Sunday, May 13, 2018

An open letter to my kids' bio mom

You have been on my mind a lot today. I am sure it is because it is Mother's day and without you, I may have an only child.  Not that life would not have been complete with just Albany.  But without you, I wouldn't have the privilege of raising this sweet blue eyed boy and this feisty, freckle nosed girl. Albany would not have grown in resilience, empathy and bravery the way she has. 

There are so many things I wonder about.  I wonder how you are doing.   I wonder how often you think of Will and Suzie.  I wonder about their little half sister.  I wonder how badly your heart must ache on days like this.  

Despite the negatives and the trauma that was caused because of you, my heart hurts for you.  The deck was stacked against you in so many ways that was never fair.  I hate that people weren't able to help you in a way that would have helped you overcome your disabilities, to get you into a safe environment, to provide you a sense of stability and health, and to teach you how to be a responsible parent.  I am sorry you never had a chance to watch them grow up, to see them become more independent and to succeed.  

I remember your face clearly at the termination of parental rights. Even though there was a lot of chatter from your family members directed at my husband and I, you seemed somewhat at peace that it was in the best interest of the kids for you to let them go so they could get out of the family and dysfunction that you were raised in.  So they could be adopted. So they could have a chance. 

Some people act like we are heroes or saviors.  We aren't and we are humbled by the realization that we had something you never did.  Privilege.  

Both my parents and Andrew's have stayed together.  They created safe, stable environments for us to be raised in.  They were aware and involved enough to try to protect us from those who would try to steal our innocence or take advantage of us.  And while being protective isn't always enough, we were fortunate that nothing happened anyway.  Education and hard work were modeled for us and we were encouraged to be our best selves.  We were raised in families where at least our basic needs were met and we always knew we had a safe place to stay, meals to fill our bellies, and medical care.  

The way I was raised was completely out of my control. If I hadn't been given that foundation, who knows where I would be or what I would be like.  I do know from conversations that you were not provided these same opportunities or privileges.  I am sorry for that, because it seems like that it all kind of led you to an impossible situation.

I am thankful that you ultimately had their best interest in mind, at least towards the end.  I pray that you are at peace and know that your babies are taken care of to the best of our ability.  They have an amazing big sister who provides so much love, nurturing, forgiveness and grace to them.  I also pray that those in your life now help you to be the strongest and healthiest you. 

I will forever be grateful to you that you brought these amazing children into the world.  I promise not to take it for granted or to miss out on the sacrifice and heartache that you have endured.  

With love,

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Frogging in the New Year

A few years ago I began knitting a prayer shawl for my mom’s friend.  I was a little over halfway finished when the lady passed away from cancer.  A couple of weeks ago I was looking through the closet for some yarn and I came across the unfinished shawl.  I held it for a bit and pondered what to do with it.  I have had it on my heart to knit a prayer shawl for a lady I recently met.  On one hand, I had made more progress on this shawl than I had remembered and it shouldn’t take too long to finish, but to pick up and continue where I left off didn’t feel right. 

Later that evening, when everyone else had gone to bed, I sat on the couch still looking at the shawl and made the decision that if I was going to knit this for someone else, I needed to start over.  In knitting the process of unraveling your work is called “frogging” because you have to “rip it, rip it.”  It’s terribly punny.  For the next hour, sitting on the couch with the glow of the tree lights reflecting off the windows, I began frogging the shawl.

It was painful at first, seeing all of the work slowly disappearing.  After a little bit I began to watch the stitches disappear one at a time.  I began to notice the pattern, the yarn overs, the knit two togethers, the purls. I saw places where I had messed up the pattern and had to add a stitch at the end of a row.  I found where my first skein had run out and I had clumsily started a second.  Watching the unraveling of the knitted work was fascinating, because I could see all of the work that had gone into the project, the errors and the fixes.  I finished by rolling all of the yarn into a large ball and sat there for several minutes just staring at the big ball of potential.  I was eager to get started, to learn from the mistakes I made the first time, and to watch the shawl rebuild.

