Thursday, July 13, 2017

Jesus I Need You

The People of God Will Care for Orphans. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

People often look at my family, a family who has adopted 4 children in addition to having our own 2 biological children with wonder.  Sometimes we even scare people.  Sometimes we intimidate people.  The sheer size of us can be overwhelming.  (Even to us).....  They think and say lots of things like, "You guys are saints to take in those kids", or "I could never do what you do every day", or "I don't know how you manage with all of those kids", or "I watch you and am amazed that you do it all on a Police Man's salary"......

I'll start with the salary- it isn't a lot, but when God is in control of our bread basket, suddenly 5 loaves feed 5,000.  I really don't know how the math works, but I know that God gave us these children and He will provide for them.  He does not provide for us to go on luxury vacations, or live extravagantly.  I cook most of the time because eating out is very expensive for us.  We save all year for Christmas, and when we go on big vacations we save for several years in anticipation.  We spend more money on time together and experiences than we do stuff.  We do not have one piece of new furniture in our house.  But stuff isn't what is important to us.  And our house is small.  1400 sq feet small.  But it forces us to be together, and I am glad it's small.  (most of the time)..

As for the rest of it, it isn't a pretty picture with a beautiful bow.  It's a very painful one.  The reason my faith is so strong, and that I love God the way I do is because the humans in my life have failed me.  Why do I have such a heart for the orphans?  Because I know what it's like to not have a mother's love.  My children each have stories very different than mine, but I still can relate to their longing.  As their mother now, I can promise them with absolute certainty that I will never leave them.  As long as I can be their mother, no matter how hard they are I will not abandon them.  Having my own difficult children has given me insight into what my parents had to endure when I was a child.  I understand a little more now of what it was like to parent me.  I do not understand how my mother doesn't want me anymore, but I do understand how hard I was to parent.

So, my desire to take care of these kids does not come from some super wonderful part of me.  It comes from deep pain.  It comes from a desire that my children will never feel like I do.

My love for them is sustained by my love for God.  He is my true Rock.  He sustains me and comforts me when I feel alone, or when I feel unloved or unwanted.  He always wants me.  And through His always wanting me I am taught what true love is.



"Jesus I Need You"

Hope be my anthem
Lord when the world has fallen quiet
You stand beside me
Give me a song in the night

Jesus I need You
Every moment I need You
Hear now this grace bought heart sing out
Your praise forever

Beauty for ashes
You find the weak and contrite heart
Shoulder its burdens
And carry it into the light

Remember love
Remember mercy
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Your loving kindness
Has never failed me
Christ before me
Christ behind me


Friday, July 07, 2017

The Thin Blue Line is Weaved Through our Lives like a Tapestry of Purpose

22 years ago I had moved to Houston from North Carolina following a soldier who had been transferred to Ft. Sam in San Antonio.  I had recently been discharged from the Army where I had met him and had gotten a job with a national eye glass chain (National Vision Associates), so, when this soldier was transferred, I asked for a transfer as well.  The closest they could get me to San Antonio was Houston.  I'd never been to Texas, but it seemed like a nice enough place, so I packed my truck up with as much as I could and let the Army move the bulk of my household belongings to a small apartment I had rented off of Beechnut street in Southwest Houston.

Being from small town Utah, I was immediately overwhelmed simply by the size of the freeways!  But, I was excited about my new life, and my new job.  I had been told if I was willing to move to Houston instead of San Antonio that they were expanding their stores here and I would be a store manager.  It was worth the distance in my mind.

I spent all my off time driving back and forth to San Antonio to visit my boyfriend and really didn't know anyone in Houston except the people I worked with, who if I was off work, they were there and vice versa.  So, when that relationship ended I was left in a big city where I knew no one.  One of my friends at work and I were reading the Zest section of the newspaper where they had the personal ads and she suggested that I put an ad out.  I really didn't want another relationship at that time, because I was still pretty upset about my break up, but I figured that way at least people could show me around town.  So, I put an ad in the paper.  I went around town with a couple of people, but there was one that stood out.  From the first phone call we just simply clicked.  We were instant friends.  These days you might say we were instant besties ;)  A few days after our first date I had an unexplained sharp pain.  I didn't know what to do, or where to go, so I called him to take me to the hospital.  Once we were at the hospital a nurse came in, handed him a bed pan, and said, "Make your wife pee".... and walked out.  We had been on one date!!!  He looked at me and said, "What do you want me to do?"  I was in so much pain that I didn't care, so he held the bedpan while I went to the bathroom.....  Turned out I had a kidney stone, and we apparently had a prophetic nurse, because that man is now my husband of 21 years next week!

