Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Adoption Day for Little Miss!

It is with many tears and much joy that I introduce you to our Little Miss. She has been a firecracker from the beginning, a ball of personality, and her fierce independence helped her push through a pretty rough start. Her mama named her Edith - reward of war. We gave her the middle name of Elizabeth - fullness of God.

She fills every corner of our home with loud color and incredible sass. Her brothers adore her and I love her so much I can barely contain it.

Two months shy of two years. That's how long this little light has been in our life.

Her adoption was only supposed to take a few months.

I'm not really a "praise God through the storm" girl. Maybe if I was superhuman I could manage it...but that hasn't been my experience. It's more like a desperate cling to my Sailor as the wind and rain beat the tar out of me. I don't give up or stop believing, but praise for the circumstance isn't usually forthcoming when I'm soaking wet.

I would say that I am the kind of girl that memorizes the waves and praises God for the destruction once I'm through the other side.

It's been a difficult two years. Our hearts were squeezed and twisted well beyond comfort and we were asked to step into terrifying shores, but the reward is great because it surpassed earthly relevance a long time ago.

Sweet Mama and I continue to write back and forth and I am stunned by the beautiful opportunity that God laid in my lap. I feel unworthy of it. Every letter from prison gives me deeper insight into the darkness Edie's mother has faced alone, yet there is the faintest shimmer of hope. Her life is not over; all is not lost. Through our growing friendship, she is experiencing God's love.

Just this week, I sent my application in for approval to visit her.

As we sat in the courtroom, today, celebrating Michigan's adoption day, I was a remembering mess. God didn't close my womb out of cruelty or pack our suitcases and haphazardly push us onto this path. He, methodically, touched a myriad of pain points with his gentle thumb and whispered for our hearts to follow. This is how he makes all things new. This is how he redeems and connects nonredeemable circumstances to life giving results.

Our life has been a series of God-driven question marks and looking back it's easy to see how one yes led to the next. People love to ask us if we're "done" adopting, now. A reporter asked me, today. My answer is always the same. We will stop saying, yes, when God stops asking.

It's easy for our efforts to be mistaken as sacrifice, but the truth? The return on our time and love far surpasses the moments we give.

This was such a wonderful day of celebration for our family. All day, Edie kept saying, "I adopted! I adopted!" There is powerful identity in family. It feels so good to have finality in this part of our story. There is so much more to come from this little girl, her baby brother, and both of their mothers. But, today, we celebrate with tear-streaked faces.

There is one less lovie stuck in a life-sucking system.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Another Homecoming

Baby Brother's foster family spent the evening with us on Friday. There was a heavy knowing in the air, but it was really nice to spend time with them and to hear more of their story. Our kids were crazy. The kind of crazy you try your best to hide from people - especially people that are about to leave a costly gift with you (forever).

Sigh. But this is who we are. I like to think we control the chaos....but I always realize otherwise when people step in the front door for the first time.

Friday night went better than expected. He was only up for about an hour halfway through the night. It wasn't a painful or angry cry, it was more of a I-just-woke-up-in-a-strange-place-and-you-are-not-my-mother whimpering.

Ben joked (truthfully) that he makes the same sounds as Little Miss, only his decibel is about one-third of hers.

Last night was a bit rougher. He was up, on and off, for hours and that familiar beg to God set in, "Lord if you love me, please, PLEASE, let him sleep."

I know it's only been two and a half days, but I am tired. So tired.

People that told me I wouldn't notice a fifth - that anything after three is the same - lied.

It's a lot different.

Ben and I were like underpaid circus crew, this weekend, moving to the demands of the set. It took us three hours to get ready for church, this morning, but when we pulled into the parking lot on time, tears misted my eyes. We did it. And I know it will only get easier from here.

I am overwhelmed by the support that has flooded our doorstep.

Every day someone is handing me a gift card or asking if they can bring a meal. Today, we shared our hearts in front of our church, bringing people close to what God is doing in our growing family. Afterward our pastor asked the congregation to invest in God's work through us. He had us stand at the front of the altar and the stream of people that came was continuous. I cried, as family after family gave and shared their support, thanking us for saying yes.

One precious woman told me she had very little to give, but that she was a fierce prayer warrior and committed to bathe our family and Sweet Mama in prayer. Others offered free babysitting, and meals, and haircuts.

I am stunned with gratitude; I don't even know what to say.

A hot out-of-the-oven meal arrived, tonight, with a box of Tim Horton donuts that the kids went bananas for and I thanked God for his provision. This mama is exhausted, but the surge of energy I felt from all the helping hands around me, today, reminded me that we CAN do this...because we're not alone.

The bills will get paid, our sleep will be multiplied, and the kids will experience love.

Speaking of - I am awestruck at the tenderness my babies give so freely. I was worried about Little Miss. She is bossy and commands attention in every way. I knew she would have the hardest adjustment. Yet, she seemed to grow by years overnight. Sure, she still throws around, "My mommy" every other time she looks at her baby brother, making sure he understands the terms. But, she has been so interested in playing, reading, and helping me, I haven't seen any signs of spite or envy.

Baby Brother is such a bundle of sweetness. I've been wearing him, each day, and playing with him as much as I can (the boys rotate feedings). He is so relaxed and happy it's a breath of fresh air.

Rocking with him at night has been very emotional. The deep, fierce, mama bear love isn't there, yet, but I have this tremendous awareness of what a treasure this little boy is. In a way I've never felt before. I think of Sweet Mama everyday. The kids have been writing her letters and drawing her pictures, too. We popped at least 2 or 3 packages in the mail, this week.

I've been texting Foster Mama every time I think of her to ease her unsettled heart and let her know that we're taking the greatest care with her son.

All the while, knowing that the earthly love surrounding Baby Brother pales in comparison to the love of his Father. Wow.

It was a good, good weekend.

Friday, October 9, 2015

"She Wants You"

Why I bother showing up to court on time, I'll never know. An hour went by - still no movement. I made small talk with Baby Brother's family, read some in my book, and listened to background chatter. To most people it was just another day.

I could hear the clanking of chains behind me before I saw her face. I turned, quickly, in hopes to catch her eyes and as soon as they met, tears streamed both our faces. She mouthed "thank you" a dozen times on her way to holding in the jury box. Everything in me wanted to run to her; squeeze her hand. I watched, helplessly, as formalities began. All I could do was meet her gaze and hope she saw love.

