6 Years ago I came to know God in an even deeper way. And it was through this child. While I thought God was just building our family, He had major faith, trust, and work in our hearts He wanted to do as well. He did both and I am forever grateful.

On the kids birthdays, I reflect back, look through photos, and always give gratitude. We are just stewards of these lives. They are not "mine", but the Lords and their journey to us is our testimony. To Him be the Glory for their lives and ours.

These sweet miracle was born 6 years ago today...

Mackenzie Leigh Willis. 12.18.08 7lbs 11 oz 

A few of my all time favorites...

Her cheeks...

Her little petite self...

Her ponytail...

...And just like that she became a kindergartener this year.

 Wow, that was fast huh? I started this blog when David was 2 so I have been so thankful to go back and see and read about how we blinked through the years.  Maybe someday our kids will read it, maybe they won't, maybe I will delete the entire thing one day. Just kidding, but it has served as a great mile marker for us and I love that.

6. SIX. Six Years Old.
There is something so big about it. 5 sounds so young, but SIX sounds so old.

Each of our children have come to us in such a special way. Mackenzie brings me deep joy. I don't know if I have ever shared about my time with her, but it explains a lot about my joy for her.

I meet people now in this season of life and our life seems very glittery. No one knows Zach is adopted. And people will say, "Wow!! Lucky you! A kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grader! You guys just sailed through that!"

No, no we did not. Funny how I could just paint it like that, right?

We were pregnant with Mackenzie after a terrible miscarriage that followed David. It was one at 12 weeks and molar tissue was found from my miscarriage. I went from being almost in my 2nd trimester to being told I needed come in the next morning for a D & C and then to come in weekly for 6 months to make sure my levels were normal because molar tissue can be cancerous. And we were not to get pregnant until cleared. At the end of the 6 months we were clear and nothing ever came from that tissue. My arms were covered in needle marks from all the blood drawn those very long 6 months. It was hard to go mentally from pregnancy to awaiting cancer results. And I wondered if David would be an only child. When we were given the "all clear", we immediately found out I was expecting. They wanted to monitor me closely following that miscarriage so I went in early.

God bless sonographers. They were at times my worst enemy. The questions they ask I quickly learned were not good.
"Do you have a history of twins?" She asked.
"My grandmother is an identical twin." I said.
"Well, you have 2 babies here. Fraternal."

Tim and I couldn't believe it. I don't remember a lot about that time other than shock. They wanted me to come back around 8 weeks to check them out. On my next visit, the sac each baby was in had grown. I saw a little heartbeat in one and the other seemed to have a baby, but no fluttering.

At this point, time would only tell. If the other baby was just behind and would catch up and grow. Or if that baby was not going to make it. There was concern about Mackenzie (the little heart beating twin), that her heartbeat was too low.

They decided on this visit to have me wait until 12 weeks. So 4 very long weeks later, we went in to see that Mackenzie seemed to be doing fine, but the other baby did not make it. I did not know what this would mean, but basically from 12 weeks until 20 weeks, I miscarried that twin while remaining pregnant with Mackenzie.

It was a time of blind faith because I had no idea daily if I was still really pregnant with Mackenzie or if she was okay. I did not want to get too many ultrasounds, so I just waited it out. I felt pregnant and kept getting bigger, but still miscarrying as well. It was a weird time. I remember telling some lady that asked me if I was expecting one day, "I just don't know....okay?!!!" Other people did a good job of reading the, "Leave Me Alone" vibe that was plastered across my face during that season.

There was a song I heard at church one service. I felt it was written for me. I sang it my whole pregnancy and probably the first 6 months of Mackenzies life. Written by Mercy Me, these words were my heart. And this baby was my tiny offering.

Who are we--- that You would be mindful of us?
What do You see--- that's worth looking our way?
We are free--- in ways that we never should be.
Sweet release--- from the grip of these chains.

Like hinges straining from the weight,
My heart no longer can keep from singing.

All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified:
Emmanuel, God with us.

My heart sings a brand new song.
The debt is paid, these chains are gone.
Emmanuel, God with us.

Lord, You know--- our hearts don't deserve Your glory;
Still You show--- a love we cannot afford.

Like hinges straining from the weight,
My heart no longer can keep from singing.

All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified:
Emmanuel, God with us.

My heart sings a brand new song.
The debt is paid, these chains are gone.
Emmanuel, God with us.

Such a tiny offering
Compared to Calvary;
We lay it at Your feet.

Such a tiny offering
Compared to Calvary;
We lay this at Your feet.

All that is within me cries
For You alone be glorified:
Emmanuel, God with us.

My heart sings a brand new song.
My debt is paid, these chains are gone.
Emmanuel, God with us.

I made it to the 20 week mark and I felt a peace that day. I went in to be told I had a perfectly healthy baby girl due on Christmas Day. I think I cried for the next 10 weeks.

We decided the pregnancy had been hard enough and induced her at 39 weeks exactly one week before her due date. There were concerns about her placenta placement because it was attached lower because of the other twin. I was just ready to meet my baby and didn't want any more surprises.

The joy I had when I met Mackenzie was indescribable. I felt I had lost her so many times. I lost part of her and she lost her little sibling, but I couldn't believe her life was saved. She was such a gift. Her pregnancy changed me. You do get over stuff like this, but you learn a new normal. The wounds are healed, but there are scars. My scars remind me of places that God kept me going. He just kept us moving forward. One day we will tell Mackenzie she had a twin, a long time from now.

Mackenzie was definitely born for a reason. We say jokingly she has the power of 2. I can't even describe her. She is a go-getter, fun-loving, leader, out-going, empathetic, loving, imaginative, creative, silly, passionate, and petite little girl. She is everything I ever dreamed having a little girl would be like.

Mackenzie's teacher wrote this about her and it is so true,
"She is a great role model for how to be responsible and independent student (especially during phonics and sight words) Also, she can find anything we think we may have lost."

Mackenzie has my photographic memory so between both of us, we can find anything :)

We are blessed to have Mackenzie. We are reminded what a gift she is. Her life was on purpose. Our time praying for her started before she ever was born. She is such a fantastic sister and I love her relationship with both of her brothers. She craves their attention and she loves what they love. She wants Davids approval and she loves teaching Zach.

I love you, Mackenzie. I love your smile, laugh, your little scenes and toys you set up all over the house, your confidence, your desire to tell everyone you meet everything, and your heart. Your sweet and tender heart that loves other people and sees a need and wants to help. I believe Mackenzie has a relationship with Jesus and she is a prayer. She will stop and pray and I hear her in her room at night.  I know we will be close like I am with my own mother. She is a blessing we thank God for all the time.

Mackenzie is getting her 1st American Girl doll and we are doing the restaurant and the whole 9 yards.  She has always loved dolls and babies. I think she is finally ready for one.... 2 years ago she was still cutting their hair and putting makeup on them :) I can't wait for this next year with her as she keeps coming into her own little person.

