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.

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." 
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
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. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The end of one story the beginning of another.

Tomorrow Johnicles and I will head down to a CPS office to read the infamous "Redacted Report" of our precious little one.

What is this pray tell?

It's an 800-900 page document citing her history (All 14 months of it) as well as any info of her bio family that is deemed as important for us to know. All of the names that we do not need to know are blacked out/redacted. And it's a major step - required to be completed prior to finalizing and signing the adoption placement papers.

And it's gonna be kind of hard. Scratch that, real hard. Coming out of the Target -Popcorn- What Errands- Need- to- Be- Run- Oh- Golly- I- Don't- Know -What- to- Have- for- Dinner- Bubble- Hard. Prayers are appreciated and welcomed and cherished by us.

Because that is a family tree that is broken, but to God not irreparable. Will you believe with me what His Word says,  "with God all things are possible...?" - Matthew 19:26

And hey, I'm not saying our family tree is perfect either. No one's is. But thank you Lord for the gift of Your Mighty Gardening Hands that can graft this little sapling on to our tree.

He is changing the story.

We think of this as Annie's Choose Your Own Adventure story and we are turning the page to page 83, where we God rescues her and brings her home to us to live with us forever.

Yes, it could have been the other page option a very, very hard life in terrible conditions. Can God still prevail? Um, He already has in that situation and others like it and in this one!

I'm so thankful for this gift. It's been very hard. I'm not going to say it hasn't been. It's only for those that God has called. And honestly, I believe that to be all Christians. I know that is bold to say. But the Word says we are called to look after the orphans and widows, does it not?

I know God has changed my story too. I'm so glad for that.

Praying for all that God has called to consider being a part of your own adoption story. God can use you too, you just need to get a little dirty in His garden.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

As Is.

We went to court for what we thought was going to be a simple status review hearing for our foster to adopt case. What ended up happening was nothing less than the Hand of God moving and speeding things along through the Judge. IT was awesome y'all.

The Judge realizing all the time that has gone on and the progress made decided to hurry it up and thus knocked 1-3 months off of the whole adoption. Praise God.

So now as we stage our home to get ready to sell, (Yes, Lord willing we are going to be doing Apartment Life ministry known as CARES) we are also knocking off a to-do list for things that have to be done prior to the finalization of our baby's adoption.

To redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.-- Gal. 4:5-7
When I was a little girl, I helped out at my dad's car dealership. He sold pre-owned- actually let's be honest "pre-owned" wasn't even a term back then, "used" luxury vehicles. Mostly Mercedes. Or as we called them, "chuggers" because their old diesel engines made funny chug chug chug sounds. And I didn't really help out, I mostly played the Ms. Pac Man machine in the warehouse where we kept all the inventory. Yes, I will dominate you if you play me at that game. Don't even go there girlfriend!

What always interested me were the cars "stickers." They told the mileage, if it had a warranty or if it was to be sold "as is." Funny sidenote, I used to answer the phones and I'd say, "Alpine Auto all books and records!" I think it's because I always heard them say the cars came with all "books and records."

I just thought the term, "As Is" was interesting.

One of the slew of things we have to do before we get to adopt Annie is take her to a Psychologist for a "Developmental" or a psych evaluation.

Now the first thing I pictured was her looking at Warshak test- inkblots- and going, "Dahhh" and then "dahhh" (her word for dog) over and over. I laughed. Because that's what I do when I don't understand things. And then I realized I really had to take my baby in for a psych eval and got sweaty. Because with laughter, that's also my body's defense mechanism.

So I head down to the posh side of town- which for a SAHM is a treat no matter what kind of appt it is- Galleria, um yeah! We head up to the top floor and then I pray that I don't get the eval because sisters we all know I ain't right in the head- never have been!

The doc is nice enough and I can tell he isn't a believer straight away just tale-tell signs so I drop my faith flags- "We've been really blessed with her. We are praying for her.."

