All posts by Mama

7 Reasons We Kicked Santa to the Curb

OK…so before you read this post, PLEASE READ THIS: 

Our family doesn’t celebrate Santa and I’m giving some legitimate reasons as to why. But this post is meant to be taken in good humor. I’m not writing this to make anyone feel badly or to criticize. I am writing this to provoke thought and there are some for real questions and points I intend to make. But, seriously. My parents celebrated Christmas with Santa and I never once thought they were bad parents for doing it. In fact, as terrified as I am in the picture under reason #4 , it’s one of my favorite Christmas pictures…because it’s HILARIOUSHowever, I do find it ironic how much people talk up Santa Claus at Christmas time. Yes, St. Nicholas was a pretty stellar guy. But honestly, let’s examine…

Reason #1 – Let’s face it…we’re lying to our kids. My cousin once told me that her family was big on Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And she truly believed in Santa.  Her mom took pains to make sure that the illusion was upheld. And then she found out the truth. And she felt betrayed and lied to. And it took her time to trust her mother again. Let’s let that sink in. You may think this is extreme, but we cannot take for granted that our kids know the truth and are just playing along. They may not. If your kids are as literal and black & white as mine, they may be falling for it hook, line and sinker. And is it worth losing their trust over when they finally figure it out?

Reason # 2 – He plays favorites. My hubby told me the other day that he seriously thought Santa liked other kids more than him. His parents weren’t rich, so he would get a small gift from “Santa” every year. Then he would go back to school and find out that his rich friend got a new bike or a Power Wheels. That’s a big disparity. This can cause our kids to ask, If Santa plays favorites, who else does? Do my parents? Does God? 

Reason # 3 – And speaking of comparisons, he is a God-like figure.  “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good…” Instead of our children being encouraged to be good and obey because it pleases God, we’re encouraging them to be motivated to “be good” in order to get stuff.

Reason #4 – Stranger Danger matters…except with Santa Claus. All year long we tell our kids, “Don’t to talk to strangers. Don’t take candy from strangers. DON’T EVER sit on a stranger’s lap! Who knows what a CREEP like that is looking for! Oh, except for this big dude in a bright red suit with a bushy white beard that covers his whole face. Wait, why are you crying? Stop that. He’s perfectly safe. You can trust him!” (see photo below) We need to help our children foster their gut instincts to stay away from people that give them a bad feeling. If your kid is terrified to sit on Santa’s lap, let it go. You can get other cute Christmas shots sans Santa.

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Mom and Dad having to sit on Santa’s lap with me to get the shot, Christmas 1982

Reason # 5 – He gives stores a way to pressure us parents into consumerism and debt to keep the fantasy alive. There your kiddo is, sitting on Santa’s lap. You are straining to hear what they are asking for to make sure you were on the right track for their gifts and then, to your horror, little Suzy asks for a puppy or little Bobby asks for a train set.  That actually happened to us. A couple of years ago while we were in Kentucky for Christmas, Nana and Papa paid for all of us to go on a train ride with Santa. We decided to relent and let the kids  sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what they wanted. Up walks Nutkin and asks for a train. Ummmm? We had no idea that he wanted that. He had said nothing. And here we are completely done with our Christmas shopping, thousands of miles from home and only three days before Christmas. Thankfully, Nana and Papa had gotten him a train unbeknownst to us and all was well. But how often does that happen where the parents then make a mad dash to the store, spend more than they intended and stress themselves out? And worse yet, how many times have you heard a store clerk tell your kiddo, “You like that $400.00 toy, huh? Well, maybe Santa will bring that to you for Christmas.” *wink, wink* Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

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Nutkin dropping the bomb on us… December 2014

Reason #6 – He replaces us as the giver of the best gifts to our children. We all know how hard we work.  We want Christmas to be special, so we scrimp and save to give good gifts to our children. We spend hours shopping, standing in lines, decorating and wrapping gifts. But instead of putting “TO: Johnny, FROM: Mommy & Daddy” on the package, we give Santa, a distant, un-involved magical man all of the credit! WHAT ARE WE THINKING?!  Sorry, but I want my kids to realize that I love them and hand-picked a present personally for them.

Reason #7 – He takes the focus off Jesus. This is a separate point from reason #3 and to me, the most important reason of all. If you are not a Christian, this argument is moot. But to those of us that are, I believe that I can make the argument with little dispute that Christmas is all about Jesus. If we can establish this as fact, then we must examine who we are giving focus to besides Jesus at Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birthday. Holiday means “holy day.” It’s His day. Not Santa’s or Rudolph’s or an Elf on the Shelf or any other character. Santa often represents commercialism, excess and what we can get. Jesus not only represents, but IS the embodiment of grace, mercy, humility and what God gave…Himself. And what a beautiful present He is!

So dear friends, as this holy day fast approaches, my family and I wish you the happiest of Christmases.

My next posts will be about the Jesse Tree, a fairly new Advent tradition in our family. I’m excited to share my discoveries with you!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

National Adoption Month: Our Adoption Story – Part 3

This month I’ve been posting a series about our adoption story. This is the final post of that series.

The first few months of having the boys was a blur. As I sit here thinking about what to write, I can hardly think of what we did.

Our first month was filled with a series of visits to family and friends to make introductions.  We were so thrilled and so overwhelmed. It was a constant balance of sharing our joy and while at the same time sheltering the boys from being overtaken by all the new faces and excitement. Dear friends threw us showers. Shane’s parents flew in from Kentucky. We dedicated the boys to the Lord in church, though the adoption was not yet finalized.

Shane had taken paternity leave. Our days were filled with zoo trips, beach trips, playing at the park, coloring, building train tracks and running through sprinklers. Nights were filled with rocking and reading, tears and tantrums, nightmares and no sleep.

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Our first family picture…ever

All of my life I had wanted to be a Mommy. And now that I was one, I was constantly fluctuating between pure joy and sheer terror for what we would be facing.

Our oldest continued to go to therapy and I would join him at times to learn how to play and interact with him because we struggled to connect. Did you read that? I had to learn how to play. I was learning about all of my deficiencies and inadequacies as a parent. Parenting a special needs child taught me that I had special needs, too. I had so much to learn. So much didn’t come naturally…and it frightened me. And I punished myself for it.  And it’s honestly a big part of why I blog about adoption now. Because the longer I walk this road, the more travelers I meet who say, “Me, too.”

