Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What I learned in 2010

This year has been beyond words, or rather full of so much that it will take a book to explain it, and honestly I'm working on it.

My, this journey, painful but beautiful beyond anything I was ever brave enough to dream.

Rather than lay it out, I thought it would be cool to do a "What I've learned this year" instead. I have gone thru my 2010 "What I've learned today" posts from www.beautifullychaotic2009.blogspot.com, picked some of my favorites, and added in a few here and there. They are in no particular order. I'm too overwhelmed (in a good way) to organize right now. Save it for a rainy night.

Before that, I have to say thank you. I should NOT have made it thru this year. I would not be here without some of you, and the God above who sent you to me. Thank you for every kind word (and even the get off your hiney ones), for every reminder of who I could be, for calling me out when I was slipping, for every hug, sermon preached, dinner cooked and phone call. Each of you are truly and example of God's love and grace for me. I can't even type it without tears rolling. My very existence is because of you.

The number one thing I have learned this year is that God loves me.

He is the only one capable of loving me just as I am. He loves me when I fail. He loves me when I am scared, whiney, angry. He loves me when I'm not funny. He loves me when I'm skinny or fat. He loves me when I'm lost. He loves me when I'm found. He loves every tear, and every belt of laughter.

He loves me. And guess what? He loves you too.

He who has begun a good work in me, will carry it on to completion.

Everyone gets lost, at one point or another, in one way or another. No one is exempt. Sometimes, there is great fanfare around the lost, and sometimes, no one notices, but it happens none the less.

You are NEVER too lost to go home, even if home is a little different.

You can feed 5 kiddos, bandage a knee, and detach a turtle from a child's finger in under 10 minutes

Silence is far more accusatory, overwhelmingly more painful, than any word or action could be capable of causing.

God does not care if you leave the state, or even cross the country, He will hunt you down and make sure you are listening to Him.

There is NO ugly view in Colorado Springs.

Fresh air feels amazing in your lungs!

There really is such thing as a "Rocky Mountain High"

When the view is gorgeous, I will willingly walk miles a day with a smile on my face!

Isaiah speaks squirrel, crow, and a little raccoon.

Self tanner+tears=a ridiculous facial complexion. Hello Zebradom.

Abby can stop a hundred squirmy first graders when she sings.

Washing oversized comforters in your bathtub is not nearly as fun as I remember it being when I was a kid.

Mandisa has written a very beautiful new song "He is with You"

I have some of the very best flashlight holders in the whole world. You know who you are. Thank you.

If scientist find an abandoned bear cub, they will rub him down with vicks vapo rub and put him in another mother's den while she is sleeping. When she wakes up, all she will smell is the vapo rub, and will lick all the cubs clean, and by the time she is done, they will all smell like her, and she will take them all as her own.

16 oz of spinach, 2 banannas, one apple (not peeled but cored), 2 oz of honey, 8 oz of vanilla yogurt, 16 oz of milk, blended together, make a delicious smoothie, and the kids are oblivious to the healthiness of it! WOOO HOOO!

Being incapicitated by a broken ankle will add fifteen pounds to your hiney in less than a month.

No matter how many times I put Abby to bed, or what time it is, she will keep getting up.

Guinea pigs have sex within 12 hours of having babies....oh lord women can you imagine?????

If Jayin yells, and I whisper, it gives her a headache.

If she mumbles, and I speak clearly, it gives her a headache.

You cannot win with the mentally ill.

When you are helping someoene else, you are not thinking about how sad you are.

Reaching out keeps you from collapsing in.

When you fall down, especially if there is blood involved, vultures will come, and fast.

It sometimes takes me a minute to figure vultures from friends, but I will.

I am the vulture master.

Beagles are needy little fockers.

Petting stinky, but beautiful malamutes, just makes you smell like a stinky malamute, lol, you don't get the beautiful!

I can find a million explanations other than what the truth actually is

I'm retardedly honest. I talk to much, tell to much, but in general I feel it does two things...one if I know someone knows what I'm struggling with, I think twice before I do it. And two, time and time again, I am contacted by people who struggle with the very same things. God is using my falling, and one day, I'll fly.

I am one resilient little focker!

If you spill a gallon of homemade laundry detergent on your kitchen floor, it will be super shiny and slick.
Wet socks have NO traction.
Laundry detergent, which you do not get to wash off for two hours because of a raging kiddo, itches.
A lot.

