Foster Care to Adoption

Happy Thanksgiving!

For us this holiday comes a week after adopting our foster child.

Some readers may remember some of the more harrowing events of the past three years — years filled with doubt, fear and moral dilemmas.

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This girl is thrilled that I can finally share her picture!

This summer after a host of obstacles (some created by the system and some by us), we were asked to make our final decision. I’ll be honest, my husband and I hardly spoke to each other for the month of August as we each grappled with the finality of the decision. I realized that I’d been sort of waiting for this girl to do something bad enough to justify backing out.

Foster kids have a way of pushing you to your limits, and I wondered what my limit would be.

The county gave us a month to decide. No more hoping the kid would do something insane so we’d have an excuse  to say goodbye. We had to decide if we could love this girl “as is.” Plenty of people told us to cut our losses. Even the county workers had said this girl was a “hot mess,” but … my heart said she was already family. One day as I walked the dogs my decision was made. Biblical love is really hard. You have to lean into the pain. You have to work harder and you occasionally have to step back to see how far you’ve come.

I’m basically a selfish person who wants to write books and ride horses all by myself. I don’t feel like helping others all the time, yet in some deep way I know we’re called to do it.

My husband was driving home from work one day and suddenly felt that he was Jonah fleeing God’s calling on his life. Despite it all he knew McKenzie was already his daughter.

Not quite the Hallmark happy ending but that’s real life for you.

Once the decision was made, a weight was lifted. Maybe that’s God’s grace. McKenzie has come a LONG way. We all have.

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McKenzie with my niece (her new cousin)

At the adoption McKenzie gave an impromptu speech before the judge. Three years ago she was so jacked up on meds and so traumatized she could only drool and occasionally threaten to stab people. Now with her two sisters (adopted by another family), her new family, and countless county and foster care workers in attendance she spoke from her heart with power and eloquence about finally having a family. I was so proud of her. Even my son got choked up. The county workers were sobbing.

I didn’t cry, but I did feel at peace. I remembered the day I first met McKenzie. I told my husband that I already felt like she was my daughter. That feeling ebbed and flowed over the three years, but on adoption day it was as if we’d come full circle.

 

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Just some of the members of McKenzie’s new family. The entire family is coming to our house to celebrate Thanksgiving and the adoption!

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Sunday at Middlemay Farm

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As the holidays approach I need to remind myself that when entertaining family and friends it is not always necessary to fill the awkward silences with outrageous judgements or too much information. Maybe we all need a little reminder 😉

TAMING THE TONGUE

2We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.

4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.

5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.

6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,

8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.

10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. James 3:1-12

 

I don’t know about you but I have my work cut out for me!

As it is Sunday, I hope my peaceful dogs will remind you to take some time to relax this week.

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The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

 

Let Them Read Books Guest Post

Hi everyone~

Today my family is getting prepared for a big day tomorrow. After three years we are adopting that foster girl I mentioned once or twice 😉

But I wanted to share an interview the generous book lover Jenny Q over at LET THEM READ BOOKS did with me. I really enjoyed her questions so have a look if you feel so inclined (she loves comments — hint, hint).

INTERVIEW HERE

In the meantime it’s back to cleaning my house for visitors.

What Do You Do When You Finish a Series?

We’ve all been there as readers, writers and viewers. We spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over worlds created by other humans and then suddenly the series is over.

It’s over and you’ve lost your best friends. A wave of sadness envelops you as you walk the dog. You realize it’s because you’ve finished that damned series.

Talk of possibly more books or a revival on Netflix give you only momentary relief because you just know the new stuff just won’t be the same …

I seriously hate endings no matter how happy. It’s especially true when it’s YOUR own characters you have to say farewell to.

I suppose all creators feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of things — but with such a mix of sadness too!

I’m happy to release the final book of THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES so readers get to see how Buck, William, Thankful and Lucy finally work things out, but forgive me the tiny bit of depression I feel at leaving them all behind.

Empty nest syndrome for writers is kind of awful (yet a weird privilege).

So … how do you deal with getting to the end of a series? Let me know in the comments!

And remember to check out THE GRAND UNION today!

Here’s a sample.

(Buck has foolishly taken his new wife to Saratoga Springs, New York for a honeymoon/business trip):

“We keep having to worry about everyone’s opinions, but why, Buck? We have each other.”

