Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Too Many Feelings Bomb

I have so many feelings right now about things I have to blog or I'll burst. I'm way past caring who/if anyone reads these.

And to tie in to the last posts-
Homeschooling-
We are on our 8th week of the Nottingham Nichols School of Learning and loving it! Yesterday I had L use her iPod (We made her save up for it- I don't know what I need to rationalize the purchasing of it. I'm still on a, "Gameboys are expensive!!" mentality level.) to create a news report on the beginnings of the Yamato Dynasty in early Japan. Story of the World  breezing by guys- not trying to be all smart-pretentious like I'm making her learn about ancient dynasties or no supper!!!
(Sidenote: if anyone is looking for a suburban mom that dabbles in funny/haranguing life escapades that would love to venture to Japan- sign me up!! I've always wanted to go. Seeing the Grudge didn't hold me back!!)
But back to my brilliance of coming up with that report idea:
I blacked out. I don't know how that happened. It probably was a collaboration of guardian angels/Holy Spirit/L my student going, "I should make a news report about something!"

Pellets- hormone therapy.
I think I googled myself out of continuing with these. I don't like to quit anything, but I also don't like side effects... Moving on. Have I mentioned how hard it is on your body hormonally to have a hysterectomy at 26? I am looking forward to seeing a naturopath soon. I am so tired of doing the synthetic hormones for life approach. I know God is on His throne in this! The huzzy and I are working hard at making changes. Because we are old now and our bodies have decided to just be jerks.

I did my own hair highlights and no one noticed. I'm now calling them my, "ninja highlights." Subtly beautiful. Just go with it.

I'm still taking the response, "No." to a whole new level when it comes to new commitments. I'm all Meghan Trainor right now, and I kinda like it. But it also makes socializing real hard. I just need so much margin mentally and physically in my schedule these days. I do miss my friends.

But the real life pickle is in our precious and spicy little one.
Thankfully she was granted access in the PPCD- Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities.
This should be huge for her. It's preschool beginning at age 3. Now, I can tell right there judgment might commence.
"They're so young. Do children really need preschool at that age? They're only 3."
Yes, I completely get that and thought that before I had a child with autism spectrum disorder/sensory issues/temperament issues.
These kiddos need/crave/kill for routine. It has to be everyday to create new brain pathways to help them eventually find their place in the school setting/social settings.

At this point, I am thinking we will take the homeschool path with her after we give PPCD and possibly Kindergarten a try.

It is so hard.

I love her so much.

Ergo it is so hard.

3.5 hours of testing by 6-7 professionals in the school system/therapy world and they come back with "non-categorical-- autism." Meaning, at the age of 6 they will revisit her and see if that label has changed. This is where they put the, "I don't knows" in PPCD. I felt like we went through all the trials in Neverending Story- complete with these:

I am SO THANKFUL they were able to see past her beautiful strengths, her disarmingly cute, her beautiful blue-green eyes and saw that she struggles to self regulate. She has to work 1,000,000 times harder than typical children and it is beyond for her body's systems.

If people only knew her story. And that is just it. I want to level the playing field for her -- "She's acting out because she has had too much sensory things or not enough! Please be her friend!"
or
"You don't understand her backstory! You don't know how hard she had to fight in the womb! Just know she's doing her best!"
or
"Please stop asking if she has autism!!! Just love her the way she is and accept it and move on to help her!" -- that last one was for me personally and the powers that be cornering me in front of all the other parents at the door of her preschool to ask why we are putting her in PPCD.

I just want people to stop treating us differently while at the same time to treat us differently. It is just so hard.

It has been a year since we received the ASD (Autism Spectrum Diagnosis). October 8, 2015. I have felt like a zombie ever since honestly. Slowly coming back.

On the one hand I'm a cashew- so very thankful for the diagnosis and on the other side I'm a pistachio- oh my gosh she is having so much trouble and some days she doesn't and I don't know anything.
Mixed nuts completely.

I drop my little one off to a day out program and I see the other moms. I used to be them. Talking about typical things. I used to resent their perceived life ease in their active wear.
Their playdates where typical things happen.
Their Yukons. (Not entirely resent those, because I'm mighty proud of our POP- Paid Off Pilot!)
Their lunch plans.
How they can just run errands as they please.
How their kids don't fight looking at them in the eyes or holding their hands to cross the street.
They don't have to continually talk about, "First, then" schedules to prepare their child for EVERYTHING and God help you if you skip something.
They aren't telling their child- "PLEASE STOP YELLING!" as they leave the parking lot when they are taking a different route home because their child has completely memorized all routes everywhere and will mentally break if there is a train and a detour is needed.
Or maybe they are?

Why won't anyone call me to ask how we are drowning?

BUT I am NOT RESENTFUL GIRL anymore! I took/take that to God. Only He gets it truly and thinks I can do this. I can love this. I DO LOVE HER SO MUCH. I KNOW this is not her story. This is HIS story. She is a Phoenix! She will rise from the adoptive trauma ashes and she will- she is- doing BIG things in this world by just living everyday, trying so hard! Genesis 50:20 for life baby!

I cast my cares on the One who can take them and won't let me fail!

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.- 1 Peter 5:7
For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. 12They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone. 1-- Psalm 91:12

And I am not Resentful Girl, because that is an enemy tactic. If I am resentful, then I cannot be helpful to the other mamas out there that have children who are disregulated and have already experienced 10 full scale meltdowns just trying to get to Hobby Lobby to retain some sort of shred of normalcy for their other kids that didn't ask for this. And I know there are others out there no matter how they look in their Ray Bans.

I see my oldest. I don't care to brag, but golly gee she is a certified sibling rockstar. Sure, sometimes she just can't as we all- (I have "mommy headphone time" at about 4:00 pm each day where I watch Gilmore Girls by my dang self on the laptop with headphones)- BUT this girl "agape" loves her sister.

The other day I watched them in the backyard with raw awe at what God is doing. A 10 yr old and a 2 yr old- that alone is huge. How God has knitted us together. I just shake my head with amazement watching her deal with this little one who is so precious. Seeing how God is teaching her patience through fire. Wondering just how this is training her for loving on hurt people/animals in the future.

Since she was itty bitty she has wanted to be an exotic animal vet- translation- a lion vet. But ultimately, we want what God wants her to do. But I see it all so clearly even though nothing is clear.

Sister's been to enough therapy sessions, counseling sessions where she can lead a session through play with her unintentionally. I hate that on one side of token- because she even has to do that. The enemy throws heart daggers at me- Look what you did. (I'm referring to Satan here- Yes, I'm a Christian who believes in Spiritual Warfare as noted in the Bible). Sometimes I believe I did this. We were three. We were calm. We really moving along.

And then, the Holy Spirit, my heart, Jesus, snaps me out of it.

HELLO girlfriend. What if you had a biological child who had these struggles? Adoption or not, this is God ordained. He knew what my oldest needed in a sister. HE is giving her compassion, mercy, strength, TRUE FLIPPIN LOVE. And He is giving it to her in an abundance of meltdowns. Don't question it! Embrace it.

God did this, not me. And we were covered in prayer. We accept that, "What God has called us to- He will equip- has equipped us to handle."

Thank HIM!

Thank her!!! (Both the sister and the little one!)

