Monday, July 15, 2013

I found a handful of blog posts I wrote but never published. Thought I would add them in so the story would be complete. It is coming up on 10:00. I am tired and I have a "to list" that should be grabbing my attention, but I have so much in my mind and heart I decided to let it find it's way onto paper and maybe free me up a bit. I suppose every journey is meant to have a predetermined destination. In this journey, the destination has always been to adopt a child who needed a home. Four years ago we began this wild voyage. I never dreamed four years would pass before we found our way to the destination, but the timing, as God's always is, was perfect. As I prepare for tomorrow, I find myself a mixture of overwhelming calm and misty-eyed excitement. It is the feeling of a tired peace, a completion and a beginning simultaneously occuring. In the activities our lives are forever changed, but our daily reality will be no different tomorrow than today. It is a strange occurence. I sat and chatted with Emma and Jordon and asked them how they were feeling about things and Jordon surprised me when he said, "I am just a little sad we don't do visitiations anymore." I asked Emma if she was sad and she said, "Sometimes, but mostly I am just really happy." What more could you ask for from the circumstances? I have tried to think of the complexity of the emotions these little ones will be feeling in this transition from Muratovic to Jones. Will we ever know exactly what their thoughts and feelings entail? Could I begin to be able to understand what tomorrow will mean to them? In the big picture my wish is that as we stand before the judge committing to be their forever family, Emma and Jordon will be covered in security and love. I hope they feel full of belonging and family. I know for them to grab on to being a Jones with both hands they must let go of the last part of being a Muratovic, giving up their name, the last identifying mark of the life they used to know. I don't want to forget that there will be some sense of loss in the letting go, but I certainly hope the celebration is much sweeter in comparison. This journey looks nothing like what I thought it would. It was not the warm fuzzy picture of all white with a soft vignette glow around the corners. It was hard and at times dark. There were moments turning back was desired and the looking forward seemed too far off to continue. Looking back from where we have come, I see each uphill climb, storm weathered, delay and frustration only made the moments of joy, love and laughter that much more vibrant in their intensity. I have learned so much about myself, Nathan, and our marriage. I know so much more about Noah, Macy and Molly. I have learned to ask for help, well sort of, and how supportive my inner circle can be. I have realized that loving someone, even a child, sometimes doesn't come easy, but is always worth the work. I have learned more than I care to know about social government with its flaws, but found comfort from it's employees. I have learned that children can live whole lifetimes before they are three. And that being a mother of five children is the best job in the world. Nathan Jones has been all things I knew he was and more in this journey. He is and has always been a hands on father, never shying away from diapers, potty training, ponytails or hugs and snuggles. Loving these kids with such ease and tenderness, he showed them God in all his ways. Six months into this journey, with the trials of raising children who had suffered agregious circumstances not knowing if the conflict and toll it was taking on each individual in our family emotionally would be rewarded with permanency, our marriage was battered and tried. Even in the midst of the valleys, I could see the strength of this quiet man whom I adore and though tested and in need of some recovery, I find that as we reach the end of this portion of our journey we are better than ever, more connected and more assured of the strength of our commitment to each other. I could write volumes of the appreciation and admiration I have for Nathan, but it really comes down to this: there is no one more loving and good than Nathan Jones. No one. It is easy to dismiss what tomorrow will mean for Noah, Macy and Molly. I don't know how to say well just how proud I have been of the three of them in this journey. They all three have made HUGE sacrifices for us to make Emma and Jordon a part of our family. Besides the time that has been divided, which in and of itself is significant, these children have been exposed to, confronted with, and at times overwhelmed by the effects that child abuse and neglect have on children and their ability to relate to others. For eighteen months these three shared their home, their parents, and their hearts with children who were not their siblings. They loved Emma and Jordon understanding that they were putting their hearts on the line because we were not assured permanency. In the last six months, when we felt more comfortable in the future of the children, they celebrated the gift of their new brother and sister. The three of them have taken on many responsibilities with Emma and Jordon without complaint and their help and service to them and to me is priceless. I am so proud of the compassion and love they have showed from day one. It thrills me that they are counting the days down to this adoption with anticipation and joy. I am so impressed by the people they are and so thankful for their kind and sweet hearts. Becoming the mother of Emma and Jordon has been a two year, 1 month and 9 day process. Being motherly to them came instantly, falling in love with them took very few days, becoming committed to them the small side of a week. Tomorrow we will be at a cross roads in this journey. We will look at them, our friends and our family and say you are ours forever. Praise God for setting us on this journey and seeing us to it's completion. Please rejoice with us in the introduction of Emma and Jordon Jones.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Three Years Later