He asks me all sorts of questions I can barely answer because I don't have her medical history and I didn't carry her or deliver her- she was delivered to us. I get nervous because the info I do have is not pretty. It's the info that would devastate you to hear and it's stuff that you never that you would ever cohort with let alone take into your life as your own and raise knowing-
- you don't have and will never have all the medical, psychological, emotional details for
- your baby did not have the clean, pure womb where you measured your caffeine intake or cut out completely- no quite the opposite
- you have no blood ties to be able to predict anything
These facts or lack thereof really hit you in the face everytime you take your adopted love in for a check up or meet a new someone that's going to give them care or see if they should allow you to care for her and it makes you go, wow, I'm completely and utterly out of control on this. I have zero control.

I have zero input.


I'm, we, are taking this darling, precious and in our eyes perfect child as is.

I just answer the questions to the best of my abilities.

At the end he tells me that she might be predisposed to various behavioral things or she might not. She might have trouble with this or that. But on the whole, we really "lucked out" and that she is as sweet as she can be.

We didn't luck out sir, God did all of this. With all due respect to his profession, he does not know my baby's future or her past the God, Creator of all things, has that planned out and has since before time began and He made my baby and all babies just flipping perfect.

She is fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139:14) made by golly and there is nothing or no one that will tell me different.

She is lovely.

She is a daughter of the King of Kings!

She is absolutely not a mistake. Her life has meaning and we are so glad her mom made that one good choice and chose life!!

Amen and amen.

His office sent a report. Now, I'm a literature lover. I read every pamphlet, every syllabus, every handout, but this one, naaaah. I read the first couple of sentences and something, Holy Spirit, made me stop.

God has already given me a report. I don't need to sit and speculate on what God has planned because He has already done the thing. And it is good my friends.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." - John 16:33

Thank you God for adopting me as is. Thank you for loving me how I am so I can love others just as they are.

  1. but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.- Romans 5:8
We are looking forward to signing adoption placement papers at the end of February and hopefully, we pray, the Gotcha Day in March! 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Please Won't You Be My Neighbor?


When you were a little 80's kid watching Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, did you ever stop and think to yourself, "How can anyone be this nice?" I did. 
Yep, at 5 I had trust issues. 
I also downed mass quantities of parmesan cheese when no one was looking. Picture a little kid with glasses chugging down that cheese from a can like a little Italian girl ninja. 
I was also very confused as to why he partially changed his clothes when he came in the door. 
But golly, I loved that man. He just set my heart right. KnowwhutImeanEarl? (Oh Ernest. You were so before your time- but I got you.) 

Before I get all Andy Rooney on this mug talkin' 'bout too-small-un-toyed cereal boxes of now and lamenting of yesteryear, I'm going to stop because I can never come back from that. 

So what's new with you guys? We are 32 days out from being done with the whole 90 days to contest our foster to adoption. Meaning, on or around Feb. 9 things will start happening. Things like petitioning for adoption and things like making plans for dare I say it: Gotcha Day. 

Let me break this down right quick.... 
For those that don't know, we are fostering to adopt a precious baby girl through an agency, through CPS. Let me stop right there and humbly educate a few. Did you know that there are agencies out there that will help you adopt through CPS -- you really should not go it alone-- and that all you pay for is legal fees. And in some cases, not even that? Did you know that the training for our agency was done with 4 different classes as opposed to the CPS's 9 sessions? I sidetracked to mention these facts because so many people see cost as an excuse not to adopt. Please, please email me if you live in Houston and need the name of a loving, great adoption agency! 

During this 90 day period from the last trial is where anyone from our dear one's bio family can come forward to contest our keeping her and try to keep her. However. we've already had 2 different people come forward prior to the trial. You know that was a barrel of monkeys- replace barrel with "glass shard" and monkeys with "sharks." One redacted her plea and one did not fit the bill in any way, shape or form. God worked that mess out. 

In my mind, this is all just earthly details. 

I'm focused on that Kingdom vision-- that we are her forever family, that God has it all under His control, on His timeline and in His Filofax. Dang, those things are expensive!!! Have you seen those planners? Like $75 for one. Nope. 

So, day 32. To have a little visual we made this: 

Each link has a different person's name or something regarding our adoption to pray for. It's been real neat. And helpful. 

