Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Why I Refuse to be a Survivor.

I can call him my son and not allow him to live in our house. 
I can miss him and despise the chaos. 
I can grieve for him and laugh at stupid jokes.  
I can love him and let him go. 

The Roanoke Times wrote an article recently about my breast cancer story. You can read it here- I am a Survivor. 

I have had coffee with other trauma mommas seeking advice, and to just be heard and know that they are understood, as we compare our stories of parenting kids with early trauma. Parenting RAD- I am a survivor. 

I have survived my sadness and grief at the graves of many; but not like the world grieves because I know where they are. God's word tells me, based on their testimony of faith that they are happy and safe and free from all that we are left to survive here. 

October 23, has been a big deal for us since 2006. In the adoption circles, it is referred to as "Gotcha" day. The day we picked up our two youngest sons is forever engraved in my mind. The mad flurry of activity between the phone call around 3:30 pm and actually walking up to the social worker's car around 6 pm - picking my middle child (then 18 months old) up out of his car seat. I carried him beside their nine year old sister who carried my youngest (then less than a day from turning six months old) into the Emergency Room for routine physicals- done when children come into foster care. They came, literally with the clothes on their backs, filthy blankets and crib shoes. 

Immediately, we were willing to give everything for them. The cost didn't matter (I'm not just talking dollars). The forever day came three years later, in November. 

This year, October 23, wants to focus on the pain, heartbreak and a reality that I would never had imagined back then. The indignation that welled up in me when I was asked to sign annual papers acknowledging they would still be my sons. 

Who would do that? I mean, I was saving them from that very thing? And we were promising to love them forever. 

Who? Me. 

I'm the one who has had to let my son go. After more than 12 full years of loving him no matter what. Years of learning that I could not save him from himself. From his disorder. From the trauma that came before us. From his illness. From his anger. From his control. From his failure to attach. From his choices. 

Oh, how I tried to fix him. To fix us. To save what is so precious to me. 

October 4, 2019 a judge finalized the dissolution of the adoption for our middle son. 

It was never our plan-never what we expected. Because we loved so deeply, it was supposed to be enough. 

But, human love cannot always overcome human trauma. Some disorders are permanent and pervasive. RAD is such a disorder.

Often, grieving for our son feels more crushing than any graveside; we don't know where he is. We don't know if he is okay and we wonder if he can ever be happy. This reality would make it easy to say adoption doesn't work. 

But that isn't true. The relinquishment of our parental rights, to ensure our son gets the services and treatment the complicated Attachment disorder requires,  doesn't diminish that we had twelve years of pouring into him; of giving him more than he had. Of loving him. 

Because adoption does work our youngest is at home. We get to lay eyes on him everyday, ground him from his phone, argue about getting up for school and encourage him to make good choices and to remember who he belongs to and who loves him best. And whether my middle son lives in my house, or carries my last name, or ever speaks to me again the truth is the same... Jesus loves him best too. 

Because of our son's adoption we've gotten a better glimpse of God's love for us- that unconditional, letting us go to choose for ourselves who we give control to- kind of love. The love that assures that no matter what, once we confess and turn our sinful selves over to God, we bear His name. 

No matter how far we push Him away; how we fight for and decide our control of our own selves matters most; we are still adopted as His own and He promised forever. 

Gotcha Day 2019 well, honestly kind of sucks this year. We're trying to celebrate the happy and not fall under the weight of the sadness of it all. 

Within my own strength, my own love, my own abilities to be what my son needs most, I can barely claim survival. 

But giving back to God what is His, trusting Him to do and be for our son what we cannot; obeying in adoption, and again, obeying when He clearly asked us to let go...well that makes Rex and me more than survivors, it makes us Conquerors. 

Romans 8:37 says
"Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us."

His love is perfect. 

In case you missed it, (I miss it a lot) His love is perfect. 

And it reaches me, and my husband, our sons in their pain...including Elijah in his. It reaches you, too. 

It is up to each of us to give the control to God. Let our indignation well up against sin, disease, and disorders that destroy but not against the people carrying them. Y'all, that is a daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute struggle.  

The giving up is only possible in the letting go. 

How can I say I love my son when I let him go?
How can I grieve the loss of not parenting him when I know that contact limited to written letters is the only safe way forward? 
How can Rex and I get up each morning and walk into another day- not sure who, or where judgment and hurt will lurk from? 


I refuse to be a survivor.  
I'm choosing to be more than a Conqueror. 

