Sunday, October 30, 2016

I've Got You.

“I’ve got you, shh shh shh, you’re okay.”

His malnourished and tiny frame clings to me as if being set down is his greatest fear. His cries are panicky, a learned behavior. He has been taught that crying doesn’t make them come his year of life has taught him to be self sufficient.

I rock him a little longer, humming a little tune while waiting for his clutch to relax. He gently loosens his grip placing his forehead on my cheek, as if he was soaking me in. He sighs, I whisper, “I’ve got you.” He is quiet, inexpressive, his eyes heavy and dark. Tears stream down my face dripping onto ginger curls, his story unknown but his body remembers.

The call came Friday, the call I was waiting for he was ours, the one we have been praying for. He had been at Shelter since Monday’s removal, two failed family placements then they called me. He turned one on Thursday, his birthday spent in the shelter. They brought him out of the room, his body bruised by the neglect and abuse. The worker handed him to me, instantly burying his face in my neck. I pressed my lips to his curls, “I’ve got you.”

We drove in silence, I needed to revise my shopping list, he was much smaller than I thought. The neglect and malnourishment showed in his tiny frame and sunken eyes. We got to the store and I put him in our baby carrier his forehead rested on my chest. His weary little body, was clearly not used to physical contact, he seemed to be soaking it in. I talked to him about everything, then in a brief moment I said something he looked up at me and he heard me. “I’ve got you,” I whispered into his hair with a kiss. 

We spent the afternoon collecting what we needed and picking up the crew from school. I bragged about how great his big sisters and brother are, how he came to the right house. Somewhere along the line he learned that reaching out didn’t do anything. We got home and he just quietly sat there, eyes wide and empty. I walked by him, kissing him, “I’ve got you.”

The first night he woke up, confused and unsure of where he was. He fussed quietly, I gave him a moment, then scooped down to pick him up, he jumped hard. I realized he had learned that no one comes when he cries. I pulled him in close, rocking and kissing him, “you’re okay, I’ve got you.”

The world is new, he is discovering everything. Food is fascinating, outside is magical, and people are unique. He watches everything, those dark eyes soaking it all in. Hanging on he absorbs the world around in my arms, afraid to be put down. “I’ve got you.”

The beauty of a child, is they are resilient. He made a noise, I repeated it, he made it again, so did I. A few moments later he did it again, so did I. Then a new noise, a glance to me and the volley begins, back and forth. He found his voice, he has been heard. I bent down today and held my hands out, he looked up at me and reached. He raised his hands, for he has been held. The eyes say it all, they are the windows to the soul. Dark, empty and lifeless he came, his soul burdened with the things he has seen. This morning, hope there was a sparkle in them, a clearness. He looked up at me and we locked eyes, he has been seen. Kissing him on the nose, “I’ve got you.”

Little One left a big void. Baby Z has come and with him the hope of healing and the joy of celebration. Our hearts are fuller, Baby Z has been been a beacon of healing for us all. God is whispering, “I’ve got you.”










Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Truth about Fear.

I have had many conversations regarding fears this last week. Fears are tricky and complex. Healthy fear is a good thing, we have all come in contact with a child who has no fear of anything, often resulting in many visits to the ER. Paralyzing fear stops us, it is the very force within us stopping us from moving towards the things we want to. Many fears are learned, as children we are taught to fear stove tops, streets and strangers.

These past years I have defeated many of my fears, looking them in the face and pressing on. The growth inside of me when I press in to those fears is great, it changes the very core of who I am. The moment you catch wind of silencing fears it becomes addictive. I have discovered one of the best ways to conquer the fears that burdened my heart is to declare it. Just the act of speaking it out loud takes the power away. My crew came in contact with many “monsters” before living with me. Those monsters haunt our sleeps far too often, the practice we have in our home is to talk about them. We reality check the situation, covering the basis that they are safe, monsters are not real, and that the best way to get rid of the monsters is to tell them to go away.

Learning to speak to my fears has been pivotal. When those fears begin to rise up in my soul, I silence them. Telling them they are not welcome, telling them where to go, using my voice to silence them. You see the reality is we have the power, our fears have to do what we tell them to. Will they try to take control? You bet but empower yourself friends, it is us who have the final say.

We all fear some of the same things, no one likes the dark, creepy noises or the strangers in our space. Some of our fears are a mystery others come with a vivid memory. Raising kiddos with a trauma background involves a lot of guessing. In our home we see a fear response to something and the work begins to find the source. I made a list this past week of what I am afraid of, I realized that fear motivates me more than I thought.

