1.19.2016

The Adoption Letters:
Wishing you the best, Erin

This is the third in a series of letters I'd like to call The Adoption 
Letters. The Adoption Letters will be written free form by moms/dads 
who've adopted, adoptees, and birth moms. If you would like to submit 
a letter to possibly be posted follow this link


Erin is wife, mom, middle sister, optometrist, and generally loves all things silly and corny. She has an equal love of big city lights and tall green trees and always has a purse full of snacks she's willing to share. She loves stories, both hearing and telling. The thing that makes her come alive is seeing the kingdom of God advance throughout the nations. She feels life is best lived just off the beaten path.



A letter to the first mom of my girls…

We’ve never met but I see your features reflected back at me every day in the face of my sweet girls. If you wonder if they are well, they are and so much more. They are beautiful and strong and hilarious and so much fun. They have a bond with one another that goes beyond just being sisters. They love so big…not just each other, but all people. One of my biggest prayers was that their past would not be a hindrance in their ability to give and receive love. I want to assure you that it hasn’t.

I’ve tried to put myself in your shoes. What would she want to know? I would want to know that I didn’t totally screw up my kids. Isn’t that the thing that all mothers worry about? Well, you didn’t. I’m not saying they are totally untouched by the things that happened but they are redeemable. So are you.

I want you to know when they start asking questions about you, I won’t lie to them. They deserve to know the truth of their story but I won’t point out your faults or harp on bad choices. I have no idea the circumstances surrounding the decisions you made that led to the girls being in foster care. I know they weren’t easy or black and white. Those things rarely are.  

The one thing I will always remind my girls about those choices is that when it was most important, you did choose them. When you could have ended their life before it really had a chance to begin, you chose life.

I never really grasped how huge that was or how hard that must’ve been.
Until recently
Until I was faced with that choice
When doctors encouraged me to end the life growing inside of me, I couldn’t help but think of you. Would my choice have been different if I were single? Unmarried? Surrounded by chaos? Without a support system? Would I recognize the voice of the one who lies as he whispered…

This will be too hard. You can’t do this. There will be less heartache if you end this now.

Only because I know the Voice of Truth, I knew when His enemy was lying to me… just like he did to Eve in the garden. I still heard it though. I wonder if you did too.

I will remind our girls of your bravery in that moment. In that moment, you gave them a chance. A chance to be who their creator intended them to be. That’s all anyone really needs.

Wishing you the best,

Erin



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12.30.2015

Goal Setting with Kids

Hi all,

I am jumping on here real quick to share how we do goal setting with our kids. We currently have a senior daughter Carly, junior son Colton, freshman son Ronel, and kinder son Jude. Anyone reading this should know we only officially began doing this last year so no expert will be found here. I posted a photo on Instagram of our session today and have had some inquiries about what and how we do what we do.  

First things first
Ask them to come prepared with a notebook and pen
Don't have expectations 
Try to listen more than we talk
Be prepared to ask questions

Last year we called each kid one by one to our front room. It had a couch and a comfy chair and wasn't our usual space. It worked great. This year we decided to take them out one at a time to a place close to our house. It was fun to treat them while talking goals. Starbucks sweet tea for Carly, Pho lunch for Colton, Whataburger strawberry shake for Ronel, and Jude, he got a treat during an errand after his sesh.  It should be noted that goal planning can be nerve wrecking for teens. They already have so much on their plate. The idea is not to add a list of things to do but to calm their nerves by clearing a path to the end goal. EP likes to say When you aim at nothing you will hit it every time. With that said, our idea of goal planning is simply to give them some tangible things to aim at. 


The look of one getting dad's approval


Start with reflections on Last Year
What were the highs? 
Celebrate them. 
You graduated eighth grade? Amazing. You made how many interceptions? Well, yes, of course you did. You love kindergarten? Because you were made for it. You got your license? Like a boss. You were in the top percent of your class? There is no genius like your genius. 

What were the lows? 
Extend grace. 
For one this part brought grief. My heart broke, but we were able to stand in the grief and speak life. It was our gift to say we are not ashamed of you. Not a hint. We are proud of how you turned that disaster around. No one could've handled that mess better. We are fiercely proud of you. We would tell anyone who asks. You want me to stand up right here in this place and say so? With a bit of wisdom we were also able to look back on the mess and see what was meant to be stolen. We said, Can you see it now? Your dream was not stolen. You are not a shamed failure, nope, you walked out of that mess right into your dream of all dreams. Boom. 