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Our first professional family picture

In August I was told that there was one court hearing I should go to. The boys’ birth mom would be there and it was just a “formality.” When I asked what for, the caseworker said, “Oh, her rights were to be fully terminated that day.” I was horrified because I had been told that was already a done deal when we got the boys in May. As I sat listening to her attorney ask the judge to not terminate, I was literally terrified. I was frozen. My stomach hurt. I was near tears. Looking back, it was really just a formality. She had been to court more than once and this had been an appeal to a previous termination decision. But I was so green I knew next to nothing about the process. As their mom walked into the courtroom, I was struck by how much Pickle looked like her. And I hurt for him. And I hurt for her. And I felt like an intruder. I left the courtroom that day feeling like a rag.

Abigail, the boys’ previous foster mom, warned me that holidays would be bittersweet for years to come. The sadness that the boys experienced in the middle of the joy was tangible. I had to face a new reality that holidays would never be what I had imagined they would be. However, they would still be special. Our reality would just be different than reality for others. And in spite of all the pain, our first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family were magical.

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Our first Christmas

In February, the day finally arrived for the boys to become official Dunaways. Prior to the court hearing, we had discussed name changes, especially with Pickle. He had been named after his father, who he didn’t remember, and was a very Hispanic name, which he did not identify with at all. And so we talked about changing his name. The amazing part in his name choice was that he picked a name both very significant in the Bible and very personally significant to me. We were over the moon excited to have a hand in his name change. Nutkin wanted to be like big brother, so we offered another special name to him which he loved. We collectively decided that the first names their birth mother had chosen were still special and would become their middle name. We wanted them to feel they still had a part of her with them.

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Adoption Day, February 2013

On that beautiful February day, we met at the Marion County courthouse, surrounded by many friends, family, and DHS folks, and the boys became ours.

It was a memorable and very special day.

And we began to settle into a life of just us. Therapy stopped, DHS pulled out of the picture and it was just…us.

But not forever…

Stay tuned. May is National Foster Care month. The story will continue then.

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

 

National Adoption Month: Our Adoption Story – Part 2

In my last post, I left off with us finding out that we had been selected at committee to adopt our boys.

We were in contact with Melissa, the boys’ caseworker, I believe, the next day to start arranging our transition and to discuss what it would look like. The boys were living with a wonderful Christian family, who are now dear friends. At the time, they had one adopted daughter and were in the process of adopting a baby boy. (Their home has since grown by two more daughters through adoption.) Their family is such an integral part of our story. There is no reason that they shouldn’t have adopted our boys. Except God told them no. They loved them and wanted them, but when praying, the Lord told them that the boys belonged to another family. The had the boys call them Aunt Abigail and Uncle Jonathan from the start to make their roles clear.

Since they knew that our boys were not their boys, they pursued another adoption and were smack-dab in the middle of the process when the committee happened. In fact, Abigail, the boys’ foster Mom, was in one of the southern states to be with the birth mother at the hospital. It was a chaotic and disjointed time. We wanted the boys to get a proper send-off from their present home as much as we wanted to bring them to their permanent home. We knew how important that was.

Melissa arranged our first meeting with them. She said it would likely be short and we would follow the boys’ lead. She encouraged us to bring a small gift for each of them, but a camera would probably not be best. That was so hard. We were never able to capture that first moment if meeting them for others to see. However, that moment is indelibly stamped into my mind and heart forever.

As we pulled up to the house, we saw little faces looking out the front curtains. Kem and Melissa met us and we all walked up to the house together. Looking back, I wonder how that looked to the boys. How nervous must they have been? K, almost literally knee-high to a grasshopper went right to Melissa, who lifted him to our eye-level. She asked for him to say his name, which he said in the most adorable way that melted my heart. She asked how old he was and he replied, “I’n two-half.” (Yes, I’n, not I’m.)

M was a little streak in my periphery who quickly disappeared. He was crawling on all fours hiding behind the piano. He peeked out and giggled what I know how was a very nervous little laugh. He scampered across the floor and tried to engage, but struggled. It was brought up that he had a bunny (we had already heard), so he brought Lollipop in for us to meet. We told him she could come, too, and a little barrier was lowered. He asked about Zacchaeus, his anole lizard, and we said he was coming, too. Again, more relief.

While we were interacting with him, a lady who was helping to care for the boys while Jonathan was working and Abigail was out of state, was holding K. He was “reading” the picture book we had sent ahead of time about us and our family. When she pointed to our picture and asked K who it was, he said, “Momma and Daddy!”

Melissa then asked M what he wanted to call us. I was bracing for “Shane and Glenda” to start because I didn’t want to push him. He said, “Mommy and Daddy.”

Words were not enough then.

And they still aren’t now. To hear it for the very first time was a moment frozen in time for me.

We stayed maybe half an hour. We had already planned a trip to Redmond with my parents and were going to cancel when all this started happening, but Melissa strongly encouraged us to keep the plans. “This is the last vacation you two will be taking alone for probably a really long time.” We arranged to have a phone call with the boys while we were out of town and left.

As we drove away, Shane looked at me with tears and said, “Glenda, those are our boys!”

We tried to have a “normal” vacation, but yeah, right. We talked about no one else the entire time. And my parents were thrilled with us. But Shane did manage to take Dad out to shoot his handmade potato cannon and Mom and I did our traditional shopping trip in Sisters. Near the end of the trip, we found an amazing play structure at my folks’ time share that had probably always been there that none of us had ever noticed because we had no need for it. Of course, we all had to pose for a picture in front of it so the kids could see where we take vacations.

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Ready to grow our family!

When we got back it was time to meet with them again and take them to dinner, just the four of us. Abigail and Jonathan told us of a playground nearby and a good restaurant and sent us on our way. We buckled K into his car seat for the first time. We got Mexican food and ordered four meals. This CRACKS. ME. UP! Boy, did we have a lot to learn! Even now, with three kids, we order two adult meals and we all leave full!

I can’t remember if we ate first or played first. It was so surreal. And kind of uncomfortable.

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Shane’s first ever picture with his boys

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“K-man,” as we formerly called him

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M trying very hard to impress us

We took them back to the house and it was bath time for M. I was so shocked when he asked me to help him instead of Aunt Abigail. After that was family devotions and their foster home could not have been a better fit to prepare them for us. They did family worship exactly as we had imagined it to be. Songs, Bible story, praying together…and as we prayed, I wept that evening in thankfulness to the Heavenly Father who does all things well.

It was hard to go home that night.

That weekend we arranged to meet at the local Children’s Museum on Saturday and then take them home for an overnight visit. We would take them back to their church for Sunday morning and then they could say their goodbyes that evening and we’d get them permanently on Monday afternoon.

