Like Little Children

I have a confession to make: With five children in our family, I can no longer remember important individual milestones. Were you to ask me at what ages each of my children walked, talked, cut their first tooth, I couldn’t say. I could give you a range, which would be, “Somewhere between the ages of birth and two.” 

I love my children deeply for the individuals that they are; ask me today about their personalities and tastes, and I’ll tell you in detail. But past details have all receded into the fog of thirteen years of sleep deprivation. I cannot recall my fourth child’s first word, what everyone wore for Halloween two years ago, and I have difficulty remembering everyone’s current shoe size. 

I mention this to give you a sense of how significant it is that, over the past month, three of my daughters said things that I felt compelled to record in my journal so that I wouldn’t forget. 

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

Mushrooms, Zinnias, and Changing Minds

The baby is beginning to have strong opinions. 

At the moment, his preferences manifest themselves most in the matter of food. For the first four months of his life, for a variety of health reasons, he subsisted upon a pre-digested infant formula called Nutramigen. If the words “pre-digested” make you shudder, let me assure you that this concoction smells like something you’d find in the dark recesses of a dairy barn.

But the baby didn’t complain. He gulped down the formula happily at every meal. His sisters held their noses and carried him at arm’s length, but he didn’t care that he smelled like he’d just crawled out from under a log. 

Then we started “solid foods,” which are really liquefied versions of actual foods like sweet potatoes, pears, and green beans. As far as the baby was concerned, these were all excellent additions to the Nutramigen. Beyond eating applesauce and carrots with a bit more gusto than asparagus, he didn’t show much preference between foods; it was all good.

Until he discovered watermelon. 

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.

Invisible Friends

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There are seven people who live in our house, and then there are the ones you can’t see.

I learned long ago never to use the words “imaginary friends” to describe these beings of light and air. No; they are very REAL, so the proper term is “invisible friends.”

Invisible friends first showed up sometime during the first three years of my eldest daughter’s life, although I’m not sure whether they appeared during the 20 months when she was an only child, or the following year when she was a de facto only child, with only one infant sister for company. What I do remember quite clearly is one particular lunchtime in our bungalow in Berkeley, California, when this daughter announced that her friends were coming for lunch. Could I please set places at the table for them?

Of course I could! Thrilled that my toddler was demonstrating such an active imagination, I asked, “Who are you expecting.”

“Oh,” she lisped, “Pak, Pook, Lion, Lo-Lo, Lemon, and Orange.”

This was when it hit me that an active imagination might be a mixed blessing (and it’s been hitting me almost daily ever since), but I played along. I set six extra places for lunch, and obediently opened the door and greeted six invisible guests when my daughter called out that they had arrived.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Maintaining

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We went to Maine this summer. It felt like a minor miracle that we were able to pull off this trip: the only normal, scheduled event that hasn’t been cancelled in our lives since the COVID-19 pandemic wiped our calendar clean and confined us to our home. I will be reminding my children about our Maine trip anytime they complain of boredom for the rest of the summer.

Gong Child: “I’m SO BORED!”

Me: “Remember how we went to Maine this summer?” (Unspoken, but implied: “You ungrateful wretch!”)

Oddly enough, one of the best parts about going to Maine was coming home.

“Ah!” we sighed in wonder as we drove across the Green Mountains and saw Vermont’s familiar fields stretching out before us.

“It’s so good to be home!” we exclaimed as we entered our house, unpacked our bags, and settled back into our own beds.

Our house, which had begun to feel like a prison in the weeks before the trip to Maine, reclaimed its cherished place in our collective hearts after a week’s absence. It was nice to feel that we wanted to be at home, not just that we had to be at home.

