Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Lost Years Matter

Today I got one of the dreaded phone calls. Principal's office.

The boys are in an amazing Christian school. The principal was kind and affirming and creative in her approach to finding solutions. But, my day still ended with talking to the principal about my four year old son.

It was all I could do to hold it together through our conversation and the drive home.

It wasn't today's event. It was all the events leading up to, today.

LJ is loving and generous and funny (so funny). He is not the same little boy that came home with us almost two years ago, but there is still a part of him that is broken and although it's a small part, we haven't been successful at mending it.

I started talking to a child therapist and that has helped me, tremendously. I hadn't realize the ball of emotions I had stuffed deep until I started to talk about it. I discovered that despite my confident personality, I feel completely inadequate when it comes to loving LJ through his turmoil.

We've waited this long to seek out professional help because it has taken time to figure out what emotions and tendencies should be linked to age vs personality vs damaging events that took place in foster care. One of the things I did with the therapist was to walk through LJ's foster care file. One of the discoveries was that we were not LJ's sixth home...we were number seven. I know it's just plus one....but when you're talking in terms of two year old development, seven homes is an incredible number.

As the therapist asked me questions, I was able to start connecting dots.

The lost years matter.

In tearful admittance, I told the therapist, "I just want my son to be whole. I want everyone to see him the way that God sees him. The way Ben and I see him."

He stopped me and told me that I should adjust my expectation to "...as whole as he can be."

I am willing to pursue professional help and am looking forward to our first session with LJ in the new year, because our tool box is empty. We have tried everything we know to try and it's not working. I believe that God will work through therapy to help equip Ben and I, while giving us an outside prospective on what insecurities and crisis points exist in LJ's mind.

That being said, I am not willing to adjust my expectation. My son will be whole. The Bible says that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind. God heard LJ's cry, plucked him out of darkness, and plopped him in the middle of a family that fosters the presence of God. The gifts and talents that were sewn into the fabric of LJ will come to life and his passion for people and praise will be actualized.

I am thankful, tonight, for my mother in law who reminded me of all of this, tonight. It can be very defeating to take six steps forward and two back.

I wanted to be angry. And found myself trying to cast blame to LJ's mom; his foster parents; the state. But as quickly as the anger came, the Spirit of God filled me fresh. What's the point? There's no going back. There's no undoing the hurts and losses that LJ has lived through. All we can do is move forward.

I still can't stop crying and my heart is heavy for my son. But, I am thankful for these helpless moments in life because without them I would forget my weakness. I would forget to cry out to God and seek his hand in earnest. And really, can it work any other way?

On our ride to meet daddy for his birthday dinner, LJ asked me, "Mom, why did Jesus have to die for us?"

I talked through many points connecting the truths he and Ty already know regarding the fall of man and our mortality, but my last statement caught in my throat before I said it.

"Honey, without Jesus, we would never understand the extent of God's love for us."

I pray that the Holy Spirit will circle those words around my own spirit tonight as I sleep.

I know God's love is powerful enough to see us through.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Baby's First Christmas


I miss this place. Big time. I am not abandoning my blog and I expect to be back here in the new year. I, simply, over-committed. I took on an extra teaching load, this fall, right before the move, and it nearly sent me over the edge...but our semester is almost done, I only have miscellaneous boxes left to unpack, and we're all ready for Christmas!

Before I dive into the conversation on my heart. Here is an update on the state of our family! The boys are doing great in school and continue to be best buds. We gave them the choice of having separate bedrooms in the new house and they wouldn't hear of it! In the last few months, their ability to imagine and play pretend has magnified and it has been fun to listen to their interpretations of the world.

We updated our foster license when we moved in, so we're all ready to go. In one of Ty's cutest moments ever, he asked if he could put a baby sister on his Amazon Wish List. I told him that it didn't work that way, but that he could continue to petition our heavenly Father. While Ty prays for a baby sister, LJ tries to bargain for five more brothers. Yup, that's right. Five.

We don't pretend to have a "plan", but if God's taking requests on how we continue to grow our family, Ben and I would really like to bring home a set of sisters, next year. Trusting God with our future is easy [now] and laughing at the days to come seeps out with little effort. I'm thankful for that.

Now for my heart.

Last year was our first Christmas with LJ. I don't know if it was the excitement of being a family of four, our Christmas travel schedule, the house hunt, or the boys' limited knowledge on the holiday, but I was never struck with loss like I was, this year.

We took our time decking the halls and trimming the trees. Ty insisted on lighting his bedroom window with a tree three times his height. Admittedly, it didn't take much convincing. I, gently, unpacked Ben's box of special ornaments. His mom's handwriting still scripts the outside. My box was next. Sandwiched between our treasures was a smaller wrapping of sweet ornaments for Ty. There were at least seven renditions of baby's first Christmas, with two years worth of made-for-mommy ornaments. We were taking in each bulb and remembering along the way...until I realized that there wasn't a box for my second born. Sure, he had the same handmade lovelies that Ty had, thanks to their thoughtful preschool teachers, but there were no ornaments.

