Just Look...

Just Look...

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016.

Our last day of 2016 was a day much like the year was... It started as a day of mishaps, missteps, up moods and down moods. Plans changed multiple times and expectations were adjusted. However, we ended today by taking a spontaneous drive off the main path where we found incredible and unexpected beauty. Here's to a 2017 of more of the same.


2016 was the strangest year. I also measure my years in school years rather than calendar years and 2016 started halfway through an incredibly challenging school year.  In fact, it was during the end of the 2015-16 school year and the first part of 2016 that I actively looked into going back to school to add a school counseling certification. I had started to feel like the true reward for me was in relationships and that, although I would desperately miss teaching literature, that I just didn't have what it took anymore to be in the classroom. I will never forget my lowest point, sitting in a room of consultants, school system personnel, and other teachers, and realizing that it was like everyone was speaking a different language than I did. I almost frantically scanned the room, doubting my call for the first time in my life, and my gaze rested on the guidance counselor. I thought about the students in my classroom that particular semester, students I was giving my all for, students who were suffering through so much more challenging situations than anyone should ever have to live through, and I realized that maybe I didn't have to speak the language of those in that room because I spoke the language of empathy and compassion and action and maybe that's what kids need. I contacted UTC and had my transcript sent to me (and none of this was a complete surprise because when I graduated with my undergrad in English and psychology, I did it with the thought that if teaching English wasn't my thing, I could always add a Master's in Christian Counseling) then checked with Lee and UTC and some other programs to see what was required. Sometime around March/April, the ground beneath my feet started to settle somewhat and light pierced the darkness. I decided to give myself another school year before I made a decision. The year ended with a graduation ceremony for a group of kids I will adore forever and ever.

At the same time I was fighting and struggling through a difficult school year, things in our family were so hard. I have always cherished the close relationship that our entire extended family has but that close relationship also means more people to worry over. My grandparents' health failed drastically in 2015-2016 and the spring of 2016 came with some incredibly hard decisions for my mom and Uncle Doug. My grandaddy fell and broke his hip in March and we were all forced to face, for the first time, how affected my Grandmother was by dementia. My mom and Doug and Pam took turns staying with her and we granddaughters did what we could in taking turns as well to relieve them. It hurt so much to see my grandmother in her situation, to see my mom in pain and exhausted, and to see my grandparents living in two separate places. In June, we moved my grandmother into the nursing home to share a room with my grandaddy and, though it broke my heart to know she was leaving her house for the last time, I was so thankful that they would be able to spend their days side-by-side again. The summer brought an emotional respite (a much-needed one) but also a lot of physical work (mostly for my mom, although we helped as we could) preparing the house my grandparents had lived in for an estate sale and eventual sale of the house. This was equally torturous, having to see my mom struggle with feelings of guilt and anxiety and pain, even though the decisions made were clear, were best, and were the only possible options. 

The summer of 2016 brought a major highlight, and one I had been hoping to see since 2013.... Kelsey got her turn to go to Cambodia with us. It was so special, first of all to get to return after two years, but then also to get to share the place and people I love with her. And I saw a Kelsey on that trip that showed me that the heart I have always knew she had for others is truly HER. There is nothing like seeing your kids engaged in ministry and walking beside other people. 

The LAST thing I ever expected from 2016 (or any year) was a medical situation, but the summer ended in an ambulance, an ICU unit, and an operating room. The days of worry, of a low heartrate, of questions in the hospital, of surgery recovery, and of missing the first days of a new school year were days of solidifying a lesson God has been working with me on for many years now, but a lesson that was forged the summer before in a little outdoor Jerusalem cafe in the shadow of the Old City Walls... a lesson to Be Still and Know. God had to reveal parts of myself to me the summer before, then test that in that hot first week of August to prepare me for what was to come the following weeks and months. Thankfully the health situation resolved itself (minus one gall bladder and still with a crazy low heartbeat) and I started the 2016-2017 school year feeling weak physically but stronger than ever before in others. (This is an interesting paradox to my start of the 2015-2016 year in which I started feeling physically stronger than ever before but weaker in so many others...)

This past school semester has been such a pleasurable one for me and the girls as far as school is concerned. My classes were just precious and adorable, filled with beautiful souls who blessed my spirit. My Holocaust Lit class was the most productive and efficient I have ever taught, offering an incredible redemption for me in my purpose in that venue. Kelsey started middle school and has just owned it, as I knew she would. She has made wonderful friends, friends I would have picked for her, has succeeded academically, and just made her third sports team of the school year. Emma has carried all of the success and joy that she started middle school with into her final year there, solidifying friendships and academics and athletics. They are both growing in their relationship with God and have had several spiritual experiences through our youth group that I am so thankful to see. Although Kraig isn't in school, he too has had a successful and productive year of work, finishing his 20th year at Lifecare, a fact that is rare in this day and time and something I am so proud of him for accomplishing.

I can't write a post about 2016 and not mention the election, but I also can't write a post about 2016 and discuss the election right now. It all still feels too heavy and too raw to talk about yet, and maybe ever. If nothing else, it drove me to my knees and I have no doubt that as I pray for the country, the office, and the President, it will keep me there.

August 11 was the beginning of that spontaneous drive off the main path that led to the incredible and unexpected beauty, because that was the day I saw a Facebook post that forever changed the trajectory of our lives. This part of our year has been covered in many different ways on this blog, so I won't belabor the point here, but the moments from August to this night have been filled with such a beautiful Presence of our Father, with an undeniable Peace, and with a certainty that we are following His Ultimate Call. Our family has grown in faith, in love one for another, and in anticipation of what is to come. 

All in all, looking at it from this perspective (the end, haha!), 2016 has been a good year for us. There were moments of great struggle and great reward, but those are the rhythms of life. We look forward with great hope and excitement into 2017 and all that it will bring with it.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve. The house is quiet. The girls are at Mom's, Kraig is making shirts in the basement, and I have Christmas music playing softly while I finish up a few Christmas gift designs. I keep thinking about how this is the last Christmas exactly like this one.

Of course, every Christmas is the last one exactly like itself, isn't it? Kraig and I aren't staying up late putting toys together anymore. Now we wake our kids up on Christmas Day instead of the reverse. My grandparents aren't able to be present at every single Christmas gathering now, able only to attend the Christmas Day festivities. Some years bring gifts you cannot wait to give, others you feel like you were struggling to think of ANYTHING to give (that was this year for me). Some years Christmas sneaks up on you, others it feels long-anticipated. One day Christmas won't even bring kids waking up in our house anymore, but rather coming to visit, hanging their coat instead of making their bed.

But this Christmas is the last one as a foursome. And it has had lots of feelings attached to it. We are all very aware of the changes to come (and probably very unaware of others, haha!). There is also a sense, at least for me and Kraig (I haven't talked about this much to the girls), of feeling incomplete. And yet also more complete than ever before. We are in a time of waiting, much like the Advent season, much like Mary probably felt as she made that long journey to Bethlehem. We are also in a time of great anticipation and fulfillment of a promise, also much like Mary probably felt as she bedded down in the straw of that cave, birth pains beginning, ready to look into the face of her Son.

Her Son, Who first was His Son. 

Our sons and daughter, who first were His sons and daughter. 

Tomorrow celebrates the day that Mary got to feel His tiny fingers wrap around hers for the first time, the day that she cradled His downy head in her hands, listened to His newborn mewing, and saw in His eyes her whole purpose. We won't get to wrap our arms around two boys and a girl tomorrow, feeling the first hug. We won't get to hear their voices for the first time, to add the laughter of three more to our family chorus. We won't get to see their faces tomorrow, to hear their excitement as they wake up on their first tender Tennessee Christmas morning.

But we will hold to the same promise that Mary held to throughout her pregnancy, delivery, and the years of loving Him on earth... the promise that just as He was His first, they were His first. And just as He walked beside Him during His years on earth, so He is walking beside them across the world right now. He is preparing their hearts, He is holding their hands, and He is loving them through the beautiful caregivers He has provided in their lives "for such a time as this". And our other promise that we cling to is that next Christmas will look different, will be much louder, and will be filled with love multiplied. And for that we are so thankful this year.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Watching You Walk

It hardly seems like two years ago that you and I sat in the van and waited for Emma to make that walk. I remember that you were hanging over the backseat, staring desperately at the door, your 4th grade self breathlessly waiting to find out if she made the volleyball team. That was our first foray into school sports and we all knew how much was weighing on her results. You watched and watched and then when you saw her, you shouted aloud and said, "Mom, I can't tell if she made it or not!"