I combat my fears best by speaking them and dropping truth bombs. What is a truth bomb? Words that speak truth instead of lies, I use a combination of bible verses, inspiring quotes and affirmations from loved ones. For the sake of vulnerability here are a few of my fears.

I fear that I am not enough.

Truth bomb: I love how I became a mama, at times I struggle with the calling to be a single mom. I am afraid that my babies are missing out on the one thing they deserve most, a dad who loves them. I have combated this lie declaring that my babies are not shorthanded without a dad. I am learning to feel confident in the fact that they have a mama who loves them something fierce. I realized that they need is a mama, who is proud of who she is, strong, brave, pursues her dreams and finds beauty in herself and the world around. A mom who admits her flaws, silences the lies and clings to grace. One who teaches them about Jesus, families, healing and teaches them about living and loving well.

I have battled against for a long time, it was a lie that rooted in my soul as a child and still rears its ugly head now and then. For many years I did a really good job protecting that lie, with some practice I can spot it a mile away and shut it down quickly.

I fear that I am so self sufficient that I would never really be able to let people in or let people love me well.

Truth bomb: I don’t have to be self sufficient, I don’t have to have it all figured out. Letting others help me doesn’t mean I am incapable. Letting others love me doesn’t mean I am weak. What it means is I am blessed to have people who see me, know me and pour into me.

Recently I discovered how self sufficient and guarded I actually am. Self sufficiency is a strength as a single mom, the healthy aspect of that is what allows me to live this calling on my life. The toxic side is doing it on my own has become an area of pride that I have to keep in check. I am on a quest to let those walls down. I think I have gotten conditioned to loving others well that I forget to let myself be loved, to just be.

I fear inefficiency.

Truth bomb: Each adventure has its own road to be walked, its own journey to be had. Slow down, breathe it in, soak it up, the finish line is there and you will find it. Part of the beauty of adventure is experiencing in the journey.

There is such a thing as to efficient, when my brain is spiraling on what to get down next, I don’t notice the little faces in front of me. I miss the cues and pleas for attention, I miss the subtle things for the to dos. Sit, just sit, slow down and soak it in.

The fears will always be there, as we grow and change so do the fears. Different seasons bring about different fears, kid free years my fears were focused on being alone, now my fears surround failing and not being enough. Fighting fears is a daily practice, you are rewiring your brains sometimes you are rewriting years of data that has shaped you into the person you are. Our emotions, personality and choices stem from the place deep within our souls where our experiences have shaped the very things we believe about ourselves. We can either allow our fears to stop, limit and affect who we are or we can stop, limit and change our fears. What are the things you are holding on to? What are the deep rooted fears that are at the core of who you are? What things have you held on to far to long?

Side note: on this quest to conquer fear, I have quite the editing process for my blogs because I don’t want them to have mistakes. That fear has become has become a bit of bondage for me, this post is my first ever type and post. One day, one fear, one choice at a time. Let’s be brave.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Shout it Out!

I had the opportunity this past week to get away for several days and visit friends in the Pacific Northwest. The beauty of the mountains in autumn, is indescribable. It is the kind of beauty that leaves you speechless, you just soak in as much of it as you can. Desperately desiring to soak in every part of it.

One of the things I grieve the most as a single parent is that I am often the only adult soaking up the things my kids say and do. I live in a place of fear that I am not remembering or documenting enough. We already have so many question marks in our story that I find myself wanting to make sure that never happens again. I am the lone one, celebrating the breakthroughs, first words and hilarious kidisms.

When my crew came to me, they had experienced a lifetime of being silenced, cast aside, convinced that their thoughts didn’t matter. One of my greatest joys as a mama, has been watching them find their voice. I have learned they are wise, opinionated, and big dreamers. They feel safe enough to let the deep places of their hearts be known.

Silence a person long enough and they will forget they have a voice. I want to instead empower those around me, creating space for voices to be heard. I want to allow voices to say things that challenge my ideology. We often silence those we don’t agree with, we don’t understand or those who are simply different. We pass through this life, unaware of those around us. As humans we have a voice, what a beautiful gift that is. Watching that gift being used is incredible. Why is it we celebrate a child’s first word? Those words are sacred, we celebrate them because we know it is a gift to speak.

We have all been silenced, literally and figuratively. We have had people tell us we are too loud, colorful, sparkly or our heads are in the clouds. We have been laughed at, not taken seriously, we have been overlooked and ignored. We have shared and been hurt, shared and been shrugged off, at many points in our lives we have been quieted. Maybe it started when we were little, being quiet became our identity, it has become the bar set in which we never rise above.

