Buy differently this Christmas.

One of the first times I came back from Africa I stayed out of the stores for as long as I could. I was disgusted by how much we have. We all should be. Our kids do not NEED any more. They don’t. We don’t. Just the thought of going into “our world” made me sick to my stomach. After watching children my own children’s age walk barefoot in the red dirt for water each day. And play with a stick and a bike tire as a toy I wanted to exclude myself from participating in self consumption. It wasn’t long though I needed to buy cereal and milk. Cause that’s what we moms are supposed to do. Feed our kids. Yet so many mothers around the world cannot provide the basic needs for those they adore.

For a while I struggled with how do I live here while part of me is thousands of miles away? I still struggle with this. And how do I justify buying a five dollar coffee ( I still can’t come up with this one) while millions of children don’t have a full belly? Nights I would wrestle with the have and have not’s and I still don’t have answers. But that is why God is God and I am not. It is all for a reason. But I strongly. Strongly believe that those of us that are given much are required to love even more. And if you are reading this. You are given much. You are the elite of this world.

I thought I would share how you can love much this Christmas. By being extremely mindful of the gifts you buy this Christmas you can change the life of a child, a family, a generation. Be that change….

Here are a few of my favorites. What are yours?

Sixty Feet

The Cupcake Kids

Trades of Hope

Samaritans Purse

TOMS

Krochet Kids

Sseko

Noonday

Ten Thousand Villages

Sevenly

Whenever we buy gifts we try and purchase from these companies or at least try and buy local small businesses. Let your Christmas look differently this year….smaller, more meaningful. #lovedoes

an open letter to those thinking about adoption…

If there is one piece of advice I would give to those thinking about adopting it is this.

YOU NEED COMMUNITY.

You need a group, a group, not an individual that will walk with you through this. And not walk away.

You need people in your life that will stand in your kitchen after you have returned home after being gone for three months and say “you’re wondering why you did this, right?”.  And loving you in the answer.

You need people that you can lay on their couch and cry knowing that you don’t need to say a word you need to just be.

You need people that will bring you meals and not try to hold your child or give your child anything. They understand that attachment is holding on by a thread.

You need people who get what the trenches look like. They are an ugly dark place filled with loss and grief.

You need people who give you space to feel what you need to feel.

You need people who will fight for justice for the orphan not their happiness.

You need people who will cover your house with prayer and pray the darkness away from you.

You need people who will stop and actually want to know how things are.

You need people who know what to do with hair, skin, rashes etc.

You need people who are in your corner no matter what.

You need people to shower you with grace when make a decision that you stand alone in.

You need people who understand that the health department and the social worker coming on the same day deserves a good cry and a latte, if not a bottle of wine.

You need people who are not afraid of the truth. You need people who fight for your family.

You need people who know what it’s like to try and collect bodily fluids out of your child is draining every last ounce of sanity you think you have.

You need people who understand that you cannot spank your child when he misbehaves. Knowing and respecting that this just sends them into a tale spin of shame.

You need people who realize that adoption can bring out the ugliest part of you. Parts that even scare you.

You need people who love you through your own tantrums.

You need people who understand that at least the first year you are in your own bubble of adjustment.

You need people who understand not to take things personally when you don’t return phone calls, much less remember your birthday.

You need people who except that your family looks different. You need people who celebrate that.

You need people who continually lead you to the great Healer.

You need people who want nothing but healing for all of you.

This is my prayer for you. That before you decide to bring another child filled with trauma into your home that you would have these honest conversations with yourself and those you love. That you would ask God to begin to heal the hearts and lives of those around you so they can be your people.

this is why. (truth about what Christians did in the name of adoption….and why I don’t agree)

I know this topic stirs up controversy in the adoption world. I am not claiming that this is your story. This is our story. But do not think that it doesn’t happen. It happens all the time. And we believe it just makes the problems worse for anyone that comes after you in the adoption process. It only hurts the kids that are left because of our greed and American narcissistic demands. This is our truth.

There have been moments this past year when Jesus so gently has whispered to me ….this is why. This is why you needed to suffer. This is why your family had to be separated for so long. This is why you saw what you saw. This is why you needed to obey.

