Mother’s Day

“Children born to another woman call me “Mom.” The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.” -Jody Landers

There is nothing on earth I love more than being a mother to my four babies. I didn’t know being a mother would grow me right along with my children.

Motherhood is my greatest privilege and a role in this life I take very seriously. I am not a perfect mother and I don’t have perfect children, but I strive to bring these children up in the Lord and that is all I can do. The rest is up to Him.

I pray my children see the hand of God on their lives and make the choice one day to love Him with all their hearts and serve Him with their lives and their stories of God’s faithfulness upon their lives.

Redemption is written on the pages of all of our stories. Redemption does not mean perfection because in a perfect world, redemption would not be necessary.

I am thankful for a God who is more than able to take the broken pieces of our lives and bring beauty out of it.

When I look at a picture of my family, that is what I see: the goodness and faithfulness of God every step of this journey that has brought us to today.

(I will finally be returning soon to finish Through the Lens of Grace where I will conclude with the rest of our journey through infidelity and then the story of how both boys came to our family.)

 

navigating this road

Beau has been home 14 weeks today. This has been an interesting journey. You would think adopting a young infant would not pose any issues in attaching and bonding, but it has certainly been a process and quite different from the other three. That is not to say that I think or feel any different about Beau than my other three children. It just means that those almost 5 months I wasn’t his mother do matter. We are starting from a different place – we are walking a different road – and I know we will get to where we need to be. I see progress every single week and every month he is more and more mine.

I’ve had to navigate this road basically blind as I don’t really know what I am doing! I have tried to learn along the way and I believe we have done the necessary things to promote healthy bonding and attachment between a baby and parents. I believe he is learning this is permanent, as much as a young infant can learn that.

Time is our best friend. Every day is one more day that I am his mother. One day, the number of days I have been his mother will far out number the days I was not his mother. Right now we are at 143 days to 98. I know the 143 days I was not his mother can never be erased and we will never live as if they are. There are so many theories out there about how those days affect a child, but I have to believe that God was there in those days and He has lead Beau and us to this place and He will continue to fill in those gaps as we continue to walk this road together…forever. Ultimately, I have to trust God in those 143 days, knowing He is omnipresent.

As with all of our children, we will talk about their adoptions freely, holding nothing back. One day all of my children will know their full stories. There are some tough things all of my children will have to one day learn about their beginnings and their biological families. They will have a lot to process when they are old enough to know their complete stories, but I pray all four of them will fix their eyes on God’s intervention in their lives because of their adoptions. Adoption changed all of our lives forever. All 6 of us. There is deep pain but also deep beauty wrapped up in each of their stories and I pray all four of them see their whole story one day. Not just the hard parts and not just the happy parts, but every part that has been woven together intricately by their Creator to proclaim that He is redeemer, He is faithful and He is good.

 

7 weeks home

Beau has been home 7 weeks, which means he has now been with us longer than he was with any of his other caretakers. It is crazy to think that just 9 weeks ago, we didn’t even know of Beau and we just two days away from that phone call that would, once again, change everything.

We have fallen into a good rhythm with four children. Things are often chaotic in sound (4 little children are LOUD), but it is organized chaos all around. I have quickly learned that being organized is key in managing the needs of four little ones.

Clothes laid out for our first family photo shoot as a family of 6!

I have to constantly think ahead, plan ahead and make sure everything is prepared ahead. Being prepared makes things go so much smoother.

Beau is adjusting well. We continue to cocoon him, keeping his world very small and very predictable. He is alert and engaged with his world around him and has the sweetest disposition. The other children are enamored with him, especially Sarge. He holds “his baby” every day for approximately 3.5 seconds. When I am feeding Beau, Sarge will climb up in the chair and want to hold him. It doesn’t last long, but he holds his baby every day! The girls adore their baby brothers even though they sometimes get frustrated with Sarge and his 2 year old antics! I love the dynamics of my children and I pray we can continue to foster a love that will only grow and deepen as the four of them grow up together.

I am hoping to get back to Through the Lens of Grace soon as things are settling down and we are finding our new normal as a family of six!

