… created and beloved

Over the past year and a few months, I have graciously been a part of a community of women who have supported, encouraged, and been true friends to me. Women spread all across the country who I have come to know, whose children I’ve watched come into their homes by birth or adoption and grow. For months we’ve emailed, texted, and had heart to heart phone conversations.

Now, allow me to top the heartfelt off with a large dollop of random – I met all of these women on Instagram.
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But, this weekend – I met them, for the first time, in person. And, we knew each other – not in the biblical sense but in the sister to sister I know where you are kinda way. In the way that causes you to hug so tightly forever and tears stream down your face because you KNOW they just get it. We caught up, we prayed, cried, worshipped, and ate. We had late night talks in pj’s and drank wine. We escaped families, work, and all obligations for a couple of days to come together for the Created for Care Conference in Georgia for a weekend of community.

So, let’s add a few sprinkles of crazy on top of the dollop of random, and let me tell you how grateful I am for trusting God about this conference.

If you know me, you know that I do not talk to people I don’t know. I know I come of either really rude or intensely snobby, but I honestly freeze up and have no words when it comes to talking to people I’ve met for the first time. I’m sorry. So. Enter Instagram where it’s okay to follow the lives of people you don’t know and gush. As our adoption story unfolded, I became more and more involved in the (amazing) adoption community on IG. As I was stalking  going through IG in August, I ran across a page publicizing a Christian adoptive mama conference. In Georgia. In a very un-Alaina like way, I go online and register. Then don’t think much of it. Fast forward to February, my adoptive mama friends are increasing; all these women I’ve come to just uhdore are planning to go to this conference in either February or March. I’m stoked. We’re talking about it and getting excited. A Facebook group was formed, dinner assignments have been emailed and we’re emailing and texting like mad. (Because those are the things you do with people you’ve followed for a good portion of a year and plan to see each other.) So. another God act that’s very un-Alaina like… I went solo. And, decided that I need a roommate and that a carpool for the hour drive from the airport would be cool. And, in another very un-Alaina like way, I post my conundrum on the FB group. And, people respond. I find my roommates on this group and plan to hop in a car my fraaaand, Wynne who I met online, and her friend who I didn’t know.

We meet at the airport and I have a bite with her and other of her friends while we wait for our other car pool buddy.

Criminal Minds story in the making one would think.
But, it was perfect. Everything it was supposed to be.
And, I had a good time.

This conference was everything spectacular in the ways that I would have never imagined. Aside from the fact that I almost died running a 5k with the steepest of hills and highest altitude I’ve ever run in, I had an amazing time. The good thing about my run is that although my time was a couple of minutes higher than normal and my Strava app crapped out on me, I wasn’t running for an hour like I thought I’d been. And, I got a cool little much & water bottle after crossing the finish.

My favorite part of the actual conference was Beth Gukenberger…  look her up, you won’t regret it; she was nothing short of amazing. She spoke some downright truths that stung, shed light on concepts I’d never thought of, and encouraged me in so many ways. Told stories that laid. us. out and caused us to thank God for the goodness He shows towards others. On my flight home, I edited pictures and went through notes from the weekend connecting dots I hadn’t thought of and jotting down questions I’m eager to find answers to. I was challenged in my thoughts of raising adopted children and left with a desire to pursue God even more than before. Felt empowered to do what we were created to do – be the hands and feet of God.

Another interesting to d0…. be it that I was the only black woman at the retreat (aside from a panel of speakers that spoke to raising Black children in non-black households),  I had an interesting experience. (And, yes… I’m still going back next year.) This is going to sound crazy and very racist but… in an effort to continue to be honest about my experiences, I’m going to say it. Because, I want to and then because it’s true.
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First, I love that my White friends have no issue with adopting children (for one) and adopting African or Black children. None. At. All. I love that. I admire how they follow Jesus so closely that they take the commission to caring for the orphan and the shared idea of adopting because we were adopted by a God who loves us so deeply, so literally and with great passion. With the number of kids they already have not prohibiting them from adopting more children more than once. Or, having a family of soley adopted children of different races.  It’s not my favorite fact that adoption in the African American community is rare. I do recognize that there are Blacks who adopt but in real life, it’s not many at all. (And, I’m eager to find a group of families that do!) And, I find that sad and disappointing. Granted, I was one of the women who literally said, “I want my own kids before I adopt”… I think about that and am ashamed a because it came from such an arrogant, short sighted, and self absorbed place. So, I get it but man to open the eyes of others about adoption would be a huge, huge experience. Although adoption is not easy; it is beautiful and world changing on so many different levels. Your view of your relationship with God and people changes dramatically, the ends you’re willing to go to, and the way you so easily connect with others going through the same or nearly the same processes is scary and moves you to bunk with with people you don’t know. And, you’re okay with it because you realize that God is bigger than so many of the things we tend to focus on.

