Sunday, December 09, 2018

WEEKEND O' CHRISTMAS CHEER

Unexpectedly, we had a weekend chock full of Christmas cheer, and my tradition-loving, holiday obsessed heart soaked it all in.

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Friday night was actually planned - we went to Garvan Gardens with friends to see the lights which is always a holiday favorite for our family.
(Past years: {2017} {2016} {2015} {2014} {2013} {2012} {2011})

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The weather was looking dicey, so we switched up our normal plan of dinner first to try to maximize the best possible weather.  This meant we got to the gardens around 5:20 with NO line and no people.  I know the rain played a part, but we'll always go on the early end from now on.  It was so nice to not battle the crowds and the rain was barely there til the end.  Totally worth it.  The lights are SO beautiful, and they add things every year.  We loved our Purple Cow dinner afterwards as well.

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On Saturday morning, the girls went and rang the Salvation Army bell with Grandma and Grandpa!

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Saturday evening took us to a church Christmas experience where one of our CFA directors plays the drums.  The Frozen characters were there, and Violet was so excited to meet them.. . . until she wasn't.

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Today, we were supposed to have our Christmas staff party, but the weather was SO unpredictable that we moved it to January.  It turned out to be a cold but lovely day, and we managed a holiday tour of downtown that was actually so fun.  It helps a lot when your children mostly cooperate, which ours did.  We started with lunch at Flying Fish.

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We went to the State Capitol to see the Gingerbread competition and holiday decor.

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After that, we saw other fun things downtown, including the gorgeous tree at the Capital Hotel and Santa and Mrs. Claus who happened to be there.

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It was all SO festive and fun, and I'm so thankful for these sweet moments in the midst of everything else.  We rounded it all out by celebrating the second Sunday of Advent as we wait for Christ's arrival.

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Sunday, December 02, 2018

CHRISTMAS TREE FARM & EXPECTATIONS

As we head into December, I am struck by just how much I love all the holiday hullabaloo and how much my soul also tiptoes towards it, uncertain about how any one thing will go with all of the personalities at play and the real life stress that goes along with it all.  December feels like a beautifully lit up minefield of delightful opportunities and the possibility of expectations gone awry at every turn.

As our family has grown, I've gotten slightly better at managing my expectations for what an experience will hold.  There will be highs and lows for both the little people and the adults.  We all bring emotions to the table, some more than others on any given day.

Yesterday's morning had not had a great start, so I wasn't sure what our afternoon would hold.  As it turns out, we had a pretty great time at Motley's this year with only a couple of extra bathroom trips and no major meltdowns from anyone involved.

Past Motley trips here - {2017} {2015} {2014}

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We got there just in time for the pig races.  Rudolph even managed to win the last one.

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The petting zoo and the giant pirate ship and jump pillow all delighted the kids.

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All in all, we had a good time and enjoyed being together, but it just as easily could have gone downhill and has in the past.  So many factors are always at play.

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So as we kick off December this year, I am hoping and praying to keep things a little simpler both in our life and in my mind.  I want to do the things that matter to us and let go of the things that don't, and mostly, I want to enjoy the good moments and not put too much stock in the bad.  Chaos is draining, but we have SO MANY cherished times that really more than compensate.  We have each other, and we are celebrating the birth of our sweet Jesus.  It's jaw-droppingly amazing that he came down to be with us.  He lived more chaos and suffering than I can even comprehend, and he came to bring us hope forever.

Hoping and praying we all choose to see more of the hope that's offered to us this year!

Friday, November 30, 2018

TRAUMA ISN'T BOUND BY TIME

November is National Adoption Month, and instead of writing about the joys of adoption, of which there are plenty, I plan on speaking to some of the trauma entailed in the journey.  As time goes on, and I learn more, my awareness about this issue grows.

I serve on the board of Immerse AR, which used to primarily serve youth who had aged out of foster care without finding a forever family.  Our mission has shifted and evolved over the years spent doing the work and now seeks to address the multilayered issues that face these youth.  We have also gone "upstream" to help families who have adopted or are fostering to be healthy places where healing is taking place.  We have broadened our criteria to include runaway and trafficked youth, as well as serving pregnant mothers who wish to parent their children.