If they are not talking much during this time don't be afraid to ask questions. 
What is a lesson that you learned? 
How did you feel after ___________________?
What are you most proud of? 

Look to the next year
Make sure you don't go into this with expectations. 
Let the conversations ride. 
You know what your kids are involved and interested in. If they can't think of outright goals (read: they probably won't) ask them questions. What time do you want run in Cross Country? Oh, it's going to be so amazing. How many touch downs do you want to make? That's awesome! Then other times their goals stretch you. Oh hello, you want to buy a car? What kind? Let's start looking. You want to raise 10K to go into all the world and teach the gospel? Of course you do. I can't wait to see how it happens. 

Give a parent challenge 
EP and I are on the spot kind of people. Depending on the conversation we will come up with something we feel would challenge them a bit. Last year it was to journal their prayers. This year for one of them it was to share their feelings more, for another to read three books. 

Just so you know, encouraging their current work does not always work. Don't sweat it. Case in point, when we talked to Jude about possibly learning to read he said he would make it his next year goal. We laughed. And though we know he will learn to read this year we did not push making it a goal. He felt riding a two wheeled bike without training wheels and swimming without floats was big enough. 


Jude drew pictures as his "list"

For us the important factors are not whether the goals are big, elaborate, or in the end, even met. The importance for us is for the kids to know we believe in their dreams. They need to know we will help them along to achieve said dreams. Honestly, for us, the most important is the looking straight into their eyes and telling them we are so proud of you, we think you are amazing, and we think your dreams are legit

Their goals will be put somewhere in their room to see everyday. Most likely they will be met. And when they are we will cheer like crazy people. 

So, that's what we do and how we do it. Simple and easy. 

If you do something that you love please share in comments.

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12.08.2015

Yes, I went to see Justin Bieber.

Here's the thing, when I read the headline How Justin Bieber turned the Staples Center into a megachurch I had to see what was going on for myself.




For years, I've been a fan of The Biebs or JB as he is called in our home. Having a teenaged girl in the house helps keep me up to date on JB. Baby is still on my running playlist, even though I don't run anymore. Hmm. We've been to the early concerts and I even accidentally saw him when I went to a live taping of The View. I say accidentally because we, my friend Susan and I, had no way of knowing who was going to be the guest on the one day we scored tickets. My girl had actually been to his concert in Houston the night before. Who would've guessed I would be in the same room as him in NYC the next morning. She died of jealousy. I laughed at the odds. 

Anyway, we are still old school, as in our car still plays actual CD's. One of which is the Jesus Is CD by Judah Smith. I would describe it as a bunch of short sermons, but the fact that we listen to it over and over in the car makes us sound so weird, so I'll tell you it's called a Music Project.

One of the tracks is called Jesus is our Advocate (link below). In it Judah mentions pastoring some artists and gives a great perspective on advocate versus accuser. With this tucked away in my mind, I have seen photos and heard statements of Judah being a friend to Justin. In my own circles, I've heard negative statements about this. I didn't agree, but at the same time Justin in the last several years wasn't helping opinions. 

Not long ago Justin turned 21 and celebrated with a roast on Comedy Central. I read somewhere that he did the roast so that everyone could get all the laughs at his expense out, and then to say I'm starting a new chapter, and I'm sorry. 

"The things that I've done really don't really define who I am," he said. "I am a kind-hearted person who loves people, and through it all I lost some of my best qualities. For that, I'm sorry." - JB (source



It thought it was a Man Up moment. And it was enough to make me cheer for him as he tried to make a change. 

As someone who has worked with Students for what sometimes feels like 15 thousand years, this was two fold cheering. 

On one hand I was cheering for all the pastors and people who love him who never give up. Even when it may have been scandalous as a pastor to walk by his side. I wanted to high five these people for enduring in love, teaching grace, over and over again. This is not easy, people. Listen again, this is not easy. 

And two, I simply wanted to cheer on this guy trying to come back, all wobbly legged, to life, to faith. Can you even imagine yourself having messed up royally in front of the entire world, then trying to say I'm sorry, can I have another chance? I can't even begin to imagine. 

