With All That I Am

As a teen and young adult, I dreamed of one day living out the perfect “Leave It To Beaver” existence- handsome husband, darling children, maintaining a fabulous home, volunteering for the PTA, playdates with our mommy-and-me friends, preparing my family’s favorite meals; all while maintaining the perfect hair and makeup.

At the age of 21, my physical health began to present questions about possible infertility.  I began to wonder what life would look like without that “white picket fence” dream come true.  I found myself grieving the unknown and wondering how a future mate might take that information.  Without any concrete facts, I gave my heart and my future plans over to the Lord and decided to trust Him with the outcome.

At 25, I started working for a foster agency and within two years was working for Child Protective Services.  There, I was exposed to some of the most brutal forms of abuse a child can ever endure.  I saw firsthand the realities of children in our foster care system, I came into contact with more and more children without a place to call home, and I began to feel a burden for adoption.  I knew that one day I would join the ranks of thousands who say yes to the call of raising a child they did not give birth to, and I knew that if getting married was not part of my plan, I would still someday be known as someone’s “mom.”

In my late 20’s, and as I rounded the corner into my 30’s, I witnessed friends and family members adding to their numbers.  I attended weddings and countless baby showers and secretly wondered if it would ever be my turn to play silly shower games and hold up teeny tiny clothes on top of my growing pregnant belly.  When I met my future husband at the age of 32, one of our first conversations was about a future family.  Already a father to adult children, he expressed a desire to increase his family through adoption.  By that time, I had already survived cancer and no longer felt the need to have biological children.  While we were not opposed to it, we were more passionate about adoption, so with our hearts united, we were married and became licensed foster parents shortly before our first anniversary.  We quickly welcomed two teens into our home, and although their stay was shorter than we had hoped or anticipated, we will never forget the special time surrounding the placement of our first kids.  In 2015, we celebrated the adoption of our son who is now 4-years-old, and with great anticipation, we are on track to finalize the adoption of our 2-year-old daughter by the end of this year.

Today, I woke up to the faces of two tiny human beings who call me mommy.  They giggled with delight as they gave me cards celebrating me for Mother’s Day, and their faces beamed with pride as I read the sweet words and acknowledged their precious efforts at writing out their names.  I also received a special gift from two of our adult children with a card that said, “The best moms aren’t always the ones who carry you in their uterus for 9 months-They’re the ones who carry you in their heart forever.”

As I sit here and reflect after a day full of goodness, I recognize that Mother’s Day can be a day of honor and thanks, but it can also be a day that brings great sadness.  I think of my grandmother who is no longer with us and the sorrow that brings for our family.  I think of my friends who have and are currently experiencing infertility or the loss of a child.  I think of those who may not have had a positive relationship with their mother and this day is only a reminder of painful experiences.

As I sit here, I think about my younger self and the plans I had for my “perfect” home life, and I am thankful that God heard my heart and knew that those dreams would be better fulfilled through my current circumstances.  I am thankful that God joined me to a man with grown children who honor me by allowing me into their lives and who have supported, embraced and loved on the addition of our littles.  I am thankful for all of the women who have played the part of a mother-figure at various times in my life and the one woman, my mom, who has always and who continues to be my greatest cheerleader, my example of kindness to others and the best grandma my kids could ever ask for.  With my daughter playing next to me, I look at her innocent face and wonder about the thousands of other children in foster care without a mother to call their own.  I can’t help but think that every day is a painful existence for them as they sit in a dorm facility, surrounded by a multitude of other children or in a foster home where they will ultimately age of the system.

As I sit here, I feel the urgency to encourage someone out there who has been hurting over their disappointments in this topic of motherhood, to challenge someone who has been contemplating joining the adoptive world but who is hesitant to do so.  I feel an urgency to pray that you will take a leap of faith towards a journey that will include pain, sorrow and great frustration; a journey that will ask you to leave behind all of the preconceived notions and labels you have heard about biology equaling motherhood; a journey that will include great happiness and unending joy.

As I sit here, I hear the silly screams of my children and their deep belly laughs, and I know without a doubt, that I could not love them more if they had come from my own body, and I know without a doubt that I will forever love them…with all that I am.

 

 

 

 

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7 Seconds

From an early age I’ve always felt different. I’ve always viewed the world differently, I’ve always been a fighter for justice, for those without a voice, an advocate for all. I’ve always viewed ALL people as precious, because that was the message I received growing up. I was raised in a home where I was taught that “people are more important than things” and to help those who are hurting and to give to those who are in need. The way I was raised, and my past experiences have led to my worldview…one that is often confusing to others and outright despicable to some.