One Month Home

Little Beau has been home for nearly a month now. We are still adjusting to the new dynamics of a family of six, but, overall, things are going very well.

Beau is a sweet baby, and although he is my youngest, he is my biggest baby by a landslide! At 5 months old, Beau is tipping the scales at 17 pounds and already scooting around our living room floor!

We are in the “cocooning phase” with Beau. I knew Beau’s adoption was different than our other adoptions but I didn’t exactly know how until I started researching by talking to other adoptive moms and professionals.

Beau has had multiple caregivers in his short life that he has seen come and then go. Over and over again. I thought surely we were in the clear considering Beau had been cared for and never abused, but then I was told that it’s not just about care but about security in WHO. All Beau knows is that things change and caregivers change. He doesn’t know how to trust yet. He truly doesn’t understand that we will come back.

Attachment issues happen due to disruptions in bonding. If Beau never gets the chance to bond without worry that we will disappear too, he can’t learn to trust.

To give Beau the opportunity to learn to trust that we won’t disappear too, we have to be there and allow no disruption in OUR care for him. This is where cocooning comes in to play.  We are keeping Beau’s world very small, predictable and simple, and, for now, we are doing all of Beau’s care.

The time period for all of this is a bit foggy to me as I have heard a variety of recommendations. So, we are cocooning for at least 10 weeks because that will be double the amount of time Beau has ever had the same caregiver and then we will reevaluate after that time period.

We were told to expect Beau to be fussy the first couple of weeks he was home, but we have not seen any of that at all over the past 4 weeks he has been home. Some have told me he is in a “honeymoon phase” and others have told me that our home environment is so ideal for babies and children that Beau is truly at peace.

This is new territory to me. I feel somewhat like I did when Little Bug was born and I was having to learn about how to best care for a baby exposed to substances in the womb. That was scary learning, but I know God guided me every step of the way as I cared for Little Bug and then Sweet Pea and Sarge. As I now navigate this path, He is there leading me again. Of that I am certain.

He hadn’t been home an hour and once his foster mother left, I held him where I could look into his eyes and I told him, “Beau, you are home now. You aren’t going anywhere else. I am your Mommy.” I have told him that every day since at least once a day, if not more, and I will continue to speak that truth into his little heart every day.

A friend from church gave me this double-stroller this summer and it has come in handy so many times already. The boys love going on walks in the neighborhood in their stroller while the girls are riding their bikes.

I need Dave to write the next post for Through the Lens of Grace and then I should be able to get back to finishing writing this story!

 

I’ll Be Home for Christmas

I won’t be able to finish writing Through the Lens of Grace by the end of this month as I had hoped because….God has written another chapter!

December 7th we got a phone call from our adoption agency about this little guy. The next 9 days saw his mother signing her consent to terminate her parental rights, us meeting this woman, a court hearing to put a motion to intervene in his case (he was in the state’s care) and then another hearing where the Judge ruled that it is in the best interest of this baby to be placed in our family. He came home on December 17th, eight days before Christmas!

Once again, our lives have been uprooted with the sudden and quick addition of another child into our family, but we are confident that God orchestrated everything to bring this child to our family and He will give us what we need to meet his needs. He was born the day the adoption from this past summer officially failed. God is a Redeeming God and we trust Him to redeem the brokenness he has already experienced in his short life and we give God all the glory for what He has done and will continue to do!

Through the Lens of Grace: Triggers

What is a trigger?

It is anything that could take me back to those awful moments on the night of January 22nd. Or anything that would take me back to how life was prior to January 22, 2014.

January 22, 2014, was a Wednesday. I went to my Bible study at church at 6:30pm and then came home where hours later I would discover my husband had been living a secret life for years. From that night on, Wednesday nights were extremely “triggering” because I would, just like that fateful night, go to my Bible study and then come home. For weeks, I would not sleep a wink on Wednesday nights. My mind just could not and would not slow down to sleep…I kept replaying the trauma I had experienced that night.

