Lessons from a toddler: Non-verbal communication

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I recently returned from a long business trip overseas. While I figured my boys would forget I was gone within a minute, what I didn’t anticipate was the challenging weeks following my return.

My two-year-old could care less and is going about business as normal, but the nearly three-year-old is a different story. He is waking up my awareness to non-verbal communication in ways I’ve never thought of before. He’s scared, cries, clings, and then kicks and hits and hangs on my leg, my neck, my arm, well, there’s a lot of hugging going on. Let’s put it that way.

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Anyone who knows the boys, will laugh with me at this pic. One is always telling the other what to do.

He’s not much of a talker. He and little brother team up against the adults to not speak to us, but then communicate with each other all day long. It’s their little game and they has established the rules without me. I’m still trying to figure them out, so prayers are appreciated on that front.

I think the Safe Haven law really gives moms a chance to establish some of their own rules too. It gives them the ultimate ability of non-verbal communication at a time, when like Knox, they are feeling scared, unsure and really wanting someone to make it all better, without having to explain why or how or when or what.

My kids are such miracles, but the blessing has been in all I’ve learned from them. Knox’s behavior really makes me think about how we all communicate non-verbally. I do often. I hang my head in embarrassment, walk away in frustration, fill my eyes with tears in sadness or worry, hug real tight in love and kiss for affection. It is the deepest relationship, the most personal form of communication.

Normally though, I am quick to speak and not always pay attention to how someone else is feeling by what they are showing in their face or actions. A three-year-old clinging to me has forced me to rethink that quite a bit since I have no choice but to respond immediately, and in a positive manner. I am very open with my feelings, but not always aware of others’ and I want to be. It’s so easy for me to show love to a child, but not an adult who may just be feeling the same way. And when I am scared, even I only want to be held and comforted just like Knox does today. Don’t we all?

Let’s just open our hearts to those moms who offer the most intimate love possible when they hand over a child and walk away. Let’s not ask why but respect this non-verbal communication. I know I don’t like being attacked when I am unsure and lower my face. No one wants to be kicked more when they are down.

These women are making the ultimate sacrifice for that tiny human, without saying a single word. Now I know not every exchange is completely silent, but the fact that they don’t HAVE to talk is special. It’s a gift.

I know Knox is really just finding his way and well, I’ll give him that gift. I’ll offer comfort and compassion, and pray the tantrums will pass soon. I’ll help him grow independence, but realize that independence does not mean insensitivity to his or others’ feelings. You know, many times the toughest people are the ones who are very authentic with themselves and their feelings, because they’ve given and lost much. His mom is one tough woman and she didn’t have to say a single word. She is brave and loving to the highest degree.

So, that’s today’s lesson from toddlers. No, it won’t be a new theme of my writing. (You can breathe a sigh of relief now.ha.)  I’ve missed writing this blog. It’s been a crazy summer, and I thank whoever’s reading this for just being here. Have a blessed day. :)

 

It takes one decision

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My husband sent me roses today. They smell and look so beautiful! It’s our anniversary. Seven years of bliss. Okay, we all know it wasn’t total bliss. ha! To our credit, though, and God’s grace and mercy, we’ve made it this far. We have had highs and lows, but I like to think somewhere in the middle we flourish and sustain.

That said, I was thinking about this concept of “one decision” the other day.

A woman recently left a newborn baby one mile from a police station in Massachusetts. And now they’re gone; the mom disappeared into the crowd and a baby girl will be buried. That one mile boils down to a single decision she made — one decision that has changed a community and many lives.

I just stopped as I read the article and thought about the enormity of that. One mile.So many of us would have ran barefoot in any kind of weather to reach that child, to reach that mother and love them; it was just a mile. I’m not very fast, so many of you could have made it even faster than me! ((That’s a joke!))

It was a intentional, one decision we made to get married seven years ago. It wasn’t an easy one for us. Our marriage didn’t start with wine and roses as many do. We had to make a line in the sand and commit to each other.