You can't buy grace. If you could I'd go broke obtaining it. But God through this special girl is showering me with it daily.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my husband and gush on him. Johnicles, the Steadfast Boulder. I want to go there, but I have to get ready for the day ahead. I don't think it's going to be a lots-of-deodorant day, which is nice, but you never know!

Thank you for reading. And if you are praying for us. Thank you. It is beyond helpful.






Thursday, August 11, 2016

Newb Homeschooling Hacks & Therapy Life & Pellets.


Y'all good!? Well I have new hormones now.... I got the pellets!! Hence the bunny meme, which I adore ! If you don't know about hormone pellets, well then you still have a uterus. Congratulations on that. 

It's early. 

Got a lot going on as usshhh. Just like e'errbody. 

School of the Home... 
I'm almost done fashioning my eldest her bonnet for her to hang in her prayer closet! In a few weeks, our homeschool will start. I'm trying to make sure I just call it "school" instead of "homeschool." Right? 
IDK. 

Really excited about it, but also am a little nervous. Kind of like every day of my life. But the pellets will help with that.... 

I am not educated in educating. I have a marketing degree that hangs on our wall in our "Room of Requirement- study, craft, guest, exchange student which are guests, shove things in there sometimes, room." 

So I've never even seen a lesson plan, but guess what!?!?! In the weeks of staring at the pages of books praying for them to osmosis themselves into my brain   dutifully preparing- I had a huge block of what to do. 
And then yesterday our precious speech therapist and friend (Annie has the BEST therapists ever end of story) - said she made lesson plans and so I interviewed her about it as she was trying to leave even jokingly but not jokingly saying-- "Ha ha I'm trapping you here!" 

It was profoundly simple and I know her OT (whom we also adore) does it too: 
"I just think of the goals and then I plan for them." 

AHHH yes. Goals. That word is something I've read about in many self help books, because if I have a problem I buy a book for it. Right? 

So I sat down again last night at our dining room table (I recovered the faux leather with a split in it bench with a tablecloth from Walmart so I'm practically Joanna Gaines now. It looks amazing(ly better than with a rip in it!) and bet you didn't know this was a home reno blog!?!?!) and prayed again for God to give me wisdom on what the flip flop to do for these kids up in here. 

I got an incoming fifth grader that could work for Animal Planet RIGHT NOW. I'm not bragging. I'm explaining that this kid is obsessed - like God has made her to do this and we are excited-- but she also scares me because I have to really know things and teach her math. MATH PEOPLE. No longer can I say, "Oh dad will be home soon and everything will make sense..." EVERYTHING. 

And I got Sharknado Annie. I'm coining it first=
Toddlernado. 

Annie is how do I put this. 

Wonderfully made and the cutest kid this side of heaven. 

Annie is Annie. 

Annie requires a lot of supervision and work. Just like every toddler I know. I feel like I should sign a waiver giving my life away every morning before I go and get her up. 'Nuff said. She cute tho. 

So I have Gorillas in the Mist (replace Gorillas with Lions- seriously she watches lion surgery on youtube) kid. 

And Toddlernado. 

So last night God prompted me out of my fog (or is it the hormone pellets??) to just write down everything I know to be true- i.e. appointments, commitments, etc. 

ON COMMITMENTS
I'm an overscheduler. For reals. 

But here's another thing - I have quit everything. EVeRYTHIng. 

Selling books with Usborne. (Which I really really enjoyed) Quit that. 

A major leadership commitment of a beautiful cause-- all God-- but still required loads of time and mental thought. Let that go- letting it go. But also, God showed me it is no longer my time. 
 Why can't you give Elsa a balloon?? __________
It was beyond hard by the way, but I have such a peace because God is in charge of that group and of me and of everything in my life. He will not let it fail!! 

I am focusing on being present and guys I will be homes- wait- schooling myself. Because it sure feels like I have lost everything I learned in school. Except what Mr. Tracy taught us the first day of economics: 

"There's no such thing as a free lunch." 

I love lunch. 

I have digressed from my digression. 

But with all that stuff gone- I have filled it up with worry and not relied upon the Lord. SO I've been praying to get back on track and chill out. 

So once I put everything down on paper - Annie has average 5 therapy sessions a week - that is a lot. Hats off to you moms with kids with special needs. I know there are children out there that require a lot more help. Can we all just pray for those families? It is so hard. 

It is so so so hard. 

CAN I TALK ABOUT THERAPIES FOR A SECOND. 
We want to go or be invited on a playdate, but we got therapy. Which we are SO THANKFUL for, but we look forward to days when we can just go and play. And I get sad thinking about it, but then I think that to my little one she IS playing at her therapies. It IS a playdate! 
Thank you Lord. A helpful playdate with her angel therapists. 

Writing things down really helps and I know that is a duh, but it is where I am at right now. 

So seeing the schedule in action helped so much. 

Since I am customizing her curriculum which I am not saying as a self-righteous thing, but as a necessary thing- it is so hard to figure out what and how much. 

So I have been reading this book with 5 other books (I'm not joking see above in regards to book idol struggle) -- The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling -- and she talks about how to set things up and it's been helpful but I still have had to just pray. Whenever I googled how to schedule things I fell into a deep depression of overwhelment sort of. 

I read somewhere- an hour a subject and to do the skills subjects- math-- daily, but the content subjects- history, science, every other day or something. 

With the writing down- I saw that we need 4.5 hrs daily to do school for L. So I carved out that time from what we had left after taking A to her preschool and Tae Kwon Do and Classical Conversations. 

Phew! 

Then I started with Bible time. I love the curriculum (it's just one book) that we got for her. I'm jazzed she and I will be learning about Old Testament History together. It's a lot simpler than it sounds. 

With all of her subjects I wrote down how many lessons there are in the books and a GOAL for when we want to finish. We need summer here so our bodies can die in the heat and then be regenerated in the fall to learn. 31 weeks. With holidays. Is what I am shooting for. 

Singapore Math is looking great, but golly willikers it was hard to nail down what to do on what day. Maybe it's because I bought her 6 books. 
6 books. 
For one semester. 
ONE. 
3B. This is going to be a semester of pummeling her with review so we can nail down the essentials. Oh public school. No, Jillian do not get off on that tangent.... 

I know I am a total newb to all of this. And I know that diarrhea life will happen and the day will have to excuse herself from school. 

Here are some truths I'm clinging to so I don't get tripped up, but I know I will anyway:
I will not over craft. Most days will just be using a pen and paper. 
I will try to bring it back to her first love: science- God's creation. God is THE scientist. Y'all better recognize. 
I will pray throughout the day. If something ain't gellin' we will just try again the next day. 
I will have a mini lesson for Annie. ..... It may be 5 minutes, but that is okay. That lesson may also be eating goldfish. 
I won't try to make a day a fun day because I know that on the "fun day" life will hit hard and then my kids will be traumatized and I will have to have a mom-meltdown call to John, my dearest. 

It's going to be okay. This post is too long. I need to shower. Love y'all. Why do I feel like this is my last blog ever? 

Oh and also. Annie is gearing up for her PPCD- Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities. 
Did you know the application process (she would begin in November) has started back in May? Yes. 
I go to these meetings/interviews/evals that last 2 - 3 hrs all to see if she qualifies and for what. It's a lot. BUT good. 