Happy Birthday Mackenzie!!!


Adoption :: 1 Year Later

Our GOTCHA day isn't quite as romantic as most peoples..... in fact, we will probably just celebrate Zach's finalization day, Aug. 13, because that was so monumental going to court, getting his new name (middle and last name) and then celebrating.
Our GOTCHA day was messy. We had been visiting Zach quite a while in his orphanage. We had to abide by DFACS visitation and did day visits first, an overnight visit, weekend visitation, and so on. Something of course was holding up the final move out, but we managed to have him for 10 straight days over last years Thanksgiving. Then, unfortunately, we had to return him. I hated that weekend.
It made no sense, no common sense, to be forced to take him back. But, we had to. There was a hold up in his paperwork for permanent placement and it was one of the worst drop offs we had, for me and for him. It felt mean. I feel like we were adding more trauma to the little guys life. I had it out with DFACS and everyone I could call and finally a few days later, on December 4, 2013, we picked Zach up for the last time. And this time he didn't go back.
It took him a long time to understand that. For several months any time we would get in the car, he would get anxious, ask where we were going, and go into his self coping talks and tell himself, "It's okay, Zach. You are with your family forever. You are staying here."
Ugh. It broke my heart.

So, you might be able to see why we probably won't celebrate our GOTCHA day. The place that we got him from is not a life we want him to continually remember and think about every year. There are so many new things for Zach to understand, including all of the holidays and especially his birthday, that we will just recognize his adoption finalization day.

There are things for us that are very difficult to remember about Zach. Which is crazy how far he has come. It seems surreal. I tell people this often, but God had "blinders" on us when we met Zach. He had to of. There is no way in our right minds that we could see straight during that. We had complete blind hope and faith that the child we met was not going to be the child he stayed. We did accept it though.... we accepted him at his worst and that was tough.

I wish we had a pretty story.... that 1 year later our life is just complete, perfect, and we are the happiest we have ever been. And that adoption is beautiful and our hearts burst with joy every morning. I could tell you that, and you might believe me, but its not quite accurate.

I will tell you these truths though. Zach is a changed kid. Zach is a child that is healing continually. The sky is truly the limit for him. Zach still perplexes every medical professional that sets eyes on him because he is a domestic institutionalized orphan and those aren't supposed to exist anymore. Zach continually does things people said that he couldn't. Zach is attached, bonded, and loves being in our family. He talks about each family member and he is obsessed with David and Mackenzie. Zach, from the outside looking in, is a normal little boy who is super adorable and easily warms up. Zach is strong willed. He has started having opinions, arguing, whining, crying, complaining, expressing thoughts, ideas, asking questions, laughing a lot, getting jokes, playing games..... none of those things a year ago. It looks much like a 2 year old at times watching him learn to have self control. He is smart. He is reading and writing and able to do most all of the 1st grade curriculum. He went from not interacting with peers at all to now he is very much attune to his peers and seeking relationships with them.

We are a better family. Tim and I parent all three kids so different now, so much better. When you have a child from trauma, you do things different. I think the past year we have been in lockdown at our home and not had time for anything else. We went "all in" and as our small group leader said, "our rally cry" was to integrate Zach into our family and school.

School was the hardest part of this year. We love our neighborhood public school and moved here because of it, but immediately faced challenges when we adopted Zach. We dealt with many difficult outside people, high up people within our district, and even other parents. We adored the teachers and staff, but could not get our district to get on board with helping him. We simply wanted Zach to be in a general ed classroom with services and accommodations. We were forced to stand up for him in a very public way and pave a path for him and because of this battle..... it was well worth it.

I am happy to report, Zach is now in a general ed 1st grade classroom with the services he requires to be successful... and doing very well.  He is learning and growing and acquiring new skills very quickly. He is being treated consistently, carefully, and moving quickly in the right direction. I never saw school being so hard, but I feel as though just as we had to JUMP all in and change Zachs trajectory for the way his life path was headed.... we had to do the same for where his education was headed.

We are proud to be Zachs parents. I knew right away I was made to be this boys mother and had what it took to get his life back (all because of who Jesus called me to be and the tools in which he gave me) I was told some nasty things this year about my new son. Things like:
"We don't have kids like your kid here at our school"
"He is one of those kids from the foster care system, right?"
"If you don't like the way our school is, then get out."
"Do you know that moms requested their children to not be in his class?"
"What's wrong with him?"
"He is probably just autistic."
"That was so nice of yall to adopt him"

To all of those people..... Let me see if I can cover it quick. First, it is not the 1960s.... it is 2014 and if you want to discriminate on who you educate, go right ahead. You will find yourself in court. Public schools educate every race, gender, and disability.  To the other parents campaigning against a 1st grader, Shame on you. And nice people don't adopt. Nice people take cookies to their neighbors.... please don't tell us we are nice. I just can't hear that anymore, I actually don't feel even a little bit nice. Insane might be a better word for us that we felt God called us to adopt a special needs 8 year old. And to everyone else trying to diagnose him, the reason you don't know what's wrong with him is because the child was abandoned by his mother and left in an orphanage until we found him. That's whats wrong with him.

So, how about 2015? This year we have been in the intensive care unit. We have fought. We have gotten messy. We have had to persevere like never before with all systems. We have had to make it work, figure it out, and bust our tails to put one damn foot in front of the other.

And let me tell you. God surrounded us by a community of warriors. Real people. Authentic people. You know who you are. People who gave up every bit of their time and resources to make sure we didn't give up or give in. People who stood right next to me through this, people who reached out to me and just loved us, and again.... all the help that came from every angle. I would need something or some resource and BOOM, we would have it. Texts, emails, and friends fighting on my behalf. I told some of my friends I saw their scary side this year :) We feel loved. We are going to not just make it, but we are going to probably raise some pretty amazing little people because of all of this.  God's people are mighty. And David and Mackenzie have become little champions. I have hardly even posted about either of them and need to dedicate several more posts to them, but they are incredible. They love Zach and are also fiercely protective of him. They sure do know how to love people.

And God was with us in miraculous ways. This isn't the story I thought we would have, but I feel honored that God called me to it. He equips his people, no doubt. He brings in the angel armies when you need them, he gives you strength when you don't have it, and he never ever lets HOPE fade away.

1 Year in the books, Zach. I think we did pretty well. Lets see what the next 12 months will bring us.... we are ready! We pray daily for you, that above all else, your heart would be open to Jesus and he will heal, guide, and protect you in all the ways we can't. You complete our family, Zach, and we love you so much.

I pray all who read this today would love deeply. Is loving those easy to love what love really means? Loving those who are difficult to love and then in return they start to love and reciprocate it.... that is a beautiful love story to me. And that kind of love changes lives.