One of the major stand out phrases of this past weekend was “… we don’t have to, we get to…” and I cling to that and love thought deeply. It’s so applicable to every aspect of your life. You don’t have to respect your husband, you get to. You don’t have to honor God, you get to. You don’t have to forgive others, you get to. You get to. It’s a privilege you get to do because of the grace of God. That’s huge! We have the humbling privilege of bringing these children out of hard places and raising them to love and serve God BIG. The tough, sad, and difficult things that are placed in front of us are both humbling and challenging simply because we are called to do them for the sake of The Lord’s name. It’s the tough stuff that honors God. That’s where we’re weaned off of milk. That’s where we’re stretched to depend on our God soley because he’s leading us to hop out of pretty amazing boats into deep waters where we have no choice but to trust the one we claim to love.

The theme of the conference was “Be love, Be loved, Beloved.” and how fitting. How fitting is it to gather these women together who have stretched themselves thin, who willingly go through the worst of the worst, the saddest of the sad, and come out on the other end praising a God whose plans put them in protected yet difficult places….

Can’t help but find comfort in Isaiah 40: 26-31….
How sweet it is to know that He, the creator and sustainer of all, sees us and gives us strength to do the things He calls us to do when we grow weary and want to just quit.

This God we serve and seek so fervently after has greater things for us to do… He has people for us to reach, love on, and be there for. He has people to become ‘our’ people. If we would just step out, he would provide our people and resources to be there for us. to lean on. to gain wisdom from. to form a community of believers with. He’d give us people to ‘go’ with.

We get to practice Heaven right here. We get to show the love of Jesus to others. We get to be there for our sisters and brothers who are standing by our side.

So we can hop in cars and share bathrooms with our Jesus loving friends because our focuses are bigger than ourselves.
We can offer and implore others to come along side of us because of the need and friendship.
It’s about Jesus and what he’s called us to do.

Be love.
to others.

Be loved.
by others.

And, bask in the presence of, relinquish our desires to, and find comfort in the one who calls us His
Beloved.

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… getting through the rough

It’s truly days like today when I know that this God I desire to immolate, serve, and seek hears me and truly comforts me. It’s days like this that I take comfort in trusting in fear, submitting when I so fervently want to hold onto what I want, and thanking God for the deep waters He keeps under my feet.

It was rough…. the emotions of the past few weeks/months/years that have taken a serious toll on me, my husband, and our relationship all came to head and that feeling of “fight” that can settle in your gut wouldn’t give. After many tears, an ugly cry face here and there, along with some serious prayer, I felt some serious relief.

Truly getting to the place where you’re open, willing, and okay with an offering of everything you love for what God has for you is the scariest and most difficult place to be. But, it standing there boldly offering it up for the trade off of more Jesus and what he wants for you is definitely worth it.  It’s definitely not easy to battle against the Holy Spirit and remain in a prideful place out of fear of what’s next…. out of a lack of faith and trust. Out of just being darn stubborn. It’s not easy but as contradictory as it sounds, it just tends to be more uncomfortably comfortable inside our comfort zones than outside, until we experience the outside. there’s so much freedom and joy in trusting God…. we just have to be bold enough to do it.

Ecclesiastes 3:11
For God makes everything beautiful in it’s own time.

Days like today need to be embedded in my mind… Sharpie’d on the calendar and celebrated weekly. These are the days that remind you that you can, in fact, make it through the hardest of days… That the difficult days can (by nothing but grace) turn so quickly into a peaceful day… that God does, in fact, have your back…. and, you can, for sure, count on those faithful ones He puts around you.

