Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How I really feel about the Duggars -- and why

Writer's note: I thought long and hard about whether to post the following blog. Have I met my purpose in writing by my first post about the Duggars? Will this be construed as getting on a soapbox, or attempting to drag a Christian family through the mud? 

I normally write a post, and immediately publish. But this time, I took a day to really mull over the value of my words. Will they contribute to healthy discussion? Or has that ship already passed? In the end, because I have been asked several times the same questions, I'm going to go ahead and publish.

I understand that this might make me unpopular and you might vehemently disagree. All I ask is that if you choose to read, read all the way through. Ponder my thoughts. And if you have something to add in light of a healthy discussion -- I'm up for a good discussion.

Thanks all. 


When I posted my latest blog on the Duggars,  I was really surprised at some of the negative feedback I've received. It is strange to me because in only a few words I wrote what seemed to be common sense and not that controversial.

Yes, we are to love. Yes we are to forgive. Yes, we are to support the victims. Yes, we are to make sure that we call things for what they are. Yes, we should affirm natural or God-given consequences. And yes, we need to be uber aware that the way we respond in times like these is so very important for non-Christians who are watching us.

These points seemed pretty straightforward to me. But apparently, they are not so straightforward.

So I want to clarify a few things.

1. The intent of my post was not to gossip.

So much of the controversy around anyone discussing the Duggars right now is that it is gossip. "We weren't there, so we can't voice an opinion." This to me sounds like "let's just stick our head in the sand this time and pretend that nothing happened."

Can I just be really straightforward here? Most of us are not immediately present when something newsworthy happens. Have any of you been in Iraq lately? Where you in Boston when the bomber placed deadly backpack near kids, adults and runners?  What about when Casey Anthony's daughter died? We rely on the media all the time. We trust the information that comes from the media often (admittedly not always.) We rely on police investigations to find truth for us.

And most of the time, we discuss them.

YES. Gossip is talking about someone's personal business. Intimate details that should be private. 

You might not like my response to this, but here you go.

I would not have chosen for this scandal to be so public. (I would also not chose for it to be a secret. I think the authorities should have known right away, and that the church body should have been informed right away.)

I'm not convinced that the mass publicity of this abuse in the best interest of the victims. I imagine that whatever self-consciousness these girls already had is now so much worse. To have everyone looking at you, and wondering if YOU were the one the one fondled, the one with a secret.

Honestly, I can't imagine how they are feeling right now. I can't. I understand the concept of triggers. And I'm sure that everywhere right now is a trigger for them.

But I didn't CHOOSE this publicity for them.

Their parents did.

I feel confident that Jim Bob and Michelle really felt that making a reality TV show was the right thing to do -- to be a testimony for God.

But they chose this knowing the skeletons they had in the closet. And we all know skeletons have a way of making themselves known. Especially when so many people in the world can't stand what you stand for, and you have a very public platform for. The world is looking for a reason to discredit them. And guess what? They found it.

I am not saying that this family does not deserve to have some privacy. But what I am saying is that they chose to be in the public eye, they chose to make themselves an example of healthy, pure sexuality, and they did this knowing the position it had the potential to put their daughters in.

My post was not about furthering gossip. To speculate, to slander, to draw false conclusions. The purpose of my post is to say this:

Christians: The Duggars have given the world an example of how sexual abuse is handled so often in the church. TOO often. We are in the hotseat, yet again, for mishandling allegations of sexual abuse. We have a responsibility to the victims to label sexual abuse for what it is. We have a responsibility to allow the consequences of these actions to fall where they should. We have an obligation as Christians to pray, to support, to love, and to forgive. But in a way that AFFIRMS the real suffering of the victims. Not sweeping it under the rug of a cheap and easy forgiveness.

I understand not wanting to talk about this. I do. But the world is talking, and they are watching, and they are wondering if we Christians are OK with the way this was handled. And we shouldn't be OK with it. And I think that is OK to say. Actually, I think it is RIGHT to say.

The way the Duggars and their church leaders handled the allegations of sexual abuse was not legal nor was it in the best interest of Josh or the victims.

There. I said it.

2. A crime is not worse than a sin. But it is different.

A few of you questioned whether I have a full appreciation for the gravity of sin. Trust me, I do.

