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Help Me Grow Help Me Heal

Yesterday was our last Adoption Training Session. It’s a great feeling to get the training out of the way although we still have a few more appointments with our Social Worker and our autobiography still to get through.

The training was titled “Pre-Adoptive and Pre-Foster Parent CORE Training” The Agenda was probably the most engaging and eye opening out of all four trainings we were required to take.

The Agenda looked like this:

Adoption Basics•Typical Child Development•Seven Core issues in Adoption & Foster Care•Birth Family Dynamics•Overview & Discussion of Child Abuse & Neglect•Prenatal Substance Exposure•Understanding Childhood Trauma•Attachment•Child Advocacy & Support System.

The Blue font is the topic where I got caught in. Seven Core issues in Adoption & Foster. Those 7 are: Loss, Rejection, Guilt/Shame, Grief, Identity, Intimacy, Control. Heavy topics. The room was definitely unsure how to respond -how is anybody enthusiastic to share your thoughts on any of those topics?

The first exercise they did was a visualization exercise. They asked us to close our eyes and focus where their questions were leading us.

  1. Think of a time to lost something or somebody very important or precious to you.
  2. Where are you?
  3. Who is around you?
  4. How did you feel when you found out that you lost this something or someone?
  5. How did you respond and why did you respond like that?

My memory took me to the loss of my mother. That series of events is something I know I’ve buried deep down and nobody really has walked with me back into that dark corner of my memory.

Memories are very interesting. They can take place at a very specific moment of your life and depending on how you process it, it has the power to remain there- just as powerful and real as if you’re still stuck there.

I don’t recall when the ambulance arrived but I remember talking to a paramedic. He asked what my mom had the night before. “Lima bean soup and a 7-up”

(Memory goes black)

I don’t think there was an adult supervising me because I recall standing outside of the house watching them wheel my mom away. That was the last time I saw her alive.

(Memory goes black)

I recall standing on the sidewalk facing the street, back toward my home. I grabbed my tote bag which was sewn by my mom. She ran an alteration shop in Castro Valley so her hands were nimble and experienced in sewing. It was made with navy blue fabric that was patterned with these tiny flowers. Two straps and a small pocket in the front. I grabbed a favorite book, maybe 2 and my favorite Teddy Bear which I thought was from the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic but after researching today, the Teddy Bear was from the 1980 Moscow Olympics!!

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I don’t know how long I stood out there but nobody came to find me except Lisa Yi, my best friend at the time. I don’t even recall when she came over but she lived with her grandma in San Francisco so I guess they rushed down after hearing the news. We had this really brief conversation (?) exchange of words-.

Lisa: “What are you doing here?”

I don’t know what I answered and I don’t think I knew why I stood out there but knowing me, it was probably because I thought I had to find a new home. All I knew was that my mom was not in the house anymore. I had no idea who was inside our home. I somehow quietly packed my belongings and stood out front hoping somebody would take me ….somewhere?

Judy: “Can I live with you and your grandma, Lisa?”

Lisa: “Okay, I can ask my grandma.”

The 38 year old Judy looks at the 7? 8? year old Judy and wishes she could give her a hug. “What a brave young girl. I wonder if she thought to grab her items because of the influence she had reading those children’s book. I wonder which book she grabbed off her shelf. Who was she waiting for?”

The instructor asked if a brave individual would like to share their memory. It’s been over 30 years since this all happened, so I raised my hand. The moment I opened my mouth, I could feel an unstable quiver in my voice and my vocal chords were tightening.

“No.. Judy. Focus. You’re not going to cry. You can share this memory without any hiccups.”

It wasn’t going away and when I came to utter “I stood on the sidewalk”, I stopped. I looked at the carpet, away from the eyes of those in the classroom, focusing on regaining control of my emotions and these darn tears that were welling up in my eyes.

I could tell everybody was staring at me and I needed to respond to their stares. I quickly looked up at the instructors and apologized.

“I’m sorry.. I just..”

“No ..no that’s okay. Take your time.”

I could hear a mini tissue packet being opened from behind me and JP tapped my arm to hand me a tissue. Even then I refused to use the tissue. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I was still emotional after all these years and unable to tell the story without being moved by emotions.

“Thank you for sharing, Judy. Could you share how your dad or your family helped your process this loss?”

“My dad never asked me. Nobody talked about it in our family. It was like it was taboo to speak about her. I guess I was also just very busy trying to adjust to being reunited with my brother and dad, making new friends and trying to figure out what is going on. Being resilient as a child and just moving on..”

But she wasn’t taboo to me. She was my mom. She cared for me. She raised me. She loved me and I loved her. Everybody spoke about her as if she doesn’t exist which may be true to a certain extent but she exists in me.. in my memories and in my heart. To see that memories of my mom was denied verbal and mental attention in my family was probably very confusing and conflicting with what I know and remember my mom as. I don’t know why nobody wanted to talk about her. Since I didn’t know why, I just went with the flow and rarely talked about her or the memories I have with her.