In fostering to adopt, you have almost zero certainty of things. But isn't that how life is when you think about it? 

I've said from the beginning, yes we could lose our baby. There is that chance. But I also don't know how much time I have left with Johnicles, or Lbug or anyone I love. So it's been a faith journey not only for us, but also for our family and close friends who are also waiting, praying, and believing. Thank you all so much for cheering us on and for being our water breaks. Don't they do that for runners? I don't know I'm in the 0.0 club for life.

I used to run track though in middle school, no lie, my nickname was "Wonder Bread." I don't know why. I do like bread! For those that run/ran you know that feeling where you feel all shakey-leg but you see the end of the race and so your innards make a push to get there? That is where we are at in this adoption case. So close. 

What else.. What else.. Oh we have a bearded dragon, a "beardy" named Chuck Norris. And he's a big divo y'all. Almost Mariah Carey level. With his basking light he's always gotta be hot and have certain lights. His faux log. His daily salads with spring mix and various squashes.  All the things he shan't ever eat- like a silly Mogwai. There was even talk that he would need misting-- um, no line drawn thanks!

His dusted crickets. Which, I had a fit about because I really, really detest crickets. Our 8 y o daughter asked Santa for this thing. Saying, "I tend to do better with more complicated pets." And that girl has done a fabulous job I must say feeding him everyday, reading all sorts of manuals, and never complaining about his maintenance. Which is high.... 
This is the kid who has drawn up plans of "L.J's Safari Experience" -- an animal experience with animals from the continents of Australia and Africa. Oh yeah, and a gift shop that her mom can work at. She's not joking.

And I recently got my upper wisdom teeth removed at 34 years young. And subsequently died. It was horrible. I got an infection and a Godfather resemblance face. The pain meds hardly kicked it. 

So there's that. 

Oh and there's this: 

Can't quite make it out? It says, "The Grinch Lives Here" and it's 4 feet tall and it's pointing at my house. Let that sink in. 

You make one little personal post on FB all in jest and with a light heart about how the next door neighbor's music is too loud and you don't want their smoker pit in front of your house for 3 days with explicit music blaring past midnight but again I tell you it was in a funny tone and then you get - see above. I even took the post down after an hour thinking, yeah that's probably not encouraging or uplifting. But it was funny. 

I noticed the sign as I was pulling out this was early December BTW. My 8 yr old did not see it thank goodness. 

Being a mom what would you do? 

You'd get home asap after dropping your kid off. 
You'd stay in your stretchy pants.
You'd forego a shower and get dat foam brush so fast.

Print out an image of the Grinch. 
Pull out an old photo backdrop your hubby made from wood and his blood. 
And you'd paint a lifesize Grinch on that bad boy so your kid wouldn't come home and have a full on freak out sad fest of confusion. 
So that's what I did y'all. By God's grace.

My legs hurt for daaaaaays after painting and drawing for 2 hrs.

But when my kid came home and was like- "Oh look at that. They did that. We did that. How funny!" I knew it was all worth it.

What are we supposed to do?
I realized that yes, Johnicles had gone outside and asked for the music to come down, but maybe we could have been more direct. So I typed up an apology letter, and made up a gift basket after Signgeddon day. I did feel bad. Because they had gotten us all wrong and there had to be a reason. And it was time to remedy that.

John and I both discussed when I called to tell him about the sign that we want to be Christians in this situation. Yes, I was hurt, crying and upset. But it was the perfect time to flip it for the positive. To let them know we were sorry for not doing what God has called us to do on this street- show the love of Jesus.
I say and show this story to brag on God. He turned this situation around. I wanted to just wallow and have people feel sorry for me- me, a Grinch!? And my older kid seeing this-- the horror. If ever I had an excuse to go Mama Bear/Badger- now was the time!
 But God told John and me - be the Grinch! Embrace it. He Gen. 50:20 it big time. 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

And guess what? We got a bbq invite for New Years Eve and had pleasantries. Granted it was Antarctica cold so we couldn't stay, but it was a step on the Moon for us. And things are good. And I will go anywhere for free guacamole. I'm not ashamed. It was dark and I couldn't find the chips, but I found some fries boy howdy and tore that up. Fries and guacamole can work in a pinch! John showed up with the baby and immediately had to go home because his eyes were frozen.