But that Friday, I got a call at work from Abigail. She had news that could change everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. (I hate to be vague, but that really is a part of the story that is more my son’s than mine, so suffice it to say, it was something that shook us to the core.) Abigail was encouraging us to pray and was hoping that we would still take the boys. Wait, what? Still take the boys? Then I got a call from the case worker. She was asking us to do the same. I didn’t even know that was a choice. Is that actually a choice? They are our boys! My mind was racing. I called Shane frantic. We got off work and drove straight to our pastor’s house for counsel. Were we making a mistake? Were these the right boys for us? We were capable of helping these boys as they dealt with such enormous challenges? Our pastor was calm, peaceful, and confident. “Every kid has problems. Yeah, it’s scary, but the church will be here for you. You won’t be alone.” He encouraged us to pray and to get away. So we did. We drove straight to the beach and got a room at our favorite Best Western. (Yes, we actually have a favorite Best Western.)

 

After talking, praying, crying, talking and praying some more, we knew what we already knew. They were our boys. 

All I remember about Saturday was that I was nervous, M was nervous, K was oblivious and Shane sprained his ankle badly trying to go down a twisty slide like a “cool” Dad.

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Getting to know my little K-man

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Our precious boys

We took them home and while driving our pastor was driving in the next lane and rolled down his windows and yelled like a crazy person, “IS THIS THEM?!?! Hi, Buddy! I’m Pete!” To this day, even though they now live in California, M and Bro. Pete have a very special bond we’re very grateful for him and his wonderful family.

We got home and the boys loved their room. And I was so glad because if they hadn’t I think I would have cried. We spent HOURS on that little 10×13 room.

We played with them, had dinner and tried to introduce them what we hoped our Saturday night routine would be. HAHAHAHAHAHA! (Weren’t we cute?)

We drove them to their foster family’s home church the next morning and were warmly welcomed as one of their own. It was a lovely day. M colored and K fell asleep in my arms during the sermon. My heart was so happy and full.

And we had only just begun. (Cue Carpenters music…And SCENE.)

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

National Adoption Month: Our Adoption Story – Part 1

In honor of National Adoption Month, I’ve decided to share our adoption story with you. It’s a long story that really can’t be made short, so I’ll be making this a two-part post.

Today I’ll be sharing with you what led us to adopt, why we chose to adopt through DHS and what our selection process was like.

Shane and I had individually and independently wanted to adopt before we met each other. (At some point, I may have him post his thoughts for me to share with you all.)

We discussed our desire for our “hypothetical” future spouses to be willing to adopt. I knew I might have trouble conceiving, so it was a no-brainer for me. But I didn’t give up on the dream of having “my own” kids…a phrase that now makes me cringe.

We began dating each other when we were 18 and were married at age 19. We were cute, little, naive teenagers who had a perfect plan on paper of what we wanted our lives to look like. We would have two to four biological kids, raise them, and then when they were in college, we would start again, adopting one “hard to place” child at a time, likely a middle-school aged child, raise them, and send them to college as well, repeat as needed.

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Dig the orange hair? 

To say that I believe that the Lord is patient with us when we tell Him our plans for our future is an understatement.

We had explored adopting from China. I had always felt like my heart was there. But we were discouraged when we found out that the cost was roughly $30,000. We were even more disappointed to find out at age 20 that the minimum age to adopt from China was 30. We couldn’t wait ten years!!!

Fast-forward ten years, at least two miscarriages, one hysterectomy and many, many tears.  Still no kids. Shane and I had each turned our backs on the Lord and returned to Him in that time as well. Some people talk about years of marriage flying by…not so with us. Our ten years felt precisely like ten years: the first two felt like eight and the last eight felt like two. (Read: Our first two years were HARD.)

We explored adopting through a private agency where we could create a photo book about us and a birth mother would pick us for her baby. We were excited about open adoption. But again, the prices seemed insurmountable and I had a personal struggle with fund-raising to adopt.

I can’t remember how we heard about adopting through DHS, but I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I called and spoke to the adoption certifier for our county. He was friendly, answered all my questions and then told me that our county was so backed up that we could go through our neighboring county for training and certification. Little did I know what a God-send that would be for us.

We decided to attend the training classes, that were free. We figured we could always back out if it wasn’t for us. No harm, no foul.

In November 2010 we attended our first class and met E’rma, who would forever change our lives. We sat through three hours of hearing her tell her story. She had been abused. She had been a foster child. She is an adoptive mother. Her story took our breath away. I am pretty sure I cried. More than once. Listening to her that night cemented forever in our souls that this was a calling for us.

And we would answer.

We were so green. We knew nothing about the home study process, how to submit for a child that we were interested in or how a committee worked, let alone what court was like, what a CASA was or what a CANS assessment was. We were starry-eyed.

Our classes ended in January of 2011. We were told there was a long wait for the home study to be processed. They weren’t kidding. We finally got a call from our adoption certifier, Kem, in July 2011. You can read my thoughts about the home study here. 

Kem called me in November of that year to tell me that we were in the system and could now have access to see pictures and profiles of waiting children. I remember poring over the pictures of each sweet little face and reading about five paragraphs that were supposed to tell us everything we needed to know in order to say “yes” to a child.

We found a little girl that seemed like the “perfect” fit and asked to have our study submitted for her in December 2011. We had NO IDEA that it was OK to submit for more than one child, that it was rare to be selected, how many studies were reviewed, and that if we weren’t selected to go to committee, we’d never hear anything. We waited three months. 

Shane and I had joined an adoption support group facilitated by E’rma and Kem and we went to our meeting in February a bit discouraged. It was then that we asked more questions and found out that: A) It was OK to submit for more than one profile, and B) If we hadn’t heard by then, we probably wouldn’t.

Then Kem said the following ten words that changed our lives forever. “I think you need to check out M and K.” (Names omitted for their protection.) She said they were half-brothers, 7- and 2-years old. She said she knew their caseworker was looking for a good fit and she felt we would be strong contenders. So we breathed a quick prayer and said to go ahead and submit our study to Melissa, their caseworker.

A whirlwind ensued. Here we had been waiting for over a year, and then, just like that, the dam of events broke. Melissa called me the very next day following the support group discussion. I was on a lunch break at work and we talked most of that hour. She then put me in contact with their current foster mother. That filled the lunch hour the next day. I still have the stacks of notes I took during those conversations.

When the email arrived in my inbox, I opened the email and with the picture attachment of the boys like it was Christmas. I was practically shaking. I printed it out and took it home. Shane and I pored over it. We had plans to go out of town with close friends the next week. So we took the profile with us to Leavenworth. We prayed. We shared with our friends what we could. We talked with our parents. We prayed some more.