I began to think about how each New Year is like a large ball of yarn and potential.  We spend the final days of the year unraveling the decisions of the last year.  We consider our triumphs, our defeats, our moments of joy and those of heartache.  We wind it all up into a large ball determined to do something different or better or healthier with the New Year. 

It is no secret that 2017 has been a difficult year for our family.  It started with the loss of a friend in March, many illnesses, hospital and inpatient stays, surgeries, unwise counsel, and disappointments.   It would be easy to unravel all of this year and set that ball of yarn on fire.  I’m pretty sure it would be super flammable, so it might even be bring some satisfaction to watch it burn… 

But what I realized staring at this large ball of yarn was that if I just wrote off 2017, I would lose all of the lessons that I learned from the following year and the potential to go into 2018 more prepared.  So instead of rehashing all of the difficulties that our family has walked through, I want to share some of what I see as I unravel the year.

I have learned to be more present and to let myself feel pain.  I am learning that I don’t have to silver line every single cloud and that “just because it burns doesn’t mean you’re gonna die.”  I have learned to be bolder and braver.  I am learning how to fight for myself and others.   I have learned that even in the hardest moments, there is peace.  I have learned that I am stronger than I ever knew that I was.  And I have been reminded that I am so blessed by my family and friends that God has surrounded us with. 

So as I sit here in the final hours of this year, I’m now holding a large ball wound up of the yarn from 2017 ready to make something beautiful of 2018.  It doesn’t mean that there won’t be hardships, disappointments, or mourning.   I can’t imagine a year without them.  But I am now more confident that those things shape us and mold us into stronger people and that those hard moments are surrounded by moments of great joy.  So here’s to 2018.  May it be a masterpiece!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Heritage, Hate, and the Juvenilization of Free Speech

