Saturday, December 5, 2015

I didn't care- until I did. Did you?

I'm like you.  The things I care about are the things that hit close so typically- if it hasn't touched my life or the people's life that I love, I lack concern.  

An example is Alzheimer's.  I'd heard about it, I knew my Grandfather died from it- but we weren't close and it had been years since I'd seen him so the affects of it didn't touch me. But, when my Mother-in-Law who I adored was diagnosed it became easy to care.  I read up on it, studied it, went to support group meetings, donated money, advocated and cared deeply about this disease that ultimately killed her.

Another is ALS.  I did the bucket challenge because I was challenged.   I knew the disease was terrible but what I knew about it was little- Buddy, the Cake Boss' momma was diagnosed on TLC, that was about as close at it hit home but I was happy to participate and help raise some money.  But I didn't really care, until my nephew was diagnosed and oh so quickly we see the affects of the disease. I care about ALS.

I could go on and on but you get the picture.  I'm not blasting anyone for not caring because the lack of concern isn't usually intentional.  It's a lack of awareness, of understanding.  Real caring is almost always personal in some way, isn't it? And if I don't understand, I can't really care.

So now when my youngest son is spirally downward and we're in round 2 of the fight for their lives, I get that some of the adults in their world don't care.  They don't understand how the diagnoses we deal with 24/7- 365 plus like Reactive Attachment Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder, Mood Disorder, Depressive Disorder and others affect my children.

They don't care frankly- that sensory dis-regulation and defiance look very much the same- but are not.  They don't understand that what they say and how they support my boys requires more effort that simply punishing them.

They don't care that when my son looks them in the eye and speaks truth- he may not understand why that truth may not always be appropriate.

They don't care that when he is so overwhelmed with what he doesn't understand to the point of shutting down- it isn't easily solved by simply telling him to sit up and pay attention.

And they don't care that what he was successful in on Tuesday may not be duplicated on a Thursday. "I know he can because he did" doesn't work.

I get that you may be thinking already- oh, just another parent making excuses for their child's behavior instead of fixing them.  We're used to that- it's a lack of care/understanding and that's okay.

Did you know what sensory processing disorder is? Have you ever heard of it.  If you want to understand, read about it  here.  Nicole does a great job explaining it in her blog. She did a whole series, that's really good.

I'm not making excuses.  It's not my job to "fix" them.  I am no longer looking for validation from the world.  God called us to love our sons unconditionally.  To understand their differences and to trust Him to heal them to the extent He had planned before he carefully created them and knitted them together in Momma T's womb.  I so wish I had been able to birth them.  To love them from conception to delivery- to give them the same start we gave Shayne.  But understanding and accepting that it's simply different- is what helped me to care.

So what do we do? Our boys are surrounded by people who unintentionally don't care.  The stress level for them trying to get through their days are off the charts- which causes our stress levels to be off the charts.

And then there are the meetings.  Like Thursday's when I walked in not realizing exactly what a big deal this meeting really was.  And as I sat in that tiny conference room where I've spent so much time- now surrounded by stern faces and strangers with opinions and listened to the words they are saying about my son the air literally was sucked out of the room and I could no longer catch my breath.  I tried to tell them they're wrong.  They need to look at all of my son, not just a 30 minute time slot in which he was overloaded- the signs we've discussed over and over again ignored.  They don't understand him. So I sat like a target with fistsful of their words coming at me like a boxer practicing for the ring- and the blows hurt like Hell- and I can't run because I do care.  The monster they are describing is my little boy.  The one that climbs in my lap and cries because he hurts and don't know why.  The child that can try unsuccessfully to sleep for hours and hours but not until he climbs in my bed that he's out in minutes, because we- not the world is his safe place.  And in his words, he is no longer alone.  And with each blow I realize my son needs more and deserves more that he can get in this environment that doesn't yet care.

It isn't because the teachers aren't wonderful- this isn't a teacher/public school bashing.  It's a reality that what my boys need and so many others hasn't yet touched the lives of the adults they're in the charge of and we don't care about what we don't understand.

I'm not mad about it anymore- I'm sad.

I'm sad because his Daddy and I know there has to be a better way but we don't know what it is or how to get there.  So I'll go to school on Tuesday morning, when my suspended son is allowed back, the son who doesn't quiet understand what all the excitement is over; and I'll listen as they tell me who they think he is and I'll advocate and argue and try to get them to care.

And while we continue to support their needs through counseling and medication and unconditional love and boundaries and educating both of them on what's okay and what isn't we're praying and asking God to make a way where there seems to be no way.

We're celebrating the Tuesday's because we know how hard it was for them to get there and praying for more of them, while understanding there is joy to be found in the one.

If you're reading this, we're asking you to pray and care too.  But we know, the truth is that if you're here you already do in some form because you're part of our lives.  You've been touched but maybe you don't fully understand.  So care enough to trust us to know our children better than anyone else. To know that when we say it's been rough, it has been.  And when we say we need your prayers, we're desperate for them.

