Lord, awaken us…

One reason that I am so thankful God is using our family in foster care is because of the awareness it has given us. Not even just of children or families in care but it naturally exposes you to other children and families that my middle class American life might not otherwise get exposure to. That’s embarrassing to admit as a Christian but it’s true. I’ve been on short term mission trips and I’ve done community services where you go, you give, and then you leave. I get to return to my safe, comfortable lifestyle and quickly forget about what I’ve seen. Not so with fostering. Our life is woven in the brokenness of other families day in and day out.

I can not un-see.

There are daily reminders on every corner of this lifestyle that is so vastly different from mine. A lifestyle that is utterly heart breaking to me and yet to some individuals, it’s just normal. Things I consider wrong, irresponsible, neglectful, harmful, is “normal”.

I know things now that explain so much.

Like that “bad kid” in elementary school legitimately was taught from the time he was a toddler to tell people to “shut up” or “F@$& off”. In his life the people around him considered this appropriate and acceptable, sometimes even funny.

Precious little girls who have never been valued. Ever. Never in their life have they seen women being respected and treasured. Why would she assume she should value and respect herself?

Children that grow up in filthy, neglectful, drug using, abusive homes do not typically grow up to one day realize, “This isn’t normal.” From what I have seen, typically, they grow up and repeat it. I know this because I have cared for the children of those children. And the cycle continues. Some might say “They should know better,… eventually.” How could they know??? No one has ever taught them. Additionally, most of these children’s brain development and maturity has been stunted. Their age may suggest “adult” but their brain still operates as a child. (Google trauma and brain development.) Maybe they age and “know better” but they still have the coping skills of say a 9 year old.

May the Lord flood us with compassion and mercy….

I’m heavily burndened this morning. Burdened for these parents and children. Burdened for the generation after generation….. I asked God this morning, “Lord, what does it take? Lord, intercede for these children and families!!” And what His Word reminds me over and over is how He wants to…… through His church.Through us! And I know that we have got to rise up. We can’t just close our eyes and act like “Not my kids, not my problem.” If we are Christ followers, if the love of God is in us, it is TOTALLY our problem. If the love of God is truly in us, that love will compel us to MAKE IT our problem. I think of that beautiful song by Hillsong, Hosanna, it sings “break my heart for what breaks Yours, everything I am for Your Kingdoms cause.” I have prayed that to God and let me tell you he has not failed to answer that. And my heart is in pieces right now,… kind of beautifully broken, as it is aligning with my Lords heart of mercy, love, compassion and grace.

I am praying that we would not shrink back. (Hebrews 10:39) I am praying that Christians all around would awaken to what God has called us to do. And I’m not saying it’s always foster care or adoption but it IS loving the helpless, the orphan, the widow, the abused, the hard to love and so on. There are so many ways God wants to use us!!! We have got to open our eyes to who is helpless. We have to quit casting our judgement on life styles and choices that we don’t even understand or know the depths of pain that caused it. We need to reach out and be willing to get messy with people. We need to sacrifice our pretty, comfortable, life of convenience and ease. And you better believe I am preaching to myself! 🙂

Pray for me. Pray for our family. I’m praying for all of you. 🙂 Pray we as Christians would wake up and be courageous enough to truly LOVE as God loves, “he who did not spare his own Son but gave Him up for us all….” Romans 8:32

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy‬ ‭1:7‬ ‭ESV‬‬


The Truth and the lie of “Not good enough”

I don’t know if this is common for all women but every couple of months I will have a freak out moment. It typically involves me taking a survey of every area of my life and coming to the conclusion that I’m failing miserably at it all.

I’m a horrible mom, I’m a horrible wife, and I’m a horrible Christian. (Yes, I’m very dramatic.)

I’m not doing enough of this or that.

I don’t spend as much time in the Word, at the feet of Jesus, as I should.

I’m not engaging my kids enough in discipleship and spiritual disciplines.