Finally, when I brought this up to my counselor she told me that I needed to interrupt my normal Wednesday night routine. Mix it up. Do something different because the body is programmed to remember. It is so true and so crazy! I do not remember what I did but I know one Wednesday night I through my normal routine for a loop (I still went to Bible study so it must have been something before or after Bible study that I did different) but it was like a “re-set” to Wednesday nights for me! They began to not be so triggering to me although there were still some Wednesday nights where sleep was hard to come by.

The 22nd of any month was triggering, especially in the first year. I would find myself getting uptight and anxious every month and when I would realize that the 22nd was approaching, I knew it was just a normal physical response to trauma.

These were the major triggers I would experience, but in those early days and months, the triggers were frequent and very bad. A “trigger” was like reliving the whole thing over again, just on a smaller scale. It wasn’t pleasant.

Nearly 3 years later, and I can still be “triggered” although it is no where near as frequent as it used to be. Recently, Dave was watching football and it was getting late. I went to bed (not to sleep) but eventually I got tired enough that I wanted to go to sleep. I turned the light off and immediately was overcome with negative feelings! I realized I was being “triggered” because….it was late at night and I was in bed and my husband was not!!! While I knew he was just watching football, my past experiences were putting me on alert! I told him I was going to bed and he came too!

 

How did I overcome “triggers”?

Time

Three years later and I sleep just fine on Wednesday nights and overall the triggers are very infrequent now. Time helps to overcome triggers. I can clearly remember feeling less and less triggered as more and more time went by. The first year was extremely rough as far as triggers were concerned. The second year was better and this third year has seen very few triggers.

Rebuking Satan in the name of Jesus Christ

During the period when the triggers were at their worst (and the pain was still so raw), I knew triggers would be a way Satan would try to destroy what God was rebuilding! The Word of God also tells me that Satan has to flee at even the mention of Jesus Christ, so I used that to my advantage. When triggers would happen and they would take me back and make me doubt all the progress and trust we had rebuilt, I would literally tell Satan to flee and that he was not welcome in my home and in my life.

Fixing my mind on Truth

I dealt with fear and anxiety in ways that I had never before during this time of rebuilding my marriage. I am not an anxious or fearful person by nature but after having gone through what I went through, fear and anxiety seemed to attack me constantly. When I take a spiritual gift survey, I always score the highest in Faith, which is the complete opposite of Fear! But during this season of my life, I really struggled with anxiety.

Of course I spoke with my counselor about this and of course she had profound words of wisdom for me to cling to. She told me that I must determine what I know to be Truth and then every time fear tries to take hold of me, I have to come back at it with the Truth. Basically, I had to choose Truth over Fear and feed Truth into my heart and life to push the Fear away. I clung to the Word of God (which is The Truth) so hard in those days.

Unfortunately, I still suffer with anxiety today in a way that I never did prior to January 22, 2014. It is not a debilitating issue for me and I do not require medicine to be able to function properly, but it is still there creeping in on my life and making me feel a black cloud of fear until I realize what is going on and set my mind to the Word of God and His Truth.

Through the Lens of Grace: Rebuilding Trust

The process of rebuilding trust is delicate and something that definitely doesn’t happen overnight. Our counselor told Dave that since he was the offender and had broken trust in our marriage, he needed to understand that in order for me to trust him again I needed to feel safe. 

This was the fourth huge component in rebuilding our marriage.

Of course the nagging thought running through my mind in those early days of rebuilding our marriage was: Is he truly changing his ways? 

Life had certainly changed – drastically – and forever, but how could I be sure Dave had changed?? 

When Dave came home, we did things totally different than we had done things before. All of this worked together to make me feel safe in the relationship so that we could rebuilding our marriage.

These are the big ways life changed for us and the practices we put in place to help rebuild trust:

  1. Going to bed at the same time

Like I mentioned before, I would go to bed around 10-11pm and Dave would still be up – in the home office – working and/or playing video games. This gave him the opportunity to view pornography nearly every night since he knew I was asleep in bed.

