Saturday, October 3, 2015

Coming Home...Day 1 {A Reflection}

{Day 1}

A heavy fog greeted us as we began our journey to Sliven. Our car lost electrical power three times during the 3.5 hour drive, leaving me silently panicking in the backseat while our guide was, I'm pretty sure, swearing in Bulgarian on the phone with someone about this problem. When we lost power and pulled onto a way side that held a burned-out bus on its side, I literally prayed with all my might to and we'd deal with whatever followed.

As we pulled onto the road leading to Mimi's town from the highway (I call it the "Road to Nowhere") sleet began to fall and the song "I'll be home for Christmas" came one the radio.  It moved me to tears and beyond words. 

When we arrived at the orphanage, I noticed the gate was now adorned with an actual doorknob and indeed locked. This been installed since the last visit. It made me incredibly sad. We had to wait seconds for a staff member to come out and unlock it.  It felt like an eternity. We walked inside to see Tatiana and Eli (Mimi's psychologist and teacher) running down the hallway to greet us with big hugs. The experience went something like this: Hug then give gifts. Hug then hear what they had to say. Eli runs to get her camera. Someone in the office needs us to sign something. Did we bring clothes and shoes? Yes. Oh the shoes are way too problem. I had asked for her to keep the outfit she was wearing on, as something for her to look back on when she is older.  Eli told me she'd just give me the shoes she was wearing.

We were given a small photobook of Mimi's life in the baby house in Sliven. What a treasure. Tatiana went through the whole thing with us and explained what certain things were, photos of her as a baby, photos of her for Baba Marta, with Santa, and with her friends. The ones that blew me away? There is a tradition in Bulgaria that when I child begins walking they set items out on a table in the middle of the room. The child walks around the table to choose an item. It is said that whatever they choose will be their profession. Our girl chose a book.

Tatiana also wrote Mimi a letter, upon my request via email, about her life in the orphanage. She had printed it on a beautiful piece of stationary. She thanked us for staying up late every week to Skype. Um, no. Thank YOU. She told us how important it was to her and how important she felt it was for Mimi to create that connection with us. She shared that Mimi really loved Fridays...she knew it was the day she'd Mama and Tati (annnnd get some treats but hey....). She would light up when Tatiana would come get her from the playroom and the other kids would get jealous. I cried. Those tender hearts. Mimi would return to the playroom feeling all important.
Oh here she comes, walking down the all her Miminess!

She was happy to see us and knew who we were...even though we weren't on a screen. This girl is so much a part of a family. While her care was still group care, she is SO LOVED. These women were standing wiping their tears when we left. They insisted on walking us outside to the courtyard. They insisted on 3,245 pictures. I love them. We love them. Mimi loves them.

We got in the car and she did so very well. Even though our ride back was longer due to more fog and the car faulting one more time, she did well. She ate almost the entire in the car. She shared her snacks with me which was a step in the right direction. As in a pretzel stick going into my mouth, or nose. Whatever. She ate all of the fruit snacks, pretzels, chips, and drank two bottles of water. A LOT of water. I've never seen a child so thirsty for water.
We arrived at the Passport Center just in the nick of time and took 2,195 pictures in an effort to get a picture for her passport. First, this place was jammed with adults, which I'm sure she's never seen so many in her life and big oversized BRIGHT fluorescent lights. She was in my arms when we walked in and she looked up and panicked instantly. (I mention this as its one of the things our vision specialist told us to watch for....changes in her mood/etc when in bright or dark places,etc. She was stressed, tired, anxious, grieving, check all of the above. This girl has a scream that would wake King Tut. Oh my stars. When it comes out, its terrified and full of emotion. Its ugly and raw and difficult for her to calm. We also started to notice her loosing her balance A LOT and seeming very disoriented. When she falls its often wonky and well, its just its own flavor. It wasn't pretty, but after a run to the car and a very savvy attorney who worked her magic, we got a photo.
We returned to the hotel and after hanging for a bit we decided to go downstairs to the empty white bright restaurant for dinner. See where I'm going with this? Yeah, nada. She had a full on meltdown and we asked for our dinner to be brought upstairs. She was grieving, tired,  ALL OF IT HIT HER AT ONCE. 
How do you comfort a child whom you love and want to soothe who thinks you are the green martian that just stole them from their happy planet?

She calmed and ate with us. She allowed me to feed her some, which was unexpected as she's such an independent eater. When you don't have a mini table and chairs, you improvise. She allowed me to feed her with a fork, which I'm not sure she'd ever eaten with, and then she got it a little too far in her mouth-that was the end of it. She munched on some french fries and then she was done.

