Sunday, February 7, 2016

I was in Prison and You Came to Visit Me

Over the last several weeks, I have had many well-intended people question my decision to visit Sweet Mama in prison. I know the concern is for the protection of our family. I understand their unease. I, too, have sought the Lord multiple times, this week.

How did we get, here?!?!

With each question, the Holy Spirit would answer with Matthew 25:35-36.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
My friend and I made the long drive together. She gripped my hand, tightly, and prayed for God's presence, before I walked in. I didn't have the slightest bubble of nerves.

I had to wait in a holding room for two hours before I could see her. I didn't have my phone or a book. I just sat there and prayed. I listened to the sad stories around me. There were many family members visiting prisoners that day and the mood was heavy.

The air was so thick, I pushed through tears, all afternoon. 

I had called the facility earlier to make sure I would be able to see her after making the long drive. The officer on duty said, "You must be Rebekah? You're the only person on her list."

Those few words broke my heart and set the tone for the hours before our visit.

I made eye contact with her from across the room while I was stopped at the third security station. When I passed the final inspection, I nearly ran to her and grabbed her as tight as I could. She sobbed and hugged me back with all her strength.

She kept apologizing for her tears, but I told her I wasn't in a hurry. She could cry for as long as she needed. She asked me a hundred questions in rapid succession. We started with Cisco and exhausted every topic on all three kids. I was happy to share our life with her, as I can only imagine the loneliness that eats through her days.

She asked me if it was hard to say yes to bringing home another baby when the agency called about Baby Brother. I only know how to be genuine, so I shared my heart and the emotions that came before our "yes".

She interrupted me halfway through and said, "I'm glad you brought this up." 

I didn't.

"This is what I have been wanting to talk to you about."

I braced myself for one of the many questions Ben and I imagined she would ask.

"I would like to have him back...what I mean to say is, I am going to fight to take him back."


I was shocked speechless. We, literally, sat staring at each other for a minute without a word. 

When my life - turned TV movie - started playing, again, a thousand thoughts rushed through my head. I am a confident girl who is not afraid of silence - uncomfortable or otherwise. So, I just sat there. I really didn't know what to say. Mama started in about the attorney she is meeting with, her hopes for a strong case, the brokenness in her heart, and the guilt she fights.

I never took my eyes from her.

After her ten minute monologue she looked at my face and said, "How does this make you feel?"

It took everything in me not to laugh. The humor was not in the seriousness of the conversation. I had to push down the giggles because of all the many questions Ben and I prayed and prepared answers for, THIS WAS NOT ONE OF THEM.

I took a breath and very lovingly and kindly said this. "My mama heart understands exactly why you want to do this and even respects your desire to fight. But, I am his mother, too. And as hard as you are going to fight, I am going to fight harder. Your kids have experienced trauma, but they find security in each other. If you saw the love that exists between them - the rolling, belly laughs that only Edie can get from Baby Brother - you would never try to pursue this."

Tears started streaming her face.

"You asked me to always be honest with you, even if the truth would hurt your heart. Baby Brother's adoption will be final in a few weeks. There is nothing you are going to be able to say or do to have the judge reverse his decision. If you follow your heart on this, you are only giving yourself false hope and I don't want to see you even more devastated on the other side."

I took her through the judge's instructions at the end of the termination trial to help her remember that her decision was irrevocable. That she agreed she was not impaired or coerced in any way to sign over her rights. I asked her if she remembered when the judge told her that "changing your mind" is not grounds for an appeal and that the time for filing an appeal has long since lapsed.

She buried her face in her hands and sobbed. I just sat, quietly, and waited.

After several minutes, she calmed. With puffy eyes, she said, "Okay. I won't fight. Hearing you say that you would fight harder, reminds me that you love him as much as I do. I won't fight. You can be his mom."

Looking back, I understand that this is EXACTLY the scenario that keeps adoptive parents bound to fear. But, if I gave in to all of the [completely] rational fears I have had over the last several years, I would have limited God's ability to move in my life. I, certainly, wouldn't be mother to five, and I would have been settling for a pretty mediocre supply of blessing.

I want to live in overflow - every day.

There was absolutely a part of me that wanted to get up from our meeting, walk out on Sweet Mama, and never look back. It would be easy (and justifiable) to convince myself that she is not worth the energy.

But....if I had done would I reconcile Matthew 25? How would I make an account that the Lord asked me to go to him in prison, but I was too uncomfortable?

Our [admittedly] crazy conversation strengthened our friendship. If I had turned my back on Mama, I would have missed my reward. I wouldn't have been able to offer her hope or stomp on the lies of the enemy or hear her parting words, when we hugged:

"Thank you....Thank you for being the only person that treats me like a human being."

I hope this challenges you to increase the depth of your love.

Shove your fears into a closest.
Pray for wisdom.
And invite someone in.

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.
 - Jesus

Friday, February 5, 2016

FF: AHHHMazing Chicken Pot Pie

Thank you for all of the kind words and prayers for today. I will be heading out at lunch time to visit Sweet Mama. My girlfriend is making the trip with me and sent me a text, yesterday, that started with "while you're in prison..." I told her I didn't like the sound of that!

The good news is that no matter what difficulties the day holds, I get to come home to my family AND this feel-good dinner!