I made a big deal of LJ's handiwork and lifted him tall to reach the high branches. I gave him the "extra special" task of putting daddy's ornaments on the tree and he didn't notice otherwise...but I did.

Of course, the easy solution includes a box as big as he is, full of ornaments, under the tree, this year, but that doesn't blot away the sadness in my heart.

I KNOW we have many more years of memories to come....but these memories, the ones I'm missing, matter, too. It's easy to forget that he once wasn't ours. He jokes like his daddy, worships like his mama, and pretty much does everything that his big brother does out of complete adoration. But then I open the Christmas box of memories and remember the years we were all robbed of.

Ty was six months old during his first Christmas. We were in Ben's parent's family room when Ty lifted his chubby fingers to his perfect "O" shaped mouth and discovered he could make noise by tapping back and forth, for the first time. By the next year he was walking and learning to climb up his new slide. The year after, we shared our holiday with Shamu and all things sea-like.

It hurts my heart that memories for LJ are lost in the abyss, or worse, the worst are trapped inside him - a haunting reminder of his past. (I have been meeting with a therapist and crying out to God over those; more on that later).

I don't allow myself to wallow in the missings too long...because the beginnings are just as bright and beautiful. Our favorite beginning, right now, is to reminisce our first meeting at the agency. LJ tells the story as well as Ben and I. He tries to add embellishments along the way that sometimes include flying dragons and talking hamburgers, but we keep the tale pure. It's no less miraculous.

I thank God through the sadness. If it weren't for loss, we wouldn't know redemption. If it weren't for pain, we wouldn't know peace. And if it weren't for these boys, I wouldn't know love abounding joy.







Thursday, October 17, 2013

Pinchback Acres

I have missed this space! The last 5-6 weeks have been super crazy. From selling our condo to moving out in three weeks and in with friends for another two and then settling into the new place. Ah!

But, tonight, my slippered feet are up, the fire is going, and I'm in awe of God's goodness.

Truly. 

It's not just a house. It's our future; our family; our faith. God is stirring our hearts and I know this house is an integral part of what he's going to do.

Coming from our little condo, the space is glorious. But more than the extra room inside, the room outside is what shapes our days. The culture of our family has shifted.

We're slower, more organic, more creative.

I don't know if it's the air or the quiet or the turkeys, but it's impossible not to feel peace on the property.


 The boys spend every possible minute outside and have embraced country living.













I'm not sure what's next...but we're ready!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

God is moving...and so are we!

We have exciting news! This time we are not bringing home a new kiddo...instead, WE are moving to a new home! It has been such a long, frustrating journey, but we made it!

We started looking for a new house soon after we brought Laron home. We are in a small condo that is, nearly, exploding with 4 year old energy, but like most things in our life, God, continuously, works patience in us. In 18 months of looking, we have probably looked at 100 homes...but only placed two offers. The first offer was a month in and we were outbid; the second offer was a few months ago and although it was accepted, we had to withdraw based on the inspection. I was sick over it; I was so disappointed.

In January, I wrote a post called Doing More. Dreaming Bigger. I wrote:
It's more than just a home to me. I am looking for a sanctuary. A place to hold as many beds as possible. There has to be enough room for our kids to be loud and crazy and have room to explore. There has to be room to hold impromptu worship services and prayer sessions. I need a dining room table that seats ten. Because I only have a glimpse at what God is doing, I have to be prepared.
God is faithful and he continues to write a story more beautiful than I could.

Our original plan was to keep our condo as an investment and rent it out when we purchased a new home. Last week, we decided to change our strategy. We decided to sell our house on our own and listed it on Zillow. I listed it on Thursday and put a sign out on Friday night. We had our first buyer come walk through on Sunday night. Before she came, our little family gathered in the garage and prayed. We prayed for God's favor, that our condo would sell, quickly, and easily, without hiccup. The buyer walked through and asked where she could sign. She had come prepared to pay for our condo in cash and wanted to ensure we were taking it off the market.

Eek! Why are we surprised when God pulls us through?

I teared up when the woman told us that she had been driving through our neighborhood, every week, for several months, waiting for one of our condos to come up for sale.

We went to dinner to celebrate and Ty said, "Mom, we don't have anywhere to live, now!"

I was a little keyed up over the excitement of it all, but I had a strange peace. Why would God sell our condo so quickly, just to leave us homeless?

We poured over houses on the internet for two days and then scheduled to walk through four on Tuesday night. We liked the first three...but number four was it.

We knew as soon as we pulled in the driveway. During my second walk through, I stopped in front of the kitchen window. One of the boys was running down a hill and the other was swinging high in a tree swing. I cried at God's goodness.

We found the perfect house in the country, on acreage, to raise our family.

We put an offer in, but I didn't need to wait for the agreement. I knew it was ours.

