Category Archives: Parenting

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

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.” 

armor

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?

He Writes the Best Stories!

“And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” Mark 1:22

Well, dear friends. It’s been a long time since I’ve written. I think it’s safe to say that I’m not blogging to gain a readership and eventually make money. I blog simply when the Lord lays something on my heart.

I have almost written several things. So many things have happened over the last couple of months in relation to politics, faith, school, family, whatever was on my mind at the time, but I just didn’t have the gumption to really do it.

But now I feel is the time to let you all in on what going on in our lives. Not because we’re interesting or exciting or any of that, but to testify to the awesomeness of God and the magnificence of His plan.

At the end of October I got a call from DHS. That is nothing new. It’s a common occurrence. But I had to let it go to voicemail. I can’t even remember why now. Probably changing a pull-up or making lunch or rocking a sleepy toddler. Before I could return the call, I got an email following up. Little Miss is being returned to her birth mom.

Again.

The news was particularly surprising because the plan had finally moved from foster care to adoption in the courts in August and we were identified as one potential resource.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, or maybe we’re new friends, Little Miss is our foster daughter. She is the biological half-sister to our two adopted sons. We got the call when she was three days old that she graced the world with her sweet little presence. Through a series of circumstances, she was placed with another foster family for a few weeks. However, in June 2013, when she was nine weeks old, she became part of our family. We knew it was just to foster and that the plan was to return her home, but twelve and a half long months passed and with each minute of it, we became more bonded, attached, and fell in love.

Completely.

Then we got that first call that she was going back home. It was May of 2014 when we got that news and I was devastated. I was driving to DHS for a visit and by the time I got to the parking lot, the caseworker met me to hold me while I wept.

I won’t re-hash those last weeks we had her, but we were all a mess. The boys were in a tail spin. Shane was distant and more emotional than I had ever seen him. A dark cloud hovered over our home and I wondered if we would ever recover.

The day before she was returned to her birth mother, Shane and I woke up, looked at her in her crib beside our bed and held each other weeping mournfully, trying to choke back the sobs so as not to wake her.  As we stood over her, still asleep peacefully and completely unaware of our grief.

On June 30, our precious 14-month old Little Miss gave us sloppy kisses goodbye, which we we adored, and waved happily to us as the DHS car took her away, presumably forever. At that moment we had no intention of fostering again. Of course, we would do anything for her and would hold out hope. But we weren’t holding our breath.

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Our sweet Little Miss the day before she went home, 6/29/14

But the Lord began a work in my heart just over one year ago. In November 2014, the Lord blessed me with a beautiful and healing weekend at a retreat for Christian adoptive and foster mamas called, “Called to Love.”

In one of my very first blog entries last year, I talked about what the Lord was doing to my heart. But looking back over this year, I had no idea just how much He had planned. Suffice it to say, I began to truly love my kids’ birth mom. I thought I already did. But the Lord was whispering to my heart that I held much resentment toward her in my heart and that He wanted to teach me how to love her as He does.

I began reading the boys’ adoption file to read about her this time, not them. My heart broke over the abuse she experienced. Pieces started to fit together and I began to understand… not excuse… but understand her behaviors. Although I had prayed for every day up to that point, I began to pray very specifically for the LORD to speak to her heart, to show her His Abba Father love, to be very near to her and send people her way who would mentor her. And I continued to pray protection over “our” little girl every day.

Very long story short, eight long months later, we had finally healed enough to foster again and on February 3, 2015, we got a house-full. Two little fellas joined our home and just like that, we had four boys. FOUR. BOYS.

And then just 20 days later, we got another call.  Little Miss was back in care and could we take her in one or two hours? Uh….YESSSSSS!!!!! I was shaking and bittersweet tears were streaming down my face.

Our certifier, whom we love very much, knows us enough to have already answered for us and THEN called us.

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The day she came back, 2/23/15

Fast forward to tonight and it’s been over a month since we got that second call that she would be transitioning home. We have been told that we will have a shared Christmas with her birth mom, and by the time that rolls around, we will have had her 10 months.

I can’t explain it, but the grief is much different this time around. It’s not better, but it is very different. I still weep often. I still try to memorize little looks she makes, how she says certain things, how she smells, how she feels in my arms when I am rocking her.

