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Monday, October 24, 2011

Dear John,

Tomorrow has been three years since I married you. I think back to that cool October evening when we stood up before our family and close friends and recited vows we had written ourselves. Sometimes I am amazed that after all the struggles you endured because of love in the past, that you even had the capacity to love and trust again. Some people might say the same thing about me.

It's funny that you and I missed each other by minutes our entire lives. We probably stood with our toes in the sand on Mexico beach every summer of our teenage years, never looking far enough down the beach to see one another. We probably passed each other in Gwinnett Place mall, or maybe you came into the food court on your break and saw me standing at a cash register in my red and blue striped chic-fil-a polo shirt. Maybe my family passed yours in a car on Redan road around the holidays. Maybe we were on the same airplane headed to Washington DC in high school, you and Brandon, me and Brandy.

We didn't meet back then because we probably had nothing in common, other than geography.  We missed each other because God had us headed in different paths at that time. I went to Brewton Parker, came to work at Hebron, married someone else. You worked your way up to the top of your stores, became a manager, married and became a father. You and your family moved to Dahlonega. I was in Winder. I never knew about you, and yet, our lives were similar again in so many ways. You were struggling to hold your marriage together, and I was struggling to keep mine together. In 2007, we both reached the end of what we could endure. We both said "that's enough" to the drama, abuse, and the roller coaster of emotions. We were both crushed by the loss of our first marriages, and the realization that we could not save another person from their own destructive habits. We both let go, and accepted that we might never find a partner that would love and us fully.

On Christmas morning of 2007, we were both alone and didn't know the other existed. I never thought I would find you so soon but I am so glad I didn't have to wait any longer. In the beginning, I was nervous to trust again, and so were you. We both had our "baggage" and we both had our fears. I am sure it was work for you to open your life and your children's lives to me. It was work for me to open my heart and allow someone to see me for what I really was . . . broken.

 I remember how we used to stay up late on the phone talking and laughing. And I remember when we both started sharing about our pasts, and sometimes we would cry. And I remember how, not too long after we met, I knew that we were meant to be together. I knew that we would fit into place like two halves that were always made for each other. Remember how you text messaged me and told me to turn on the radio one day and the song playing said "You're my blue sky . . ." and you told me that song was for me. I really couldn't have said it better, John. You're my blue sky. You were the peaceful, calm, blue sky that was waiting behind all those clouds and the lightning. You were always there, hidden behind the struggles and facing your own heartache. And when the time was right, the clouds parted, the sun broke through, and there was the blue sky . . . waiting for me.

I know this is a personal thing to say for the entire world to read, but I love you so much. Every day that I get to spend with you is a precious gift. I am so blessed to be your wife, your partner, and your friend. Thank you for not giving up on love.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Teach your kids to set the table

After one week in my new position, one thing is abundantly clear: families in crisis do not eat dinner as a family and most likely, they never did.

The girls at the shelter have "chores" they have to do each night. They aren't difficult chores - just basic household things around the kitchen. One of the chores is "setting the table" for dinner. The first night, the young lady with this chore grabbed a stack of plates and a handful of forks. She haphazardly tossed them on the table and threw a fork on top of each plate. There were no napkins, no knives, no spoons. Everyone gathered around the table to eat and started grabbing whatever they found in front of them, never passing the serving dishes, just reaching over each other. On my second night, I gently asked if anyone would be upset if I said a blessing before dinner. They all said it was okay with them, so I offered a quick prayer. Then the girls did as the night before, digging and reaching and shoveling food onto their plates.
By the third night, I noticed the same "table setting" was the norm - stack of plates, pile of forks, no napkins, no knives, no spoons, no manners.
By the fourth night, I had to say something. "Does anyone is this house know what it really means to 'set' the table?" I asked the girls. "Yeah," answered the youngest one who had the chore that very night and had just slapped down the plates and forks, "I just did it." "No, you didn't," I told her, "You threw down some forks and plates. They do more than that for customers at the Golden Corral and it's a buffet." The girls looked confused as I explained that when I was a girl, setting the table meant a napkin to the left of each plate, a fork on the left, knife and spoon on the right. There was a little song that my mom taught me, Emily, and Becky when we were girls. The little song helped us to remember how to "set the table." As a girl, I thought the song was fun, as a teenager I thought the song was "stupid" and as an adult, I think the song was brilliant. Establishing order in a household, even through something as simple and mundane as placing silverware on a table in an organized fashion is a step toward establishing order for an entire lifetime.
I don't remember in all those childhood years (and teenage years) that we ever had a meal together where all three pieces of silverware, and a napkin, were not present. I further explained to my girls that on a few special occasions, my mom taught us girls how to set the table with everything from salad AND dinner forks, to fine bone china, bread plates, dessert spoons, and all. "What's China?" asked the youngest girl in the house. Oh, brother. "You know," said one of the others, "that big country where they eat rice all the time."
So here, my friends, is another fine example of why kids are in crisis. Families no longer sit down to a meal together. Kids are used to eating out of boxes or buckets, or paper bags. No one sits together to eat and talk about their day, instead they just scarf up whatever is around to eat, and go on about their business of watching TV or entertaining themselves.
I am so thankful that I grew up in a family where meals together were the norm. During these family dinners, we talked, we laughed, we shared stories about our day, or we just passed the food around and ate together. And I am also thankful that I knew "the fork goes on the left, the knife goes on the right, the spoon goes next to that, and now your table's set." 
Thanks Mom!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Let my heart be broken for the things that break His heart.

