The Journey Continues

Well happy July everyone! It’s been several weeks since I’ve written here and boy is there a lot I’d like to share. Today was one of those days that I wasn’t sure I would make it through. For starters we are in the throws of potty training and all in all K is doing GREAT but on the days that he poops his pants and decides to finger paint his crib…. Oh and bonus, the power went out as I discovered the mess and I got to learn how to clean and disinfect in the dark. Yay! But I’ve got the little ones safely in bed and currently can hear my big kids above me having a blast jumping off furniture. Sounds like someone might fall through the ceiling or possibly a baby elephant. (Two story home owners feel me?) I don’t know what it is about tough days that bring me to write….. although it IS one of the healthier options to decompress. I guess I fear you will think we only ever have tough days and that’s not true at all.

In fact, we’ve had some very good days. In the middle of June we spent a glorious week at the beach. It was the boys first trip and our first trip as a new family. The boys absolutely loved the water and sand. Our extended family loved them. And it was a very needed time of bonding for us all. We had each other day in and day out and I didn’t realize how much we needed that week together. In fact I would strongly encourage families who are adopting to consider planning a vacation specifically for a special time of bonding. I wish I could share pictures but since they are not legally ours yet I still am not allowed to do that. I also am out of storage on my blog here. :bummer:

I wish we were still at the beach. But alas, we are home and reality is in full swing. Upon returning I was made aware that our boys biological mother requested visitation. Since DFCS has yet to terminate parental rights, (they have filed three times and keep messing up paperwork) she can not be denied this privilege. We went a few weeks with no action and then I received a phone call from a transporter who would pick the boys up and supervise the visits. My heart sank. It feels so wrong and unfair. All because of “policies” the system allows these children to be yanked around and thrown into confusing situations that will only deepen their trauma. While I’m trying to build and strengthen the boys trust in me as their mother, caregiver and protector now I’m having to put them in a car with a stranger, to go have play time with another stranger, who will claim to be their “mommy”. I don’t mean to come off harsh but I struggle to call her their mother when she hasn’t been a mother to them for two years. Their great grandmother was their “mother” for the last year and a half. (which is another story) This is all just hard and I’m human and oh so fallible. I did the best I could to explain to K that he was having a visit with someone he may remember and that a helper would come to take him and brother. I told him they would play with toys and then the helper would bring them home. And then I cried in private and called out to my Helper. I know God is sovereign in all this and it’s another opportunity for us to rely on and trust in Him. Thankfully, the boys did well and it sounds like the visit went something like when they get dropped off at the church nursery. They played and were pleasant and excited to come home to me, mommy. Please pray that the TPR hearing would be expedited quickly. These children need normalcy and stability and consistency. And as long as we are waiting for rights to be terminated all of that is very difficult to have.

I have so much more to write about. I am learning SO MUCH in this foster to adopt journey. Like boundaries you must set, conversations you can’t avoid, things you just have to say no to, and so much more. I also have some fun stuff to write about like how we acquired a puppy, a pig, and two bunnies in one month. And tomorrow is Calebs 6th Birthday! I hope I can get a birthday letter in for that boy. Heck I hope I can get his birthday in period! This momma is off her game lol. Lesson number 465 in the adoption journey…… Grace. Grace. Give yourself lots of grace.

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When you feel at wits end…..

I’ve been really overwhelmed. The last couple weeks I felt I was floundering in all this parenting stuff. I’m not saying I have it figured out now.

But I can breathe again.

Fostering and adoption in some ways is like having a baby. In the way that you have no idea what exactly is going to change when this new life (or lives) makes their entrance into your world. You can’t predict the amount of sleep you may or may not get, how long the adrenaline of the newness will last, and what you just wont be able to handle. You try to prepare and plan but it’s life. The thing that tends to be different though with fostering and adoption is typically the onlookers do not view it like giving birth to a new baby. It’s not their fault. I think it’s a lack of awareness. But it’s awkward asking for baby showers and meal trains, ya know what I mean? (But now you know so it’s on you :-/ 😉 ) So I reckon a lot of foster/adoptive families just hunker down and push through it but some times you just need to ask for help.

I didn’t actually have to ask for help (I should have asked) but I was crying out enough to my parents that the Holy Spirit prompted them to come. Praise the Lord! My mom came one week, with her little foster baby in tow. They used frequent flyer miles and jumped through DFCS travel request hoops, navigated airports and plane rides and baggage claims, all for me and my family. And it was good. I still cried almost every day as my mom and I processed everything that was going on from schedules, sleep issues, behaviors, healthy ways to approach everything and additionally wondering where the loss of our baby played into all this. It was wonderful having a listening, intuitive, compassionate ear, another set of eyes around, not to mention the helping hands. And Jason kept all the children, all 6!, so we could have a Barnes and Noble date to pick up some new parenting material. I was bawling my eyes out on the way to the airport as that Reckless Love song played because I felt “God has shown me his reckless love time and again through my parents.” What a blessing. I want to be this for my children.