I had just become a real life example of what kind of loss and grief an adopted child may bring when they are introduced to a new family. I became an example in the middle of the classroom-of what happens when parents don’t talk or try to understand the child’s perspective even if they are in non-verbal stages of growing. Every loss and grief freezes and stays frozen. It’s never embraced and just remains. If it was embraced, I wonder how different I would be today. Would I still be choking up sharing these few snippets of my childhood with a group of strangers?

I kept tearing up all the way to lunch. I felt embarrassed. I felt like a distraction to the entire class but all the slides and everything the instructor was saying made me wish in my heart,

“I wish Dad talked to me. I wish somebody talked to me before I grew older in age and before new memories covered what I wanted to recall and hold onto.”

So now I think about Benaiah. He too will have some sort of trauma, loss and or grief to deal with. The challenge is that because he will be in non-verbal stages of life, JP and I won’t know which behavior is stemmed from the grieving of loss or just the temperament of the child.

“What can adoptive and foster parents do to help children grieve?”

  • Help the child understand the reasons for their adoption placement.
  • Assist the child with adjusting to a new environment
  • Be open and approachable so the child can rely on you for help in dealing with his/her loss.
  • Assist the child in maintaining relationships with his/her family of origin.
  • Help the child find a sense of safety and security
  • Don’t be quick to dismiss losses in adoption and move quickly to gains.

Even now, I trust that God has a reason. A reason as to why the loss of my mom was never embraced or resolved. Maybe I’ll grieve bit by bit until I die. Who knows. But the strange yet mysterious part of this grieving process while learning about Benaiah’s issues is that I know God can use this grief and loss to draw me into Benaiah’s heart so much more. It’s something JP has not experienced (I asked what his memory was and he said he couldn’t think of one during the exercise) so I’m grateful that as parents to be, we’re not oblivious and inexperienced with grief and loss.

Even though as a grown adult, I feel weak and ashamed to still grieve, but exploiting this weakness of mine for the glory of Christ helps the power of Christ to rest upon me. God willing, if Benaiah comes home and God willing if he lives to turn 6, 7 or 8 years old, my heart will once again grive and tear to see him wrestle with life and the losses in life he has had to endure. Until then, I want to remember these weaknesses and exploit them again when I struggle to understand his tantrums or behaviors so that the power of Christ will rest upon me during those tough parenting moments. Exploit them to Benaiah when he is at an age where he can and wants to verbalize his feelings and thoughts.

God, thank you for revealing this weakness in me. As a mom, I feel inadequate and incomplete with my own grief and loss–to even address and help Benaiah resolve his. But God, your strength is made perfect in weaknesses not strengths. I believe that to be true and cast these feelings of shame, embarrassment and weakness at the Cross and ask that the power of Christ would rest upon me in my brokenness and humility before you and others. I don’t know how Lord, but I know you will redeem this during this adoption journey. You’re the only one who can in every life. So work through these moments and let them not be memories or weaknesses in vain so that you may be exalted and glorified even after the fact that it has been 30 years since. Make JP and I sensitive to the grief, loss, and trauma that Benaiah may be facing or have already faced. Make us effective instruments of your love and grace that will shape Benaiah and all during that time, would you help us in growing Benaiah. Help us heal Benaiah and let it also grow and heal us as individuals and as parents to be. Lord, without you we can do nothing so we ask all these things and ask for your help in Jesus’ name.

Amen.

2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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“_____________________”

When all the vocabulary in the world fails to represent what my heart is feeling today.

“Pain” is an understatement. “Sadness” is only a sliver of it. “Heartbroken” is only the first layer of the onion.

What word is there, English? Do you have anything for me, Korean?

O God.. You know exactly what this heart is experiencing. I seek Your counsel, wisdom, comfort, and power today. Overwhelm me with a peace that this world cannot offer. That perfect peace that transcends all understanding. Come guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

March 24 2015

My 1st opportunity to do a group session. Four hours.

I don’t know what happened but whatever it was…it was God. Unexpected topics came about But even through that I feel that God is working in the midst of it. I cannot wait to hear how this will all turn out at the end of the trip. NEA2015

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Safety is not guaranteed

Today was the first time in a long time I was reminded of this sobering truth.

I first learned about this in a sermon called Prayer Remix by Louie Giglio (Before questionable teaching/association days)

He challenged us in our prayers and heart attitudes during praying. There are 5 common phrases we Christians always say. It’s like we say it because that what we’ve heard all our lives so we throw it in there like a disclaimer or silence filler without truly knowing.

“God, protect us.”

Initially it sounds perfectly fine doesn’t it? What’s wrong with asking God to protect us? I don’t think there’s anything wrong until we feel when safety becomes a priority over obedience or trusting God even in questionable circumstances. Safety is not guaranteed ever. There is nobody in the Bible that claimed to follow Jesus who had life easy safe and sound. Every disciple died because of their faith. They faced persecution and were in danger constantly. People came after them attacking and accusing. “There’s never a dull moment” is really an understatement for the disciples.

Especially for someone like me living in America. Land of the free. Freedom rings and freedom of religion is still one of the most prized yet taken forgranted in this country.

This morning a situation arose where I felt that freedom was slightly tainted or scratched on the surface. We serve on the ushering team and we had a group of 3 including myself. I noticed our pastor speaking to another member and they quietly asked pulled me aside. The news and instructions they gave me were not what I expected at all.