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Leavenworth with our dear friends, March 2012…One of our last childless trips

They seemed like the perfect fit for us.

But the craziness was only beginning. In our excitement, we had submitted our home study for more kiddos. We got back from our trip to find that we had been selected to go to committee, not only for M & K, but another sibling set of little boys. My head was spinning. Was this for real?? 

I tried to place a call to those foster parents as well. I had to leave a message in Spanish on their voicemail, which terrified me. I never got a call back. Probably because I was stuttering like an idiot. And because the Lord had already made the choice for us.

Kem said that the two committees were back to back and that we would be best off to pick which boys we wanted to pursue. How could we choose?? We asked the Lord for guidance, and Kem did say that she really did feel that M & K were a good fit for us, so we chose them.

In her wisdom, she didn’t tell us that it’s rare not to be selected in your first committee. We had no idea what to expect. The weekend before our committee hearing, (that we could not be a part of,) we were counselors for a youth retreat. We had both taken that following Monday off so that we could sit by the phone all day. Looking back, that was comical. There was nothing we could have done. We could have worked, at least a half-day. Instead, I cleaned. Like a maniac. And then we watched a movie in bed and tried not to be nervous.

When the phone finally rang, I confessed we had practically been sitting on our phone all day and Kem chuckled.

“What have you been doing all day??” she asked.

“Cleaning the house. A lot,” I said.

“Well, I guess that’s a good thing, because you have two little boys moving in really soon.”

That’s all I remember of the conversation. We were over the moon excited. That was April 16, 2012. We began coordinating the transition plan. We would meet our boys for the first time on April 27. Our boys. 

We could hardly wait!

To be continued…

 

Blessings and much love,

Mama

 

 

 

 

 

National Adoption Month: 9 Practical Ways to Care for the Fatherless

“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”  ~James 1:27

November is National Adoption Month. It seemed like a good time to write this post on what we can do for the fatherless among us.

This is one of my all-time favorite verses and honestly, the verse that pricked my heart and told me that I was called to adopt. However, I made the mistake of reading a bit too much into this verse and firmly believed until quite recently that all Christians were called to adopt and were not obeying the call. Judgmental, I know, but there it is.

Then we adopted.

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And it was hard, and scary, and troublesome, and brought me to my knees in tears on many occasions. I started asking the Lord, “Is everybody really supposed to do this?” Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think there is anything special about me. I do not believe myself to be more capable of handling adoption than you are. But my husband and I were very clearly called to do this, individually, before we even met each other.  In fact, that was one of the first conversations we had before dating. When Shane said that whoever he married would have to be called to adopt, I knew he was the one.

So after we adopted, I began to wonder what was wrong with me.  Where before, I had been a HUGE advocate for adopting before we actually did, I found it much harder to encourage all of my starry-eyed friends to jump right in and go for it. I was protective of my friends and felt like I was beckoning them into a life of pain and heartache. Yes, the joy and peace and love are still there, but MAN, there are a lot stones, pitfalls and sheer drop-offs on this path that God called us to walk.

Several months ago, I shared how I was feeling with my dear friend, Heidi. Rather ashamed, I told her how judgmental I had been and how I realized how very hard this calling was. In reply, she pointed out that there are many ways to care for the fatherless and widows. Of course, I thought! How had I missed that?

Upon further contemplation and meditation, the Lord basically said, “Read that verse again.” We are to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.  So what exactly does visit mean in this context? James used the Greek word, “episkeptomai,” which means to “inspect, that is, (by implication) to select; by extension to go to see, relieve.” So yes, one of the ways we can care for the fatherless (and I use this term loosely because in today’s culture, this can take many forms), is to “select” them, or adopt them. But there are many practical ways the Church can step up and “relieve” these children, and their foster/adoptive parents, in manageable ways.

  1. Respite Care –Without becoming a full-fledged, full-time foster parent, you can still go to the classes and get certified to become respite care for those who are. Foster parents can’t just call a babysitter when they want to go on a date or just need a break. And even if they could, with the many attachment issues and behaviors their kiddos come with, many wouldn’t want to. Knowing there are folks who are certified to do this is a wonderful thing. If you are interested in doing this, please reach out to me! I can connect you with your local DHS trainer.
  2. Emergency Foster Care –Training is still necessary for this role, but these folks take the kiddos in during transition. Can you imagine the fear and loss a child feels when they have been removed from their unsafe home? It may not even feel unsafe to them and they are confused and heartbroken. Have you ever wondered where these kids go before they’re placed? Emergency foster parents play a crucial role for these kiddos. Over recent months, DHS has been all over the news for putting kids and their caseworkers up in hotel rooms because there were no homes open for placement. Oftentimes, only an emergency shelter home was needed in these cases until relatives were located. You can make a difference.
  3. Foster Parents’ Night Out – This is a wonderful ministry that blesses foster parents in the trenches. Per their website, local churches host FPNO so that foster parents can have a night off while trained volunteers care for their foster, adopted, and biological children. You can become one of those trained volunteers to bless these parents and the children whose lives they touch. Visit their website here to get involved. 
  4. Welcome Boxes –When these kiddos are removed from their homes, often they don’t get to bring things with them and they feel alone. They may have to sit in a DHS office for hours waiting for a placement. A wonderful organization called, Embrace Oregon, is asking volunteers to make Welcome Boxes for these kiddos. They have all kinds of little goodies to make them feel welcome while in DHS care. Even if you don’t live in Oregon, I would encourage you to reach out to your local DHS (Dept. of Human Services) agency to see if they have a similar program. To get more information about Welcome Boxes, click here. 
  5. Christmas Giving Trees –It’s that time of year and many stores have these…and often they are for foster children or those waiting to be adopted. Take a tag…or two! You will brighten a child’s Christmas.
  6. Toy/Clothing Drives – Same as above, there are many opportunities for this at this time of year especially. I would encourage you to contact your local DHS office directly. They will gladly take gifts for children and can guarantee the gift you give will stay local if you wish.
  7. Sponsor a Child – Especially internationally, there are many organizations through whom you can sponsor a child who desperately needs help. Compassion International and World Vision are two very well-known organizations you can try. I strongly encourage you to do your own research to find the organization that is right for your family.
  8. Become a CASA –CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. This role takes training and some time out of your month, an average of 10-15 hours/month, but is a crucial part of the success of a foster child in the system. They advocate specifically for the child in court, without having to be the attorney. They visit the child’s home, become a familiar constant face, and a safe contact for the child no matter how many placement disruptions they may experience. For more info on CASA, click here.
  9. Other Church Sponsored Events – If you have the capacity and are in leadership in your church, you can think big on some of the suggestions above. Assembling boxes together as a church family can be a wonderful blessing. On an even bigger scale, there are churches in the Marion Co. area that have adopted DHS visitation rooms and done room makeovers so that children and their biological parents can have a comfortable and welcoming place to have their visits.