Three years ago this weekend our family of five became a family of seven. We did not understand on July 14, 2010 how profound the decision to foster Emma and Jordon would be to our lives. On that day, when I received the call about a little boy and girl who had just been removed from their home, my heart was not prepared for what it was about to face. In walking down the stairs to where the children were being kept, I thought I had all the answers. I was fully trained after all--a seasoned mother of 11 years with 11 weeks special training. I was rich in naivete and zealous with good intentions. When I think on myself in those days, I laugh at the innocence of my thinking. It is similar to looking back on my pregnancy with Noah when I felt that reading all the books and taking all the right classes would result in me being a perfect mother, with a perfect baby, living a perfect life. I was foolish enough to think such a thing existed. In my foolishness, I thought that in taking in Emma and Jordon, we would have all the answers. I did not realize I could not even begin to imagine all the questions. In contemplating the three years since, I am moved by the times I have failed. To share the times I have wronged not only Emma and Jordon, but Noah, Macy and Molly--might as well throw Nathan and our dog Lucy in there too, would require volumes. This process of being a mother is a magnifying glass to my weaknesses. It is humbling. It is the thing reality is made of. In looking at all the things we could have done differently, I am made aware that this is the thing that makes a family. It is the failings mixed with the subsequent grace and mercy which glues imperfect people together into a perfect unit. I don't love my family because we have it all love would be very limited by such nonsense, but instead because we together are figuring it all out. Three years ago, our family was challenged. Not by the addition of two beautiful children, but instead we were tested by the lie of perfection. My children misbehave, my marriage is not perfect, I hate to clean the house, and we eat out way too often because I don't want to cook. Those things are not because we have five children; it is because we are human. But in the midst of the mess, I see God creating and transforming us, making us new. And that is why this journey of faith continues on. Three years ago, Emma and Jordon moved from a broken home into a family of broken people. Broken people who still fall prey to the illusion of having all the answers. But the only answers I know for sure are that these people I love and call family are a treasure and that the God who gave them to me is good, all of the time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Thursday, May 3rd, Nate and I went to the courthouse to be with Emma and Jordon's parents as they signed the paperwork where they voluntarily giving up their rights to the children. We were there for about 45 minutes before they were called back to the courtroom. I was glad to see the confidence in the kid's mom as she spoke with us. She seemed to be at peace in her resolve to do what she thought was best for the children. She was very nervous and her constant chatter was the tell tale sign of her anxiety, yet in that anxiety she seemed more confident than I had ever seen her. It was a great paradox. Her mother was with her and when we exchanged pleasantries with her, she could not speak. You could see the pain in her face and after a few minutes she had to leave the building. We did not see her again that morning. The children's father said hello to us and that was the extent of our conversation with him before their time in the courtroom. He has always been more emotional than the mother and less likely to engage in conversation with us.

I found myself listening to descriptions of the children from their mother's perspective and realized I could not recognize the children she was describing. There were moments of recognition, but over and over again she would talk of personality traits that seemed beyond what I have experienced over the past two years. How could we know such different children? Were her memories of the children distorted from time past? Were the children that changed by the circumstances of being removed from their family? I guess we will never know. I imagine these questions fall in the realm of nature and nurture and will never be fully understood.

They were called into the courtroom and Nathan and I waited in the hallway. We are not allowed in this closed court. We waited, discussing the new rules of age for 401K's and discussing the idea of refinancing our home; topics that were not important to us but words to speak as we waited, wondering if when the pen went to the paper, the kid's parents would do what they said they would. The father walked out passing us by clearly on a mission to get out of the building as quickly as possible. He looked at us for only a moment. Nathan stood and followed him to the elevator. He shook his hand and promised we would take great care of the children. Their father hugged Nathan and then fell apart just as the elevator opened. He turned and entered the elevator and didn't look at us again.