I recently read that it takes 7 seconds to build a prejudice based on someone’s appearance. 7 seconds. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are profiling and forming biases about people ALL DAY LONG. Based on my specific experiences, I will look at that individual and decide in 7 seconds whether or not I would give that person any of my time. In 7 seconds, I will decide whether or not that person is a safe or a dangerous person. In 7 seconds, I will decide if that person fits into my social world or if they will remain on the outside of my closely-protected life. In 7 seconds, I will decide whether that person deserves the 25 cents they are asking for while holding their withered cardboard sign stating that “anything helps.” In 7 seconds, I will decide if someone who has a different color of skin, or someone who is of a different religion, or someone who was born a man but dresses like a woman is someone I can tolerate, befriend and possibly even love.

In 7 seconds, I clicked on my EHarmony account, and was met with a picture of a man. In 7 seconds, I decided to request correspondence. In 7 seconds, I made a decision that forever altered the course of my life. In 2 months we were engaged. In 7 months we were married. In 2 months it will be 4 years since we said, “I Do.” I am a white woman. I am married to a black man. He is the most generous, kind-hearted, gracious, God-fearing man I have ever met. In my life. In all of my 7 seconds combined. Through our time together, he has shared stories from his past. He has talked about being pulled over for walking across the street to use the restroom at a restaurant. 7 seconds. We have talked about the concept of “fitting the description.” 7 seconds. I see the way that some people look at us when we’re together. 7 seconds. As a white person, I do my best to understand a world in which I have very little first-hand experience.

After we married, we decided that we were going to parent together through fostering and adoption. Our first call for placement of two teen siblings came in August 2013. I was extremely nervous as we drove to meet them. I remember when they walked through that door, it took me 7 seconds to say, “Yes!” We brought them home that day. Our foster son was 15 and biracial (Black and White). It was about a month after Treyvon Martin’s killer was acquitted of all wrong doing. It was the first time in my experience that I had to talk with my husband about how to protect our son. I listened as he taught our son to still be himself but how to live in a world where others will make decisions that could negatively affect him. I don’t consider myself to be a naïve person, but at that moment, I realized that based on my past experiences, I had no concept of the daily challenges facing the black community. It was the first time I truly realized that in 7 seconds, someone that I love could be misjudged, harmed or even worse, be killed. For the color of his or her skin. It was at that moment that my “white-colored glasses” were immediately removed.

After our first kiddos left, we received another call in June of 2015. A 17-month-old, biracial (Hispanic and White) baby boy. Another meeting. Another 7 seconds. Another “Yes!” and next week we will be celebrating the one-year anniversary of our “Forever Family” adoption day. In November 2015 we got another call. 7 seconds. We took placement of an 11-month-old. She is a beautiful and vibrant and full of life. She is black. When people see us out together, there is confusion. 7 seconds. There is joy. 7 seconds. There is an attempt to connect dots and make it fit into a nice, neat package. 7 seconds.

July 5th, 10 days ago, I watched the speech of Jesse Williams who received a BET Humanitarian award for his work with social change. I read the comments from angry white people about how offended they were with his words and heard about the petition that was going around to get him fired from his job because he dared to utter words that are uncomfortable for some to hear. As I watched, I felt my brain shuffling through all of my past experiences. I was angry at the rest of humanity for not getting it, but I was also angry at myself for not being able to fully get it because of the color of skin I was born with. 7 seconds. That afternoon, I met with one of my clients for counseling. During the session, I learned my client had looked up my Facebook page and saw my profile picture. The picture was of me and my husband. It took 7 seconds for this client to see my picture and make a judgment about my life, my choices, my values and my “loyalties.” All based on one picture. 7 seconds.

I left work that night feeling nauseous. I went straight home and hugged my babies. I hugged my husband and just soaked in the peace I feel when I am at home with those I love, with those who know my heart and my intentions, with those who love me back for nothing more than the person I am inside. I went to bed that night with a heavy heart, completely oblivious to the death of Alton Sterling. The next day, Facebook was flooded with the news and the nausea returned. On the 7th, I learned about the death of Philando Castile. More nausea and a new sense of desperation. I woke up the morning of the 8th to the news of the police officers killed in Dallas. At that moment, the events of the past week rushed in, and I felt complete and utter disbelief and fear. There is no real way to explain the way I am feeling right now. I am mourning the loss of all human life. I am mourning the way I desperately wish our world could and should be. I am mourning the knowledge that others look at my color of skin and make assumptions about what I see when I look at the color of their skin. I am mourning the fact that we as a nation are still at such a ridiculously stupid place that our 7 seconds are clouded with hatred, mistrust and injustice.

