Thursday, June 23, 2016

Writer's Block

I've got a small case of writer's block.  I always assumed it would be in the form of just having nothing to say, but that isn't the case.  In my case, I have so MUCH to say that I'm unable to organize my thoughts.  Do I write a post about adoption?  Do I write about grief?  Do I write about PTSD in those who have lost loved ones?  Do I write about bullet journaling?  Do I write about sending a kid off to college?  Do I write about being a mother in law?  Do I write about the 2 officers in as many weeks killed by drunk drivers in my area?  Do I write about the officer who was shot to death in Louisiana?  Do I write about being an officer's wife?

You get the point. 

I wrote recently about how God helps us handle the impossible when we're called to something.  And, I also wrote in another post about my Littles and how their lives are still hard, all these years later.  At some point, I do intend to elaborate on adoptive issues like they have, and different ways you can adopt, and cope with things etc.  But, I think today, in the theme of "God doesn't call the equipped, he equips the called"  I'll touch on our decision to homeschool the Littles.

When we were going through the foster/adopt process we were already homeschooling our oldest children.  We started homeschooling them because they were not being well served by the elementary school we are zoned to.  One of my sons had been bullied for 2 years at that point by another child, and the teachers were given very little power to do anything about it.  So, we made the decision to homeschool and see if that was better.

Over time, what I learned about homeschooling is that it doesn't at all look like what I thought it would look like.  We were not, in fact, stuck at home by ourselves all the time.  Actually, I had to learn a very important word when it came to socializing: NO.  We found ourselves with so many opportunities that we had to learn to work first, play second.  This was a good lesson for us all :) So, over time we got into a rhythm and all was well in the homeschooling world.

Here's the number one most important thing about homeschooling for my family:
Homeschooling is about relationship first, academics second.

What I found, was that the number one benefit to us as we homeschooled was the change in our family.  We became extremely close as a family, and the time we were able to spend as homeschoolers, learning together is some of the best spent time in my life.  As I now have my oldest son married off and in college, and my second son heading to Baylor University in the Fall, I am overwhelmed by what a blessing it was to be able to spend that time with them.

With my Littles, however, we have sent them to a Charter School in the area.  Because, remember what I said above?  Homeschooling is about relationship first, academics second.  My Littles have a host of things going on that cause them to be a lot to handle.  My energy level definitely does not match there's.....  And when our energy levels don't match, we break down.  I've had to really sit down with myself and decide if more time is better for our relationship, or if less time is better.  For the past 2 years, the answer has been that less time is better.

But God, right?  You've heard me say this so many times...  But God.

Over the last couple of months my youngest (who has struggled behaviorally in Kindergarten) (he talks too much) has been having meltdowns almost every day.  When he melts down he says things like, "I'm just a stupid kid", "Everyone Hates Me", "I'm a bad kid".  When I say melt down I mean melt down.  I have an appointment for him to see a psychiatrist in July, because he was getting so bad I was getting very, very worried that something is very, very wrong.  His behavior grades in school were going down, and he as coming home on red, orange, or yellow every day.  They use a color system at the school for behavior.  You start on white, and if you're caught being good, you move up- Green, Blue, and then Purple.  But, if you're caught doing something wrong, you move down- Yellow, Orange, and then Red.  You can move your clip down for not standing in line, for talking out of turn, for touching the wall etc.  In theory it sounds good, except it really doesn't work for all kids, and for my two kiddos who struggle with self-worth, it REALLY didn't work well.  Every time my youngest had to move his clip down he internalized that he as a bad kid.  This did not help him improve his behavior.    So, while he was never doing anything really bad, he did end up on red quite often, for talking out of turn.  Oh and also he has impulse control issues related to the Sensory Processing Disorder that cause him to talk when he hasn't had enough sensory input.  In fairness, he can talk A LOT. 