But also, if she does not qualify then that is God's will for her life. I am not getting my hopes in that or trusting in that. 

So phew. 

But I'm also secretly imagining her graduating from PPCD one day (if she gets in) and how amazing that day will be. 

And hey, now I go to yearly visits at the ophthalmologist!!! Isn't that awesome!?!?! 




Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I'm Sorry to My Church.

My Dear Church,

I'm so sorry for acting up like a turd.

Let's stop right there. I am now sorry for saying turd. Do y'all employ that word in your vernacular?
 You see, some people recognize that as a quasi-curse word. I used to be one of you people and have gradually come over to the dark side and it's fabulous because you now have another word to use that is just so eloquent in describing turdish things.

But I've been kind of a jerk and I'm not so self-focused (Well, I sure pray not. Maybe on Thursdays I am. Yes, definitely Thursdays. Bush beating at its finest here.)- self focused that I think the church has noticed or that anyone will read this. But God will and He is the one prompting me to write this as I have felt a gentle push to write this for that past month(s).

We gained a family member in Heaven this past spring. My husband's grandmother, Phyllis, who am I kidding- my beloved grandmother too- graduated. And I have missed her and will miss soaking her up at all of the family gatherings so much. Her witness will never leave me.
She was fun, tough, the sincerest listener, a champion for people, and loved others and the Lord very well. She once broke BOTH her arms- yes, simultaneously- and NEVER complained that I heard and just asked if we could be so kind to help her cut her pills in half. That was all really she needed. Dang.

And her funeral service in Huntsville, TX taught me a huge lesson that I had been real stanky about as of late: to LOVE YOUR CHURCH.

There were several who spoke- one being her church's pastor- about how she always rallied for the pastor and the church. She served many ministries with excellence. She never spoke ill of anything regarding her church- sort of like Paul says to do in Ephesians 4:29:
 "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."
 Well crud. I felt a very calm, loving nudge to my heart as I listened through tears at her precious example of Kingdom Womanry. Oh dear. I do not do this. Lord, please help me do this.

For several months, there has been construction tape in the recesses of my soul-mind. God has been doing some rebuilding after I learned of this huge sin in my life that all started because of my silly but powerful pride of, "What I want... What I would do..."

I know when the disparagement started. I "served" in a big ministry at our church-- a big outreach event to our students. I went with the wrong focus in mind possibly and maybe made it all about what "should be done." I came home put out with a surly attitude about how I'd do things better. I was wrong truly. It's kind of like when you have fur babies and you judge people with non-fur-babies saying all this and that, but really you don't know (and rightly so sometimes) a hill of beans about how to help those babies?

This event was several years ago I'm sad to say. I started to get all sweet and sour chicken on a place of believers that I had loved. And it showed.

Where before I had my boundaries built up- or was building appropriate ones through going to counseling (Hey, don't knock it if you ain't tried it!)- I began to listen to others' grievances. It was like my yuckiness garnered and sought out others' disgruntlement to hang out with and commiserate. That is straight up not okay like the mitosis of diseased cells. While I did bring up my beefs to leaders within the church- my feelings on the issue and some points I believe were valid- I also brought it up to others who would listen. I should not have done that as it may have soiled their minds on the place we are all supposed to worship and love in.

I'm sorry. Instead of solely complaining and being quietly irate- I should have prayed and given it all to God and stuck in there-- maybe God was trying to show me something that He needed me to help with or understand better?

My hurt heart did not go to Jesus with this. Pride? I guess? I went out and not up.

And then I started to carry all the weights of others on my back and sink.

The people that I listened to about their issues with the church were beloved to me! They had hearts for Jesus for sure. They were in the Word. But you know what? That should have been between them and God. I should have politely turned the conversation to something else and or never started the conversation in the first place.

Instead, I picked up their playdoh crumbles with my huge playdoh grief ball mound and absorbed them. The enemy (Satan) loved this by the way I'm sure of it because it further distanced me from my church family.

I subtly protested by not signing up for things that I previously enjoyed. When I did sign up for things I felt obligated to, I didn't serve with an unexpectant heart, but with a huge hand open waiting for what I thought would happen. Uh oh and yuck. And of course, I grabbed up any drama that ensued instead of taking that to God and correctly thinking -- that is THEIR issue, their stuff. NOT mine.-- I microscopically picked it apart and whatever aided in furthering my heart hurt I tacked on my message board of: "See, it's like I've been saying!"

Every church has their own stuff because we, "all stumble in many ways." James 3:2

Grandmother's witness continued to shine light on how my problems (and all the others' problems I collected) were deterring my direct family from serving and growing. AWFUL.

The worst- my complaining to my husband.

Why is that your spouse is the one who it's okay to gossip to or just unload your turdness on? Granted, venting is needed and necessary after a particularly long day of dis-triumph, say in the parenting dept.

But he goes to the church too. And the Lord is not telling him to leave-- so I should definitely not be misleading him. This is the key here. God has set up a system- a gender equality system- but also a leadership that helps lay out God's Will. I was not honoring that with my words and thoughts and I feel terrible about that.

I'm sorry Johnicles. Thank you for staying strong on the course like the straight arrow you are.

I know that a lot of this was brought on by my actual physical sickness (I've had 10 eye surgeries and that's just the eyes!), being tired, and more recently, my post-adoptive depression (maybe someday I will post about this!). But ownership had to happen on my end- all with God's grace. 

So I was my own dislocated lens in the "body of Christ." I, the one with googly, dislocated lenses in earthly life, was acting like the dislocated lenses in the Spiritual life. (See 1 Corinthians 12)

How foolish! How selfish. And what a strategy of Satan to de-unify the church. Well it worked and I am sorry. But now thanks to our Grandmother's service I know what I have to do.

I signed up as fast as I could to help in some way with VBS- BOOM!

I'm letting go of that entangling discontent. God is leading me to seek out church staff and pray for them and thank them and like our dear Phyllis- champion them! I can't imagine what they go through in serving God's mission and purposes.

It might be quiet, but I'm trying really hard to not speak ill will turd stuff to John when there is a lull in conversation. 

I'm prayerfully letting go of other non-Kingdom commitments so I can be ready to serve if God asks. And He has forgiven me and is renewing my mind to get back on His track. Isn't it so gracious and humbling that He wants to still use me- the messed up googly eyed girl- in His business?

All because of the beautiful testimony of a Pastor regarding one of his churchgoers that was supportive and thus like Jesus- I have a newfound hope and joy that is returning to my heart! I don't look for yuck. I see the glory!

I'm so thankful to my church home and family for the past 10 years. They love our family as is, just like Jesus does, as good as humans can!

Is your church committed to studying and teaching the Word (Not adding to it)- the Bible, to declaring Jesus is the ONLY way to Heaven, His resurrection and His power over death and Satan? Are they are actively pursuing the Great Commission? Then this is it! Thank God for them and Lord, help us all to be undiseased parts of the body for Your Glory!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

School's Out For--ever!

My past in not my child's future. I tell myself this when I forget and get crazy in the head.

These are the pictures in our hallway that mean the world to me. They show my girl growing up. They're all her yearbook pics.

