Wednesday, February 17, 2021

It has been almost 2 years since I posted. Just today it occured to me that there may be some single adoptive mommas out there who follow this blog who may be interested in my new ministry. In particular, we have a retreat this summer (July 2021) just for single adoptive moms!!! More about that below.

Long story short: COVID-19 put a wrench in so many things - one of those things being my job of 10+ years with Go Be Love International (dba of Visiting Orphans, Inc). We all got laid off at the end of March 2020 because of COVID-19 and its effect on international travel. I started praying about what would be next for me and a few months later, God put a retreat center vision on my heart. In August, I filed the paperwork to create a 501c3 ministry called Restoration Nation Retreat.

About RNR

Restoration Nation Retreat (RNR) hosts Christ-centered retreats designed to refresh, nourish and restore those who attend. Our heart is to pour out the extravagant love of the Father on each attendee. The vision for RNR was born out of much prayer and a heart for missionaries, ministry leaders, foster and adoptive families, as well as those experiencing burnout, grief or the effects of trauma. Retreats will be designed with each group of participants in mind.

Our Purpose
To see people healed and whole in Jesus.

Our Mission
This mission of Restoration Nation Retreat is to refresh, nourish and restore those in need of healing through Christ-centered retreats, counseling, and other services.

As of today, we have 5 retreats in the works for 2021. 3 for missionary ladies and 2 for adoptive moms. One of those adoptive mom retreats is specifically for Single Adoptive Moms!!! Being one myself, this one is near and dear to my heart. I've never heard of a retreat for us before and many of the adoptive mom retreats I've been to - us single momma's are often looked over entirely. One retreat I went to - I asked the host if there were other single adoptive moms at the retreat and she looked at me and said "Honestly, I don't know." She looked at me like she had no idea this was even a category of adoptive moms. The retreat was beneficial and refreshing but a lot of the content was geared toward married couples. Most of the guest speakers spoke about "my husband and I" and so on. It just felt like I wasn't really seen. It's been on my heart for many years to do a retreat for single adoptive moms. Long before I had any inkling that I'd be starting a ministry that specifically does retreats. I didn't know but God did. And I'm so excited to love on single adoptive moms at our retreat this July at Sandy Cove Ministries in North East, Maryland. If you are a single adoptive mom who is reading this - I would love for you to come! All the details here:  Cost is only $100 as my heart in starting this ministry is to keep costs as low as possible so that it's never a reason why someone doesn't attend. Restoration Nation Retreat will be fundraising the rest of the cost. We're seeking sponsors for this so if you or someone you know are interested in sponsoring, you can find out more about that here:

Besides the new ministry, I am also doing freelance design work for many clients (mostly nonprofits). I just finished website updates for a nonprofit in Georgia, a logo/coffee label for a friend who bought a coffee farm in Hawaii, a brochure for another ministry, and am currently working on a 2 week fundraising campaign for a mentoring organization as they honor one of their long-time mentors who is retiring. It's been a joy to get to use my skills to help other ministries and companies. I'm really loving it. And I'm excited about the new ministry and our first retreat coming up April 29 to May 2, 2021 for missionary ladies. 

On the homefront, my son is growing like crazy. Since January of 2020, he's gone up 3 pant sizes. I can barely keep up. He's about to be 12 years old. Where has the time even gone? It seems like just yesterday I was blogging about his first English words. My boy is strong willed and definitely a future leader. He does not like to follow. He likes to be in charge. Always has. I know God has big plans for him. It is my greatest gift to get to be his momma. Before the quarantine of 2020, we were supposed to go to Ethiopia. The trip got cancelled 2 days before travel. We still have a flight credit and cannot wait to go when it's safe. We both miss Ethiopia and all our dear ones and family there so much. We also miss our family in Michigan as we haven't been able to see them either. We've been having fun closer to home and staying put in Florida. I'm thankful to live in a place with such amazing weather and lots of fun outdoor things to do. We've been to Orlando a few times and spent a lot of the summer at the pool and beach. Recently, we went to Sea World Orlando for the first time and Mihretu and I went on the big roller coasters. I get a little nauseous these days but Mihretu absolutely loves these rides. Needless to say, he went way more times than I did. I'm so glad we moved here almost 6 years ago. I've been thankful for that decision every single day. You never know what God has planned but as of this moment, I don't ever want to leave Florida. 