That was one day's tiny taste for you in what it's like to be a mom. As I sat in the van today, alone this time, and waited for YOU to make the same walk, praying for grace in success and an equal amount of grace in denial, I watched breathlessly to find out if you made the sixth grade volleyball team. As you walked out the door, I studied your gait from afar, searching for any sign of despondency or delight. The day before, you ran/skipped to the car, making the answer to the first cut quite clear. Today, it wasn't clear. When you got close enough for me to see your face, I searched your expression for disappointment or excitement. Still nothing. I watched you walk to the car and I thought back on how many other times I have watched you walk. 

Watched you walk (toddle) those first shaky steps, knowing these were the first steps away from me... watched you walk (awkwardly because ski boots don't walk well) into ski school at age two and hoped you and I would both survive the day on the Utah slopes...watched you walk into kindergarten on the first day, praying not to see timidity in your steps... watched you walk up the steps of the church van for your first trip to youth camp, hoping those steps were firm and sure... watched you walk through Yad Vashem, pleading with God for you to understand and not be damaged by being exposed to such horror so young... watched you walk on trembling legs to the stage of Conn Center last Christmas to play your guitar in the Mayfield program, knowing how terrified you were because I felt the same way... watched you walk out of school on a thousand days, reading your day and your mood in your steps... watched you walk out of elementary school for the last time in May, both of us sobbing over the relationships that we were going to miss so very much... watched you walk through the courtyard of an orphanage in Siem Reap, Cambodia, arms grasped by tens of little hands, knowing that what may have been awakened in you on that trip could one day take you far, far away from us... watched you walk into a big new school for the first time and knew that you were going to shine... watched you walk up to the case worker doing our home study and introduce yourself in a nervous voice and felt a mixture of fear and love as I thought about our future... watched you walk out of cross country tryouts, swim tryouts, and now volleyball tryouts and marveled at the fact that this non-athlete has somehow produced two 4-sport children... watched you walk angrily into the house when you made a bad choice and I disciplined you on the drive home... watched you walk (really tumble) around with Emma, goofing off, and been so proud that y'all love each other so... watched you walk arm in arm with your friends and saw their faces beam as they clamor for your smile and loved that you are mine... 

And I didn't let myself go there long, but for a second I glanced into the future at other times I will watch you walk...
Into the house after a date, wondering how it went... into my classroom... into an ACT testing room, a car for your first drive, the stage in Raider Arena on graduation day, a college dorm, down an aisle... 

Life is full of winding roads, Kelsey, but I want you to know that watching you walk them will always be my favorite thing. Congratulations on making the volleyball team. I'm your number one fan.


 

 

 

 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

awakening

Isn't life funny? It took me 37 years to discover my true self and it happened during a month stay in Israel in the summer of 2015. The symbol for me of that self-discovery is a little Italian bistro in a bustling mall in Jerusalem. I always chose a table outside with a view of the Old City Walls. There, in the shadow of ancient history's storied walls, I found the truest version of me, and the one I will carry into my future. I ate there alone (something I had never done anywhere) more nights than I didn't, spending time in prayer and study and reflection and introspection. The "return to life" (see: Joseph Campbell) has been more challenging than I ever would have imagined. The year after Israel was the hardest year I have lived through in 39 years. From a challenging year professionally to an emotionally dark year for my extended family to deep struggles personally, August 2015-August 2016 was a time of great turmoil and pain. I believe the seeds planted in Israel encountered a season of painful growth last year. Growth involves tests and pruning and tilling. It's amazing to me, though, how almost to the date, a new year brought light and fruit and hope. My school year this year feels better, my grandparents are together and happy (which means my mom is at peace), we have started an incredible journey as a family, a journey of hope and promise. I'm forever grateful for that July in Israel and that little bistro that represents my own awakening. Even knowing of the year that came after, I'm still filled with nostalgia and happiness every time I look at this little bag.



 

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

I Will Look

I haven't been able to get Aleppo off my mind since that one video. The one I watched yesterday, the one that was linked in the article about the babies being burned alive. It's too much for me right now, and yet I don't get that option. It can't be too much. If it's too much, I become the ones I caution against, the ones I teach about, the ones I teach my kids to beware of....

So tonight, I had to look. And read. And listen. And mourn. And remember that "never again" simply wasn't true. Because tomorrow I will be teaching about other genocides. I will take them with me through the Killing Fields of Cambodia, down the halls of S-21 in Phnom Penh. I will tell them about the churches with pews filled with clothing in Rwanda. I will talk about the toddler in Darfur and the scavenging bird and the photographer who committed suicide later. I will share the markings of the homes of Christians in Iraq. And tomorrow, I will add a new chapter in this ghastly book of hate and apathy. Tomorrow I will tell them about the babies in Aleppo, the mothers and fathers who carried their children from the rubble. Tomorrow I will share the goodbyes from residents of a once-thriving city that is now a wasteland.

But tonight, I wrote. Inspired by Peter Fischl's "To the Little Polish Boy, Standing with His Arms Up" poem, I wrote my own version for the children of Aleppo. The link to Peter Fischl's poem is here.

The photo that captured my heart is below, credit to CreditAgence France-Presse — Getty Images.

Residents who had fled the violence in the Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood reached Aleppo’s Fardos area on Tuesday. 

And here is my poem.

To the Little Boys and Girls
in the Brightly Colored Jackets

I would like to be a photojournalist
So I could take pictures of you
Little Boys and Girls 
in the Brightly Colored Jackets

Walking side by side with your parents
Holding their hands
as you flee the streets of your city, the city
on whose streets you 
used to kick a soccer ball
but instead now flee bombs and bullets

I would take photos of your downturned mouth
your innocent little hands
your cowlick that perks jauntily just over your left eye

I would make pictures of you 
and the world who said nothing

I would like to be a writer
so I could tell the story of you,
Little Boys and Girls in Brightly Colored Jackets

Walking side by side with your parents
Holding their hands 
as you flee the streets of your city, the city
on whose streets you
used to kick a soccer ball 
but instead now flee bombs and bullets

I would write the story of you
and the world who read nothing

I am not an artist, not a known
But my heart is full of the sight of you

You stand out amidst the rubble
so the whole world cannot 
ignore you any longer
Little Boys and Girls in Brightly Colored Jackets

Walking side by side with your parents
Holding their hands
as you flee the streets of your city, the city
on whose streets you
used to kick a soccer ball 
but instead now flee bombs and bullets

And the World who said nothing

I’ll shout your story so loud
that it will burn the ears
of the world who heard nothing

Four million pages long
will be the story
A million pages for each year of 
your little life
The life that is disregarded and ignored by
the world who saw nothing
So the entire world can see you
Little Boys and Girls in Brightly Colored Jackets

Walking side by side with your parents
Holding their hands
as you flee the streets of your city, the city
on whose streets you
used to kick a soccer ball 
but instead now flee bombs and bullets

And the story will
remain so the deaf
and blind
world
Now 
will know
that “Never Again”
just meant “we can look the other way”

The world 
Who was too busy to pay 
attention to you
Little Boys and Girls in Brightly Colored Jackets

I am not a writer
And I am not a photojournalist
And I am not a politician 
And I am not a relief worker

I am just a teacher

But I can pass your story on
to the torchbearers in my classroom
I can show them how to look
I can remind them to hear
I can gently pass your little hands 
into their strong ones
And I can pray that this time….
This time the world that THEY will build
will NOT be a world that saw nothing, that heard nothing,
that looked the other way
And that you, Little Boys and Girls in Brightly Colored Jackets
will again find peace and joy in a 
quiet evening
of street soccer, 
safe from the bombs and bullets

Friday, December 9, 2016

Mine.... Reflections on this Semester

I've got this class of all girls this year. Although I always love all of my students, I am a big fan of mixed gender. I believe you need the girls to balance the boys and vice-versa. And I have always said if I had to have a single gender group, give me the boys (which I had in my PRECIOUS Connections boys for two years). This particular class happened semi-accidentally, semi-out of convenience, and semi-out of student request. I agreed to it with the caveat that I could switch back if needed. I can't begin to tell you how fascinating this social experiment has been. I'm different with them. I emphasize different things in the Lit. I guide the conversations in different ways. They are the first group of my day and I have to tell you, it is such a soft and gentle way to begin my school day. I know that it's not solely gender, it's also the mix of these particular girls, the dynamics and personalities. They are just the most kind, respectful, insightful, loving people I have ever had gather in one place.