So many people were so sweet and rallied for us. It was awesome. I really appreciated the people who genuinely cared and didn't just want the juicy details. It was refreshing. But it was funny because at home John- whom I call JNOFB on facebook- John Not On Facebook- we had little back and forths. I'm pro FB and he's anti it. He thought it had gotten us into all this and he was right. But at the same time, I see it as a way to show off God moving.

And now, due to many reasons, we are considering moving on. It really has nothing to do with the sign at all- how silly would that be, right!? It has everything to do with where we feel God is calling us to next. We are praying, purging, garage sale-ing, and in the process of painting walls and doors and things that scream us in an effort to neutralize the personality. It might not end up being the time, but we will see!

We are seeing where God leads. We know it will be good!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Our Letter to the Birth Mother.

For some time I've had it on my heart to write a letter from our family to Annie's birth mother to tell her our hearts. Wouldn't you want that? I know I would.

This whole fostering to adopt through CPS process has grown my compassion for people that make bad choices. Not that I'm excluded from that list- far from it really. But the type of choices that leave one with their child(ren) in a foster to adopt case.

 I confess to me it's so simple, just say no! But in all this God has given my heart a tenderization towards those who make really poor life decisions. I'm thankful for this new perspective.

I don't know if you can imagine with me what writing a letter trying to explain your heart to a person that most likely hates you looks or feels like. I can't imagine it myself it's just too overwhelming for this simpleton. So I just prayed for God to do the talking.

And I pray that in showing this that it would give hope to those in need of that today.

And won't you join me in praying for those who need to know God's truth? Thank you.

Dear ___________,
We are writing this to let you know our heart for you and for precious Annie.

First, we want to thank you for choosing life for this precious baby. We believe that God gives life to babies in the womb and we prayed and prayed for this little girl before she was even born to be healthy and we know God heard our prayers as we prayed for her and you. We want you to know that we think you made the right choice in letting her live and be born and we thank God for that decision you made.

We hope you know that we love this baby as our own. We love her so very much.

 We plan to love her forever and ever no matter where God places her. She is so very dear and precious to our hearts and to her sister. She is being taken care of to our very, very best abilities and to our highest standards. We sing to her, play with her, read to her, talk with her, change her often, laugh with her, and take her to church every week and during the week. We pray for her all the time, and we plan to continue showing her our unconditional love just like God loves us and you.

She is such a blessing and an answer to a prayer for our family. We hope you know that we have done everything we can for her well being within our means and will continue to keep her safe, healthy and protected. Should she need anything in regards to a particular school environment, medical need, braces (she is a thumb sucker), college, anything we will do our very best to get it done for her. We will never hold back any of our resources and again we will always strive for the VERY best in everything she needs.

Since she is a part of our family we plan to teach her in God’s Holy Word, the Bible, so that she will know the love of God and the plans He has for her precious life. His plan for her is found in Jeremiah 29:11-13:
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
And also in 1 Timothy 2:4: We see that God --
“who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
That Truth is found in John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
And we are praying this prayer for you too, ________. That you may know that you are wonderfully made, that Jesus loves you and He wants His best for you and that is to know Him. We have been praying that for you and will continue to do so, no matter what.

As a mother, I personally cannot imagine your pain. I pray you are healed. And I pray you know that Jesus loves you so much He died for you and wants you to know Him personally.  

We also pray that should God choose us to be her forever family that you would have peace in your heart knowing that Annie will be treated like a princess because she is a daughter of the King, Jesus, and we love her with all our hearts.

                                                                                      May the Lord be with you,

                                                                                      Annie’s Foster Family

Monday, October 27, 2014

Know Nothing

It's been a while gang.

We've got an 11 month old in the house who's cruising and babbling with some successful words thrown in. 

A growing 8 year old who says things like, "I do not fear death." and I respond, "But can you please just put your shoes where they're supposed to go." 