And that promise to love him forever, it's a keeper. Because love isn't always the way we picture it, but once you give everything for it, you don't just stop it. 

Happy Wednesday y'all, 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Taking My Hands Off.

If you're around me much at all, you know I can't be still.  Not in an attention deficit way, I can totally focus on whatever I need to, for however long I need to. I just can't be still. 

It's just me. 

So, I struggled recently when I found myself again clinging to God's word, especially the Psalms. Specifically one that most people have heard whether they are believers or not, Psalm 46:10. 

The one that people have tattooed on their wrists and engraved on necklaces. The verse that says
"Be still and know that I am God" 

...well, I felt like I was failing Him because even in my devotion, quiet time and worship I can't be still. I wondered if I was being disrespectful or irreverent. 

This last year, especially with so much of my life that I cannot control or, even in learning the parts that I could control were toxic for our family, I was trying to be still.

Have you ever been there? Are you with me so far?

The hard lately, fear and insecurity about the most difficult decision of our lives (so far) keeps me even busier. Over-thinking every.single.decision. In trying to hold on to my son, to my marriage, to my faith, to everything in my life I find precious I realized I was actually striving, wrestling against God. 

Y'all, that ain't good. 

A few months ago I was reading a newsletter from a missionary friend.  He was telling about his daughter and how she loves it when he takes his hands off of the steering wheel when driving the hole-filled roads in Uganda. He explained the real meaning of Psalm 46:10 and how the Hebrew for be still, really means to let go, to take our hands off. 

Well, that certainly frees us up, doesn't it. 

So instead of sitting still and being quiet, I just need to stop striving. I don't need to figure it out, I just need to take my hands off and know that God is. 

He is bigger. He is more loving. God is working it out, with the entire picture in sight. He has an expected end and he doesn't need my help. But He sure wants my obedience and trust. 

We recently went to Pigeon Forge, TN to support our son and his youth group as they did ministry there. We were able to enjoy some free time with our young(er) friends.

When Rex and I have been asked what it is like to trauma parent, and ultimately make the decision to let our son go, the closest way to describe it is like riding a roller coaster. A big, scary coaster that twists and turns, goes upside down and backwards. The kind that you scream and think will never end, and then you see the straight stretch just ahead and you know you're at the end of that terrible ride and will be able to get off. Except, with trauma parenting, every time we would approach the gate and think we were finished, instead of the staff stopping the ride and letting us off, the coaster would speed past and take round again. Only the track is just different enough that we could never prepare for what was coming. No matter how much I screamed and cried and begged for an end, we just kept looping again. And again. The only way to survive was to hold on and pray that I didn't fall out. And the tighter I held onto to the desire to parent my son, to be part of his healing, to do everything I could do, the crazier the ride got.  

After much prayer and gallon jugs of tears (carefully collected and saved by my Jesus) Rex and I decided to let go- to relinquish rights to our son so he can have access to the care he needs if he will ever heal from Reactive Attachment Disorder. 

We decided to stop fighting what is, stop trying to figure things out (aka make things work the way we want them to work) and literally, take our hands off of our son; not knowing how it will end. 

While we were in Pigeon Forge, we spent several hours at Dollywood. These young friends of ours talked us in to riding a roller coaster. It has been a lot of years and both Rex and I had said we would never do that again. But we did. We got on The Thunderhead, a big wooden coaster that took us round and round, up and down speeding so fast I could hardly see what was coming. I screamed- the entire time and at no time did I let go of the safety bar in front of me. It was new and different and scary and I couldn't see the track. We got off and I felt victorious, but done with coasters. 


We walked up the hill and found another coaster- some people would call it a kiddy ride. But because you could see the entire coaster it seemed safer. So Stephanie and I waited in line (with the little kids) and took our seats on the coaster. 

There were hills and twists and turns and it even went pretty fast- but I could see the drops so you know what I did? 

Yes! I took my hands off, threw them in the air and enjoyed the ride. I laughed. Out loud. I felt safe and free. 

Stephanie and me on the Kiddy Coaster
The ride with our son, it's kind of like moving from that big scary coaster, to one where I can see more of the track and feel safer. 

I can't see the end of our story. I can't know the end of Elijah's story. I won't know where all the twists and turns and drops are coming next in our life, but I do know that in God's will I am safe. I am free and commanded to take my hands off. 
Joy in Letting Go
I'm choosing to stop holding on to the safety bar, to throw my hands in the air and laugh out loud- enjoying knowing that God is all I need and that He will be exalted. 