And care enough to learn about what makes it different and help advocate not just for my sons but for all the kids you come in contact with.  If you're a teacher, you have the power to invest in and change a child's life by simply letting them be the square peg and being okay with that.  By not taking their truthful statements personally.  If you're a Sunday School teacher, recognize that the kid drumming the pencil might not be trying to distract, but that's how he actually listens.  Make it okay for some of the kids to stand up during story time.  If you're the crazy aunt or favorite cousin- don't avoid  the kids you have your holiday dinner with  if they are extra loud or hyper.  It's okay to ask questions. Try to understand if they need to crouch in a corner and lose themselves in a book or draw for hours, or bury their nose in a game that they might just be trying to survive the overload of noises and smells that's stirs their insides to ache instead of just being rude.

This isn't an all about us post. I see you Momma's and Daddy's fighting the same battles. I see the fatigue in your faces and you too just keep showing up- hoping that somebody will finally get your kid.  And invite them to the party.  To not walk away when they see them coming because they might require extra grace or time.  To hug them and love them and tell them they see the good things instead of just focusing on the negative.

If we can help people care- we can help change the round pegs to fit our own kids.

Rex and I have spent too much time reacting to what people think they know about our kids.

We're done.

Our boys are as valuable to God as me and you- and I'm tired of being shamed with every call to the Principal's office, every glare from a stranger in a restaurant, every time the tapes in my head tell me I'm doing it wrong because I can't fix them.

And to you who care, oh we know who you are and we treasure you.  You'll never know how you simply loving our boys encourages us.  Telling us they had a good day, their smile is contagious, that they made you laugh, they helped another child, they simply participated today- we need to hear the good stuff too and you provide it.  When you keep inviting us and our kids to dinner or you agree to watch them for us, knowing it might be exhausting.  When you ask us how we are and are really okay with our answer- good or bad means the world to us.
We have some awesome cheerleaders!  Go Team! The fact that you accept our family and choose to care- priceless.  And I know God will bless you for it. As you've done unto the least of these applies to you too!

So what do we do now?

We pray. Pray for clear direction and for mountains to be moved so our son's can be successful and happy and free to be who God created them to be.

Got faith?  It only takes a mustard seed size.  Pray with us team, we need you.

Happy Saturday y'all!

Friday, November 6, 2015

21 Happy's Emily- it's your birthday!

She came in like a lamb.  This girl who was so quiet, you'd hardly know she was in the room.  Not many words, for anyone.  She wasn't jumping in with both feet.  Not yet at least.

Obviously unnerved by our loud, chaotic family - she needed some time to check us out.  It's a lot to ask a quite, shy teenager to trust a bunch of loud, who we are and don't care, people who love hard.

But she did- learn to trust us.  And most importantly, she learned to trust that my son loved and adored her and wanted to spend his life with her.  We reaped the benefit of that.

Over the last few years, I've watched Emily come over to the dark chaotic side of us and become an Allen.  She brings freshness and joy to our family- talks a little more, shows us her funny side and can burp with the best of them.

There's a lot I could tell you about this girl, like

  • She is beautiful- even when her hair is in "cauliflower" bun and doesn't have any makeup on- her natural beauty shines.
  • Doting is not her style- but in her own quiet way she lets you know that she loves you- if she does. There's no faking it.
  • Don't mistake her quietness for lack of attention-  her memory is elephant like.
  • She is the example for how teenage momma's can do it right.  
  • She hates washing dishes as much as I do.  
  • She doesn't like surprises- but there's been a couple that she tolerated well- even when he proposed to her in her sweat pants.

On her birthday, she posted the following: 
if you would have told me a few years back that on my 21st birthday I'd be binge watching One Tree Hill eating cookie cake with my hot husband and sick baby I would have told you you were crazy. but here I am binge watching one tree hill eating cookie cake with my hot husband and sick baby. Happy birthday to me!! #21

Like so many of us who would admit that our reality doesn't match up to our plans or expectations; Emily's life is different.  Different for her but what we hoped for.  She's our answered prayer.

So, please excuse me a minute while I talk to my girl.

Emily, call me crazy (again) but I'm so glad that your reality crossed paths with ours. I like that your sense of humor is sometimes at my expense.  I appreciate your honesty.  I watch you with your daughters and I see how you adore them and enjoy being their momma.  I no longer worry about losing my son to life and marriage, I gained you. I wouldn't trade our family Sundays for all the dish-washers in the world. Watching my son light up when he sees you or hears your name mentioned brings me great joy.

I know that life hasn't been so easy for you and as a young wife and mother life is still a struggle. There isn't enough money for the wants, and barely enough for the needs.  The sacrifices you're making now may cause you to wonder if it's worth it.

It is. It will be.