To me they show courage.
Courage in a girl that has had to change schools no less than 4 times. Something I very much dislike. Something I did as a kid and still want to run in a bathroom and cry about and eat my feelings for!

We rationalize the changing of the schools: needing another room (we thought it was a need it was actually a want) so we could adopt. Then the taxes were too high and so we jetted. Then tuition costs went up and we were outty 5,000 from there too.

And now just last week, we get an email with a bulleted list from her current school- with the second bullet point lamenting the school's closure next year due to economic reasons.

John and I certainly never ever and prayed for this- the school instability. But here it is and this time it has taken us completely aback.

But we just have this peace. And I just gotta remember that my past will not be her future.

Sometimes the things we get so worked up about- don't happen- and sometimes that worked uppedness causes more strife than the thing we were worried about that didn't happen.

And our girls are watching. Well one is anyway. The other one is busy going all Mad Max Fury Road on our living room area. My huszzbbs and I liked that movie before it won stuff btw!

L is watching and seeing how are we going to react? And let me tell you first. I was just shocked. Then I was at peace.
Then a titch of ugliness came in to my heart and I have emails typed up that are not sent to the Board who thinks we are expendable (Uh- oh, see?).
Then I wanted to persuade others to "JOIN THE REVOLUTION!" and go all Les Mis on everyone!! And now, it's back to peace. -- because of prayer.

And Leelah is watching. Always watching. Pressure, but no pressure.

Since I was quasi-homeschooling L anyway, we are leaning towards the full enchilada homeschool method for next year. Never say you won't do something. God has you turn around and do it usually for His glory. And in His strength.

I know very little about homeschooling. And I pray that God would be her teacher, because I'm so not worthy of this title or calling. We are just not doing public school. Been there, done that. Maybe it will work for A, but for L it was a no.

Can I be honest? I'm very intimidated of Homeschool Moms. Now, I know the SWEETEST HS moms in the world!!! But golly dang bum wilikers- they BE smart!!!!!!!!

http://marketmeander.blogspot.com/2012/01/whats-in-name.html

And me, well I still carry around GPA guilt baggage...

But again, God is her teacher. In His strength.

We are just so thankful our courageous lion heart is taking it so well. Although it is hard to send her back to this closing down school where it feels as though everyone is moving on to the original (and in some ways viewed- prized location) and we are not. One reason we can't go is because we physically can't. Mom's ol' "special eyes" cannot make the early morning (dark) drives due to all the surgeries. Waaahh whine woeism!

But hey, didn't God give me my eyes that are prone to googly-fy? Silly of me to think that my eyes being the reason I can't get her there is just a physical limitation when they are actually a blessing. It is all according to His plans. He had this - what I might see as setback- a physical limitation - actually be a boundary preventing her from going to a place He did not want her to go. Good lookin' out God!
We always pray He will make the decisions easy. So He did.

So we tell Leelah though your schools have changed and we pray they won't again and to never forget for this instance and for all of life's curveballs-
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.- Heb. 13:8

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thankful for the Blessings of Autism

It's been a while and a few unpublished drafts to this blog and it's been because I've been in wallowing in the pit of despair and there's no wifi in there sure 'nough.
Halloween this year- we went a little "batty." Perfectly fitting.

A little over a month and a half ago (Who's counting? October 8, 2015 at approx. 3 pm), our little sweet and sour nugget, Annie, was diagnosed with Autism, or as I first called it, "Awesome-ism." It's Autism really though. It's not so much awesome, but awesomely hard. Truly.

We had this diagnosis done by a pediatric neurologist and head of the Autism Center for the Children's Learning Institute. Despite all her creds, many people (Including us) doubted this diagnosis based on the following factors:
1. She was almost 2.
2. She is a toddler.
3. She's from an adoptive background with a past that God is lovingly changing daily.
4. Did I mention she's nearly 2?

Yesterday, after her birthday last week (She's full fledged 2 now!) we went to visit the same dr. to get another conclusive test (CARS Childhood Autism Rating Scale) and yep, she's still on the spectrum, still has Autism and is still 2.

Everyone asks, "Well, how autistic is she??" or "Is she nonverbal?" basically, how bad is it? I get that most of these askers have good intentions. Because this is my child's own story and again, because God is on His throne and He determines the outcome (Thankfully!), I'm not going to give you her rating. Let's just say it's very clear: She has Autism and it should no longer be questioned. I could go to another pediatric neuro and or behavioral psychiatrist, but we have prayed and prayed and payed and payed and goodness, can we just move on and treat this and help her and get a gameplan already?

My Braveheart Horse Pep Talk Time:
It's time for me to Mom Up.
To do the mom army crawl through the slimy, muck and mire and be the mom she needs and quit the waaaahhhhh and the woes, which do zilch for her and our family. My kid's got Autism and if I want to help her then I need to process this and ask God for wisdom and soldier on. I'm finally ready to do that now.

We can get stuck in Label Land -WHEN SHE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW WHAT AUTISM IS- she is just living and being 2! Or we can pray, research, seek out friends that get it (this requires making new friends which is not my strongsuit- lots of sweating), put my blue war paint on and GET OUT THERE!!!

And another thing, I got a 9 yr old who is watching how we are going to handle this. This is prime teaching time to show her what a person does with a diagnosis that is basically a lifelong condition that is really, really hard to deal with: We PERSEVERE. "Perse-DANG-vere!"

I must stop treating her like a victim.
We can be thankful for this diagnosis (I've got a blessings of Autism list below!)! Lots of people (I've been one) have crazy illnesses that are never going to get a diagnosis! At least we have one and that will give us ammo to fight it.

I've always secretly wanted to be in the armed forces. Guess what, on July 21, 2006, I became enlisted into the Parental Forces and now, John and I get to wear the Autism Stars on our shoulders and that is a blessing.

Before I go into the blessings. Can I just break down what I've (And I've only known truly from Annie's behavior and from what I've researched for a short time) seen Autism to be? Because a lot of people (self) have zero clue.

What is Autism? 
Read the expert definition. Speaking about Autism Speaks- we were handed a huge packet full of orders for therapies (Occupational, Speech, Applied Behavioral Analysis), Hearing tests, EEGs (24 hr and her's is on Dec. 23- please pre pray for this), GI follow up (all that diarrhea? yep, linked to Autism), etc. etc. In that packet one of the most helpful things was this: 100 Day Kit. Awesome resource.

My own definition: It's a brain disorder which causes the person to miss connections dealing with communication and relationships (hence ST, ABA). And it makes your kid instantly frustrated and thus, they scream all the time. It also causes major sensory issues (hence OT). The whole cause and effect thing is thrown out the window.
You could know what makes them tick one second and then immediately be confused at what is making them tick the next.
As a dear friend put it, "She's constantly in fight or flight mode." Never calm. Her brain is never regulated. Until we get lots of therapies under her belt. And this is EXHAUSTING for all parties.
Currently we can't just "run to the store." We can't just go to a structured play date. She has no fear but at the same time has fear of everything. We can't just do "justs" anymore. Everything takes planning. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Or some other inspirational quote. 