Remember when we visited her in July and they told us how she avoids sleep?  By screaming? Heavens. And all we could do was be there and watch. Once she fell asleep, she had a pretty good night's rest, minus a lot of dirty diapers. She wandered over when I turned on the light this morning. She snuggled up to me for cuddles and let me hold her for about 10 seconds. She is constantly on the go or engrossed in something. I took it as a step in the right direction...
Jer slept while round 2 of my adrenaline kicked in and I was up most of the night feeling it come down. Crying, bawling, shaking, processing, texting adoption friends and my mom in the bathroom after showers trying to calm myself down, denying, scared, terrified, excited, worried, etc. listening to her little feet slide on the sheets as she moved in her sleep 1,204 times. 

The thing about adoption. Its two-sided. Its beautiful. But its also ugly. The circuit between the two can switch at any time. We have a whole new normal happening now. You survive, one hour, one minute, one second. Whatever you need to. There is no magic duct tape that will heal all that has happened, and will continue to happen in the next few days. It needs to come together at its own pace. And I know it will.

If not, there are plenty of vodka mini bottles in our mini-bar.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Brave Restoration

I've been doing my best to contrive words for what I experienced last weekend.

In March I became part the launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book For The Love
I mentioned it in this post. The object of the game was simple.  
Receive an advanced copy of the book, read it, promote it.

Except that's not what happened. 

What happened was something none of us could have ever imagined.

Our launch team became a community of women (and four men) 
who were organic, raw, real, genuine, and just downright epic.

We didn't start off that way.  It began rather shallow.  "Hi, I'm so-and-so, I live here, and I'm SO EXCITED!"  As we began to receive our books, quotes began to fly around and the real began to creep in.  We moved from the shallow to the deep end.  We began to share things that maybe some of our nearest and dearest didn't know.  We shared the hard.  The struggles. It was a safe place. The hopes.  The dreams.  We loved on each other. We got silly. For reals.  People who lived in common areas began to meet up, prayers were asked and said a mile a minute, and we began showering each other with incredible love.  My Facebook news feed was clogged with For The Love Launch Team member posts every single day. 

Somewhere along the line, someone {joking} suggested a launch team party at Jen's farmhouse. 

And then Jen invited us all to her farmhouse for a Launch Team Party.

As I type this I am still finding it hard to put this experience into words.  I wasn't going to go.  Insert one of the 452 excuses I made here.  Some incredibly thoughtful women decided to start a scholarship fund for women who wanted to attend the party.  By the time this venture was completed, 27 women, myself included, were scholarship recipients. 

As I was boarding my first flight, a woman said, "I'm on the launch team too!" When we arrived in our connecting city, we met up with another launch team member and flew together to Austin.  When we arrived in Austin, we picked up another!

We greeted one another with hugs.  We were not strangers.

I stayed in a house with twelve other women.  
Twelve incredible souls that are now my dear friends.  

Initially, the excitement was all about going to Jen's.  Meeting Jen.  

It was a backyard party y'all.  
Two hundred + women, loving each other, loving Jesus, 
and embracing this incredible community we had built.

{Dinner on Jen's porch}

One of our sweet thirteen shared with me that she felt I was brave for coming. 
I didn't feel brave for coming.

I left feeling brave.  

Brave with clarity and direction.  
Brave to implement changes in my life that are long overdue.
 Brave to find myself again.
Brave to take some things off my beam.
Brave in realizing so many things.
Brave in just being me.

Community is a struggle for me.
It's something I have wrestled with since I was a young girl.
None of these women knew this, but they still love me for me.
I'm quick to brush things off because my life is so obtuse sometimes.
I either omit and ditch the participation factor or risk it and
find myself vulnerable in sharing, automatically feeling like I've overshared.


I feel brave.

On her website, Jen shares this little nugget:

 I want our home to be lovely and comfortable and sacred. 
I hope folks leave our home more restored than when they walked in the door.
 -Jen Hatmaker


 I feel beyond restored and I was just in her backyard. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

My Favorite Adoption Story: One in a Million

 I am so very excited to be partnering with Show Hope as a blogger for the Show Hope Blogging Network. I'll be writing to raise awareness and encourage discussion about the global orphan crisis. 

Jeremy was very confused when I told him about this particular assignment.

Share your favorite adoption story.  

"Well, why aren't you sharing ours?" he said. I could.  But most of you already know those. I want to share a story of incredible love, determination, hope, and grace.

I first met Amy when our names were shouted out in the same small group pairing of a summer women's bible study group. I knew of a few women in our group but didn't really know them. As we went around our precious circle, I learned a bit about Amy and her family.  When she shared her family was in the process of adopting from China, my heart skipped a beat.

A few weeks later Amy came to group clearly smitten.  She could barely contain herself as she flipped her iPad around and showed us a picture of this precious little girl. "Isn't she beautiful?!" Indeed she was.  She shared the story of a sweet baby girl Esther in China who went to heaven {due to a virus + her heart defeat} before her adoptive family was able to bring her home.  Esther's family designed T-shirts printed with "So Loved", with 100% of the profits of the proceeds funding a future heart surgery for an orphan in China.  A sweet angel named Kate had her future heart surgery fully funded!

