Adoption, Foster Care, Homeschooling, Miscarriage, Parenting

Moment by Moment

I’ve wanted to start a blog for a couple of years, mainly as a place to see what God is doing in black and white, but also a place to record my thoughts & memories. I’ve put it off several times but decided to finally jump in. I’m excited to see where God takes me through this journey.

I have so many titles & roles, like most moms, and I struggle with the guilt of balancing it all, but I’m so thankful to be a mom and get to do what I love. My kids are my why, providing a home and environment where they are loved, grow, learn & thrive. I enjoy being a nurse and especially love the chaos and unknown in emergency nursing. I have a supportive and wonderful husband who leads with quiet strength & seems to always know what I need. I’m thankful and blessed to have my parents & in-laws close by.  I’m the oldest of 9 children so have a fairly high tolerance of chaos & noise.

I homeschool my four children, love to cook & bake, do the occasional diy activity, and we are slowly remodeling our 1910 home. One day at a time.

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Foster Care

How do You Say Goodbye?

We said goodbye again this week, and have several more goodbyes to anticipate in the coming weeks between our placements &placements in our extended family. It never gets easier. I have learned to trust more. I know He has a perfect plan, and we have done our best to offer what each child needs while they are in our home, but it’s hard not to want them to stay. I trust He loves them more than I do, but it doesn’t get any easier to say goodbye.

Some things I’ve learned from saying goodbye:

1. These kids don’t need me in their lives for God to work in them. We had a caseworker tell us once that yes, the child was returning to an environment we would never allow our children to be in, and no, it wasn’t perfect, but it was home & it was the best those parents could do. I’m not talking about cheaper clothes or less nutritious food, I’m talking about living in a home with a convicted felon sex offender who was actively grooming this child. But the State said the parents did all they needed to & their daughter must go back. So she did. And she’s done well. No, she hasn’t been raised like I would have raised her, and no, she wasn’t as sheltered as I would have wanted, but she’s becoming a successful young lady in spite of her environment. Perhaps, just perhaps, her time with us was meant to equip & prepare her. I don’t have the answers, but I do trust the Author more than ever.

2. GOD loves them &wants the very best for them – even more than I do. One of the hardest parts of saying goodbye is sometimes never seeing that precious child again. I’ve had placements I was terrified for their survival & used to occasionally check obituaries in neighboring towns, just in case. Talk about fear reigning rather than trusting a loving Father. These children each individually come to mind at the strangest, most unexpected times with a little memory or a name. We pray for them. They remain forever a part of our story. Their chapter with us may have ended but their story has not.

3. GOD is still on the throne & will fight for them. They have many battles ahead, no matter how good their home life is. He is still fighting for them, providing for them, protecting them. Perhaps our influence will allow them to shine a light in their homes & schools & allow even greater reach of His love. We will never know the extent or the whys. That’s okay.

4. Each child is brought here because they need something we can offer. Just as I was created to be my children’s mother & am the only one who can do so, so we are also called to love these kids because right now it is where they are supposed to be. When the Author of the universe has such specific design, it makes saying goodbye a little easier. Who am I, really, other than just a mom who loves her kids? If I can’t protect the children I created & I have to entrust them to the Father every single day, how can I do any less with another mother’s child He’s entrusted to me?

5. I am still called to love & open my home. Each child, each placement we feel called to say yes to, each and every goodbye is in obedience. I’ve said before Foster care is a unique ministry because it brings the broken into our safe place, there is no escape. It opens up our home & our family to specific attack. We are asked to open our home & our hearts & we will continue to do so.

Foster Care, Foster Care Awareness, Parenting

Foster Care Aware

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This video is really well made. I highly recommend it. There are actually several portions you can view if you go to www.removedfilm.com. Every time I’ve seen it I’ve been brought to tears. Each time I see little familiar faces. Big sisters desperately wanting to continue offering care for their baby brother or sister. Babies crying for their mothers, not understanding why they were taken.