However, there are somethings that are sin -- but they are also something more.

If Josh had simply had consensual sex with another teen, it would also have been sin. They would have gone against God's plans for their lives.

But that was not what happened here. God's laws were broken. Man's laws were broken. And children were victimized.

Calling a lie a sin, premarital sex a sin, and incestuous child molestation a sin can appear to place them all in the same boat. With the same gravity.

I get that all sin, no matter what, comes between us and God. In that way, it is equal.

But telling a white lie that you were on time (when you were really 15 minutes late) -- and sexually victimizing multiple children over a long period of time -- do not require the same consequences. There are natural consequences that really SHOULD happen in one case over the other.

That is why we need to call it a crime. And not just a sin. Because it is both. And because the consequences for a white-lie-kind-of sin is not the same as for a felony-kind-of sin.

3. "He who casts the first stone . . . "

Jesus has told us not to judge. It's true. When the adulteress woman was about to be stoned, he intervened in a crazy, shocking way. He turned religious fundamentalists away from quite literally ruining this sinner of a pagan woman.

And yet, if you dig through Scripture, that same principle he applied to non-Christians, he did NOT apply to us in the church.

Here is 1 Corinthians 5:1-12 (NIV):

1It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. 2And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this? 3For my part, even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. As one who is present with you in this way, I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this. 4So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,a b so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.

6Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

9I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sisterc but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

12What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”d

God makes it plain that while we personally are not to judge those outside the church -- we are encouraged, allowed, (and dare I say it?) commanded to call our brothers and sisters out when they have blatantly sinned.

I understand that the sexual abuse is no longer happening. And that this verse is talking about people who are actively involved in sin (incest of all things), but are still attending church and under the guise of being pious.

However, the Duggars have not actually said that they way they responded was wrong. They regret that it happened. (We all do.) But there doesn't seem to be any indication that they regret their actions following the abuse.

I'm not going to get into a huge discourse on on church discipline here. But what I will say is this:

The clergy in the church were mandatory reporters. [I'm a mandatory reporter. It means that when we see or understand that a child is potentially in danger of abuse or neglect, we (by law) are required to call CPS. This does not mean that we have to have proof. But a reasonable belief. And yes, I've had to make that call. And YES, I know it is so so hard. But it has to be done.]

The Duggars' church failed them.  They did not report to authorities. They failed the other families attending by not disclosing that there was a boy who might have exposure to their children with a history of child sexual abuse. They failed the reputation of the Christian church as a whole.

The Duggars themselves failed their children. (yes, I am saying this. Yes, I understand that in so many ways, we all fail our children). But as parents, our legal, moral and spiritual duty is to protect our children from reasonable harm. The girls' right to be protected needed to trump Josh's right to privacy. That did not happen.

When we as brothers and sisters in Christ rush to forgive without affirming the gravity of the sin, to offer only support to those who have failed in a pretty big way, to rush past any criticism of others' actions for fear of being judgmental . . . we are also failing as a church.

We are failing the victims who have a right to have their suffering affirmed, and not discarded. We fail the outside world when we claim Christians should not have to endure any natural consequences of their actions just because they have repented and have been forgiven. We fail ourselves when we refuse to take a good hard look at how abuse is often handled in the church, and we don't call for reform.

So yeah, talking about it? It matters. Because only when we are being honest with ourselves about what happened versus what should have happened can we make the changes needed to make sure this sort of abuse/neglect doesn't happen again.

4. So what kind of accountability am I expecting?

Simply this. If the victims chose to press charges, and there were no statute of limitations, I would be in support. Not because I long to see Josh or his family suffer. Not at all. I know they have suffered immensely. But because I support legal jurisdiction, and the right of a victim to come forward and ask for justice for the crime committed against them.

I will not be signing any petition to get this show back on television. Josh losing his job, and the Duggars losing their show for now seems to be natural consequences enough. And I think Jim, Michelle, and Josh are all adult enough to deal with it. Furthermore, I believe that if God still desires to give the Duggars a platform, he will do it.

In fact, I'm hopeful that there is some redemption to all of this mess.

5. There is one more thing I just feel like I need to say. 

My heart has been and continues to be for the girls who were exposed to sexuality against their will and far too young.

