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Posts tagged ‘God’

“One Mother’s Dream” … A Foster Adoptive Forever Family Story

“One Mother’s Dream”
–Pegge Bernecker (c)

For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of holding a baby. When I was a child she was an infant sized doll. If I could sit still, I was allowed to hold my baby sister, then three years later, my brother. In summer, I rocked a large zucchini with button eyes from Grandma’s garden. When the neighborhood gang played house in our backyard, I was always Mom—and a bit bossy! Acting as Mother Mary in the annual La Posada at church, I felt honored to be carrying baby Jesus.

As I grew older, with each romance I dreamed of the day when I would hold a baby, and birth a family. I wept barren tears in my mid-twenties during years of discerning a celibate religious vocation, and later while in a relationship with a man who didn’t want to marry. I held babies I loved deeply … first a goddaughter, then a nephew, all the while smiling with joy, wondering when my time would come. I continued to dream and started to pray.

At thirty-one the dream began in earnest. Together with Jim, my new husband—literally the man next door—I imagined the day we would hold our child, fantasizing perfect names and even beginning to purchase necessary baby gear. Month after month after month, tears and blood flowed like clockwork. I held another nephew, then niece, then a second goddaughter. Well-intentioned friends said things such as: “Just relax.” “Get away for a romantic weekend.” “If you adopt you’ll get pregnant for sure.” “Fall on your knees and pray more.” As if I hadn’t already prayed, and tried everything I could think of! I was angry and sad. In prayer, I let God know it. After all, I was working in church ministry serving the Lord. I deserved my dream. I began to wonder if I was paying a price for past sins.

But the God I encountered in prayer was suffering with me, not condemning me. Barrenness has a powerful precedent in scripture. Stories of Sarah, Rachel and Elizabeth brought me renewed hope. I just knew a baby and family was God’s good and creative dream in me. How could it be denied? I heard God’s word in Psalm 46: “Be still and know that I am God.” Yet, year after year my healthy, strong, vibrant body betrayed me.

Jim and I spent considerable time contemplating fertility treatments, sperm donors, domestic and international infant adoption, and our limited finances. When a notice in our church bulletin listed a phone number with a request for foster adoptive parents, we just wanted to eliminate a choice we didn’t think was a fit for us. Thus, one hot July evening, we sat on our porch with a caseworker from the local foster adoption agency. The three of us sat on our deck, overlooking a Colorado lake with a little rowboat moored on the shore where Jim spent most leisure time fishing.

As our conversation progressed, the caseworker asked, “Are you certain you want to adopt an infant?”
I replied “yes.”
A little later in the conversation, the same question. My answer remained “yes.”
Finally, again: “Are you certain you want an infant?”
I looked into her eyes “What are you thinking? That’s the third time you’ve asked me the same question.”
“Well,” she answered, “if you were to adopt an older child you could continue working.” I just stared at her. “And,” she continued, “I know a seven year old boy in town that loves to fish, and desperately needs a strong father and forever family.”

I didn’t move. The next thing I knew my six-foot-five husband was towering over us, practically shouting, “That’s the right age for me!”

I sat stunned. Birds chirped in the trees. I listened to my heart beat wildly.

So be it.

One month later, just in time for third grade, our son-to-be spent his first night in our home.

Nothing prepared me for parenting a little boy who had lived in nine foster homes. The warm fuzzies I had anticipated were nonexistent. Somewhere along the way I neglected to comprehend that foster children like Justin already had birth parents, a family and past experiences that shaped their lives. Bonding and attachment might not happen, maybe couldn’t. I discovered my own worst behaviors were not unlike Justin’s: anger at not being listened to, not having my needs met. Odd that as an adult I had the same feelings as the child in my home.

I slowly learned to understand the gift of being a lifesaver for a young boy—and he becoming a lifesaver of sorts for me too, as I grew into fuller maturity, discovering within myself reservoirs of patience and wisdom. My prayer was simple: love him as Jesus.

