Monday, November 28, 2016

"Kleped" Our Adoption Party!

My friend, Reva painted this tree for us, it acted as our guest book. 
A lovely Saturday in June, we stood before 200 or so loved ones and celebrated our ADOPTION being final. As National Adoption month comes to a close, I reflect on that day, filled with such joy, gratitude and beauty. We planned and dreamed up a lovely party, with a cupcake bar, outdoor movie, photo booth and of course water slide. 
Here are a few snapshots of the day my lovely friend, Melissa Pennington took.

Making that balloon garland was the HARDEST thing I have ever done.
We lost 50% of the balloons just trying to string it up. 

The phrase "Kleped" became our theme. A friend pointed out the comparison to the term "clep" which is used in education, the student may take a test and still get the class credit just by passing. It is a unconventional way to get class credits, our family has built in an unconventional way, we have been KLEPED! 

The kid's decided on the menu (I did veto the chocolate fountain), we had walking tacos, cupcake bar and fondue! 

Of course coffee made an appearance!

The kid's wanted a water slide so my incredible grandpa, designed and built one! Oh boy,did they get a water slide!  

Lola the dog, loved the water slide as well. 

Friends came from all over to celebrate with us. It was one of those days when you realize just how loved you are. Our story has impacted so many around us, what a joy it has been to welcome so many in to our world. 

We had a dedication ceremony, 
we declared our new names. 
I shared vows, with the crew that I wrote for them. 

Charlotte Elizabeth- “Free, Pledged to God”
These past two years you have taught me so many things. I have learned what forgiveness looks like, as I have watched you open your heart and love this world around you. Your name is picked to remind you to whom you belong my Love, you are God’s, You are free from the past and though it has shaped you into who you are, it no longer controls you. Be free my beautiful girl and remember that
you are so very loved.

Daniel Joel- “God is my judge and Yahweh is God”
Two years as your mama, has been a gift. You have taught me so much, you have shown me how to be courageous and to never stop fighting.  My hope for you is that you would always remember to be confident in who you were created to be. God has big plans for you son, don’t ever lose sight of that. Be brave my son, you have a world to change.

Kennedy Grace- “Armored Grace”
Edy, what a journey it has been, being your mama is a joy. Your wit and charm delight my soul. The meaning behind your name is such a powerful one, you are such a strong willed little girl that offers such grace to the world around you. Never lose sight of the beauty of grace.

Today I stand here as your forever mommy,
before our loved ones, I promise to:
Always support you,
to help you figure out the things in your head.
Always sit with you,
to slow down and not ever be too busy to kiss and hug you.
Always believe in you,
to remind you to continue to strive towards truth.
Always fight for you,
to be on your team right beside you.
Always listen to you,
to hear your heart and honor it.
Always be there,
in the middle of the night and on the good days or bad.

Charlie, Daniel and Kennedy, I love you forever, I like you for always, as long as I am living my babies you will be.
Our loved ones surrounded us, praying over for
our future as a family. 
We made a unity drawing, Charlie had drawn it one day in therapy.
It was all our hands inside of each others, at the top she wrote "Family." 
Then we ended our ceremony with the song 
my dear friend, Rebecca wrote for us. 
It is called "Home" she wrote it about a
year after I got the kiddos.

"I have a home with from all of the 
monsters that were chasing me..."

Axelle playing our song. 

Rebecca singing our song, she wrote it over two years ago for us. 

That day, will forever top the charts,
it was magical, beautiful and redeeming.

I am so thankful for our story and for my crew. 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Waves.

This past week I had the honor of sharing a devotion with a group of police officer's wives in our community. The room was filled with wives who send their husbands out each day into this broken world to serve our community. I am so thankful for the women and men who faithfully serve our city each day. 

They are the hands and feet of justice, they go into homes, remove children, they deal with drunks on the streets and see the brokenness in our world. Here is the devotion I wrote for them, it is geared towards the fear of their day to day but we all can relate, fear is fear. We are living in uncertain times, fear is creeping up around us all! 