Adoption: 9 Months In and Finalization

Today, I want to write about the 48 hours before our adoption finalization. Zach, I hope you read this one day. Mommy and Daddy love you. David and Mackenzie are starting to not remember life without you being in ours. We are not perfect and do a lot of things wrong, but I hope when you read this you see that you were loved, fought for, and prayed for by many. We have high expectations for you and can be tough, but we know the normal little boy you were created to be is inside you and we are willing to fight for that.

Much like the show "24", this was the pace and stress we were experiencing. It is still hard for me to even digest, but it happened and it is part of our story.

We have had high highs with this adoption and low lows. We have seen a child change physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally with just some love, a home, a family, and the right resources. It is almost a disturbing science experiment where a child became something he wasn't because of his environment. Everyone has told me to watch the movie, "Nell", but I haven't been able to bring myself to do that. I now firmly believe we are products of our environments and what our exposure is and how God miraculously made our bodies and minds to be resilient and the miracle of healing.

I will write more about our journey as I still process it and the challenges we have had, but we finally finalized. And that in itself proved to be a miracle. You knowing that is the outcome will make it easier than what we went through not knowing that.

Zach was supposed to be an open and shut case. No parental rights. Orphan. Wednesdays Child. His life was broadcasted online and then on the news. Legally free. Unwanted. At 7 years old, no family out of jail or mentally well to care for him.

Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) and Lutheran Services, who we used as a liaison, were the state involvement with our adoption. We matched with Zach after submitting our home study one year ago. We then began visitation at his orphanage, weekend visits, and then moved him in 9 months ago today. After placement, you have to wait 6 months until finalization for the state to make sure its a good fit for both the child and family. Even after him having no hoops to jump through, we still did not get our finalization date until August 13. This was a huge milestone for us. We have had many many challenges, our primary challenge being his education, but finalizing was going to alleviate a lot of stress. Monthly visits and un-expected visits from DFCS in addition to the same from Lutheran Services, paperwork, permissions, travel letters if we took him out of state, red tape, ect. It is just hard to be in that phase. We were so excited to finalize. To be finished.

I went nuts. I ordered adoption announcements. We planned a huge Habachi dinner. We did a countdown with the kids. We made a big slide show of all our pictures over the past year with Zach. We explained court to them and the judge as they would be up in the front with him. We talked about Zach's past more with David and Mackenzie. We explained to them Zach's name would be forever changed to Willis and we would be given a new birth certificate with mommy and daddys names on it. (That still blows my mind by the way). He is literally given a new life in legal standing. His past records are sealed and not on the record.

I was standing in Publix 48 hours before our court hearing and had just finished ordering Zach's adoption cake. The baker was teary as she was getting my info and asked, "Has it been hard to adopt?" In that moment, I wanted to burst into tears and fall in the floor and tell her about it all. Tell her about his disabilities, his challenges, our inadequacies, how great our God is, the angels who have helped us help him, the really bad people we have encountered with him, how school is not made for foster children with disabilities, how some days I think I have ruined our life, and how then other days I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I wanted to tell her all of that. But, I did not. I said, "It has. But, he is worth it." I left her to make his cake and my phone rang.
Probably the worst phone call an adopting mother can get. It was our adoption attorney.

"Mrs Willis?" in a panicky tone. Yes, I responded.
"Mrs. Willis, I am not sure how to tell you this, but we are having a problem with Zach's paperwork. The law clerk at court has reviewed Zach's papers and it seems there was never a search done to see who Zach's father is. That has to legally be done before adoption can happen. He could have a registered father somewhere."

I got hot. I got really hot. I sat in the middle of Publix on the floor. I asked her what I needed to do.
"Nothing, you can't do anything. We have to get the state to run a "Putative Father Search" and if it comes up clear, you can finalize."

Among the 1 million questions I had, I couldn't speak. The lump was so big in my throat that I literally felt like I couldn't breathe. I couldn't bring myself to ask what would happen if they did find his father.

I don't remember much after that. I did not cancel my cake order and Im not even sure I bought my cart full of groceries. I just remember going home. I am now seeing that my past loss and my own past trauma compounds when I am hit with more trauma. The sense of loss is so deep and so intense that it magnifies the feeling and makes hope evaporate sometimes.

I called Tim and we learned the following:

If you are a man and have unprotected sex with a woman, you can go register yourself on the Putative Father Registry in your state. That way, if the woman becomes pregnant in the windows of time you were together, you will be contacted. (I was shocked to learn that this process actually exists and also find it a little disturbing as well. Its like a legal "I hooked up with someone page" and here is all the children I might have out there.) As it is not my place to judge, I will move on from that.
When a child is taken out of the home by DFCS or Child Protective Services, a re-unification plan is set up for the child to re-enter the family if it is appropriate. Obviously, for Zach, his family was incarcerated and the biological mother did not know who his father could be. Zach was placed into a state run orphanage and his parental rights were terminated a long time ago. At that time, a Putative Father Search should have been conducted before he was able to be adopted and put on orphan status.
DFCS obviously dropped a huge ball, but it also falls among several other people not catching that in his file before 48 hours before his adoption hearing.

We were mad. We were very sad. We went from planning our forever family party to wrapping our heads around if a father came up on the registry then we would move into a "Contested Adoption" and begin court for that. If the father had his act together, then a re-unification plan would be set up. I wanted to throw up thinking about moving Zach back out. Obviously, this was the worst case scenario for us, but then I had a wave of guilt if there was some amazing dad out there looking for his son.

I quickly learned this is typically VERY unlikely. Unfortunately, children like Zach with a family that has a bad history and the fact he has some special needs, meant that people weren't lining up for him. Either way, we had to wait. We had to get the State Vital Records office to run the search and give it to our attorney. No one would call me or talk to me. They would only deal with the attorney.

24 hours passed. Nothing. We were told the State Vital Records system was down. There was a lady that could run the search manually, but of course she was on vacation that week. Nothing was happening.

That night, I soberly started making cancellations. I did not have any time line of when the search could be done and I was being told our adoption hearing was off the calendar and would be rescheduled later and when they could get the search done and if it came up clear. I told Tim to call our family and cancel our dinner party for the following night and to call Publix and cancel the damn  cake. Our adoption announcements had the next day's date on them and I was about 5 minutes away from throwing them in the trash or setting them on fire and my phone rang. A sweet friend named Meaghan called and said she was taking me out on our adoption night with some girlfriends and we were going to celebrate anyway and Zachs search was going to come up clear. She told me to not touch the announcements because we would figure it out. My mom called and said she would make new labels to go over them. I was emotionally exhausted and too irrational to think about it.

I went to bed. The next morning, I really did wake up feeling God's mercies are new. I sat in my floor and cried as I thought back about how we met Zach, the Sunday church when service I realized what his name meant because of another sweet soul named Bethany, that Zachariah means,"The Lord has Remembered." I just kept saying that over and over. Lord, you have remembered this boy. Today is supposed to be his adoption day. I know you haven't forgotten him. Please help us.