This past August we began the process of adopting our sweet boy stateside. Because he came from a country that grants guardianship with the intent of adoption, we wanted to begin the next process as soon as we were able to. We handed all of our paperwork and documents over to our lawyer who presented our case to the judge. On a beautiful day in Chicago we stood before a judge as a family of seven and knew without a doubt that this was the final step.

Yet three weeks later we received a phone call from our lawyer. The lawyer that was representing our son in the case was contesting the adoption. During the nine phone calls back and forth that Friday afternoon I felt like the floor was falling out from under me. Tim and I cried and prayed and set up a plan. We knew we could not share this information with our families. The past year had been a year of so much uncertainty and fighting for us, that we could not bear to put another burden on their shoulders. His lawyer was stating that with all of the publicity of child trafficking happening in Uganda our case would not be granted. She was certain that our case was the one that was going to help her “make a name” for herself. Our lawyer was furious. She had done her research . She knew our case backwards and forwards and knew that there was no room for argument. We continued to fall to our knees and just pray protection over our family.

In that moment Jesus again said….this is why.

This is why you were in Uganda for three months. This is why you waited so long for a passport. This is why I let you fall in love with the people of Uganda. This is why you saw others leave the country within weeks and had no idea why. This is why you were at the passport office watching as other “Christians” offered to pay off officials in order to “get out of there”. This is why, when you were asked to pay a significant person in the adoption for documents on your first week there, you immediately walked out of the room and never looked back. This is why you cried yourself to sleep at night after witnessing people tracking down officials and persuading them to do what they wanted, when they wanted. This is why you came home from Uganda knowing that you never gave a cent to anyone to obtain any part of the adoption. This is why you came home so angry and disappointed at what “Christians” will claim and do “ In the name of Christ”. This is why you lay awake at night so disappointed at what you saw unfold before you. This is why this story still brings you to tears and makes your blood boil. This is why when someone accuses you of anything illegal in your adoption you can hold your head high. This is why sweet girl. This moment. This moment is why. You obeyed. You may have had to be apart from the rest of your children for three months but this is why.

This moment when we knew we could go before the judge with a clear conscience and know all we did for Christ was obey.

This past Monday I came home from a weekend away to find a large envelope from our lawyer. In it was the final ruling of our judge. The judge had decided that what his lawyer was presenting held no merit.That our family was a family of seven. Our sweet boy is ours. Officially ours. Forever ours. This is why.

assessments.

This past week Ephraim’s teacher came for a home visit. The program that he is in for early intervention has it as one of their requirements that they visit the homes of their students. There is a higher risk of child abuse and neglect when the child has special needs or is labeled “at risk”. I was looking forward to her seeing how well he has integrated into the home environment. What I wasn’t looking forward to was the acting out that occurred the entire time she was here. He kept covering my mouth telling me to be quiet. He wanted her all to himself. He asked her to move in. It really was a highlight of my mothering career. My two other children home at the time then proceeded to answer the phone and play the bongo drums at the feet of the teacher. It felt like I was being taped for my own reality TV show on a network that no one would watch.

The report from the visit wasn’t what I was expecting. She mentioned several times how she was concerned how far behind he was. His language fluency as well as his social skills in comparison to his age was not measuring up. At first I was a little disturbed by her assessment of our sweet boy. And I wanted to say yes I know he is not at the correct developmental age. However, he is not even close to where he was a year ago. In this mama’s eyes he has come leaps and bounds from where he started from. And to compare him to a child the same age that was born and raised from birth with two parents in a first world country is just unfair.

Yet, this is how I compare myself. Daily I compare myself.

I love reading blogs. I am a bit of a blogaholic . There are blogs that I run across that I make a note to read later and then there are blogs that my smarty pants friends post and write that I learn so much from. But then there are the blogs that I follow religiously .They make me laugh and contemplate life and faith. For a long time though I only read adoption and mom blogs. I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone in the struggle. But you know what I kept feeling? I am not good enough. I don’t homeschool my kids anymore. I am homeschool dropout. I must not love my kids enough then. I don’t make my own detergent. Therefore I must not care about the environment or the stench of store bought detergent on my children. My children also do not match. Like ever. I shop at thrift stores and clearance racks. That is it. So I must not care if my kids never make the GAP adds. I also am not a size 4. I think I was a size 4 in elementary school for a month or so but I will never be small. So that means I must not care about my health or how attractive I am to my husband anymore. I know this is not true. I do.

