Our Family

Our Family
Our Family: Pops, Me, The Teenager, The Boy, The Freckle Faced Ninja, Miss Priss, Miss Sassy Pants, Madi-Lou-Who, & Dora the Explorer

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Battle Weary

Sometimes when God places you exactly where He wants you, it hits you in that moment.  Usually right in the tenderest places of your hearts.  It hit me today as I looked another stressed, worried mama in her teary eyes.  We were on a common battle field and I wanted to just wrap her in my arms and cry with her.  
Our family's could not be more different nor more the same.  A child on the Autism spectrum with some scary health challenges was weighing heavy on her heart as answers were anything but fast coming.  The normal bumps in the road of life, like a move, were almost unmanageable with the emotional turmoil of the unknown with her son.  

"We are completely isolated.  We basically have no friends any more. We don't even attend church.  It's just too hard."

The unspoken words were, "I am empty and there is no one to Here is help me pick up the pieces. No way to refill as I am still pouring out from the void that is becoming me."  

There are times when you look into another's eyes and see yourself.  You both know and often can finish each other's words but find you are too overwhelmed to speak.  You breathe in the comfort of the presence of someone who gets it, as most have no idea.  

A fellow warrior foster mama who has battled long and hard for the hearts and lives of children she will only raise for a season is one of my favorite people to see.  Because she always gets me.  She only has to hear about three words from my mouth before she nods and I know she is there with me.   

Our house has been "under construction" for over two years and there's still plenty more stretching into what seems like an endless future.  It's constant upheaval, and "where is this?  Oh, still in a box somewhere."  It's uncertainty and change for a family that is desperate for consistency and stillness.  

I dropped something off a while back to a family who has just expanded by 5 babes whose mother died of cancer.  They already had 5.  And how to stretch a house like God stretched their hearts to do this?  But they began.  As I was almost ready to leave, the mama pulled up.  She motioned to construction materials and workers, "This is just beginning and it's going to be going on for a long time.  HOW do you do this?"  In that moment we were both in this together.  

When people ask me "how I do it" referring to managing our chaos, I always say, "just one step at a time, one day at a time."  But the truth is, I don't know how I do it, because I don't do it well.  None of us do.  

The truth of me is I anger too quickly, I say no before the question is asked, I am tired beyond reckoning, and I'm more selfish that I ever thought possible. My inner thoughts are as ugly some days as my kids words when they are in a fight.    

But God.  He carries me. He brings us into each other's mess so we can nod in understanding and pull each other up one more time.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Prayer changes me.

Some days just peel back all of your attempts at good.  Perfection.  The illusion that you have a handle on things.  Some days the amount you are "missing the boat" smacks you in the face.  Some days the messiness of life rises like polluted water and it's all you can do to stretch out your prayers to God for help.  
A friend, struggling with hard relationship stuff.  I texted her, "Been praying for you!"  

She replied, "I woke up this morning and it was the first day in a week that I could pray for myself."  I know how she feels.  

Sometimes prayer pours out of me in a constant flow. I love C. S. Lewis.  I distinctly remember in the movie Shadowlands, that as he is facing losing his wife to cancer Lewis says, "I pray because I can't help myself.  I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping.  It doesn't change God, it changes me."  

I don't know if he really said it at that moment, but I think we've all had those times.  Things out of our hands, out of our control.  We reach out for that peace of God, beg and plead for a measure of it.  Beg for health for a dear one, favor in a difficult situation, a heart to be changed.  

But what about when it's my heart?  Your heart?  That's a change that's harder to reach out for, beg for.  It feels selfish to ask and yet selfish is already what is fully embedded in my heart.  It's at the root of my challenges and I frankly don't want to pray for that change!  I don't want to set down my task and be patient with this child who wants my attention.  I don't want to admit I am the one messing things up. 

In those moments, usually alone, late at night, I do not want to pray for myself. I don't want to examine what's going on in my own heart.  I don't want to see that maybe I have been the root cause or major contributor to the mess.  And I can barely pray for myself.  

In a recent dinner for ladies discipleship leaders, the speaker said, "If we ask women what we can pray for, they can always list the things going on in their life.  They can tell what neighbor is sick, how their kids are struggling, and about work and marriage struggles.  But ask them 'How can I pray for your heart?' and they respond with silence."