I sent out a massive email. I CC'ed everyone on a DFCS and state level I could about the fact we were supposed to finalize in a few hours and it was all because of a $10 search. I needed to know as soon as possible if there was a father and for someone to do the search.  Here is my letter:

I write to you as a mother this morning and plead for someone to help Zach's finalization today.

I am shocked and saddened that during Zachs termination hearing years ago, a putative father search was never conducted. I am also shocked and saddened that this was not caught until hours before our court hearing that is today at 1:30 in Cobb with Judge Bodiford.

I am not quite sure how such a precious boy has fallen through so many cracks, but that has been his whole life until now. He is 7 and spent 4 of those years in a state run group home. I have no idea how he could be advertised as a "legally free" child and broadcasted on Wednesdays child and then also registered on a state level as legally free, but it seems to me that is putting this child at risk.

We are devastated. Today has been a finish line for our family. For Zach. We had family and friends in town for his court hearing, people rearranging their schedules and requesting off work. A dinner party scheduled for tonight and a cake ordered. I had 150 Adoption announcements printed, sealed, and ready to mail with his adoption day on it that are now close to being of no use. More than all of that, I have tried to explain to Zach and my other 2 children why we aren't celebrating anymore. As you can imagine, this is very confusing for them.

I am heartbroken. I have been told this search can be performed at Vital Records in Atlanta and costs $10, but I myself cannot request it. It takes all of minutes and if no one comes up on the search, we can finalize.

Can't any of you possibly do anything to help us today? Can't someone get on the phone with Vital Records and have them call Cobb law clerk?
It seems this child should no longer suffer from the mistakes of others.

Please let me know as soon as you can as we are all still on standby for our hearing.....
 All I know is that after my letter, prayers, and God moving mountains, I got a call at 12:10 saying that the search was done, there was no father, and we were finalizing in a little over an hour. The search came up empty. There was no one registered. Zach was legally adoptable. Luckily, my best friend Jessica, was already at my house and would you know she had brought a dress to wear to our court hearing. Its like she just knew God was going to come through. Tim happened to be working right in Marietta as well. We ripped the kids out of school, Jessica helped me dress them for court, and we called whatever family and friends could bust over to the courthouse. My sweet friend Erin came and took pictures.... and we made it.

I can't say this is how I saw this going down, but much like giving birth, it was intense, not how you saw it quite happening, but in the end..... the glorious part of it actually happening was able to cover all the pain to get to that point. I really felt joy, gratitude, humility, advocacy, and justice happen. It turned out to be a beautiful day and with everyone in absolute awe and happy tears of the process.

It's over buddy, we made it. You are quite a little package that we struggle to handle, but we brokenly every day wake up and ask God to equip us to give you the life he intended for you to have. We are turning corners, paving a way, and giving you opportunities that previously did not exist because we serve a big God who uses very small and un-capable people.

We love you, Zach. You are a Willis now. You have been made legally our son and you are now not only part of our family, but a community who is praying for your complete healing and doing everything possible to give that to you.

Trials and tribulations are opportunities and launching points of growth. I see how Paul says it can be joy. We experienced joy on August 13, 2014.

Zachariah Daniel Willis


Adoption: 7 Months In

We are 7 months into adoption from when we moved him into our home permanently.
12 months ago we matched with Z.  9 months ago we began the process of getting him out and trying to get him educated. 

As this has taken our ALL, we feel much like we have hunkered down and rallied around Z to pull him out of the pit. Much like Nehemiah said, "I am doing a good work and cannot come down." That is how I feel. I say no to a lot right now, but I am saying yes to 7 years of a boy that is worth it. No child was created to live how we found Z. And also saying yes to my husband and our other 2 kiddos that could not have been more perfectly chosen to be Z's siblings. I cherish and have never been more proud as a mom to watch their purity in love and compassion. Something I have found that is rare in this world, yet gushes from those 2. 

Z is an amazing child and Tim and I laugh weekly as he does the things people said he would never do. He has done all of them. And more. He exceeds all expectations and blows every diagnosis out of the water. Why? Because no one knows what an American Institutionalized orphan looks like. There is no diagnosis. You can call him what you want, but at the end of the day, our system has failed him. No label will ever be appropriate for him and until he recovers from the 7 years of deprivation he had, he will have special needs.

Adopting Z has ranked up in the Top 5 Hardest Things we have done.  We live our lives completely authentically, as we feel it is our ministry to do hard things and live them out loud.
For me, I feel like I was born to be Z's mom. Things in my life have prepared me for this.
My hardest trials have been: 
1. Losing babies. Each of the 5 children I carried short term and lost changed the kind of mother I am. I really believe children are a miracle and I sincerely try to treasure each life stage as we blink through them.
2. Tim's journey to find his career. This was hard on many levels because had it not been for the housing market boom and the initial company he worked for, he might still be doing residential construction sales. From that happening and causing a downward spiral of some jobs that were not a good fit, we had to start over. We sold most everything we had, including our home, and rebuilt our life.
3. The house renovations. I think this was a time from being a mother of 2 small toddlers, working various jobs to help, and renovating houses.... this was a season of life that I was the most physically exhausted that I had ever been. 
4. Long term family conflict. I think most people have this with extended family. It's part of life. It is learning to deal with emotionally exhausting people that happen to be your family. They brew and stir conflict and cause drama. We have to learn to live and manage those people, draw boundary lines, and continually remember that we can only control ourselves, not the actions of others.
5. This adoption. Though hard, there have been many harder things I have done. I have a resolution mentality. I don't give up and I see the end goal and go after it at all costs. When we make a commitment, we go all in. Though challenges arise, we feel completely equipped through Christ. He gives us the strength to walk through all of these trials and the wisdom to do the right thing.

I can honestly say that Z is a different child. Not the same child we met at all. To the point where I told Tim God had "blinders" on us when we met him. We did not see who he was at face value, we saw who he could be. We couldn't have believed what was in front of us, we wouldn't have in our right minds made a lifelong commitment with so many unknowns. We heard from the Lord that we were supposed to adopt Z, so we did. We had no idea what the real issues and problems we would face would be... but, we knew that we had been through a lot of hell in our lives and that if God could conquer us, He could conquer Z. We know Col 1:29 is true, "To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me." I tell myself often to again, Hold Fast to what I know and press on.