And then the next week my dad came. And that was fantastic. I was able to get some appointments in, child free, including getting my hair done. My dad’s company is so comforting. He is great at running errands and taking the kids to places like the animal shelter and coming home with a free bunny. I love having him here. He is a constant source of affirmation and encouragement and sometimes that’s exactly what a mom needs.

I was uplifted though and I can tell that there has been a shift in the overall tone in our home. It went from chaotic and stressful and everyone was feeling it to now there is peace and joy and truly I can tell the kids sense this as well. Everyone’s behavior and moods are better. Whoever said the mother sets the tone of the home was right! And that’s no easy feat. Please continue to pray for me!

But my main point is, if you need help, ask someone! It’s hard, I get it. I tend to think in my mind “We chose to have all these kids we should be able to handle this transition ourselves.” But when the Bible instructs us to “bear each other’s burdens” I believe this would be an example of just that. God didn’t mean for us to do this alone. And I know they are my parents but they are Christians, too, responding to the Holy Spirit. As Christians this is what we are called to do for our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10 NIV

I also wanted to share some of the helpful reading material that I’ve utilized with our little guys and combined with a peaceful mother these books and “tactics” have been tremendously helpful. I think we are beginning to break through with some behaviors which is immensely encouraging because at first I was like “is this even helping?!?” You guys I am SO impatient. Another thing the Lord has been impressing on me but I don’t want to get side tracked.

For the parent:

The Connected Child (a must read!)

For the children:

Hands are not for Hitting

Sharing Time

(Lots of books similar to these, I want them all!!!)

I read these books to the boys daily and quote phrases from them during the day. They are so good. Very simple and direct but the boys totally get it.

Thank you for your prayers. In the last week we have had some wonderful times of bonding and joy (and full nights sleep for J). We celebrated they’re 2nd and 3rd birthdays this week which was such a treat and milestone for us as a family. God is with us.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

an honest update

I really shouldn’t be blogging right now. So many other things I should probably be doing. But when the Lord leads….. I came to my computer to print off a “sleeping log” because our two year old is not sleeping through the night. I have been aware of this sleep issue. Every time we’ve kept K and J we would experience night time waking. Grandma would even share with me that they would get up and “play” in the middle of the night, have a 3 am snack, whatever. I thought it was a product of bad habits and we could quickly correct it with a few nights of letting him cry, self soothe, get himself back to sleep. You know, instead of intervening with gold fish and mickey mouse clubhouse. It’s been a month and I realize once again how ignorant I am. This is a much deeper and bigger problem than I thought. We’re not only experiencing sleepless nights with J but he’s also exhibiting behavioral issues, aggression and anger. I mean can you blame him? I just got off the phone with my parents (in tears) having an “I don’t know what to do!” moment. I’m discouraged. I’m tired. I know the parenting tools I’ve utilized for 11 years aren’t completely useless but in this moment I feel like I have no tools and no clue what I’m doing. And it’s different with K and J now because they are here to stay and I want to give them the very best and what they need to benefit them for their whole life.

You know how it is when you bring home a newborn baby and you’re figuring everything out. You’re unsure, you’re trying new things, trial and error,… I look back and think how sweet it was to bring home this blank canvas of a newborn that I carried safely in my womb with no trauma. It was hard and we made some mistakes but they weren’t devastating. I feel like I did then, a new parent we’ve brought home a 2 year who’s canvas is not blank, in fact at conception someone took a bunch of black paint and dumped it all over and for the last 2 years people have been putting their brush strokes on it trying to “fix” it. He’s not this clean, white canvas. He’s been hurt, neglected, yanked around, has trust issues. He doesn’t know how to sleep or self soothe or deal with his big emotions. Just because J has lived in two “good homes” (ours and great grandparents) doesn’t mean that he’s unaffected by every move, every visit, every strange face waltzing in and out of his life.

My heart has so much compassion for him.

But I’m human and we’ve had some hard days with this little guy. I’ve felt defeated and insecure, I’ve been impatient (with everyone), I’ve been waking up bewildered on how to go about my day. Some days I have felt like we’ve been in time out all.day.long. and I go to bed thinking “What a waste of a day? Did I accomplish anything?” I have felt like a tyrant raising a tyrant. And then of course there are the other four imperfect children to shepherd as well. So yeah, I guess you could say, one month in we are DEFINITELY still adjusting, to say the least.