For those of you who are long-time readers of my blog, I'm sorry I don't get on here much anymore. I'm very sensitive to what kinds of things I share about my kiddo online. The more I've learned over the years from adoption groups and from adult adoptees in those groups, the less I want to share. I think that's a good thing. I certainly don't ever want my son to read my old posts and be embarrassed in any way. I do very much want to create a safe place for single adoptive moms to know they are not alone. Please connect with me through the new ministry or come to a future retreat. I would love to meet you! 

With much love,

Friday, July 12, 2019

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 spring break to visit Ethiopia for the first time since I brought him home in 2012. Our mission was to find his grandma. I had visited her once before, a friend of mine went the year later to update her with photos and such and I felt it was time for Mihretu and I to hop on a plane and go in person. The only problem was - the phone number I had for the neighbor no longer worked and I didn't have an address or anything. We couldn't let anyone know we were coming and we didn't even know exactly how or where to go. I knew what town it was and thought I would possibly recognize the area and know where to go. I didn't. Once I got there, nothing really looked familiar. But I had this book that I had made from the first time I met grandma - a book of photos of her, photos of family from photos she showed me and I had made a book for Mihretu with all of those photos in it and I brought that with me. That book helped tremendously. We drove around the town, stopping and asking people if they knew or recognized her. We went to town offices. One local even hopped in with us both days to try and help. The town was bigger than I thought and I wasn't at all sure where to look but strangely had a peace. As it turns out, our driver/translator/friend was super stressed out about it and wasn't sure we would even find her. I was just sure we would. I had this overwhelming peace that we would find her. And praise Jesus - we did - on Mihretu's 9th birthday. During that visit, we found out that grandma is actually great-grandma. We met uncles and aunts and neighbors and were welcomed into this beautiful family. They were so happy to see Mihretu and it was the most beautiful experience... for both of us. I was welcomed in so sweetly, told that I was now part of the family and showered with hugs and kisses and blessings. There is no other way to describe it other than a holy experience. They didn't know we were coming but they dropped everything to spend a few days with us when we showed up out of the blue. Mihretu's great aunt told us that if we came again we had to stay with her. She brought us to her home one of the days and made us a yummy meal and some awesome Ethiopian coffee. She gave Mihretu foot rubs and covered him in kisses. She even came to Addis Ababa the last day so she could come to the airport and see us off. It was so sweet! I adore her. That was last year (March 2018) and we knew we had to go back as soon as we possibly could.

We just returned in June of 2019. I work for Go Be Love International and I planned a trip to Uganda and Ethiopia that I would lead. My co-leader, Karen, would bring the team home so that Mihretu and I could stay after the team left and see the family. We had an awesome week in Uganda followed by 6 great days in Ethiopia. We had a super fun team and a great experience. It was such a great trip. But nothing quite compared to our extra 5 days after the team left.

We stayed in Mihretu's great aunt's home and it was one of the sweetest weeks of my life. I adore her. I adore the whole family. I can't even describe how wonderful they are. This time we got to meet birth mom, 3 uncles, a second cousin (his great aunt's son who speaks English and was staying in the home with us - him speaking English was super helpful in the evenings when the translator wasn't there and Mihretu hit it off with him instantly), more neighbors, friends, grandma, even Mihretu's aunts pastor. We stayed 4 nights in his aunt's home. I felt like she rolled out the red carpet for us. She was so welcoming and sweet and oh my word, she is the best cook ever. Seriously - every single thing she made was so delicious. She even taught me how to make some Ethiopian food. It was so beautiful getting to stay in her home and getting to be around the family so much. I absolutely love Ethiopian culture. I love the slower pace of life there. I love sitting in a circle around coffee being slowly made and just being together. Even though I often didn't understand what was being said unless the translator told me (so thankful for our translator friend who came every single day from morning till about 6pm), I still loved just seeing the family interact with each other, and with Mihretu. I loved how comfortable he was around them. I loved how comfortable I was. My heart is so full and I feel so incredibly grateful that we can know them. What a beautiful gift.

Usually once a year, we visit my family in Michigan. And now, we get to also visit Mihretu's family in Ethiopia. How awesome is that? We are definitely going back. As often as we possibly can.