Someone posted a link to the following article on Facebook this morning.  Unfortunately the link seems to be having issues, quite possibly because of the traffic it is receiving.  So, I wanted to post it here to share. 
 I would like to add, growing up in Louisiana I very often saw the rebel flag flying above the tailgates of pick up trucks, on hats, on bumper stickers, you name it.  I also grew up in a school system that was fairly diverse and with parents who taught me to love all people.  Some of my friends were those with rebel flags and argued it was "heritage, not hate" and I believed them.  Simply speaking, I believe that the majority of people I knew truly felt that way and saw it as a Southern symbol.  Many of them still do.  
Moving to Oklahoma for several years changed me in a lot of ways.  We joined an awesome church that provided a lot of opportunities to have open and engaging conversations which allowed us to open our minds and learn more from a variety of backgrounds and people.  Moving back to the South to Mississippi was even more eye opening to me.  I began to see racism and segregation that I had never noticed growing up.  Whether it was there and I missed it or Mississippi seems to be worse, that can wait for a future discussion.  However, it is deeply ingrained in the culture here.  The more I have thought about this issue  over the past couple of years, the more I have come to the realization that is shared below.  However, the post below pulls all the thoughts that I keep having and puts them into a coherent message.  For those who disagree, that is okay.  We can agree to disagree.  But I hope this article will challenge people and perhaps they may see this issue from a different perspective.  ~Jaimie })i({
Heritage, Hate and the Juvenilization of Free Speech  taken from
I am a Southerner.  I have lived in 3 cities in my life; 18 years in a rural town in North Alabama, 5 in Atlanta and 12 in Birmingham, Alabama.  I grew up middle class, white in a small racially divided town.   I grew up in a culture where rebel flags were flown off the back of pick up trucks, they were worn on hats and raised on makeshift poles in people’s yards.  I was taught that these were symbols of heritage, reminders of who we were and who we are.
I grew up with parents that used the word “nigger” in regular conversation, when they were angry and when they talked about the people who lived in “pepper town”.
One of my earliest memories of my dad is him coming home from work covered in wisps of cotton, a machinist in the local cotton mill, wearing a white t-shirt and his black, fishnet work hat embossed with a rebel flag.  I remember being very young and carefully helping him place a bumper sticker on his lime green, late 70’s beat up pick-up truck.
The sticker was a rebel flag with the words “Keep It Flyin”
I remember being in 4th grade and calling another little boy, an African American 5th grader, “nigger” because that is what he was in my world.  A nigger.
This is my pedigree.  
The school principal, who was also my baseball and basketball coach heard me say this and called me into his office.
“Why did you call him that?” he asked
“Because that is what he is,” I told him with out flinching.
“What do you think that means?” he asked.
“It is another word for a black,” I said (it is important to note that we did not call them “black people.” I think subconsciously that was a little too humanizing for us.  Calling them “blacks” was more simple, more to the point and noted them for what they were, a color not a person.
My principal spent the next two weeks with me (in detention) talking with me about that word, what it means and what it does to people when they hear it.  He spent 2 weeks, every day with me in his office talking, working through these ideas and helping me understand that words and symbols carry deep, impacting meaning and they should be handled with great care and respect.
He was my salvation.
He saved me from the depravity of racism, the ignorance of inequality and the suffocating quicksand of hatred.
Years later when I realized what I had done, how I had been raised to think and who I was going to be, my stomach sank.
Thursday morning I felt that sinking all over again.  I felt it because I began to hear the voices of my childhood in the comment sections, the Facebook posts and in the justifying soliloquies of the defenders of what they call “heritage.”  Outrage over the rebel flag began almost immediately as the state of South Carolina lowered all of its flags to half mast, all except the rebel flag.  The racial fissure in our country’s bedrock began to pull apart again.  People talked of heritage, history, southern pride.  Posts were shared explaining in great detail how the civil war was not about slavery, “only 1/4 to 1/3 of southerners even owned slaves” cites one story.
I love how the word “only” is used to try subdue the gag reflex of the soul.
Contrary to what you might think, I am not here to argue with these historical claims.  I really do not care what they “historically” may or may not have stood for.  Are rebel flags appropriate?  Sure, in movies, museums and history books that recount the civil war it makes sense because it has context.  Which is the problem we are facing today, context.
In graduate school I took this incredible class on the study of semiotics.  Semiotics is a discipline that studies symbols, words and their adoptive and adaptive meanings.  One of the primary principles of semiotics is that there is never a pure meaning that any symbol carries intrinsically.  In other words, a symbol’s meaning is always being redefined, interpreted and evolving.
Take the swastika for example.  It was a symbol that was very prevalent in eastern religions and even early Christianity.  You can find it in unbelievable amounts of ancient art, pottery and architecture.  It was benign and decorative.
That is the heritage and history of the swastika.
That is until it was adopted by the SS and Hitler’s Nazi Germany.  It is a symbol and the definition of that symbol changed, and changed dramatically.  It was assigned a new definition, a definition of hate and genocide.
Here is the problem with the “it’s not racist, it is a symbol of our heritage” argument.  It makes assumptions about the static nature of symbols that are simply wrong.
The meaning of symbols are fluid, they are never static.  When a majority of people understand the symbol to point to another definition then the definition of that symbol changes.
When KKK members adopted it as the symbol of their hate, it changed.
When it was waved proudly as a banner for segregationists, it changed.
When it became synonymous with burning crosses, white hoods and ropes thrown over magnolia trees looped around lifeless brown necks.  It. Changed.
When a 21 year old young man from South Carolina writes a manifesto on his website proclaiming in horrifying detail his hatred for all minorities, posts pictures clutching in one hand the rebel flag and a gun in the other just before he goes out and kills 9 innocent people in a prayer meeting… it changed.
If you want to wear the “stars and bars” on a t-shirt or hat, be my guest.
If you want to fly it proudly on your lawn, go ahead.
If you want to make it a law that it has to fly on the lawn of your state capitol, feel free.
But know this…
When you do this you are throwing your lot in with racists, segregationists, white supremacists, neo-nazis, bigots and murderers.  You will be counted, not among a group of people supposedly celebrating “heritage” but among those whose lips drip with the venom of hate.
You have free speech, that is true, but that speech is not without consequence.  Consequences like what we saw a few days ago in Charleston.
Let me be clear the rebel flag did not cause that man to kill those 9 people meeting for prayer and worship.  It is just the primary symbol of a sick and vile sub-culture that produces people like that man who killed those 9 people meeting for prayer and worship.
I know that culture; I am a refugee and dissenter from it and an organizer against it.
Make no mistake: it is not heritage it is hate.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Reminder

