Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Life and Photography 101. Life Lessons Learned Through The Lens of Photography

I have been a professional photographer for about four years now. Before that, I was what the photography community calls a "momtog". The transition from momtog to professional photographer did not happen the moment I started charging my clients but instead, through a process, as I grew from a hobbyist to a professional.

I have learned several lessons through that transition that I believe apply to both photography and to life. So here is a little Life and Photography 101.

1. Figure out who you are and be that person. Stop trying to be someone else.
The photography profession is full of copycats who scan other people's work and try to reproduce it as their own. The problem with this is your clients don't know which version of you they are getting when they hire you. I had photographer friend denied from being a consultant with Clickin Moms because they said her work was not consistent enough. That really got me thinking about who I AM as a photographer and if what I consistently represent to my clients is a true picture of myself as an artist.

My advice, figure out who you are and be that person/photographer. People will know what they are getting and they will chose you because they like your work. If they don't, then it was a bad partnership to begin with. This is clearly true in life as well.  See the life analogy here?

2. Be nice to other people. Just because they share your interest, doesn’t mean they are your competition or enemy.  Showing common courtesy will take your farther than the cold shoulder. 
This is one of my soapbox lessons. I can always tell a true professional photographer from an insecure hopeful by the way they treat other photographers on shoots. Photographers who are confident in their skills are kind to one another.  They don't do inconsiderate things like step into each other's shots.  I have made several great photographer friends through a few moments of kindness and consideration on a shoot.  If you want to be a professional, act like one.

For the record, Trent and I have come across the same behaviors in ministry. The lesson is the same. We can each do more if we work together than if we act all squirrelly out of insecurity.

3. You will go further in life (and photography) if you view your role as an opportunity to bless someone instead of an opportunity to gain something from them.
I am in several professional photography groups and I notice there are two kinds of photographers. There are those who genuinely enjoy their job and enjoy giving their clients a product that reflects their own time and artistic expression and then there are those who view photography as a way to make as much money as possible off of someone else. The latter group is constantly complaining about the 30 minute shoot that went 40 minutes, the kid who wouldn't cooperate, or the bride who was too demanding.

We can all get caught up in our sense of entitlement if we aren't careful. I have found that operating out of entitlement might leave you with more money in your pocket, but in the end, you are less satisfied. True satisfaction comes in blessing others and photography is a great way to do that but you have to let the other junk go. Another good life lesson- Lose the entitlement and be a blessing instead.

4. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
I can't tell you how many clients have commented on how much they appreciate that I get them their images in 1-2 weeks.  This should be the norm friends.   I shot a 6 month old once and the mother still had not received her newborn images from their other photographer.   That's ridiculous people. How you run your business is reflective of your personal character.  It goes back to the first lesson your mama taught you- treat others the way you want to be treated.  Period.

5. Do what you love and it will show. You will have passion for it. You will do it with excellence.   
Don't go into photography, or anything else for that matter, just to make money. Find what you are passionate about and make that work for you. If you are thinking about photography just because your friend does it and makes money at it, you won't succeed. You have to love it in order for something special to be reflected in your images and for them to tell a story. There are a lot of short term photographers out there who don't know what photography entails and they don't last.  If you figure out what you love and how to get paid to do it, you will succeed.

6. Don’t price yourself out of the people you would prefer to capture.
This one is personal.  People tell me ALL THE TIME that I don't charge enough.  I know that and it is intentional.  I really like my clients and I know that if I raise my prices to the rate of other photographers, with my experience and gear, that I will price myself out of the types of clients I enjoy the most.  Let me put it this way: Just because you can hang out with the Country Club crowd doesn't mean that you should.  

In my experience, clients who can afford the higher fee are generally more concerned about creating a perception than capturing a moment in time.  Authenticity is important to me.   I am not into photography to help promote someone's family image on Facebook but instead to help them capture their family reality.   What can I say but that I tend to find those clients in my current fee schedule so I will keep it there.  Same is true in life and it goes back to the Country Club statement.  Relationships are more fulfilling if they are about authentic connections instead of fabricated perceptions.