The warm glow of homecoming lasted approximately 24 hours. Then I went outside and looked at my garden.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Letter from Maine: Fog and Face Masks

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Much to my surprise, I am writing this column from the front porch of our rental house in Ogunquit, Maine. It is the tenth summer that I have spent a week at this beach with my husband, our growing brood of children, and my parents. This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down and cancelled everything else in our lives, I assumed that we wouldn’t be able to make our annual pilgrimage to the shore. But then, at the eleventh hour, COVID-19 cases in Maine and Vermont dropped low enough that both states declared reciprocal travel was allowed, with no quarantine necessary. So, here we are.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Adoption Story, Part 3: The Thing With Feathers

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This is the third — and final — installment of a 3-part series on our family’s experience adopting our son.

I sat in our minivan, parked next to the playing fields where I’d just dropped off my daughters for an afternoon field hockey practice. I was clutching my cell phone to my ear; on the other end, our adoption counselor was saying that a birth mother had chosen our family as a potential home for her baby.

It had been 22 months since Erick and I had first walked through the doors of the adoption agency; nearly two years since we set off down the path of becoming a “waiting family.” Waiting for exactly this moment, the moment a birth mother would choose us — a moment that had seemed like an increasingly remote possibility as time wore on.

Our adoption counselor asked whether we’d like to move forward, whether we’d accept the birth mother’s wish to place her child with us – if that remained her wish.

“But,” our counselor continued, “don’t get your hopes up. She’s still not entirely sure that she wants to go the adoption route.”

We were required to make this enormous decision with shockingly little information. The baby was due in early November – about six weeks away. Our adoption counselor thought it was a boy. We were given a brief sketch of the mother’s situation, which is not my story to tell.

That was it. I promised to discuss things with Erick and give our answer the next morning.

Driving home, I felt oddly calm. There was a package waiting for me at our front door.

A month earlier, we’d visited family in California. My sister-in-law has beautiful prints of Bible verses hung all around her house, and my daughters and I particularly loved the work of the artist Ruth Chou Simons. So, for my birthday, which had happened about a week before this phone call, I’d suggested that Erick and the girls order me a Ruth Chou Simons print. I’d picked out the particular verse and design that I wanted.

Now my print had arrived. But the first thing I noticed upon opening it was: it was the wrong print.

After an immediate wave of confusion and disappointment, I shrugged. “Oh well,” I thought, “so I didn’t get the verse I wanted; I probably got the verse I needed!”

Then I read the verse.

It was Genesis 18:14. To set the stage: God has just told Abraham and Sarah that they’re going to have a baby in their old age (extreme old age), and Sarah laughs to herself because…that’s impossible. Right?

But God says to Sarah, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

That was my verse: Is anything too hard for the Lord?

It was one of many miracles that swirled around us during this journey. I don’t use the word “miracle” lightly, as a sort of saccharine greeting card sentiment. Erick and I have 19 years of higher education between us, but when we decided to adopt, things happened to us that I can’t explain logically; things that were edged in magic and raised goosebumps on my arms. And these things happened repeatedly. The more I travel through life, the more I believe that we open ourselves up to miracles when we start out blindly down a path that makes no sense apart from our faith that it’s the path we’re supposed to take.

We took this path. We agreed to be open to taking this baby. And I needed that print hanging on my wall every single second of every single day of the six weeks that followed – six weeks that number among the most spiritually challenging of my entire life.

We saw no point in hiding anything from our daughters: Even if this ended in disappointment, it would be a valuable experience for them. So we kept them fully informed, while cautioning them often that this adoption still might not happen.

They were overjoyed. They immediately set to work pulling together stuffed animals and books for the baby. They held a “Big Sister Training Camp” for their youngest sister, complete with a graduation ceremony. They drew pictures of the baby, whom they referred to as “Turtle:” a round-faced infant with red hair and blue eyes. They were deaf to our warnings.

“Why are you so worried?” they’d ask. “This IS our baby!”

But that wasn’t at all clear to us. Weeks went by in which we heard nothing, only to be told that the birth mother was still “struggling” and “having a hard time.” (Hardly surprising, given the weight of the decision she was making.) Then, more silence. We walked a fine line between trying to prepare for a new baby – but not too much, so that it wouldn’t be as painful if things didn’t work out.

