Wednesday, December 31, 2014

That's a Wrap- goodbye 2014

So I've been seeing these posts on Facebook recapping the year for my friends with the caption "It's been a great year, thanks for being a part of it" and I'll admit my first reaction was nuh-uh.

It didn't feel great.

While we did enjoy some really special memories this year- one of my most favorite and fun days ever was Shayne & Emily's wedding day (So.Much.Fun.) there were way more really hard days.

Days like admitting our son to the hospital multiple times, new mental illness diagnosis, residential care and fear that he might not get home ranked 2014 as the most difficult year of my life- so far. It seemed like his struggles hung over our family and the year like a fog- blocking visibility into anything joyous.

But, as difficult as it was, as I thought about it over the last few weeks, I have to admit it was a great year.  Not because it was easy or stress free or filled with all manner of happy and joyous memories but it's been great because of how God stretched me, emptied me and is making me more like Him through lessons and reminders like:

  • my children will break my heart- and I will break theirs.  And in the breaking our love is made stronger not weaker.

  • we people with our best intentions can't meet each others needs- we can only support and encourage.

  • when I am nothing- God really is my everything.
  • it is in the letting go where my hearts desires are found- just.let.go.
  • welcoming my son's wife as my daughter brings joy unexplained and new opportunities to love and grow.

  • my expectations set me up for failure- let go of expectations and enjoy the moments.
  • it's okay to be transparent and real with where our family is and that it doesn't scare away the people who really love us.
  • people will joyfully pray for what matters just by asking, and how sweet it is when they share the joy and split the sorrows of life.
  • being a Grammy is flat fun
  • I am blessed beyond measure and it is in the giving of thanks for the good, bad and hard where the joy is unspeakable.

Goodbye 2014- you're one of those years that won't ever be forgotten but I'm kind of glad to see you go.

Happy New Year Y'all!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I Prayed and I Prayed and I Prayed.

We wanted him home.  I cancelled business travel plans to get him home faster.  It was a busy week- before he could come home support services had to be in place, and getting him back in school would prove to be a multi-step process.

We celebrated Shayne's graduation in North Carolina- Rex headed back to Roanoke with the graduate and I headed to Richmond.  I had trouble sleeping and after finally dozing off in the early hours,  I woke up that Friday morning with my stomach in knots.

Hard to imagine, but I had no idea what to expect.  I knew he had only known for about 12 hours that he was coming home.  He was in school when I got there.    

They called for him and the teacher asked if he was coming back.  NO! 

He could hardly believe it.  Neither could I.  I signed the paperwork, we packed his stuff and his peers lined up to  "High-five" him out.  It no longer mattered that he was on "red" we walked through the front door with no dread of him walking back in.  

He spent the next 4 hours making bracelets, using his good manners, dropping details that made it difficult for me to breathe and thanking me for every.little.thing.

All of my boys were home again and oh, the joy.

I woke up Saturday morning in a fog.  He had gone to bed without incident (possibly a first, ever) and didn't get up at all during the night- I wondered if I might have dreamed him home.     

I went upstairs to make sure he was really in his bed and caught him as he was just starting to stir.  I kissed his head and with his eyes barely open, he turned over, threw his arms around my neck and and whispered- 

"Mommy, I'm home." 
Yes you are, baby. 
"I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed- and I even wished on a little star" 

Hundreds of our friends and family were also praying and praying- pretty specifically in fact.  

While he was praying to come home we were praying for:

Elijah to deal with his anger and choose to live in the future instead of the past 
That he would feel God's presence
That he will receive love 
That he will be changed in a positive way 

I prayed for a miracle.  I prayed for drastic change.  I prayed for peace for my aching heart and his.  I prayed for teachers who will understand him and for strength to finish the journey when he got home. And because I know it will be hard, I prayed for easier days.  

I didn't get big answers or moved mountains, I got a solid rock.

After the assessment phase, we received the bound report that told us in professional terms what we mostly already knew.  Validation is powerful tho, for parents who think they are loosing their minds and wondering if they are doing anything right. The report was like gold in my hands.

And there it was- right there in Section V under Strengths and Needs, there it was.  In Elijah's own words, he confirmed what we were praying for him.  He identified on his own that his faith is real. Thank you God!     