But God is faithful, Friends. Beyond words. Beyond comprehension.

We have been able to experience the incredible miracle of actually meeting with her mom. We didn’t think that would ever happen. She had been very resistant to us in the past. So to hear that she wanted to meet with us was exciting! Our meeting with her was personal, but I will just say that we got to talk, got to listen and were able to share our hearts with her. We were able to tell her personally how much we love her, how much we want her to succeed, how much we want to help her however she wants that to look.

This story is still unfolding and I have no idea how it will end. I’ve tried to imagine it, but the LORD keeps surprising me with plot twists and new characters being introduced into this story. Truly, I am merely one of many characters in this story. I’m not the Author. But I have the privilege of knowing Him intimately. And I can trust Him to write the very best story with the perfect ending. 

When you look at your story, are you trying to write it yourself? The world tells us to. That we can decide our own story, that we can choose our own ending. And the truth is, we can. The LORD loves us so much that He created us with feelings, intelligence and choice. But like a character in a story, we can only see our own point of view. We can’t see the needs of the other characters in the story. We can’t see inside their heads and hearts. We don’t know their back story. But the Author does. When we yield to the Author of all things and allow Him to write our story, we can trust that He cares for all involved. And His creativity, wisdom and attention to detail far exceeds the most creative, wise and detail-oriented mind in this world.

When Jesus walked this earth, He blew people away with His authority when speaking of doctrine. Think about it. He had the AUTHORity. He wrote it. He wasn’t just repeating what He had heard or learned. He was the Word made flesh.

My dear Friends, You can trust Him. I can trust Him. We can trust Him.  He writes the best stories!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

The right thing at the wrong time…

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

Joshua Harris said, “The right thing at a wrong time is a wrong thing,” but that’s not a new concept. And that idea has been rolling around in my brain a lot lately.

The other day, my three kiddos and I spent the day at my folks’ house. It was less than an hour before we had to leave to pick up my hubby from work and my youngest son asked to use the scissors to do some crafts. I love his creativity, but I also know that he makes confetti with paper and scissors. Literally. The smaller the piece, the better.

All. Over.

In addition, I know that he is not at all happy to pick up said confetti when it’s time to help clean up. And it wasn’t even our house and I know how willing Grammy can be to clean up for him.

For these reasons, I gave him a resounding ‘no’ to the scissors.

I continued working on the potato salad I was making in the kitchen for a potluck that evening, and about a half hour later, I came into the living room to find scissors out and…confetti.

All. Over.

But wait, there’s more! In addition to the above infraction, he had used Grammy’s notepad as his source of paper and her “To Do” or “Grocery” list was destroyed. We honestly couldn’t tell which list it had been, because there was only slight evidence of ink on the border of the paper. He had left that part and cut out of the middle of the page.

But that wasn’t all! He had made a really cool silhouette of a person. My heart sank.

He had deliberately disobeyed me. I even clarified to make sure he had heard me about the no scissors thing and he said, “Yeah, I did.”

What I did next pained me, but in my mind, it had to be done. I took his creation that he had made in direct disobedience and threw it away. There were some tears. Not just from him (though I kept mine so as not to blow the lesson I was attempting to teach.)

“The right thing at the wrong time is the wrong thing.”

Today, as I was driving through Keizer, my eye caught a Mexican restaurant that brought back vivid memories that illustrate that point.

2015-09-02 07.29.45                                                                                              The window to the right-hand side of the door is where our table was

In the late summer of 2001, that same restaurant was a home style place known for good breakfast. Shane and I were newlyweds and were asked to meet his former pastor and his wife to discuss something of importance.

As we sat at the table across from them, I heard the words that I felt would make my dreams come true. They were asking Shane to be the youth pastor for their church. I had felt the call to be a minister’s wife for years. In fact, I had even had a “vision” or picture in my head of what it would look like…a youth group sitting in our living room having a Bible study or watching a movie and playing with our own kidlets. This seemed like a no-brainer. What’s more – we would even get a house and stipend out of the deal!

Looking back, I am so very thankful that Shane was much more reticent than I to say yes. But at the time, I was clueless. He said we would pray about it and get back to them. And then life went back to normal.