A few minutes passed before their mother walked out of the courtroom. She was crying, but still seemed to have a confidence in her decision. We embraced and I thanked her for loving her children enough to give them up. She tightened her grip around my shoulders and wept. We waited for the children's caseworker to say it was all complete and we all shared the elevator down. The last discussions were of the goodbye visit and what we would all mutually say to the children. We agree the children need to see consistancy and cooperation with us all. We agree the goodbye visit will be celebratory and focused on the children beginning a new chapter in their life. Then she asked if we will change the children's last name. She said she thought they would like being Joneses, she just wanted to know what names to look for in the paper for achievements. As we left I felt compelled to tell her how much I appreciated what she had chosen to do and how what she must be experiencing was not taken lightly by Nathan nor me. And then there were a few awkward moments before we finally left.

Once home we sat and talked with Emma and Jordon, explaining we had been to the courthouse and that their parents had decided they thought it would be best for us to be their parents and the judge agreed. The kids listened and Emma absorbed our words. And then she melted. She became very upset and just cried and cried. For about fifteen minutes we held her and allowed her to feel what it was she needed to feel. She calmed herself down and then wiped her face. She looked up into our faces and wanted to know if she could tell the Jones kids that she was going to be adopted. Then she jumped off Nathan's lap and ran upstairs to tell the kids that she was going to be a Jones. Nathan and I discussed that night after all the children were in bed how we hated to see her suffer and cry, but we were so glad she responded the way she did. She responded in a healthy way. She felt sadness and then recovered and was happy. Such healthy emotional responses are not overlooked when parenting children who have been faced with multiple traumatic events in their lives.

Tomorrow afternoon the children will meet with their biological parents one last time to say goodbye. I don't know what to expect from this visit. I can't imagine how any of the four of them will respond. I don't look forward to seeing the kids go through the pain I anticipate will come from the day. But I believe with all my heart that just like the pains of childbirth, these pains allow for a new life that is full of promise and hope. I hope that such a goal is not only for the children, but their parents who will be given a fresh start as well.

After the visitation, we will take Macy to drop her off for her trip to Europe. This blog has run on the metaphor of a journey and when I think of the simultaneous journeys of all the individuals in our home, converging and detouring from each other, I see days like tomorrow, which will hold the ups and downs of life and realize that the same faith that we have held to in this journey will sustain us as we move forward to a new chapter, is the same faith that gives us peace as our daughter travels across the ocean, is the same faith that makes the pain of the journey tolerable and the joy of the journey sweet.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I have sat for almost 6 hours today trying to write a final letter to Emma and Jordon's parents. I can not find the words. I am putting it down for tonight. I am praying that with some rest, the words will find their way to my fingers tomorrow. But for now, I can not put together even a sentence that states what I am feeling and what I anticipate for our future. It isn't that there are not words, it is that they are being dammed up and if I allow a few to fall they all want to fall in a flood of emotion that makes no sense and has no purpose. Tomorrow. Hopefully.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Psalm 66:5: Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man's behalf.

I can attest with thanksgiving that there have been few times I have witnessed utter despair in my life. I have known great sadness, the loss of unborn children, in particular, but by the mercy of God I have been saved from the deep desperate pain that I am aware many face on a daily basis. Last night I had a conversation with despair and I am forever changed by the exchange.

Yesterday morning, the children's worker came to visit for her monthly home visit. There is not much to talk about right now as we are all in a holding pattern waiting for the May 3rd day to find it's way to our present. As we sat and discussed the children and their lives, she turns to me and says, "The kid's dad spoke with me and he is planning on voluntarily signing his rights away for the children."

SILENCE--whirls of thoughts and emotions begin to move around in my head like a storm of great intensity. What does this mean?

As we discussed the reasons he gave and how this will affect the trial set for May 3rd, I began to feel some peace. Half the battle is over before it begins. My thoughts move to their mom. What will she do? How will this effect her? We are confident the two of them are still together, still entwined in the co-dependency that weighs them down. This is a huge blow to her chances. Does she realize that what little she had to stand on has been severely compromised by his decision? How will she react. So many questions with answers I believed would never be available. Until about 3:30p.m..