But this is what I do, I compare myself to standards that don’t make sense. They are not even in the same ballpark. Making assessments with women I don’t know. Trying to assess where I am today with women that I discovered are at least ten years younger than me. Here I am sitting in my self- examination pity party trying to mirror the lives of people that I have no business holding my worth up against .

I am basically telling God that where I am today is not good enough. That how far He has carried me . Emptied me. Healed me. Transformed me is not enough. And that is just not acceptable. Where I am is not where I’d like to be. But from where I was a year ago is only by His grace. And His grace is enough.

When my teenager teaches me.

I’m a complainer. I can be. I can be a whiner and child not getting her own way. If I feel discomfort or see a social situation that I think needs “changing” it is my first sinful instinct to complain. I have my mini temper tantrums and excuse them as “stress” or say “someone needs to deal with that”. If I have issues with my marriage I can complain to my girlfriends. If I have issues with my kids I check out every book in the library about the particular setback. I roll my eyes at the mom in Target not controlling her selfish children, ignoring the fact that last week that was me in the same situation. I see someone being treated unfairly and I can feel the righteous rage build up inside of me. I hear a mom screaming and cussing at her kids across the street and I call my husband at work telling him we are putting the house up for sale. Letting him know that I am sick and tired of having to tell the kids to come back inside to play because I just can’t stand the language being used any longer.

This past month though I have been convicted on so many levels about my pride and self- righteous attitude. I can go around complaining or signing the next petition for an action to be taken place but until I walk across the street I am nothing but words. This morning I got to witness high school students “do something”. As I was a part of “See You At The Pole “day. Where students, teachers, pastors, community members and parents are invited to come and pray for the school and students. I was humbled when I saw how many students came to be a part of the solution.

I have been adamant with my husband that sending my daughters to this particular high school sends a fear in me that has never settled. I cry and beg him to think about moving to a “better” school district every August. A school district where there is more parental involvement with higher test scores . Where our kids will have more opportunities with a better chance of good influence. So basically I have been asking to move to a “socially acceptable, suburban, no diversity, uppity school district where people can buy there problems away and this mom can feel like everything is ok.” Which is in fact everything we wanted to avoid when we moved here.

And then this morning happened. I stood back and watched high school students bow there heads and beg God. Beg God to be so present in their school that teachers would not understand what was going on. That the sadness that has plagued the school would be overcome by the Holy Spirit. I watched as one of my daughters mentors showed up at 6:30am to hold her hand and let her know that she was not alone in this battle. As I walked away to get in my car I turned back and took this picture. clip_image001

I literally was crying. God was so present. He always has been . It was just me that was unwilling to walk across the street. To ask Him to be present. His Holy Spirit and Light are there. They are here. They are with every student.

I need to be bolder. I need to be on my knees for the girl in Target, for the teachers in the schools, for the students walking the hallways, for the woman across the street who is just needing some relief. I need to stop being a complainer. To set down my pride. To lay it all at the cross. To follow the example of the high school students this morning.

blue walls and other things of going off the deep end.

This is a portion of a journal entries written over six months ago. It is only a fraction of what God has been doing in my life these past five years. He is changing me. Renewing me. And it is His story of healing that I am in the process of putting into a memoir of redemption and the unexpected struggles of depression and anxiety. Grace.

She stared at the walls. Blue. Light blue. Not light robin egg blue. Or you’re near an ocean blue. More like you have just been locked up blue. You have just officially hit rock bottom blue. Your dignity and pride are stripped away blue. Your soul is naked blue. The no one who can protect you now blue. She sat. Staring. Tears running down her cheeks, raw from the tears that had been shed in the last 24 hours. Hours filled with question after question. Name? Date of birth? Medications? Next of kin? Children? Where are they? Insurance? Are you going to harm yourself?

