Monday, August 29, 2016

Be Still.

Over the course of life, we find ourselves waiting a lot. Waiting for things to happen, waiting in line, waiting for flights, waiting for opportunities, waiting it seems is how our time is spent. The last two years as I have been a mom, I have realized that large amounts of my day is spent waiting, in doctor offices, waiting rooms, in the car, and public restrooms.

I HATE waiting. My philosophy for most of my 20's was be five minutes late just so I don’t have to wait. The thought of being somewhere early where I have to then wait is stressful to me. Instead I would rather spend time getting those dishes washed or that laundry started and be a tad late than to somewhere early, only to wait. I have worked really hard at rewiring my brain and am actively trying to be five minutes early everywhere I go, with kids means I will show up on time.

My childhood bedroom, has the words written over the door BE STILL, a skill I have been trying to learn my whole life. I have created this false illusion I am a duck, beautiful and calm on top of the water, just floating, but just below the surface I am paddling like crazy. A false sense of stillness, is the reality we often find ourselves in.

Our culture has trained us to utter empty "goods" and "greats" in social encounters, the reality behind our “goods” is a bunch of heartache, questions, fears and insecurities. On the outside I am “fine” yet just below what everyone can see, is chaos, all hands on deck, this ship is sinking. What exactly does it mean to be still? For so long, I thought it meant I had to have it all settled, figured out and squared away, that being still meant the questions stopped and the peace flowed with a smile.

About a year ago, I got tattooed on my forearm “even so, it is well with my soul.” My mantra and representation of 2015, it was what I used to cope with the ache of foster care, the reality of losing loved ones and the struggle of reconciling God’s goodness and brokenness of this world. Even when things didn’t make sense, I could still utter it was well with my soul in the stillness of night.

I learned that the ache was still there, the tears still came, the questions and fears still swirled but I realized beyond all of that, was hope. It was down there, deep down, but it was there and it made me smile. Being still is not a physical response or that I have everything figured out. Being still is the practice of finding peace in the midst of the storm, in the midst of the questions, when the fears overwhelm and the waves crash against us.

Our hearts will always ache, we live in a broken world, filled with heartache, I am not sure I want to live a life where the pain stops. The ache reminds me that I am alive and loving well, it motivates my passions and directs my steps. I think I have been thinking about it all wrong, I have struggled in the wait of it all. Desiring to arrive, desiring to check it off my list, to move past. I need to just be, be in it, be present, it is in the midst I find the stillness.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

First Day of School!

We started school today, here are a few snapshots of our first day. We had a full summer of fun, change and wonderful friends. We are excited for a new year at school, new names, teachers and new beginnings, we are ready like a brand new pack of sharpened pencils.

I asked the crew a few questions:


Charlie-4th grade
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A baby doctor or singer
If you had $1,000, what would you buy? I would help kids in the world.
What is your favorite thing about yourself? I can sing.
What is your favorite color? Purple
What is your favorite food? Hot Pockets


Daniel-2nd grade
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Police officer vet (a vet for police dogs)
If you had $1,000, what would you buy? Give people stuffed animals.
What is your favorite thing about yourself? I’m special
What is your favorite color? Red and blue
What is your favorite food?
Raviolis

Kennedy-Kindergarten
What do you want to be when you grow up?
A babysitter
If you had $1,000, what would you buy? A unicorn
What is your favorite thing about yourself? I love all of myself(no self esteem issues here)
What is your favorite color? Pink
What is your favorite food? Pizza Rolls and Lollipops

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Names.


Finally, we are legally all Klepfers in our house. We have new birth certificates, social security numbers and insurances cards. Our teachers, doctors and friends all know who we are, they know our name. Over the months occasionally, our old names pop up, they feel foreign and out of place.

When we knew that adoption was finally ours to claim, the first discussion was about names. I shared with them they would get a new last name and I would like to give them all new middle names, “what about new first names?” I was really hesitant about this, our name is a huge part of our identity. The moment you enter this world you are classified by it, it is spoken over you and declared to you, whether it is a family name, cultural name or a name your parents just liked. You learn to spell and write your name, it is your first identifier. I was worried that changing their names would cause some sort of damage to their little brains, some kind of identity crisis.