A piece of glass can hold it shape and still be ashes, you only have to touch it to find out.

When you are sad digging thru burnt up things you knew your mother loved, a kitten crawling out of nowhere can make you smile.

Kittens rescued from fire are very loving and thankful.

Sometimes you NEED a mouthy friend to speak truth into your life.

The aftermath of a fire is overwhelming, even if it wasn't yours.

You go can from noticing that your guinea pig is pregnant, to having three guinea pig babies, in less than 12 hours.

Livy figured out hiding icing in the cat food bag was a great idea.

You can go to bed and wake up and your world be drastically different.

You can drive uphill for 15 hours straight. BOTH WAYS!

Well placed dish detergent in the dishwasher will make lots of bubbles.

A bubbly floor is one shiny floor!

We all need to be more honest and open with each other. I am becoming increasingly aware that "discretion" and "private matters" are the number one weapon of the enemy to God and His people. We think that by putting on face we set a good example. That does two things, it makes God and everybody look horrible when people see thru our facade, and it leaves people feeling like they are alone in their brokenness and I think that is even worse.

You cannot see the stars without a little darkness, and sometimes a lot of darkness, but keep looking up.

NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP. Sit down, lay down even, but you get back up and you keep moving forward!!!!!

Miracles exist, not so much in healing and restoration, as in the strength, mercy, and grace God provides as you navigate the situations you face.

Monday, December 06, 2010

There was a child went forth

There was a child went forth every day;
And the first object she look'd upon, that object she became;
And that object became part of her for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching many years

The smell of pancakes, that spelled her name, freeze dried milk, and sunshine
Fall leaves piled high, siblings running rampant, and soft fall breezes
Discarded school books and stacks of paper, pens and pencils, and broken crayons, they became part of her.

Sadness and alone, swinging arms and uncertainty, became part of her.
Coldness and oatmeal and oatmeal and oatmeal.
Missing mama and home and normal
Tall oak trees with branches big enough to hide her, formed her early life

Suicide and murder, abuse and neglect
life's very ugliest, tried hard to come inside
to form who it is she was
but there was too much goodness, and they,
they did not become part of her

Fast thrown balls, high school jerseys, friends in abundance
Recipes and cooking, her passion
Necessity induced creativity
Struggles brought tenacity

Brown eyed brown skinned babies,
Two beautiful gifts, never planned but always wanted
the sweet sound of heaven in human form, became her
skin to skin love shared with someone so small who meant so big
late nights, breastfeeding, crying, baby lotion, and unfathomable love

Strong will and faith, Jesus and the hope He alone can bring
A return to school, endless struggles
make her stronger
babies and books, past haunts and todays troubles
and yet she smiles

fragmented words
sewn together with strings of tears
pieces formed in broken promises and nothingness
mistakes and misunderstandings
become the very fabric of her

But of those things, she made a lovely quilt
made with all the pieces of yesterday
and hopes for tomorrow
These became part of that child who went forth everyday,
and who now goes,
and who will always go forth every day

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Flashlight Holders

What is a flashlight holder you might ask?

In this most difficult time in my life, when all seemed dark, and scary, and overwhelming, when I could not see God, He sent people with flashlights to help me find my way home.

He knew I had been in the dark so long that the sunshine would only scare me away.

He knew that I was so lost that I had given up.

He knew there would be no magical transformation, that the road would be long and painful.

He knew I would trip and stumble.

And I have.

But over and over again, there each of you have been, arms extended, flashlights in hand.

In your kindness, I, for the first time in my life, have been able to see God's love for me.

I have been overwhelmed at the grace you have shown me.

From a delicious meal, a hand to hold, late night phone calls when I have been afraid, to refusing to let me sit still for too long and constant reminders that I am not my circumstance, You have each been a living breathing example of God's love for me.

I have tried and tried to write this so many times, and I know I'm not doing it justice. It is really too much for words.

I love you.

I would not be here without you, really.

The Disappearing, Reappearing Check

The past few days have been rather, well, stressful. I have struggled a great deal, mostly on my own, and generally within my own mind.
Monsters have seemed bigger than usual.
My hopes and dreams seemed farther away.
My energy level for chasing said dreams was drained.

And then today happened.

A few weeks ago our house was damaged in a storm and today I got a check from the insurance company in the mail. I signed it, and since I didn't have any deposit slips was smart enough to write all my bank info on it as well, and pulled into the Regions Bank Drive Thru.