Needless to say, it's been a very eventful week!

I am so excited at the possibilities our future holds. We will be living in a city, with a school district, that we had not prepared for. That can only mean one thing. God is on the move.

I only snapped a few pictures before we left, but here is our beautiful soon-to-be oasis!




Praise God!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

More Than a Story

Yesterday, we were helping out in the 4/5 year old classroom at church. We're new to the room, as we just moved, this summer, from 3s, when Ty turned 4. We like moving through the kids ministry with the boys. We want to know their friends, the girls they'll likely want to date, the parents in both scenarios, etc.

We only serve once a month, so this was just our second time in the "red" room. It has been such a blessing to see the depth of study and worship that our kids are experiencing at such a young age.

As we were settling in for lesson time, I took my perch about midway through the rows. Getting 40 4/5 year olds to sit quiet and engage is a feat! The Bible lesson was on Hannah.

My heart flipped when I heard her name. I know her story inside and out. Though separated by centuries, our cry was the same. I know her and love her and prayed her prayer more times than I can count. I shifted my weight to my toes as I listened to my friend's testimony, re-told by the teacher.

"Hannah was barren. She couldn't have children of her own. She cried out to God; God heard her cry and she became pregnant with Samuel!" The lead teacher went on to talk about the great man Samuel was...I stood aghast. I wanted to throw my hands in the air and shout, "STOP!!!!"

YOU'RE NOT TELLING IT RIGHT.

You can't sum the reality of this woman's heart...this life...in one sentence! The moments of complete desperation between "She cried out to God" and "God heard her prayer" are so weighted in pain, I can feel them in the back of my throat. "Year after year" Hannah cried and begged; pleading with God. Barren is so much more than not being able to have children...it's emptier; darker; lonelier. It's not just an empty womb...it's an empty life.

Hannah is heroic in her vulnerability and ultimate sacrifice.

I couldn't believe her story was being promoted without passion. I wrestled with whether or not to interrupt when Ty looked at me from across the room. His eyes twinkled and he gave me his just-for-mom smile. I knew he knew. He knew that I prayed for him...just like Hannah prayed for her Samuel.

I held my tongue and wiped my tears.

I know her story because it's my story.

And it's okay that a classroom of kids hears "miracle" before moving on with their day. My family doesn't just hear...we experience the miracle. Every day. And that's what makes us special.

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life...


Friday, July 19, 2013

Summer Pictures

Here are some of our summer moments in cell phone pictures!


The boys got their "box" on at a friend's graduation party

Sand Fun on Vacation

The boys have eaten more than their body weight in watermelon, this summer!

Ty discovered a real love for puzzles.

Just another day "cruis'n" the neighborhood.

We are spending countless hours at one of the beautiful Michigan lakes a few minutes from our house.

The boys asked if they could wash my car. When I came out to check on them, they were also washing their mini cooper. It was one of the cutest things I've ever seen!

Pirate Camp Day 1: LJ says, "Mom. I'm black and you gave me a red beard - you can't even see it!"
Pirate Camp Day 2
I hope your summer has been as fun as ours!!! We are meeting with our Foster License case worker, tonight. It's just an update, but we are excited about who the year might bring....


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Connecting

I have been falling in love with my family, all over, again, this summer.

I credit the slowed pace and sun-shiny days. A few nights ago, Ty was having a hard time sleeping, while LJ snoozed away. I called Ty out of his room and snuggled with him on the couch. I don't remember anything special about our time; only that it was just that...time. Since most of our family time is spent with all four of us, the one-on-one interactions are sweet.

We had a repeat incident, tonight, in reverse. Ben headed out for the night and Ty was fast asleep, but I heard LJ whistling to himself on his top bunk. I put my book aside and called him out to the living room to settle in for some mommy and me time. I wasn't prepared for what God had in store for me.

LJ and I have continued to struggle in our relationship. He loves me just fine, but most days I don't think he likes me very much. He always prefers Ben's company and trying to talk to him is like pulling teeth. His answers are clipped; his mind distracted. Completely opposite from Ty.

I love LJ as my own and feel a deep drawing to connect with him, but so far, our moments have been few and far between. Even though our conversation, tonight, still jumped from place to place, LJ never stopped looking into my eyes. It was like we clicked. For the first time...in 16 months.

After a few moments of tickling and cuddling, the conversation went [pretty much] just like this.