I began my research, educating myself on the process it would take, the effects on brains, and then some real hands on advice from foster/adoptive parents. Many kids take only their adoptive families last name, a few want a whole new set, they often view it as a fresh start. My crew actively pursued new names, bringing it up often. I was a little concerned that the motivation was because it was cool and who wouldn’t want to pick their own names, so I sat on it. On one hand I knew that all of their names were tied to their birth family, something I viewed more as bondage than heritage. Had their family desired a different path or course of life besides addiction I would of thought differently, in our case, they were names that would only keep us in generational bondage.

I asked them one day why they wanted me to give them new names, their response was simple, “Mom, it’s your turn to be our mom, we want you to name us, we are yours.” The simplicity of that response broke my heart, I realized I was so worried about it all and doing further damage to them that I overlooked that to them it is simple, they are mine. It was in that moment, tears streaming down my face, I declared we would begin the name hunt.

We began with a list of 50 “pre approved” names, I read the list to each child from there we narrowed it down to about 5 names for each kid. The next step was narrowing those five down to two, I took those two names and paired them with a middle name. Then they chose the new identity they wanted.

I love names and the rich history of what they mean, usually we name our children fresh from the womb, merely imagining who this tiny person will be. I had the honor of picking names based on the fact that I knew my kids, their preferences and their personalities. That changed the way I approached what exactly to call them.

As I continue to adopt, I don’t know that I will always choose to change their names, I really think part of that is up to each child. This time for my crew, new names equaled a new chapter in their life, a fresh start.

For them, it was a step towards freedom, away from the bondage of their past. In our home we talked a lot about the fact that those things aren’t gone and they still exist, they don’t hold power over us but they shaped who we are today.

Our new identities must work in tandem with our past in order for true healing to happen. We must acknowledge where we have been and let that direct our paths. We must not merely forget what we have been through, we can choose to let the things of our past defeat and limit us. Chains of bondage holding us back or we can let the chains go and fulfill our destiny.


Here is a little about our names:



Charlotte Elizabeth- “Free, Pledged to God”
I want my strong, beautiful girl to be free of her past, reminded that she does not have to stay in the bondage of what has happened. That she was created for an incredible purpose and plan, she has purpose. I also gave her my middle name, she is mine.

Daniel Joel- “God is my judge and Yahweh is God”

I want my sweet strong boy to remember to whom he belongs and that at the end of the day, he is judged by God alone who judges the heart. No matter the course his life takes, the choices he makes I pray that he finds his courage to be him and confident in that fact. His middle name is after one of our dear friends, “Uncle” Joel who has taught us to be confident in who we are even when others don’t understand us.

Kennedy Grace- “Armored Grace”

My charming little firecracker, she is grace at its best, walking around oozing it to the world around her. She is strong and armored and will not be moved unless she wants to be. My prayer for her is that she stands firm in her convictions and channels that strength into beautiful things.

I have been thinking a lot about the names I have claimed over the years, the names I have allowed to define me, Unworthy, Unloved and Disposable. The names I have carried far too long, the ones that follow me around like a cloud, they haunt my sleep and echo through my mind. They are a part of my story and have for sure shaped me into who I am today but the time has come, to let them go, along with the bondage they bring and to step towards freedom. My list of names, love, grace, joy, peace, kindness, faithfulness, free, unashamed!

May we focus so much on the names we are, that these old names feel foreign and out of place. That we identify them as a part of our past but not a part of where we are going. May we find freedom in our new identities, may we own our new names.

What are the names of your past you need to let go of? The things that hold you back and keep you in bondage? Where are you heading and what do you need to change those old names too so that you may pursue the life of freedom you were created for?

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Meet the K Crew: Daniel

Daniel Joel, not Dan or Danny. Daniel.


This sweet boy, blesses my soul, the only man in our house, he has a tough job but does it with such grace. His wounds are deep, but his heart shines brightly through his smile. His laugh is contagious. Despite all he has been through his sweet, gentle heart is evident.

He is constantly flipping, spinning and jumping, I had to designate a “jumping couch” in our house, instead of constantly redirecting him, I just limited him. He loves all things break dancing and can spin on his head and do some impressive handstands. He wants to be in gymnastics, he is currently in karate, I keep telling him we need to help him learn some self control first, then he can sharpen his skills.