I know people sometimes get fearful about these kinds of things. And honestly, I literally have never even heard of anyone staying in the home of their child's birth family. But I'm not one to follow the norm. And I'm so glad because I would have missed out on the most amazing 5 days ever. I would have missed getting to see that although we are different in many ways, we're also very similar in other ways. As I was sitting there watching all the uncles throw cubed beef in a pan over an outside fire and watching them interact and talk with each other - it reminded me of bbq's at my dad's house and all my uncles and my 2 brothers all around my dad doing the same thing. As photos from our time there had been printed out and were being passed around among the ladies and they all started laughing and I asked the translator why and he said they were teasing Mihretu's aunt because she was making a really silly face in one of the photos - it reminded me of the ladies in my family and how we would do the same thing. We're not really all that different. And I feel 100% completely at home with this family and so incredibly thankful for the opportunity to know them.

We share a love - a love of this precious boy named Mihretu. He's part of their family. He's part of my family. And now we are all connected together as family. It's a beautiful thing and I thank God for this most amazing and rare gift. I love that I get to be part of that family simply because I became a mom. I had no idea when I said yes to adopting Mihretu that I would be adopted into his entire family. I love our Ethiopian family more than words can say.

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. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A hard week

It's been a hard week. I mentioned in my last post that our dog was not loving condo life. My son and I have loved the sense of community, kids to play with, friends to have movie nights with and hang out with everyday if we want to. I love not having yard work or the responsibility of home ownership, the cost of lawn care and having to do the pool chemicals myself. And having several other single moms on the street and taking turns watching each others kids. So regarding all that - we've loved it here so far. But our dog has not. And that has been very challenging and stressful for all of us.

At first it seemed ok. When we decided to move here, I had decided that I would make sure to take her every day to the dog park, no matter what. And I did exactly that. Our yard in TN was huge and she could run and chase squirrels and play. I thought when we bought the house here that the tiny yard would be a hard adjustment for her. It probably would have been if not for the dog park and the doggy door. We started going every day to the dog park so she could run and she had zero issues adjusting. She did great. She didn't destroy anything or seemed stressed when we left. No issues at all. The yard was fenced and she had a doggy door but the yard was tiny so she couldn't run or anything. But the dog park made it ok. And I think she really loved the doggy door and being able to go in and out whenever she wanted. Some days she'd go in and out like 50 times. I'd find her out there laying in the sun when I was working. Or chasing lizards. Or barking at squirrels. The dog park was only 5 blocks from our house so that was great too. When we sold the house and were looking to move to a condo, I truly underestimated how much the freedom of a doggy door and fenced yard had been for her. And I didn't even think about all the noises on the other sides of the walls and how that might freak her out. I thought it might at first but thought she'd get used to it. Just like she did with our loud neighbor at the last house who sometimes fired up his boat motor in the side yard. She got used to that pretty quickly. I work from home so I'm not gone that much. Our routine here in the condo was us all piling in the van every morning, dropping M off at school and then me and Elsa swinging by the dog park so she could run and chase squirrels and play while I walked laps with the other dog parents there. It was a routine. I would come home after that and work while she snoozed under my desk in her favorite little spot. I'd let her out for a walk a few times during the day and then I'd load her up in the van and take her with me to go get M from school. When she was home alone, which wasn't all that much, it was usually only for a few hours at the most. At first, she seemed ok when we were gone. But after about a week of living here, we came home to a chewed up bottom step. Our condo is on the 2nd floor so when you come in our private entrance you have a little landing at the bottom and then carpeted steps that go up. At first she was always waiting for us at the bottom of the steps and we had to be really careful cause she would try like crazy to slip out and run off anytime we went in or out. She got out a few times and had herself a little jog before returning back. She wasn't gone long and didn't go far. But I didn't want her to get loose like that for fear of her getting hit by a car or something. After that day she chewed the carpet, it just kept getting worse. I would load her kong up with peanut butter and treats so she'd have something to do. I got her a deer antler to chew on. She looked like she was preoccupied with the kongs when we left after a few weeks and sometimes didn't even come down to the bottom of the stairs to see us off. It looked like maybe she was adjusting. I was hopeful. She was focused on her peanut butter and seemed totally calm. But then we'd only be gone 45 min or so and would come home to chunks taken out of the door frame that you could tell she had been scratching at and my rug shredded or our shoes chewed up or more carpet destroyed. It was getting worse and worse. Even when I was home, she started acting anxious when she would hear noises. We got new neighbors upstairs next to us and they are pretty loud so I noticed an increase in the anxiety once they moved in.