I have never been sexually abused. I'm grateful for that every day. But I have a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old who I pray will be able to make it through this life without that particular pain.

I have watched the crippling effect childhood sexual abuse has had on some of my friends. I could not wish that on anyone. In fact, I became a foster parent in large part to do what I could to protect children from this kind of abuse. My heart deeply, deeply grieves for those who have been forced to endure this kind of horror.

To the Duggar girls (or for any other victims of abuse), I want to say this:

What you have endured as a child . . . and what you are enduring now as this story is made public . . . grieves me, grieves those who love you, and grieves the heart of God. If I could, I would take this all away, and I would write you a new story. But I can't. 

I hope that in spite of the publicity, you are able to have any healthy counseling or resources you might need today or in the future. I hope that the church becomes a healthy, safe place for you. A place where you can unburden your secret, and know that you will be believed. That you will be offered protection. Offered very real support. That your church body will be able to love you just as Christ would. 

This cannot be easy for you. To have been abused by the ones you loved. The ones you LOVE. So please know that we are praying for you. We are praying for your families. And we are praying for God's comfort and healing presence in your life. 

And while we can't write you a new story -- we are doing everything we can to prevent what happened to you to happen to another girl. And if we can't prevent it, we'll do our very best to help support her as she heals.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

It's not a sin. It's a crime.

Hey Christians. Here's the deal.

I was going to keep quiet. I wanted to keep quiet. I was going to let this one just slide by, and let all the other news sites, bloggers, media junkies, and joe shmoes write about it.

But the thing is. I can't.

Because I keep reading about it. And because one thing keeps popping up, and I've got to tell you. It's driving me crazy.

When an act not only defies God's laws, but man's laws -- it is not a sin problem. It is a crime.

When an act strips children who have no voice of their innocence, it is not a matter of getting someone's heart right before God. It's about true rehabilitation. 

When a parent knowingly allows innocent children to be alone with a sex offender, it is not a "hard decision." It is straight irresponsibility.

I may not be a total Duggar lover, but I'm a supporter of them as fellow Christians. And I'm not trying to make light of what they had to deal with. I can only imagine how hard it was to hear that their son was up to that. And I can only imagine the pain they are feeling now.

But as Christians, please understand that we can love them, we can support them, and we can forgive them -- but making EXCUSES for any of their behavior is absolutely unacceptable.

Please know that when we say "God has forgiven" and "who are we to care what was done 15 years ago?" and "he was only a child" or "they did their best" . . . that to the rest of the world, we look like spiritual pansies.

And worse, we look like enablers.

So let's stop talking about his "sin." Let's stop petitioning to get their show back on. Let their family deal with the consequences of their actions (and in-actions as it may be.) Pray for them -- but for the love of all things holy, please pray the most for the victims.

Because the WAY we respond as Christians matters.

Let's love. But let's also stand for accountability.

For a more in-depth explanation of my position on this, here's my next post: How I really feel about the Duggars -- and why. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Christ did not die for me. Here's why...

pulled up to a stoplight near our home, the first car in a long line of traffic. It is a busy intersection, hemmed in by a 7-11, Starbucks, Wal-Greens and a supplement store (which in spite of seeing it every day for 6 years, I can't remember the name.)

While Spirit 105.3 played over the radio, a homeless man crossed slowly in front of me.

His grayish white beard hung limply to his mid-chest. This thin frail arms showed weathered, leathered looking skin. On one foot was a gray sneaker. The other foot -- a mismatched white one. 

He was tall, thin and old looking.

Too old, I thought. I wondered what a clean shave, some nice clothes, and some meat on his bones would do for him. I wondered what happened in his life that his is now gimping along the white-striped road in front of me, with mismatched dirty clothes and averted eyes.

He made his trek to 7-11, then I lost sight of him.

I briefly thought of stopping to buy him some food, but then I remembered I had kids in the car. Sometimes I let fear that something might happen to my kids prevent me from doing what I would otherwise do. 

As I watched him, I became painfully aware of my own comfort. My expensive mini-computer (which I call a phone) sitting by my lap. My minivan that comes with AC, heat, leather seats and butt-warmers. My cute, washed (but of course not ironed) clothes. The expensive products prettying my face. 

And even more painfully, I became aware of something I had that he likely didn't.