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The most we ever had at once…All five of “our” munchkins: three foster kiddos, two adopted kiddos…all cherished

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I pray that this plants a seed in your heart to see what you can This is not about being an earth shaker. I’ve said before that the Lord impressed upon me that I am to just be a Nehemiah Mama…to do my part, where I am.You can, too. You don’t have to “go big or go home” here. Anything you can do to help a “fatherless” child will make a huge and lasting impression.

Be a welcoming facewhen they visit your Sunday school. Encourage your children to befriend themwhen they show up in school mid-year completely lost and friendless. Be a mentor. If you are aware and looking, you will see opportunities everywhere.

You may have even heard this on the radio or TV: “Not everyone can be a foster parent, but anyone can help a foster child.”It’s true!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

Is tradition worth all this crazy??

“And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”  Mark 4:39

I am a girl who loves tradition. I like to have things done the same way every year…especially when it comes to holidays. In fact, I remember the very first time it was casually mentioned by my mother-in-love (I think) when Shane and I were first married that maybe we should have Christmas at a beach house. I don’t remember much after that because I’m pretty sure the room went dark, I may have hyperventilated a little, the room started spinning…you get the idea.

I like my holidays just so. Thankfully, my folks and Shane’s folks get along really well and are all very understanding and so alternating holidays was more the exception and just all getting together as one, big, happy family was the rule when we all lived in the same state. When that didn’t work out for some reason, we were all very content to do Thanksgiving here and Christmas there, but it was still very traditional and very predictable. 

Growing up, my holidays were steeped with tradition and predictability. I knew where we were spending Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years on any given year. I was an only child with no cousins of my age. And I didn’t mind at all. I loved the quiet, cozy holidays that my family shared. Without fail, I could expect End Times prophecy discussion and politics around the table and quiet snuggles afterward with my grandparents on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve with my Dad’s side of the family. Come Christmas Day and the days that followed, we would drive to the beach to my Mom’s folks’ house where I could expect loudness, chaos, tickling, laughter, a dog that hated me and pantyhose Christmas stockings. And I loved both family celebrations equally.

Then one year, when I was in middle school, I was invited to go to Sun River for Thanksgiving with a dear friend of mine. It was SO MUCH FUN! But I remember thinking, This is really differentIt felt so foreign to me.

To a point, tradition can be a really good thing. When we first adopted our boys, establishing family traditions of our own and creating memories was very important and they genuinely loved it. From cutting down our own tree to setting up our heirloom nativity scene, from the Grinch family movie night to ZooLights, from the Advent calendar to new Christmas jammies on Christmas Eve…the list could go on and on.

We have recently added a new Christmas tradition that we’re loving called the “Jesse Tree” and I’ll be sharing with you throughout the month of December how it works.

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The ceramic Nativity scene my Grandma made

But somewhere over the last decade, be it ever so gradual, my compulsion for tradition has subsided. And I am…quite pleasantly…relieved. 

Maybe it started when the traditions of my childhood were replaced with ones of adulthood. More family through marriage, less family through death. The family holidays shifted greatly after both of my Grandpas passed away. My Patriarchs were gone and with them, certain ways of doing things held less meaning.

Maybe it started when we sold our house and we couldn’t host everyone at the same time anymore.

Maybe it started when a large part of our family moved out of state.

Maybe it started when Nutkin was so terrified of the Grinch that we had to cancel our third annual Grinch family movie night.

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First annual Grinch family movie night

Whichever way it started, I think it culminated when we decided to drive cross-country for Christmas in 2014. It was…Truly amazing. Full of memories. Adventurous. Packed with sight-seeing and stops to see friends and family along the way. Exhausting. And very, very different from our “normal.” And we were all OK with it. In fact, we were more than OK with it. We all  absolutely loved it. That year, our only traditional family holiday was Thanksgiving (my favorite anyway) and it was relaxing! Because we knew we’d be gone for the majority of December, and that we were getting new carpeting while we were gone, decorating was nixed. There was no pressure to decorate for Christmas at all. No pressure.

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A highlight of our 2014 Christmas road trip – standing next to the poplars Pa Ingalls planted in DeSmet, SD

There it is. When I think of what I am trying to instill in our children as they move into their teenage and adult years, I want them to hear the words “No pressure,” when they think of the holidays. I want them to hear the words, “relax,” “enjoy,” “cherish,” and “content.” If tradition helps us achieve those thoughts of peace, then it’s a useful tool. But if I feel driven and bound by tradition to the point where my kids get left in the dust while I’m screeching around going from here to there, wrapping this and shopping for that, baking this and decorating that, then what good is it, really?

I’ve been pondering this as I sit in an un-decorated living room writing to you dear friends in the end of October. In a typical year, there would be pumpkins and leaves strewn all about my house starting the first week of September. I have two totes FULL of stuff just for Thanksgiving and autumn, because it really is my favorite time of the year.

But this year, we’ll be breaking tradition once again to be with close friends and family for Thanksgiving out of town. And I have two totes FULL of filing to get done. And other projects to do. And honestly, I could do it all and still have a decorated house. But my kiddos would suffer and my husband would suffer because of all the pressure I would be placing upon myself. 

It’s just. not. necessary. 

Years from now, should the Lord tarry, my kids won’t remember if our house was un-decorated for Thanksgiving in 2016. But they will remember that one really miserable Thanksgiving where Mom was really stressed and we didn’t even have dinner at our house!

I’m not saying  that non-tradition in my new tradition. I’m sure I’ll decorate my house in future years, and when I do, the nativity scene will always have its place of honor right up on the top of our bookshelf. We’ll probably give our kids new jammies every Christmas Eve for many years to come, maybe even into their adult years.

No matter what traditions are broken, or how pared down our Christmas looks, there are certain traditions that we will never, ever set aside. We will always have Christmas-themed devotions throughout the season and we will always read (or recite) the Christmas story on Christmas morning. Some traditions are at the very core of who we are and cannot, and should never be, laid aside. But I find that those traditions weren’t the problem anyway.

I’m just saying that IF I have to break from tradition to keep myself from having a breakdown, I’ll do it and I’ll give myself grace when I do.