 I had a group in 2014 that I compared to platelets. Something had happened that had me upset (and hurt and betrayed and so on) and those kids flocked to my side like we were magnets. They sat with me and talked to me and checked on me and I hadn't even said a word to them about what was happening, they just sensed it. Later I was describing the situation and my relationship with them to another person and I said they are like platelets. Platelets rush to the scene of the injury and they clot the blood. That's exactly what those 2014 kids did for me. 

This group of girls has similar qualities. If I had to make an analogy for them, it would be that they feel like home. When I am in their presence, I feel comfortable and safe and loved. To be honest, they do for me what I try to do for all of my students. I want my classes and students  to see me and my classroom as a refuge. I don't know if these girls will ever understand that they make it easier for me to do that for others all day long by doing it for me first thing every day. 

This semester has been a gift for me. I have been split in 3 major ways since August and my students have not only been forgiving of that, they have been excited for me and interested in our circumstances. Teacher-moms always feel pulled between school and home. I've been pulled between school and home and an adoption (and all the paperwork, fundraising, worry, and emotion that comes with that). And my kids in all of my classes have made things as easy as possible for me. They are gentle and kind souls, eager learners, slow to complain and quick to connect. My AP classes are incredible, my English IV class is darling, and my Holocaust Lit class intriguing. I don't know what I did to deserve the 87 kids who grace Room 222 every day, but I am so grateful they are mine. πŸ’•

Sunday, November 27, 2016

almost there...

The week of Thanksgiving, I was in Michael's (my favorite place to spend time, browsing all sorts of crafts I don't need). I was walking along when all of a sudden, the song playing over the loudspeaker just cut straight through to my awareness. When it did, these words were on:
A lonely road, a willing heart
Pray for strength to do your part
You're almost there, you're almost there
Trust the Father to provide
Bread of heaven prophesied
You're almost there, you're almost there
You're almost where the waiting ends
Delivering the life within
The answered prayer, Emmanuel
You're almost there

In that moment, I didn't realize it was a Christmas song. And in that moment, it was as if God was speaking directly into my weary spirit. See our situation is a lot different than most adoptions. Most are a year or longer and most involve very long waits. Although our process thus far has been incredibly (and miraculously, and NEEDED since our son is close to aging out) fast and I can't imagine the wait many experience, we are feeling a different sort of emotion. We haven't had to wait very long, but because we HAVE moved so fast, exhaustion is starting to set in. We called the agency August 16 for the first contact and in the time since have done all paperwork, homestudy, etc, fundraised like crazy people (1 major event each month plus several ongoing events), and are moving what feels like every piece of furniture in our home to make room for three more people, all while working full-time and running a side business. We opened an envelope from the mail on Monday at 4 and canceled everything for Tuesday so we could get in the car at 6 AM and head to Atlanta to speed that part of the process. Thanks to a very informed and willing adoption case manager, we have stayed two steps ahead of the process during each phase. And while we are forever grateful for the truly supernatural strength and provision of time and energy to accomplish this, we are also feeling the human weariness. 

So when those words cut through my fuzzy brain in that craft store, I stopped dead in my tracks in the center back aisle between the florals and the baking supplies. I usually cry when things like that happen, but that day there were no tears, just a flooding of peace and rest over my spirit. I just stood there, stockstill, and strained to hear the rest of the words. Eventually I picked up my phone to google it so I would have this promise documented. The song is Michael W. Smith's "Almost There" and it is actually a most beautiful Christmas song. For me, that day though, it was a promise from my Father. 

I know that many people in my life are waiting right now.... waiting for a long-desired pregnancy, waiting for a business dream to be fulfilled, waiting for a lost son or daughter to come home, waiting for deliverance from an addiction or struggle, waiting for hope, waiting for a promise from God to be fulfilled. I hope that this song speaks to your heart as it spoke to mine. You're almost there.

And to those who, like me, are in a state of exhaustion and weariness, be encouraged. Be filled. Be soothed. Be rested. You're almost there.

The link for the whole song is here:
And here is a beautiful video with the song alongside scenes from one of my favorite movies, "A Nativity Story":

Sunday, November 20, 2016

That's An Awful Lot of Quarters...



 
I've waited a day to try and find all the words for our night on Friday night (and really all of the month leading up to it). What I have realized is that I don't have the right words, so I just need to go ahead and go with what I have. 

We left Blythe-Bower on Friday night and I was kind of a wreck. The way I deal with the completion of major events is that I emotionally crash for a while. (After the very first Royal Family 5K, I came home and sat at the kitchen table. I ate three Little Debbies, drank a Coke, and cried hysterically for an hour. Then I went to bed and slept like I was in a coma for three hours. Then I woke up recovered and elated over the success and moved on with life!) Friday night, I probably had six crying jags for various reasons, most of which are absurd. I cried that some people's numbers weren't ever called, I cried that some people may have felt sad that their donation didn't bring a roomful of bids, I cried that I didn't take many pictures, I cried that my mom had worked so hard, I cried that maybe I didn't do justice to the amazing participation from so many, and in a dazzling display of maturity and ration, I cried while we were ordering at O'Charley's (we didn't get to eat or drink a bite from lunch until 10:30 that night) and Kraig said something about the hot dog grilling and I said, "You mean it was GRILLED hotdogs and chili and missed it??? I like that meal more than ANYTHING!" {cue hot tears} The most legitimate reason I cried, and a reason I had considered not sharing but I have vowed to myself to be open about all sides of this process, not just the happy ones, in an effort to live this out the way I try to live everything out-- transparently, hoping to encourage others on the same road that they aren't alone-- is that I didn't get to tell the girls bye when they left for the weekend. And I know that Friday ended a week in which I had been stressed, distracted, and probably snappy with them. And honestly, the tears were probably more for the deep fears I have that Emma and Kelsey might be feeling left out, or replaced, or like they aren't enough. I have no reason from them to think any of that, but I will be honest and say it's a struggle in my own mind that I have to give to God every day. I never want them to look back and feel that our love was divided. I want them to know that it was multiplied.

After all the crying Friday night, I awoke Saturday morning around 5 with my mind spinning over all the things I should have done differently and regrets I had. From 5 until around 7:30, the devil really had his way with me. I worried that I had limited God by praying for the room not to be too full, I imagined, "If this group hadn't shown up, that's a gaping hole!" "If this group hadn't come, we would have missed out on so many bids!" I am also wholly human, and I let the devil taunt me a little bit with hurt over some absences. In that place, though, as the first rain in Cleveland in 29 days fell, the Lord gave me what I truly think may be my first vision I have ever had. He showed me a dam with holes and water spilling through them. As I watched, each hole was filled. If another hole opened, it was filled. He spoke to me so clearly and told me that He will always fill the holes. I don't have to think about the what ifs and the could haves and the should haves and the weren't there's. He will provide in whatever way is needed. And the thing is, HE HAS. I just keep falling back into this default setting of mine that is composed of guilt and regret and worry. I don't know what it will take for me to finally wholly become the person He is so gently shaping me to be, but I imagine His patience is starting to wear thin. :)

By mid-day Saturday, and after talking to some of my crowd who keep me anchored, I had moved on to elation and excitement over the whole thing. We had OVER 250 items given to us.... GIVEN.... NO STRINGS ATTACHED... to auction off on Friday night. People I only interact with over social media and then only rarely contacted me to offer donations. People I have never even met who heard about the auction from friends gave items. We had so many valuable silent auction items donated by such dear people. Former and current students showed up in DROVES to donate the works of their hands. Colleagues, church family, family friends, my mom's people, friends, acquaintances, For Such a Time customers, high school classmates, family members, on and on and on.... all bringing gifts of their heart to welcome these children of ours. There are no words for the outpouring of goodness I have witnessed flow into my house, onto my kitchen table, and out the door to that auction Friday night. The only words I have are that you gave and your gifts are a reflection of my Father.