Christ came to heal the sick.  I know that includes me.  So how come I like to pretend that I'm one of the well?  Why do I persist in praying for healing for body parts and sick friends, praying for my children's hearts, my husband, others challenges but examining my own impatience, unforgiving heart, or quickness to anger stops me cold?

I learned new things about one of my children recently.  It brought me to tears to realize that I had missed signs that were plainly evident of a challenge they were having; Had been having for years.  And I know why I missed it.  I was busy.  I am a great one for tasks.  When I slow down, it's to collapse in bed at night.  I can make a great case for myself and the task. But when I get down to brass tacks, I was just busy when I should have been aware.  

And I am having trouble praying for my own heart to change in this.  

One of our other kids is having a tough time.  Has been.  Always.  Hard and scary days.  And our relationship is one that is almost always at odds.  I don't know if we are oil and water but I do know that I over look, pass off, play down their ups and downs.  They are deep and if I go there, I will have to pull in to this child when I don't always feel like it.  And I will have to examine my heart. And I know I will find I have made some of the wounds deeper in their heart.

And I am having trouble praying for my own heart to change in this.  

I have prayed AROUND it.  Prayed to be a better mom, prayed for patience, prayed for a loving relationship with this child.

But praying specifically for change IN my own heart?  Ouch!  Owning my unwillingness, owning my selfishness, my desire for peace at whatever cost. 

It has been a year since I have written.  Written anything.  This has been a long year.  Moving.  Construction.  Chaos.  Kids who think every moves means a new family so they REACT.  And they react for MONTHS and MONTHS. 

And I have found I have come to the end of myself.  I am tired and feel a bit like a failure.  And I am angry that I'm not as great at this mom and wife and life thing as I've been telling myself that I am.  This was the conversation I had with my husband through sobs the other day.  I am struggling to pray for myself and fill the needs all around me and I am finding that I have poured out all I have, forgetting that I need filling first.

I think we all come to the end of ourselves sometimes.  And we find ourselves lacking.  All the self-help books, organizational tools, and promises to work harder never quite lead me to my own salvation.  This has been marinating for a while when our pastor said he suffers from "revert-backism".  The tendency to try to morally reform himself because after all, Jesus got him all the way to 40%, surely he can get the rest of the way by himself!  

That really hit me between the eyes.  I was trying to rescue my children, heal wounds too deep for me to fathom, force heart transformation in all of us, and pretend I was supermom all at the same time.  It was all me.  But inwardly the walls of my heart were dry and crumbling to dust.  And I could not pray for myself.  

I've said many times how I hate the phrase, "God doesn't give us more than we can handle."  Because it's crap!  

Tell that to my friend who lost her son suddenly at 21 years old.  Tell that to his younger brother that just lost his best friend. 

Tell that to my friend whose husband was mildly ill one day and diagnosed with a terminal illness that took his life in a couple weeks the next.  

Tell that to the parents whose child died of cancer at age 12.  

Tell that to my friend who had to call the police on her own child and have him hospitalized for the 5th time this year because his early trauma has wounded him so deeply he is not always safe. 

Those events absolutely DRIVE me to my creator begging for help and healing only HE can give.  

But the smaller stuff.  Parenting my wounded but not unsafe kids.  Schooling. Laundry.  Heart needs.  Exhaustion.  Frustration.  Anger.  Mess.  

They seem small but they eat away and I keep thinking I can balance all these plates without Him.  I need God in the BIG stuff, but I got the rest of it!  I can manage my own heart because I'm doing pretty good.  

I know I'm not alone in this.  I know we all come to that place where we are just empty.  That's where I think God is waiting for us.  Reminding us that only He can truly transform our hearts.  

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Joyful Moments

People often tell me that my Facebook status's make them laugh.  

And then they ask how we are doing.  

I've shared many of the hard, messy parts about parenting children from hard places and they are all true, authentic pieces of our life.  

But those funny moments, they are just as authentic and bring us such joy in the midst of the mess.  I wanted to intentionally share some of the more intimate moments that have brought us joy of late.  

