I received a beautiful piece of scripture on Christmas Eve, 2017. The words were written on a white piece of paper that had been folded into a star. The star was hanging on one of several sparkling Christmas trees that dotted the space where my church was holding its last worship service for the evening.
My pastor for the past five years, Jon Ireland, spoke to those of us in attendance about how true peace is from God: a gift that the world cannot offer. Then, he invited each member of the congregation to go to a Christmas tree in the room and choose one paper ornament. We were to wait to open our chosen ornaments until everyone was back in their seats.
As children, we are often taught the importance of saying ‘thank you’ when someone is friendly, kind, generous, or thoughtful. It was the very act of extending a note of thanks that changed my life and the lives of many others.
My childhood was full of hardships. At six months old, I was placed in foster care for the first time, because my mother had abandoned me for two weeks. I would eventually be returned to her care, but this was only the beginning. I spent the next eleven years bouncing around between an unstable and abusive home, along with a string of foster homes. At the age of eleven, I was permanently placed in foster care when my mother went to jail for drug and sexual abuse charges. I spent the next five years in a downward cycle, moving from foster home to another, experiencing severe behavioral problems, and struggling academically.
Light the sparklers and slip into your sequins, we’re getting ready to say goodbye to 2017 and welcome in a new year. As I look back on this year, I can truly say that I’m grateful for each and every moment. No matter the challenge or the triumph, I’m learning and growing into the person that I was created to be.
I’ve learned a lot this year about the importance of community. We were created, each of us, for relationship. We humans cannot thrive alone, in isolation, on our own. In other words, we need each other.
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.
If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s this: the adoption community is a healthier one when its experiences and stories are shared out loud. We’ve learned, over many years, that silencing the voices and perceptions of those within our community will never help to forge deeper levels of understanding and inclusion.
What was once thought as a healthy choice: distancing adoptees from the truth of their birth stories, is now known to be of great disadvantage to their overall well-being. We’ve learned the importance of supporting and hearing all members of the adoption triad. We’ve arrived to an empowering place within the adoption conversation as we speak this declaration: the adoption community will no longer be treated as a secret society.
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.