Friday, June 25, 2010

Darkness and Light

Sometimes while walking through the forest, the darkness encroaches so slowly that you don't notice that it's there. Your eyes adjust to the lack of sunlight, you move forward, unaware. You never stumble or falter or realize that there is anything at all wrong with your travels.

And by and by the sun begins to rise, a sun you never noticed was missing. A flicker of light makes it's way between the trees, shining onto your pale and sullen face.

At first, you close your eyes, the light being too much to handle. You turn around and try to move away from it. It becomes hard to see. Your focus is lost. You are scared but drawn. You can't move or breathe or feel.

And the light gets brighter. . .

Your eyes begin to adjust to the way things should be. You remember what it was once like to see the details in the world around you. A familiar joy rises up within in you, beckoning your forward. You move faster and step closer anxious to continue to allow your world to brighten. You are chasing the sun, terrified of losing it again, of getting lost in the darkness, unaware.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

God and Music

So in my severe lack of sleeping lately I've been doing lots of thinking.

As many of you know, I have many friends who are not Christians. There are several things that the "nonbelievers" pass onto me, that keep me up late at night. I've been struggling to find an appropriate way to share it. Appropriate, in this case, of course, being that I'd have liked to found a way to share my heart without hurting feelings or stepping on toes. I'll apologize in advance.

First of all, I must say I'm incredibly frustrated at times by the "they did _______and they claim to be a Christian" , said by both Christians and non Christians. What kind of thing to say is that? It says "If you are a Christian you would never do _______, so they must not really be one."

Now seriously people. You know, things like that are the very reason that "nonbelievers" think we are full of crap. They see our mistakes. WE MAKE MISTAKES. They are not stupid. To pretend that you are above reproach is ridiculous. If not for the grace of God, you would easily be, and may someday be, where the person you are so quick to judge is standing.

I will put myself in this catagory. I am extremely opinionated and prideful. I am ashamed of myself. I am sure if you've talked to me you have heard me make this most damaging mistake. I tell you this because I don't want you to think I'm up on a mountain yelling at you, I'm right here in the vally. We all are. I fully realize nothing will be different in my life if I don't atleast acknowledge it.

Onto another and much more frustrating subject. . .

First, you must know a couple of simple things about me. I like rap and rock music. I do not care for, in the least, Opera. I go to many concerts, and shows, and have watched even the most talented musician hit a bad note, or choose to watch a television screen in the middle of his set instead of play correctly.

That being said. . . Just because I do not care for Opera does not mean that I never listen to any music for fear I might hear something Operatic come out.

Furthermore, just because a musician hits a bad note, does not mean I discount the importance of their music. It also does not mean that I refuse to listen to it anymore.

Many of my friends have been hurt by Christians. Note, I didn't say "people claiming to be Christians". Because of that, they have chosen to discount, walk away from, hate, the whole concept of God or Christianity.

To those, I must say I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the judgments that have been passed to you. I am sorry for the lies that have been told. I grieve over the manipulation that has left some of you so broken I fear you will never be able to see past it into God's love for you. I feel entirely helpless.

I wish that each of us could be Mozart. I wish that I could say that becoming a Christian meant you would never do anything, or experience anything hurtful, but it doesn't. Going along with my music theme, it's about the music, not the mistakes made while playing. It's also about God, not the mistakes His people make trying to play His song. All the things that go on at the hands of those of us who are terribly inadequate are not the bottom line. He is.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Real

You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he did so because he believed there were no mice in the house.~C.S. Lewis

Faith is not believing you are safe from drowning in a mud puddle. ~Me

It is easy to be confident when surrounded by people who believe in you.

It is easy to be brave when you know you are not alone.

It's easy to be funny when you have every reason to laugh.

It is easy to stand strong when the ground beneath you is solid.

Take all of those things away, and where are you?

Where am I really?

Working my way out mostly.

Finding things to rejoice and be confident in, even if it's the way a kitten transforms in my care, or the laughter of my babies.

But more than anything I am understanding for the first time in my life that God loves me, that He is the only one capable of loving me just as I am. He loves me when I fail. He loves me when I am scared, whiney, angry. He loves me when I'm not funny. He loves me when I'm skinny or fat. He loves me when I'm lost. He loves me when I'm found. He loves every tear, and every belt of laughter.

