Rights, Watching, and Living

A few weeks ago I was finally able to drop off the adoption paperwork for the 7 kids.  This process has taken us over a year to complete (and that’s just the paperwork!) I went to the courthouse last May to pick up everything thinking it would be a fairly simple process, NOT so, come to find out you have to be married at least a year before you can adopt a step child.  Each child had a packet of about 25 pages that needed to be filled out and each one needed additional legal documents attached to their packet, death certificate, birth certificate, and marriage certificate.  Dropping it off was a huge relief.  I could now cross “adoption” off my list.  As I handed the clerk the huge stack of papers I asked her how long she thought it would take.  Her response threw me a bit, “It should be completed within 6 months.  You’ll have the home study but you’ll be able to skip the court date for terminating the parental rights because upon the death of a parent they immediately lose all rights.” Wow, just like that, you die, you have absolutely no rights anymore to the children you made. Without your egg or your sperm these children would not exist.  It seems like there would be some sort of legal loophole to that theory, and I’m sure there have been a handful of people who have tried to find a loop hole throughout the years.  It made me wonder, if one of them would have put in their will something to the effect of, “upon my death, I will not allow anyone to adopt my children”, would that have given them a voice from the grave?  Been some sort of a loop hole?  Sorry, this is where my mind goes, but really, would that be upheld in a court of law?  Not that they would do that, but as a mother I hate to think that if I die I have no rights left to my own children.  Although, it won’t matter I suppose, and that’s the faith part of it.  And, as I’ve said before, they aren’t really ours to begin with; ultimately we trust that He will take care of them.   I think part of this doesn’t sit well with me because I don’t believe you really die when you die. I understand that we need the terminology, but I do believe that they are both very fully alive, in fact more alive than we are.  I also don’t buy into the concept of them watching over us, I know highly controversial to most who want to believe this, and maybe I’m wrong, but to someone who has remarried, it’s a little disturbing to think that they are watching us, critiquing us, our marriage, our love life, our parenting skills, our lack of parenting skills or whatever it is they would want to observe. It makes me a little squeamish to think that they might watch over us like guardian angels or possess some sort of super powers.  I know that this thought brings many people an incredible amount of comfort, but I don’t see any Biblical backing for it. There’s the verse in Hebrews that people often use, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,” but as most translators and Bible commentators can agree, the word witness does not mean “spectator” here, it means bearing witness and more specifically, they are bearing witness to the faithfulness of God. Honestly, I think they have much more interesting things to watch where they are than our lives. I prefer knowing that Almighty, All knowing, All merciful, full of grace God is watching over me, “The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:7-8) and I believe that it was His presence, not my late husband’s, that brought me comfort and peace in my darkest moments for He promises, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28. Just keep livin!

A Salute

I recently read an excerpt from the book, “The Letter, My Journey Through Love, Loss, and Life” written by the former Marie Tillman, the infamous widow of Pat Tillman, the NFL player turned soldier.  In it she shares candidly about her struggles concerning his death in 2004.  Here was a man who gave up not only the good life but what seemed to be a great life, the American dream, for a cause that he believed in – America’s freedom. He ultimately sacrificed his entire life: fame, fortune, and family, for this bigger cause.  She shares her thoughts of never getting over his death but as so many other caregivers faced with the same bend in the road, she chose to forge ahead into something new, rather than wallow in something of the past.  She has moved forward into a new life while still honoring his memory and his legacy.  As I read this so much of what she shared resonated as true for myself as a caregiver but in a different sort of way.  Tillman’s death was immediate and therefore she spent a few years after gathering her bearings as a newly widowed woman.  I, however, due to the length of Jason’s illness felt a sense of widowhood long before I was technically branded with that insidious word.  That word never sat well with me as a 33 year old woman.  It’s such an old, worn, helpless word.  It makes me think of so many different women I’ve been privileged to meet over the past few years, mostly women who have been affected with the same malicious demon in their lives, brain cancer.  May is the month for brain cancer awareness.  Brain cancer is such a sad, defeating disease as it robs all of its victims of their strength and youth and ages them far before their time as they lose their sight, their strength, their muscle tone, their ability to communicate and even think effectively.  It brings grown, strong, Samson like men to their knees as it ravages through the most sacred part of our bodies, our brains. A friend who I met through my Carepage journey is in the shoes that I found myself in the end of August 2010.  My heart aches for her today as her strong Samson like husband has been admitted to hospice after battling brain cancer for 39 months.  He is, in fact, probably facing his last 48 hours here on earth. She is a strong woman, a determined woman, and she has done everything in her power to bring any life saving means to his disposal. She was a constant source of strength and encouragement to me as I walked through the dark valley as a caretaker in August of 2010.  Today, I want to honor all of the men and women like Tillman, like her, like all of us, who live our lives for something bigger and better whether it be the freedom of our great country or even just those who display their heroic courage through a battle that rages within their heads.  Or those caregivers, like my friend, who carry the intense burden of being a caretaker to someone far too young to die.  These people have the additional responsibility of realizing that the battle also rages within their minds and within their determination to be able to pick up the pieces of it all when the dust settles and continue in the land of the living.   I salute all, the courageous who give up their lives for something bigger and better and those of us left here to soldier on. May we all run our races, whatever race we are called to run, with perseverance and determination, not for our own glory, but for the much bigger and better days ahead! Just keep livin!!