7. Forgive yourself.  You are a work in progress. 
The haunting began after my first year as a professional photographer.  I wasn't haunted by ghosts, but rather images of my past.  Images I had taken with my camera and had thought were good.  I would walk into someone's home and see my pictures on their wall and immediately notice something I would now do differently.   After several times, I actually considered quitting photography or refunding people their money.  Isn't life the same way?  Do you ever feel like you need to go back 10-20 years and apologize to people for your behavior then?

I am learning to be thankful for those little revelations of past mistakes because they bring to light how far God has brought me since then.  Make those moments a time to rejoice in your improvement instead of running from your failures.  We all have them, so forgive yourself.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Who Are Your Five?

I just returned from an incredible trip to Bolivia and I look forward to sharing what I learned there soon. Before I talk about Bolivia, I want to finish processing something that was stirring in my brain before I left.

Last week, I heard this quote and it really stuck with me. I was at an event for teenagers so of course they were using it to share the message that you should choose your friends wisely. This is true for teenagers, but it also got me thinking about who my five are and what influence they have on me. It is important to note that my five don't preach these lessons to me but just simply live them out in my presence.
So here you have it as I process out loud once again.

"Lessons From My Five"

1. Forgive always, persevere continually, and relate to people based on how God sees them instead of how they behave.
The first member of my five is one of the most forgiving people I know. Where I have demonstrated a bad habit of mentally categorizing people based on their behaviors, this person relates to everyone based upon their potential. He forgives well and he forgives often. This member of my five helps me not to write people off but to step beyond my need for safety and push forward in my relationships. Forgive always. Persevere continually. Relate to people based on how God sees them instead of how they behave. He makes it look easy.

2. Your resources should be used to bless others who are less fortunate and all circumstances should be viewed through the perspective of God's love for you. 
I struggle to put into words how much my next member of my five has shaped my life and my theology. She is hands down the most giving person I know. She doesn't just responds to needs as she sees them but plans out her giving as a way to hold herself accountable to being generous. Her example is a constant reminder to hold my possessions loosely.

As if that wasn't enough, she is also a great resource for perspective. Her faith is so ingrained in her being that she can't evaluate a situation without seeing it through the lens of God's love for her and His desire to shape her into His image. I love sharing what God is teaching me with her so I can hear her take on it through her faith and experience.

3. Treat others the way you want to be treated and bless others without expecting anything in return.
The third member of my five is a real sweetheart. Serving others is not something she has to remind herself to do but it is part of her DNA. I have heard before that your calling should give you energy. Where constantly cooking for others or jumping in to rescue someone in a bind would lead me to exhaustion, I believe it actually energizes her. She loves to serve. Receiving the blessing of her service to my family reminds me of the need to pull my head out of my own schedule long enough to see how I might help someone else. I am nowhere near her radar on this but her example is helping me want to try.

4. Place your family first. Advocate for them, serve them, and be their primary place of encouragement.
The fourth member of my five is a great cheerleader. Not the scantily clad kind but the "you've got what it takes to do this" kind. :) She spends her days advocating for her child who has a learning disability and it is not uncommon for me to receive an message requesting prayer for her husband with a project he has at work. She truly orders her days around her calling to serve her family. Watching her challenges me to make my family my priority.

5. Enjoy life! Try new places, go to the concert, take that trip, and live.
Oh how thankful I am for my number five! She is a gift to me in so many ways and has definitely made life more fun. If I said yes to all of her invitations, my life would be a constant "good time". I put that in quotes because I occasionally call her "good times" but she thinks it sends the wrong message. :)

I don't know about you, but I have the potential to get so caught up in my to do list that I forget to slow down and enjoy life. This friend is a true gift from God and reminds me that it is okay to let the laundry go in order to make a memory or enjoy a good lunch on a restaurant patio.