So, as this was going on, I was feeling the Lord poke me about homeschooling them.  My conversation with the Lord was something like this:
God:  Maybe you should homeschool them.
Me:  Are you crazy?
God:  Maybe you should homeschool them.
Me: There is NO way I can handle THIS and not completely destroy our relationship.
God: Maybe you should homeschool them.
Me: I don't want to.  I want some time to myself.
God: Maybe you should homeschool them
Me: Maybe the separation is making it harder on him, but maybe being together will be harder on me.
God: Maybe you should homeschool them.
Me: I don't know if I can handle homeschooling FOUR, and most specifically, these two....
God: Maybe you should homeschool them.
Me:  I've noticed since school has been out, the joy has started to return to William's face.  He's had almost no meltdowns.
God: Maybe you should homeschool them.
Me: I've noticed Shea and Will getting closer with each other, less fighting, but I still don't know if I can handle this.  I'm barely holding on right now.
God: Maybe you should homeschool them.
Me: Ok, God I think you want me to homeschool them (duh lol), but I'm really scared, so I'm going to trust you to equip the called, because I do not feel at all like you are calling the equipped.

So, there it is.  Next year, I will be homeschooling the 4 kids.  I'm both terrified and excited.  And, as I'm making peace with this decision I'm looking forward to how it will help them bond more with each other, too.  Adoptive families have a lot riding on bonding. 




Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Gotcha Day

Today, 5 years ago, we adopted our babies.  For those who are new to my blog, we went through the foster system and ultimately adopted.  Going in, it wasn't actually our plan to adopt.  You see, when we started the foster journey it was because my cousin was struggling at being able to care for her children.  Being 1500 miles away, I was able to do very little to help her.  So, we decided to get licensed to help other moms and dads here who were also struggling in our area. 

As we were licensed, we were filled with anticipation.  I knew that I had a lot of love to give to children who needed it.  I knew the power of love and believed that with enough love we could move mountains.  And, in a way we do.  These kids came to us broken.  They came to us with various different issues.  We loved them.  And we loved them.  And we loved them.

For years now we have loved them with everything in us.  They have made huge strides and appear as if everything is fine now, but it's not.  Shea still struggles with fears that cause her to try to control people around her, and not let me be the mom.  She still struggles with feeling safe and believing that she will always have enough food to eat.  She's been with us since she was just 5 1/2 months old and still the effects of her trauma affect her.  On the outside, she seems like a very strong  willed little girl, one might think she just needs to be tamed.  But what isn't seen in the fear behind that strength.  What isn't seen is the brokenness that remains.  It doesn't consume her as much as it used to, maybe doesn't define her like it used to, but it's still there.  It still causes her to be a little less resilient to certain things, and causes her to struggle with her own self worth.  She still fights battles others don't understand.  Love isn't enough to just make her all better.  It certainly helps her, but my fantasies about just loving these kids better was just that.  There are lasting effects that we still deal with many years later.  William struggles with self worth very deeply.  No matter how passionately I love him, he still feels unloved at times.  He still feels like he doesn't have value.  I tell him every day just how amazing I think he is, I rejoice with him through his victories, hold him when he falls short, tell him how important he is to my life.  How important he is to everyone around him.  Still he feels as if he isn't valuable.  Somehow lesser.  No matter how much we have overwhelmed him with love we have been unable to rewrite his inner tape.  There is nothing like holding your child who you adore, while he cries and screams that he is not loved.  As I'm holding him, crying with him he is unable to accept my love.  Other times he's full of joy.  We just never know.

Why am I telling you this on Gotcha Day?  Because I believe adoption is so important.  But it's important to know that it's not always easy.  It's important to know it wont all be perfect just because the adoption is final.  It's important to know it will be hard. 

But you know what?  Hard things produce great rewards.  My reward is in knowing he's safe.  He's loved, and I believe he will overcome this.  She's in a place where she can blossom, and be safe as she lives out her life and learns how not to fight with those around her.  No matter what we love these kids.  No matter what I will do everything in my power to keep them safe from harm.  They will be clothed, fed, encouraged.  Some days it takes everything out of me.  Some days I'm filled to over filled with love.

If you have thought about adoption, I want you to know I'm happy to talk to you honestly and frankly about the ups and the downs.  I want to encourage you that it will be hard, but worth it.  I want to implore you to make a difference in someone's life and know that their life will not be the only one changed.  I want to remind you that it is a calling, and when you are called to something, you need to believe that God will take you through it.