When I first got Elsa, she was crate trained and liked the crate. I don't know what changed but at about 6 months old, she flipped out one day in the crate and completely chewed up the really hard plastic bottom of that thing which I didn't even know was possible and then chewed up the linoleum under that. I was shocked when I came home. The next time we left the house, we only left for like 20 minutes as a test and left her out of the crate. We came home to her lounging on the couch looking all content and we never crated her again. She never chewed anything up or destroyed anything or seemed stressed when we'd leave. Not at that house, not at the house in FL with the small yard, not the entire 3 years we've had her. Until this. After about 8 months in the house in FL, I started leaving the cover off the doggy door and then she had freedom to go in and out even when no one was home. She loved that and never tried to dig out or anything. But she loved that freedom.

Once all this stress and carpet chewing started happening here, I started trying to crate her again. I didn't want her to ingest any of what she was chewing and thought maybe she'd feel safer in the crate although I knew she didn't like it prior. I started out by putting it by my bed and putting her in there just at night. She wouldn't flip out if I was in the room with her but she would whine quite a bit and she would not lay down and relax. If I left the room, she'd panic and start barking and panting and scratching and trying to get out. High anxiety. I put her in there a few hours the first few nights and then did a whole night after that. She was next to my bed where I was sleeping but she did not lay down once the entire night to sleep. She was pretty quiet except for a little bit of whining off and on but was totally tired the next day due to zero sleep. She literally would not lay down in there. I didn't get much sleep either. I had to leave for 45 min that day so I tried crating her. I put a dark sheet over the top to make it den like and came home to it pulled through the crate and shredded. She was barking and panting and had high anxiety being in there. I imagine if I had left longer, I may have come home to a chewed up bottom again like years ago.

I tried something called Rescue Remedy - it's supposed to calm anxiety - you put a few drops on their treats or ears. I tried it both ways - it did nothing. I tried some chewable anxiety stuff prescribed by the vet that was quite expensive - it did nothing whatsoever. Over the course of 3 months, 3 entire steps were completely shredded, the door frame chewed and scratched up with chunks taken out, two rugs shredded, my shoes destroyed, my bedroom carpet chewed up and the sheet in the crate shredded.

I had been in touch with the organization I got her from for the past month or more communicating back and forth about all the things I was trying. It had gotten to the point where I was afraid to leave the house at all for fear of what I'd come home to and for not wanting her to be so stressed out every time we left. But we all know you have to leave the house sometimes and you can't take a dog with you everywhere you go.

Over the week of Christmas, after much prayer and thought about things I had tried or maybe could still try, I had the realization that this was not fair to Elsa and no amount of training was going to take away the noises on the other sides of the walls or the fact that she doesn't have a yard. She is a foxhound whippet mix - that's a hunter dog and a runner dog. She is not a condo dog. And we can't move right now. I made the very sad decision to take her back to TN to the rescue org to have them find her a new home. I should add that she had also lost 4 pounds over these 3 months. When I took her to the vet they let me know that. She was still eating normal so it was clearly stress. I don't want my sweet girl to be so stressed she's losing weight, and panicking whenever we leave. What kind of life is that for her? We love that dog. Mihretu adored her and she adored him. She was so great with him. I'd always find him hugging her or laying his head on her or her snuggling up next to him with her head on his lap. Other than when I was trying to crate her, she slept with me every night. She laid under my desk every day as I worked. She was the best dog. And was definitely happiest at the dog park where she was able to run and hunt and be free.

I thought we were going to drive her to TN this week but as it turned out one of the rescue organizations fosters was actually here in Sarasota and said she could take her for us. What a Godsend that was. That would have been a very long, depressing 12 hour drive. Plus Mihretu woke up Monday morning covered in itchy hives and a sore throat. I looked in there and he had white bumps all over so we headed to the clinic. He had scarlet fever - a strain of strep that can be pretty dangerous. So glad I took him in. He's on meds and has cream for the hives which are still itching off and on even a few days later. So very glad we did not have to drive 12 hours this week.

