We all deserve to shine

How do you stop that feeling of inadequacy forming in your throat? When others words and actions feed into the negative narrative you already have for yourself.

Why do I allow them to make me feel so low?

Why does their opinions matter so much and why oh why do I allow them to speak their lies over me?

You see I am enough,

I am more than enough.

I am a kind, caring, emotional women who has the right to be. I don’t need to fit into the boxes of others and I definitely don’t need to allow others to feel better about themselves as they hurt me.

Enough is enough.

I’m learning to have boundaries, learning to ignore (or at least pretend to) and I’m trying not to allow others to tear me down.

It’s took me a long time to like who I am. A longer time to see the value in who I am. I need to stay in this place.

I deserve to be in this place.

For a time I actually wanted to do life alone, to not have opinions around me that fed my negative narrative. Loneliness felt like a antidote to self harm. Yet I don’t have to live life alone, I can do life with others as long as I have boundaries and I make sure respect is given as it should be.

I’m not your plaything, I’m not the one you can beat down on because you are not feeling good about yourself. I am a heart, a soul that deserves to be.

So if you are like me and have allowed others to tear you down please stop. You are who you are meant to me. I mean let’s put this into perspective, every blade of grass is unique so why shouldn’t you be?

Also if you are one of those that need to beat down on others to make yourself feel better then stop. Does this behaviour actually make you feel good? Do you like who you see in the mirror?

I’ve come to the conclusion that life is hard enough without us adding pain to ourselves. Maybe we aren’t where we wish to be, we want to be healthier, we want to get a promotion, a relationship, a family whatever those are goals and goals are great, but beating ourselves up on the way to achieving them does not help, belief me I’ve learned this the hard way.

Life is going to throw curve balls, dreams are going to be lost but that’s part of the journey. Knowing who we are in ourselves is the only way we will find peace.

Validation from others is only a short term placebo.

Know your heart, know your strengths and know your beauty.

Never allow anyone to dim your sunshine.

We all deserve to shine.

It’s not ok that our children died.

Often when we face a loss in our community of special needs parenting, our hearts break alongside those facing the pain. We emphasise with the anger and missing we feel the disbelief and sadness. Myself personally I ache for the pain I know those left behind will feel. Each new loss reopening a wound that is far from healed.

Yet one of the things I still do not understand about loss in the disability community is that from those outside of it, is the feeling that somehow it’s acceptable. That in some way it is less. The concept that a life lived with a disability is not as full as one without.

There is no denying that being part of the special needs community we face loss maybe more than most, the wider our community the wider amount of pain. But that’s our life, we choose to walk alongside one another through the good and the bad. We celebrate the achievements and too often we have to grieve the loss.

Yet often those outside the community do not understand our journey and more often than I would like, do not understand our joy.

Statements like “oh well she had been poorly for a while” “sometimes it’s for the best” or my favourite (irony) “God knows best”.

When Livvy died she had a devastating neurological condition. Her body faced so many obstacles, seizures, abnormal breathing, sometimes uncontrollable movements. Yes, to list her conditions it may seem dire. Yet what the reality was that yes she had this list of issues but what she also had was a life filled with love and laughter. She had a family that adored her, she had parents she wrapped around her fingers. Sisters she teased and played with. Teachers she adored, friends she loved. Her life was full of joy and mischief. She was not her list of conditions. Yet still when I speak of my missing, people speak of her with pity. When I speak of her loss, people speak with acceptance, as if her disability makes her death more ok.

Whilst I know this attitude is meant with kindness I need to share that it’s not. When someone who has a disability dies it’s not ok, it’s not even a little ok. It’s a heartbreaking, soul destroying grief.

You see people are not their disabilities they are simply people. A child with disabilities is simply a child.

So I beg of people, I ask desperately that when dealing with a grieving mother, a broken father a missing family, that before you speak of freedom from pain, limited lives or God’s choices, STOP. Whilst the lives lost may have seemed hard to you, or the disabilities overwhelming those grieving see the little boy whose eyes twinkled as he looked at them. The little girl whose smile lit up the room, their son, daughter, sister, brother. We don’t grieve the disability, we grieve the one we loved and their disability wasn’t what defined them. Our pain is not less and their death is not and never will be acceptable.