Y'all, can I encourage you to take your hands off. Practice being still by throwing your hands in the air and giving your hurts, challenges, fear and anxieties to the one who will be exalted. Trust in the safety of the One who can give you joy and laughter even tho' the ride is a little scary. 

Happy Saturday y'all!

Friday, June 21, 2019


This post is a link-up to Five Minute Friday

Question- as a noun is pretty simple, right- to ask; wonder. But as a verb, to question almost infers something negative...and was something I grew up thinking was not okay.

Don't question my parents.
Don't question my teachers.
Don't question those in authority, like other family members, police or babysitters.
And definitely, don't question God.

In the last several years, I not only have become good at asking God questions- I no longer wonder if it is okay to do so. I don't question Him as if I know better than He does, in a disrespectful way; but I want to know.

I have questions (noun) that I am anxious for answers for- especially why my son couldn't accept our love? What is the purpose in his trauma? Why do some things have to be so hard?
Why do some people die in their sleep and others suffer greatly?

What on earth, made you love me so much?

Questions bring understanding. I want to understand God's plan and purpose for my life. I want my kids to question so they can understand not just the world around them, but the wonderful God we love and serve.

We don't get to know all the answers here, but I think we should all be okay with asking the questions. Jesus did- at least 135 questions he asked in the Bible- feel free to search them out.

Happy Friday y'all!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Dear Daddy, Just Some Words!

Dear Daddy,

It's what's for Father's Day this year.

In thinking about what to get you, I was kind of at a loss this year. I've given you the perfect coffee mug, gift cards, suspenders, pictures, and many other perfect things for my Daddy who is so close in my heart, but so far away in miles.

The truth is, it gets harder and harder because through the years you've now gotten most anything you want. I mean seriously, does another grilling tool show love more than another item?

Maybe, but I decided to give you something that won't wear out or fade. I decided to give you words.

Thank you for being the first man I loved. It's no secret - anyone who knows me knows that I am a Daddy's girl.

One of my favorite memories from childhood is when you would read to us on Christmas Eve. I will also never forget the moving of the rock pile. I might not have all the details seared into my brain, but I remember moving the pile; and then immediately moving it back. The playhouse with real windows and floor that you built us still brings a smile when I think about it.

I did not like, ever, that you made us shut our bedroom door when we went to bed at night.

The divorce- is what it is. None of us are mistake free; and while it changed so much about our life; because of those changes my life is what it is today. Because we moved from Tennessee to Virginia, I met Rex. Because I met Rex, we gave birth to Shayne. And we adopted two boys. All, beautiful gifts from God; He is in control.

I remember standing hand in hand next to you at old fashion tent revival meetings; and going to church night after night for revival meetings. I often grab my son's hand during church and think of you. You taught me, at an early age that the foundation for life is God alone. Everything is built on our relationship with Him; and He forgives us, strengthens us and loves us unconditionally. That foundation has helped me stand through some difficult storms of life.

Having to return the stolen Luden's cherry cough drops to the lady working the register at Cherokee Market, with an apology, also left an impression on a little girl that stealing is never worth it.
Thank you, Daddy.

You taught me that writing in my Bible is okay- dates, short notes, definitions- all leave a road map for my kids and anyone else who picks up my Bible, just like picking up yours and flipping through the worn pages does for me.

You taught me to work hard and not make excuses, just do what needs to be done. It might be your fault that I'm not good at sitting and doing nothing.

You taught me to cook a turkey and fry chicken- a little Tennessee Sunshine is the perfect secret and what every cook needs in their kitchen.

You also taught me to be fine. Every day is a good day and complaining is a waste of time, so focus on the positive things. So much of life is how we look at it.

You're a glass full kind of guy, and that helps me to be a glass full kind of girl.
Thank you, Daddy.

I don't think you have any idea how well respected and loved you are. I see it, on our trips to visit, even sitting in the Cracker Barrel.  The way you put people at ease, bring a smile by your kind words- you have a way of making everyone you come in contact with, feel important. Not everyone has that ability, Daddy.

I never wondered if you loved me.

I hate that we are separated by so many miles and I don't get to see you more often; but I am thankful that you are such a huge part of my life and I can still talk to you often, just hearing your voice brings comfort- and your hugs are worth the several hours in the car for.

Thank you Daddy for your love and support, guidance and wisdom through the years. I'm so grateful for you!

