee. Two bites into dinner. On the way out the door when I’m already late. I get it. You are the boss. And when my 25-lb child is thrashing like a rabid anaconda, you are so generous with your lessons, literally just reaching out and touching everyone. Thanks for the stellar example. And no, that is not chocolate on my face.

Thank you, Lifeproof phone case. Turns out, your definition of “life” did not include my teething 14-month-old, but we appreciate the opportunity to provide the exception that proves the rule. Oh, and we humbly suggest you call Sophie the Giraffe for some survival tips.

Thank you mom, for keeping every single scrap of paper I touched during my entire childhood. Sorting through those boxes was wicked fun, especially when I found all those dazzling pictures of myself from the seventh grade. I mean, everyone wants to re-live middle school, right? Stay Cool, Crazy-Haired Camille.

Thank you, pistachios, for leading me to a self-diagnosis of misophonia. After the children are tucked in bed and the house is quiet for the first time all blessed day, my beloved husband pours your delectable offerings into a bowl and proceeds to chomp away. Right. next. to. me. And while the skittering-crunchy-snap-smack may not register to some, it sounds to me like an orchestra from the bowels of snacking hell. Also, I have retrieved no less than a dozen of your discarded shells from the depths of my baby’s chipmunk-like cheeks, but what fabulous motivation to never put down the vacuum! Sincerely, Wife Wearing Headphones.

Thank you, size 2 people in my home that bake homemade chocolate chip cookies and bring home barely touched cheesecakes. I pity you and your tiny, baby metabolisms that burn 1,000 calories as you put on your Sephora mascara to head to the gym. My wiser, seasoned metabolism says “Pass me the yoga pants and another slice of cake!” And no, I did not eat the last cookie. With Affection, Mom Who Sometimes Lies About Cookies.

Okay folks, that’s it for now, but I’d love to see your thank-yous in the comments. Love to all!

 

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An Attachment Parenting Rant: Beckham Style

by Camille on August 16, 2015

Earlier this month, international hottie soccer star David Beckham found himself the target of on-line parenting “experts” scolding him for allowing his four-year-old to use a pacifier.  Oh. the. horror. They launched into a vitriolic tirade of concern regarding the blessed child’s dental health, speech acquisition, psychological well-being, and overall chances of survival. Because….a pacifier.

First, why is this news?

But second, kudos to Beckham for calling out the haters. He responded,

Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts ?? Everybody who has children knows that when they aren’t feeling well or have a fever you do what comforts them best and most of the time it’s a pacifier so those who criticize think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent …

Exactly. Maybe Harper was sick. Maybe she was just having a moody day and two minutes of pacifier time helps her regulate. Maybe she was play-acting and mimicking a baby. Maybe….it’s not our business.

So many people are always in judgment mode, but seldom do they possess the facts.

Consider these scenarios: 


 

A five-year-old begins to throw an Exorcist-style tantrum in the middle of the mall. His mom responds by handing him a pair of headphones and allows him to use her skirt to hide his head.

A seven-year-old refuses to shower or bathe regularly. Even though he quite often smells, his parents choose not to make an issue of his hygiene.

A family with half a dozen children of all ages allows snacking between meals. Children are never told to “wait until dinner is ready” but are allowed to choose between various fruits, granola bars, or other snacks when they are hungry.

A couple sleeps each night with their eight-year-old nestled between them. Every night, he wants to be rocked like an infant. Sometimes, he wants to be spoon-fed, and they oblige.

A 16-year-old is allowed to sit in the lobby and read a book or play on her phone during church services. She’s not required to attend her little brother’s soccer games or her sister’s piano recital.


 

If you’re completely honest, how many of these situations would invite judgment?

Tantrums?! That child is obviously spoiled or she’s a poor disciplinarian. The unwashed kid? His parents must be neglectful. Allowing between-meal snacking is too permissive and promotes poor eating habits. And on and on and ON. 

But here’s the thing: we don’t know the facts. We don’t see the sensory processing disorder that can turn mall crowds and loud music into elements of torture. We don’t see the years where there was no food and feel the panic even a moment of hunger can bring raging to the surface. We don’t understand that the older child may need to re-live missed moments of childhood to form healthy bonds. We don’t know how a religious service or a seemingly innocuous school event could trigger a visceral response to past trauma. We don’t see, and so we make snap judgments.

Many of the decisions Charlie and I make as parents invite critique from others. We don’t spank. Mouthing-off is often met with a chance to re-do or a silly game to redirect an attitude. We allow one of our older kids to smoke. We don’t pick fights over tattoos or body piercings. We don’t force our younger kids to hug or kiss Aunt So-and-So, and it’s okay if they’re not in the mood to be constantly adorable.