From her point of view, this is how she sees life: 
She's in a subway tunnel (I might mess up the terms as I live in the suburbs and have been on a subway once) and there are trains? I guess they're called (go ahead and judge I know nothing I told you!) that are going on either side of her at 70 mph (fast, okay!?) and there's a teacher about 40 ft ahead of her trying to get her attention and she has to try to focus on her and not the trains and everything else, but her brain can't.
 A life example:
Yesterday before 10:30 we had at least 10 meltdowns. One complete with me getting bit for moving her somewhere she didn't want to be moved because she was going to break something. These are not normal 2 yr old meltdowns (I do have a "typical" kid- "Normal is a setting on a washer machine." so I know what a typical meltdown is). It's a nuclear meltdown to do most things with this precious girl.

And what has shocked me the most? 
The friend vaccuum. At first my heart was broken. I thought people would be so understanding. But the truth was how could they when they truly do not understand themselves (me either!)? People told me they would pray and I never heard from them again. Granted it's been a month and I'm a little dramatic, but still. It hurt.
And then God shepherded my heart to realize - He was right there. And give them grace. 
 Phew.  Grace. Okay, that works.

And after seeing a family counselor, I was told to find others like us. And I'm very thankful for that advice. Slowly but surely, God is helping me do this.

I'm so thankful for my immediate family. Who are very willing to love Annie as is. No judgement. No waiting until we get it under control (if we ever). Just bring her over and let us play. Thank you Lord. Grace.

Meanwhile in our life.... 
Remember my 9 yr old. She has Psoriasis and it PSUCKS. And she's 9. That is a tough age. Like the 4 yr old shots people forget to mention: 9 is the year that changes can start. So on top of the Autism, 2 yr old, Adoptive Background (through CPS), 9 yr old stuff, Psoriasis, I'm about to lose my witness as they say! Also, I lead a group at my church. Also, I'm married. Also, I need to drink water and eat and survive on Earth.
But at least I can see! And I can walk! Praise you Lord!

And honestly, with the friend thing. I'm just figuring out what I would do for a family that just received this life altering diagnosis and new way of life. I do not claim to be a good friend or a good person or a good mom. Gosh, I'm just a human. But here is what I would do now that I know firsthand what a special needs family really needs and what you can do:
I would go over to their home (because most days we can't get out due to major meltdowns and exhaustion) and I would pray with them. 
I would tell them I don't care about:
  • How your house looks like the apocalypse hit or you are just settling into the life of a North American at the turn of the century. "Churn down for what!?" Why are there clothes hanging everywhere? Who's that hobo on the harmonica? What's that smell? Why are there so many fruit flies? Does that kid have yellow fever? Is that a bison in your backyard? Very Oregon Trail....
  • How your kid screams like they have mutant X-Men powers. 
  • How your face and hair looks like a conglomerate of "before" photos. 
That I do not expect anything from you and I love you how you are right now and how I am praying for you- specifically praying that you, as a momma, would not "drop your basket" like in Ya Ya Sisterhood.
And I would give so much more grace. 
I pray that once things settle down I will be able to do this and that God would give me the eyes to see who I can be this friend to. Not yet though, I'm a mess. 


So those blessings..... If you are a parent of a kid on the spectrum. Would you please let me know what blessings you have found that I can add to the list?

My Blessings of Autism List:
1. For the vision to see more of God's Word brought to life and His works in new ways.
"For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are..." - 1 Cor.1:26-28
2. For all the new celebrations for what some might see as little things. "First unprompted smile."

3. For all the new people we get to interact with: therapists, support groups, doctors, etc. How those relationships can be new friends and new opportunities to share Christ with.

4. We get more focused bonding time with our child(ren) through therapies and play.

5. We get to learn all about the brain's innerworkings. We're basically going to be neurologists and therapists now, right?

6. We can pull out that Autism card and use that thing up! "Oh, sorry I was going to do that, but Autism...." And slowly back away.... (I jest y'all.)

7. Who doesn't love underdog stories? We get front row seats!

8. Perseverance.
"And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."- Romans 5:3-5
 9. More chances to bestow and receive grace. Humbling, but worth it.

10. We can become more compassionate to others in need.
"My sister has Autism and I love her just how she is!" - Leelah to childcare worker.

11. A stronger marriage if prayed for and as God leads. Some would argue this point and that breaks my heart. But I'm just trusting in the Lord because it's all I can do.

12. A stronger family bond all around because of the minute by minute challenges.

13. We are walking service projects! Getting to daily be the "hands and feet of Christ." to our special needs kiddo.

14. We can teach others someday.

15. Hugs and kisses are appreciated more. 

16. My favorite- while at first I only saw this diagnosis as bleak- God has changed my mind to think: this is the full life. We fully give and get to experience grace. We fully understand what compassion can look and feel like. We fully treasure little things now. We are fully invested because we are going to therapies, we are praying like mad, we are shouting out to the Lord for help and rescue by the hour, we are FULLY in this thing now. We don't get to zone out and while that is so very tiring, it is so very full.

Prayer Requests
For the right therapy/treaments and for affording (Think THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS- this is why God has us get debt free when we did!!!!). This search is my current full time job and it is hard and daunting for this Aggie Graduate.
For God to bring friends for my kids and for me. I'm not ashamed to ask for this.
For us to remember the above blessings when it is so very hard.
For strength to live each day on the Kingdom side and not the pit side.
For me as a mom to delegate and focus and plan best.
For the upcoming EEG to determine if Annie has seizures (this is tied to Autism frequently).
For Leelah to not become a "Glass child."
For John and I to just not lose it.

Thank you. Thank God for you. Thank you God for Autism.


Friday, September 11, 2015

Just Special.

I've attempted to write this post about 4 times. It's such a weird time in the world of everybody sharing everything. It's weird when you feel called to share your journey of adoption- specifically, fostering to adopt through CPS- but yet, you are talking about your precious baby's past and future. She can't give me her permission to share this because she's a baby. Well, she's every bit a toddler right now. I'm just trusting that God has prompted me to write this and that it will be an encouragement to others sharing in this journey.


What to share? What to save? Who needs to hear this? Who doesn't? And how early is too early to order a pizza?

It's all too much for me at times.

We were in the post church shuffle just trying to get some lunch.

I stepped away from Annie for a minute, and she started screaming, "MAHHHHMAAAAHHHH!"

A friend of mine witnessed it and was taken aback at the tenderness of the moment I guess of her calling me mama and missing me. I'm her real mama. I told my friend if I really stopped to ponder at all the moments that God is working or doing something in her life, I'd be in tears all day. My favorite stories are underdog stories.

I'm the mama she knows.

And yet, y'all adoption is hard. It's beyond me.

People think you are done after Gotcha Day. But when the celebration is over and the visitations with birth family stop and the lawyer bills subside- oh wait- that just happened. Oh no! I think they sensed me talking about them. Great, now we just got billed for thinking about them! (Yes, CPS adoption is free-minimal cost - just pay for lawyer fees!).

When all the hoopla stops, you are there with your child just praying for them to see you as their safe place, their family, their mama. To make eye contact. To have her smile at you. To have any kind of affection shown towards you. I feel selfish writing that.

But what about when they have trouble processing information? Or when their physiological bents take over and all they remember is surviving?

And people think because you adopt a baby they won't remember what they've been through. "Oh you got her so young so all she will know is you." Or, "She won't have any acting out, because she is so young."