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New Christmas jammies, 2013

And, so…I’m enjoying my one pumpkin filled with flowers on top of my piano, and a teeny little gourd that Nutkin picked out at the pumpkin patch on Monday that he has leaning against a lone Yankee candle burning on my dining room table.

And there is a great calm. 

Please know that as I’ve been writing this, I’ve been praying for you, dear Mama reader. I’m praying that during this busy upcoming holiday season, the Lord will speak peace to your soul and that there will, indeed, be a great calm.

What traditions do you hold dear? Have you had to lay any of them aside recently for your own sanity or that of your family? Or are you the type to break with tradition altogether? I’d love to hear from you!

But don’t worry. No pressure.

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

Ye Shall Teach Them…

“And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates…” Deuteronomy 11:19-20

When Shane and I were finally approaching parenthood, (the long journey for us took 11 years,) we discussed for the umpteenth time what we wanted to do in regards to teaching biblical truths to our children. It has only become a stronger commitment as our oldest approaches the teen years and both of our boys are in the public school system this year.

I was recently asked to share some ideas of practical everyday ways to teach biblical truths to children and I was struck with the fact that God really has given us such a manageable way to teach our children. And one that will stick. One that will last. He commands us to live it, to teach it every day, to teach it in the little things, in the mundane, in the routine.

As parents, we care about our children’s nutrition. We want to be sure they get the right amounts of everything they need and we make sure they can digest what they’re given. Just as we bottle feed our babies and then give them baby food and then cut up their food in little pieces with physical food, we can — and really must — do the same with spiritual food for our children.

Here are some ideas that I came up with when asked. I have since added a few things to it that have recently come up as well.

“WHEN THOU SITTEST IN THINE HOUSE…”

Prayer time – We’re trying to encourage each of our kids to pray in a group AND individually. Our kiddos get really overwhelmed with the desire to remember needs of others, perhaps more than is even usual, and can get almost panicky that they will miss someone. So we came up with two solutions that have worked.

  • One is to just talk about all the needs we know of, similar to our church prayer room-style, and then pray for “all the needs mentioned.”
  • The other thing that has worked is to make a permanent list to hang of needs/people that we need to pray for every day and then have them look for stickers that they can put by the names to remind them of what they are. We have a fluent reader, a beginning reader and a non-reader. No matter who is praying out loud and needs to see the list, they can all remember those we want to pray for. (Little Miss’s situation has been at the top of our list for nearly three years, but since her name is on it, I’ve edited her name off. The sticker the boys chose was a baby bottle at the time.)

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Games – On occasion, we use Bible trivia games in lieu of devotions.

  • We found a couple of really inexpensive card games, I think at a garage sale, one which is similar to UNO, but has trivia on every card. Even our 3-year old can play.

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  • I have an old-school game called , “The Book Game for kids,” that my parents bought  and used to play with me back in the dark ages. I’m so glad I kept it! But even if you can’t find it on e-Bay or the like, you can make your own variation! It’s basically “Chutes and Ladders” with trivia. It gives you chances to climb the ladders by answering questions, (you get to climb some ladders for free like the “grace” ladder). There are also knot ropes, like the “temptation” rope that you have to get the answer correct or you slide down. There are also “reward” and “setback” cards. Lots of fun!

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“WHEN THOU WALKEST BY THE WAY…”

Out and About Time – We are on the road a lot, which means a lot of van time to fill. I have found that giving up on “my music”, though edifying, so that they can listen to Sunday school songs and audio books and drama has paid off so much. The conversations that blossom from especially the radio dramas have been SO VALUABLE!

  • Adventures in Odyssey – The kids LOVE listening to these in the van. We own one set that we bought from the Focus on the Family store while visiting their headquarters in Colorado Springs. We You can check your local library, or I think there’s a membership that you can purchase direct from Focus on the Family. Visit Odyssey Adventure Club here.
  • “Out loud” Bible reading time – Our oldest son in particular is getting to the place where he’s reading circles around us. The world could be burning down around him and he wouldn’t notice. We are thrilled with his love to read! But we did recently set a guideline for him to help use that gift for his spiritual good. For every hour of free reading time he has, we ask that he give 1/2 hour to Bible reading. He actually really likes his Bible reading time, but is intimidated by the big words. So while I’m driving, he sometimes reads out loud and stops when he needs more explanation. It’s  truly become a precious time that we both look forward to!
  • Sunday school song CD’s – We play them OVER AND OVER AND OVER. We’re particularly fond of Cedarmont Kids, (but there are many others out there!), and you can purchase their CD’s for a relatively inexpensive price. And they’re worth their weight in gold, in my opinion. Visit Cedarmont Kids here.

WHEN THOU LIEST DOWN…”

Evening devotions – This is the time where our entire family really focuses on singing, Scripture memorization, and the Sunday school lesson for the week. We usually do this right before bedtime.

  • Songs – On a typical night, we let each kiddo pick at least one song. They range from Sunday school songs to hymns. It’s nice to own a hymn book for this reason. We also have a Wee Sing Bible Songs book. For more modern songs, believe it or not, there are a lot of Sunday school songs available to view on YouTube. We sometimes ask the kids ahead of time for a list of songs they want to sing for evening devotions and then Shane or I search for and queue them up. They love this and we’ve discovered many new fun songs this way.
  • Memory verses – We try to introduce their weekly Sunday school memory verse early in the week. One fun thing we’ve discovered is that there are many free coloring pages online and we can cut and paste their memory verse to it before printing so that they can color a picture in relation to their memory verse.
  • Sunday school lessons – Because we have three kiddos at three different age levels, we usually pick a Sunday school lesson a night. Our church, the Apostolic Faith Church, creates its own curriculum and it is excellent! If you are looking for something like this for your kiddos, it’s available, free of charge, on our headquarters website. Visit the Sunday school curriculum link here.  
  • Bible stories – For the other 3-4 nights when we aren’t reading the Sunday school lessons, we read from our old Children’s Bible. Realistic pictures are very important to us. We want our kids to know that the stories in the Bible are true accounts. So we avoid cartoon-y books. Honestly, the older the Children’s Bible, the better. Ours was printed in 1971. Thrifts shops and antique stores will yield great finds for old devotional books and Bibles for kids. They’re more likely to be KJV this way (our preference) and we find they treat the Bible with much more reverence than more modern Kid’s Bibles do. Another good source are the Bible stories like you find in the doctor’s office. We have a set of those as well.

