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Searching for a Home

We have three weeks and a couple days before we leave South Carolina for good and start our journey forward in Florida.  Part of this journey requires that we find a new spiritual home.

Here, we’ve been attending the literal most faith-affirming church we have come across.  It’s hard for people in our situation to find a steady place of worship that is open and accepting of your faith and practices, that will nourish you spiritually and help you along you way to grow as a stronger spiritual person.

When we were starting on this path here, we were split.  At the time, Erin was living a state away, and we were splitting our weekends between here and there.  Here, we were attending the Unitarian Universalist Church.  There, we were attending the Creation Spirituality church.

At the time, if we’d had the choice, we would have picked up our church there and moved it here, but we didn’t have that kind of option, unfortunately, and we felt stuck in a place that we felt was literally afraid of offending anyone.

All Unitarian Universalist (UU) churches are different.  We tried the local one and the one a town over, but neither of them felt right.  It felt like we were stuck there out of a lack of choice, not because we wanted to be there, felt welcome, affirmed, and spiritually fed.  Week after week we would go and listen to their messages about social justice and broadening our educations through listening to different people speak on different topics.

The hymns were classical church hymns with a UU twist to them, but it was still a stand up, sit down, sing a song with little beat, etc.  The messages were, to us, bland and uninspiring.  The messages didn’t help us to feel spiritually fed.  We didn’t feel the desire to make a change within ourselves, let alone the world around us.  We felt as though we’d spent the last hour of our lives listening to a BuzzFeed video or some other infomercial about whatever the topic of the day was.

Yes, they accepted gay people.  Yes, they accepted Pagans… But was that really it?  It got to the point where we stopped going all together.

That was when we found Unity, which not only accepted us a gay women but also as pagans.  The music was uplifting, it got us moving.  The messages inspired change within ourselves, and the meditations helped us to connect to whatever spiritual power we felt the desire to be connected to.  It wasn’t long before we realized: This was our spiritual home.

But, just like with UU churches, Unity churches are also all so different, so moving is going to mean we need to begin exploring different churches there.

And within driving distance, we have quite a few options:

  • Two UU churches within 30-40 minutes
  • One Unity church within 30-40 minutes
  • One Center for Spiritual Living within 15 minutes
  • Two UU churches just outside an hour’s drive
  • Two Unity churches just outside an hour’s drive

There’s definitely more choice in Florida than there is here, and I’m looking forward to starting this journey again.  The last two weeks, Erin has gone ahead and checked a coupl places out.

Last weekend, she went to the larger and more established UU of the two in the area.  She said, “It’s just like the one back home.  I felt like I was being lectured to about something I didn’t really need to be lectured to about by someone who was really angry about it.  I ended up leaving half way through.”

At this point, Erin said she’s 0 for 3 when it comes to UU churches, and she’s not looking forward to checking any else out.  She said she won’t go without me anymore.  I started wondering, why is it that we don’t seem to mesh with the UU?  Their principles meet with our own spiritual standards, so what is it?

I think I figured it out: it comes down to the difference between being religious and being spiritual.

Now, these two terms are not completely separate, nor are they completely inseparable. Religion is a set a beliefs shared between individuals within a group.  Spirituality is the force behind religion.  It’s the freedom of living without strings to hold you down.  It’s the feeling of surrender to a greater journey.  It’s the sense of gratitude and love and wonder that comes  with simply living.

But Kel, I’m religious and I feel all those things.

Yes, I suspect that you would because healthy religion is going to lead you on a path to a more spiritual and free life.  And that, right there, is where I think the UU churches, or at least the ones I’ve been to, seem to struggle.

There is a lot of unhealthy religion out there in the world that attempts to control people through fear and hate and violence.  There are a lot of people out there who have been wounded by those bad religions, and many times they go unhealed because they don’t know where to begin.

But here’s the thing: behind the bad religion is a story of spiritual peace and freedom.  It is perfectly possible to look beyond the dogma to the real Truth, which could, I believe, help many people heal from the hut and pain that was caused by those bad religions, but it takes time and it takes being unashamedly unafraid to stand up and actually talk about it.

And it’s not easy to talk about a Higher Power when so many have been hurt by the words of failing humans who just missed the mark like the rest of us.  It’s easier to say, “Well, if the God they believe in is going to say and do the things that they say and do, then I’m just not going to believe in that God.”  It’s easier to put God or the Gods in a box and put that box on a shelf in a dark room in the back of our brain.