Let’s choose our words carefully, counting the cost of each one. Let’s use them to empower those around us. Allowing space for hearts to be shared, for vulnerability to exist and for questions to be asked. Allow for another person to hear, find and share their voice in your presence. Celebrate it, call it out and create space for it.

Maybe, you have been silenced somewhere in your life. That hushing has stopped you from pursuing a dream, goal or declaring a truth. You have owned that silencing and it has shaped your very life, the constant companion to a life not fully lived. Friends, no more. Grab your microphone, you have something to share, deep within you, it may be a bit croaky at first but you will get it.

You see it takes one brave word, one thing to utter, one thing to share. I have watched my beautiful five year old, go from a three year old who barely said a word, blossom into a smart, opinionated, well spoken little girl. She delivers wit, wisdom and grace to the world around her. She has found her voice and my prayer for her are that she would never stop. Find your voice, don’t quiet it anymore, you have something to share, a story, piece of advice or affirmation for someone else. What was quieted in you? Let’s be brave, free and loud.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Being Intentional.

I have been thirty a little over one week. I must say, thirty is lovely. I don’t know that I have ever felt more confident in a season of my life as I do now. I have been trying to pinpoint exactly what my source of bliss is. Before crossing the threshold into my thirties I experienced a huge perspective shift, I claimed the practice of being intentional.

Intention: done on purpose.

Many of my days just happen, finding myself caught up in the ebb and flow of daily life. This season I am desiring to really own my time and focus my energy on the things that bring about the most fruit and growth. Being intentional causes me to be present each moment forcing me to be connected to the very things I am doing. Engaging in my daily activities with a certain fierceness, navigating my days with such focus and energy.

These past few weeks I have been really assessing my life. How is time being spent, where is my energy going? A large portion of my day go to the kiddos and work, things happen with both that I can’t control. I am choosing to be intentional among the chaos, finding pockets of time to claim. Waking up early before the chaos creeps into my day right. Choosing to be intentional with my mornings, seizing them early and setting my pace has been fruitful.

Being intentional means, doing things that make me feel alive and challenged. I heard a TED talk this week on a study that has been done on how we raise boys vs girls, we tend to raise our girls to be perfect and our boys to be brave. I realized that I have 6 little eyes that are watching just how I am living, they know me better than anyone and the see all that I do and don’t do. Am I choosing to live a life that shows them we should ALL be perfect or brave? Do they see me challenging myself or playing it safe with the things I know I can do. I want my babies to be brave, I want them to seize this life and pursue their dreams. Choosing to be intentional with activities while my Littles watch me is changing what I choose to do.

Being intentional means accounting for and owning each of my days. Since becoming a mom, it is literally as if time has sped up, days fade into months which blur into years. I do not want to let it all just slip away unaccounted for. The days are busy and the to do list is never done. I am sowing moments of intentionality into every day, each morning instead of simply waking everyone up, I turn up a song and dance until they all join me. I take the moments throughout the day and choose to claim them. Locking away each moment, laugh and smile. Choosing to be intentional with my days, has shown me there is so much more fun to be had.

Intentionality breeds success. Relationships grow, deepen and heal with intentionality. Time is well spent, productive and fruitful. Energy is multiplied, focused and challenged with intentionality. I am choosing to live this life in intentionally recognizing that each day is a rare gift, never to be repeated. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Behind the Ink.

I made some of my best life decisions at 27, it was the year I decided to stop being afraid of what others might think and I began to live my life with boldness. I pursued and accomplished many dreams, achieved goals, started a business, became a mom, checked a few things off my bucket list and got my very first tattoo. My tattoos are life markers, they represent and share my unique story. My love for tattoos go far beyond just art, my story, for my tattoo artist, Katie, (who has done all of my work but the one across my shoulder) I am her canvas. Without a canvas to work on her art would remain sketches in a notebook or abstract thoughts in her mind. When her ideas and skills meet me story and skin beautiful things happen beyond the ink on my skin.

In my experience people usually have a couple of thoughts when they hear the word tattoo. I would say most fall into one of these categories: they are destructive and ruin the very temple (our body), they have always wanted one but never had the guts to do it or they love them, truly enjoying the symbolism and art behind each one, they LOVE them or they have come to love mine. Each one I get shows another part of my story, reminding me where I have been and where my hope lies.