I’m not doing enough projects, crafts, book reports, salt dough maps.

Usually on this day my house is a mess so obviously that means I NEVER keep a clean house.

Am I spending enough quality time with my kids? What about one on one time? Are Jason and I having enough intentional moments together?

I start going through a list of everything we don’t consistently do. This list I keep but apparently only for the purposes of pulling out during this time to depress myself with. It also includes how,….

We rarely have the opportunity to sit down altogether for family meals.

We don’t do family devotionals.

My girls have never made a miniature solar system with styrofoam balls.

They don’t play on a team sport.

We don’t have a home church. They don’t go to AWANAS or GAs or RAs or children’s choir.

I could go on but you get the picture.

I was on the phone with my mom lamenting all these things and of course she brought me back from the ledge. The ledge that screams “Not enough” and “You’re failing”.

The ledge is a lie cleverly concealed with a bit of truth. It’s a tool wielded by Satan to bring us to despair. And often times, the voices of the culture are chiming in from that ledge. Satan knows that feelings of failure and the lie of “not enough” have the potential to overwhelm us, consume us and truly make us ineffective in one way or another. The way to combat this attack is by separating the truth from the lies. I believe our best defense against this is through remembering who we are in Christ and reminding ourselves what’s ultimately important in the scope of eternity.

My responsibility is to be obedient to Christ with what he has given me, not what he has given my neighbor. To steward well what he’s entrusted to us, not to compare and despair and believe the lies of “not good enough”.

It’s liberating to remind myself that….

We actually don’t have to take trips to some theme park every year to express love to our kids. That quality time and bonding is just as easily found when making a vending machine with their daddy. Or going for a jog with their mommy. Or reading stories before bed.

They don’t always have to have extra curricular activities lined up for them. They learn there is no “I” in “team” when they push little ones on swings, make forts together on the property, help mommy in the kitchen and read to younger siblings.

Jason and I can survive with out date nights and romantic getaways. Porch dates prove just as rewarding and special.

It’s okay if they never make a styrofoam solar system or salt dough map of the United States. Although I may try to stretch myself on this one because I know they’d love it.

It’s hard competing with what we’re told is the standard of good enough. I wish I would quit but I know it creeps in my mind subtly without me always knowing.

Typically after I back away from the ledge and gain a more rational perspective I know, although I sin and fall short of Gods glory, taking a defeated position would not honor Him. The ledge screams failure but Gods Word tells me I’m a conqueror. I don’t have to succumb to the worlds standards of what’s best or enough but there is room for healthy, godly evaluations and resolves. So….

I will make every effort to get in the Word with my family.

I will have intentional moments with my husband and kids.

I will hone in on my children’s God given gifts and talents so they can use them for His glory.

We will find the right church.

I will (by golly!) attempt a styrofoam solar system and/or salt dough map at least of the state of Georgia.

But I don’t have to solve all this TONIGHT or this week or month.

One thing at a time, starting in Gods Word. And He will be enough for us.

Micaila is 11 years old

To Micaila for memory:

Here we are again, another birthday. Today you turned 11. You are becoming an extraordinary young woman. You have surrendered your life to Jesus and I am so proud of how diligent you are to be in His Word and have your quiet time every morning. This is the most important discipline you can ever develop because it is from this discipline that your perspective, attitudes, and actions are shaped for Gods good and glory. I pray that no matter what happens in your life you would remain rooted in His Word and always come back to your Savior and Lord.