Amy showed us the picture of "Kate".  And that was that.

No it wasn't.

Six months later "Kate" was referred to Amy's family.

A one in a million shot.  Literally.

Amy wrote, "Only God writes a story like this."

And so it was.

Kate became Grace.

That heart surgery?  That was prayed for and supposed to occur in China?  Never happened.

I watched from afar as their family dynamic changed in anticipation for Grace.  I watched Amy fight fear and worry as her sweet baby girl was thousands of miles away, being hospitalized over and over again. I had heard her speak about their adoption process months before and watched her growth and trust in Him. When it was real, she was real. I watched her develop a deep, deep passion for orphans. Hundreds of us stalked her Facebook page for updates while they traveled to China. We waited for that glimpse of the family all together and watched as her little personality emerged slowly but surely.

We watched Grace undergo the heart surgery she so desperately needed.  We witnessed a visceral love and tenderness that goes far beyond what we think we are capable of.  We watched as Grace went from blue to pink.  We saw Grace change by the healing grace of God. Its been a few years since she arrived home and hearing the word grace still causes me to think of Grace.

I'm truly not doing any justice to all things Grace.  I'm really not.

But what I do want to say is Grace's story holds a special place in my heart because it gave me hope. Hope for a mama who was beyond broken and had a very jaded view of adoption.  Hope for a mama who did not trust. Hope for a mama who thought her parenting journey was over. Healing to a mama who learned that its okay to not know everything. Healing to a mama who desperately needed to see God's working. Our stories matter.  We never know who's listening. I'm so thankful I met Amy, her family, and sweet Grace.

Grace changes everything.

You can find Amy's blog here.  
She also contributes monthly at No Hands But Ours

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

A Review: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

Five months ago, something extraordinary happened.  On a whim, I filled out a form to be part of the book launch team for Jen Hatmaker's new book For The Love.  Seriously.  Who does this sort of stuff and actually gets a reply?

Turns out-I do.

For the last several months it has been an HONOR to be part of Jen's launch team.  What started as an orthodox practice for launching a book became a community of women (and a few men!) on fire for Jesus, each other, and of course For The Love.  We became a tribe full of encouragement, hope, passion and truth. 

Part of my duty honor as a launch team member is to share my review of For The Love.  

Now, I know what you are thinking.  You're a Jesus girl. One of thoooooose people.

I am and am not.

If you aren't a Jesus girl or guy, please keep reading.  

It is true, I am a Jesus girl.  But I am not one of those people.  I am not a fan of religion to be honest.  I am Christian by way of my love for Jesus Christ.  

But you love Jesus and all that stuff.  Of COURSE you loved this book!

I have read books people.  Lots of different books.  Truth be told: I'm not a fan of preachy books.  At all.  But this book isn't that.  This book is Jen.

Jen writes For The Love from with a real, raw, and fresh approach. 

If you aren't familiar with Jen Hatmaker, you should be. Get on that. She writes to you as if you are sitting on her couch, wrapped in a blanket, enjoying a cup of coffee and shooting the breeze.  She writes about serious things, like slowing down, growing older, family, kids, church, crappy Christians, women, marriage, and people.  She also writes with a ridiculous sense of humor and wit about crotchless yoga pants, supper clubs, leggings, and finding your people.  I've never read a book with such a balance between the real and funny in life.  She is transparent and does not mince words. She is brave and inspires me to be brave.  In life and in my journey as an aspiring author. I cried tears and laughed so hard...well you'll see.  I highly encourage you to pick up this book, and pick one up for your friend too.  Share the love.  It is THAT good.  Never have I wanted to buy a copy for every single woman I know-until now. 

Here are my top five long quotes from For The Love and my thoughts on each:

"Wise women know what to hold onto and what to release,
and how to walk confidently in their choices--no regrets, no apologies, no guilt."  


"You can say no, and no one will die."

I know, that's two.  But they just go together.

Jen opens For The Love with a topic that speaks to every woman. The balance game we all play.  The first chapter, titled "Worst Beam Ever" struck me to my core.  Already, I was crying. Social media, a blessing and a curse, creates the illusion that we have it all together, all the time.  We show the best of ourselves for the world to see.  The phrase #offthebeam began floating around the launch team conversations and I've referenced it a few times with my people looking at me like I'm insane.  We must chose what to keep on the beam and what to take off.  Examine what is truly important. Dolphin sandwiches aren't. Ok?  It is ok to say no.  Really. Not everything has to stay on the beam.

photo cred-@jengarwood

"The timing is never right.  Forget that.  It rarely just falls into your lap.  You are probably not guaranteed success.  This might be a crapshoot. It will require sacrifice from you and maybe your people and you might step out on shaky, shaky legs. But off your go because we are not created to stand still, even though that is safe and familiar and you are guaranteed never to fall or stumble or grow weary. We were made to run."

