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?!

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