Why do I go down memory lane today?  Because there is no part of this story that is without a simple thread that weaves in out of our lives.  That thread is blue.  It is known as the Thin Blue Line.  You see, my husband is a police officer.  When I started dating him it was exciting to be dating a police officer.  Such an exciting thing to be dating a man who stands up for the little guy and protects those who need protecting.

When we married he told me I should use caution on who I told that I was married to a police officer.  I was completely surprised.  I had never been anything but extremely proud of him and other officers I had met (even when being pulled over LOL).  He explained that some people do not like police officers and may even treat me poorly because of him.  At first, I didn't believe him.  But, over time in various different interactions with people I found out he was right.  I learned to guard my family like a precious jewel.  As my children came along and went to school, they too, learned that not everyone loves our law enforcement officers.  I will never forget the day that my oldest came home at 6 years old absolutely devastated.  He was crying and I finally got him to tell me what was wrong.  An officer had recently been killed in our area.  Turns out some kids at school had been taunting him, telling him his dad would get killed next.  This was only one in a string of different experiences we've all had with people who would wish harm to law enforcement officers.

Fast forward to the past few years and the nationwide narrative towards law enforcement has gotten very scary.  Officer Line of Duty Deaths are up 17% already this year, and that is following 2016 which was the deadliest year ever for Law Enforcement.  Every day that my officer goes off to work I am scared he won't come home.  I've lost many friends in recent years because they don't understand how their support of pages who wish harm on law enforcement directly affect my husband's safety.  I've seen more lines of worry on his face in the last few years than ever before, and there is a sadness in his eyes that I can't touch.  He hasn't been physically hurt, but this man who has devoted himself to helping society has been hurt by the very society he serves each day.

I would be remiss to speak on this blog about all of the things that make my life the way it is and not speak about law enforcement.  Today, is the 1 year anniversary of the attack on law enforcement that occurred in Dallas.

 "Police Officer Brent Thompson of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police Department, Senior Corporal Lorne Ahrens, Police Officer Michael Krol, Sergeant Michael Smith, and Police Officer Patrick Zamarripa of the Dallas Police Department were shot and killed by an active shooter during a protest in downtown Dallas.

As the protesters walked down Main Street between South Lamar Street and South Market Street, a sniper opened fire on police officers who were providing security for the event. The man shot a total of 12 officers, killing five and wounding seven.

The subject was cornered in an adjacent parking garage and barricaded himself inside for several hours while he spoke to negotiators, during which time he stated he specifically targeted white police officers. He was killed when the Dallas Police Department's Bomb Squad moved an explosive device to the man's location using a robot and detonated it." (odmp.org)
Even in the changing climate of today, where we are led to support officers by our current president, there are still those who wish to harm them.  Just a few days ago an officer was killed in San Antonio, and he is being laid to rest today, on this somber anniversary.

As you go about your daily doings, please know that those who stand on the sidelines watching over you, standing watch for you are real people, who have real hearts, and real families who love them.  They have real pain in their eyes as they've seen things no one wants to see, and that can't be unseen.  They miss holidays, birthdays, and other events and their wife or husband is often in bed alone.

When they are lost,  parents are without their sons and daughters who have fallen, left with only the grattitude of those their child served after their death.  Children are left with out parents, wives without husbands, husbands, without wives.  Those who are still here, who have lost co-workers are left with the knowledge that tomorrow is never promised and the burden of knowing each moment could be their last.  They often suffer from survivors guilt, or PTSD or more and never get the rest we all need.

Being married to a police officer is not like other things in life.  This thin blue line that gets ever thinner is weaved throughout our lives, always a part of us.  It's a part of who we are, what we stand for, and what we believe in.  We believe in the greater good of society.  We believe that people should have the basic protections of law enforcement no matter their social status, race, or economic situation.  We believe in these basic liberties for all people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, or marital status.  Even when people do not believe the same for us, we still believe for them, and sacrifice daily for this belief, as a family.

Love, Semalee

Sunday, July 02, 2017

The Wind and the Waves

Isn't it interesting how God shows up in the little details of life?  By reading my blog, you probably have ascertained that I'm going through some things in life that are difficult.  What I don't really talk about is my Weight Watchers Journey.  I don't talk about it with anyone, really, because its very difficult and there are a whole lot of emotions tied to my weight.  When I look in the mirror I see more than excess weight.  I see pain.  I see grief.  I see fear.  I see loss.  I see rejection. I see a whole lot of things in each particle of excess fat.  I did not get here easily.  It has been very costly.  One thing that is truly amazing about the current WW program is the meetings.  It's one thing to watch what you eat, but in the meetings they really dive into WHY we eat.  What is going on in our mind that we allow ourselves to do this?  Better still, how can we start using tools for living to make positive changes in our whole self?