This month it is particularly hard to see. This month we will say goodbye to three sweet kids and due to circumstances outside our and their control, they will be going to different permanent homes. Siblings split up. It’s what the team of experts have agreed to do. It’s probably what is best for each of them. They will do well. They will be with relatives who love them. But they won’t be together. As an older sister, it absolutely breaks my heart. I’m trusting God. Trusting that they are going where they are supposed to be, trusting that not only does He have a plan for each of their lives, but that He has a good plan and He will protect them while it carries out.

Still.

Goodbyes are so hard.

The most common response I hear when people ask about foster care is “I couldn’t let them go”. I could not agree more. However, they aren’t mine to keep. If I could easily say goodbye, perhaps I shouldn’t be doing this in the first place. Goodbyes are hard. Our kids have a hard time, they don’t always understand why these kids come into their home and their family and then leave, sometimes never to see them again. My husband and I have a hard time, hurting over their loss and yet relief to be back to our little family, then guilt for feeling relieved. Relieved to step out of the constant visits and appointments and therapy, relieved to not have little strangers – no matter how loved – in the midst of our every moment.

Foster care is unique from other ministries. In foster care, you open your home, you bring the trauma under your roof, you bring the ugly of the outside world into your safe space. The things you would shield your children from are brought out into the open, discussed at the dinner table, and walked through day to day. It’s the only way to minister to these broken kids. There’s no going home at night, there is no break. It’s always present, always needing something, always there.

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May is foster care awareness month. Perhaps you are already plenty aware. Perhaps foster care and adoption are a whole new world. Either way, there are people in your own circles who would love to hear some encouragement. If you know a foster family, thank them. If you know children in foster care, love on them. If you know a social worker, let them know they are so appreciated.

If you’re feeling called to open your home to a foster child, please contact me. I’d love to point you in the right direction. There are some fantastic resources available.

If you don’t feel called, please don’t try to take in a child. They have so much trauma, so much pain to work through. These kids don’t need the added pain of being in a home that isn’t right for them. There are so many other ways you can help. Support the foster family. These kids are brought with a garbage bag of clothes, sometimes. They often need underwear and toothbrushes, hairbrushes, sports or musical equipment, clothing, blankets, special babies or teddies. Take a foster family a meal. Send flowers to a social worker. Offer to keep a foster family’s kids for a date night.

And as always, pray for the foster families and the children in care.

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Foster Care

Raising Your Legacy

Life is hard with toddlers. Since 2011, I’ve been wiping little bums, stepping on Legos, finding smelly sippy cups, picking up dishes, dirty clothes, and stuffed animals–all of those things you look forward to your kiddos actually being old enough to help with someday, thinking I can’t wait until…

And yet…

The moments–enjoying them, living in them–that is my goal this year: to be intentional in the moments. That is easy to remember in the good instances (ie. the occasions when I have three or four babes snuggled up to read a book). It’s not so easy to remember late in the night making yet another pass through the living room to pick up all. the. things. Oh Lord, help me remember; bring it to my mind – be thankful in that messy, frustrating moment.

These are the moments. These are the legacy-building, life-changing, forever-altering moments. Now is the time, not later, not when they’re older. These little people are growing and learning right in front of me. They are each becoming their own little persons. One is so passionate and loving, one so busy and detailed, one so curious, and one so smiley and sweet. If we do not surround our precious kiddos in the love of Jesus now, and show by example how to follow Him, it will be too late. They are never too young to learn.

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It is alarming the number of young adults leaving their faith as soon as they leave home. Christianity is failing our kids. What are we doing wrong? Are we too busy chasing the social media perfect home life? Are we spending too much time trying to create Pinterest-Perfect birthday parties? (Don’t get me wrong; I love to throw a good birthday party!) Are we entertaining every moment instead of allowing our kids some boredom? Are we not real at home? I want my kids to be the church — to love the lost, to be real every moment, to reach out to those around them. I want them to see that at home. Do they see judgement and critical spirits? Do they learn fake behavior and false fronts? Or are they experiencing grace? Love? God’s love. Real and full and more amazing than anything else they could experience in a hundred lifetimes. Real parents who sin and mess up and ask forgiveness. I don’t know what the answers are, but I know what I want my kids to experience.