Babies can remember. Babies know way more than we think.

People are posting pics of sweet moments and tender times and funny trials and I'm over here like, Lord. Please don't let my child act out towards me again in a way that is traumatic for her, me, sister, and daddy. Please let us have a good day. Please help her to speak. Please equip me. Please also let us have a dinner or time out of the house without tons of screaming. 

Special needs. Wow. I just had no idea. I still have no idea. I'm overwhelmed and tired and in such need of grace.

And now we await neurologists, visiting therapists, so many "ists! and getting evaluated and measured and on and on. But I'm not going to get all wrapped up in that. God holds her future. No matter what.

It's so worth the bad days. God did this for me. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). I really think this is what life is all about- grace and love. We just are all in need of these desperately without strings or judgment, but with His Word as the best way.
be.ye.fabulous.

When someone just loves on Annie regardless of her 'tude of the moment I just want to full on hug them forever. Thank you. Thank you for loving my baby girl.

God has shown me the meaning of grace in our Annie. We are loved because He first loved us. That's it. Our actions do not warrant love. Our sin sure as heck doesn't. But guess what, we got perfect love in a Savior. If He can do that for me than I can with His help do that for her.

And I love her so much. Annie, I'm so thankful for the gift of you!

And if I hear the term, "Just a mom" one more time I will lose my witness. I hear it in women describing themselves. I see it online in various forms mostly in MLM business opportunities. For the love of Benji. Let's remove the just. I'm guilty of saying this and thinking this, but how about we look in the spiritual realm for a minute as best as our earthly eyes can muster (with my eyes, that's not much!).

We are raising up a generation. We are stepping in to do battle with forces of evil that wage war on our children (OH YOU BET I WENT THERE!). We battle with diaper wipes, ponytail holders, and hugs and mercy and fruit snacks. Moms, know you're worth. You are worth God's Son! You are warriors placed here to raise up children for the Kingdom! Don't ever forget it. 






Friday, July 3, 2015

My Facebook Fast.

Well I have been Facebook free since Monday morning when I said bon voyage! Here's to seeing more 'faces' and reading more 'books!' My hands are shaking, I'm all sweaty and twitchy, and I keep telling my family randomly aloud, "I'm 4 days off of Facebook!" JNOFB (John Not on Facebook) looks at me with slight disdain and sarcastically feigns out a yay, but I feel pretty good about it.

Here's what I have seen with the whole FB fast:
1. My house is cleaner. 
Stop. You guys need to understand it's taken me almost 11 years of applied home making to learn: my house will never be clean. So when I say, "clean" I mean I've actually had more time to consider and sometimes actually clean it. "Progress not perfection." 
Sidejaunt:
What the poo is my problem anyway with keeping my house up? I have excuses, but since I used to REALLY have valid excuses: blindness, not walking-hip malfunctioning, super crazy painful endometrioblahblahblah, I guess my regular- I'm tired, I went grocery shopping AND to Target, it's bone-scathing hot outside, I'm bloated, etc. excuses don't count. 
So here's my deep dark excuse for my house imperfection: 
HBO. I watched "Sleeping with the Enemy" at waaaaay too early of an age and it freaked me out. Therefore, my house will not be perfect. Ever. Moving on. 

2. I do things my kids want and actually fulfill promises. 
Not perfectly- again see above- but this week the Leelahnator was wanting (FINALLY) a Jedi costume-- okay, okay, she wanted a sith costume- so we went to Hobby Lobby bought some remnant black fleece fab and I actually sewed one up. It's the biggest lint trapper ever on record, but she was so jazzed she told friends at the park, "My mom is off of Facebook and made me a Jedi Knight costume!" Wow. 
Kids. Always throwin' parents under the Metro. Thanks Kid. 

3. I have had a 10% increase in happiness from not seeing people's vacay posts. 
Look I'm not a hater I promise. I'm so very glad for my friends and I'm not a Grumpy Cat about your trip to see {insert exotic locale with non-flesh eating bacteria filled waters- Galveston- get it together- You so narsty!!!!!}. Truly wish you the best on your holiday, but this is our year when med expenses for our precious dear heart and little tummy exploder, Anners, has hit us big time. So we are sans vacays for now and that's great! I mean, I just took off my braces 20 months early so we could afford my eldest's ortho treatment and my youngest's tummy grumble issues and the a/c----- 

THAT. A. C. Y'ALL SO HELP ME. Sidejaunt #2. 
We live in an 80's home. For the love of Benji himself. We knew that going into it. Living in Katy you really have no say almost in where you will live. You take what you get and you don't throw a fit! Or you build your own home if your last name rhymes with Broccollefeller. I love our new home. I do. It's so great. Sidetrack in a sidejaunt: It has tile stairs that may or may not be up to code according to our inspector. Tile. Stairs. Sink it in hence the interrupting period punctuation. TILE. STAIRS. Kill me stairs. -- back to the other sidejaunt-- as I was typing that John just hit himself walking down said, "killstairs." But we are saving for an a/c right now because it keeps pulling crap- can I say that on Television? (cue green slime on head!)


and we know the time for a new unit, it's a comin.

(I'm going to have a moment later when I'm second guessing the above a/c purchase rant when I think about all those who live without a/c in places that are 1,000 degrees and hate myself. But I grew up here in Houston with a/c so my body is conditioned to this. You understand.)

So back to #3. It's nice just not comparing myself to everyone and everything I see on there. Oh I will be back on to see my fam, blah blah. Wait, I just said what I hate: 
"I'm on facebook to see my family!" I promise! 
Yeah, it is true for me. I love seeing my family. My family can post whatever they want and I'm all hand claps and high fives!!!! I do, but letsbehonest we all go on there to see what the haps is! 

4. I don't have as much to say about other people so I have to actually practice listening now. 
Okay, that sounds awful and it kind of is. Listening is not my best skill. Not at all. God is really working on me in this area to make it my jam. I did listen before, I did! And I wasn't a full out gossip when I say talk about other people. I guess I don't have as much as what JNOFB calls, a "hive-mind" now that I'm off of FB. So in that sense, I am on a vacay!!!

JNOFB is so above me in all this Facebook foolery. But JNOFB also treats Linked In like his own private FB so.... yeahhh.... 

But I miss: 
People being funny. If you are funny or if you have an amazing life/mom hack/book rec/movie rec and most importantly: you know a good local restaurant- then I'm allboutthat!!!!!!!!  
It's like Karaoke: Only get up there if a). You got skillz. Like an 8 octave range and can hit the "whistle register." - This will never be me. b). You are funny and are unembarrassable. 
When people post anything about cheese or pizza or tacos or queso.
I miss family/friends good things. FB is a great source for good news. 
I miss messages I get from friends considering adoption or Lovely Girls Club.
I love seeing people post about Jesus. Especially people that didn't post about Him before. 

So yeah I say this not that I'm pretentious enough to think anyone cares, but
terminator-t-shirt-ill-be-back
UPDATE: I did post this to FB and spoke of irony, but I clicked share and immediately got off. Didn't even see a notification!!!

UPDATE ALSO: Did you know that when Master Facebook senses you have not been on for a day you get an email recap!??!!?! Crazy. I just straight delete that foolishness.


