Tuesday, April 11, 2017


By definition Perseverance is:

steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

Also notice the word "severe" is in there right in the middle of it - just saying;)

One thing I know - parenting is hard and will use up every ounce of creativity, energy and patience you have. Sometimes all in one night.
What I'm learning (over and over and over again) is that if I can stay calm and not be triggered by my child's triggers and meltdowns - things go much better. The fits may still last 1 hour and 30 minutes and there literally be nothing I can do to make it better (a fact that is still hard for me to grasp cause I want to fix it). But if I ride it out and stay level headed, speak calmly and lovingly. If I can breath and talk myself out of the feelings that all this noise and chaos means life is out of control. If I don't engage or let his attempts to push my buttons actually push them or even if I fake it really well and pretend I'm not cringing inside - and I just press on, keeping repeating myself calmly and kindly, keep meeting his needs for food or warmth - dry clothes the other day after the pool, whatever it may be - and sometimes I have no idea cause I try it all and nothing works - IF I can do all that and just stay regulated - all goes so so so much better. It may not blow over any quicker. It may not instantly take the rage away. But when it finally blows over - there isn't a need for me to appologize for losing my cool also. There isn't the nagging guilt that brings me down for days. There is instead connection and peace and even sometimes a very sweet little boy who wants to snuggle up and act like nothing ever happened. Last night there was even a very brief "sorry" in there which I didn't prompt and has never been something he has liked saying.

I know all this in my head. And yesterday I stayed the course. Last week, I stayed the course 3 out of 6 days and lost my mind the other 3 out of 6. It's those times that frustrate me the most. Far more than his behavior or the fact that we're even dealing with going on 3 weeks of almost nightly meltdowns. I'm frustrated with me, with my triggers, with my baggage, with the fact that I'm not acting like the adult every time, that I do and say the things I don't want to and the things I do want to do and say - I don't do. Sounds like a scripture I know.

Romans 7:14-25

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

It is hard. Just when I think we've gotten through the hard - a new season comes and a different version of hard hits. This is parenting. I know that it's hard regardless. But what I don't have it to compare to personally but what friends who have bio and adopted kiddos tell me is that trauma makes it harder. I believe it. I know my own junk reminds me of that. How hard it is to reprogram the brain. Years of counseling and I'm still working through my stuff. And I didn't even spend my first 3.5 years in an orphanage. When I stop and realize the reality of where my son came from and how those first few years must have been for him,  I am amazed at how well he is doing. Those scars don't just go away. The way his brain was wired early on, whether he remembers any of it or not, it's still in there. And when he's tired or hungry or cold or just over stimulated - that flight, fight or freeze part of the brain kicks in and all reason goes out the window. I've been trying to "talk" him out of it - spewing words and explanations and reasonings at him when really I just need to shut my mouth and ride it out with him. Seriously, this is one of my biggest struggles since I'm a verbal processor and all about talking things out. It doesn't work with him. Not in these moments. It makes it worse. His response is fight. My response I would say growing up was sometimes a little of each but as I grew older - it was definitely fight also. I'm also extremely stressed out by loud noises such as a child screaming and raging for any length of time. Any kind of chaos gives me a panic reaction inside that makes me feel like danger is coming. I'm sure it must be the same for my kiddo. So imagine me and my son - both triggered - both going to that fight part of the brain and you'll quickly see why there is a lot of yelling back and forth going on and a very unpleasant scene. Our neighbors must think we've lost our minds. If I'm struggling to keep myself regulated and I've been through years of counseling and have a very keen awareness of my issues - how much more difficult is it for him? No wonder we've had a hard 3 weeks.

I keep praying. I keep talking myself through it. I keep reminding myself not to "talk at him" in those moments (or hours). I keep reminding myself that it's ok that it's loud. It's ok that I can't instantly calm him. I just need to be present and calm and loving. I just need to ride it out with him. I don't need to enter into the trauma with him. But I do need to love him through it and do every single thing that I can to not engage in a negative way. Yelling isn't helping. And I hate it anyway. So my prayer daily is Lord help me. Help me be a better parent. Help me not get triggered. Help me to stay level headed. Help me to ride it out with him. And most of all - help me to help him. This is the most important job I will ever have - being his mom. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God has big plans for him. I want to help in any way I possibly can to help shape him into the man he will become. And help him through his triggers and trauma. And I can see how God is trying to show me that I still need to get some healing of my own in those areas.