As a person who loves connecting people, I love that Katie and I get to work together on this beautiful display with her my stories become tangible. Tattoos connect people, like minded or otherwise, I am complimented, approached and asked about them often. One of my favorite stories was the day my dear friend, Lauren asked about my three arrows, that day a forever friendship was born. Her friendship has become a source of joy and encouragement and it all started one day over the counter of a coffee shop talking about a tattoo.

Tattoo #1

Because of placement pictures are tricky to get. It runs under my collar bone over my shoulder and across to my back. It reads, My heart is a river in the hands of the LORD; he turns it the way that he will. It is a Proverb, for me it is a constant comfort that my heart is being safely directed in this life towards the things that God desires for me. Though the path may be winding and at times a little rough, I am being guided. I visualize God cupping my heart in His hands directing it all.
Tattoo #2
Three Arrows on my inner forearm. The arrows represent health: physical, emotional and spiritual. These arrows are heading towards Jesus, my target. I love that once an arrow is released it moves one direction, the arrow can hit many things but the goal is to not lose sight of the target. I always want to be moving forward in my goals and desire for health.

Tattoo #3
Four little birdies on my outer arm. This is my crew, loving them well has been a journey and I have found the best version of that love is open handed. Giving them a safe place to rest but allowing them to fly when they are ready. I first got the three and then added number four when Little One joined our family, remembering the purpose of each encounter, even if only brief.
Tattoo #4
The half sleeve of flowers, a variety of meanings behind this one. I love wild flowers, I love how they are beautiful, chaotic, bursts of color in fields of greens, popping up wherever they want to. They remind me to bloom where I am planted no matter the season I find myself in, no matter the external forces. Just bloom seeking to be the unexpected burst of color in someone’s day.

Tattoo#5
Two lattes, coffee is one of my most favorite things. Coffee brings the world together in the most beautiful and organic way. Each bean goes through such a process to get to our mugs. These two mugs are latte art pours dear friend, Morgan poured. Morgan reminds me to see the beauty in the mundane. I have one on the front of my arm so as I extend my arm and serve people they see it and on the back of my arm they can see for when I am at the espresso machine.
Tattoo #6
On my outer forearm, “even so, it is well with my soul.” This came from one of the more difficult seasons of life, losing Little One the first time, it took me from May to October to wrestle through to the place where I could finally admit it was well with my soul. She came back home two months after I got this tattoo. This reminder has gotten me through seasons of ache and pain. Each morning as I brush my teeth, I am confronted with the truth that it is well.
Tattoo #7
The coffee plant, unfinished in January it will filled with color, I love it. The way it covers my shoulder and the fact that my kids use it as a coloring book. It ties together my love of coffee and botanicals, reminding myself of the labor it takes for us to enjoy a single cup of coffee. A reminder that this world is so much bigger than me.
Tattoo #8
The heart this one is fresh, it challenges me to rise above circumstances to thrive. Healing comes, new growth happens and things change. I am rooted, on a journey of healing but the old is gone and the new has come and it is blooming! 

I am asked how many I will get and if i will ever stop. I am not sure, right now it makes sense to get the ones that tell my story. I have a lengthy list of next ones. I am always seeking and enjoying the ones I see around me. I love that Katie designs them for me and together we make them come to life, telling our story and who we are. So I have no plans to stop, the way I view it is if my body is a temple, it has stained glass.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Untempered Love.

About three weeks ago I read something that changed my entire view of love, the sentence was simple but the words mighty. Suddenly, years of thoughts, experiences and decisions all clicked into place and I finally had the words to describe the way I had been feeling. The quote was discussing the concepts of untempered love. What a weighty duo those words are, love unphased by the very beings, circumstances and situations it finds itself in.

Here was the quote I stumbled upon on the sidebar of my study that Tuesday everything became clearer.

“What’s life if we never love others past the rational sensibilities of our self-protection.” -Beth Moore


The art of untempered love, there it is, this is the very thing I feel I have been looking for. Instantly there were two people in my life that I owed this kind of love.

The one I could see needed it the most was, birth mom. If ever I could maximize the art of untempered love it would be here, with her. As foster parents it is easy and often more comfortable to assume the worst about these parents. In many ways to merely shrug them as less than and unimportant. Loving these babies who have been through hell is easy, loving the people who put them through it, not so much. The wounds my babies carry around from birth mom’s choices ignite in my soul, Mama Bear. I have said this before, the tricky part is in order to love my babies well, I must love their parents well, it is the essence of what foster care is about. The essence of healing, refinement and restoration.