I went home excited and started borrowing books on leading youth. He didn’t talk about it at all. I would ask him on occasion if he had thought more about it and he said yes, but was still unclear. Where I was excited and proud, he was hesitant. I just didn’t get it. B

After nearly a month went by with no answer from him, I told him a decision must be made and he agreed. So we went away for the weekend to discuss and to pray.

Looking back, I can tell you the climate around this decision. We were newlyweds. We were 19 or 20 (I can’t remember if our birthdays had passed yet or not.) We were not following the Lord closely at all. In fact, if I’m being honest with myself, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even saved at the time. I was faking it really well and did still care about the Lord’s will to some degree in my life, but I was talking the talk. We certainly weren’t Sanctified and weren’t filled with the Holy Spirit. Beside all that, we would be leaving our church home to lead at another church and that was one part neither of us liked.

After that weekend, we both felt that it would be foolish for us to lead their young people. We were kids ourselves. We had no life experience. And though we may not have admitted it then, we were not spiritually sound. God kept us from taking that position and I am so very glad He did. He saw what lie ahead. He saw that we would have many more things to face before we would be broken before the Lord and truly willing to come back to Him with honest hearts in full surrender. Had Shane become the youth pastor at that time, it would have resulted in disaster for that church…and for us.

“The right thing at the right time is a blessing!”

Has my son used scissors since his little escapade at Grammy & Grandpa’s?

Definitely. His creativity is a beautiful thing to behold. Within the parameters of our dining room table, with his safety scissors, and glue stick in hand (the true bane of my existence), his imagination runs wild.

It makes me smile.

2012-05-11 09.30.44                                                                                          My little artist, May 2012

“The right thing at the right time is a blessing!”

It is now almost exactly 15 years later and I can say with certainty that ministry was the right thing for us. But how thankful I am that our Heavenly Father didn’t allow us to put the cart before the horse. Shane started preaching in 2009. We were in our late 20’s by then. Soon thereafter we adopted our kiddos. We want nothing more than to live in the center of God’s will. We are blessed to be ministering in the same church we were back then and they are as much our family as our relatives are. Within the parameters of God’s perfect will, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can be fruitful for Him.

2014-03-29 21.04.17                                                                                                                      My dream come true – young people that we love dearly, hanging out in our living room, watching a movie and playing with one of our kiddos

I hope it makes the Lord smile, too. 

Are you facing a situation where you find yourself thinking, “Well, it seems to be the right thing…” I urge you to follow up by asking yourself, “But is it the right time?”

Intimacy before marriage is a perfect example of this. It was designed by God. It is perfect. It is wonderful. But done out of order, it can spell sure disaster. And I’m sure, the Lord grieves, just as I grieved when I had to discipline my son with some natural consequences.

God’s timing is perfect and you will be blessed for following His perfect plan for your life. If we continue reading in Ecclesiastes 3, His Word confirms just that.

“He hath made every thing beautiful in his time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

Blessings and much love, 

Mama

 

 

Let the Home School Adventure Begin!

“And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” Deuteronomy 6:5-7

One of my passions, which I haven’t shared on here much yet, is home schooling. Besides teaching my children the three R’s (Reading, wRiting and ‘Rithmetic), I get to spend quality time teaching them about the Lord….about His laws, His love and His ways.

This year as we learn about countries and civilizations, (through My Father’s World Core curriculum), we will focus on the Great Commission,  “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:15). We will get to focus on missionaries who had great influence on our world, and those from our church, with whom they can make a personal connection. It gets me excited!

2015-08-22 15.56.01                                                                                         Our world map, with missionary tracts to read as we “travel”

As a child, I was home schooled off and on and went to private school the other years. Then, I entered public school, wide-eyed and innocent for high school. That’s right…high school. And I succeeded. Truly. Academically I did great. Socially, I had many friends from all different walks, while not losing what I believed. I was active in clubs and activities. I am a firm believer in a good foundation.

I have incredibly fond memories of my home school days. My Mom was a stay-at-home mom when I was little. She taught me for my first couple of years. We had so much fun. We had a classroom. We had a blackboard and alphabet curtains. We played badminton and went swimming together for P.E. We took field trips. I learned a lot.