As a therapist, my job is to work with my clients to discover the “how” and the “what now” of their problems. When possible, we uncover the “why” too. It is my job to help them take their life experiences and to help them sort through the emotions and actions that are a result of those experiences. As a therapist and a follower of Christ, I believe in the power of hope and the ability to change. I believe that there is good and decency in humanity, and I want to believe that all it takes is for everyone else to believe the same and we will see change. I want to believe that my husband is going to come home at night, because he is a law abiding citizen and because others will see him as the wonderful human being I have the immense privilege to do life with. I want to believe that my son will not be shoved into a stereotype because of his heritage. I want to believe that my daughter will know that she can grow up to be anything she wants to be because she was born in America, “The Land of the Free.” I want them to know that just because someone may not look the same that they can use their 7 seconds to see not the other person’s race, gender, religion or status in life, but they can see them through the eyes of their Creator, Jesus Christ. I also want my children to know that being a police officer or a first responder of any kind is one of the most selfless careers they could choose to pursue. I want them to know that our family is honored to have family members and close friends of all races and genders who put on the uniform daily and put themselves in danger to protect us. I want everyone to go home safe at night. I want our homeless to have a full belly and a warm, secure place to sleep. I want our babies enslaved in sex trafficking to be freed from the horror in which they are trapped. I want those with mental health needs to receive the treatment they need. I want our child welfare agencies to go out of business because our children are being cared and loved for. I want the followers of Jesus Christ to leave their comfy seats on Sunday morning and to bring the hope and unbiased love of Jesus to the rest of the world.

I know what I want to do with my 7 seconds. What will you do with yours?

I Still Do

My Dear Husband,

3 years ago, we pledged our lives to one another. 3 years ago, I thought I understood what commitment and hard work and dedication and humility and forgiveness and love truly meant. I thought the vows I wrote were honest and would be a piece of cake (because I was older and more mature)! 🙂

I look back now, and I realize that my vows should have consisted of something like, “I promise I will fail you. I promise that I am extremely stubborn and independent and there will be a lot of days that I will struggle with putting you before me. I promise I will stumble through a lot of those days and will need to seek your forgiveness once again. You are now; however, legally and before God required to forgive me and you must promise to keep trying each and every time I do mess up.” 🙂

Through marriage, you and I both have seen my worst self come out, and yet, I have a husband who continues to look me in the eyes and tell me it’s going to be okay and that he loves me. I have a husband that tells me he’s not going to let me give up when it feels too hard to keep going. I have a husband who reminds me that he knows I would never intentionally hurt him and that he forgives me. I have a husband who is the best father and protector. I have a husband who challenges me to grow into the woman he sees inside of me. I have a husband who makes me laugh and holds me when life feels overwhelming. I have a husband who will take me to a girl movie when I need it and who will take care of everything when a migraine has taken over my body. I have a husband who encourages me to follow my dreams and is working hard to complete his.

In 3 years, we have already lived a lifetime. We have moved twice, we have both changed jobs twice, we fostered teenagers and adopted a toddler. We started a business and both of us have gone back to school. We have enjoyed vacations together and experienced new adventures. We have reveled in the joy of being with family and have held each other through some of the most difficult losses one can imagine. We are not perfect, but everyday we wake up and commit to putting one more foot in front of the other. We start and end our day with a hug and a kiss and an “I love you.” Thank you, my husband, for loving me.

Love,
Your Wife

P.S.
I Still Do.

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365 Days

It’s hard to believe 365 days ago, we brought our little man home for what we hoped would be forever. During the past year, I have experienced the highest of highs and have faced the deepest sorrows that come with the journey of adoption. I have wondered if my love for him will be enough or how he will process through once he fully understands how God brought us together. Every day I grow just a little more in love with this little man, and I thank God every day that he saw fit to allow us the honor to love him with all of our hearts.

In the last year, I have failed miserably as a parent, I have laughed joyously at his crazy antics, I have cried over the heartbreak of knowing I will never know everything, and the realization that I missed the first 17 months of his life. I have been elated when I heard him call out “Mommy” and run to me with his arms lifted high. I have watched in wonder as he sleeps and cherished the feel of his little hands patting my back as we hug. I have experienced the highest moments of pride as he learns and conquers new stages and have felt pure fear as he adventures a little too far out of mommy’s comfort zone. I love the moments he snuggles next to me as we read books and the way he phrases certain words. I love the sounds he makes when identifying the animals he sees and how his sweet giggles fill the air. I love the sweet smell of his hair when I’m rocking him or the way he runs to me when he needs comfort over an owie. There is not a day that goes by that I am not faced with the overwhelming gift we have been given. 365 days down.