I believe at any point our five can change and what we consider to be important can change with it. I am incredibly thankful for the five God has given me at this stage of life.  I could use a sixth who encourages me to exercise more and eat fewer cookies, but I am not willing to change any of my five for that reminder. :)

FORGIVE, LOVE, SERVE, PRIORITIZE, and LIVE. Not a bad average.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Stories From Bolivia

We are here! I need to make a quick photographer confession before I get started.  I have not edited these pictures, so please forgive me.  I wanted to get them up for you to see before I crash for the evening.  The picture below is one of the many little faces of Bolivia.  I want you to hear what God is doing here (edited pics or not). :)

On the first day, we toured the baby home and the boys home and then spent some time with the kids.  I was quickly impressed with the organization and how it is run. We also saw a little of the city and talked mission strategy.  We were exhausted to honestly it is a little foggy. 

Day two is where the good stuff really happened.  If you saw the post before this one, you are aware of the machine we were able to bring for a little one with Cystic Fibrosis.  This is that precious child.  I was able to instruct his nannies in how to use the machine and also how to manually clear his lungs through percussion.  They were eager to learn and clearly have a special place in their hearts for this little blessing. 

Another cool moment was when we gave the children their new shoes.  Last week, I asked for last minute shoe donations from my friends on Facebook.  They answered that request with a suitcase full of shoes and clothes.  These little guys were ecstatic, to say the least, about their new kicks.  One of them ran over and hugged the director and told him thank you.  It was a sweet moment for everyone in the room. 

I had no idea how great the need was for new shoes until we started trading them out.  Some had their toes hanging off the ends while others went up 3 shoes sizes from the pair they were currently wearing.  The shoes were a hit, so please hear me say thank you for your generosity. 

The last thing we did at the baby house today was to help feed the little ones.  These kiddos are passionate about meal time.  It was cute to watch and get to participate in. 

We had a great little tourist moment this afternoon when we drove up the mountain to Cristo.  Apparently the Bolivian Jesus is actually bigger than the Brazilian one.  It was awesome to see it and see the city from that perspective.   


 Tomorrow we will train some more nannies, take some of the older orphans shopping, and wrap up our talks about future trips.  So far it looks like we could possibly use people with passions for preschool ministry, painting, photography, soccer, nursing, children's hair cutting (outreach project), CPR training, speaking spanish, and construction.  Could that be you?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Amazed at How God Provides...Again!

Okay I have to tell you a really cool story.

I am headed to Bolivia in a few days.  Two nights ago I sent an email to one of the missionaries there to remind him that I am a PT and would love to assist in the orphanage in any way possible.  He wrote me back and asked if I could come prepared to help the staff work with an 11 month old who appears to have symptoms consistent with Cystic Fibrosis.   I contacted some PT friends for help and one mentioned a percussion vest.  I looked it up and realized that they cost A LOT! Like $20,000.00 A LOT.

And then it hit me.  You have not because you ask not- James 4:3

So I prayed and put it out there on Facebook.

Now the story gets really good.
Two years ago, our family lost a precious member too soon.  She was a young mother of two who suffered a series of strokes due to an undiagnosed clotting disorder.   We miss her terribly but have found some comfort in the knowledge that she was an organ donor and her passing gave life to many others.
Do you see where this is going????

The incredible woman (mother of 3 year old twins), who received her lungs, no longer needs her mechanical percussion device.  She heard of our need, contacted me, and is donating her $20,000 machine! Amazing.

So the next challenge was that we needed pediatric vests and they run about $500 a piece and can take months to get.  My husband made a few phone calls and in two days we will be picking up 2 vests for this child, one he can wear now and one he can grow into.  How amazing is that?

I think there are a few things we need to take away from this:

1. God is good and worthy of our praise.
2. When we ask according to God's will, He provides.
3. God's heart is for the orphan and He desires to use His people to bring about His purposes.  If we align our focus with His heart, we will see Him move mountains (once again) to take care of orphans.

WOW.  Just WOW.

If you feel led to pray for us in Bolivia, here is what you can pray for:
1. For good ministry time. Pray that God would use us to bring about His purpose there.
2. For health.  Apparently the altitude can be a bit rough.  Pray for protection from that.
3. For vision.  Part of our trip is to lay the ground work for future teams.  Pray that we can think outside of the box and discover ways that our church can meet the specific needs of the people there.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Before You Say No... (12 Common Concerns about Foster Care and Adoption)

...let's talk about it for a minute.