The days following the election were very telling of exactly how broken our world is. People exercising freedom of speech, by tearing each other down, leaving paths of destruction. In the midst of the current events, where do we rest our focus? The world is unstable, there are no guarantees, we can not put any hope there. How do we handle it when fears of the unknown are invading our very homes?

The key to dealing with the unknowns is perspective. The lens must shift, changing how we view this life. The fears don’t go away, they change, shift and intensify during the course of life. They show up as lab results, children, job security, cross country moves and loss.

Often our fears go unnoticed, they are sneaky and quiet. They dwell in the corners of our heart, just stewing. Anytime there is an exterior force pressing us, those fears come out shredding our souls.The key is acknowledging the fear but learning to keep it in its proper place. Fears left unchecked can consume our entire life.

My greatest fears are consumed currently by eight sticky little hands who hold pieces of my heart.The constant ebb and flow, changes, questions, fears, tears, visits and court hearings of foster care endured for two years. We fought the hard battle and in hindsight I didn’t realize just how tired and afraid we were from fighting until the termination came through.

March of this year, the court order finally read termination, the fight was over. The bittersweet reality that the rights of two parents are severed and given to me, the line that once read birth mom’s name, was replaced with mine.

On May 12 we made our adoption final, we stood before the judge and a room full of our loved ones declaring forever to be a family. That was the moment we all sighed relief, nothing would ever separate us. It was that moment that fear was lifted, I know longer feared the call that they would be returned at any moment.

While I have the honor of being the forever mama of my crew of three, we have a fourth, a bio baby sister. Who’s story is still unfolding, she has come and gone twice in our home, we have deeply grieved as a family. The call for her second return to birth mom came the exact same day our adoption was finalized. In the midst of great celebration came the paradox of this life.

On our second last night together, I held her for as long as I could. Fearing the realities of dawn. Fearing sleep knowing time would pass us by and it would be time to say goodbye. Fearing the calls from workers, when their voice is heavy and tone is sullen.

Haunted by the memories of buckling her into her car seat while she screamed, arms outstretched, “mama.” Haunted by the state in which she was returned to our home.

Those are the fears that consume me, the things that I can’t shake. The things that plague me in the stillness of night, each day wondering if she is safe, loved and cherished. At times I am overwhelmed, by the sheer weight of the unknown.

In the darkness of those moments, when the weight is unbearable, there is hope. 

Matthew 14:22-33 (John 6:16-21; Mark 6:45-52)
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Jesus is the source of hope, He is the one who captivates the waves. This is a beautiful picture, an act of trust Peter steps out of the boat. At first he is doing great, looking into the eyes of the one who knows his name, the source of hope. Then Peter notices the waves and in a second he begins to sink below the surface. He cries out to Jesus, seeking his source for hope, security and safety.

The waves will always be there, but we don’t have to give them our attention. The same waves were there when Peter stepped out of the boat. The waves are constant but so is Jesus, He was keeping His eye on Peter. Never losing sight of him, He was ready to reach out, to grab hold of Peter.

Peter was confident, he climbed right out of the boat. Keeping his eyes on his savior, he walked with confidence upon the water. Then his perspective shifted and he saw the waves and he started to sink, the very waves he once was walking on were now consuming him.

He realized he was sinking and cried out to Jesus, who immediately reached out His hand. He pulled Peter to safety, reminding him exactly who He was. The very waves that Peter was walking on, know the name of Jesus and they obey him. Jesus challenges Peter in that moment on his faith, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Jesus knows the power that resides in Himself. He knows the power of His presence, He is the greatest fear stopper of all.

When defeating our fears we must identify them as fears, then we must surrender them to our ever capable Savior. In the presence of God our fears fade away for He has us. I love that instantly upon seeing Him the disciples were afraid but Jesus called out, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Jesus has a beautiful way of consuming us in such a way that you don’t notice the world around you. He becomes the source that keeps our heads above the water. He becomes the very gaze we hold that adjusts the lens allowing us to see it all through a different filter. The key is to look to Him, for when we do, it’s not that the rest doesn’t matter. It’s that the rest of it all fades away.

