Monday, May 27, 2013

Second Birthday

Last year, we had the privilege of celebrating T.D.'s birthday with him for the first time.

At that point, he had not yet moved in with us.  We were still praying about his future and just weren't sure about adding a teenager to our dynamic at home.  

A month later, Brian's phone rang at midnight, and a few minutes later he was heading to pick up T.D. for the night.  He stayed in our spare room that night and he's been there ever since.  

(Well, he's come out of the room on occasion to eat and play video games.) 

To be honest, I had quite a few concerns about bringing a teenage boy into my house.  
  • How much would he eat????
  • How would we set boundaries for a kid who had lived on his own for so long?
  • How would I feel about it when Brian was out of town? 
  • How would it be perceived by our family and friends? 
  • How would he respond to being parented by us? 

In the year since moving in, he has blown all my fears, concerns, and hesitations out of the water.  

If you have had the opportunity to hear his story, then you may know the number of schools he's attended, the number of states he's lived in, and the family tragedies he's endured.  His life has been tough at times, really tough.  

But he has chosen to view it as part of his story, and he has never, ever blamed it on anyone or held bitterness for any of it.  We love that about him.   

He is his bio mom's only child, so this is T.D.'s first experience with little brothers.  J-man actually says his name, enunciating each letter with with plenty of emphasis (it's one of the first words he's learned) and has a specific head nod he gives T.D.  He LOVES his big brother.  And though he won't always admit it, T.D. loves those little brothers of his. 

He's made such tremendous strides in school this year, working hard to catch up and get on track.  We are super proud of where he has made it academically and for the fact that he's actively started thinking about his future.

For never having had to listen to parent "lectures" or having a curfew or boundaries, you'd be amazed at how teachable and responsive he is.

It's not because Brian and I have some magic touch, TUH-RUST me, we just pray that we are saying and doing what is best for him each day.

He really is a special kid, who has managed to face adversity and come out stronger on the other side.  Not perfect, still full of regular teenage quirks, but with a willingness to want more for himself and for his future.  

Yesterday we celebrated the second birthday with him and his mom drove up from New Orleans to surprise him.  Loved seeing his face as it slowly registered she was actually there in the room with him.  

Tyson was excited for the party.  Then again, he pretty much always looks like this. 
Who doesn't love a good cookie cake? 

Based on facial expressions alone, you can tell they're related.   :) 


Monday, May 20, 2013



1. Buy back or repaying a loan
2. Fulfillment of a promise or a pledge
3. To liberate, to free, to rescue

I used this word a lot to describe our family.

But hear me on this, it is NOT because I believe we "rescued" or "saved" our children.  That concept can be thrown around a lot in the adoption world and I don't feel comfortable using it.   They don't "owe" me anything for bringing them into our home and they aren't "lucky" to be in our family.   I never want them to feel like we are their saviors.  We are their mom and dad.  There is a big difference.

Brian and I are not the heroes or the rescuers, we are simply a piece in the redemption story of our family.

To be honest, I'm pretty sure TD, our oldest son, was questioning his decision to move in with us when he witnessed our J-man getting regular nebulizer treatments for his wheezing.

After a few weeks of watching J-man wiggle and squirm, annoyed at having a mask on his face every morning, TD asked us why we were putting the little guy through it.

We explained that his pediatrician had prescribed this for J-man's baby asthma and wheezing.

TD's response was classic.

"Oh, I thought that was just something all white people did to their kids."

I can only imagine what was running through that poor kid's mind the previous weeks as we held our toddler down and strapped what looked like a gas mask to his face.

Pretty sure he was hoping someone would "rescue" him from the insane asylum he'd just moved into...

Bless him.

Back to my point.


Here is why I love this word as a descriptor for our family - because of its antonym.


According to it is the direct opposite of redeemed.

The definition of abandoned is to be "forsaken, discarded, rejected, deserted."

There are five distinct histories in our family.  Brian and I lived three decades without each other. Thirty years contains a lot of decisions, hurts, and life experience. T.D. lived 18 years apart from us.  J-man and Tyson have a much shorter past, but still bring a history that has been marked by loss.

Each one of us have felt the sting of abandonment in a different way.  We have wondered when someone was going love us for who we were with no conditions and no expectations.

Our family is patchwork of personalities, quirks, DNA, and life experience.  We're a rag-tag bunch, full of mistakes, fumbles, and missteps.

