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Unfamiliar Territory

Unfamiliar Territory

It’s been one year and 6 months since we finalized our adoption. Most days I’m in the trenches, learning how to be a mom, working full time, figuring out what a wife looks like when 5 kids are thrown in the mix, learning how to cook, and swimming through lots and lots of laundry. We’ve had amazing victories and breakthroughs and as many failures and setbacks. It is awesome! I have always prayed that God would use our family for some purpose and recently that longing has become a burning fire inside me that sometimes completely consumes me. And so, I’ve recently found myself in very unfamiliar territory: Social Media.

I feel like “stage” is a great definition of the social media landscape in our world today. I am a backstage kind of girl. I will run your spotlight, build your sets, make your coffee but please, do not put me on the stage. The stage is exposed, vulnerable, and scary! I mean…people might look at me! But still, I have been subtly drawn to that exposure. My first and biggest step was to switch my Instagram account (which I hadn’t used much) to a “business” account. Open to all the world to see. Insanity, to be quite honest. I uncovered a logo Jared created 15 years ago for his business, added a heart, and made it our family’s logo. After much prayer I declared a family motto. I started using hashtags and changed my name on certain accounts to something that might be easier to search. I even created a YouTube channel but don’t get excited… that one is a LONG ways off. Let’s not be silly.

Sometimes I think this is all completely ridiculous. Sometimes I worry that I’ll be sucked into the vortex and become obsessed with followers and likes. (I turned off my notifications to keep that from happening.) But, in the uncomfortable steps toward the stage, I have felt at peace. If my pictures and stories turn the head of one person who needs to be nudged towards Christ, adoption, or foster care, I’m all in.

God how great You are
Great things You have done
For everything we’ve seen
There is more to come.
Every victory
Every battle won
For everything we’ve seen,
There is more to come.
-Passion

Grateful

Grateful

I have a tendency to overthink things. Shocking…I know. Maybe that’s why Christmas gets harder and harder for me each year. The extravagance that is the American Christmas makes me sick to my stomach.

Are they grateful?
Did they say “Thank you”?
Did they mean it when they said “Thank you”?
Do they even appreciate those socks?
Where are we going to store that?
Ummm…is that a pooping baby doll?? (True story)

This year was our first year as a family that we stayed home and celebrated Christmas just us. Jared and I agreed to let the kids open their gifts on Christmas Eve (a Black family tradition). As you can imagine, 5 children opening gifts all at once is a bit chaotic. About halfway through, I had to retreat to the Christmas puzzle (a Hamilton family tradition…the puzzle, not the retreat).

The holidays are draining, you hear it everywhere you turn. I am no exception to this rule. In fact, this year, in the midst of the season, I have been dealing with a particularly tough realization. There are people in my life who have made great sacrifices for me and I will never be able to repay them. I almost lose it just typing that. I will never be able to repay them. For a long time, I haven’t been okay with that. The guilt alone is a weight I can not bear. I noticed myself withdrawing and it became really hard to maintain relationships. Around Thanksgiving, I finally started letting God chip away at my pride. It’s been very painful and at times downright awful. I am in no way near acceptance but instead of dwelling on the debts I cannot pay, I am learning to look for ways I can bless others. It’s kind of like “paying it forward” I suppose although I’m not a fan of that term. Instead of trying desperately to repay those who, quite frankly I need but do not need me, I am learning to look for those who don’t have the ever-present, firm, and loving support system I have. I can only hope that by supporting and encouraging others, I will in turn bring more meaning to the ones supporting me and therefore will increase their influence.

I will forever be grateful to:
♡Those who saved our kids from being split up and continue to nurture them and treat them like beloved grandchildren (and me like a beloved child).
♡Those who agree to be called Aunt and Uncle and truly treat us like family.
♡Those who travel long distances to visit often bringing peace and a break.
♡Those who pray for me when I cannot pray for myself.
♡Those who tell me I’m doing a good job.