I rolled down my window, and well, ya'll know how windy it's been?

My check went flying out the window!!!!!!

I pulled over and looked and looked for it.

I cried.

I was so flustered!

So I called the insurance company and cancelled the check and headed home feeling rather retarded.

And then I got a phone call, from someone named Junior, and he had found my check at Krogers (how it got there???? We shall NEVER know)

He had called our insurance company and they gave him my number.

He gave me his address and I headed on over, in complete disbelief.

He had every piece of info on that check to be me or my husband and have himself a couple thousand dollars.

Never the less, so as I get there he comes out, hands me the check, I thank him profusely and start to walk away.

He says "Mam, if you don't mind, I don't believe anything happens without a reason, and I think God has something He wants me to tell you".

Hmmmm...random guy with a message from God, makes me nervous, but I've seen stranger, and the way my life has gone lately, I stop and listen.

He says "Mam I know this is random, but God wants you to know that anything that is lost can be found, and that even when you have given up hope and cancelled your plans, He has not given up His plans for you, so you keep your faith, and don't let anyone convince you He is not able."

I am standing with with random guy, tears streaming, amazed at the timeliness of his message.

I am so undeserving. I fail Him every single day, but He sees my heart, and He knows I'm trying. He won't let me give up. He won't let me hear those doubting His promise to me.

I love Him.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How Long?

How long do I lay here?
When is it ok to stand?
Could someone please show me the rules?
I don't know them
I only know I can't take one more moment in this place

How long do I cry here?
When is it ok to smile again?
Could someone please show me the rules?
I don't now them
I only know the salty tears have burned lines in my skin.

Friday, October 08, 2010

If You Are A Mama of Many

If you are the Hacker Tribe Mommy

~There is no such thing as boring
~You can feed 5 kiddos, bandage a knee, and detach a turtle from a child's finger in under 10 minutes
~You have five little people who think you are superhuman and you try your best to be
~You say things like "who is licking Isaiah", "No you can't have marshmallows for breakfast", "Why did you think you could make your room a swimming pool", and "please stop barking, you are annoying the dog"
~You know what loving and sweet really is
~You praise your child because they get a duck tomorrow and have no idea what that means while secretly praying it isn't a real duck.
~You find an oddly placed spoon or fork somewhere atleast once a day though the oddest place was on top of a hanging picture frame
~There is always, always a reason to smile
~You tell Abby go to bed at least fifty times a night, and she never stays there.
~You wash 3 loads of laundry a day and are never done.
~Hugs are never on short supply
~Your expectations flex in five different ways all day long because you love them just as they are
~Overstimulated is at times an understatement
~It's only $8, actually means $40.
~Ramon noodles are your best friend
~You have Hanna Montana episodes memorized
~You are reminded of God's grace all day long
~You have a house full of broken, odd, misunderstood and misplaced creatures and humans because your babies have seen your compassion and live it out
~Whenever you are feeling low, you can look at their beauty and know you can't be all bad because you helped to make someone so amazing.

When she is quiet

When she is quiet
she is oh so loud inside.
When she is smiling,
tears soak her pillows.
When she is surrounded by people,
she feels more alone than ever.
And when she has had enough,
of never being enough,
she decides she isn't going to play anymore.
She is going to live,
And laugh,
And love,
without you
Cause while she was quiet
She heard you.
And while she was crying
She saw you
And while you stood close
She figured you out

I'm much too tired to climb a mountain

For those who don't know, the summit of Pikes Peak is at ‎14000 ft elevation. I think Johnson City is around 1600. Major difference! It takes a couple of hours to drive up and back down, mostly because you have to drive so very slow, most times in 1st or 2nd gear. There are stations all along the road to cool off your car, and check your brakes, because brake failure, and overheating are so common. The change in elevation can cause altitude sickness, headache, nausea, dizziness. There are many cars, and many people who simply cannot do it.

Ah but you know, we did it anyway, even fraidy cat me who used to get nauseated looking out the top floor window of Roger Stout when I was a student at ETSU.

There were tight windy curves without guardrails, signs everywhere warning of brake failure, altitude sickness, and not feeding the creatures. In our car there were tired kids, carsick kids, and a very sick Rachel.

BUT, none of those things mattered when we got to the top and stood together the middle of a cloud.