It's not always pretty over here, as our histories can rear their ugly heads when things get hard.  Old patterns and fears emerge as a way to cope with pain and difficulty.  The feeling of abandonment doesn't just dissipate immediately upon entering a family unit.

Here is where we focus- Abandonment, for each member of our family, is now a feeling, not a current truth in our lives.  However, it has a sneaky way of lingering and whispers just at the times where we are at our lowest and most vulnerable. If we believe the soft lies spoken only for our ears, then we tend to shrink back, close off, and hide.  When we let it become a part of who we are now, we have then become a captive to its power, and it has the ability to make us believe that we are not worth loving.

The feeling of abandonment has the power to incapacitate someone for a very long time.  It can wreck marriages, families, and the future of many kids who have come from hard places. 

So, we are intentional about speaking freedom into our boys.  When things are hard, when pain is evident, and when tempers flare, we are consistent in our message of commitment, love, and a promise of forever into the hearts of our sons and to each other.   We want them to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that our family is not a fleeting trend, a whim, or a matter of social justice.  It's a life-time commitment.

Abandonment may be a part of our past, but redemption is our future.

We cannot solve each other's hurts or take away the months and years where loss has reigned. I'll leave that business to the One who is the true Redeemer.

What I CAN do is to live free.  When I allow stress to rule my thoughts, when I am bogged down in worry, and when I am held captive by fear, it only shows that I am still under the premise that I will one day be rejected, forgotten, and abandoned.

Ain't nobody got time for that.

I look back to where I have been, see what is in front of me today, and think about the potential for our family's future, I cannot help but think of the word, Redeemed.

As a way to remind us on a daily basis of this truth, I spent four more hours than I planned, put waaaayyyyy too many holes in the wall, and muttered a few too many choice words under my breath to put this up.

I couldn't get the pictures exactly straight, there are fingerprint smudges on the frames, and sometimes (most of time) the letters are hanging crooked.  It goes against everything in my Type-A personality, but yet, I'm proud of it.  

Slightly off. Messy. Imperfect.  

That's us.

Just two crazy white folks that put too much smelly hair cream in their youngest son's afro (according to T.D.), torture J-man with a daily nebulizer treatment (according to T.D.), are way too strict on their policy of no brotherly headlocks (according to J-man), and love the heck out of our boys (according to me.)

A work in process. Far from perfect. Redeemed daily.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why #fitchthehomeless Is Not The Solution

Abercrombie and Fitch hit their stride in the early 2000's, with adolescents clamoring for the brand to be displayed somewhere on their body.  I was teaching fifth grade at the time in an upper income, mostly white area outside Atlanta.  Most of my students were able to afford the brand, so my classroom was a sea of A&F logos, as it was the "cool" status symbol at the time.

I understood the desire, as I had once begged my mother incessantly for any clothes from The Limited or Gap, in order to not have to shop at "The Deb" anymore. (Please someone tell me you know what "The Deb" was...) In any case, back in my day, to own some knee-length plaid shorts was a sign that you had made it.  Clearly, times have changed.

Wearing over-sized glasses before hipsters were even born.  Literally.

Abercrombie has defined its shopping experience by providing half-naked teenager "models" at the door, an excessive use of cologne spray throughout the store, and music being played at decibels that aim to keep away anyone over the age of thirty.

The CEO, Mike Jeffries, has made some pretentious and elitist statements over the years as you can read in this Salon interview from 2006.  One of his comments has garnered much attention in the past few weeks:

"As far as Jeffries is concerned, America’s unattractive, overweight or otherwise undesirable teens can shop elsewhere. “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he says. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”

You can see why people may be a wee bit up in arms over this. 

In response, a filmmaker in California has made this video calling for Americans to "#fitchthehomeless," which means give all your A&F clothing to a homeless shelter near you.  

Here's where I see the problem in this. 

The CEO of A&F has admitted to propagating an elitist agenda aimed at reaching one subsection of America; rich, white, and good-looking humans between the ages of ten and twenty.  

It's gross.  

#Fitchthehomeless has taken another subset of America, the homeless and the destitute, and dehumanized them.  

Equally gross. 

His tactic isn't to care for the poor because the are in need, but rather, stick it to the "man."  In essense, the homeless are simply a commodity in the video, used to make a point.  

In the short documentary, the young filmmaker hands articles of clothing to the residents of Skid Row, then films them as they hold up the A&F logo.  There is no documentation that he held any conversations with any of those shown in the video or that he has spent any time with the homeless in Skid Row.  It appears that he picked the "lowest" place in society and headed there armed with his weapons, a pile full of clothing.  

