… 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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… back in (overload) action

I’m happy dancing over here because my computer is finally fixed (yeaaaaaaaa!!!!!!) and I was able to go through a few pictures.

108474959 – computer, Alaina – 1

Even more thrilled that there are firewalls and restrictions in place that will stop all of this madness from happening again! lol…

108474959 – computer, Alaina – 2

So, I can finally post a few of my favorite July 4th photos and oogle over my niece’s photography skills. For an 8 year old, I think she has incredible talent and she doesn’t even seem to work that hard. She’ll get irritated with the lighting and I’ve had to show her how to change the settings on the camera but other than that, she seems to just point and click with ease.

The exciting thing about this Fourth, is that all of my siblings were together for the first time in about a year. My brother was coaching collegiate football in Colorado this past year and my sister and her family live in Fort Benning, Georgia so for us to be all in the same place, at the same time was pretty cool!
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And, that’s my little sister folks… 14 and already taller than I am. I’m the runt of the family! As you can see Aliya will soon pass me up, too!!!
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… so, we had a great time in my mom’s cul-de-sac.

Ww went to a Sky Zone, a trampoline park, and had a great time with family and friends. These are the playdates I look forward to. Hanging out with friends and their kiddos and watching them play together. Become friends. And, build relationships. It’s what my heart hopes for and what I can’t wait for. Everyone has a great time. One of the funniest moments (that my sister will read about on here because I haven’t told her!!!) is when Ariana, 4,
“disappeared” for a few minutes. Thomas and I flipped for a second trying not to cause too much of a panic but found her in the restroom with our other friend. After we found her Thomas talked to her about making sure she tells us where she’s going before she goes. Which CLEARLY resonated because when I told her to throw her KitKat paper away she bounced away, spun around, and came back to tell Thomas she was going to the trashcan. The funniest part is that Thomas was two steps away from me. HILARIOUS. But, glad she got it.
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This is clearly a classic Thomas and Ari picture… they took this pose a few years ago!
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My little photog is such a trooper – for some reason she was intimated by all of the tramps and the kids flying all over them so she hung back for a while….. but, once she felt comfortable, we literally had to drag her off! She was turning all kinds of cartwheels, doing toe touches, and bounces that made me so proud!! I loved how she didn’t let her fear keep her from having a good time!! We also talked about being strong and courageous on the way home so I’m hoping the next time her fear tries to get the best of her, she’ll pray and remember David and the things God gives us the power to do!

And, our God has given this little girl some serious photography skills! I’m so excited about her and so proud of the moments she captures!! They’re really good! And, look how cute she is with my camera around her neck!
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There are a few of the shots Aliya caught:
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I mean, is it just me or is she actually pretty good!?!?! I love the shots! So, sweet………
Then, here are mine.. lol
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Another reason this little girl is a trooper…. She tried so many times to get the hang of the monkey bars and finally went all the way across! She didn’t quit! She can do hard things and I’m glad she’s constantly proving that to herself!

We’re amateurs but we have a ton of fun!!!

Tomorrow, we plan to have another adventure with the girls and we have a pretty exciting birthday brunch celebrating one of my good friends on Saturday!

Needless to say, I’m excited and happy to be back on track!

… here’s to picture overload and getting these 100 ready for our agency chanting “We’re almost done, we’re almost done, we’re almost done!!!”

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… walk along side me

The most exciting parts of any journey or process are the progressions and stages. These milestones let you know that you are growing, achieving, and forging ahead to something greater. And, I love them.

I’m a very structured, goal oriented kinda gal. Seeing progress and being able to check off items on a To Do List, any sort checklist makes me so happy. I love the sense of accomplishment it brings and the feeling of “DONE!” that floods over me when I’ve checked the very last item off of the list. My little inner cheerleader encourages me and constantly chants “Almost got that one! Yes! We did it!! .. ok. Next item. Let’s go! Come on! Almost finished….” until we can say ……

“I AM DONE.”