This new season of life he is all about bugs, he loves collecting them and studying them. This summer we took a beach trip, he fell in love with all things in the ocean. He found a starfish, hermit crabs and a fish, his soul soared. Our friends Mr. Seth and Neela, tried to instill in him a catch and release mindset, he insisted that the creatures come inside where they promptly died, the struggle is real. This past weekend we went camping, he found the storehouse of all locust, he was on cloud nine. Spending the night watching them hatch from their shells. He loves creatures, it has been so fun watching this develop in him.

His love for all things of the sea, is not limited to creatures and swimming, his true love is mermaids. 80% of his mode of transportation is flopping around in his mermaid tail, he has that tail to thank for his strong core, his abs are impressive. Almost all games turn into mermaid games, all dolls become mermaids and all the stories are about mermaids, currently we are reading a chapter book together about mermaids and his eyes just light up as he listens.

Close second to mermaids is his favorite gal, Bethany Hamilton, she was the incredible surfer who lost her arm to a Tiger Shark when she was a teenager. This girl has overcome incredible odds and continued to pursue surfing, she is a hero in our home. We had to actually put a ban on what I call, “Bethany dolls” suddenly every barbie, doll, action figure, really anything with arms had one arm ripped off, in order to sport the incredible one arm look of Bethany. We discussed, several times, we are all about beautiful Bethany Hamilton, but we need a little diversity in our home, they can’t all be Bethany.
 
He is my thinker and a deep thinker at that. He is the most verbal about how he feels about adoption and his past. He often looks at me and says, “remember when I was in your tummy…” He loves to know how things work, what things are real. He loves to create, build and tinker. He can see something once, and recreate it. Lately he has been into singing and it makes me smile, he just belts it out. He loves skinny jeans, sharks, cucumbers and chewing on things. His love language is physical touch, he loves to come lay with me in the morning. Being his mom is a joy.


I chose Daniel as one of our options because of the meaning, God is my Judge. I want Him to be bold in who he is and I want him to not be afraid of what others think. He is kind hearted and sensitive and I want to remind him that he has a voice and can do anything he puts his mind into. He is brave and strong and so inspiring.

I asked Daniel a few questions:

If you had a dollar you would buy? A mermaid tail. 
What do you want to be when you grow up? A Locust finder. 
What is your favorite food? Raviolis.
What makes you laugh? Being tickled.  
What is your favorite toy? Mermaid doll. 

Navigating Parenting as an Extrovert.

I am an extrovert, true to my soul, extrovert. My “down” time happens when I am sleeping, I am most energized when I am with other people, when there are too many of my people in one room at the same time, I get giddy. My average day consists of time with kids, coworkers and 2-3 social encounters (coffee dates, friends over for dinner, playdates), I love people, especially my people. Years of singleness has allowed me to create such a beautiful network people, who love me so well. That prekid season, gave me the freedom to pour myself into my people, emptying my cup each day into the souls around me, all the while my cup was being filled to overflowing, a beautiful balance.

Becoming a mom overnight, was a bit of culture shock, reality sunk deep. I was “locked” in my home every night starting at 6:30, I suddenly went from having all of the freedom in the world to do and go where I wanted, to realizing I couldn’t run to Target late at night anymore. That affected me, suddenly I was realizing my cup was being emptied and suddenly my well was dried up, three little thirsty souls leaving me bone dry and weary.

I knew that becoming a parent would take sacrifice, the reality is that parenting is uncomfortable, lonely and just hard sometimes. That sometimes at the end of the day I am empty and have nothing left to give and it is still one hour until bedtime, in those moments I have to fake it to make it. One of the best things I learned early on in my motherhood journey was that I needed to set some boundaries to keep my cup full. Juggling parenting is a delicate practice, learning to realize when I should spend time filling my cup and when I need to just set that aside for a while, for the needs of one of my kids.

I have had many moments where I was unbalanced in my parenting, my cup was empty, my parenting was suffering and suddenly this calling to be a single mom felt so heavy. The beauty of community, my world of people shifted in that season of life and some of my people realized I was struggling. They began to meet me where I was at, literally. I don’t actually live near most of my community of friends but in a neighboring community 25 minutes away, my network has to intentionally drive to where I am. My Lovelies, would drive to see me, bringing over wine, their hearts, ice cream and even coming for dinner. They did it for me, so my cup was being filled, my community and that season of life taught me more about loving well than any other.