I have an issue with this.  

His idea still separates America into a class system, where he views the homeless as inferior and the lowest of the low. 

He isn't advocating for anyone else to wear the clothing, just those that are destitute and homeless. Which to me, sounds a bit elitist and classist as well.  

Throwing used clothes at the homeless does not solve the problem of pretentious elitism or poverty and destitution. 

Instead of #fitchthehomeless. . .

And you are a parent of adolescents, have some conversations with your kids about the CEO's statements and what A&F portrays to the public.  Invite your teens to weigh in with their opinion on the controversy.  It's important that the generation this brand is targeting understand the implications that go along purchasing a shirt or pair of shorts from their company. 

If you aren't buying clothes for anyone in this demographic, lucky you.  I would imagine trying to explain to your 15 year-old daughter that shorty shorts and see-through shirts is not an appropriate clothing choice can be rather stressful. 

Instead of #fitchthehomeless. . .

What if we take the time to evaluate our thoughts on how socioeconomic status and demographics affect the way we interact with others.  Let's take the controversial statements and the video and use them to consider whether we are quietly living out the same narrative in our own everyday interactions. 

Let's continue to fight against the cultural norm that tells our teens they must look a certain way to be known and accepted.  Let's consider our homeless neighbors in our surrounding towns and communities as people who deserve dignity and more than an article of our clothing.  

And finally, let's bring back the long, plaid short. 

And the ponytail with the long side bang.  That looked awesome. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Deep, Fierce Love

"Oh what a power is motherhood, possessing
A potent spell
All women alike
Fight fiercely for a child."
-- Euripides

A mother's love is deeper than biology and shared DNA.  It stretches across oceans and continents, race and ethnicity.  A mother's heart can lead in directions that are completely counter-cultural and make decisions that seemingly go against all reason.

Let me introduce you to Robin and Brenda. 

Before each of these women held their child in their arms, they knew that life for them may look a little different. They knowingly chose the path of motherhood that would require a deep trust in God's sovreignty and a His plan for their child.  

People warned them that it didn't make sense, this path of motherhood, there would be too much at stake.  Too much of a risk for loss.  

These mothers knew, despite the uncertainty, the questions of others, and the overwhelming odds, that their child was waiting for them. 

Here are their stories.

This is Robin.  Mom to three amazing girls and to this special little boy, Gabriel.  

Gabriel was born prematurely with special needs.  At a few months old, he was placed into foster care and put into the arms of one of the foster families in our church.   Not long after entering his foster home, he became gravely ill and was placed in the NICU.  This little one is a fighter, and he battled for his life through ventilators and tubes and needles.  While in the NICU, he had a church full of people praying for him.  The Pass family were some of those people praying.  They had met Gabriel one morning at church.  As soon they had laid eyes on this sweet boy, they knew that he was meant to be a part of their family.  Robin he was what her arms had been missing.  He was her son. 

The Pass's became licensed foster parents and Gabriel was transitioned lovingly into their home last Mother's Day.  Despite his medical conditions, constant doctor's appointments, and round-the-clock care, Robin jumped in headfirst.  With a fierce mama's heart, she has made sure that he has the best care, that his medicines are regulated perfectly for his little body, and that he has the therapy he needs.   

Last month, Gabriel was officially adopted by the Pass Family.  Today, exactly a year after joining his family, Gabriel was baptized.  A miracle baby adored by his family and usually found in the arms of his mama. 

This is the Gorman Family.  Brenda Gorman and her husband adopted Zia, on the right, from the DRC.   

A few months before they were supposed to travel to get her, the Gormans were told that Zia had serious health issues.  Their agency asked if they still wanted to pursue the adoption.  

There was no question.  Zia was their daughter. 

Brenda flew immediately to the DRC to be with her.  She fought to get Zia moved to a better hospital in the DRC and was able to get an emergency visa to bring Zia home to Texas for medical treatment.  

Zia was able to spend 33 days with her family before passing away last week.  Please read more of her story here.  

Brenda was featured on the CBS evening news this past Friday night.  It was a beautiful piece about the love of a mother who fought so valiantly for her daughter's life.


I've not met Brenda personally, but through our Congo connections, have followed her journey on Facebook.  She is a true warrior, risking everything for a child to know what it means to have a family. Despite heartbreak and loss, she has remained steadfast that God picked Zia specifically for their family. 