“If it happens, it will probably happen all at once,” our adoption counselor told us. That’s what it felt like on the night, two weeks before the baby’s due date, when we got a call that the birth mother had decided to induce labor the next morning.

The baby would be born at a hospital two hours away from us. We scrambled to find childcare and make accommodations for our various animals. We packed our bags.

The next morning, I started getting texts from our adoption counselor: The birth mother and her options counselor were at the hospital. They were still there and waiting. Still waiting. And then…silence.

Several hours later, the final text came: The birth mother had decided not to induce after all. She’d gone home. We were back to waiting.

In retrospect, this doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but in the moment it almost broke me. Our disappointed family went for a walk that afternoon. As we strolled through a gorgeous autumn afternoon, I felt crushed by my total lack of control.  I was so tired of waiting…but I had no choice.

A poem that I’d never particularly loved before came to mean a great deal to me during this time; it was Emily Dickinson’s poem that begins:

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune without the words,

And never stops at all

I needed that kind of hope. I could relate to “the tune without the words,” as my heart cried out for things I couldn’t even verbalize. Waiting, at this point, felt anything but passive; it felt like my soul was running an ultra-marathon.

A few days after the induction that wasn’t, we received another call from our adoption counselor: The birth mother and birth father, who had initially not wanted any contact with us, now wanted to meet us.

We set a date and time for the meeting, which would happen at the same hospital where the baby was to be born – two hours away. We arranged for childcare.

The night before the meeting with the birth parents, another call came from our adoption counselor: The mother was in labor. At around 9 PM, a text: A baby boy had arrived. He was healthy but tiny, tipping the scales at just over 5 pounds. We would all meet at the hospital in the morning.

Another miracle: We’d already lined up childcare for the next day, since that’s when our meeting with the birth parents was supposed to have happened.

The hours that followed were a blur. I packed – again. I wrote a note to the baby’s birth mom (I’d like to take credit for that idea myself, but it was on the suggestion of our adoption counselor – I was far too scrambled.) I slept a little, then woke at dawn to take care of animals and say goodbye to our daughters. My husband and I got into the truck and drove across the mountains in the misty autumn morning.

Our adoption counselor met us in the hospital lobby, and after a short wait that seemed like forever the birth parents’ counselor arrived to take us all up to the room.

Now. You may have all sorts of opinions and stereotypes when it comes to mothers who place their children up for adoption. I did, too, and this experience exploded them all. Adoption is every bit as much about supporting a mother in the heartbreaking situation of needing a safe home in which to place her child, as it is about supporting that child.

What happened in that hospital room, when we met our baby and his birth parents for the first time, is far too personal and emotional to put into words, but I will say only that this woman loves this baby, she wants the best for him, and she handed him to me. It was one of the most profound acts of grace that I have ever experienced.

And then he was our baby. He was tiny, but all of our babies have been tiny. I looked at him and saw that he had a head full of fuzzy, strawberry blond hair and blue eyes – almost the red hair and blue eyes my daughters had envisioned when they still called him “Turtle.”

Our son is now seven months old; his adoption was just finalized. The past seven months have not always been easy: Almost immediately, our son was diagnosed with severe gastric reflux, which required medication, special formula, and home visits from a nurse. In December,he was hospitalized for “failure to thrive”because he wasn’t gaining enough weight. A week later, he caught a respiratory virus and was intubated for two weeks in the PICU. And as soon as those issues had stabilized, a global pandemic hit.

But our little guy is thriving now. He is happy, full of smiles, giggles, and babbles. His big sisters are over the moon. Adoption, more than anything else in their young lives, has shaped their understanding of love and family; it has done that for us adults, as well. I have no idea what the future holds, but I can say with total certainty that adoption was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made. We would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

I’m not sharing our story because I think it’s the most interesting, amusing, or touching. My “ulterior motive” is to encourage, in case there’s anyone out there who is standing where we were four years ago. Do you sense a tug towards adoption? Is it something you’ve considered vaguely, but discounted because it just feels too difficult or scary? Does it seem like stories of adoption are following you everywhere you turn?