So when the calls come, the stories are told and the television highlights, we stop take those thoughts captive and trust in the one who walks on the waves. God is not the God who sits distantly observing this all play out. God is here, near to us in our fears, questions and tears. He is the God who sits beside us and cries with us. This world is broken and you in this room know that better than most. His heart breaks, His eyes see and He is redeeming it all, each and everything moment. Evil does not win this war, take heart for He has overcome this world, the victory is ours.

We doubt, we get scared, hurt and nervous. We hear the stories of terrible things and we find ourselves only seeing the waves, consumed by their force. We must get in the practice of stepping out keeping our gaze upon our savior. Taking the steps towards Jesus, with our eyes fixed on Him. The waves will never stop, but rest confidently that when the waves are crashing around us He will find us.

Violence and hate is all around us, this past month national news of police killing has now come to our backyard. Families are being torn apart as so many, spread such hate.

Families of Justin Martin and Sgt.Tony Beminio, two Iowa police officers murdered this month, are grieving this holiday season. While justice has been served the ripple effect of the loss and hate still radiates. Let us pray for the brave men and women who serve our communities, leaving their families each day to protect ours. We are so thankful for your service and dedication. We are praying for the things your eyes see, the burdens your hearts bear and the brokenness you see every day. Thank you. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Soul Sister

This journey into foster care has brought me so many blessings. One of those is the people I have crossed paths with. Here is the story of a dear, beautiful soul who inspires me. Read about Lindsie's story into motherhood.

Some stories are so easy to tell and the beauty of life rolls off of your tongue. Foster adopt stories however, are extremes of beauty and heart wrenching pain. I struggle to make my personal story short enough for a blog write up but here’s my best summary:

Riding in the back of a cop car as a preschool teacher with a student being removed from their parents is a memory neither of us will either forget. I say neither of us for sure because he is now my son. I never dreamed I’d take students home with me but I did! It was supposed to be short term and as a single gal I was ok with that. Just trying to do the little bit of good that I could and they needed a home.

Of course there was other messy stuff like what they were dealing with, other placements before me, and figuring out life as a parent overnight. Not to mention all of the team meetings, counseling appointments, strangers coming into my home all of the time, and court hearings. What I was told would be “3 or 4 months” continued into years. I lost track of the days and months between it all.

Etched in my memory are two dates. The first is the day they came to live with me with 2 small bags between 3 boys, February 15, 2012. Ages 2, 3, and 4 with the unknown fear seen in their eyes. The only other day written forever in my heart is the day they were adopted and through love and a judge we became a forever family, September 11, 2015.
It was a long journey of lots of sickness at first, figuring out the security of love, hiding food, starting counseling to sort through the icky stuff for them, getting their basic needs met, and moving past the beginning points. I definitely had hope in the beginning that they would be reunited. Of course, I advocated for what I thought was in the best interests of the boys for daily matters, but I never went into it intending to adopt them. I waited until their biological mother had long since relinquished rights and we were into the state terminating their father's rights before they point blank told me they needed a decision.

By then of course I’d fallen head over heart in love with these children, but I was protecting myself because I didn’t want to break my own heart and decide on adoption and then get it yanked out from under me. It was after I said my decision out loud that I started experiencing physically troubling symptoms.

As six months went on my symptoms got worse and by the end I had a constant headache, strained vision, numbness, couldn’t use my left leg for a whole day, strain in my neck, trouble sleeping, couldn’t concentrate, and more.

Finally, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. If I’ve ever experienced a moment where the wind was taken out of me this was it. I had to step back and decide if my decision to adopt was still best for our family of 4. Not the situation I figured would yank the bottom out for us but it did. I did infusions to kick me out of my remission and got set up on regular medication. My life was much more back to normal and I decided I was able to still be the mom for my boys that I would always want to be.
I was also blessed enough to get engaged to a wonderful man along the way who could love the boys no less than I. Now time flies between the life of teaching, boys’ sports, school, homework, family trips, and days at home. Some days go by and we even forget our beginning for a while, but we still struggle with pain from time to time and when we don’t have the answers we turn to those who do and God. Unfortunately through a long list of events no contact is allowed between the boys and the biological parents for their well being but we talk of them as often as they like.