And oh boy, do we get the judgment sometimes.

Recently, one of the most frequent criticisms from someone was that Micah is spoiled and too attached. And of course, this provides a little chuckle, because if you know anything about the adoption world, you know there is no such thing as too attached. So thanks for the compliment! Also, in case you’re not aware, research reflects that securely attached children experience a host of benefits including protection from toxic stress, greater intelligence, and earlier independence.

So again, in case you missed it, attachment is not an insult.

Many parents, especially adoptive ones, read endless books, go to conferences, and buy ridiculously expensive baby carriers–all in the name of fostering healthy attachment. Parents determinedly forfeit sleep for months, tucking newly adopted (tossing, turning, bed-wetting) toddlers between them. Mamas learn to do laundry, cook, and continue parenting other children while a 40-pound child clings to a hip. With adopted infants, we are fully aware that tiny babies can also experience tremendous loss and grief, and we nestle their perfect, fragile bodies on our bear skin, sharing our warmth and smell and heartbeat….whispering our message that they are safe and the world can be trusted.

Micah is definitely experiencing some clingy moments lately. Often, if I’m anywhere in the room, she screams like a mandrake (Google it if you’re not cool enough to be a Harry Potter fan) should anyone else try to hold her except me. Other times, at playgrounds, the children’s museum and other loud, crowded places where one would expect a child to be overwhelmed, she runs full-speed away from me, cackling maniacally. She has spent entire days at Kids’ Day Out without a hiccup, and other days, she can’t make it through an hour in the church nursery without a massive breakdown.

And I suspect all these inconsistencies in behavior are a direct reflection of the fact…..she’s ONE. Her mood fluctuates rapidly and dramatically depending on a million factors as she tries to figure out the world. Did she miss her nap? Stay in the pool too long? Has it been 30 whole minutes since she ate something? Because all these things will result in a completely different kid.

Which according to the experts, is perfectly age-appropriate. The U.S. National Library of Medicine says the following:

From 8 to 14 months, children often become frightened when they meet new people or visit new places. They recognize their parents as familiar and safe. When separated from their parents, particularly when away from home, they feel threatened and unsafe.

Separation anxiety is a normal developmental stage. It helped keep our ancestors alive and helps children learn how to master their environment.

It usually ends when the child is around 2 years old. At this age, toddlers begin to understand that parents may be out of sight now, but will return later. There is also a normal desire to test their independence.

So there, haters. Of course she seeks me out when confronted with new faces and strange places. Of course she wants mama when she’s tired, hungry, uncomfortable, or uncertain. Completely. age. appropriate. And in NO way in need of your judgment.

Admittedly, it’s beyond fabulous to have a break, (if you’ve heard her scream, you are nodding your head in sympathy for my ear drums about now) and if she’ll go to someone else, awesome. We provide lots of opportunities for her to practice independence and learn that grown-ups come back. However, if I’m in the room with her, and she wants me, I’m not forcing her to go to you if I can help it. That’s just not how we roll.

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So if you want to call her spoiled because she likes her mama, be my guest. If we’re talking about love and attention as currency, then I pray for the strength and resources to spoil each of my children better each day.

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On Saving Our Kids

by Camille on August 10, 2015

In the adoption world, most of us rightly shun the “savior” label. We began this journey because we wanted a family….ummm, you just keep that halo, thanks. Our children joined our families via a different path, but we’re no more saviors than you biologically multiplying folks.

Of course, some begin stepping willingly and knowingly a bit further into risk with each child. We open parameters, check more boxes, and say yes to more. Then, adoption slowly becomes more than a way to build a family. It becomes a commune with God…one of a thousand ways to answer His call to love. It becomes a manifestation of our faith.

Yet, even for those of us who bring home the older kids, the medically-fragile kids, the special needs kids… we are still not saviors, and we never can be. There is only one Savior, after all, and we are daily thrown to our knees–broken, frustrated, and exhausted before Him– knowing just how ridiculous a notion it is that we could possibly redeem these lives entrusted to our care.

But we’d be lying to say we never want to save our kids….to protect, to guide, to prevent heartache. All mothers long to save their children. We spend our lives doing cartwheels to shield them from skinned knees, stomach bugs, and mean girls (those little “witches” are everywhere, y’all), and then we fret endlessly over some Google parenting article assured we’re shielding them too much.

I think for those of us parenting kids from hard places, it’s an even more poignant desire. We want to save them from the questions, stares, heartache, and loss. We ache to travel back in time, sword in hand, and butcher the horrors keeping them awake at night. We want to save them from current mistakes, future consequences, and all the mess in between.