About three years ago, Albany and I were shopping at Old Navy. As we were talking she asked when she was going to get a little sister. I had to explain that I didn’t know, but I hoped soon. Albany told me we needed to pray about it. I told her we would. She stopped in the middle of the little girl’s section, placed her hand on me and began praying for a little sister. There was a part of me that was slightly embarrassed she was praying in the middle of the store. There was a larger part of me that was so floored by her faith. When she said “amen,” she turned to me and said we needed to buy something for her little sister. I hesitated, trying to explain we could get something once her sister was here. Albany sighed and explained, “Mommy, she will need something when she gets here.”

 I directed her to the clearance section and she found a little, pink shirt with Rapunzel on it. I asked her if she thought maybe we should get something smaller. She declared the shirt she picked out was perfect and we headed towards check out.

 We prayed and tried to get pregnant for a year. As we prayed during the next year, we began feeling the pull towards adoption. We took the classes and got licensed. Then we waited another year before finally receiving the call.

 I love these kids. They feel like our kids. We are adjusting well. Albany is doing incredible. We’ve had some little bickering and a few hurt feelings, but she seems to take it in stride. For the most part, it is natural sibling stuff. Little Man is a lot like Albany. He is a very loving child and has such a sweet spirit. He is more introverted than Albany, but also a little more rambunctious. He loves lots of snuggles, especially from his Mommy.

 Sassy is a challenge. She has some massive temper tantrums and can be downright defiant. Just this morning, it was a struggle to get her to sit in her seat and finish her breakfast instead of skipping around the house, directing everyone else on what they should be doing. She will be a great leader if we can guide her the right direction. Please don't get me wrong. I am so glad she is here and I love her dearly. She is also so loving, hilarious, and LOVES to help out around the house. It's just that adjusting to Sassy's needs can be very difficult at times.

 This morning as I was pulling jackets out of the playroom closet so the kids can head to school on this chilly day, I noticed the shirt we bought three years ago stuffed into the closet. I pulled it out and showed Andrew as he entered the room. Over the years I have almost given the shirt away to friends who have little girls. Something has always held me back.

 Even though Sassy is 5, she wears a 3T. Her favorite movie besides Frozen? Tangled.

This morning as I showed Andrew the 3T, Rapunzel shirt, I was reminded of that moment in Old Navy. I realized that Sassy is the little sister Albany and I prayed for 3 years ago. She is the one we have been praying for the past 3 years.  She is supposed to be a part of our family. We never even considered having a boy, but God blessed us with Little Man, too. And on the days where I feel weary or overwhelmed or frustrated, I want to remember this moment. I want to remember that God has a plan for all of this and that we get to be a part of these children’s restoration story. I want to remember that Sassy is the one we have prayed for and that God answered and blessed us abundantly.

Monday, January 30, 2012


My hubby and I were working on refinishing an old dresser this weekend. As I was sliding the newly painted and distressed drawers back into their places, it happened. I got a splinter! At that moment, I became consumed with this tiny sliver of wood wedged into the tip of my ring finger. At that moment, I felt nothing else, just pain. I showed Andrew my affliction (he was soooo sympathetic). After a search, I couldn't find a pair of tweezers, so reluctantly I went back to working and just tried to ignore it. It mostly worked, but every now and then I would pick up something or move something and it would hit that finger and the pain came back.

