Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hello, 2016

Hello, 2016.

Hello, fresh start. Hello to new resolve, goals, and blank calendar pages. Hello, memories to be had. Hello, songs to be sung. Hello, new people to love. Hello, feelings to be felt.

I do a word every year, with the exception of 2015, for many reasons.

This year, I can't choose between 2 words, so I'm picking them both. They are both/and. They are essential for growth is so many ways. They are where.I' And they go together on multiple levels.

Self-care & Prayer

That's what they are. No fluff, no fru-fru...and really no words needed to explain.

I must take care of myself. I need to do that spiritually, personally, physically, as a parent and wife, friend, homemaker, and a children's director at my church. I need to put up firmer boundaries. I need to be able to prioritize and fight battles that matter (instead of all of them). I need to take care of me so I can take care of those who need me. 

2015 was essential in my spiritual growth, especially in prayer. It was such a dark year. "Valley of the Shadow of Death" we call it around our home. Through prayer, I saw answers that I have never quite seen, and I have prayed prayers I have never quite prayed. Between the War Room and a new focus in my prayer journal, I have seen God work in my heart and those around me. I was brave when I used to struggle to seek the answers to hard things. I was tested in seemingly every way, and on the other side, I realized that through prayer, I sustained.

I didn't thrive. But this year I will. Sustaining can often be as important as thriving, I think. But this year, I will thrive. I will seek. I will find. And I will use this verse to guide me:

So, hello 2016. It's me. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Ruby's Adoption Day

Today is not just any day.

It is Ruby Grace's Adoption Day.

We've had her since birth. We're really lucky like that.

But that doesn't mean these four and a half years of waiting was easy. At all.

There were days of doubt where we weren't sure if she was forever going to be ours. There were days of sickness where I wondered if I'd always be the one taking care of her...there for her in the night...rocking her to sleep. There were moments of sheer terror...moments where we love her so much but aren't sure what the future holds.


There were moments/hours/days/weeks of peace. Peace that I didn't understand, but peace that I so desperately needed. And then just when we thought our journey was almost done, a new wrench would be thrown in to the mix. And the flood of uncertainty would be overwhelming us once again.

She will love being the lime-light. She thinks everyone who she knows (at all) will be in attendance at some point on her day. She calls this her "Dee-Option Day" and we've had a countdown on the wall due to the sheer excitement that's built up at our house!

Today we will all write a blessing in her blessing book...the one she will keep for all her days. Where words and scriptures are written specifically for her life. And we will be thankful. Our hearts will be full. Fuller than normal. Because this day...this celebration...this can't be taken from us. It's ours forever.

Today and forever - she will be a Keathley. It's a piece of her that no one can take away. And though I'm adopted myself, I'm not sure I ever understood the importance of Gotcha Day until I had kids to "gotcha" myself.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Adoption=The Gospel. Our journey is brutal at times....harder than we'd ever imagined. It's not fair. It's steep, and to be quite honest, there are days when you don't know if you're going to make it through to the next day.

And then you the grace of God. And that grace? It's where we live. The ups and downs and ugly and beautiful...grace surrounds us always. And though my story looks so different than the one I had planned...I'm so grateful.

For it is so.much.better.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Adoption: What Not To Say (Pt. 2) - Foster Care Edition

I've been meaning to write a "pt. 2" to my original which was inspired by this blog post a few years ago. So here we are.

National Adoption Month has me all fired up for my passion in life. Like it or hate it; I'm going to write about it.

To start, in case you aren't familiar with my family, we have 3 children that we have adopted {or will adopt} through foster care. This road is hard and messy and unpredictable and full of paperwork and waiting (much like most adoptions). There are so many hands and opinions and court cases and hurt and pain spattered throughout your child's journey. And every.single.bit of it is out of your control.

So this blog is going to address several statements that are made to us about foster care. Some of which are from people that we love dearly. Some of which are idiots on forms of media. And I promise - in my next post, I will give you various ways to support adoptive families (specific to foster, being that is our journey and what I know). Here we go: What not to say: Foster Care Edition.

So, um. How much do you get paid every month to do foster care?

Well, frankly, that is public information (should you really want to know). That will avoid me looking at you like you just informed me I had 7 eyeballs. But really.

It's really not something we talk about. And the sheer amount of money spent on clothing, furniture, equipment, and appointments new adoptive/foster parents have is outrageous. Not to mention the fact that the state actually allots every single penny to something specific (ie: allowance, furnishings, clothing, housing, etc). The (very little) money received is not at all what it takes to raise a child, let alone one with special needs. And let it be known: all foster children have special needs. {But that's a blog post for another day.}

So really....just...let's not talk about it. It makes us {fp} feel like you {the curious friend} think we do this for the money. Which is not the case. So let's just not go there.