As we have done the work and engaged in the lives, clarity has begun to emerge.  We are battling trauma.  Usually, we are facing big T Trauma that leaves wounds at every level of a person.  When kids are abandoned or abused or even placed lovingly for adoption, there is trauma involved.  Losing a birth family for whatever reason is traumatic and leaves a mark.  When that is compounded with physical, verbal and/or sexual abuse or neglect, it means there is much to overcome, and that healing is not easily won.

This work is often slow-going and feels like 2 steps forward, 1 step back and then run a lap backwards and then crawl in the right direction a bit.  Our expectations for people who have experienced such trauma as children have morphed as we've begun to understand what true healing and overcoming requires.  It requires infinitely more than we initially thought.  We are not offering homes to fix homelessness, we are addressing the needs and attitudes that led to the homelessness that are rooted in the crises experienced over a lifetime.

I am someone who grew up in a rather charmed existence, and this has taken me a long time to comprehend.  I arrived into young adulthood without a major crisis to speak of, which I now recognize for the amazing rare gift that is.  But, I remember my first brush with trauma, and it shook my core and reorganized my identity.  I can still see the camp office wall that I was staring at when I got the news that my dad had cancer.  I could tell that the diagnosis was tragic, but I had no grid for tragedy, and it took me far longer than it should have to comprehend what was happening.

I ran through all the stages of grief and for the next two years lived many high highs and low lows in a battle that was ultimately lost here on earth for him and won for eternity.  It has been 17.5 years since I took that call, but my body and mind can go back immediately to those moments and memories.  I am forever marked and changed, and because of the strong foundation I had, I have been able to heal, though I will never be the same.

My trauma is so tiny compared to what so many kids in the foster care system have faced or are facing.  Abuse, neglect, and uncertainty as a way of life is severely damaging, and when we look at overcoming and healing, we have to understand that it will take an equal amount OR MORE healing to break into the damage that has been done.  The good must penetrate as deeply and as widely as the bad did.  There is no quick fix, just as none of the trauma happened quickly.

When I see my own adopted kids, who I have known since the 3rd day of their lives, I have to recognize that there were 35 weeks before that.  They experienced things that are embedded within them that aren't bound within a timeframe.  We have so much hope for their futures, but it has come though acknowledgement of their past and what that past means to us all.  It is far more complex than I imagined it would be, and it shapes all levels of our family.  We need more help.  We need more wisdom.  We have far more needs than we might have otherwise had if we had not walked down the road of adoption.

So as National Adoption Month speeds towards a close, I hope you'll take the time to consider the trauma that is involved in the loss (and the gaining) of a family.  It marks everyone it touches.  I'm so thankful to serve a God who is in the business of healing and hope.  When I am tempted to despair and doubt, he reminds me of his faithfulness and love.  And I hope to keep learning what healing looks like and doing the work it takes.

{Also - if you feel compelled to give to the work of Immerse, our needs have grown as our work has expanded!  We would feel honored to have you join us in this work.}


Thursday, November 22, 2018

THANKSGIVING 2018

Happy Thanksgiving from our crew!

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We had an incredibly low-key celebration, which is good, because our kitchen was made functional just in the nick of time.  Having in-town family also makes a huge difference, because my MIL very graciously did a bunch of cooking since I didn't have a lot of lead time.  She brought a fully cooked turkey over, among other things.  I literally did nothing until 10 pm the night before when I started on some pies.

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John's parents came over around 11:15, and we ate around 12.  Bella helped me a lot with the cooking, which I appreciated and enjoyed.

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After eating, we went around talking about what we are thankful for, which the kids embraced and ran with.

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The weather was so beautiful that we went to the park and then on a walk to get out of the house and get a little movement.

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It could not have been more pleasant.  Sadly, Grandma and Grandpa could not join us, because Lenny's knee was giving him trouble.  They ended up going to the ER since he couldn't walk, and he was given crutches and pain-killers, so it was probably good they didn't try to go tromping through the woods.

2018 has pitched us all kinds of surprises - good and hard.  I'm thankful for the mix, because it keeps us humble and looking towards the Lord for all things.  I hope and pray that your heart is filled with gratitude for how he is shaping your life.