Waiting for Abbey and Reading The Gift of Giving Life

I am honored to have been asked to be a “posting participant” in the Virtual Book Tour for The Gift of Giving Life.

When I first heard about The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth, I brushed it aside, simply because of the mounting list of books I wanted to read and the growing stack at my bedside collecting dust. And to be honest, I didn’t have interest in reading another watered-down, spiritually “held back”, flowery LDS book on the topic of mothering. After the third reminder, though, via friends and social media, I knew it was something I was meant to experience. The swellings and stirrings I felt from the first chapter, Heather Farrell’s We Are Each Eve, confirmed the deep, timely influence of this book on my walk as a woman and mother.

Not too many are aware that the greatest heartache of my life has been losing babies. I lost my firstborn, a beautiful baby girl, at full term – a story with so many sacred layers and levels that can’t be given justice in the context of this post. Two years after I said goodbye to my firstborn, Jeff and I had our son Noah. Two years later, we were blessed with our daughter Savannah, and two years after that, our son Sawyer. They are cherished, precious angels, each one of them. When Sawyer was two and I became pregnant again, I was glowing with assurance that this next baby was following suit with the every-two-years pattern and would be welcomed as our fourth child.

Not so. I miscarried that little gift of life and would miscarry three more times in the next 8 years. I won’t detail those losses, only to mention that they were soul-ripping. The fourth late-term miscarriage was so physically and emotionally and spiritually painful that I honestly wasn’t sure I would fully recover. Perhaps what made the final loss so intense was my dangling promise of two more children – a boy and a girl – and at 42 years, coming to the realization that my body was not going to cooperate with my spirit’s willingness to bear them.

I read The Gift of Giving Life in 2012, shortly after the miraculous private adoption of our magnificent son, Eli. I wept with the women who detailed their experiences with loss, grief and divine compensation. I felt a rising empowerment, a blazing second witness that women are in a very real partnership with The Creator of All as they sacrifice and bear down and descend. And then nobly and beautifully ascend. The Atonement of Christ is demonstrated more mightily through the sacrificial practice of mothering than through any other practice on Earth.

The Gift of Giving Life is a book about power. Woven into each chapter are stories that affirm the massive spiritual powers of wisdom, love and creation embodied in the Feminine. I love that this book addresses so many women’s experiences, from so many walks of life, who have the same underlying belief: That God knows our hearts and our needs as women and will mold a perfect plan that, through birth and rebirth, will take our souls and bodies to heights and depths we could never before fathom. I have learned that it is not just the experience of giving birth physically that empowers a woman to call herself mother. It is the praying, the losing, the weeping, the waiting. The pouring of her heart and soul into a vision and promise that only she and her Creator can hold form for.

Today I find myself back in this kind of “labor.” I know there is a girl –whom I call Abigael – that will join our home. She and Eli are pretty much a package deal, so when he showed up, I knew she would soon follow. Eli is 18 months, I am 45, and “the promise of Abbey” lives in both of us. When I start to jump to fearful what-ifs in pondering her debut, I’m reminded that time is merely a relative mortal measurement and there is a decree echoing in some corner of heaven (as it is in my heart) that she is coming. It is done.

And so I wait.

We as mothers need confirmation and validation for the dreams and impressions we hold inside for ourselves and our children. To me, that is what The Gift of Giving Life inspires. I was so moved and impressed with the depth of this book that I invited Lani Axman, one of the authors, into my home while she was in town doing book meetings last year. We sat on my couch and talked about angels and purpose and Spirit and loss, the things of which women who’ve suffered can speak the same language. I knew then, and now, that the essays contained in this book convey powerful messages every woman of faith can glean hope and insight from. I am grateful for the courage and wisdom of Felice Austin, Lani Axman, Heather Farrell, Robyn Allgood and Sheridan Ripley. These women have compiled a bold spiritual work that weaves a divine thread of hope and healing to the heart of the reader.

I add my voice to the other women on The Gift of Giving Life’s Virtual Book Tour. Visit their page to receive giveaways in the pregnancy, birth and baby departments. Most importantly, read the book! 🙂

The Untamed Heart of My Daughter

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This picture displays beautifully why I should trust in the wild, sweet and unknown future of my 14 year-old daughter.  Why I should place my confidence in such a beautiful “free spirit”…

She who seems unable to be tamed.  She who won’t pick up her things, stays up too late, sometimes back-talks, loves everything loud, would rather socialize than study, and appears overly preoccupied with pop culture and image.

Last week, Savannah took a couple close friends to a church youth service activity at a facility that provides emergency shelter for families in transition.  She’d complained about having to go, dragging her feet and friends with her out the door at her parents’ insistence.  I probably wouldn’t have known what an impact it’d had on her unless her friends hadn’t burst through the door to tell me all about it when they returned.  Savannah hung back as they exclaimed in rushed overtures:

“Oh my gosh, it was soooooo sad!  When we first got there we couldn’t believe it and we just went in the corner and we cried and cried and we couldn’t stop crying and there were all these beds and they were all right next to each other and there was this guy who was like reaaaally mean to his kids and there was this other guy who was totally on drugs and he was soooo scary and weird and these kids were soooo lonely and we played with them and they kept wanting us to hold them and we carried them everywhere and they loved our hair and one of them reaalllly loved Savannah and she didn’t want her to leave and….”

I got the picture.

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Savannah and her friends told me they want to talk to the principal of their junior high to see about creating a clothing drive for the children there.

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Yes, her complaining and her music and her friends and her cell phone are loud.  But so is her laughter, and so is her love.  The compassion in my daughter’s heart, given the right set of circumstances, cannot help but find expression.

It’s well…  Unable to be tamed.

Right around the time Savannah went to the homeless shelter, I had a coaching session with a wise and astute woman who is having issues with her oldest daughter.  We discussed how usually other people trigger anger in us when they mirror what we are impatient with ourselves for.  As mothers, who is closer to us than our daughters?  Who better to reflect back how patient we need to be with ourselves?

(Gulp) I, too, have problems with picking up my things, staying up too late, sometimes back-talking …

This last week, it’s hit me that I need to look less on my daughter’s actions and more on the beauty of her heart.  After all, that is what the Ultimate Parent does for each of us Untamed Ones.

“…For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”

Finally Here: My Son Eli’s Adoption Story

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This was no ordinary adoption.  The phrase ordinary adoption, in and of itself, is an oxymoron (what adoption is ordinary?) but this story – our story – really is a rare and precious miracle.  The miracle did not lie just in receiving a new baby, although that, to me, was the sweetest part.  There is so much more, so many layers to the miracle, that the full experience will likely be put into a book.  I have a sweet little 2 ½ week-old baby to attend to, so for now, the book will have to wait.

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Since 2007, I have seen and known that two more children would be joining our family.  First a boy, then a girl.  This blog has been replete with my longings for them both, my coming to terms with how to hold out faith when the promise was always being dangled, yet continuously – seemingly – ripped away.  Read on this blog the topics, Loss and The Two Who Are Missing, both from early 2010.

This is the story of our boy, as his little sister has yet to find her way to our family circle, to this Earth.  After seeing the hand of God in our baby boy’s arrival, I have no doubt baby girl will soon make her debut.  The how or the why is less important to me as the knowing she is coming.  They cannot be separated for long.

My biological children are Noah (16), Savannah (almost 14) and Sawyer, (11).   I could fill volumes with the love I have for these children and the gratitude I feel daily for the opportunity to be their mom.  However, we’ve known for some time this family is not complete…

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For spiritual reasons I can’t adequately explain in the context of this post, I have felt the presence of a peaceful warrior – a noble male spirit – around me during a variety of personal struggles and losses over the past five years.  Most notably, during a graphic and painful late-term miscarriage in 2010.  In the immediate aftermath of that miscarriage, wherein I labored for hours and actually “delivered” the intact embryo, this gentle but strong guardian wanted me to know he was there, that he was grateful for my willingness to be a mother later in life, that he loved me, and that he was coming at a future time.  It was a soft and subtle fleeting message, but strong and unmistakable.  Had I not sensed this amazing spiritual exchange, I never would have continued to try to get pregnant again.  I was 41 years old.

I went into “search-seek-surrender” mode for months, learning in sacred ways this protector of mine – this waiting son – wanted his name to be Elijah.  What I’d read about Elijah of old seemed to be congruent with what I sensed my Elijah was like: strong-willed, resolute, kind, firm in faith.  Elijah means Jehovah is God.  The scriptures became my lifeline, granting clarity and validation on the crazy notion of continuing to try to get pregnant when my doctor and others close to me were against it.  I was drawn to women of great faith who conceived in miraculous ways at older ages – namely Sarah, Elisabeth and Hannah.  These women became mothers in their maturity (after a great testing period) to sons whose arrivals were somewhat heralded.  Sons with very specific missions.