I know I’ve been a burden. I cling to Jesus’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” “For when I’m weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 2:10b)

For all that You have done for us
For every battle won
We’ll raise a song to bless Your heart
For all that You have done
Rend Collective

Much love,
The Black Family

Let It Go

Let It Go

If your household is anything like mine you were consumed with the Disney movie, Frozen. Even today, when the movie of choice is Moana, my girls play Elsa and Ana and #4 even does a whole routine with her little blankie to the song “Let it Go” that is quite dramatic. For years I would moan when that song came on or stealthily switch the radio station or press the skip button on the playlist. It was everywhere! There was just no escaping Queen Elsa’s declaration.

Oddly enough, as we neared the end of this summer I found myself hearing, “Let it go.” in the quiet depths of my heart and the more I listened, the more often I heard it and the louder it became:
Holes in the couch cushions caused by doggie nails and epic kiddo forts. Let it go.

Burnt ground beef and almost assuredly ruined pan by the child learning to cook. Let it go.

Kiddo hides an ink pen in the laundry basket and ruins half his (and his brother’s) clothes. Ugh…Let it go.

My value at work suffers because I’m easily distracted and not as productive as I once was. Let it go.

Child suddenly forgets how to get himself ready in the morning and suddenly I have a rogue little soldier. Every. Single. Morning. Let. It. Go.

Child we have been working so hard with to overcome bedwetting backslides and has to return to pull-ups at night. LET IT GO! (and be grateful you didn’t give away that extra box)

I am reminded to revisit my priorities. What do I really want from my kids? What is my job here?
Love God

Love people

Make good decisions

Everything else is out of my control.

A new school year is the perfect time to refocus. Last year my mantra was “Grace Wins Everytime” as a reminder to give my children, my husband, and especially myself grace. Daily.

This year I’m adopting a chorus by Casting Crowns:
Just to know you and to make you known,
We lift your name on high.
Shine like the sun, make darkness run and hide.
We know we were made for so much more than ordinary lives.
It’s time for us to more than just survive.
We were made to thrive.

A simple reminder. I’m not special, I know that all mothers at some point find themselves in survival mode. We have forgotten our priorities. We have forgotten how to truly live.
It’s time. I will no longer live in survival mode. I will thrive.

Much love,
The Black Family

This is it? vs. This is it.

This is it? vs. This is it.

Momming is treading water. Not momming is LIKE treading water, momming IS treading water. At summer camp as a kid, I participated in several swim training courses. One of which, in a sort of survival training, we were required to jump into the pool fully clothed and tread water for a period of time. Of course, in such a situation you kick off your shoes right away. You don’t want to lose your shoes but the goal is survival. Momming is like that. You jump in, fully clothed, and have to shed some things that make it difficult to stay afloat. I’ve felt a lot of disappointment as I have had to let go of pieces of myself to stay afloat. I’ve struggled with guilt as I’m not the friend, daughter, sister, employee, or community member I once was. I am proud to finally fall into the #momlife society but it has come with some hefty sacrifices.

As I recall, however, the longer you practice treading water, the stronger you become. I have noticed that I am getting stronger. I am more organized, I cook more (can I get a “hallelujah!”), I don’t get overwhelmed as quickly, and I don’t let the little things bother me. Well, okay…sometimes I still do but not as much! (Quiet, Jared)

This morning when I sat down I surveyed my living room. Paper airplanes, shoes, baby doll clothes, tiny socks, and foam bullets were scattered all about and I thought, “This is it.” This is what my life is about, this is what I was made for. And it is exciting, terrifying, motivating, and peaceful all at once. And then, God reminded me of a time, two years ago when I thought those same three words in utter despair, “This is it?”. Am I just meant to go through, day by day, raising other people’s kids for a short time and then suffering in the emptiness between placements? Is this really what I was made to do? In that time, I surrendered to it. If this is what you want, God…so be it. Here I am Lord, use me. That act of surrender changed my heart. It is easy to get caught in the pity trap when you suffer from infertility, surrender is the only way out. It also gave me a purpose. Surrender shifted my focus outside myself to others and gave me a burning desire to be used somehow for the glory of God, whatever that might mean. Even if it meant never having a family of my own.

Most of you know that we finalized our adoption on October 6th of last year. Our journey is just beginning. “This is it” is not a phrase of finality but one of hope and a promise that great things are planned for our family.