Love is messy, we describe it as war, illness and power. The example of a child, my kiddos love their parents, despite all they went through. My crew can still love them, if they can, do I get the choice to not love them? Along the road to adulthood we collect wounds, we get hurt, heartbroken and failed. These broken places in our souls are where self protection is born. We retreat, set rules, act out, pull back and eject from relationships because we fear the vulnerability.

Loving beyond self protection is the very essence of foster care. When I began this journey almost three years ago it was scary and the cost of this endeavor was all of my heart. I counted the cost, no control, all the risk. I knew that this could potentially cost me everything and at times I discovered it did. Yet, one sweet gift I discovered was over time the love poured out but there seemed to be a never ending supply.

Jesus was the greatest example of what love truly looked like. He loved well, He spoke and the very waves responded, His very touch was healing to the weary souls around Him. He left a legacy of love. He walked into a room and it feel silent not out of fear but because His very presence exuded love, that is power. He was the best example for loving with the sensibilities of self protection.

Distinguishing between self protection and boundaries is a very complex thing, they are closely related. Love with boundaries is taking the history of my relationship with the person. The things I know to be true and setting a perimeter around how deep I will allow this person to infiltrate my heart and exactly how much emotional energy I will give that person. I love them well, without draining my emotional cup and allowing room for grace and growth.Loving beyond the sensibilities of my own self protection is being aware of how it could play out, assessing the risk in it and realizing the challenge of it all, yet still embracing it wholeheartedly. 

Our world has lost sight of where power lies, not in money, careers, possessions or popularity, but in love. It is the ultimate game changer and if only we could use love to heal our wounds instead of weapons, words or walls we could see such change. We can begin the revolution my friends, first in our world and relationships. 

Untempered, unphased, unchanging love, is possible. It is a daily practice, loving well in small ways until you get used to the idea. Ultimately you will find healing in the midst of learning how to love well, that is a beautiful thing. The very act of giving it away creates more space for it, like some kind of cool emotional science experiment.

My dear friends, let us set aside the rules, expectations and requirements for love and instead love well. Let us love those who don’t deserve it, don’t need it and don’t want it, the strangers, the broken, the ones who hurt us and the ones who desert us. Let it change your mindset, ignite your soul and fuel your daily choices. Let our mantra be untempered love, that we may love well and be loved.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

30.

Here are thirty thoughts, influenced by thirty years on this planet.

30. Each one of us has a beautiful story to share, we must find our platform. What is the place, way or thing we will use to share that story. Find your voice.


29. Life should be celebrated, each moment, win and success. Burn those candles, put on those fancy clothes, eat cake and dance!

28. Life is what I make of it. Am I going to let life just happen or am I going to command it to be?

27. Compassion is a must, look beyond myself to the world around me. That act puts everything in perspective and reminds me we all have a story.

26. A smile can change everything. Look at strangers when you pass them, lock eyes and smile. Smiles are universal, they know not limits, not language, age, sex or culture. Acknowledge the humans around you, connection leaves imprints on your soul.

25. Choose words carefully. I have learned I can change the words before they leave my mouth. Once spoken I can never fully take them back, being a good steward of those words is my job.

24. Treasure the small moments. Being fully present in each day, moment and situation takes practice but it is worth it. Soaking in the rain on your face, the calm of morning and that beautiful sunset.

23. Slow down, the dishes can wait, the to do list will still be there. Just sit for a moment and soak it in.

22. Life goes so fast, throwing kids into the mix speeds it up even more. Cherish the days, for I fear they go by rather quickly.

21. Life is seasonal, you are not stuck in one season very long.

20. Laughter is key. Life can get heavy but the key is to learn to laugh at it. Laugh at the kids, the messes, the pets and most of all yourself.

19. Silence is beautiful, something about nothing is so sweet for the soul. It is there I can hear the whispers of my soul a bit more clearly.

18. Embrace the weirdness. You do you. All of you, be you and be it well.

17. Eat foods that make you feel alive. Become an educated consumer, know where you food comes from.

16. Each person on this earth is born with a specific purpose sewn into their very DNA. Choose to find yours.

15. Seek healing, those little wounds we carry around will forever fester and ooze until we clean them out and let them heal.

14. See a therapist. No matter how life has looked for you, you collected wounds, words and thoughts that will forever shape who you are going to be. Bring that collection to light and shed some truth on it.

13. Grace. Grace. Grace, accept it, show it, live it and embrace it.

12. Community is necessary. Immersing yourself in community is like a mirror to your soul. The people around you will press your thoughts, choices and speak truth over you.