Mother’s Day love

Mother’s Day, a day where we come together to celebrate all things that are Mom in whatever form that comes, stepmoms, adopted moms, grandparents being mom and so many more.

Being a mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world. The exhaustion of pregnancy, the labour of delivery, feeding, sleepless nights and so much more but yet it’s often the most rewarding role we will ever get to hold.

It’s tough and this last year has been a real struggle , ‘wow’ is pretty much all I can say about the last 12 months. From home schooling to the deep pit of fear that has been in your stomach since the words Covid 19 were first spoken, it’s been a year.

Still if I wish to challenge all moms a little now in fact probably all parents regardless of gender. What do you think is the one thing that is the hardest to cope with when being a parent?

Exhaustion, worry, finances,

Shall I share what I have placed on my heart this week. What God has wanted me to share with you all.

The hardest thing about being a parent

Expectations

These pesky little things that penetrate our minds and hearts.

I should be

I could be

If only

All turn into

I failed

I’m useless

I’m letting them down.

Now I’m coming to you as a mom of a five so a little experience here and also as professional of therapeutic childcare and I just want to state something here and I really want you to hear me.

You are enough

You are enough.

Our children enter this world with only a few needs, to be fed, to be warm and to be loved. Speaking confidently right now I am sure that each of your children are having those needs met. They are either grown and off living lives that you have encouraged and nurtured. They also could be there in your arms snuggling tight or even kicking out in your precious womb. They could be causing complete mayhem running around the house but all done in the knowledge that ‘they are loved’.

You are enough.

Yet we only have to look back the last 12 months and the changes this virus has brought into our lives. Homeschooling, isolation, exhaustion, fear. How many of use have felt lost, that they are failing?

My hands are right up in the air, me me.

I have watched social media posts of moms with beautiful converted classrooms with their children willingly working away. Houses spotless, make up perfect and I’ve literally cried. I have cried as Daniels homeschooling paperwork fell off the printer for the 15th time, cried as he completely ignored me as I tried to encourage him to work, sobbed at the state of my house and as for being perfectly made up, well I’ve had a shower and I’m saying Amen to that.

You see I couldn’t reach the expectations I had put upon myself and that’s ok. Because Covid 19 or not, being a mom is hard.

We mess up, we lose our temper and we suck at patience some days. Because motherhood didn’t come with super hero powers just the responsibility.

Anyway where am I going with this, well I’m leading to something I have personally took a long time to learn.

You don’t have to do this life alone.

As friends and family we are there to walk alongside one another. Reach out to friends, not only those at your stage at life. We have a wide breathe of generational wisdom to tap into.

But most importantly

Reach up, reach out to Jesus and ask him to walk alongside you. Ask for wisdom, hope and a big one for me, for patience.

Ask him to free you from the lies of the enemy that you are not enough. Free you from the untruth binding of expectations. To be beside you as you raise the next generation and to guide you as you walk this pathway of parenthood.

I ask you to look now at your child or if they are not with you bring them into your mind. As your heart swells of the love you feel for them as the love you have warms you to your very core, I want you remember.

I want you to remember

“We love because he first loved us.”
1 John 4:19

He loved us first,

He loved us first.

Remember that Jesus loves us as we love our children, that warmth you feel for your children he feels for you. He loves you to your very core.

and I want you to say this loud

“we are enough. “

I am enough.

Changing seasons

I’m not sure how I feel about change. I often find myself facing it begrudgingly. It’s as if I’m scared of rocking the boat, effecting the status quo. I’m so scared at times that I delay what needs to be done rather than put things outside of my control. Yet I’m usually the one telling others to reach for the adventure, push the boundaries, embrace the excitement.

Blooming hypocritical me.