” A gentleman (somebody’s father) will be looking for ______. They are not mentally stable at this point. If he comes, please notify that person and ask them to come out of the chapel so he can escort him outside. If he tries to cause violence or start a fight, do not get involved or try to stop them but call the police immediately.”

It sounds bad. But at the time nobody could guesstimate how this gentleman would react. Standing there with my teammates was similar to the feeling of that classic game where you pull the swords out of the monkey barrel? Anxious and nervousness. I was waiting for a good moment to inform my other two co-servants but with people around it was hard to go into details and hard to pull them away without making things obvious or weird.

And then…I saw him. I recognized the face instantly and waited for him to approach out greeting station. He asked for that person and I said I would bring them out. I turned around to see that the was following me and asked him to please wait outside because worship was in progress. He agreed and shortly after blurred, “F***!!!!! ㅅㅂ(a Korean cuss word basically meaning poo or F”

I quickly told that person that they’re here. As soon as they came out the hello and cussing began. Two words were repeated over and over and somehow he was quickly escorted outside the building. Or or were shocked and frightened. Nobody expects to walk into a church building to hear this or are it. Everybody had this “What…the….” It was an awkward and frightening moment for everybody.

I couldn’t make a decision whether I wanted to dial 911 or search for the local police department number. I called in and told them there’s a gentleman who will not leave our premise and is causing disturbances. Thankfully two brothers got involved and somehow was able to escort the man further down the parking lot. 911 needed to transfer me over to local police but I hung up not sure what to do at that point. They called me back and my phone was silent so two officers came eventually.

I felt horrible. Fear is not the right word though it’s mixed in there. Felt sick in the heart. Unsettling. I came quietly back to my station and I could see my hands were shaking. My handwriting became shaky as I wrote nametags for people who continued to walk in. When this all happened the 3 of us were standing there along with 2 other ladies. We all just felt super numb. Lack of words. And to know he said he would come back every Sunday..was something I wish I didn’t hear. I hope it’s just a bluff. In case it’s not.. God, you are our light and our salvation..whom shall we fear? Give us courage O God.

This is different than when you see a homeless man yelling or shouting profanity on the streets. Even if that homeless man came into our building and did the same it would not feel the same way. This was somebody’s father. Somebody we love and is a member of our church body. This was a man who was mentally unstable. This could have been my dad or my father in law. Upset and emotional for some reason. This was where we called our gathering place for the body of believers to come and worship. This was our safe haven. Our space to come and seek God. Where people who are broken come to seek peace, not to have it shattered. They seek comfort not fear.

My heart split open into so many pieces. For the family members of this gentleman. For the people who witnessed and must have felt so many different emotions. For the two other servants and the two ladies who saw everything upfront…and for the gentleman.

I made my way into the chapel to join JP for worship. My heart…all it longed for was to be with Jesus. I didn’t care to know the reason and motives behind all this. I didn’t care to know. I just wanted Jesus. It was a bubble that was popped.

After a few hours of processing..
I remembered what Louie Giglio had said…..our safety is not guaranteed. Whether were overseas serving as missionaries preaching the Gospel which some would find far more worthy of protection and safety or whether were gathering to worship as a solemn assembly. It is not guaranteed. I began to think of my brothers and sisters around the world who face persecution weekly or daily. At their church or in their homes. On the street in the public. At school. Whether they’re known as a Christian or not. Harm is there. Sin is there. Evil is there.

I kept thinking, “Judy..man up..this is nothing compared to what others go through. ” Yet my heart felt as weak as if all the blood had drained. It ached and hurt for this family. That man. The way others were shaken by all this. It hurt and ached so much.

It could have been a man with a gun. A bomb. Anything..Anything…

Came home exhausted. Just drained. Overwhelmed. Slept for 3 hours only to have dreams where I and other church members were being pursued or chased out. Anxiety and nervousness in sleep or awake.

Read some Word to fill my heart and mind with more of Him….

Psalm 27

13
I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of theLord
    in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

My blog is a poor documentation of today. But it’s all that I can say. I desire to be in His courts for 1 day..than a 1000 days elsewhere.

Praise You God for You are a sovereign God. People may make mistakes but You do not. In You alone I put my trust.

A beautiful sound

I’ve heard the term “Korean style praying”. It’s when folks gather and pray out loud. It’s the cries, shouts, babble..you name it. Supposedly, it’s not longer a Korean thing but Hispanics will pray in the same manner.

In the morning, the Korean Ministry intercessory prayer team gathers down the hall from us on the 2nd floor.

I’m here in the first floor. The congregation is worshiping inside. The pastor is teaching and I hear this faint noise. Like a group of people are arguing. It kept getting louder and louder.

It’s them. Crying out to God. It’s sweeter than any tune or song that man can produce. Simultaneously as the pastor is teaching, the prayers of a a small group of men and women (mostly elderly) are crying out to God.

I wish there was more people of prayer. It commanded but few take the opportunity to gather and pray. To seek His face and cry out for His power to move mightily..even on Sundays.
John 1414

Lord raise up a people who will pray…