We had just gotten home after a slight incident with a blown out tire and I had fed the children and canceled dinner plans for the evening. I was in the midst of searching for mini-vans on the internet when my phone rang. I could not find it before the ringtone of my girls singing "Defying Gravity" ended. The house phone begins to ring. I run up the stairs to get it and by the time I turn on the handset, it too stops ringing. Then there is a beep on my cell. "Sara, this is Cassie. Call me at the office ASAP." What could this be? Has something happened. Oh my, what if they have canceled our courtdate again? I dial the number anxious to hear what would warrant the "Call Me ASAP" message.

Cassie answers the phone and says, "Are you sitting down?" Oh no. What does this mean? "I am now," I state. "I am going to give you A*****'s phone number. She is thinking she will voluntarily sign over her rights to the children. She wants to talk with you and be sure you will send her pictures and letters." As she continues to talk, my body starts to shake in a mixture of elation and fear. This is the best case scenerio. Both parents signing away their rights to the children . No testifying. No waiting for the Judge's decision. No waiting for appeal days to pass. The opportunity to tell the children that their parents loved them enough to sacrifice their own wishes for their betterment . As I sat processing all the information Cassie was telling me, I then began to dwell on the conversation we would have and that is where the fear began to settle.

I have not tried to hide the fact that the idea of a mother losing her children in order for me to have children added to my family has always been a difficult concept for me. I have full understanding that there are times where the removal of children is not only a neccessity, but a gift you give the precious defensless children who are suffering in the lives they are given from parents who because of unwise choices, lack of responsibility or lack of feeling are harming them in gross and minute ways. I understand the mercy in such a thing. But more importantly I understand being a mother. I understand what happens to a person when life comes from her own body and that little face looks up at you and you realize it is the closest to being like God you will ever get. I know the ache of losing a child. I know the pain of feeling a failure to your children. I understand the hold of depression and addictions that cause you to make choices you know you should not. In fairness, I can not understand allowing those things reach a point where I would lose my children, nor can I imagine if my children were removed from me that I would not in the quickest possible way do whatever it took to get them back. But it is only by God's mercy and grace that I am given my life's circumstances. The conversation I would be having that evening would be facing head on this piece of the puzzle that has always been difficult for me. Head on.

From 3:30 until 6:30, I began to be in conversation. With God. With Nathan. With our caseworker. What do I say? How do I listen? Is this a trick? How can I extend comfort and hope to her? How do I even start such a conversation? In conversation with God I asked for guidance in my words, patience as He did what was His will, the opportunity to bring hope to A*****, to encourage her to be well for herself and for the children. In conversation with Nathan, I doubted my ability to have the conversation. I will cry. I will fall apart. He assured me he would be right there with me. In conversation with our caseworker, she guided me on how to say the things I wanted to say so as to guard against any legal action to effect the trial. I asked her if we should record the conversation. She said that could be a good idea.

I made dinner for the family, each bite of food passing the lump in my throat. Each swallow made more difficult by all the emotion that settled in my stomach. The welcome diversion of helping my friend Ann pack her car so to leave to go out of town unexpectedly and then the walk home realizing that once I was home, I would call. Each step being a decision of slow or fast, get there and get to that conversation at war with go slow and take your time this will be hard.

As I set up the recorder and got a pen and paper to doodle on during the conversation, I gathered the children to their rooms and Nathan to the table and I dialed the number. As the phone began to ring, I began to realize that in this conversation I had the easier role. I began to wonder if the ringing of the phone at A****'s home was a dread she too had been facing. When she picked up the phone, she knew it was me, even with my phone number blocked and never having spoken on the phone before. After the general niceties at the beginning of a phone call, I explained that Cassie asked me to call. There was a short silence on the other end of the line. And then she began to talk. She began to share her thoughts about what she needed to do, about Emma and Jordon, about Nathan and I. She shared her thoughts about where her life has been and where it was going. She was very honest about her ability to care for them. She spoke for about fifteen mintues, full of honest emotion and despair, while I sat and listened. It was only after she said that if she did this she would still want to be a part of the kids life, that I spoke. "What does that mean to you?" I responded. "I just want the kids to know about me, to be able to see pictures of them and send them letters." We discussed what I felt was best for the children and what I felt our family would need and my willingness to send pictures and updates, but that I did not feel that the children should have contact until they were of age. I explained that Nathan and I would do whatever we could to help the children find her when they were of age if that was their decision. I explained that I admired her for making such a sacrificial decision. I praised her for loving the children enough to make a decision like she was making.