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At our reception, a few months after the wedding!

Each morning as I drop the kids off at the sitter’s, we say a prayer for our day before I take them into the house. Today, I prayed for our marriage, for our family and for that one decision that has brought these two children into our lives. I prayed they knew how much we loved them and in those valleys of marriage, when it’s just so hard, that they realize we will stay committed, for them and for us. We will honor each other and our vows. I prayed that in the days of prosperity and the times we look into each other’s eyes like we were 25 again, that the kids still will realize what it takes to have those happy moments and the commitment of that one decision.

And today I pray for this mother. I hope she forgives herself; I hope she knows God forgives her, but I also hope we can stop these one decisions from being such sad, desperate ones.

If you’ve ever made that one life-changing, horribly stressful, challenging decision, you get it. You know what it’s like to say, “jump” and know looking back is not an option. You know what it’s like to be broken and scared. You know what it’s like to have to put all your money on love and hope that God knows what the heck he’s doing, because you sure don’t.

No monumental decision is ever simple. If you truly love, it can’t be simple because you care for others as yourself.You know that family means taking risks and following God’s will, even when it’s not your own or what others think you should do. I like to think this mom just panicked, that she didn’t realize the implications. I don’t know. I do know we have the responsibility to keep talking and helping those like her make that one decision a wise choice. I hope someday this mom becomes the voice behind the Safe Haven movement, guiding other women who are in the middle of making the decision she did. We each have choices after all, and in a mere second, what decision we make can change the course of life as we know it.

Happy Anniversary Jonas. I can’t say it’s been what I expected, but I can say it’s been more than I could have dreamed. You and I have a lot to be proud of and when we look back on that one decision,  no matter the highs or lows of the day, I know it was the right one. I love you.

Colossians 3:14 “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

 

Taking a stand for surrender

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Happy Friday!

I could tell you why I’m taking  a stand for surrender, but I thought some pics might be better.

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As many of you know, I’m a freelance writer by day (and night, and weekends)! While it’s a lot of fun and the schedule is awesomely flexible, God has given me a great responsibility. I’m happy to say “Yes, Lord” and do it, but I get overwhelmed. I struggle to manage the demands of a mom, wife, business owner, journalist, daughter, sister and friend multiple times each day. I often feel my head spinning and at night,I emotionally and physically crash.

I truly understand I am not alone and that I choose to be career-focused. I also LOVE working, simply for the joy and challenge of it. I’m just venting to hear my own voice I suppose. (The kids have been cranky this week!) No matter the path you’re on,however, there comes a time when you have to say “Enough! I NEED help!” I did that a few weeks ago, and let me tell you, it feels GOOD!

Like the happy dance in your birthday suit kind of good. Gaining back a part of your sanity good. Snuggling with your babies at night and knowing it’s okay to take the time to do so good. Spending quality time with your hubby and watching Scandal every single Thursday night with no other plans SO SO GOOD!

But you know what feels even better? Knowing that my need to relinquish some responsibility in turn has blessed others. I’m giving them work, some pocket cash and the blessing of knowing they are helping me. I don’t know why that blows my mind, but it does. First, I felt so guilty getting a babysitter three days/week. Recently, I felt so guilty hiring someone to help with transcriptions.

And then I had the much-needed “a-ha” moment. Our sitter just bought her senior prom dress and her mom says to me matter-of-factly: “Well you paid for it.” I was like, “Oh, okay,”all weird and awkward. And on the drive home, that comment had me thinking though. I did pay for that dress, didn’t I!? She earned the money, absolutely no doubt, but I had earned it first and passed it on to her. And here she was, smiling so wide and beautiful, so excited she could afford her dream dress. We were both working toward the same goal and I hadn’t even known it! Instead of feeling embarrassed or that it wasn’t enough to give her or I should do more, I instead was feeling joy – for her and me.