And then, it’s really easy to get upset when people come around and talk about God.  “I don’t want to hear about that.  That hurts me, and I don’t want to mess with it.”  And I get it.  I was hurt by the Christian church when I came out many years ago, and it’s taken a long time for me to be able to step back and realize that the Higher Power isn’t in the words that people say or the things that people do that hurt me.  Hell, the Higher Power isn’t even in the words in the book.  It’s beyond that.  It’s deeper than that.  It’s greater than a few thousand translated pages.

That is where, for Erin and myself, the UU churches we’ve been to seem to fail.  They are catering to a population of people that have placed God in a box, and maybe they’ve kept the box to themselves instead of locking it away, but they are definitely not sharing their box with everyone else because the God in the box of others may be completely different or it may be locked away, and it’s better to just keep our box to ourselves instead of trying to bridge or even unpack our boxes… to look at the Truth beyond the rituals and words.

In a spiritual home, we were desperate to hear a message that spoke to the box we’d placed our Gods in so that They could come out into this world and we could worship openly without the fear that we would offend someone with our unyielding faith.  When we were at the UU, the conversations were all extremely humanist.

We, as humans, have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, and we don’t necessarily need the help of a Higher Power that may or may not exist.  Services there caused us to feel like we needed to box up our Gods and place them in storage while we listened to a lecture on a system of beliefs that was more informational than inspiring or spiritually nourishing.

But coming to Unity, we felt our boxes unpack and our connections return.  The beautiful thing about the local Unity church is that their principles, while not as specific as those of the UU, are essentially the same, but they are unashamedly theist, which is what we needed.

We are not humanist.  We have no problems with people who are, and for those that are, we fully believe that the UU is a fantastic and wonderful place to go.  We are theist, and we are unashamed of it.  I had such high and wonderful hopes for the UU churches in Florida as a possible place for us to call home because just like all UUs are different, all Unity churches are different, and just because we found our spiritual home here at Unity does not mean we will feel it there as well.

We are, of course, going to give them another shot once our entire family is there and school is back in session, but a humanist meeting place is not the place for a couple of theists.  But this is part of the journey to finding a spiritual home: trying different places more than once, going back again and again to places we enjoy until finally, we realize we haven’t left in awhile, so this must be home.

And where ever that place may be in Florida, I am looking forward to getting there.

Keeping Faith

Erin moved to Florida yesterday.  She left around 8:30 in the morning as I took our kids to their appointments.  I hugged her tight while she cried and I bit back my own tears.  We can’t both cry at the same time.  This time, it was my turn to be the rock.

I kissed her.  She said she didn’t want to go.  I told her it was going to be awesome.  We hugged again.

I will probably not see her until the weekend after next.

This is, by far, the biggest test of our relationship.  Honestly, I don’t think there’s a test bigger than this.

In between running around and doing all the things, I’ve been doing a lot of praying.

I know without a shadow of a doubt that this is a good move for our family.  My faith in this matter is unshakable.  The fear and the anxiety is still trying to creep in, but in the process of making sure I got my to do list completed today, I suddenly had a moment of clarity and peace.

This is good.  It may be difficult and hard, but it is still good.  You are taken care of and loved, and everything will work out the way it is supposed to.

I’ve been holding on to that ever since.

And things are working out.  She’s not even full time yet and already making more than I did, and I feel she’ll be full time quickly.  She’s quick to pick up on stuff and she’s super smart and organized, so I have no doubts on her ability or her dedication or drive.

And in the mean time, we’ll watch Netflix over the phone together.

Time for Faith and Strength

So, as it usually happens, life gets the best of me.  I haven’t been able to continue on with the 30 Days Challenge, but I plan on doing it over and completely once this school year is over.  I just haven’t had time between working, the kids, and everything else that’s going on…

But now that everyone that needed to know has been notified, I can actually start talking about it.

The last three months have been a roller coaster of ups and downs.  In March, we found out I was pregnant.  Almost immediately afterwards, Erin lost her job.  Then almost immediately after that, the kids’ adoptions were finalized.  Then, a couple weeks later, Erin found out that she passed her national board exams and would be able to start job hunting.

She took a couple of weeks to let everything sink it, but then contacted her friend who lives in Tennessee, who is in the same line of work.  He mentioned the would be hiring in the next month or so, so we went up there in April to explore the area.  It was really nice and we found some good and affordable housing options, so we updated Erin’s resume and she sent it off to them.

In the mean time, we were a family of four living off of my teacher’s salary, and it wasn’t getting any easier.  We took money out of savings and paid it back when we were able, only to pull it back out again.  At one point, we had to borrow money from my parents to buy groceries and pay for Erin’s car.