Once Dave came home, there has never been a night that he is up after I am already in bed. We go to bed together. Always. Never and always are pretty strong words, but that’s the drastic change we made. Part of Dave’s recovery from addiction was changing his routines. Being up after I have gone to bed lead him to viewing pornography nearly every night. Changing those routines helped him changed his behavior and remove that habit from his normal routine.

2. Access to finances

I had zero access to our finances because, when single, I hated dealing with finances. When I married Dave, I was more than happy to hand that over to him because I knew he was more than capable of keeping up with all that…and I was tired of it. As a result it made our finances easily accessible for him to spend on his addictions without me ever knowing.

Whether I like finances or not, it is healthy for both husband and wife to have access and knowledge of all financial matters. Dave still “does the finances” for our family, but I am not a blind party anymore.

3. Access to cell phone

I also had zero access to Dave’s cell phone. It wasn’t that he wouldn’t ever let me look at it! He just never gave me the opportunity looking back on it and I never asked. It was always in his pocket and never left just lying around the house.

Our marriage counselor told us that it is healthy for husband and wife to have access to each other’s phones for accountability sake. It’s not being paranoid to just thumb through your husband’s text messages, email and social media. It’s simply a measure of accountability that we all need.

4. No social media

Dave got rid of Facebook. This wasn’t something I necessarily asked him to do so I would feel safe, but he did it on his own accord because he had connections with people on there he just didn’t need to have connections with for any good reason.

5. Dave’s priorities drastically changed

The change in Dave’s priorities changed noticeably. Before January 2014, he was constantly “working late”. After January 2014, he put work in it’s proper place and became a family man. He was present with the girls in a way he had not been present before. He began to take his role as leader of our family seriously. He started reading his Bible daily first time in the morning. That has evolved to him reading a chapter in Proverbs to the girls most every morning after he’s had his own time with the Lord. He leads those little girls and speaks Truth into their lives in ways that make me just stand back and thank God He intervened in our marriage and gave us a second chance at doing this the way He intended.

6. Accountability

Another huge component in Dave’s recovery was (and still is) having solid accountability in his life. For 90 days he had a team of friends keep him accountable every single day. There were specific things they were to ask him on their day. Pornography changes the brain chemistry and abstaining 90 days from viewing pornography would be a HUGE milestone in his recovery. It was very reassuring to me that he had these men “on his back” every single day.

While Dave doesn’t have men keeping him accountable every single day anymore, there is one friend that still calls him most every week, almost 3 years since everything happened. They are accountability partners and very good friends. I am so thankful Dave has this friendship.

7. FANOS

This is an acronym for a communication tool that we learned about when we went to an intensive marriage counseling retreat in February 2014 (more about this retreat in a later post). We were to use this acronym to help facilitate meaningful communication and connection. This is something we still will use today but not as frequently as we did when we first learned it because communication and connecting happens naturally for us now.

F is for Feelings. What are you feeling today? “Good” and “fine” do not qualify as adequate answers. Hopeful, sad, frustrated, angry, joyful, stoic, happy and at peace all would qualify.

A is for Appreciation. Acknowledge something that you appreciate about your spouse. “I appreciated you picking up dinner on your way home from work today!”

N is for Need. Tell your spouse a need you have. “I really need about an hour to work on this project tonight after the kids are in bed.”

O is for Own. Own any negative actions/sins. “I own that I could have reacted in a more positive way about xyz.”

S is for Sobriety. This is where the accountability comes in. Each spouse has a list of several things you want to be held accountable for.

8. Sharing his story

Perhaps the biggest sign to me that Dave’s change was genuine was his willingness to humble himself before family and friends and tell the story of how he had once been held captive by the stronghold of a sexual addiction….but God. Dave’s testimony is extremely powerful. He has told his testimony multiple times in front of multiple audiences at our church.

 

All of these combined together really was a recipe for safety for me and it helped tremendously in the process of rebuilding trust. However, it did not take away experiencing “triggers” which I will talk about next.

 

Through the Lens of Grace: Coming Home

Full disclosure. Repentance. Forgiveness.

Those were the three vital components necessary to begin restoring our marriage.

