Take in the scenery

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I am not sure how one little stretch of road could mean so much to me! But this stretch, it gets me ever time!!

This stretch of road means so much to me. I can barely walk down it without tearing up. There are large pictures of adopted children and posters that say, “RUN FOR MORE” and “YOU DID IT”.

Why? Because at the end of this stretch is the finish line of a half marathon and 5K that benefits adoptive families. Chosen is the organization that puts it on and we ran with them for two years while in the process of adopting Zoe. These people became our friends, our support and really they became like our family. We are huge fans of Chosen in the way they have help us in the past and how they continue to lend their support to so many adoptive families!

Back when Chosen had a marathon (2013) I ran that with our team. Team Tapley Ever After had 15 or so people running for purpose, these friends trained with us and really put their money where their mouth was. Training (suffering) together is real love and there are many memories that I can recall fondly. This stretch of road signified the end of a MARATHON! 26.2 miles! The girls I ran the whole thing with slowed down a bit and allowed me (without my knowledge) to sprint this part out alone. Tears streaming down my face, it signified so much more than the finish of a race. It signified the finish of this incredibly difficult journey, and that my family wasn’t alone in it thanks to our family, friends and Chosen.

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Team Tapley Ever After! Blood, sweat and tears and all the memories!

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Just a few pics from the 2014 Chosen Race and those who ran for Tapley Ever After

The following year was a really tough time in our adoption process. Team Tapley Ever After showed up again, and this time with around 25 people supporting us and running with us! As I ran this stretch of road I began crying out to the Lord that we wouldn’t need to do this for our family again; that next year we could support a different family. Begging Him that next year at this race, Zoe would be home. It wasn’t as beautiful as the year before but it was desperation, asking Him to show me where the finish line would be. It would be 10 months later that Zoe finally arrived home.

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2015 Tapley Family at the Chosen Race

And just two months after arriving home in America, Zoe stood at the finish line placing finisher medals around the necks of those having run for a cause much greater than themselves. It was in that moment surrounded by some of my amazingly sweet friends I realized how significant that was. We were finally on the other side of the finish line, and now it was our turn to cheer for those that we running that hard race, to support them as the finished, and to love them through their struggles.

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Yesterday was the third year that Zoe was able to medal the finishers, and it never gets old. Seeing people cross the finish line is so incredible. They have just accomplished so much, some run in strong, proud of how they performed, some run in dog tired and beat up (that course is NO JOKE!), others run in full of emotion and my heart understands! The finish line of this particular race is really just an awesome and meaningful place.

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Zoe giving a well deserved medal to a finisher! 2017 Chosen Race

Isn’t that us just day to day? Some days I finish and think “Wow I OWNED today! Really! Great Job Jeanette!!” Other days I barely finish the day awake because of how tired I am and then there are the days when I have just too many emotions to even function. I think more than anything this sweet stretch of road reminds me that I am not alone. God is lending His ever present ear to me, I have friends at the finish line cheering me on, reminding me that I am strong enough to finish well.

So my thought is this… How can we do this better? Can we look up from our own race, as tired as we may be, and encourage someone? YES! Can we see that they may be struggling and help them? YES! Can we even grasp that at the end of our race (or challenge) that we will be able to support someone is a whole new way? I Think YES!

So look up, and reach your hand to either be supported or be supportive. And while your eyes are up, take in the scenery it’s a beautiful world we live in!

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One of my favorite views!

 

 

How my life changed with 2 friends, a book and the gym!

I am a HUGE fan of women’s bible studies, and as I admitted in my 10 Things you don’t know about me I have just this week finished and completed my first Bible study book ever! My Pastor Dad and Bible Study leading mother are so proud I am sure.

Anyway, I love the idea of gathering together, growing, stretching and making new friends. When I moved to Texas from Alaska 5 years ago I was super lonely. I knew one other family and that was it. We left our home, our family, and our church just like we believed God had told us to, and we were here in Texas alone. One day, in a mess of emotions, I told my Jesse just how low I was feeling. There had been so many changes. Alaska to Texas, no family, I had just sent my first born off to kindergarten, Jesse was working a new schedule that we weren’t used to, and honestly was just desperate for community. We started going to a small church, and I started at a new gym. Titus and I started going to MOPS and we joined other mommy and me groups. I was so in need of friendship. I know that I function better when I’m connected to others. The gym of all places was where I found those people who I would soon call friends.