“Everything is so simple for you. But I have to make sure everyone’s boats stay afloat.”

“Boats float on water, not on you,” Lucy said with a little laugh.

He didn’t laugh, though her smile was so damned cute. “The water boy Corny or whatever his name is—he looks to be about your age—about my brother Nathan’s age. Thankful said you should have married Nathan. Did you like him better? I’d understand. He can be amusing at times.”

“Can he? I never noticed,” she said. “I don’t know why I ever thought you were mature, Buck, because you’re worse than the boys when I was ten.”

“How many were there?”

“Buck!”

He could never sit still for long, his nervous energy prompting him to stand and sit and then feel uncomfortable sitting on the steps. “All day today Preston let his eyes wander,” he said, waiting for her reaction. “I don’t believe in wandering eyes, Lucy … at least I mean that once I’m set on someone—I mean you—well, this isn’t the same thing as Alma, whom I never liked—or loved. You do understand that she was more of an insurance, just in case.”

Lucy stared in astonishment at the way Buck’s mind worked.

“I’m no romantic, but I liked to picture Preston and Lottie and you and me successfully working and recreating together,” Buck said with his usual stiffness.

Lucy laughed. “You don’t know how to recreate!”

He laughed a little too.

“So where is Preston, tonight?”

He stood again, running his hand along the banister. “With a poet girl—an awful feathery, flighty socialite who forces everyone to endure her poems about acorns,” he said. “The Trasks seem sincere about everything. I don’t trust that. They’re far too fond of beauty for beauty’s sake and symbolism and—emotional in their affections for everyone. It makes my skin crawl a little, but I guess all of that flattery and the lovey-dovey manner they have with each other—I guess it’s nice in a way. It’s better than how I’ve been treating you.”

Lucy looked into his guarded eyes. “What do you want me to say?”

He looked away. His little confession of admiration for things lovey-dovey embarrassed him.

Lucy played with the torn lace on her skirt. “But I’ll say this for myself. I don’t believe in divorce.”

Buck turned back to face her with the eagerness of his younger brother Nathan. “Never, under any circumstances?”

“Except if you ever keep a girl for insurance again, or even make eyes with a girl. If you aren’t interested in just me, then we can quietly divorce, and I’ll move to New London.”

Buck regretted giving her so much time to think of moving to New London and was surprised at her strength. “I’m interested in you. Very much so. And you really mean to stay even through the worst mishaps?”

“Buck, if I ever find that you speak to this Alma or befriend another girl or lady … I won’t have it.”

Buck sat close now and took Lucy’s hand in his. “Lucy, I’ve been such a fool. I’ve spoiled our time. I promise not even once did Alma hold a flame compared to you.”

“I should like it if we never mention her name again.”

“Yes, yes, I understand, and from now on I won’t even talk to another lady unless it’s my mother or one of my sisters.”

“This must include Lottie—who you’ve apparently told all of your secrets to.”

Buck looked off again, much like a young colt bristling a little after a long bit of training. “Yes, I did do that. She made me feel like one of them, and I’m not much of a drinker—I don’t know—she easily got things out of me.”

Lucy smiled, shaking her head. “You may be embarrassed of me being so young and all, but Buck, I want to be the one who takes care to know every detail about you. I never want to find out things through another.”

The Tenafly Road Series

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

 

BUY THE SERIES TODAY!

What Do You Do In Your Spare Time?

We all live busy lives. I was a little too busy to write anything lately so instead you get a visual sneak peek into my last few days!

On Sunday I broke out my old Civil War Reenacting gear for a book fair. The dress was a real hit — it’s what gave me the courage to participate in two panel discussions on history and fiction! It also landed me  gigs at possibly three different venues in the area in 2019! The main thing though was that it was really fun!

 

On Monday it was back to living my real life of flannels, boots and mud with my favorite lamb escaping yet again  from our electric fencing. I seriously have no idea how she does it. I tried letting the other sheep out so she’d join the herd, but they all decided (now that we have a new neighbor) to escape onto the neighbor’s front lawn. I spent the next hour chasing Natasha (with Prince Andrei in tow) around the perimeter of the electric fence. I couldn’t stay mad at her because she knew what she was doing and it was funny. She’d let me get right up behind her before bouncing off in the playful ways lambs do.