LJ do you know how much mommy loves you?
 Yes.
 I'm so glad you are in our family. Did you know that you lived with five families before coming home to me and daddy and Ty?
 Yes.
 Do you remember anything about the families you lived with? You had lots of mommies.
 And daddies?
 No, actually your daddy is the first daddy you've ever had.
 Did you see me jumping in the water with my daddy? [We went to the beach, today.]
 Yes. You are my brave, brave boy.
 Giggle. I am very brave.
 Do you know that God is going to use you to do BIG things for him?
 Me?
 Yes. Because not only are you brave, but  you are such a lover. You have a big HUGE heart that never stops loving.
 I'm going to drive a police car!
You are? Well that is a very brave job to have. Why do you want to be a policeman?
Because they go right to the emergencies!
That's right. That's why they have to be so brave. Hey, wasn't that cool that those girls got adopted in the movie we watched, tonight? [Despicable Me]
Yes.
Would you like to adopt little sisters...or would you rather have a little brother.
A brother! I would teach him how to swim to the raft. And then I would show him how to hold his knee and do a cannon ball...just like that big humungous kid at the raft.
 Oh -
 Do you know who else does canon balls like that?
 Daddy?
 No. Captain Hook!
Oh...I didn't know Captain Hook did canon balls. LJ, you will be such a good big brother. Your little brother will learn all sorts of cool things from you.
 I really like your eyelashes, Mama. Did you know that spiders don't have eyelashes?
 Hmm...you're probably right about that.
 And they don't drink coffee. Only daddies.
 I held back a laugh. You're probably right about that, too. Can we go back to our conversation about you living in lots of homes? Do you remember anything about your other mommies, honey?

I remember when you and daddy came to get me... [His eyes looked lost for a minute.]

I held back tears. You do?
Instead of answering, right away, he hugged my neck tight. Then he said, "I love you mommy. I'm glad you are my mommy...." and after a long pause, he added, "....forever."
I held LJ tight for a long time and couldn't say anything past the lump in my throat. I don't know what's locked away behind those deep eyes, but I know that God has lifted his countenance. It's hard sometimes, in the challenging moments, to decipher whether we're dealing with LJ's personality, past experiences, or typical four year old behavior (since our other four year old thinks he's six).

Our conversation, tonight, was confirmation to my heart that our son is going to be more than okay. He might be moody and busy and full of jump-high energy, but he is also creative and thoughtful and funny. He just needs to express things in his own time.

As we grow together, I might end up being his go-to confidante when he's wrestling with thoughts or pain. Or I might not be. I might only get glimpses into his heart here and there. I'm okay with either scenario...because in both scenarios I get to be his mom. I get to experience him and enjoy him and allow God to use him to shape my own life.

I remember the day his daddy and I came to get him too...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Just in Case

I didn't intentionally take a hiatus, but we've had a really crazy month of planned and unplanned travel.

We've worked through the disappointments of having to turn down our dream house and losing LJ's sister to another family. We are, currently, in a state of fulfillment. We are enjoying our family and taking in the best part of living in Michigan...summer (Ben would actually argue that it's fall)! We know that our family won't always be this size, so we're enjoying the time, while we have it. In the past month, the boys finished their first year of preschool, attended their first VBS, Ty turned four, and we just got back from our annual vacation, "up north".


You might remember me blogging about this trip, last year, because LJ had a very difficult time. He had only been living with us for three months at that point and didn't understand the concept of vacation...He cried every night to go home...wherever and with whomever that might have been - we didn't know.

This year's experience was wildly different. He's different.


Truth be told, he's hardly recognizable. After the week was up, on the way home, LJ said, "Mom, I really want to go home." No sadness; just readiness. Unlike his shaky understanding of what home meant when he cried for it, last year, he knows home, now...and knows we'll always go back. He knows family and that we're always going to be it.

Such an incredible transformation.

When we got home, we had a large envelope from Lutheran Social Services waiting for us. Our renewal application for our foster license. My heart did more of a flop than a flip. I'm really enjoying time with just the boys, right now. I flashed the packet at Ben and said, "Do you want to renew this thing? We're going to have to renew it, again, once we move."

It was my way of saying, "It's okay if we pass, right now."

My level-headed, quietly passionate husband said, "Yah. We better. Just in case."

Just in case....

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Reconnecting

I needed today.

Our whirlwind has yet to calm.

A couple days after my last post, we received sad news about Ben's grandpa, Tyrus. Because he was only given a few weeks to live, Ben and I, immediately, flew out to say goodbye. We had a beautiful, but emotional trip. Even though it's a natural part of life, saying goodbye to those we love is never easy. Due to astronomical ticket prices, we had to leave the boys home. We were only in Arizona for two-ish days, but it fell at a bad time, as I had to fly from Arizona to Missouri for a work conference I was presenting at.

It was the first time I've ever been away from the boys for a week.

There are so many things swirling in my head and the erratic pace of bad news we've been living, has hardly given us time to process one loss before moving on to the next.

I took the last couple of days off to reconnect with the boys and I'm so glad that I did. Today, we had a perfect, warm, sunny, breezy day. The boys and I played outside for hours. We planted flowers, played with squirt guns, had a picnic, ate bomb pops, and talked about our favorite things to do in the summer.

The most serious question I had to answer, all day, was, "Mom, can we bring our baby sister on vacation with us?" (asked by LJ). When I reminded him that we don't have a baby sister, yet, his rebuttal was, "Oh...We're still waiting on God for that?"