The work on this event was overwhelming. The work on this event would have been impossible for just me and Kraig. But instead of just the two of us, we had an army. My mom canvassed grocery stores for paper product sales for weeks. She probably made 8 trips to Cooke's the day the cokes were 79 cents (limit of 8...). She drove around and picked up items. She made things. She advertised. She helped me plan. She fielded a hundred phone calls from me asking her opinion. She cooked. She and my dad brought in a massive load of silent auction items, set them up, and carried them home. She has worked TIRELESSLY and I couldn't be more blessed to have her. My sweet friend Lea Broussard, newly retired, took days driving around town, asking for donations from stores and restaurants. Our great friend Nathan stepped up immediately when Kraig said to him, "The only way I can do good is if you'll help me," and he worked his hands to the bone Friday. So many people, including the mother of Emma's friend, Katie, who just happened to be dropping her daughter off for fall retreat and instead stayed and put out tablecloths and money jars, helped set up in the quick hour we had before it started. Joel Barnes was a most gracious host, not only renting the facility to us but working to help set up and clean up. My sister, Tina, and Melissa were the absolute best possible people for me to ask to deal with the money and entry, even giving me the money back at the end sorted and packaged. Jay Garcia, whom I had told I couldn't and wouldn't do this event without, was the absolute perfect emcee and he always goes along with whatever scheme I have going that needs a voice and a personality. Kim Davison worked like crazy and helped before and after. An ARMY of church friends stayed after to help clean up afterward, somehow allowing us to get out only 15 minutes after my estimated finishing time. My student volunteers from CHS (and Lizzie and Raylee and Tate) were essential to the process and they did it all with such a sweet and enthusiastic spirit! I'm probably forgetting someone (ooh! Jessica Garcia who fielded so many donations for me and Julie who gave me a million great ideas!), but those who provided the physical work of this thing were invaluable to me.

Finally, all of our shoppers and buyers and bidders and participants.... they made the whole thing happen. They were patient when we had to draw 27 numbers before we got a winner, they were fun to watch, they were generous with their bidding, they were and have been enthusiastic and supportive in all of their comments since. From church family (and our sweet pastor who started us off with a prayer) to friends to colleagues of mine and Kraig's to family members to those who heard about it and came to FBC peeps and people who just love the orphanage to our Mayfield table and our Stuart table and our CMS table.... the people in our lives, all four (7!) of us, love us so well and we are so incredibly blessed by them.

So.... we can't be certain until we make a trip tomorrow to a change counter but we are pretty certain our grand total is somewhere around $5,000. AMAZING. And the MOST amazing part is that's a true $5000, just for bids and silent auction and paddle donations. We think there were close to 200 people there and, although I have also cried some tears over the people I didn't get to speak to (and have worried that people didn't feel appreciate enough for coming), we are so stinking thankful for every human being who walked through those doors. It was such a beautiful night, a night I have very few pictures of to even show the kids later, but a night I will never, ever forget... a night in which God reached down again and used His children (you) to enable His children (us) to reach His children (our kids). What a portrait of His love. 

So thank you, thank you, thank you to each person who played a part in this one. We are forever grateful to you. Big giant hugs and lots of love!




 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

Monday, November 14, 2016

home sweet home...

These are our official adoption fundraiser tees! Help us bring our sons and daughter (and brothers and sister and nephews and niece! 😊) "Home Sweet Home" to the mountains and valleys of East Tennessee! The sunshine in the upper right corner is from the Filipino flag since our kiddos will always carry their home country with them even once they are here. To order, send an email to forsuchatimecreations414@gmail.com and put "adoption tee" in the subject line. Just include your size, shirt style, and color (we can do most colors as long as the inks will show up). πŸ‡΅πŸ‡­πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ
{This shirt is also available in Comfort Colors for an additional $3 per shirt.}
#davis4androom4more #forsuchatime


 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

MY Millennials

I keep hearing all about "the millennials". Everywhere I go it seems, someone has something to say about "the millennials". It's funny, because I feel like I have heard all of these things before, so I did some googling and found out, sure enough, this is the same song, different verse because all of the same things were said about MY generation, "Generation X". And I bet the ones before them. And them. And them. Because somewhere along the way, it has become very fashionable to scapegoat the young. It has become fashionable to stereotype the young. It has become fashionable to criticize them instead of celebrating them, to bash them instead of bonding with them, and to mock them instead of mentoring them. I know, I know, you have seen them on the news, you have heard of them in the workplace, you know about them and their college "safe spaces". And maybe some of those representations are true of some of them. But if you don't mind to humor me for just a minute, let me tell you about MY Millennials.

MY Millennials are some of the most generous, most brave, most industrious, and most enjoyable people I know. I was talking to Kraig about all of this the other night and I told him, I have a shirt idea (that I am making, so no one else rush off to make it-- and I will be taking orders for it...)-- I want to make a shirt that says, "Most of my favorite people are Millennials." And it's the honest truth. Of my very best friends on earth, 3 are Millennials. Of my favorite colleagues, many are Millennials. Of the people who I share life with the most, the majority are Millennials. Of the people who spend the most time in my house, ALL are Millennials (except Kraig). Of the people I interact with most on social media, the vast majority are Millennials. Of the people I labor beside, serve beside, and love Jesus beside, MANY are Millennials.

MY Millennials are finishing degrees in colleges while working and volunteering. MY Millennials have scraped and pushed and clawed their way to a high school degree while supporting younger brothers and sisters when dropping out would have been so much easier. MY Millennials are Class Presidents who are also members of sports teams and honors students and have more volunteer hours in their pocket than any adult I know. MY Millennials showed up on Friday to shake the hand of veterans and write thank you letters to veterans they have never even met when they could have been just hanging out somewhere for an hour. MY Millennials send me texts, Facebook messages, snail mail letters, emails, tweets, and instagram posts of concern if they think I need it or appreciation if they think I need it or celebration if they think I need it or even correction if they think I need it. And that is a hard one to accept, but it has happened and happened very recently. If you are able to send a text to a former teacher you love and respect and tell them that something they said casually really hurt your feelings, you have backbone that most people with twice your years don't have. MY Millennials have started non-profits. MY Millennials run charities that provide furniture for those who don't have any. MY Millennials work as Sunday School teachers, nursery workers, camp counselors, and children's pastors. MY Millennials organize and run social justice organizations, voting movements, and diversity appreciation programs. MY Millennials have places at the head of classrooms in low-income schools, high-income schools, and all schools in between because they understand that kids are kids and all kids need an advocate. MY Millennials are foster parents, they are pastors, and they are social workers. MY Millennials build each other up, support each other, and love on each other. MY Millennials know how to disagree without destroying. MY Millennials are some of the best parents I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing as they guide their own children down life's sometime challenging way. MY Millennials organize food drives and bake cookies for nurses and make provision sacks for the homeless and visit the elderly. MY Millennials are adopting children from foster care and overseas. MY Millennials are teaching in rural classrooms in Thailand and ministering on farms in Cambodia. MY Millennials care for their friends and their loved ones. MY Millennials have started home businesses and advanced up the corporate ladder and won Employee of the Month at restaurants and factories. MY Millennials have played some role in my kids' birthday parties for the past four years and won't EVER let me pay them. MY Millennials aren't entitled, they are empowered; they aren't disrespectful, they are daring. MY Millennials are speaking up for the marginalized, they are standing up for the voiceless, and they are walking beside the hurting. MY Millennials are leading prayer before sports practices at Cleveland Middle School, they are sharing their testimony on social media, they are presidents of Beta Clubs at E.L.Ross, they are sitting beside the new student at North Lee. MY Millennials are having birthday parties in which they ask their friends to bring, rather than presents, something they can donate to a cause. MY Millennials are the girls I overheard in the locker room at the last swim meet, building up and cheering on and loving a teammate who was feeling discouraged about her performance. MY Millennials spent this weekend hosting an event to honor veterans. MY Millennials coordinated a 5K so that a war hero will have a chance to see the national memorial in his honor before he dies. MY Millennials not only coordinated a market today for the same purpose, but OTHERS of MY Millennials who weren't even on this committee showed up to run and shop just to support their peers. MY Millennials are interns for youth groups. MY Millennials give up their spring breaks to go to Honduras and Haiti to love on orphans. MY Millennials mow lawns to raise money to go across the ocean and spread the gospel and they walk out that same Gospel here in their own backyard. MY Millennials don't just talk about politics, they go door to door to support a candidate they believe in. MY Millennials ask me every single day, "How are you today, Mrs. Davis?" and they CARE about my answer.