11. Choose your tribe wisely. The people who spend time with, cling to, go to and get advice from. Those five people will shape who you are, what you think and how you live. Choose wisely, choose people who encourage you to do better.

10. Be aware of the narrative you tell yourself. We each have a spot in our brain that we play our narratives from be sure yours is rooted in truth.

9. Vulnerability tears down the walls. It is amazing the kinds of things that happen when vulnerability enters into the relationship, healing happens there. All of us are seeking people who say something we’ve been thinking.

8. Dance often, crazy and when things get too serious.

7. Take time to read. Books that transport you to another time or on an adventure, books that challenge you and make you think.

6. Nourish. Choose to give your body, soul and heart what it needs. Good things, sleep, a cup of tea, fresh picked veggies and good friends.

5. Be passionate, embrace friends, love, food and life with both eyes wide open. Chasing the things you dream of.

4. Dream Big. Look at the things that occupy your thoughts. Pursue those things, take classes, change jobs, discover hobbies.

3. Be outside as often as possible, creation has a way of resetting our very souls. It is a way we can refocus just how small we are but how important our role is on this earth.

2. Be intentional, with people, time and energy.

1.Love (well) others and myself. The world needs more genuine love, become a beckon of love, open your hearts, your homes and look for opportunities to love well. Look past the sensibilities of self protection to real love. Become the best life partner to myself, take myself on dates, long walks and tell myself just how amazing I am. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Being Enough.

Thirty shows up this week and I am excited, my twenties were a continual quest of self discovery now its time to embrace who I am. As I reflect one of the main continual things through my twenties was singleness. As I have learned the harder the struggle the greater the reward. I am stepping into my thirties feeling thankful for the story that has been written in me, through it all, I found my voice.

I haven’t really discussed my singleness here. I really don’t want to just focus on one area of my life, only some people can relate to. I desire for this blog to encourage all people, in all seasons, walks and statuses of life. So that being said, I will attempt to discuss some things about being 29.9 and single without losing too many of you in the process ending with application for us all no matter what season we find ourselves in.

The early years (20-23), my singleness was a reflection of my value. For those first early years it was a direct source of how I felt about myself. I viewed my singleness as an illness, defect and I was a failure. Those years spent viewing myself with little respect, tearing myself down, on the prowl desperately seeking someone to love me. The wonderful web of lies I wrapped myself up in whispered, I was unlovable and worthless. I was convinced I didn’t deserve such dreams and fairy tale endings. I chose men who I knew were never interested in me, as if to prove to myself that I was indeed defective, those were the toxic years. I wish I could go back and tell that version of myself that l was enough.

The mids (24-27), my singleness was an inconvenience. During the mids I really shifted my view. Early on it was frustrating to me that I was still single. It affected friendships, living arrangements, travel plans, finances and day to day life. I had a beautiful community around me in those years, I began my quest for health, changed jobs and became a mom. I pursued my dreams, hobbies and I embraced life and got stuff done. During those years singleness was a dull ache silenced by activity. When I became a mom (half of my dream job was fulfilled), singleness took a new role. It suddenly wasn’t about me finding a soulmate but more about me completing our family.

Those early years as a mama I was insecure and afraid. I felt that my kids got shorthanded because I was a single parent. I was confident in the calling to pursue that life, but I didn’t believe I was enough. My singleness got louder. My insecurity lead me to have conversations with people about the forever future of my children. I will forever regret those conversations, my insecurities caused conversations to be had, that later lead to hurt hearts. I wanted my kids to get the picture perfect two parent family they deserved. I wish I could go back and tell that version of myself that l was enough.

The pivotal years (28 and 29), somewhere in year 28 I found myself at such peace in my singleness. I was settled, happy and was enjoying life. I turned 29 in October following the most difficult months of my life, the season of life when I learned to the phrase “it is well with my soul.” I embraced turning 29 and things got interesting, within months Little One came back, our family was complete, adoption was on the horizon and in January I met a man. He saw my value, healed some wounds and encouraged me to live and love well. We found ourselves becoming each other’s favorite humans and discovered the reality that our lives meshed well in so many areas. He claimed the status of my first ever boyfriend, we celebrated that wonderful fact and at the age of 29 life seemed so perfect, everything had clicked into place, I had found my fairy tale. Overtime the wounds of the past were too great and our relationship was over as quickly as it started. I wish I could go back and tell that version of myself that l was enough.