Daddy, I love you so much!
Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Your Petition is so Granted.

KUNK one, two, three, four - KUNK one, two, three, four, five - KUNK one, two, three, four -KUNK...

Sleep is interrupted these nights with dreams. Unlike the nightmares in the recent past, they are just crazy dreams that don't make sense, dreams that wake us up looking for each other- wake us up angry until we figure out, it was just a dream.  But, because the clock taunts us with the reminder that it is only 1:00 am, 2:15 am, 4 am, 6 am- I lay here and keep time to the KUNK of the fan, and think about my son.

The fan isn't supposed to make that noise as it oscillates from side to side; but the fan was in the wrong place during one of his rages and became just another object in that days path of destruction. It survived the rage and still functions, but not without struggling to do what it was designed to do and the audible reminder of that night.

The last phone call I had with Elijah, he kept saying It isn't supposed to be this way...I want to go back and be a baby again, to start over, and I choked tears back over the lump closing in on my throat and told him he was right, it isn't supposed to be this way.

Kids are supposed to trust their parents.
Kids are supposed to know that Mommy and Daddy are going to meet their basic needs; which is learned by their needs being met when they are very young.
Kids are supposed to feel safe with Mommy and Daddy.
Kids aren't supposed to be taken away from birth parents who, aren't supposed to abuse and neglect them.
Kids aren't supposed to have their earliest memories of police officers pulling them out of a closet where they were hiding.
Kids aren't supposed to spend years trying to gain the affection of a parent who continues to ignore in a system that is supposed to protect them.
Kids aren't supposed to be adopted by strangers, but when they are, kids aren't supposed to hate them. Kids aren't supposed to be confined to inpatient psychiatric hospitals- or spend months in a residential treatment facility.
Kids aren't supposed to hate the parents who love them deeply.
Kids aren't supposed to abuse or physically hurt their families.

But we can't go back and start over.

What if the not supposed to be - really is.  Oh, not in our plans because we are humans who will always want our stories to be one of happy endings and pretty packages, togetherness and joy. We wouldn't write a story full of grief and disappointment if we knew we had to live it.

But, in God's plan- it is in our brokenness where we find His promises to draw near.

And the biggest not supposed to in our story, is the lie the enemy wanted us to believe, the one that says if we really love our son we aren't supposed to give up on him or give him up.

We have been transparent over the last decade or so about our adoption story. We have felt isolated and alone and didn't know there were other people fighting the same battles. We wanted to share so that other people in the trenches wouldn't feel so lonely. That has made it a little tricky in continuing to tell our story over the last year because there is no happy ending- at least not at this stage in the writing of it- in our story. But we can't throw it out as damaged, defeated or failed either.

On February 22, we petitioned the court for Relief of Custody for our Elijah.

Both of our adopted sons have their own challenges, but for Elijah, we knew from the very first days something was different. His rages started before he was two. We thought it was adjustment, then learned it was attachment, officially Reactive Attachment Disorder from early childhood trauma. We have had some good days, but never easy.

In 2014, things spiraled out of control.  Many of you remember that year; but even then we kept much of the reality of our war zone private. Our closest friends, even our family had no idea what life was really like inside our home. Especially for our oldest son who was now married and starting his own family, we tried really hard to protect him from as much of it as we could; he had already lived through so much.

After a short period of time where we thought things had improved, we soon learned that he couldn't sustain progress or stability. Since 2014 things have continued to spiral to an unsafe and out-of-control home. Kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder, RAD, specifically our son, develop aggressive controlling behaviors, a lack of conscience, self-gratification at the expense of others, failure to take responsibility, lie, steal, a total disregard for our family rules and the rules in society, chronic anger, impulsivity, lack of remorse and a skewed perception of reality. And as he grew in size and age, so did the rages. He got smarter and more intentional with his abusive behaviors and words. Any simple request or change in schedule could trigger his rages which now had become violent and impulsive. And because he learned when to be charming and engaging, sharing any of our story often made us seem crazy.

If you don't live it you can't understand it. By late 2017 our home had become our prison yet we would rather fight alone than have other people think badly of him, or worse reject him. So we continued to try and hide our reality but that became near impossible by early 2018.

We still can't wrap our heads around the fact, that all the love we have given, the huge circle of friends and family who also love and support him and the highest level of professional services available for the last 12 1/2 years, hasn't been able to undo the wiring of his brain that took place during the first 18 months of his life, due to the trauma, abuse and neglect he experienced before we knew him.