We are beginning to see the boy God made him to be.  He is really smart. He loves animals. He loves being outside. He is not afraid of anything. He learned how to ride a bike (thank you to our OT Stephanie and Clay White), he learned to swim. He loves children younger than him and especially babies.  He loves salad, fruit, pizza, apples and peanut butter, anything he can dip into ranch, bacon, pancakes, pretzels, all mexican food, and pretty much anything. He hates broccoli, the dentist, sunscreen, the movie theather (still figuring that one out) and there is also a few people he has met that he will tell us he does not like :0

At home with our family, he not only communicates with us 24/7, he does with david and mackenzie too. Unlike months ago he would barely answer our dinnertime question of "what is the best thing that happened to you today?" He now starts, leads, and asks the question to everyone at the table.  He will ask for things all day, ask for my help, ask for someone to play with him, ask to go to the store or to swim, ask questions about things (what we are having for dinner, what we are doing tomorrow, and what time it is). He whines and complains and will give opinions on things (although this sounds like I am being negative I LOVE that he acquired this skill... as it is one he did not have when we got him). He wrestles, laughs, plays jokes on us, imitates us, chases, loves to be tickled, and always asks when we are going to someones party. He is a good sleeper and a good eater. He has formed an attachment with a blankie from our best friends and 2 stuffed animals that he was given as gifts. He loves doing anything academic involving reading and letters and has recently really gotten into drawing pictures. 

Z's biggest struggle is keeping him out of fight or flight mode with people that have not been around kids from trauma.  Z does awesome with other children in our neighborhood, playgroups, our gym childcare facility, church sunday school, and any birthday party. Most of our family and friends will never see Z's flight or fight mode because they love him so much and love is always is sensed by a child. Z's other biggest struggle is just age appropriate socialization. After coming from an orphanage and isolation, our most accurate, up to date opinion from professionals is that Z is a poster child of being institutionalized. We are constantly extracting him out of isolation and forcing him into the world and to engage in it.

It is a glorious thing to meet people who "get him". He is making huge milestones, yet we see major set backs when he is around people who want to force their way with him or not take his entire past 7 years into account. In a society and education where it is full steam ahead, there doesn't seem to be a lot of room and grace for children who need it the most. I have such a heart for families that have children with some disabilities. Whether they are major or maybe like Z that will probably disappear over time, it is a hard road that shouldn't be so hard. We chose to be parents of a special needs child. Not only do I chose Z, but I chose to believe in a whole child teaching and really pray for my kids. If you have more than a few children, you see how you have to accommodate your parenting to each child. I remember so clearly David as a toddler was not even phased when we said the word "no" and Mackenzie would stick out her lip and sob with hurt feelings if you looked at her disapprovingly. 

We are so in tune to making our kids successful and I think about Z. He has never had anyone advocate or do anything for him. He was continually left by himself to just figure it out. This has also implanted some deep seeded stubborn-ness in him. He has been seeing a counselor for 12 weeks and she is like a miracle worker. One of the things I did not even realize with Z is if he was even aware of the "hierarchy" going on. She told me to ask him who the boss was, "Z or mommy and daddy?" He quickly responded, "me!" As I told him he was not the boss, he would grind his teeth at shake his head. Needless to say, he now knows mommy and daddy are the boss of this house. Boundaries and discipline breed freedom, security, and a platform of growth. You don't realize how fundamental those things are until you have a child at the age of 7 that has no idea how a family is run.

It has been bittersweet to introduce life to Z. Boat rides, parades, fireworks, crazy playgrounds, hiking, ropes course, swimming, zip line, the lake, the beach, train rides, parties, holidays, traditions, toys he has never heard of, weekends, the zoo, water parks, foods, stores, malls, large crowds, road trips, root beer floats, chewing gum, yard work, chores, taking a shower, having a pet, siblings, canoeing, summer camps, VBS, learning about tools, rock climbing, shopping, long walks, adventures, peers, snuggling in the morning, cooking, neighbors, church, Jesus, being outside at night, sunsets, concerts, therapy, counseling, washing a car, checking the mail, not being afraid of people but saying hi and waving, learning, restaurants, praying, and hearing him pray.

As difficult and unique of a child he is... I can't help but to think of the verse, Hebrews 13: 2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers for by doing so some have entertained angels without knowing it.   As Z was at first a stranger to us, now our son, and some days I look at him and convinced he was a little angel put here on this Earth. My anger at people who have treated him poorly in his past and also in some settings since moving him in is justified. God is his defender and protector. He is father of the fatherless and I believe there is a special place for people who withhold, neglect, and mistreat children, especially those with special needs.

Our path has seemed dark and very dimly lit at what we have had to walk through in where Z came from, getting him out of there, getting him educated and dealing with what comes with that. 
All I know is that God is still Emmanuel, He is With Us. 
He has given us people out of the holy woodwork to come to bat for Z. We have had an outpouring of support and resources because who doesn't want to get behind a child that has never had a chance?

As we continue to fight for Z and him being given a normal life at home and at school, we will not give  up. I will sit in the darkness as long as I need to with Z. The darkness has been in my past and I'm sure it will rear its head again in the future. We always know that this too shall pass. And it will. 

As we continue to press forward and get Z back to where God wanted him to thrive, we will commit to sit in as much darkness with him until he is out.  Just as years where I sat losing babies, I prayed Micah 6:8, Do not gloat over me my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light."

And lastly, God is right in the middle of our mess. That is the gospel. He stepped in and rescued us from ourselves. Adoption is a picture of that. We have to be willing to step into the mess and work out of it. God is in all of it. 
Psalm 139:8- If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 

We are honored and constantly humbled to have Z as a son. We are about to finalize our adoption and I cannot wait to share a huge slide show of his new life.


10 Year Anniversary:: 3-6-2004

*My blog will be a lot more fun if you click on this link and listen while you watch my video at the end. I just came home from a 10 day event and we heard this song non-stop. I love it and may play it the whole day :)

In August 2000, on the 3rd day of college, Tim and I met. I literally wrote in my journal that day that I had met my husband. Little did I know, he did not even remember my name. Ironically enough, the entry the week before stated that I was not interested in dating anyone for a while.  Finally, by November, we had become friends and he asked me out on a date... on his birthday. The rest is history! We dated for 4 years, got engaged as seniors in college, and got married March 6, 2004 during our internships.

We have the best families, the greatest high school memories and lifelong childhood friends, and even ones we don't get to see that much we catch up like there is no lapse in time. We love all our family. Our families have taught us the biggest life lessons about people, positive and also negative. Sometimes the ones you love the most can fall away and cause the most hurt. We have learned a hurtful side of this world with broken relationships, but raise our kids in a way to always have a forgiving heart and leave a bridge for those that may come back in at some point in our journey. To live in peace and go about the path God has for your family. To say our parents are role models is an understatement. Yall are both a rock in our life. And some our our friends have become like family, it's neat how God does that.

 We graduated from North Georgia College and State University. Our college experience was so positive. We both loved our roommates, I was in a discipleship group throughout college with Stephanie and Jamie, we loved our friends there and were involved with a fraternity and sorority. Another thing I said I would never do, but ended up being Sorority President my senior year. I was an RA and lived on campus. I felt like my ministry was to freshmen women. We met more lifelong friends through college that we think about all the time. A couple by the names of Frank and Tanya were mentors to us through Campus Outreach who we would end up going on staff with after we got married and graduated. Our wedding was the best day of my life. Every single person there. I will have those memories forever.