Micaila you are kind, caring, smart, ambitious, beautiful, and talented. You are so willing to help and you consistently put others before yourself. I can’t even express how grateful I am that you set such a good example to your younger siblings. I appreciate how you lead them, play with them, help them and encourage them. Today you were trying to help Caleb ride his bike. You are such a good cheerleader and like your daddy, you’re good at teaching others. I already see God using this gift he gave you every day but I pray you will continually surrender your gifts to him and his purposes. You love our foster babies like they are our own. You help mommy out BIG time by playing with them, holding them, or watching them so I can catch a potty break! What would I do with out you and your sister??? 🙂

For awhile now you and Ryann (and now Caleb) have LOVED legos. You have a whole LEGO world in your bedroom. It use to drive me nuts that these legos would never be put away but now, I’ve embraced it and I am thrilled that you all enjoy playing for hours in your LEGO world. For your birthday you were given the LEGO Hospital, so tell your LEGO friends “your welcome”. Now they don’t have to go to the Animal Hospital. 😉

You still adore your stuffed animals, playing outside, riding your bike (and now skate board) and of course riding Duet.

But I can tell you are getting older. You like to accessorize, especially with bracelets, and you smell good from new perfume. Also, it’s totally weird that I asked to borrow your lip gloss…. soon it’ll be shoes. 🙂 Speaking of feet! You have taken up running with me. You, me, and Ryann ran our first 5k over Thanksgiving and it was so fun! Now we are training for a 10k and you will probably leave me in your dust because again, you’re like your daddy, a natural athlete and an over achiever. 😉

All these qualities have the potential to be used for Gods glory or your own gain.

The world will tell you to seek self and promote self.

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs‬ ‭14:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The Bible tells us to die to self.

“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke‬ ‭14:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I pray you will yield everything to Jesus, loving and trusting Him so much and with Paul one day say,

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ” Philippians‬ ‭3:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There is so much more I could share about you. You are a delight. Your daddy and I love you so much and are so proud you are our daughter.

Happy 11th Birthday.

My struggle with church

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:24-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We didn’t go to church today. Actually, we haven’t been to church in a month. A series of events have played into this. First, we’re back to visiting churches, and have found ourselves in a very discouraging season. More on that in a moment. Then we got baby E, very early, on a Sunday morning. Then we went to Florida to celebrate the life of Jason’s sweet grandmother who passed away. And for the last 2 weeks we have had every intention of going and didn’t.

Most of you know I grew up in my daddy’s church. From age 4 to 25 I went to one church with my family and a congregation that became like family. I had friends, I had mentors, I had pseudo grandparents. I was involved in youth, went to camp and on mission trips. I was corrected and confronted about everything, from driving with my brother at 14 without a license, to wearing too low cut of shirts. I couldn’t get away with anything without someone seeing, which I realize now was a blessing, though it irritated me at the age of 16. But I always loved my church. Always. I never wanted to escape it. Even then as an immature adolescent. It was my second home, my extended family. As I grew up and matured as a Christian I began to appreciate First Baptist Lutz all the more. It’s not perfect but it’s seeking to take the gospel to all nations through various forms of ministry. Being apart of that church has helped me understand what the body of Christ should look like.

Moving to Georgia has rocked me in this area. We have struggled for 7 years to feel really connected to any church. And not just feel connected but witness the power of the Holy Spirit, alive and active within the congregation. Moving to the country, especially, has made it an even greater challenge. I don’t mean to knock on churches but we’ve been to too many where it feels more like a Christian version of a country club. Meeting on Sunday’s, preaching out of the Bible and singing Christian music doesn’t make the church truly alive in Christ. I have left churches in tears simply from feeling unwelcome and like an “outsider”. Feeling like these Christians, who don’t know me at all, could care less about the state of my soul. That’s a horrible, scary observation.

For awhile we attended a newer church, but after a couple years we felt it was simply stagnant. Through a lot of prayer and agonizing over what to do we left.