November has been a month of major changes for me. My foster son has moved on after nearly eight years with us. I’m so excited for him and the move is so positive for all of us but it’s a change and I’m so lousy at change. It’s ironic saying this because as a foster carer your life can and does change over night. New placements join your family, some move on and it’s an every changing profession. I know this but it’s never easy. Even when the move is positive and families are reunited or forever families are found there is a semblance of loss that tears at your heart.

Yes you can see how you have impacted a child’s life. How you have been security in an insecure time. Your heart can be full and empty simultaneously. I worry if others will love upon them like I do, keep up to date with appointments, remember their favourite foods or the way they like to dress. It’s not that I believe others cannot love like me it’s just it’s hard to trust and hand over these special hearts.

Yet for us all there are seasons in life and as Autumn gives way to Winter I need to embrace the future and our new season. Excitement for the coming holiday and preparation for the next stage of our journey.

I know what is loved is never lost.

Who knows what the future holds for us as a family?

Who new may join our merry tribe?

What I do know is that whilst change is scary for me it is also exciting. A little flame is building in my heart for our next adventure, wherever, whoever that may be.

Not a thing

I know people mean well but sometimes I want to scream “shut the heck up. “

Only the other day I was having a conversation with someone who I have known for a while. I won’t say we are friends but we chat when we bump into each other. In fact sitting here now I cannot actually remember how we met but anyway hey ho I digress. Me digress what a shocker.

Anyhow we were chatting as you do when she turned to me and said “ I don’t know how you do it, I don’t know why you do it” then the clanger “you have to give up so much”.

Now before I seem like a complete bitch I know she meant no harm but the “it” she was talking about was fostering, adoption and ultimately Daniel.

Yet you see adoption isn’t a thing.

It’s a heart, a heart that you are promising to love, care and protect for a lifetime. It’s a web of emotions, a tangle of heartbreaks and brokenness that you have committed to hold in your arms and whisper I love you’s to.

It’s a gift, a blessing and hard work all rolled into one but it’s never about giving up it’s about getting so much more.

I know the questions was aimed at the special needs aspect of our adoption but Daniel isn’t his special needs, he is everything all squashed together into one adorable package.

I’m not going to pretend it isn’t hard at times it is but that’s ok, life was never promised to be a bed of roses.

When I met Daniel I didn’t see a list of conditions, it wasn’t the pages of hospital notes that won my heart, it was the way his tiny hand gripped my finger. Not opening his eyes or turning towards me just holding my finger tight.

My heart just opened and he jumped right inside, right then, right there.

He had my heart.

I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I truly believe that the best things in life aren’t.

I know my friend didn’t mean harm and I wasn’t offended but this is something we have come across so many times. People telling Alan and I how amazing we are caring for such complex children. How lucky the children are.

Children in foster care aren’t lucky that they have a new home. Their hearts are broken and their souls sore. What they knew is gone and even if it wasn’t the best of experiences as they often aren’t It was what they knew, their normal.

Children who get adopted aren’t lucky, the parents who now get to call them their child are the lucky ones.

My girls, Alan and I, we know we are fortunate , we are wonderfully lucky that we get to love upon children that need it. We get to open our hearts and our home to children who need us. We get to love, care and cherish.

How incredible is this?

As for Daniel I haven’t given up anything to be his mama, I have been incredibly blessed that I get to call this wonderful little boy my son.

My heart, my boy.

Hope in me.

I  am scared of Hope.

That crazy thing that stirs your soul,

That wondrous but frightening emotion that wont let you go.

Encouraging you to believe,

To trust in the future, in the plan.

I cannot hold on to hope the way I wish I could.

The fear of being let down, or broken promises hold my heart back.

I struggle to get excited, the what if’s or the maybe’s hold me hostage.

How I wish I could just embrace hope.

To just let the joy of expectation flow free in my heart.

Let the promise fill my soul.

 

How I wish I could just embrace this,

Scream out to the world my hopes, without fear of embarrassment if they fall through.

I hold tight to my dreams, lock them away in my heart, scared that they wont be.