The past several weeks have been especially difficult on me.  I'm finding that parenting adult children and being a mother-in-law is the hardest stage of parenting yet.  When our kids are young they need us so much.  And we need them.  We are integral parts of each others' lives.  And for a stay at home mom, often her kids are just about everything to them.  Life for the mom centers on loving our children and raising them to know they are loved, and capable.  Then they grow up.  They don't need us as much as they used to.....  But we still need them....And to mom, it was just yesterday that they came home from the hospital.  I mean I can still see in my mind's eye the first time we walked into our house with a baby carriage.  I knew this small person was going to change my entire world.  He already had.  Then as the days passed a piece of my heart started walking around.  But, every single thing he did brought me joy.  To see him struggle hurt me.  To see him grow grew me.  Letting him go to Sri Lanka 3 times took an emotional toll.  Watching him marry the love of his life- seeing him so happy- made the past 20 years flash before my eyes.

People don't talk about how hard this stage is.  We hear all about how difficult the toddler years are, and then we hear about how difficult the teen years are.  But no one really talks about young adult years.  This transition period where they branch out and start to figure out their own life.  And mom, who has been there for everything is suddenly not anymore.

They're supposed to do this.  They're supposed to move out.  They're supposed to go to college.  They're supposed to start making decisions, (even ones we disagree with).  They're supposed to separate from us.

As a parent, I understand and accept this part of life.  I want them to grow up and move out and be successful and happy in their lives.

But, I find myself wondering where I still fit in their lives.  Do I matter?  It's not that I want them tied down to me, or even want to tell them what to do.  I just want to still be able to watch them from the sidelines.  I want to still be part of their life.

Am I alone in this?

Part of my fear comes from my own broken relationship with my mom.  I know that relationships between parent and child can go south and even end.  I've experienced it.  I know how easy it is to get there.  I know the pain of this relationship in particular being broken.  So I hold on.  Maybe a little tighter than I should.  But I'm fearful.

And so, this week I let my fear take over again.

This past week has been especially difficult for me.  I am really struggling emotionally with lots of things.

So in my WW meeting after a particularly sleepless night they talked about the very thing I need to hear.  Letting go.  They talked about how when we have emotionally charged times we can think of it like the ocean.  The emotions are the waves.  If you're in the ocean, and the wave starts to build, at times it will pull you and sometimes even knock you down as it draws up and crashes over you, but then the water washes over you and you can stand strong again.  It's important to know as we are in the part of the wave that knocks us down that it will wash over and we'll be able to stand back up again.  I sat last night watching the waves at the beach thinking on this a lot as I tried to keep my emotions in check.

Then this morning I woke up and read my devotional in my Bible App....  Today's entry: The Wind and the Waves.

This is how God comforts us.  These are the things that He does every single day.  Things that, if we're not looking, we miss.  If I had missed my quiet time with Him this morning I would have missed this message from Him.  The message that He's there.  He's walking with me through this valley of pain.  When it feels like no one understands me, and I feel so very very alone, He is there.  He is there.  HE hasn't left me.  HE knows my feelings, and is still there. HE knows my emotions and doesn't shy away.  HE values me.  I don't have to fit in a box for Him.  I don't have to say the right things for Him.  I don't have to keep the appropriate amount of distance for Him.  I don't have to smile and act like everything is fine when it isn't for Him.  I can simply rest in Him.  I can just climb into His lap and cry.  And He is not burdened by it.  He will be there as the wave crashes over me.  Even if the wave takes people or things out to sea, He will remain with me.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Like An Avalance

There's a thing that happens when you have deep wounds.  Sometimes those wounds have turned to scars, sometimes, they're still in the healing process.  Sometimes the scars are easily reopened.  The truth is, I've been walking this grief journey a while.  Since childhood, really.  As a child of adoption myself I know the deep feelings of unworthiness that can lurk waiting to have an opportunity to rear their ugly head.  It doesn't matter how loved one is in their home.  It's still there.  A feeling that somehow I'm not enough.  The truth is, my adoption story is nothing like my children's individual stories, but still filled with pain.  My "step-father" adopted me, and I saw my biological father from time to time.  I say "step-father" in quotes, because he was not a "step-father" at all to me.  He was Daddy.  He loved me in spite of my wildness.  I was a difficult child.  My Shea is so much like I was.  (At least how they describe me to be).  I was wild.  They would say that if I came near sugar I was over the edge.  I would roll my eyes and think they were really ridiculous ;) Now I see when Shea thinks about sugar she goes off the rails....  I see now.  Isn't that what life is?  We hear "hindsight is 20/20" all the time, yet somehow it doesn't sink in.  I see now that I was such a difficult child.  I see now that in spite of that, my Daddy loved me.  I see now that my biological father, my Dad loved me in the best way he could, by giving distance so that my Daddy could be all in.  I see now that everyone around me were just broken people doing the best they could.  And, now I find myself with children who all have their own deep needs, and deep hurts, some related to their adoption story, some unrelated, but all needing different things.  I see myself not measuring up on a regular basis.  I see myself doing the very best I can, but still failing them each daily.  I see myself loving them all, and I see them still feeling unloved, and unworthy.  Just as I did.