Hope. This man needed hope. 

I was rich in hope. He was starved.

The radio blared on, and a phrase interrupted my stream-of-conscious thinking with a truth I have heard throughout my life:

Christ died for me.

Most days, I wouldn't have payed much attention. I've heard it a million times. But not today. 

Because watching a man with no hope opened my eyes to a horrible lie I have believed: 

If Christ died for me, and I am saved, then that's it. His mission is complete. 

I am saved, I've been redeemed, and I'm darn comfortable, thank-you-very-much.  We could just get this earth thing over with, head on to heaven and everything will be fine and dandy. 

But did Christ really die for me?

So often, we Christians tell others that if they were the only person on this earth ... Christ would have died for them.

I think that approach comes innocently enough. We want everyone to know the value they specifically hold in God's eyes.

But the danger comes when we internalize this. And really, finding out that the creator of the universe cares so much about us as individuals really kinda goes to our heads. Or at least it goes to mine.

All of the sudden, my personal wellbeing has just skyrocketed in importance.

But can we also be honest about what is equally true? If we had never been born, Christ would still have would have died.

Because there are others. 

Because scripture says, God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Get that? Whoever. (Not just me.) The whole WORLD. (Again, not me.)

Christ did not die for me. He died for the world. 

He came for the homeless man I should have fed and should have told about Jesus. He came for the neighbors I choose not to meet. He came for the families in Nepal, who I haven't been praying for. 

He came for the hurting and the broken and the proud and the wealthy and the sick and the wise and the foreigners and the intellectuals and the kids and the old people and the gays and the straights.

His heartbeat is not for Rachel. His heartbeat is for the world.

And it's about darn time my heartbeat starts echoing his.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Learning the dance of letting go


I am loving, parenting, mothering a phantom baby.

He is here now. His contagious laughs, frequent night waking, boy toys, and daily Tupperware-cupboard emptying all make his presence known. 

But it does not look as though he will stay.

I know that time will pass as quickly as it does when you really just want it to slow down. Or maybe even stop for awhile.

And time will take with it this child who I have learned to love as a son. 

It will be too soon that the social workers will come, and it will be our final goodbye. Just writing this my tears stream, and I try not to ugly-cry. (Not working.)

I believe it is a simple matter of time before the emptiness of him gone will settle into every crevice of our household. Settle into every heart that has fallen for this baby.

His bath towel will be here, unused. His dresser, empty. The trucks and trains we've collected will only be remembered by the photos we'll have of him playing. His high chair cleaned, folded and stored in the garage. His car seat taken out of the car, and stored right along with his high chair.

I feel the need to keep up appearances. To be stoic, and martyr-y, and tell you it is worth it. To act like a saint by bottling up feelings. Because I still believe in foster parenting. And I still believe that more of you guys should seriously consider it.

But I am no saint, and I have a feeling I would make a terrible martyr. Yet my hope is still that as we complete our time with Z ... No matter how messy or beautiful that time will be ... You might still consider opening your home and hearts.

I will get through this. I'm a big girl. But I can't help but fear that the separation will be too hard on Z. Even though I know it is poison, my heart drinks in all the worries of the what-ifs. I long to protect Z from the heartache of good-bye. I know it is coming ... But he is still in his happy little world, with no idea of the changes that lay ahead.

We didn't take Baby Z in with the intent of having a forever son ... But I have a forever-mama heart for him. No matter where he lives, he'll be my son in my heart.

And now I just need to learn this new dance. Of letting go, watching my children's hearts break for a time, trusting God with Z and of blessing new mom. (Or old mom, as I guess she is.)

It's a dance I must master. But I am an unwilling student at times. God has to keep leading me back here to the dance floor, telling me to trust Him.

Some of you will say, "there is hope! Court is still a few weeks away."

But I don't feel the right to hope that he stays. To hope that he stays means hoping that Z's mom will fail, and that Z will be separated from his bio siblings.

am loving, parenting, mothering a phantom baby.

He is here today. Gone tomorrow.

Somehow, I need to learn to be OK with a future that may not ever have my baby Z in it again.

This is Z's favorite way to ride in the car ... Holding mama's hand.