I laughed out loud.

Yup. We're waiting on God for a lot of things. But, with, today, as an indicator. I would say God has come through...EVERY TIME. In his time. In his way. For our best.

I'm still processing through some tragedies of the heart, but spending an entire day with these crazy kids was a deep, healing balm. You can't help but smile in their presence.




Thank you, God, for using my little flashlights, today, to show me your GREAT love.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Whirlwind.

It's been a very strange month of ups and downs. Our family has been pressing the hem of heaven so tightly it would prove worn if released. We have been in constant prayer over finding a new home for our growing family and a permanent home for LJ's little sister, Mia. We have been on our knees, on behalf of both, for over a year, but breakthrough has been slow.

In the same month (this month) we got encouraging news about Mia and then it was discouraging...and then back to encouraging. Last week, we found our dream home. Truly. It was quirky and non-traditional and felt like the perfect space to raise our non-traditional family. It needed work, but had loads of space, inside and out. It captured my heart, the minute I walked in the door.

Ben and I were laughing. After a year of waiting and begging praying, we had finally pushed through, and wouldn't it be just like God to deliver our home and daughter in the same week?

That was last week.

We were shocked when our offer was accepted without contingency and thankful that, although the crazy foster care system seemed set on allowing Mia to fall through the cracks, our caseworker helped us advocate otherwise. We praised God for his favor.

And then this week came...

We, sadly, had to withdraw our offer on the house, after spending three hours with the inspector, on Saturday. And, today, we were notified that Mia will be adopted by one of two families - neither of which is ours.

Sunday and Monday were difficult days for me. I had already betrothed myself to the house and had, mentally, moved our things in. It took me a couple days to get through the heartbreak. I wasn't angry or resentful with God - I was thankful (SO thankful) that he had spared us from harm - I was just, incredibly, sad. By the end of the day, yesterday, I was back to myself and although not ready to dive into the house hunt, again, my optimism returned.

God is faithful.

Strangely, when the news of Mia came, today, my immediate (and continued) reaction was complete peace. We have seen too much to doubt God's plan. I really want her to be in our family, but we've tried (not always successfully) to be neutral in our prayers for her. That God would be swift in bringing Mia a permanent family. From what I heard, today, both families would be a wonderful fit that would allow her to be with birth sisters. I couldn't ask for more.

Over the last year, we received such conflicting information about Mia, her whereabouts and whether or not there were other siblings with her. Our caseworker has been a gift from God and after the second new caseworker was assigned to Mia's adoption (after the termination hearing a couple of weeks ago), she, personally, drove to the assigned agency to read through Mia's file, herself. As if that wasn't touching enough, she affirmed a truth, today, that I am eternally grateful for. After spending her morning reading through this family's case, it is "unclear" why LJ was separated from his four sisters - who all had parental rights terminated a few weeks ago...together. I had no idea. I thought all the children, apart from Mia, had been adopted. Two are older than LJ and two are younger. All four will likely be adopted together. It doesn't make sense. There is no defining cause for his separation from the family.

No defining cause, that is, except the all powerful-ever true, hand of God.

For whatever reason, God saw fit for LJ to be in our family. God plucked him from his abandonment and called him son. He stamped redeemed on his file and whispered favor into his future. I am in awe at the goodness and love of our God.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let my foot slip—
    he who watches over me will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over me—
    the Lord is my shade at my right hand;
the sun will not harm me by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep me from all harm—
    he will watch over my life; 
the Lord will watch over my coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

 - Psalm 121

Thank you, Father....

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Intentional Mothering - Part 2

Many of you asked me about the scriptures we've been teaching our boys after my mother's day guest post. Here is an excerpt of what I wrote on the Intentional Mothering series:


In my own quiet time, I would pray for my boys and think about the characteristics that I wanted them to be marked by and ways to instill them. God hit me one day with the realization that if I wanted my boys to be lovers of the Word – If I wanted them to hide Truth in their hearts – I had to, intentionally, put it there!



It was a light bulb moment. What better way to conquer LJ’s defeat or instill confidence in Ty, than to teach them what God’s Word has to say? As a family, we decided to start with Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”



We weren’t looking to be fastidious about scripture memorization, rather we wanted the words the boys memorized to be genuine and meaningful. I did a quick Google search one day on kids memorizing scripture and found most of the “guides” to be marked by length versus application. “Jesus Wept” was, actually, on several lists.

Ben and I decided to be intentional with our selections and unstructured at the pace of memorization. In three months we are only on verse number two - Colossians 3:20, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.We didn’t move on to our second verse until the boys were applying Philippians 4:13 on their own.


We started the conversation by telling them how important God’s Word is and that the Holy Spirit uses it to communicate with us and guide our decisions

Teaching the boys to sew the Word of God, deep into their hearts, has been such a blessing and challenge to do the same in my own life. My little flashlights are proud to shine their lights.