I am passionate by nature and cannot stop myself from caring too much. “I will burn for the things I love” (Mia Hollow). I do not know my life story until God reveals it to me. I’ve learned to not plan how I think things should go because I would have never guessed my story as the one written above, but I couldn’t have written it any better! <3

Monday, November 21, 2016

The adopting story
By Charly
(This is Charly's perspective, her story, her words)

When I was not with my mom that I live with I felt lonly, and scard, and wored what woud hapen.So I know how it fells to fell to be going thro this.When i was adoptid i felt happy, sad, confust, and neves of what people would think.not every one was adopted but i lernd that, i am loved, i am worth it, i am speshol. I have talents that people can not do. Everyone in her is loved, you are special, every kid in her you made your pains in her right now the happiest moms and dads in the world, gust cus of you! When i was little i was happy but now i feel happier, i felt like a million bucks! Gust cus of my mom. She is the best mom in the world. adoshin is a special thing. families that are Different can join together! We can learn things that we did not know.But sometimes you're not the right fit for them.but sometimes we move to different homes like i did. I am not ashamed maybe it was that they could not take care of me or they had some problems with their families that they could not handle me in that moment.we are not gut kids, we are kids that like to play all the time we do not want to gust sit in chair for 30 min.we do not want to move around to family to family we do not want to know what some kids know adoshin is not just something where people take kids for fun! It’s where you take a kid and you care for them whether it’s one or two, you love on them you say you love them.  

That is what Adoshin is about! The end!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

National Adoption Day Speech!

This past weekend I had the honor of kicking off National Adoption Day at our local courthouse. DHS workers, foster and adoptive families, support workers, courthouse employees, the Mayor and a 150 or so other people all stood together to celebrate the adoption of 16 children from our community. What an honor it was, to share our story with them. It was truly a magical day. Here is the speech I shared, my oldest also shared from her perspective, her story will come tomorrow!

It was a Friday two and a half years ago, I woke up to a full house I now shared with three little strangers. I was given the address of where my crew had called home for less than 30 days, met at the door and handed trash bags of belongings. This is where our story begins, the story of us.

If I could sum up these last several years I would equate it to those little figures, when placed in water they grow. The promise is you can have an insta-whatever you need, friend, boyfriend, Jesus. I was an insta-mom, overnight drowning, growing rapidly at times leaving me slightly disproportionate. Occasionally I would come up for air and realize I was changing.

My story of becoming a mom is different from most, I was single and 27 when the tug of foster care came. From a very young age my heart was stirred for adoption, knowing I would build my family with it someday. I loved hearing stories of families being built not by blood but love. My “plan” was get married, have children of my own and round out the family nicely with adoption, life didn’t unfold that way.

There are moments in life I refer to as touch points, those moments when looking back we realize radically changed the course of our life. Foster care is one of my touch points. It is as if I walked through a door into a room I knew existed, but upon entering I realize I had underestimated the impact those steps would have. The world around me changed and my perspective shifted. I knew I had to do something about it, I simply can not unsee the need. I can not turn away from the eyes of those who need love, stability and safety more than ever.

January 2014, I jumped in with both feet, figuring it out as I went along owning the phrase, “fake it until you make it.” In June 2014, as the ink was drying on my foster care license, I became a mom of three, just like that. My quiet, single life was turned upside down. Unknowingly, life circumstances had led me to my kids.

Early on in my journey, adoption wasn’t the plan. I honestly, didn’t believe I could do it. I didn’t believe I was the best option for my crew. I was wrong, the cool thing with adoption is it is lives, merging together in a completely intentional way. There is a choice with adoption, a choice to commit, choose and change forever.

Top ten ways my life has been changed by adoption:
10- No more privacy. I always wondered why my mom would lock the bathroom door and scream I just want 2 minutes alone. I am convinced kids have very selective super hearing, they hear the candy wrappers crinkle and the bathroom door close.

9- Nights out with friends have evolved into movie nights in blanket forts. I adore our Friday ritual of pizza and movies.

8- My cute red Focus was traded in for a light blue Town and Country, we affectionately named Elsa. That step took my final carefree single woman card, I clutched the card, slightly hesitant to give it up. Now, I will forever and always own a van, for the sheer fact that my children aren’t able to touch each other while we drive.