Emily, I'm proud of you.  Keep loving Jesus, loving your husband and your girls in priority order. I'm so thankful we didn't scare you away and you've now jumped into our crazy- keep loving us, because we sure love you!

Happy 21!

Happy Friday y'all!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Because I Knew Their Hearts First

So, I'm sitting in a hotel in Austin, Texas.  With my sister.  We're having big fun and enjoying a trip of a lifetime. But we didn't just happen to fly to Austin on a whim. No sir- we are practical people.

So, why?  I'm been trying to figure that out for a while, and today it hit me.

Austin skyline from the Congress Bridge 
Months ago, I got an email,  "Knock-Knock" who's there.  I almost trashed it as SPAM.  For a while, I thought that email was from the For The Love Launch Team but here I sit, in this room and I know that email was from my God Daddy.  Because He gives us what we need, when we need it. And I, frankly needed to be reminded that there is good left in humanity, I needed to see grace and love in action in the church.  The living church.  In me.

I know it's a little weird, to spend months planning to get on a plane and fly across the country to meet 500 strangers- fellow invited launch team members- at a party- at the authors house.  Weird because I don't know them.  Any of them.

At least I didn't, then.

When I started hugging necks and sweating down  S. Congress today- meeting up with 2, then 4, then 10, then more- talking and walking for blocks to get a 5lb donut they weren't strangers at all. These are my people, my tribe.  My friends. I'm addicted to their news feed every morning because we pray for each other, and laugh at each other, and encourage each other, and do things because of each other, for other people we've never met before; because we doing community together from all over the county.

How does this happen?

I'm glad you asked.
I think it happened because we got to know each other's hearts long before we met.

And their hearts are beautiful.  And real.  And I know because I've seen them; broken and spilled out and full of overflowing joy.  Visible through what we've shared honestly and freely.  But it isn't an all is wonderful in our FTL launch world,  sometimes it's not pretty at all. We share our anger and shame and frustration and fear and disappointment.  We don't agree on everything.  Sometimes we react, and we can be passionate over politics and our babies- whether they're in our arms, college dorms or stuck in the Conga.

Society screams that what we do, how we look and our status makes us worthy. It's pretty scary to reach out to strangers when you fear judgment on these things.

But this team- this place was about our hearts - not our jobs, where we live, how big or small our jeans are, the cars we drive, the positions we hold in our church's, how cute our husbands are or  if we're introverts or extroverts.  Sure, after six months we now talk bout those things too but it wasn't what defined us.  I can't tell you where my launch members work, but I remember what broke their hearts and energized their service.

And because of that, we can honestly and sincerely cheer each other on to lose the extra pounds- go get the lump checked out- go for that job interview, brag on their Marine, fight for our marriages and step out in faith.

It's a beautiful thing.

And if it can happen with 500 people who hadn't ever met- don't you think it can happen in our communities?  If we can just learn to love God and love people. Look past their shell, seeing their hearts first makes it easier to love and appreciate everything else about them.

This trip of a lifetime- is not just about meeting strangers.

It's about a man, who encouraged and supported me to leave town knowing he would be taking on so much more responsibility and stress while I'm away not to work, but to play and have fun.  It's about two sisters taking a birthday trip to Texas to meet friends.

Me, Tana & Nae- celebrating 50!

and eat Tex-Mex. every where we go
and spend an afternoon in search of the coolest convenience store ever
and watch 1.5 million bats fly at dusk
and shop for cool boots
and rest
and party at the FarmHouse

We're doing our part to keep Austin weird.

Batman- such a sweat guy. 

Son of a Peach Gordough's Donut- Trailer Park Food Trucks

My story.  Your story. 

First pair of cowboy boots- has to be  great store. 

Presenting the best convenient store ever- Bastrop, TX

I love you Rex for making this happen for me.
I love you Renee for sharing it with me.
I love my people for putting up with all the talk about this book, and loving me first.  I only wish you could've experienced it from the inside.

We know if God can take 500 strangers and connect them like He did with this launch team, He can and does still do anything to show the world His love still exists.  Let's all find a stranger and we might just find a friend.

Happy Friday y'all!

Monday, August 17, 2015

For The Love - A Book Review.

So here it is- my first ever book review.  
For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards

Buy this book.  Carry it with you and read it cover to cover. Find grace, truth and your tribe.  Give it to your friends.  Repeat.   

About six months ago, I was picked (convinced it was a fluke) along with 499 others from 5000 people who applied to be part of a book launch team.  I knew a little about Jen Hatmaker, but nothing about book launches.  Not shocking, because I hate to read.  And I was honest and told them so.  

That was my first indicator that this wasn't a fluke, but a beautiful blessing and very much an intentional part of God's plan for me.  In this season.  In my own search of how to measure up to impossible standards- some I had created for myself.  This season of exhaustion of being a good rule follower, the best, but never getting it perfect. 