Katharine (KK) and the boys

Katharine (KK) and the boys

It’s really all about perspective, don’t you agree? I was so   thrilled that I could make her eyes just sparkle with happiness! I never felt like I was giving because I was also asking for help. It wasn’t until that moment that I saw this entire circumstance in a completely different frame of mind. We all are in the position to take and to give, and without critique or guilt when we find ourselves in either camp for the night.

Let’s think of this life and the Safe Haven law as just another opportunity to pay it forward. Sacrifice is not always comfortable or easy. I honestly don’t like knowing I have to give up more of my profit every month. It’s not a fortune to begin with. (That’s just the businesswoman sighing within me.) I do like, however, knowing this is all part of the bigger plan, totally out of my control. And surrendering is starting to feel awesome!

When birth moms feel they need to take a step away and say “enough” we need to be the hands applauding them and showing them the joy in our hearts for their sacrifice. I know I am applauding the ones who help me as I spend this weekend with my family.

And, I’m pretty good at telling it like it is. If you ever need a third-party perspective in surrender, just call me. I’ll help you take a stand.

Have a great weekend, friends. :)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV) 

To know and be known…

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This is a common phrase in the Christian community: “to know and be known.”

It really references this Bible verse of 1 Corinthians 13:12:

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

God fully knows us. He always has and always will, and once we see Him face to face, we shall also know Him fully. Those who believe will stand with him in glory. Gives me shivers just thinking about it, to be honest.

A good friend once asked me about my son’s mom finding us, or him finding her when he’s older. Was I okay with that? Even though his relationship with her is anonymous, is it even possible? We discussed it and agreed: probably. Technology has its limits, but it also has broken barriers we could never have imagined 50 years ago. So who’s to say what will come in my lifetime and even more so my children’s?

Take a look at this link below. A grown woman found her mom through Facebook by posting a pic of her holding a sign, just like the ones teachers use to show students how fast information can be spread. Did you hear about it? She was dubbed the “Burger King baby” for many years after being left at a local Pennsylvania restaurant bathroom as a newborn and now they have been reunited. Read the last line of this article: “Deprill said her birth mother expressed regret during their tear-filled meeting. She said she forgave her ‘110 percent, absolutely.’ “

http://www.myfox28columbus.com/shared/news/features/top-stories/stories/wsyx_burger-king-baby-finds-birth-mom-feels-pure-joy-30196.shtml

Is a person ever fully known without actually knowing where they come from? The Bible says yes, to God we are. While that gives me peace, I don’t know if I would ever be fully me without my mom, my dad, the innate reason I have blue eyes, (I won’t tell you what size) hips and curly hair. On the other hand, I am Knox’s mom, Jonas is Knox’s dad and he is fully known to us. We know every smile, laugh, cry and tantrum this two-year-old throws.

My amazing family!

My amazing family!

I know his tricks and triumphs. But he is also someone else’s. I can’t deny he is a part of something more than us, anymore that God is not simply a level of understanding to attain, but a Savior to worship and praise.

This is why I’m not worried or threatened by another mom in his life. Heck, I have a bunch I run to for a variety of questions, concerns or full-out meltdowns. :) I would want Knox and his birth mom to know and be known to each other. I can say that confidently. If she desires this relationship someday and my son desires to meet her, then it will be left up to a bigger power than myself to stop that. If not, then I know that we were gifted an enormous place in this little boy’s life. We already have been, but unfortunately, won’t have answers to questions he’ll have and that only someone else carries.

Yesterday was National Safe Baby Haven Day. Tell someone you know about the Safe Haven law. It doesn’t matter who, or if that person even needs a reason to hear your words. Let’s just keep spreading the word. Pray that these moms know God loves them and their children, and yes, even their deepest desires and fears. Our God is stronger and greater than any circumstance. He knows if they want to stay anonymous, if they NEED to stay anonymous and bring them to their babies once again if that’s what is best.

Let’s help the moms know and be known too. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to love.

