The Five of Us, Spring 2014

The Five of Us, Spring 2014

On the Shelf

24 May 2012

There probably isn't anyone ridiculously faithful enough to me to still be reading this poor neglected blog, but that's okay. I really started it for me and my kids anyway, and if it has returned to that, I'm not ashamed. This particular post, however, is one I feel should be read by more than the people who inhabit my house. I really do hope it makes its way to other moms who feel "on the shelf."

When I married Aa, we agreed that we wanted our children to be close in age to one another. Each of us has a much younger (8 years) sibling and we wanted our kids to experience the friendship of near-in-age sibs. That was plan. And, for a short time, while we were in the process of adopting Pea and another little boy from Liberia, it looked like we'd have three kids spaced exactly a year apart. No kidding--their birthdays are July 2003, July 2004, and July 2005! Well, it didn't work out that way and only Pea joined the family. If you've read the backlogs, or know us well, you know that left an open space in our family that we greatly desired to be filled. Well, it took much longer than we anticipated, but Pup finally joined the fam. While there aren't 8 years between him and his sibs, it's close to that amount of separation.

Another advantage of having closely spaced children is that they are all in relatively the same developmental stage. Punk and Pea are peers, but Pup completely changed the family dynamic. My role as Mama changed dramatically when Pup came home to us over a year ago. Before Pup, I had regained a measure of the independence I had pre-kids. With the bigs in school (and pre-school before that), I was resurfacing as a contributing member of the society outside my home. But, the arrival of Pup (much anticipated and much celebrated) thrust me back into a place of limited daily freedom.

I don't want this to sound like a gripe session, because it really isn't that. I'm just trying to put to words the feeling of having a baby/toddler attached to my hip. While I absolutely adore this little child and don't want to miss out on any part of his little life, it is rather consuming to be his mother. I rarely go anywhere without him. My schedule revolves around him, as do most of my moment-by-moment, day-by-day choices. Most of the compliments I get are really about him. Many of the conversations I have are about him and/or my other kids. It's pervasive.

A few months ago, our local LifeLine Pregnancy Center put out a call for volunteers. I called to find out how I could help. Turns out, I would have to pay someone to hang out with Pup so I could volunteer my time. It just doesn't make sense at this season. But, it is experiences like that that were beginning to make me feel hemmed in.

And, not just hemmed in. I was also feeling useless, or, as I tend to think of it, "on the shelf." I know this is all just a season--one that will fly by very quickly--but it is a season where I feel stuck in the pantry, like that box of Panko I bought once. It had a purpose, a specific recipe I was making when I bought it. I used the Panko and then returned it to the shelf. I've never used it again. I see it there in the pantry from time to time and think, "Oh, I should do something with that." But, I never do. Poor little box of Panko on the shelf. And this season of consuming mothering feels like that to me--waiting, wanting to make a contribution, to be a part of something bigger than myself, bigger than my four walls, but being stuck here, unused, unimportant, unwanted.

Okay, so I know those three "uns" aren't really, really true, but my day-to-day experience started out whispering and wound up shouting those words to my heart. So, one day, an email appeared on my screen inviting me to take a class at church about spiritual gifts. It seemed kind of urgent at this point, so I signed on, hoping that this class could somehow revive my self-concept and breathe God's life back into me while simultaneously helping find the direction I was desperately seeking to express myself and be of some use to the Kingdom.

One requirement of the class was to take a "spiritual gifts inventory" (here if you're interested) and identify your top three areas of gifting. I have taken such a "test" before (more than once), but it had been a long time, definitely as long as I've been a mother, probably longer. I admit, I hold a bit of cynicism about these things (I think it's easy to "trick" the test and make it tell you you are what you want to be) and prefer to have a person tell me what they see in me. But, being a first-born rule-abider, I did it anyway. I was somewhat surprised by the results. My top three (in order from highest) were Giving, Mercy, and Teaching. Teaching has always been in the mix, from the very first time I took one of these tests when I was a mere church-goer but not yet in a relationship with Jesus. The other two were new to the top.

At first, the fact that Giving was the top confirmed my fears. I was living vicariously through my husband, the embodiment of generosity. Sigh. I'm no longer a contributing member of society or the Kingdom. I'm just my husband's shadow.

Mercy showing up there was interesting to me, though. I don't normally think of myself in that way. I tend to be emotional, yes, but practical. Empathetic, but not tolerant of stupidity. As I said, Teaching wasn't a surprise, but I haven't had much opportunity to practice or utilize it and don't see much opportunity on the horizon.