I so admire those that can step out in faith loudly, as if they are shouting to the world this will be. I step out but I do it quietly, one foot forward but my heart is still holding back.

My friends tell me to believe, that all will be well and my heart it so desires to trust,

To find freedom in faith, in hope.

I know I’m a work in process, at least I’m acknowledging the fact that I need to move forward

To start my walk towards hope.

I so want to,

I want to free myself from the fear of the past and step out in the truth of the future.

It’s not easy, but as I work towards hope,

Maybe you can have hope in me.

Changing perspectives 

Have you ever looked in a mirror but not liked what you see? Have you ever allowed someone to tell you that you aren’t good enough? Have to ever told this to yourself? 

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I don’t actually physically see what is in front of me. I see the person my mind is allowing me to see. 

Yet over the years I’ve realised that sometimes my mind is far from right, that I let circumstances and emotions cloud my vision. 

If I’m tired, sad or I’m hurting my vision changes.

If I’ve feeling happy or full of energy the person looking back at me can look so different. 

Perspectives have a lot to play in life, they can enhance some wonderful moments. Take for example ask a husband who has just watched his wife give birth, will he remember the sweat, the screaming or how truly awful his wife looked in labour NO he will remember this beautiful woman who just made him a Dad.  

Yet perspectives can also make the ugly seem horrific and the hard seem impossible.

Now I’m not going to try and tell you I have the answers, I wish I did but I am going to share that finally after many many years I am finally learning that some times I have to change my perspective.  

Change how I view things.

Like right now I am sooooo tired a teething baby has left me exhausted. Night after night of being awake when others sleep. Yes I’m tired but by changing my view I can see how wonderful it is that in his pain my little one wants me to cuddle. That he feels safe enough to fall asleep in my arms. My tiredness seems to ease as I remind myself to cherish all these bonding moments.

So to those out there struggling I’m not going to try and convince you that a change in perspective is going to make everything ok it’s not. It would also be incredibly naive of me to say so. But I will say this, hold on to the fact that you choose how to look upon life. Even in the hardest of moments wonder can be found. 

Believe me when I lost Olivia I never imagined I could change this perspective. The pain was so incredible how could losing a child ever be viewed positively. Well it cannot but I can see how the loss of my beautiful girl challenged me to love on others. To reach out and offer my heart and home to children in need. It didn’t stop the pain but it did challenge my view that I would never laugh again, never love again.

So to those out there right now struggling, may it be with illness, marriage problems, heartache or loss. Hold on, hold on to the fact that right now in the midst of the pain your vision may not allow you to see the full picture. Just remember the paint isn’t dry yet, you have the tools to change the image. Never let circumstances dictate who you see in the mirror. 

You are the artist of your own masterpiece. 

Know your own value.

Dear teenagers,

There is nothing more than I hate to see then you posting photographs on social media asking for likes. Your need to get reassurance from others. The value you place in the number you receive really worries me.

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You cannot allow your self worth to be based on a number.

The world of social media is a fickle place someone may not like your photo for reasons that are way beyond you, but the fact is, that is irrelevant.

You need to know your own worth!

To know how truly amazing you are.

Post as many photos as you want but love them yourself.

Know that what you see is a beautiful, handsome incredible individual.

Know that each and every one of you is an amazing unique person.

That your life is worth so much more than a like or twenty, in fact no number can hold your value.

You are priceless.

Go ask your parents for a number that holds your value, they couldn’t give you one as their love for you infinite.

Go ask your best friends to number your friendship, believe me when I say true friendship  is beyond any number.

This world is so quick to put a number on things, from the latest iPhone to designer clothes.

This is not true value.

Your smile, the twinkle in your eyes, the sound of your laughter this is what people will remember.

A new dress will become last seasons fashion, a kind giving heart will be cherished forever.

Hey I’m not saying don’t share that photo of you in your new top, coat, jeans hey we all do, personally a good make up day is always a share for me.

It’s not about not posting, its about why you post.

Post because you feel good, post because you are happy with the way you look, post because you just want to.

Don’t hold on for likes, know you are liked and loved.