Once again, we were confronted with “What is the churches purpose?” In short, the purpose of the church is to come together, encourage, admonish and equip one another through the teaching of the Bible, prayer, and singing Psalms and spiritual songs. Then we effectively scatter through out the week taking the gospel into our community and beyond. Disciples making disciples. Essentially, one would think, you would start seeing growth and life change in the church as a byproduct of people being reached with the gospel of Jesus. Additionally, the church would engage in outreach together to further the gospel and love people like Christ loves us. (A few passages to support that description. Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 2:42-47, Acts 6:7, Colossians 3:16, 2 Corinthians 8:1-2)

So, we started visiting again. I was very frustrated and disappointed with our seeming unfaithfulness to a church body. That’s how it felt. I didn’t want to “church hop”. That was not my paradigm. We connected with another local church and the pastor very quickly. He was somewhat new to the area. He seemed like a strong leader, ready to pour everything he had into the community and commission us, his congregants to do the same. It seemed as though he understood the Bible and how it described the church as we did. We were excited and all in.

He was not what he seemed. We suffered a great loss under his leadership. He was let go. We were devastated. We were left with a broken, hurt, unhealthy church that we had really just started attending. We tried to hang in there. Maybe not hard enough, I don’t know. But we began visiting again.

And here we are. Visiting. With no church “home”. I’m becoming so frustrated by our situation that when Sunday rolls around it’s tempting to just want to stay home. In fact this morning I even thought “ugh, it’s raining. I don’t want to go out in that.” Never in my life has rain kept me from wanting to worship with the body of Christ. I can’t even describe how sad this makes me. Sad because I can see its effects on us spiritually. Because I’m not foolish enough to think it has no effect. It totally does. Sad because this is not what I want for my children. So yes, it pains me. Praise God it does. What a mercy from the Holy Spirit because I do not ever want to give up on the body of Christ. I do love the church. I don’t know why we’re struggling here. I’m starting to wonder if it’s us! I know we are not perfect, nor are all our desires and ideas, and I know there is no perfect church.

What we want is to be connected with authentic Christians that love God passionately, are rooted in his Word and with all their might want to live it out. And for some reason in this “Bible Belt” small town we haven’t quite found that. Fortunately I know this whole experience is not meaningless. I have a different perspective now. Mainly, I have compassion for people who are visiting, who have been hurt by the church and the ones who have faded out of church completely, and sadly a lot of people in this area have. All in all it’s been a very humbling season, which I can ALWAYS use humbling. 🙂

Maybe you’re like me. Can I just encourage you, don’t give up on the church!! Just keep going. Keep praying for God to lead you to the right body of Christ. Keep praying the church in America would have an awakening. But don’t give up and stay home. We were never meant to be lone Christians. And yes, I know we have our brothers and sisters in Christ all over and outside our local church and thank God for that. I have needed them so much to spur me on to not give up meeting with my local family in Christ. God means to work through the body of Christ, the local church. Your local church. My local church. Christ loves the church, it’s His bride. We’re called to love like Christ, so we too must love the church and never ever give up on her.

The Joy of Ministering to Birth Families

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

One thing that I have found surprising joy in with fostering is connecting with the birth families. I say surprising for a few reasons. For one, I admit, I pretty much think about adoption with every placement right away. “Could we adopt this child?” “What would that look like for our family?” “How does their name sound with ours?” Fostering is about reunification though. The initial goal is not adoption. It can lead to adoption but that’s not the intended purpose. Secondly, interacting with birth families is scary at first. You never know how the relatives of this child are going to respond to you.

I really want to encourage those that are fostering or thinking about fostering to embrace the ministry of the birth family. Because these kids are coming out of hard, tough situations. Some really bad, horrific even. But that doesn’t disqualify their family altogether. Sometimes, yes, there are no suitable family members. Not one. And thank goodness for the beautiful act of adoption and for the families who step into that role. But a lot of times there is family. Family who has been loving or fighting for what’s right. Family that wants to break cycles of abuse and addiction. And this is a unique opportunity for those of us as foster parents. To give people the benefit of the doubt. To encourage. To uplift. To point them to Jesus.

Baby E has family that loves him. Family that was there when I picked him up from the hospital. Family that has been here for him long before I was and pouring into him in ways that make him healthy and happy in my care. They long for him. They have attended every court hearing and are fulfilling every requirement to have him placed in their care. Today we met with them at the park. They were kind and caring. They were attentive to Baby E. Their children were so thrilled to see this little guy. They showered him with love and kisses and snacks and toys. And Baby E was happy to see them. He knows them and he knows he’s loved by them. What a tremendous joy to see this family reunited with this baby boy.