We're closing in on two weeks of him being home- the time when we've been warned the "honeymoon will be over" and to expect him to take some steps backward.  We're still finding our way with him home- new routines and schedules, recommendations and strategies.  So much to do to help my son succeed. 

He's only allowed to attend half day at school and doing home bound for the rest of the time. We've got the Intensive In-Home Therapy set up and rolling with about 10 hours a week, and our ROC in-home support is also rolling with about 6 hours a week.  Honestly, I dreaded that one, but it has actually been helpful. Then there's the weekly outpatient therapy and other doctor appointments.  

And respite.  Can I brag on God for a minute?  Of course I can. 

In February we searched for anyone who would do respite for us- originally recommended two weekends a month.  Social Services couldn't locate anyone and neither could we.  Two hospital stays and residential later- the recommendation was a must.  But now, in the new timing, a family friend, an adoptive and foster Momma and Daddy- who love God are not just willing but excited about getting to know and loving on Elijah for us.  Only God.!

I had to go back in time and purchase a paper planner so I can keep up with it all.

Things are by no means perfect- but we see him using his coping skills and trying so hard.  And his I love you Mom & I love you Dad are flowing more freely than ever- replacing the I hate you and it feels so good every time he drops one on us.  Out of the blue, for no reason, except we believe he does.

We're taking it a day at a time

God is faithful.  God is my rock.  He is my wall to lean on when I can't stand.  He's everything I need to help me love this kid who is now able to receive love, better deal with his anger and is showing signs of positive change.

God didn't miraculously change him- at least not yet.  But there's always tomorrow- so I'll pray, and I'll pray, and I'll pray.

In the meantime, God is miraculously changing me.

Welcome home Elijah Allen!  We sure do you love, and one day you will understand how deeply you are loved, wanted and how God is using your story to change lives.

Happy Tuesday y'all!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

He's a College Grad.

Son. College Student. Husband. Daddy. Graduate. Provider.

He's the kind of guy who wanted to do everything early.  Crawl, walk, grow up.  He wanted to be an adult almost before he could walk, it seemed.  He's the kind of kid parents dream of and in our case, prayed for desperately.

I knew when he left for school last year, that he would do great, mostly because when Shayne decides to do something he does it with everything he has.
He proved us right, when right off the bat he earned his first of four Student of the Course designations.

Along the way, he fell in love with Emily.  He proposed to her just before Christmas 2013- and people wondered if he'd quit school.  Long distance love isn't easy to do.

He didn't.  He kept excelling.  And working.

In June, he married Emily and became Kendall's Daddy.  It would be tempting to quit school - to prove some skeptics right- but he kept going.  Even, doubling up on classes for six weeks- attending nearly 14 hours daily in those six weeks to graduate early and get home to his wife, daughter and baby on the way.

Not content to graduate without full-time employment in place to provide for his family- he started interviewing in September.  He was offered a job at Valley BMW, but declined it so he could accept an automotive technician position at Auto Wizard.  Thankful God provided him an excellent job in Roanoke.

Today- it all paid off with his graduation ceremony. What a joy to see him walk across the stage and accept his diploma with his daughter jabbering about "Daddy graduating".

It was a great day of celebration- and we're so proud of our son and the man he is.

Accepting his diploma

Shayne, Emily & Kendall 

enough of the cap 


they're so cute 

Rex, me, Shayne, Emily & Kendall 

proud parents

and we're 'outta here 

It's exhausting cheering Daddy on

Congratulations Shayne! 
Happy 20th Birthday Emily! 

Love you Both, more! 

Happy Thursday y'all!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Never Too Broken To Belong.

We surprised him.

He didn't come when they called him so we followed them to his door.  They knocked, then turned the key to open his door because door #4 is always locked from the outside. I immediately saw him lying on the floor counting football cards.  He's covered with the handmade quilt Amy Bradley's mom gave him years ago.  

He looked up and said "oh."  "OOOOOHHH" and jumped up and came running- "momeeee- daddeeeee."

so glad to see each other

We hung out in his room.  I opened his blinds and checked out the alarm sensor that was replaced after his AWOL incident.  I asked what he learned, he said he didn't know and then asked what AWOL meant.  When asked again, he made me proud telling us he learned "not to go out the window 'cause you're not supposed to, whether the alarm goes off or not."  