My beloved Johnicles that I call all the time while he's at work because dangit I just miss him and want to recall a funny movie quote, "Did you tell him they were the Lord's chips??!"  (Nacho Libre - eet's the best.) I love him so much. If cheese were people he'd be the best kinds.

Segue, you can still find me grating cheese at around 1pm almost daily. Who knows what for- lunch? Snack? Dinner? Apocalypse? 

The other day after dinner, we looked up what a wombat looks like and surprise THEY'RE ADORABLE: 

I'm still walking and seeing CANIGETAWITNESSUPINHERE!? People stop me and go, "Wow! I remember you in the wheelchair!" And now I'm pushing a stroller. Jesus did it. 

Still doing the Lovely Girls Club deal even though I'm so unworthy, but have so much passion for what God wants and needs HIS girls to hear. DGMS about that I will go on for a fortnight.

We're taking pics of our precious dears, but not posting them on FB because it would not be prudent given the nature of our foster to adopt case. It's so funny, not ha ha funny, but surreal funny. We take pics, we do the events/carnivals/obligatory kid things/birthdays/etc. and yet, it's like God has taken away that I MUST HAVE THE WORLD SEE THIS rigmarole.
 Heck, I'm not judging. How else can g'ma see those fun times if she lives in Montego Bay? By the way, can I go and visit your grandmother if she lives there? Is that weird? Yes? I thought so too. 

I'm so conflicted. Maybe I haven't written in a while, because I feel too many emotions and fear I'll come off: at best a flibbertigibbet (If you've seen Joe vs. the Volcano- we are instafriends) or at worst, certifiable. 

Maybe I don't want to have a DTR with the world? DTR= Discuss the Relationship. 

But maybe that's just the enemy getting at me. 

It ain't no lie that sometimes I go through stuff that can be sort of isolating. And I remember when I am going through those moments how much I hate feeling as though no one gets it. And then I think to my self, "Self, I should blog about that."

Everybody goes through isolating trials. So we can get off people perhaps and grab on to Jesus? 

I get it. I get you in my limited human capacity.
 And really, truly, Jesus gets you always. 

This Sunday, i.e. yesterday, the one that I love had another birthday. I made him crepes and I'm the worst baker ever. THE WORST. And now, a Rodney Dangerfield-esque rant on how bad of a baker I am: 
I think I blacked out and someone actually came in and cooked them and then woke me up and made me think I did it. 
I'm so bad that I regularly look at to make myself feel better and laugh! 
I'm so bad at baking, I could have my own show: Baking Bad!!!
We can get this ebola thing under control guys because I made a freaking crepe! 3 of them! Then I didn't want to push it and stopped. Perfectionist people problems. 

We went to church. I cried and journaled and wished for a better pen collection so I could write faster to match my emotional flood writings.

We've got this darling baby girl. We've got her for who knows how long. But again I say, we don't know for how long we have anyone. Everyone's on loan from God's People Library, right? 

So we have this child we love. She loves us. She calls me mama and Johnicles, dada and Leelah, lala, and Boo, dughhhghsh. 

And in our hearts, our will for her is to be with us forever. But we have to daily surrender this to what God wants, His Will for her, and to be real honest I'm not that great at that. Most days I just go through them afraid to really let my heart guard down until some next man-made hearing/trial/appt/meeting/conference when we will FINALLY have her as ours. I know, I know, that's pretty selfish of me.

So at church I just felt the need to just let that guard down. I cannot hold my feelings hostage any longer. 

We love this baby. She is ours for however long God deems. So I'm just gonna love her and let my heart be broken like every other mom on earth who has to let their kid grow up, go to school, go on a mission trip, get married, and sometimes, very, very unthinkable hard times go to be with Jesus. 

Now I feel freer. I know this will be a continued process of telling the beavers to yet again stop damming up my heartworks so I can freely love this little angel without fear, but God can do this in me. 

And I know nothing. And I'm trying my best, in my very imperfect perfectionistic way to say, that's okay. 


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Romania: The Roma People you need to know about.

I'm a question-asker. Pretty good at it really. Maybe because I'm frequently confused.

I asked our missionary trip director what is the deal with the persecution of the Gypsy population- I will refer to them as Roma- people? 