In those early weeks, I couldn’t look Dave in the eyes. He would come every night to be involved in dinner time, bath time and getting the girls to bed. He would leave immediately after they were in bed. Soon, he started staying for a bit and we would talk on the couch and then he would leave. It was literally like starting over even though we had been married for 6.5 years!

If we were going to restore our marriage, I knew I needed to ask him to come home. About 3 or so weeks after everything had happened, I told him it was okay to come home. We did not resume normal married life right away. He did not sleep in our bed for several more weeks.

One of the biggest things we had learned in our marriage counseling was that in order to have a God-centered, healthy marriage, there needed to be a degree of openness that wasn’t there pre-January 22nd.

We both started working intentionally on being connected emotionally and spiritually. Because Dave was entrapped in a stronghold of sin, he had not been able to be the leader of our marriage and home as God designed the man to be.

Thinking back to how our marriage was before January of 2014 just makes me so sad to think about. We didn’t really have any connection. We were more like roommates, living in the same house but not communicating much at all. After the kids were in bed, we typically went to our separate areas of the house and stayed there until we went to bed. He would go to the home office and I would go to our bedroom. I went to bed way earlier than Dave did, giving him the prime opportunity for pornography once I was in bed asleep.

I think back to those years and had anyone asked me, I would have said I had a “good” marriage. There was no abuse, we did love each other (of that I am certain) and we had two adorable daughters. I was the stay at home mom I had always dreamed of being and Dave provided well for us. So much was missing in those days though and thinking back on it now washes a deep sadness over me. No one who knew us would have ever thought our marriage was doomed for destruction.

That’s how sin works though. It enters and destroys everything in it’s wake. We were headed to destruction…and we didn’t even know it.

I do remember we would make comments to each other every once in a while that we “needed to spend more time together”. We would try to spend time together but it felt forced and we both just wanted to get back to our individual past times.

I guess you could say that in the depths of my heart, I always felt like something was “off” but I could never pinpoint what and it wasn’t off enough for me to think that something was necessarily “wrong” because I felt like I had a “good” marriage! Dave had also become a mastermind in fooling me and covering up his shenanigans…so I had no suspicions until January.

We were wallowing towards destruction but PRAISE GOD, He intervened. While January 22, 2014, was the darkest day of my life, I can look back now and see that it was in that darkest hour that Light was beginning to shine on an extremely bleak situation.

God had essentially brought Dave to the bottom of the pit and was giving him a second chance at living life as a man of God and the leader of his wife and children.

Dave had a choice to make – a choice that would impact not only himself but his wife, two daughters and a baby boy that we did not yet know would be our son. A lot was at stake on January 22nd and that dark day was just the beginning of a whole slew of miracles we were on the horizon of experiencing!

Dave was making choices daily that showed me he was choosing God and his family over the sin he had been indulging in for the past several years. However, that did not take away the pain of betrayal and long road of rebuilding trust that lay before us.

There was lots still to do to restore our marriage and the road ahead was filled with numerous uncertainties.

I will write more about what those first few months of rebuilding trust were like in my next post.

Through the Lens of Grace: A New Glass Jar

In the early days of healing our marriage, our counselor encouraged us both to write a “love letter” to each other. Neither one of us are really the “romantic-type” but we wrote each other a letter. I debated whether I wanted to share my letter here, and in the end, I decided why not? This is real life, folks. We are not the only couple this has ever happened to.

There was a day when I couldn’t have ever imagined rebuilding a marriage with a man who had violated our marriage vows. I remember in high school talking with friends and saying things like “If that ever happens to me…it’s over!”

I think I just thought the damage would be irrevocable and there would be no way possible that I could even think of living like that.

Nearly two decades since my high school days, and I’ve not only walked that journey but I’ve had the privilege of seeing God mend my marriage from nothing to something that was missing and I didn’t even know it prior to January 22nd.

There came a time when I had to chose to love Dave and move forward with rebuilding our marriage. He was showing me in his actions that God had changed his heart and as a result, his behaviors and choices had changed as well.

February 9th, 2014, I wrote this letter to Dave. It was my offering of forgiveness and my way of saying I wanted to do my part in working towards reconciling our marriage.