I am grateful for my faith. Grateful for the power of prayer. Grateful for a few close friends that I can be real and raw with and text and say "pray right now" and I know they do. I can feel those prayers. I am grateful for people to be honest with. To be able to say "I'm struggling" and not feel judged. To even have other parents share their struggles with me. This is what is needed friends. Community. People to do life with. To be real with. Maybe every parent doesn't struggle in this exact same way but if we listen to those lies playing in our mind when we mess up - those lies that tell us "You're the only one with this issue. You're the worst parent. You're a failure." and if we keep listening and believing all those lies and we don't tell anyone of our struggle - then we don't even know the truth - that others are struggling too. Some in the same ways. Some in very different ways. But so many, maybe even all or almost all of us, are struggling. We don't have to be afraid to say it. I'm sick of the world telling us we have to pretend we have it all together. It's all an act. It's all a big fat lie. And you know who the father of lies is? Satan. Yeah, that's who. Getting into the light is where the healing comes. Being real. Being honest. Not pretending you're fine if you're really not. You don't have to write it in a blog for all the world to see - that's surely not everyone's style or comfort level. But do you have at least 1 or 2 people you can sit down with and be raw and honest? Maybe for you married folks - maybe it's your spouse. For us single mommas, we had better have some close friends cause everyone needs that kind of safe place to take your struggles to. I cannot imagine parenting or doing much else in life without that. I'm grateful for my people. And grateful to my Jesus for not leaving me where I am or where I was - for constantly teaching me and showing me and even revealing my junk because that's the opportunity for healing. Healing for me. And healing for my son. It's a lifetime journey. And that's why my favorite scripture is still:

James 1:2-4

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

EDITED ON 7/12/2019 TO ADD:
One thing I haven't blogged about since it's been literally 2 years since I last even posted a blog, is that sometime in the last 2 years (I think it was late 2017, early 2018 but not exactly sure) we discovered that Mihretu is extremely sensitive to artificial food dyes. I came across a TedTalk of a mom talking about how her kid acted when the child had food with dyes in it and it was literally describing my kiddo's behavior to a T. Everything I thought was trauma related - not so sure it really was at all. After months and months of rage like episodes that would end up in throwing up, and then coming across that TedTalk - I began to figure out that artificial dyes might be playing a roll. We cut it out and I'm not even kidding, the behavior improved within a matter of days. He's gotten really good at reading labels and avoiding stuff with dyes also and it's been over a year and a half since we cut it out. Once in a great while, we miss that something has dyes in it and several times Mihretu ends up throwing up. This has happened a few times when he got cheese on a burger at a restaurant or one time when we went out for Chinese food for a friends birthday and shared orange chicken and he went to the bathroom to throw up a few minutes later. Duh, of course that has coloring in it - it was orange. That was a mom fail moment. Thankfully his body just rejects it now, he throws up and then he's fine. But man, I look back at all those years and all those tantrums and wonder how many of them might have been because of food dyes or may have been worse because of them. I'm just so grateful we figured out that this affects him so much and were able to cut it out of his diet. It's banned in a lot of countries so I don't even understand why it's still even allowed in this one. Nevertheless, we no longer ingest it. I don't either cause it's obviously not good for you. I wish I would have known sooner but I'm thankful I found out when I did and we could do something about it. It has made a world of difference!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


It has been a challenging week. It feels like it's been months but it's only been a week. I'm exhausted. he's exhausted. Our neighbors probably hate us for all the noise. For the love. Every single night we'd had major meltdowns at our house - except Saturday which was the day we went to Adventure Island and had a truly magical day that was a much welcome break from the other evenings we've had since last week. There was one mega one a few weeks ago in Nashville while on spring break and it seemed to come out of nowhere and truth be told, I did not handle it so well at first. Finally got myself under control and got creative and rode it out for 30 minutes or so and thankfully didn't have to cancel plans with a friend I really wanted to see and it was our only chance before coming back to FL. Last week the daily meltdowns started on Wednesday which is the night we attempted to do a book report assignment. I do not like homework. Especially for 2nd graders. Especially considering kids are at school all day long as it is. Not a fan. And that's one of many reasons I chose Montessori for my son - not a lot, if any, homework. It's usually optional and we most often opt out. This book report thing didn't sound optional. We read a Magic Treehouse book over break and finished it up the week after - he read some, I read some. We read every night at bedtime anyway so it wasn't difficult to work that in and we really enjoyed the story. We will continue with those books cause he and I are both liking those. That part was fine. But trying to create a shoebox diorama and have him write out some details from the story were like asking him to do 10 backflips in the living room or something. It got chaotic and traumatic fast. I did not handle it well. It doesn't seem to matter how many years have gone by or how many times I revisit a counselor - I have layers and layers of my own junk that keeps getting stirred up and I'm so tired of it. I just want the junk gone. But as much as I hate my junk and how those buttons get pushed - the more it reminds me that childhood stuff sticks with you for a lifetime. And healing takes a really long time. And our lives are going to be a journey of constantly unpacking that stuff. That's not to say healing doesn't happen cause I know I've experienced so much of it - but it takes time. It doesn't happen overnight and I don't know about you - but I want a quick fix. I want my stuff to be gone. And I want his stuff to be gone. And I want to have this magical, happy, perfect little environment where it's all sunshine and rainbows. But that's not reality. Trauma is hard. For me. For him. For all of us. Noises, smells, certain times of year - can all trigger our trauma. It seems like this time of year is a trigger for my sweet boy. I hear about traumaverseries a lot in the adoption world and I know birthdays are hard and his was just this past Sunday. I've been seeing old blog posts pop up on my time hop and started to realize this time of year - late March/early April is always a rough time at our house. I need to remember that and be more prepared next year. This year, I just wasn't.