Do NOT mess with
these Ninjas!  
HALLOWEEN:  The MEMORY of trick-or-treating.  Notice I didn't say going trick-or-treating!  This was at the end of month one and things were pretty much totally out of control with behavior and we NEVER went in public as a whole group.  The thought of a trip to the store at this point gave me nightmares!  
"What are you?"
"I'm a butterfly.  What are you?"
"I'm the Tooth Fairy  
but I look like a butterfly."
"What is she? A fairy princess 
who looks like a butterfly too."
"What about her?"
"Oh, that's Dorothy.  
She eats butterflies!"

Picture a box of puppies.  They want out of the box.  The box is just low enough that they can hop out.  But you want to only have one out at a time while you put meds in the ears of each wiggly puppy.  You keep losing count (and your temper) as they will not stay in the box.  That is what is it was like getting six kids dressed in Halloween costumes.  It took two adults and one very patient teenager to make this happen.  Then we left the, by this time very fed up, teenager at home to answer the door while we walked the neighborhood with six maniacs in cute disguise, joined by one pre-teen neighbor who decided to tag along and ask us 100 questions about why we had more kids all the sudden, what was foster care, and could we guess what his costume was, while we chased six kids who would not stay with us, would not stay together, screamed 
"TRICK OR TREAT, SMELL MY FEET!!  HA, HA, HA!!"  at every door they knocked on, chased cars, ran after friends from school, while their introverted, melancholy parents repeatedly said, "Stop doing that!  Don't jump on him! Let go of your sister's costume! Quit running into the street!...."  And yes, it felt to us like reading that giant run-on sentence felt to you!

The crowning blow was turning to see the secretary from the school sitting in her driveway drinking wine and giving out candy.  Our kids proceeded to tell her all about how "my daddy LOVES to drink but not wine and don't you work at my school?  Can we come in your house?  Is this (her hubby) your daddy?  He looks old!  Can I have more of your candy?"  Needless to say we lasted all of 20 minutes.  The next day, as they planned their costumes for NEXT year, I'm pretty sure one of said, "Halloween has been cancelled for next year."  

"Stayin' Alive" in our new Christmas Jammies!!
CHRISTMAS: I always have "intentions" involving Christmas Cards, gatherings I want to have, gifts I want to make, etc.  This year we intentionally chose to do nothing but celebrate Christ and try to hold it together as a family.  Things were calmer but still crazy most days. And nights for that matter!  Since we were hesitant to attend any big family gatherings we had celebrated Thanksgiving with just us and the grands, no cousins, aunts, or uncles.  For Christmas though, our families said, "We will come however you want us to, but we want to see you.  We can come in small groups so they aren't overwhelmed but we want to meet these new precious little ones."  It makes my heart smile to remember cousins meeting new cousins.  Great aunts teaching nieces and nephews to make an Advent chain.  Aunts and uncles giving gifts and hugs.  

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  John 13:34-35

"You know you're jealous!"
"You are under my powers
as a gypsy, princess,
cheerleader type person"
Playing Dress Up!

Dress up is a way of life at our house.  So are surprises.  You NEVER know what you are going to turn around and see.  Or have jump out at you.  

I went into my bedroom one day and heard giggling form the boys' room.  As I walked past my bed I saw a small plastic snake peaking out from under each of our pillows. 
"Hey, how YOU doin'?"  (channeling Joey from "Friends")

Dance to the Music!
Can you imagine being "assigned" siblings?  Leaving others behind and getting new ones?  All of our kids have experienced that.  Both times it has been a hard, heart revealing process.  But it has been so amazing to watch then truly BECOME brothers and sisters to each other.  

Watching girls look for anyway to drive each other crazy no matter how hurtful or unkind.  Girls who ALWAYS stuck up for their biological sibling even if it mean lying was the norm.  Slowly, gradually, they shared giggles.  They danced and sang songs from "Frozen" together.  

Their big sister taught them all the words to some "new" songs she discovered ("Carry On My Wayward Son" by Kansas and "Take Me On" by Aha!).  :)  We watched her make every effort to play and engage when she didn't want to.  To build relationships.  To log funny moments and remind me later to put them on Facebook!

Heard Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" being sung loudly one day.  I go into the playroom to The Teenager wearing a fedora, arms aroudn her 4 little sisters, swaying as a group as they belt out the words.  The Teenager is the only one who actually knows the words but they words but they were all singing their own version at the top of their lungs.  It sounded sorta like, "Don't shop, I"m leavin', oh oh oooooohhh!"