Brenda's words on losing their Zia: 
"Death is not the end of her story. My baby girl still gets the fairytale ending; she is in a new body that is healed, she has all the bumba she wants, she is resting in the arms of Jesus, and she is rejoicing in the 

As we celebrate mothers across the world today, I needed you to meet these two women.  I think you can understand why. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Village People

When someone decides to become a foster parent, they knowingly agree to play a role in a story birthed from trauma and pain.

Children do not come into foster care as a result of healthy, thriving families.  They are placed in the system because somewhere along the way, their biological family chose addiction, abuse, neglect, or crime over everything else in their life.

Fostering can produce stories of beautiful restoration.  It can also be hard and exhausting.  At times, it's really, really, REALLY lonely.

Not everyone understands why one would choose to this path.  Almost every foster parent can share a story of friends or family questioning why they would involve themselves in such a messy, broken system.

But then there are the others.  The ones that subscribe to the "It takes a Village," mantra.

They are the hand-holders, the shoulders to cry on, the meal-bringers, the baby-snugglers, the prayer warriors.

I'll affectionately refer to them The Village People.

The Village People are the ones who still may not totally "get" the crazy world of foster care, but they trust your heart and your calling.  They know that this is what your family is MEANT to do. They do everything they can to support your family in the journey.  

I've got to brag about the Village People that have come alongside the foster families in our church the past two years.  They are doing ordinary things that are extraordinary blessings to those that are fostering.

I want to share these examples because they are do-able, practical, and can easily be put in place anywhere for foster families.  Whether you know one foster family or have a community full of them, these are ideas that can be easily implemented and make a significant impact their life.

Foster "Care" Bags:  These bags are made up of donated used/new diaper bags, wipes, diapers and other supplies.  The bags are age and gender specific for infants through school-age children. Foster "Care" Bags are delivered to families upon receiving an immediate placement of a child to get them through the first 24-48 hours.  Most of the time, a child is brought to the family with just the clothes on their body.  The bags aim to alleviate some of the immediate stresses on a foster family during the first few days of placement.

Foster Care Bag for a 12-18 month-old girl

Foster Care bag for a 6-12 month-old girl

Meals-  Simple, easy and a HUGE help when a family first gets a placement. is an extremely easy online program that someone can set-up and share with others.  Sign up online and the date is reserved for when you are going to deliver the meal.  Over 150 meals have been provided to foster families by people in our church.  And man, can they cook!

House Cleaning-  Sue, a member of our church, cleans houses professionally.  She is not at the place in her life where becoming a foster parent is an option, but she wanted to do something to help.  Sue has offered to clean the house of one of the foster families every other week.  As you can imagine, there was quite a response from the families on this one!

Blankets-  Little ones need security and something to call their own. What better than a blanket that is made just for them?  Two ministries at our church, Prayer Shawl and Threads of Love, have donated hand-made blankets for the children in care. A soft blanket is the perfect comfort for small children who have just had their world flipped upside down upon entering foster care.

Hand-knit by the Frazer Prayer Shawl Ministry

Hand-crafted by Frazer's Threads of Love Ministry

Artwork-  Jamie Mitchell, an amazingly talented local artist, has rendered these beautiful creations for each child who comes into one of the foster homes. When all you own can fit in a backpack, gifts like this hold tremendous value and meaning.  We have already seen the excitement and joy on the faces of children who received a painting.

Pictures- For the past year, two professional photographers have taken pictures of the foster children in our church every three months.  Suzanne and Lori donate hours of their time, resources, and their immense talents to provide childhood keepsakes for kids who may otherwise have no documentation of their early years.  I can't show you any pictures of the foster children, so I will share the latest photo they took of our son, T.D.

The pictures have also been a gift to the biological families.  When a foster family gives the biological parents these pictures, two things happen.  One, it reminds the biological family that the the foster family is on the same team.  Two, the pictures become a daily reminder to the parents to keep fighting for the restoration of their family.  A blessing in so many ways.

Prayer- Lots of it.  We have a prayer team made up of ten women who are committed to specifically be praying for our foster families and adoptive families in the church.  When a prayer request arises, we share as much information as confidentiality allows with the team and they get to praying, praying, praying.

What are your Village People doing?  I would love to hear some stories! 