We moved to Athens to do full time ministry at University of Georgia. We made new couple friends at church with the Bosleys who ended up being our best friends there. We went to church at Green Acres, Tim bought a motorcycle, we had students spending the night, and we loved our staff team. We spent a lot of time with Frank and Tanya, Cara Lea and Jim in our neighborhood, Tim tried cutting down his first tree and dropped it on our neighbors house. And for some reason we had more crap than we owned at that time then any point in our marriage. We renovated that house in Athens. Think that was our first love with real estate.

 We finished our 2 year commitment and Tim decided to take a job in Canton, Ga doing regional sales for a construction company. I was also pregnant with David so we were so excited about a new chapter. We moved to Canton and lived next to our best friends Greg and Jess. I joined a playgroup that I will always remember the sweet moms and our babies. Those were the women that I navigated into motherhood with and I love each of you! We made really good friends with some old friends of Tim's from Alpharetta that now lived in Canton: Peggy and Eric and George and Megan. We joined a small group that we loved and Mike and Emily hosted. We loved our neighbors 2 houses down, Kyle and Audrey, and we lived next door to a real live witch. She even gave us a spell for Christmas one year. We didn't know what to do with it so we put it in our grill. We loved to drive around and look at houses. We hated new construction, starting finding house projects, went apple picking, we were so close to mountains, and we did some camping. 2 of our kids born in that Canton house, little did we know we were 15 minutes from Z, the child we just adopted. His orphanage was near us and we had no idea he existed yet. Mackenzie was born and our babies learned to crawl and walk there. That home was a little haven and Tim and I became a family in Canton. We had a good bit of lows in that house from miscarriage and job loss after the construction sales company filed bankruptcy, but we sold our home and started over to find a different industry.

 After selling, we moved into Tims parents house to re-group. Tim found HVAC for his new career path, he got a full scholarship to get his degree, and a part time job until he finished. I did a lot of sidework, including cleaning houses off craigslist, to help make ends meet during our crazy time. We found Nellie Mae, a house my great grandfather built that had been a family rental. My parents said they would sell it to us and since we had no where else to go in our budget, we bought it. We moved to Marietta, renovated that insane house, found our church, we were near our family, our school system we would go to, and joined a small group. We still had parties in that crazy small 800 square foot house, we had to have it outside! I tried to have a garden, we had the best neighbors ever, started my super part time event planning career, and we got back into our ministry avenues with people. Hospitality was our deal and we were all about it. Nellie Mae and that season was refining and re-defining for us. It has memories of really hard work. Really hard manual labor work. We lost more babies there, but we grew closer to the ones we had and eachother.

 We got back on our feet and decided to rent it out and find another investment property. We found the Hope street house. We knew it was built for us. It had 12 offers the first day on the market and we got it. I knew it was for a purpose. For another child. For hospitality. The Hope Street house was a mess. We have renovated it slowly and at one point we were without a kitchen for 80 days. We finally watered the seeds of Adoption and God provided. Ben and Cristina and Haley and Jeff were our first friends and kids friends at church, our street and surrounding street has become some of our closest friends now, and almost everyone we live around goes to our same church and school. We have been in small groups non stop, me in a moms group, Tim has met with men, I plug in with moms at our kids schools, and we hunt down people. I love our community. This house has been a season of joy. More hard work and manual labor, but loving what we do.

 I know people say it takes a village to raise children, but it takes a village to stay married also. I could tell you a lot of lessons and mistakes Tim and I have learned, but I just want to share one really big thing. Tim and I have always surrounded ourselves with people. All the time. And not just fakey relationships, but real authentic people who ask how you are doing, keep you in check, and love you through all the crap you do. If thats not your thing, make it your thing. Be Brave. Be Vulnerable. Its a hell of a lot better than getting a divorce. I mean, really. The right people give you perspective, they push you on, they tell you when to bring in back in, they are the Body of Christ. Without Christ, our marriage would have fallen apart many times. We lost 5 babies, had many job losses, a career reset, moved along with major renovations, and just adopted a 7 year old last year. Tim and I operate very different. I am a structured OCD mess and he is a spontaneous risk-taking dare devil. But when we said I do before the Lord, God really did commence us as One. We are one in thoughts and actions and we function as a workforce together. When we do it, we go all in. The most important thing we said 10 years ago was not just "I do" to eachother, but to the Lord. I committed that day to follow Tim, but more importantly to God and and where He might lead Tim to go. There have been times when I didn't trust Tim and want to follow, but I knew I had vowed to God as well and that God would ultimately deliver us and also bless our obedience.

I love you Tim. I know we were made for each other. I love our life. 10 years later, I love you more and am so excited about where we are going. I am happy, like a real happy. We have learned contentment together and I feel like together we can conquer the world! We are taking a special family trip to Seaside at the end of the month as a new family of 5. Z has never been to the beach and we are so excited to share our favorite place on Earth with him.

 A few verses/thoughts that have meant a lot to us:
 Emmanuel, God with Us
 John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world 
 1 Co 9:25-27 All athletes are disciplined in their training. Therefore, I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 
 Matthew 28:18 ALL AUTHORITY in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of age. 
 1 Co 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

HAPPY 10 YEARS TIMMY!! Here is a little slide show of some of our favorite pics!
*At the end, there is the one and only baby-ish pic I have of Z. At 5:38.


Fight or Flight : 90 Days In

To start, David and Mackenzie have been little champions as a brother and sister. I mean, when you really think about the reality of moving in a 7 year old permanently and saying, "Hey kids! Meet your new brother!", your kids are bound to rebel. And ours haven't. They really truly haven't. They have never asked if he could go back or go away. I was prepared for that, but is some mysterious God ordained way, they have loved him and literally taken him in as their sibling.
I remember when Mackenzie was born, watching David interact with her and the bond they shared. I thought I would melt every day. Well, multiply that by a million. Because watching your children choose to love a complete stranger as their sibling is pretty humbling and amazing. Adoption isn't natural. It takes everyone time, but I have been blown away by the fact that our family unit is intact and stronger than ever. Z is easy to love because he is happy, loving, and easy going. Under the surface, he has scars.

Fight or Flight. That is what we have battled the past month and are having victory in. It is continual new fights and flights that surface, but we are trying to keep our heads above water with it.

Z has never really ever had an official "diagnosis" of any kind. The most accurate "label", since everyone likes to have have those apparently, would be a sheer "lack of exposure". I have said before Z is very much like an international adoption where he seriously has no clue as to what is going on.... from Easter to blow dryers to knowing what backwards means, he doesn't understand. Many people believe Z is Autistic, on the high functioning end. We do not. When we were first told that in September, there is just something in us that just knew he wasn't. Not truly.

And more importantly, we didn't care. Who cares if he is?

But, what if he isn't? What if he ISNT? And what if he was never given a shot in life because of that label?