It took me a while. to get it.  In the early weeks it was about these really cool people who made bracelets and awesome mugs.  But then I started to really get it- God was creating a tribe of 496 women and a #bandoffour men to live out what He had put in Jen's heart to write.  

Being on the team meant I had got to read an advanced copy of the book. In doing my obligatory reading, I soon was laughing out loud as I soaked up the words.  Then, I was speaking a different language- forthelovisms.  Quotes that made no sense to anyone else, like off the beam, old lady hands sticking out of my sleeves, horsecrappery and crotchless yoga pants.  

Jen grabs the readers attention off the bat with essays on things we tend to obsess over.  Keeping it real here people, we try to take on way too much, turning Forty freaks us all out when we get there, and those fashion concerns.  Those ain't pants! 

In the midst of the humor the readers start seeing ourselves on the pages as if there's a mirror hidden between the paragraphs- and we can't miss grace and truth.  And our burdens are no longer hidden in darkness but shared in the light.

Y'all, our faith is not about rules and it was never meant to punish and condemn fellow human beings.  Who are we to try and convince a few that it isn't true for everybody?  

People, "theology is either true everywhere, or it isn't true anywhere." 

And so it began for me.  Recovery.  About my faith.  About my marriage.  About parenting my kids.  About my relationships (my tribe). About running my race, the one God called me to and equipped me for.  About how my love didn't look much like Jesus'.  That Dear Church chapter about crappy Christians- praise Jesus somebody is saying it in a way we can understand.  

Jen says life is convoluted but the Kingdom is simple.  We overcomplicate the ways of Jesus.  Uhm-hmm. 

Love God, love people. 
Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. 
Treat people as you want to be treated. 
If you want to be great, be a servant. 

I'm a recovering rule follower.  I knew there was more than rules a long time ago, but Jen shows us how to live in grace.  What it looks like on our porches and in our pews.  

Now,  I still don't like to read, so I'm pumped there was more to this launch team thing than just reading.  Like getting to write an endorsement (typo and all) which you can read on her website- but mostly being part of the unbelievable loving and transparent community where #500 are doing life together. Not agreeing on everything but talking about our differences with love and kindness.  And we haven't even met yet.  

I can't tell you how you might be changed by reading this book.  I can assure you that you'll be challenged to think about where you are on the rule follower vs. grace scale.  You'll be encouraged to press on, and I guarantee you will laugh along the way.  

Join me in recovery.  Get your hands on this book.  It releases August 18, 2015- in just a few hours.  

Buy it, or leave a comment here on where you need grace in your life. You're comment is your ticket for a chance to win one of two copies that I'll be giving away on September 1, 2015. 

Five Stars! 


Friday, August 14, 2015

Guest Post Today- Choosing to Walk Bravely

Today's a first for me, I'm honored to guest post for a new friend and fellow #ForTheLove launch team member, Claire Mummert's Living Bravely series at Radically Broken.

There have been many circumstances in my life when other people have told me I was brave, like when I had my double mastectomy with reconstruction surgery in 2003 and then 10 years later had to have the reconstruction repeated. But I didn’t think that was brave. It was a necessity and I didn’t choose it. I just endured it.

No. When I think about true bravery, I think it’s when a choice has to be made and in that choice we, me and you, walk. Sometimes it’s a choice to walk away. Sometimes it’s a choice to walk beside. Sometimes it’s a choice to walk into the unknown. We walk away from abusive spouses and hurtful relationships. We walk beside our mothers and fathers when they forget not only details but who we even are. We walk into the unknown of burning buildings, like the first responders on 9/11 and new situations.

Sometimes, we walk away, beside and into the unknown all at the same time. And in the scariness of these situations is where we choose to walk brave because fear, well it paralyzes. Fear can’t walk.

In 2014, my husband and I experienced the most difficult year of our lives. Hands down, more difficult than the poor teenage choices of our oldest son, or our multiple financial failures, or even the unexpected death of our dear friend.

There was no soaring, no running and we were fainting fast.

We were quickly becoming fearful that our son might not be able to handle life in our home. After several inpatient hospital stays and exhausting all the outpatient services available to him we were left with one option.  We faked it as we drove our nine year old son nearly 4 hours away and left him with strangers. People we met upon arrival and knew all of two hours when we had to trust that they would not cause further harm than he had already experienced. Residential- no way. Not us. But we’d come too far from the hard place we thought we were rescuing him from nearly eight years before to quit on him. So, against every fiber in our being- against everything that comes natural for a mom and dad, against every dream we’d dreamed for him- we begged God for courage and we walked.

He came to us with a bright smile- but even as a toddler that smile was his mask. We had spent years trying to un-do the damage caused by abuse and neglect; but just as we didn’t “make the mess” if you will, we couldn’t fix it. And we were running out of hope. There was much said without words during his months away. And that’s was okay, because he needed to hear our hearts. He too, had to choose to walk brave. To walk away from being defined by his hard place; walk beside and let us take care of him and love him no matter what, and walk into the unknown of giving up control.