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“WHEN THOU RISEST UP…”

Morning devotions, thankfulness and prayer – This one was difficult to maintain in the summer, but we are back on track with this school year. We read a quick devotional (see additional resources), say at least one thing we’re each thankful for and pray for the day ahead of us. We usually do this during breakfast and in the van on the way to school.

“THOU SHALT WRITE THEM UPON THE DOOR POSTS OF THINE HOUSE…”

I’m going to be honest with you. I used to see folks’ homes that had Scripture posted everywhere, similar to the way some people post positive affirmations on their bathroom mirrors and such and thought, Seriously? Maybe a little overkill…

But now that I’m a Mama, I get it. I totally get it! It is so good to have Scripture where you can see it, read it, absorb it. Do I have Scripture posted all over my walls? No. But maybe I should. I’m working on it.

One way I’m already practicing this is to look up each memory verse for the week (including Mom and Dad’s verse, which is good for the kids to see, I think) and print them all on one sheet that we have hanging on our front door. (Little Miss has a verse, too, but her name is on our copy, so I cropped this shot.)

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Another way we’re trying to do this is to have verses posted in the kids’ rooms. Some friends of ours gifted us a beautiful framed, hand-done painting of Proverbs 3:24 for the boys when they first came to be a part of our family.

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I have had it on the wall almost continually in one of their two rooms or another and kind of forgot about it. But today, I found a note from Nutkin hanging on the fridge for all to see. It read: “To The Famuly…One vurs is my faveret…it is Proverbs 3:24… it make me sleepy.”  (I left the spelling as is and just punctuation for clarity.)

The Scripture on the wall is indeed making an impact.

In addition to hanging verses on their walls here and there, I’ve been trying to tie godly values into whatever they’re into and use it to decorate their rooms as I can. For a long time, Pickle was really into knights and swords and Prince Caspian. So I found pictures of the Armor of God to frame and hang around him room. It’s fun and super inexpensive.

Mamas, I believe that as unique as each family is, the variations for teaching our children the Gospel are almost limitless. But if you feel stuck, feel free to take the ideas I’ve shared with you to benefit your family!

In turn, PLEASE share with us here what you are already doing! I’d LOVE to hear what you are doing to teach biblical truths to your children!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

Additional Resources:

  • Pinterest – I’m rarely on Pinterest, but when I am, it’s usually for ideas for Sunday school and devotions. All you have to type in is “Sunday school” and the results are endless! You can narrow the search by the Bible story or even memory verse as well.
  • Jesus Calling for Kids – great devotional for kids that we are currently using in the mornings. My only complaint is that the key verse is not in KJV so I look it up and read it from the Bible instead.
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible – though the art is more cartoon-like than we normally go for, this is a great devotional that we used last Christmas-time that went along with our “Joshua Tree.” If you haven’t heard of it, stay tuned!! I am going to be detailing ours this year for you to follow along. I plan to post the information ahead of time so that you can do it with your family, following the advent calendar, too!

 

 

Befriending my children

“But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”  ~ Matthew 19:14

I was listening to a sermon a while back and something the preacher said pricked my heart. He said, “My Mom…was truly my friend.”

As I sat there and pondered those words, I asked myself, How many times have I heard someone say, “You’re not your child’s friend. You’re the parent.”

Believe me. I get it. I get the logic. I get the dangers that it is trying to avoid. The problem is, I’ve lived this “you’re not your child’s friend,” motto so very literally, that I believe my children may be suffering for it.

The weird part is, I have always been a lovey, touchy-feely, huggy type of person. I was so excited at the prospect of having kiddos that I could love on. So when these two precious little guys entered my life, I thought I would be lovey, touchy-feely and huggy.

But I wasn’t.

I was guarded. My kiddos were extremely manipulative in their affection because they had to be. They had to watch out for #1 because their birth mom did not. Perhaps because she couldn’t. And so for the first year especially, my kids, especially Pickle, were hugging me only when it suited their needs. This was not how I had pictured motherhood.

As a result, I started becoming distant with my children. I would still speak comfort to them, kiss their owies, and rock them at night, but I always did these things while shrinking back, fearing I would be hurt.

During a particularly bad day a couple of years ago, I was pouring out my heart to God, feeling downright sorry for myself. And I heard Him so gently say, “It’s awfully hard to snuggle up to armor.” 

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Wow. Right between the eyes.

IT IS…It’s AWFULLY hard to snuggle up to armor. It’s heavy and hard and cold.

You see, I was so busy guarding my own heart in fear of being hurt and rejected that I was protecting myself against the two little people who needed me most. They needed to be allowed into the safe haven of my heart. The Enemy of my soul, who is the Father of lies, had been trying to divert my attention and was actually succeeding in fooling me that they were my enemies.

I am so incredibly thankful for that AHA! moment.

Mamas, our armor was designed by the Captain of our souls to protect against Satan and his wiles alone. It was never designed to protect us from the pain inflicted upon by others. Jesus’s life and ministry bears this out. We will experience pain if we love like Jesus does. But if we wear the Armor of God correctly, we can be assured that the pain that we experience will draw us closer to the Lord, rather than away from Him.

That evening as the preacher was talking about his mom, he wasn’t talking about being her pal. They didn’t hang out together, I’m sure. But she was warm, approachable, and caring of his soul. She prayed for him, counseled him, and was the listening ear he needed. I know this preacher, I know his Mama, and I know the rest of the story. You see, right after he called his mom his friend, he said, “True friendship exists only in the gospel.”

We have such a high calling as mamas who serve Jesus. We can be an approachable example of Christ’s love to our children so that they can understand the verse:

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

 

Have you ever seen the film, “Anna and the King”? I don’t remember much about that movie. But the one scene that will forever be burned into my mind is when the king was in the throne room. People were repeatedly bowing to him. They were careful to never look into his eyes. They were sure never to turn their backs on him. They had to be announced and approved before they could approach the king. Right in the middle of one such audience, the doors burst open and in ran his littlest and most cherished child. She dashed right past the people who were so terrified of their king, climbed up the many steps and crawled onto her daddy’s lap who was on the throne. She held his face in her hands. She had no fear of him because, although he was a great king, he was her father first.

Oh, how I want my children to know that they can approach Jesus this way! But in order to teach this, I must grasp this concept for myself. As I do, they will be comfortable coming to me for help and I will then be able to  ever point them to Jesus!

Dear Heavenly Father, may my children always know that when they need a friend, I will be there. And so will You.

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Blessings and much love, 

Mama

Friends, I’d really like to hear from you! How do you practice approach-ability with your kids?

Re-post: Why you could never be a foster parent…and why you should do it anyway.