So, when it comes to this Home Study check list our agency has given us, I am excited to cross of items that don’t apply to us, I’ve numerically prioritized each item, and made notes for Thomas in the spaces available. Oh yes. Heaven.
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{{And, don’t fret over the unchecked boxes, especially the ones labeled “1”…. your partially organized, slightly OCD bud over here has yet to find the perfect (read efficient and cute!!) organizational tool that is compact and easy to tote around yet large enough to hold THREE pages worth of documentation. ***insert smile***}}

I mentioned in my video that we have an Adoption Coordinator who serves as a liaison between ourselves and our agency and eventually our birth mother! But, for right now, the most exciting part of having an AC is that we get to apply for loans! YAY!

… except for the tiny fact that for most of the grant programs I’ve come across requires a completed Home Study. Booo..

I’m literally sitting on the couch searching researching grant programs and I am near tears for reasons that are completely illogical and even difficult for me to put into words. So I just quit and prayed. And, realized that I’m trying to hurry and rush through a process who’s timing is out of my control anyway.
Each grant has a deadline, some are quickly approaching some are further away… some grants only award twice a year… they all have their own requirements and ways of doing things — which has nothing to do with me. My ability to focus and tick boxes of compelted items has NOTHING to do with it.

None of this has anything to do with me. A realization that literally allowed me to breath a deep sigh of relief.

I am so grateful for the realized freedom in being the child of a God who walks ahead of me, beside me, and who’s grace and mercy follow me.

I do not want to rush through this process. I don’t want to grow weary, stress out, or become so overwhelmed that I’m unable to ENJOY the time that Thomas and I are in and this amazing journey we are walking through together.

What this doesn’t mean is that I’m going to give the go-ahead to TOTALLY relax and drag our feet because “we have time”. I totally believe that we serve a God of excellence and He expects that from us in everything that we do…. within reason while covered in grace! lol. No extremism here (for the most part)! lol.

This newfound freedom and refusal to be bogged down and stressed out by things that are out of my control, has freed up a lot of energy to do other things like focus on pictures and autobiographical statements!!!! lol. There’s a lot more fun where that came from!  I am somewhat (read compeltely) overwhelmed by the 50 CURRENT, NON-PHONE pictures we have to submit of ourselves <together and separate>, our hobbies, home, and community.
*** I’m kinda complaining but not really…. it’s like complaining about having to go from one wedding gown shop to the other looking for the perfect dress. It’s time consuming and you don’t know the perfect dress just yet but the process is exciting because of what it means…. all this stuff means we’re getting a baby, y’all!! 🙂 ***

But, anywho…
Guess I’m back to packing my camera around because we absolutely have NO pictures of any of that at all within the time frame required. lol.

And, getting down to the items that we can accomplish right now.

I’m so grateful. So grateful for this experience. It has taught me so much about myself and my God. It’s strengthened my relationship with God and has completely brought me to a place of totally dependence, love, adoration, and gratitude for my God and the relationship He allows me to have with Him. It is humbling. The fact that He walks with us through all that we endure in this life… comforting and maturing us so that we can be more like Him. Teaching us that He is our focus and living in such a way that everything we do is an act of worship meant to glorify Him. THAT is our goal. When I cry out for the windows of heaven to open and pour blessings down upon me, it’s not a bigger house, a more perfect husband, a nicer car, a larger bank account, or cushy job that I’m seeking…. It’s more of  Him. More fruits of His Spirit that I’m longing for. I’m desiring for my heart to be more like His. My eyes to see what He sees, HOW He sees it.  Those are the blessings I want. I crave.

Yes, I want to live comfortably but not at the cost of those around me suffering or struggling. Not at the cost of being so consumed with myself, things, and comfort that I’m unaware of those around me.

I’d love to stay in this place forever just because of the benefit it has been to my husband and I, but I’m so ready for the good God has for us.

He’s walking beside me. He’s always with me. He sees my hard work, tears, dark moments, and He knows that as dirty and filty as my heart is, I am truly seeking and longing to be more like Him. All of this is happening exactly the way He has planned for me, my husband, and our children to come. It’s going to be perfect. And, not in the “nothing is perfect” kinda way but in the God is PERFECT kinda way that He has planned for it to be.

He makes no mistakes perfect. He sees all and knows all perfect. He is perfect perfect.

… here’s to praising, growing in, worshipping, trusting, and loving a perfect God.

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