Together we learned the safety of boundaries. We talked about feelings, listened to one other. Justin began to grow with our focused, consistent attention, meals, and bedtimes. Learning about Jesus, he discovered he could be loved no matter what. I felt happiness that he felt safe enough to throw a temper tantrum. He explored personal interests, caught fish, and gained confidence. I learned to love him as if I had birthed him myself. God softened my heart and taught me generosity.

One afternoon after an emotional meltdown, Justin asked if he could sit on my lap. Though his legs and arms were a bit long, I snuggled him closely against me. Looking beyond my shoulder, he cautiously asked: “If you had been my birth Mom, what would you have done?”

Realizing he wanted to hear a different version of his own tumultuous childhood, I said softly: “I would have held you every day, rocking you just like this, and told you stories: real and imaginary. You would have known you were safe and loved, no matter what.” I stopped talking, feeling the weight of his body against mine, then continued, “And you know what; we can still do that, even though your elbow is poking my side!”

We chuckled together, and after a minute of rocking, the air hushed. He turned, looking me straight in the eyes and asked, “Could you tell me a story now?”

My blinking eyelids pushed back tears. Smiling at him, I began: “A long, long time ago, a little girl dreamed of being a mom and holding a little boy on her lap….” His hand gripped mine tightly. Breathing slow and steady, he listened intently, never taking his eyes from mine.

In the coming months Justin often asked to sit on my lap, and we discovered how much we both needed each other. Later that year after his legal adoption, I received an unexpected valentine: “Dear Mom, Thank you so much for taking care of me over all these years and making sure that I have food to eat and that I have a roof over my head. I also love having a very loving and caring person such as you.”

Not words I ever expected I’d receive from a child. But, still more powerful to me than an actual: “I love you Mommy,” which I suspect I’ll never hear.

Justin is now in his teens and an only child. I have learned the fierce love that I am certain Mary shared with her son two thousand years ago. Jesus has taught me to welcome and love the orphan. Just last week, at five-foot-nine, Justin gave me a hug, and looking down at me, asked, “Do you remember when I was small enough to fit in your lap?”

I smiled a “yes” into his eyes, and offered a silent prayer of gratitude to be living a mother’s dream.

Reprinted by permission of Pegge Bernecker.
“One Mother’s Dream” is published in Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul 2,  (p. 72-76) and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christian Kids, Our 101 Best Stories (p. 276-279).

After-note: On January 24, 2006, Justin died, unexpectedly. An advance copy of the book containing this story arrived in the mail on January 23, 2006. That night, I read the story out loud to him. After I finished, I looked at him and said, “I love you Justin. I’m so glad you are my son.” He looked straight at me, eyes full of love, and said, “I love you too Mom.”
Link: Five Years Later: “One Mothers Dream”

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Grief and Loss: “I don’t know what to say.”

Last week I spoke at a church in town. They asked me to talk about grief and loss, for ten to fifteen minutes—make it personal. An icy, snowy night, by 7:00 p.m. it had been dark three hours. My stamina was in the single digits, and I was cold. A dark chocolate woven rabbit fur scarf wrapped my neck and shoulders.

Standing in the dim lit church, behind the podium, I fingered the scarf tails, felt warm breath flood my chest, whispered a prayer to God, and then surprised myself by speaking, “My name is Pegge. I don’t know what to say.”

My eyes traveled around the wood church pews. Men, women, and a few young people had gathered. They spaced themselves, some sitting together, others alone. I took another breath, and again spoke, my voice amplifying through silent attentiveness:

“I don’t know what to say. And this is the experience of grief.”

More words came, “We don’t know what to say, or how to act. We may be fatigued, not think clearly, forgetful, and have very little energy. Memories surge, catch us off-guard. Some full of sorrow, others with laughter. The ache—numb, raw, and stabbing comes and goes with no predictable time-frame. So we show up as best we can, take ourselves lightheartedly, give ourselves permission to rest, say no, and feel what we feel.”