Finally I caught her:

A Note: Little Natasha is safe and sound and, aside from her wounded pride, she was perfectly fine once I got her back with the other sheep. 🙂

So … readers and writers, what do you do in your spare time? Do you like dressing up? Let me know in the comments!

Sunday at Middlemay Farm

“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.”
Soren Kierkegaard, The Journals of Kierkegaard

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THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

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Where Does Creativity Come From?

What is your calling?

You know you are called when that desire to do something you are not doing keeps poking you at odd moments or for entire days. When around others who are at one with their callings and are actively engaged in them you feel convicted, bitter or jealous.

Where do callings come from?

If not from an intelligent being then where or how or why do callings come at all? A calling doesn’t feel like a figment of imagination, does it? If, like honey bees, we have evolved to have special roles it’s pretty amazing that evolution would take into account the role of hairdressers, baseball players and novelists.

I’ve read about many writers who’ve said that they were compelled to write. Like Jonah who fled from his calling only to be swallowed by a great fish, I refused my calling for many long years despite knowing of its existence. The tug was there, the self-reproach and misery, yet still I hid.

When you flee a calling all else that you do has a tinge of mediocrity about it, a veil colors all of life even if others praise you for talents that you deep-down know are counterfeit callings. As a teacher I was stung after a convincing sermon on my part about fearless writing when a ten-year-old student asked, “Why don’t you go and write?”

I see all of life as a redemptive tapestry with each thread as beautiful as the next. I didn’t always see it that way. I saw my thread as weak and unimportant before I embraced the calling — where it suddenly didn’t matter anymore if mine was the weakest thread  as long as I was a part of the inspired whole.

“Imagination may be the hardest work of the human mind. And perhaps the most God-like. It is the closest we get to creation out of nothing. When we try to express beautiful truth, we must think of a pattern of words, perhaps a poem. We must conceive something that has never existed before and does not now exist in any human mind. We must think of an analogy or metaphor or illustration which has no present existence. The imagination must exert itself to see it in the mind when it is not there. We must create word combinations, and music, and visual forms that have never existed before. All of this we do, because we are like God and because he is infinitely worthy of ever-new verbal, musical, and visual expressions.”  John Piper

So are callings real?

Are they just rationalized excuses for doing what you’re doing?

Are they just coded worker bee impulses?

Is not following a calling a sin?

Are we afraid to follow because we’d rather do our own lesser thing?

Do we think our one small life makes no difference?

Let me know your thoughts on callings in the comments!

20 WAYS TO FIND YOUR CALLING

DISCOVER YOUR GOD-GIVEN CALLING

WHERE DOES CREATIVITY COME FROM?

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

Available Now for Pre-Order!

The Weldon and Crenshaw families are back and in rare form!

Pre-order your copy of the fifth book in the historical family saga today!

THE ONE MY HEART LOVES

Buck Crenshaw falls in love, but will he have the courage to marry when everyone is opposed to the match?  Buck must choose between happiness and security while navigating the ever-shifting alliances of his siblings and co-workers. His sister Thankful’s jealousy and his brother Fred’s scheming make for a wedding full of secret maneuvering and betrayal, but will love conquer all?

A SNEAK PEEK (Buck surprises Lucy McCullough):

“I did a few foolish things this fall,” Buck said. “I see the way Thankful leads Willy by the nose, and I’ve been worried lately about the impulsive Crenshaw habit of control. I shouldn’t have picked the fabrics for your dress even though Mama insisted. I can’t stand living in that house much longer. Will you come for a walk with me?”

“It’s cold out and dark.”

“I’ll guide you, Luce. I want you to see something.”

“If you’ve been drinking this fall or anything …”

Buck laughed. “What?”

“Your mother said …”

His eyes clouded with resentment. “I do hope you don’t trust my mother.”

“I’m not sure who to trust right now.”

Buck’s hand sweated through his glove as he took Lucy’s hand. “I want to confess to you the thing I did that shows that I don’t have the faintest idea about girls. Fred has always warned me that I’m too fast about things or at least foolish …”

“Do you have a child somewhere?”

“No. Please just come with me.”

Lucy hesitated but Buck’s expression intrigued her. Besides, she must get all of this  childish romance over with before going back to New London. By now William and Thankful had settled their differences and were dancing only two days into mourning Meg. Buck left a note with the young lady managing coats near the door for William before taking Lucy into the frosty air. Walking in the dark always troubled Lucy, who secretly dreaded when all days would be just this way. Tonight she held tightly to Buck’s warm arm bracing herself for terrible news. His breathing always sounded so forced in the chill air, but they said nothing for a long while as he led her along Hillside Avenue.