I don’t think it comes natural to us to walk brave- until we’re faced with knowing there is no other way. He’s back home and we are given opportunities every day to choose brave over fear.

Isaiah 40:31 tells us that they who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings as eagles, they will run and not get weary and they will walk and not faint.

Keep walking my friend- walk brave.

Happy Friday y'all!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Kendall Grace is Three.

Today's post is all about our baby girl.

We've all heard the phrase- "If I'd known grand kids were so much fun, I would've had them first"

If you aren't there yet, I'm sorry.  You may still be like, seriously?

I totally get it now. It's true.  Sorry Shayne, Elijah and Isaiah.

There is just something awesome about watching, playing with, loving on, feeding whatever you want including chocolate milk and gummy bears anytime day or night, spoiling rotten, buying clothes she may only wear once and then- sending home a squeezable, loveable human being- that I am not responsible to raise.

We met her the first time when she was about 8 months old.  She didn't like us, at all.  She cried when we talked to her.  We fell hard.

She wasn't quiet two when her mommy married my son, and she officially became our first granddaughter.  By this time, she had branded her place in our hearts and we were starting to find a place in hers.

They say you don't find love, it finds you.

Kendall- you are an amazing little person. I know all grand children are the smartest ever, but you amaze me with your extensive vocabulary and understanding of things beyond your years.  There's so much about you that I absolutely adore, but here's a few of my favorites.

  • You refuse to wear anything in your hair (except that one day when you were being like Delaney) so your oh so shiny locks are almost always in your face- you could care less. And when I tried, you looked at me like I had lost my mind for thinking that you would ever. So yes, I'm wearing the cute headbands and clips for you.  
  • You love to be barefooted, and haven't yet met a surface that could slow you down or sway you from ditching your shoes - you have to have the toughest little feet ever. If you want to get away, just head for the gravel when I am barefooted, and you'll definitely leave me in your dust. 
  • You enjoy girly things, painting your toenails, playing in my jewelry, high-heels and makeup= to name a few, but getting into mine is your favorite.  You make my heart happy when you insist that you sit on my lap and we put makeup on together. 
  • Gardening.  I plant the flowers, you pick them.  But you following me around when I'm working in the yard, with your own gardening set and water bucket is one of my favorite things.  One day, you'll get the water on the flowers and not the sidewalk, rockers, driveway, dirt, mulch and your Mommy's feet.  Until then, just keep following me around. 
  • Kitchen time.  You enjoy helping me bake cookies and cupcakes and whatever else is being mixed up.  And oh my,  we are in trouble when you can't find your stool. You find new and exciting uses for my kitchen gadgets and utensils, so I'm always learning from you. 

I love how your 's' comes out as a 'd' and never will we forget your infamous "kuuuk" at us when you get mad, or embarrassed.

There's nothing like your strong hugs and "I ludge you Grammie"  at the most unexpected times- because it's what is in your heart and it spills out.  I  pray that you never get tired of wanting to come to my house or go "dopping" with me at the "dore,"

You can hold your own with your uncles (who also adore you) which means you can grab a Nerf gun, baseball bat or football and have a blast.

Pappy- girl you have him wrapped. But you already know that, don't you?

Kendall Grace, keep your fire, enthusiasm and excitement for the simple things like sunshine and sand. Keep asking to "pray" and watching to make sure that we do.

Mostly, remember that you are fearfully and wonderfully made by the one who loves you most.

We thank God that love found us in a tiny ball of fire named Kendall, and her Mommy- Emily. We are so blessed to be your grandparents-we

Happy 3rd Birthday, baby girl.

a.k.a. Grammie

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hindsight Matters.

That call came and we were ecstatic.  It didn't matter that we had nothing. in our house for a baby.  Or two.  We were expecting older little kids.  It didn't matter that the information was limited and the court dates frequent.  It didn't matter that we were in what seemed a very.long.wait.

It didn't matter that it was hard.  We pretended it wasn't.  It didn't matter that we didn't sleep for two years.  No exaggeration.  It didn't matter that every.single.week. they saw her and came back home to us a little more scarred.  We didn't allow ourselves to let it matter because we might have said out loud "oh my gosh, we can't do this" and they might take our boys and put them back in an unsafe, unhealthy, traumatic environment.

It didn't matter because we were so very blessed.

National Adoption Day- our forever day, November 21, 2009

And once that very special day was done- we didn't realize that it would all matter again.

Year after year of defending ourselves and them.  It mattered every time we got "the look" that accompanies the question- "you've had them how long"- as if being adopted by loving parents erases all the trauma and memories and wiring of their little brains to "protect themselves at all cost."

Years - they all mattered.