Yesterday was the day. We met up with the foster lady at 10 am and I gave her all of Elsa's treats and food and flea/tick meds and all her toys and every single thing of hers. They set up her crate in their SUV and put her blanket and pre-loaded kongs with treats and peanut butter that I had brought for her into the crate and then I hugged her tight and we both kissed her goodbye and she went in the crate and on her way to TN. She was licking peanut butter and looked content when we walked away. I sobbed like a baby. Mihretu wasn't sure what to even think of that. He was trying to be funny and just kept saying "you're STILL crying?" I couldn't stop. He hasn't cried but I know he is sad. There may be moments when it hits him and he cries. Last night, he kept saying "oh I just thought I saw Elsa." Or "I miss Elsa" or "it's weird without Elsa" or "I thought that Elsa was under that blanket". We had a sleepover with the neighbor kids here to try and make it a fun night and that helped a little but it's going to be weird and sad for awhile. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw her like 100 times. I went to get up from the table and looked down to make sure I wasn't going to step on her. The door bell rang and it was weird to not have her bark. It feels weird and wrong to not have her here.

That last night she slept with me and I woke up like 20 times to kiss her and pet her and tell her I loved her. I know dogs don't think the same way we do so I know she'll be ok. She will thrive in a home with a yard. She is not a condo dog. I wish I would have known that before we moved to one. I just didn't think it would be a big deal since I'd walk her and take her to the dog park and I work from home. I was wrong. We do really like it here but I certainly don't like that it resulted in this. It's so sad and I already miss her so much. It's going to take awhile to adjust for both of us.

In the meantime, the lady who took her has been so sweet and even sent me photos of her on the car ride and updating me on how she's doing. They made it safely last night to TN and she slept all night in the crate and did fine. It seems like the issue must have been more separation from us than the crate itself. But I don't really know. I'm just glad to hear she's doing well. I know the foster home will treat her well and that they'll find her an amazing permanent home and I'll be so happy to hear that she has a new family with a yard and she's doing well. I know she'll be ok. I know we'll be ok. I just miss her. Man I love that fur baby.

the first time we saw Elsa

Monday, December 12, 2016

The rest of the story

So it's been a few months since I last posted and that post was all about how I felt God was calling me to sell our house in Florida. I was NOT excited about this idea at all initially. I cried. More than once. But whenever I prayed about it, I felt very clearly that the Lord told me to sell it. So I didn't delay. I listed it right away and began getting it ready for photos and showings and all that important but not so fun stuff that involved putting money in for some fixes to things I knew needed fixed and so on. Meanwhile, as I mentioned, the mortgage had increased and my van was having issues and needing repairs left and right and finances were honestly tighter than ever. I prayed and prayed that the house would sell fast and the stress would be minimal. Well guess what? It went under contract after only 2 days of showing it. 2 days!!! Crazy awesome, right? I was so happy. And I got what I had hoped to get from it. Praise the Lord.

Now the next 30+ days were pretty stressful with some drama I won't mention during the selling process, a whole bunch of extra costs involved in repairs I ended up having to do and a delay in closing that meant me having to borrow money from several very awesome and generous sources to get through one more week without those funds. But people helped me and reminded me of how God blesses us with community and how humbling it is when that community comes alongside to hold one another up. I'm so thankful. And the house did finally close and praise the Lord I was able to pay off a ton of debt with the very nice profit I made off that house. So thankful.

The really cool part of the story is the part about finding us a new place to live. I'll try to keep it short but there's a lot of fun little details I don't want to leave out so here goes...

So right after the house went under contract and had passed inspection and we had agreed on repairs and stuff, I started my search for a place for us to move. One day I set up appointments at a bunch of condos in the area and set out to start looking. Several were decent but didn't really jump out at me. One I really, really loved but the price was crazy high. Prices here are high enough but some of these places for rent were insane. I came home discouraged and frustrated.

The next morning I got up early and went in the prayer closet. Through tears, I was asking God to show me and to help us find a place that I would like, that would be a good fit for us and most of all in a price range we could even afford cause I surely didn't want to end up right back in a tight spot after all that. After I finished praying, I hopped on to look again. I was reading listings and hiding ones I didn't like and searching some more. I kept zeroing in on the place where several of our friends live and refreshing the screen to look there. I also hopped on to other sites and cross checked to see if any other ones came up that weren't listed on the other sites. All of a sudden, when I hit refresh, a brand new listing popped up in the condos I was wanting and in the literally EXACT dollar amount I was hoping for but did not think we would find for a 3 bedroom condo. I picked up the phone and called right that moment. The lady who answered started laughing and said "I just posted that less than 2 minutes ago". Come to find out it was a 3 bedroom PLUS a loft. And the price was perfect. And it was in the same condo developments as two different friends of ours and that's where I was hoping to be all along. Especially since we already knew people and I already knew this place has a lot of families with kids and dogs.