Someday, the love my kids have for the world around them will be my legacy. Who they become will be in part because of my parenting. I know we all make mistakes, and I know we all are born with a sinful nature; all of my kids’ future issues are not entirely a reflection of my parenting. Yet their understanding of a loving, forgiving God will be in part due to my parenting and the example of love in which they are immersed.

I will purposefully and intentionally teach my kids the word of God. I will purpose to model His love to them the best I know how. As I’m forgiven, as I learn and grow and make mistakes, as they see the private moments, they will imitate what they see. May it be His overwhelming love.

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Adoption, Foster Care, Parenting

Learning the Gender

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I was perusing Pinterest the other day and reading all of these fun gender reveal ideas. Cakes, cake pops, balloons… entire parties built around learning the gender identity of a child you’re anxiously awaiting. Do you decorate with bows or action figures… pink or blue? As a nurse I’ve seen many gender reveals turn out to be incorrect. Ultrasounds are getting incredibly detailed, but they can occasionally still be wrong. Until that baby is in your arms, it truly could be a boy or a girl! It is a fun trend, and can shape the baby’s decor/clothing/shower. It is exciting and fun, and perfect to post on social media.

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We have never found out a gender ahead of time. For being such a Type A/planner personality, it is strange for me to not need to know as soon as humanly possible what this little human I was carrying may be. We did have an atypical experience, though. Our first baby we had about 8 hours notice of his arrival. We had nothing. We scrambled to get a bed, nursery basics, clothing, food, blankets. We didn’t get to announce a growing family, or post pictures of Mom’s heels (ha! Clogs? Chacos?), Dad’s boots, and baby shoes. We simply received a phone call asking if we’d take a placement. A beautiful baby boy who’d already been through more trauma then he deserved, dropped at our doorstep with a newspaper clipping, a cut in half onesie, and a half a bag of baby clothes that mostly were too small. No blanket, no stuffed animal, not even a full name or birthday. It was a holiday weekend and we didn’t even learn the basics about him for almost a week. What was intended to be a two week placement became an adoption: that incredible smiley little boy made me a Mama. That experience may have shaped our desire to wait until our baby was in our arms to find out what it would be. We’ve since welcomed two amazing boys and one sweet baby girl as well as almost 30 foster placements. We haven’t found out once what they were going to be. I will always remember our first child’s birth… my husband yelled out “It’s a boy!” then immediately turned to the Doctor and apologized … “sorry, that’s your job, isn’t it?”. It was a beautiful moment of celebration, fulfillment, and gratitude. No less than the moment the judge signed the paperwork and my oldest son grinned at me… he was “o-fish-al”. Even he knew it was a special moment. He was ours. We were his. Forever. He taught me what sleepless was, what exhaustion could be, what overwhelmed was. I was afraid I wouldn’t bond with him. Oh how incredible that is to remember now, when my heart could not be any more full of love for this amazing boy.

There was a certain man … whose name was Elkanah…. He had two wives; one was called Hannah and the other Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none. Year after year this man went up from his town to worship and sacrifice to the Lord Almighty at Shiloh, where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests of the Lord. Whenever the day came for Elkanah to sacrifice, he would give portions of the meat to his wife Peninnah and to all her sons and daughters. But to Hannah he gave a double portion because he loved her, and the Lord had closed her womb. Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat. Her husband Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up. Now Eli the priest was sitting on his chair by the doorpost of the Lord’s house. In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.” “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.” Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.” She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” When her husband Elkanah went up with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfill his vow, Hannah did not go. She said to her husband, “After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the Lord, and he will live there always.” “Do what seems best to you,” her husband Elkanah told her. “Stay here until you have weaned him; only may the Lord make good his word.” So the woman stayed at home and nursed her son until she had weaned him. After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there. So now I give him to the Lord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there.