So, um. What's wrong with your child? Also - similarily: What happened? Where are the birth parents? Why are they in foster care?

You know what? There is so much wrong with my child/ren. They have endured trauma you and I can literally not imagine. And I will not tell you about it; that's their story. They may not want it known. And secondly - DO NOT ask me about this in front of my sweet, sweet children. It immediately puts them back in that place. It regresses behavior. It makes them curious. It often makes them start asking questions about their own worth.

I realize that you have no idea that your innocent and curious questions can cause something like this, but it does. Please don't. Love, pray, take my kid out for ice cream and to a playground. Giggle, joke, color with them, and spoil them. Remember their birthday. But don't ask them {or me} these questions.

Why is your adoption taking so long?

I appreciate you understanding that we are in waiting {still} after 4 years {and no, I'm not kidding or exaggerating}. I agonize over this daily. I question foster care because of this. I have to tell someone every.single.time I take my kid to the doctor, dentist, etc {or I get in trouble}. I have to write down every.single.time I give my kids meds {and I'm supposed to write down every.single.time I discipline them, how I discipline them, behaviors before and after, etc - #right}. I have to ask permission to go visit family and friends outside the state lines. I have to tell them our whereabouts every second of every day. I have to ask permission for my kid to stay the night with a trusted friend {And my trusted friend has to go through a background check. I kid you not.}.

But I'll tell you why this is taking so long. A million reasons, but the core is this: our system is broken. Families are broken. I'm trying to love through the brokenness, but it's all broken. Case workers have too many cases on their load. Agencies are overwhelmed. I can't even imagine the horror, embarrassment, and shame a birth parent must be feeling. And the children...they're so broken.

I can't fix it. I can only love this child {and potentially his/her family if I'm able}. So I don't know why it's taking so long, but it sucks. This you should know.

**Update: We have an Adotion Day scheduled for December 2015! Wahoo!!!**

What if they're messed up? What if they have issues? What happens if you don't connect with them? {Thanks to Pat Robertson for some of his idotic comments about adoption on these.}

1) We are all messed up, no matter how you wanna cut the cookie. That's an unfair question.
2) We all have issues, even if they're secret ones we don't want anyone to know. No one is perfect. No family is perfect, biological or not.
3) Connecting is an issue for a whole 'nother blog. But to be clear, a lot of times, connection will happen over time with education (on the parent's part) on what the child needs most.

Listen...I'm not going to lie. My three kids come with their own personality, strengths, problems, and gifts. {Which is also how your biological kids come, too.} What is different with my children is they had life experiences which were caused by another human being that has altered {and turned up side down} their world. No matter what they've been through, how they see things, who they truly are...when I take them in my home, I must remember that these consequences are not my child's doing. It is their reaction to a hard, difficult, and dark situation {that I can't possibly understand, even if I have heard it with my ears}.

Some days are so very difficult. There'll be a flare up, and you'll have no idea where it came from. A {song, idea, thought, dream, book, sound, memory} has thrown them for a loop, and I don't know which way is up {or worse yet, how to turn it back up for them}. Sometimes the weirdest things offend them.

And then there's the growth. The absolute growth. That gentle, un-wavering, whispering love that can break through walls. And we do. And we enjoy when those days happen. And sometimes, we look at our three kids and can't imagine loving any 3 other human beings as much as we do them. They truly are gifts from God. Each of them have taught me more about myself, about the Gospel, about God, and mostly about grace than I have ever learned elsewhere.

There's no perfect child. There's no perfect parent. There's no perfect family.

Foster care isn't for everyone, that's for sure. But everyone can do something. My next blog post is about just that. I will share it within a few days.

Until then, love a foster parent. Love a foster child. Smile. Be grateful.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Remembering Larry

I'll tell ya what. That whole..."time heals all things"...that's a big lie. A year later, we miss him deep; we miss him wide. And we still wonder who we're supposed to call when the car breaks down or if we run out of gas. We still wait for his phone call every time there's a siren {}. We often will respond in "Larry" fashion to a song, story, or antic. We roll our eyes anytime anyone talks about Nascar.

I remember so much about him.

The way his eyes twinkled when he laughed...
The way he took great delight in all of his grandchildren {and spoke of them constantly}...

The pride he had in all 4 of his children...
The joy he got in a single phone call {didn't matter who was on the other line, he was happy}...
His love of muscle cars...
His {sometimes embarrassing} hillbilly ways...
His stories...constant stories of his buddies and sometimes his siblings...
How he wanted to know where we all were at all times...
How protective he was over those he loved...
The questions he had about heaven and grace...
His fondness for very weird food combos {chili hot dogs, slaw dogs, macaroni & tomatoe paste, potatoes with EVERY.thing}...
The assurance that He loved Jesus and wanted to be in heaven one day...