“Lucy. I was given a generous bonus this holiday.”

“That’s nice, but Buck, my toes are frozen, and I don’t like how dark this road is. Couldn’t you tell me your secret right here?”

“Just wait a minute, Luce. Here. Follow me close,” Buck said, guiding her off the road and up a lane.

They came against a short stone fence with an iron gate that creaked as Buck pushed it open against the snow. He led her beneath arches glistening in the moonlight to the door of a small cottage. Buck fumbled for keys with an expression of seriousness. He opened the door and lit a candle, pulling a wary Lucy within the dark house.

“Remember I told you about this place? My father’s old cottage—the one my mother hated and made him give up? It was reckless of me, but I imagined us here—just the two of us. I’ve been pressuring the old man for months. Finally he relented, but I see by your face you don’t like it.”

“I don’t understand …”

“I know how to buy and sell things. I don’t know what makes a girl like you happy.”

Lucy stood speechless in the little circle of light made by the candle.

“I told Mr. Fischer that we’d keep the wild roses along the fence because his wife had loved them. I hope you like roses. I also said we’d visit him and your grandmother at the old folks’ home on Sundays since he has no family to speak of—if you don’t mind. You should see the place in daylight—it’s homey, but possibly not as big and new as you might like. We can change it all if you want to.”

“Buck, I’m astonished. I hadn’t really considered anything past an engagement and walks in town and things like that.”

“I did do one thing more that might anger you. There was an outing with the cousins from the bank, and I drank too much and was sick afterwards. I’m ashamed of myself for that.”

“When was that?”

“The third Saturday of October.”

Lucy laughed that it stood out so clearly in Buck’s memory and was relieved that it had happened only once months ago. “The only disappointment I feel right now is that you imagine me such a harsh critic. I love dear old Englewood so much and this charming house but you especially.”

PRE-ORDER:

THE ONE MY HEART LOVES & THE GRAND UNION

About The Tenafly Road Series:

“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her books down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

 

Fiction: Seeing With New Eyes

“This is my home. I’m happy here,” William said, but he needed a drink to wash down his words. He tried to glare at Buck, but felt unsteady and it hurt his head. William spotted his drawings in Buck’s hand. “I-I’m gonna send some drawings east when they’re finished—start working harder at that—so me and Ginny can live nicer …”

Buck looked at the papers. “Not these, I hope. They’re crap.”

William grabbed them and sifted through them. He scratched his head. “I’m out of practice.” William wiped his nose. “I’d give anything for a smoke.”

“I don’t smoke any longer,” Buck said.

“Yes, I’d forgotten—you’re God’s little friend now.”

“I’d like it if we could be friends.”

“Don’t do me any favors,” William said.

Buck turned to go. He shoved his hands in his pockets and felt a dollar coin he hadn’t realized he had. Maybe he could offer someone at the stable the dollar as a deposit for a ride back to the fort. His father would pay the balance. Buck took a step, then turned to William. “Listen, Willy, I have a dollar. Will you draw me my portrait?” he blundered. “I have no gift for Thankful’s wedding—it’s only a few days away.”

William laughed. “Why would she want a picture of you?”

“I don’t know, but it’s my only idea … will you?”

William rummaged around for a piece of paper and Buck wondered if he should just give him the dollar instead of putting William through any trouble, but Fred was making the most of it with Ginny on the other side of the quilt. Buck detected a small excitement from William though he did his best to hide it.

Without looking up once, William produced a quick, but accurate likeness of Buck—the old Buck—handsome, clean-edged and hard-eyed. He handed it to Buck. “Shit, William. How’d you do that?” The slight smirk, the confident eyes, everything was correct—and full of sneering superiority. “God forgive me. I’m just as bad as you make me out to be, William. I’m even worse. What a piece of shit I am and you’ve every right to hate me for all I’ve done to you. You never deserved any of it! You trusted me and you were kind,” Buck said. “It hurts me to see you here.”

“Don’t flatter yourself, Buck. You’re not responsible for me.”

Buck gave William back the drawing. “I want you to draw me again. Not from memory. I need you to draw me as I am now—ugly and wretched.”