It was such a life lesson to me. We asked them to go, made them go, even though they couldn't fathom the beauty of what was waiting at the top. We talked thru endless questions, nausea complaints, and tears. Over and over again we said things like "I know baby but look over there, see how beautiful it is, just wait till we get to the top!"

As I am navigating the current circumstances in my life, I am afraid. I am overwhelmed. I am not strong, or confident, or brave. I want to freeze in my tracks. I want to read every caution sign and make sure everyone knows how dangerous it is. I see guardrails with skid marks from out of control cars, and I panic that the next one might be me. I, most times, can only see a moment in front of me, yet God keeps urging me forward. "I know it looks scary baby, but just wait, the beauty that's coming is beyond your dreams" I have a plan.

Sometimes we are faced with situations in our life that are scary, uncertain. Sometimes we chose them, sometimes we are chosen for them. We may look around and see warnings and caution, and others who were unable to make it. What I realize now, is that if you will only press forward, have a little faith, beautiful things await you at the top!

And so, I keep moving forward. Uncertain. Unsure. At times even unraveled.

I move forward because He has asked me to, because He can see the top, because He has a plan.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Turning around

If you know me, you know I will get lost driving to the grocery store if I don't take the same way every time. I can't even get around Bristol even though I lived there most of my childhood.
The subject of my brain today is getting lost.
Everyone gets lost, at one point or another, in one way or another. No one is exempt. Sometimes, there is great fanfare around the lost, and sometimes, no one notices, but it happens none the less.
When I get lost, when I realize I'm lost, or someone points out to me I'm lost, it would be incredibly ignorant to say "well I made the choice to go this way so I'm just gonna keep going" or "well I was so stupid to make that turn, I deserve to end up wherever". What I've done, what each of you have done, at one point or another, is turn around.
Even if you have reached the wrong destination, even if you've pulled up a chair and stayed awhile, there is absolutely NOTHING stopping you from turning around and heading back to where you should be.
Pride, embarrassment, stubbornness, they each push you to keep going in the wrong direction. I know because I've done it. There have been times I have ended up fifty miles in the middle of nowhere because I didn't want to admit I'd made a wrong turn or that someone else was right.
Turning around is ok. Even if people keep talking about seeing you lost somewhere, even if you remember how scared you where when you realized you were all alone in the middle of nowhere, even if you have to have people walk you back home because you are so weary.
Turn around. Go home. If you are too tired or afraid to move one way or another, ask for help. You will be very surprised at how many people have gotten lost down that very same road.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Go and sin no more..."hey did you see what she did?"

I watched the movie, "The stoning of Soraya M" this past week. It was very brutal, and I don't at all recommend for the faint. But that, and lots of personal circumstances, have had me thinking about the concept of "Go and Sin no more"

I love the concept of forgiveness and of grace. I am grateful for it. Heaven's knows I'd have been lost a long time ago otherwise. I am a faller, definitely NOT a flyer.

But then humans get involved, and shew it makes it so complicated and difficult.

You sin, and most often it hurts, it affects, other people.

You ask for forgiveness and receive God's forgiveness. They are still damaged.

You move forward, trying to improve. They have to work out the situation on their own.

On top of that you have the bystanders. They all have their opinions and most have forgotten how many times they have needed the same grace and forgiveness. "Well we just want you to be happy", "oh my do you know what such and such did?", "I'd never put up with that".

So you end up in this very painful and scary place.

Forgiven and not. Free and bound. Moving forward, and the past in your face every day.

At this point, you have two decisions. You can continue to feel guilty. You can continue to let people remind you of what an awful person you are. You can listen to all the voices who tell you it's hopeless, and get stuck and a cycle of self destruction...or, you can move forward.

You can go and sin no more...You can ask for forgiveness from those you have hurt, you can do your best to mend the situation, you can allow your potential, not your past, to define you.

I can tell you from personal experience, if you let your past haunt and define you, it will keep repeating itself. I've spent four years on that that cycle, and I can tell you it only gets more ugly. You have to let it go, even if no one else does.

You can't change the things you have done, but you can change where you are going. Your only hope is in moving forward, in truly going and sinning no more...get started!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

If you are Isaiah

If you are Isaiah...
Your parents gave you a ridiculously long name
having no idea
you would have plenty personality to fill it

If you are Isaiah...
It is not a stick
It is a piece to the latest wolf trap
or ant home
or plane

If you are Isaiah...
you keep the beat
of whatever room you're in
just like your Daddy

If you are Isaiah...
you bounce from one thing to another
and drive your auntie's crazy
and love every second of it.