As I sat listening, waiting for the "but", I realized there would be no "but", at least not tonight. I realized that if this indeed happens this way, with them making this very mature selfless decision for the kids, we could be finished with this leg of the journey within weeks. I also realized as I watched the brown tape wrap around the pegs in the recorder that this tape would be a huge gift to one day give the children. It would have their two mothers talking about how much they loved them, how much they wanted the best for them, how they were so blessed to have two women who loved them to the moon and back. That tape is wrapped in an envelope sitting in a box of the information that will be their personal history. It is a treasure I hope they will find comforting.

So now the wait until May 3rd continues, but it is a different kind of wait. It is a wait of anticipation and no longer one of dread. It is a day that will mean fresh starts for everyone involved made by good decisions and loving hearts. It will be a day of sadness and relief, celebration and joy. One of those perfect days full of every emotion that remind us of why the larger journey of faith, the journey of life, is worth making, even when it hurts, even when it is hard, even when it causes us to laugh through our tears. Because the end of the journey can only be fully appreciated by the miles and miles of living that lead us there.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Educational Reform

The Lost Tools of Learning:
Sara Jones, February 2012
This is an essay I was asked to write in my application for the Director position mentioned in a previous post. Interested in your thoughts and in dialoging, especially with professional educators.
Dorothy Sayers explores the mediocrity of modern education in her paper The Lost Tools of Learning. Realizing without the foundational education of how to learn, children become adults knowing facts without any real ability to think and connect ideas and disciplines. By pointing out the failings of modern education by comparing the current theories to classical ideas of education, including the Trivium, Sayers establishes a basic formulation for learning that focuses more on the ability to learn than on any particular subject in the primary years of learning. It is with mastery of how to learn that a student can then begin to focus on subjects, specializing personal education.
The fundamental failing of modern education is the failure of teaching the student to think. Without providing a basic fundamental framework of how to learn, think and obtain information, a student becomes not a thinker, but instead a very well versed Trivial Pursuit player, knowing vast amount of information bits, but having no ability to use understanding of this information to formulate larger principles that takes that information, the concepts of that information, and is able to apply those concepts as they relate or differ from other seemingly non-connected disciplines. By turning from a generalist to a specialist structure of education, a person can become "a master in one field and show no better judgment than his neighbor anywhere else; he remembers what he has learnt, but forgets all together how he learned it." The student, and by proxy, society, loses out on the full benefit of specialization when no connections can be made to a broader understanding. Valuing economy and efficiency toward money making occupation over the value of an education for the sake of understanding and personal growth, the student gains employment but not education. Understanding the limitations of modern theories of education, the natural question becomes an alternate solution.
By looking back to when educational processes produced skilled thinkers, the medieval "scheme of education" offers a viable alternative. The Trivium, from the Latin meaning the three ways or roads, offered a formula to learning that prepared the student for later specialized education of subjects. The Trivium focused on Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. Breaking down how the student learns into steps, the student develops a structure to learn any subject. The first step, Grammar, is learning the structure and vocabulary of a particular subject. This was learned in context of language, in the classical time, Latin. In this step, regardless of subject, the foundation of the subject was broken down allowing the student to gain understanding in the workings of the subject so as to understand how to use it in the following step. The second step, the dialectic stage, the student then learns how to use the language. In this stage, the student knows the basic units of information and their structure and is now working to use that language, defining terms for others and how to accurately share the known information. Logic, the patterns of information, and Disputations, the ability to organize truths through debate of the patterns of information, are placed in the student’s arsenal. In the third step, Rhetoric, the student having a basic structure to understand information and becoming skilled in how to organize that information to build a larger truth, now would gain the skills to create larger truths, persuading and sharing information in an eloquent way. These three stages are not to be limited to a certain age group or educational level, but instead are continual. Progressional in nature, for a student to become a master of the Rhetoric stage, he must first be master of the Grammar and Dialectic. In mastering all three stages, the student is then able to use the ability of learning and apply that to the subjects he wanted to learn. Having this framework for knowledge, the student is prepared for further study in a particular specialized subject.
In moving from a generalist to specialist focus in their education, the student may focus intently on one or two subjects, while continuing to study on a lesser scale other subjects. Maintaining the rhetoric stage of learning, while simultaneously developing the grammar and dialectic understanding of the particular subject, should not cause the student to see each subject as an isolated item. Instead the focus on this particular subject is balanced with the place the subject fits in the universe at large. The determination of when a student is ready to move from stage to stage is based on the skill of the child. Presenting information to a child to memorize should not be categorized by the child's ability to analyze the information; “What the material is is only of secondary importance." In integrating subjects into the student's education the focus should remain that subjects fit into a structure of learning and not the structure of learning fitting within a particular subject.
Within the boundaries of educational reform, there can be no success for betterment if the student is learning information without a context of how and why to learn at all. Connecting the skill of learning at all to the mastery of a particular subject, in that order is in the long term the only way for education on a public scale to be improved. It becomes necessary for the professional educator to feel less the teacher of subjects and more the teacher of the process of learning. In the end, teachers cannot educate students, but instead can provide students with the skills to educate themselves. It is when the student has the skill set and takes on the responsibility of educating himself that true, long lasting education reform will occur.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