“No.” William said. Old images were easy, well-practiced in his mind, but the present remained unfocused through his bleary eyes.

“You must! And I promise never to bother you again.”

William scratched his jaw and grabbed the paper back. “So you want to see things for real.”  He turned the paper over and picked up his pencil.

This time William had to look at Buck—could not rely on anything from before to capture the rough skin and the wrinkled mass above Buck’s eye. Buck insisted that he remove his bandages. His misshapen cheekbone torn by the bullet William deserved and the botched cut at his throat remained scarlet and unhealed. William considered another drink, but met Buck’s gaze and it unnerved him. He dropped his pencil and picked it up again. His hand shook.

The drawing was not very good and it made William angry. He found that he had to study Buck longer than he wanted and that no matter how he tried he could not make Buck monstrous enough. “That’s it. It’s the best I can do. Now give me my money.”

Buck flipped over the coin, but William missed and had to crawl on the floor to find it. Buck studied the portrait. “Land sakes, Willy,” Buck said. “Is this how you really see me?”

“I’m afraid so,” William said scratching his head.

“I mean, God, I’m one hell of a mess, but there’s something … I’m no artist …” The drawing comforted Buck. He didn’t know why. The cuts, the wounds, the disfigurement were there, but so was something else. Something new or maybe just discovered. “William, you see it don’t you? No one else has, but maybe Father …”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” William replied.

“You see what God’s done for me,” Buck whispered.

His scars were ugly and William had to drink not to let his heart go out to Buck.

“Thank you for this, Willy.”

“It’s nothing,” William mumbled, but felt sorry suddenly at how things had turned out between them. If only Buck hadn’t been such a sneaky bastard.

PREVIOUS EPISODE: WEARY OF RUNNING

THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

Fiction: Hooked Up

Buck followed, having nowhere else to go. He glanced around at the filth and total confusion of the tiny place divided by a soiled and torn old quilt. The walls moved with bugs in the flickering candlelight.

Fred grabbed at Ginny, who wore a threadbare wrapper. She had a wonderfully white and soft-looking body, Buck noticed as Fred unwrapped her, but old evidence of smallpox marred her face, making her ugly. As soon as Buck thought it he remembered his own disfigurement in shame.

“Where’s the money? Money comes first, child,” Ginny demanded even as Fred shoved his hand between her legs.

Unusual drawings sat piled upon a small footstool and Buck went to them. They were shaky and crass but familiar.

“I’ll give you an extra fifty cents if you put it in your mouth, girl,” Fred bargained while unbuttoning his trousers. “But wait, what’s that mark at your mouth? You’re not diseased or anything, are you?”

“I had the pox as a girl …”

Buck looked up from the pictures and for a moment caught Ginny’s eyes. “Fred, she must be just Thankful’s age.”

The girl stopped what she was doing and glanced back at Buck. “Thankful?”

“Yes, our sister.”

“Who the hell cares?” Fred asked. “Go back to work.” He grabbed Ginny by the hair and jerked her head. “I’m paying, he isn’t. Listen to me if you don’t want any trouble.”

“Fred!” Buck shouted, but his voice hardly carried.

Buck watched as a tear rolled down the girl’s cheek. How desperate she must be to do this for fifty cents! “Miss Ginny, even now, right this very minute, there’s someone who wants better for you,” Buck said.

“Shut up, Buck!” Fred shouted as something stirred behind the other side of the quilt.

Buck peeked around it. “Willy!”

The quilt hid the worst of the room’s mess. Empty bottles and crumpled papers littered the floor.

“William, it’s me, Buck Crenshaw.”

“I know who you are,” William mumbled, rubbing his eyes. “Why are you here?”

“Fred is—well, he’s with the girl.”

“My wife?” William asked, detached.

“I-I don’t know. I mean, I hope not. Not the girl on the other side?”

“Yes, so what? I wanted to do right by her … and she cares for me. Ginny doesn’t judge.”

PREVIOUS EPISODE

THE TENAFLY ROAD SERIES

“Rich and colorful page turners. Morris has a fine sense of time and place and brings her memorable characters to life. She also tells a captivating story. You won’t find it easy to put her book down, and her characters will stay with you when you do. We can only hope she keeps writing and gives us more episodes in this fascinating chronicle.”

 

Featured Image: The Awakening of Conscience by William Holman Hunt