Orphan Sunday is this week and I want to take a moment to answer some questions and respond to some misconceptions about foster care and adoption. This is in NO WAY meant to guilt anyone into orphan care or place any kind of judgment on someone for not choosing to take that step. The desire of my heart is to help some of you, who may be called to adopt or foster, move forward with confidence.

**Okay I think we need to all start out on the same premise to make sure our minds and hearts are in the right place.

There are 3 truths we cannot deny as we approach these questions:
1. These children are loved by God. They are not commodities, a service opportunity, or an add-on to our spiritual resume. They are children, cherished by their Creator.

2. He has a plan for their lives and He desires to use His people to bring about His plans.

3. Anytime we are participating in ministry, we need to be reminded that it is not about us. Hear that? It is NOT about you. There I got that out and I won't say it again so I don't repetitively hack people off.

So Here Goes!

1. Adoption is Too Expensive -
You know what? Adoption is expensive. This is one area that was intimidating to me as well. I can tell you from experience that when we step out in faith, God will provide. Trent and I witnessed this with both of our adoptions where God would provide a check, fundraiser, or work opportunity just in time for each payment. In case you need some practical encouragement, here are some things that might help:
  • There is a 10-12K tax credit for domestic and international adoptions. This reimburses a large portion of your expenses and can be taken over several years. 
  • There are a lot of fundraisers that can be done. I have seen people sell t-shirts, artwork, jewelry, and other handmade goods. Garage sales are a great fundraiser. I did photo shoots to help support our adoption and many people were kind enough to give over my fee because they believed in my cause. 
  • There are grants available to assist with costs and, in my experience, most people who apply get something. 
  • There are people who cannot adopt but want to be involved in orphan care. One way they can do that is to support you. This allows other people to be involved in ministry and is a good thing. 
What I gained from a step of faith, a little hard work, and a whole lot of seeing God move. I wouldn't trade her for any asset nor any amount of financial security. 

2. I Don't Want to Foster Because I Hear You Can Be Accused of Abuse -
That is a hard one so I am going to punt to someone much smarter than I am, my friend, Jennifer.

"There is a difference between being accused of abuse and being investigated. Something relatively minor, like an ER visit for a busted chin, can trigger an investigation on your home. But, in most cases, the things foster parents are cited for during these investigations are things like unsecured cleaning supplies or an incomplete medical log, not abuse. If you were to be accused of abuse, your foster children could be removed during the investigation, but nothing would happen to your other children. The possibility of being accused of something untrue shouldn't stop you from caring for kids in crisis. Furthermore, I have been involved in foster care for over 3 years and I don't know anyone who has been accused of abuse."

Jennifer with her girls, on adoption day, giving them necklaces that say, "Chosen, Loved, Adopted".

3. I Fear the Birth Parents Would Take Them Back -
I am just going to go ahead and get the hard ones out of the way early on. My sister-in-law had this happen. I think it is best if you hear from her regarding her experience.

"I never thought that the birthmother that picked us to parent her child would change her mind. It was never a fear that I had while going through the adoption process. I’m glad I didn’t or it really could have been a paralyzing fear. I thought that once the baby was taken home that he would be ours and that all the legal stuff would be good. That's not how it worked out though. We had a beautiful baby boy in our home for about five days. Five days to take care of him and love him. And we had a few months before his birth to anticipate and dream about his arrival. We were invested (to say the least). And so when we had to literally place him back in the arms of his mother we were devastated. We mourned the loss of that baby, that future. But God is good and we were surrounded with family, church family, and friends that lifted us up and were there for us.

In less than two months we got a call from our agency about another little boy, our Joshua. He was 2-days old when we brought him into our home and hearts, and he will be 10-years old this coming January. I cannot imagine a different outcome or a different family than the one I have. God KNEW!