Sweet Mama held true to her letter. She stood firm with her rights and forced the case to begin trial. I don't ever want to experience it again. Words will never be able to convey the brutal reality of what happened. Baby Brother's guardian ad litem and attorney hammered her points until the case was nothing but a bloody carcass, wide open for disease and prey. Sweet Mama sobbed on the witness stand and I, barely, held it together. I, literally, stuffed emotion to my toes, willing for it not to come out in distracting heaves.

Given your history with Cisco and [Little Miss], do you really think, it's fair to make Baby Brother wait over a year for permanency?

She held tissues to her face and, quietly sobbed, "no."

If Judge grants you the time that you're asking for AGAIN, what is going to be different when you're released from prison?

She shook her head and shrugged.

I said, "What is going to be different???? Would you say you're OPTIMISTIC that your addiction will be cured? What support do you have? You come from a family of drug addicts - do you expect them to help you? Did they help support you in the past?"

Mama was lost in a sea of pain and panic. The questions came too fast.

The attorney was relentless. I kept waiting for defense to shout "Objection!" but he sat with his head down. He had given up long before we started.

As the questions pressed on, I let go of my heart and let it shatter to the polished floor. Someone pressed tissue in my hand and asked if I was okay. I shook my head.

"Are you, [Baby Brother's] best option, right now?"

I barely heard her whisper..."no."

"I would like to approach the bench."

White noise came on and the attorneys rushed forward. The judge called for recess and asked everyone, but Sweet Mama and security to exit the courtroom, so that she could have some moments of privacy with her attorney.

When we got to the hall, Baby Brother's attorney explained that they didn't want Sweet Mama to have to endure anymore. They recessed to try and convince her to sign over her rights, voluntarily. Apart from the obvious relief from ruthless questioning, a direct release helps Sweet Mama have some footing should she get pregnant, again.

I walked out in silence, I could barely breathe.

Her attorney burst through the doors and pointed at me, "She wants you."

I heard the clerk lock the door behind me and the security guard verified my identity. I walked over to my broken friend and put a hand on her knee. I didn't bother asking if it was allowed.

"Thank you for being such a wonderful mother," she hiccuped between cries, "You are the mother I always intended to be. I don't know what to do. What should I do? I mean... I know what I should do...but I need to fight."

Tears streamed down my face and I took her hands in  mine. "Baby...you need to fight for YOU. Until you fight for you, you're never going to be able to fight for your kids. I love your kids like my own and I will take care of them as my own. It's time to let go. And trust God that good will follow. Look at this time as an opportunity you've never had. You have two years in a place that is going to feed you every day and keep you warm and safe. Get your high school diploma; get clean. God is handing you a fresh beginning. You just have to take it."

I don't know how long we sat there crying; time was still.

After several moments of sniffling silence, she said, "How are you going to do it? It's so many kids!"

I laughed and cried some more. "I know...but we WILL do it because we love you and we love your kids."

She looked down and whispered..."They're your kids, too. Thank you for writing me. I loved the pictures of Cisco and his brothers. It's helping me get through. If I do this, you have to promise me that you won't let anyone take Baby Brother from you. If I can't be his mom, it has to be you. Do you promise?"

I can hardly see to type this...

I told her about the drawing Cisco made, last night, and let her know she could write to him any time. Her attorney interrupted and told her it was time to decide. I hugged her tight and prayed that she'd feel a surge of strength. She couldn't return the squeeze, but she wet my face with her tears and I thanked God for crossing our paths.

An hour later, court returned to session and the adoption representative was present with signed papers in hand. Sweet Mama cried through all of the Judge's questions as he made sure she was not coerced, paid, or under the influence. Every time she looked at me, I saw Little Miss. Their similarities are so striking, I know this day will haunt me every time I see my girl cry.

Sweet Mama was escorted from the courtroom. I managed a quick hand-squeeze as she walked by and told her not to give up. The door closed, firmly, and I wondered if I would ever see her, again.

Baby Brother's attorney walked the court through placement and adoption recommendations. She looked at me and told the judge in all her years of service she had never seen a foster parent express so much compassion. She told him about my letter to prison, my willingness to encourage her during the recess, and somehow had even picked up the story about Cisco's "I love you" picture.

The judge choked up and told me he has a daughter the same age as Mama. He expressed the heartbreak of her story, thanked me for keeping the siblings together, and noted how Mama's love never stood a chance to her addiction and the addiction that tears through the rest of her family. He explained how easy it is for the players in court to be desensitized to such mess and thanked me for showing kindness.

And then it was over.

On the way out, I asked what will happen if no one picks her up on the day she is released. A likely possibility as she is hours from everything familiar.

"Probably a halfway house."

I sat in my car and sobbed until my meter ran out.

Baby Brother comes home on Friday, but the excitement of our next chapter is dulled by the cost.

There was one moment of connection, where Sweet Mama, Foster Mama, and me were all wiping tears and I thought about the preciousness of Baby Brother. Three mothers representing his past, present, and future, sharing in the agony of his story.

That moment in time can never be replicated. The three of us will never meet, again.

And somehow the weight of that is almost too much to bear.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

A Letter from Prison

She wrote back!

Going into trial tomorrow, I am so thankful for confirmation that Sweet Mama read my encouraging words. I will, likely, not be able to talk to her as she'll be escorted in chains.

I expect it to be a very difficult day, but I know she knows that I believe in her...and love her.

She opened her letter like this:
Dear Rebekah,
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you so much. You are the best. I can tell Cisco and [Little Miss] are really happy. Thank you for taking such good care of them. I am so happy my kids got you as a mom. I hope you still tell them I love them and miss them...

I have re-read those words a hundred times already. The middle section of her note talked about her court cases, what she's hoping for, and her plans to fight to the end for Baby Brother tomorrow.

As much as I don't want to be witness to a horrific emotional battle, when she realizes it's too late...I understand her fight. I respect it.

Her letter was written from a clear perspective. She talked about working toward her GED, the parenting classes she's in, and the boot camp program she applied for. I prayed through every word, asking God to guide this new, fragile friendship.

Sweet Mama's closing words are haunting.
Thank you for the pictures, I really needed them. Can you plz send more and tell me more about them? I am not a bad person. I really do love them.
Such a jolt to my heart.

At dinner, I told Cisco that his mom wrote back to me, today. I told him many of the things she wrote about and when I was done, he said, "Could I draw her a picture for you to send?"

He started with a huge full-sized paper heart and wrote along the edges, "I love you". Ty asked when I was going to write again and after a few minutes, said, "Mom, maybe when she gets out of jail and is making good choices, again, she could come over for a sleepover. You know, to get to know us?"

