Monday, March 20, 2017

How Long, Lord?

How many times over the last year and 2 months have I asked this question?  When do I have peace?  When do the kids have peace?  The truth is, we're so far from where we were last January.  None of us are the same people.  And, perhaps, these questions aren't even fair.  As I look back over this period of grief, of pressing in, of commitment, of healing I can see God so much in the details.

But, to be here and tell you this, means nothing to you.  What I hope will mean something is the how and the why we are where and how we are.

There are some things about this journey that are still hard.  I am scared.  A lot.  I've been fighting it off for quite some time.  It isn't at all that I don't trust God.  I trust Him to make things all work out for His purpose and the good of His people.  I just don't know how much that is going to hurt.  I'm tired of hurting.  I'm tired of loss.  In the last couple of years I've said good-bye to some people that I really didn't want to, grandparents, a couple of long time friends, a pastor and friend, and in the last 14 months my cousin, 5 cats and a bunny.  I've felt like death was surrounding me at times.  It's hard not to get fearful when you feel surrounded by death.

I've struggled with being afraid of the next one to go.....  being a police officer's wife has made that harder.....

I've struggled with how to put the pieces back in place for my kids when I can't work out the pieces for myself......

I don't understand.  I'm angry at times, but most of the time I'm very sad.

I make the day to day ok.  But in my quiet moments, when I'm alone with God the tears still flow.  I still long like never before to just curl up in His lap and leave the pain of this world behind.

But God.

This has become an underlying constant theme in my life.....

But God.

I often pause in the midst of trouble to look for God now, because I can always look back and say...

But God-

I follow someone on Instagram who has been talking about the different devotions and studies she's doing, and she talked about a bible study called "Anchored", by She Proves Faithful that she has been doing.  It's all about anxiety, and approaching the Throne of God to deal with your anxiety.

I'm only on chapter 3 and I can tell you it is life changing.  One of the things she talks about in this chapter is about how God uses the storms of life to do 3 things:
  1. Reveal your sin
  2. Test your faith
  3. Drive your heart to Him
She asked us to think of a storm and assess how God used it in one or more of these ways.

I can tell you, when it comes to the storm of losing my cousin and adopting her children I think it falls to the "Drive your heart to Him" category, because the only peace I find is when I go to Him with this.  I have to believe what His word says, in Acts 17:26 "Acts 17:26  Living Bible (TLB)26 He created all the people of the world from one man, Adam,[a] and scattered the nations across the face of the earth. He decided beforehand which should rise and fall, and when. He determined their boundaries." 

It is talking about nations here, but when I read it earlier, it spoke to me in terms of people as well.  The Lord determines when we will rise and fall, and where our boundaries lie. 
I don't understand why it is that my cousin had to die.  I don't understand that.  But I have peace in my heart because I know she knew the Lord.  It sounds cliché, but it is true.  I know she had a lot of trouble in this world.  And I also know that she had encountered the Lord, and she knew what His grace meant.  I have to believe that God was with her as she died, that she wasn't alone, and that she now has that peace she looked for but never could find. 

For those of us who are left behind, we can only look to draw closer to the Lord, and find that peace that passes all understanding.

And, it is coming.  We are all becoming more comfortable with each other, and looking more forward and less backward.  Not walking away from the past, but understanding it's place in where we are, and where we're going.  And, when I watch my kids grasp on to the truth of God's word, it has such incredible healing power.

When I'm alone I often just listen to worship songs, and shut out the world as much as possible.  The more my eyes look to heaven, the smaller the difficulties here seem.

I've been in the valley.  It's a dark, and scary place.  I'm not totally out of it yet, but I see the fruit of the Spirit emerging.

"The Garden"
I had all
But given up
Desperate for it
A sign from love
Something good
Something kind
Bringing peace to every corner of my mind

Then I saw the garden
Hope had come to me
To sweep away the ashes
And wake me from my sleep

I realised
You never left
And for this moment
You planned ahead
That I would see
Your faithfulness in all of the green

I can see the ivy
Growing through the wall
'Cause You'll stop at nothing
To heal my broken soul

I can see the ivy
Reaching through the wall
'Cause You'll stop at nothing
To heal my broken soul

Ohhh
Ohh, You're healing broken souls
Ohh, You're healing broken souls

Faith is rising up like ivy
Reaching for the light
Hope is stirring deep inside me
Making all things right

Love is lifting me from sorrow
Catching every tear
Dispelling every lie and torment
Crushing all my fears

You crush all my fears
You crush all my fears
With Your perfect love
Ohh-ohhh, with Your perfect love

Now I see redemption
Growing in the trees
The death and resurrection
In every single seed...