 I remember how much he loved his grandchildren. That's honestly the thing that sticks out most about this guy. He knew everything there is to know about these babies. He worried and fretted about them night and day.

I remember how much he loved to make his grandkids' day. Below is one of my favorite memories of him ever. So proud to take little D out in his buddy's hot rod. It is, to this day, the first and last thing Dillon always says about his Pa-Paw...that guy loved his cars!

I remember how big he loved, how well he loved. I remember if there was any question in his mind that we {any of us who loved him} could possibly be upset at him, he wouldn't sleep until it was resolved.

I remember being a little nervous...unsure of how he would respond or react to us starting our family with adoption {via foster care}. Every person reacts differently, and this was a guy who would likely see my child multiple times a week. Was he going to accept our children? Was he going to love them fully? Was he going to hold back and be awkward?

But that day we told them we were going to be parents, all those fears were put to rest. In October of 2009, he took those 8 printed out pictures of his future grandson and he put them in his pocket. Every.Single.Day he asked about him. "When will we get him? Why is it taking so long? What does he love? I can't wait to meet my Dillon." And when they discovered a mutual love of cars and all things "manly," they never had a dull moment between the two of them. 

As we packed up their belongings, I found those pictures, well worn and faded. They were in his dresser with other important papers. With big fat tears, I thanked God for a father-in-law who not only loved me but loved my babies, big and small. Each time we told them of our new addition...with great enthusiasm and love, he opened his arms. He loved so fully.

I see so much of him in his 4 kids and all of his grandkids. My deepest hope is that they, too, will love big like their pa-paw, take time to help other people, and be friends with everyone. I remember lots of anxious conversations by his bedside in those last months. He would fret that his grandkids wouldn't remember him. He wondered if they would know how much he loved them. He pleaded with us in desperation to make sure and tell them. 

And we do. As often as possible. And we will. Always.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Show 'N Tell: My Office Corner

Due to the chaotic nature of life, I rarely get around to my gargantuan to do list.

Today, however, I wasn't dealing with real life. I have a few extra days with the kids, so I thought I'd knock one out.

To start, I'm begging you not to judge. My house is almost always in a state of upheaval (I must find balance one of these days). know...just ignore the mess. :)

This is the BEFORE corner. We have our "office" in a little corner in the living/dining/family room. It's walls have been bare since we made it the corner office. I have collected and saved things that I wanted to put up there (mostly from our old "office" space, which was Ruby's room - and is now Molly's). Please note the painting tape in the top corner. Yes we've lived here for 8 years, and yes...we painted before we moved in. So...we can just not talk about that, mmmkay?

Then after hours of moving, unhooking all the electronic stuff (which,, I have a somewhat blank canvas. I cleaned baseboards I didn't even know were there. And...yuck. But I digress.

Here is the AFTER. And yes. I'm in love. But then again, I did make most of these things, so it's a bit of a piece of me on the wall. I proudly admit that I did remove that piece of painters tape, though it is not shown in the picture.

I love the mish mash of it all. It's so much like our life. Cheap calendar, cute dog frame, handmade goodies, words of inspiration, pictures of the ones we love the most.

My favorite piece is our family motto: be kind always. I threw this together to fill a hole there. Just a visual reminder of what we say all the time in these walls (which is a blog post for another day).

                       there's one whole corner of my house that is both clean and presentable. That's asking a lot. Thought I should show it off.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Gotcha - Ruby Grace

I haven't graced these here blog pages for suuuuuuch a looooong time.

Eh. Life.

But today I had to write.

It's hard to believe that 4 years ago, I was walking in to work the Farm Progress Show with my very tired hubs when we got the phone call. It was short. It was sweet. It. Was. Life. Changing.

"Dillon's birth mom had a baby. Do you want the baby. We have to know within the hour."

Um...YES!!!! We didn't know if the baby was a boy or a girl, but we did know that she was an answer to prayers....groanings & desires of the heart...

These 4 years have been hard. Good. Hard. Heavy. Uncertain. Tiring. Joyful. Sad. Questionable. (Did I mention exhausting? Because that's a thing, too.)

And 4 years, to the day, I'll be walking in with my now 9 year old to work that same Farm Progress Show with many of the same people who shared so much joy with me that first day.

In the adoption world., Gotcha Day is a big deal...Mine's January 16th, and my parents almost always call and make sure I know how much I am loved on that day. It's like a 2nd birthday. And thus it must be celebrated.

So tomorrow, we'll retell her that story. The one God weaved for our family (and is still weaving, really). We'll remind her how much she is loved and how much she has changed our family. We'll reflect on the pure joy and the pure insanity that her life has (at times) brought us. And most of all, we'll be thankful.

I don't understand God's ways. I don't know if I ever will.

But I, for one, am glad this little spit-fire, sassy, smiling girl is all mine.

**And there'll be another celebration soon when we make her officially ours!**