I squeezed them so hard for their thoughtfulness.

Cisco's story is a dark monster that could have swallowed him whole if we fed it. Instead, we allowed the light of God to scatter the night and through love, show him how to live open and kind and full of mercy.

I am moved by his unfiltered compassion for a woman who hurt him in so many ways. That is Jesus with skin on - right here at my kitchen table - leaning over a scribbled drawing of hearts and paw prints.

I know this is only the beginning.

Our story just keeps getting better and richer and more lovely.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Awkward Beginnings

Our family and Baby Brother's foster family met, today, at the Cider Mill to get to know each other. The boys were in their baby brother's face for a few minutes, but then became, quickly, distracted by all the family fun activities.

This girl, however, was very interested in the new baby she's only heard me talk about.

She even shared her donut with him when I wasn't looking and made a sugary mess over all three of us. It filled my heart to see her nurture in ways I've never experienced before.

There sure was a lot of cuteness, but it was still a strange day.

The foster family is wonderful in every way. The awkwardness came from the fact that the son who is so, clearly, embedded into their lives and family is about to be transferred to ours. It doesn't feel right and it, certainly, isn't natural.

I held him for a few minutes, but mostly watched Baby Brother interact with his mother. She fed him his bottle and nestled his cheek, sharing words too soft for me to hear. I felt like such an intruder; a thief of sorts.

I felt nothing for him beyond normal "your baby is so cute - " excitement.

I am surprised that this phenomenon still surprises me, frankly. This was my fifth first meeting...and they've all gone the same way. I think my expectation was higher, this time, because of the difficulty of the decision to say "yes".

But...in the end, the familiarity of this scenario wins. I was introduced to a son that I will, one day, love as my own, but today, that sort of love privileges another woman's heart.

And the sadness in her eyes is too much to bear.

We return to court on Friday for mom's termination trial.

I don't know if mom received my letter, but I am hoping to be able to communicate through her lawyer, who I've had the opportunity to get to know over the last 18 months.

Two women are feeling tremendous loss, this week. Please remember them.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Walk Into Her Room

Dear Sweet Mama,
I know it’s been a long time since we’ve talked, but I hope it’s okay to write to you. I was in the courtroom, last week, even though we couldn't see each other, and will be there, again, in a couple of weeks. Even though I probably won’t be able to squeeze your hand or give you an update on your kids, I want you to know that I am there. I have so much love in my heart for you and never stop praying that you will feel God’s presence in your time of darkness and that you would know your worth...
I addressed my first letter to the women's prison that houses the mama to three of my babies.

Over the last 18 months, Sweet Mama has been in and out of jail more times than I can count. Several months ago I called the county jail to see what I needed to do to see/write to her. Unfortunately, the restrictions were such that we couldn't communicate without me revealing a lot of personal information that I just wasn't comfortable giving. The permanency of prison, makes letter writing much easier and gives me the freedom to just sign my first name to my letters.

We've been singing a (new to us) song at church, called When You Walk into the Room. The writer is (clearly) speaking of Jesus, but last week, Ben said to me, "That song is so powerful. I feel like we're singing about us and the light our lives are supposed to shine."

All week his thoughts and these lyrics have been the background to the turbulent terms of my heart. Birth mom. Foster mom. Baby Brother.

When You walk into the room
Everything changes
Darkness starts to tremble
At the light that you bring

When you walk into the room
Sickness starts to vanish
Every hopeless situation ceases to exist
And when you walk into the room
The dead begin to rise
'Cause there is resurrection life
In all you do

Two nights after the postponed trial, I laid in bed humming, When you walk into the room...every hopeless situation ceases to exist... The Holy Spirit prompted my heart, "You care for my daughter, when no one else does. Walk into her room."

I sat up and started writing. I opened and closed my letter with personal encouragement, but mostly shared every detail that a mama's heart hangs on...I told her all about her kids. Because the darkness is not dark to Him, I typed out Psalm 139 and sandwiched it between my words and pictures.

For now, I am using the agency as a protective layer. I included a self addressed and stamped envelope with paper in hopes that she'll write back, but my letters won't be contingent on hers.

This isn't just an adoption story because God's care doesn't stop at Baby Brother or our family.

He redeems ALL things and whispers good to the most gruesome detail.

Live open. Heart and hands. Say, yes, every time he calls.

You might find yourself in a garden once hidden.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Giving God Room

I'm not sure how many adoptions it will take for me to see the fullness of what God is doing in and with our lives.

I went to the TPR (termination of parental rights) pre-trial on Tuesday for Baby Brother. I sat through two hours of cases before it was our turn. Mom wasn't present and the judge wasn't messing around. He set the TPR trial three days later (Friday). That's unheard of.

Looking  back, I should have seen the signs. Something was amiss, but I was too wrapped up in conversation to notice. For an hour or so on Friday, I met the only family Baby Brother has ever known and soaked in every detail his precious foster parents shared. 

Their love for Baby Brother was so evident, I came home with a deep ache in my heart for the loss they are about to experience. In the courtroom, we exchanged one story after another, binding our families together in a bond so special, only a few can understand. Tears veiled their eyes with every story and I was taken back to a faraway place.

I remember the first time I realized Rebekah loved Tyrus as much as I did. When his eyelashes started to come in, we "oohed" and "ahhed" as if it was the first time such a miracle had been performed. One boy; two mothers. Both, fiercely protective and crazy about him in every way.

Over the last few weeks, God has given me a deep love for our new little guy. I don't know if it was the emotional decision or place of sacrifice, but I know Baby Brother's placement in our family is significant.

As I sat across from his foster mom, on Friday, I experienced her profound affection for her son and saw the breaking taking place in her heart. When parental rights were being terminated on "all known and unknown fathers", the court used language like, "no father has stepped forward to care or support this child", and I could hear the silent shouting of his foster father beside me.

Baby Brother's biological mom is in prison, but was present in the court room via two-way video. The trial ended before it really started, when her attorney argued under statute such and such that mothers must be, physically, present for termination trials.

Why these people can't pull the law together before wasting everyone's time, I will never understand.

All I really heard from the two-way feed that wasn't visible to me was uncontrollable sobbing.

That's when it hit me.

The brokenness no longer lies between two mothers. Now, there are three.

Adoption can be beautiful and redemptive and regenerating. But it's also ruinous.

It leaves ache in its wake to which some are unable to recover.

Foster families are one of God's greatest treasures. Baby Brother's family was thrilled to hear that we already consider them an extension of ours and look forward to a lifetime of friendship. My gratitude will never be able to offer repayment for what they have done for our son.