I am applying to be the Director and Tutor of the Challenge I program at our Classical Conversations campus. I was given the assignment to write three essays, one being my personal testimony of faith. I sat for more than 7 hours trying to write this testimony and really struggled. For the first five hours I struggled with how to start such a testimony, but then realized as in all things, I needed to start with God and taper down to self.

Personal Testimony of Faith
Sara Jones, February 25, 2012
My journey of faith can only be started by declaring with unwaivering confidence that Jehovah God is the one true God, Creator of the cosmos. In order to restore humanity to communion with Him, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ as God Incarnate to this world where His death served as the sacrifice for all men. Through the resurrection of Christ, I have victory of a good conscience (1 Peter 3:20-21) as a baptized believer saved by Grace. I believe upon the ascension of Christ, the Holy Spirit was sent to bring comfort and understanding to the world, working within the church which is the body of Christ fulfilling His purposes and ministry. (Eph. 1:23) Because of His Grace and Glory, I live as a part of that body and stand ready to share how His majesty affects my life and my claim to be a child of God.
I have never known a time where God was not a central part of my life and worldview. Born to believing parents, I was raised and taught to honor God, learn about Him through His Word and practice my faith through obedience. Raised in the traditions of the church of Christ, I was encouraged and required to study my Bible. My family was, and remains very active in working with local congregations. My understanding of who I was even as a child was in relationship to God. The summer before my eleventh birthday, I was baptized into Christ.
When I left home and moved to attend college across the country away from home, I found myself for the first time looking to establish my own faith as opposed to the faith I learned at the feet of my family. In this time of discovery, I never failed in my understanding in who the Triune God was, but instead began a more deliberate search for who I was to be under His authority. I found myself questioning my place in the church, what the church was to be and how the church was to be understood through the teachings of Christ and the scriptures. In my twenties, I met my husband who was also raised in the traditions of the church of Christ and who also was questioning and growing in his understanding of what discipleship meant for us as individuals and for the Church. Joining our journey's together, our approaches to faith differ greatly, mine a simple belief based on my faith, his a journey of skepticism which lead into a time of doubt, and a return to faith through a great seeking of understanding of God, I have learned in a very real way the concept of unity in diversity. In relationship to my husband, I began to understand how each of us are working out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). Through this time of our journey, I believe God opened my eyes to broader borders of His Kingdom and a better understanding of who I was to strive to be as a disciple.
Today, I stand firm in my faith described in the introduction of this testimony, but ever a student of who Christ is and how I am to reflect Him in my life. I understand now more than ever that all of my life is to be laid down at the feet of my Savior. I find myself flawed in the execution of my faith more often than I care to admit, but more at peace in the Grace of God. I also find myself working within a church family that challenges me to acknowledge the gifts God has given me and use them to the glory of God. I am challenged to ever grow, ever seek, ever examine so as to continue to grow and be transformed into the image of God and the person God planned for me to be.