Eons ago, when my husband and I were trying to have a baby, my mother-in-law told me that the timing would never be right.  Indeed, the timing in my life has never been right.  Things happen when they happen, despite my deep need and complex efforts to control them.  Many times I've felt those shaky legs.  But Jen is right.  We were not created to stand still.  I think it is a safe assumption to say that safe and familiar are similar among all of us, but where we run and what makes each of shaky is very different. I don't want to stand still.  Do you?

"We live in a strange unprecedented time when face-to-face relationships are becoming optional. It's tricky, this new online connectivity, because it can become meaningful and true; it has given way to actual friendships I treasure. But it can also steal from friends on porches, the ones who truly know you, who talk about real life over nachos. Online life is no substitute for practiced, physical presence, and it will never replace someone looking you in the eye, padding around your kitchen in bare-feet...walking in your front door without knocking."

This.  Oh I have such a love/hate relationship with social media and all this technology.  Do I love it?  Is it convenient?  Of course.  Do I love keeping in touch with those I don't see every day?  Of course.  But it has also cheapened things for our culture. I feel disconnected from those immediately around them.  Community is a basic need. I want purposeful, meaningful, funny, sad, and everything in between conversations and interactions in my life.  I'm writing this in my favorite coffee shop,  staring at the spot where a friend and I take the time to meet face-to-face when we can and have those conversations. My heart is always full for days after those conversations.  Facebook don't make my heart full. 

"Grace has no discernment."

Dear Christians, Please Stop  Being Crappy.  Yup. That's chapter in this book. And its one of my favorites.  Christians can be crappy.  News flash.  And we need to stop.  We are extremely hard on ourselves and others.  Especially other Christians.  We should not be treating each other poorly or extending judgement where it isn't needed.  We're all on the same playing field.  All of us.  All us humans in this big 'ol planet.  Love one another.  Why is that so hard?!  That sounds like another topic to discuss at a later date.  Humanity is difficult. We need to love one another.  Extend grace. Cloak each other in dignity. Be comforting and welcoming. Be family.

"Maybe your best thing won't draw a paycheck, but it is how you shine and glow and come to life to bless the world. May I legitimize your gifts? Just because you don't get a pay stub doesn't mean you shrink back or play small or give it all up. Do your thing.  Play your note. We are all watching and learning, moved.  You are making the world kinder, more beautiful, wiser, funnier, richer, better,..Run your race."

photo cred-@jengarwood

If you know me, you know that I am mama to two sweet littles from two different countries. You know that I've been a stay-at-home mom since our first child came home.  That was not the plan.  See #2. His presence brought forth a whole new world to learn, new experiences, and more amazing people than I can count.  He gave me new gifts to harness and share. Do I feel like I am blessing the world by being a mother or sharing my story as an aspiring author?  Mmmmm, no.  But I'm going to continue to do my thing.  Cause its my thing.  I'm running.

For the love go get this book!  

I'd love to hear what you have to say after reading it.  
Give me a CALL.  
Let's meet for coffee or tea or whatever you drink for fun.  

Curious to see what others are saying about For The Love?  Go here.

Let's be meaningful.  

Let's love well.

Jen offers raw humor, truth, and grace through every word she writes. She holds your hand through the tough and dances next to you in joy. This book should be in the hands of every woman, offering Jen’s realistic and gracious approach to our crazy lives.
~ Heidi Schmidt, Special Needs Mama, Author, Blogger, 
and Lover of Hot Chocolate with Whip. Milwaukee, WI

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Last fall I found myself standing in the restroom of an office building.  Hyperventilating and sobbing.

I had been sitting in on AJ's RPM session.  His provider had just moved to a new location and I was stoked to have him on board with regular sessions throughout the school year.  Except that didn't happen. He refused to work, became violent, ripped off his cochlear implants, and after 3,000th time-I made a mad dash to the bathroom.

My mind kept chanting- What the hell is wrong with you?! Get it together!

Except I couldn't.  This was the beginning of a downhill spiral I now refer to seven.

I thought the early years with AJ were the most difficult.  If we could get through those, we could get through anything!  We're on the up and up!  I saw the light at the end of the tunnel a few years ago (finally).

The truth?

This seventh year has been the HARDEST in our entire existence as AJ's parents.

I could see his behavior was not going to improve simply by practice, framing, or storyboarding the activity.  None of that was going to work.  I resorted to understanding we were going to be done with RPM sessions for a while until we could figure out what was going on.