In love,
Semalee

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

I'm scared to post this....

I've had some thoughts swirling around in my mind for quite some time.  Thoughts that want to come out, but I'm deeply afraid of hurting people I love.  I'm afraid of offending people that I respect.  I'm afraid that people reading this will not hear my heart, and think I have something other than loving thoughts as I write this.  So, I've avoided writing for a long time.



But, on Monday (MLK Day) my friends and I took our kids to see the movie Hidden Figures.  It was SO good.  I was very moved by the entire movie, and I will go see it again, and probably buy it.  It follows three women who work for NASA during the time of MLK and the Civil Rights Movement, a time when we were told to be "separate but equal", which we learned through history is not possible.  Many people of many colors fought to ensure that we would truly have equal rights during this time, and some even gave their life for this important cause.

Flash forward to 2016, the end of the presidency of the first Black President, and we are finding our way back to the divisions that existed then.  As the mother of 2 black children I am devastated to see the direction of our country.  I'm devastated to see the division re-emerging around me.  People of different colors looking at each other with suspicious eyes.  People of different colors magnifying their differences, and refusing to see the things that are the same.  People of different colors segregating themselves and not having friends that don't look like them.

And then- as we watched the movie on Monday there was a scene where the mom and her two kids are kicked out of the "White Library".  My 7 year old son turned to me and asked, "Mom, why did they have to leave?"  The concept of segregation is so removed from him.  I answered that back then black people and white people were separated and couldn't go to the same places.  As I watched him digest this concept I realized that during that time I would not even be able to be Mommy to my sweet babies.

"I realized that during that time I would not even be able to be Mommy to my sweet babies."


This is when I knew I had to write.  This is when I knew I had to take the risk. 

Lately I've been watching scary words come across social media and other news outlets.  Words like Racist, Misogynist, Bigot are thrown around like candy, usually to describe our incoming President, or those who support him.  Why?  Because the democratic machine that has long been used to suppress the needs of minorities has planted these words, and words like Hitler as scare tactics to invoke a fear of change. 

A friend of mine shared something on Facebook today: "I used to be a Democrat for most of my life... about 10 years ago I started paying attention and I discovered that Democrat leaders weren't interested in solving problems for minorities, they were just interested in getting their votes. Democrats are maintaining the modern day plantation by keeping minorities on urban plantations, uneducated, no jobs, and then handing out just enough government "benefits" to keep people dependent on the system, but not true freedom. The Black leaders enrich themselves by race-baiting and race hustling to stir up the masses, but deliver little in terms that benefit the community. Then I discovered that the Black community suffers from the crab-in-the-bucket mentality. If you try to leave, you are labeled a sellout, Uncle Tom, token Negro, etc. I am dedicating this Facebook page to educate and inform those open enough to hear the message. We have enough evidence in Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles for the past 50 years where Democrats have had total control of those cities and nothing has changed. The victim mentality must stop... I've never blamed anything that happened to me on anyone but myself. That also gives me the control to fix it. I hope to pass that message along to my brothers and sisters willing to listen... it's time to get off the Democrat plantation."- Anthony Thorton

Because of my support of police officers I have been told to "put my hood on and wear it proudly". 
Because of my support of Donald Trump I've been called a racist, and a homophobe.
Because of my affiliation with the Republican Party I've been accused of not caring about minorities.

It's time to stop the madness!  I think people are starting to wake up and realize that maybe the hard and fast lines that have been drawn are not true.  It's time to stop throwing words like "Racist" around like candy.  It really cheapens what that word is.

There are real examples in our country of what racism looks like, and supporting law and order, or a particular candidate, or party affiliation are not it.  Calling out the president for his failed presidency isn't it either....


I've had the exact same thoughts.  I SO wanted him to be a great president, even though I didn't vote for him, because he could really set the stage for future generations.  Having 2 black children, whether I agreed with him on policy or not, it was important to them that he do well.  But, in the end, race relations are back to the 60's at the end of his presidency.  People don't feel safe in their homes.  Police officers are in grave danger every single day, and murders of police officers is on the rise.  Health care costs are out of control, and more people are on welfare than before he took office.

This is not a racist statement.  It's a TRUE statement.  And it makes me sad.  It makes me sad for my children.  Blame who you want, but our country is currently riddled with all types of domestic terrorism and division.  We have people being applauded for not attending the Inauguration and  people being threatened for wanting to perform. 