The number does not hold your value because it cannot,

Because simply you are priceless. 

Priceless

 

In honour of Livvy

Saturday was an amazing day, we held a Livvy’s Smile Donkey Tea Party.

The sun shone for us, the donkeys behaved and memories were made.

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I had a truly wonderful time.

I got to catch up with old friends and make some new.

I got to listen to laughter as it filled the air.

I got to watch children cover themselves with chocolate and cream as they ate their cakes.

Donkey rides, cart rides and so much more.

Seriously it was awesome.

Yet as I sat at home editing the photos from the day my tears began to fall.

My heart just ached for the missing piece of my puzzle.

Whilst I was blessed with some amazing hugs from some truly incredible children my heart yearned for my little Tinkerbell.

Birmingham Donkey Sanctuary holds a special place in my heart.

Each corner is filled with the echo of my Olivia.

Those first steps she took defying the Drs.

The giggles as she rode her favourite donkey.

alvis livvy

The dirty looks she gave Amber when told to sit up straight.

So many moments, so many memories.

 

I was asked why we started Livvy’s Smile and why I hold events that bring me pain?

It is simple really we started Livvy’s Smile because we are so grateful.

So thankful for the wonderful memories we have stored from Livvy.

Memories that truly get us through the darkness and we just want to give that light to other families.

On Saturday we created those special memories full of chocolate eclairs and cool moms.

Memories that will give us hope through the hard times.

Why do I it when it causes me pain? 

Because I can and because I have to.

I was blessed to be Livvy’s mom, to get to call this amazing girlie my daughter.

Livvy changed my life. 

The realisation that we didn’t have forever taught me to live in the here and now.

To live a life full of laughter and love.

 

So yes hosting these events will always be bittersweet.

I’m sure I will always return home and cry for the missing piece of my heart.

But I will never stop working hard to create memories because each moment, each memory is in honour of my beautiful daughter.

Every smile I see brings her closer.

 

Yes, I know my heart will always ache,

Grief is relentless.

Like a snake it slowly twists around your heart until you cannot breathe.

Your body craves for one more breathe, one more moment.

So as the tears fall I know they do so in honour.

Each teardrop is formed in everlasting love.

Livvy is part of who I am and who I always will be.

Livvy’s Smile is testimony to eternal love. 

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Thank you doesn’t seem enough.

I’m not sure how I am feeling right now, yesterday was a whirlwind of emotions. I laughed, I cried and I laughed some more.

There isn’t really a guideline on how to feel I guess, no instruction book on how to celebrate birthdays of those that never reached them.

I know some think i’m strange, that to celebrate the birthday of a child that has passed is wrong or odd. That’s ok, everyone is completely entitled to their own opinion and the fact is grief is so unique. Nobody feels the same, everyone has their own journey through it or as I believe ‘with it’.

I’m struggling to find words to describe yesterday it was one of the hardest days of my life but also one of the most blessed.

From the moment the clock struck the new day the messages started to flood in.

Birthday wishes for my beautiful girl.

Messages, pictures and names drawn in the sand my girl was remembered.

Friends all over the world wishing my girl a Happy 16th.

Yesterday was a blur of family, friendship and cake, it was a truly special  day.

It is only now as I sit back and reflect that I really realise how completely amazing it was.

I could not thank people enough for what they gave me yesterday. After many nights of wondering and worrying that my Livvy would be forgotten my heart was swollen by the love I felt and the amount of people who remembered her day.

The fund-raising event for the charity formed in her memory Livvy’s Smile was a great success I don’t yet have a final total raised but I know its in the hundreds which is so wonderful.

Besides the donations I also want to say thank you to those who ate cake with their friends and family in honour of this day. I know I harp on a lot about this but memories are the greatest gift we can give ourselves and I am so blessed that you all made new special ones yesterday in honour of my girl.

So yes I’m not sure how I am really feeling today but what I do know is that my heart is full. My girl was honoured in such a beautiful way and for that I will always be grateful.

Thank you doesn’t seem enough but THANK YOU.

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