September brought new worries and challenges. AJ's school had gone to a new layout, making grades into suites (ie  a "suite" consisted of two regular size classes combined).  For AJ this meant he was no longer in any spaces he was familiar with other than the gym. He was presented eight new spaces and four new staff members when school began. A few weeks later, another major staff change. Sometimes the broad ideas that administrators have do not translate well to the children whose educations are at stake.

For over a year AJ had been illustrating extremely difficulty sleeping. Despite my internal battle, trying everything under the sun, and my clear disdain for the idea, we began a mild medication to help AJ sleep.

I began to hear mild whispers about his behavior at school.  This was a main concern for both us and the school team. After discussing with our pediatrician, we had AJ evaluated for the second time for autism. The entire appointment was beyond ridiculous. They had absolutely no idea how to test our child.  Let me say, that we are not fans of older practitioners. We left, with the information that our son has "autistic tendencies" but not the actual diagnosis.  We were also told that he would never improve, what we were seeing was about it. Don't get your hopes up.  Annnnnnd that's when we knew it was over. When we begged for help with behaviors, they referred us to other older practitioners  in the area of behavior who had waiting lists out the ying-yang. We were not disappointed in the lack of diagnosis, but rather with the lack of professionalism and knowledge as to how to test our son.

It was a waste of time.

At the end of October we passed family court in Bulgaria and legally became Mimi's parents.  We flew out at the end of November to pick her up.  AJ did marvelously well during our first trip to visit her back in July 2014, so we were psyched knowing he'd do well again.

For many reasons, those two weeks in Bulgaria were the longest weeks in my life.  AJ did not do well.  In fact, it was terrible.  He was completely non-functional.  He did not attend school, he did not wear his cochlear implants, he did not eat, he did not want to do anything but roll in his bed.  Nothing in my binder of preparedness for my mother-in-law was going to help this little boy.  When we would Skype, I would watch him sinking farther and farther into this weird abyss.  He was not my son.  I was concerned for his health and concerned for his heart. Being thousands and thousands of miles from him and trying to be a mom to a new child was beyond what I could handle.

Our first night back home AJ crawled into bed with me, got as close as he could and fell asleep.  He didn't move all night.

In the seven years we have had him home, he has NEVER done that.  Ever.

His behaviors continued to escalate and he began to expression extreme aggression toward his new sister.  Now, we were prepared for regression on his part, jealousy, and all that good stuff, but this-

was not normal.

We decided to see a psychologist with primary practice in the adoption world.  After an hour phone conversation, she understood my son more than anyone else we have ever come in contact with.  She agreed to try and help with the behaviors (if you haven't guessed by now AJ is very complex).  I learned about AJ having sensory memories of his own past as an orphan and how to replace those with good memories. I learned how his relationship with food is so multi-faceted it makes my head spin.  When we saw her, I was in tears THANKFUL he displayed his behaviors in her office. Thankful she could see what I had relayed in previous conversations.

At this point, AJ had barely worn his cochlear implants in months. He could not deal. He was very aggressive, and moving non-stop.  He would walk through the house and swipe things from all surfaces.  He could not sit down and be still. Sometimes I felt like he had no idea what he was doing. Not a clue.  His sleeping had become far and few between again-even with the medication. He was still lashing out at Mimi and we were needing to monitor their interactions closely.  So much for positive bonding.  He was depressed. We tried oils, creams, no-screen time, we've always had a strict bedtime routine so we continued that, we did EVERYTHING we could think of to help him.  And it wasn't WORKING!

So many questions asked.  What if we put something in his hands, is he more apt to keep them busy and not go for his implants. Does he like hair, is he reaching for a sensory need?  What is he trying to tell us. Behavior is a form of communication.   Behavior charting and tracking was started in the school environment.  AJ was no longer accessing his education because he was not HEARING. You cannot access your education as a cochlear implant user if you are not wearing your implants.  He was isolated.  In addition to his environmental and staff changes at school, his programming had shifted into a bad, bad gear.  His education was taking a complete nose-dive.

We researched and requested he be sent to a specific school for special needs children.

I observed AJ in his school environment for one entire day.

While I can't go into detail, I will say:

It was 800 shades of WRONG.

Things were already in motion due to our request above, but this sealed the deal.  AJ hated going to school.  This is NOT my child.  The day he cried getting out of the car?  Broke me.  Continuous meetings, correspondence, and more things going around and around in circles started cycling.

AJ began a cycle of sickness, sick almost every two weeks on the dot. Broken sleep and sickness mean more seizures and dis-regulation. On top of everything else that was happening, it was beyond what we could bear.

Out of desperation, I called AJ's neurologist and requested another EEG. Perhaps these behaviors were being triggered by seizures? At the follow-up appointment, he told me that AJ's brain showed abnormalities from the beginning.  Meaning, from the moment they turned the EEG on his brain was going haywire.