He loves me. And guess what? He loves you too.

Hang on....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Our Very Long Journey Home

I am the adoptive mother to two girls who were adopted out of the therapeutic foster care system. While I write frequently about the highs and lows of being a trauma mama, I think it is equally important to know how we got here. My girls case is the epitome of a failing system.

I know this is long and difficult to read, but I beg of you to please pass it on. Their story must be told so that other children, other families, do not have to go through this most awful journey. While I am, in many ways, broken beyond repair; it is my desire that no one else reach this point of helplessness. In knowledge there is hope for a better tomorrow.

I doubt if people knew things like this were allowed to happen that they would allow it to continue. Many times people are afraid to talk about this sort of thing, some are even embarrassed and that, to me, is a tragedy far worse than what happened. Silence allows the atrocities that broke my girls to continue...we will not be silent. 

From the Beginning

In Nov. 1998, at four months old, one of my girls was given to her father. When her sister was born in August of 1999, she was also sent to live with him. It is important to note that at the same time she was sending the babies to live with their father, the birth mother had a restraining order against him.

In May 2001 the father broke the order of protection after he choked her and beat her head into the door. The children remained in his home.

The following includes quotes that were taken from the termination of parental rights hearing:

In December of 2001 the family was threatened with eviction due to the filth in the home. Upon being inspected by DCS, it was found
"smoke was so thick in the residence that it was hard to breathe. I could see smoke in the house. There was a large ashtray on the end table full and running over onto the coffee, onto the table. There were two highchairs in the kitchen and the highchair trays and the highchairs were caked with dried, molded. dirty food that did not appear to be fresh food and was caked on at least half an inch thick.” This is where my babies ate . . .

“The floor was dirty, covered in old food, trash, animal feces, and roaches.” This is where my babies played. . . 

“The baby bed in the babies’ room was falling apart and tied together with string. The plastic covering over the baby mattress was torn and only about half of the covering was still on the mattress. There were pieces of foam torn loose from inside the mattress and it was all about the baby bed, all about the floor." This is where my babies slept. . . 

Upon returning several days later to see what had been done to remedy the situation, nothing was found.
“The children still had on the same clothing they did days before. Their hair was matted. Their faces and skin were dirty; they had on dirty diapers and smelled of urine. There were live crawling lice running rampant in their hair.” This is what my babies looked like. . . 

“The bathtub was black from never ever being cleaned out.” This is where my babies bathed. . .

“One month later when they returned conditions were worse, the same food found a month ago was still caked on the highchair.” 

Family services were put into place but the father refused to cooperate and never did clean the home or the children. They were repeatedly sent home with head lice from their head start program.

How is it legally ok to walk away from this scene and leave two small children? 

In August of 2002 police again became involved after my kiddos were found on a major highway unattended. The children were unable to speak and tell the officers who they were; or maybe they just wanted to forget. After some time, they were identified, and returned. Another warning was made by DCS.

In October 17 of 2002 a case manager came to the home. The father did not answer the door.
“From the window two small girls could be seen bungee corded in a room together, they both appeared to be trying to get loose and open the door.” The police were called and the children were removed. 

On Oct. 23, 2002, the Sullivan County Juvenile court returned the children to the father, ignoring DCS’s concerns for their safety. 

On October 31, 2002, DCS again removed the children after they had been sent home multiple times from head start for head lice. Their father chopping off their hair, in no particular fashion, was his only attempt to help them. At this time it was also discovered that the smallest of the children had hickies on their inner thighs and stomach.

On Nov. 2002 a permanency plan was devised for both parents. 

Six months later, May 9, 2003, this plan had not been followed and DCS filed for termination of parental rights. Between this day and Feb. 28, 2005 there were over 30 court hearings, many of which continuances due to the father's attorney not having what he was supposed to. One of the most ridiculous continuances was allowed due to the father being in jail for attempted murder and his attorney arguing that “he could not adequately defend himself from jail.”