"But mom, we were just playing
and the mud 'got' on us!  We
don't know how!"
Watching a boy who was IT become part of a pair. Watch them almost kill each other over and over again.  Seriously.  Death was imminent.  Over bikes, pokemon cards, and legos.  Until one day when it wasn't.  At least not from anger and hate.  Maybe from the jumps they were teaching each other on their bikes or the sword fights they were getting into while defeating the bad guys!  
"I totally won!"
"Yup.  He won."

Walking in to pick up our boys from a play-date and having a child who was a stranger to me 7 months ago rush up in excitement.  To hug me.  Huge grin, excited jumping up and down.  Just to hug me.  To see me.  A child who 7 months ago did not want me to touch or speak to him.  


This is one of those experiences that you just grit your teeth and pray the photographer, who is your friend, is still speaking to you after your kids break her props, roll around on the ground when she says stand still, and face backwards when she says forwards!  But now when we go to that park, the kids run to different spots and say, "Hey, do you remember?  She had giant candy canes here, remember?"  or "This is where we all piled on together for a picture!"  We have the beginnings of a history together.  

"My name hasn't always been Lydia!"
Lita (grandma) "Oh yeah? What was it?"
Lydia (pauses to think), "Sparkle."


Our first snow together and for some of them, the first one in their memories and we got TWO!!  On the first snow days, I layer, zipped, insisted on 3 coats, 2 gloves, 4 socks, boots, and sent those joyful puppies outside.  Only to have them back inside minutes later crying that their hands hurt and they were cold.  I spent an hour getting them dressed, 3 hours doing the laundry, and they played outside for 20 minutes!  We went through that about 8 times a day for the duration of the snow.

So being the brilliant parent I am, on the second go round, I told them it wasn't snow.  It was just ice and was too icky to play in.  We drank hot chocolate, watched 14 movies a day, and stayed DRY!  Finally on the last day, I relented and we headed out about 10 am.  Due to immense pressure from the short ones and guilt that I had not take one single picture of them playing in the snow, I accompanied them outside.  

There I watched them attempt to make snow angels on a half in layer of frozen snow.  

I watched them give up thoughts of sledding as the snow began to melt about 5 minutes after we came out.

And I watched them play together, trying to figure out how to build a snowman because they swore the neighbor was the news guy and he'd taken a picture of someone's snowman so they might get on the news if he saw theirs!  They did eventually make a snowman.  It was all of 5" tall and melted by noon!

"You're just my favorite mommy.
I used to love it when 
said that, because it wasn't true 
for them really because they only 
had one mom; But I really could 
say it because I have 2!" 

I have discovered children "cleaning" the toilet.  With the peed in water in the toilet.  And remember that I forgot to clean it later as I was sitting on it.  Not posting a picture to go with that.
"I love you Daddy!"

I have discovered that
coffee tastes just fine
with glitter in it.  Adds fiber
I'm sure!

I have discovered that it's really hard to sing a lullaby to a child who tries to act out the song as you sing and keeps giving you a big stage smile with her fingers poking in her cheeks and saying, "Maaaaahmeeee, you're losing your smile!  Don't forget to smile!" 


Every morning, drop off gets more fun.  Typically one child argues over who gets to shut the door with the TEACHER who is trying to get them to go so I can get out of the way of the 245 cars sitting behind me.  

Some days one child runs next to the car as I try to drive off and runs into some unsuspecting kid walking along and they both go down in a flurry of bodies and backpacks.  