So here's what I learned:

AJ has frontal lobe damage.

Thus, he has very little to no executive function and no impulse control.


That makes TOTAL sense.

We knew he had frontal lobe damage, but breaking it down how it correlates with his actions really was a game-changer.  Little to no executive function means he doesn't understand the future consequences of his actions.  Impulse control is self-explanatory.  Combine these and you get the child who grabs and throws down lamps and has no idea why its wrong or that the consequence is broken glass and possible harm to his body, with the fact that he doesn't realize he's swiping the lamp in the first place because he can't control his impulses.

It was like a light bulb went off in my brain.

"For his safety, the safety of little sister here, and the sanity of you and your husband, I recommend a psychiatrist who can prescribe a medication to help with the impulse control."

Stomach that one.

The psychiatrist was an older practitioner, of course.  It is so not comforting when your child stumps a professional.  So.not.  We agreed on a medication to trial.  Turns out, this was a triple threat medication.  It would help his impulse control, decrease aggression, and help with sleep.  Hallelujah.

As we trialed this new medicine, we asked for a change in AJ's school staffing.  I know what your thinking.  It was beyond necessary.

This medicine?

Gave me my son back.

AJ stopped running around like a maniac, his aggression disappeared, and he began to sleep.  As in restful, non-broken, sleep. He started wearing his implants LIKE.a.BOSS. He started learning again.  His body calmed.  He enjoyed and absorbed the much-needed sensory regulation he was being offered.  He enjoyed himself at school.  He enjoyed himself at home.  He started playing with his sister.

I had a good bawling session last week as we closed out the school year.  For AJ, it was sincerely the beginning.

This year rocked me to my core.  Which, for all we've been through as a family, is kinda hard to do. I'm not gonna lie.  The challenge of splitting myself between AJ's needs and Mimi's needs has been beyond overwhelming and stretched me to my thinnest.  I have prayed many prayers and wondered what God's thinking about all this.  I don't know what I'm doing, dude.  Seriously.

AJ struggles this year caused us to pull back from friendships, cancel plans constantly and most of the time last minute, and in minute by minute.  I've hated that. You can prepare for anything, but that anything is going to look however its going to look when it gets here and you don't have control over that.  We prepared as well as we could to parent two children, our two children, but nothing could have prepared me for the avalanche that has been AJ over the last year.

I missed my sweet boy.  His smile lights my world.  To not see that for months completely broke me.  To not be able to make him feel better, killed me. Clearly, as relayed above, we know AJ best. When you hold that invisible ability and responsibility and can't figure out what is going on?  Well, it breaks your heart and makes you feel helpless.

Am I holding my breath a little?  Yes.  We've been in this constant state of whiplash.  Am I afraid we'll have to increase meds?  Yes. Am I worried when he has a bad night of sleep that we're back to the old patterns?  Yep.  We're just going to have to take this one minute at a time.  I do believe this is the new normal for all things AJ.

A fellow Bulgaria Momma recently posted this in an adoption group we are part of. I asked her if I could share:

We often assume because we are doing what God has called us to do, He will make the road easy. I have learned my greatest lessons in times of difficulty and waiting. 
It is hard, but God has a purpose in it. 

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick; but when dreams come true at last, there is life and joy." Proverbs 13:12


Saturday, June 6, 2015


I'm not the best at organizing, deleting, or keeping current on photos I've taken.  I'm terrible at it, actually. The beauty of having such outstanding technology is being able to take 41 shots of the same thing and pray at least one or two turns out.  Except I never delete.  I load them on the computer and they sit in a folder or they sit in an album on my phone.

Until my external hard drive crashes and I loose them.  Or my laptop crashes and I loose them.  Or I get completely overwhelmed and ignore them.   Or my phone yells at me "cannot take photo" because I'm out of space. The latter is the most common.

For the longest time it was very difficult for me to reminisce and look back on pictures from AJ's younger years. I would look at a picture and feel intense emotions flood to the surface.

 I would remember how he could not sit up when he first arrived he couldn't control his body at all.

I would remember the what seemed like hundreds of cups we used in efforts to help him learn to drink from a free-flowing cup.

I would remember his first Christmas, where we both just wanted to hide and cry in bed all day.  I can see the pain in our eyes.

I would remember the scoop spoon he used to first feed himself-that got caught in the garbage disposal and was grated to hell and caused me to have a breakdown in the kitchen...because where we were ever going to find a spoon like this again?! He needed it!

I would remember the day of his baptism when Jeremy and I were confident AJ had hearing loss and mourning that before anyone else knew, all while people shouted "AJ!" while taking photos after service.

I would stare at the picture of him at the ENT's office in the waiting room, remembering how nervous we were and praying they would say "yes" to him receiving cochlear implants. I remember that fierce, and desperate desire to have them give my baby this chance to make his world-his life-better.