July 21, 2014- exactly 1 year ago we drove our son to another city- nearly four hours from his bedroom, brothers and snacks at will.  We drove him away from us- and left him in a residential home where all we knew was that we really new nothing.  We didn't know if our family would be together- in one house- again.  So much pain.  So much uncertainty.  So much exhaustion.  So much anger.  So much to lose. But we held on to Hope and believed that our fractured son mattered.

We rejoiced with trepidation when he returned home.  Prayers mattered.  Unconditional love mattered.  His very hard work and willingness to feel out loud with words and not angry hands and feet mattered.

And just as he returned home- his younger brother could contain his own hurt any longer and picked up where Elijah had left off- because that neglect, and trauma, and substance abuse- it all mattered to Isaiah too.

Since Elijah came home in November we continue to find our way to what really matters.

In 2009, when we signed the paperwork promising to love our boys forever, our wise social worker encouraged us to make decisions regarding the availability of services and assured us how much they would matter to our boys down the road.  The road she had traveled with many families but one that would be new territory for us.  We didn't know how important some of those decisions would be in these days we are in now.

If you've read my blog posts or know us personally, you know that our boys get services. Lots of services.  Intensive in-home, TDT at school,  respite, outpatient counseling, Occupational Therapy- to name a few.  These services  add a lot of weight to our shoulders and time to our schedules. Some days we want to say- enough!  Get out of my house.  Leave us alone.  It doesn't matter.

It was during one of my- I'm sick of this Facebook post during a VICAP appointment (required for services) that a friend reached out to me about.... wait for it.  More Services.  And yes indeed, after the process was completed, both my boys qualified.  I've been told by at least one outside organization that we got a miracle.  Yes, we did.  These new services are life-changing.  They are relieving stress instead of adding to it.

We can't say enough good things about what could be the best kept secret from families who greatly need their services- Moms in Motion - who guided us through the assessments and are now facilitating these new services for us. The information alone that they have passed on to us has been invaluable.

The services that we fought so hard against- maybe out of pride, embarrassment or lack of understanding- hindsight has shown really matter.

And now, I find myself embracing the intruders and questionnaires and check-ins and hotlines because we are seeing them pay off and help our kids become stable and our family more healthy.

Which,  is allowing us to get back to what really matters- loving and enjoying each other. Even in the still frequent tough days, the laughter is increasing.  The phone calls to come and pick them up are decreasing

Enjoying family vacation- Madeira Beach, FL June 2015
How do I know?  Because what might not seem like a big deal to many, my boys have been able to attend Vacation Bible School for three nights this week without incident. It's a first and it's huge.  We're celebrating it.

I started sharing our adoption realities because I had no idea that what we are experiencing is fairly common for kids with traumatic beginnings.  RAD is more than a cute saying on a Tshirt in our world, but we learned that the hard way.  If you're thinking about adopting, I hope our story doesn't scare you away.  My intent is not to stop you, but to encourage you.  Knowledge is power. Adoption is hard, but so very worth it. And there is no shame is using all of the resources available to you and your family.

Adoption is truly a beautiful gift- not one we give the kids, but one the kids give us.

Happy Tuesday y'all!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

What if Jesus looks like Angie?


By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another- John 13:35
Seems simple enough, right?

Monday, Rex and I were sitting on our porch loving on Penelope when she walked across the street.  I had seen her the day before walking the same route with one grocery type bag and her soda.  Bolt, for the first time ever took off across the street barking at her.  I chased after him, not sure if he'd bite her or not since he hadn't left our porch before.  She stooped down to pet him while I crossed the street in my PJs to retrieve the naughty dog.  We chatted long enough for me to learn that she loves dogs, her name is Angie and she moved here from Ohio a month ago.  She doesn't drive, is afraid of background checks, the few people she knows in Roanoke aren't dependable and the hardest thing is for her to get to the grocery store.  My gut said to offer to take her to the store.  My brain said-

What if she's a drug addict
What if she takes advantage of you
What if she doesn't like background checks because she's a fugitive
What if she shows up at your door -every day
What if she won't leave you alone
What if... What if....

The eye contact was uneasy as I told her I hoped she'd be able to get to the store soon and said goodbye. 

A couple of years ago, Isaiah got really mad at me because I wouldn't give the man with the cardboard sign any money. He accused me of not caring about poor people.    I was irritated that every time I got stopped by the red light, I was having to have this conversation with a 7 year old.  Of course I care about poor people but he'd probably use my money to drink or buy drugs.  He probably doesn't need it anyway, he should get a job and work like I do. 

I worked downtown for years and was approached many times for money.  Being warned frequently for our safety, I often walked down the other side of the street to avoid them. Honestly, I was afraid of them and the what if's.

The homeless and needy wasn't my calling.  Well, not until God brought them into my arms as my sons.  That's when He started softening my heart, but not enough for me to truly love. 

I made donations to the Rescue Mission and somehow felt proud of myself that my children, who once lived there, were now safe and sound.  But interact with the homeless or EGRs (extra grace required) well that was still way out of my comfort zone.  Didn't going to their chapel service and donating some time count as "love"?