We somehow snaked by the next month, but this month, our church is paying for our mortgage so we could buy groceries.  Unfortunately, we don’t qualify for any kind of assistance because I apparently “make too much money,” even though things are a big struggle right now.

Then, at the end of April, we found out I’d suffered a missed miscarriage.  The baby I was carrying didn’t make it past 8 weeks and 5 days, but my body didn’t realize it and held on the three weeks until the ultrasound.  I had a D&E the next day.

That very same day, Erin was offered a job.

Her friend in Tennessee got a call from a company in Florida asking if he was interested in relocating.  He said no, but gave them Erin’s contact information.  They contacted her, the told him yes, and they set up an interview.

She had the phone interview while I drove us to the OB that morning.  She was offered the job while I was waiting in the waiting room of the OB.

This is, essentially, her dream job.  They offered her two positions in Florida, depending on where she wanted to live, and she said she’d go down to check out the areas first before deciding.  They paid for her hotel rooms.  They’re giving her relocation money to help us move.

And they’re paying her over double what I made as a teacher and over three times what she made at her previous job.  I, essentially, will not have to work if I don’t want to.  I will probably focus on the home for the first few months and then get into subbing.  Maybe go back to the classroom the year following, depending on what our family looks like at that point.

She went down, explored both areas, picked one, found a home with our agent, and put an offer on it.  The offer was accepted, but then we got the call that we couldn’t get a loan because of the way that Erin’s job is structured.  We still haven’t secured housing.

She leaves in a couple weeks, and I will stay behind with the kids until we can secure housing.

In the mean time, I resigned my position at my school in a huge leap of faith.  This was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever done.  I’ve worked at that position for the last six years, and it’s all I’ve ever known as far as my career… and now my days there are literally numbered.  My last pay check is June 30th.

I told my church about the move, but also said I would continue to work there until we have a move date listed.

I have literally never been so scared about such a huge change in all my life.  And while I am super excited for what our future holds, I’m also anxious to get all the details ironed out.

There’s been many days the last few weeks where I’ve been grieving the loss of our pregnancy, while simultaneously stressing about our future.

Moving is just picking the two of us up and going.  It’s transferring the kids’ IEPs and schools.  It’s selling the house that we currently live in.

It’s me giving up all the control I’ve ever had to rely completely on another person for my well being and safety.

I have literally had panic attacks about this for the last few weeks, and mixing those with the grief has made me a miserable blah.  Yesterday, when I placed my resignation, I cried as I handed over the paper.  The secretary who accepted it hugged me and told me everything would work out.  They’d miss me, but this was a good move for us.  I cried more.

“You aren’t worried about the move, and you aren’t going to miss the school as much as you think.”  My coworker said.  “You’re mostly upset about your loss of control.”

He’s right, of course.  It’s scary for me.

Then, yesterday, as I heard a song on the radio that was exactly what I needed to hear.  I hadn’t heard it before and I haven’t heard it since.  This happens to me sometimes where I’ll hear songs one time when I need to hear them, but then never again.

This one was about not giving up and the road being long and hard for a reason.

Since then, this song has been my anthem, and it’s given me a lot of strength.  I have my fighting spirit back because I have to.  I don’t have the option of returning to my old job, so this is basically it: panic and break down or fight and make things happen.

I have chosen the second of the two options.

TaTa, South Carolina!  Hello, Florida!

Endings and Beginnings

Hey everyone!

No idea if anyone still reads this blog, but with the school year coming to an end, I’m about to start revitalizing this blog as I start down a new path and walk of life.

Expect a major update in about a week, but if you’re interested in what has been going on in my life since this blog went on hiatus and you just can’t wait one more week, e-mail me at kel.henry85@gmail.com, and I’ll get you the hook up for my other blog, which is updated almost daily.

OR you can follow me on instagram at kelmh85.

See you soon!

Kel

Looking For Me?

Hey!

This blog is on hiatus, but my other blog is very active, and it’s all about our family.

If you came here looking for it, send me an e-mail at kel.henry85@gmail.com, let me know who you are and what your blog is (if you have one) and I’ll give you the link!

Thanks so much,

Kel

Thankful

I’m not back from hiatus, not really.

I just felt so overwhelmed that I felt I needed to blog about it. 

In the sanctuary of our church, there is a banner that reads, “If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, that would suffice.” I can’t remember who said it. 

Today, Erin walked down the stairs with her arms held up in the air triumphantly.  She just finished her last class of graduate school. Ever. She passed her big test and her final presentation with flying colors and now all that is left is to get her degree. 