It's crazy cause in the midst of a hard week of evening meltdowns, we've also had some seriously awesome, fun days. Maybe I'm tiring the kid out too much with so much fun activities. Maybe part of it is the time change cause let's be honest - we are all thrown off by the stupid time change. I read something that said there are more car accidents this time of year and I believe it. Why are we even still doing a time change? Anyway, back to my point. I think it's just a lot of things factoring into a really hard week. I'm trying to be consistent and figure out some discipline that is firm and teaches my son that he cannot be disrespectful and violent and make huge messes all over the house in a fit of rage without some kind of consequence. I want to teach him healthy ways to vent frustration and teach him to be respectful and use nice words. I'm trying to handle it in a connected way even though in that moment he doesn't seem to hear anything I say - and just keeps saying "you're mean" and "you always make it more worser". This parenting stuff is hard y'all. If you're a parent - you know.

I'm not going to go into too much detail beyond what I've already said because I don't want to embarrass my son when he gets older and could read these posts himself. The thing is - all kids have days like he's been having. But there's just so much to think about when trauma is involved. And there is something to certain times of year being a trigger for our kids. I'm thankful for praying friends that I can text and give a little bit of info to and I know they are praying for me and my sweet boy. I can feel those prayers. If you're reading this and you're a praying person - would greatly appreciate yours too. And if you're a trauma momma and going through a hard time too - don't isolate. Reach out to your friends and let them pray for you and help you. It really does make a difference. Especially if you're a single momma like I am. Because we don't have a spouse to bounce ideas off of or usually any other adult present that even sees what's going on to even know how to pray. This is where we need our village. I'm thankful for mine. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Joy that comes from letting go

This week I have felt especially joyful. I don't know exactly why this week moreso than other weeks but there's a whole combination of things that have led us to where we are right now. A lot of things that felt really really hard at the time but have proven to be so worth it just to get us here.

A lot of changes have happened in the 6 months. When the mortgage went up on our house and things just kept breaking and finances were super tight, I knew the Lord told me to sell the house. Though I was super sad at first, my outlook turned around quickly. What a huge blessing that I could have it under contract after only 2 days of showings and that I could make enough off of it after only owning it for a little over a year to be able to pay off a lot of debt. In the exact perfect timing we found this condo for a price that was literally the ideal price and what I thought would be unlikely to actually find. I was online at the exact moment that post went live and the first one to call on it. I only started my search 1 day prior and wouldn't have started any sooner cause I wanted to get through inspection and stuff first to make sure that other house offer was going to be solid before finding a place we liked cause I didn't want to sign a lease or move forward until I was sure the house sale was definite. The condo is in the exact development I was hoping for - with several friends down the street and tons and tons of kids for M to play with. We LOVE it here!!! Even more than I thought we would. It even has an extra bedroom so I can have my office as its own room which has seriously been a huge stress reliever. When we bought our other house and I said my office was in my bedroom - a friend told me there were studies that showed that having an office or work station in the same room you sleep causes stress. Once we moved here, I definitely noticed it was helping me have better boundaries to just close the door and not work so much in off hours. I'm the kind of person that gets stressed out if the house is a mess and I swear my desk/office area is never really very clean cause I just jump from one thing to the next to the next and can never quite totally get it all clean and keep it that way. So having it as a separate room and closing the door - and keeping the rest of the house picked up - also helps with stress.

Not owning a house is less stressful for sure. It rained really hard for the first time a few weeks ago and I realized my first response was to look up and see if there were any leaks or water coming in. After 10 years of home ownership (2 different houses), that was always my first thought when it rained. I had this sigh of relief come over me - if there was a leak - I would just call the landlord and I would not have to pay for that. I do want to own a house again someday but not until I have money saved so that when leaks or breaks happened, I would have money put away to pay for it and wouldn't have my first response be stress of how I would afford it. For now, renting is great with me.