Shame, shame on me.

Jen Hatmaker, "Dear Christians, Please Stop Being Crappy", For the Love

After reading For The Love, it was clear to me that I excel in the crappy Christian role and I don't much like that about myself.   

A few weeks ago, while stopped at the light at Target that gut feeling took over and for the first time ever, I gave him what I had.  God called me to love. That's it.  It didn't matter what he did with it because it isn't my job to judge- so I pulled out all my cash, $3 which was a bit disappointing when I realized that's all I had and I handed it to him.  He blessed me and moved on working the line.  Isaiah said, "Mommy, you really do care about people" and my heart sank.  He'd been watching my actions, not my words.  What had I been teaching him?

Aren't you glad that God keeps changing

I told Rex I missed it. As soon as I sat down on my comfy porch I knew.   God literally put an opportunity right in front of  me to simply love my neighbor and I missed it.  With his encouragement  I threw my clothes on and went looking for her so I could fix it, but I didn't see her anywhere. 

Until today.  I was getting the mail and looked up the street.  I waited for her to reach my house and then called her name.  She crossed the street, sweaty and tired and said hi Robin.  I told her I was really glad to see her and that I tried to find her Monday to tell her I could give her a ride to the store.  I told her that I'd be glad to take her to the grocery store once a week.  I told her I was sorry that I thought it but didn't offer it on Monday.  We made a plan for Saturday morning. 

The what-if's still crossing my mind when another one struck me ----
What if Jesus looks like Angie?

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of worrying about the what-ifs that keep me being crappy.  I'm not called to patrol the decisions other people are making.  I just want to be love and I'm keeping it real people, that scares me a little bit because I don't know exactly what that kind of obedience looks like.  Maybe that looks like a ride to the grocery store or simply calling a lonely newcomer by name.  Maybe it looks like giving my last $3 to a man that for whatever reason is now begging for whatever he can get.  Maybe it looks like being more patient with my children and more attentive to my husband.  Maybe it looks like offering a smile and not being afraid to speak to people who by their appearance might scare me a little bit. 

Who's with me? 
Let's change the world people. 

Love is Louder! 

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another- John 13:35
Seems simple enough, right?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Oh What a Foretaste... 500 strong!

So this thing happened.  Way back on March 6, I was scrolling Facebook, minding my own business and that of my friends, and friends of friends, and the public at large. Okay, so maybe I was stalking strangers.  I won't tell.  
Anyhoo, one of my fave bloggers, Jen Hatmaker's post jumped out at me.  I'd never heard of a launch team, so I didn't really have any idea what I was getting into.
I clicked on the link, read the info and applied.  Now, in all seriousness, I never expected to be picked.  If I recall, it was late in the day so probably all the spots had been filled, but I was curious.  I'm pretty sure that I actually said that I hate to read on my application- unless it's life changing or true.  No pressure, Jen Hatmaker.  
I went to bed, and didn't think anything else about it. 
At the time, I knew Jen because of her blog posts, she had adopted and as a result was a multi-racial family and I had recently watched her family renovation show on HGTV.  I didn't know about INTERRUPTED, and only knew about SEVEN because my sister had told me about it and I really wasn't interested in giving all but seven of anything up.    
A few days later, I was deleting the hundreds of emails offering discounts on things I've never bought, and offers to donate to candidates I would never support, and discounts on clothing decades past my prime... and I almost missed it. 

The first thing that happened was the For the Love Launch Team Facebook group- and almost immediately I was in the private company of 496 women and the band of 4 (men) who initially had one thing in common.  The launch team.  5000 people applied for the launch team, and here we were, thrown together by chance.  I think NOT.

Soon a wonderful, unexpected and strange thing happened.  These strangers who I've never met became friends.  Prayer requests started showing up on the feed, and we began praying for each other.  Meet-ups of people in the same geo area started being scheduled.  Private messages offering support.  And, the quotes.  Oh those quotes from For The Love started coming across the feed (obviously from the over achiever, A personalities who read the e-version before I figured out how to get to it on DropBox).  I tried hard not to feel inferior.

I waited, and waited and waited and finally it came. 


The advanced copy- the one in print - the life-changing AND true words arrived.

I was so excited because I needed to know what crotchless yoga pants were, exactly what is horsecrappery and when can I use that word, and do I have a "spicy family" (Yes, definitely yes) 

And while the crafters and designers and wonderful women with creativity on their beams started making mugs and arm candy and T-shirts available, our lives became intertwined and connected when we shared that our loved ones were dying and kids were sick and miscarriages devastated and marriages are dissolving and jobs are lost and plans derailed and dreams dashed and kids out of control and new life is born and kids are funny, and dreams are launched, and weddings are coming and the encouragement to overcome fears and do the hard is all happening in that feed.  And I sometimes try to take it all in but its too much because, well,  all but 4 of us are women and that's a lot of words. And still,  I drink them in like a perfect Diet Coke on a hot day- I drink them in all hours of the day and night.  And I pray over each request whether I officially "like" it or not. 