He walked behind me and put the blinds down- explaining it was against the rules to have the blinds up.  Then he walked up to me and said, "I'm starting to believe it."  Believe what, I asked.  "That you love me"

Love kissing his head  
Well people, I wanted to do a happy dance right there, but I contained myself and cupped his face in my hands.  I looked at his Daddy for strength- and then told him eye to eye that we have been praying that he would believe it.  I reminded him of his worth and value, not just to God, but to us and in our family.  And I showed him the Face Book event- Covering Elijah in Prayer- and explained that there are nearly 100 people praying for him to believe it.  And with his face in my hands and his eyes drawn to the floor, I told him that I was wrong when I told him it wasn't too much for him.  It is too much for him.  And it's too much for us.  We can't do this in our own strength, God wants us to pray and ask Him to help- and we can in His strength.  And he cried.  And I wiped his tears and held mine back.

We've been praying for Elijah to receive love.

There was silliness, of course.  It is Elijah.  Then, there was a lot of loving.  And hugging.  And it felt so good to have him in our arms.

Daddy photo bombing, ha ha! 
Always trying to get the laugh 

He made his bed and made sure everything was put away before walking us to the door.  And we walked out feeling hopeful- until the phone call telling us he was upset and throwing chairs and screaming and disrupting his peers.  The call that gave us news but no power to change it.

And for a bit, instead of it sinking in and watering our souls our hope ran right through us like water on hardened soil.

We got up this morning frustrated with our lack of power and the back and forth of logical versus emotional thoughts.  We arrived at Vision House for our family session- and just seeing his curly, unbrushed hair through the front door glass brings excitement to these parents who miss him so much.

We talk with the clinical director and get the first impressions of his psychological evaluation and diagnoses.  We are surprised with their findings and at first are tempted to get back on the merry go 'round of here we go again.  And then we remember that was one reason for all of this, a true picture of where he is now.  And we listen and try to take it all in- resetting our mental state to prepare ourselves for life ahead and the talk turns to the plan for when he comes home.  And she calls him to joins us.

And we have a good session and see a bit into his heart and his hurt.  We see him react with uncertainty about the safety in telling his real feelings.   And I watch his baby piggies almost as big as mine now, shuffle in and out of his flip flops (much like me when I'm anxious) when he answers what he needs from us.  His answers seem so simple but so hard to say out loud.

And then, we're surprised when she asks if we'd like to take him to lunch.  UH, DUH, YES! And we ask if we can keep him long enough to replace his shoes that are way too small and it's weird asking for permission.  We sign him out and we can't get out of there with him fast enough.

FREE for a few hours 

The first few minutes in the car are weird, and he says it with his giggle.  We enjoy a great afternoon with our son---eating pizza, pulling a loose tooth, picking out the shoes he has wanted for more than a year and finishing it up with his favorite chocolate shake from Chick-Fil-A.  He was awed by the huge fish and why the fountain doesn't overflow in the rain.  And we are happy with each time he thanked us, showed appreciation and respect; even grinning slightly and saying okay when we say no to his request to play Mine craft on our phones at lunch.

New shoes, new socks from Isaiah and Mommy grabbing more hugs 

He said he wished it would just come out so he could eat, so I pulled it.  

Enjoying the fish at Short Pump 
Randomly and quietly he confesses that he just wants to go home.   We tell him again this is a temporary process and promise that he is coming home.  We tell him that he is ours and we love him no matter what.  We remind him Fresh Start isn't about us giving up on him.  And we assure him that while he is there thinking about home and missing us, we are home missing him.

And we're fearing the goodbye because Rex and I have spent the afternoon looking at each other, and him, and saying to each other without words over and over how it would just be so much easier to go home.  We could be in Roanoke before they suspected a thing.

We were reminded today that life with our son will most likely never be easy.  Progress may be two days of struggle instead of five.  But the hard is where the blessings and answered prayers are hidden and we've come too far to stop now.

We said our goodbyes to our brave son and fist bumped to his courage and we walked out the door.  Again.

And our minds and mouths are racing as we talk about progress and answered prayers and unexpected diagnoses and what to do next and when we think he might come home- will it be by Halloween because he wants to Trick-or-Treat with his brother and did he fake us out today or did he really mean the thank yous and it was nice to see his manners and it seems like progress but why does our stomach still hurt when that door shuts behind us and will she really get fired for calling him a name last night and they were having mixed vegetables for dinner and he hates those and why can't he drink anything but water and does it matter and will the other peers steal his new socks because he's worried they will and oh my goodness how will we get through this and will he ever truly believe his worth.