Community, what a gift, my heart grieves for people who do not have a good community, the people who struggle to find some sort of commonality with those around them. My life has been navigated as a single woman, but my soul was created for community, it’s where I thrive. The last two and half years as a single mom has been so good, it has taught me to be still, it has sifted my network and shown me what I am capable of.

One valuable thing I have learned recently is that I am better as a team. I can and have single parented well, but it takes more out of me and is something I really have to work in, single parenting for me is a deep character building daily exercise. I have recently had the honor of experiencing a little bit of what co-parenting can be and I must say, in that role I saw a whole new mom come out. At the end of the day, when I have given all to my kids, even if it nearly killed me, and put them to bed I am met with another human, who now pours into me, that is a beautiful gift. For a season, that satisfied my weary soul, having tasted what can be and stepping back into nights being alone, have left me a bit dissatisfied with my circumstances. If I am being honest I am aching for a co-parent or at the very least another adult to do life with.

I am a self reflective person, I spend my days trying to look deeper in my soul, always desiring growth and development. I am aware of the fact that while I can single parent and have for 2 ½ years and we are fine, we survive but I must say, I desire more than survival, I want to thrive. All of this reflection and processing has led to the reality that I desire doing life with people, I desire community and intentionality, aching for it from the very core of who I am.

So, my family and I are moving into an intentional living situation. Huge tables filled with people are what my dreams are made of, the more the merrier is my view more times than not. Saturday morning brunch at my home with my gal pals gets out of control often, we have more people than seats but in that reality we connect and bond in ways I never would’ve imagined.

We are moving in with my gracious parents, the home where I grew up. I am desiring a different kind of support, I want my kids to live with three healthy adults who love them, see them and pour into them differently each day. I want my kids to live with a positive male and experience that for the first time ever. I am realizing that this next season of life is needing to be intentional, communal and let’s be real, we need this. I am excited for intergenerational living and for the beauty that naturally happens when that space is created. It is there in the intentionality that we grow, change and thrive.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Rhythm.

I am not naturally gifted with rhythm, clubbing was never my scene and I have never sported a tutu, but I love dancing. The crew and I often have dance parties at home, cranking up the music and dancing until we all are laughing. My favorite dance floor is at a wedding, with my kids. I think when I am with my clan, the only thing I care about is making them smile, all social pressure melts away and I just dance. When there is a mix of oldies and modern songs, the intergenerational diversity is incredible, suddenly the floor is flooded with people, all seasons of life.

Those sweet life moments the sun is shining, the right song is playing, you’ve got your favorite dress on and you just twirl. Losing yourself in the pure joy of the moment, a brief moment nothing else matters but dancing. Then there are the moments when the music just isn’t right and despite my desire to dance, my feet won’t move. I am standing there, waiting for this song to finish, longing for my soul song, the one I really want to dance to.

I have found myself in the current season, the song just isn’t right, I can’t seem to get my steps to match the beat, I have missed some steps, every move is in the wrong direction and I am left standing there. My entire life I have avoided these very moments. I am realizing I have been looking at those moments all wrong, for those moments give me a chance to catch my breath. The chance to just sit and watch the dancers around me, soaking up inspiration.

When the song doesn’t fit and my rhythm gone, I find myself frustrated that I can’t seem to find it. Deep down, I hate these moments, they are uncomfortable, I just want to be able to move and find my rhythm again. The struggle within, fighting my insecurities and need to be in control and the need to move.

Standing still isn’t missing out but the chance to stop spinning and look up, and watch the world around me? The music doesn’t stop, but once I’m ready, I can join in. It may even be a bit awkward at first but the music of life is playing and all I have to do is move.

The balance of life, moments of soul satisfying dance mixed with moments where I just stand there, watching the world around me. Waiting for my rhythm to return, so I can join in and until I am ready, my view is incredible. Sometimes we bump into each other. Sometimes our favorite song comes on and sometimes not. Sometimes we dance together. Sometimes we stand against the wall, watching it all unfold. I am soaking in this season of life where I find myself unsure as what dance to do, but I know that another song will come and maybe once I hear it, I will dance.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Meet the K Crew: Kennedy




This is Kennedy Grace. She is vibrant, silly, kind, loving and driven.
When she meets someone new, she introduces herself, “call me, EeeDee” 






I love it when she does that, it’s as if she is declaring to the world who she is. She was born on April Fool’s Day, which is so fitting. She is so goofy, she loves to smile and make silly faces. She has a joy and zest for life that inspires those around her. As goofy as this girl is, there are moments where she ain’t messing around.