Hurt is like a splinter. Whether someone lied to you, or misused you, or whatever it is, the hurt can pierce you like a splinter. You can ignore it for so long, but if you do not actually dig it out and deal with, it will continue to hurt you. Maybe not constantly, but a time will come when something comes up and brings the pain flooding back. If left too long, a splinter can become infected and cause all sorts of health problems. The same is true for hurt. If you allow it stay in your life, it can consume and overtake you.

To get rid of a splinter, you have to take some tweezers and dig it out. The process sometimes takes awhile to get it all out and sometimes it is very painful. So is dealing with our hurts. Sometimes it takes talking to the person that hurt you, sometimes it takes seeing a counselor, whatever it is, we each have our own way to get through hurt.

While I never know when I may get a splinter, it would be ridiculous for me to take my bare hands and rub them over that old dresser. I would be smart to use gloves to handle the dresser, to prepare myself and protect myself. Likewise there are some situations we can not get out of, like maybe a family situation. While you may not be able to completely remove yourself from the situation, you can prepare and protect yourself. Whether it is limiting visits, standing up for yourself, or spending time in prayer before a visit. But there are some situations that are so hurtful or abusive that the best thing to do is to remove yourself entirely. Yet sometimes even after doing so, there is still hurt, while not new, it continues to linger.

The thing we must remember though, to get through the hurt, we must get all of the splinter out. Unforgiveness is like that little fragment of a splinter that is wedged down deep. It's the part that becomes infected when not removed. Forgiveness is not saying that what happened was okay. It's not about allowing the person to hurt you again. It's really not about the other person at all. It is deciding not to hold that hurt you've experienced against that person any longer. And it is not letting the hurt have any hold over you any longer. This is the step we most often forget, yet we truly can not heal until we forgive.

What splinters do you need to deal with?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sweet Child Of Mine

When I was younger, I remember my mom saying she hoped I had a child just like me (I think that was supposed to be like the mother's curse or something like that haha.) But yep, I had a spitting image of myself. The older she gets, the more obvious it is to me. People often tell me they wish they knew what was going on in Albany's head. I know...

I'm growing tiresome of finding stickers all over the house. The walls, the headboards (mine and hers), doors, chairs, the bathtub, and even the toilet. Albany and I have had multiple conversations about where stickers go. (ON PAPER!) and yet the other morning I walked into the guest bathroom to find My Little Pony stickers adorning walls, fixtures, etc. I quickly called her into the bathroom and using my stern voice told her stickers do NOT go on anything except paper. With one of the most pathetic (and honest) face she looked at me and said, "But I was just decorating." Feeling rather cold and heartless, I made her unstick the stickers and then sit in time out for a couple of minutes. Later that evening she found yet another page of stickers and asked if she could use them. I told her only on paper. To which she grinned and replied, "Yes, your majesty!" and then skipped off. I know her well enough to know she wasn't being disrespectful, just being Albany!

Later I was reminded of a story my mom often tells. My mom once entered my room when I was probably about Albany's age and noticed there was a Care Bear magnet on my wall. Figuring I must have found a stud, she went to pull it off only to find I had Elmer glued it to the wall. She then noticed around my room at about a 3 foot level were puzzle pieces, pictures, and sheet music. I remember that on television the kids always had super decorated rooms. I'm sure I told my mom, "I was just decorating!"

I guess things come full circle. And I wouldn't trade it for the world. :-)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


I've never been a long term vision person. while other kids were dreaming about being ballerinas or astronauts, teachers or baseball players, I was dreaming about... well, I don't know what I was dreaming about. To be truthful, I was probably daydreaming. :-) I remember telling my mom at age 6 that I wanted to be a preacher. She never told me I couldn't, but she told me that it wouldn't happen in the church we were at. I continued to "preach" to my stuffed animals and "baptize" my friends in the swimming pool growing up, but I always wondered if something was wrong with me. At 18, God got a hold of my life and at age 19, I knew He was calling me into full time ministry. I fought the thought of following my mom's footsteps into children's ministry and spent a summer and a year interning with different ministries. Despite the thought of being a missionary in India just to avoid following my mom, I discovered my passion was undeniably children's ministry. For the past 9 years, I've worked in children's ministry.