** as you know, there are many details of Z's case that I cannot share. However, I have every reason to believe that reunification will happen, unless something drastic changes. At this point, that timeline could be anywhere from June through fall. 

Please pray for the social workers making recommendations, the judge's fair and clear thinking, for bio mom to be able to raise him well, for Z as he walks through this without any words to express how he feels, and our family as we let go and mend our hearts.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Project Get 'er Done!


My body does not act or look like what I want it to.


Since Z moved in (sweet baby), I've kicked my exercise habit to the curb. I believed the lie that I couldn't have a rockstar bod with 3 babies. And I'm not talking skinny -- I'm talking about a body that is strong and is capable. That's rockstar to me.


I'm ready to get my exercise back in shape. I know it's important for my own self-confidence, for my endorphins, and I need to do this BEFORE Z leaves and I'm too sad to do it.

So project Get 'er Done starts now!

I'll be doing the 30-day shred with Jillian Michael's. Let me know if you want to join me!

Join my exercise accountability group on FB here.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A heart suspended

My beautiful friend Bethany, and her momma,
after the delivery of her stillborn baby Mya.
This photo says it all.

Birds chirp outside on this beautiful Sunday morning. I am sipping my sugared espresso my husband crafted for me, with foamed up half and half (and a scoop of hand-whipped cream for good measure.) Katie Rusby is playing on Pandora, her country-Irish style gently filling the spaces in our home.

I awoke this morning to my 6-year-old kissing me and telling me Happy Mother's Day.

My other kids were apparently with my husband. He got up and took them all to the store to get everything to make me pancakes. Breakfast was complete with strawberries & cream, and a bouquet of flowers. The children are all playing in Maddy's room -- their laughter every so often replaced by screams or cries. But mostly laughter.

This has all the perfect makings of a perfect Mother's Day.

And yet part of my heart is just suspended.

It wants to relish, to celebrate, to feel loved and be loved. It wants to rest in the moment of a peaceful, messy-ish home, cluttered from the makings of children's hands and pattering feet. It longs to say that all is right in this world.

But half of my heart feels taken up today in sadness.

It is part longing for my children I didn't get to meet.

It is part longing for heaven.

It is in part with my friend Bethany -- whose daughter Mya was stillborn 3 years ago. Beautiful baby girl, who brought so much joy to her parents. Since Mya, there have been no other children. No one to mother, but a mother she is.

It is holding its breath for my friend K. Her unborn baby has a fatal diagnosis. Her life is caught up in an unfair limbo -- life and death, carried in her womb together. There is not one without the other. How must she be feeling today?

It is far away with a mom I haven't met. Whose 3-month-old died from SIDS, after several pregnancy losses. Linnea and Bridget -- I'm thinking of you today and wishing with all my heart God provides comfort.

It is with Cat, who is celebrating her second Mother's Day without Preston.

It is with Lindsay, Jasmine, Katherine, Brittany, Brittany, Alex, Kristin, Emily, Jeanne, Summer, Meredith, Amanda, Deanna, Molly, Crystal, Brittany C, Melanie, Joanna, Christine, Laura, Hollie, Cara, Tiffany, Kristin, Stacy, Sarah, Carly, Becky, Hannah, Jeni, Kelly, Melissa, Syndi, Abby, Nancy, Hope, Elizabeth, Emily, Kristen, Sara, Jenny, Sarah, Janice, Anna, Jennifer, Rochelle, Stephanie, Danielle, Jessica, Camlyn, Courtney, Jennene, Brittney, Jenny, Cheryl, Amanda, Karen, Kimberly, Tiffany, Cherie, Terrin, Bethany, Sheryle, Susan, Lindsey, Melissa, Kendra, Emily, Jill, Del, Amanda, Paula, Carilla, Theresa, Holly, Lindsey, Brandy, Sara, Elizabeth, Cally, Cheryl, Erica, Rebekah, Jessica, Kristi, Lisa, Beatrice, Andrea, Stevie, Kendra, Beckie, Lael, Bridget, Heather, Palei, Beth, Becky, Isablel, Rochelle, Julie, and Deborah . . . .

All of whom have their own stories to tell of much-wanted, much-loved children who went to heaven.

It is with Leyla's bio mom -- wherever in the world she is. Wondering if she misses Leyla today. Wondering if she is alive and OK.

