An Adoptive Mother’s Prayer

white-roses-3627.jpgWhat they want, I cannot give them, Lord.

What I have, they do not want.

I reach for answers, and come up empty.

A solitary ache steels between my eyelids

and chases sleep dead in the night.

How does a mother love, love truly

if she cannot bear to like?

Slowly, slowly, each labored breath

is sweet anticipation of goodbye.

For now, all I ask

is for the grace of hello.

 

(c) Heidi Hess Saxton 2017

 

 

Lead Me On: The Gift of Audrey Assad

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,
He makes me to lie down in green pastures,
He leads me by the still waters, he restores my soul….
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. From Psalm 23

View More: http://marycarolinerussell.pass.us/inheritanceIn the world of foster parenting and adoption, there are some valleys that are so dark and deep that the very act of passing through them leads an indelible mark upon even the most trusting and devout of souls. The pain of the journey is all-consuming, each day white-knuckling it from one moment to the next.

When at last the darkness passes and you begin to see the light again, you take a deep and thankful breath, grateful just to have survived. And in the next breath, you fervently pray that you will never have to walk that way again.

Confirmation CountdownLast night, just one day after returning with the family from Costa Rica, I was horrified to discover we were heading for the valley of the shadow again. As the details emerged, I burst out sobbing so hard I could not catch my breath. “No, dear God. Please. I can’t bear it.” It wasn’t the same valley, not exactly. But another dark and frightening.

My friend Colleen and I were scheduled to go see Audrey Assad in concert that evening. I had heard Audrey’s testimony about her struggle with pornography two years ago at the Edel Gathering in Charlotte. I prayed that God would speak to me that night.

Inside the church, I took a moment to light a candle … and remembered the time, as we were crossing the first valley of shadow, when I sent my Baptist parents on an impossible quest: I asked them to go to a nearby Catholic church and light a candle for their grandson. Nervously they ventured inside, and the kindly priest explained they had recently renovated the church and taken out the bank of candles. Then he gave them a leftover candle and told them to take it home, put it near a picture of our family, and light it each time they prayed for us.

They did. Then they went back three times, each time the candle burned to a nub. They weren’t exactly sure how lighting a candle would make a difference — it wasn’t part of their tradition. But for me, they found the courage to follow through. And now, as I thought about all that had happened from the lighting of that candle to this one, I took a deep breath and thanked God that he would give us courage to face this, too.

We had arrived early enough to get a good seat, second row center. Sarah was over-the-moon excited, seated between Colleen and “Miss Kelly,” who runs our church youth group. I half-heartedly joined in the rosary that preceded the concert. My mind was numb, my eyes bright with unshed tears. Audrey came out and played a few songs, told a few stories, and suddenly … she began to play a gentle ballad by an unlikely prophet that had gotten me through many a dark night when our son was in his program.

When you’re weary, feeling small.
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all.
I’m on your side when times get rough and friends just can’t be found.
Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down…

Suddenly it was as if all the air had been sucked out of the room, and I realized that I was holding my breath to keep from sobbing. Fortunately I had an escape valve in my eyes, a tiny trickle that coursed down both cheeks as I sat there in the semi-darkness, listening as God whispered consolation to my heart. He had not forgotten me or my family.

Audrey started talking about the origins of the song, how songs mean different things to different people — even the songwriter, whose inspiration may have come from a very different source. “But that is the power of music, that it speaks to people where they are, that they can find a home in a song.”

I experienced the truth of that in special way that night. As parents, we work hard to make a home for our children — but we cannot give what we do not have. When we are weary, we have a home in the Sacred Heart, which beats when our own hearts are broken … and was broken that our hearts might beat anew.

Photo credit: Picture of Audrey Assad from her website.

First Impressions

This morning a fat cloud sits on the mountain at eye level as we sit on the porch in the cool of the morning, Colleen drinking coffee and I sipping the precious Diet Coke I managed to liberate from the plane on my flight last night. On the flight, I watched Genius, the true story […]

via Day One: Thankfulness — A Mother on the Road Less Traveled

It was not easy, leaving my flu-ish husband and teary-eyed daughter at the airport. I hug her extra tight and remind her that we will see each other in Costa Rica as soon as school is out. Still, two weeks is the longest we’ve been apart from each other. At fifteen, she should be able to handle it … but inside, she isn’t fifteen. Inside, she still has a way to go.

Selfishly, I’ve been eagerly anticipating this trip for weeks. My sisters remind me that it’s good for me to get this time away, that the kids will be fine. “You don’t get many chances for self-care,” one sister reminded me. Then again, what mom does? And how many could in their wildest dreams take a two-week break from home? How many would even want to?

Well, I do. And I am so very thankful that I can. It’s taken me a while to arrive at thankful, of course. But now, sitting on the porch and listening to some vintage Amy Grant, looking over the sleepy(ish) town of Turrialba, with its exotic foilage and cool mountain air, I look forward to the surprises the day has in store. Tomorrow morning I’m hoping I’ll be up to my neck in babies. But today, easing into the day with my friend Colleen, I’m enjoying the peace.

And thankful beyond words for my dear husband, who made it all possible.

Wrapping the World with Love

Years ago, when a young woman was about to get married or have a child, the women of her community would gather for a quilting bee, creating a unique yet practical work of art to add to the young woman’s trousseau. Some quilts told a story, others were simply colorful and warm. Each was […]

via A Sewing Circle of Love — A Mother on the Road Less Traveled

Heading to Chicago tomorrow morning with two bags FULL of love offerings from Queen of Peace to the St. Bryce community. Thanks in advance for your prayers for me … and for Craig, who will stay home with the kids until they get out of school June 8! (Don’t worry, we have a great house sitter for Maddy and Gretchen!)