Our son isn't a monster. He is an amazing kid trapped in his own trauma; but the reality is that it is unsafe for him to live in our home. Our bodies, our minds, our property, our marriage and our family has been bruised and battered- nearly destroyed.

We were asked recently by the staff at Grafton, how much more abuse were we willing to take? They could see what we couldn't accept yet- sometimes, love is not enough.

But through some intensely ugly visits with him, he made it clear. We could finally answer, no more.

Our family is broken and grieving and trying to figure out how to live without our son who is part of our very beings and scattered throughout our lives - constant reminders of what wasn't supposed to be, and what was, but isn't.

All our brokenness, and the scars of the supposed to's can immobilize us and land us in a useless heap of nothing (and we have spent some time there) or they can serve as reminders that we have survived and are still functioning...KUNK....KUNK.....KUNK.

On Tuesday of this week, 4/9/19- with the overwhelming support of Child Protective Services, Grafton, the Guardian ad Litem and the Attorney for Social Services- the judge granted our petition; transferring custody of our son to the people we once fought desperately to gain custody from.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

The first question we're asked is will we ever see him again, and the sad answer is we don't know. What we do know is that we will keep telling our story - one built on the foundation of hope and one that we believe will end in redemption of what wasn't supposed to be.

But for now, we are putting one foot in front of the other and taking it one day at a time as we grieve for our son; learn a new normal and simply try to sleep through an entire night to the sound of the KUNK, KUNK, KUNK.

Happy Saturday y'all,

Friday, March 29, 2019

FMF: Measure

This post is a link-up to Five Minute Friday


We measure our feet to buy shoes, we measure luggage for travel and we measure the depth of water for all sorts of reasons.  Is it too deep for my kid to stand up in? Is it deep enough for this cruise ship?

I read a FB post this week that went something like this...

A person can drown in eight feet of water, another in 20 feet, but they both drowned.

We are trauma parents which brings unique and very difficult challenges to what we found normal  parenting of our oldest and biological son.  People will say- God knew only you and Rex could do this. Or, with exasperated expressions will comment, "I don't know how you do it?"

Often, a friend will begin to share a difficulty they are facing, and then stop and say, but it's nothing compared to what you are living through.  I'm uncomfortable with that because I know that hard is hard. And, I want to be there to encourage them like they are for me. But the measurement of difficulty interferes.

Yes, we've been called to trauma parent, adopt and find our way through pediatric mental illness.  It is so very hard. But that is our calling.  You may not have been called to that - which is why you can't understand it.

My friend Brian has been called to go up against cancer and I'm amazed at how he bravely and tenaciously keeps fighting and smiling. I can't fully understand.

My friends Julie and Shanna, and my niece Missy have buried their husbands way too early by our standards of expectation. I can't fully understand it.

I've seen adultery and divorce destroy people that I love dearly. I could go on.

You have your own hard that you walk every single day.

We tend to measure our stories, our callings and our pain against each other. If it's different, and we can't fully understand it can leave us feeling less than.

Can I encourage you today to not measure your calling against mine? Let's measure our own calling to walk the hard and the happy with God's grace and mercy and wisdom for each of us- which He grants at the perfect time and in the perfect measurement. He is more than.

And, even when His answer is different than our ask, He is always good.

Happy Friday y'all!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Hey Handsome...It's Your First Birthday!

Some of my first words to him were Hey Handsome.  They stuck.  It's usually how I greet him. His Pappy calls him Roscoe, Penelope calls him Bud-Bud or Si-Si.  I'm not sure if he knows what his real name is yet (kidding). 

He is beyond a doubt the most precious baby boy.  

He was born at the perfect time but also a time when our world was kind of falling apart. Poor baby never got a welcome to the world blogpost.  I feel like I missed the first few months of his life, because his Pappy and I were neck deep in surviving trauma parenting.  

He is teaching me so much. And while I wish I could soothe him to sleep anytime he was tired(and about the only one besides his Momma/Daddy who can) I know and encourage his need for his Momma. I can see the "Circle of Attachment" work the way it should so I am the first person to hand this sweet baby boy over to his Momma when he cries for her. 

We are making up for lost time with this little guy and he just keeps bringing the happy. We pray you grow into a Man of God who loves your family and works hard, much like your Daddy. And your Pappy.  You have good examples to follow, sweet boy.

Happy First Birthday Silas- you are perfect for us and we love you BIG! 

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