Here is the list we're, currently, working through:



Memory Verses for 2013

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

Colossians 3:20
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

Isaiah 43:5
Do not be afraid, for I am with you.

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Deuteronomy 6:5
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Matthew 22:39
Love your neighbor as yourself.

I Corinthians 10:31
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Psalm 139:14
I praise you God, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Proverbs 30:5
Every word of God proves true.



Monday, May 13, 2013

"Are you their mom?"


Last week, we were at my cousin's baseball game and about half way through the boys were getting wiggly bottoms. We told them they could go run around the field behind us and gave them some parameters. A few minutes later, we found that they had made friends with some older boys and had joined their soccer game. When the game was over and people started packing up, there was a black family sitting in the home field bleachers that were getting ready to leave. I heard one of the older boys tell Laron, "Don't you need to go home with your family?"

Laron looked at him, strangely, and, pointing to me, said, "No, my mom is right there."

The poor boy just coudn't wrap his mind around the fact that Laron was with our family. He asked him several more time until Laron finally said, "My MOM IS RIGHT THERE." I smiled and waved, but didn't intervene.

Today, the boys were riding bikes in the driveway while I was making dinner. I heard one of the older neighbor boys that they hadn't met, yet, come ask if he could play (my boys have an uncanny ability to draw a crowd and make friends, quickly).

He started by asking them their names and ages. Ty explained, with painstaking detail, that he used to be two, that he, now, is three, and, in June, will be turning four. There was a long pause and the boy said, "Are you guys brothers?"

Laron said, "Yup. You wanna ride bikes with us?"

The boy wasn't ready to move on, "But, you guys are the same age?"

Ty went through his explanation, again, and ended with, "We are both turning four."

The boy wasn't convinced, so he asked, again, "And you're brothers...how?"

I decided to poke my head out the door to see who was asking all the questions. As soon as I came around the corner, the boys shouted, "Hi, Mom!"

The boy looked at me and said, "Are you their mom?"

I smiled and said, "I sure am! Have fun boys," and walked away with a smirk on my face.


This is only the beginning to a lifetime of questions. I love that my boys are confident in their brotherhood and secure in the role they have in our family. When it comes to preschool friends and park acquaintances, I decided that it's their story to tell, not mine. How much they want to reveal is up to them.

It's funny to watch their interactions because nothing about their life feels unnatural. They assume everyone gets it! Sometimes I do want to interfere and say, "Just ask them if they're adopted...they'll tell you!" But...right now, it's more fun to watch the boys handle it on their own.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

From one Rebekah to Another


Sweet Rebekah left this note on my Facebook wall, today:

To a lady who has had a great impact on my life. A lady who carries herself with great humility, spreads joy wherever she goes and loves with all her heart. Rebekah you are an amazing woman but most importantly you are an amazing mother. I remember seeing your face when you held our sweet Tyrus for the first time. It was one of the highlights of my life.

I am truly blessed that God put you in my life. Happy early Mother's Day!!


Here is my love to her, in return:

To a woman who has had a great impact on MY life. You are full of laughter and courage and heart. Your zest for life and capacity to love is great. Your friendship is one of the greatest blessings in my life and sharing motherhood with you is beyond a dream. Tyrus is a wonderful mix of all our best qualities - God has great plans for that boy. What a thrill that those plans include us!

My heart is in constant thankfulness for your role in my life. Happy Mother's Day, my dear friend.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Baby Mia

I love my husband. This was his response to my text message, this afternoon:


It's no where near a done deal, but my heart is pumping! Mia's court hearing was rescheduled twice in the last couple of months, but it finally went before a judge, this week. I don't know the ins and outs of her case (most of what I know is from facebook), but parental rights were terminated and a referral for adoption requested. Once an adoption worker is assigned our petition for adoption will be submitted by our case worker. Thankfully, Mia is being assigned to the same agency that our adoption worker represents, so we should avoid the confusion that occurred in LJ's case (we petitioned for him, but then found him on the MARE website a couple months later because our paperwork was lost).

I am trying very hard to be neutral and pray God's best for Mia...but, boy, do I want that to include our family! I have been praying for this sweet girl for 18 months...I was confident that her case would come to this point, now, I just want to bring her home.

All we can do is wait.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Intentional Mothering

I was asked to submit a guest post over at Deep Breaths. Katie put together a wonderful series on intentional mothering. I shared about the importance of sewing the Word of God into the hearts of our boys. Check it out!




Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Too Hurt to Stay

"Dear Mum, it read, I am sorry for my life. I never meant to hurt you and I love you with a big heart. I want you to kiss me when my dad isn't looking so he doesn't think I'm a girl's blouse. I promise I'll let you kiss me. Casey and Mike are fixing me into a proper good kid like our Lewis. When can I come home, Mum? Love for ever and ever, Spencer xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx."