It was scary to put ourselves back in the pool of perspective parents. It was scary to trust that the calling God had on our lives to adopt was still true. But here is what I’ve learned: there is not a single incredible thing that you will do in your life that doesn’t come with some amount of risk. But If God has called you to it, then He will see you through it. Do you believe it? When you believe it then you will live it. Not everyone is called to adopt. But if you know you have been called, and you haven’t heeded that call, because of a list of fears, real or imagined, then you are missing out. You are missing out on the blessings that come from being obedient to God. We aren’t responsible for the outcome of the steps that God calls us to take. We are just responsible for the walk. So if you have a destination, a calling, realize that you may get there in a way that you didn’t think was possible and that it might be painful or uncomfortable. But when you get there you will be glad that you did because our God is a good Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. He is powerful. He is a Redeemer. A redeemer of lives, situations, and stories. He is faithful."

Melissa and Troy when Joshua was placed in their arms. 

4. It Would be too Hard to Give a Foster Child Back -
Since I have never had to do this, I asked my friend Kelsey to respond to this one out of her recent experience.

"This was one of our fears initially. We started this process with hearts that really wanted to help, but still with focus on OUR family, what WE thought would be best, and the impact on US. But somewhere along the way, God showed us that our motives were a little off. Who are we to say, 'God, we will be obedient to Your call to care for the orphans, but only if you let us keep them.'? Once we changed our way of thinking and realigned our hearts, that anxiety over losing control subsided and we committed to obeying with no strings or expectations attached. And then we got placed with two sweet twin girls. And then we loved them like our own as it headed toward adoption. And then we had to give them back. The truth is, there was heartache. But there was also huge peace in knowing that God’s plans are bigger. He chose us to be their parents for the exact number of days He intended us to be, and every single one of those days had purpose. We are on the other side of this question now and I can answer that while yes, it is hard, it’s not TOO hard. We would make the same decision again a thousand times over. And if you think about it, it’s really no different with biological children – we are not promised tomorrow with them either, but it doesn’t mean we choose not to parent them and love them wholeheartedly. ALL children are a gift on loan to us from God."

Kelsey's biological children with her sweet girls from foster care. I have no doubt the twins are better off for having spent time with Kelsey's family. 

5. What if the Foster Kid Came With "Baggage" -
Oh they do. They are traumatized children. Have you ever thought about how taking a child with "baggage" and showing them unconditional love that is based on who they are instead of what they do is the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the Gospel to them? You may be the only opportunity they have to receive unconditional love apart from Jesus. If Christ can look beyond our "baggage" and die for us, can we not demonstrate a fraction of that love for another? Finally, it is in those times when God calls me to step beyond my comfort and demonstrate the Gospel to another that I gain the greatest appreciation for what He did for me. 

 There is a great book called The Connected Child that provides excellent tools for parenting kids with "baggage." I recommend it for anyone considering foster care or adoption.

This is the hand of our former foster child gripping (in his sleep) a necklace that I gave him a few days after he was placed with us. His "baggage" was that he needed to be loved unconditionally and treated with kindness. I am thankful that God allowed us to see past his behavior to reach his heart. 

6. I Couldn't Love Them as Much as My Biological Child -
I believe the question here is about bonding. I will tell you that bonding is different in biological children, foster children, and adoption. With my biological kids, I had 9 months to bond with them as they grew inside of me. I felt like I already knew them when they arrived.

With my adopted girls, I had 6 months to bond with pictures of them and reports about them. I was so ready to get them into my arms that their "Gotcha Day" was just as sweet as my deliveries. Because they were already toddlers, bonding was different and took a little more time, but was just as special. A friend compared getting to know them to peeling the layers of an onion. With each layer, you get to know who they are a little better. I wouldn't trade those days of figuring out who they are and falling more in love with them with each "layer."

