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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Adoption, Foster Care, Miscarriage, Parenting

Loss Awareness

I wonder how many foster and adoptive homes started with miscarriages and infertility. So many times our path follows unplanned curves and setbacks, ultimately getting to exactly the destination intended for us. Everytime I am amazed how much my God loves me. How much greater His plan really is. It’s hard to trust, but He always answers.

We started looking into foster care after 2 years of infertility and being told we’d likely never conceive on our own. We had our first miscarriage after baby #1. We’d always intended to foster, but it was the little push we needed. Our oldest son was brought to us through foster care. He was our first placement. After getting him, we were pregnant with our firstborn, another son. We lost a baby after that. We’ve since had a daughter and another son, who initially had a twin that didn’t survive. It’s so easy to feel guilty. To think you failed that child and failed your spouse. Letting go of that guilt is so hard, but so important. You rarely could have done anything to prevent a miscarriage.

Two babies in heaven. 6 children. How do you answer that question? Yes, I have 4 children… I’m the mother of 6… I’m not asking for sympathy, but I don’t want my babies to be forgotten, either.

I’ve learned so many people have lost a baby at some point. It’s overwhelming how common miscarriage is, yet it’s a silent epidemic. 1 in 4 is a low estimate, in my experience. In my nursing career it is heartbreaking how often I’ve tried to comfort a young mother losing a child. I’ve been 6 months large and uncomfortable while supporting a mom in her loss, feeling so incredibly guilty for my own healthy pregnancy. I’ve also been grieving my own silent loss while caring for flippant mothers discussing scheduling abortions or freely using substances throughout their pregnancies. Both sides hurt. I questioned God’s plan in both situations. I hurt for the young couple, and I hurt for my own loss.

He is good, even if. Even now, even in loss, even in heartache, He is still good.

Awareness is important. Speaking out is freeing. Acknowledging those babes lost is healing. Knowing you’ll see them again someday is gracefully redeeming.

Foster Care

A Calling

I haven’t posted for a while. I have really struggled getting the thoughts onto the page without leaving any negative effect on those around me. This page, and the people here who are so encouraging and uplifting, have gotten me through many difficult moments on this walk of foster care.

We have spent the summer waiting out a decision. Waiting to see what the powers that be will do, praying desperately for the outcome of a sweet child with no where to go. A child bonded and attached to a foster family, but a child whose future is uncertain. The decisions made have absolutely crushed us. I never placed my trust in the system – it is broken and ugly. I did put faith in local people and officials though, trusting that they really were doing the best they could do. I didn’t believe foster care was an outcome, but we felt it was our calling.

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We’ve long known this is where God has had us. We’ve occasionally turned down placements, not feeling that they were what God intended. We’ve sought His plan through the entire process. 30 kids later, we are still seeking His plan. I know now more than ever that God is ultimately in control. The local system, the judges, lawyers, directors and caseworkers – they are simply playing their parts. I believe that He has a perfect plan for each child, wherever they are placed. We have witnessed so many miraculous things throughout many of our kids’ cases that could only be God directing their paths.

A couple weeks ago, our Pastor spoke about calling — he said we aren’t called to a calling, we are called to Christ. Wow. Thank you Jesus for the timely reminder. He saw these changes coming, and He still calls us. He still has a plan, He is still in control. We are called to a life of service, a life of pouring ourselves out. We will continue to do so, because He fills us back up. He strengthens us, and He replenishes our joy.

So no, I don’t trust in the system. I trust in my Father. Fully. I don’t know if we will continue as foster parents. I didn’t expect that walk to end so soon. 6 years, 30 incredible children, so many little ones in our arms and hearts.  My broken trust in the system makes me fear for our future. Fear for our children. I am afraid of those around us, those who may vindictively make false accusations that can destroy everything we do — I’m watching it happen now. So much good, such change for the better… stopped because of a broken system. Because of this, I’ve had a hard time finding encouragement for other foster parents/potential foster parents. I just want to be transparent, and continue this walk, wherever it goes. Thankful for new mercies every morning, for grace to continue every step of the way, and for newly replenished joy that can only come from Jesus.

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Foster Care

When Mom Fails

An unexpected side effect to foster care — as the foster parent, you’re usually the bad guy. The caseworkers do what they can to help the birth parents get their lives in order, often without even much communication with the foster family. The kids can be resentful and so often fully supportive of their parents, no matter what they’ve been put through, because, after all, they are still Mom or Dad. And the birth parents — you represent everything they have failed. You provide a safe space for their kids. You are there for the milestones they miss. You are “in this for the money” or “just want to keep my kid”. Oh my, if only they knew. We all know the financial side of foster care is not worth the heartache or the financial investment required. While many foster families are open to adoption, or even have started foster care in order to hopefully adopt someday, they aren’t waiting to snatch your child away. They are simply there, offering a safe space, offering a loving home, and are more than willing to provide that forever, if necessary.

Believe it or not, as a foster mom, I’m rooting for mom and dad. I can’t imagine being in the position they are in. I can’t imagine not having my children under my roof every single night, being able to talk to them face to face every single day, snuggling & loving on them. I want mom & dad to succeed, to raise their own child in a healthy & safe home. It just doesn’t always happen. More often than not, the child returns home, even if changes are only minor. At least there’s been improvement – mom & dad are trying! Addiction is an ugly animal. Improvement isn’t always enough. Parents with drug problems need help. They need parenting classes, counseling, support with childcare, transportation & groceries, accountability. They need a village to support them. MDTs are multi disciplinary teams – groups of people from all disciplines with the same goal: to help that child succeed, preferably at home with their mom & dad.

So what happens when they fail?

How many times can mom or dad be arrested, the child thrown into upheaval?

How long can a child be exposed to the perils of an addiction-driven life?

How many children can mom & dad have & lose?

There doesn’t seem to be an answer. Sure there’s the 15-out-of-22 laws and there are parental termination standards. But even then, the process can take years. And it isn’t always what is best for the child.

No one wins in the end. Parental termination can bring some finality & some stability. It can offer that child a forever. But it can be traumatic for all involved.

Bad guy or not, I’m not out to take your child away from you. The state did that. I’m just here to love them in the meantime.

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.