She’s done, and she only made one B in the entire two years. I can’t believe her journey is ending already, but I’m so proud of her for making a commitment to her education and sticking to it. Education is so so so important to me, so I’m happy it is for her too. 

Now, she gets to start her training for the next phase of her career, which includes, at some point in the relatively near future, a substantial pay raise. She’d technically make enough to support the entire family, but I want to continue teaching, at least for now. 

And since both our kids are older, I can do that without any problem or added expenses at all.

I am so thankful for the way the Gods have worked everything out in perfect timing to the benefit of all. 

  • Our daughter and our son were placed with us almost two weeks ago and will get to start the school year with us. 
  • We were able to get out son into a better-for-him school that is closer to where I work. 
  • Because of the way that the placement occurred, our kids were placed as “foster kids” so we get the benefits from the state to help them transition. 
  • I have enough graduate school hours to get my next pay bump. 
  • Erin is graduating and will be able to advance in her career. 

Being a family of four has been so awesome, and sometime either this year or next, we’ll start trying for #3, but that will happen when it happens. 

I. Am. So. So. So. Thankful for all the blessings. The happiness that my heart feels right now with having two kids is indescribable. And now with Erin done with school… I want to hug my heart. 

All that’s left is for me to finish school and then we’ll be, I guess, living that stereotypical “American Dream.”

Personally, I feel like I’m already there. 

But I wanted to share because I felt like I could burst from excitement and happiness if I didn’t write it out.

Now to bed. The we and the kids have a busy day tomorrow. 

Blogging Hiatus

Hey Everyone!

I haven’t been updating here recently because things have gotten crazy with my home life and the addition of two kids, one 13 and the other 9, on Friday.

This is mainly because our 13-year-old turned around and had surgery on her right leg to remove some hardware she’d had placed after an accident before she was placed with us.  This was an overnight stay in the hospital, and it was a long 48 hours.

She’s recovering well and able to move around, but with my promotion at church, school starting back next week, my daughter’s inability to move well on her own fully yet, Erin graduating from school in less than a month, and my classes about to start again… I don’t have a lot of time to come up with actually good blogs about my spiritual path.

It’s not because I’m not practicing… It’s just that I’m practicing, but don’t have time to write about it.  The biggest things going on in my life have to deal with my personal life and my family, so running this blog and my other blog is not feasible.

With that said, if something spiritually awesome really happens or I come up with a topic I feel like writing about, I’m sure I’ll blog here again.  If you want to keep up with my life as a lesbian pagan in the south with two kids, please feel free to e-mail me at kel.henry 85 @ gmail.com and I can give you that other address.

Peace and Blessings to you all!

Kel

Blessings

We have had a crazy busy couple of days. 

Our placement was on Friday, so we are now officially a family of four!

We started a nightly reading routine, and our son immediately told us that he was unable to read. He is nine years old, but because of his past, his education is severely lacking. He said he didn’t know how to read, but Erin read to him and he knew a few of the words. 

Same thing last night. 

Tonight, Erin picked out three books and he picked one. Then he got a shock: he was reading to us. 

And he did it. Every single word. And it was absolutely the most amazing thing I had witnessed up until that point. The three of us (our daughter included, who is 13) were so excited, so he decided HE wanted to read not one, BUT TWO MORE books. 

I wanted to cry. 

Then our daughter saw how excited we were about his reading that she wanted to read, so I picked out a story by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes and we alternated chapters. We read nearly 30 pages in the book before she was too tired to continue. I was so so so proud of her. 

Our son wants to buy more books to read. I can’t even accurately describe how exciting this is to me. 

Reading is so vital to a kid’s education. And if we can get them pumped about reading, then they are going to do so well in school.

I. Am. So. Thankful. For this day. 

Two Years Ago

I opened my Facebook today and immediately saw a memory picture of Erin and I smiling while holding an ultrasound. Today, two years ago, we announced we were adopting. It was, at that time, the most liked photo I had, and it routinely shows up in the top ten of most liked photos overall.

Last year, when I saw it, I wasn’t sure that I would ever be completely okay on this day when it popped up. When that adoption fell through, it was crushing to me.

But a couple weeks later, after the day the adoption fell through, a friend from church approached me about an older girl, in foster care, that needed a family to love her, and maybe we should consider adoption because families are all made up in different ways. I told her it was too soon. I needed time to heal.

The days that followed, that little girl kept popping into my life, and I told the Gods that if this is what THEY wanted for our life that THEY would make the way.