Baby Brother spent many weeks in the hospital  after his first breaths of life, as his little body required special surgeries and attention. Many days went by before he was matched with a family and when they walked into the nursery for the first time, it was evident how loved the surrounding babies were. Baby Brother's corner was not loud and cheerful. It didn't support attention, affection, or thought...Until. Until this gift of God walked into the room. Everything changed.

Knowing what THIS family did for my family, clogs my throat with tears. They showed up when no one else did. While most say no for fear of falling in love, they stood up. While most would have turned their back on his medical condition, they opened the door. They cheered and cried and nursed Baby Brother through surgery and health.

Families like this deserve medals and honors and floods of public affirmation.

I am more than humbled by their quiet generosity.

They waved off my thanksgiving and, instead, thanked me for saying, yes. I couldn't help but feel inadequate in the presence of such giants.

As if my heart wasn't wrecked by this growing story, already, I felt sick over the casual regard the courtroom displayed for mom.

I get it. This is baby number three. Same story. Same progress. The courtroom sees a drug addict, a convict, an unfit mother.

I see a girl cycled in curses; broken by addiction. And I believe in her.

My heart is so inter-tangled with the heart of our Father, I only see a horizon of hope for her. I know this is her time and I am thankful that she is, finally, serving a prison sentence. I was never able to write her in county jail due to restrictions that existed, but, today, she is at a long-term facility that will allow me to write and email and send pictures.

Sometimes I step out and look around me and I can't believe where I am. Sure, the girl who couldn't have babies is about to have five. But it's so much more than that. The girl who couldn't have babies understands deep treads of love that rest on painful stories; the reward that comes with embracing all those who loved my little people first; God's heart to pursue the lost at all costs; and, of course, the inexplicable joy of offering Light in a world of darkness.

I have no idea what our  new time frame is. We left the courtroom without a re-scheduled trial date. The foster family and I have already exchanged several communications since Friday, which included the most life-giving photos of Baby Brother. He looks just like Little Miss! I scroll through the pictures at least once every few hours.

In the eaves of heaviness, I have great peace. I know this time is on purpose and I'm giving God enough room to move as he sees fit.

Friday, September 18, 2015

FF: Buttermilk Banana Muffins

So...this isn't really a meal per se, but Little Miss and I did have some fun in the kitchen, this week! Our schedule has been so busy with school starting and preparing for a baby (transition starts next week), that my cooking hasn't been noteworthy.

I reduced my hours at work and have been soaking in the extra time with Little Miss. She has become such a little person - sassy as they come. This week, we got rid of some browning bananas and made a few dozen banana muffins. Thirty-six muffins only make it so far, with a house full of boys, but it was a fun addition to our morning breakfast routine, this week.

Missy, was so cute putting all the paper cups in the muffin pans I just wanted to squeeze her!

And then when I went to put the first batch in the oven, I came back to this:

This is my favorite banana bread recipe. I swap out white flour for whole wheat and sprinkle in some flax. I also make my own buttermilk (who keeps that on hand???) by mixing a cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Just let it sit for like 10 minutes.

These were a huge hit with the family. After Missy bit into her first (cooked) one, she said, "Yummy, Mama!"

Give 'em a try!

Buttermilk Banana Bread - I always cut back the sugar by half and replace with a regular scoop of protein powder. I also don't use real butter but olive oil margarine.:

Buttermilk Banana Bread/Muffins

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dare to be Disciplined

Back to school, today.

I love and hate the rigidness of the schedule.

Because mornings are too crazy for extras, I built focused time into our bedtime routine for family prayer and devotions. I don't know about you, but for me it's easy to let the discipline of studying God's word slip. But, I have an ever present awareness that my kids haven't experienced what I've experienced nor do they grasp the greatness of God and his faithfulness. I know it's my job to make the transfer and feel even more strongly that it must be purposeful.

All that to say, we are spending time as a family (even Missy) studying the Bible and learning to pray.

Such things don't come without challenge. Tyrus is discriminating in whose hands he will touch based on hand washing probabilities. Little people get wiggly and aren't always respectful and holding hands during prayer can, quickly, turn into let-me-show-you-how-hard-I-can-squeeze fests, but we're doing it. And I'm really proud.

Little Miss closes her eyes really hard and repeats every word that is spoken. LJ wears his mind outside and prays for God to protect our home from being blown to pieces. Ty thinks about the girl who shares his desk and how her grandpa is sick. Cisco offers a few quiet words and does his best to understand this world he still hasn't fully committed to be a part of.

I am certain they don't sense our time is noteworthy or lasting, but I know God is using these moments to sure the direction of their lives. I've always had this sense that our faith can be felt in our feet. Small murmurs of vibration that grow and hum as we walk along. They sure our footing as our intimate experiences with the Lord bring about victories. It's never been difficult for me to understand why mountains are thrown into the sea. Surely, they begin to crumble, miles before our approach, as our steadfast steps hold the remembrance of God's power in us.

Prayer isn't something I've ever been good at. Faith is easy because, frankly, I don't know how nor desire to live any other way.

Prayer is different because it takes time. Something I don't have a lot of. And it requires quiet development. This summer, I have been teaching myself to be more disciplined. The results are reward enough. My petitions to the Lord are thoughtful and specific. I'm noticing changes in my kids that I would have missed otherwise.

When my secret prayer time collides with our family time, I feel a real shaking in heaven. I know we are exposing our treasures to the power of intimacy and teaching them to be relentless. I am not interested in a form of godliness devoid of power. I want all of them to experience the real deal. Right along side me. Right along side Ben.

I know if they taste genuine Truth, they will never walk away.

I was not emotional, today, dropping the boys off for another first day. I think I was in awe. God's goodness and care for our family is so great and I love all the light I see reflecting from their hearts.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Bringing Home Baby

The last three weeks have done a number on my heart.

Processing and preparing for a new addition with only a few weeks notice, while most get several months, is an interesting experience. I am a lover by nature, so finding love for Baby Brother isn't what keeps me up at night. It's the freakish everything-must-have-a-plan-and-purpose-and be color coordinated when possible part of my nature that can't rest until everything is in order. Some think such coordination goes to the wind when you are raising your own basketball team. I beg to differ. It's worse.

From new crib to new vehicle, there were so many things to do. Within a week of making the decision, however, support flooded our doorstep and filled our nursery with every necessary item that I had sold two weeks prior. I am always stunned by the generosity of others and have learned to honestly answer messages like, "Tell me what you need and I will order it, now."