I’m so thankful for a sister (in law) who truly has servant’s heart and will stop what she’s doing to listen and advise. Who is gentle yet bold with the truth, who asks the tough questions and is right there with you as you talk/think through the answers.

Community is something powerful and I’m so grateful for it. There’s a lot I wouldn’t have sanely made it through without my people standing along side me. Family… friends…. IG mamas (Y’alls prayers/emails/texts are the business….) I’m thankful for y’all. 🙂

…. here’s to the worst not turning out to not be so bad! lol. 🙂

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… little grasshopper

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You know what I find hilarious (besides the fact that I’m accepting that I cannot scroll up or down on Thomas’ Mac mousepad? … I’ve tried consistently, I can’t do it. :()

…. all of the things you think you will or won’t do when you have kids.

Example:
I do NOT like matching the girls. I feel that they should wear their own outfits, be their own persons, and communicate their own style. Complimenting in terms of pictures – yes. Matching – no. We’re shooting our Give1Save1 video tomorrow and I fought the temptation to style them in matching colors/concepts. SMH. Now, I’m considering what I should wear and if Thomas and I should compliment them.

I think that’s too much and that we should just be “us” without forcing anything but man is the temptation to look “perfect” a struggle.

As you can see, Aliya and I wore matching jeans today.
Her request.
And, I balanced a line today. My auto response was “Absolutely!” Then, I thought, “… But, we’ll be matching…” (Again, I hate matchy, matchy.)

But, there we are, pictured above, in all of our matchy jeans glory. And, I enjoyed it. Very much like how I enjoy her trying to style her hair like mine.
(Makes my heart go pity pat!)

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When I have the girls my focus is very much what they look like. I would hate, hate, hate for them to look disheveled or unkept while they’re with me. So, naturally, I semi-panicked (on the inside) about the fact that they had one SPOT of polish on their hands and that Ari’s curls didn’t fall exactly how I wanted them to and I may have felt some sort of way when she looked in the mirror and said her bow made her look like a clown.

Me: A clown? mmmmmmmmmm-kay. Not really but do you like your hair?
ARIANA: “YES”.
Me: ??? Oh.. okay! *** CONFUSED!!!!****

But really…….
Who cares if we match, or don’t match. Who cares if they have perfectly polished nails and toes. Who cares if they’ve lost a bow or aren’t wearing their nicest outfits to church every Sunday.

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As much as I am a believer and an advocate of presenting yourself well, I also want to teach that what you look like isn’t nearly as important as who you are.
And, that they aren’t synonymous. And, that the value placed on both of these entities are communicated in the most suttle ways.

I hope I remember that later on.

That walking out of the house and into the world looking picture perfect with my perfectly matched and accessorized baby isn’t nearly as important as how I treat others around me.

I hope I remember that a peaceful, patient mama is more valuable than a well put together, irritable mama ….

I hope I remember how easily these things are forgotten in the exhaustion and hubbub of the day. I’m sure I’ll put pressure on myself to “get it”…..  to do everything right….. to feel and be capable and efficient….. to look the part of a “successful” mama in whatever ways successful means to me, that I could lose sight of what ought to be my goal and end up being a cantankerous, drippy faucet type wife and mama. And, I will end up sending my husband to the corner of the roof. (Proverbs 25:24; 27:15 )

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I try to remember that my responses aren’t ever about me…. that I am an example of my Father to the world – unbelievers of all ages and believers in various stages of their journey.

That we effect each other. We can encourage and inspire or we can derail and offend.

 We aren’t perfect in any sense of the word, we all can have behavior outbursts (remember my most recent “expression” here?) but the most important thing is:

what do we do when we’re done?

photo 5What I have learned is that our moments aren’t ours alone but that we are just extensions of each other. We affect each other in ways that we may never see or can imagine.

We are here to help, encourage, support, guide, lean on, depend, entertain, uplift, and care for each other. With our words and actions. No matter how we’re feeling.

That is what I’m finding is most important and the most challenging.
Treating others with kindness no matter how I feel.

… here’s to beginning our days with prayer and devotion. to set our minds on the only One whose power and grace we depend on to become more and more like Him. 🙂

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