Months later, my wife approached me independently about adopting her. And the next week we made the call. We flew through the process faster than any family our licensing specialist had ever seen, and now…

…Two years to the day that we announced we were adopting…

We signed the papers that we received their history and still wished to proceed.  We made plans for this girl and this boy to move into our home in 48 hours.

We started this process in January, and now both foster care and adoptions believes we’re the fastest family to move through the process.  I keep thinking to myself, “Well, this is what THEY wanted for us, so I’m not surprised we moved so quickly.”

There’s a sign on my door that, while faded, says, “All my children have paws.”  Time to take it down and replace it with something else.

I guess I was wrong last year. I guess I will be okay with today after all.

The Gods have a funny way of working things out.

Divine Timing

There’s been a lot of ups and downs in my life the last couple of months.  My summer graduate classes are a little overwhelming, and one of the professors is a down right jerk sometimes.  There’s been some issues with my financial aid, which we thankfully got worked out so I’ll graduate.  Erin’s been stressed with her graduate school stuff coming to an end in the next short amount of time.

And then this adoption.  Oh, this adoption.

We’ve been fighting back and forth with people about placement before the start of the school year, and they kept pushing back.  It has literally been a “Yes, placing them before the school year starts is ideal, but you haven’t done steps two through four yet.”

But we’re foster parents, legally…

“Yes, but that’s not how we do things.”

But if they lived with us as foster parents and then we tried for adoption, this wouldn’t have been a problem.

“Yes, that is correct, but that’s not what you’ve done.”

Well, we couldn’t have…  can’t they just be placed with us?  You place children in adoptive families as foster children all the time.

“Yes, I know, but you aren’t approved by our office yet.”

BUT WE ARE APPROVED BY DSS!

This has been the cycle.  Over and over again.  We had this amazing plan, and up until this point, we’d felt that this was the path the Gods had wanted us on.  We made this call back in January and ever since then, the doors to foster care and adoption just kept opening and we kept sweeping through them.  We got through the process so quickly that our foster care licensing specialist told us that she’d never seen a couple go through the process so quickly.

Well, that’s what happens when you’re on the path the divine want you to be on.  Things just keep happening your way.

Until they didn’t anymore.  Until my faith was tested so much so that I started wondering if these Gods even really existed.  Y’all, it was bad.  I have never in my entire life felt like the Gods weren’t there looking after things.  I’ve never felt so alone in this Universe, divinely speaking.

I spoke with the foster mother about my frustrations and how things just… didn’t seem to be working out.  I was so disappointed that we weren’t going to get them placed with us before the school year started, and so upset about how stupid these regulations seemed to be (even though I know they’re in place for a reason), and so worried about what it was going to b like to not have some time to get into a routine without school going on.

“Look,” She told me, “Spirit has gotten you two this far so fast. This is obviously the path you are supposed to be on.  I know that Spirit’s worked it out this far, and it’s going to work it out in the future.  I know it’s hard to be patient, but things will work out.  I know they will.”

And then things didn’t change.  I tried really hard to hold on to that, but it didn’t seem to help.  Things weren’t changing.  And they just kept getting more stressful.

I was starting to feel like everything around me was falling apart, and it is times like those where I’m so thankful that I married a strong woman of faith.

She helped keep me together, and prayed when I didn’t feel like I could.

She prayed last night.  I’m not sure for what… peace, clarity, shit to come together, whatever.

Today, our phone rang.

Today, we got the call that they want to read our future daughter and future son’s histories to us so we can formally accept them.

Today, we found out that in nine days… NINE DAYS… our family will be a family of four.

Before school starts.
As foster children while the adoption goes through.
After my summer school classes are complete.
After Erin’s major final test is done and over with.
Before our daughter’s foster mother has to move, but not so much before that our daughter’s things will create added stress.
After our son’s birthday, so he celebrates with friends and not complete strangers.

At the absolute most perfect time for all parties involved.

When I called my bestfriend Amy and told her the news, she started crying on the phone because of how happy she was for us.  We’ve been waiting for so long… and things were so no going the way we wanted them to.

She said, “Kel, you and Erin always say that things will work out for you.  And you always believe it.  Your faith is so strong in the Gods you worship, and it always pans out for you.  It doesn’t matter how bad things seem to be, you two always find a way and you always come out on top.  The Gods you worship are real, and they work amazing things in your life.  They are always, always looking out for you.  It is so awesome!”

I’m pretty sure that was exactly what I needed to hear.

Now, with the countdown beginning in earnest, it’s time to get the small things left around the house done… Because our family is DOUBLING in less than two weeks!!