The only thing I can do is try to point them to the Father.  I can't fix these wounds in their hearts.  That's the hardest part of being an adoptive family.  And it's hard for my biological children too.  They live their lives sacrificing their own comforts to provide a safe space for other children to experience our crazy life too.  One of my boys told me the other day that he has really struggled lately because when my cousin died and we got the Middles he realized family can be temporary.  He never considered that possibility before and our family is everything to us.  This is what happens when we face great loss every single day.  We can't help but be reminded that it exists.  We can't just go on with our life virtually unchanged.  It is forever changed along with our children.  Their life was changed, but so was ours.  And we do it because God called us to do so.  It is not the easy road.  Not at all.  But it is the road God called us to. 

The reality is, though we rarely realize it, we are all adopted.  Those of us in Christ's family.  It is truly what we're made of. 

"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children." -Romans 8:14-16 

When we are ourselves adopted into Christ's family, how can we not adopt those orphans around us who need who deserve to be wholly loved for who they are?  I know not everyone is called to adopt like we have been, but my point is, this is what God has called us to.  Maybe he has called you to support those who adopt?  Maybe he's called you to mentor children in your church.  Maybe he's called you to recognize weariness on the momma at church who needs a break and offer it to her...  ALL mommas get weary. 

But, even with this deep love and devotion for our children they are still broken.  That's why we all need Jesus so much.  The only peace I have found for my own brokenness has been Jesus. 

Like An Avalanche- Hillsong United


Beautiful God
Laying Your majesty aside
You reached out in love to show me life
Lifted from darkness into light
Oh
King for a slave
Trading Your righteousness for shame
Despite all my pride and foolish ways
Caught in Your infinite embrace
Oh
And I find myself here on my knees again
Caught up in grace like an avalanche
Nothing compares to this love love love
Burning in my heart
Saviour and Friend
Breathing Your life into my heart
Your word is the lamp unto my path
Forever I'm humbled by Your love
Oh
Take my life
Take all that I am
With all that I am I will love You
Take my heart
Take all that I have
Jesus how I adore You
And I find myself here on my knees again
Caught up in grace like an avalanche
Nothing compare to this love love love

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Thy Will Be Done

I'm so confused
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don't wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray
All I've got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done I know you're good

But this don't feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It's hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you're God
And I am not

So Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will I know you see me

I know you hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness you have in store
I know you hear me
I know you see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Good news you have in store

So, thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
I know you see me
I know you hear me, Lord


Some days I don't have any answers.  Lots of days.  It's why I need Jesus so much.  Because daily I'm faced with reminders that I don't have the answers and I don't know what tomorrow holds.  Reminders that I can't control the outcomes of what happens around me, but I can find peace in knowing that whatever happens I do not have to walk alone. 

I recently was reminded of my deep ingrained fear of the effects of drugs on your life.  I honestly do not believe anyone to be immune to this.  I think it is completely irresponsible, and also unfair to think that because someone appears to have it all together that they are immune from the draw of artificial remedies for life's problems.  In this case, the fear is centered around drugs and their effects on those that get caught in their draw, but the same could be applied to just about any aspect of life- the woman who believes her husband is perfect, but under the surface unknown to those around him he struggles with deep issues including porn, or infidelity- the homeschooling mom who looks like her kids are all perfect ducks in a row, but inside her is a deep feeling that she isn't ever enough- the adoptive mom who adopted because there was so much love to give, but now finds herself wondering if she's the right parent for her kids...... etc.  Artificial remedies can range from drugs, to alcohol, to being a control freak, to even something beneficial like exercise.  There are many ways to address the problems of life.  Sometimes we feel like we call out to the Lord and don't see an answer, or don't like the answer.  Sometimes we just need to learn to let things go more than we do.  What is of most importance to you?