She is determined, independent and a deep thinker. She is opinionated, vocal and driven, there is little convincing to be done if she doesn’t want to do it. She is going to influence the world around her, she will be a difference maker.







She has been the most drastic change over our two years, she has blossomed. I have watched her catch up to developmentally to her peers and find her voice. She needed a little security, nourishment and safety, then she finally had the freedom to blossom. She was a mere shell of a three year old when I got her, barely spoke, behaviors and boundaries out of control. She was still in diapers and would often just sit and watch others, I knew her mind was processing so much, I wondered what those big eyes had seen. Once she was given some time and focus she was free to fly and she flew so high.






She was the first one I met, I had the chance to meet my kiddos briefly before welcoming them into my home. I walked into their current foster home, it was Sunday afternoon, I was greeted at the door by “Bella” this tiny little girl with big eyes. She approached me immediately arms up and just stared at me. She spent the rest of the time there on my lap, playing with my hair, just gazing at me, my heart whispered in that moment, I had to take her home.

Just this morning she was asking about her past, who she lived with and for how long, trying to piece those 3 years together. Thankfully she was little enough she has no actual memories, but her body remembers. She was about 15 months when she was removed from her birth mom, she spent the next year and half bouncing around five homes, never being anywhere long enough to bond with anyone. We worked a long 9 months bonding, we went through therapy, PCIT, specifically designed to create bonds with children and their caregivers. I learned valuable skills that helped me better understand and connect with her. I remember the day she finally looked at me, really looked at me, I finally became her person.



She is constantly giving me hugs and kisses, I am constantly greeted with kissy fish lips, “kissy (insert sucky noise) kissy.” They say love languages aren’t developed until around the age of five, that theory proves to be true in our home. In the last couple of months I have seen her crave and need physical touch, part of it is she missed a lot of that stuff as a baby, we are making up for lost time.







She is the most verbal about missing Little One, I had some concerns when we brought Little One into our home, I was worried that Kennedy would struggle with not being the “baby.” What I saw instead was she loved being a big sister, and really blossomed in that role. We talk often of Little One and how we can’t wait until she comes home.










I asked Edy a few questions:

If you had a dollar you would buy? A Unicorn 

What do you want to be when you grow up?Car washer, not a grandma. 

What is your favorite food? Peas 

What makes you laugh? 
Falling down

What is your favorite toy? 
Banana (that explains a lot at meals) 










Wednesday, August 10, 2016

My Story.


I am often asked for my story, people are intrigued that I am here, at 29, living life as a single, adoptive/foster mom. For me the story is rather simple, I saw a need that I could do something about, so I did it. The seed was planted in my soul, after years of watering, it was ready to sprout.

My journey has been a long one coming, from a young age adoption was written on my heart. As a child I would secretly hope that someone would leave a baby on my doorstep, I was intrigued and inspired by stories of people in third world countries opening their homes to orphans, collecting them from boxes on the streets and raising them as their own. I grew up in a home where our door was always open, friends were always over and holidays were a mix of blood and non-blood “family.” My parents first and unknowingly instilled in me a heart for foster care, I watched them love well.

My journey into foster care began, December of 2014, it was one of those weeks on Sunday, we had a guest speaker at church, she was talking to us about foster care on behalf of a local ministry. Monday, I pass by a billboard asking me to become a foster parent. Tuesday a radio ad about becoming a foster parent. Wednesday meet someone new, they happen to be a foster parent. Thursday meet another set of foster parents. Friday, finish the week out nicely with an article in the paper about foster care and the great need in our community. I have learned something important when I notice a common theme, I slow down and pay attention.
I noticed the theme but what I was supposed to do with it? I was single, had a fun job which meant I didn’t make money and did I mention single? There was something there and I just couldn’t shake it. The following week while having coffee with my friend, Keeva, I briefly mentioned the fact the foster care kept coming up. She shared with me that she had a friend who had stepped into the life of a single foster mom a few years before, she fanned the flame that was flickering in my soul.

Feeling inspired, that night I went home and began to research the foster care laws for my state and discovered:
I had to be at least 21 years old. Not a sex offender. Prove that I had some kind of steady income. 