Of the five (babies), I had the most advanced notice with Tyrus. Rebekah asked us to adopt him when she was four months pregnant and if you were reading in those early days you'll remember, my nursery was ready six months prior. The rocker my sister bought had miles of praying before he ever arrived.

Today, when I think back on those intimate memories, I am overwhelmed by God's goodness.

Back then, the ache for children was so great it nearly crushed my spirit. But the perseverance sharpened character that followed that season of drought was a reward that I will treasure forever - because I can trust God in all things.

The same rocker that held my secret thoughts for months, listened to me read countless stories to Ty and helped me find rhythm when LJ needed to be swaddled like a baby so that trust could melt his trauma.

Cisco and Missy did their best to bypass my chair, as Cisco struggled with intimacy and Little Miss screamed for three months straight, preferring to work it out on her own. Over the last 18 months, however, I've watched these siblings push through the curses of the enemy, and just this summer I often found them reading books together in the same chair they avoided early on.

Moving this memory soaked rocker into Baby Brother's nursery was deeply meaningful and I praised God for his rescue, once again. My body won't make babies, yet, miraculously, baby number five is on his way.

I know it's part of the journey, but I wish I could go back.

I wish I could encourage my former self to push on and stop giving up. I wish I didn't need a picture of my own unfaithfulness to prove God's.

I would sleep more.

Date Ben more.

And hunker in hope during the season of wait.

I hate when people say everything happens for a reason. It's not biblical. Plenty of unreasonable things happen that God's not part of.

Yet, I praise God, that he redeems all things - people, events, situations. He redeemed my life and Ben's life, and all the lives of our five little people.

We're kind of a raggedy group, over here, with mismatched stories, each one filled with its own kind of heartache. Yet, none of us were so gnarly that God chose to overlook us or breath life elsewhere.

Each day closer to welcoming Baby Brother home, I am overwhelmed by this reality. Our Father loves Ty so much that he esteemed him to be firstborn and set him in a place of leadership over his tribe of siblings.

God loves LJ and Cisco and Missy and Baby so much that he, literally, ripped them from the enemy's grasp and declared a new name over each of them.

And every time he asks, "How about now...will you say yes to this one?" he redeems my barrenness and pours love into deep, hidden cracks of my heart that I didn't know needed attention.

His love is easy and available and it's paving the unknown path before me.

I am ready to bring home my baby.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pinchback Party of SEVEN

Little Miss has an announcement and mama wakes up with a little panic in her belly every morning.

FIVE children. Five children six and under. Lord, help me.

Two weeks ago I spent an hour digging through all of our bills, prepping the financial section of our foster license renewal and Ben hunched over our house plans looking for room dimensions. Every year I say I'm going to make a copy of the paperwork and every year I am filling it out at the last minute and don't have time.

I am never doing this, again, I said. I hate the paperwork that much. Because Missy's adoption is still not finalized, we didn't have a choice. As I finished up, I muttered to the Lord, "Any additional children you have for us have to come, this year. I can't do this again." 

I need a break from all of it.

Of course, our licensing worker came and asked us if we would adopt Baby Brother. That's how God works in our life. He never lets us get too comfortable. 

Remember this post when Ben begged me not to fall in love with Baby Brother - when Little Miss and I went to meet him? I'm not sure why we never did a visit after that. I didn't ask because we had enough chaos in our schedule.

I remember the exact moment she told me she was pregnant with him. The moment I laid hands on her and prayed that God would help her push through and conquer addiction. I can't explain the love I have for this young girl and even though I hoped that Baby Brother's foster family would adopt him, I think I always knew we would say yes if needed.

Earlier, this summer, we were told that Baby Brother's case was going to move toward parental termination, quickly, because mom wasn't participating and that his foster family wasn't sure about adoption. We were already overwhelmed and started asking some of our closest friends and family if they would consider adopting him to keep him close. 

Three weeks ago, my girlfriend and I prepared for a garage sale and I sold all my baby stuff. I was confident that we were done with babies, but at the last minute, I did pull my toddler boys clothes "just in case". It never crossed my mind that Baby Brother would need an adoptive family this soon. He's only five months old.

The case worker asked us last Wednesday night and we had until Monday morning to decide.

From the moment she asked, my heart screamed yes. I didn't even have to think. I'm a lover and jump in with both feet every time. Ben didn't have to say a word...I knew his answer was no.

He is our provider and protector and already feels stretched beyond capacity. He humored me, that night, and I talked through solutions to every challenge (there are many). Before we went to bed, I asked him to keep his heart open and, prayerfully, consider his answer through the weekend. 

I trust God in all things and I also trust my husband's leadership. My reckless love can lead me astray sometimes. I appreciate Ben's steady heart and told him so. He needed to know that if his answer was "no", my heart wouldn't hold anger or resentment. Frankly, I would have been relieved.

I felt pressed all weekend and I was in and out of tears for most of it. The pressure of such a major life decision weighed, heavily, on both of us. Our four babies were at the forefront of our concern.

On Sunday night, my mom came put the kids to bed and Ben and I headed to the grocery store. The perfect environment for long, meaningful conversations. By the time we walked in, our decision was made and tears were flooding my face.

I have spent all week praising God for giving me a husband whose love reflects the Father's. Ben gave me three reasons that led to his yes. And each one made me love him more.

He couldn't think of a greater way to honor our kids' mom and dad than by giving them the peace of mind that their babies are together; he felt that his greatest reasons for saying "no" were self-focused; and in the middle of worship on Sunday morning, when he cried out to God, he knew.

Ben asked the Lord, "Are you really asking this of me?" and not only did he hear "yes", but it was followed with a gentle, "I will find someone else if you can't do it." 

Ben didn't say yes to a five month old baby because I pressured him. He didn't say yes to caring for #5 because no one else would. Ben said, yes, because he never wants to be passed by.

Just like young Samuel, we shout, LORD! Here we are! We are ready for service. We can handle the work. Please don't ever pass us by.

Baby Brother should be home in September.

Friday, July 31, 2015

FF: Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad, Chicken Crispers, & Frosted Lemonade

We've been having such a great summer and eating our fill of fruit salad and popsicles...but from time to time we still eat a civilized meal!

These three items have become new staples, this summer; I hope you enjoy them, too!

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad
This, wonderfully, light salad came from Spicy Southern Kitchen. I admit. I've made it five times, this month.

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad with an easy and creamy homemade Caesar dressing. Great as a side dish or light summer meal.