Happy Gotcha Day my sweets.





Wednesday, June 01, 2016

God Can Make Your Past Give Someone Else a Future


"God can make your past give someone else a future"...... 

Christine Caine said those words last night at a concert I attended with 3 dear friends of mine.  Christine Caine and Kari Jobe were both there for their #LiveUnashamed tour.  This night was absolutely overwhelming.  I went expecting a good concert, and a worship experience, but I did not expect to be completely overwhelmed by God.  By the end of the night I was exhausted, but cleansed.

Many of you know I have had a LOT going on over the past few years.  And, specifically in the last 5 months a WHOLE LOT.  People ask me all the time things like, "How are you even surviving?" or say things like,  "I don't know how you get everything done," and I don't actually know the answer for them......  or I didn't....   But, last night Kari Jobe and Christine Caine had a question and answer session before the concert began, and someone asked them the same question- "How do you fit it all in?"  The answer was so simple: 

When God calls you to something, He will give you supernatural power to achieve it.

Long ago God called me to be a mother.  At first, it was just to my oldest son Auston, and then my son Gregory, and that was the biggest joy of my life.  Growing up with a mother who was unable to connect with me for various reasons left me feeling alone a LOT of the time.  Do not misunderstand me, my mother loved me, but we are unable to communicate with one another.  As I grew into an adult the division only became worse.  My mother fights battles that I don't know, and it is very sad.  There is a lot of pain over the years.  Over time that pain became too wide and our relationship with each other all but stopped.  Let me say this, there is never a time in a woman's life when she doesn't need her mom.  You don't grow up and stop needing your mom.  If there's a breakdown, no matter how much pain is there, it still doesn't change anything, you still want your mom.  I lost my mom very close to 15 years ago.  Some days it feels like yesterday, and others it feels like a lifetime.  I do not understand why we had to lose each other.  If I had my choice, it would not be this way.  And before you go thinking it can't happen to you, or that my mom must be some kind of monster, let me assure you she isn't.  She is a wonderful counselor who has helped many, many people, and specifically helped literally hundreds of women escape and heal from Domestic Violence situations.  Many people credit her with saving their life, and they should.  She is absolutely amazing at what she does.

So, why?  There are so many things in this life that we will simply not know the answer to.  I will say, that that void in my life as produced a lot of fruit though. 

"You planned something bad for me, but God produced something good from it, in order to save the lives of many people, just as he's doing today" Genesis 50:20 CEB

Through this brokenness I've learned to truly lean on God.  He is the ONE who sustains me when people fail.  and they do.  I've learned to give love when it hurts.  I've learned about walking away in love.  I've had to trust God and let go.

The disintegration of my relationship with my mother left me with an empty hole, love that had no where to go.  Here we were, living the life, 2 fantastic boys, happy marriage, house, car etc.  We had everything we could want.  But I had an emptiness.  So, I began crying out to God.  And, He told me that we should foster children.  He showed me that there are so many children out there who for one reason or another are not receiving the love they need from their mother just like me.  And, if I could make a difference in just one of their lives, show them God's love, it might help us both.

So, we became licensed for foster care.  And shortly after adopted 2 children....  Well, I say shortly, it was over a couple of years...

And, I began to see the fruits of what Christine Caine said last night: 

"God can make your past give someone else a future"...... 

It's work.  It doesn't come easily.  It's messy.  It's beautiful.

Then, in January of this year we became the proud parents to two more children...

"God can make your past give someone else a future"...... 

Every morning I get up and I'm mom to 6 kids.  It is exhausting.  It's scary.  It's overwhelming.  It's my calling.  I know each day how important it is to be fully engaged (and I fail All.THE.TIME), and I know how much these kids need me.  I know, because I know what it's like to lose your mom.  And I know how it hurts.  And how the hurt never goes away.  But I also know God is the ultimate healer and he will redeem even this in their lives as well.

When we go through hard things we often cry out to God to ask Him to stop the hard things.  Maybe we're doing it wrong.  Maybe we need to let the hard things come, and cry out to God, "God, how would you use this to give someone else a future?".