What I don't understand, is how anyone can say this type of behavior is ok, because it avoids "Normalizing Trump's Behavior"...  Like what behavior?  Including all types, colors, sexes of people in the Inauguration? 

So, for me, I guess I'm called to be a light in my own part of the world.  I want Trump to succeed not because he's white, but because he's the president.  His success will lead to better things for us all.  The more we allow division amongst ourselves, the more we shoot ourselves in our own feet.  What is the point of that?  How does that help us???

So, stop saying things like "Normalizing His behavior", and Misogynist, and bigot, and for goodness sake leave Hitler out of it!  If I were a jew I'd be unbelievably offended by the way the liberals and the MSM have cheapened the horrors that occurred during Hitler's rein of terror.  We are no where close to that.  If you ask me, the bully mentality coming from the liberal side is far more like it than what's coming from Trump's team. 

As we go forward I pray for our country.  I pray we seek direction, and seek to find our common goals and common needs.  I pray we see each others' hearts, not skin color, or social status, or party affiliation, or even gender when addressing each other.  And I pray we consider the role that Social Media plays in all of this, and the trap we have fallen into with how we interact with each other in this "my way or wrong" mentality that it feeds.

In Love,
Semalee

Monday, January 02, 2017

What a difference a Year Makes

Here we are.  It's been a year.  As I look back over the past year I feel like we've all lived a lifetime, yet it also seems like yesterday.  Part of me wants to fast forward to Wednesday, as if skipping over the one year anniversary would be some magical solution that would make it easier....... or not to have happened....  Part of me doesn't want to enter into the next year because that means that it's been a year.  And if it's been a year since Bug left us, then the chances of this being a nightmare and being real life are that much more.  If it's been a year, I'm not going to wake up to realize that this was a crazy dream, but Bug's still here.  I know that none of this is logical.  I know whether it's been a minute, a month, or a year it doesn't change a thing.  The fact is, she is not here. 

And the truth is, I'm reminded of this every single day.

I'm reminded as I see the sadness in my children's' eyes when they get quiet.

I was reminded of the fact that she's gone the other day as I stared at a questionnaire asking me when my son first started talking as a baby....  I don't know that answer.  That is an answer his mother knows....

I was reminded of the fact that she's gone as I watched my daughter frantically try to control her environment and the people around her, for fear of losing another person she loves.

I was reminded as we drove into the cemetery on Christmas.

I was reminded when I got a letter from the cemetery about special events that they hold for plot owners.  I don't want to own a cemetery plot.

I was reminded as I set up my bills for this year, and one of our paydays falls on Bug's birthday.

I was reminded as I watched the sun go down tonight, marking the end of our first year without her.

I was reminded as my son watched me sleep because I was still and it scared him.  I wonder how long it will scare him to watch someone sleep.

I wonder how many times I will have to answer "I don't know" to questionnaires about various things for the kids.

I wonder if I will be able to let go of my own fear about losing someone else I love.  I see a lot of my own thoughts in my daughter when she gets frantic.

I wonder when I'll be able to make it several days in a row without crying.

I wonder when the veil of sadness will lift..... even a little.....

I wonder when it won't be so hard to smile.

I wonder when it will feel good to be happy.

I wonder how long it will take to stop feeling guilty.

I wonder how long it will be before I can truly feel like I couldn't have somehow changed the outcome.

Here we are.  1 year later.  The shock has worn off, but the sadness persists......  I had hoped I would be further along this grief path by now. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Recap

Ill be honest.... I've stared at this blank page for a while.  It's hard for me to recap 2016 because, a lot of it is a swirl of emotion.  Very erratic emotion.  I started as I usually do, reading over last year's recap and over my thoughts on how 2016 would go....

And, in some ways, I feel like we've all lived a lifetime in this year.

The year started off with the news that my cousin, my first best friend had passed away unexpectedly.  About 8 years ago (and several times in between) my cousin asked my husband and I to take the kids if ever anything happened to her.  So, my immediate thoughts went to the kids.  It has been an amazing blessing to be able to have them with us.  It is a difficult thing, walking this grief journey together, but one I consider a great blessing and honor.

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We spent the first part of the year really circling in together to put our family together and focus on each other.  Interesting that the word God gave me for this year was Focus, wasn't it?????