MY Millennials have donated, in cold hard cash, $4383 toward our adoption, and many of these were accompanied by sweet cards and letters for us and the kids. MY Millennials, 26 of them, have donated items for our auction and many of those have contacted me themselves to offer. Another of MY Millennials who I don't even know contacted me to ask my permission to do her own fundraiser for us because she has a heart for our kids. MY Millennials love hard, and they love big. They are loyal and they are devoted. They are working to build a world that I will be proud for my grandchildren to inhabit. MY Millennials will have my heart, always and forever, and I will never forget the times that they have stood beside me, held my arms up when I was too worn down to do it on my own, prayed for me, sent me Bible verses, and just simply showed up.

I don't know if that sounds like the Millennials you are hearing about on the news, in social media, and in conversation, but those are MY Millennials. And I am proud of who they are and what they are doing and will do. I am honored to play a small part in their lives, either as their teacher or their parent or their mentor or their friend. Love you, mean it, MY Millennials.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Superhero Capes and Princess Dresses

I wish that was the title to such a cool blog post instead of another post about fundraising BUT.... It's not! :) However, it IS the title to a really cool fundraiser and one that is both accessible to people out of town AND that requires ZERO work for me. And that's something I can get behind! :) The link and information is posted below. Make sure that you choose "Davis Family" from the drop down so that we will receive credit. Christmas delivery is guaranteed if you order by 11/30.

Calling all superheroes and princesses! The Lord has provided in so many glorious and miraculous ways throughout our adoption process. We've been given an amazing opportunity to be a featured family for this cape and dress sale! How cute are these?! Take a look at the link below and select our family name on the dropdown menu if you're interested in ordering! These would also make a GREAT Christmas gift for the Superhero or Princess in your life! Orders must be placed by December 1 for guaranteed Christmas delivery. Products are on hand, so they will ship within a week of ordering. 
tinyurl.com/dressforacause
tinyurl.com/capesforacause


Saturday, October 29, 2016

Something to Think About...

Here is something that I don't think people realize (and I was one of those people until very recently)... Adoption, especially international just because the paperwork is so intensive, is really like a part-time job. I got up this morning and started working at 9:15. I have updated my auction donations sheet, responded to various messages, sent donation requests via email to companies, planned my next few days of featured items, created a fb group for the adoption, gone live with an ongoing fundraiser for superhero capes and princess dresses, decided to create a fundraising fb PAGE where I can link everything, shared our auction event on various pages, updated our donation records, strategized for my next fundraiser, finalized the shirt options for our shirt fundraiser, checked more grant deadlines (which we STILL aren't eligible for due to an as-yet incomplete home study) and revised my mapped out long-range fundraising plans. For the past three hours, I have sat in one place and completed all of these tasks. (My people are gone on a middle school hike today, which Kraig chaperoned.)

None of this counts the hours upon hours upon hours spent on the paperwork to get us to this point, our current point being the phase that I call "waiting and raising". The rest of my plans for today include working on thank you cards for donors and continuing to work away on this monstrous task of rearranging this house to make it seven-people-appropriate. :)

I don't say any of this to get pity or to sound like I begrudge it. I say it to say that none of my work today would even be possible if it weren't for the amazing people who have walked this road beside us, giving money and time and prayers and support. I say it to say that every minute I spend working on the details, I am also praying for the kids and the transition for all seven of us. I say it to say that I am SO STINKING EXCITED that I get to plan all of these events and carry furniture and organize bedrooms because all of that means that my heart's dream, my God-dream, since the time I was 12 years old, is coming true. I am going to get to add adopted children-- childREN!!! not just a CHILD, which had before been my most desperate hope!-- to this family. My girls are going to have brothers and another sister, we are going to have sons and another daughter. Our house is going to bustle. I can't wait. And I also say it to give even more glory to my Father, without Whom my life would be purposeless.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

On Being the Good

Today was a loooooong day. And so I wound it up by going through the ChickfilA drive-thru and then sitting in the parking lot, eating a long overdue dinner. I was perusing fb while I ate and saw the absolute sweetest story, which I am posting below.
After I read that, I cried the entire way home thinking about her at that game (which is odd since I don't even KNOW HER). As I pulled into my driveway, I realized that I'm not crying about just her. I'm crying about all the people who keep going out of their way to send donations for the auction. I'm crying about all the people who are getting donations from THEIR friends. I'm crying about the people I don't even know who are sending money. I'm crying about the people I do know who are praying and loving and giving and the people I seldom interact with other than on social media who send me fb messages because they saw a bed on a yard sale page and remember I needed one. I'm crying about a pastor and his wife who don't just minister in front of, they minister TO and WITH. I'm crying about former students and current students who either responded to my request with great enthusiasm and goods or who approached me in the sweetest way and asked if they could donate a handmade piece of art. I'm crying about the sweet retired teacher friend who contacted me today and told me she wants to spend a day next week going around town to restaurants and businesses, collecting donations for the auction. I'm crying about the days my mom has spent varnishing our swings so I don't have to and who brought a delicious cake to my book club last night. I'm crying about the friends and family who have volunteered to work any and every event and the friend who has made this auction her personal mission. I'm crying about the 2nd grade daughter of a friend who sold something from her room to raise money for our family. I'm crying about the many conversations I have been part of where people have shared their heart's prayer for our new Davises. I'm crying about the priest I heard today who said, "When God calls, you answer." I'm crying about a million other ways I am seeing-- in the middle of a season that seems so vile in this country-- I am seeing people BE THE GOOD.  And I am crying because I am so, so grateful that Good is always going to triumph over evil. Today on earth or in eternity, Good will always win.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Davis 4 and Room 4 More Adoption Auction!

People, I am SO STINKING EXCITED about our adoption quarter auction! I have been getting the most amazing donations and I am so pumped about the format of the event! I hope that all of you will not only come, but will bring 10-12 friends each. :) Several people have asked me how the auction process works. I am linking a video (here ) as well, but here is the format in words.

When you arrive, you will have the opportunity to donate $10 for a numbered paddle. That paddle is how you will bid for items. Additional paddles are only $5 if you want to increase your chances of buying an item. (We are seriously considering taking paddle donations in advance for a smaller donation... more on that to come.) You will need to bring your own quarters, although we will have a money exchange table if you need some. You will sit at a table and there will be a bucket in the middle of your table. An item will be announced, described, and the donator thanked and advertised. The item will be assigned a value of either one quarter, two quarters, three quarters, or four quarters. If you choose to bid on it, you drop your quarters in the bucket and hold your paddle in the air. A number will be drawn from a bucket in the front. If that number drawn is not currently bidding, the owner will simply call out "no bid" and another number will be drawn. The winning number, then, gets the item for between 25 cents and $1. And let me tell you, we have some AMAZING stuff to auction off for 25 cents to $1!!!

(We also have some stuff that is just insanely valuable ($500-$600 value) and we will run a silent auction for those items.)

There will also be a meal option at the event. Kraig's famous hot dog chili, a hot dog, chips, and a drink will be $5. You can purchase a drink cup for $1 and popcorn for $1. We expect to have a complimentary coffee and sweets table later in the evening. 

We are still settling on a location, but our tentative date is 11/18. Doors will open at 5, bidding will start at 6. 

Please spread the word and prepare to come to our awesome event and help us bring our kids home from the Philippines!

***While I have asked many people and companies for donations, maybe there is something you want to offer that I haven't thought of. If you can offer some sort of service or an item for our auction, please let me know! Thank you!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

An Open Heaven



 Tonight I'm missing some kids I haven't ever met. And I'm thinking about a God so big that He hung that moon and painted that sunset and knit every single one of us together in our mother's womb. And I'm so grateful that He orchestrates every detail of our daily lives and that He knew that people on opposite sides of the globe would be on converging paths in this very moment. And He prepared our hearts and penned our individual stories, then brought the narratives together into one.