This picture is on the desktop of my computer at work with a line from one of our family’s new favorite song:
I am counting every blessing.
Surely every season you are good to me.
He is so good.
Much love,
The Black Family

Mom’s Night Out

Mom’s Night Out

Y’all. Tonight is “Mom’s Night Out”. What does that even mean? We’ve tried “Mom’s Night Off” a couple of times and I’ve even been known to go on strike on occasion but this is my first evening out. Of the house. Alone. Not even one child. Yikes!
So here I am, sitting in the back room of a coffee shop, and I admit…I’m kind of scared. Not because I don’t think Jared can handle it, Jared is a rockstar. I’m afraid this experiment is a waste of time.

Jared encouraged me this weekend to take some quiet time weekly, outside of the house, to write. I love to write. In fact, when I grow up, I want to be a writer. It is a dream I’ve only dared utter out loud to my husband and my family. Jared has gently pushed me many times throughout our marriage to write and my answer has always been the same, “What would I write about?”. As this blog has evolved, my confidence has grown. However, You should know that the words you periodically read on this site are not my words. They are God’s words that He whispers to my heart. Therefore, I still don’t feel like I have the talent to write. But, I do have passion and that is why I am sitting here in a coffee shop meeting room. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this is a coffee shop and to be here I must therefore purchase a cup of yummy coffee. ☕️ And, it’s sooooo quiet here!

So I packed my backpack this morning in anticipation. I packed my iPad, a blank composition notebook, our “family manual” (which really should not be allowed on Moms Night Out). I have my flair pens and mechanical pencils, my prayer journal, and a book I have been reading that has inspired me to do crazy things like Moms Night Out. Just in case. I have no idea what to expect, as I said, the words have always been God’s words not mine. One thing I do know: I expect great things.

Every giant will fall, the mountains will move. Every chain from the past, You’ve broken in two. Over fear, over lies, we’re singing the truth: That nothing is impossible with You.
-Rend Collective

Update: Now we get to the good stuff. We have a date! On October 6th we will officially become the Black family of seven. It still feels far away but I know it will be here soon. These next few weeks will be filled with joy and tears for all of us. Please pray for the kiddos as they process letting go. Also pray for Jared and I as we look towards the future that God has laid out before us.

Keep an eye out! We are planning to have a little celebration for the kids in the coming months. I don’t have many details, just that there will be food and a dance party. ❤️

Much love,
The Blacks

Full Time

Full Time

Full Time Wife
Full Time Employee
Full Time Mom

What are 3 roles I’ve not been fulfilling well?

Y’all. Balancing wife, job, and children is hard. I’ve been recognizing my failures in these 3 areas lately and it’s made me desperate to change it. I’ve said before, I don’t like to do things at any level less than 150%. If you add that up, that is 450%. I think you can understand my feelings of epic failure. So I set out last weekend to change that. I read working mommy blogs, and made a plan. We deep cleaned the house, caught up on laundry, reorganized, and (horror) grocery shopped. I even planned our meals for the next week and a half, until our next planned trip to Branson (hello Walmart Grocery Pickup)! As I went to bed Sunday night I felt good. I felt at peace with myself and my ability to wear 3 hats. I knew there would be bumps during the week but I felt confident I could now handle anything.

Monday: Slept through my alarm. I never do that! Like a pro, I steeled myself and said, “So what if I’m a little late today!” Washed #1’s bedding since I was caught up on laundry. Dominated the day. Made a new recipe for dinner that got two thumbs down but I didn’t even care because I made it. Went to bed feeling good.

Tuesday: Got up early. All of my little soldiers perform beautifully and we get everyone to school on time. The evening is wonderful and filled with nail painting and #2 helping me cook dinner. Success.