7-I no longer communicate using complete thoughts or sentences. Parent brain is a thing, I think our brains click on and the hyperproductivity causes speech delay and confusion.

6-I have learned there is no such thing as a lost cause. I have seen bonds built after 9 months of intense therapy. I have seen babies change in a matter of weeks. I have seen fears fade into nothing. There is always hope for healing.

5-Every thing in my home is suddenly sticky and/or wet. I would say at least 80% of my sentences start with the phrase, “why is this…”

4-I have fought hard to be a voice for those who have been silenced. I have learned to petition for my children. To advocate for foster care. To allow fears to be shared and stories to be heard.

3-I hear myself say all of the things, I swore I never would. We all have those phrases we pledged never to say, I say them all and some creative ones I have made up. I love teaching my children irony by shouting, “don’t scream at your sister.”

2-My interior design style is a mix of chic meets montessori preschool classroom with a bit of glitter for flair. I have learned to create a space that encourages learning but also doesn’t scream mom. This past week, we had a craft gone bad and ¼ cup of glitter was spilled on our carpet. As we all know glitter spreads like wildfire, so these days our home has a bit more shimmer.

1-I have seen first hand the joy of intentional love building a family. Bringing my children into the future plans for our family has been beautiful. We continue to open our home to foster care, however now we are doing it together. It has been a joy watching my children welcome in new little ones, they do so with such warmth, love and grace. I am praying that I raise a few kids who are a little more kind, loving and open because of foster care. That they would be secure in their future while always aware of their past. Reminding them to always remember everyone has a story.

We endured two long years of foster care, the ebb and flow, changes, questions, fears, tears, visits and court hearings. Those years changed us, we fought the hard battle and in hindsight didn’t realize just how tired we were from fighting until adoption became a reality. March of this year, the court order finally read termination, the fight was over. The bittersweet reality that the rights of two parents are severed and given to me, the line that once read birth mom’s name, was replaced with mine. That was the moment we all let out a sigh of relief, the moment we knew that nothing would ever separate us.

On May 12, we stood before the judge and a room full of our loved ones declaring forever to be a family. The security of permanency, allowed us to be able to work through deeper levels of hurt. Once we settled into our new names and the fact that we were forever a family new waves of behaviors started to show. People asked me on adoption day if it felt different, at first I said it didn’t. I loved them whole heartedly from day one. We were no doubt a family those two years, as I reflected I realized that I did in fact feel different. There was a freedom in my soul, I no longer had to fear getting “the call” that they were leaving.

Our story has been messy, while I have the honor of being the forever mama of my crew of three, we have a fourth, a bio baby sister. Who’s story is still unfolding, she has come and gone twice in our home, we have deeply grieved as a family. The call for her second return to birth mom came the exact same day our adoption was finalized. In the midst of great celebration came the paradox of this system. The story is still unfolding and while I will always fight for sobriety in our birth parents I must say, my heart longs for our little girl. 

Each one of you in this room has an unique experience. The timelines, stories and ways are different but the result the same. We get them, we get to kiss the owies, hold their hands, watch them grow and learn. We will cherish the journey of healing, we will watch them rise above and use their stories as fuel for greatness. We get to be there, and that is hands down the greatest gift of all.

I asked the kids to define the word adoption: 

Kennedy (age 5):you get to go somewhere special

Daniel (age 7):where you get love

Charlotte (age 9):where families join together

Adoption is intentional love pouring out, empowering others, granting them a new identity. There is an element of tragedy behind every adoption story, in order for adoption to take place it means a birth parent can’t or won’t take care of their child. Adoption steps in and fills the void, becoming the redemption plan. Adoption is the redemption of brokenness, neglect, addiction and abuse.

My heart still flutters when they call me mom, having the “official” title has been so freeing. Seeing their names, attached to mine is a long desired win. What an honor it has been to have the privilege of being their mom I feel lucky, like I undeservedly won this jackpot.