Really Lord?

Recently I’ve been feeling antsy about the summer coming and having all of the kids home for three long, fun (?) months.  I have friends who cannot wait for school to be done and relish the thought of spending every minute with their children… I’m not one of those people. I was never one of those women who could find joy in pouring every ounce of their being into mothering. I know motherhood is a high and noble calling, one of the highest and noblest, but the Proverbs 31 woman is not just a mother. She is a wife, a mother, an employer, a business woman and a trader among other things.  I know she sounds like a really tired woman but the point is, her resume boasts of more than just “mother.”  I’ve always envied those moms who seem to absolutely love everything about motherhood and every moment with their children is such a blessed time together.  Honestly, when I finally give in and play a game with the kids or do a craft, or spend a little bit of time with them, my mind is usually on the 100 other things I should be doing in the moment.  Or, I’ll often do something active with them, like a soccer game or an intense baseball game, and then call that my workout for the day.  I don’t’ know if that’s cheating or just really smart parenting?
Lately, I’ve been saying to the Lord, “really???  you thought I’d be a good mom for seven kids, huh?”  I have a background with this issue that may shed some light on my struggles.   I grew up as the oldest child of 12. I was the oldest natural born child of 8, and I had four adopted siblings. I have never felt the urge to adopt because I wasn’t sure that I would be able to love an adopted child the same as I would love my own children.  Ironically, Tate, Mya, and Jada don’t feel like my adopted children, they just feel like my kids.  I don’t know if this is normal with all adoptions but it’s a blessing for me and for them. That was my first set of baggage with seven kids; secondly, I really, really enjoy doing my own thing.  I have a bit of a selfish streak that resents the fact that I hardly ever have time for writing or crafting, or gardening, or even just gathering my thoughts together into a coherent pattern before I hear that word, “mom” for the one thousandth time in a day.  But, for some reason, in the grand scheme of it all, the Lord thought differently than I did about it and gave me these 7 wonderful, little human beings to raise.  And truth be told, it’s usually about changing my attitude; I can focus on the positives of a big family, or I can focus on the exhaustion part of a big family, in the end, it’s my choice.   
The transition process for our two families has gone fairly well.  In my old life, I had one child who made my introspective, introverted self sort of sit up and go, “Wow, this is quite the personality, not real sure what to do with it but thank goodness it’s only one and my other three are more like me.”  God must have thought that was kind of funny because one of my new kids is also just like that.  Very extroverted, talkative, joyful, full of life, don’t really think before they act, don’t really get anything accomplished without a whole lot of encouragement and prodding, life of the party, crack you up, please don’t talk to me until I have a cup of coffee in my veins sort of kid.  God is teaching, showing, guiding, and being patient with me on a daily basis as I navigate these uncharted territories of a new life.  In essence, He’s doing for me what I need to do for the seven of them.  I need to teach, show, guide, and be ever so patient with them and myself as we walk this new highway together. 

Words

I’m a writer so I love words.  Some words have significant meaning to me and some are just words that make me smile such as…  
1.       Adaptable – something I have learned to love because it is my husband’s number one strength.  His adaptability enabled him to move to Michigan, uproot everything he knew and loved and become my husband.  His adaptability enables him to embrace a new culture, a new wife, new children, new everything and he does it with extreme grace and respect.  Love you babe🙂
2.     .  Belief – the exact opposite of adaptable and my number one strength – to 100% accuracy.  I am a first born child of 12, and I exhibit most of those annoying traits on a daily basis.  Belief is a kind of know it all concept, everything is black and white, no middle ground, strong core values that govern life, unchanging and unwavering.  God obviously had a sense of humor in putting me with Mr. Adaptable. 
3.      Authentic – I believe in 100% authenticity in how I live.  It may not always be pretty, in fact it may often be messy and have people shaking their heads, but at 35 years old, I can honestly say that I live authentically.  What you see, is what you get. 
4.     Beauty – I love beauty.  I love beauty in words, in life, in faith, in my family, in nature, and in my God.  HE has made beauty from ashes, thank you Lord for my beautiful life. 
5.      Grace – I’m a grace girl through and through.  I’m not always the most patient, kind, merciful, or slowest to anger type of person (it’s that first born thing), but I know that I have a God in Heaven always waiting and wanting to give me a second chance.  Through His grace I am forever evolving into something better.  
6.       Strength – Physical strength is something I strive for.  I love lifting weights and pushing myself to be stronger. I love being able to feel like I could defend myself or my family if I had to.  A mental strength, which I firmly believe comes through our thought patterns.  If we focus on the bad, that will define our life, if we focus on the good, that will define our life, ultimately our lives are lived between our ears. Finally, a spiritual strength which comes slowly through faith that God has our best in mind, and He is able to provide a peace that passes understanding even when we don’t understand one single bit.  
7.        Faith – The number one word that sums up how I live my life.  I have faith that there is something so much bigger and better than any of us can even imagine and that is what propels me to my beliefs, strength, and authenticity in this Big, Beautiful Life. 
Just keep Livin!!!