The months following seemed as though everything was falling apart all I could do was watch. Little One had left our home again, I lost my best friend and my plans dissolved into dust before my very eyes. I was left with a mountain of emotions, lies and crushed dreams. My heart was pulverized, laying open and exposed on the operating table. It sat like that for many days, life moved on, processing and shifting began. I would pick up the piece of the day, place it before Jesus and ask Him to declare truth over it, seeking healing from the lies that had dwelled far too long in my soul. Piece by piece my heart was healed and I remembered I was enough. 

Overtime those lies crept back in and with them a toxic narrative of rejection. I fought back hard, pressing the lies and looking beyond them to the core of my value. There have been ups and downs and days when the echoes of those lies ring loudly. I push myself to silence them with truth, I am loved, I am worthy, I am valuable. The core of who I am does not come from the world or people around me or the things I do. That value comes from within, a fierce fire burning within my soul, pressing me on, guiding me. I have settled finally, into the reality of this season, it is well with my soul. My heart is healing, my vision is clear and my soul is seeking. The lies that have plagued my soul so many years are silenced. I am enough.

Singleness is no longer my loudest narrative. I am not single because of the things I do, say, the volume of my voice, the curves of my body, skills I have or the calling God has placed on my life. I am single because that is what I need to be right now, it’s that simple. I am here because I can grow here, heal here and impact best here. I have learned a lot about myself these past months. I have shifted the lens of how I view singleness. In this season no longer am I considering myself less than, instead I am greater than in, because it is exactly where I am supposed to be. The perfect season for me, I am embracing this season and the lessons within it. The struggles are working together, producing an eternal weight of glory.   

There are places I am going, dreams being stirred in my soul and visions being revealed over my life. Whatever the season you find yourself in cling to the fact that there is such purpose in it. We spend the hard seasons aching for the good seasons and the good seasons we never want to end. If your eyes are constantly seeking you will miss the very things before you, the very reasons you are where you stand. It is here you have things to learn and healing to do.

Accept where you are, combat the lies that surface around you with truth, and surround yourself with people who believe in you. Be aware of your influence, lies sneak around in the corners of our hearts, learn to quickly shed light on them. This season will pass, you will change and life will move on, each moment necessary. You have a unique beautiful story unfolding within, you are enough.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Choices.

I am often questioned, “How I do it? How do I welcome these kiddos in knowing they could leave my home at any moment?”

The answer is often followed with a compliment to my strength, let me be real, I am not strong. I grieve it, I never fully understand it and I never get used to it. In the grief of it all I am left choices and the result is overwhelmed by my desire to be more compassionate, kind, gracious, loving and Jesus like, to me it is simple I must do it.

The calls have started again as we await our next placement. The need is great. Daily calls turned down because the fit isn’t right for our family currently. Those children, I fear becoming cast to the side as they wait for a loving forever home. May these truths forever break my heart, this brokenness should be greived. 450,000 in the United States alone, spending their days in the clutches of foster care. What a tragedy it all is.

Grieving a child who has left our home is part of it, I still ache, long and weep over Little One, the hole in my heart she made will never be closed. Those wounds keep me coming back to Jesus begging for healing in this all. I have discovered I have the coping skills, I can grieve, I have my network. These kiddos do not, many of them possess zero healthy coping skills, for they have never seen them. These are the truths that don’t make it hurt less by any means but it does shift my perspective. I look at them and realize any amount of time, love, affection and truth I show them can change the course of their life, forever. 

Our lives are made up of words and moments that forever affect our course. I think back to the words that shaped my life, some of them kind, some not. Let us not underestimate the reality of the weight our choices have. We are constantly living out and impacting the world around us, the ripple effects are unending. 

We follow the path of life pursuing the end through a series of forks in the road. Constantly left to make a decision to go left or right, each one containing their very own experiences. We become different people on the paths we choose. Choosing to step towards foster care has changed me. I suddenly see the world through a different lens and have seen things I can’t unsee. This world is hurting and broken, these babies need us to advocate for them, to love them, to open our homes and mostly our hearts to them. 

I am thankful for the fact that I choose this path that December day almost three years ago, it was the path that wrecks my heart so healing can occur, the path that made me a mama, the path that opened my eyes to the brokenness of addiction and the price tag of love. 

We are left with choices: we press in or run, heal or nurse our festering wounds, choose to open our hearts or keep them closed under the disguise of being sensible. I find myself desiring to choose the harder path, choosing to love well, love open and love wholeheartedly. To lay aside my self protection and sensibilities all for the hope that the ripple effect of my love will change even just one life. There must be balance within this life and we must not drain our cups or allow ourselves to be walked all over but when we feel the pull to press in, I urge us to do so. The journey is hard but the view is amazing. 