Bonding with my foster child was completely different. I had only a few hours to prepare for him but my compassion for him was so great that it enabled me to survive those first few weeks of "who are you and how do I respond to that?" Over time, he learned to trust me and that helped us bond. Compassion transitioned to perspective and that guided me through the next stage. I can't help but wonder if some foster parents never make the switch to perspective but instead begin comparing the behavior of their foster child to that of their biological children and that is where bonding begins to crumble. You cannot compare traumatized children to kids raised in a healthy home. It is simply not fair to them. You have to parent and bond with perspective. Bonding for me increased with each conquered emotional struggle. We were a team navigating waters that he had not asked to enter, in a boat I was learning how to paddle and keep afloat. There is a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment that comes when you can look back and see how far you have come. I would say our bonding happened together because he had to learn to trust me while I had to learn to relate to him in light of his past experiences. Bonding for us was sweet because it was earned.

I love that baby with every fiber of my being. It doesn't matter who gave birth to her, she is mine, and I thank God every day for the opportunity to love her. 

7. I am Too Old to Adopt -

People adopt for different reasons, but there are 2 groups that I see most consistently. The first is made up of couples who have experienced some form of infertility and have turned to adoption as an alternative way to build their family. I believe what they find is that the experience may be different from what they had originally imagined, but just as sweet.

The second group fits this topic. They are older couples who have already had and maybe even finished raising their biological children but feel called to continue parenting through adoption. They bring with them years of experience and wisdom that younger parents lack. Their age is not a hindrance in their journey but rather their greatest asset.

I don't know how old you are but I would love to tell you about 2 ladies who might be in your age range. They both traveled with me to China on my last mission trip. My friend Toni is 50 and her husband is 58. Her oldest child 27 and her youngest blessing is only 4 years old. My friend Beth is 52 and her husband is 53. Their oldest is 33 and their youngest is 5. The world may say that it isn't right to have your kids spread out by 20-30 years, but the world does not shape their theology, God does.

My friend Toni with her crew. Just look at all of those blessings. 

8. I Fear What My Biological Children Might be Exposed to -
I get that and I think it is wise parenting on your part to consider it. You don't want to go into fostering or adopting in denial of what your family may face. Trent and I responded to our concerns by putting some parameters around what we were open to and what we were not. A good social worker will also help you to establish parameters that are best for your family. For example, we have never taken in a child older than our youngest child already in the home. I am not recommending that for you necessarily. You need to come up with your own parameters, but that was one we felt would help protect our kids physically and emotionally.

My biological kids with their adopted sisters. Almost losing Maggie this summer was very difficult for them but I believe they are better people for having gone through it. They gained perspective on how precious life is and the importance of family. 

9. I Don't Think I Could Raise a Child of Different Ethnicity -
My friend Tabby said this and I thought it was great: "We aren't raising a color. We are raising a boy to love Jesus just as we would any child."

I would like to add that having a multicultural family has been an incredible experience for my kids. Trent and I always said we wanted to raise our kids with a Biblical worldview. Inviting children of different cultures into our home is one way we do that. I don't fear that my children will ever be racist because they have experienced children of a different race as their brother and sister. They know firsthand a different truth.

10. It Wouldn't be Fair to "My Kids" -
My friend Brandon has 2 adopted sisters, one domestic through foster care and one international. I asked him to speak to this concern.

"October 27, 1999. I was 8-years old the day we received Tia Grace Jones. She was only 5-days old. My mom came to pick my brothers and me up from church on a Wednesday evening and surprised us with what would eventually be my sister. We fostered Tia for just over a year before we were able to officially adopt her. From the second she came into our lives, the thought never once crossed my mind about this situation being "fair" to my brothers and me. We embraced her just like she was our biological sister from the get-go. I feel like if it's something God is calling you to then you drop what you are doing and follow his calling. Tia is now not only one of my best friends but just as much a part of our family as anyone else. We fight, laugh, and love just like any other family and God put the puzzle pieces into place perfectly.

When the idea started rolling about a second adoption, my parents allowed me to be much more involved in the process. By this time, I was 16 or 17 years old. Call me weird but from the second it was mentioned, I was not a bit hesitant about adopting from China. I was ready to pack my bags and go that day. While my intentions may have simply been looking for a good excuse for a vacation to China, I was just as excited to have another little sister. There hasn't been a single day that has gone by that I am not thankful to my parents for bringing my precious sisters into our lives. I can cannot imagine life without them.