Check. Check. Check.

They didn’t disqualify me for being single, but I sure did. I decide to press in, not being able to shake the feeling that I could actually do something for this world. I went to an informational meeting and the next thing I knew I was enrolled in classes and well on my way to a license. Could I do this? I was more than qualified, the things I assumed disqualified me, did not. The things I viewed as inadequacies were not in fact shortcomings but realities, things I only needed to work around. I was beginning to realize that I did in fact have the tools I needed, singleness being one of them.

The classes are a combination of scare tactics, designed to weed out potential predators and/or people who just aren’t ready for fostering and a ton of self reflection homework, revealing to us our own needs and strengths. As someone who loves self reflection, I was ready. The information was not surprising to me, I watched our full class of a dozen couples (and me) dwindle to 3 families at the end. The three of us stood together on the last day, unsure of what was to come.

My classes finished, April 2015 and by May my license showed up, it was official. I began receiving calls for placements. They pair up your preferences with kids who need homes in the system, you get a call once they find a match and it goes something like this:


“We have a 5 year old boy who needs a home. Looking like a 3 month placement. Has the following behaviors (insert laundry list of flaws that the child has). Would you like to accept this placement, do you have any questions?”

So you make a decision, quickly based on a list of flaws of a stranger, you know is hurting. I am given the chance to talk with a worker who has worked with the child in order to get more information and I am also allowed to meet the child but in the end you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.

I got my feet wet with respite, temporary care usually just a few days to weeks. I took in a sibling group of three, 10, 7, and 5, their current foster home had been damaged in a storm and they needed to be placed somewhere else for a few weeks. Those three weeks, were a reality check, my life was changing drastically, think a fish flopping around out of the water. We survived and actually enjoyed each other, I was able to see them occasionally over the year until they were returned home. My respite kiddos got picked up on a Wednesday, and my crew came on Thursday, you can read about our first night together here.

Over the two years I have been a mom, I have looked deeper in my heart, foster care and the reality that surrounds it. I have walked into courtrooms, therapy offices and DHS conference rooms, I have heard stories that make my stomach turn and break my heart, I have seen the faces of addicts, the brokenness of the system and it’s little victims as they cry. I have watched our baby come and go twice, the road has been long and at times it hurts but I can say in the last two years I have received an incredible gift, I have seen such beauty come from the ashes.

So my friends, if in the depths of your soul, that little flicker of a dream is there, press in. Look deeper and take the practical steps towards making that dream a reality. Maybe it is one more step, one more word or one more plan but do it, take the step to do that one more thing.




Monday, August 8, 2016

Confidence.

Early this week, I briefly mentioned to someone that I needed to talk to the crew about something important, they overheard me say that. I quickly addressed them I could see, everyone tensed up, I shared it was a big thing but that we would talk about it later in the day when we had more time, I assured them that it was going to be okay. Five minutes later I hear from the backseat, “are you getting rid of us?

My dramatic, pull over the car and declare loudly a proclamation of disgust and assurance, that would never happen kind of response, left me wondering do they really believe me? How do you teach or show a child who has only been told their entire lives that they are unwanted and disposable, that now they do in fact have value and are wanted? How do I instill in them that they are in fact no longer unwanted but FOUGHT FOR, they are mine...forever.

My faith teaches me that not only was I created but I was literally knit together in my mother’s womb, that life was breathed into my very soul, for such a time as this, for the very things I alone was created to do. Much like my crew, I am not only loved but fought for, noticed and wanted by a wonderful creator, who does not make mistakes.

I have always loved that scene in Toy Story where on the bottom of Woody’s boot is inscribed “Andy.” The beauty of that “ownership” the confidence that Woody belongs to someone and should he forget, it is written on the bottom of his boot. My friend, Erin, shared with me how that would be a neat tattoo idea, only instead of “Andy” she would inscribe on her foot “God.”
Continuing with the Toy Story reference, I am a mom after all, the journey that Woody found himself on was a journey of recognizing his own value in the eyes of Andy. He was threatened by the new shiny toy, Buzz, he suddenly felt inadequate. Things had changed but in all reality, what changed was not Andy’s loyalty but Woody’s perception of his own value in the eyes of Andy.

How often do I do that? How often do I buy into the insecurities and allow myself to head down the slippery path of self doubt.