Lord, we believe, help our unbelief.

And on the radio, Gold City starts singing...

never too broken to belong
never to wounded -never too far gone
and where you find Jesus and find your home
you're never too broken to belong...

..He knows how you the wounds of our redeemer we believe we were healed
you're never too broken to belong.

And we agree to rest in Hope, again.

Happy Monday y'all!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Other Side of Me...

I was joking around at work this week, and a friend commented that she isn't used to seeing that side of me.  She circled her face to example how I'm usually so serious.  I told her it was game face, usually there so I don't cave under the pressure and burst into tears---I told her that before our return to foster parenting and the stress of difficult love, I was pretty fun.  We joked it off and went on with our meeting.

But I noticed that I was laughing a bit more.  Feeling a little less guilt.  Walking a little straighter.

My family tells me frequently that I don't laugh.  Isaiah just this week said I'm not a "smiler" and that made me sad.  I make excuses that I'm just selective with my laughter, and it's true, I am; but I realized that I don't laugh.  Enough.

I remember silliness and fun.  I see it in others and feel jealous.  Rex and I used to be impulsive and enjoy life, laugh and goof off.  Even in our relationship we've gotten so serious and almost forgotten how to play.  We've been bogged down by life's heaviness and I don't like it.  But how do you change it- how do you find the other side of yourself.

I mean, really- how do you find fun when you're doing regular life like sweeping floors and cleaning up dog poop on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Jump in with both feet.

The rain that is.

It was easy getting Kendall to play in the rain with me- and not much harder to get her Mommy to join us. 

And then the boys came home- Shayne and Isaiah didn't hesitate to join the fun.
Scooping up water like fools to throw on each other, as if the downpour wan't  enough.

 and finally, after some coaxing Rex joined me to dance, kiss and play- and he made my day!

Bucket list- dancing in the rain- Check. 

And while I was jumping and playing with my new daughter and grand baby- blinded at times by the stinging drops and the burn of running mascara- I kept thinking about how healing the rain felt and how recently, God is showering us with long needed rest.  And a little calm.  And a little bit of easy compared to our norm. And while I painfully miss Elijah- I'm remembering how to enjoy the people in front of me.  

And we laughed.  

And it was good. 

I'm pretty sure we shocked Isaiah today and equally sure he likes the other side of me too- she's been in hiding way too long- and I hope she'll stay a while.

Happy rain dancing y'all! 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Plan - Why I Left My Son in Another City.

the burning weight in my stomach needs no stirring- it's been burning hot and steady for days....

We walked into daycare yesterday morning unexpected, and he asked "am I going"? I answered yes.  He hung his head -he knew the plan.

The plan his Daddy & I would never had agreed to a year ago- but hindsight is 20/20 and we've got much to look back on.

The plan- not because he's in trouble, or bad. The plan, that moved forward even when he promises not to call me a moron, throw a lamp or be mean to his brother again.  Promises easily spoken but not yet kept.

The plan- that in our hearts we believe is right but the believing breaks it.

I hang up the phone and get my game face on to pack his things.  The last week or so has been filled with hurry up and wait, so the call was expected but not until later this week.  Packing this time is different from the hospitalizations- he's allowed to have his favorite toys.  I struggle to find favorites in his room.  He's allowed to have jackets and sweats with strings. He gets to wear his shoes.  His robe with the belt is not a problem.  I pack his journal with the notes about how angry he is with us, and his football cards.  His alarm clock and the CD of his Daddy's songs.  His orange toothbrush and his "In my Heart" book that he loves.

The plan is not a quick hospitalization, but a 90 day (or more) residential stay. And we are packing underwear and wrestlers while we can hardly believe that we are so desperate for a Fresh Start that we're taking our son to another city and leaving him with strangers- praying they can do for him what we can't.

He passes the 3+ hour ride playing his game- he knows it will be the last chance he'll have for a while.  Every so often he whispers "Mommy, I don't want to go" and I can only reply that I know.

In the last few days, we've done the high-fives and celebrated that he will be the very best ever medicine taker because he is so good at it.  And we've talked about his new room and the cool field trips they'll take. And the XBox that makes his little brother jealous to go with him.

But there is much we haven't said out loud, but we know.