It is with Z's bio mom -- wondering if she has room in her heart today to miss and love Z, now that she has a new baby to love on.

It is with my friends who want to have a family, but are single.

It is with my friends who have had abortions, but keep their motherhood a secret.

It is with my own parents who are missing their moms today. Grandma Fulner & Grandma Enyeart -- we all love you and miss you so much.

It is with the dads out there who are missing their wives on this day.

It is with Becky, and my other single mom friends, who do so very much to mother their children.

It is with the women who I love so dearly, and wish I could give them babies -- but are childless for now.

It is with the moms who have no living children.

It is with my friends who no longer have a relationship with their moms.

It is with my friends, like Ashton, who are mothers to waiting children overseas. The adoption process can't get over fast enough.

On this day, I do not forget that I am blessed. I've been given the gift of mothering 3 on earth, 4 in heaven, for however long God sees fit. I also do not forget the pain of Mother's Days past. I do not forget the pain of my friends above.

To all of you, whether you got roses and strawberries and cream -- or no one acknowledged you as a mom today -- I hope that in your heart you find love, find comfort, find some measure of joy. I hope that today is more than a day of pain, but a day to find some happy memories of the children we have been blessed to know -- no matter how long. I hope that there is some healing and restoration today.

I wish you all a very gentle Mother's Day.

Love, Rachel

Saturday, May 9, 2015

What every mom needs to hear from the pulpit on Mother's Day

Dear pastors on the day before Mother's Day,

No doubt you've just about finished up your sermon by now. Perhaps you are applying the finishing touches to your message, creating the slides to pass off to your tech team, or figuring out which mothers you'll have stand to be recognized (oldest mother, newest mother, etc.)

I wonder if you have chosen to highlight a biblical mom . . . Elizabeth, maybe. Or Hannah. Or Moses's mom. Or the mom of all moms, Mary.

I know there's a lot of pressure on you this day. Everyone is looking to you to come up with a fresh, encouraging spin on motherhood . . . just as you have had to do every year on this day throughout your career. 

We all know that good moms do a lot of thankless work. We know that they self-sacrifice a lot. And as a mom myself, I do get why there is a day set aside for us every year to acknowledge that our role is important.

But might I say this one thing?

Some moms get to be moms, and they are good at it. Other moms get to be moms, and they suck at it. (It's ok, we can admit that not all mothers are saints.) 

Some women would be amazing at motherhood, but their bodies refuse to create a baby for them. Some moms are moms through adoption, but they feel like the worst kind of mom because they are struggling to attach to their child.

Some moms are secret moms. They gave their child away for adoption. Some of them are at peace with this decision. Others were forced to relinquish their kids by family, social pressures, or the state.

Some moms have chosen abortion. They'll come tomorrow with feelings of guilt and shame. Or maybe feelings of peace about their decision, but they won't dare open up for fear of what others might say.

Some moms are temporary moms, as they foster the babies of the not-so-saintly moms, and struggle in knowing that the baby they've given their heart and soul to will one day never even know they existed.

There are moms who have lost their own mom, and feel completely at a loss for how to honor their dead mother.

Other moms are grieving their dead babies. Some of those women don't have any living children. They wish they knew the kind of sacrifice and servanthood you speak of. Their only way to parent is to create memorials, or whisper their child's name at night, or donate time and money to worthy causes in their baby's name.

Some moms are waiting moms ... Waiting for their adoption to finalize, or be matched with an expecting mom. Some moms have their waiting children in other countries, and may have to wait for years before they can wrap their arms around their own.

And then there are the dads...

The ones whose wife is struggling with postpartum depression, and she has retreated from her family as hormones and imbalance hold her captive.

There are the dads whose wife died. They are now playing both mom and dad. Mother's Day is just on more reminder of what his kids no longer have.

There are dads who have to explain to their kids that mom has chosen to leave, and will not be coming back. 

There are single moms, and happy moms, and fulfilled moms, and empty moms, and bereaved moms, and infertile moms, and women who long to be moms, and dads who have to be the moms, all filling the pews of your church tomorrow.

I know you long to give them a fresh word on motherhood ... But I hope you know that what they need, what we all need, is the same-old message you give time and time again.

Jesus saves.