These are not-so-light, but got rave reviews from Ben and ALL the kids!! (Also came from Spicy Southern Kitchen).
Chicken Crispers (Chili's copycat) - super flavorful chicken tenders. This batter is really awesome and has a nontraditional ingredient.

And these...

When Ty and I were in Colorado we went to Chic-fil-A with Rebekah, which we don't have in these parts, and on whim I ordered a frosted lemonade. It was so divine, I (literally) could not stop thinking about it. This copy-cat recipe nailed it and I indulge at least a few times a week....

Frosted Lemonade copy cat recipe from Chick fil A

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

This and That

Things have been a little nutty over, here, this week. For starters, it's "Shark Week" and when your house supports as many boys as mine, this is a main event. I have, literally, recorded every documentary Discovery is showcasing, this week, and we have spent most of our down time midday and after dinner getting our fill of every noted Mako and mega shark on the planet.

To be honest, the break from Star Wars has been refreshing and I will never complain about the extra snuggles that Franken-sharks bring. 

Speaking of "Frankie", Little Miss brought home the fist-Pinchback-kid-to-get-rushed-to-the-emergency-room award, this weekend. We were walking - well, mom and dad were walking - to the van to load up for a fireworks show and Missy tripped on the pavement and fell onto the van's edge (in front of the sliding door). I am so thankful that both Ben and BFF were the first on the scene because I don't do well with blood...and there was so much. Baby girl came home with 8 staples on the side of her head. She hardly fussed through the whole ordeal and had most of the staff stunned.

The girl is a warrior with a pain tolerance well beyond mine. She would like to be back to life as normal, but mom is keeping her down by making her stay indoors and relaxing as much as one near-two year old can. I will be thankful when the staples can come out in a few days. It's pretty gnarly looking.

Cisco brought us a little comic relief, however, when he applied his newly purchased deodorant for the first time, today. It appears (or smells like), he has turned man a shade early and although I thought it ridiculous to start him on a daily cleansing and care routine at five - it was necessary. I must have sniffed a dozen deodorant options in Target to find the one that didn't bring to memory swarms of high school girls or half-naked cowboys. 

When I handed him a nice neutral stick, this morning, and taught him how to properly use it, he held it with such pride I couldn't stifle my laugh. With each stroke, I swear, LJ's eye's got bigger, and finally in complete awe, he said, "Cisco...You are AWESOME."

Both Ty and LJ were all over me about when they could become "men", too, to which I responded, "When you start smelling like one."

At one point, this afternoon, Ty said, "Mom, I know it's creepy...but I can't stop smelling Cisco's arm pits. They smell SO good." I laughed so hard. Raising boys the same age is the best.

If all of that wasn't enough to keep me on my tiptoes, LJ is in the early rounds of neurology testing. I will certainly dive into this more as we get deeper, but we opened this door, last week, with some encouragement from our pediatrician. LJ really struggled in school, this year. Despite his challenges, he was pretty strong academically, but his inability to focus, control impulses, and regulate his emotions created a very tumultuous environment. He had an absolute angel of a teacher that has become one of his loudest cheerleaders. As I've, prayerfully, been assessing the needs of all our kids, now that the chaos of foster care has settled down, I couldn't fight the nagging in my spirit when it came to LJ. I had very low expectations going into the neurologist based on my own experiences with the professionals that have tried to intervene and help us up to this point. 

By the time I left the office, I was crying tears of relief that God had brought us the right person. The further I walk this path, the more I realize the importance of our beginnings. The same ones that most of us take for granted and never consider. Cisco and LJ are interesting to compare because although Cisco had more memories, worse anxiety, and non-existent self-esteem, he is in a healthier place (emotionally) after only 18 months of living with us. I believe the root cause of LJ's emotions are, directly, tied to the fact that he lived in 8 homes before he turned three, which, certainly, did not give him the opportunity to develop in one healthy, stable environment. We poured everything we had into him our first year...but the damage had already been done.

I don't say that in a we-should-give-up kind of way. I'm still the girl that believes God redeems ALL things. I, am, however, advocating hard that we pinpoint the exact problem(s), so that we can move toward healthy solutions.

I was won-over when the neurologist said to me, "This boy, here, is full of treasure. You know that. We are, simply, going to find the key to unlock all the mystery." 

Right off the bat, LJ's blood work revealed some weakness in his diet (he had slight dehydration and low hemoglobin levels), which is very surprising because he is our best/most balanced eater. This week, we have two TOVA tests (monitors attention and impulse), an EEG (records brain activity), and more blood work.

One of the questions the doctor asked me is if I have noticed a spike in his behavior and/or emotions, this year. Although, my response was instant, I believe it thoughtful. No. 

When it comes to identify, confidence, and security, LJ's past has been redeemed. His emotions are a different beast. One we've never been able to wrangle. He is not aggressive in any way, but he is quick to break down in body shaking sobs. It could be that he slammed his hand in the door and the response is deserving...but it could also be that he can't get his shoe on - the same shoe he puts on every day with no problem.

This probably could be a pretty scary door to open, without faith. Some of the conditions we will be testing are unnerving to think about. But, I am not fearful. I am so full of hope and complete gratitude that God led us to the right person. My trust is not in our neurologist, but I do trust that God is going to use him to help our family.

More adventure to come.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

FAQ: Did you ever worry for Tyrus?

Today's FAQ comes from one of you! Right before Ty and I set off for Colorado, this question was asked of Rebekah, and I was just as eager to hear the answer, as it was never a question that I had considered before. Rebekah's response is such a beautiful view into her heart and love for her son; she inspires me more than she'll ever know. Here is the question that was asked:

Those of us that follow this sweet amazing blog (I'm sure you do also!) so respect and admire the raw emotion Rebekah shares in her writings - going back to when they first had LJ, some of the trials, then with Sweet Boy and Missy. Did you ever worry/fear it was too difficult for Tyrus, maybe it would adversely effect him, or think maybe he deserved more stability? I absolutely mean no disrespect, and love the Pinchback family. Just wonder how you felt reading Rebekah's posts

Rebekah (Ty's first mother) responds:

Thank you for your question. I can understand the angle you are coming from; however, the thought actually never crossed my mind that Tyrus was possibly in an unstable environment. I always knew that Rebekah and Ben would have more children. I never wanted Tyrus to be an only child so you can imagine my excitement when he became an older brother. In my experience, families go through emotionally challenging times no matter how the family was put together (adoption or by natural means). What I am trying to say is, every family has the possibility of having a child that has an emotional need, or autism, or down syndrome, or any other unfortunate circumstance. Does this bring instability to a family? Absolutely not! I think if dealt with properly, it can actually bring a family closer. Tyrus is a very special boy. He has incredible patience and a nurturing spirit. I know that Tyrus was put in the Pinchback family because he was supposed to be a big brother to those who need his unconditional love and gentle personality. I have never once questioned the stability of his home. I did, however, question the stability of my home at the time of his birth and that is why I chose open adoption.