“And so it is,” my dear mother-in-law used to say.

Good Night Owen

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Good Night Owen

Tonight we were joking around with Knox and it was pretty cute. He loves a blanket he received this past Christmas from the foster care department, and which has “Owen” sewed into it. Owen was his legal name for the first year of his life, though we always called him Knox. The nurses had the duty of naming him for that initial piece of paperwork. Owen Safehaven was what they chose, and he seems to recognize that this name is special to him. So, we gave kisses and said, “Good Night Owen.” Knox just smiled, and waved “bye bye.” The pic on the left was the first time Jonas saw him, only a night’s sleep away from when we brought our baby home. Today, he was caught snuggling with his “Owen” blankie.

Thrown away?

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This phrase itself is interesting to me: thrown away.

If you read the article below, you’ll see that a man described this baby found in Washington State as “tossed away like nothing.”

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/abandoned-baby-found-dead-washington-state-highway-article-1.1613768

I’m not saying that his observation is inaccurate. The child was just tossed into a ditch, left along the side of a road wrapped in a blanket. What I question, however, is what this child’s mother was thinking. Was she making a conscious decision when throwing away her child? Did she consider her child to be “nothing” and worthy of such a short life?

I don’t know. We might never truly understand, and anyway, is it for us to judge? I know I have my own things to be looked at with scrutiny and God is all over that. Or should we learn from what happened, and try to prevent it from occurring to another child, another desperate mother?

Yes, those of us who are parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles are abhorred. Anyone who is intoxicated by a newborn’s smell and soft skin can’t imagine what in the world this lady was thinking. It’s unimaginable.

That’s the point, though, right? This is without rationale. A hospital was just down the road. It’s puzzling. Yet, background knowledge is critical here. Was she being abused? If she had a baby, would she and her child’s life be in danger? Was she so young and terrified that she didn’t even know what to do/where to turn/how to process the enormity of the situation?

These are things we can help with before a newborn is found in a ditch, wrapped in a blanket, dead.

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We have the opportunity to educate, to be a light, to let these moms know there is another way, there is another option. The Safe Haven program was developed for a reason, and those who know about it, want to rewind the clock, be able to walk up to this woman and help her: to give her and her child a chance.

I don’t believe she thought her child was nothing. I don’t believe that she thought she would just throw it away. I believe she probably was lost, scared and alone. How does she feel today? At this moment? Wow.. that is something to ponder.

And here’s the thing: haven’t we all felt that way at one time? Scared? Confused? It’s human. It’s life. I always have been lucky enough to be surrounded by friends, family and resources to help me through those times. I had a situation just this week where I was full of anxiety, and I was not alone for a second. I am blessed.

When we realize that we have the opportunity, and even more so, the responsibility, to be the blessing for those we may not even know, the world will see less babies thrown in ditches. This mom needed a blessing. She needed a Safe Haven. While she did the wrong thing, she is someone who desperately is calling out for love and needs a big serving of grace along with it.

Our pastor has been preaching from Paul’s letter to the Philippians lately, and wow, God is amazing when he weaves things together.

“Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection on mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself.” Philippians 2:1-3

I know the Wisconsin group, Safe Place for Newborns, has done recent research on this topic. The coordinator has spent time with women who have left their babies to perish, and is doing a great work for the surrounding community. To learn more about her efforts, visit https://www.facebook.com/pages/Safe-Place-for-Newborns-of-Wisconsin/85757952188

Thanks for helping me continue the Safe Haven conversation. I know that my life is so gloriously ruined because of this law and my prayer is for others to be too!

Looking for people to interview…

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Looking for people to interview...

I saw this online and thought the message was really strong.

I’ve decided to start sharing other people’s stories on this blog. I figure it might be interesting to talk to Safe Haven parents, as well as those involved in the law making and other parts of the process. I’ll put my journalistic skills to task and hopefully get some contacts nationwide. If you know of someone, just send me a message at jen@bradleybylines.com.