He's our redeemer, soul-saver, family-keeper, sanity-saver, purpose-giver, and forever-lover.

No matter who fills your church tomorrow ...no matter what baggage they are forced to bring ... Offer them the hope that comes with a relationship with Jesus. 

And the rest, I promise, will fall exactly into place.

Much appreciation for all you do, 


A fulfilled, infertile, bereaved, bio mom, foster mom and adoptive mom who still needs Jesus

Monday, May 4, 2015

Microblog Monday: Laundry

I love the smell of fresh laundry.

I love looking at my kids' cute little clothes, and think happy thoughts about the little stinkers.

I hate actually doing the laundry.

Lately, laundry has brought me a new challenge --- besides taking over my entire living room once a month.

As I sort through Z's clothes, I mentally go through the list of what I'm sending with him when/if he goes home, and what I'll keep.

And then I hug his clothes and cry.

I now cry almost every time I do laundry. I wonder about the day that I'll be doing the last load of his clothes, and he will be gone. My arms will be empty again. I'll just have some of his old clothes left here. The ones that I want to keep to remember him by. The clothes I will fold, and put away, and not have a reason to bring out again -- other than to hug it and cry.

In 4 short weeks, we will know if the plan is to go home or to stay.

Z's baby sister was born today. So the clock is ticking . . . how will mom do with a new baby? Will she be able to handle it, and then Baby Z, and then the other siblings?

Time is ticking. The clock is racing. And we're getting closer to maybe saying good-bye, one laundry load at a time.

Friday, May 1, 2015

My top 5 truths about parenting after infertility and loss

My story is a little different than many of yours. My infertility came AFTER my firstborn child. And so maybe for me, parenting after loss or infertility is a little different. I was already mothering a live human before life struck hard.

But I really think no matter how we came to this parenting-after-loss-and-infertility gig, there are a few things many of us generally could agree with. And I don't suppose I have to add this caveat, but I say generally because this won't be true for every single person, every single time. Your story is your story.

This is mine.

Here are my top 5 truths about parenting after loss.

1) It's not all happily ever after.

Well, at least not in the same way that you hoped for (and for that matter, not in the same way everyone else hoped for you too.)

When your arms literally ache for a child ... When your soul feels the crush of loss or grief ... When the promise of a child just sounds too good to be true ... It is easy to think "If I just had a child, everything would be sweeter/more amazing/sprinkled in rainbows!" Ok ... Maybe not sprinkled with rainbows. But you know ... maybe.

The thought that life will somehow be a little better and a little sweeter with a little someone in tow is so convincing. 

And sometimes it really is. But not always.

That child you hoped for and dreamed for still has tantrums. There are still days where your daughter takes your expensive foundation and smears it all over the bathroom floor. The days when your son pushes all your buttons you didn't even know existed.

There are moments where you look around your house, and it's just chaos. Sheer chaos. Toys strewn everywhere, upturned sippy cups with day-old milk, cheerios minefields under the highchair, and baby food you never saw get sprayed now caked onto your freshly-painted mint julep walls. And seriously. You. Just. Cleaned.

And sometimes in those moments, when you are exhausted and emotionally worn thin from the day, you will remember your times before this child with a hint of jealousy. A hint of longing.

You might not stay there for long. You might remember what it's like to be childless or remember what it's like to ache for another child.

But life with any child isn't all roses and rainbows. And the reality of parenthood might leave you wondering if your happy ever after is ever on it's way.


3. Parenting doesn't cure grief or infertility

I have heard many fit people who were formally fat say that they STILL feel like the fat person. It's a part of you. Changing the number on the scale doesn't change some of the insecurity and fear that breeds from a long time of feeling less-than, not enough, or like a failure.

It has become part of their identity.

Grief and infertility are a part of our identity, too.

Maybe the numbers in your house have changed. Maybe you now sport a minivan instead of your once prized 2-door convertible. Maybe you have the tax deductions, and the bookshelves overflowing with nursery rhymes and sensory books, the restaurant table reserved for 3 plus a highchair.

But those feelings of loss, insecurity, frustration, and fear don't just go away.

Infertility and loss have become part of your identity. Sure, it's not all of who you are. And sometimes, it's easier to hide your grief or infertility behind becoming the soccer mom, or the helicopter mom, or the crunchy granola mom.