And those words, in that red covered book, they've challenged and changed me.  I laughed out loud, and cried silently.  I took and still take it with me in the car, to the bathroom and next to my bed.  And with each chapter I saw ugly truth staring back at me from the mirror and beautiful truth in the faces of my family.  And the homeless man on the corner.  And those words opened up my God box and let Him out to be God.

Definitely life-changing and true.

So I'm running around asking my peeps, do you know who Jen Hatmaker is? Have you read her books?  Do you know about her blog.  She's like us.  You'll love her.  Check her out.  You've got to read this book. 


August 18th- that's the day.  Keep checking back here for updates and giveaways and sneak peaks. 

Until then, I'm blessed because I think being on this team has given me a foretaste of heaven.  Strangers, from all professions and interests- church goers and church no-goers, wounded and healthy- men and women, young and old,  Baptist, Methodists, Catholics and none of the abovers but all who love Jesus and can in an instant be bonded together as sisters and a few brothers in Christ-worshipping and encouraging and praying each other through the hard.  Speaking truth without judgement, understanding that different is not bad.

I think that's what we'll find when we get to heaven- probably surprised at the diversity of who is kneeling giving praise to the King and singing Holy Holy Holy is the Lamb... because they understood- Be kind, Be you, Love Jesus!

For The Love,

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"Our Soft Place to Land"

Today would've been her 93rd birthday.

Three years ago we celebrated big with an open house, huge cake and people she'd shown hospitality and love to her whole life coming and going for hours to love on her.  It was a wonderful day of celebration at the same time sad hung heavy because we knew the next day our lives would change and Alzheimer's would dictate next steps, not us.

As the evening turned to night, she and her three daughters-in-law danced in the kitchen while Billy Currington's, Like my Dog played on the CD player.  We made some memories.

It was easy to make memories with her.  She believed in 'cepting people just like they are and if she thought a nasty thought about you she didn't share it.  She taught me a lot about life.  Important things like how to cream peas and Lima beans and get the sauce just right.  Things like adding sugar to everything makes it better and you don't have to tell anybody it's in there.  Things like washing win-ders isn't done with Windex alone.  Bleach can be a perfume and apparently makes hands soft as silk. Oh, how I loved her hands.  She taught me how to hang Christmas cards and the 100 ways to use old pantyhose.

She taught me that hours spent in the yard, pulling weeds, plucking browned blooms and watching frogs play was a type of worship and watching a hummingbird fly is more entertaining than TV. But, that didn't mean you had to turn the TV off- we solved the world's problems watching Oprah and Dr. Phil.

She was more resourceful than anyone I've ever known, wasted nothing and could create a soup-to-nuts meal with hardly anything- always disclaiming it with "it ain't much, but make it out the best you can" the whole time you were convinced she had planned and shopped for days.  She'd refuse to use the brand new dishwasher and stand at that kitchen sink washing and drying all those dishes the old fashioned way.

She introduced me to her "little boutique" and taught me how to really find a bargain.  Oh, the hours and hours we spent on Saturday's going from one thrift store to another before finishing the day up with grocery shopping.  We'd fill the trunk with mine and hers, we'd tie mine up so they wouldn't spill and she'd pile hers on top of each other and let them fly wherever. Including her eggs and bread. She didn't care- it tasted the same whether it was smashed up or not.  I worried about so much more than she did.

And when she asked I better be "fine" or she'd fuss for me to tell her what was wrong and having a plan to fix it.  She'd go on and on with each of us, telling us we worked harder than anyone she knew- never taking credit for her own hard work or successes.

Rex and I walked into her room one last time Thursday night.  I took her hand and told her we were there.  We told her again that we loved her and then I told her it was time to dance- in heaven with Jesus.  And she took a deep breath- and did.

And in that moment, 93 years felt like 93 minutes and it was over too fast.

But as much as we adore her,  none of us would wish her another second here with Alzheimer's.  It's a terrible, ugly disease.  But now she's with Jesus, she's healed and she remembers.  Praise the Lord!

We met as a family Friday afternoon to remember and share her life - what a joy to sit with four generations in the same room- enjoying each other and spitting out memories that we shared together. She was the same with all of us.  She was, as Keith put it so perfectly "our soft place to land."

Who is she?
She is Iris Virginia May Powell Allen.
She is my husband's mother, my children's grandmother, my friend.

Thanks Iris for accepting me as I am and never trying to change me.  For being the best mother-in-law ever, and for teaching me so much about loving Allen men- what a legacy you left.

 I'll think of you every time I get my hands dirty in the yard, pour bleach, say I'm fine, see a green bathtub, eat a yeast roll- the list is endless.

Most of all, thanks for being our soft place to land.

We sure do love you!

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