There was this crazy pretty blonde that taught most of the classes that I was able to go to. As I began to get into the routine I got to know some more of the people around me, and the pretty blonde, her name is Lindsay, and I started to talk a little and she invited me to a Bible study that she led right there in the gym. After Wednesday’s body pump or cycle class we would meet in the childcare room, sit on the floor, and she would lead a small group of sweaty women. That group quickly became my friends. It was beautiful and so real. There was one day when I was loading  Titus into the car and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, “WOAH!” I thought, “I look rough! How in the world have I made friends looking like this?!” That’s when I knew these people were solid. Then one day standing over a cycle bike one of these sweet girls, Holly, handed me a book, “Read this! Jeanette, it’ll change your life!” I giggled, I love to read but how could a book change my life?!

The beautiful blonde you see is OBVIOUSLY Lindsay and That lovely lady with the beautiful smile is Holly. Who would’ve thought that God could change my life with two friends and a gym membership!?!

I dove into the book, Kisses From Katie, head first. I was reading, devouring this young girl’s story and about half way through the book I shut it and looked up at Jesse and I quote, “Jesse, I think we need to adopt or like sponsor a 100 children in Africa.” He calmly told me to, in his words, “pump the brakes,” finish the book and see how it ends. But I felt that quiet tug. The Lord whispered, “I called you to be a mom. There are a TON of babies with no mom. What are you going to do about it?!” Let me rewind a bit here and tell you that when I was little and was asked what I wanted to be when I grow up I would answer very firmly, ” A mom.”
So, Jesse and I talked a little bit more and he told me he’d pray about it. Classic husband just trying to appease his wife. A few days later he looked at me and said, “A girl right?! What would we name her?”

BOOM there it was. We jumped into this world of adoption.

Ok now back to the bible study, the girls in that group were some of the first people I told about this new venture. They were the first ones praying for her, and in Bible study we were going through the Hebrews 11 “Hall of Faith.” Lindsay would dive into each of the hero’s listed story. Over and over in Hebrews 11 it is said “By Faith that ____” and so often these heros of the bible- Sarah, Abraham, Enoch, Noah- followed the Lord blindly doing the craziest things. So often they didn’t even get to see His finished work. Noah built the ark, a boat that he had no idea what that even was and he followed God’s CRAZY specific instructions for like 100 years all by faith.

As we went through this I was so glad that God was calling me to something easy and short. I really can’t help but laugh. From the time we said YES we will adopt, to the day Zoe was actually in America and in my arms was almost 3 years. Now that’s not as long as some others waited and by far not the longest process I’ve ever heard of, but it was long and grueling and hard.

 By Faith, I believed the Lord called me to this.

 By Faith I knew he wouldn’t fail me.

 By Faith I knew that He had a better plan for this little girl I would get to call my own.

After the Bible study had ended and changed, as seasons do, those girls were still my go to people. And near the end of our process when circumstances were hard and my faith weary it was that group that stood by my side. It was them that held my weak arms up and wouldn’t let me give in. They said, “We are with you to the end” and they were. And they still are!

We have some beautiful photos that were taken at the airport and it was a freaking party. Zoe can and will tell you now that she came home sad, and confused, BUT she will also tell you there were a lot of people there to celebrate her homecoming. That is because it wasn’t just my victory or my family’s victory it was all of ours, Zoe was an orphan no more!! That group had expanded my heart, and my reach. Those women cried with me, and prayed, and gave, and connected me with new people. And my favorite part is that it all started on the floor of a child care room in a gym. In a place where we sat, with little to no makeup, and we were real and open with each other. That, guys, is the key. Be real. Be honest. Be open. Be a friend.

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This is only half the people! That was a party!! I love looking back at these faces. I see so much JOY!!

Where can you be real today? How can you meet a friend right where she is? What can you do to open yourself up now to find community? I know that it’s not easy and I know that it’s terrifying to walk into new places and not know anyone, but what if today you were just a little bit braver? What could that look like? Let’s be bold and full of faith together!