Anyway, after getting past all the special needs hoopla and people bewilderingly wanting to know why we would adopt a child like that, we did what we always do. What we wanted to.

We made him a Willis :)
I can't even bring you into the incredible boy that we now call son. He has overcome. Overcome more than any child you or I know. Every day he becomes more and more "normal" (whatever that is anyway).
I love seeing his "tendencies" go away. His abnormal behaviors eradicated. When a child is never given a chance to grow, an environment to do it in, and an advocating set of parents... how is it fair to say and diagnose what a child has?

We still pray and are believing and are seeing God heal him. And if we sound ignorant for that, then I am okay with that.

Let me tell you. Change has not come easy. A price. A big one. A huge, taxing, exhausting price. But, one that is priceless.

Children that are in foster care, DFCS custody, or legal orphans are often lacking HUGE milestones. They missed out. They lived in fear and were not taught how to properly do anything really. But, most importantly, how to process stress, fear, and new situations. The reason being because most of them continually lived in fear. Because of that, these children respond in the Fight or Flight modes because they don't have the tools and deep rooted security to operate normally.

Sometime shortly after he moved in, his fear came out full force. In a very toddler like fashion, Tim and I were being hit, kicked, spit on, head butted, and he would completely lose control and fall into the floor. His behaviors were never violent, but just impulsive and again, at the strength of a toddler. We were consistent and rigid, but all at the same time trying to be loving and nuturing... and the fights stopped.
His fear went away. He has trusted us. He knows we are safe. We are now just dealing with little nitty gritty behaviors that are mostly annoying and socially inappropriate. So, that's where we are in our journey.

The flight mode comes in and it is harder and way more emotionally exhausting than the physical. When he is socially overwhelmed, he will retreat to himself. And this is where the word "Autism" can come to bat. You see, the heart of Autism is that people choose themselves over others. And over their environment. And that is honestly why we don't believe Z is. He wants desperately to engage with others, he just has no idea how. He loves people and is always asking to go somewhere.
And also, the fact he was in isolation for so long and then in an orphanage, he was never even taught to engage with others. So, he struggles with how to do it.

The only way I know how to speak to this is to say, we go into flight mode with him. He can go into flight mode if he wants, but he is going to have a co-pilot. And I sure can be annoying :) So can my 2 mini co-pilots.
Tim and I go meet him in that moment. We bring him back in. Over and over and over. We give him tools, people skills, and basic conversation. And then he does it.

He has overcome and is overcoming his fight and flight response. There are some days, a lot of days, I seriously wake up and say, "Well damn. This is going to be really hard to do it all again." Tim and I about lose our marbles and then we gently have to bring it back. That is my mantra right now, "Bring it back in."

It is raw.
Now that I am sure I have talked everyone into adopting an older child that is possibly Autistic out of the system, let me tell you how blessed, how incredibly blessed, God has been to us.

At our breaking point, He steps in. Every time. Tim and I will hit a wall. And there God is. He gives you the grace you need in the moment. He shows you ugly parts of your heart that need to go away.
There is a beautiful refining not only happening inside Z's inward and outward body, but within the 4 walls of this home.

I love this child. I love him.
I love him as he was, as he is, and who God is going to make him. That is a mothers heart to the core I think. You love your child. And you just dont give a rip about anything else. Mostly, I love him enough to fight for him, even against himself.

I am grateful to be tracking and pushing forward with him. I would be worried if we weren't seeing this. He is dealing with and grieving his life and his past and all at the same time bonding with us and accepting our love. We are in it, folks.

His words are more and more frequent, his behaviors are less and less, and our love grows more and more. I cannot wait to keep reading your story Z.  God is seriously amazing.  I know He is with us. He is here. He cares for the orphans in distress and he sets the lonely in families. And quite surely, He is my daily bread right now.

So, who wants to come over for dinner?!


60 Days into Adoption

A week ago, Tim and I were sitting next to each other on the couch. Post : dinner, bath, and bedtime for kids. As we sat in complete exhaustion of tag teaming 3 wild children and putting them to bed, we were staring at the ceiling.
I said, "Do you realize we are a week away from hitting the 60 day mark with Z moving in?"
Tim, "No way."
"Yeah.... I know."

We both were thinking the exact same thing. We feel like he has been with us forever. For years. We have already been through so much. Accomplished so much. Had so many experiences, moments, battle of wills, and lessons.

How is it mathematically possible he has been here only 60 days?

You don't know what you really have in you until you are put to the test with a child.
A sweet and innocent child.
But, a dark and scary past.
A bright and hopeful future.
But, a dim past full of holes.

Still more questions that answers.

But, more hope than the reality of circumstances.

Seeing past, for real, what is being un-earthed in this boy.

Tim has said it well several times, "We are extracting out the normal child that is in Z. It is in there. It is hard to find. But, we have seen it and will bring it out."

In September when we met Z, there was minimal communication. I think the only things we heard him say that entire month was, "Spongebob Squarepants." He would repeat anything you would ask him (echolalia). Still, upon meeting him, he would make long eye contact with us. He was so at home with us. We were so at home with him. We knew he was ours. And, I think he knew we were his.
Z has lived in an isolating silent little world. I think because he really had no true peers to ever have relationships with, he lived in fear from his past, and no real constant care giver or "person" in the picture over some huge developmental years.

After months of asking him questions, working on communication, teaching him what a conversation is, but mostly building a safe environment for him to want to communicate.

We had a milestone today. Its like he knew it was the 60 day mark and we needed it.

We had a correct, appropriate, memory driven, self generated thought and conversation at dinner.

Each night at dinner, we have a question we ask every night. Every night. The kids don't let us forget. It was a family tradition of Tim's that was passed down to us 10 years ago when we got married. Even as a family of 2, Tim would ask me every night. The standing question, "What was the best thing that happened to you today?"

So, nightly since Z has been with us, he would mainly sit silent. After a month of it, he would start responding with something silly. Like, "I like pizza" or "Where's Holly?" (our dog) or "Red lights are for cars".
A few weeks ago, he started answering, but was making stuff up or repeating something he had heard. Like "I went on the swings today" when I knew he hadn't or "I went to the park today" and we had not gone.

Well tonight. Yes, tonight. Z shocked us all.
It got to his turn. Would you know that little stinker looked at us dead in the eye and said,
"Well.... I had goldfish for snack. Then, I had tag class and went to Ms Colesons room and played with legos."
After Tim and I picked ourselves up off the floor, I asked him, "Well what did you build with the legos?"
He said, "I built red lights and army men."

I immediately sent his teacher an email to see if any of the above information had actually even happened.

It did. It all did.

We had a breakthrough. A 60 day nightly breakthrough.
And it was so awesome.