Last week, I joined an adoptive Filipino parent Facebook group. I posted a question about the transition from the Filipino educational system to American public schools. I gave very scant details about our situation, just that a sibling group of three was on hold for us and that the oldest was close to aging out so we were moving really quickly on the paperwork. The next day, someone commented on that post and told me to check my "other messages" folder in Facebook (which I always forget exists).  This is the message I had:

"Hello and welcome to the adoption group! Are you adopting the 3 from (orphanage name)? I run an orphanage here in the Philippines and if those are your kids, you're going to be blessed like crazy! I met them when they were new to (orphanage name) after the (event that led to their placement there). (Oldest boy) openly shared their family story with me in English. They stole my heart. I wanted to let you know that I have prayed for you even though I didn't know it was you. I will continue to do so and I look forward to following the rest of your journey to your children!"

I guess I've always known how big God is but I don't know that I have ever seen it played out so personally like this before. To think that all of these people, from other Filipino adoptive parents to orphanage workers to local Sunday School classes and beyond, were praying for them to find a family and God was, in the meantime, teaching me how to wait well and simultaneously moving in Kraig's heart, then to bring it all together at the exact same time..... WOW.

I have trusted and known and walked with Jesus as long as I can remember. I came to a faith in Him when I was just 8 years old and I don't even remember a time when I wasn't aware of His presence in my life. But I am waking every day to a flooding of new glory. Every day another God-touched moment happens, whether through a donation on our adoption site from a high school classmate I haven't talked to in 20 years or a realization that people we know personally have been praying specifically for these kids to find a home.  Our pastor describes it as walking under an open heaven, often in the context of financial blessing. While we are certainly experiencing financial blessing (and hope to continue!), I am learning that walking under an open heaven is so much more broad than I had imagined. It's walking in as close communion with God as possible as an earthly being. It's the fallen world, human version of the Garden of Eden. And it's something I will absolutely never forget.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

You're ok...You'll be fine..It's fine...You're going to be fine...Don't worry, it's really ok, you're good.

I told someone the other day, I honestly think that 94% of being a teacher is just telling people, "You're ok," "You'll be fine," "It's fine," "You're going to be fine," "Don't worry, it's really ok, you're good," ALL THE TIME. :) Seriously. I don't remember saying it nearly as often when I taught tenth graders, but my seniors need to hear these words so frequently, and I think it's because everything feels so heavy to them. Everything feels like it matters so much. One flopped assignment, one bad day in class, one negative interaction with a coach, one issue with a teacher, one expectation not met and it seems like it can ruin every bit of their hard work for the past thirteen years. It typically won't, of course. You know that. I know that. We've been there already, survived it, and we know that the picture is so much bigger than what they can see right now. But they don't know that, because they are living it. And they can only see the tiny square of the picture that they are currently painting.

I wonder how much more God is murmuring to us, "You're ok," "You'll be fine," "It's fine," "You're going to be fine," "Don't worry, it's really ok, you're good."

This adoption journey for me has been full of Madonna (Mother of Jesus, not the artist)-like moments of great serenity and moments where my flesh is so loud I can hardly hear anything over it screaming. Let me say upfront that I have zero doubt at all that this is what the Lord has for us and I am ELATED that He is blessing us with the gift and opportunity to bring these kids into our home. But I am also very human, and while I am certain it's His plan for us, I have moments of great fear.

When we first considered the adoption, Kraig was concerned about the money required for the adoption itself. $37,500 is, after all, rather a lot of money. I was more concerned about, you know, parenting 5 kids financially. I was certain that the Lord would make a way to bring them here. At some point, we traded places and Kraig became deeply concerned (to the point that we really debated if we could do it financially) about raising a houseful of teens and I got very nervous about raising that much money to bring them here. I think we have now both come to a place where we have decided that we will take things one step at a time. And the current step in front of us is a daunting one. The hard part for us in regard to the money is that we are taking what is normally a 12-18 month process (with that long to raise funds) and squishing it into a six month or less process. There are many adoption grants out there, but you can't apply for them until your home study is complete and, as fast as we have moved, we are still only just now to the point where our home study is being written. We are going to be tight to even be eligible for most grants due to the expedited nature of the process for us.

I think the for the first 6 weeks (yes, we called the adoption agency six weeks ago today-- and will finish our part of the process on Saturday as soon as we do our psychologicals), I was going on adrenaline. Since we finished our home study visits and turned in the last of our paperwork last week, I have felt strangely letdown. It's kind of like that January feeling you get... Christmas is over, summer is a long way away, and things are empty. It is in those times that the flesh starts to take over and faith feels distant.

I'm really stressing over the money part. As I told a couple of friends today, I have absolutely no doubt that God's hand is in this. And I have no doubt that He will provide. There is no way that He would leave those three kids over there for one to age out and for them to be separated. But man, my flesh is struggling with faith. In the past six weeks, it feels like we have already worked really hard and leaned on our people. And we have been tremendously successful, raising almost $8,000 so far through a couple of big donations, an envelope donation fundraiser, and our team shirt sales. But $8,000 isn't even 1/4 of $37,500. And we are probably well over 1/4 of the way to our final payments being due.

We have a 5K (register here or email forsuchatimecreations414@gmail.com) scheduled for October 22 and hadn't had any registrants at all until this morning... THIS MORNING. Just when I was struggling, I checked my email and had the first two people sign up. Granted, two is a tiny fraction of what we want/need. But two is all it took for my spirits to lift and for me to hear God's reassuring "You're ok," "You'll be fine," "It's fine," "You're going to be fine," "Don't worry, it's really ok, you're good." Because all I'm seeing is the tiny portion of the picture we are, with our fleshly, human hands, painting. He knows how the story is going to end. And He knows that, even when it doesn't feel like it, I'm ok. And it's going to be fine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Our Pure Charity Account

We have had several people ask us about an easy (and tax deductible!) way to donate to our adoption. We have a Pure Charity account set up in which your donations go directly to our adoption agency. We can't begin to express how much each and every donation, shirt sale, and 5K application thus far have meant to us. Staring down a massive cost was (and still is!) very intimidating to us. However, as we said to each other the very first weekend we were considering all of this, if the Lord calls you to something, He will also provide a way. And He is doing that in some really beautiful ways. Below is the link to our Pure Charity account. https://www.purecharity.com/davis-family-adoption-3

Sunday, September 18, 2016

He's Still Working on Me...

In the past one and a half months, I have asked people for more favors than I think I have in my entire life. I have accepted more offers of assistance, both financial and physical, than I think I have in the first 38 years and 10 months of my life. (Except maybe those first few years.... I guess I was pretty dependent back then. ;) ) I almost posted something like this just after my surgery in August and it's laughable to me now to look back and think about how much has transpired in this character development for me since that time and how much more full this blog post will be than if I had written it back then.

Let me be really clear upfront about something.... While I certainly think a degree of independence and self-sufficiency is important, I don't say any of this to brag about how independent and self-sufficient I am. In fact, it has become painfully clear to me this past year that, in fact, my particular brand of independence is actually sinful and prideful. 

I HATE to feel like I am inconveniencing people. I can't STAND to have to ask people for favors. And money? Well for OTHER causes, I am happy to fundraise but fundraising for my own personal missional causes makes me tremendously uncomfortable. In fact, I am so uncomfortable with money that I have a ridiculous amount of outstanding invoices in the business, some from as long ago as six months or more, because I feel so awkward going back to people and saying, "Hey, you still owe us for those shirts." I would prefer to just let it go. (Don't anyone tell Kraig.) The only situation that I feel more uncomfortable in than having someone hand me money is standing in front of people to speak. (Not MY people, in MY classroom, but OTHER people. ;) )

Soooo..... in light of the above paragraph, want to know what I have done in the past month and a half? 

During my heart stuff at the end of summer, I had to "take it easy" while other people handled certain things around here and with family. 