Wednesday: #4 is acting funny but #3 has earned the privilege of choosing a dress to wear to school. Hooray! Made it to 2:00 before the dreaded email, “Come pick up #4. Temp is 101.8.” I get flustered as I’m only an hour shy of my 8 hours for the day. A dose of Tylenol and she is sent to bed but doesn’t sleep. I’m restless too and ready to hang up all 3 of my hats. Jared brings home the other 4 and offers to take them out and bring home dinner. In the process of getting everyone ready, we discover #3 has not only had an accident, but has thrown the wet clothes in the top of the closet to try to hide the evidence. I shut down. Two Dots and baseball on ESPN gamecast have my attention the rest of the evening.

Thursday: Slept through my alarm again. #2’s bed is wet. I discover Milo’s muddy paws all over our bed. Monster Mommy. No coffee. No time for reading my Bible. No recovery. #4 is not allowed to go back to school until Friday even though she is better now. She is now quietly playing with barbies while I desperately try to pull myself together.

As I reenact this week, I’m embarrassed. There has not been a single good reason for my bad behavior. Only that things have not gone my way, which is a very bad reason. I know that God has given me today to “re-center” and I cannot waste this gift of a day at home with just one child. Oh my goodness it is hard though! My heart is restless and my fingers are raw from picking at them and I’m just not sure I can change.

But you, O Lord, are a God of compassion and mercy, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. -Psalm 86:15
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead…”. -Philippians 3:13

Update: We received word yesterday that all papers have been filed and we are just waiting for the judge to schedule our adoption day! Please continue to pray for the kiddos. This is a season of celebration for them but also a season of loss. We mourn with them and have been trying to help them process, and see God’s hand in, their past, present, and future.

Much love,
The Black Family

Black Day

Black Day

Happy Black Day! One year ago today, we became a family. One year ago, I became a mom and Jared became a dad. The last year has gone by quickly but at the same time, it feels like we have always been together. There have been great strides made this year and we have faced great challenges. One of our older kiddos struggling with bed wetting is now dry! “The littles” are becoming more self sufficient while the older kids are learning how to help make dinner (including reading directions) and have blossomed in school. We are still dealing with anxiety and parentification which rear their ugly head at times. They are typical kids, listening and following directions is a recurring focus in our house.

Anxiety. I have been convicted recently of its own hold in my life.

We were expecting to see the light at the end of the tunnel last week but instead heard the word that no one wanted to hear, “continuance”. To say the system has failed these kids is a bit harsh. Anyone who has spent any time in the foster care system understands that the parents are favored in almost every decision. No one wants to be the person who terminates a mother’s rights. I wouldn’t want that responsibility either. Children, resource parents, and caseworkers are essentially powerless. While we are continually assured that there is nothing to fear, there is security that comes with the name change our kids have been waiting a year for. The fear of all of the remote possibilities has given me such anxiety. My daughter, my “mini-me”, who also struggles with anxiety has suffered greatly. I have noticed anxiety in the other older kiddos too but she and I seem to feed off of each other’s anxieties. My anxiety is no longer my own, it is hers too and learning how to control it has been a priority in my quiet moments.

I have not even come close to mastering my anxiety, however, I would like to share with you what has helped. Making time (even if it means getting up earlier and staying up later) to quietly reflect, read my Bible, and pray has made a huge difference. I apparently need extra grace because I have to do this twice per day, not just once. I feel like those quiet moments are my reality check and are the moments I can actually let the little things go that I’ve spent all day holding on to. I call it coffee with Jesus and everyone knows that if mom doesn’t get coffee with Jesus, it’s going to be a long day!

I am not very good at praying. I get distracted easily or just plain tired and end up giving up 99% of the time. I’ve started keeping a prayer journal where I simply lay my thoughts and requests out for God. I will admit, most nights this is really hard for me and I’ve started requiring myself to fill the entire page before bed, otherwise each entry would only be one or two lines. However, nothing else has provided as much peace in my heart.
12 months have passed but this journey has lasted 33 months so far for these precious kiddos. Please continue to pray for our family, we trust that God has a perfect plan and perfect timing. Above all else, my biggest fear is that they will be separated from each other so I ask for your prayers even though this outcome is highly unlikely. Please also pray for the entire foster system. There are many orphaned kids just like ours in limbo and my heart breaks for them too.

Thank you for your support and encouragement. Keep it coming!

Much love,
The Blacks
For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! Isaiah 64:4 NLT