Dear Dave,

When I would think about what I wanted to say in this letter, I knew it would be very hard to write about our relationship as I knew it before January 22nd, 2014. It is hard for me to even think about life, and our marriage, pre-January 22nd because everything that I thought we were then was swept away when truth came to light on the night of the 22nd. It has left me confused, hurt, and it has essentially taken whatever we ha and made it into nothing. 

The only thing I really have to go on is what I believe and what I know to be true about our marriage. I believe God orchestrated our meeting on that day in January 2006 so that we would be lifelong partners in this life. I believe He intended for us to have a marriage that reflects what He designed marriage to be. I believe God gave you to me to love and respect you as God designed for wives to do. I agreed to marry you because I love you, and I still do. I’m just confused about who YOU really are in light of all that has taken place over the past 5 years. Our marriage has sadly all but crumbled beneath us and whatever we had prior to January 22nd is left in ashes. 

I realize this doesn’t sound very much like a love letter. I realize it’s been pretty depressing to read this far. 

You have stated both with written and verbal words that you desire reconciliation in our marriage. Your actions, so far, state the same. I have expressed both in written and verbal words my desire to extend to you forgiveness because God first forgave me of every sin I would ever commit.

As Pastor said, the jar of my trust in you was not only completely withdrawn of marbles on January 22nd, it was crushed to smithereens. There is no more jar.

Today, I want to offer you a new jar. Yes, it is an empty jar because you will have to work very hard to rebuild the trust that was shattered. 

But I am willing to be pursued by you and I am willing to let myself fall in love with you all over again. And I am hopeful that at some point in this journey, we will realize that we have put forth the effort, made the necessary changes and, by God’s grace and redemption, we have been blessed with a marriage that many desire but few get to truly experience. 

It’s a huge risk when I look at the ashes that have been left in the aftermath of January 22nd, but here I am. Ready to step out in faith with you and my God who has promised to never leave me and never forsake me. 

I love you,

Elaine

I did actually place an empty glass jar in Dave’s hands that day. He keeps it, along with my letter, in his dresser.

Through the Lens of Grace: Can trust be rebuilt?

When marriage vows are trampled on and broken it is easy to assume that trust can never be rebuilt.

There was a time when I truly didn’t know how I could ever trust Dave again. These were the moments where I was left with all the knowledge I had acquired through full disclosure and I had to decide what I was going to do with all that.

Our pastor had described the broken trust by saying trust is like having a glass jar of marbles. When you first meet someone, the jar is about half full, out of the goodness of humanity. As you get to know that person more, more marbles are added to the jar – little by little – until the jar becomes completely full. You completely trust that person in your life.

This is where we were on January 21st. My glass jar was full because over the span of our relationship, I had built a solid trust in Dave.

On January 22nd, not only was every single marble withdrawn from my glass jar – the jar itself was completely shattered.

I was left with nothing, the least of which trust.

How were we going to rebuild complete trust from nothing?

It was a journey and not an event. I didn’t go one day from not trusting Dave to completely trusting him again.

It was earned. Dave had to work hard to rebuild trust.

I had to forgive Dave and look at him through the lens of grace – God’s grace.

My pastor’s wife and counselor who walked this journey with me, was the one who placed those words on my heart. Through the lens of grace. Those were profound words to me and I let them sink in and take hold of my broken heart.

Yes, that was it. The pieces were starting to come together at least in my mind. If Dave was repentant and I could find it in my heart to extend him forgiveness just as Christ had done for me, it was going to be there that trust could begin to grow.

My mother told me everything that she was witnessing of Dave’s repentance those first few days after he left home. For my own self-protection, I wouldn’t hear a word she had to say. Honestly, I didn’t care one bit what she was seeing and hearing. That’s how broken I was. My heart couldn’t even handle a small glimmer of hope because the hurt in me just screamed louder, “Is it true? Is it genuine?”

I had to see his repentance with my own eyes. He had to demonstrate consistently to me that his heart truly was here with his family and not in the lustful life he had been secretly living. I was still waiting for him to chose that life.

He never did…and that is where trusting again began.