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” ~ II Corinthians 12:9  

Hello Dear Friends,

I know it’s been a while since I posted. There is a reason for that. It’s kinda weak, but here it is.

I’m depleted. Spent. Exhausted. We’re dealing with the termination trial for Little Miss’s mom’s rights. It’s dragging on and on. And my heart just hurts. It hurts for our little girl. It hurts for our boys, who share the same mother. And it hurts for her.

The trial is dredging up so many unpleasant thoughts and memories and I just can’t right now.

To top it all off, I was informed by the Dept. of Justice last Friday and I will be called upon to testify. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do less at the moment.

We’ve worked so hard at cultivating this delicate, fragile, tattered relationship with the children’s birth mom and I feel like it’s swirling and sliding down a sink drain and I’m grasping at it with my hands as it slips into the darkness below.

I know that the Lord wasn’t surprised by that phone call on Friday. I know that He already knows what I will be asked, what I will say, and the outcome of the trial. But I have to repeat that to myself every single day to keep grasping tight to that belief. For His grace is, indeed, sufficient.

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In spite of all of that, Foster Care is so precious to me — so near and dear to my heart — that I can’t just let it pass.

So I’ll share with you the thoughts I formulated in May of 2015.

And to those of you who have been holding us up in your prayers, thank you.

From the bottom of my heart. 

Why you could never be a foster parent…and why you should do it anyway.prayingwp

Blessings and much love,

Mama

Stained Glass Windows

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”  ~Ephesians 2:10

Here I sit. I have been struggling with writer’s block for a full month. I keep trying to start and then I just stop. It’s partly exhaustion. This has been a trying month. It’s partly because I’m struggling to open my heart. And any of you who have read my blog at all know that I pour my heart out here. I want to share with you all what is going on in my head, but it’s just so hard to put into words.

So I’m going to go back. Way back. WAY BACK. When I was a little girl, my mom would take me to this little ice cream parlor/burger joint called Jem 100. It’s still there and I still love them. I still remember ordering bubble gum ice cream on a sugar cone, and I would admire the totally cool high school girls working behind the counter. I dreamed of being just like them and working there someday. In my sophomore year, my dream came true.

Coolest. Job. Ever!

When I was working there, before they remodeled, there was a little corner booth where I would often take my 30-minute paid lunch. One of the booths faced a stained glass window. I stared at it often. Surprisingly, for as much as I looked at it, I don’t remember what it looked like. I’m pretty sure it had a bird as its centerpiece. I often worked at night, making it dark outside for my dinner break, but there was a streetlamp on the other side of that window, so the colors shone brilliantly.

hummingbird stained glass

I have no idea what was going on in my life at the time. High school was full of trials and tribulations, of course. But the Lord was reasoning with my heart on one memorable night in particular. As I stared at that window, the Lord told me that my life was a stained glass window much like the one I was staring at. It was filled with many different parts. Each seemingly insignificant piece represented events, lessons, phases and chapters in my life. Some were large, some were small. Some had smooth edges, others were sharp and defined. They each were fairly monochromatic. Pretty, maybe, but kind of “meh” on their own.

Then, there was the metal fusing them together. It was hard, cool and silvery. But at some point, under the guidance of a skilled glazier’s hand, that same metal had been an oozing, flowing, red hot fusing material. Whatever was going on in my life, the Lord impressed upon me that the really hard times, possibly something happening at that moment in my life, was one of those lines of lead. And it was still hot and painful to touch. But someday, it would be part of the beautiful masterpiece. And the heat and pain would be just a memory.

Finally, the Lord reminded me that in order to see the true beauty of a stained glass work of art, the light must be shining behind it. Without the Light, even the most beautiful stained glass is dull and lifeless. 

Fast forward to nearly 20 years later. Do you know what triggered that memory?  A grown-up coloring page. Cracks me up to think about it, but many of those pages look much like a stained glass window when they’re completed. I was coloring a card to send to a close friend and the Lord reminded me of that special moment, when as a teenager, the Lord made Himself so real to me. I only meant to repeat it (or the parts of it I remembered at the time) to encourage that friend who was going through a fiery trial. But truth be told, I am, too. 

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I’m facing the fear of loss of our Little Miss. This case continues to drag. And although I am so very grateful for every single day that we have her, I long to call her mine. Yet, I fear that sounds selfish.

I want God’s will above all else. I want the kids’ Mom to be saved and well. I want Little Miss to have closure and stability. And I hope and pray that all of these desires can be answered at once.

Prior to just a couple of weeks ago, I felt extreme guilt from asking to keep her at all. What a selfish thing to pray for, after all. But my sweet husband in his wisdom reminded me of a very important event over 2,000 years ago. Jesus prayed a prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane right before His crucifixion (Luke 22:42). Before my discussion with Shane, I had only focused on one part of His prayer, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” But I was so gently reminded of the fact that in that same prayer, and in fact, in the same sentence, Jesus also prayed, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me…” Jesus had asked for something specific. He wasn’t selfish, and He wasn’t sinful. So praying for something specific like being able to raise this little girl is OK. As long as I am also willing to accept, and embrace His will, should He choose to answer my prayer another way. After all, I am not ignorant to the fact that the Father did not choose to remove the cup from Jesus and He did, indeed, have to suffer for me and for you on that cruel cross.

Now here’s the part that I have been having trouble verbalizing here. The thought of losing her doesn’t cause me to fear that I will turn my back on the Lord or stop loving Him. I can’t imagine my love for Him ever diminishing. But I have been so afraid that I will get lost in my grief and won’t be able to find my way out.

Prior to losing Little Miss the first time back in June 2014, I didn’t really know what a broken heart felt like. But when I lost her, my chest physically hurt for days. The tears couldn’t stop flowing. I felt that my heart was being literally ripped apart. And I struggled to grieve with my family because it was so very painful. It took a full six months to even feel again. So what will happen to me if I lose her again? Will I recover at all? Will I be able to be involved in the ministry? Will I even be able to sing without weeping?

I don’t know.

But by the grace of my Jesus, I can say this. This whole trial, I mean the WHOLE trial…from the first day we brought this bright, beautiful blue-eyed baby into our home until today…has been a very long, flowing, winding line of red hot lead. It has fused the pieces of our lives and our story together in a way that I could never have imagined. And for better or for worse, whether we get to be her forever family or not, our life story has been carefully and gently crafted by the Master and when it’s all said and done, I trust Him.

I don’t trust me. But I trust Him.

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And that’s enough.

Blessings and much love, 

Mama