TLC Book Tours asked me to do a book review for Casey Watson's, Too Hurt to Stay. A true story of a troubled foster kid's journey to family. Before I dig into it, here's the book trailer:



Here's the thing. The story is gripping.

I read it in two days flat. Casey's writing is raw and genuine; there's not a lot of fluff. At first I was turned off by it and couldn't place the disconnect, until I realized our international differences. Casey is from the UK and her rhythm of words, not to mention some of the terms used, were puzzling at times.

There is some language in the book, but I didn't find it offensive, as it fit within the story.

It's hard to give a strong recommendation for the book because the content is so heavy. The ending isn't magical...it's real life. Casey and her husband are heroic in my opinion. They foster high risk kids for short periods of time, preparing them to return home or ready them to be fostered within the system. I am in awe of what they do and how they do it...and challenged to do more.

Spencer is the eight year old boy of whom the story is written. His childhood was so tragic, I could barely handle the read...but, then, the need for redemption wouldn't allow me to put it down!

If you have already experienced the foster care system or have a rooted passion for bringing change, this would be a good read for you. I would not recommend this book for those that are wavering between domestic and foster care adoption. It is a rough read and could, potentially, scare you into saying no...when we need you to say, yes!

Like I said, I found Casey's book extremely raw and inspiring. I have a greater respect for our loving, dedicated foster families and a deeper groaning to help serve these desperate kids who deserve more than they've been given.

Let me know if you end up reading it. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, April 22, 2013

"I'll Never Give up on Them"

This weekend we went to the grand opening of the Michigan Heart Gallery. As we listened to the welcome, the speaker asked for any kids in the audience, waiting for a family, to raise their hand. LJ's shot up in the air. I tickled his tummy and said, "LJ! Put your hand down - you have a family!"

He pointed and said, "But, mom, I want to go up there - "

The kids were lining up to tell their stories.

God is going to use our little man in big ways. LJ loves people.

I cried through the entire event.

Tristan got up and shared his story. 16 years old. 8 homes in 3 years. He graduates next year and holds out hope for a family. He talked about how he wasn't on stage to advocate for himself...but for all of his friends in the system. I nearly sobbed when he finished with, "I want to make a change in my legacy. I'm going to be a good dad. I want my kids to know...I will never give up on them."

Rachel read a poem she wrote. 17 years old. Beautiful girl. I stood to my feet when she fought her experience with these powerful words, "You can't bring me down - You can't control my destiny."

One by one, each child shared his dream. I want to be an astronaut. I want to go to Disney World. I want to go to college. I want to be hugged every night before I go to bed.

Seriously. I could barely move from my seat, I was so racked with emotion. I have to do more. We walked through the gallery as a family and took our picture next to our picture - LJ is a story of success...he found his family. Ben was mesmerized with a picture of three boys. I couldn't stop staring at a teenage girl with hair like mine.

I knew they were real. I knew their stories existed...but seeing their sweet faces and listening to their dreams, in person, lit a fire in my heart. I have to do something.

We, of course, will adopt as many kids as we can (first we have to move out of our teeny condo), but I need to do more. Start a support group? Volunteer for MARE? Advocate with Dave Thomas? I don't know what the answer is, yet, but I trust God will bring it.

At the conclusion of the presentation, the president of the Judson Center, Cameron Hosner, said, "You each have someone who is irrationally crazy about you. Help us help these kids."






 "These children are not someone else's responsibility. They are our responsibility." - DAVE THOMAS






Monday, April 15, 2013

Boo Boo Frog & Redemption

We have not completely loved the orphan spirit out of LJ, yet, but he has come such a long way in a year. Ben and I had some one-on-one time with our buddy, yesterday, that brought me to a point of teary awe. This picture was taken last March, during one of our first family outings (breakfast at IHOP).
 
It is such a sobering picture for me, because it depicts the inner sadness that LJ brought with him when he moved to a new home for the last time.

Ben, LJ, and I snuggled on the couch together. Tickling and giggling. I thought over the last few weeks and the amount of personality that has surfaced. For as much inward battle that he faces, LJ is an extrovert. He is so much like his daddy. He loves people and would give the shirt off his back if someone asked for it. We were at dinner the other night and as we wove through the crowd toward the bathroom, he stopped several times along the way - "Hi, my name is L_____ Jeremiah Pinchback, what is your name?", "Are you a real waiter?" and, my personal favorite, "Hi! I really like your baby."

LJ has always been quite outgoing when he's on the playground, but in the last few weeks we've noticed that his passion for people extends past his height.

Lately, every store cashier and waitress gets introduced to Ty by his brother. LJ always uses his full name and introduces Ty as "Tyrus." He gets big fan fair from his subjects and Ben always follows up with, "He's planning to run for mayor."

Tonight, my aunt and uncle stopped by to say hello and the boys were eating some crackers at the table. My uncle, jokingly, said, "Will you share one with me?" without a flinch of consideration, LJ got up from the table and took his second to last cracker and gave it to my unlce. He went back to his bowl for the last one and gave it to my aunt (she hadn't asked for one).

