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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Conference that Changed My View of Adoption, Therefore, Changing My Life!

DISCLAIMER: ***It has been 3 months now since I attended this conference.  I'm flustered because THREE times I have attempted to post and THREE times my post failed to save.   I'm not kidding, I typed up what I deem to be some of my best writing of my life and it disappeared when I went back in to post.  The copious notes I took while flying home on the plane suddenly disappeared from my IPAD.  I kid you not.  And so, I have procrastinated posting about my beloved experience because I knew that it would be virtually impossible to recapture my experiences and thoughts and emotions.  I'm convinced someone didn't want me to post (Satan?)  So I have left what I started with below and will attempt to re-create the weekend for you (and for me) and know that I  won't do it justice.  And I will be clicking "save" an obsessive amount of times!  It was indeed one of my most treasured times! 
It has been a month since the conference. A month of feeling overwhelmed, hopeful, petrified, amazed. A month of trying to somehow grasp the lessons learned and knowledge gained. A month of trying to process. A month of contemplating how on earth I would share with hubby the value it was to my brain, spirit, mind and heart. WOW. How do I begin to summarize with words, the power I felt? The real, and nearly tangible presence of the holy spirit as the tiny hairs on my arms stood on end? The magnitude of 450 adoptive mamas representing over 1,000 babies adopted, in one room, arms raised, worshiping together? I get goosebumps now as I type these words and am transported back to the room where I literally felt the heartbeats of these mamas in unison, beating as one to the passions they shared! Like-minded and like-hearted mamas loving each other, hugging, crying, praising, singing, laughing, all while sharing their God-given heart for adoption?
450 adoptive mamas in one room worshipping.  Imagine! 

                 The Beautiful Lake                       
Amazing America World ladies I craved to meet!
           My INCREDIBLE ROOMIES!               
A wonderful place to hang out...Breathtaking!
I long for the feelings I had to never dissipate. I feared that returning to the daily grind would somehow dampen the learning, heart change and emotionality of this precious weekend.  I hate to say it has. I searched for time alone with hubby to somehow share and process this entire weekend.  It didn't happen and the sharing has only occurred in small bits and pieces.
So, instead, I will try my best to search within and try to imagine and relive some of the most amazing moments of the weekend...
I cannot even begin to describe what it felt like to meet and hug women I had met through our agency and spend quality face to face time together.  Or to meet total strangers who's hearts were woven with mine through this journey of adoption.  To meet women who had adopted 6-10 kids!  Domestic, foster care moms and international adoption, each with a story, each with a fear, hope, dream and triumph.  But mostly, each with a heart for what God had called them to do!