That is the question that got her here. That landed her in this hallway. That brought her to this dejected place. A place where she was just a shell of who she used to be. Frail and exposed. When she looked at the nurse with some sort of cheery scrub on, something that a toddler would find delight in and vacantly said “I don’t know”.

She wanted to disappear. She wanted it all to just stop. She wanted her heart to stop beating so fast. She wanted it to just end. To wake up far away from where she was. With no responsibility. No decisions to make. No one to ask her anything anymore. She wanted to hide. She wanted the voices in her head to cease. The voices that told her things she would never utter out loud. The voices that took control of who she was of who she never wanted to be. The voices that told her she wasn’t safe. She wasn’t safe to be in her own skin. She wasn’t safe to be around.

This is where it had all landed her. The months of anguish she had endured all boiled over her that Sunday morning. And by Sunday evening she was being watched by a police officer. Monitored one on one so that she wouldn’t harm herself. Her purse was taken away. Her clothes gone. She was left laying with a paper gown trying to plead with the doctor to not lock her up .She hadn’t shaved her legs or worn pretty underwear. Her mother always told her to do these things. Although I am sure her mother never thought her daughter would be laid out on a gurney being evaluated by a psychiatrist that December. She wanted to melt into the bed. She wanted to disappear. She wanted to wake up from this nightmare. “Please” she is pleading with him just don’t lock me up. She knows what it’s like. She does . She knows how they over medicate. She knows that people at church will find out. They say that they will look past this and forgive her. But they won’t. She knows.They say grace. But judge by the law. She knows that she will be looked at as the “crazy mom who had to be locked up” “ The mom who couldn’t handle it” “ The one who fell off the deep end” She knows how she will never be the same. She will never be who she was meant to be.

She sat staring at the blue wall pleading with God to show up. Begging Him to be real. In this moment of all moments in her life she needed to feel Him. To hear His voice. To feel His arms wrap around her. She pictured herself at His feet barely able to lift her head clinging to His ankles. Begging for mercy to be tangible. For this one moment all she ached for was hope.

sweet ones.–dreams for my daughters.

Dear sweet ones,

I watch you growing into the girls I always wished I could be and it makes me pause for a moment and think. I wish someone would have told me so many things when I was your age. Although maybe someone did and I was already so far gone that I just closed my ears to what was being laid out before me. So this is my advice to you now. Feel free to Tweet or Instagram it, whatever you need to do to remember it.

– Never color your hair. Seriously don’t start. You have gorgeous hair and once you start you end up spending hundreds of dollars to keep it up. You have your aunt’s gorgeous hair and I am a bit jealous. But if you do color your hair don’t do it yourself. I beg of you it will cost a lot of money to correct. And it hurts and is painful. Make sure you want photos of yourself taken with that color. Don’t try to convince me that purple will still look classy in 15 years.

-Don’t ever date anyone that is not as amazing as your dad. You both adore your dad so much and he feels the same about you. Don’t forget that. When that boy or man child starts paying attention to you talk to your dad about him and listen. If you can’t or if he doesn’t even have the courage to talk face to face with your dad then walk away. Better yet run. Because sweet girls you think your daddy hung the moon and the man you marry needs to hold it in place.

-Don’t go to college. Ok. Hear me out. Don’t go to college if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. Just because you have a college degree does not make you any better than anyone else. Believe me some of the people I love and respect the most are changing the world more by never stepping in a college classroom. You don’t have to spend $30,000 a year to figure that out. And debt sucks. Travel the world. Go on a mission trip go on many! Ask tough questions. Follow your passion not the crowd. And if the crowd is your passion than we have another problem. I want you to see and know other countries and other cultures. I want you touch the oceans with your toes and see the evidence of God in the face of devastation.

– Open your heart to the possibility that God has something more than just high school drama for you He will meet you there.

-Throw away the credit card applications before you even walk in the door. They are liars. They do not want the best for you. They want the best for the world. And you are not of the world.

-Don’t fight with your sister. Love each other well. Learn her love language and speak it to her. Don’t wait until it is too late to make amends. Your siblings are your blood and they deserve all of you. I messed up in this area and I don’t want you to have the same hole in your heart like I do.