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I’ve always been a big believer in, “If you can see it, you can create it.”  I was so moved when I stumbled upon this piece called “Hannah’s Promise” that I just had to buy it.  I love that she is sitting straight and tall, looking up to God and gathering strength – so very focused – as thoughts and emotions swell within and around her.  Her son is ever present, loving her and honoring her.  This poster became the central focus of my vision board or “Be Board” in 2010.  My “BE” post in Jan 2010 on this blog details the creation of it (and also mentions Eli and Abbie).

Sarah Hinze’s pioneering research on unborn souls who announce themselves to their waiting parents spoke deeply to me at the time I was pondering upon my vision and feelings.  She has gathered many beautiful accounts of unborn spirits who often act as guardian angels to their prospective parents.  I was first introduced to this particular book of hers in 2007, shortly after my knowing about The Two Who Were Missing.

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I invited Sarah to speak at a conference for women I organized in late 2007 and we ended up becoming dear friends.  As I’ve traveled to Arizona over the years, I’ve often stayed in her home, talking to her for hours about my longings and feelings surrounding these two unborn children.  Sarah’s books and the wisdom she shared in our deep discussions served as a solid witness to my feelings and impressions about Eli, and the little sister he’s so connected to, Abigael.

The quest to get pregnant continued, my being ever more sure and determined to bring these babies to the Earth.  I was overjoyed to find myself expecting again at age 42… and then devastated beyond explanation to miscarry again that same year.  To desire, then hope, then have faith, then know…and then have that taken away?  I went into my ultrasound fully expecting it to show twins.  The stress and strain with that pregnancy loss in 2011 became, in many respects, a personal faith crisis.  I went spiritually numb into a dark wilderness of confusion.  My husband Jeff was equally disillusioned, having gotten spiritual confirmation during our engagement that we would raise five children.

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I had confirmation after confirmation after confirmation that this promised son was coming.  But when you and your husband experience four miscarriages in a row, are well into your 40’s, and don’t feel compelled to register with an adoption agency, how do you reconcile?  You kind of…don’t.  You know that you emotionally cannot endure one more pregnancy loss.  So, you get an IUD at your husband and doctor’s urging and move on with your life.  You live with a background ache that won’t go away – part “Why would God give me this promise and not follow through?” – and part “How do I move on or trust myself again when I was just so sure?”  You lift the not-knowing up to God and shelve the longings.

Or at least you try to.

One night, I felt Eli around me so strongly, and felt so confused as to why I couldn’t bring him here, that I grabbed a pen to get my feelings out.  I wrote questions in my dominant hand, and then the response in my non-dominant hand, as I’ve learned this can be a powerful way to receive revelation or access your subconscious.  This is the letter:

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Elijah -aka Eli,   4/16/11  11:34 pm

What am I to think?  I was so sure that you were coming this time…that you were real.  Are you real?  Are you my waiting son in heaven?
I am real.  Be patient with my arrival.  Many shall rejoice at my birth.  I love you.  Thank you for your willingness to carry me.
-Will you come to me naturally, through pregnancy?
-Why did you back out?
-Is it too late?
-Who are you, if not my son?

Nothing came after my last four questions.

Hannah’s account in 1 Samuel was one I began to resonate with:

 “…for he loved Hannah: but the Lord had shut up her womb.
And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb.
 And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the Lord, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat.
 Then said Elkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? and why eatest thou not? and why is thy heart grieved?”

The adversary encouraged me to “fret” for loving and trusting my Lord but not seeing the promise of a son fulfilled.  Seeds of mistrust and doubt began to creep into my core.  I second-guessed my vision, my answers from On High, my mattering at all to the heavens.  Day after day, year after year, just like Hannah , I went to the temple – the house of the Lord and the side of my bed – and I asked, I prayed, and I wept.  Having these two children was my #1 consuming desire.  My Elkanah, my Jeff, would ask why my heart so deeply grieved for the losses, why I longed for more when we had three beautiful children, and what could he do to make me feel better?

He couldn’t.  The best way I could explain the gaping ache in my soul to my husband, or to anyone else, was found here, in Genesis 30:1:  “And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, she said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die.”

Back to Hannah:

“And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the Lord, and wept sore.

And she vowed a vow, and said, O Lord of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the Lord all the days of his life…”

This was my longing, and eventually became my prayer.  I wanted to bring another son into the world who could be “given” to the Lord all the days of his life.  Not that my other two sons are not consecrated thus, but somehow I knew this future son’s birth would be granted under special circumstances, with a keen awareness of the workings of God…particularly as it relates to nobility and sacrifice.  It would require a different maturity to acknowledge him, birth him, and raise him.  Little did I know more than one mother would be involved in his arrival, in taking him to the altar and lifting him up to God.

Like Hannah.

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Hannah had the promised son, Samuel, then followed through on her promise to raise him up to God.  In the ultimate act of sacrifice, she weaned him and brought him to the priest Eli, leaving him there to be raised in the house of God.

For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him:

Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord…

Tracing the steps back, the rescue from my struggle – the fulfillment of the promise – was all being prepared in perfect divine order.  Within the same time period I had the waking vision of my future son and daughter, I received a letter from a beautiful girl named Jessica.  She wrote a thoughtful and detailed handwritten letter, sent to my post office box, thanking me for my book on depression and sharing with me her background.  I was so touched by her letter that I invited her to come to a workshop I was teaching later that season.

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The best way I can describe my connection with Jessica is that of a heavenly little sister.  Fourteen years her senior, I felt an immediate sense of protection for her upon our meeting, and a heart-warming affection.  I knew she was going through many sore trials, hellish in nature, but that she had an important mission on this Earth and many spiritual gifts.  In 2010, she asked me to be her life coach.  We worked together on a number of issues, including helping her process being first on the scene of the suicide of her college-aged next door neighbor, Rachel.  Jessica has a pure, loving heart, but also the heart of a “warrioress.”  I saw this strong side come out in her time and again.  Yet, she struggled mightily with dark depression, with keeping her hold on the Light, her grasp on Truth.  Recognizing her own authentic strength and beauty eluded her time and again.  It was, however, clear as day to me.  Still is.

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We lost touch for about a year, the same year of my final pregnancy loss.  I thought of her often, occasionally checking in on her via Facebook.  She would reach out to me sporadically for spiritual advice.  I sometimes said a prayer in my heart for her, just figuring she might need it.  Late 2011, she began coming to my mind strongly. One winter night in Aspen, Colorado, having just taught a class, the prompting to contact Jessica would not leave.  So I texted her.  The timing was right, she was needing a voice and a shoulder, and we decided to pick back up with life coaching.  We would work together over the phone, in that she was living with her parents in Las Vegas and I was in Utah. By the beginning of 2012, Jessica and I had drifted apart again, mostly due to the busy-ness of life.

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I want to keep the chronology going with respect to Jessica, but first have to interject an explanation.  One thing about Eli – and this topic could be a whole chapter of a book – is that for about 4 years, he would use the number “2” to let me know he was around.  The number two has many meanings, scripturally and symbolically as all numbers do, but it was his way of turning my heart to God when I wanted to give up on the idea of a son. Two is the number of opposition but it’s also linked to the concept of creation and Light (22).  That last devastating miscarriage was on February 22.  I had an ultrasound on 2-22 at 2 pm, which confirmed the loss. I somehow knew the links to all the “2’s” had something to do with a test.  A sacred trial.  Here is an excerpt from an email my sent a dear scriptorian friend, Jen Orten, right after the miscarriage:

The strange coincidences with 2’s keep coming.  Today I saw a book that my son Noah got at his jr. high library with “Eli B #2” scrawled in huge letters with a marker along the spine.  Eli was to be the name of the boy – our last name starts with B – and the #2? -just WEIRD.  I kinda feel like the Adversary is toying with me, and this has little to do with divine numerical communication.  OR, does it…  I honestly feel I have reached my limit and cannot take one more “hit” with a pregnancy loss.  I really think I should give up on attempting pregnancy anymore and just follow my doctor’s advice.  Is it a lack of faith on my part to give up on pregnancy because I’m too afraid to lose again?  Should I be this regal, stalwart ‘Sarah’ or ‘Hannah’ type and go with what I felt were my original promises from heaven?  Should I put myself in the position to risk a loss again because it is going to bring me to an even higher spiritual level?  Here is the internal struggle, because I have not been told yay or nay.”