God calls us to put our pride and selfishness aside and GO! Just the thought of children living without a mother or father breaks my heart. That being said, I ask that anyone that is reading this to take time to really think and pray about adoption. I can guarantee it will be one of the greatest decisions you will ever make. Don't let the small things get in the way of making a huge difference in the life of a fatherless child.

James 1:27 - Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."

Brandon with his sisters, Tia (R) and Lia (L). 

11. I Couldn't Do Open Adoption. I Don't Want to Share My Child -
I love the way my friend Tabby views open adoption so I asked her to share her experience with you. 

"Open adoption doesn’t mean sharing a child or co-parenting. Open adoption is about honoring the natural bond between your adopted child and their birth mother. Open adoption is a beautiful representation of the Gospel. Open adoption calls us to be vulnerable. It calls us to love deeply. It calls us to step out in faith.

Without our son's beautiful birth mother, we wouldn’t be parents. Our son’s birth mother gave us the most beautiful gift. For her to give us her baby and never be able to see him or us again just doesn’t make sense. Our son is a part of her. We love her and are forever grateful to her. It seems only natural that she be in our lives and we in hers.

I love that they will never have to go searching for each other. They will never wonder how each other are doing, who they are, what they are like, or where the come from. A piece of them will never be missing and I find great comfort and joy in that. I love the fact that my son will always know his birth mother and have a relationship with her. He will always know how loved he is. He will always know why she made the choice to place him. He will never have to wonder about such things. I love that we are able to call or text when a medical issue arises. I love that we have a relationship and I love that we all share a relationship with Jesus."

12. I Couldn't Handle it if They Wanted to Know Their Birthmother Even After What She Did -
More from my friend Tabby. Please keep in mind this is written from the perspective of infant adoption and not in reference to a foster care abuse situation.

"My heart often breaks for birth mothers and the bad rap they get. All too often they are misunderstood. With comments like “I could never give my baby away,” or “they must not love their baby,” or “she took the easy way out.” I would like to address this and educate you on birth mothers. 

Birth mothers are heroes. They are selfless. They are loving. They are the strongest women I know.
Everything mentioned above is a myth, a stereotype and well…just plain wrong.

Birth mothers don’t give their babies away. They make the brave decision to place them in a loving home. No birth mother dreams of getting pregnant and having to place a baby. They place a baby because they don’t have the necessary resources and/or support. They place because they feel that they can’t provide everything they need or deserve at that particular time in their life. So they make the hardest and most loving decision ever. They choose adoption.

I can assure you that birth moms LOVE their children. It’s important to remember that just because the pregnancy was unplanned doesn’t mean the child isn’t wanted or loved. They love them SO much that they are able to put the child's needs ahead of their own and make an adoption plan so that their child will have everything they want, need, and deserve. Their love for their child is full, immense, and deep.

Choosing adoption is in NO way the easy way out. In fact, it’s hard….very hard. Many women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy often feel that abortion is their only option not because they aren’t aware of adoption, but because society isn’t kind to birth mothers. I want to CHANGE that. I want birth mothers to be looked at as the heros they are. I want people to love them like Jesus does. I want people to know what precious and selfless gift-givers they are! I want people to see how they value LIFE. I truly feel that if people LOVED birth mothers as much as they HATE abortion, there would be a lot more adoption in the world."

Tabby with her precious son whom she received through open, domestic adoption. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you to my friends in the adoption community for taking the time to contribute. If you have any other questions about adoption please don't hesitate to ask. I would love to be an encouraging resource for you.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

She is Fine, but...

It has been an eventful 18 hours.

We were playing in the front yard last night with the neighbors.  Maggie asked for a drink so Jack volunteered to take her inside to get one.  He was carrying her across the yard when he tripped over the dog leash and fell on top of her.  It was immediately clear that her arm was broken. 