What Woody had to realize is that both Woody and Buzz both had value, were unique and had very different skills, opinions and things they brought to the table. Being different does not mean you are more or less valuable, different means just that you offer something else to the scenario. Woody had to accept that Andy still loved him, that responsibility is our, we must acknowledge and accept love. We must have confidence in ourselves to believe that we are in fact valuable.

I realized I can love my kiddos, for always, fight for them and pour into them, however if they never choose to receive the love I give, or accept that I am telling the truth then they will never feel confident or secure. They have to accept that I am telling the truth, accept that I do love them, accept that I am not going anywhere. For trauma kids that is literally the journey of rewiring their brains. Time and time again I have to prove to my kids that I mean it. Through the little things each day, the words I say, the ways I show it and speak it. That is all I can do, the rest is up to them, are they willing to accept it?

I have experienced my own journey of learning to accept love, being single most of my has often (more so in my early twenties) left me feeling unlovable. The sting of rejection is deep and leaves your heart bruised. I know I am loved, wanted and unique, at 29 I can confidently, say and believe that fact. It has been a long, hard journey to here, each step necessary and pivotal.

My crew will have to walk that very same journey. My mama heart wants them to just get it, receive it and believe it, sparing them the hard trek. They will each have to walk the steps towards believing it. The road may be hard at times, as their mom I will have to often remind them and show them the path. Reminding them, they are mine, always and forever.

Believing in ourselves is one of the greatest things we can do. This one choice will forever change the course of our lives. It opens our hearts, changes our minds and sets us free. Be bold, be confident and know you have a purpose unique to you.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Adoption Day.


Hey friends, my most recent posts have been a tad hefty, so for today, something a little more heartwarming! A few snapshots in the day we became a FOREVER family. 


The hand lettering on the signs done by my dear and oh so talented friend, Erin Pille.
My crew waited 914 days, to have a forever home. After 5 foster homes they were so ready for some permanency. My investment in their story took two years, buckets of tears and so many prayers, I am so thankful for everyone who has cried, prayed and celebrated with us.

My beautiful and oh, so talented friend, Melissa Pennington, really captured the love we experienced that day. Check out her stunning work, many of our pictures have, Little One in the shot, she was not having anyone else that day and only wanted mama. In order to obey foster care rules, I can't post those. 


The kids and I arrived early, waiting in the courtroom lobby, finalizing things with our wonderful lawyer and discussing the game plan and my role. This was our lawyers first time meeting the three kids, he was literally putting their new names officially to a face, their sweet little faces.

Daniel, Charlotte and Kennedy

The state love adoptions, it is one of the only joyous events that happen in our courthouses. We were encouraged to invite our loved ones to the preceding, not sure the courthouse was ready when they gave me permission to do that. It was like a scene out of a movie, the elevator doors opened and my people just poured out. When it was all said and done there were over 60 of us and barely standing room in the courtroom. The judges, lawyers and state workers had never seen a turnout like this, I literally have the best humans in my life. 

 

It was a beautiful seven minute ceremony. Before it began, I turned around to quickly address our loved ones, I was overwhelmed at the sight, in the room were people we had met in the last month, state workers and the people who have been in on the journey from day one. People who have loved and supported us through the ups and downs. People who watched me become a mom. People who knew our story and they had grieved and celebrated with us.


The judge came in and took his usual spot, he addressed the crowd, which was shocking to him. He asked me to raise my right hand, I promised to raise these children as my own, as if they came from my womb. Their new names legally declared, the gavel was banged and that was it. 


  It was one of those moments that seems as if time stops, in reality it was only minutes long. Probably very similar to childbirth, you wait and get ready, you prepare and ache and then in a blink they are here, laying eyes on them you forget all of the things you had done to get to this moment. I did not labor and deliver my crew traditionally speaking, but I did labor, it was two years of tears, prayers and sleepless nights, fighting for their souls. 


People asked me often that day if I felt different, if suddenly I felt more like their mom. No because I realized becoming their mom happened over two years, sleepless nights, hard therapy sessions, post visit meltdowns, birthday parties, lost teeth and milestones. What I did feel that day was love, I experienced it in a way like never before. It suddenly became a very tangible thing. I could see it, feel it, touch it.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Goodbye.