If you’d like to follow the adventure, head on over to “A Mother on the Road Less Traveled” and subscribe. Thanks!

Beatitudes for Special Families

shadowIn honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to run this guest post by Ann O’Keeffe Rodgers, founder of Hope Springs Florida, a respite home for families touched by autism, located in Jacksonville, Florida. Thanks so much, Ann!

As Christians, we learn about the early Christian martyrs who gave their lives for Jesus and His kingdom.  Those who chose death rather than deny their Lord and Savior are known as the “red martyrs.”

And yet, there are also those who give up their lives every day, imitating Jesus by giving themselves wholeheartedly in loving service. Theirs is a “white martyrdom,” a slow and painful way of taking up their cross. One example is Pope St. John Paul II, whose quiet endurance of Parkinson’s at the end of his life showed the world what it means to lay down one’s life each day out of love for God.

Through work for Hope Springs Florida and those with special needs, I have been so blessed to meet many other “white martyrs.” They give of themselves joyfully and willingly, out of love for their children. I have been blessed to meet, know, and be friends with them. Through their example and their friendship, they inspire me constantly to return to the Beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount, recorded in the fifth chapter of Matthew.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Blessed, too, are the men and women who get up every morning before their child wakes, and sacrifice for their child’s peace of mind.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And blessed as well are parents who work two, sometimes three jobs to make ends meet for critical therapy services for their child.

Parents who sleep on the floor of the pediatric hospital because there is no other place for them to sleep that night, while they wait for treatment for their child, remind me: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.”

Blessed are parents who are misunderstood by members of their own church community, and who often feel marginalized by others, who do not see their integrity, character, and strength. God sees the truth, and has promised: Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.

Blessed are parents who struggle to meet the needs of their neurotypical children as well as those with special needs, mourning the fact that these siblings’ lives will not be the same as those of their peers. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” Blessed are the staff of doctor’s offices, behavioral therapists, speech and occupational therapists, special education teachers, and guidance counselors who recognize what a privilege it is to work with these exceptional children, who are absolutely without guile or deceit – simply unconditional love.

Blessed are the staff at organizations like Catholic Charities, Jewish Family Services and other faith based organizations that are committed to serving this population, when they could be working in another business sector making a much heftier salary. God says to you, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

And finally, blessed are the behind-the-scenes supporters of these children who do not want recognition for their acts of service, gifts of talent or treasure, or their supportive presence alongside families who are struggling with the burdens of caring for these children. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

Years ago, standing in Saint Peter’s Square at Easter, on the very same ground once soaked by the blood of the martyrs who had given their lives for Someone they had only heard about, it was clear to me that the Church is bigger than any one human being.

Today, thirty years later as a parent of four children – including one who has autism – I am an advocate for children with special needs. Just as I saw in Rome, I see in the Church today signs of grace and mercy – and also reminders that, as a Church, we must continue to find new ways to receive as Jesus did the “least of these,” embracing the culture of Life to its very fullest, so that no one is left behind.

Me with JoeyAnn O’Keeffe Rodgers is the founder of Hope Springs Florida and program administrator at Huntington Learning Centers in Jacksonville, Florida. Hope Springs Florida serves families touched by autism, strengthening bonds through respite services in a vacation environment. You can find more information about Hope Springs Florida on Facebook (their website is currently under construction.)                 

 

Mother of This Year

DSCF0569Today over at A Mother on the Road Less Traveled, I disclose a less-than-flattering side of motherhood. Just a few days before Mother’s Day, I’ve been thinking about what kind of mother I have become … this year.

I thought it better to do this BEFORE Mother’s Day, before the brunch mimosa clouds my brain. As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s hard not to give in to the expectation of flowers and candy and breakfasts in bed, and to agree with the general population that I deserve this kind of adulation.

The truth is, there is a lot of room for improvement. As you will see if you read the other blog post.

The good news is … there is still time. Every day is a fresh chance to love a little more selflessly, forgive a little more deliberately, and to ponder the very real (albeit painful) connection between who we are … and what we choose.

So this year, for Mother’s Day, I’d like to skip the white roses and dark chocolate (lovely as those things are). Instead I’d like to stock up on empathy, gentleness, and kindness. God knows my kids need them even more than I do. And while my DH can’t make a last-minute run to Walmart to stock up on these particular commodities, I’m hoping that my prayer will reach the right ears.

What do YOU want for Mother’s Day this year?

Easter Blessings

As thousands of new Catholics celebrate their reception into the Church, those of us who were received in years past look back with a mixture of gratitude and wonder. In particular, we wonder where has the time gone?

christopher-comm-brother-and-sisterIf I needed a visual, I have only to look at my children’s faces and see it. This one, taken for Christopher’s first communion in 2008, captures a time of sheer joy and innocence. They had been officially “ours” for just three years. Three years since they had been baptized, and had joyfully shouted “We have a new name!”

Fast forward nearly a decade, and …  Here the kids just received a surprise from my Chris and Sarahfriend (and theirs), Maria Johnson, handmade Franciscan rosaries. Seeing this image, I am reminded of the many friends (like Bego) who reached out to us over the last twelve years. And I remember how the kids have grown into their own faith. I smile as I watch Chris entranced in the flame of his own taper at the Easter Vigil, and thrill at the sound of Sarah standing next to me in the choir, belting out the high notes better than I ever could have hoped to do myself.

For Craig and me, it has been a journey of blind trust and faith in God, too. We have learned how limited are our own resources, and how bountiful are God’s mercies. We have experienced the power of prayer to create small miracles and change hearts. And we have learned how unique and unrepeatable is family life. To take small victories where we find them. And that the point of parenthood is not to turn small souls into replicas of ourselves, but to help them become — as fully as possible, in good times and bad — the best versions of themselves.

Wishing you and yours the richest blessings of the Easter season.

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