As I mentioned to my friend, when Noah brought this home I somehow knew it was something to pay attention to.  It was another little heavenly message from Eli, letting us know he was around, that he was coming.  I kept the book as a reminder:

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The following year, Feburary 2nd, 2012 around 2 pm, I had been the first to discover my grandfather dead when I’d gone to visit him.  To this day, I know it was no accident I was the first to find him; this was a man I adored, looked up to as a spiritual giant all my life.  He could have gone at any time, as others were in and out that day to visit him.  Still, the heavens continued to send me experiences in 2’s – and usually difficult ones.

And then, a bright spot with the 2’s.  On February 22nd, 2012, my nephew Xander was born, being adopted by my sister Robin.  I was in Japan.  That same day, I’d gone to a group of women Japanese “healers” with my translator, Mako, teaching them how best to help their clientele with essential oils on the emotional level.  All that day on trains and in crowded subways and in unfamiliar territory, there was a deep pain in my heart surrounding The Two Who Are Missing.  I didn’t realize it was a year to the day since the last miscarriage, all I knew was that these children were suddenly on my mind again.  I still had no physical, emotional or spiritual resolution to a very strong “knowing” over the previous 4 years. I felt the familiar grief coming back and was actually upset with myself for going to that place again.  So mad and discouraged that I couldn’t get over this!  One of the Japanese healer women picked up on it, somehow, and told me that I had guardians around me, from heaven.  A male protector and a female, most strongly.  It was beautiful, but I wasn’t sure where to place it. A tiny twist pierced my heart again, not knowing who, what, when, where, how or why this continued to keep surfacing.  Where was God going with this?  Or was God even involved at all?

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This is Yuki, the Japanese healer who had the message for me.  I love this gentle and powerful woman and have no doubt she partners with God in her little corner of the world. She came to Utah over the summer and we reunited at a celebration.  When I shared with her what had transpired since our meeting, she was thrilled.

The night of Yuki’s message (2-22-12) in my tiny Japanese hotel room, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was in a large park with many families…a sunny, happy scene.  I was sharing something with a group of people nearby, very casually.  Many people looked down at the ground around me and smiled.  I followed their gaze to find a pretty girl with long dark hair, dressed in white, leaning against my side.  She was looking up at me with the sweetest expression.  The strong feelings of love and adoration between us were amazing and familiar.  We didn’t exchange words but the feeling I got from her was to continue talking to the people, and that she would just be there to listen.  She was completely comfortable – perfectly content – just being there at my side, taking things in.

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Upon waking, I knew the dream was significant, as I rarely remember dreams and they are not nearly that vivid.  I remember asking the Lord as I got out of bed, “Who is she?”

“She” was Jessica, and I wouldn’t put it together for months afterward.  Days after I returned from Japan, I received a text from her.  The moment was significant, even though I was at a grocery store when it came.  She had just taken a pregnancy test, it was positive, and she was positive she was going to place the baby for adoption.  She had always told herself that if she were to get pregnant in the life station she was in, not being married, she would want the child to have more than she could give.  I was the first to know of her pregnancy.

There are two interesting, pertinent things related to Jessica’s texts to me that night at the grocery store.  1) I had a sort of knowing that she was carrying my child, even offering up a prayer of gratitude as I stood in the produce isle.  2) Jessica had reached out to me first because she knew I had been in the same situation.  I found myself facing an unplanned pregnancy in my last year of college, before I met and married Jeff.  After many sleepless, sad, even excruciatingly emotional weeks during my pregnancy, I chose a loving family who could provide my baby with more than I could.  On May 11, 1994, I gave birth to a baby girl and on May 14, 1994, I placed her on the altar of God, signing away my rights to raise her.  It was and always will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  If it was up to me – natural Cherie – I would have taken that baby home and raised her.  But, it was God whom I let decide, and He wanted her to be with the Bird family.  Blessedly, our adoption has been very open over the years. Her family named her Wendy Cherie, and we have continued to have a beautiful relationship.

This is cute Wendy today.  Interestingly, the year that all this is happening is the year she turns 18.

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Back to Jessica.  She and I continued to text and talk to each other as she dealt with the “discovery shock.”  I’d put the prospect of adopting her baby on the back burner and focused on helping her as much as I could.  At the time, it was much more important to me that she receive strength and direction.   In one conversation, I found myself offering to have her come live with us.  Jeff and I discussed it afterward, and it seemed so very right.  He, too, felt a sense of protection for her.  I also found myself compelled to “put it out there” that we would be interested in adopting her baby.  She seemed surprised, given that my children were older and Jeff and I were older.  She said something like, “Oh, I thought you were done!”  And then I directed her to this blog, so that all the years of yearning in my mother’s heart could be explained in better detail.

Jessica and I continued to have almost daily conversations and constant text exchanges.  In early Spring 2012, Jessica came with her parents for a visit to Utah.  She asked that Jeff and I meet her in Park City for lunch.  The feeling, the Spirit, was incredibly strong during that meeting.  Towards the end, she looked at Jeff and I across the table and said meekly, “Are you still interested in adopting my baby?  I honestly can’t think of two people I’d want to raise my baby more than you two.”  Tears, hugs, sweet feelings all around.  Surreal.

I thought maybe Jessica was carrying a girl, since her pregnancy announcement had come so soon after my dream about the little girl in white.  Yet, it wasn’t congruent with my feelings about Eli coming first and the strong messages he was sending.  Jessica texted me from Vegas during her ultrasound with the news, “It’s a boy!”   I had an electrical “surge” (is the best way I can describe it) course through me when I read her text, as the word “Eli” vibrated throughout my whole being.  It was him!

Jessica sent me this email recently:

“I was looking through my pictures here on my iPod, creating separate albums for Eli, Pregnancy, and Burtons, and I wanted to share this picture.  It was actually on your Facebook page and I stole it back in March right after I found out and told you of my pregnancy. I kept the picture because even though it’s Xander you’re holding, I envisioned you holding my baby, soon after I decided it was YOUR Eli :). I had, around that time, spoken with you on the phone when you shared you knew there were two more to come to your family.  I felt the Spirit SO strongly during our conversation.  Then after we talked, I said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father specifically, “Is Cherie the mother of my child?” I had the most beautiful, delicious, sweetest, peaceful heavenly feeling (yes all those descriptive words are necessary to explain the feeling) with the tender answer, “Yes.”  I never told you because I thought it was too soon to know that already, analyzing, but it was probably March or beginning of April that I had this sweet experience.  It was a profound one I wanted to share with you. Love, Jess”

She knew early, and I knew early, that she was carrying Eli.  However, we kept so much hidden in our hearts, not really sharing too much, as it was such an emotionally charged situation. There was such volatility, such dark opposing forces that did not want this to happen.  Yet, by the grace of God, I knew all along, with total peace, that Eli would be born and the adoption was destined – ordained – to happen.  Jessica herself never waivered.  She moved in with us in June, during her fifth month of pregnancy.  From the second she stepped into our home, a great peace settled upon all of us.  She stayed with us throughout the remaining four months of her pregnancy.

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How can I describe what this has been like…?  What it was like to go to her ultrasound appointment with her, see Eli on the screen and be so overcome with emotion that he was really coming?  That it was really him!  My phone beeped out of nowhere while I watched him wiggle on the screen and I glanced down at it on my lap.  It was 2:22 pm.  Just his way of saying, “Yep. Me!”

After moving in with us, Jessica got a caseworker and met with LDS Family Services, looked at other prospective adoptive families (at my urging and her own), even met with a family – but kept coming back to ours.  I found, through divine intervention, an adoptive mom named Brita and a birthmother named Amber.  They came to our home and shared their story, of how Amber had lived with them, placed her baby girl with them, and continues to have a wonderful relationship with both her baby and Brita.  We knew, after meeting them, that we wanted something similar.   We eventually did away with agency affiliation and decided in her seventh  month that we’d do the adoption privately, with the same Provo attorney Brita and Amber used.

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Jessica and I grew close during her stay with our family.  She changed.  I changed.  My family changed.  We talked, we laughed, we cried, we hugged, we marveled.  Always there were expressions of love and respect between Jess and I.  It was hard for her, as her belly grew and as she grew more attached to her baby boy.  I was in awe of her bravery and her focus throughout those four months in our home.  We took a wonderful hypnobirthing class together, so she could overcome her fear of giving birth.  She wanted to do it all natural.  She wore pregnancy beautifully, and everyone told her so.