Then my Dad got sick, and the roles reversed. Suddenly, he became a stay-at-home dad. He taught me in my middle school years. Formerly a high school physics teacher, he had his own fun in store for me. We did science projects together. We didn’t have a classroom anymore, so all my work was done at the dining room table. We went around and around with math because I just didn’t click transitioning back from private school back to home school, (later realizing that I learned less in school than at home and had to catch up), but he worked hard to explain in a way I would understand. And math is now a subject in which I succeed.

When I look back on those years, I see them through the child lens. They are happy memories. I had no idea how much my parents really had to prep to teach me. I vaguely remember meetings they went to with other parents to discuss curriculum. I have no memory of them making lesson plans, no idea how much time they invested when I was playing or asleep to make school successful for me. But looking back as a mom and home school teacher myself, I get it now. I know that they did much that I didn’t see. And I appreciate it.

2015-08-22 15.41.34                                                                                              My desk and all of our school stuff!

This year will be a real adventure. Not only will I be teaching all three kiddos at home (and church, thanks to our amazing pastor who consented to me setting up a little space of our “own” at church so that I can focus on the Sunday school ministry as well), but will be balancing a heavy visit schedule for Little Miss (still in foster care), taking all three kiddos to gymnastics and swimming lessons, taking the first grader to the public school for “specials” (music, library and PE), taking the 4th grader to the public school for special ed (speech therapy, hearing device services and math assistance), all while maintaining a line of sight on my oldest child because of past behaviors.

I get a bit overwhelmed when I think about it. But I intend to tell you how it goes. And for those of you mamas who have a “line of sight” kiddo like I do, I hope what I post will help you. And on the flip side, if you’re a pro and have been at it for a while, I’d love to hear from you! Tell me what works for you.

I’ll be sharing projects we do, routines and schedules that work, curriculum we use and what we like about it, field trip reports, etc. It should be a fun year.

2015-08-22 15.41.40                                                                                          The kiddos’ learning area

Well, here goes nothing!

Blessings and much love,

Mama

The Night Watches

“He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.” Psalm 121:3-4

Have you ever lost sleep over your child?

Let me guess…you just said DUH out loud.

Well, funny enough, I wasn’t expecting to have to deal with much of that.

When we first got our boys, they were 2 1/2 and 7 years old. I figured that since they weren’t babies, I’d have a pretty easy time of it.

WRONG.

Our 2-year old, nicknamed Nutkin, was learning to sleep in a big boy bed. Just about every night I would awake to the sound of a thud followed by a little muffled cry over the baby monitor and would go to comfort him. This happened once a night for maybe a couple of weeks. Sometimes he would have a nightmare. He needed to be snuggled in my arms for maybe fifteen minutes or so and then he went down for the rest of the night pretty easily.

The thought actually crossed my mind, Wow, this is easy!

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BAHAHAHAHA!

I had no idea that the greatest loss of sleep wouldn’t come from him at all.

Our oldest, who we affectionately refer to as “Pickle”, suffered severe trauma in his early years, much of which still remains unclear to us. Some things are in his file, while other things come up in conversation with him, rather nonchalantly at times.

During the first week or two of the boys settling into our home, Nutkin’s needs were the only ones expressed. Pickle was quiet, went to bed easily and didn’t seem to have anything bothering him at all. However, just as Nutkin was adjusting and needing me less at night, Pickle’s needs became so overwhelming and “in your face” that I felt like I was drowning.

I vaguely remember the first night it started (the episodes blended into each other quickly). Pickle was acting, I can only describe it as, odd. He was baring his teeth at us, smiling while lunging at us aggressively, saying that nothing was bothering him when we hadn’t even had the chance to ask him yet….just odd. We would soon come to recognize this as “normal” behavior for him when his emotions were needing to be organized.

I remember the first time he admitted that he missed his birth mom and my heart broke a little. I now recognize that I will never really be enough in his eyes, and even though I had been told that by some very knowledgeable people, I still had the fantasy that I could be.

What started as a soft conversation while rocking, and talking about her favorite color, favorite flower, happy memories of her (which were few then…and still are), became a dam breaking with emotion. First came the heaving sobs, followed by venomous anger at us, the judge, DHS and himself. He groped for someone to blame for his situation, but neither he, nor we DARED to place any of the blame with her. She was untouchable. After three years with us, he still is quick to blame himself for being removed from her care.