On one particular day, child 1 gets out of the car first and holds the door open for his sisters because he's being a gentleman.  
Child 2 exits the car calmly (a big first!) and picks up her little sister's backpack on the way out to "hold" it for her.  
Child 3 refuses to get out of her seat, claiming she is "stuck".  She has pulled her arms inside her jacket.  I can feel the eyes of the mom behind me boring into my head as I reach behind me, unbuckle her seat-belt, and tug her out of her out of her booster seat.  
Child 2 begins calling, "Here's your backpack lady!" to her sister.
Meanwhile, child 3 has begun playing "you can't get me mommy" in the front passenger seat.  
Child 1 is now hanging from the car door yelling, "Hey mom, look!"
Child 2 has escalated to yelling at her sister and swinging the backpack around in large circles, almost taking out a little boy.  
Meanwhile, I am waiting for horns to start honking.  
Child 3 finally exits the car, falling because she refused to remove her hands form her pockets, jumps up and roughly grabs her backpack, causing child 2 to fall off the curb almost under the car, which panics a nearby teacher who almost gets kicked by child 1 who is still hanging from the car door.  
All 3 finally walk toward the school and I drive away, watching the teachers shaking their heads and think, "I wonder if 8 am is too early for a nap?"

Hair style ala 5 daughters!


Watching Tony have a "discussion" with a couple of kids who have committed a common household infraction.  He has a sidekick in a 6 year old, with a bit of a speech challenge, who keeps giving input after each thing he says:
"Uh huh, it say so in da Bible!"
"Y'all need da be listen to dis!"
"And akshually love eash udder!"

"We already talk about dis you people!"


So the freckle-faced ninja said the blessing at dinner the other night.  "Oh dear God, Thanks for the food.  We like you and we bless you!  Please DETECT us from evil!  Amen."

Thanks for all for the prayer, love and support.  It takes a community to do anything well, especially the hard stuff!  

He adopted us as His own: 
But to all who believed him and accepted him, He gave the right to become children of God.
John 1:12

Gave us a measure of HIMSELF - His Spirit
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.  So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves.  Instead, you received God's Spirit when he adopted you as His own children.  Now we call him, "Abba, Father."  For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children.
Romans 8:14-16  

So that we can turn around and be His hands and feet to a hurting world.
And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.
Matthew 18:5

Friday, May 2, 2014

270 Girls

I am sitting at my computer in my comfortable home weeping over children I will never see, smell, or touch.  

I am thinking how the decisions facing me in life are should I go to the grocery store now with kids in tow or wait until I can go alone later tonight.  And halfway around the world a mama is wishing she could do ANYTHING with her daughter, wondering if she will ever see her, hold her, again.  

Should I wash dishes and do laundry or be lazy while some of my kids take a trampoline break from homeschooling while my other kids are sitting in a classroom, protected and learning?  Meanwhile 270 girls taken, snatched, kidnapped.  All at once.  

53 back home trying to escape the memories of terror.  223 still missing.

Should spend $50 on that one text book for my daughter for next year?  While 223 girls are still missing, some sold for the price tag of $12.  Sold into slavery.  I cannot fathom the fear they are experiencing.

There are stories like this all over the world every day but for some reason, this day, my heart is crying out for these children and I cannot do anything but sob and type.  And pray.

I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me.  When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands and my soul refused to be comforted.  I remembered you, O God, and I groaned; I mused, and my spirit grew faint. "Selah" You kept my eyes from closing; I was too trouble to speak. 
Psalm 77:1-4

God will not let my spirit rest in thinking of the precious girls.  I imagine their fear, physical pain, confusion.  I wonder how young some of them are.  


I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; I remembered my songs in the night.  My heart mused and my spirit inquired: "Will the Lord reject forever?  Has his promise failed for all time?  Has God forgotten to be merciful?  Has he in anger withheld his compassion?"  "Selah" 
Psalm 77:5-9

How do I go back to my normal suburban, PBJ makin' mom routine?  How do I not absolutely freeze in my tracks for these families?  These 270 precious girls. Despair threatens my heart for them. 

 Then I thought, "To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High."  I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.  Your ways, O God, are holy.  What god is so great as our God?  You are the God who performs. miracles; you display your power among the peoples.  With your mighty arm you redeemed your people, the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.  "Selah" The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you and writhed; the very depths were convulsed.  The clouds poured down water, the skies resounded with thunder; your arrows flashed back and forth.  Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.  You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.  
Psalm 77:10-20

The soothing balm of these words has calmed me but not released me.  I am held captive today by the thoughts of these girls.  And I am praying that God will too hold you captive to cry out to Him on their behalf.  On behalf of their mothers and fathers.  To show the power and glory of God to the men who have taken them without a thought to their humanity.  