If you are Isaiah...
your room is always clean
your clothes are always folded
and your shoes are always missing

If you are Isaiah...
You hug your mom fifty times a day
and tell her she's beautiful
and that you like her meatloaf when you know you're in trouble

If you are Abby

If you are Abby...
you are passionate about everything
from animals
to people without
to the earth
and the God who made it all.

If you are Abby...
you are told fifty times a day how pretty you are
but you never get it
to you, everything in this "magical mystical world" is beautiful

If you are Abby...
you have your Daddy's music
and your Momma's heart
and lots of fun sharing insomnia with her.

If you are Abby...
you sing
from morning until night, and even sometimes in your sleep
and you choreograph your day, and everyone else's
because you know, you know best ;0)

Friday, August 13, 2010

If you are Olivia

If you are Olivia...
You are very very quiet
sometimes so quiet we forget you are there
but when you speak up
you make your Mommy very proud.

If you are Olivia...
every animal is your friend
You work hard to keep them safe,
and drive your parents crazy doing so

If you are Olivia...
you have eyes as blue as the cloudless sky
and hair that is always messy.
You move slow,
and run very fast.

If you are Olivia...
You are Mommy's cheerleader
and wanna be enforcer
and take people's breath away at how brave you are.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

If you are Jaylin

If you are Jaylin...
Then everyday is a brand new day.
You love purses and bibles and hugs.
You are the best sweeper in the house and make sure everyone knows it.
If you are Jaylin...
You have had a lot taken from you.
So you take a lot back.
If you are Jaylin...
black is black, white is white, and grey is probably a ghost.
You love to laugh and give hugs.
If you are Jaylin...
You don't know a stranger,
Getting a guitar means you are going to give a concert.
And every day is a new day

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Be Still

So I have made some poor decisions. I have hurt people I care about badly. I got into a cycle of guilt and sabatage.
If you read the "can't you see" blog, you know that two sundays at New Life church in Colorado Springs, I asked for, and recieved God's forgiveness. The burden of sin has truly been lifted. That is great, and wonderful, but it does not change my circumstance. It does not change or heal the wounds I have caused. That is the hard part.
If you know me at all, you know I am a fixer. I am a people pleasing addict. I hate hate hate to see anyone hurting, which is further exacerbated by knowing it was me who caused the wounds.
I have been spinning in circles, making things only worse.
On my drive home from Colorado I heard sermon after sermon on Being Still and Knowing. I have ping ponged back and forth between "Ok God you can have it, please help me fix my mess, please heal the wounds I have caused" to panicked scrambling to try and fix things on my own. I am exhausted an no better off than when I started.
Tonight I had another "woooooo hooooo hey remember what I said!" moment.
I saw Psalm 46:1-3, 10 on something I was reading, and decided to look it up. While the scripture was relevant, it was a side note that spoke the most to me, it was that that I desperately needed to hear.
"Things in life often fall apart all at once. Name your crisis du jour. You have a bitter fight with your husband or boyfriend-and it seems as if a piece of your secure world falls at your feet. Layoffs threaten your job-another chunk drops. Your single mom breaks her hip-yet another piece falls. When life is crashing down around you, do you work even harder to hold it together? Try a different approach: BE STILL. Find comfort and stregnth in God, and stop trying so hard to fix everything. No matter how many pieces fall, you will have God's inner peace.

If you are Rachel

If you are Rachel
You are stuck between girl and woman
You prefer tshirts and shorts
to dresses and makeup
but only sometimes
You are moody like your mama
And musical like your dad
You like watching scary movies with your mom
and cooking just about anything
You put on a show wherever you go
You help your mom, and grandmother, and great grandmother
and well, anyone else who needs helping
You have a servants heart
A musicians unrest
and the ability to do more than you will ever dream....

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Clipped Wings

You clipped her wings
then tossed aside
hating her because she couldnt fly
You mocked her tries
She fell face first
"I told you so"
is what she heard
You will never fly
She made you dirty
You made her useless
She broke your heart
You stole her mind
Only for a time
For He is there,
He made those wings
Someday she'll fly
Someday she'll be clean
He doesnt care that She cant fly
Her wings grow strong
As He carries her along
Far from way back then
And when she's healed
He'll raise her up
And she will fly again

Friday, June 25, 2010

Darkness and Light

Sometimes while walking through the forest, the darkness encroaches so slowly that you don't notice that it's there. Your eyes adjust to the lack of sunlight, you move forward, unaware. You never stumble or falter or realize that there is anything at all wrong with your travels.

