2 Months And 21 Days Later

In ten days it will be three months since the boys came into our life. In that time we have watched “the big baby” (as Caleb once referred to him) go from crawling to walking, learn several new words in sign language, understand the delight of being tickled and amuse us with his husky laughter. It hasn’t been all roses of course. There are days when his strong will is down right exhausting. I find myself caught between the unknowns of his history and yet wanting to provide structure, boundaries, positive reinforcement and all those building blocks of healthy discipline. With your own children you are at least a little sure of what’s appropriate and helpful to build them up, but with a child coming from who knows what kind of environment you tend to question everything. “Am I holding him too much? Too little?” “Why is he crying? Is he having attachment issues? Why does he cry with me more than Jason?” Every day seems to be different and unpredictable. But even in all that, we love Big Baby, and we are so happy he is here with us.

Then there is the little guy. I’ll never forget when they put him in my arms, all 5lbs of him. So tiny and frail. It was scary taking in such a fragile little infant. Jason and I silently wondered if he was going to make it. We had never seen first hand a baby struggling to thrive. That tiny little man is now 11lbs. He started smiling a month ago and we all know what joy a babies smile can bring. It still melts my heart every time he gives me that big grin. He babbles with me during diaper changes and I swear he says “hiiiii” mimicking my voice. He still spits of like crazy, but now it’s “happy spit-up”. So I gets that’s cool.😉

As for our three kiddos…. The girls took to the babies immediately. They both are very helpful. Micaila is a superstar big sis. We wouldn’t be able to go anywhere if it weren’t for her being able to tote big baby to and from the car. Ryann has started asking me questions about their future and if they’ll be her brothers. Caleb has quit asking when they are leaving, so that’s progress right? While he is very affectionate toward the little guy, he has struggled to like big baby. But I believe his heart is softening toward him. He referred to him as “buddy” the other day which made me very happy. We all are making strides in learning what real love is, namely; love is selfless and sacrificial.

I’ve been camped out in Philippians 2…. Because I continually need to be reminded of the example Christ gave us. Verses 1-7 says, “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant,…..”

This ministry has its joys but it also has its challenges. Lots of them. Pray that we will continue to entrust these boys into the merciful sovereign hands of God. Their future is unknown and it can sometimes lead us to wonder and potentially worry. You really just have to take it one day at a time. Another area you can pray for is the moments when I feel isolated and lonely. It’s incredibly difficult to go anywhere with five children, especially with two unable to walk independently. We stay home a good bit and I do start to miss people. Big people!🙂 We did get a family YMCA membership which I think will be a great outlet for me and all the kids.

I thank all of you who are praying so diligently for us. We feel it and need it.

A Caleb Post

Caleb, Caleb, Caleb. It’s been far too long since I have written a memory of the little man you are becoming. I missed your 4th birthday letter, but I figure, what the heck, that was only 2 months ago😉 One of the things I love about writing these memory posts is when I go back and read through and see how much each of you kiddos stay the same. It is so cool how God makes you uniquely YOU from the very beginning.

See. Nothing’s changed. 😜

Caleb, you get sillier every day. You have comedic timing unlike any of our family members. You quote silly things from your favorite movies, like when mommy gives you a long hug, you often will say, “You can let go now.” (Finding Nemo) Or if we find ourselves in an intense situation like a thunderstorm or something, you might quote Ice Age “We’re gonna live! We’re gonna diiiiieeee.” The other part that makes your humor so entertaining is your many facial expressions.

You and Aunt Nikki at the beach. Graham Slam!

The Rock. 

“Seriously mommy?”  (You really say that, along with, “Are you kidding me?”)

Everyone say cheese!

Your humor is just one aspect of your personality that makes you special. You have big emotions like mommy, all or nothing. You can be very sweet, polite, or caring one minute and the next be a big scary mess. You thrive best with consistent daddy discipline and preferably a nap. Without these two you turn into the Incredible Hulk or a Werwolf after 6:00pm. Speaking of daddy, you love him so much. You want to do everything like and with him. Cut the lawn, go to work, play guitar, fix stuff around the house, ride in the truck, or just simply wear no shirt. You squeal and scream when he comes home and squeeze his legs while gritting your teeth with excited boyish aggression. (You always are in some sort of wrestling mode) You crawl into his lap every chance you get and you wish he never had to leave. At one time I was worried you’d be too much a mommas boy but you’ve balanced out and absolutely adore your daddy, too.

Caleb, you are smart! Your memory is like a steel trap. Like movie quotes you also remember songs well and like your sister Ryann you sing all the time. I love catching you singing your heart out in my rear view mirror while driving.