We can spend our days waiting for the right moment, time or situation or we can leap and see what happens. We may surprise ourselves, we may see that we had within us the tools we needed all along. We may see just how capable we truly are. May we choose the path set before us that challenges us to do more, be more and see more. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Even So.

Life is seasonal, no two seasons look a like, life is always progressing. The on going struggle of the anticipation of the season to come and mourning those already gone. The constant balancing act of being thankful for where I am today but the grief of longing for another season, in the dead of winter we ache for the warmth of summer. For some season changes are welcome, symbolizing new beginnings while others clutch on to current seasons fearing what is to come.

Many of you know, our story is a little different than most, I have built my entire family through foster care. Here is another snapshot into that journey. Spring of 2015, I had been a mom for approximately 10 months when a got a call for my kiddos 2 month old biological sister. She came into our home and it felt that all was right in the world, we were delighted to have her. It was a beautiful but brief stay, one month later I received another call much heavier, she was going back to her bio parents. We had two hours to say goodbye, I shook my head and cried out to God, not understanding why, "what good could possibly come from this?"

That was the last thing I said to God for 3 months. During those three months I would occasionally shout out, "I'm still mad at you,” a behavior I have seen in my five year old, classic temper tantrum. My struggle was in the fact that God clearly called me to this journey, knowing how hard it would be. He knew the struggles of single parenting, how quickly I would fall in love with these babies, He knew my sleepless nights and the ways my heart would grieve my children's story. Now I was supposed to do it successfully while we all grieved the loss of our baby. If I can be real, it seemed cruel and so unfair.

Last October, in the midst of this struggle I got a tattoo on my forearm it reads"even so, it is well with my soul." Those words, encompass such beauty and such weight. I was walking in one of the more difficult seasons of my life, desperate to feel God. My faith was challenged and I found myself wondering if He really was good? Earthly life really is marked with truly beautiful moments yet when tragedy strikes, how do we handle sorrow and pain? Where are the answers in those dark seasons, when the pain is real and you don't think you will ever heal?

While I was still pouting, I began listening to the song, It Is Well, that Bethel put out a couple of years ago. I have always loved that song, the original hymn, It Is Well, was born from a place of sorrow. The imagery is beautiful, real and raw. Horatio Spafford endured such sorrow. Literally waves were hitting him on all sides and from that season he penned one of the most beautiful songs in the history of Christianity. In this season, I forgot the character of the God I thought I knew the God had served my whole life. I sat there for a long, dark season hoping to find peace, here is the song, I would listen to some days on repeat just to survive. 

There are a thousand cliches I can utter, and even buy you a pillow with it on it, however here is what I discovered in that season. We have a God, who walks with us, aches with us and weeps in the middle of night with us. He is not a distant being who out of touch, He is a God who still moves with us, every step, every season. In the seasons when I am left surrounded with questions, He is there, working and doing things beyond my scope.

The line of the song that sticks with me the most is this....so let go my soul and trust in Him. The waves and wind still know His name. The very winds and waves know Him, they trust that He calms and breaks for divine purpose. Such beauty in the stillness and calm but such power in the turbulent waves, tossing us to and fro. At times I wish they would stop but those very waves change my course and the reveal to me the new path.

Friends, at the end of the day may we have the hope and belief to say, it is well despite the circumstances, hurts and experiences. Two months after I got my tattoo our baby came home, where she was for 6 months. We once again packed her bags and said goodbye, she is currently with birth mom. We sit waiting, unsure of our future and her safety but trusting that this new course we find ourselves on will end well.

Placing Little One into the car that day was the hardest thing I have ever done, it seemed as if she knew what was happening. As I strapped her into her seat kissing her and telling her how much I loved her, with hands stretched out crying, “mama.” I buckled her one and with one final kiss and goodbye I closed the car door. Tears sting my eyes as I think back to that day, turning from the car I walked some of the heaviest steps in my life.

Our future is unclear, I have spent the months following in a season of grief, struggling to muster the courage to say, “even so, it is well with my soul.” I am still journeying through this, still seeking peace and understanding as we wait. Unsure of what is to come but thankful for the time we had together, resigning to the fact that the time we had together was not wasted.

This season has taught me that I don’t see it all, that I merely get a blip on the timeline of life. My babies are not mine to keep but a gift from Him to steward. I don’t know what our future holds, I don’t know who else will come into our home but I do know that through it all, I have learned to say, “even so, it is well with my soul.”