Article after article came out on Justin Bieber and his Christian faith. I couldn't keep my cheers quiet. I wanted Students I know to be reading, cheering along, seeing grace. Nothing about the articles were perfect, far from, they didn't present a role model, they simply said this is a guy who had lost his life, but was now trying to find it. 

His next album had released and with it he was going to do a few album release shows. He had something to say about what he has deemed Purpose: The Movement. Because my girl couldn't go I had decided to not go either. Until I saw the turning the Staples Center into a megachurch article. Tickets were still available the day before for $18 so I had no excuse not to go.




You'd be right to imagine thousands and thousands of teenaged girls dressed like they were hitting up a club, so many high heels. And then right beside them, there was me and my three girlfriends. If only we could have bottled up the nervous energy trapped in the Toyota Center. It was epic to be around. Justin got on stage and tried to calm the crowd down so they could hear what he wanted to say. This was more of a sit down and talk than a concert. It sort of worked. (side note: It reminded me about scripture I had just read of Jesus after he had fed the multitudes. He was followed and asked to do more signs and wonders. They weren't understanding that Jesus was the sign and wonder.) Justin was trying to tell the crowd about this change in his life, something profound that he seemed to feel strongly about, and they just wanted to see him take off his beanie or T shirt. He pressed on, whether it was understood or not.




I happen to love the new album. And I have watched all the Purpose videos. There is one which appears to be Justin fighting the devil and one has two ballet dancers that seems to have a much deeper meaning. On the album they play in that order. I think it's on purpose. My girlfriends and I sat and watched all of the videos trying to decipher the meanings. Who knows if we are right on but it was fun trying. 

I know this post is getting way too long and choppy, but I guess I am saying all of these words to say this one thing, let's err on the side of being for people coming back to faith, let's definitely not be against. Especially the ones who have failed big before us. Let's be wild lovers of people, who give grace in heaps, and hold people up as they walk forward. And if they fall again, let's pick them back up and keep walking. Let's be people who teach our kids this grace is for all, especially the ones who seem like they deserve it the least. Let's be advocates of people. I dare us


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11.19.2015

The Adoption Letters: Love Always, Krystal

This is the second in a series of letters I'd like to call The Adoption 
Letters. The Adoption Letters will be written free form by moms/dads 
who've adopted, adoptees, and birth moms. If you would like to submit 
a letter to possibly be posted follow this link




Krystal was taken from her biological mom at the age of five. In April 2013, Krystal planned to visit her mom for the first time in almost 20 years but ended up not going. Five months later she and her brothers received some difficult news. Here is a letter Krystal wrote to her mom while grieving their difficult loss. 




Mom,

What a crazy, surreal week it's been.  It's been a week and one day since Big Brother called me 6 times at 6:53am while I was working the window at Chick-fil-A to tell me the horrible, unexpected news.  When he said, 'You know why I'm calling you...' I had NO idea.  It didn't even cross my mind.  I have never been left with such a strong sense of regret in my life.  

It was SO heavy on my heart earlier this year, just in April, to come visit you for the first time since I was 5.  So heavy.  But I was scared.  And selfish.  So I didn't come.  I wish I had.  It's been on my heart for almost 20 years now.  I wanted to come visit you and let you know that I'm alive and very well.  I wanted to tell you I've forgiven you, and I've been praying for you my whole life.  

I wanted you to know that Big Brother found Brother & me 5 years ago, and the three of us have reconnected after being separated for 17 years.  He's one of my very best friends.  I'm a doctor of Physical Therapy now.  I've done very well and worked extremely hard.  I met The Love of My Life last November, and I'm going to marry him one day.  I started my first real job this week on Monday, and it is my absolute dream job.  The Lord has taken such good care of me.  

I think of you often.  I should've come to see you.  I needed to see you.  I needed to see what you were like after all these years.  I needed you to answer my questions; I have so many questions.  I think Big Brother needed to see you, too.  He's having a hard time with the news, also.  I don't know about Brother because we hardly have a relationship anymore.  But he's here in Houston now; he flew in today.  Big Brother and Kris got a divorce a few years ago, so he's been giving me your letters since then.  

I got your letter in April.  I wanted to believe you that you were so sick, but Big Brother and I both called individually, and a really nice lady at the prison told us you were not terminally ill.  So I got angry.  The prison was supposed to call Big Brother when you went to the critical care unit and send a police officer to his house when you went to hospice on the 30th, neither of which happened.  But we still should've come.  I know that your last wish was to see us.  