The greatest lesson that I learned is that God is NOT expecting us to save these children we adopt.  That is Satan's greatest adoption lie.  We are parenting children from hard places.  They came through hard pregnancies, perhaps with malnutrition and difficult births.  Perhaps they starved or perhaps they only knew one place growing up, the orphanage.  That every second in an institution accounts for countless months and years of developmental, emotional and physical delays.  How they have families waiting on the other side but the red tape of adoption has slowed down their journey to the loving, outstretched and waiting arms ready for them to come home..
Indeed this journey is not about us saving these children.  In an ideal world the children would remain with their biological parents and families.  It was not God's original plan for the nuclear family to be destroyed.  Rather, in a broken and sinful world the families were demolished.   A mother who had to make an unfathomable choice, to relinquish her child/ren to unknown strangers.  Whatever the reason there was brokenness and pain in the journey.  And just as Jesus was sent to earth to redeem sin, and heal OUR brokenness, He was also sent to find a way to restore and beautiful this brokenness of family.  Through the pain comes redemption.  Through their little hearts longing to hear the beat of their biological mama's heart, to experiencing some filling of the emptiness they feel through their new adoptive mama's loving embrace.  Adoption is such a horrible story of tragedy, yet such a beautiful story of redemption and restoration through making something whole again.
And it is not my job to fix, save or rescue anyone.  Instead, God has hand picked me and Lee to be the piece of the puzzle HE planned for redemption of one (or maybe more one day) particular child.  No other human being in recorded history or the future could possibly fulfill that role more than we can.  No other human is more equipped or more ready to love this one child.  Indeed this love will not heal the child in and of itself.  Instead, our love will provide a safe and nurturing space for this child to heal from the hurt been bestowed upon him/her.  It isn't fair and we all have our hurts.  We all have our pains.  But in all pain comes healing and our role is nothing more than to form an avenue for that healing to occur.  And Love Love Love.
The theme for the conference was "STEP OUT IN FAITH.  WAIT WITH HOPE.  LOVE BIG."
The lessons I learned were nothing short of miraculous.  I've been in the adoption world a long time and even have been told by others that my name has been floating around "forever."  I'm an expert to many when just 4 years ago I was the wide-eyed and fearful rookie about what the future adoption journey would bring.  Now I am old and wise.  But I am still and ever learning and this conference humbled me into knowing just that.
There were many moments throughout the weekend where I felt a distinct notion that God was speaking to me.  Many times women said to me "Your time is coming soon.  BE PREPARED."  Lee and I have done little to nothing to prepare for this child since we unexpectedly got pregnant.  So, I felt the distinct urgency that we needed to get on the ball!  I was also giggled at when I said "we're expecting a boy between 0-12 months." And when I proceeded to tell them that we're still on the girl list and the sibling list, more giggles erupted. I was told many times that I should not expect or plan on anything.  That God could give us 10 children for all we knew and to be OPEN for ANYTHING.  A frightening yet thoroughly exciting prospect!
There was the roommate I had who shared with me her plans for discipline of her biological and adopted son.  I was wrestling with this since the plans and thoughts of my closest small group girls in Utah didn't quiet jive in my heart and mind.  It was discovering the perfect plan for our family through many sessions of "The Connected Child." It was that reinforcement from my sweet friend and roomie Erin and feeling secure in what we need to do.  Loving discipline.  Structure through the hurt.
It was hearing the story of my other roommate Natalie.  How God worked out amazing details to ensure the adoption of their 4 siblings would occur.  Even giving them an opportunity to stay in a new guest house and help it get operational so they had a free place to stay in Ethiopia for many months and God opening the door for her to teach a Zumba class in a local gym in Addis, which is what she does at home!  To hear the stories of one of her newly adopted children who is struggling.  Who when she found out her mom was leaving for a few days for the conference, broke down and laid her head on her lap at a doctors appointment.  One of the first signs of attachment she displayed since she was afraid of further abandonment.
To hearing the story of one of the speakers about her little Guatemalan boy.  Despite being adopted as a young infant, he still had the painful remnants of memories of being abandoned by his birth mother.  That while at a restaurant one night he dropped his toy only to look up and realize his adoptive family was walking to the door of the restaurant.  He screamed out loudly "MOM! MOM! Don't leave me!!!" as the restaurant patrons stared and gawked.  How his adoptive mama came to him, got down on her knees at eye level and assured him she wasn't leaving him.  He said "mama, I thought you were leaving me like my first mama."  And how others expected her to give him punishment and a spanking, but she chose instead to embrace him and reply "Son, I will NEVER EVER LEAVE YOU EVER EVER.  God never ever left you or abandoned you!  God has chosen me to love you and care for you the rest of our lives.  That will NEVER happen to you AGAIN.  EVER!!!" 
The countless stories of God's miracles of financial provision, and the beautiful stories of family tapestries being woven.
To my "date with God" where one station was to pray over a map.  I felt led to place my hand upon and pray for Romania after knowing the terrible conditions orphans there experience.  How I wept and cried for that country.  Of course I also prayed for our child/ren and his/her/their parents in Ethiopia, but how only God could have led me to pray so earnestly for this country and thinking of the poor, sweet girl who I used to work with in Colorado who was adopted from Romania and never attached to her adoptive parents and wound up in our homeless shelter.  And the pain she endured in her orphanage.  The pain that may never ever heal.
To the laughter I experienced with other mamas, their stories, and their encouragement.  To the tears I watched shed as I heard mamas break down in overwhelming fear to go back home.  The fear I myself felt at this journey ahead even questioning our choice to do this, while full well knowing God had no other plan for us but this.
To the laughs I experienced in learning how to care for African hair and the little braids that girls wear and how to place a sleep cap and use spray conditioner and oils.  All the while feeling a distinct notion that perhaps I should be in that exact session so that I may know how to care for a GIRL's hair.  Not just a boy...
To the lady who prayed over me.  Hands on my shoulders in tears as we both surrendered this long wait to God.  How she asked God to make our wait short and to show us how best we should prepare for our children.  That God would align our marriage and make us whole and strong before we bring another child into it.
To the journey to Martin Luther King Jr.'s neighborhood "Sweet Auburn" in downtown Atlanta, touring his childhood home and knowing the struggles he endured to pave the way for MY brown baby to be accepted and esteemed.
To finding a new passion after viewing the documentary "STUCK" which later culminated into a wonderful opportunity to join the volunteer staff as they traveled through Salt Lake City.  And to watch as they traveled to 68 US cities to increase awareness and activism to create change in international adoption reform.
To the many booths I shopped at, the tshirts I bought, the headband hand woven by a Ugandan women seeking gainful employment to support her children.  To the booth called "SOLE HOPE" where I bought a packet to make shoes for Ugandan children and how that passion led me to have a shoe party at my church and become the local Sole Hope Ambassador for the state of Utah.
And I know there is so much more..
Well, I suppose I didn't lack for material in this post after all.  Again the words flowed and the memories are raw and real again.  I had to share lest I burst from the love and knowledge and joy I gained at this wonderful event!  I will go back every single year I am able! 
So that is what I learned.  I am still learning.  I am so every grateful that I was able to remember enough to share and feel that I adequately verbalized what so amazingly struck to the core of my heart and being.  Despite having this post be deleted several times without my doing.  Despite my Ipad notes disappearing into thin air.  Stick it Satan!  :)
Thanks for listening.  Thanks for always letting me share my heart from this platform.  Writing is my passion...Well, it takes a distant second from the passion I feel to promote adoption and work in third world countries.  For that alone, I feel I was meant to traipse the streets of this earth.  Indeed I am His hands and His feet.
If you are interested in attending here is the link to the website and information!

The church where MLK JR. Preached! Sermons were being piped over the loud speaker.  AMAZING!

Our amazing resort!

Silly Andrea, another adoptive mom and the organizer of this conference doing a Naploean Dynamite skit!

over 30 women from my agency!  America World Adoption!  I have known these ladies through chats, on the phone, online support groups and now in person!!!

Some of my fave AWAA girls!  How amazing to finally meet them and hug their necks!

MLK Jr.'s childhood home