I wish this were an isolated event.  A one time deal. It may be larger in scale but it is far from rare.  Atlanta is #13 in the WORLD for human trafficking. Visit one of these links for more information on this story or to sign petitions to President Jonathan of Nigeria and to other officials.

Take action to #BringBackOurGirls

Nigerians have been holding mass protests this week calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to deploy every means possible to find the girls. You can join the international call to action to bring back the girls by supporting two petitions that have been building momentum:

- A Change.org petition to President Jonathan at http://chn.ge/1ioL496

- A TakePart petition to Nigerian officials and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry athttp://bit.ly/1rUgsPa

You can learn more about the kidnappings in these articles in the NY Times athttp://nyti.ms/1rSD7eZ or in the New Yorker at http://nyr.kr/1mZgi9F

To learn more about this problem and how communities are fighting against it, we highly recommend "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide" at http://www.amightygirl.com/half-the-sky and the accompanying documentary, for ages 13 and up, at http://www.amightygirl.com/half-the-sky-documentary

The excellent film, "Girl Rising," also explores the challenges faced by many girls in developing countries at http://www.amightygirl.com/girl-rising

To learn about several organizations working to end sex trafficking, visit Half the Sky's resource page at http://bit.ly/1lEYjTS

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Something to listen to while you read: 
"Arise My Love"  by, Newsong

It's Easter and I am struggling to impart the depths of the sacrifice to my children.  The loss and joy of this day.  To make it less about bunnies and Easter Eggs; more about Christ.  

In many ways they should not "get it" for many years.  They should have a child-like faith and innocence to go along with it.  

The problem is they don't.  They get loss and grief.  They get the pain in Mary's heart as she lost her son so precious.  They get losing someone whose identity was so integral to their own, they don't know where that person stops and they begin.  

The week before Easter we celebrated the 14th anniversary of a judge making us a forever family, Gabby, Tony, and I.  April 10, 2000.  Just shy of her 2nd birthday.  

The day before Easter we again plan to celebrate.  This time it's the "Gotcha Day" for Will, Lydia, and Madi.  They are eager for Saturday to come because they know it means a treat.  :)  

I am more hesitant because I know it is really a day about loss wrapped in joy.  We joyfully added three new children to our family.  They gained safety and permanence.  

They however, also lost. Lost a foster family they had lived with for almost two years.  Lost the last possible contact with their birth parents, grandparents, cousins, a big brother, familiar places, school and neighborhood friends.  To call strangers mommy and daddy.  I'm not sure any of us can truly understand who have not experienced.  

I know that in celebrating this, there needs to be explanation.  Explanation of loss and celebration.  Explanation and processing for our newest kiddos about their own lives.  They are still trying to grasp what adoption is.  Why they can't just go home.  Why won't we let them?

And inadvertently the truth of Easter begins to dawn in our house.  This paper.  It came home in the Friday folder.  My freckle-faced ninja with curly auburn hair.  When I asked him to read his writing to me, he eagerly did. Until the last line.  Then his eagerness dissolved into tears of loss.  We rocked as he cried and my inadequate words struggled to comfort a pain that is with him every waking moment. I don't know if you can see the little person at the top with his hands raised up and tears on his cheeks.  Pleading and mourning. 

Title: Me Missing My Mom
"I love my mom but I got take away.  I felt sad.  Then I went to 5 homes.  The 5th one I am at it right now.  And I'm having hard times.  I was feeling angry so badly.  Guess what?  I do care."

The next day is Saturday.  The day that for the disciples the world looked black.  And we gather around a table to eat cookies and remember.  "This is a special day!" I told them.  "It is the day Lydia, Will, and Madi came to live with us.  We call it their 'Gotcha Day' because we 'Got' to bring them home.  

But it is a partly sad day.  

A long time ago I wanted to have a baby in my tummy but my tummy doesn't work that way.  God had a different plan for me to be a mommy!"

"Weren't you sad?" Lydia asked?  "I know you had a baby in your tummy once and it went to heaven.  Do you feel sad?"  

"I felt sad when I didn't have any babies but instead of having babies in my tummy, God brought me seven babies that needed a family that are sitting here around this table.  I had to go through sadness to get to the blessings that is you guys!"

"But the reason you were able to come into our family is a sad one.  It was because your first mommy and daddy weren't able to keep you safe enough." 