That is one of the many breakthroughs we are having with him.
When Z first moved in, I tried to "create all these moments" with him and David and Mackenzie. I would plan and orchestrate activities, moments, and ideas for them.
No one was feeling it. It wasn't organic.
I knew I needed to back off and just let it happen. So I prayed that.
And prayed that really believing that the prayers of the righteous avail much.
And a couple of weeks ago, David grabbed Mackenzie's hand and went up to Z and said, "Come on guys, lets go play mail man." They followed him and it was cute. They had a mailbox on our playhouse where they would drive up on a bike or ride on toy and deliver mail. It opened in the back an they all took turns mailing each other something. It was the most beautiful thing to watch. They laughed. They played. Z talked to them and they understood every word he said.

It is those sweet, rich, meaningful moments that really get you through the pit.
The pit you have had to go in and retrieve your child. They are stuck in a pit and you have to pull them out.

We are not out of the pit or by any means out of the woods, but we are seeing light.
A bright, glaring, glorious light.
And it keeps everything in you pressing on.

To God be the continual glory for saving this boys life!!!


Wrecking Ball Faith

Some days we struggle with feeling so mean. Although every change that has happened to our new son is positive, it is change. His life literally went from one extreme to the other. He has had major transition and the things that he once found security in are gone. He is now being taught to have relationships with people, not objects or himself. He is responding really well, but does have moments of grieving.

We have had to completely go through demolition in his little life. Wipe out the bad habits, behaviors, anti-social tendencies, bad responses, ect. And replace it with all good things. A family, a general education school environment, a home, friends, a schedule, normal meals, and structure. Even though these are all positive changes, they are things being implemented for the first time in 7 years. And whether they are positive or not, they are new. And we have ripped out and done demolition on what he once thought was life. There is a beautiful transition happening in the middle of our construction site with this child.

We know it is for his best interest and he seems to trust that. This story we are living out reminds me so much of our own journey. It has given me great perspective on where people are and the mission we are really on. Our job to love others. Our job to show others Christ. But, in order to do that, you have to meet them in the middle of their mess. To adopt a child you have to take them as is. There isn't a layover place for them. So you either adopt and take them in or you don't.

Why are we so shocked by peoples sin? Why?
Even with my own son right now, would I expect his behavior to be any different than what it is? His behavior can be offensive  to many, but is that surprising? It would be out of David or Mackenzie, but not Z. A child that has never had a family and had severe neglect, isolation, and abuses of different kinds, then institutionalized for 4 years...... would I be shocked by any behavior I see? No.

So, why, why then? Why do we as Christians act shocked, surprised, judgmental, condescending, and better than others? Especially at people who do not have the Lord as their Savior. How is it fair?
Romans 1:28
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 
Let me translate that simply: If they are are not walking with the Lord, their walk will look the opposite of that. People that choose their way have been given over to their will.

They do not have a new heart. So, they are not to be held at the same standards. I cannot hold Z to the same disciplines as I hold my other 2 children at. It's not fair because his eyes are just being opened. He knows no different. But, we can pray for these people and those changes we want. We know that, "the prayers of the righteous avail much." James 5:16. I had a very neat lady that serves as the Special Education director here in our city share that with me about Z. I know I am his biggest advocate. At home, school, and now in his life. And that is what makes us his parents. How much more does our heavenly Father love us, fight for us, and advocate for us?

In the same way, when we see heinous, disturbing, sinful things in the media, celebrities, our neighbors, our spouse, children, or anywhere...... if they have not been transformed and entered a life changing relationship with our Maker, then what right do we even have to speak to that?

To take it one step further, what about the people that do know better? The ones that have claimed to know the Lord, yet live a double life? Let me just tell you I do know this: You are not the one that is going to change their heart, that is the Lords job. If you are unable in a loving way to continue a relationship despite where that person is, I would say the sin falls in your camp. I think there are only a few unsafe situations and those go without saying. It is the Lord who changes hearts and we stand in the gap to speak truth, love, and pray for them.

In the meantime, you will see some peoples life go to shreds. A real life wrecking ball do demolition and watch them loose everything they once had.

Maybe, just maybe, the Lord is tearing down the old, to replace it with something so much better. Isaiah 64:8, But you, O Lord, You are our Father. You are the clay and you are our potter. And all of us the work of your hand.
So, instead of taking a step back from these people, talking about them, thinking they have destroyed their life......

It may be one of the most beautiful things to watch. You may be at the very camp site of where God has set up.  Because sometimes the Lord has to break and clear out the old ways to make a way for what He is going to do and build.

When I see destructive sin, I see an opportunity for the Lord. For us as believers. I am drawn to it. Not out of gossip and fascination, but out of pleading it is the Lords work.

Next time you see caution or crime tape and you naturally don't want to go in, I dare you to cross over anyway. When people do that, lives are changed.
Sometimes a wrecking ball is the very thing we all need.



One of our favorite restaurants in downtown Marietta is Taqueria Tsunami. It has a huge variety of really fun tacos. Our kids love it as well. At the end of the meal, they bring you fortune cookies. We always have a good time with how silly they are. We usually never get serious ones so it is funny.
On our last visit there, my fortune read: 
 Adversity willingly undergone is the greatest virtue.

 Touche, little fortune cookie, touche.

Tim and I laugh about our crazy journey a lot because out of all the hardship and suffering we have had that was out of our control, we have now entered a place where we go down chosen roads that are very difficult. We steer our life towards it.

We may be sick people.

We have more plans for 2014 that would be considered difficult and a path of adversity. I have learned that you don't owe anyone an explanation for it. To each his own.
Anyway, a verse I love and am praying for 2014 is John 16:33.
In this world you WILL have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

We are promised trouble, but we are given help. And more importantly, we are given HOPE.

In light of our adoption, that is where we find ourselves. With help. And with hope.

Things are going well and we are having more good days than bad. It is truly amazing to watch a life literally be transformed. We have a lot of appointments set up for January for our little fella and we are continually optimistic that we have put him on a road to healing. It has really been perfect timing with adopting him in the middle of the holidays. With school being off, Tim not working a crazy amount, and so many festive things to do.... our family has really settled in and had a great time together. On the same note, January is bringing in some normalcy. Christmas can be a little overwhelming and for our little guys first one, all of the crazy needs to settle. Someone gave us some great advice to take videos of him, as well of photos, to literally see the difference in him months from now. I can already see them and its so cool.
He is becoming so responsive. So aware. And his happiness is crazy. He makes us laugh so much and we have nicknamed him "Skippy" because he is SO happy to go out and run errands he normally skips every place we go.
It took David and Mackenzie a long time to figure out why in the world he was bursting with excitement to go to the grocery store.

Blessings to everyone in the new year! I want to challenge you, as continually doing with my own family, to not make plans and decisions based on what will make your life easy. Don't let adversity slow you down or change your mind in moving forward.

We have found almost every time walking straight into it has brought some of our greatest moments. And if anything else, has made life a whole lot more fun :)

Cheers to 2014!!

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