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Michael took the girls to the Father Daughter Dance,
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The Middles enjoyed our warmer weather and we had many a dinner at the park
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We visited Newman's Castle...
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And we went to Lake Whitney to spend some time together as a family unplugged..
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In the spring we had Family Pictures taken
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Visited Granny...
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And Auston and Sarah were married on May 7th....  a wedding that we put together in 10 days!   
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Tavish and Gina came for a visit in May, and it meant the world to the kids for them to come...
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On May 19th Gregory Graduated from High School!
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Knowing Grego was headed to Baylor, naturally we had to take a Bear Picture with the Joneses' when they came for Grego's graduation...
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When Auston got married I gained a Daughter In Law, and I am so happy with her, because I love Sarah to pieces.  She is a perfect fit for Auston, and I'm blessed to have a friend in her as well :)
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Nick  became an Acolyte at church...
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On July 27th, by the power invested in Judge Newhouse by the State of Texas, we legally became a forever family.....
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In August we went to Jellystone Park with Trin, Damon and Domi..
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Gregory and Kelton headed out to Baylor, but first we took them to IFly to do some Indoor Skydiving...
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School Started once again, I taught Preschool, and 3,4,5th grade art...
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This Fall the kids participated in a 30 hour famine, and raised money for impoverished countries...
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And we kicked off the holiday season by riding the Polar Express...
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As you can see, we did a lot of really fun things.  We've grown together as a family, and we're headed for new heights.  I look back over these pictures and I see the fun we've had together.  I see the love we share.  I also see the pain.  It's been incredibly difficult to go on with out Bug.  We miss her every single day.  We do our best each day to march forward, but never forget.  I'm hopeful that as we move past the year mark we can look a little farther forward.  I pray that in 2017 we find more that unites us and less that divides us.  I pray for peace among my family and friends.  I pray that the 9 of us become ever closer.  I pray that Greg does well at Baylor, and is able to fly, but doesn't forget where he comes from.  I pray that Auston and Sarah continue to nurture their marriage and build their life foundation.  I pray that as they step out further they are drawn closer to each other and are a light and an example to the people around them.  Most importantly, I hope we can all see that as difficult as this year has been, and that the future holds mysteries for us all, we can press in to God.  He has sustained us this far, and will continue to do so, we only need to let Him.

If I've neglected you this year, know that it was because I was where I was needed most.  This season of life has been one of circling in.  That isn't changing much too soon.  But, eventually, we'll be able to spread out a little more.

To those who have continued to pursue us, especially when we haven't answered promptly, thank you.  Your love and prayers and support mean so much to us.  None of us will ever forget how you all rallied around us in January and held us up when we couldn't stand on our own.

Love, Semalee

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The War on Christmas




You may have heard about it- there's a war on Christmas.  We hear about it every year, people not saying Merry Christmas, Starbucks cups not being "Christmasy" enough, and this year in my very own state of Texas, in Killeen ISD a Christmas decoration had to be removed because it was, in fact, too much about Christ....Mas...........  Charlie Brown has been Censored!  One news article read....

It's very easy, as a Christian to feel an amount of anger about this.  It also feels like every day, the rights of Christians are slowly being stripped away.  The right to worship how we choose is, after all, part of our country's founding documents.  How is this happening?

Well, as you can imagine, I've been thinking a lot about this.  I've been talking to God a lot about it too, and
I think we need to consider that it might be the Christians' fault to some degree.....

Let me explain:  As much as we want to pretend otherwise, our country is made up of all types of people.  Many do not share our faith.  While we know the ramifications of this, they either do not, or do not care.  It is not our job as Christians to save the world.  It's God's.  It's our job to sow the seeds....  and let Him work on people's hearts....

Keep following! :) 

When we, as Christians talk to others with our Christian-eze and make them feel dumb for not knowing what we're talking about, we go against the Gospel.

When we, as Christians, expect others to agree with our standards because the Bible says so, we go against the Gospel.

When we, as Christians, get angry with others for not saying "Merry Christmas", we go against the Gospel.

When we, as Christians, shame others for the sin in their lives, either through our words or our actions, we go against the Gospel.

I've really begun to feel that the reason there is a war on Christmas, and not just that, but a war on Christianity, which is a complex issue. At the gateway it's because we have allowed ourselves to be viewed as aggressors.  Jesus never said we should bring people to Him through aggressive behavior, through shaming, through shunning, or through angry words.

I have several people who are close to me who are not believers.  On many occasions people tell me of the ways that they have been hurt by people in "the church".  Doesn't matter which building, doesn't matter the denomination, when you are unkind to someone on the basis of their sin, or their lack of God in their life, you speak for THE CHURCH.  People watch us every single day to see how we respond to different things.  How do we respond to adversity in our own lives, how do we respond to those who believe differently than us, how do we respond to our own sin?  When we lash out at someone for attacking our Christianity, we essentially attack back.  Think, if you were on the outside looking in at our church, would that make you want to learn more about what this Jesus thing is all about?