While in the hospital, my mom ran errands for me, other teachers in my department picked up my slack, friends helped me out in various ways like sending me information from the girls' registration days. Every single time I needed to get up, even to go to the bathroom, I had to get a nurse because I was hooked to too many things and they were still so concerned about my heart. 

During my recovery, our church ministry brought a meal every night (which at first I was just HORRIFIED to have to receive, that those sweet people took all that time to cook (something I HATE to do) and deliver a meal to me-- THEN it became so wonderfully amazing that I adjusted to it quickly, haha!), my family had to lift everything over a certain poundage for me, the teachers at school made my classroom somewhat inhabitable, and my mom and friends bailed me out with the girls regularly, and I had to continually ask for people to do or lift or walk or be during those two weeks. These "people" included students of mine that I hadn't even really MET yet. 

God's something, isn't He??? *said with a wry tone because you know He basically made me have to do everything I hated, all in one week!* *said with dramatic irony because you and I know what comes next but the first-of-August-me had no idea....*

So that ^ all felt really hard and icky. Then God chucked to Himself and said, "Watch her finally have to drop that prideful self-sufficiency and become a humbled woman who can not only accept help, but even ask for it."

We started the adoption process. And within days of making this decision, I was having to ask my boss not only for a letter of rec, but a really detailed letter AND for her to notarize it AND for her to mail it AND for her to fill out an employment verification form! Within two days of making the public announcement, I was asking for money through our envelope fundraiser. In the month that has followed, I have:
  • Had to get reference letters from our pastor, my boss, and three other friends.
  • Promoted a team shirt adoption fundraiser.
  • Gone BACK to the envelope donors, asking for the physical funds.
  • Gotten a medical eval from my doctor (two forms for two agencies) that took half of forever and meant that multiple nurses and my doctor were inconvenienced. Except this was TWICE since Kraig goes to them too. 
  • Asked my kids' pediatrician office for not one but TWO difference medical forms to be filled out on the girls.
  • Applied for two adoption grants, with more to come.
  • Composed a letter to ask another institution of individuals to assist us. 
  • Requested reference letters from one each of our girls' TEACHERS, neither of whom we know very well at all.
  • Begged online for psych references.
  • Been blessed by a sweet friend coordinating her own fundraiser for our team shirt sales.
  • Planned a 5K that I am now asking people to run.
  • Emailed a lady I didn't even know and asked if we could interview her family for our adoptive parents interview and not only did she say yes, we skyped tonight for TWO HOURS.
  • Requested another round of paperwork  from my references and this time we added two additional people.
  • Asked an insanely large favor/request of another loved one.
  • Taken valuable time from our school administrative assistant as she assists me in various ways.
  • Created a 20th Reunion shirt, swallowed some MAJOR pride and insecurity issues and peddled it at my reunion this weekend, and am going to post on our reunion page if I can ever work up my nerve (He's still working on me... to make me what I ought to be!)
It's actually jarring to my system even right now to read over this list. I feel so uncomfortable asking people to help us, financially and physically, and I feel terribly bad about creating extra work for people. But do you know what I have had to realize and the place I have had to come to? It's not about me. That's the root of insecurity and inferiority, you know. You think that everyone's attention is on you, that they are evaluating you and you are coming up short. The truth is, no one is paying you any attention at all. It's not all about you. And so as I have realized that it's not about me, I have been able to speak up and ask for help and let others ask if they could help. It's all about God and the crazy, big, amazing plan He has for our family and our lives. Not a single thing on the list above is going to personally benefit me in any way, but it surely is benefitting those three sweet kiddos we are working so hard to bring home!

And so I will continue to ask and receive, knowing that even though this is a more challenging position to be in than that of the giver, it is what is required of me right now. I will remind myself that there are those who love a chance to bless someone else and the time has come for me to let others take that role for a while. And I will rest in the knowledge that, as Kraig pointed out tonight, there will be lots of chances to pay it forward one day.

His blessings are so abundant. I just have to be open to receive them.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Davis4&Room4More 5K and Character Walk

It's time for our third adoption fundraiser!!!! We will be sponsoring a 5K and Costume Walk on October 22, 2016, at Fletcher Park. We have done so well with our fundraising so far and we are believing God that this is going to be a huge event and raise a significant portion of the funds needed for our adoption. We have coordinated  multiple 5K fundraiser events for Royal Family and PCL, now it's our turn! :) Info below!

5K Run/Walk (approx. 3.1 miles) and Kids’ Character Walk

Date: 5K Saturday, October 22, 2016, 5K at 9:00 AM,
                                Character Walk at 10:30

Where: Race takes place at Fletcher Park

Race Day check-in: Parking and registration opens at 8:30 AM

Pre-registered runners can pick up their t-shirt, goodie bag and race bib on Wednesday, October 19, 2016 from 5:30-6:30 PM at the South Cleveland Church of God LOWER PARKING LOT (next to Volunteer Drive) OR on raceday.

Proceeds go to: The adoption fund of the Davis family (Kraig, Athena,
                                Emma, and Kelsey)

Entry Fee: $20 preregistration through 10/8/16, $15 student rate (birth-12th grade)
      $25 after 10/8/2016 and day of race, $20 student rate after 10/8/16
                                Free tshirts provided to all pre-registered runners
        ***Character Walk is donations only, no tshirts provided

Awards: Ceremony immediately following 5K. Prizes for top male and female participants in                   each age division.

Registration: Complete the registration form and return with payment to Athena or Kraig (in person or mail to 121 Eddie Wilson Ln) or register online at www.runreg.com, search Davis4&Room4More 5K.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Pull Up a Chair. It's a Long One. And a Miracle-filled One.

Today’s post isn’t as much (or at all) adoption-related (except indirectly), but it’s something I have wanted to tell and after today, I have even more testimony to share.

After our return home from Cambodia in July, I was incredibly fatigued. Not like jet lag, not like exhaustion, not tired from working hard in the heat, but like only had the energy to straighten the kitchen for a few minutes then had to go back and lay down before I did anything else. Like heavy limbs and weak body fatigue. Weird, unnatural fatigue. I went to the walk-in clinic on July 10 because I also had a cold and I wanted to make sure I didn’t have Zika (even though I don’t think it’s even IN Cambodia) or some exotic illness that was affecting my body. After checking the normal things, she listened to my heart and then said, “I hear something strange, I want to get you on an EKG.” They did an EKG and she came back to tell me that I needed to go to the hospital and let a cardiologist put his eyes on me. I was a little nervous, but I said ok and started getting my stuff together. She then said, “The ambulance is on its way.” HUH WHAT??? They did a second EKG and she told me my heart rate was in the 30’s. This, apparently, is not good. (My resting heart rate is typically around 63.) {When the paramedics got there, they were shocked at my appearance. One said, “when they said heart rate in the 30s, I was imagining us having to use electricity, not someone sitting up and joking around!”}

To condense a long story, I went to the ER in an ambulance and, after a chest X-ray and tests on my heart enzymes, was sent home (with a wikipedia printout on typhoid fever but that’s a different story for another day and one that does not properly reflect what I felt was excellent care from Tennova later on in the story) with advisement to follow up with my PCP.

I followed up with him (and he disagreed with the typhoid fever possibility and I don’t think he even consulted wikipedia a single time), got another EKG in his office, and it showed the same really low heartrate. He asked me to come back the following day for an echo test. I got the echo done and, according to the girl doing the test, everything in my heart looked great as far as pumping action. However, my rate fell so low during that test that the parameters on that machine couldn’t even pick it up so the report would indicate that I had died a couple of times during said test. ;) Dr. Chastain told me I could go on vacation the following week as long as I was within an hour of medical care (and I decided that the Murphy hospital qualified, so I went). He told me to come back and see him after my vacation to talk about the echo test. I was still feeling pretty exhausted but still had none of the other symptoms of a slow heartbeat (dizziness, passing out, etc).

At the next appointment, I learned that my echo test was good, so it was apparently an electrical issue. Dr. Chastain set me up an appointment with Dr. Powers, a cardiologist with the Chattanooga Heart Institute. This appointment was scheduled for August 4. I started school on Monday, August 1, still feeling tired and have really low pulse readings.