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I was able to meet Eli’s birthfather while I was on a teaching trip to Vegas in Jessica’s eighth month of pregnancy.  We met at a place with a notary so that he could sign the legal papers our attorney drew up to relinquish his paternal rights.  Knowing beforehand he was 6’3″, muscular and a body builder, I was little unsure of what to expect.  It was a wonderful meeting and we connected very peacefully.  He had kind eyes, a generous heart, was easy to talk to, and was very respectful and empathetic.  I told him Eli would be raised with faith and the best opportunities, wanting for nothing.  I told him that he could see Eli if he wanted, and so could his mother and sister, who knew of the pregnancy.  I then thanked him for giving my son life, we hugged, and parted.  I’m so glad I got to meet him.

Preparing

Having been through the process of preparing to give my baby “away” those 18 years ago, I felt like I could share so much with Jessica as Eli’s birth approached.  There were times I had so much empathy for her that I thought my heart would burst on her behalf.  The bond that developed between us when we shopped for pregnancy clothes, honored her food cravings (and my sympathy ones!), when she would reach out for my hand as Eli kicked and place it on her belly, when we stayed up late at night and talked about the possibilities for her future, when we laughed at the funny things my children said and did, nearly capsized in our family boat, knelt in a circle in family prayer, holding hands…   I know divine help was at the ready whenever she needed anything, whenever I did.  I felt strongly prompted to tell her that having her in our home ushered in many more angels, given the sacred nature of the trial she was enduring. After leaving us, Jessica wrote, “The Spirit is abundant in your home.  It literally feels like heaven.”  Would that we as a family could take the full credit for that…she brought a lot of that heaven with her.

Birth

On Monday, October 22nd (no surprise OR coincidence with the 2’s), I woke at 5:00 am for no particular reason.  20 minutes later, Jessica texted me from her room downstairs, telling me her contractions were 3 minutes apart.  She felt we should go to the hospital.  She gathered her things, I woke Jeff.  Before leaving, the three of us knelt in prayer together in the living room as she breathed through her surges, now 2 minutes apart.  While it was still early-morning dark, Jessica and I walked to the doors of American Fork Hospital with our arms around each other.  This was the day.

Upon check-in at 6:30 am, Jess was already dilated to a 6 ½.  I was shocked, as were the nurses.  Jessica’s prayer throughout pregnancy, along with that of her loving family, was that she would be spared a long and arduous labor.  I have never seen a labor go more smoothly or quickly.  She got into the tub within an hour, almost dilated to an 8 with no epidural, while her nurse and I had a spiritual conversation.  Jessica chimed in from the bathroom with her own spiritual insights, bearing her testimony of staying on the path, not in any pain.  (All of the nurses, on all of the shifts over the next 2 days would learn of our story.  Jessica was very open with all the hospital staff about how we met, how close we were, how she knew this was mine and Jeff’s son.  It touched us deeply.)

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Jessica did the entire birth naturally.  It wasn’t easy, any of it, but her warrioress nature shone through.  As the surges grew more intense, as she threw up, as she rocked and moaned, well – that’s when I started to become really emotional.  I wanted to take her pain away.  I was in complete awe that she was doing this for Eli, for our family.  Her sister Christie and I stayed at her side as she pushed.  She showed so much strength, so much courage!  Jessica’s mother Sherri had hoped to be there but didn’t make it in time from Vegas, as Jessica only labored at the hospital three and a half hours. We kept Sherri and Jessica’s father Randy updated via texting.

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Elijah Austen Burton was born on October 22, 2012 at 9:58 am weighing 7 lbs, 8 oz, 19” long.  It was the first birth I’ve ever witnessed up close and firsthand, live.  I was never able to see the births of my biological children in this way.  I saw my Eli crown, I saw his entry into life, his entire birth.  I cut the cord, saw him take his first mortal breath, heard his first cry, walked with the nurses to weigh him, bathe him, and welcome him to Earth. A blessed and beautiful miracle.  Jessica requested in her detailed birth plan that she be able to do skin-to-skin contact with Eli shortly after birth, then requested that I be allowed to do the same with him right after.

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My tender feelings toward Jessica intensified the second Eli was born.  The young girl in my dream with long dark hair, standing by my side, looking up at me…had just given birth to my son.  Her bravery, her beauty, her strength…nearly brought me to my knees.  I tried to prepare Jess in every way I could for Eli’s arrival, but nothing prepares a birthmother for the feeling she gets when she holds her firstborn in her arms, knowing that baby won’t be there for long, knowing another mother will be taking your place.  It feels like the baby’s all yours one moment, and not yours at all the next.

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As I settled into my bed at home the night of Eli’s birth, I got a text from Jessica at the hospital.  All it said was, “I love you so much.”  This was her mindset throughout.  Love.  She stayed with Eli in the hospital on Monday and Tuesday, and mothered him with tenderness and the greatest affection.  Lots of talking to him, singing church songs to him, snapping pictures, taking little videos – all of which she has shared with me.  A nurse came into the room at one point and said, “There is a very special feeling in here.  It’s different from the other rooms.  You can feel it, and all the nurses are talking about it.” Jessica’s dad and brother Alex gave her a priesthood blessing of comfort on the second day in the hospital.  Her maternal protective instincts and nurturing feelings were in full gear, falling completely in love with her baby.

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Jessica’s wonderful parents, Randy and Sherri

Jessica and Eli and Jessica’s mother came home with us Wednesday from the hospital.  My mother Merrilyn and sister Taunia, both of whom grew close to Jessica, came to love on her and give her gifts.  My sister Robin would have loved to be there, as she also became close to Jessica, but she was in – of all places – Japan.

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Jessica and my mom, Merrilyn

We put the bassinet in Jessica’s room downstairs so that she’d have as much time with Eli as she could her final night with us.  That evening, she sat our family down and while holding Eli, shared with us why she had chosen us to adopt him.  She singled each of my children out – Noah for his wisdom and humor, Savannah for her sense of fun and adventure, Sawyer for his kind and caring heart.  She told them why she wanted them to be Eli’s siblings and how much she loved each of them.  She told Jeff and I what she loved about us, our home, and our marriage.  Our hearts swelled a mile wide.  My children listened as she shared with them her beliefs about living a life close to God, about mistakes and forgiveness and second chances.  About staying strong.  Many tears were shed, and a family prayer was offered.  We knelt in a circle, with Jessica carrying Eli, holding each other’s hands and thanking our Father for this heavenly opportunity…for this beautiful new baby and this beautiful new sister we were so going to miss.

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Saying Goodbye

The day after Jessica and Eli’s hospital release was the day we were to go to court for Jessica to relinquish her maternal rights.  It was emotional.  I came downstairs to find her in a state of resigned sadness, emptying her room in preparation to leave us.  I went to hug her as she said amidst tears, “You saved my life.”  A flood of emotion coursed through me as I remembered how far she had come, how our friendship had deepened.  How like the girl with the long dark hair in my dream, she had been so close to me these last four months, learning, taking things in, content to be at my side.

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This was a difficult day, only 3 days after Jessica had given birth.  She was teary as she placed Eli in his car seat and lovingly put his blanket around him. I could feel the pull she was feeling, but also the pure love and determination.  The doorbell rang as we got our things together to leave. It was my thoughtful neighbor Kim with a gift for Eli and flowers for Jessica.  We both knew those tulips weren’t just from Kim, but from the Lord.  She was about to do the hardest thing any loving mother could ever do, and He wanted her to know He was with her, that He loved her.   So He sent her flowers.

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I will never forget watching Jessica courageously face the judge on the witness stand, answering in the affirmative with each question our attorney asked about giving up her rights.  Such hard questions, with such finality.  At one point she was asked, “Do you believe that Jeff and Cherie Burton will provide this child with the environment he needs, that they are fit parents for this child?”  She nodded her head and said, “Absolutely.”  Tissues and sniffles could be heard throughout the courtroom as Jeff and I sat near our attorney, Jessica’s sister, her mother, her sister-in-law and her little niece Xandrie behind us.  And Eli slept on.

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The drive back to our home with Jessica and Eli, after the relinquishment, was sacred.  Quiet.  Talking didn’t seem appropriate and I was at a loss for words, anyway. We listened to Christian songs on the radio, and of course because of God’s grace, the perfect songs with the perfect lyrics happened to come on.   One in particular, “Not For A Moment” seemed to capture Jessica’s journey and sacrifice:

You were singing in the dark 
whispering Your promise
even when I could not hear
I was held in Your arms
carried for a thousand miles to show
Not for a moment did You forsake me

and every step every breath you are there
every tear every cry every prayer
in my hurt at my worst
when my world falls down
not for a moment will You forsake me
even in the dark
even when it’s hard
you will never leave me
after all

not for a moment will You forsake me

On that same trip home, my husband Jeff, the closest person to me – the one who’s witnessed the after-effects of my sacrifice those 18 years ago with more depth and compassion than any other – asked me if seeing Jessica relinquish Eli brought up old wounds from my relinquishing Wendy. The beautiful thing was, no.  It didn’t.  I only felt for Jessica, my tears were only for her.  I praised God for Eli, for this miracle.  My experience as a birthmother was separate and complete, which made me want to lift my hands and voice to heaven in more gratitude.  I felt healed that day, no more wounds.  It became a full circle experience from my own relinquishment on May 14, 1994.  It was a great testifier, down deep in my mother’s heart, that God really does know us completely, designing our life experiences for our highest potentiality.  He really does remember – and honor – our heart’s longings.