That's my boy's heart.

He's such a lover...such a giver.

While the three of us sat on the couch, I thought through his character traits and how much they've developed. LJ is so much like Ben, it's striking. They both speak the same love languages (touch and words of affirmation), they share the same humor, and their faithful, friendly demeanor invites others to come a little closer.

Apart from the same squishy nose, mine and LJ's sameness comes in worship. LJ is deeply affected  by music and has an acute sensitivity to the Spirit of God. Whether the music is on or not, he sings his heart out in the backseat of the car. It's one of my favorite things about him.

Our moment got a little crazy as the boys (Ben and LJ) started rough-housing on the couch and LJ got a nail to the forehead. The scratch was non-existent, but LJ asked if he could run to the freezer for our boo-boo frog. The request was silly and unneeded, but it brought tears to my eyes because it's exactly what Ty would have done. Ty is crazy particular about everything. Any sort of bump or brush sends him to the freezer for the frog. I couldn't recall a time where LJ ever needed or asked for it.

He, delicately, placed the frog on his forehead and laid, quietly, on the rug while his "injury" healed.

I thanked God for beautiful redemption. I've been taught it my whole life and hear stories of the role it plays in others' lives, but, in that moment, I experienced the knowing for myself.

God redeemed the life of my beautiful boy.


His eyes are bright, his smile genuine, and his hope for the future secure.

What a difference one year makes.

How, on earth, could we not want to do this again?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Recipes

Something you may not know about me is that I love making a home. When I can save money and/or  increase my family's health while doing it, it makes me giddy! I thought I would share some of my recent discoveries with you.

I have been making my own laundry detergent for a few years, but I made a change in my recipe that made a world of difference. I used to use whatever bar soap I could get on sale, but a friend told me to switch to Fels-Naptha. It disintegrates in the wash, completely, unlike some of the other brands I've tried. You can get everything from the same shelf, in the detergent aisle at Wal-Mart.


 
Laundry Detergent
12 cups Borax
8 cups Baking Soda
8 cups Washing Soda
8 bars of finely grated Fels-Naptha Bar Soap (I use my food processor)

Mix ingredients well
Use 1/8 cup of powder per full load
 
When I realized I was paying $1.50 for taco seasoning packets, with two tablespoons of seasoning that contained acid and sugar, I set on a path to find a mix that had a similar taste without the additives. We've been using it for several weeks, now, and Ben says he likes it better!!
 
 

Taco Seasoning
1/2 cup chili powder
1/4 cup onion powder
1/8 cup ground cumin
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp sea salt
 
While I was on the seasoning kick, I made our second most used mix - beef seasoning. I rub this into our beef before making a roast, shredded beef barbeque, and stew.
 
Beef Seasoning
1/4 cup Salt
1/4 cup Paprika
1 1/2 tablespoons Garlic powder
1 1/2 tablespoons Onion powder
1 1/4 tablespoons Red pepper
1 tablespoon White pepper
1 tablespoon Finely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Dry mustard
1 teaspoon Sweet basil
1/2 teaspoon File powder
1/4 teaspoon Ground bay leaves
1/8 teaspoon Thyme

Cleaning our bathroom showers and tub are, by far, my least favorite. Someone told me the other about this magic recipe and I couldn't believe how well it worked! You can spray your shower down and come back 30-60 minutes later to wipe it clean. It worked so well, I have been using it on everything - counters, floors, sinks, tubs, and toilets. I love it!
 
Magic Bathroom Cleaner
Equal parts dish soap and white vinegar (use cleaning version - it's cheaper)

Let me know if you end up using any of the recipes and what you think of them!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Resurrection Day!



We had a great day, today, with family!

This year it was really special helping the boys understand why we celebrate Easter. We started talking about it a few weeks ago and then their wonderful preschool teacher emphasized what we were already going over at home.

One day Ty came home and said, "Mom, why did that man Judas want to see Jesus hurt?" It opened up a window of conversation about the evil  that exists in the world (especially greed).

The boys seemed to really grasp the purpose of our celebration, as much as their four year old minds would allow. At church, they made these special resurrection treats, for the purpose of symbolism. Jesus was representative of the marshmallow tucked inside the folds of crescent roll (his tomb garments). They put "Jesus" in the oven (tomb) and, later, when the checked the rolls for Jesus, he was gone...

The teacher had led me through the activity. When we left the classroom, I said, "Boys, what a cool way to tell the story of Jesus' resurrection. Where did Jesus go when you checked the tomb cloth?"

Ty looked at me, wittingly, and said an exaggerated, "Moooom....that marshmallow melted. It wasn't Jesus!"

Smarty pants.

It is such a privilege to watch my boys discover faith. Of all the things Ben and I do with them, teaching them to love the Lord with all their heart, mind, and strength is the most important.