I went and picked up all your stuff from the prison; I have it now.  I read your journals & letters.  I know how alone and scared you felt.  And I wish you would have gotten your wish.  Just a few moments, at least; some peace before you left us again.  I am truly sorry, but I know I can't change it now.  Oh, how I wish I could!  Now I just pray for peace for Big Brother & me.  We will cling to each other and to the promises of our dear Lord.  Tomorrow we will say goodbye to you forever.  It is going to be such a tough day.  I pray for the Lord's presence and grace and that I will love my brothers well.  I hope we'll see you again someday.  I love you. 

Love always,

Krystal


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11.16.2015

Looking Back

So, I went to an amazing party. I should tell you that a wood fire oven was brought in to make the most delicious pizzas. I had three pieces of one called Porky. Yes, you wanted to know. And in case that wasn't enough, a mariachi band made the party a complete success. I loved all the food and fun but was stopped in my tracks when Missie began telling me some of her story.




This woman, Missie, preaches with her life. As soon as you know her you know you want to know her more. You get this? You know a Missie, I hope. I stood listening to her as she stared into my eyes while sharing about her husband dying, raising her downright amazing daughters (I happen to know them too), and the way God cared for her. I stopped her only to say that I wished I had a podcast and podcast listeners so that All The People could hear her telling. 

At one point she told me a specific portion of story that she only remembered when looking back. 

How could she possibly have known I am currently obsessed with looking back on our stories? I almost couldn't handle.

Looking Back: seeing something that has been there the 
whole time waiting to be discovered. 

This. This is the thing that stirs me up and makes my heart beat faster. Not the anxiety beat faster, no, the I-have-to-hear-more beat faster. You see, I believe we each have a story to tell. I know you've heard this before and are probably tired of it, but really. Our story, yours and mine, may seem boring. Sure. Whatever. It may not seem like all the chapters flow well. Except I am here to say they do. Could it be that we only see the bigger story in looking back? I believe The Looking Back may be the most important. Think about it.

Looking back on the defining stories in our life may help us see a single thread weaving all of them together.  


And that thread - Could it be the rescue story? What if all of the chapters of our life weave together to tell the One Big Story?  



If every story whispers his name...
If we are currently living...
Then we were created for this and at this exact time.
The purpose of your days, the living of your life, and the telling of your story...
all of it -
says who He is.


This would mean we each have a telling to tell. Telling the tell makes our party talk gospel talk. Telling makes us become preachers of the Good News. 


Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men


So, there you go. Something to think about maybe. If nothing else you know about a pizza named Porky. You're welcome. 
Here's to the Missie in all of us! 


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11.12.2015

Beginning Again

It's a strange thing to think about Beginning Again in the same season that I have termed The Goodbye Years. I remember people starting blogs when their family life was new or to document an adoption journey. I know of others who started a blog to showcase amazing design and photos and recipes. I don't remember many blogs beginning in the season of kids graduating high school and moving on to All The Things that are waiting. 

Aside from the three teenagers, I have one wild five year old. He just began Kindergarten. Every single day at 2:45 I get to hear every word he had stored up. His brain is constantly learning, and these days, his body constantly moving. That is until 7 o'clock every night when he asks to be put to bed. He is the kid that is out like a light - so long as his songs play. The bus coming by 6:57 in the morning may play a part. 

And then there are the three teens. One of which, my only girl, is ready to graduate this spring. Today I got a text from her asking if she could get a tattoo on her 18th birthday. She sent the text to EP and me as if we were gonna reply back with a quick yes. She knows at 18 she can officially buy cigarettes and spray paint, but no one tell her that she can get her own tatt without me saying so. I mean, will she love the one she chooses at 18? Can anyone answer this for me? 


I would usually say I am an easy release kind of mom. Like I skipped all the way back from Kindergarten drop off every single time. I pushed the two teen drivers to hurry up and finish those drivers ed courses so they could go get the milk. During late elementary I let them walk alone to the community pool. Gasp. And that just reminded me they use to also walk the four blocks home from school. Sure they somehow think I am overprotective, but they don't even know. Even tonight I was with my oldest son. He was driving and I was his passenger. So basically my life was flashing before my eyes. I happened to comment about a guy walking the street to which my son replied you don't have to mother everyone. Thank you son of my youth, I will remember your wisdom. From this day forward I will reserve all my mothering for you and you alone. 