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IN REMISSION

“In remission”…2 precious words, 5 LONG years.  Physical and emotional scars that will always remain.  The unease that will never fully go away when those checkups come around.  Five years of living and experiencing in ways I never imagined.  A husband, a beautiful son soon to be legally ours.  New friends and steadfast “old” ones.  Pursuing a lifelong dream to become a therapist and a raw desperate, joyful journey to find my true self.  The self who likes to hide behind closed doors at times to protect from the outside world; the self that is dying to be truly known; the self that knows deep down God spared me for something significant.  Today I am humbled that I have been given that second chance to pursue the tomorrows, however many may come.

The Struggle Is Real

We all have “that thing” (or things) we turn to in order to soothe our hurts and disappointments.  Drugs, alcohol, relationships, exercise, isolation, sarcasm, anger, passive-aggressiveness, etc. etc. etc.  For me, it’s mainly food and the tendency to wallow in sadness and hide inside my cocoon.

I have struggled with my weight my entire life.  There are a variety of factors I could point to as the “reasons” why…but one of the biggest is that food has always been my go-to coping method. If I’m happy, sad, disappointed or indifferent, chocolate allegedly makes it better.  If I’ve had a rough day at work, I convince myself I’ve earned an unhealthy meal.  If my kid is working my last nerve, vegetables definitely escape the menu.

Working in primarily male dominated and high-risk jobs after college, I quickly learned to overlook any crude and offensive sexual advances from my co-workers for fear they would not step in to help if things went bad.  After being raped in my late 20’s, I convinced myself that if I became really good and fat, I would become invisible and never be hurt again. As if that wasn’t enough to provide my mind with a lifetime of justification, I was born with a body that has never fully cooperated with me.  A hip injury at the age of 10 led to four surgeries and the development of scar tissue and arthritis, a disintegrating disc in my back, regular migraines and the after effects of radiation on my body following Cancer.  In the last two months, I added a diagnosis of tendonitis in my foot due to flat feet, and the doctor took me off all physical activity to prevent the need for surgery.  I am in pain ALL of the time, and even before the doctor’s directives, exercising was the absolute last thing my body would openly embrace.

In this particular area, I have felt discouraged and hopeless most of my life.  I observe “skinny” people and daydream about being in a different place. I imagine they have the perfect life and mine would be perfect too, if only…  The reality is, skinny or not, everyone struggles with something and that struggle is real.  The reality is, even for those who are not deemed overweight, they may still struggle with the place that food has in their life and in their coping methods.  The reality is, most of us are walking around with a smile strategically planted, but we are literally dying for someone to know the raw, unedited version of our hearts and the pain we so intentionally hide.

Most of us have heard the saying, “Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”  I’ve had spurts of wanting to change.  I’ve tried every diet known to man, I’ve been in lengthy periods of counseling, I’ve told myself, “I’ll start THIS week or come Monday, I’ll make a change.”  Something always gets in the way to lasting change, and I’m tired.  I’m exhausted with allowing my past to get in the way of true health and inner peace.

So here I am, baring my soul to whoever may read this and verbally acknowledging I have a problem, and I can’t do it alone. Beginning May 1st, I am embarking on a new journey towards healing, and if my story has spoken to you, I’m going to ask you to consider joining me.  I am starting a 30-day adventure that will focus on reclaiming my mind, spirit and body through intentional healthy eating and accountability.  Even if you are at a place in your life where you are happy with your body but would like to improve your healthy lifestyle, you are definitely welcome!

If you are interested in finding out how you can join me on this adventure, please email me at mosley.pk@gmail.com or if you are reading this through Facebook, shoot me a private message and we’ll talk!  Please put “30 Days” in the subject line.  I look forward to getting FIT with you!

Three Little Words

Yesterday, as I laid in bed following what felt like a very short night’s sleep, I attempted to determine how tired I still was on a scale of “the good ole days when it was just the two of us to we’re raising a soon-to-be-toddler and sleeping through the night is merely a privilege.” Even though it felt like 15 minutes, after glancing at my phone, I was shocked to learn I had just completed ten hours of uninterrupted, glorious sleep. That’s when I heard it.  The tiny chatter of our little one, our almost 22-month-old.  Awake but content to revel in an introverted moment while he expressed the language that is developing at a quick pace these days, in whatever terms he could manage.  I let him chill a little longer before going in to get our day started.