In September 2003 the father was again charged with violating an order of protection and sent to jail until May of 2004. It must be noted here that up until he was placed in jail he had weekly visitation with the children at a local McDonald’s, supervised by the Department of Children’s Services. 

On Nov. 7, 2003 the children moved into my home after a stay with another foster family. This family wanted one of the children but not the other due to behavioral issues. My girls were tiny and still did not speak much. One of the girls, at five years old, weighed 22lbs; the other, at 4 years old weighed 23.

We began therapy at the children's advocacy center at this time as well.

It was weeks before the children would even let me touch them and months before I held them in my arms. It started with painted fingernails. First, I could paint their nails, then, I could massage their hands, and "see if you sit a little closer I can paint your toes too.”

On March 2004 the judge ended the trial and said that he wanted all the attorneys to resubmit briefs within thirty days and that within thirty days of that he would make a decision regarding the termination of parental rights.

In June of 2004 the father was again jailed for stabbing the mother after breaking into her home. He stayed in jail until Nov. 2004.

The children’s issues were complex and sadly common for those who have experienced childhood trauma. We worked desperately to find them the care that they needed. It was and continues to be a seemingly impossible process as the mental health system is just as bad as the judicial system.

In June 2004 we were referred to another therapist after the girls were officially diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. This diagnosis necessitated a more intensive type of therapy. A couple of months later we began seeing the new therapist and a psychiatrist with our local mental health agency.

In July 2004 I wrote a letter to the court begging his honor to please uphold his original commitment to make a decision after the briefs were turned in in March 2004.

On a Friday in August 2004, the judge sent out a letter to all attorneys stating that if they did not have their briefs turned in within ten days he would not consider them and would make a decision as to termination of parental rights. 

The following Monday the judge collapsed dead in the courtroom. No, I’m not kidding! He was taken to the hospital and pronounced brain dead. His wife refused to accept this and had him transferred to a Nashville hospital where he awoke many months later and began recovery. The other local judges refused to touch the case if there was a chance of the previous judge’s return, so we waited on a miracle.

In Oct. of 2005, the judge returned to work made decisions from home because he was too sick to come into work.

On Nov. 28 of 2005 Termination was granted, again from the Judge's home. 

On Dec. 28, 2005, the very last day for an appeal to happen, the father's attorney, without ever talking to him, filed an appeal. Even further detrimental was the fact that the Sullivan County Court did not acknowledge the appeal and let us proceed with the adoption.

January 2, 2006, I am told it is finally over, no one had been made aware of the Dec. 28 appeal before giving me the "good news." We celebrate and send out and up praises to God. 

January 15, 2006, I am told, "oops, they didn't realize that the dad's attorney had appealed." I am also told that our pending adoption, and the guardianship order, previously granted were cancelled.

At this point, we did not know what to do. We had already told the kids they were ours forever. We had already given them their new names. They were so excited. We finally decided to proceed as if they were actually adopted and hope that nothing else went wrong. 

March 6, 2006, the appeal information was submitted to the Appeals Court of Knoxville by the Department of Children’s Services. I am told that this process is supposed to take about six months

September 5, 2006, the father's attorney finally chooses to turn in his briefs. Six months were allowed to pass, despite the fact that he was supposed to have this done within thirty days of filing the appeal. He also did not do this until the court reprimanded him.

September 27, 2006 the children finally begin therapy to address their extreme abuse, neglect, and loss issues.

Several months later, after multiple setbacks, we reached our breaking point. As I prayed and fussed with God about this whole situation, I asked, or demanded, or whatever you call it, with Him about whether or not we were doing what we were supposed to do. As many of you know this whole process was incredibly painful and at times completely overwhelming. 

I said to Him, "I'm tired of fighting the system, if we are supposed to do this, or even if we are not supposed to do this, I want the girls’ case to come to a conclusion this year."

At 8 am the very next morning, Friday March 2, 2007, DCS received news that we had finally gained termination of their parent’s rights; 3 years and over 30 court hearings later...

We had to wait an additional thirty days to see if the father or his attorney chose to appeal to the Supreme Court. 

On April 2, 2007 the children were finally made free for adoption. 