We have been there. We know it’s a huge threshold to cross. There are 1,000 great reasons NOT to adopt. And we’d be the last people to tell you to leap without looking.

But if you need some encouragement to keep going, please let us encourage you. We are not saints. We are not the world’s best parents. We are not fantastically wealthy, brilliant, energetic, or hyper-organized. We started with love, we felt a pull, we put one foot in front of the other, and we adopted a child. So can you.

Adoption Story, Part 1: Vague Feelings, Specific Decisions

Adoption Story, Part 2: The Next Right Thing

Adoption Story, Part 2: The Next Right Thing

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This is the second part of a 3-part series about our family’s journey through adoption.

Part 1 of our family’s adoption story was a 2,000-word description of the two-year process that we went through before even deciding to proceed with adoption. My purpose in laying all of this out was not to bore readers silly, but to make it clear that this was not a simple or spontaneous decision: It was slow and filled with false starts, doubts, and frustration.

Once Erick and I decided to pursue adoption, we began a long journey of small steps. Our mantra during this time was, “Let’s just do the next right thing.” (This was several years before “Do the Next Right Thing” became a copyrighted earworm via the Disney film Frozen 2.)

The first thing to do was to sign up with an adoption agency. Erick felt very strongly that we should try to adopt a child within Vermont, so that we could have a local impact in our home state. Vermont is a small state, with few adoptions: In 2018 there were 859 total adoptions in Vermont, the third lowest of all 50 states (only North Dakota and Wyoming had fewer.) So, without much to choose from, we met with an adoption counselor at a Vermont agency.

At this particular agency, prospective adoptive families work with an adoption counselor in order to become approved for child placement. Birth parents work with an options counselor in order to discern whether adoption is the best choice for them, and to choose an adoptive family. All adoptions are “open,” which means that, although some privacy is respected, adoptive and birth parents are known to each other. There is a whole spectrum of possible post-adoption contact, but when we signed up with this agency we agreed to provide the birth parents of any child we might adopt an annual update with photos for 18 years, and at least one in-person visit. Open adoptions are now widely considered to be the healthiest scenario for adopted children, so we were happy to agree to this.

Applying to adopt a child is a serious business that shines a light into every crevice of your family –as it should. More than once I thought, “My goodness, if this process was required of anyone who wanted to have a child, we’d have many fewer children!”

We had to get fingerprinted, have our backgrounds checked, and release our DMV records. We had to provide our financial records. We had to obtain three letters of reference. We had to fill out a questionnaire that asked detailed questions about our upbringings, our families of origin, our marriage, and our childrearing philosophy. If we wanted to consider transracial adoption (in our case, a child who wasn’t either White or Asian) – and we did – we had to spend at least 8 hours reading or watching videos on the subject. We had to fill out a “key sheet” — a terrifying document that listed every possible physical or mental condition that might come with our adopted child, including race, age, disability, parental behaviors — and check which ones we were willing to accept.

We began the process in November 2017; we completed the paperwork in March 2018. Then we had an in-person interview with our adoption counselor to review our answers. Our home visit took place in June 2018, during which our adoption counselor came to our house to see the physical space and to interview our biological children. Finally, we had to compile a photo album of our family and write a letter to the birth parents – any birth parents who might be considering us; this was what birth parents would use to determine whether our family was the right home for their child.

In August 2018, we were notified that our home study was complete: We were cleared to adopt a child. At this point, the next right thing was to wait.

So, we waited. We waited and waited. Over the next 13 months, we received three calls about potential adoptions, but all of them were in states outside Vermont. Our adoption agency has a reciprocal relationship with several other agencies, but interstate adoption would have required us to travel to another state and stay there until the legal paperwork was completed – a stay of between 2-4 weeks, in most cases. This did not work well for a family with four homeschooled children, and at the time (pre-COVID-19) Erick’s teaching job could not be performed remotely. So, we had to let these opportunities pass us by.