TO DO:
-meal planning
-call lawyer to finalize will
-stop by social security office-kid’s new numbers

-put away Little Ones things
-back to school shopping
-take stuff to Goodwill



I put all of Little Ones things away, back in the closet. I folded her blankets, little pajamas and wrestled the Buick sized convertible car seat out of the van. Oh the ache, oh the struggle of it all. There is a fear that goes hand in hand with the finality of putting the items back in the closet. If I am being honest, I am afraid if I put her stuff away, she won’t come back.

One of the grim realities of foster care, you say goodbye more often than you want, more than any parent should. Foster care represents some of the worst versions of goodbye, I have seen. The look in a birth parent’s eyes as they say goodbye spouting empty promises. The weight I have felt of my own goodbyes, kissing her head one more time, calming her as she screams “mama,” buckling her in and closing the door. In foster care, some goodbyes are only for a moment, sending them with a variety of state workers, to another emotionally taxing visit, for a few hours or for overnights with birth parents. These are the goodbyes, that suck the breath right out of your lungs, they are dreaded and heavy.

I am again, in a season of goodbyes, which I hate. Does anyone really enjoy goodbye? Is there actually “good” in that goodbye? The season I am walking in currently consists of two goodbyes that may be two of the hardest to date. What a hard road it is to walk well, desiring to keep my heart open, surrender, grieve and once again find my peace. I am not sure if the negative feelings I have about goodbye stem from insecurity, deep rooted fear or if it’s because I am relational and saying goodbye to a person is never what I want to do. Over the span of two years, I learned to navigate them better, after a dozen of my dear and near relocated across the world, I have learned goodbye is not a death sentence. Sure it is a change and something new to navigate but the fruit of it can be really beautiful.

Sometimes goodbyes are permanent and something you just have to be okay with, death is unexplainable and honestly just hard. Sometimes goodbyes are geographical, temporary, seasonal and sometimes just needed. We say goodbye to cities, favorite old shoes and good friends, we say it on the phone, in our offices and on the train. We say it to strangers and loved ones, it is spoken from places of utter brokenness, confusion and in moments of pure joy. The word “goodbye” doesn’t seem to carry as much weight as the circumstance in which it was said. We know that life is so short and so sweet and that navigating the road is hard, then throw in a few unwanted goodbyes and suddenly the road seems unmanageable.

When I got the call that Little One was leaving our home (now for the second time), I felt every inch of the pain of this reality. In one day, I had experienced the joy of officially gaining all of the rights over my older three, her siblings, and in just a few hours later I would begin the process of saying goodbye, again.

I remember that night, it was a Thursday, we all were wiped of energy after a day of celebrating. I was doing my last check on everyone, before climbing into my own bed, this is my favorite moment of the day. I stood over Little One’s crib watching her sleep, tears flooded my eyes and I whispered, “I can’t do this.” I scooped up my beauty, holding her close listening to her breathe, smelling her, just soaking her in. I carried her to my bed where I cried out for freedom and protection, for the journey ahead and for the grief that was about to come down on our household, I cried out against brokenness and for the strength to tell the other three.

In those bleak moments, there is little “good” to be found in parting, I still can’t get my head wrapped around this road and journey. When someone penetrates your heart and very soul packing their things up really does not take it away. I sometimes wish our very hearts could work that way, as if we could merely pack things up and put them in the closet, for a later time. My home and heart are filled with sweet memories, her first steps, first words, the honor of watching her blossom and thrive, watching her physical body heal and seeing us all heal a little in that season.

I don’t think in this life I will ever be good with goodbyes, and I think that is okay, I feel as though goodbyes go against the very nature of community. What I am learning is how to navigate them well. I have gone from the kind of woman, who spends the last days of trips counting down to departure and how sad it will be, to the kind of woman that stays present and just soaks in as many memories as possible. Little One was a gift, every moment with us was important, eternal and needed. Saying goodbye to her didn’t end our story, in fact I think that true beauty comes out in the goodbyes, the juggle to fully love and fully let go.

The months ahead will be a balancing act between grieving and laying it all to rest and expectantly holding my heart open, waiting for that sweet reunion. 
Putting away her toys, clothes and cloth diapers is another step in saying goodbye, another step in opening my hand and letting her go. May we live each day, soaking in the memories, knowing that tomorrow we may say goodbye. I have found that for every goodbye I have uttered, I have found at least one hello.