-Say no. Say no before you say yes. I want you to know how to balance your life. And just because it is good does not mean that it is always a yes. Good things deserve a no too.

-Know God. Explore Him. Claim Him as your own. Read His word. Soak in His Presence. Sit silently and hear His voice. Know that He is pursuing you so stop running and let Him catch you, hold you , and love you.

-Learn to change a tire. Grocery shop. Know how to cook all of your favorite meals and your siblings meals too. Give money away to complete strangers. Write thank you notes. Always have stamps on you. Know your family’s history. Ask questions. Tell your story. You never know how your story will heal another’s.

-Come home. You will leave at some point and I will sob. It will probably be an ugly cry and very embarrassing. But after you leave and start your own life. Come home. Visit. Call. Write letters. Skype. Facetime. Whatever you need to do to stay connected. If you need gas money I will send it. I will eat cereal all week if it means that I get to see your sweet face. Home is where we are. Home is where you began and the two should always matter to you. And if you don’t call. Don’t worry I will.

I love you to the moon and back,

mom.

When you check every box

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This morning we had our first OT ( Occupational Therapy) appointment for our youngest daughter. Of course with a first appointment comes with it a file of papers to complete. Asking questions such as what her birthdate and insurance coverage was. It then turned to more pressing questions such as what was my diet like while I was pregnant. Did she lift her head at the appropriate developmental stage? What prenatal testing did I go through? What was her weight, her Apgar score and other things this mommy brain could hardly remember? By the fourth child I am lucky I remember her name much less to actually keep track of anything in a baby book.

Towards the end of the questions they asked if there was any additional information about “the mother” that they needed to know. I sat staring at the question. Wrestling with my thoughts whether the truth at this moment was something I could look over. Whether or not I could suggest something but not quite say it. After what seemed endless I wrote these words- “ After Emerson was born I suffered from postpartum depression and did not attach to her for quite a long time” I wanted to add…”I’m sorry, I blame myself for all of this”. Instead I signed at the bottom and left it at that.

This morning at the office I was handed more questionnaires, specifically about where she is right now. Asking questions about her social skills, her auditory and sensory processing and other issues that interfere with her learning and being six. As I read and began to answer the questions I realized how many boxes I had checked “frequently”. For a brief moment it was a sigh of relief that perhaps someone understood the issues that had never been given a name. That she finally would be given a language we could all understand. Yet as I sat there with tears streaming down my face another voice was going through my head…” This is your fault”;” You should have gotten her help years ago”. “It is your depression that did this”.” She doesn’t deserve this.”

Believe me I have enough guilt in my heart I didn’t need to carry anymore.

I sit now with Truth in front of me. Trying to remind myself that the words are not good, and pure and holy do not come from God. And all I can utter is “Jesus please.”

I fully comprehend that this is only the beginning of our journey with her. And to many of you this seems so minuscule. But for today. For where we are. I ask for grace.

Infomercials and other things I believe.

My nine year old likes to announce to us the latest infomercial that he has seen. He gives us all the reasons why we should invest “three easy payments” for the newest gadget. As his skeptical older sisters like to point out to him that just because it’s on TV or even the internet does not mean that it is real. His sweet tender heart cannot fathom that. That someone would try and sell us or tell us something that wasn’t real. He wants to believe.

I too within the last year have wanted to believe that everything that others were telling me or selling me was real. My husband likes to point out that my naivety about the world around me is one reason that he loves me. That I truly believe that people were good, and true, and that a plate of cookies on their doorstep would make anyone be my friend. I just wanted to believe.

But when it comes to my relationship with God is where I stop believing. At least that is what you would think if you heard my prayers or saw my anxiety level at times. That I really don’t believe. I want to believe but my actions and conversations at times play out differently. I am human. With a human heart. And my human heart although born solely to worship my Savior is swayed to believe others.