I miss our dog like crazy. I still dream about her. Mihretu and I still talk about her daily. And we definitely did not want to say goodbye to her. Yet at the same time, the stress of those first few months and all the anxiety she had, my fear of leaving the house and not knowing what I would come home to, trying everything under the sun to help her adjust, and so on - it was really stressful and almost all consuming. We didn't want to go to the beach or Busch Gardens or really anywhere that involved us being gone longer than like an hour or two max. That's no way to live. And it certainly wasn't good for her - she was so stressed out and anxious. It was heartbreaking. I hated admitting it wasn't going to work. But I do believe that was the right decision for her and for us. And a huge amount of stress has lifted off.

I haven't really talked about this that much because I haven't even really known how to put it into words until now but my job was causing a lot of stress too. I take responsibility really seriously which I think is good in many ways but can also mean bad boundaries, overworking, stretching yourself way too thin and taking on more and more and more until you literally cannot take on anything else or you'll implode. Seriously, non profit work is rewarding and awesome and when you live and breath and believe in it - it really matters and when something matters, you pour yourself into it. Sometimes to the point where you pour out so much, you haven't taken time to fill back up. I hit that point late last summer. Burnout but aware enough to recognize it and to know that I needed to set better boundaries, speak up and try to get some help in areas that I was not especially wired to fill nor did I have any capacity or time to be able to fill. Last spring, we brought on Shelly as a fundraiser on a very part-time basis because fundraising is an area I just am simply not gifted or experienced in. I had no idea then that God would raise her up into a leadership position and place us side by side in leading GBLI into a new season and in turn providing some long needed relief for me and some great fresh direction for the organization. Shelly became the CEO Jan 1st of this year and boy am I grateful. I think this change was the biggest stress reliever of all in my life. Let me be clear that no one was piling work on me. I was doing it to myself. I'm not great at delegating, I'm just not. I've gotten better over the years but I'm more the "get it done" person so I have tended to just keep taking more and more on as I've seen a need in various areas. Also we only have so many resources to work with so it's not like you can always bring on all the staff you need to fill all the roles that need to be filled so it's pretty common for non profit staff to wear many hats. About 6 months ago, I started really evaluating how I'm wired and what brings me life and what doesn't. And it became very clear to me that I am more of an internal operations kind of person. I can be a visionary but I also am the "nuts and bolts of how that vision comes to life" person. Internal operations is a very different gifting than external relations. I like aspects of both but when I'm really running in how I'm wired, I thrive on making things work behind the scenes. I like spreadsheets and budgets and creating power points and checking things off my check list. I like updating the website and creating all of our design materials. I like trip coordination. I've handed Uganda coordination off to seriously 5 different people in the last 7 years and every single time, it ends up back on my plate. It just came back to me again and this time I'm thinking I'm not even going to try to hand it off. And as I've started to get back into it, I'm remembering how much I love trip coordination - it's very concrete and you can have a checklist and check everything off it for that week. You get to talk to prospective team members and interact more with team leaders and team members who just came home from a life-changing trip and I find that fuels me too. The things that Shelly is taking on and running with are all freeing me up to run with the things I like to do and are part of my updated job description. And I feel such a huge weight lifted off me. I'm still crazy busy but it's a different kind of busy. I feel revived and grateful. And I think a lot of the joy I'm feeling is because I'm no longer carrying more than what God wanted me to. And there is freedom in finally realizing that and admitting that and being willing to hand some stuff off.

So I'm sharing all this because I wonder who is reading this who might also be carrying more than you can handle well or more than you are really supposed to be trying to carry to begin with.  I had gotten to a place financially and just from a stress standpoint that something or a lot of somethings had to give. For my sanity. For my health. For my joy, my parenting, and for my walk with the Lord. I just felt tired and burned out. And I cried out to Jesus. And one by one he stripped things off of me. Somedays it felt like a bad thing - like He was just taking things away from me. But I kept praying and seeking. I felt like He was saying "I know it feels like I'm taking things away but trust me and you'll see - it's going to be better. I'm trying to free you up so I can bring you joy and blessings." I get it now. And I trusted Him enough to believe Him then, even when I couldn't quite see it.

Reader - what is He asking you to trust Him for? or with? You might not be able to see it now but He does have a plan, and He is worthy of our trust. Always. I pray you will step out in faith to follow Him even in the hard. You won't regret it. 

LOVE our Ethiopian family

We just returned from Ethiopia and oh boy - my heart is completely wrecked. Mihretu and I traveled on our own last March (2018) over his ...