And by and by the sun begins to rise, a sun you never noticed was missing. A flicker of light makes it's way between the trees, shining onto your pale and sullen face.

At first, you close your eyes, the light being too much to handle. You turn around and try to move away from it. It becomes hard to see. Your focus is lost. You are scared but drawn. You can't move or breathe or feel.

And the light gets brighter. . .

Your eyes begin to adjust to the way things should be. You remember what it was once like to see the details in the world around you. A familiar joy rises up within in you, beckoning your forward. You move faster and step closer anxious to continue to allow your world to brighten. You are chasing the sun, terrified of losing it again, of getting lost in the darkness, unaware.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

God and Music

So in my severe lack of sleeping lately I've been doing lots of thinking.

As many of you know, I have many friends who are not Christians. There are several things that the "nonbelievers" pass onto me, that keep me up late at night. I've been struggling to find an appropriate way to share it. Appropriate, in this case, of course, being that I'd have liked to found a way to share my heart without hurting feelings or stepping on toes. I'll apologize in advance.

First of all, I must say I'm incredibly frustrated at times by the "they did _______and they claim to be a Christian" , said by both Christians and non Christians. What kind of thing to say is that? It says "If you are a Christian you would never do _______, so they must not really be one."

Now seriously people. You know, things like that are the very reason that "nonbelievers" think we are full of crap. They see our mistakes. WE MAKE MISTAKES. They are not stupid. To pretend that you are above reproach is ridiculous. If not for the grace of God, you would easily be, and may someday be, where the person you are so quick to judge is standing.

I will put myself in this catagory. I am extremely opinionated and prideful. I am ashamed of myself. I am sure if you've talked to me you have heard me make this most damaging mistake. I tell you this because I don't want you to think I'm up on a mountain yelling at you, I'm right here in the vally. We all are. I fully realize nothing will be different in my life if I don't atleast acknowledge it.

Onto another and much more frustrating subject. . .

First, you must know a couple of simple things about me. I like rap and rock music. I do not care for, in the least, Opera. I go to many concerts, and shows, and have watched even the most talented musician hit a bad note, or choose to watch a television screen in the middle of his set instead of play correctly.

That being said. . . Just because I do not care for Opera does not mean that I never listen to any music for fear I might hear something Operatic come out.

Furthermore, just because a musician hits a bad note, does not mean I discount the importance of their music. It also does not mean that I refuse to listen to it anymore.

Many of my friends have been hurt by Christians. Note, I didn't say "people claiming to be Christians". Because of that, they have chosen to discount, walk away from, hate, the whole concept of God or Christianity.

To those, I must say I am deeply sorry. I am sorry for the judgments that have been passed to you. I am sorry for the lies that have been told. I grieve over the manipulation that has left some of you so broken I fear you will never be able to see past it into God's love for you. I feel entirely helpless.

I wish that each of us could be Mozart. I wish that I could say that becoming a Christian meant you would never do anything, or experience anything hurtful, but it doesn't. Going along with my music theme, it's about the music, not the mistakes made while playing. It's also about God, not the mistakes His people make trying to play His song. All the things that go on at the hands of those of us who are terribly inadequate are not the bottom line. He is.

Monday, June 21, 2010


You would not call a man humane for ceasing to set mousetraps if he did so because he believed there were no mice in the house.~C.S. Lewis

Faith is not believing you are safe from drowning in a mud puddle. ~Me

It is easy to be confident when surrounded by people who believe in you.

It is easy to be brave when you know you are not alone.

It's easy to be funny when you have every reason to laugh.

It is easy to stand strong when the ground beneath you is solid.

Take all of those things away, and where are you?

Where am I really?

Working my way out mostly.

Finding things to rejoice and be confident in, even if it's the way a kitten transforms in my care, or the laughter of my babies.

But more than anything I am understanding for the first time in my life that God loves me, that He is the only one capable of loving me just as I am. He loves me when I fail. He loves me when I am scared, whiney, angry. He loves me when I'm not funny. He loves me when I'm skinny or fat. He loves me when I'm lost. He loves me when I'm found. He loves every tear, and every belt of laughter.