I would remember returning home from a mini-vacation and pulling over on the side of the road the next morning, calling 911 because AJ had his first seizure on the way to school.

I was unable to see the moment that was actually being reflected in the picture.

A few weeks ago I plugged in the external hard drive I've had sitting out for forever quite a while.

Some major, major healing took place.

It was the first time I was able to see those moments.

And see just how far HE and WE have come.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Welcome Home Mimi!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why do you care for orphans?

I am so very excited to be partnering with Show Hope as a blogger for the Show Hope Blogging Network. I'll be writing each month to raise awareness and encourage discussion about the global orphan crisis. 

Why do you care for orphans?  

The you in the question is directed toward me.

Why do I care for orphans?

When the topic for the month appears in my inbox I always think I have it in the bag.   Truly. On the surface these questions are not hard to answer.  Total common sense, I think to myself. Then I open the email and find myself so very wrong. 

Unlike many people I know or have been blessed to meet in the world of adoption, my heart for orphans does not stem from an early seed. Growing up, my defintion of an orphan was nothing.  I honestly do not have a memory of understanding what that meant. 

I find that sad.

My first true understanding of orphan came when we initially began exploring adoption. From the domestic program information meeting to the international information meeting we attended, I fostered an unattached understanding of the orphan.  

The orphan.

Depraved Indifference was my creed.

Oh, that is SO sad.  I just can't.

I made it about me.

As we drove up to my son's orphanage, that indifference shriveled and buried itself along the road.  The building stood as a safe fortress, boasting tall concrete walls, and green barbed wire.  The gate opened as our car pulled forward and I felt trapped.  Trapped in this world I didn't want to be in.  I wanted my baby, but let's go.  In and out.

I didn't want to see the rest of it.

The building inside was clean and pristine, full of noise and children.  I was impressed as I walked the stairs to meet my son.  The horror stories I had heard about "international orphanages" were certainly not what I was seeing.  I stepped on the landing and lost my breath.  Babies. Everywhere.  Laying and playing in a fenced off play area.  To my right, two babies in swings.  To my left, three nannies holding babies.

What on earth?

Something completely visceral rose up inside of me.

This is NOT right.

On the first day in-country during our pickup trip we chose to visit Antigua.  Have you been in a place where the saying "go two blocks and you aren't safe"?  We drove two minutes from our hotel and were no longer safe.  It was raw and shocking.  As we kept driving I saw shacks in hills and mountains. Children's eyes peering out at me from behind small peep-holes cut out.  Poverty beyond anything I had ever imagined.  Young women passed me on the cobblestone streets of Antigua with babies on their backs.

Driving into our daughter's city all of those same descriptions flooded my vision.

This is not right.

My care came from being in the thick of it.  I didn't get it until I saw it.  Experienced it. Felt it.

I'm not proud of that fact.  I wish I had learned more about orphan care, the orphan crisis, and how we can help.

Because we can.

We have a society who is very "I will" and "I can" and in the same breathe "that is their problem" and "oh, that is a shame but I'm staying put in my pretty little world".  When it comes to the we, WE lose ground.

A few days ago I was introduced to a video:

Eric Ludy's Depraved Indifference 

"I suffer from depraved indifference....oh we care. Its not that that doesn't move us at some level to hear about this little child, over in Liberia. We care.  But we can go home tonight and sleep just fine. How is that?  Its because there is an indifference to that life. And its naturally born within us that that life isn't affecting us.  Its not in our backyard. Were not related to it.  Its someone else's issue..."
-Eric Ludy

I refuse to say to myself, "that's not my life so I shouldn't or can't do anything about it."

I have been moved.

Moved to refuse the notion that the orphan crisis is impossible.

Moved to understand that these children are living, breathing, human beings, not something to brush aside because its too hard for me.  It is not about me.

I refuse to believe that it impossible for "those orphans" to affect me.

Because they are in my backyard.

It was my AJ.  It was my Mimi.  My children were orphans.

That is why I care for orphans.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Why do orphans need families?

I am so very excited to be partnering with Show Hope as a blogger for the Show Hope Blogging Network.  I'll be writing each month to raise awareness and encourage discussion about the global orphan crisis. 

Why do orphans need families?

The answer to this question is simple.

You know the answer.  Well all do.

Everyone needs a family.

But if we explore this question beyond the surface, the reasons orphans need families is so much deeper than a one sentence statement.

Seven years ago I found my "face".

What is "a face" you ask?

It is that which makes the orphan and the orphan crisis REAL for an individual.

Her name was Gabriela.

My mother and I had arrived in Guatemala to visit our son AJ.  This was my second trip as Jeremy and I had met him a few months before.  My baby boy's first birthday was approaching and if he wasn't going to be home, I desperately wanted to be in Guatemala.

