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,

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,

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!


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.