1 Samuel 1

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We’ve always wanted a large family. Six. That was the magic number we threw back and forth to each other dreaming as newly weds. Funny how God works isn’t it? I remember fearing I’d never be a mother… I remember one final meltdown where I was in tears on my closet floor, begging God to let us have a baby. Shortly later they brought us little man. So far we have 33 kids we consider ours… that we remember often, pray for, and thank God for. We’ve had up to 8 at once, usually ages 6 and under. Those numbers also represent how many times we have had to say goodbye. Sometimes it’s been a wonderful thing. Occasionally we have witnessed and helped a parent get back on their feet and decide to parent their child. Once in a while we’ve been able to experience family members step in and give the child a home and love. But sometimes, that goodbye is in fear. Fear of the unknown, fear for that child’s safety and well-being. Fear for their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. Daily lifting that child up and letting go. Daily letting God be in control. Parenting is hard. Mothering is hard. Whether through adoption, foster care, pregnancy; it’s all hard. There is such a sacrifice required to be a mother. But, oh, there is a great joy as well. It is so hard. It is so worth it. Just as Hannah had to do in the so often quoted verse. How often do we remember the whole story? She was given the child she prayed for… and she had to give him back. We are thankful for these children we’ve prayed for and were given. It’s been a wild ride, and praise the Lord, it’s just getting started.

Foster Care, Homeschooling, Parenting

Love the Bad Guys

There are some down sides to foster care. One thing specifically we have prayed through has been the effect on our children. The ones who didn’t sign up to share their home, their parents, their toys, even their clothes…. who didn’t sign up but get to be thrown into this life with us. Don’t get me wrong, our kids are on board as much as they can be at their ages. They love having new friends “foster brothers/sisters!” in and out. For the most part, they love to share their things and their home. They love to ask about kids who have moved on, even months or years down the road. We have prayed against negative influences in our children. We have turned down placements for children older than ours who would move our kids into roles of being influenced, rather than the influencers. So far it has worked well.

A few weeks ago we had a sibling group of three placed with us. Two of them are much older than our kids, but young enough to still just need to be kids. It has been a great fit. They have a lot of trauma to work through. They are each just little old souls – which is hard to see in such young faces. We are only beginning to get the pieces of the traumatic chaos that has been their normal.

The other night while praying for dinner, my little man A (6 years old) prays, “and thank you that we don’t love the devil like people who worship the devil do”. My eyes flew open and met my husbands across the table. What in the world!?

After he was finished praying, I asked where he’d heard something like that. The little preteen girl sheepishly says “I told him some people worship the devil”. We had a conversation about remembering that my kids are younger and just don’t need to be exposed to some things that might be normal in their lives. It was all smooth and calm and no big deal and I hoped it was over.

Two days later, my boys were having a discussion in the car about whether or not they love bad guys. My little man, G, (4 years old), says “we love everyone, even bad guys”. A responds with, “no, not people who worship the devil”. G says “well, we can love them too and then they can learn how to love Jesus”. WOW.

These kids have no idea what a devil worshiper might be. They just know they love Jesus. They know that they need to love the people around them. AND they know that they can possibly love people to love Jesus. Wow. My world stopped for a minute. I was so prepared to do battle with ideas… to hide them from this unknown danger that they were thrust into… and they responded with what they know. Love. Everyone. Even when they move into your home and play with your toys and take all of your Mom & Dad’s attention. Love them. Even when they dress or act or look differently. Love them.