He greeted me with his infamous smile…the one that takes over his entire face and lights up the world around him…his toothy grin with a tiny little dimple placed perfectly in the lower left hand corner of his mouth.  He reached out his arms, and I scooped him up and embraced him with a morning “snuckle” (snuggle). And then I heard it. “I love you.” Three little words. Three of the most significant words a person can ever utter to another individual, and he said them to me. He’s already said them to his daddy, and even my husband’s daughter has heard them on her way out the door, but never me. We made eye contact and almost as if to assure me that I had indeed heard him correctly, he said it again. He smiled once more, and my heart overflowed.

As of today, my husband and I have officially been his parents for 90 days. In that short time, we have felt the pain of watching him struggle with attaching to a new, unfamiliar set of parents and environment. Our hearts have ached at leaving him at daycare for the first time in his life. I can still feel the way his little arms hold on tightly to my clothing as he attempts to scramble up my body when he knows it’s time to part ways for the day. While I know I’m coming back to get him, I can only imagine what his little mind is thinking as yet again he’s had to adjust to new caregivers. We have experienced the worry that only comes with watching your child struggle with an illness you can’t fix when he was hospitalized with pneumonia. We have been through two ear infections as well as a bout of bronchitis…all in the past 90 days. We have watched him express his anger, frustration and confusion at all of the changes by trying to bite us and himself and by attempting to pull out his curly brown hair. We’ve experienced the utter panic and cries of desperation that wouldn’t stop after we put him in the nursery at church.

In those 90 days, we’ve also watched our little guy transition from a quiet, scared little baby to a rambunctious, ball-throwing, chatter box of a little boy. We’ve laughed at his enthusiasm for identifying football whenever it’s on TV and how every time he throws a ball on the ground it becomes a touchdown! We’ve melted over the way he’s taken to his daddy and how his tiny finger points out every new detail he discovers. We’ve chuckled at the phrases he is learning to mimic and relished the quiet moments when he’s sleeping soundly in our arms. And today, we celebrated that our little guy stayed in the nursery and played the entire service!

We’ve been foster parents for close to a year and a half now. We’ve fostered three children and provided respite care for one; three beautiful teenagers and now our little buddy. We’ve opened our hearts and our home to each child with the promise that it was their last stop for as long as they wanted it and the Court agreed. We’ve grieved the absence of our teens when their placement with us came to an end. We’ve spent countless hours praying for them and asking for God’s protection in their lives despite the many difficult situations they will undoubtedly face.

I haven’t shared many details during this journey out of protection and confidentiality of each child’s story. I haven’t shared the nights spent crying over my inability to know how to “fix it” or the questions I can’t answer because I wasn’t there from day one. I haven’t shared how protective and hurt I feel when someone asks me if their “real” parents were drug addicts or when they want to know the most intimate details of my child’s background. I haven’t shared how offended I get when they ask how much we get paid to care for them. I haven’t shared how odd it feels when we receive comments about being saints for helping out a child “like that” or how it confuses me when a person says they couldn’t ever foster because they would get “too attached.” I haven’t shared how embarrassing it feels when you can’t answer the doctor’s questions about “has your child ever…” I haven’t shared there are days it feels like no matter how hard I try, this child will never be bonded to me in a way he or she would have if I had given birth to him or her. I haven’t shared the awful pain that comes when a child asks if they can stay for good if they promise to be good enough. I share this now; however, because I believe in the importance of providing the children of our country and our world with a loving, stable home no matter how hard it might be. I share this now to encourage those going through the same journey to remind them to never give up and to let them know they are not alone. I share this now to ask those unfamiliar with fostering and adoption to be sensitive to those in their communities who have chosen this path and to learn ways to surround them with support and encouragement.

I share this now, because despite all of that, there are incredible days when no matter how old they are, a child just wants a hug and to know it’s going to be alright. Despite all of that, I wouldn’t trade one moment for what I have learned about myself and our capacity as a couple to keep going. Despite all of that, I wouldn’t trade the small victories that come just in time to help you put one foot in front of the other. Despite all of that, I wouldn’t want to love or parent any other children than the ones we have been blessed to have in our home. Despite all of that, when it feels like I can’t go one more day or I can’t possibly screw up any more as a parent, my baby boy looks up at me with his precious brown eyes and says those three little words.

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