Mournful faces, "I miss my old mommy."

"I worry that my dad is back in jail."

"I feel guilty because I told him where she was.  And he hurt her."

I ache when I remember this conversation.  I hurt that these precious children remember things I cannot even conceive of experiencing.  But I also know this is an integral part of our healing, becoming whole together.  

In the context of their pain, I am able to explain some of Christ's sacrifice to them.  Explain the reality of sin and how it hurts us.  And how Christ died to free us from that sin, to cleanse us of guilt and shame from our and others' sin.  How God allowed His son to make this sacrifice, that God "gets" their pain because He was separated from Jesus for a time.  

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  Matthew 10:10-11

He came to give us life.  Abundant life and joy.  And He sacrificed his life for it.  

Sunday dawns.  The day of life.  Easter Sunday.  We sit in church, a wiggly ninja snuggle up to me, decorating a program.  After a few minutes he giggles and hands me this note, "It's for you!" he whispers.  "And Daddy!  Show it to Daddy!"  The capacity for joy in this boy.  I am in awe.  

"I love mommy because she's nice.  I love daddy."
I am living an abundant life.  He sacrificed for you and for me.  The tomb is empty and He is risen indeed.  Happy Easter!

Monday, March 31, 2014

And I Saw Her

This is a link to an article I wrote for the Blog Hope at Home: 

http://hopeathomeblog.blogspot.com...and I saw her.  

It's about how God disrupted bedtime one night to open my eyes to Him.  

God Bless,

Real Families.  Real Help.  Real Hope.
Hope at Home is a ministry dedicated to helping adoptive and foster parents encounter the Father's heart for their families.  I have had the privilege to get to know Beth Templeton, one whom God has pressed this mission into her heart.  Their ministry is a huge blessing for both children and their families.  If you are a foster or adoptive parent, I'd encourage you to learn about two events they have: 

Hope at Home Parenting Conference 
Hope at Home Kids.  

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Two Steps Forward

Life is like a dance.  Two steps forward, one step back.  Always hoping for more steps forward than backwards.  Sometimes all we see is how very LOOONG the path to a certain resting place in our journey seems.  A particular song in this dance is seeming to last forever.  

Especially when you are fighting a fight.  A cancer battle.  A depressed teen battle.  A job loss, a marriage, a special needs child.  We can get mired down in the details and stuck in the hard moments of our story.

I was sitting in church on the 22nd of September when this song, The God of Every Story by Laura Story was debuted.  It was two days after I learned about 3 children.  They needed a family.  Tears fell down my face as Tony and I looked at one another.  "We're going to do this aren't we?" he asked.  The first step.  

The God of Every Story, by Laura Story

Suddenly, the music stops.  The dance is over.  We pause for breath and find we have moved along in the journey.  The fight is not over but there is a break while the smoke clears.  Change, progress has been made.  Small battles won.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches.  Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.  And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, as we have the opportunity, le us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Galatians 6:6-10

Our Christmas this year has felt like one long series of backwards steps.  Sick kids.  Sick mom.  Sick dad.  More sick kids.  Endless neediness.  Tantrums. Anxiety. Lectures.  Arguments.  Broken furnace in below zero temps.  Steps backward.

Some days I remembered to say to myself, "don't get weary."  Some days I remembered that I was fighting for these little ones' hearts.  Aiming for healing.  Straining for those two steps forward.

Other days I was just tired.  I could not see the fight for the smoke.  All I noticed was the laundry, the noise, the 104* temperature, and the dissension. Steps backward.  

All of these steps backward seemed to overwhelm our intentions to celebrate Advent.  The plans of relishing in the Spirit of Christ take a backseat to breaking up fights, stopping dives from top bunks or table tops, and temper tantrums.

This all makes me think of another journey.  Joseph.  The adoptive father of Jesus.  He's picked the perfect bride. Good family.  Sweet girl.  And then he discovers her indiscretion. He's a nice guy so he's going to quietly back out of the engagement.  But there's this angel.  Already this marriage journey is not what he had expected.  Steps backward.