Jessica came back with us to the house to gather an overnight bag after the court appearance.  The plan was to leave with her mother to stay at her brother’s, then return the next morning to say her goodbyes.  I tried to take that night to get acquainted with precious Eli.  From that first night on, the little guy has slept in the middle of mine and Jeff’s bed, just as his brothers and sister before him. Hospital personnel weren’t especially keen on the idea, but it’s important to Jeff and I for bonding purposes (and our other kids survived – no thrived – being raised this way).  Why break tradition? 😉  He seemed to snuggle right in, familiar with our voices, familiar with our home.

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That first night alone with him, I reflected on the miracle of his birth and arrival.  This tiny infant was at one time my great protector.  As I held him then, and continue to now, I feel of his spiritual stature, his angel-warrior heart, his desire to be here.  I feel his strength of will and allegiance to Christ.  I speak to him often, as I did the night before his birthmom said goodbye, reassuring him he is loved by two mothers.  I believe he knows I will make sure that the sacred connection to his birth mother remains honored.

The day after the court hearing, Jessica came to our home with her mother.  I handed Eli over so that she could have her final moments with him, alone.  Jeff helped Jessica’s mother pack up her things and load her car in preparation for their return to Vegas. After about an hour and a half, Jessica let Jeff know it was time.  She was ready.  He came into to my room to tell me, and my heart sank.  There is nothing harder.

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Jessica’s final goodbyes to her baby son in our living room left an indelible impression upon me.  It was agonizing and heart wrenching, but there was so much peace.  She was full of resolve and full of pain.  As we held on to each other and encircled baby Eli, I sensed there were others in that room, many others who were part of our circle – bearing us up, strengthening our feeble knees, including the Savior Himself.  Jessica’s tears fell on Eli’s face and on me.

Before she left, she handed me Eli and kissed me on the cheek.  I have never been more in awe of another human being’s selfless strength in my entire life.

There isn’t much more to say when you are on the receiving end of that kind of sacrifice.  I’m still in awe of it, still reeling, two weeks later.  I suppose I will be for awhile.

Two Weeks

Though she is at complete peace with her choice, Jessica’s grief has, at times, been unbearable.  In the two weeks since she parted with Eli, we have remained in close touch, mostly via texting.  I remember what a treasure it was to see pictures and hear updates in those initial days following the placement of Wendy.  My grief was so torturous during that raw emotional time that all I could think of was getting back to my baby.  I actually showed up on Alan and Susan Bird’s doorstep in tears, about 3 weeks after I relinquished my firstborn to their care.  Susan, looking shocked to see me in such a state unannounced, quickly hugged me and directed me to Wendy’s nursery.  She ushered me in, handed me a bottle, pointed out the rocking chair, and quietly closed the door.  This touched me so much.  I was able to hold Wendy, feed her and rock her – and in doing so, was filled, and able to move on in many ways.

Jessica just came back to visit Eli and her “second family” at this same stage of her own grief.   She has explained that part of her sadness is losing our family, not being able to live here and have regular association.  She grew very close to all of us.  Her visit was for 2 days, and in fact, she just left yesterday.  The reunion was peaceful and beautiful.  It calmed everyone’s hearts, including Eli’s.

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Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice.

I think this is such a sweet passage of scripture, the part where Hannah, Samuel’s birthmother, makes him a “little coat” and brings it to him.  Like Hannah did with Samuel and I’ve done with Wendy, Jessica will bring things for Eli “from year to year.”  It wasn’t a “little coat” she made at this last visit, but a scrapbook she lovingly created for our family.  The 20-page scrapbook offers a very detailed and beautiful explanation, in her talented, artistic way, of why she is so at peace that Eli is in our home.  She created it during the days of her hardest grief, which makes it a dearly cherished treasure.

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Full Circle

Earlier this week, Wendy came to see Eli.  I am so blessed to have such an open, wonderful relationship with Wendy and her adoptive mother, Susan.  Wendy has grown up knowing who I am, and there is a special bond we share.  Not necessarily a mother/daughter one, but a sister/sister one.  God really does know how to turn pain into growth, steer us to higher paths in our anguish.  He knows how sacred struggles ultimately brings us to greater wisdom and joy.

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Seeing the daughter I placed for adoption holding the son I just adopted puts so much of my life into perspective.  I now know where God has been taking me the past 18 years, and especially the last five.

The Law of Divine Compensation is real.

Eli is really here.  What a miracle that I could be connected to him from the very moment his birthmother discovered she was carrying him.  What a blessing that Jessica could be in our home, so Eli could become familiar with our voices and environment.  At times when I look upon him, I feel such a physical connection that it’s almost like I carried him.  With his light sandy hair and blue eyes, he looks like my newborn babies did.  He cuddles into me and responds to my voice they way they did.  If only he could talk, I am sure he’d share so much of the story of his adoption – so much more about heavenly plans – than Jessica and I have scarcely considered.

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This beautiful child is a glorious gift to our home.  To see your husband weep with love and gratitude, stroking tenderly the face of this promised little one as he lay between you…  To watch your nearly six-foot-tall sixteen-year-old hold a baby close to him, looking down with tenderness – with the same expression you had holding him – is a heart melter.  To see your teenage daughter and her friends look on your new addition, squealing with delight and adoration, your 11 year-old son talking softly and cooing gently to the baby brother he has prayed for since he was six…is beautifully priceless.

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Jessica will be eternally blessed for her Abrahamic sacrifice.  She has been preserved to raise a righteous lineage, as she has been promised.  As Hannah was promised.  One of Jessica’s greatest desires is to help others climb out of pain, embrace life fully, and turn to God.  She is a natural leader – an influencer – and will help many because of her life experiences.  She has given permission for me to share a link to her blog.  Clickhere to read her inspiring climb from darkness to Light.  Her July 2012 entry was posted during her pregnancy with Eli, as she stayed in our home and came to terms with her decision.  I am sure she will be writing our story from her own perspective.

And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The Lord give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the Lord…

And the Lord visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the Lord.

I can’t help but draw the parallel between Hannah being blessed with “three sons and two daughters” after relinquishing Samuel, and the hope I have of the same (after relinquishing Wendy).  Our family is nearly complete, with three sons and one daughter.  We await the arrival of our second daughter when the hand of the Almighty decrees it, in whatever way He has planned.  I know that Abbie will join us soon, because as I said at the beginning, she and Eli cannot be separated for long.  Abigail of the Old Testament happens to now be front and center on my vision board.

Shortly after Eli came to stay, I asked Susan how she felt when she first brought Wendy home.  How was it, after the birthmother exchange, to raise a child she didn’t birth?  Did Wendy feel like hers?  She wisely responded, “You know, I have always felt like my children have come to me on loan.  They are on loan from God.  There is no ownership I can claim.”

As the scriptural passage explains above, our precious babies are “the loan which is lent to the Lord.”   We’re all adopted, if you think about it.  All of us left God, our first Father, came to earthly parents – who technically are not our “real” parents – and get to be raised in very imperfect circumstances.  Circumstances, however, that are perfect for each one of us.

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Eli has been mine and Jessica’s greatest teacher in God’s tender mercies.  While Jessica was still in the hospital, she shared with me how strongly she’d been filled with the realization of the deep love her Father in Heaven has for her…that He cherishes her, misses holding her.  After having her own baby and preparing to place him in the care of others, she came to understand how God must feel when He sent her to Earth to be raised in another home.

I’ll close with the simple scriptural phrase in 1 Samuel 1:19 that encapsulates it all…every moment of this journey of loss, birth, rebirth, pain and joy.  It is directed to Hannah, but it is also directed to Cherie.  And to Jessica.  And to you.

“…And the Lord remembered her.”


 

For The Two Who Are MissingMy daughter and son, not yet conceived
Cherie Burton, September 1, 2008

I see you, brave son, standing behind your sister
Noble in your resolute desire to strengthen and protect
The sacred bond which cannot endure separation
In either estate.

