Thursday, July 23, 2015

Deep Roots with God

Take a look at this tree in the picture below. It's obviously fallen, taken a beating in the Texas heat, and is under distress. But besides that, do you notice how most of this tree's leaves are still green? Take note with me that, even though it's fallen, instead of removing it and chopping it up for wood, the business has simply mowed around it. This intrigues me! This fallen tree has become a daily reminder to me about the value of having deep roots with God. You see, this tree fell months ago.

I'm not sure what happened. One day I drove by on my way to work and suddenly there it was in the grass looking as though it's completely disconnected. It's one of those things you notice casually at first and give only a passing thought to but then as the days, weeks, and months have gone by, it seems to whisper a valiant reminder and I marvel. 

In one way or another, we can all relate to this fallen tree. Over the past few weeks, I've felt knocked over. Besides Miss M. deciding she'd rather age out of foster care than be adopted by any family and that I have been extremely sick, I've felt impoverished artistically. Although this may seem small to most people, my fellow creatives know what a big deal that can be! I also have felt depleted of inspiration to blog. I'm struggling to feel inspired towards adventure. And most importantly, I'm lacking depth or emotions in my coffee and cozy times with God. : (  

But God is always showing himself to be fabulously faithful! And recently He reminded me of this tree. This tree obviously has one heck of a deep root! So today I've searched out scriptures to share and I hope they inspire you as well. May your roots go deep with God, my friend!

The bible says: 

"But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green and they never stop producing fruit." Jeremiah 17:7-9

"I pray that from his [God's] glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how long, how high, and how deep his love is." Ephesians 3:16-18

"And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness." Colossians 2:6-8

Friday, June 19, 2015

Inspiring Songs for Young Women

One thing I decided to create in 2014 right before my daughter moved in from foster care was a playlist of music. The list is meant to inspire her as a young women and to be played especially during the summer while we are in the car or jamming out to music at the house.

Even today, as another young lady is about to move in this summer, I find myself adding to it. I feel strongly that positive words and music can strengthen our character and resolve! Since my daughters are healing from tremendous heartache and have been bombarded by stress and negativity for several years, this is one thing I created to love up on them. 

You may not be familiar with some of these songs and you might not completely agree with some of what they share...that's okay. These songs have a range of themes and are from different decades or genres but are all meant to either be inspiring or spur our conversations and give me an avenue to teach lessons. Because my girls are teens, I know that music is especially powerful! I have over 65 songs complied in this particular playlist so the list below is a slightly shortened version I thought others might enjoy too!

I Lived - OneRepublic
Brave - Sara Bareilles
Make It Out This Town - Eve & Gabe Saporta
Just Fine - Mary J. Blige
Who Says - Selena Gomez
I Won't Back Down - Tom Petty
I'll Stand By You - Pretenders
Stand Up - Jessie J
You Don't Own Me - Lesley Gore
He Knows My Name - Francesca Battistelli
Price Tag - Jessie J
Fight Another Day - Addison Road
One Girl Revolution [Battle Mix]- Superchick
Perfect [clean version] - Pink
Soar - Christina Aguilera
Same in Any Language - I Nine
Who You Are - Jessie J
Hate On Me - Jill Scott
Masterpiece - Jessie J
Nobody Love - Tori Kelly
Corner of Queens - Walk Off the Earth
Eyelashes - Tori Kelly
I'm a Survivor - Destiny's Child
Stomp - [Remix] - Kirk Franklin
Life is Wonderful - Jason Mraz
Go Get It - Mary Mary
Black or White - Michael Jackson
Turn Off the Light - Nelly Furtado
Take a Back Road - Rodney Atkins
Howlin' At The Moon - Sam Bush
Better People - India Arie
Stronger - Kelly Clarkson
Just Around the Riverbend - Pocahontas
Three Little Birds - Strange Magic version
There's Hope & Video - India Arie
My Wish - Rascal Flatts
Listen - Beyonce'
Daydream - Tori Kelly
I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor
Man in the Mirror - Michael Jackson
Where Is The Love? - The Black Eyed Peas
No Giving Up - Crossfade
Appletree - Erykah Badu
I Gotta Feeling - The Black Eyed Peas
You Can't Hurry Love - Phil Collins
Good Fight - Unspoken
Stand - Rascal Flatts
Thank You - Alanis Morissette
Life is a Highway - Rascal Flatts
Best Day of My Life - American Authors
Shake it Off - Taylor Swift
Bills, bills, bills - Destiny's Child
How to Save a Life - The Fray
Say Hey - Strange Magic version
Home - Phillip Phillips

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Adoption Update & Self-Care Tips for Reading CPS Files

(apologies for the long title but I wanted it to be searchable for other families on a topic I couldn't find a blog post about in my own searches) 

This has been an amazing year so far. Life as a new mom has been terrific and my daughter is doing wonderful. After her adoption and with my home on "hold" with the agency, we've continued spending time bonding, growing and deepening our relationship as mother and daughter. She's also been growing in her relationships with her new grandparents (my folks) too. I'm already so proud of the young woman she's becoming and all the ways she's grown!