To our Village People at Frazer UMC: 

You are unbelievably awesome.  The meals, the hugs, the encouraging words, and the prayers have gotten us through some of the most difficult days.  We need you, though we may not always let you know it. Thank you for loving us and the children so, so well.  When you treat our foster children just as every other child that walks through the door of the church, you let them know they are valuable and wanted.  By providing them with normalcy, stability, and love, you are validating every truth we are trying to instill in them during the time they are in our homes.  Village People, you play such an important role in the lives of these children.  Thank you.  (And we hope you like your nickname :)

With Love,
The Foster Families

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Definition of Motherhood - One Year Later

**I wrote this post on May 13, 2012.  One year later,  I'm amazed at the way God continues to broaden my understanding of what being a mother really means.  Grateful for the crazy, unconventional ways in which I've been able to fulfill the role of being a mom to those that have been placed in my life.  

My definition of motherhood has changed drastically over the past few years.

Ten years ago, I would have defined it as a woman who birthed or adopted a child and then raised them in their home.  A mother would be a primary caregiver- full of love, good cooking, and hugs.

Some of that definition remains true, yet I've realized how much I missed the mark on what true motherhood is.

Motherhood cannot and should not be compartmentalized into a 50's sitcom.  It is so much broader and richer than June Cleaver and Mrs. Brady.

I have not birthed or adopted a child. Yet I am a mother.

For five months this past year, we had a 20 year old young man living with us to get on his feet.  He needed a place to stay, guidance on his future, stability, and love.

There is another young man in our lives whose mom currently lives 500 miles away.  He has no place to stay, so he lives with his girlfriend's family while he finishes high school.  He watched his father pass away in front of him a few years ago.  He has no family here.  He calls my husband and I, "Mom and Dad."

We have a foster baby that has been living in our home the past six months.  He is in state custody but we provide his everyday necessities- food, clothing, snuggles, and lots and lots and lots of love.

I did not birth or adopt any of these young men.  But they are my sons.

Motherhood has many different faces and each one of them is so significant.

The woman who birthed her children.
The woman who adopted her children.
The woman who chose another family to care for the child she birthed.
The woman who fosters children.
The woman who raises their sister's and brother's children.
The woman who raises her children's children.
The woman who raises her kids as a single parent.
The woman who shares parenting roles because of divorce and remarriage.
The woman who mentors young men and women.
The woman who waits for a child in her heart but not yet in her hands.
The woman who has lost little ones too early.
The woman who spends her weekends loving on kids in the housing projects downtown.
The woman who cares for children at an orphanage somewhere around the world.
The woman who has a child waiting for her in an orphanage across the ocean.

Being a mother does not always include a shared DNA.  It is not just about home-cooked meals and bedtime stories.

To be a mother to someone is to impart wisdom, guidance, empathy, compassion, hugs, tears, smiles, laughter, joy, discipline, nurture, and love.

May you never feel inadequate because your reality of "motherhood" looks different. Your story has been designed distinctly and uniquely for YOU.

I pray you feel valued and loved today and everyday, because your role in this world as a mother is significant and desperately needed.

**That teenager, who was living on other people's couches, is now a permanent member of our family.  The 6 month-old foster baby is now a giggly, rambuctious 18 month-old who keeps us constantly entertained.  A son from across the world joined our family this past January.  

Three boys.  Only one carries my last name. 

I'm a mother to all of them just the same. 

Friends, I pray that today, you would be reminded that a legal document or a societal norm is not what determines that you are a mother. 

Celebrating all the women in my life who are amazing mothers in extraordinary and unique ways.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fluffy Pillows, The Month of May, and Feeling Unqualified

I don't want to write posts like this and then not give options on how you can play a role.  So, I'm VERY excited for an easy opportunity to provide a small piece of comfort for children in the DRC. 

The Love More Foundation is partnering with DRC Adoption Services, the placing agency we used to adopt Tyson, to provide pillows to children in the Kimbondo Orphanage and Hospital in the DRC.  

The children were asked what they wanted and having a pillow was what many requested.  

My friends, this is something WE CAN DO

These are children that are currently not available for adoption, so the orphanage does not receive as many funds or donations as other places.  

The Love More Foundation was started by adoptive parents and I fully trust and support what they are doing in the DRC.  In addition, our agency has a team in the DRC right now, visiting orphanages and assessing the needs of the children there.  They are working to meet the needs of the children where they are-  LOVE IT! 

In other news. . . 

Welcome to the month of May! It is Foster Care Awareness Month and my friend Catie, over at This Higher Calling, is going to be showcasing blog posts from foster parents all month long.  Please head on over and take a look!  

I'm honored to be a part of a great community over at We Are Statements.  Head on over here to read my thoughts on being "Unqualified."