And selfishly, perhaps most of all, we want to save ourselves. Parenting children from hard places, our entire lives are irrevocably altered. It’s all on the chopping block. It’s easy to find ourselves struggling to save so many things. Our marriages. Our other kids. Our sanity. Ourselves.  We pray for shore as our little lifeboats are ripped to pieces by the endless sea of grief, trauma, and survival behaviors.

Thus, the constant challenge is releasing the desire to save….accepting that we can save nothing or no one and letting go of guilt for all things related to our kids. The Great Deliverer provides the saving grace for each moment, and it is sufficient to rescue our children and us.

Of course, all of this is much more easily recorded in a blog post than practiced in my actual life. Over the past few years, we’ve cringed and often cried as each of our older children has made decisions with less than favorable consequences.

We’ve seen all the things: lying, stealing, addiction, depression, poor financial decisions, panic attacks, negative peer choices…. all. the. things. 

One made some decisions that made it impossible to continue living at home, and so that child experienced homelessness off and on throughout the past year.

It’s so strange to type those words. No one plans to have homeless children, and we continue to struggle with how to help. Where is the line between enabling and supporting? What do we do next?

Often, we don’t know, and we stumble forward, learning along the way and grabbing the lifelines thrown by those in our community. With each rope, we weave a tribe and remind one another to keep breathing. We escape to drink too much coffee and hear about another kid’s four-hour rages or rehab or property destruction, and breathing is easier, because somebody knows our normal. In the heated moments, we send out social media distress flares to our wi-fi warriors, and responses pour in with names, numbers, books, strategies, and affirming words.

Personally, I find freedom in the reminder that while I do my best, I cannot save. I’m not supposed to. I am supposed to remember that Jesus holds the stories of each of my children, and He is a master of redemption. It’s kind of His thing.

 

 

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Kidnapping, Carjacking, and Astounding Grace

by Camille on August 4, 2015

Near the end of June, a young woman found her way to our family through a mutual friend on Facebook. Jenessa will begin discipleship training with Downline Institute this fall, and she needed an economical place to stay. We had an empty room, and so we agreed to trade rent for occasional babysitting. She’s a dream roommate, and having an extra adult in the house has been a lovely blessing. Can you grab a gallon of milk on the way home? Yes. Feed the goats while we go to Canada for a week? Sure. Keep these tiny people alive a few hours while I run to Target….all by MYSELF?! Of course.

Two weeks ago, Jenessa attended a concert at the Levitt Shell here in Memphis. She walked back toward her vehicle with friends, and they parted ways. She was sitting in her car checking messages on her phone when an armed man entered the vehicle. He forced her into her trunk at gunpoint. Thankfully, she found a lever inside the trunk and was able to open it. When the car slowed to make a turn, she jumped out. One of the two men in her car also jumped out and pointed the gun at her, but she convinced him to leave with her wallet, phone, and car. She then ran to a friend’s house and called police.

To call this experience horrific is an understatement, and we are so incredibly grateful that Jenessa is safe. We know these atrocities happen, but when they happen close to home, we are forced to uncomfortably consider the fragility of our own lives.

Few of us have personally known such fear, but I doubt many of us would have blamed Jenessa for any number of human responses in the aftermath of her ordeal. Anger. Hatred. A desire for retribution. A sailor-like cursing of Memphis and a plan to permanently get the heck out of Dodge.

Instead, my sweet friend wrote the following on her Facebook page:

Dear friends,
Before anything spreads on the news I just want to speak my unaltered piece. Last night I was involved in an armed robbery and attempted kidnapping here in Memphis in Midtown. I currently have no phone, car, or wallet- they took it all. But I am safe and incredibly in awe of God’s grace.

I was forced into my own trunk but within minutes found a lever on the roof of my trunk and was able to escape unharmed. Police have not found my car or the guys yet but are looking and being very supportive.


I still love Memphis and its people and am mostly just sad. If anything, please join me in prayer for the two young guys on the loose- pray that somehow they would find God’s grace and this would help to turn their lives around. Pray for many, many others who might be in similar situations- that they would find the help, support, and love of Christ long before their life reaches this point. Pray for all of Memphis- that people from all neighborhoods and backgrounds would be able to live in safety and harmony.


Also, on a practical level- please lock your car the moment you get in it- no matter what neighborhood you live in. And just walk to your car with someone, especially at night. If you know me, I err on the side of trusting others, but I promise I (and you!) will be more cautious. However, I’m not going to live in fear and neither should you. I am eternally safe in God’s hands and that will NEVER be stolen, no matter what happens in this life. Isaiah 41:13

I was so inspired by Jenessa’s astounding grace in this situation, and I thank her for allowing me to share her words here.