Mother's Day was just a few days after I took the test. My adoption journey has opened my mind to all the kinds of mothers that exist in this world and the many ways they've been hurt in their journeys. In the days leading up to this holiday, I prayed for the women I know who want to be mothers but haven't conceived yet, for those who are mothers, but aren't raising their babies, for those who have lost babies before they ever held them in their arms, and others. Looking back, these were definitely prayers of compassion and mercy. In addition, I sent a little reminder to my pastoral staff to consider these wounds when celebrating the mothers in our congregation on Sunday. Fortunately, our pastors are very humble and value the gifts of the body. They took this exhortation and through it, a young woman and her mother were deeply touched by God. And that's just one testimony that got back to us. I'm confident that God touched others that morning as a result of my prayers leading up to that day. When I heard this testimony a few days into the week, I wept. Because God had so sweetly touched a woman. Because He had so clearly, pointedly answered my prayers. Because He used ME to be a part of this testimony. Because He confirmed outstandingly that not only had He gifted me with mercy, but even more than that, He was using this gift in me to change people, to affect His Kingdom! In fact, He just smashed those three "uns"--He confirmed that I am useful, wanted, and important. It was a sweet, sweet kiss from Him to me.

But, still, it niggled at me that giving was high on my list. Last night was the last class. When it was over, I took one of the instructors, a friend of mine, and the pastor's wife (all one woman!) aside and confessed that it was still bothering me that giving had jumped to the top of my list just because I happen to be married to a giver! She understood and admitted that her gifts have shifted over time as well, lining up better with her husband's. As we spoke, it occurred to me that God really NEEDED to make me a giver. He NEEDED to give me that particular gift if He was going to use Aa in that way. I mean, if Aa is high in Administration, what is that to me? If he's high in helps, how does that affect me? But, if Aa is going to be a generous giver, I had better be on board! How can Aa freely and easily move in his gifting of generosity unless I love giving too? And I do! It's so fun to be able to fund the great things happening around the world.

I also told my friend that I don't really have an outlet for my teaching gift. She said, "Oh yes you do! I see that all over you! In your writing!" Oh. (face-palm) So, apparently, I'm not quite so shadowy and on-the-shelf as I thought. I'm just a little blind. : )

If you're feeling on-the-shelf, I would love to pray for you. You can leave me a comment or shoot me an email (see the column on the right). I hope this helps encourage you that you really aren't stuck in the pantry either, you probably just aren't seeing how God has you mixed into His recipes. : )


Laura & Matt said...

Rachel, I found your blog today as I was doing some internet (and soul) searching about adoption. I read the post "So You Think You Should Adopt? Please Don't." first, and appreciated your words so much. So I had to read more and "On the Shelf" sure did resonate. You are a gifted writer and I hope this past year has been full of blessings for you and your beautiful family! Thanks for putting yourself out there!

My Man and Me

My Man and Me
married 7/7/2001


ours through biology, born 7/25/2004, home 8/1/2004


ours through adoption from Liberia, West Africa, born 7/15/2005, home 10/25/2007


ours through domestic adoption, born 1/15/2011, home 2/10/2011, final 8/3/2011

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I blog for myself and my kids and I would do it even if no one else cared, but I do like to hear from you (and think it's a wee bit creepy of you to voyeurize us without my knowing it). So, please leave a comment from time to time, or email me anytime at Much obliged, I'm sure.

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Round Two Timeline

  • 9/24/08 Home study update home visit for Ghana adoption
  • 10/15/08 Dossier sent to AOHG
  • 10/15/08 I600A application sent to USCIS
  • 10/30/08 First heard about possible domestic private adoption
  • 11/18/08 Last spoke with contact about possible domestic adoption; expected to hear back about meeting with birthmother
  • 12/3/08 Withdrew application from AOHG
  • 1/6/09 Found out another family had been chosen for possible domestic adoption
  • 1/21/09 USCIS fingerprinting appointment
  • 1/8/09 Received USCIS fingerprinting appointment notice
  • 4/11/09 Sent Pre-Application to Covenant Care Adoptions for Domestic Infant Adoption program
  • 6/8/09 Social worker visit to update home study from International to Domestic
  • 7/24/09 Received completed home study update
  • 8/25/09 Went "on the list" for birthfamilies to choose from
  • 4/28/10 Found out a birth mom had chosen us
  • 5/8/10 Met the birth mom
  • 5/11/10 Got the call that birth mom changed her mind
  • 5/19/10 Birth mom's scheduled c-section
  • 11/30/10 Visit from DSS sw about foster parenting
  • 11/30/10 Got the call that another birth mom had chosen us
  • 12/21/10 Met with the birth mom
  • 1/15/11 @1:42 PM BB was born!
  • 1/19/11 ICPC (interstate) paperwork sent to GA for approval
  • 1/31/11 ICPC Clearance Approved
  • 2/10/11 Placement Ceremony and Pup comes home!!!!
  • 8/3/11 It's Official! Pup's Adoption Decree was issued