The past eleven days have been uncertain ones. There is a 240,000 acre California fire that has burned from Ventura County and into Santa Barbara County. Some 8,000 firefighters are battling this blaze and working 24-hour shifts to keep the flames away from homes.
N95 masks have become the new accessory for Santa Barbara residents, like me, due to the unhealthy air from this monster fire. There are days when ash falls like snow.
As I write these words, the Thomas Fire is roughly 30% contained and more dry Santa Ana and sundowner winds are in the forecast. These are uncertain times, indeed.
I just launched a new podcast series called, The Greater Than Podcast. The release of this project is arriving at a time when our nation is facing serious conversation of what has been a sad history of silencing women over their claims of sexual harassment, in the workplace. This dialogue, as painful as it is, is long overdue.
My podcast focuses on how we rise up in the face of challenge, adversity, disappointment and trauma, to be better—greater—as individuals and as a society. In the case of sexual harassment: how can we cleanse this cultural malady and heal, as we share our experiences in a way that is respected and safe? No doubt, answering this question is on the minds and hearts of millions of individuals across our country today.
Welcome to the first episode of The Greater Than Podcast: Grief, Compassion, & Joy.
In this episode, I speak with Natalie Brenner, adoptive mother and author of the book, This Undeserved Life: Uncovering the Gifts of Grief and the Fullness of Life. We explore how we can move through life-shattering events in our lives, and the role that God plays in helping us in times of darkness. We also discuss the ways in which we can compassionately show up for those in our lives who are experiencing grief or pain. In addition, Natalie shares her heart for adoption, motherhood, and the gratitude she feels for the blessings in her life.
I once believed that adoption was my weakness. I no longer think this true. Adoption has become my strength.
There was a time in my life when I thought of myself as fragile. I had been internationally adopted out of foster care, as a child. I viewed myself as broken. After all, I questioned, what parent would leave behind a child that was whole? There must be a kind of brokenness about me. I was convinced that the shattered pieces of me were the driving force behind my parents’ decision to walk away. I had done something wrong. I must have committed some sin that mom and dad could not forgive.
One. The number of medical issues we had that led us to considering adoption.
Ten. That’s the number of years my husband and I have been in the adoption community.
Twenty. The number of times our profile book was shown to expectant parents.
Four. The number of children we have adopted. Also the number of open and transracial adoptions.
One-thousand. The number of times I’ve mulled over our adoption journeys. Perhaps more… Definitely more.
This kid, my son. He’s always had a “bigger than life” way about him. From the very day when we left the orphanage in Russia, I knew that my Vitya was made for incredible things.
Vitya’s caretakers told me how he was known as the “pacifier thief” within the orphanage baby room where he spent the first year of his life. He’d pluck the pacifiers out of the mouths of other babies and stuff them into his own. It was common to see my boy, on any given day, contently sucking on three pacifiers at one time. He’s always been a bold boy. And, we’ve always had a special bond.
Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. ~Charles R. Swindoll
It’s true. Charles Swindoll hits the nail right on the head. His quote, put in another way, might read: when life gives you lemons make lemonade.
I translate the Swindoll quote like this: Every hurt is healable. I mean it! Every single hurt can be healed. Every single negative emotion can be reversed, every single challenge or disappointment can be used for greater purpose. The key is in our reaction to what life brings our way and the time we spend focused on it.
I love my life and every single lesson that I’ve learned along the way. I’m grateful. Yet, as an international adoptee, I cannot say that I haven’t experienced moments when I’ve mourned the very fact that I’m adopted. Truth is, sometimes adoption hurts deep. No matter the life chapter an adoptee may be in, the hurt is real. It’s important to express that hurt, to let it out.
This can be difficult when so much about adoption is wrapped in joyful ribbons and bows. I understand this joy, as I honor the beauty of adoption each and every day. In so many ways, adoption has been a great blessing in my life. Yet, as an adoptee and adoptive parent I would be remiss if I dismissed the voices within my adoption community that express feelings of being left, abandoned, erased. I would be remiss if I dismissed the voice within myself, as well.
Are you stuck in a rut? Paralyzed by that thing called fear? Looking for certainty before you make a move? Ah, I’ve been there and — honestly — on some days I’m still there!
Life can come at us hard, my friends. Seasons change, yet all too often, we find ourselves stranded in winter without a plow to rescue us into spring. In other words, we can become snowed in by those seasons where we have experienced pain, heartache, loss, and disappointment. We can become trapped in the cold identities that are linked to the struggle. It’s difficult to break through the ice and get back to a warmer place of joy and belonging.
Let me introduce you to my children: Christian is the eldest, and on the left hand side of this photo; Eviana is in the middle; and Ian is on the right. Eviana and Ian were both delivered into my life via international adoption. Eviana is from Ethiopia. Ian is from Russia.
We are a family representing diverse cultures and colors. I believe it is from this place of diversity where we have birthed a deep and unwavering commitment to inclusion.
I am aware that there are varying opinions in this world about families like mine; opinions that range from support to shock…even outrage. It seems that difference can alarm, agitate, inflame, upset and unhinge some. We fear what we do not understand. Our differences, though, should never divide us. Yet, we know throughout human history that difference has shown the capability to separate. Today, it still possesses the same capacity to tear apart.