And you, determined daughter, reaching forward
In beautiful feminine splendor and swirling clouds of joy
Waiting to join a mortal stage compatible with
The majesty of your mission.

It has been a year since my mind’s eye received you both
Since this mother’s heart knew there were two spots missing
In the joyful family portrait which hangs in her hallway
And graces her soul.

So my feet continue walking with the wondrous gift of knowing
That the stars are moving in alignment and purpose
While elements of body and earth combine with the miracle
Of your perfect creation.

May you see with infinite clarity the purity of my intent
To embrace our Father’s design for this glorious family circle
Accepting –daughter and son of the light– my most humble offering
To be your mother forever.

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How Can We Teach Our Children to Find Peace?

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I saw Kung Fu Panda 2 with my family over the weekend.  It was crazy and cute … I loved the emphasis on finding inner peace and its tie-in to self realization.

Jeff and I have pretty much decided that if our children (now in their tweens and early teens) left our home with no other tool than that of accessing their center of peace, we’d have rightly done our job as parents.  Peace is everything they’ll ever search for, want, desire, need…above education, relationships, callings, talents, and any material success.

Even if they don’t know it yet.

And how do we show them this way of life?  We show them by carrying it within ourselves first.  We show them how to receive the Light that heals as it radiates from our own beings.  They are healed by our presence, moved by the strength they see us call forth in times of struggle and unrest.

Peace is only accessed, never self-generated.  As we teach our children how to surrender to a Power greater than their own – a power greater than their parents’ strength – they will begin to understand that it is something they must be in a state of “giving up” to receive.  We must show them that by relinquishing what they want, they can trust that what they need will soon be forthcoming.

Quite the challenge to teach when Mom is trying to master how to access this herself.

One of the things I frequently drill into my oldest son Noah is that his soul will literally die if he takes study of Truth and connection to the heavens out of his daily routine.  Because of the difficult ordeal he passed through last year, he has a degree of knowing that this is the case.  Peace was taken from him, as you can read in this post, and it was actually the greatest gift of his young life.

Although that period of time last year was a living hell, I’m grateful for what it’s taught me, and what it’s taught him.  We HAD to be proactive, had to search, had to reach for the only Light we knew would heal.  It was not casual, but desperate, pleading….what I can only refer to as the “agony of worship.”  What could my son do but surrender as I put him on my bed and took him through visualizations, streamed sacred music, took him to that holy place in his heart to find God by His side?

In his torment and desperation, what could my son do but listen as I tried to explain there was One who descended below all things so that he didn’t have to?

It was only in Noah’s acceptance of this that his deliverance came.  I could not give this to him or do it for him.  It was his choice – his private surrender.    As a post-script to that entry about his treatment plan, his hair has all grown in – thicker and curlier and more handsome than it EVER was, pre-pulling.  I couldn’t be more grateful for his healing, and for the things it has taught our entire family.

So as not to be totally flowery in my explanation, here is what I teach my kids about the way of peace and happiness.  We call it the Top 5 ways to feel lost, miserable and confused (ie the antithesis of peace):

  1. Stop talking to God in your mind during the day and alone in your room at night
  2. Don’t get “still” and visualize what you really want
  3. Quit reading the Word of God
  4. Hang out with negative people
  5. Listen to thoughts, media and music that don’t hold the Light

I know that even if I teach my children this, show them how it’s done, even – by some miracle – master it within myself, they’ll leave home and fall flat on their faces.  Even then, I must trust that their lesson will be perfect, and will ultimately lead them to a more wise and enlightened path.

Until then, I’ve gotta practice what I preach!  And come to that place of trust myself…

Our Children Are Our Teachers

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These are my babies, 7 years ago this month…at the height of their innocent glory.

In honor of Mothers Day and lessons learned from my children continuing to raise me, I have come up with Twelve Reasons to Learn at the Feet of Our Children:

1) Your child (depending on how old you were at his or her birth) has received at least 20 more years of heavenly training than you did. In my youngest’s case, 32. (Isn’t that the equivalent of like 4 PhD’s?)

2) Your child’s spirit is most likely older than yours. We only know who the Firstborn was, and beyond that, heavenly birthorder remains one of His mysteries. Quite possibly, we are raising little Ancient Ones.

3) Your child holds unique gifts that weren’t as “needed” in your time, and maybe didn’t even exist. His or her training was specific to this generation, and to the exponential growth and “speeding up” of the Earth. (Case in point: how long does it take YOU to figure out computer and techno-stuff vs. THEM)?

4) Your child’s spirit realizes there is much to be done in very little time.  Yeah, we had those spiritual/emotional programs running in our childhoods too, but it’s at a different level for them.  The urgent sense of mission inherent in their generation manifests itself as hyperactivity, hypersensitivity, and multi-sensory perception. Not necessarily ideal traits in a kid, but once they grow into themselves (even if it isn’t until the Millennium)…watch out.

5) Your child cannot understand (nor tolerate) hypocrisy. The Sadducees and Pharisees wouldn’t stand a chance – your kid would see through them just as they see through you. (It’s not like they expect perfection in their mother, only that she walks her talk).

6) Your child’s specific core spirit personality has been sent directly to you as a divine tutorial. Whatever you’re weak in, they will magnify it, simply by being who they are. (A beautiful opportunity for you to open the windows of awareness and healing that you’ve closed in the past).

7) Your child cares less about appearances and more about acceptance. (And how contrary is THAT to how the “natural woman” wants to parent?)

8) Your child will almost always look, think, feel and act differently than you expect. If they were the living embodiment of your dream child, how could the divine mandate of opposition in all things be fulfilled to help each of you grow? (Paralleling that, the Spirit almost always prompts us to do something different than we were setting out to do. Parenting this generation, whose personalities are so foreign to our understanding and comprehension, is a bold walk of sheer faith).

9) Your child is a master at living in the Present. (I believe if you live by the Spirit –in the moment– with a child, you will learn to walk the roads of your highest good).

10) Your child is helping to raise the light levels of this Earth in preparation to receive the Savior. If your child was not here, the light level would decrease that much more. (And to think…the Lord has trusted YOU to help sustain that light as his or her earthly steward)!

11) Your child’s love and acceptance of you, and of all people, is pure and holy. There is a simpleness, a tenderness that resides in their little hearts which holds supreme healing powers. (If you look into their eyes long enough and deep enough, you will discovereverything that really matters, and every mystery revealed. Divine Order manifests itself plainly every time one gazes upon a child).

12) Your child (to quote Jesus Christ) is “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Mom, I Felt Like He Was With Me…

This is an entry from an old blog of mine – a couple of years ago.  It’s about my only girl, now 12.

Sigh–I miss her at this sweet stage:

Wed, April 1, 2009

My ten year old daughter, Savannah, has had difficulty staying in her bed at night. “I just don’t like being alone,” is her best verbal offering, despite the fact she’s been in her own room since age two.  Why the sudden angst with my most independent child?

At least 20 mornings last month I was waking to find her either cuddled (more like smashed) between me and the nightstand...OR crammed in with little bro in his twin bed. Seven-year-old Sunshine Sawyer was much more of a sport about it than Daddy and I.

Two weeks ago, plagued by kinked neck #10, I decided it was Intervention Time. A sleeping-all-by-herself chart was created -incentives attached- and she seemed determined.  After an earnest bedtime prayer and my best “YOU choose to cast out your own fears” motivational speech, I sat on the edge of her bed, held her hand, and looked deeply into her royal blue eyes.

“You can do this,” I assured her. “You are so much stronger than you think, sweetie.” A look of sudden knowing passed over her countenance and she simply said to me, “‘Night, Mommy.”

So…I walk away…and I’m thinking to myself…as I strut down the hall, ” Hey,” (side click of the mouth; one eyebrow raised; head cocked to the side), “I reeeally got through to my kid.” Yeah! I’m big. I’m bad. I’m…absolutely clueless.

I was giving her assurances of her own strength, but she knew where it originated. I sauntered into her room at midnight, and with a lump in my throat, beheld the following scene:

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My mother gave this picture to Savannah at her baptism and it’s always seemed to hold personal significance to her. “Buzzy Boo” (the fave stuffed tiger and longtime security clutch) is the staple standby…but it took a little bit of concentrated effort to walk all the way across her room that night to get this picture of Jesus off her dresser.

So she could hold on to Him.

I praised her the next morning for knowing in Whom she has trusted, and thanked her for teaching me about courage. Beaming, she says to me, “Mom, I felt like He was with me last night.”

Sleeping by herself hasn’t been much of a problem since. We both know she’s not reeeeallysleeping alone after all.