As the months stretched out, my old doubts returned. I must have heard wrong – again. If we were supposed to be doing this, why were the years passing without anything happening?

Finally, despair set in. Vermont IS such a small state, with so few adoptions. And anyway, what birth parent would choose US, a family that already has four biological children? There was no way.

Erick, as usual, was less emotional and more philosophical.

“Well, we’ve made ourselves available,” he’d say, shrugging. “There’s nothing more we can do; it’s all up to God now.”

But I felt like adoption was receding into the haze.

Around this time, our daughters, who hadn’t mentioned adoption throughout the months of silence, suddenly started asking when their new sibling would arrive. All four of them – even the ones who hadn’t been enthusiastic at first – agreed: “We need a new baby in the house!”

I’d force a smile and parrot Erick: “It’s all up to God now.” It was painful.

Then, one afternoon in mid-September 2019, my cell phone rang as I was dropping our daughters off at a field hockey practice.

To be continued.

Adoption Story, Part 1: Vague Feelings, Specific Decisions

Adoption Story, Part 3: The Thing With Feathers

Adoption Story, Part 1: Vague Feelings, Specific Decisions

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This is the first part of a 3-part series about our son’s adoption, which was just finalized last week. 

***

“Who knows, really, where dreams begin? Perhaps they first take shape in the unknown realms of sleep or in the far corners of our consciousness, gaining size and substance off in the distant wings of awareness, until one day, just out of the corner of your eye, you see it – the hazy shape of a new idea that is suddenly too big and insistent to ignore.”

–Katrina Kenison, The Gift of an Ordinary Day.

***

It started as a gnawing at the back of my mind, vague feelings that flitted through my brain like moths around a porch light.

“I don’t know what, but I just feel like there’s something more that we should be doing,” I’d say to my husband as we sat on the couch at night after the kids were tucked into bed.

This started in the spring of 2015. Our family had been happily settled in Vermont for four years. Erick was halfway down the road to tenure in his job as a professor of economics at Middlebury College, and was about to begin his sabbatical year. We had four daughters, between the ages of two and seven. I was busy at home with the girls, but also found time to maintain a blog and write bi-weekly columns for our local paper; I’d recently completed a draft of my first book. Life was good.

Maybe that’s why I was feeling unsettled: because life was starting to feel too settled. I start getting twitchy when life gets too comfortable. In my experience, comfort is the start of a spiritual death spiral: Life feels easy, so I stop paying attention, I stop caring as much, I fritter away time, I lose my edge, and my soul curls up and goes to sleep.

Or maybe it’s just that I was turning 40 that September.

But Erick felt it, too. Our approach to life is shaped by our Christian faith, so when we both started feeling these stirrings and rumblings we didn’t attribute them to something we ate, or something we read, or turning 40; we figured that it might be possible that God was trying to get our attention.

We talked, we prayed, we thought, we talked some more.

“I just feel like there’s something more that we should be doing.” The question was: WHAT?

This wasn’t about making ourselves feel better, earning pats on the back from others or from God. It was more about getting outside of ourselves, sending love out into the world in a fresh, bold way. Like Miss Rumphius in Barbara Cooney’s picture book of the same name, we wanted “to do something to make the world more beautiful.”

This was not the ideal time to add something more to our life, which was already quite full. Four young children kept us running, and also limited our bandwidth.

Not only that, but in January we’d be traveling across the country to spend the semester in Berkeley, California, where I’d homeschool our two school-aged daughters for the first time while Erick did research at his alma mater, UC Berkeley.

Oh, and did I mention that we were in the process of buying a new house in Vermont? This house was part of our vision of living closer to the land, raising animals and growing more of our food. It sat on 12.5 rolling acres. The only problem was that the house itself was a mess, requiring a down-to-the-studs total renovation. And the garden plots and animal pens? They didn’t exist. We put our current house on the market, authorized a contractor friend to handle the renovations on the new house while we were away, and spent hours over at our new property shoveling dirt and lugging the stones we uncovered.