Although, this recipe comes from The Pioneer Woman, I give the most credit to my sweet friend, Casey. I was near tears with a new baby when she pulled in the driveway with this beauty. Most of our go-to meals don't show themselves for 7-8 weeks, but this one is on a 2-3 week rotation. It's that good!

My second favorite thing about this pie is its versatility. This morning, I made three. One for a new mama (been there!), one to half bake and freeze, and one to half bake for dinner. I will give you the half-bake instructions if you want to add this to your freezer list.

FF: The Pioneer Woman's Chicken Pot Pie


3 celery stalks, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 large yellow onion
4 TBSP of butter
2 cups cooked chicken breast, diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup heavy cream
2 sprigs fresh thyme or a sprinkle of dried
1 tsp salt
Black pepper
1 store-bought box of pie dough (2 rolls)


Preheat oven to 400 and set your pie crust on the counter to warm while you prepare the filling.

Melt the butter in a fry pan/dutch oven over medium heat. Add the celery, carrots, and onion. Saute the vegetables for a few minutes and then add the chicken.

Sprinkle the flour in, stir, and continue cooking for a few minutes. 

Add the chicken broth, chicken bouillon cube and frozen peas, stirring for a few minutes.

Pour in the cream and allow the mixture to cook over low heat, for about 5 minutes, so it can thicken. Season with thyme, salt and pepper. 

Line your pie dish with the first roll of crust and pour your filling into the pan. You want to make sure you have about a half inch of crust showing, so that you can add the top dough roll and get a good folded seal.

Place the second roll of crust on top and fold the edge under, pressing it together with the bottom layer. Doing this will, naturally, form pretty edges. Place a few slits in the top for steam to escape.

If you are baking the pie to eat, you'll bake it for about 35 minutes until the insides are bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Make sure to let your pie sit and thicken for a few minutes before breaking into it.

If you plan to freeze the pie or deliver it as a meal to your neighbor, you'll want to half bake it at 400 for about 15 minutes. Half-baked refrigerated pies take about 20 minutes to warm. Half-baked frozen pies take about an hour to bake.

All of our kids, including the two littles, go crazy for pot pie night!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Preparing for Prison

Stand Firm.
Let nothing move you. 
Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord 
because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

[I Corinthians 15:58]

This week, I committed to spending concentrated time in prayer and reading my Bible. On Friday, I will be visiting Sweet Mama in prison for the first time. The closest I've ever been to prison is a juvenile detention center that I used to visit to lead a young women's bible study. I don't expect this visit to be anything like that.

Given her security level, we will be able to speak face to face, but the list of visiting rules is long. I got the shakes reading them because...well... I am a rule follower and will certainly forget that hand touching isn't allowed when tears are trailing her cheeks.

Recently, I gave Sweet Mama my phone number and accepted her call for the first time a few days ago. I happened to be putting Edie to bed, so I switched the phone to speaker when we picked up. As soon as I said, "hello", I could hear the longing in her voice. She is desperate for friendship and desires so much more than I can give. Edie assumed it was Ben on the other side and, immediately, started chatting about her favorite jammies and snuggling her bunny.

I heard the awe before she broke to tears, "Is that...?"

"Yes! We're both, here. I was just putting Edie to bed." I tried to keep it light, "Isn't she a little chatter box?"

Sweet Mama only muffled sniffs. I let Edie talk and listened to Mama cry.

Before our time ran out, I told her that I would be visiting on Friday. The phone went dead before we could say goodbye.

The weight in my heart is not loaded by guilt or charity, but rather genuine compassion. The only difference between the two of us are the families we were born to. Without radical intervention, she doesn't have a fighting chance for a better life. Her world is too narrow and bound by love for a man that has brought her to ruin. 

I fill pages with Truth and encourage her to think big, yet her only dream is to "get out" and find him.

My commitment to prayer, this week, is in effort to squash the natural negatives that flow through my heart and to remember that love always hopes. Every time. In every situation.

Most of my nerves stem from the questions I know are coming. For weeks, Mama has been telling me that she has a few important "things" to discuss with me, but that she must do it in person.

I trust that God will give me the answers when needed, but Ben and I have been discussing one question at length. I am certain she will ask if she can see her kids, again. In prison or otherwise.

I am concerned for her heart after I share mine. Although my kindness may point to wide-open rainbows and ever-after castles of friendship, I am also a protective mama. And happen to be raising traumatized babies. Genuinely, my hope is that one day she and Cisco will both be in healthy, secure places, where a meaningful relationship can really blossom. But we're not there, today. 

After two years, we have finally tipped the scale in the slightest margin and are starting to see real victories with Cisco. Every week, I see new slivers of trust that allow him to inch his toes across the attachment line. I DREAM of the day, he jumps that divider and runs full force into our love. 

Mingling his fragile heart and Sweet Mama's irregular stability is a disaster that we're not willing to risk. And I know that will break her heart. 

I have also discerned an important perception through her last several letters. Sweet Mama questions God for the atrocities she's faced and hates that drugs ravaged her life. But sadly, her reflections are self-focused. She doesn't make the connection that drugs didn't just alter HER life, but nearly broke three little spirits, too. 

My prayer is that I will be able to share difficult truth with her, even though it will be painful to deliver and hear. If she doesn't make the connection between her choices and her kids' sacrifices, she might not ever break the cycle.

Friends, pray for me. 

I am desperate for wisdom as the light and darkness of our worlds are about to collide.