Post-script: (fast forward 2 1/2 yrs; smack-dab in the throes of tweenhood)

The freckles are fading…Buzzy Boo is history…she sleeps in the dark basement without fear…but she is still trying to explore that divine independence.  Sometimes I wish she would plow into my room in the middle of the night again and cuddle me so close that I’d be crushed against my nightstand and get a good ol’ righteous kinked neck.

Kind of.

I hafta laugh when I see these kinds of expressive creations on her Facebook:

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Savannah – the girl on the right with the flower on her head and the fire of “let me be me” in her heart

I’m just relieved that even though Buzzy Boo and the pink gingham sheets have been shelved, that picture of her Savior still graces her nightstand.

Join me on this journey :-)

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This is going to be the year of healing my food issues.  I feel it – I know it.  It’s gonna happen.

Yesterday Jeff and I took our son Noah to a chiropractic neurologist in Idaho.  That dr. is convinced that most of Noah’s sensory integration issues stem from an autoimmune disorder…largely exacerbated by his diet.  He spent a great deal of time explaining to us the physiological implications of gluten/dairy/soy on his compromised “gut blood barrier.”  Lots of scientific terms, but the bottom line was that his system is way sensitive to these foods and that taking them out of his diet could initiate a major turnaround in his condition.  I remember researching gluten-free diets and how impactful they are behaviorally on children with Autism and developmental/sensory  issues.  We did it with Noah for awhile and caved.

Our “caving” has initiated a downturn in his condition.  Which has kinda got me thinking about how I have “caved” in the nutrition department… initiating a downturn in my own well-being.

The drive to eat foods that aren’t for our highest good is HUGE in most all of us. We often crave both what we need and what could eventually kill us.  If we listen to our body’s built-in feedback system, we’re good.  We eat what’s right for us and thrive because we have trained ourselves to listen to how certain foods sit with us afterwards.  But when we turn off that switch – and numb our feedback system, the body suffers.  On so many levels.

Including spiritually….because excessive weight is most definitely a spiritual burden.

What we put in our mouths has a major impact on how we feel.  How can we expect to accomplish our life missions with power and clarity when we don’t feel good?  C’est impossible.

We all want to feel good, and we know eating “right” will assist with that in a major way…so why don’t we just DO it?

The prompting I had to begin the 12 Week “Spiritual Eating” Challenge has been pretty overwhelming.  I wanted to create something with LASTING results.  Not some quick fix diet plan or “rah-rah” motivational regime.  I wanted it to be spiritually based, as that is the only way to achieve deep and complete healing.  I have designed it as a completely online program — that you can read and listen to and work into your own schedule.

It is NOT a diet…although I will offer sensible eating guidelines and a structured nutrition plan that will produce noticeable weight loss.  Weight loss is not the ultimate goal on this plan.  The ultimate goal is to “cure” your unhealthy attachment to foods that harm you.  We’re talking freedom from emotional eating forever.

Consider joining me.  The first group starts Jan 17, but after that first week, you can hop on anytime.  Meaning, I am keeping this program going on this site so that any Monday after Jan 17 you feel ready to start, you can begin the 12 week journey.  I feel this is such a huge issue for almost all women, and needs to be an ongoing thing on this site.

So, if you join me, what you can expect is:

  • Permanent weight loss (physical and emotional)
  • Freedom from food obsession
  • Receiving the confidence to claim healing on all levels from your food issues
  • A solid lifestyle shift into radiant health
  • Loving yourself into changing your body (not forcing or coercing yourself through guilt and shame)
  • Nourishing yourself on ALL levels – emotionally, physically, spiritually as a new HABIT

Take this intensive – yet gentle – challenge and join me.  You can sign up right on this site.  What are you waiting for?  Delaying change out of fear will only keep adding layers of protection to your body.  I have found that the only way out is THROUGH.  Make this your year of healing your food issues…right along with me, cuz THAT is where I am headed!

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I Couldn’t Save Her

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Today she would be 40.  I was going to visit her grave – about 15 minutes from my house – and got too busy.  Or maybe I’m just avoiding.  I don’t know…

I do know that five and a half years after my sister’s suicide, I’m still feeling the stinging pain of her loss.  I’ve already been through the anger phase in the grief cycle.  It’s run its course to the extent that about all I can feel angry about anymore is the fact that she’ll never get wrinkles.  So unfair…

I remember spending some time with a mutual friend of ours – a friend Shawna and I spent a lot of time with in our college years – about a year after Shawna’s passing.  We reminisced about times with Shawna… laughed til we cried and cried til we laughed.  My sister knew how to have fun, and she lit up every room she walked into.  Authentic Shawna was about as sweet and hilarious and amazing as they come.  I admitted to my friend that I deeply regretted putting so much energy into trying to “fix” Shawna and not enough energy into just embracing her.  Right after I dropped off our friend, a certain song came on the radio.

I don’t know how it works on the other side with loved ones reading your feelings, but I swear, Shawna knew my heart perfectly that night – beyond what I’d shared with our friend.  And I don’t know how it works on the other side with tweaking radio stations and prompting dj’s to play certain things at JUST the right time, but…this was most definitely divine timing:

Seems like it was yesterday when I saw your face You told me how proud you were but I walked away If only I knew what I know today I would hold you in my arms I would take the pain away Thank you for all you’ve done Forgive all your mistakes There’s nothing I wouldn’t do To hear your voice again Sometimes I want to call you but I know you won’t be there I’m sorry for blaming you for everything I just couldn’t do And I’ve hurt myself by hurting you Some days I feel broke inside but I won’t admit Sometimes I just want to hide ’cause it’s you I miss You know it’s so hard to say goodbye when it comes to this Would you tell me I was wrong? Would you help me understand? Are you looking down upon me? Are you proud of who I am? There’s nothing I wouldn’t do To have just one more chance To look into your eyes and see you looking back I’m sorry for blaming you for everything I just couldn’t do And I’ve hurt myself If I had just one more day, I would tell you how much that I’ve missed you since you’ve been away Oh, it’s dangerous It’s so out of line to try to turn back timeI’m sorry for blaming you for everything I just couldn’t do And I’ve hurt myself By hurting you

-Hurt, Christina Aguilera

That song launched a sea-storm of emotions in my heart that I’d bottled up since hearing she’d taken her life in that lonely hotel room one year previous.  This has never happened before or since, but I began to hyperventilate.  I let the emotions out and labeled them as they unleashed…. “I ccccouldn’t ssssaaaaaaave you!”  “I am ssssoooooo ssssssorrrry!!!”   “Whyyyyy didn’t I see?”  …and on and on.  I felt her there, sharing in the sadness and remorse.  And love.

Thank heavens there is One who could – and did – and HAS…saved her.  I know this with everything that I am.  She is okay.  More than okay.  She’s Authentic Shawna again.

This knowledge doesn’t take away the human moments that I crave her presence.    Yet – I feel incredibly blessed that her death taught me the most important lesson of my life.  And that is…that being a source of Love and Acceptance is our only job.  It’s why we’re here, and it’s the only way to see anyone through anything.

So Happy Birthday, my beloved sis.  And thank you.

Every Woman’s Pain

Ok, so it’s been over a MONTH since I’ve posted.  So sorry…have detached from writing to heed other calls.  Pleasantly surprised to note that there were almost 500 reads on my last post, “Those Who Hunger.” 🙂  Please keep reading, friends!

Yesterday – Saturday – was one of the most powerful and rewarding days of my “life mission” work ever…   I have been in Arizona all weekend, teaching at my friend Sarah’s home in Gilbert.  I conducted an essential oils and “self nurturing/empowerment for women” workshop on Fri night and offered coaching sessions to anyone who was interested that next day, since I knew I had it open before the workshop would resume that evening.  Little did I know what Saturday (yesterday) would yield.