Why are they singled out from the Romanian people and from other Europeans and Americans? 

Why are they not allowed to go to the churches outside their villages in Romania (and around the world)? 

An astounding aside for you- there is a story about a man who was looking for community, looking for Jesus from India who was turned away from a church. You may have already ascertained that that man was none other than Gandhi. 

What the crap "Christians!?" Why are you turning anyone away!? Can you imagine if Gandhi had accepted Jesus!?!!!!!!!?????!!!!!!!!!!! 

That mess makes my blood pressure elevate. And I have amazing blood pressure levels! 

Good at asking questions.
Great blood pressure. 
Well aren't I a braggard! ?


The trip director, who I daresay is a legacy-leaver and wonderful follower of Jesus, asked me what people usually think of when they hear: "gypsy." 
The people on our bus went up and down- oh sorry I have a 9 month old- they said:
movers- transients,
Sadly I thought of bangle bracelets- I'm so sheltered and naive and just plain dumb about the world. Ugh. 

And then he challenged us- aren't those qualities found in every race? 

Of course! I admit, I personally didn't think of thieves. That's pretty harsh. I do live in rainbow-la-la-land though. I was stuck on the visual idea of the people. 

People are stuck on terrible stereotypes of the Roma people. It's maddening and a terrible misstep. I have not done my research on this at all. There are not just Roma people in Romania of course. There is a considerable population in America as well. There's much more I could say and research about all this of course. 

Upon arriving at the border of Hungary and Romania we stopped at a convenience store so I could exchange currency. A Roma child came up to me, must have been around 9 and at first I was tempted to begin trying to talk with her. I realized she was begging for money. The parents were somewhere in the vicinity. This was late at night.

 It was very confusing and jarring to watch. I learned then that giving her money would perpetuate the begging that her parents were making her do. 

In America, I've never seen a child beg on the streets. That was immensely unsettling. 

Here is what I know to be true about the Roma people that I learned during my mission trip to Romania.

For starters, they are people. 
They are God's children just like the people that are ignorantly singling them out are God's children. 
Ever read the Bible? (I'm working on it). You don't mess with God's children. Period.
They are beauties. 
They are treasures. 

 One of my pals!

And these photos are all unedited. These kids are that beautiful. 

I learned that education is a luxury for children from families that can afford food and clothing. The average child does not go past 3rd grade. Most times what is holding them back- lack of clothing and shoes.  It gets incredibly cold in Eastern Europe with averages in the 20's. The summers are like ours in Texas. If we only realized that a pair of shoes and some clothes are what could be holding children back from getting educated. That and the lack of education their families received. It's a cycle of course. 

And I'm over here in America complaining about back to school shopping issues. 

I must remember though that my God does not use shame! So I cannot go down the road of how I have acted and act, but what God wants me to do. 

 It costs about $300 per child to be put through the MANNA program (powers that be please correct any misinformation on here). This gives the children and adults a place to go to hear about Jesus: 
MANNA Church in Tinca, Romania

MANNA Children's church area in Tinca, Romania

It gives them access to the feeding center, i.e. a hot meal. 

 This little prayer warrior prayed and prayed and prayed before the meals. Does it get any more precious?

Maybe it was because I didn't exactly speak their language, but the one thing I noticed they weren't doing? Complaining. 

These kids were just playing and grateful and happy hearted. It was refreshing. 
They were all kinds of fun. 

And some of them are now honorary Texans as I got to teach some Bible lessons and of course taught them how to say, "Howdy!" and "Yee-Haw!" 

Thankfully I had access to a fabulous translator during the lessons. He really gave it heart! I tried God willing to teach them that they are God's Creation and that God thinks that His Creation is VERY GOOD! "Foarte Bun!" And then a lesson on God using us to do BIG things for His Kingdom. 

Then their pastor delivered messages and then we saw children go up front and become our sisters and brothers in Christ. 

And there's not much else I can add in the way of flair words to that statement. I don't need word apologetics here. It was God's work. 

Again, thanks to MANNA Worldwide for not sitting by, but for doing something and being the "hands and feet of Christ."