Love, Semalee



Tuesday, February 09, 2016

When Life Takes a Pause

Today I have a very deep thing to write about.  I've used this blog for years to document my feelings and thoughts through the good times and the bad.  What I write about today is a mixture of both.  If you read my blog you may have noticed my absence...

That's because on the 3rd of January my life was forever changed.

My cousin, Monica died that day.  She was a beautiful soul, and wonderful spirit, dedicated friend and cousin to me. 


I was forever changed by her passing, as were all who know her, but also blessed beyond comprehension to have agreed several years ago to be a Godparent for her two children, and take them in as my own should anything ever happen to her.  Of course, I never imagined having to live out that promise, but here I am.

And, it's hard.
And wonderful.
And overwhelming.
And peaceful.
And exhausting.
And vitalizing.

Here I am with now 6 kids whom I am charged with to bring up.  The weight of this is heavy.  But I am so honored.

In this storm I have been so overwhelmed by the presence of Christ.  I have spent a lot of time with God this past month or so, and one thing I know is He is there in your pain.  I have been literally overwhelmed by pain.  I've never experienced anything like this before.  I suspect it's normal when dealing with an event like this, but having never experienced it before, it's been hard.  But, every time I've felt God's presence and been able to rest in Him and go to Him for comfort and peace as I try to figure this all out.

So, as we enter into the Lenten season I'll be doing my usual, which is taking stock of my life.  I'll be pressing into God and looking to Him for the answers I need.  And it couldn't come at a better time.

What are you facing today that has brought you to your knees?  Do you believe that God is in the middle of your mess?  Trust Him.  He will not let you down.

Love, Semalee




Friday, January 01, 2016

New Year Thoughts

It's January 1, 2016.  I'm sitting in my living room drinking coffee, enjoying the quiet before the family gets up.  I've come to really try to savor these quiet moments, because, it seems, they are few and far between.  Every year I spend some time thinking about what the New Year holds.  I try to envision some of God's plans for me and my family.  I spend some time reflecting on the previous year before approaching my thoughts for the next year.  It's so important to know where you've come from in order to set your sights on where you're going.

Many years I've done a list of resolutions.  Some years I've broken it into categories.  Some years I've simply used a word to guide me through the year.  I think I'll use a word as a jumping off point this year:
Focus
I've spent a lot of time in recent months realizing that I'm very distracted a lot.  I've got WAY too much on my plate, and I'm being INTENTIONAL about clearing things off.  I spent a lot of time simply treading water, and not really swimming.  I lost control of my schedule a long time ago, and it's taking some time to get it back.

But there's more.  I sometimes feel like I'm just in a fog.  On my weekend away this past Fall God really spoke to me about the fact that I always feel like I'm missing out on my children, their lives are just passing me by even though I'm right here.  He told me I feel that way because I AM missing it.  I'm so busy trying to make sure the next task gets done, or fighting pure exhaustion, or allowing Facebook more time than I should etc that I am truly missing the things that matter the most to me.

This starts a downward spiral where I feel guilty, so I withdraw, usually into an electronic device, and miss more, get snippy etc.

Focus
So, for 2016 my main goal is to Focus.

Focus less on the world of the internet, and more on the people right in front of me.
Focus less on the struggles of the day, and more on the successes of the day.
Focus less on the amount of times I have to say no to my children, and more on the ways I can say yes.
Focus less on the dangers of Michael's job, and more on his dedication to our family.
Focus less on things I want, and more on the things I already have.
Focus less on being perfect (because I totally fail at that) and more on being present.
Focus less on being busy, and more on being healthy- physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially.

Focus

In 2016 as I look ahead there are so many things happening, and I don't want to miss even one.

Gregory will graduate this year and probably move out and head to college. I have a limited amount of time left with him here.  A limited time left with all of us living under the same roof.

Auston will spend the year preparing to marry Sarah in 2017.  Before I know it he will be the head of his own family, and that will be his main focus.  It all happens so fast.