He loves me. And guess what? He loves you too.

Hang on....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Our Very Long Journey Home

I am the adoptive mother to two girls who were adopted out of the therapeutic foster care system. While I write frequently about the highs and lows of being a trauma mama, I think it is equally important to know how we got here. My girls case is the epitome of a failing system.

I know this is long and difficult to read, but I beg of you to please pass it on. Their story must be told so that other children, other families, do not have to go through this most awful journey. While I am, in many ways, broken beyond repair; it is my desire that no one else reach this point of helplessness. In knowledge there is hope for a better tomorrow.

I doubt if people knew things like this were allowed to happen that they would allow it to continue. Many times people are afraid to talk about this sort of thing, some are even embarrassed and that, to me, is a tragedy far worse than what happened. Silence allows the atrocities that broke my girls to continue...we will not be silent. 

From the Beginning

In Nov. 1998, at four months old, one of my girls was given to her father. When her sister was born in August of 1999, she was also sent to live with him. It is important to note that at the same time she was sending the babies to live with their father, the birth mother had a restraining order against him.

In May 2001 the father broke the order of protection after he choked her and beat her head into the door. The children remained in his home.

The following includes quotes that were taken from the termination of parental rights hearing:

In December of 2001 the family was threatened with eviction due to the filth in the home. Upon being inspected by DCS, it was found
"smoke was so thick in the residence that it was hard to breathe. I could see smoke in the house. There was a large ashtray on the end table full and running over onto the coffee, onto the table. There were two highchairs in the kitchen and the highchair trays and the highchairs were caked with dried, molded. dirty food that did not appear to be fresh food and was caked on at least half an inch thick.” This is where my babies ate . . .

“The floor was dirty, covered in old food, trash, animal feces, and roaches.” This is where my babies played. . . 

“The baby bed in the babies’ room was falling apart and tied together with string. The plastic covering over the baby mattress was torn and only about half of the covering was still on the mattress. There were pieces of foam torn loose from inside the mattress and it was all about the baby bed, all about the floor." This is where my babies slept. . . 

Upon returning several days later to see what had been done to remedy the situation, nothing was found.
“The children still had on the same clothing they did days before. Their hair was matted. Their faces and skin were dirty; they had on dirty diapers and smelled of urine. There were live crawling lice running rampant in their hair.” This is what my babies looked like. . . 

“The bathtub was black from never ever being cleaned out.” This is where my babies bathed. . .

“One month later when they returned conditions were worse, the same food found a month ago was still caked on the highchair.” 

Family services were put into place but the father refused to cooperate and never did clean the home or the children. They were repeatedly sent home with head lice from their head start program.

How is it legally ok to walk away from this scene and leave two small children? 

In August of 2002 police again became involved after my kiddos were found on a major highway unattended. The children were unable to speak and tell the officers who they were; or maybe they just wanted to forget. After some time, they were identified, and returned. Another warning was made by DCS.

In October 17 of 2002 a case manager came to the home. The father did not answer the door.
“From the window two small girls could be seen bungee corded in a room together, they both appeared to be trying to get loose and open the door.” The police were called and the children were removed. 

On Oct. 23, 2002, the Sullivan County Juvenile court returned the children to the father, ignoring DCS’s concerns for their safety. 

On October 31, 2002, DCS again removed the children after they had been sent home multiple times from head start for head lice. Their father chopping off their hair, in no particular fashion, was his only attempt to help them. At this time it was also discovered that the smallest of the children had hickies on their inner thighs and stomach.

On Nov. 2002 a permanency plan was devised for both parents. 

Six months later, May 9, 2003, this plan had not been followed and DCS filed for termination of parental rights. Between this day and Feb. 28, 2005 there were over 30 court hearings, many of which continuances due to the father's attorney not having what he was supposed to. One of the most ridiculous continuances was allowed due to the father being in jail for attempted murder and his attorney arguing that “he could not adequately defend himself from jail.”

In September 2003 the father was again charged with violating an order of protection and sent to jail until May of 2004. It must be noted here that up until he was placed in jail he had weekly visitation with the children at a local McDonald’s, supervised by the Department of Children’s Services. 

On Nov. 7, 2003 the children moved into my home after a stay with another foster family. This family wanted one of the children but not the other due to behavioral issues. My girls were tiny and still did not speak much. One of the girls, at five years old, weighed 22lbs; the other, at 4 years old weighed 23.