I think words tumbled from me about how grief makes tracks through the chill of loss, of believing that we are not alone, being willing to receive from others, and ask for help. I know I said, “I trust God. I am not alone.” After ten minutes, I concluded, and breathed into the stillness of listening hearts. I walked back to the first pew, sat down, silent, remembering. A card laid in my open bible, a bookmark for the passage I’d planned to read. Two words: Only connect… . A cello played, candles flamed for loved ones who died.

Tonight, what chimes for me again, is that whether we are the one grieving, or the one who accompanies a friend or loved one, there will be times when words do not, should not, and will not suffice. Dense bone weariness grows. Or, memories of play and joy surface with vivid intensity. At times like these, I pray we may give ourselves permission to be still. Breathe. Simply be present to ourselves, and one another, with gentleness, compassion, kindness.

–Pegge, December 16, 2010

Be Still, Go Fishing

Today I went fishing, unexpectedly.

Hustling aboard a boat, no time to reload coffee & creme into an almost empty mug, my skin prickled a shiver, even beneath three layers and a wool cap. I hadn’t intended to fish, and was merely loading boats–helping out in a fishing derby. Instead, a seat and invitation opened; I jumped in.

After a hello to our fishing guide and two girlfriends,  I turned, lifting my gaze, upstream.

The river caught my pulse.

A  forgotten prayer pattern erupted within me–my old friend, psalm 46:10a:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

“Be still and know that I am.”

“Be still and know”

“Be still”

“Be”

Today, an unexpected fishing pulse catches me, still. Life is prayer. Simply, be.

I’m hooked.

ps: guess what’s for dinner?

What hooks your attention?
Please add your reply


Survival, Reunion. A new year story to remember.

Reflecting over the past decade, I remember the best New Year, ever. After the worst year, ever. Here's the remarkable story:

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Christmas—Giving Birth to Love

Christians begin celebrating the feast of Christmas today. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays rings throughout homes, in cars, on radios, in shopping malls, through halls and walls of buildings and businesses, on computer and cell phone screens. Merry Christmas reigns in streets where kids die, and where poverty, abandonment and abuse deepens. For practicing Christians, Christmas is a time to engage the significance of the incarnation, the birth of Jesus Christ in everyday life.

The invitation for us to ponder at Christmas could begin as simple as this,

How might love want to birth within me?

The cosmic Christmas tree star cluster

The Gift

God did not come into the world wrapped with a shiny red bow, pretty and perfect, labeled precisely. No, God came as a vulnerable, helpless infant who needs us as much as we need God. Emmanuel, “God-With-Us” is birthed, unwrapped, and encountered within us and through our own ordinary and mysterious life experience. In the article “The Eternal Christ in the Cosmic Story” Richard Rohr, OFM, explains, “… Christianity is not just that we believe in God. The mystery we are about is much more than that: It’s that the material and the spiritual coexist. It’s the mystery of the Incarnation. Once we restore the idea that the Incarnation means God truly loves creation then we restore the sacred dimension to nature.”

Celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas!

Christmas is not over on December 26. The Feast of Christmas begins on December 25, and culminates January 6, on the Feast of Epiphany. Every day is an opportunity to say yes to love, and wake up to the present moment. For the Twelve Days of Christmas we can practice genuine delight and forgiveness. We can gaze at people and our world with wonder and reverence. We can play with our family and friends. We can be willing to reach out with compassion to a stranger or someone in need. We can offer understanding and courage in difficult situations. We can receive, celebrate, feast, and rejoice in the reality that the material and the spiritual coexist, and that “the word became flesh.” We can become grateful for the gift of the incarnation of God!

Please join the many spiritual seekers who want to unwrap the ever-deepening meaning of “Yes, I will give birth to love. There is room and desire within me.”

Merry Christmas, Joy to the World!

God … Any Time, Any Place?

Ask: “What are the little, very personal, and even ordinary things I do to connect with God … that I may never talk to anyone else about?”

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