Shea will turn 7, "the age of reason". Every day can be a day of healing or defeat for her.  I am part of that outcome. 

William will complete Kindergarten, his first year at school all day.  He struggles daily with feelings of fear of abandonment.  He needs so much to know that I'm all in, especially during the times that we're together, and he's not at school.

Michael and I will celebrate 20 years of marriage.  It seems like these 20 years have gone by in an instant.  Very soon, I will have been married longer than I wasn't in my life.  He deserves my first fruits, not left overs.

These are just a few things, there are more to come.  There will be joys, there will be sorrows, there will be times of excitement and there will be times of ordinary.  No matter the time, no matter the circumstances, I want to be sure that through it all, the important stuff in my life has my focus.
Focus



Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Recap and looking to 2016

I can NOT believe it is the last day of 2015.  Seriously, time just keeps flying.  This year is almost a blur to the point that I don't even know how to recap it.  I'll do my best.

I went to look over my previous recaps and I was very saddened to see that my pictures are missing from the posts.  I don't know what happened with that, and I'm very sad about it.  For that reason there will be only a few here.  And maybe this will be the motivation I need to start making a yearly book like one of my friends suggested a couple of years ago. 

2015 started off with us at our first wedding of the kids our kids grew up with.  It was a surreal experience for me to think that Ryan Seymour, a kid that we met in cub scouts some time around Auston's 2nd grade year was now getting married.  I found myself reminiscing a lot about our own lives and thinking about how fast it has gone by.  Now, 1 year later it seems like Ryan and Kendall have been married forever, and that's it's own sobering thought.

In January, Shea turned 6 years old and she thinks she's 16.... Trina and Damon got engaged, Auston gave a talk on Sri Lanka to Gregory's Cultural Geography class.  And, Auston received is Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts.  That was such a relief to have that done after so many years of scouts!



And, blessing of all blessings- Princess Meara was born!




In February Gregory got his Driving Permit, and my friends Gwenn and Craig finalized the adoption of their twins completing their forever family :)

March rolled along with not much pomp or circumstance, just the usual busyness that comes from being part of a 6 pack...

April held Easter, our first experience in sharing Auston with his future in-laws, since he spent it in Louisiana with Sarah, and Field Day at Shea's school among other random busyness :)



In May Gregory turned 16, Sarah (Auston's girlfriend) graduated from High School (Homeschool), and Calley graduated from Baylor University.....




June took Mikey and I to Corpus with the MUD district for the Summer Conference.....


July held 4th of July with Michelle, Tahj, and Zeny, and a visit to the San Jacinto Monument before Auston headed off to Sri Lanka again, and I went to Chicago with Pampered Chef for Conference....









I August school started back up and the school/homeschool program I teach at moved to a new location.  I'm teaching Preschool with Rachel again this year and loving it.  William started Kindergarten at Aristoi Classical Academy with Shea, who is now in 1st grade.  A quick look at Gregory's transcripts told us that he would be able to graduate a year early, so he began what would be his Senior year--  surprise!




In September Michael spent his birthday visiting my school and talking to our students.  He's done this for several years now.  I can't put into words how proud I am of this man.  He even celebrated his birthday by bringing Rachel and I donuts!  ;)



In October Auston returned home from his 3 month stay in Sri Lanka, celebrated his birthday, I got to steal a weekend away with my Liberty Classical friends, and Trina and Damon had their wedding....








November holds one of our favorite events of the year, the International Festival.  Auston, of course, manned the Sri Lanka Booth ;)  Michelle moved to Utah :(:(:( And we enjoyed Jayden's company for Thanksgiving :)





December wrapped up the year quickly.  We did our annual hunt for our Christmas Tree, and......

AUSTON AND SARAH GOT ENGAGED!!!! 

OMGosh the time has flown.  It was just yesterday he was a lump in a blanket....







It's been one crazy year!  I think I'll save my resolutions for tomorrow....  or the next day.....  I'm going to go hang out with my kiddos....

Here's to 2015 and all it held, may you remember the good, and learn from the bad.

Here's to 2016, may you find joy in the smallest of places, and may God bless you abundantly!