I realize that all of this may seem at odds with my original claim that life was getting “too comfortable.” But this is the kind of climate in which I thrive, when life is full of love and purpose, and big dreams are being followed – just as long as I have enough coffee, chocolate, books, and quiet alone time to recharge my deeply introverted self.

Still, even with all that was happening, both my husband and I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something else we were supposed to be doing.

Then one afternoon I opened our local newspaper, and the front-page story brought everything into focus. The story was about Vermont’s opioid epidemic and how it was causing a massive increase in the number of children placed in foster care; between 2014 and 2015, the number of Vermont children taken into custody increased by 75%.

There are children out there who need homes, I thought. We adore children, we’re a stable family with plenty of love to give, and we have a home that we could open to more children.

I discussed it with Erick, and it seemed so glaringly obvious, it was hard to imagine why we hadn’t thought of it before. Fostering or adopting fit our particular skill set, was something our family could do all together, and the Bible – on which we base our lives – makes clear that faith-in-action involves caring for orphans (and all other disenfranchised peoples.)

First, though, we had to go on sabbatical and then move into our new house in Vermont. We agreed to spend the intervening months thinking and praying about foster care and adoption.

So we went to California. The entire time, it felt like foster care and adoption were stalking me: In books and articles I read, in interviews I heard, in email updates from friends, I kept bumping into stories of children who needed homes and the families who welcomed them.

After we were settled into our new house in Vermont, we began pursuing foster care. Erick was drawn to foster care as a starting point, since it’s often a temporary situation: The goal of foster care is to reunify the child with his or her birth parents. Erick thought this might be a way of “easing in” instead of cannonballing right into the pool of adoption.

We filled out some paperwork, met with a social worker from the Vermont Department of Children and Families (DCF), completed a home study (basically a tour of our house with an emphasis on safety), and were added to our county’s list of potential foster families.

And then we waited. We waited and waited. Even though the Vermont foster care system was (and is) overloaded, we received very few calls about children needing placement, and none of those calls met our lone criteria: That any child we took in be younger than our youngest daughter, who was three at the time. (Our daughters have a strong sense of birth order, and we didn’t want to shake things up more than necessary.)

It was our first of many experiences with waiting, but honestly, I didn’t feel frustrated or anxious; I felt relieved. As usual, there was a lot going on in our house. The homeschooling that began as a temporary situation while on sabbatical had turned out to be one of the best parts of sabbatical. Our two oldest daughters wanted to continue homeschooling, so not only were we adjusting to a new house, but we were all getting settled into a new school routine as well. In retrospect, it’s hardly a surprise that some of our daughters weren’t enthusiastic when we introduced the idea of fostering a child: They’d had to adapt to so many changes over the past months, and now we were throwing a baby at them?!?

Truth be told, the idea of getting a call that a child needed a home today felt a little overwhelming to me, as well.

We used those months of waiting to do more research on adoption and foster care. We met and spoke with multiple people who had adopted and fostered, we read books and articles, and we continued to talk and pray.

The more we learned, the more it seemed to me that fostering might not be the “easing in” scenario that Erick had envisioned. Yes, it can be a temporary situation, but it’s also extremely wrenching for all concerned. Foster care placements typically happen very quickly, as the result of a family trauma. And while a foster child would live with our family, there were limits at how much they could be part of our family. (I could not, for instance, homeschool a foster child with my own children, but would be responsible for transporting them to their current school.) There would be regular supervised parental visits, in pursuit of reunification. And that desired-for reunification meant that this child, to whom my own children would grow deeply attached, might have to leave us.

I think that foster families are heroes, and I am honored to count some of them as my friends. We have kept up our foster care certification and it remains something we might consider in the future. But based on where our family was at, foster care looked like a more confusing, difficult, and emotionally draining scenario than straightforward adoption. In adoption, at least, I figured that the child entering our home would be more clearly our child from the outset.