My dear son you have challenged mommy in a whole new way. Parenting a boy is just, well, different. It’s hard! You are strong willed and a fighter. You push mommy to her knees praying to God that he would equip us to raise you up into a strong godly man. I pray all those fighting qualities, all those big emotions of yours would get channeled into a fierce faith that cannot be shaken. I pray you would be like your daddy, a hard working man of integrity. A man who is loyal and loves his family. I pray you would become a man that passionately loves Jesus and all He stands for. I pray your strong will would bend to the Lords will and that you would let him have his way with you. I pray you would “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

I love you so much, Caleb. Happy 4 years, 1 month and 25 days, my handsome boy.🙂

Too big for me……

When the boys first came to us it felt a little crazy taking in two babies. After all, our original plan was to just provide respite for other foster families. After turning down three calls for other placements, when we were called about the boys, we couldn’t say no again. Almost exactly one year apart to the day, baby K barely cresting the one year mark and baby J barely out of the womb, I knew this would alter everything about our life. I mean taking in any child alters your life. After two months we are still figuring out a lot and trying to roll with a very inconsistent new normal. No day is the same. Outside of bedtime there is little that I can bank on going as planned. And this week we stuck our feet back into another year of homeschooling. Well if I thought I was crazy before I surely do now. To be honest I don’t really know how we’re going to do this. But as I was reading through the curriculum, organizing folders, preparing myself for our first day, and now having almost completed our first week, I am confident this is the right thing for our family and I trust God is going to make provision for us.

God does this some times ya know? He brings us to places and seasons where we think, “This is just crazy.” We might even be wondering if we need to step back from something or remove something from our plate. And sometimes we should. But other times I believe God brings us to these places where it’s so crazy that only He can get the glory.

Jon Bloom writes in his book Don’t Follow Your Heart, “When God chooses his servants, he tends to give them an oversized workload. Yes, God works for those who wait for him (Isa. 64:4), but you’ll note that waiting on God is rarely experienced as a leisure activity. It typically involves being placed in an overwhelming situation that requires a steeling of the nerves of faith to wait. Yes, we are to serve in the strength that God supplies (1 Pet. 4:11), but that serving can still push us beyond what we think we can handle to show that it’s God’s gracious supply, not our own strength, that is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9) and to show that we hope in the God who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1:8–9).”

“Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬‬‬

I don’t “do it all” and I definitely do not have it all together. If I ever appear to be any of those things I can assure you it is NOT me and what you are witnessing is the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit. I AM weak. I can’t do this apart from Jesus. I have tried and it’s an ugly hot mess. “I need Thee every hour.” So I hope that whenever we or anyone sees the fruit of our labor that it would be so obvious that it is ALL the work of Christ through us. He gets all the glory. And on the days I become overwhelmed and wonder again, “Can I do this?” (Because for this melancholy those days will, no doubt, crop up) I pray I would look to my Shepherd and say as David did, “He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” Psalms‬ ‭23:3‬

Ryann Is 8

Dear Ryann,

It’s hard to believe you are 8 years old. That cute high pitched voice of yours is nearly gone. Your sweet little baby chunk has disappeared and you are becoming a slender, tall, beautiful young lady. You still sing and dance and smile as you always have. You are a lover of all animals. Which has turned mommy into your modern day Snow White, constantly rescuing and bringing home some critter that we never intend to keep and yet…. well Aly (and Milo) for example. Your artistic skills and creativeness still blow me away. You can pretty much make anything with scissors and a hot glue gun. You are such a good student, your teacher loves you so much😉 and you have shown perseverance when things were difficult. What an excellent quality to have. In life, it’s inevitable that difficulties will arise. I pray that you will cultivate that perseverance through a relationship with Christ, and learn how to press on and overcome in His strength. Ryann you are still the sensitive, silly, and loving child you have always been.

These, too, are wonderful characteristics. You get hurt easily, both physically and emotionally. But this lends itself to be aware of the needs of others. God has made you tender hearted so you can extend that in times when others need it. Look for those opportunities to be compassionate like Jesus. You are such a silly girl and laughter can be the best medicine. You are playful and fun and if mommy needs this in her life (which I do) then other people must too. Share this silly and fun aspect of who you are with everyone God brings your way. And Ryann you are a very loving girl. Remember that we love because He first loved us. I pray you will make Christ your first love and let all your affections flow from that. I pray you will give Him your whole heart because He can be trusted with it more than anyone else in this world and He loves you so very much. I pray whatever you decide to do in life it’ll be in honor of your Heavenly Father and Savior. He created you, He gave you unique giftings and talents, and I pray you’ll desire to be used by Him however He sees best. Ryann, believe it or not even at a young 8 years old you teach mommy things about love, laughter, kindness and sensitivity. I am thankful for your example and so grateful God gave you to us. Daddy and I are so proud of you. We love you so much. Happy 8th birthday!