I know this is a slippery slope, and a dangerous one.  I have watched my own denomination stop calling sin, sin, and embrace it.  I'm not happy about that at all.  I don't believe watering down the Gospel is the way to bring people to Christ either.  In fact, when we become like society there's not to come "to"....  When we are not set apart, we are not set apart.  But, you can be set apart in your heart, in your actions, in your thoughts without keeping yourself set apart from non-believers. 

St. Francis of Asisi said, "Preach the Gospel often, and if necessary, use words".  This has been my mantra for a long time.

I don't believe that God wants us to try to bring people to Christ through our Bible Knowledge (which is super important to have, but not to flaunt), or through our calling out of others' sin in their lives (which we have enough of our own to call out to keep ourselves busy).  I believe that our lives are to be the message that brings people to Christ.  No, I'm not saying tell someone something counter to the Gospel.  Sin is sin is sin.  Don't water it down, but we don't need to call people out, either.  If they want to know if you think areas of their life are sinful, when they are comfortable, they will ask.  And that is when you speak the truth in love and not in judgement.

Let's be the light to others this Christmas season.  Let's show the world how Christians love each other.  Let's give more of ourselves, our things, and our time to those who might not darken the door of our churches, and show them what Jesus was really about.  (It wasn't harsh judgement of others)

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

In Love,
Semalee

Saturday, July 30, 2016

When God Calls You...

This past Wednesday, July 27th, was a HUGE day for my family.  It was a day none of us expected to happen in our lives, but yet, it did.  You see, on July 27th we finalized our second adoption, for our Middles!  In my mind, the moment we picked them up was the moment we committed to forever with them, but there is still something about the state saying that we're family forever.  No one can come between us.  We are now legally required to love each other in the morning LOL ;)

Leading up to this day I was surprised at my emotions, because, like I said, I was committed to them from moment one.  However, I found myself relaxing a little.  Fears I didn't know existed were coming to the surface, and I was able to release them.  I also found that I had been holding on to my heart a little, afraid of the what-if, because all we had was the Will saying they were ours.  There was no real threat to our family, but still, in my mind, it wasn't over until it was over.  As I talked with the kids, I learned they had these fears too.  Maybe they knew they had these fears all along, maybe they didn't, but it's a strange thing that adoption does to your heart.  The truth is, they are no more or less my children today then they were a week ago.  If anything had tried to come between us I would have given my life to preserve our bond.  But, now we don't have to explain ourselves to the world, and that is a relief.

The moment the Judge Granted the Adoption

In some ways it was bitter-sweet for me.  It was sort of the closing of a chapter that included my cousin.  She's still with us in spirit, and very much in my heart and mind, but it was still another finalization in the fact that we lost her.  But, it was also sweet because I knew this was what she wanted.  And, it's my honor to give this last gift to my first best friend.  I just can't help but wish we were raising these kids together.  It's funny, a couple of months we talked about her and the kids coming for a visit this summer, and about her considering moving closer so we could do just that.  But, in the end, we get the pleasure of parenting these kids.

This adoption process was a lot different from our previous adoption from the CPS system.  Some things were the same, we still had to have a home study done, which was tedious and stressful, just as the first one was.  It was a little less involved as far as the property was concerned, no fire inspection, no child locks etc, but still stressful.  It's never fun to have someone come in and evaluate your home life.  And, in a family that jokes around a lot, I worried if someone would say something in jest that would be taken seriously!  LOL!  But, the good news is, now I can use this when the kids think I'm being "unreasonable" I can tell them the State of Texas has thoroughly investigated us and we're good LOL!!  It also cost a lost more, as in adopting from CPS is free and this was definitely a few thousand dollars more than free!

Some day I'll write a long detailed post about the things that are the same and the things that are different in the two adoptions. 

People ask me all the time how we're handling having so many kids, and the truth is, when God calls you to do something, He makes it possible.  It's not always easy, but it's not always hard, either.  And if I were to be able to choose the number of kids I had without consequence, this is exactly the number I would chose.  They keep our life full, and loud, and crazy.  They keep us on our toes, and challenge us every day to be better.  They remind us that there is purpose in life.  They remind us daily of how lucky we are to have each other, and have the love that we share.  No, I wouldn't change a thing about my life.  Each of my children are a unique gift, unmeasurable, and unmatchable.

With the Judge after the Adoption

Is God calling you to do something crazy?  Do it!  I will not promise it will be easy, but it will definitely be worth it!

Love,
Semalee