Believing that I am still the girl with a scandalous past. That it will always define me. I believe the voice that tells me I am always on the brink of another panic attack. I believe the voice that tell me to make idols out of people around me. And when they disappoint me I am easily frustrated. I am drawn to believe that I will never be pretty enough to keep my husband around. I listen to the voice that tells me that I am not smart enough to write the book that needs to be written. I fall asleep to the voice that tells me that the darkness will win and people are better off if it does. I believe the scale when it says that I am not and never will be the size I was in college. That I cannot be healthy and strong. I believe people when they tell me I am not who they need me to be. I believe the magazines and blogs I read that tell me that my kids need to be in better schools and that it is all my fault that I can’t give that to them.

Last Sunday in church though as I sat there listening to a song during communion I heard truth. I heard the voice of God so clearly whisper to me “ live in freedom”. I sat there with tears streaming down my face in awe of how perfect God is to me. He knew that my past had been on my heart for the entire service. That I sat through a sermon on Lust thinking that this was a sin that I did not struggle with so really it was a ”free pass Sunday” . I could just pray for those around me who struggled with it. Instead images of my past kept coming back to me and I found myself heaving tears. I couldn’t catch my breath. The vivid the images of myself in past situations from over 15 years ago still haunt me. As I sat there I knew that I still carried it. Carry it. Everyday it still defines me. I am still listening to it. Listening to the past that wants to clutch me there and never understand forgiveness. To experience freedom. And to hear truth.

Truth is….God. He alone can heal me. He alone is my comforter. He alone will protect me. His will alone will be done. He is my freedom. He is my love. He is my beauty. He is my father. He is my all in all. He is the beginning and the end. He has control. He is the only voice I need to hear. He is my truth.

15 years and other miracles.

I remember a card my dad gave me on my wedding day. It was a beautiful card with a little blonde haired girl blowing on a daisy. It was filled with love and words of affirmation. I still have it in my bible today. One thing he wrote in it that I may have skimmed over was that the marriage was going to be work. At 22 I am sure I thought well work won’t be too hard. I work as a lifeguard and I love my great tan and I am basically “off work” when the sun goes down. And still at 22 I was more concerned with who was going to be at the wedding or how thin I looked in my dress more than the “work” that this was going to be.

15 years later and my dad was right. He perhaps should have said it will be like the worst job you have ever had but hold on. Keep coming back. Don’t worry about not getting a paycheck. Keep opening the door. Keep working and serving when the other has walked away. Open the door. Because the good will come. And it will be better than you could have ever imagined.

This week we celebrate 15 years. 15 years filled with things we never would have imagined. Five kids. One before we even walked down the aisle. Unexpected deaths. Moved far away from family. Raised many children who we didn’t birth. Finished college. Came to know Jesus. Baptized. Part of a church we call family. Loss of jobs. Loss of friends. Didn’t know how we would make Christmas happen. Loneliness. Bought our first house. Homeschooled. Public schooled. Private schooled. Master degrees. National Boards. Many tears. Many fights. Many slammed doors. Pride taken down. Liberia. Post-partum Depression. Sierra Leone. Adoption. Uganda. Just to name a few things.

For those of you that said we weren’t going to make it. (I was one of them). We didn’t. But God did. It is only by God’s grace and redemption that we are here. I know that many of you have seen our struggles and the pain that we have encountered. And those that we adore came right alongside of us and entered in the ugly muddy part of our hearts and carried us through. They weren’t afraid to call. To ask the tough questions. To make the late night visits. To pray over us. For us. And between us. These 15 years have been hard. And at times we have felt like giving up. But the amazing thing about God. He doesn’t. He doesn’t give up on us.

Our God knew from the very beginning that Tim was supposed to be with me. That He would make him into the man of God he is today. That Tim would be an amazing dad who loves his children completely. That he would be the leader in his family, to teach them how to walk through an enormously difficult time. That he would meet some of the most Godly men when he moved his family to a new church. Men that have become his brothers. God knew what Tim would need to learn to be the kind of husband his wife adores. A man of grace and love. A man who stands up for his wife. A man who supports her and encourages her to be better today than she was yesterday. A man who faithfully prays the darkness away from his wife. A man who God himself transformed.

In 15 years we have grown, taken a few steps back and learned to kneel before our Jesus with grateful hearts. I would have never thought 15 years ago that God could make something amazing out of the mess that we were. But He did.

Happy 15 years babe….you’re still the one.

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