The tension of simultaneously holding on and letting go is the hardest lesson we all learn. It is not reserved for mothers. If only. As soon as we open ourselves to care, to love, to create, the desire is born to hold on tight. Who loves being open handed with what and who we love. Not us. Not happening. Except we know that holding on too tight takes out life. 

The only real battle in life is between hanging on and letting go. - Shannon L. Alder

The goodbye years. 'Tis the season. Everything is a last to make way for everything to be a first. I couldn't be more excited for my wild people to be doing their things, learning and re learning, buying spray paint and getting the tattoos (whatever). I will probably have a lot of words about these things and those words will probably fall here. But also words about the other things I am learning to hold on and let go of, like justice, adoption, ending human trafficking, loving people, and following Jesus. If things get too serious around here, for the love, send me an email. I mean if we don't laugh together then we have nothing. 

So, In the words of Adele, Hello, It's me. I'm here beginning this blog again. 


From all of our beginnings, we keep reliving the Garden story - Ann Voskamp


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11.09.2015

The Adoption Letters: Dear Birth Mom


This is the first in a series of letters I'd like to call The Adoption 
Letters. The Adoption Letters will be written by moms/dads 
who've adopted, adoptees, and birth moms. If you would like to submit 
a letter to possibly be posted follow this link


To kick off The Adoption Letters I would like to share a letter I wrote to my Birth Mom. It is World Adoption Day. Maybe you've seen the posts and photos? I posted a picture of our family to celebrate along with All The People, because Yes! 

It is such a happy day, but still I imagine it may sting for some birth moms out there. So here I sit to tell you, Dear Birth Mom, the things I felt strongly to say to my very own Mary four years ago. I treasure this letter. I'm actually looking at the original copy in my hand right now. (The reason I have the original is for another day.) The only thing I have left to say is it took every ounce of moxie I could muster to write it, seal and send. She received it on my birthday. I did it. I lived. And I am here to share it with you. 






Dear Birth Mom, 

I am not sure how to even start such a letter. I believe we met today thirty five years ago in a hospital in Texas. 

I thought to find you and write to you because I was needing medical history. But truth, I just wanted to know if you were out there somewhere. I have asked my parents many questions about you over the years. Each question they answered with the information they had. I am grateful for that. 

I don't know what it's like to birth a child you cannot keep. Being a mom myself tells me it must be the very hardest thing. 

I want to thank you, Dear Birth Mom, for giving me life. I want to thank you for being the person that God placed my body to grow in. God chose you for me and me for you. I don't know why but I believe he doesn't do anything without reason. I choose to believe there is a beautiful story here. One that needs redemption, yes maybe, but still a beautiful story. 

I am not worried about your faults, or mine, your past, or mine. In this moment I am welcoming you into my space.

I am only thankful for you. 

I need you to know that. 

I assume you may want to know about me. I have been married fifteen years to a wonderful man. Together we have four kids. Carly is 13, Colton is 12, and Ronel is 11 (we adopted Ronel from Haiti last year), and Jude is 21 months. We live in the Houston area. We truly love each other even though we are far from perfect. I work as a photographer and dream to one day be a writer. I mentor young women and my husband pastors students. 

After adopting my son from Haiti and grieving the loss of his first mom my heart was opened. It was open enough to see I desire to know you while I have the chance.





I admit to often wondering how I may be similar to you. 

I am not sure if you are willing to meet me and share some of your story with me - yours and mine. 
If you are, I am ready. 

If I have siblings that are willing to meet me that would be welcome also. 

And...

If you choose to not meet me, and if siblings choose to not meet me, that is okay. I will be good. Please do not feel like you have to. You don't. I am just opening the door in case you want to come in. 


Today, thirty five years ago, I have no idea what you thought when you saw me for the first time. I do know that God planned us. There is a verse in the bible that says God created me, my inmost being, and he did it in my mother's womb (my paraphrase). 

The conception was not an accident, a confusion, or any other thing. It was on purpose and it is good. Your decision was good. I think of you every single year on my birthday. Today I am glad I get to tell you so. 

You, exactly who you are, and where you are, are special to me. Thank you Dear Birth Mom. Thank you for loving me and carrying me. 

Yours, 

Debra



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