For me, the number one thing is that my children and husband know I love them and that I love God, and God loves them.  I have a mantra I use with my youngest ones who have deep issues with abandonment, and it goes: "God loves me first, and my family loves me too".....  This is a good mantra for us all.  And we need to remember, that God's love for us is not tied to whether we have the perfect marriage, successful kids, clean house, etc.  God loves us because He KNOWS us.  He knows us better than anyone.  I listened to a podcast today where the man was talking about his struggles with infidelity - it was the people who run the Undone Redone podcast, who were sharing on the Homeschooling In Real Life Podcast.  One thing he said he had to tell himself as he walked back from his struggling and exile from his church was that "God knows it all, and he loves me, these people only know a little bit".  Wow.  How often do we look to others for acceptance, and for approval when the truth is God knows us all, and the people around us only know a little.

Where this all applies to me, is, if I'm really honest, I've gotten myself into a busy-ness trap through trying to please God and others through my works.  I know that God loves me no matter what, but I try to please Him by serving His people (and others) because I love Him so much and I want others to feel the love that I feel.  But the problem here is, that as I've become more and more overwhelmed with my schedule in recent years (and am now working on reducing it) that people aren't always feeling his love at all through me, because, quite frankly, I'm too overwhelmed.

So, back to the most important thing for me: Love- my God, my children, my husband, and leaving a legacy that speaks love.

This is what I need to focus on to figure out what stays on my list, and what goes.  If it doesn't further this purposefully, and intentionally, then it goes off the list.  I'll spend the next while using this measure to examine my priorities better.

In case you're curious about the podcasts, here is the one I listened to: Homeschooling In Real Life Episode 145  and the guests were the authors of the Un Done, RE Done Podcast

How are you giving yourself permission to evaluate your life?  Let's share in this discussion!

Love Always,
Semalee

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Disconnected

Do you ever have so many words in your head, but when tasked with writing them down nothing comes?  It's like there are too many.  Or they're stuck.  Or some of the thoughts are ugly, so, they don't have permission to come out. 

What happens to those ugly thoughts?  Sometimes they grow.  They take on a life of their own, and before you know it, a minor ugly thought has started to take over and consume you.  I don't really know the answer to this, because, the other side is that if you voice these ugly thoughts that can give them power as well. 

What I know about myself is my own head is often the worst place to be.  I can easily choose offense when I see that one of my friends has tagged several of our friends, but not me.  I can easily choose despair when my 7 year old is throwing his 10th tantrum of the day.  I can easily choose defeat when my husband looks more at his phone than me.  I can easily choose thoughts of inadequacy when I look at my messy house.  Part of the problem is where I choose to get my strength from.  All of these are real problems for just about any mom or wife, right?  We all go through ebbs and flows of feeling great about ourselves, and feeling down.  There are books about friendships, like Never Unfriended: The Secret to Finding And Keeping Lasting Friendships and Nothing to Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard that say none of these feelings are unique to me.  In this age of "connection" through FaceBook, Instagram, SnapChat etc we are finding ourselves less connected than ever.  Rarely do we visit each other's homes anymore.  Phone calls are almost a thing of the past.  I am as guilty as anyone.  As these technological advances came promising more time, I find myself with less and less and less.

If you've read my blog for any period of time, you know that I am completely in love with God.  He is the source of my strength in the hard times.  But this is the important point.  There are hard times.  Being a Christian doesn't make me immune from that.  I look for self-worth in all the wrong places a lot.  He is always beckoning me back to Him.  I know that closing up inside myself is the absolute wrong thing to do, and I need to work on changing that.  Over the next while, I'm going to spend some time thinking about how I close myself up and how I can begin to see people again.  I'll be going over the various different aspects of my life that make it what it is- grief, adoption, homeschooling, law enforcement, parenting, having adult children, being an in-law etc.  Each has it's own piece in my life.  I invite you to join with me and share your journey with me as well.  Do you crave connection too?  Let's do something about it!

I love music.  It speaks to my heart.  One of my favorite places to go to be with God is music.  And Hillsong is often the path that gets me into a place of worship.  One of my favorite albums is Empires.  If you haven't heard it, check it out.

I've been listening to this song while writing this blog:  See if it speaks to you:



Captain- Hillsong
Through waters uncharted my soul will embark
I'll follow Your voice straight into the dark
And if from the course You intend
I depart
Speak to the sails of my wandering heart
Like the wind
You'll guide
Clear the skies before me
And I'll glide this open sea
Like the stars
Your Word
Will align my voyage
And remind me where I've been
And where I am going
Lost in the shallows amidst fear and fog
Your truth is the compass that points me back north
Jesus
My Captain
My soul's trusted Lord
All my allegiance is rightfully Yours



Love, Semalee