What I Have Learned in the Last Two Years

What I have learned in the two years since Zoe came home:

Well real quick, if we are new friends let me give you the story. Almost five years ago my husband and I whole heartedly jumped into the adoption process for a little girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo. We received her picture with very little information about her other than the fact that she was deaf. We said yes and then waited and fought for her for the next year and a half. Zoe Danielle came home August 18, 2015. For me to say that she is the sweetest little fire cracker is an understatement. To say that she changed our family for the best is an understatement. To say that the past five years were easy would be a lie straight from the devil himself. So here are some things that I have learned:

My family looks different. We were prepared for some off looks or sideways glances when Zoe came home. I mean we are a multiracial family and in we walk signing, or widely gesturing. Sometimes Jesse and I will try to dissect the reason for the stares, but really most the time we just smile and then kindly ignore. So my lesson from this is, “Get over it Jeanette. Yes, you look different. Maybe those people think you are giving them off looks because you keep smiling at them. Stop being a weirdo!”

People will ask you LOTS of questions. In these moments I am almost thankful that Zoe cannot hear the things people will ask. I am a fairly open book and we LOVE to tell our adoption story. But, asking how much she cost or if her real mom is dead isn’t the best way to get me to open up. I LOVE when people ask me where is she from or simply ask about our story. These are things that are not only appropriate, but so much fun to talk about. My lesson from this: People ask dumb questions. Sometimes I can laugh them off, sometimes I just ignore them.

You will feel abandoned. Let me be totally real. Our community rallied around us in the most amazing way. We had meals delivered to our front door for weeks. We had groceries brought to us, we had cookies delivered, we had people come and just sit with us. We also had the most amazingly fun and lovely Adoption Shower. We were loved on real good. When all of that faded, the newness wore off, and life just started again, it got real quiet around here. That’s a little hard to admit because I don’t want to hurt anyones feelings, but I want to be honest. I felt so lonely. The dust settled and life was looking and feeling a bit more normalISH. We were forming a family, teaching a language, learning a language, all the while teaching and showing Zoe love and trust. It was hard and exhausting and I don’t think I knew the words I needed to even begin to ask for help. I just felt alone. My lesson from this: If you feel alone you are not: text, call, ask, and even beg someone to let you come over and if they say yes then you better go! I realize looking back that I was scared to act on our new normal or to impose our new normal onto our friends. I am so thankful that I had a friend that realized I was being a hermit and sort of forced Zoe and me out of the house and into the functioning part of our new world.

Play is the language of all kids. I love watching Zoe play with her group of friends. She can be bossy and that always makes me cringe but they are all playing the same thing and only a few of them know sign language or know more than just a few words. But off they go playing and having fun. I love the girls that she has surrounded herself with, they are kind and so accepting. Zoe tends to make friends everywhere we go and I watch her walk up to new kids, reach her hand out and shake then wave them (or drag them) over to start a new game. It never fails that they just follow her, and join into whatever world she’s got going on. I tend to be nervous for her, or for the new friend: Is Zoe being too bossy, will the new friend understand that Zoe is deaf and will that new friend be kind? For the most part it’s yes to all of the above. My Lesson from this: As long as kids are not raised by jerks they will be kind. We have been around a very few jerk-y kids but they haven’t fazed Zoe one bit!

My last lesson is this…

This is hard. Adopting, the process, the becoming a new version of our family… it’s all super hard work. Some days I would lay in bed exhausted, doubting how worth it it was. Then days like the other morning when Zoe came in and laid directly on top of me, snuggled up and dozed off when I know in the deep places of my heart how right this is. My lesson from this: If it came easy you wouldn’t appreciate it. There were times she wouldn’t let me snuggle her, there were times I didn’t want to snuggle her. But years later here we are snuggled up, with consistent “I love you’s”

Two years ago we left the airport with a new daughter. She looked terrified and weary but she was mine. I had ached and longed for this girl. My arms were finally around her and I was  never letting her go. She is a Tapley through and through; loud, sassy, funny and even super tall. She is gracious to me in my short-comings and her gratitude is off the charts. I can truly say that with this little girl in my life and in our family I am a better mom.

On a quick side note, let me tell you one more story: We as a family are huge Disney fans, and this past Spring Break we went to Disneyland. While standing in line for a ride, I looked over at Zeke (10) and Titus (8) and asked them what their favorite core memory (From the Pixar movie INSIDE OUT) was. Keep in mind we are in Disneyland, we had just met Mickey! Without even thinking they both said in unison, “The day Zoe came home.” My heart smiled and I remembered that while we were in the waiting process of bringing Zoe home I worried that we would be “messing up our family” or the boys would get less of us because of her or that she wouldn’t like them or they wouldn’t like her or the countless other fears I had that made no sense! I am so thankful we messed our family up. I am so thankful we look different.