There are still ramifications of these conversations. My 4 year old has woke up twice now in tears that he had a nightmare. He says he had dreamed that he didn’t love Jesus anymore, just the devil. Now, I believe in Jesus. I believe in the devil. I believe we already know who wins… and it’s barely a fight. Jesus speaks and it will be over. He is omnipotent, omniscient. The devil is not something I’m hiding from my kids. We don’t talk about him though. They certainly haven’t heard him mentioned that I know of. I don’t believe in a environment of fear. I don’t believe in sheltering or hiding my children from the things around them either… but there is no need to introduce things they don’t necessarily need to know about in their preschool years either. I believe in being intentional in what they are exposed to. Intentional in what they are protected from.

I’m thankful that my kids are being raised in this environment of love. That they know they can love everyone. That they are learning to share their things. I pray they will always know to question their beliefs, to know why they love the LORD, and that they will always love everyone – even the bad guys.

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Foster Care, Parenting

Thy Will…

I’m a planner. I love to check things off of my list – even adding the unplanned things I completed to the list in order to check them off. I love my new planner at the beginning of the year & I love my colored pens. Once, in college, the professors changed our syllabi schedule & deadlines about 3 weeks into the semester. I couldn’t handle it, I had to go buy a new planner. Truth.

God enjoys stretching me in this area. From a husband who doesn’t like to have anything planned, to my job allowing for something different everyday, to parenting toddlers, to foster care – nothing in my life is routine. We do something different every single day. We get up at different times & head to bed at completely different times day to day. My sister has chosen to sleep train & been very successful doing so. It has worked well for their family & I’ve wondered if I’m hurting my kids in the long run. I can’t help but be overwhelmed thinking about having my kids at the same place at the same time every single day. Our kids are really pretty amazing & have all just rolled with the punches. Naps have happened whenever & wherever they needed to.

I like to control what little things I can in the midst of the chaos. I like to have order & organization. I’m thankful that my kids are teaching me to loosen up. That they are so good at asking to snuggle & read a quick book when I’m three loads deep in laundry. I’m thankful for a husband who will grab my hand & pull me to our porch swing to enjoy the rain for a moment even if dinner is getting overdone…

I’m thankful for a God who knows the plan, Who is in control of every detail, Who cares about the little things, & Who desires good things for me. More importantly, that He desires good things for my littles even more than I do.

I’m thankful to live in the moment, by the moment, for the moment… and yet to have an eternity focus. I can let go& enjoy because God is in control. I can focus on the relationship in that moment because eternity matters. I can let go of my to do lists because these things are more important.

Foster Care

See? I am doing a NEW thing. 

New. Funny how the very word can excite with images of fresh & clean & different. A new book or journal or planner! A New Year. New resolutions. New beginnings. New eating plans or exercise routines. New study habits & devotional times. A new me.

We all make rather lofty goals each year. We know resolutions rarely make it longer than a month. Yet we make them. Hopeful for change, growth, improvement.

Here’s the thing – I won’t change unless I change what I’m doing. I can’t grow unless I stretch myself. I am unable to improve without removing poor habits. And oh, am I a creature of habit, resistant to change! Obedience to His calling brings change to our outlook.

I did not make resolutions this year. I decided to focus on the little things. On being present. On living in the moment. With sick kids off and on the past two weeks, I’ve gotten plenty of exhausted, frustrated, sleepy, snuggly opportunity to do just that. A chance to focus on the moment. My home is still decorated for Christmas. I had great intentions of getting my tree down two weeks ago. Oh but I’ve enjoyed sitting near it with a child or two snuggled in sleeping or reading or just sitting with me.

Maybe it is mid- January, and maybe my neighbors are more annoyed than usual, but that’s okay. I’m not comparing to their homes, nor do I care what they think. I’m enjoying the moments with my babes who all too soon won’t snuggle their Mama when they get sick. I’m focusing on the moment, not on my ever present to-do list.

I’m excited to see what God has in store for my family this year. I’m expecting great things. Heart things. Health things. Provisional things. New things. I am excited for change & growth. And maybe excited about a new planner as well. 😉

Here’s to change in 2018, growing & learning, focusing on being present in the moment, and embracing the new things God has for my family.

See? I am about to do something new. Even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19