I learned something during my first long shift at the shelter where I am now employed. It was my first time handling "intake" for a new resident. The young girl's probation officer delivered her to the shelter, and as soon as I saw her, I thought fantastic, another juvenile delinquent. And now I feel ashamed for even thinking this, but she came in the loose-fitting, elastic waist pants that kids wear in juvenile detention centers. She had a huge stocking cap on top of her head, and walked with her head hung low. She avoided my eyes. For the past week in my new role, I quickly learned that many of our "children" are teenagers who are one move away from long-term jail sentences. Perhaps in my mind I was going to be nurturing meek and broken young ladies who had been neglected and abused, and needed a safe home away from  the mistreatment. In my mind, all of the girls were grateful and sweet. This is not quite the case.
When the girls went to bed, I had a couple of hours left on my shift. I cleaned up the kitchen and checked to make sure everyone was in their own bed. Then I took out the intake paperwork for our new resident. What I read broke my heart. She was born to a drug addicted single mom. From infancy until age five, she was in and out of foster care, passed around to different neighbors and relatives. She was sexually and physically abused. She was neglected. At age five she was adopted by a foster parent that she was never able to attach to. For the next few years she struggled in school, had frequent outbursts, had trouble concentrating, and began acting out sexually and physically. As she got older, she started running away from home, getting into physical fights with her adoptive mom, experimenting with drugs, and having intercourse at age thirteen. At one point, she stayed with a neighbor, until problems started in that placement. She was always missing school, getting into fights, and shoplifting and eventually ended up in a juvenile detention center. Her paperwork concluded with her psychiatrist stating that she suffers from "post traumatic stress disorder and reactive attachment disorder." That big stack of papers might as well have smacked me over the head. This child is not a delinquent. She is a victim. True, she has made her own choices and mistakes. But how many of these mistakes stemmed from an early childhood that was void of safety, security, compassion and guidance? After my first week with my new girls, my resolve is even stronger. I am completely certain that God has called me to parent children who have been discarded or let down by their original parents. And I am so thankful for my wonderful husband, John, who has joined me in this journey! Tuesday at our last appointment with our caseworker, we made a few changes to our adoption application. We were already "open" to all races and genders, but now we are also considering "all ages". We believe God will lead us to the children that He wants to bring into our family. Thank you for your prayers on our journey!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Adoption is a beautiful thing!

John's cousin posted this photo on her facebook page, complete with a sad story about a mother tiger in a California Zoo who was so upset over 

losing her tiger cubs in premature labor, that the zookeepers dressed some little piggies up in tiger pajamas and gave them to the mother tiger so she could nurse them. According to the cute little story, 
Mama Tiger is now recovering from her depression. According to Snopes, this story was fabricated, but it is based on a true story about a Tiger in a THAILAND zoo who nurses these piggies, as part of an experiment at the zoo. Personally, I liked the "fake" story better, but either way, I like this tiger/piggy photo. There is another one saved on my computer showing a dog nursing some tiger cubs. I always think it is really sweet how mothers' instincts kick in whenever a child needs mothering. 
I had a wonderful first day at my new job. It was a short day- just a four hour shift, with some introductory training by an awesome staff member who is going to be my new Dahlonega friend. While talking to her, I learned that she has no children of her own, and a story not too unlike mine. As we talked, she shared with me about how she was "able" to love other people's children as her own. She told of raising her two nieces and a step-niece when their own mother's were unable to parent them properly. She said, "I couldn't have loved them more if they were my own." This is something I have frequently said, about all of my babies from Amanda on down to little Jeremiah. My kids may not be my flesh and blood, and they may not look like me at all, but I could not love them more.
Today I began my new job working with abused and neglected girls in the North Georgia mountains. I can't share identifying information about "my new girls," but I will say they are precious. One I was so drawn to, that I can't imagine how she survived the pain of her past. Just being able to spend time with them and love them was a treat for me. I am so excited that for this season of their lives I can be a mama figure to them. 
One of the girls came and sat with me for awhile during my training. She shared with me that her biological mother "gave" her up, and she was adopted by someone who later abused her. The other staff member told me "her adoptive mother did not know how to discipline and was very mean to her." The little girl just looked at me with sad brown eyes and I said, "I'm sorry, sweetie. Some people don't know how to be parents. I am glad you are here and you are safe now." 
Another wonderful story from today is that one of the girls moved out - on my very first day. Her mentor from the community has opened her home and heart to become her legal guardian! Now that is a story worth sharing!
Thanks for your prayers for the Line Household. I love you all dearly.