“Fluid adoption” is common in Polynesian culture, rarely are ties to the biological family severed. In Arab cultures, if a child is adopted, he or she traditionally does not become a “son” or “daughter”, but rather a ward of the caretakers. In Jamaica the act of adoption is symbolized by an individual giving a child their jacket. Which is them saying they are covering and welcoming the child into their heritage.

Not only are we giving our children a future. When we adopt them, we also intertwine them into our family name, in doing so they receive our heritage. Trading their lineage for ours, giving them a whole new bloodline. This blood does not course through their veins but it rewrites their story. We cover them with our jackets claiming them as a part of us, we must always respect and honor where they have come from.

In our home we talk about the past, we talk about our birth parents, we keep an open dialogue in our home. We allow space for birth parents to be a part of daily conversations as we talk about the past. We pray for our birth parents. While I am open for contact someday, we have made the decision that for now they need to settle, heal, and grow. I have told my kids, that for now I want them to focus on healing and growing and that I would keep in contact with birth mom.

I adore our story, I love that we got to grow into a family, one day at a time. I love that my crew was so patient with me as I grew into a mom. I love that I got to know them, watch them heal and blossom. I love that together we picked their new names, breaking the bondage of their past and giving them a vision for their future.

Jody Landers beautifully sums up the journey with this quote, “A child born to another woman calls me mommy, the magnitude of that tragedy and depth of that privilege are not lost on me.” What a beautiful privilege it is to be their parent.
Each of you in this room has been impacted by adoption. You are here this morning to celebrate, lives being united forever. Today is the first page of the rest of the story. The story that once was filled with sorrow and grief is now a story of hope.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Potential from Within.

Each one of is born with seeds of potential planted in our soul. Seeds unique to us, that only we possess. Seeds sprout, wither and blossom, they fuel us guiding us through life working as tiny compasses.They are the still, quiet voices of passions, dreams and goals. The things we have forgotten, silenced or disregarded.

Our environment affects how these seeds grow. We get caught up listening to others tell us what can and can’t grow. The result often is status quo, we become afraid of change. Afraid of the challenge of being a rose in a field of daisies. Secretly we want more and we dream big. So often we walk around with droopy petals, fearing being different in the field. We fear a new fragrance, color or petal shape, so we stay, unchanging.

Seeds need sunshine, water and nourishment to grow. We have to cultivate them, pouring in, allowing them room to grow. Laboring hard, pressing in and getting our hands dirty to cultivate a healthy environment for our flowers.

Prepping the land breaking up the big chunks, getting to the core. Turning up the soil, breaking it up removing the things that don’t belong. If the soil is dry from years of neglect, harm and lies we must begin to work it, preparing it to allow things to blossom. How does your soil look? Does it needs some weeds pulled, ground broken up and water? Has years of the sun beating down left it barren.

We must protect our seeds from being plucked up. The realities of life, the lies and people around us all have the potential to snatch away those seeds. Being intentional with our dreams and plans, protecting them from the lies and busyness of this life. Being cautious who you share them with, surrounding yourself with the people who see the seeds within you and call them out, knowing they will bloom wherever planted. Protect your seeds from phrases like, “you can be a daisy but never a sunflower” or “you can’t grow here.” Breathe life and potential over your seeds, never letting the world tell you what they have to be.

The tall grasses of responsibility, duties and titles, can consume our seeds. Those grasses grow thick and tall, making it hard to remember just where we planted them. We get lost in the thickness, wandering around in the chaos of it all distracted. About the time we find them again they are shriveled and withered, lifeless. Keep the tall grasses at bay, giving seeds the space to grow, that they may not be choked out.

Where are your seeds currently? Have you forgotten what they look like? Do you dream of them growing? Are they being choked out by the grasses around them? Are the lies of life plucking them away before they take root?

When our seeds are planted in healthy, balanced soil they flourish, bringing forth life, color and beauty. We owe it to our children and generations to come to bloom. Bloom well my friends, wherever you are planted. For the flowers of today become the seeds of tomorrow. Rise up through the mud and bloom.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Leave a Message...

I am still new in the whole parenting arena. I have learned that there are a lot of ways to parent. There are a lot of ways to do it right and some ways to do it wrong. What is wrong for one family, works great for another family. I love that, it isn’t a one size fits all kind of deal.