Things began to change a few years ago. I was super blessed with a pastor in Oklahoma who continued to push me out of my comfort zone and to encourage me to follow the desires God had given me. He sent me and his wife to the Gifted to Lead conference with Nancy Beach. It was incredible and showed me that God did not make a mistake when He made me and gave me the gifts and desires that He has given me. As I began to study, I realized that while what I was doing was my passion, God had something different in store for me. Everything I was doing was preparing me for that time and I was content to wait on Him to show me what it was.

Recently I've been reading Craig Groeschel's book Chazown. At the same time I was listening to Steven Furtick's Sun Stand Still sermons. They both rocked my world. I realized it had been awhile since I had really prayed about vision. I had noticed my passion for children's ministry had begun to wane. I still enjoy it, but the passion I had for it once, is just not the same. So I began to pray. It seemed like everything I read, whether a book, blog, or Bible, all was bringing up some of the same questions. A quote from Steven Furtick continued to bother me. He said, "If the size of the vision for your life is not intimidating to you, chances are it's insulting to God." I didn't really have that much vision, let alone one big enough to be intimidating. So I began to pray even harder. What was it God had for me? What am I supposed to accomplish in this life? What was I made for? I didn't want to run ahead of Him, but I want to feel that passion again, knowing that I'm doing exactly what I was created for.

Last weekend, we were helping some friends move. Well, Andrew was helping them move, I just went over for pizza when it was over. ;-) This friend told us that while they didn't have a home owner's association they had a neighborhood covenant. Basically things like, I'll keep my yard up, take care of pests, etc. Except there was a line in the document that to live in the neighborhood, you had to be Caucasian. I was too shocked to even say anything. He also shared he had been a little irritated when a new neighbor had suggested he hire a couple *racially insensitive term*s to do some of the work. Again, wow! It bothered me all night and I found myself in tears Saturday night just thinking about it. It just amazes me that in 2011, we still have that kind of segregation and hate.

Sunday, my heart was still so heavy. Andrew asked me what was going on and while crying I just let it all out. Every bit of it. Between the tears and ranting, I was reminded of something from Craig Groeschel. He said that often when searching for your passion, people ask you what do you love, but he posed the question, what makes you mad, what ticks you off? He said that often it reveals what you are passionate about. It was right that minute that it was crystal clear and I announced, "I know what I'm supposed to do! I have my vision! I know what my passion is!" Andrew listened as I shared my heart. There have been few times in my life I have been that sure that God was speaking right to me and it was Him undeniably leading me!

God has revealed to me that I am to start a church or help be a part of an existing church that breaks barriers down. Color, gender, income level, size, past, it does not matter, the only thing that matters is that people can gather together and worship and grow! When I shared my vision with Andrew, he began to point out some of the difficulties. While I know there will be many difficulties ahead, I reminded him that if God was calling me to it, He was was going to provide everything I needed. Then I shared with him a reoccurring thought I've had. If the Bible was still being written, would you be able to say that you lived your life so passionately, so full of faith, and allowed God to accomplish the impossible through you, that your story made it in the Bible? I don't want to settle for good enough, or even what I'm naturally good at. I want God to stretch me and use me for more than I can fathom. When I was finished, Andrew smiled at me and said, "Fair enough! Whatever God calls you to do, I will be there to support you."

As I shared this new vision with a few people yesterday, while I was looking for anyone's approval, I was very encouraged. Then last night... I had shared with my friend, Jay, on the way to Birmingham to attend the Basement. (I'm so excited and fired up, I'm having a hard time NOT telling people.) When we arrived worship was just beginning and we couldn't find the group we were meeting, so we grabbed seats in the back. Within the first 10 minutes, I was looking around at people of all ages, all colors, all backgrounds, all worshiping God together and it was as if something inside of me wanted to scream, "This is what church should look like!!!" And I felt a confirmation in my spirit, this is what I was created to do. This is my vision.