So the story gets even crazier. I couldn't get in right away to see it cause the people still lived there. So it was going to be a few days and I was kind of worried someone else would snatch it up. I had come across a scam on craigslist - a place I had looked at the previous week was posted for way cheaper, using the same exact pictures but turns out it wasn't the owner at all. She was shocked when I told her I saw someone was using her pics and details to post on craigslist. When I did a test email to them to see what they said, of course they said someone had just backed out and I coudl be next on the list but had to fill out the online application and pay the deposit first. No way. I bet those people made a lot of money just doing that. Total scam. Anyway so I had just discovered that and didn't want to send any of my info through email or otherwise. But I wanted this leasing manager to know I was serious. I had her send me all the paperwork and was just going to bring it already filled out when I came to look at it. She mentioned she used to work at the main leasing office for these condos but now managed some of the units for individual owners. So I texted my friend Kait to see if she knew of her. Turns out she rents from her too. She totally knew her. She confirmed the email and phone number was indeed her and so I went ahead and sent her my stuff.

Monday I got to go see the place and loved it right away. Still can't believe it was the price it was. Total God thing and I know had I not been online at that exact moment it would have been taken cause it is awesome! This part of the story gets even more awesome - I'm serious!!!!

So I'm talking to the leasing manager and she says "I have to tell you - I wasn't so sure about you when I saw your application and it said you didn't have money in savings and you had debt and all that so I googled your name and I found your blog and read your story about selling your house and know I know the whole story and totally get it. And your faith is really inspiring." I'm standing there with my jaw down like "seriously!!! You read my blog and that cleared it all up and you're ok with renting to me because of that?" Wow, just wow. Talk about a God thing!!!! I'm still in shock about that. Just goes to show you never know who will read stuff you put on the internet - good or bad. Ha ha

Anyway, of course she also ran a credit check and all was good so we got the place. I felt the favor of the Lord over that whole thing and we were able to borrow some funds to get in here and then of course pay it back as soon as the house closed. We got moved in a few days before closing on the other house and other than our dog having a heck of a time adjusting which is a whole other story - we absolutely LOVE the place. And the part I love most is the sense of community. We literally hang out with my friend and her kids like 3 or more times every week. And through her we've met other people including another single mom with a little girl that we adore. And so we all 3 single moms and our kids hang out all the time. Our kids play outside. We take turns having each others kids over. It's something I've only ever dreamed of. I love, love, love it. Hopefully our fur baby will come around too cause she's not loving it just yet.

After all that and getting moved in and paying off debt - my van stranded us again. Actually on moving day - it was a crazy long, tiring day and I had picked m up from aftercare and the dog up from doggy daycare where she went during the day so she wouldn't run off in the move and our van died right there in the doggy place parking lot and we were the last ones there, even the workers had left. My friend from small group came to our rescue and sat with us in their car until the tow truck came which was like 9:20 at night. I think I was so exhausted and overheated because as we were sitting there, all of a sudden, I had to jump out of the car because I knew I was going to throw up. I sure did - like 10 times right there in the lawn of the doggy place on moving day with a dead van and waiting on a tow truck. That day was just crazy. But we got all moved and we got the van towed and I got it fixed the next week (and it wasn't cheap). Of course I found out a few weeks later that it needed another $1800 in repairs. Mind you, this van had stranded us at home twice and out away from home twice in the past 6 months (once in Tampa), was a 2002 with 180k miles and had begun having issue after issue and was literally worth hardly anything if I were to try and sell it. Finding out it needed another $1800 in repairs was the final straw. Thank God I sold the house and paid off all that debt or I would not have been able to get a different vehicle. But I had been obedient to what I felt like He told me today and so I was able to get a different vehicle. I got a used 2010 Dodge Caravan with 97,000 miles on it for a really great price at a place only a few miles away.

All that to say - I am SO glad I sold the house. I literally haven't even missed it. I've actually loved not having to take care of the pool or pay for the lawn to be mowed or worry about stuff breaking. And I LOVE the community we have here. Mihretu is doing amazing and loves it too. He has kids to play with whenever he wants and it's so lovely. And I'm thankful to be free from all that debt and to have been able to get a different vehicle. And that's the story on all that!!! God is good!!!

It has been almost 2 years since I posted. Just today it occured to me that there may be some single adoptive mommas out there who follow th...