I stated in my first post about Baby E that we must resist the temptation to jump to conclusions. We must. Every time. Every placement. We can’t allow prior experiences with birth families to dictate how we respond to future ones. Which is hard. But every placement, every family, needs fresh eyes of grace.

I don’t know how normal it is for foster moms to get a baby and within 3 days attach their name to baby’s name just to see how it fits. You start dreaming of their future with you, and yours with them. Obviously I do this. I’m not saying it’s wrong. In fact, I wonder if it is Gods grace in allowing this little one to be loved as naturally as I love my own children. But given the opportunity we must make every effort to connect with the child’s birth parents and/or relatives. We have to give them opportunity. It can be nerve racking, talking with strangers that YOU have their family member. Baby E has my heart but he has a few others even deeper than mine. And the more I correspond with his family and see these adults AND children that love and cherish him, how can I not want him to go home to them? It would be selfish of me to want to keep him from that. They’re his family. So when we think about the hard thing of letting them go, think about the times we are giving them back to the ones who loved them first. What a blessing in this child’s life that there ARE people who came before us, his foster parents, that are doing whatever it takes to bring him home with them. I recognize this is not always the case. Sometimes these children return to unhealthy environments. Sometimes we do need to advocate fiercely for their safety. But a lot of times we need to strive to encourage and support the birth family. Maybe in ways they’ve never felt it. Ways Jesus would.

Today Baby E’s relative asked me, “How do you do this? Is it hard when they leave?” And I told him through tears, “Yes. But I think about, what if no one did it? What if no one was willing to bring this child to a safe place because they were too concerned about it hurting when they left? I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of meeting E. Or meeting you. So I consider it worth it. And even though it will be sad when he leaves, it’s happy because he’s going to family that is striving to do what’s right for him.” I didn’t get to share my testimony of what Jesus did for me and how Jesus gives me the courage to do this and how Jesus mends my heart to do it all over again,…..yet. We have another visit for that. 🙂

But after spending that time with them I am so full of joy. Joy that comes from the love of Jesus. So Christians, foster parents, I implore you, to courageously, mercifully, and lovingly navigate the waters of foster care and birth families, for the JOY awaiting you. Because it IS so worth it.

Glitter is not my friend….

Today is going to be a lighter post. Hopefully something that will make you all laugh.

As most of you know I am a homeschool mom. Probably not what you have in mind though when you hear that title. And I could get into all the reasons why I’m not what you have in mind but tonight I just want to give you one.

I absolutely hate crafts.

Or at least I loathe the process so much that in my opinion the craft simply isn’t worth it to me. I promise I don’t want to be this way! I don’t know what it is about making stuff with my kids that gives me hives. I think it’s unrealistic expectations on my part, but whatever it is I literally feel like I should be shot with an elephant tranquilizer when glue and glitter enter the room. It’s just not my thing and most of the time I believe that it’s in everyone’s best interest if we avoid arts and crafts altogether. Most of the time. Every now and then I will feel the weight of not providing my children this artistic outlet and I’ll cave and kid myself into thinking “It’ll be better this time. You’ve grown so much, you can handle it!” Since I do believe in stretching myself for the sake of loving others, especially my children, today I did. I know, I’m pathetic. It’s crafts for goodness sake! I looked up some for Valentines Day and there are so many cute ones! Simple ones! “We can totally manage that!” I bought a few supplies and even put together a “sample” for the kids to refer to. My sample is awesome by the way.

How cute is that? Nailed it!