I discussed this with Erick, and we spent a lot more time talking and praying. (You’re probably sensing a theme here.) He was just starting the process of applying for tenure, so he had – to put it mildly – a lot of things on his plate. By this point, I was feeling confused: It had seemed so clear that opening our home to a child was something we should pursue, but it just didn’t appear to be working out. The foster care system, which seemed less and less right for us, wasn’t exactly knocking down our door. Our own children were lukewarm on the idea. Adoption felt like a big, scary choice. Maybe I’d misunderstood what we were supposed to do.

“I just wish someone would drop a baby on us, so we’d know for sure!” I moaned, more than once.

In the summer of 2017 – if you’re counting, that’s two years after we first felt nudged towards adoption – I went on a weekend retreat in the Vermont mountains. Just me, some books, and my laptop. On the agenda were resting, writing, and doing some serious praying about adoption.

I’ll be honest: At this point, I fully expected God to give me a pass. I thought I’d pray about adoption, and God would say, “You know what, Faith? You’ve given it a good shot, but it’s just not what I want your family to do right now. Guess you must’ve heard me wrong the first time.”

Now, this might sound a little woo-woo, so I want to be clear: I am not in the habit of hearing voices, certainly not the voice of God. In fact, most times when I’d like to hear directly from God, He’s maddeningly silent. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve felt that God was giving me direct, clear instructions. This was one of those times.

I prayed alone in my room in the mountains. I waited for God to give me a pass. And instead I heard — as clearly as if God was sitting right next to me: “Keep going.”

To be continued….

Adoption Story, Part 2: The Next Right Thing

Adoption Story, Part 3: The Thing With Feathers

Beauty on the Driveway

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For the past 65 days, one of my lifelines has been a quarter-mile strip of sandy gravel. Its surface is mostly white, except for the places where we attempted to patch the potholes with cheap grey gravel. From the look of things, the potholes are winning.

My lifeline has been my driveway.

Our family has developed a daily routine around the driveway. First thing in the morning, while I’m fixing breakfast, my husband takes the dog for a run several times up and down the driveway. After breakfast, I strap the baby into a chest carrier and set out with my daughters for a single pre-school lap up and down the driveway – me walking, them usually on bikes. In the late afternoon, when the baby wakes from his nap, I put him in the stroller, put the dog on a leash, and walk as many laps up and down the driveway as time permits until dinner. Sometimes I’m joined by my daughters, sometimes by my husband, but often I’m alone.

The driveway gives us exercise. It allows us to breathe in fresh air and soak in Vitamin D. It takes us to the mailbox, which holds the treat of letters from the outside world or packages of online purchases more often these days.

But the greatest gift that the driveway gives me is beauty.

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent. 

Why Keep a Garden, Chickens, or Children?

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This will likely be a short column, because we are in the midst of putting in our garden.

I have a complex relationship with my garden – as, I suspect, do many. Starting around March, a feeling that has lain dormant throughout the winter begins to stir in me: panic. Suddenly, I feel the urge to start drawing up a planting schedule and ordering seeds. This feeling intensifies as the days lengthen. By the time we start planting, usually in late April, my panic has been replaced with a lingering guilt. I feel guilty if I’m not out working in the garden when the weather is fine. When the forecast calls for rain, I am almost always relieved; nobody would expect me to be out working in my garden in the rain, would they?

Yet I will tell you that I love gardening.

This year, our gardening season has overlapped almost exactly with the COVID-19 quarantine. I hear that more people are planning to put in gardens this year, driven perhaps by the desire to have a food source that doesn’t involve navigating grocery stores, or inspired by more unscheduled time at home. But I wonder how many people shared this thought along with me, as I pulled on my garden gloves and picked up my shovel: Finally! Something I can control!

Click here to continue reading this week’s “Faith in Vermont” column in The Addison Independent.