So he'll marry the girl.  But then he's got to take this pregnant girl who's expecting THE CHILD OF GOD on an 80 mile walk to his hometown.  There's no evidence in the Bible of a donkey, just a guess that he may have owned one.  That journey must have looked like a million miles!  Steps backward.  

Then.  In a barn.  In a manger.  A feed trough of all things.  This beautiful baby.  Pause in the fight.  Shepherds, angel, wise men, gift.  Suddenly they can look back and see where they've come.  See the dance of two steps forward, one step back.  See where they've landed.  

"Take the child and go to Egypt.  They want to come kill him."  Really?  That's like a million steps backward!  

I'm wishing an angel would come give me some guidance.  Tell me clearly where to step.  Because I'm failing most days.  I'm yelling where soft words would have been better.  Too quick to correct when a hug was what was needed.  Telling them to control their mouths when I was not.  Many steps backward.

I. Was. Going. Backwards. 

So we went out to eat.  Now to most of you that's not a very big deal but this was the first time we'd gone out as a family to a restaurant.  If you've had newly placed older foster or adoptive kids, you get this.  Each new experience is anxiety filled and has the potential for disaster!  But we'd survived the first trips as a family to Walmart and this was the 2nd day with no hot water, no stove or oven, and no heat.  We were just coming out of all the sickness.  We were cold, stinky, and grouchy. 

IHOP.  Before we left Tony gave the obligatory "behavior we expect in a restaurant" lecture.  Off we went.  Upon arrival we took up the entire bench in the waiting area then walked in a long line (yes our kids walk like ducks everywhere...Tony has them well-trained!) all the way to the back of the restaurant. I noticed lots of raised eyebrows and smiles as our crew in their tasseled winter hats walked by.  

The looks on the faces of the patrons at the tables around where we sat was priceless.  They ranged from shock to rolled eyes to grins.  As we're being seated the hostess asks, "Are these kids all yours?"  "Wow!"  when we respond yes.

After strategically arranging who could and couldn't sit together to prevent fights, food and otherwise, I spent the next few minutes getting food choices, explaining why they didn't need the largest adult meal on the menu at age 5, reminding the same child 5 times to get back in their chair, and stopping arguments over crayons (why give only 2 per kid but not the same 2 colors? Why?). 

Drinks come, "Are these kids all yours?" Tony and I both look at each other with raised eyebrows.  "Yup." 

When our food comes, the waitress asks again, "These kids are really all yours?"  I'm tempted to say something obnoxious like, "well we kidnapped those 2 from down the street, those 2 are his from his girl friend, this one we found roaming around the parking lot, thinking that one's an alien,..."  When we just nodded she said, "how in the world do you get them to behave so well?"  

I'm sure my mouth fell open!  I'm not sure what answer I stammered out but suddenly I looked back and noticed that the teenager was chatting quietly with one sister.  The boys were playing tic tac toe.  One girls was leaning on my arm while she colored while the other two talked animatedly about their pictures.  

The smoke cleared.  I could see our forward progress.  See some of the success of our journey.  Two steps forward, one step back.  

Two steps forward, one step back.  

I remembered how in our first week I had to chase the same child down and wrestle her into the car-seat screaming every morning for school.  And the second week.  

Another child would kick the back of my seat with the force of a mac truck when angry.  Still does, just not as often.  Today they'd hopped in and out of the car with smiling faces and even were singing in the car.  

I remember thinking we'd never to in public again.  Bless that waitress's heart, I gave her the biggest tip I could!  

Two months ago if we told a certain child she had to sit in time out or told her no, that set off a major meltdown and we were on the floor holding her for 30 minutes trying to not get bitten.  Today that same little darlin' stomped over to the time out chair and SAT THERE crying!  Two steps forward.

Today Miss Priss said, "Mommy, I'm feeling all funny because everything is changed around."  We'd rearranged the living room.   Remember EVERYTHING new is stressful to kids who've experienced trauma.  But his same child a year ago could not handle going to her 6 person discipleship class without Tony going with her.  More steps forward.  

I actually remained completely calm and remembered most things I've read in the 4,000 parenting books, articles, and blogs I've read as one child laid on the floor in Walmart screaming because I wouldn't pick her up while I unloaded the cart.  Steps forward for sure!!

Praying you have more steps forward than backwards and that we all remember that God is directing the steps of our story for His purposes.