I want to grab him and hold him close and kiss him and sing lullabies over him but I know that will be more than he can handle so I let him escape into trying to get to the next level of Star Wars. And I watch his sweet face for miles and he doesn't know it- like he doesn't know the nights I sneak back into his room after his storm and kiss that face, and cry and beg God for change.  And wonder why the God of the Universe doesn't just fix this.

We arrive at what will be his home for the next several months.  We get a tour and I can't complain but my stomach burns hot.  And I talk about the cool view from his very own room and the neat desk and the fun shower curtains and the awesome back yard the whole time I know he's going to hate it.

And they tell him to pretends he's a rock star as he signs his autograph and he's included in the admission process because he knows.

And we leave our son in a house with strangers that we must trust to help him and not hurt him.  And we leave him there with the same rules posted that we have at home, similar schedules and the same chicken nuggets on the stove.  And we wonder if it will really make a difference and it takes everything in us to hug him goodbye and walk out the front door and leave him. 

But we do.  

Because there is a plan is to give him and our family a Fresh Start.  The plan is to identify primary diagnoses instead of them all competing against another that will help us help him.  
The plan is for him to learn to control his actions regardless of his feelings.  

The plan, is that he will learn to accept love---from the parents who seem to have abandoned him.  

Loving him looks different than I expected it to- and I'm sure there are some who will say "I would never" leave my child- and I expect those have never been privileged to love differently than they expected. 

It's a crazy plan that takes a scared nine year old who doesn't believe he is worthy of love and fears being abandoned a second time and puts him in a house with strangers more than three hours away from his family.  It's a crazy plan that's purpose is to teach respect and kindness in a house that isn't his own.  
It's a crazy plan where love seems to turn it's back on the one who is loved. 

But I think of another crazy plan- one where my God Daddy asked his own Son to be born flesh, grow up and then die- willingly for all the ugly and sin of others (John 3:16).  He turned His back on the one he loved so that He could love all.  God's crazy plan that helps me love my son,  because He first loved me.  

We're praying that more than anything, God will reveal His love to Elijah in a new and unmistakable way- so he will truly understand what it means to be adopted and loved, not just by this mean 'ole Momma and Daddy but by his God Daddy.  

Then, and only then will he be able to lose his own shame and experience real love.  

And we're asking for partners.  Partners who will commit to take one day between now and October 22 to pray for Elijah. If you'll send me the date, I'll send you some specific prayer needs and his address so you can send him a note and let him know he is prayed for and loved. 

Knowing the plan is needed is kind of like swallowing nasty medicine to cure an infection- it may bring healing but it's sure hard to get it down.  
Our family has been on heightened alert for so long, it's going to take some time for us to de-stress and learn how to do life without him home.  

Our hope is in the Lord.... happy Tuesday y'all! 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

It Was The Ring That Got Me!

June 28th.

My first born changed his life forever.  He took vows to love Emily for the rest of his life.  And she vowed to love him for the rest of hers.  Privately - at Camp Eagle in Fincastle, VA... a special place to Shayne. Married by a special man and mentor in his life.  Captured by a special friend.  

The day was as close to perfect as you get.  And as we knew she would, Mary captured the beauty, ease and intimacy of the morning, the wedding and then just kept capturing memories when the young Mr. & Mrs. Allen came home to party with family and friends.  

It was a beautiful way to celebrate our own 28th Anniversary.  

Surprising, his Daddy cried more than I did.  Unless I looked at Teri, I kept it together until I saw that ring. On his hand- the hand with the then tiny fingers curled around mine minutes after he was born. The hand with the fingers that just hours before his wedding, still curled up when he slept just like they had since the first hours of his life.  Those fingers that curled around baseball bats and GI Joe's and air soft rifles and basketballs. Fingers curled around sippy cups and hammers etched in my mind FOREVER----now curled around a ring that tells the world he is hers. And the power of that vow all wrapped up in the ring, on that hand.  Well, that's when this momma got all choked up- and two weeks later it still gets me.  Every time.

Emily,  I prayed for you before you were even born.  Before Shayne was born I started praying for his future wife.  More than beautiful, which you are- and funny, which you are- and loving to him, which you are- I prayed that his wife would love Jesus. And I know you do.  

I'm so happy you're my girl too. 

We love you and are looking forward to loving you, FOREVER! 

Congratulations Shayne & Emily! 

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