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Annie's Gotcha Glory Story: The Battle

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. - Ephesians 6:12
Annie at 9 months

People are curious. Me too. I can be a big ol' Miss Nosey Nose. We are happy to tell people up front, "And we just finalized our adoption..." We throw it out there because it always leads to good. I've given the phone number of Homes with Hope to a variety of people including: best friends, phlebotomists, store clerks, etc. etc. And we get this question the most: 

"Where did you adopt her from?" 

I'm quick to retort, "Houston, Texas" yep just right down the road! But not in a condemning way-- we just want to let people know there are kids right now that are waiting to be adopted - maybe even living on your street in a foster home. 

There was a precious 13 yr old girl that I've talked about before that we saw at one of the hearings and when the Judge asked, "Do you have any questions for me?" she replied, "I just don't know what is going to happen to me." She just wanted a forever home and it broke my heart. It was all I could do to not weep aloud. 

I take photos for something called the Heart Gallery and they are of children who have had their parental rights terminated that are waiting for adoption. I took photos for a sibling set of 5 beautiful children the other day in Katy. Just let that sink in. 

When our agency called us with the announcement that we had a baby girl, the next thing that was mentioned was: "Low legal risk." Meaning, most likely her parental rights would be terminated. 

Wait a minute though. We were only wanting to straight adopt- as in no fighting the battle of getting her bio parents rights terminated. No parent visitations. No hearings except for the final. No trips down to the Port Authority to meet with family members to discuss long term placement. NO other  plan of "relative adoption" -- JUST NONE OF THAT OKAY WE DON'T WANT TO DEAL WITH THAT. We were so scared. 

That was the reason we took a day to figure out. Could we fight this? Not in our own strength, but only with God and with all the prayers of our loved ones. 

And here's the number one excuse we had: our biological daughter. We didn't want to put her through a situation where we've heard the worst and we all know what I'm saying:

Dealing with the very real possibility of them taking her back. Reunification. 

Here's a sister from the Lord! Just kidding. See what I mean? 

I like the movie Interstellar. I think Christopher Nolan does powerful work. He makes references to parenting so often and in this particular film the main character is a father who has to make promises to his kids, but like all parents he only wants to make a promise that can be fulfilled. 

If you say you're gonna get your kid an ice cream. By ever dang golly you gotta get them an ice cream. 

Trust. Faith. Dependability. Unwavering. These are not the characteristics that go hand in hand with fostering to adopt. 

And honestly, I've already been through my share of grief, right? I mean who willingly will go into that? 

No. We don't know what God is allowing us for our "share of" anything. So that is not an excuse. 

And neither is wanting to shield our daughter from the woes of the process. Had we shielded her she wouldn't have Annie for a sister and would not have had to rely upon the Lord who is MIGHTY to save. 

Was our wanting to protect her a form of cowardice? I know that is a harsh word right there.
And so that's when we decided that we would Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego this whole deal. 

We got all up in that CPS furnace. 

If God saved us, if He allowed Annie to be ours forever- wonderful. 
If He had another plan, well then that was the plan for His daughter, His Annie, that is for His good which in turn is what we wanted for her more than wanting our own wills for her. 

Do I love my daughters more than their Abba Daddy does? Not possible.

17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[a] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”--- Daniel 3:17-18

How many details are too many to share? I have to consider that this is Annie's story and she doesn't have a verbal say in what I share and I must be mindful of that. I don't want the world (I get it - no one is really reading this!!) to know before she does all that went down. But then again, to God be the glory!

The biological mom was not compliant in the process. Not safe. She ultimately did not want to reunify.

 Annie was living with her bio grandparents until they realized they could not care for her due to their poor health and thus gave her into the care of CPS who then placed her with the loving foster home I mentioned. This was the fourth child that was going to be lost from this mom.

Had anyone told her that she was lovely? A daughter of the King of the Kings? We so pray for her to know this truth!!

During a month, I had 9 different meetings in and out of my home. I realized this would be the new normal and gave up doing my photography business. I just couldn't do that anymore.

Some of the meetings were from CPS, some from Child Advocates, and some from our agency. And some were to go to the courthouse, and some were to go to the visitations. God help us. The visitations.

Ever seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Specifically the heart ripping out scene? How many parents had NO idea that was coming up!! Well, that's exactly what the visitations are like.

You go to a CPS location. Take your baby in there. Sign in- but not your full name because God help you if they (the bio parents and or family and or random guy they thought was the bio dad but was really just a criminal with no ties that they had has the bio dad-oops!) find out your names and then go to your house and well you choose your own adventure that ending!

You wait for the parties to show up- hopefully not in the parking lot with you- see above adventure choosing. Then bio grandparents show- it's okay they are nice enough I guess? I've never met them. Never. Oh they are taking Annie back there now. Without me.

John and I were together everytime. Yes. He is missing work for that. I dare you John's office to complain. I dare you. They never did- praise God for their allowances!

The visitation lasts for an hour. The CPS caseworker takes your child back with them. I always gave them a bag of diapers, a bottle, toys, stuff to keep her busy. The bio parties show up- you never know who will show. Then they go back there with your baby. And then you hear crying. You can't do anything.

The first time the security officer said, "They always cry. Always. They know what's going on."

Wow, that's helpful anecdotal information- thank you!

They have to have an officer in the waiting room. Think real life Maury Povich.

I have no cuticles left at the end. I just keep muttering worries to John, then to God, we pray. We bring the Kindle to maybe play Candy Crush- cha right- we just sit there reading posters about how you should feed your children!

Yep. All this is going down. This process happened 3-4 times? I don't know I really blocked out stuff. It was horrible. It was comparable to visiting my dad in the hospital in his last days.

But it was a chance for us to see who we were praying for.

And it gave me compassion. I was like, "JUST SAY NO. IS THAT SO HARD?" Hello, D.A.R.E. ring a bell??? WERE YOU NOT THERE IN HEALTH CLASS??!?!??!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!

But God showed me and John, we are no better. We are all sinners. And eventually the anger and fear turned to mercy and prayers.

Finally, bio mom had too many strikes and too many fails and stopped coming and the Judge - a no nonsense woman that I have major respect for- laid the hammer and ceased her from visiting.

Even the grandparents were heard arguing and sticking up for us, "the family that loves her baby!"

And this is where I want to talk about Child Advocacy. Do it. If you don't know how to help and you are not called to adopt- please consider being a Child Advocate. You are the voice of the child. You get to see what is going on and the Judge listens to you and hold you in very high regard.

We had the most precious, professional, and genuine Child Advocate and her Supervisor. I knew they cared for Annie without a doubt. They had her back. They took the time to know us. They took the time to try to know her bio background. They meant the world to me and to Annie. Thank you Lord for them!

We went to hearings where there were DNA tests, and all sorts of tests.

John and I just stood there holding hands as the Judge, the Ad Litum, the CPS attorney, the CPS caseworker, the Child Advocates, the sometimes there bio family, all approached the bench. Shaking. Not riding the rollercoaster. Along with our phenomenal Agency Case Manager who was with us AT EVERY meeting, hearing, phone call, period. Never left our side. Extremely professional and is family to us!

It was beyond my physical and mental strength so God took over. I was on auto-human.