Those of us that call Memphis home….we know our city is far from perfect. Since this incident, a police officer has been shot and killed, and authorities arrested a former student of mine on first-degree murder charges. We know the dangers. We know there is crime, poverty, violence, corruption, and a host of seemingly endless challenges. But we also know there is beauty. There is so much worth fighting for, and those battles will be won through coming together in love and not building walls in fear. But refusing to fear? That takes some serious mettle. So thanks again Jenessa, for sharing some of your valiant, Shera-like moxie. And if you’re reading this post, I ask you to echo Jenessa’s words and pray for our city and its people. Pray for safety, harmony, abounding grace and abiding courage.

And for some good news about the city or ideas on how to be an agent of positive change, check out Choose 901. 

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Returning to the Words

by Camille on August 2, 2015

A year ago long, long time ago, in a galaxy one zip code over far, far away, there was a girl semi-regularly sending her thoughts out into the universe, occasionally raising her nouns and verbs against the dark forces of evil….but mostly documenting the misadventures of her ridiculously adorable kids. 

Then life, as its prone to do, changed trajectory, and the girl found herself fully occupied navigating through the meteor showers of a new baby and changing family needs. All energies required for hyper-survival-drive, she took her potential blog thoughts and shoved them into the carbonite-frozen corner of her brain. 

But today, she returns…..<cue impressive theme hopefully penned by John Williams>

Hello dear readers! It has been too long. Except for a few brief adoption fund-raising posts, I haven’t visited this blog since April 2014, and the longer I’ve stayed away, the more awkward and intimidating I’ve found the return journey.

Life has been so full, so rich over the past year, but it’s also been painfully heart-rending in ways I wasn’t brave enough or talented enough to share in words. Silence seemed easier and more honest.

But I need this outlet. This thing that is mine alone. This intentional time to reflect and attempt to order the scattered parts of life into a meaningful narrative. So here is my toe for you, dipping tentatively back into the water and attempting a return to the words.

To begin, I thought I’d share with you some of the posts I might have written over the past year if I’d kept blogging.

Welcome Baby Micah!

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IMG_3216Alternates:

Sleep Deprivation Comes in Deceptively Precious Packages

Paper, Rock, Scissors and a Dozen Other Creative Ways to Delay Facing the Poop

 

Get Your Kids a Kid! Promoting Unity Through Bovidae Bonding

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Alternates:

Goats in Pajamas: Facing Relentless Peer Pressure to Clothe Your Livestock

Farm-life Parenting: Swollen Teats and 101 Other Fun Conversations to Have With Your Toddler

 

Official Adoptions #3 and #4

Alternates:

Can We Just Have Our Own Room Now, Please?

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A Frozen Birthday

How We Let It Go

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Dear Disney, I Love You

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Alternates:

Indulging Your Inner Child While Making Your Kids Think This Vacation is Actually About Them

Move Over Kiddos; Mama Wants Her Wand

The #Adopt2GetHer Fundraising Yard Sale

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Alternates:

The Worst Sunburn I’ve Ever Had in My Life

Junk PTSD: Is That What I Think It Is?!?

The One in Which Charlie May Have Considered Divorce

Feeling All the Feels: Gratitude, Exhaustion, Frustration, Exhilaration. ALL the Feels.

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My Chubby Monkey Turns One

(Thanks to Cindy Meisch Photography for some lovely birthday pics!)

Micah in Chair

Alternates:

Wait, what?

The One in Which I Ugly Cry

Pass the Poutine! Why I Adore the “Eh” Team

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Alternates:

Legit Maple Syrup Doesn’t Come From a Log Cabin

Land of a Million Lakes; See You at the Cottage!

Hey, Girl, Ryan Gosling is 100% Canadian; They Win!

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Of course, the year had some challenging times too, such as: 

Inflammatory Drama: Chronic Rhinitis, Sinusitis, and Plantar’s Fasciitis

In Our House, the Little Mermaid Wears a Life Jacket or That Time Herdest Almost Drowned

Dear Childhood Trauma, I’d Like to Punch You in the Face

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From LISC Chicago. The outcomes of Adverse Childhood Experiences

 

And a few more random thoughts, for instance:

What the HECK Happened to My Little Ponies?

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Source

But hey, I can’t cover 15+ months in one blog post, so I’ll call it a day for now. I hope to find more time to write soon. Love to you all!

 

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