If you would like to have either Rebekah or me respond to your question, please email or leave it in the comment section below.

Friday, June 26, 2015

FF: Burrito Bowls

I don't know about you, but I could eat at Chipotle every single day of the week. I have tried a few different copy-cat recipes, but they never taste as good. THIS one, however, is amazing and earned me 5 stars from all three boys! Ben's vote doesn't count, he was congested....and let's be honest...he's a harsh critic.

I found this recipe on Simply Scratch.

Chipotle Chicken Fajita Rice Bowl

chopped chipotle chicken 

AH-Mazing in all of its lime-y, cilantro goodness! I was drooling over the marinade alone. It smells divine.

Everyone got to make their own bowl...or three, which made for some very happy campers. I used some of my leftover frozen chipotle peppers from this dinner.

Next time I would serve it up with tortilla chips (I completely forgot). We kept it simple and had bowls and blueberries. There were no complaints.

Monday, June 22, 2015


Last year was such an incredibly challenging year and even though God gave us the strength we needed to endure it, the stride was not sustainable, nor without effect. A few months ago I spent, nearly, two weeks crying out to the Lord (literal crying), asking for a strategy to simply my life. Something had to change and I asked him to start with me.

I reduced my hours at work, which made the most noticeable difference in my time, but a close second was cutting out TV. I never was big into shows, but pure exhaustion led me to the couch night after night and soon I was lost to more than a dozen fictional families. It had become my go-to stress release; watching the drama in their lives allowed me to take a break from my own.

Stage two of this revolution came in organizing my newly found time into three parts:

  1. Daily intimacy with God
  2. Meaningful moments with my family
  3. Tackling projects around the house (prioritized by the amount of crazy they will relieve from my routine)
It has only been a month...but I am a new woman. Every exhale meets a state of rest and I'm a way better wife and mother for it.

Self-reflection has been a natural part of this toxic purge and personal discovery the reward behind every car load to the nearest secondhand store.

A few days ago, I had two positive encounters that I brought back to my prayer closet. Two different women on the same day interacted with my kids in such a way that prompted a longing in my heart to duplicate their gentle demeanors.

I quietly sat thinking about the love they expressed, wishing their softness was standard with my model, when the Holy Spirit’s presence filled the room and spoke to my identity. His rebuke was swift, but heavy – Don’t pray to be more like anyone else. Pray to be exactly who your children need you to be.

My spirit man affirmed the truth spoken and I sat in awe of God’s care for me – a tired mama of four babies, praying a simple prayer of sanding for my rough edges. It’s not that I don’t need more juicy spiritual fruit in my life; I certainly do. My prayer was problematic because I assumed to know best, instead of asking God for his best.

It was a needed reminder that my own good intentions can lead me astray and profitable gifts can fail without the voice of the Father.

The depths of this thickening process are rich.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Six Years Old - Part I

This guy turned six, today!


I am so proud to be his everyday mom.

We are so much alike it's scary. Bossy and detailed; practical and focused.

I gave him the choice to go out for dinner or to have a night at home. He picked home (love that!). Ty selected a very balanced meal of Kraft Mac 'n Cheese, Chicken Caesar Salad, Pretzel Rolls, and Red Gatorade (I had to fight it down). Over the weekend we were at Costco and he saw a rainbow cake that he had to have. As I was telling him we didn't need a cake that feeds 50 and I would be happy to make one myself, Ben mouthed, "It's his birthday!" So...home we came with enough cake to feed an army.

Ty never hesitates in what he wants, which has been a wonderful leadership quality for his younger brothers who have walked challenging roads of insecurity. My favorite character trait is his heart of mercy.

Each boy, recently, started taking turns at the dinner table praying for one of the birth families represented in our family. Last night, Ty prayed that God would bless Missy's dad and help him make good choices for a good life. Ty recognizes how sad it must be not to get to see his daughter every day and, continuously lifts him in prayer.

When he watched the video Rebekah sent him, tonight, he asked me if she was sad that we couldn't all be together.

What a marvelous heart - so tender and sure.

Every day is (literally) my dream come true.

Friday, June 5, 2015

FF: Crescent Bacon Breakfast Ring

I don't know about your house, but we LOVE breakfast for dinner!

This Crescent Bacon Breakfast Ring from Jo Cooks is a yummy omelette spin off that got gobbled up by everyone except Ty. He likes his eggs straight up.

Crescent Bacon Breakfast Ring 

And it only takes 35 minutes from prep to table - my kind of meal! I did it up right and served it with OJ, a tater-tot type hash (we like this kind), a fresh fruit medley, and our favorite lumpy links of sausage (we always have a stash of these in our freezer - we buy them from Costco).

It's almost as easy as ordering pizza.


Friday, May 29, 2015

FF: Chipotle Honey BBQ Chicken & Roasted Smashed Potatoes

This week's recipe does not fit my "one hour" rule, but it's so finger-looking good, you will forgive me! I had sick babies, yesterday, so it was the perfect day to carve some time out for sauce making.

I made the World's Best Lasagna sauce and built a lasagna for tonight at the same time I made the Chipotle Honey Barbecue sauce for last night's dinner. They both need to simmer for 60-90 minutes, but the prep time is minimal.

Chipotle Honey BBQ Chicken -  Fabulously sweet and perfectly spicy this chicken is great any night of the week!  |MomOnTimeout.com |  #chicken

My boys will eat anything in the form of a drumstick, so this was family-friendly, even though they tend to balk at anything charred. I only used 1 chipotle pepper (I did wash the seeds out), so the  sauce was mild. Since I was in prep mode and I hate waste, I also cut open and washed the seeds out of the remaining chipotle peppers and pureed them with the jarred sauce and measured 1 tsp servings into an ice cube tray to freeze for future meals. I have chipotle chicken faijitas planned next week.

I made a dozen drumsticks and probably have enough sauce for two more meals! All that to say, the prep is WORTH it!

I think Team Pinchback would have settled for a plate full of chicken, but I paired it with corn on the cob, applesauce, and these delicious Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes from Mom on Timeout.

Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes Recipe

It took a little extra time, but we also have a lasagna ready to pop into the oven tonight and enough homemade grilling sauce for a relaxing weekend!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

"Please don't give up on me."

"I feel like the boy who cried wolf...no matter how bad I want this, it's too late. I know that."

I vacillated between compassion and irritation listening to Missy's biological dad plead his case before the judge.

Today's termination trial spanned six hours. SIX. My back was stiff; my patience thin.

The facts are stacking. He only visited his daughter six times in twenty months; he hadn't completed any of the goals in his parenting plan; he spends more time in jail than outside, and he admitted to having a very serious drug problem.

The judge was kind, but firm, and found the burden of proof met. He terminated rights.

Early on, this morning, Little Missy's dad vocalized his desire to voluntarily sign over his rights. He asked many questions, but the one that mattered most to him was that Ben would continue to be her father. Ben took her to three of the six visits and although it was for purposes of scheduling, today, I am so thankful for our decision. In some small way, I think, it eased the tearing in his heart to know that the man his daughter will grow-up calling "daddy", always showed him kindness and respect.

I hate the political bologna that plays out every time I'm in that courtroom, but I couldn't be mad at dad for changing his mind and requesting a trial. It was his last chance to fight for her.

I was able to look past his excuses for walking away and saw the honesty in his heart. Though his experiences with Little Miss were limited, he remembered every one, highlighting the first time they met and her first neck grabbing hug.

His plea to the judge came from such a place of brokenness, his words have haunted me the rest of the day - "I hope this is the time that someone or something will give me another chance. Please don't give up on me."

Even though this judge drug both cases a full year past our expectations, I am thankful for his leadership and respect his character. He responded to Missy's dad, gently, saying, "You turned your back on the resources we offered. You can't and haven't been able to help yourself and because of that, you will not be able to help or care for your daughter. I have to act in her best interest."

Dad cried softly and took his defeat with humility.

I tried to make eye contact with him as he was escorted out of the courtroom by police officers, but he never looked up.

I will, likely, never see him again.

As soon as I picked up the boys, they wanted to know what happened in court. I gave them a edited version of the day and challenged them to pray for Little Miss' dad, as the burden in his heart could be too much for him to bear.

The outcome of today puts us one step closer to adoption, but there is no victory in witnessing such devastation. This is the fourth time we've walked this path, but it never feels right or natural; I don't think it ever will.

Please draw this sweet man to you. Cloak him in your presence and protect his frailty. Bring him a mentor that will shoulder his deficiencies and guide him to wholeness - someone who will persist and cheer and point him toward love at every turn. I have seen glimpses of his heart for his daughter...give him the same glimpses of your heart for him. Anchor his hope.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Day will Bring it to Light

Cisco's therapist came over, this week, to say goodbye. She joyfully graduated him from therapy right before his adoption hearing. As I walked her out, Cisco ran ahead to join his team in the outfield as Ben pitched a home run to LJ - another plus to having a house full of boys the same age.

As I thanked her for all she had done for our family and affirmed her role in God's healing of Cisco's heart, she teared up and said, "What you guys are doing here is really something." I tried to wave her comment away, but she stopped me, "No. Really. Most of the homes I visit don't look like this [she gestured toward the lively baseball game] and most of the kids I see don't have outcomes as positive as Cisco's."

She was a complete godsend to our family. Watching her leave was an emotional rite of passage.

I took this picture, last year February, the first week Cisco and Missy came to live with us.

I've probably looked at it a dozen times since that day, but the uncertainty balled up in those sweet fists and the self-doubt weighing on Cisco's shoulders brings me to tears every time.

What a distinction to see him sitting next to two confident, assured brothers.

With a lot of love and even more tears, he overcame every obstacle he faced, this year. I am wowed by his quiet, fighting spirit.

We met with his teacher, last week, and made the difficult decision to have him repeat kindergarten. I am certain every parent wrestles with such discussions, but the closeness in age between the boys, made it extra tough (Ty is 2 months/1 week older than LJ and LJ is 2 months/2 weeks older than Cisco).

The amount of progress that Cisco made this year is remarkable and could have justified pushing him through to first grade. But here's the truth. While Ty and LJ soaked in the learning opportunities of their first year of preschool, Cisco was found in a condemned motel room, half-starved.

When Ty and LJ raced to the door on their first day of their second year of preschool, Cisco stood in the doorway of his second home and met his foster family for the first time.

Three months into kindergarten, Ty and LJ knew the names of every student in our small community school, while Cisco stood behind his brothers, too nervous to speak through his new stutter and too wounded to risk investing in friends that he might have to say goodbye to...for the third time.

It wasn't just the newness of school that overwhelmed his bright mind, it was the newness of every area of his life. New school, new home, new siblings, new parents, and (of course) new sets of rules all around. It's really no wonder his body was taken by anxiety.

Our little guy had to work, tirelessly, this year to achieve what most of the students in his class take for granted every day. He didn't just fight for academics. He fought for friendships, normalcy, trust, and routine. And because he ended kindergarten a squeak above "average", he would start first grade running faster than the others, continuing his fight to close the gap.

We didn't want that for him.

We want Cisco to rest in the guarantee of a tomorrow that looks just like today.

Last summer was such a kaleidoscope of change and emotion, I'm really looking forward to this summer. There is a great level of peace that comes with knowing your children, inside and out. I am thankful that we've finally reached that place.

When I tuck Cisco in at night and receive genuine hugs and right-on-the-lips kisses, I know his heart is whole.

Over the weekend, I was washing bedding and suggested that each boy take inventory of their stuffed animal collection (each one rivaling that of a zoo) to determine if it was time for a few goodbyes. I told them to make a little pile by the door of animals that they would like the agency to give to other boys and girls coming into foster care.

Ty and LJ produced zero stuffies between the two of them, yet my Cisco came with an armful of lovies and said, "Mom, I brought all of these animals from my middle home, but I don't need them anymore. Let's give them to another kid that has to have a middle home."

Punch to the heart.

That's my boy. He has the sweetest spirit I've ever met.

I was reading in I Corinthians, recently, and this line really struck a chord with me (3:13): "...the Day will bring it to light." That has never stood out to me before, but I like this new-to-me name of God.

The Day.

With love, he wakens his people and brings light to the darkness, cleans out the cobwebs, and fills hearts with song.

It's one thing to experience it myself, but entirely another to watch the revolution in others. Watching this boy's life sing is one of the greatest rewards on earth.