It was surreal and scary and supernatural. But My God delivered.

There was the pop-up Great Aunt who came on the scene at the end. That was earth shattering- or it would have been if I had let it be.

Can I just stop and tell you who was my rock? John Nichols.

That was his baby. Annie was his girl. As soon as she came home, BOOM, done deal. There was no one, no entity, that would stop him. He never surrendered as I did to fear. He never backed down. He always knew. Even with the great aunt and then the familiar kin- i.e. friend out of nowhere who both backed out- he never gave up.

And we pray that we were being a good witness through it all. Talk about an opportunity to witness. You deal with tons of people. They were watching how we would respond. We prayed. We told them we just, "Trust in the Lord." We did, but it was beyond hard.

I know we made it through this with the prayers of our faithful friends and family. Thank you.

It was harrowing. But I know there are a lot worse stories. Ours was fairly cut and dry. And I know that you can do this too!

One of the hardest parts was the grace for her bio mom. I just couldn't fathom how she did not show up to the parental rights termination hearing. It was humbling to realize John and I (and all our family) were the only ones that stood in the gap for this precious, dear heart. Sobering.

It was like if only God could open my eyes to see His vast army on that battlefield like He did in one of the battles of the Old Testament- which king was that for? Greater is they who are with us...

Bottom line: we were at the front lines of God's battle. Thank God He has already overcome the world.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.- John 16:33
I just want to reiterate that I do not judge- or I try so hard not to- the bio mom. Again, she chose life. I do not know where she has been. And therefore I wrote this to her and gave it to our precious Child Advocate so she could deliver it to her.

A letter to the Birth Mom. 


 
 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Annie's Gotcha Glory Story: the Homecoming

And now I can tell the FULL story. 

On Jan. 21, 2014, I received a phone call from our adoption agency, Homes with Hope. It was the call and I was at the dry cleaners.

"We've finished your home study... And we have your baby girl." 

My mind formed a thought-slushie and my eyes formed tear juice and I pulled around back and called Johnicles to tell him we had a baby! 

Our agency at the time was not able to provide many details, but God knew them all. 

Would you allow me to time travel a bit? 

My husband and I are very open with our story in hopes you will see God's marvelous workmanship throughout it. That we can only bring glory is our aim. 

John did not want to adopt in the beginning. He's such a great father, husband, everything. You see at the time I began the adopt talk I was blind in one eye and going blind in the other soon. So all he could "see" was that I could not. He could not fathom it and I do not blame him. I'm so thankful for his patience with me. 

10 eye surgeries later (Yeah, I brag on God about it all the time) and I'm seeing, praise! And I'm still talking adoption. But the idea was not God's yet in John's mind. So more and more waiting.... 

And I'd nag. 

Get convicted. Pray. And then one day God pacified my heart, "You are not waiting on him, you are waiting on me." 

It was hard. And I will say I lost hope. 

Leelah would bring up wanting a sister. I gave that to God and told her to pray. I tried to not ever sic her on dad. 

In the spring of 2013, I felt a very strong urge to pray on my knees for a baby. But I felt wrong because John was still not on board the adoption train. I sought wise counsel and a dear, dear friend told me, "Mary knew about her baby before Joseph did..." Or something to that sort. And so I prayed hard. Put that in your thought bucket for later please. 

Then John's heart began to shift in the summer of 2013. And it was a miracle. He said yes! 

We began training and by November had completed the entire process. The home study took a month to be completed. Then Jan. 21. On that day she was 2 months old.

We were told we could see our baby first on the phone of our caseworker. So we met her at McD's the next day. We hadn't confirmed yet only because we were praying and well it's a very huge decision. I knew in my heart that she was ours however and loved her already and had for forever. 

We saw her pic and to be honest could not see much as she was very swaddled. We saw black hair and big cheeks. YES. 

John being the one to carefully examine it all wanted to sleep on it. You've got to love that this man will not commit to anything until he is absolutely sure. 

Mentally exhausted, I was so very tired of waiting at this point. I pray-begged to God for John's yes. And on the way home that night we saw a shooting star. John said yes again and we then began to wait until she came home. 

We then told Leelah after we had both agreed over lunch that God was going to give her a sister. That she was not yet our forever baby, but we were going to love her as though she is. We carefully explained fostering to adopt to a then 7 yr old and prayed for God to do the rest in her little mind. She was very pensive and very excited all at once. We then went to go to Build-a-Bear so that she could make her little sister a bear. We are so thankful for the counsel our agency gave us in how to talk to our bio daughter, it was such a sweet time. 

Then we got another call that we could see her in person! Sort of like when you've had a c-section (I guess) and then you can see the baby. We had prayed that she was in a loving foster home and she was! Prayer answered indeed! So we took Leelah out of school- OHYESWEDIDDON'TYOUEVENGOTHERE- and we all went to where else? Chick-fil-A where miracles happen and chicken is holy. 

I held her in my arms and she fit perfectly. Literally, figuratively, she was a Nichols. We all held her with her foster mom and foster sisters in tow. If the Chick-fil-A staff only knew the Kingdom work that was being done. I was not allowed to take pics and that was hard. But my mind's eye focused so much on her precious cheeks, her nugget feet and her blue eyes. That's right, her eyes are blue, just like John. Nice details God. 

Then we had to say goodbye. I had bought her diapers, outfits, everything she needed and we had to let her go until the cps and attorneys agreed for her to switch to us. Her at the time foster parents were looking for boys. :) 

The next wait was so hard and the stress was visible on my face as a planet appeared on my lip. I just could not take not having her home with me. Not being able to tell the world we had a baby and to pray for her life and it was so incomplete. Moms need their birdies in their nest! Before we get to her homecoming, please know I don't mean to make such a huge deal out of this but it is a HUGE deal. 

This child was saved. We are forever grateful for her bio mom for choosing life. That being said, her bio mom was in a VERY unsafe place. It is amazing she is still alive. In the spring when I was praying, God was knitting her together in her bio mom's unsafe, dangerous womb with the care of the most masterful, artistic, technical seamstress My God performed a miracle and shielded my baby from the danger, the evil that was bombarding her. There is no scientific reason that my baby did not suffer severe defects other than God's Almighty Hands were holding her and protecting her. And He was doing this in Spring of 2013. Exactly when I was told by Him to pray for her. 

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
Psalm 139:13-14

People need to understand. Adoption through CPS and period is not something you go lightly into. Especially fostering to adopt. You want to see the Spiritual battle between good and evil? There is no better way than to adopt. 

On March 5, 2014 our darling Annie McKee Nichols came home. She was brought to our door by 2 mighty, mighty warriors for the Lord and in my eyes, Angels- our agency caseworkers. They carried all that belonged to her. A bag, a car seat, a tummy mat and a few changes of clothes. That was it. And most of that was from her foster parents. But God made a way. He is all that she needed and He gave us this blessing:



Then we loaded her up in the car and we went to go pick up Sissy from school. 


I have to end this part now, because said baby needs to get up from her nap, but I have to share this. When I just knew we should adopt I rested on this verse- Isaiah 41:20. Please check this amazingness out--- see the date I wrote next to the verse- 3/5/12 and then see when she came home--- 3/5/14. 
Amen.