But it's still there. It's always there.

You're reminded that it's there when you still jealously spy other people's pregnant bellies. When you hold your children and wonder what you will do for their funerals. (And then hate how you find yourself thinking this way.)  How you will cope when they are gone. It's sneaks its ugly head up when you just can't bring yourself to attend that baby shower for your best friend.

Maybe on the outside, it looks like you have it all. You've got your children, your arms (and diaper bag) are full -- what more could you want?

But the truth is loss and grief are your new normal. And parenting another kid doesn't cure that.

3. You'll compare. More than you want.

Truth: We know comparison sucks. Sometimes we talk about how comparison hurts us like we've discovered a new law of physics. It's not rocket science.

And yet it's a basic fact many of us loss moms still lose sight of.

How's this one? Comparing your miscarried baby (the one you never got to meet) to the one that is currently trying to claw their way into your opened dishwasher to unload its contents all over your floor?

Or comparing your journey to other moms who didn't go through the struggles you did to build your family.

Or comparing what you THOUGHT it would be like to parent to what it actually IS like to parent.

Comparison never serves us. And yet as a loss mama, or one who's struggled with infertility, there just seems to be so much fuel to throw on the comparison fire.

4. Gratitude will not always be your first emotion.

Right after our loss of Olivia, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. I came across a friend's post about her morning sickness.

"Wow," I thought. "I would give anything in the world to have morning sickness right now if it meant I had a healthy pregnancy. I would just be so grateful that my child was healthy and I could meet her and have her in my arms."

And so the silent promise in my heart was sown. If I ever got to parent again, I would just be so grateful.

But while gratitude is still in my heart every day -- it is not my go-to emotion when the hard days come.

When Leyla feeds the baby something she shouldn't, after being reminded about the rules a million times, I'm not initially thinking: "Gosh, I'm so grateful she's alive." I'm honestly more ready to throttle her than I am to sing "Hallelujah, thank goodness she's here!" (Don't worry. I don't really throttle her.)

When someone raids my pantry and sprays the carpeted floor with every size, color and shape of sprinkles they could find (I won't name any names), I don't immediately say "Thank you Lord for this blessing!"

When all 3 of my children are having simultaneous meltdowns (How do they know to schedule these????) -- you guessed it. No hallelujah chorus here.

But it's always there in the back of my mind nagging at me.

After all the other natural emotions have run their course, discipline has been sliced and served up, and tears have been shed -- my commitment to gratitude gently reminds me. Be thankful. Even in the mess. Even in the chaos. Even in the tears -- even in your own tears.

Be grateful because you asked God for this. And He gave it to you. And there is someone out there on your newsfeed, seeing your pictures of the mess, and wishing it were their own. Because that would mean they were a mommy.

So yeah. Gratitude isn't my go-to. But I'd definitely say it's my lifelong companion I choose to keep along for the ride.

5. Loss doesn't make you the perfect mommy.

When you've spent so much time wondering, hoping, planning and dreaming for a child -- you maybe think that you could very well be the next perfect mom.

Subconciously, I thought that all the losses and all the longing would make me a perfect mommy.

When we planned to foster, I read all the books. I could tell you passionately why we wouldn't spank, and I could recite everything that must be done to help promote attachment. I was the perfect foster parent -- who had never really fostered.

And now, I could just as passionately tell you how clueless I really am at this parenting gig. I hate spanking, but it's the only discipline we've found slightly (and I mean slightly) effective at getting a certain child's attention.  Some of my parenting books really might be more useful as toilet paper than as a manual for how to deal with this kid.

But my lack of great parenting happened even before Leyla.

When Maddy was just about 3, we lost Olivia. And since then I have had to parent through 3 more miscarriages. And honestly, sometimes grief made me a mommy monster. Sometimes depression made me distant and cold. Sometimes loss made me lose my appetite for life and all its nuances.

I stayed away from mommy dates for my sake, not my daughter's. I avoided parks. I secluded us for a while to only family, and an occasional friend. FOR ME -- not her.

As much as I would like to say that I am a better mommy for all I have gone through -- I'm really not sure that's the case.

Maybe just one that is more grateful.

At least, when I choose to be.

Cheerios, sprinkles, tears and all.