Trent and I scooped her up and rushed to the ER.  We were headed to Texas Children's when she suddenly went unconscious.  Trent detoured and stopped at a closer hospital and they placed us in an ambulance for the rest of the transport.  We aren't sure what happened.  My theory is that all of the adrenaline and screaming threw her heart out of rhythm and she passed out.  

We got home about 3:30 last night.  She has 2 fractures and her elbow is displaced but we won't know a plan until we follow up with orthopedics next week.  They called us this morning to return to the ER but then called again when we were almost there and said to wait.  So we are in a bit of a holding pattern and managing her discomfort with lots of ice cream. 

Here are a few observations from this experience:

1. We are never moving.  Once again my neighbors ran to our rescue, locked up our house, fed our other 3 and even sat at our home until we returned at 3:30 am.  It takes a village and we have found ours.  They are stuck with us.

2. I am ready for October to end.  Crazy stuff always happens to us in October.  When we lived in Waco, we were told that the occult in Waco prayed against (or whatever they do) the pastors in the area during October and sure enough we sensed it.  Could someone please tell them (the Waco occult people whoever they are) that we moved and they can retire our doll and leave us alone?

3. I am thankful for the insurance out-of-pocket max.    Really, really thankful. So thankful that I may vote Democrat if the Republicans threatened to take it away. :)

4. Jack is a great brother.   He didn't mean to drop her and felt awful about it.  He has been taking great care of her this morning and I believe she has discovered that she has a slave for as long as she can work the victim angle.   In the car she would yell "Jack! More ice cream!".  Right now he is singing Frozen tunes with her in her room.  She is smarter than we realized.

5. Whenever God clears my schedule I need to pack a bag.   I remember once a few years ago that my schedule cleared for no apparent reason and then my grandmother died.  I have seen that trend since then in less serious situations and then again this weekend.  All of my photography clients had to reschedule from this weekend for one reason or another.  Instead of filling the spots, I decided to take a quiet weekend with the family.  Ha! God had other plans and I should have guessed it was coming.

6. I need the church roster so I can send out disclaimer emails.  I feel like I miss more church than I am able to attend these days.  A few weeks ago someone was sick.  Last week I worked the nursery and this week I will be home with Maggie and the unstable arm.  As the pastors wife, I fear the assumptions probably more than I should.  So, I won't be in the church service once again.  It is kinda hard to take turns staying home when your husband is the pastor.  Don't worry.  Trent and I are okay and I still love Jesus. :) I will be back.  Someday.

Maggie is going to be fine.  There is a decent chance that she will have some kind of procedure next week to fix her elbow.  It is her left arm which stinks because it is a big fat interruption to therapy.  You can pray she heals quickly.  This did not take God by surprise and probably shouldn't have taken us by surprise either.  After all, God cleared my schedule AND it's October!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

It's My Sister's Fault

We have a new Henderson and it really is my sister's fault. :)

It started when my sister kept Sam and Ruthie for a week while Maggie was in the hospital.  

A few weeks later she called me with a statement that went something like, "You know your kids really love my dog, and she doesn't get played with here anymore, and I was wondering if you would like to have her because we are going to give her away." 

I knew already that they loved the dog because they talked about her a lot and wanted to see the dog on Skype.  Maggie even loved the "go go" (Chinese for dog) and asked to see her when we chatted with Aunt Johnette.

I mentioned it to the kids and they were ecstatic.  We had previously talked about getting a Golden Retriever so the deal was if we got Abby, then there would be no other dogs.  I thought Sam would back out but he was completely fine with it.

At that point, I figured I was ahead.  Abby is smaller than a Golden, can be bathed in a sink, is free, is NOT a puppy, doesn't eat a lot, and is housebroken.  So while it might have appeared that I was crazy by taking on something else, I actually won. :)  Oh and her poop is smaller! That is a big deal when you live on a lot the size of a postage stamp.

Let me tell you, it has gone even better than I expected.  She doesn't jump on you, rarely barks, obeys my commands, and is great with the kids.  She even won Trent and Jack over in just a week.  That is a skill.

So meet Abigail Adams Henderson.  Our newest princess.