We had arrived the day before with duffel bags of teddy bears and supplies for the orphanage.  Our translator picked us up and drove the 0.5 mile to the orphanage.  When the green, steel gate closed behind our SUV, I heard the children.  We walked into the back door and were greeted by a sea of smiling faces and a chorus of ¡hola! My broken Spanish allowed me to quickly conversate with the children and move quickly behind our interpreter.

Our agency had asked us to take photos of a few children while we were there.  This had become a an expected request and a desperate connection for waiting families.  We had been on the receiving end of these photos many times and were happy to return the favor.   I had my mental list of children and got my camera ready.

Gabriela.  She was seven years old.

She was the waiting child of a family whom we had grown very close to here in the US.  I knew her story and was so very anxious to meet this precious girl.

The large Spanish style wooden door creaked open to the courtyard where the older children were playing.  Our translator murmured words and Gabriela crept up between the sea of faces.

Her face was smooth and shy.  Her demeanor was sweet yet a bit timid.  She looked at us with such hope, worry, and despair.

When I asked if I could take a picture of her, everything about her changed.

I saw the world in her eyes.

Her deep, brown pools of reality were staring at me and I could not run and hide.

I could not shut off the tv, rip up the donation solicitation mailing, or just shake my head in general discomfort and change the subject.

She was

Her eyes reflect everything that was right in this world...and everything wrong in this world.

She slowly revealed a smile that is forever etched in my brain.

She never uttered a word, yet she told me EVERYTHING.

Are you going to be my family?  

No?  Ok.  But this is going to my family so...

Please love me.

I'm happy.  Well kind of happy, but know I could be happier with those who love me.

I'm here but not because I want to be.

Pick me.  Pick me.

I will smile for my Mommy and Daddy.

I won't cry, I promise I won't cry.  I will be good.

I'm just a child.  

I deserve love.

I deserve a family.

Yes you do sweet girl.

Every single child in this world needs a family.  But for some reason, which I have yet to pinpoint one rational reason, the orphan crisis and need for families is out of reach.  Foreign.

Its not personal.

My own initial experience with our son did not change me like my experience with Gabriela did. I had been so wrapped up in him, just our son, I had merely scratched the surface into the world of orphans.  I had yet to plunge into the water, I had simply dipped my foot in the shallow end to test the temperature. His story was personal to me, but the others?  They were not. Gabriela opened my eyes and gave me a much wider lens of orphans and the orphan crisis. I saw more than just my son in that orphanage after that visit.  A few months ago we visited our daughter in Bulgaria in her orphanage.  I saw more than just her when the door opened and those children flooded the room.

I didn't GET IT until I saw it and couldn't look away.

As a culture we tend to avoid that which is hard.  We live in such a time of convenience, immediacy, and insatiability. Facing the question of why orphans need families is hard. They need families because all children should have families. This is where we end the story and find something else to talk about.  When we categorize these children as they, it becomes impersonal and far from reach. Intangible.

But indeed, these children are tangible.

We weren't made for lazy-boys, my dear friends.  We were made for purpose.

Orphans need LOVE.

Orphans need HOPE.

Orphans need SUPPORT.

Orphans need HOMES.

Orphans need FAMILIES.

Families who will hold them in the middle of the night when the trauma(s) of their past comes raging like a bull and they don't know how to process it.  Families who will be patient and encouraging along the attachment and bonding process. Families that will love, feed, clothe, bathe, shelter, teach, and provide stability.  Families who will laugh at the silly and cry in the sorrow. A family is a basic human right.

I think about Gabriela a lot. Her story does not have a happy ending.  Perhaps this is why she sticks with me.  Her reality is the reality I needed to ignite the fire in my heart for orphans. The rest of her story is protected for safety and privacy, but I desperately needed to share my "face" with all of you.

Why do you think orphans need families?  Do you have a "face" to share?

Psalm 68:6
God sets the lonely in families

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

In The Quiet

This is when I stop moving long enough to hear my own heart beat.

To hear his heart beat.

This is when the world crashes and my shoulders fold.

This is when I let go, let it out, and release.

When the silent tears fall on the pillow and my breaths are quick slow, quick slow.

This is when I see his pure desire for love.

Without the daily smokescreen we call life.

This is when I see his raw, stripped need for his Mother.

This is when the tears flow harder, and become larger.

When he struggles to calm his body and accept human touch.

When the battle is over and he is relaxed.

This is when I stop moving to soak it in.

This is when the hardships of the day, the week, the months all melt away.

This is when my heart fills with so much love I can't breathe.

This is when I grow in faith and motherhood.

This is to be treasured.

Bottled up. Sealed. Stored for rainy days.

Rainy days that should be every single day.

This is when he folds his hand in mine.

This is when he sighs in comfort and safety.

This is when I see my privilege.

This is when I exhale.

In the quiet.

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