We began therapy at the children's advocacy center at this time as well.

It was weeks before the children would even let me touch them and months before I held them in my arms. It started with painted fingernails. First, I could paint their nails, then, I could massage their hands, and "see if you sit a little closer I can paint your toes too.”

On March 2004 the judge ended the trial and said that he wanted all the attorneys to resubmit briefs within thirty days and that within thirty days of that he would make a decision regarding the termination of parental rights.

In June of 2004 the father was again jailed for stabbing the mother after breaking into her home. He stayed in jail until Nov. 2004.

The children’s issues were complex and sadly common for those who have experienced childhood trauma. We worked desperately to find them the care that they needed. It was and continues to be a seemingly impossible process as the mental health system is just as bad as the judicial system.

In June 2004 we were referred to another therapist after the girls were officially diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder. This diagnosis necessitated a more intensive type of therapy. A couple of months later we began seeing the new therapist and a psychiatrist with our local mental health agency.

In July 2004 I wrote a letter to the court begging his honor to please uphold his original commitment to make a decision after the briefs were turned in in March 2004.

On a Friday in August 2004, the judge sent out a letter to all attorneys stating that if they did not have their briefs turned in within ten days he would not consider them and would make a decision as to termination of parental rights. 

The following Monday the judge collapsed dead in the courtroom. No, I’m not kidding! He was taken to the hospital and pronounced brain dead. His wife refused to accept this and had him transferred to a Nashville hospital where he awoke many months later and began recovery. The other local judges refused to touch the case if there was a chance of the previous judge’s return, so we waited on a miracle.

In Oct. of 2005, the judge returned to work made decisions from home because he was too sick to come into work.

On Nov. 28 of 2005 Termination was granted, again from the Judge's home. 

On Dec. 28, 2005, the very last day for an appeal to happen, the father's attorney, without ever talking to him, filed an appeal. Even further detrimental was the fact that the Sullivan County Court did not acknowledge the appeal and let us proceed with the adoption.

January 2, 2006, I am told it is finally over, no one had been made aware of the Dec. 28 appeal before giving me the "good news." We celebrate and send out and up praises to God. 

January 15, 2006, I am told, "oops, they didn't realize that the dad's attorney had appealed." I am also told that our pending adoption, and the guardianship order, previously granted were cancelled.

At this point, we did not know what to do. We had already told the kids they were ours forever. We had already given them their new names. They were so excited. We finally decided to proceed as if they were actually adopted and hope that nothing else went wrong. 

March 6, 2006, the appeal information was submitted to the Appeals Court of Knoxville by the Department of Children’s Services. I am told that this process is supposed to take about six months

September 5, 2006, the father's attorney finally chooses to turn in his briefs. Six months were allowed to pass, despite the fact that he was supposed to have this done within thirty days of filing the appeal. He also did not do this until the court reprimanded him.

September 27, 2006 the children finally begin therapy to address their extreme abuse, neglect, and loss issues.

Several months later, after multiple setbacks, we reached our breaking point. As I prayed and fussed with God about this whole situation, I asked, or demanded, or whatever you call it, with Him about whether or not we were doing what we were supposed to do. As many of you know this whole process was incredibly painful and at times completely overwhelming. 

I said to Him, "I'm tired of fighting the system, if we are supposed to do this, or even if we are not supposed to do this, I want the girls’ case to come to a conclusion this year."

At 8 am the very next morning, Friday March 2, 2007, DCS received news that we had finally gained termination of their parent’s rights; 3 years and over 30 court hearings later...

We had to wait an additional thirty days to see if the father or his attorney chose to appeal to the Supreme Court. 

On April 2, 2007 the children were finally made free for adoption. 

On June 20, 2007, in a hearing that lasted less than 15 minutes, surrounded by a small handful of friends and family, our four-year fight ended. No glory, no fireworks, just a little old man signing some paperwork. It just seemed to be such a mundane ending to something we all have worked so hard for. Strangely quiet and unremarkable for something that has changed my life so drastically. 

My children have suffered more than most will ever have nightmares about. I know they are troubled. I know they may never get better, but they are my babies. I love them. I will love them even if that is all I am ever able to do.

Saying No

Right now is a time of self sacrifice, a time of stepping up and beyond your normal. I’m here right now to tell you, ITS OK NOT TO. Anyone...