As the nights wore on, our bedtime routine often involved screaming, yelling, punching, kicking and the most skilled manipulation attempts that you can imagine. You hear about this kind of stuff on Lifetime Channel movies, but you think, That’s not for real. Well, I can assure you, it was very real. One night after he had punched Shane in the gut, I heard him whisper “He is dead and she is dead,” and I freaked out a little. We would try to comfort him, reason with him, ignore him…we were desperate. He would scream to lay on the couch, rather than in his own room with his little brother, so we would let him. Then, he would scream because we were leaving him alone in the dark. He would say he didn’t want to be read a story, but as soon as I left the room, he would demand that I read to him. When I would return to the room, he would shove me away and again, tell me he didn’t want to be read to. So I would leave again, and the screaming would start back up. And on and on and on it went. Different scenarios, same result. He was confused and we were confused. And exhausted.

At the time, Shane had a very demanding job schedule and could not be late or call in for fear of losing his job. We had no idea at the time that FMLA might have covered this sort of thing, and his workplace had very little understanding. The nights of putting the boys to bed at 9 PM but not actually getting Pickle to sleep until 2 AM were taking their toll. I clearly remember one night crawling into bed at around 1:30 utterly exhausted and just staring at the ceiling. When Shane entered the room, I asked, “Is it going to be like this forever?” Instead of, “No, honey,” which I desperately longed to hear, he flatly responded, “I have no idea.”

Thanks, Babe. Comforting.

Fast forward to today. I can’t tell you when it ended, because there wasn’t this magical day or event when it did. But, little by little, after hours of rocking, singing, crying, talking, praying, reading and more rocking, lots more rocking, hours of rocking, it is getting better. I still lose more sleep over our precious Pickle than either of our other kiddos. (We have fostered a beautiful baby girl off and on for the last two years.)

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We still have hard nights. There are entire months that are harder on him (and us) than others. Pickle still has “new” traumatic memories dredged up from time to time. He is extremely hyper-vigilant. He has nightmares that are severe, often violent and very vivid. He is in constant fear of peril because of these.  As part of his safety plan, (perhaps another story for another day), he has to have an alarm on his door. So, if the poor kid needs to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I have to get up to let him out of his own room. Often, I am up with him once or twice each night…at least.

In light of all of the difficulties Pickle has at night, I feel sorry for him because he has to call on me.

Poor kid.

I am not a person who does well when my sleep is interrupted. At times I am cranky and nearly always I am incoherent. In fact, whereas some women are “morning glories” in the wee hours of the morning, Shane affectionately calls me his “snapdragon.”

In pondering the lesson that the Lord is trying to teach me in all of this, I am once again in awe of how my Heavenly Father uses my children to deliver the lesson.

The Bible says that our Father shall neither slumber nor sleep.

There have been times, regretfully, when my heart has longed for something other than Him, but He held me anyway. Often I have kicked and screamed (albeit emotionally) when I am frustrated with my circumstances, yet He patiently waits for me to calm down.  When I can’t turn my brain off and my thoughts stray, He listens. When I have a nightmare, He holds me in His warm embrace. When I am fearful, He assures me of His protection. When I am sick, He is with me in the night watches, and has healed me more times than I can count. When I wake in the middle of the night and need someone to talk to, He’s there when I call on His name. When I dread the day that lies before me, He gives me a song in the night to carry me through.

He has allowed me to wrestle Him until the break of day over something He called me to do that I struggled to yield to Him (yet another story for another day).

I’ve never heard Him say that He was too tired. He’s never asked me if we could talk about my concerns after He’s had His morning coffee. My needs have never, not once, interfered with His “down time,” because He doesn’t need it!

And though I do need down time, and like my caffeine, I’m beginning to recognize these quiet moments with my kiddos as opportunities to show them what the love of the Father should look like. This means I need to call on Him readily in the night watches.

So, the next time we need extra energy, patience, or love in those very night watches when our children need us most, we can confidently go to Him when we need Him most. And He will be there. As we hold our children, He will hold us. As we whisper words of peace to our kiddos, He will speak peace to our souls. As we lull them to sleep, He will give us that song in the night.

What a comfort to know that we can all safely rest in Him.

Do you have a story to share of what the Lord has taught you in the night watches? I’d love to hear from you!

Blessings and much love, 

Mama