From 7:30 am to 6:30 pm, I planted myself on a couch, stuck a Kleenex box on the coffee table, and had a series of one hour coaching sessions with about 10 different women.  Here is a sampling of the struggles that these brave and amazing females shared with me (BTW, we fully utilized the Kleenex):

  • “Emma’s” twin baby boys died shortly after birth.  She had a 2 year-old boy at the time, and has since had another baby boy.  She’s trying to be an emotionally brave and engaging mother to the two boys still living, afraid to let the grief surface for the two she has lost.
  • “Kelly” – about 35 years old – struggles with panic and anxiety, wanting to give everything and all that is in her to her children.  Fear of not being enough, of messing them up.  Her 4 year-old daughter is so stricken with anxiety that she will use the bathroom up to 100 times per day.  Another young daughter also suffering with crippling anxiety.
  • “Jane’s” son, who is in his 30’s and lives in her home, writhes in mental/emotional torment, has drug dependency issues and cannot hold a job.  Her heart breaks for his choices, his emotional “hell”…feels responsible for his issues, feels her “inadequate” mothering in his younger years must have created his current reality.
  • “Suzy” – a 30 year-old mother of 3 young children, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, persistent self-defeating thoughts.
  • “Carly”, in recovery for prescription drug dependence…3 children, about the ages of mine.  At one of her low points, consumed a gallon of vodka a day, while simultaneously serving in a high Church position.  Beautiful, vibrant lady…recently relapsed, still plugging along with 4+ recovery meetings a week.  Is resolved to endure to the end and see this addiction through.
  • “Gina” feels resentment, even contempt, for her husband of 20 years as he ignores, rejects, insults with his silence.  Weight is slowly layering itself on her body as she insulates herself against the pain.
  • “Laura” is searching for expression of her feminine gifts (beauty, passion, mission) in the midst of homeschooling 10 children.  Looking for expansion of her role as Woman outside her role as Mother.
  • “Amanda” is a put together 30-something with 2 children and joints that are falling apart.  Arthritis forming.  Trying to detach from her mother that she recently discovered has a toxic influence on her.  Is on a journey of physical/emotional healing and self-exploration.

I saw myself -at various stages of my life – in every one of them.  After those 11 hours, I taught a 3 hour workshop, then stayed up talking to my friend Jen (whom I’d brought with me from Utah to sing and share) until 2 am.  Jen, I might mention, has alcoholic parents, a sister who is homosexual, a sister who is a drug addict and a brother on death row.

How INSPIRED I am by all of the women who live with pain, disease, trauma, rejection…and wholeheartedly desire to create a higher state of being and becoming in the midst of it.  Every woman of Truth holds immense pain in parts of her body.  But IN that Truth, she opens her soul to incredible Sources of strength and resiliency.  She stares adversity down and keeps hope alive in her heart.  Our points of pain are our points of power.  Breakdowns can be deep and meaningful spiritual awakenings.

It was back-to-back, non-stop looking into the eyes of beautiful, struggling souls for 19 hours straight.  I have never had a day like yesterday.  I was immersed – suspended – in a total state of love and awe and inspiration and Truth.  There was no room for fatigue, though I expected it to hit any moment.  I was fueled and fed on so many levels.

And then on the plane this morning, feeling exhausted, worn out in a good way, and still marveling at my yesterday…  I get wedged between 2 huge college football players.   I’m feeling protective and intimidated and who knows what, but then a little voice inside me says, “Your weekend ministry’s not finished.”  There are no accidents in where we are placed – and with whom – when we resolve to be one of His disciples.

I listened to one of these guys talk about his grandmother who’d died 3 days previous, saw the pain in his eyes, and discerned God was far from his heart.  His friend to my right, likewise.  I think if I hadn’t had such a beatuiful yesterday – a rare Earth day that was consumed in Light and Truth – I wouldn’t have been as energized to release the fear and go to the “love” with such intimidating-looking creatures.  All I could see were wounded little boys in big ol’ bumbling bodies.

I am today – nothing short of exhausted.  Glad to be back home, back to a sweet husband who kept the house clean and children whom I believe were watched over by an extra team of angels so I could be about my Father’s business.  I think what I hold in my heart tonight is relief that I am not alone in my pain and my grief and my inadequacy and my regrets. Every person walking this lonely planet holds all of the above.

And the relief is not just about my not being the only one who feels those burdens…my relief is that I do not have to carry them.  I hope that I was able to communicate to each of those women, and in some small way to those two young men, that there is One who waits to take their burdens on Himself.  Showing up to communicate this to them has gracefully reaffirmed it to my own soul…

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.   For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

-Matt 11:28-30

How Could He Love Them as I Do?

Thirteen – almost 14 – years ago, my entire existence did a complete 360.  Since 1996, I have been consumed – yes consumed is the perfect word here – with feelings I didn’t know I possessed.  Feelings that seemed to burst right out of me, spontaneously.  Naturally.  I’m talking about raw, instinctual, powerful emotions.  Pure love.  Overwhelming joy.  Pure frustration.  Overwhelming fear.

In 1996, I became a Mother.

My Noah, my “firstborn in the wilderness”…10 days overdue, 40 hours of labor (12 of it excruciating enough to propel me to pray to die), 3 hours of pushing out all 9 pounds of him.  He took his time; his wise, sweet-natured, steady time, as I pained and cried and questioned and panicked.

At almost 14, Noah’s still my teacher in this regard.  On waiting on God.  Trusting in His time.  Trusting in His natural, all-consuming, powerful, instinctual, pure love.

As a mother, you want to feel like your children are high up on the priority list in heaven.  Like the angels have charge concerning them.  That God has their backs.

Your 27 -year-old psyche doesn’t grasp, as you hold a soft, precious baby in your arms – your baby – how a remote and mysterious Father could possibly love this little one half as much as you.

And then your 29 year-old self is bursting through an emergency room door, cradling a toddler in a blanket, who’s been so badly burned you and your husband couldn’t wait for the ambulance.  Why are your eyes so desperate while your toddler son’s hold such peace?  Husband lays his hands on your little one in the hospital, calling down a miracle…acting as proxy for the Father who physically couldn’t be there.  No scars remain, no permanent damage done.

Forgetting the miracle, the 36-year-old you is falling to her knees.  Begging for heavenly aid to reach your 9 year-old son.  The son sitting in a corner, hands on his head, rocking back and forth and banging his skull into the wall like he wants to climb right out of his skin, right out of this world.

“Have you forgotten my Noah, Father?” I wail.

“Our Noah,” was the reply, “And no, I have not.”

No, He had not.  3 days later, I had answers.  Aspergers (a high-functioning form of Autism).  What some would term a disorder, but what the Spirit would teach, over the years, is a gift.  Other-worldly.  A protection.   A teacher.

You’d THINK – wouldn’t you – that your 41 year-old self would have gotten it by now?  But she struggles.  She struggles to watch her wise and steady son go through a move, start junior high, and pull his hair out.  Literally.  He does not want to pull his hair out, he explains to you and the psychologist, but he cannot stop.  He is losing his hair and his faith and his hope.  Now, the desperation’s in his eyes. And he searches to find peace in mine.

My Noah, my messenger, my firstborn in the wilderness.  The emotional barometer in our home.  The one who alerts our spirits to impending seasons of healing.  Sacred Stations.

Never have my pleas for another soul been as blazing and urgent.  It was a dark afternoon, not more than 6 weeks ago, that I pulled into the parking lot of a nearby temple, faced eastward and expelled every fear-based emotion my body was holding for my son.  The core of my maternal heart was shattering for my 13 year-old, and I lifted my eyes to the pinnacle of the temple, sobbing, petitioning, begging, pleading…entreating the assistance of heaven once again.  For our Noah.

Perhaps because the 27 or the 29 or the 36 year-old me may not have gotten the lesson of the Father’s love for my son quite strongly enough, I needed to witness another miracle.  I needed to be reminded that the boy I am raising was already raised in the light of perfected parenting, eons before he was stationed in my care.  I needed to not just be reminded, but to feel, that Noah is known, loved, cherished…every whit.

The miracle commenced when loved ones – healers – showed up immediately to comfort me and ground Noah, acting as the Savior’s hands and feet.  It was not two mornings later when, upon waking, I downloaded a new treatment plan.  The supplements, the essential oils, the diet, the routines, the practitioners…all of it.   A month later, a psychologist is scratching his head and Noah and I are smiling and locking arms, walking out of Dr. B’s parking lot.  Spiritually victorious, basking in the light of another miracle.

Noah says he does not mind me sharing this, because a great shift is taking place.  We know we are not out of the woods, and that there will be more lessons in store for his noble soul as he matures.  But I had to write about this tonight, as my mother’s heart is bursting with gratitude.  Yesterday he returned from a week at Scout Camp, and he seemed so…grown.  Tanned and taller, his eyes more blue, his gait more sure. His smile more fixed.

I looked upon him yesterday with the same intensity as the times I’ve looked upon my other children in those intensely emotional mothering moments, completely absorbed with pure, permeating love for them.  And my fleeting thought is always, How could He love them as I do?  I had the impression that when my mother’s heart is feeling this pure love, it originates from Him.  I am feeling HIS love for my child in those consuming moments.  I am literally being filled with His love for my child.

Our Noah.

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Noah and me in 2004…Noah, age 7-going-on-20, and my 35 year-old self