And now...there's another door opening. I decided not to close my home after the adoption because I knew there was a chance I might adopt again. I felt it would be easier to keep my certification up to date verses starting the whole certification process over again. In March, I re-opened my home! I knew the process of finding a match could take a while and that soon many children in foster care would be shifting homes again since often children are shuffled to different homes at the end of each school year. It seem this may be done in an attempt to encourage adoption either of the current foster families or to try to place children in a new home that may be more adoption motivated.

Shortly after being reopened I was on the phone with a caseworker to discuss how my certification was being switched over from foster-to-adopt to adopt-only again so that we could make certain I received broadcasts of children who are already legally free and open to finding an adoptive family. She also reminded me of how long a matched adoption could take. Fortunately, just a short time after our conversation ended she called again and said, "You aren't going to believe this but a broadcast just came in and I think she might be a great match!"

As soon as I read the broadcast, I thought, "uh yeah!" Honestly, this young lady seems an amazing match for us. :) My daughter is beyond excited that we were matched and selected as a family for this new young lady, Miss M.! And God has not only answered so many of my prayers but he has been building my faith and courage at every step. Honestly, I really have to cling to those answered prayers and faith-courage because, unlike with my daughter, I'll be committing to an adoption placement of Miss M. sight unseen. All I have is a few pictures of this beautify 15 yr old teen, the small bio she wrote for her broadcast and two huge, heartbreaking binders of her case from CPS. It's totally a leap of faith! I have to choose to be faithful and trust in God. 

So now to the second reason I felt compelled to blog this morning. Reading the CPS files is beyond HARD so I wanted to share some things that help me during this stage of the process:

1. Set aside some quite hours for reading them. Both times now, I've taken a half day off from work for reading CPS files. There are a ton of court documents, medical evaluations and case worker reports. Many of the documents will have redundant, dry paragraphs with maybe one sentence changed but I find that often that one changed sentence will have extremely valuable information! So you may have to skim pages just for your own sanity but I wouldn't skip anything completely. On average it takes me one hour per binder to read. 

2. Have a paper and pen with you. There can be a lot of acronyms that you may want the definitions to and you will come across some information that will bring up questions - write them down. Because the sections are barely tabbed, I tend to dog-ear pages so I can find important information quickly again in them. 

3. Prepare your support system. Let them know you are reading the CPS file and it'll be hard. Remind them you won't be sharing details but that you may need to talk some or even pray together to help process what you've read. Married couples may have each other to debrief with but they might need to talk things out with someone else too. As a single woman, I call my Mom, talk to my Papa some and to a best friend as a confidant to process my thoughts. 

4. Try to set up a lighthearted activity after reading the files. For me, there are always moments when I'm reading the files that I will cry as I read the tough things a child has gone through. My heart physically aches! So afterwards is a good time to practice some quality self-care. I don't recommend reading these files at night before bed. Instead give your mind some time to process before heading off to sleep. Some self-care could include: Praying, going for a walk, taking a relaxing hot shower, doing something active (basketball, bike riding etc..) watching a happy movie or if you have pets - play with them! :) 

5. Finally, although it's great to have more understanding of the history, I really try to focus on how the child is doing over the past year. Yes, there may have been behaviors when they first entered care that are concerning but you can't forget that they were under extreme stress and dealing with tremendous loss! Their history is a part of their story but it doesn't have to be what defines them. We all do things as kids/teens that are not I try to remember sometimes behaviors may be trauma related but sometimes they are just kids being kids. If you have serious concerns, talk to your caseworker about them for insight. They work closely with kids from hard places and can help you to decide if a behavior is a deal-breaker or not. 

So what's next? 

I believe I will be heading towards Presentation Staffing. I will meet with all those involved in Miss M.'s life (caseworkers, fosters, maybe CASA, counselor, etc) and I will ask my questions. After that, I foresee the next step as giving my official "yes" for this adoption placement and getting time set up for meeting my next daughter! It's a scary time and an extremely exciting time...but most of all, I hope it's finally time for this young lady to get her forever family.