Flexibility, Compassion, And Grace

The days we have visits, sometimes, are our most difficult days. Lets just say my flexibility gets really stretched and challenged. To be honest, by nature I am not that flexible. No doubt this once very tightly wound girl has become more go with the flow but I still like schedules, preparation, and order. Those are all good things but when you are working with families that come from hard places sometimes you just have to chuck it all out the window and pray for grace. God is working on me in this area.

The Cancelled Visits

We have already experienced many of these. We orchestrate our entire morning around getting the babies ready; Timing everything just right so they are perky and pleasant for mommy and daddy and then we get the call, “They won’t be making it today.” Well yes, that can be irritating. I typically am thinking of the ways I can capitalize on not having two children 1 and under. “Maybe I’ll take my kids to the park.” “Maybe we can go to the library.” “Maybe I’ll bury my weary soul in Gods Word for the.entire.time..” “Maybe I’ll go grocery shopping, or clean, or take a nap.” All those awesome plans get jettisoned and it usually takes me half an hour to move on and figure out how to re-work my day. Not to mention the disappointment in the parents. All the thoughts that run through my head. Primarily, “What could possibly keep you from seeing your children? What is more important than spending time with these sweet little guys?”

The Visit and the Aftermath

On the days where we have “successful” visits the babies come home a mess. They are tired, over stimulated, and very fussy. They’ve been passed from person to person, some they don’t know, some they do. I can’t even imagine the effects this has on a 1 year old. How confused he must be….

Grace and Perspective

It would be very easy for me to develop resentment towards the parents in both situations and to become negative and lack hope in them. Yes I do see a difference in the boys when we’ve gone a week with no visits and they have kept a consistent schedule. Yes I do wonder if they’d be “better off” staying with us. I am sure these thoughts are natural. But as soon as I start thinking that way God reminds me that He is bigger than missed visits and disrupted schedules. That He loves these boys and their parents, too. That He has all power to heal and redeem and change the trajectory of an entire family. So I reject the hopeless thoughts and the compulsion to try and control and I pray for the babies and their parents. I ask God to give us opportunity to invest in the mom and dad and pour His love out on them as He has so graciously on us. And then I wait expectantly for those opportunities to arise.

A Lesson In Judging

Dear Woman at Walmart,

I sensed your disapproving glares as I was checking out. I’m so sorry I was holding up the line. I thought I had all my ducks in a row, all the right WIC vouchers set out accordingly but I’m pretty new to using this program and well it was a mess. I had all the dates wrong, didn’t know you had to pay as you go and additionally I had a newbie cashier who was as confused as I was. I smiled politely and apologetically and yet that stare seemed to draw sweat beads out of my body and panic within my chest. Maybe you noticed by my lovely wedding ring that I’m married. Maybe you saw this nice coach wallet my mother bought me and yes I do have an iPhone. Maybe you were wondering why your tax dollars are paying for someone’s groceries who obviously can afford life’s luxuries. I get it. I’ve been there. And today was a great reminder for me about not being a person who judges others. It’s not my place and I simply can not even begin to know the extent of a strangers situation. You see while you frowned upon me you didn’t know that I’m a new foster mom. That my family just brought in two sweet babies that need a temporary loving home. And while we welcome these babies with all the emotional and physical challenges that naturally come with fostering, the state would like to alleviate us some by assisting us financially. It’s not much mind you, but it’s something. So while I fumble through my WIC folder looking for that precious check that will supply my foster baby with formula, I hope you will now understand that not everyone takes advantage of government assistance. Yes, there is fraudulent use of these programs but there are birth and foster parents alike who use the help of our government as its intended to be used. And at any rate it’s not our place to pass judgment on who we deem should be using it or not. Our glaring looks of disapproval have never changed anything have they? Today I was reminded of how important it is to extend patience and kindness even to strangers. And it occurs to me now that while I felt like you were disapproving of me, maybe you weren’t. Maybe you had a very traumatic day. Maybe your harsh expression had nothing to do with me. Maybe my overthinking is just my own conscience reminding me of my own sinful judgment of others. Maybe I was simply seeing a reflection of myself in years past. Maybe I am the one who needs to get over myself and extend compassion to you.🙂

“Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke‬ ‭6:36-37‬ ‭