One of the greatest titles I have ever had in my life is mom. My heart still flutters when they say it, my life is brighter and my days filled with such purpose. Parenting has made me the best version of myself but it is hands down the hardest thing I have done in my life. The ugly that comes out of me is shocking sometimes, the words I say unkind, the things I do immature.

This past week was rough at our house. It started with a time change, ended with a full moon, with a little national despair somewhere in the middle. It felt a little like we were speaking different languages, it was frustrating. Merging human lives is messy, those weeks are hard, they sharpen and shape us. They bring to attention the areas that need a little work.

This may be one of my favorite stories from the early years of parenting. I had been mom for officially three months. I was still trying to figure this huge life change, I was flopping around, gasping for air. Two of my kiddos had been accepted to an after school reading program at a local church. It was week three of the program and I ended up getting way behind in my day and was 15 minutes late picking them up. Frantically, I was trying to find a way to contact the program to assure them I was on my way. Like a gift from above, I remembered that I had the director’s phone number saved from a message she had left me. Upon dialing it I realized I was half way through an intersection of a red light. Keeping it classy I utter, “oh sh*t.” Like a movie reel the scene played back to me. The phone was up to ear and the “leave a message beep” had just sounded, Oh, I left a message alright. The horror of running a VERY red light, risking all of the lives, being late and the reality that I just left “oh sh*t” on the voicemail of the caregiver I had left my children with sank in. Slowly and silently I lowered my phone, praying that she wouldn’t know it was me. Right, no way she had my phone number saved, I jetted into the building apologizing for my tardiness as I came in. The director stood there as I walked in, looking my way she made my nightmare come true, “I got your message.” WHAT DO YOU EVEN SAY TO THAT? I smiled, gathered my crew and said, “thank you, see you next week!”

Parenting is messy. We are all just doing our best, we make mistakes, lose our temper, say the wrong things and we are hypocrites who are teach on irony. Early on my 3 to 1 ratio, created for me the reality that I could not fake perfection. I have learned to say sorry, show myself grace and lead by example.

As I folded laundry, packed lunches and washed dishes I reflected on all of the mistakes I had made in this day, so many. Moments echoed through my mind, hearing the words I spoke. The guilt and shame showed up reminding me of all my errors. I soaked it all in for a moment, I absorbed it and began the spiral of lies.

Then in a moment a quiet whisper of Elsa’s famous words trickled through my mind, “let it go.” So, I did. I want my crew to grow up and be kind to the world around them. Most of all I want them to be kind to themselves. They watch me, more so than I ever realize. The greatest gift I can give my children is grace. So tomorrow is a new day and it is washed clean with grace.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What can we do?

This morning my crew and I had a talk, my favorite kind of talk. We discussed the topics that shape and define our character, we discussed how we get to choose who we are going to be. Politics is not something we discuss in our home often. Until yesterday my children did not know where I stood on candidates. On the way to the voting booth we discussed, democracy, women’s suffrage, having a voice and the beauty of freedom of choice.

In cases like this election we tend to view it as a win-lose scenario. Is it possible we can change our perspective slightly, despite the outcome for you, can you see the win? I am an optimist, to the core, sometimes I even annoy myself with my sunny outlook. However, it is one of my favorite attributes, I see the world around me as opportunity and potential. Success in the hard things is mine if I fight for it.

This morning I got to set the tone for my crew. I wanted to prepare them for the harsh world, they would experience. Evidence was showing up in social media feeds everywhere, people shaming, blaming and tearing apart. They asked who won and I shared, shocked at how invested they seemed to be. I stopped them with a question, “what can we do?”

We can argue, blame, push back, cry and grieve. We have that right, as Americans we have a voice. My challenge is that really the best choice, is that the choice we want our children and generations to come to see? Or can gather the information given, process and then dare to be. Be the voice for those around you. Be the hands for your community. Be the difference, or as Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see.”

Martin Luther King a man who fought for empowerment said it best, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” The key is in our character, who we choose to be despite the circumstances. Facebook is not our platform, blaming is not right, tearing each other to shreds is not the answer. The answer is be the change, YOU, be the change you want to see. My crew and I discussed the decision made last night and what we can do, they decided, “we can love.”