On June 20, 2007, in a hearing that lasted less than 15 minutes, surrounded by a small handful of friends and family, our four-year fight ended. No glory, no fireworks, just a little old man signing some paperwork. It just seemed to be such a mundane ending to something we all have worked so hard for. Strangely quiet and unremarkable for something that has changed my life so drastically. 

My children have suffered more than most will ever have nightmares about. I know they are troubled. I know they may never get better, but they are my babies. I love them. I will love them even if that is all I am ever able to do.


Monday, June 07, 2010

Shame is a 4 letter word (Written August 2010)

I copied my online Mommy Hero Christine's title for this one, simply because there is no other title that would fit. Oddly enough, we were both writing about the same subject, negative thought processes, at the same time.

This is hard for me.

While I am generally free with who I am, and what my failures are, I don't generally disclose specific thoughts, especially the ugliest of them.

So be kind. Or at least quiet.

What I whave learned in the past few weeks is that my thoughts are not isolated to me. I am not the only one feeling this way. Many of you have messaged me, sharing similar stories and hurts. I struggled with whether or not to talk about my most private thoughts during this time of vulnerability, but what I realized is that if I speak out, so might you, and neither of us will be bound by shame anymore.

I recently bought my very first for me bible. In it, I found the most relevant for now, and powerful statement...

"The best way to combat temptation is to name Satan's lies, and then hold onto God's truths".

Wow.

So I sat down, and I thought of every negative thing I could think of that runs through my head in those broken moments, and I wrote them down. Over the next few days, whenever any negative thought entered my mind, I wrote it down too.

I have spent the last several days researching those thoughts vs. God's word. What does God say about what I'm thinking? And I've wrote that down too. I'm working diligently to memorize the rebuttals to my "hate thoughts".

Now when my brain says "You are too awful for anyone to love you", I remember God says "because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our transgressions" Ephesians 2:4.

I could write and write about the freedom I found in this, but rather, I am going to make a list of sorts, Coping Cards is what Christine calls them...if one fits, take it with you, but make your own.

I am not good enough for God to love me, I make too many mistakes to be a Christian
Mark 2:17 says "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteoous, but sinners to repentance"

I am alone
Deuteronomy 31:8 says "The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do no be afraid; do not be discouraged"

I am crazy
1 Timothy 2:7 says "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of LOVE, POWER, and a SOUND MIND!"

I am bound up by my past
John 8:36 says "If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed"

I am and will always be a failure
1 Corinthians 1:8-9 says "He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his son Jesus Christ, our Lord, is faithful"

My life is over. I should end it.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 says "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him" and Jeremiah 29:11-14 "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD

I can't do this
Philippians 4:13 says "I can do all things thru Christ who gives me strength"

I am fat and ugly
Psalm 139:14 says "I will praise you because I am beautifully and wonderfully made"

God does not care that I am depressed
Psalm 116 says
" 1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.

2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave [a] came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.

4 Then I called on the name of the LORD :
"O LORD, save me!"

5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.

6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.

7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.

8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,

9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

10 I believed; therefore [b] I said,
"I am greatly afflicted."

11 And in my dismay I said,
"All men are liars."

12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.

14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.

16 O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant [c] ;
you have freed me from my chains

Cutting will make me feel better when I am flipping out
Phillipians 4:6-9 says "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

A small side note here...as many of you know, I have struggled with cutting since I was very young. I have found it a very common act of self harm for those who have suffered sexual abuse. What I did not realize, is that it is even discussed in the bible!!!! And furthermore, that Jesus healed the man who did it, and is therefore able to heal me! And you!!!!

The story of this can be found in In Mark 5, the story of Jesus healing the demon possessed man. I have read it hundreds of times, but it was not until recently, in crying out to God for help, that I noticed Mark 5:5 "Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he could cry out and cut himself with stones"

Wow.

This is not my whole list, geez that would take all day to do, and mommy duty calls, but it is a starting point, and highlights some of the thoughts that some of you, as my friends, have shared with me as well. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone.

Don't spend one more moment hanging your head down in guilt and shame. Remember, "you are beautifully and wonderfully made"

You Want Her Whole

You want her whole. Trust me. For when she finds her muchness; when she gathers all the pieces of herself, all the pieces you have broke...