Anyway, they finished that project in like 47 seconds. Come on, cant we drag this out 20 minutes and call it a day? So I pull out project number 2. Making a heart wreath with tissue paper. I specifically picked this one because I knew it would take some time. Some may call this cruel, I call it wising up. But it did back fire because when Ryann’s looking quite forlorn a quarter of the way in (“Mommy, will I finish this before I graduate?”) and Caleb has tissue paper and glue stuck to his fingers, the pencil and the table, my insides are like “Are you kidding me?!?” Picture Anger on Inside Out. Meanwhile baby E is crying at my legs for the first time EVER, and I’m thinking “Of course the honeymoon phase would end on the one craft day of the year!” We finally started making some progress with our puffy wreaths and everyone was pleased in the end.

But two crafts is simply not enough for my children. I mean, they’ve gone several months with out a craft, it was time to binge on glue and glitter and paper everywhere. At this point I’m just like “Do whatever you want, I’m out.”

So after 10 Valentine Cards, 2 wreaths, 1 puffy picture frame, and baby E licking glitter off his hands from the floor, I can say I survived and managed to keep all my negative feelings inside. Mostly. 😬 It did help for me to join the fun and make this really cheesy card for Jason.

Was it worth it? I think so. One things for sure, it was worth it to them and so that makes it worth it. 😃 I do hope when they’re 31 they will reminisce about the times mommy did crafts, even though she didn’t love them and stunk at them, because she “loved us so much”. Ultimately, I think if and when I do this again I should probably wait till the evening when baby is asleep and it’s appropriate to have a glass of wine. I’m just being honest.

Baby E

Sunday morning we got a call at 3 am. A 9 month old little boy needed a safe place to stay. He was at the hospital and I was told I could pick him up at 9 am. Jason and I had been up late having one of those long, deep talks about everything under the sun (or moon). So I was pretty tired but trying to fall back asleep after that call was rather difficult. So I prayed and dozed and awoke repeatedly all the way till 7 am. Then I began to get ready for an hour drive to go pick this little guy up. I had a lot more time to process and lift up this placement before meeting him and it was very cool to see how Gods hands were with me and him when we finally met.

When I arrived I was caught off guard by some of the family that was there. I wasn’t given the impression anyone was there with him. I was nervous to meet them. This kind of circumstance is not really ideal for greetings and pleasantries. Initially I was hoping to avoid it. “I can wait until they leave.” Of course they weren’t leaving. I looked for courage and grace from the Holy Spirit, recognizing God was sovereign in this and walked in the room. I assumed it was Grandma, she was understandably very upset. I could tell they really cared for this fella. One thing we must resist is jumping to conclusions. We just have no idea what brought these individuals to this moment. Seeing the family first hand as their tiny family member was released into my care, a stranger with DFCS, it gave me a perspective I hadn’t experienced before. I introduced myself to grandma and just wanted to hug her but opted for a touch on her shoulder. I sympathized with her, acknowledging how extremely difficult this is for them and that baby boy would be in very good hands. She was concerned but kind. I felt that we connected in that brief moment and she knew, even through her grief, he was going to be safe and loved.

The baby and his cousin were sitting on the hospital bed. I went over and got down to his level. Said hello and waited to see his reaction. He reached right for me, which is a blessing. As much as you don’t really want kids to be that comfortable coming to a stranger, I think it put everyone at ease that he wasn’t leaving in complete outward turmoil. I talked with the family for a short while and then it was time to go. It’s such a sad thing, walking away with someone else’s child, leaving his family in tears and uncertainty. But I’m grateful to have met them because they are impressed on my heart now. I know their names and faces and can sincerely pray for them.

I don’t know how long we will have Baby E. What we’ve learned so far is he’s all boy, active, and into everything. He has THE sweetest smile and big blue eyes, with the longest eye lashes I’ve ever seen. He grunts and laughs and gets really mad when he’s tired. Dressing him is slightly like wrestling an alligator. And every time I pick him up he wraps his arms around my neck so tight and buries his head in my shoulder, which is the best. Needless to say, I’m hooked. And yes, I know, we’re only 5 days in. 😉