We can love, even when we don’t agree. Love is the very key to freedom and empowerment. Let’s teach this next generation about character, about losing with kindness or winning with grace. We can teach them about freedom, by showing them freedom. We can teach them about character by having some. We can teach them to love well by showing it. We get to choose how we handle this and what lessons we take away.

Let’s slow down, take a deep breath and exhale love. Use your disappointment to fuel your choices and go do. Leaders will come and go, they will change, it is the beauty of democracy. It is very likely that at some point in your life you will come in contact with a leader you don’t agree with, if not today than tomorrow. In that reality, let’s choose to reach out, to our community, our loved ones and the world.

Instead of allowing darkness to win, be the very light that chases it away. We have that choice to make, we do not have to accept this, it is our opportunity to shine. You don’t like the outcome, change your world. Celebrating a win today, change your world. You don’t care today, change your world. Find the light from within, turn it on and don’t ever let anyone shut it off. Go, burn bright and get things done.

Be the difference maker, game changer, mountain mover, go be, go do, be kind and love well. Despite who is in charge, I will raise my girls to be strong and my son to be respectful. Above all else showing them to be kind and shine bright. So friends, challenge yourself to be kind today. Go out of your way to empower someone, throw kindness around like confetti.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Let's Be Fierce.

My home was filled with a dozen or so women for one purpose, to enjoy each other’s fierceness. I sat a moment and just soaked them in, all so beautiful, so unique, so talented and so different. Each week women gather together in my home for Fierce Lady Brunches at my house, the group has over 90 members. These women remind me of who I am, where I am going and what I should be doing, they are the women I want to be like. They challenge, inspire and love me well.

One truth I have realized these past years is that I am here to encourage and empower those around me. I am declaring this truth with humility but I must admit that I will declare it boldly, I recognize the call placed on me. I am here to call forward greatness, to encourage and to listen and see those who have been silenced far too long.

Growing up we are often shushed, quieted and shut down. As we mature we find ourselves learning to self edit, often limiting and stopping ourselves because of others. We quiet our own voice, fearing it may be too loud. Changing our dreams and desires to fit those around us. The truth is we are all created for greatness, the greatest tool of the devil is to silence us, dim our light, shame our sparkle. I say enough, I say we all rise up, I say we embrace the very callings on our lives, may we step into greatness.

This journey of being a foster parent has taught me the power of giving someone a voice. Babies will cry when you listen, when left alone long enough, they lose that ability. Children will dream big and explore their world, when shut down and silenced enough, they believe they are incapable. People will pursue passions, living full and happy lives, when status quo is placed upon them they begin to believe they can’t have those things. We are living in a world filled with silenced, unseen, unheard people, merely existing out their days.

I love the phrase reclaim, Reclaiming our voice is a process, many of us quieted far too long. Over the years we have forgotten the sound of our own voice. At the core of who we are there is a wealth of potential just waiting to be given room to fly.

It begins with figuring what are the things we are passionate about. What are they things I was put here to do. What are the thoughts that plague my mind, make me angry and want to change. What is the dream I have always said I want to do but keep putting off.

On this lovely election day, I am reminded of tangible ways in which I have been blessed by empowerment. I talked with my crew this morning about the honor as a woman I have to vote. I have a voice because of all those peoples who fought for my right to vote. Empowerment is not something to take lightly, it is a powerful gift.

Showing people they are heard and seen, breaks the bondage of status quo. Setting free the captives and helping them find their wings and watching them soar. We all hold within us the power to call out the people around us towards greatness. In our daily life we can speak a kind word to a sale clerk, compliment a stranger or challenge a loved one to pursue more. Asking people to step out towards the things they have been equipped to do.

What I love most about empowering is that it is contagious. You calling greatness out in others, causes you to recognize your own greatness. Dear ones, what greatness within you are you silencing, ignoring or covering up. Within each of us is greatness waiting to be given its platform, I think it is time. Time to shine, burn and give the devil a run for his money. Let’s be fierce!