That night I came home feeling pretty good. I was excited about the promise of a new school year, feeling very positive about the future of our school and system, and confident that my heart issues would work themselves out since I still wasn’t really feeling many symptoms and my fatigue seemed, after one day back at work, to be better. The girls were gone to stay in WV (miracle and Providence #1) and Kraig and I enjoyed a dinner together at Jordan’s and then went back home. We were looking forward to a relaxing evening together, watching tv. It was around 8 that I started to have crushing chest pains. They peaked and eased and peaked and eased for several hours until they seemed to only get worse and worse. Finally, around midnight, I told Kraig I needed to go to the ER. I felt sure it was heartburn (although I had never had heartburn that lasted that long), wondered if it was a gall bladder attack, but had a slight concern it might be a heart attack in light of my already existing heart issues. By the time we got in the car, I could hardly breathe. When we got to the ER, I was doubled over in the line to be seen so they brought me a wheelchair. As soon as I told the desk clerk I was having chest pains, she got me on an EKG in a little room off the registration desk and they found, pretty quickly, that I had an abnormal EKG, which meant a ticket directly back into the examination room. (Providence #2)

On this visit to the ER, I was absolutely so impressed with the care I received at Tennova. The nurses were amazing, Dr. DeVane is INCREDIBLE, and everyone I saw was so kind and caring. They asked my medical history and I told them I had an appointment for that Thursday with Dr. Powers and that he was my cardiologist. Apparently at one point the hospitalist said that he would probably wait and see me in the morning (Dr. Powers, that is). I got anti-nausea meds before pain meds since I told them that pain meds made me sick. However, that apparently doesn’t matter to my body since I then started to throw up and continued multiple times through the night. {It’s worth noting that I had been rock solid and strong since July 10 with whatever was happening to my body. Even through the horrible pain and concern about a heart attack, I was a trooper. The first time I threw up, I started to cry and said to Kraig, “I can’t handle this! I can’t throw up!!!” The second time, I looked at Kraig, crying again, and said, “I think I’m dying.” I am the most giant baby in the WORLD about throwing up. CANNOT TAKE IT.} Dr. DeVane talked to me for a while about my heart since by this point they had ruled out heart attack. Dr. Powers came in the middle of the night to look at my EKG results and talk to me about my heart. I have since been told that “cardiologists don’t come to the hospital in the middle of the night if they aren’t on call”. (Providence #3)

By the next morning, they had decided to admit me to the MICU due to my heart rate. (Providence #4) The pain had subsided totally but they wanted to do a stress test on Tuesday. Let me just say this… the care I received in the MICU at Tennova was TOP-NOTCH. Every single nurse, every single CNA, every single doctor, every single person conducting any sort of test— ABSOLUTELY THE BEST OUT THERE. It could NOT have been any better of an experience. Tuesday’s stress test showed that my heart, while very slow, is very plucky. And consistent. And it knows when to speed up and it does it in those times. So, still no news at all and nothing about the painful event that sent me there. Dr. Powers said he would consult his team but he leaned toward just letting me live my life.

By that afternoon, Dr. Powers had come back and said that he wanted me to wear a heart monitor when I was discharged and that a pacemaker might be our best option, but it wasn’t an emergency situation. My heart continued to do its slow, slow dance and the nurses and anyone who came to see me continued to marvel that my heart could beat so slowly and I could feel so good.

Wednesday, the hospitalist (Dr. Florres) shared results from everything they had done, which showed nothing still. (Also, I need to say, this guy is WONDERFUL. I adore him.) I asked him, “Do you think it could have been a gall bladder attack???” He said it was possible, that we would get an ultrasound done (Providence #5 and a doctor who totally listens to his patients instead of drawing only his own conclusions, which is awesome). The ultrasound showed lots of gall stones and a thick gall bladder, so they said Dr. Dunn would come by and the consensus was that he would likely want to take it out. This proved correct and Dr. Dunn scheduled the surgery for Thursday. (Dr. Dunn? Just the coolest guy. I loved talking to him, I love his manner and his approach and everything else.)

There was a little bit of concern about a surgery with a heart rate that insisted on beating SO STINKING SLOW. Dr. Powers approved it and Dr. Dunn said they would give me a little bit of dopamine and have more ready if needed. Not only did the surgery go beautifully, they didn’t have to give me any dopamine and my heart just plugged along like it should, albeit slowly. I had also told them that anesthesia makes me sick (see before: I can’t handle throwing up), so they promised to take precautions to hopefully prevent that and THEY DID! It worked! Pain meds also make me sick (as evidenced Monday night in the ER), so I determined I would take ZERO pain meds and I did not. As for my gall bladder, Dr. Dunn not only said it had probably been bad for about ten years, he also said a lot of issues I had attributed to other things MIGHT have actually been gall bladder related and I MIGHT be better than ever! :) (Providence #6) I slept a lot that night but wasn’t too terribly sore, then they agreed to discharge me Friday with a recommendation to wear a heart monitor once I was moving around again from the surgery.

I was thrilled to go home but I truly was a little sad to leave the MICU. Again… TOP-NOTCH CARE. And Drs. Dunn, Powers, and Florres were just epitomes of excellent physicians. My surgery recovery went fabulously over the next few days, other than a brief time of pain in my shoulders from the surgical gas. We had delicious meals from Ladles of Love at church, my girls came back home, and my people took such great care of me. The entire recovery, I took one tylenol and one gas pill. That’s it.

On Saturday, I was praying about my heart. In the midst of the prayer, I realized I was praying desperately for an ANSWER. If it’s thyroid, show us, and we can fix it. If I need a pacemaker, fine, I’ll get one. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks, I have not prayed a single time for Him to just STOP IT. FIX IT. I don’t need an answer, I need a healing. The phrase “You have not because you ask not” came to mind. At that moment, I changed my prayer. And in the days afterward, my heart rate was up. Most readings were much higher with just a few in the 40’s.

Dr. Dunn had said I could return to work when I felt like it and that, while Tuesday seemed a little soon, it was up to me. Yes sir, thank you, I will do so. It was killing me to have missed the week of staff development and the fact that I missed the first half day of school and my room wasn’t put together yet was driving me NUTS. I returned to work Tuesday feeling REALLY GOOD. Sore and slow-moving, but good. I came home every night that week and rested, got to bed early every night, and fulfilled the promises I had made to God and my mom and myself about taking better care of me. ;)

In the midst of all of this, the adoption decision came along. One thing I realized very quickly is that the Philippines will not allow you to adopt if you have a pacemaker. This COULD BE a problem, but my readings were better and I just knew all was well.

I worked that week and then during the next week, I wore a heart monitor. I had no doubt that my heart was healed and the monitor was just a precaution. I had a follow-up with Dr. Powers scheduled for today. Last Friday, they called to make a second appt with a different cardio who specializes in the electro stuff. Why? The monitor results were not good and it showed “periods of extreme bradycardia”.

 I was DEVASTATED. This wasn’t supposed to be. I KNEW I had been healed and every time I checked, my pulse was higher! And I wasn’t tired or having any symptoms! And God was letting us adopt, I couldn’t get a pacemaker or we couldn’t adopt! This was not supposed to be how this whole thing went down.

BUT GOD. I went in today prepared to ask him if a pacemaker could wait until after the adoption (unless I was going to die, at which point I guessed I would go ahead and do the pacemaker. I think. ;) ). The nurse said it got down to 31 at points but did go up when I was moving around (this is good). Dr. Powers came in and asked how I was feeling. I told him I felt great, no more fatigue, but I guessed I wasn’t really. He asked why and I said the other appt. He said he had made that appointment before he got the results of the test.

The miraculous report is this: Bradycardia, YES. Bradycardia with dangerous junctional rhythms? NO. Bradycardia that impacts my life? NO. Bradycardia that is a threat to me in any way? NO. His final report was cancel the other appointment, and live your life. If at any point I have symptoms, come back, and if I go to the dr or hospital for anything else, warn them of this lest they freak out, but LIVE. YOUR. LIFE. When he looked at me funny (likely due to my enthusiasm and the tears in my eyes), I explained to him that “LIVE YOUR LIFE” in this context means bringing home an addition to our family from the Philippines, which I no longer need to worry and fret over.

God is just amazing. Beyond amazing. I cannot get over the ways He loves us. Blessed be His Holy Name.