In the weariness, hopelessness, defeat and exhaustion I finally made myself get out of bed early enough to cry out to Jesus. Psalm 62:5 “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.” I picked up Paul David Tripp’s book “Parenting”. In it he writes a sweet reminder, “Here is the single redemptive reality, right here, right now, that makes parenting possible: God in you……This means that God is with you in the morning when you dread getting out of bed and facing another hard parenting day. He is with you when you have to break up the seventeenth squabble of the morning. He is with you when you have an opening for a very important talk. He is with you when your children are in your face and disrespectful. He is with you when you fall into bed with a combination of exhaustion and regret. He gifts you with His presence. He really does live inside you. You aren’t left to yourself. And he will not turn his back on you until what he has called you to do is complete.”

Today I checked out from our library the No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and have already dove in. Apparently sleeplessness can make for one difficult toddler! No kidding!! I know we have a long road ahead, with lots more to learn. I don’t have a neat little bow to wrap this blog up with. But I am printing out some sleep logs and taking the next step and God is in me. I do want to leave you with this song though, because it’s a new favorite of mine and a reminder of how I should love others, as Christ loves me, but it’s been a really timely reminder in my parenting and love for little J. Oh I pray that God would continue to strengthen me with his Spirit and his reckless love.

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.

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.

The God Of All Comfort

On August 7th with great surprise and joy we found out that we were having another baby. Number 4! I was shocked and thrilled and a little bit scared all at once. The weeks that followed were filled with wonderful happiness as we gradually began sharing the news with loved ones. Over the Labor Day weekend I made a trip to Florida to tell Jason’s family and my siblings. It was wonderful having all that support and excitement.

At 10 weeks I went in for a routine appointment. I was looking forward to hearing the heart beat on the doppler this time. I had been having spotting, which was abnormal compared to my other 3 pregnancies. I also suspected I had a uti the week prior but there was no bacteria in my urine. It was strange all the symptoms and discomfort and yet no apparent reason. On my drive to the OB, as I sang “Thy will be done”, I had this strong sense that God was preparing me for sad news.

There is no heart beat.

I felt like the air was being sucked from the room. I immediately started crying. I have never lost a baby and have had 3 healthy pregnancies. But in the wake of that moment Gods presence was so near to me and Romans 8:28 just became even more personal.

Jeremiah 8:18 “You are my Comforter in sorrow, my heart is faint within me.”

I can’t even describe the deep sadness I have felt. Psalm 119:28 “My soul is weary with sorrow, strengthen me according to your word.” I have brief moments where I’m not crying but mostly I just keep crying. When I think about not seeing this babies face or holding him/her, letting that little hand wrap around my finger. Knowing that our kids will not be getting a little brother or sister. We have so much love built up for this baby and just like that, no heart beat. I’ve never known this kind of ache and grief. And yet I know my gracious Father will not waste it. I sense his strong comfort and peace, even in my ache and tears, I know with certainty “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭This promise doesn’t diminish my grief but it strengthens my hope in the midst of my grief. I can cry and rest in that promise all at the same time.

On top of finding out this very sad news we were faced with the decision of having a d&c done or waiting for my body to do what it should do. You have all these emotions and then you have to decide what’s next. It’s scary and confusing, mounted on top of trying to grieve this tremendous loss. I never knew all these details involved with having a miscarriage. I was really concerned over possibly having a d&c. I began asking for prayer that God would allow my body to do what it was designed to do in this situation. The next 2 days it all began to happen naturally. More tears, more sadness, but also gratefulness for God sparing me the decision of the d&c.

During this time we have had countless family and friends praying on our behalf and loving us in so many ways. It has been incredible knowing how many people have prayed for peace, comfort, and wisdom for us. And we have received all those things in abundance. I would say I have more of a bent towards depression and God in his great mercy has covered me with comfort and confidence during this difficult time. I didn’t know you could be so sad and at the same time be at such peace in Gods sovereign plan. I didn’t know I could have such deep grief and yet fully assured of Gods goodness in something so heartbreaking. It’s something that doesn’t even make sense to me and yet, it’s where he has me. I feel like a child crying buckets of tears while being wrapped securely in my Fathers arms while he whispers, “It’s going to be okay.”

My mom was able to fly in almost immediately. As a family we had a little burial and ceremony to honor this little life. As much as I instinctively want to shield my children from hurt, this time has deepened all of our understanding of compassion, thoughtfulness, the preciousness of life and of course love. We are closer now and I wouldn’t change how we’ve included them in our rejoicing and now in our grief.

I can’t express the comfort I have felt from the body of Christ. The cards, flowers, prayers, messages,…. there has been an outpouring of love as you have grieved with us. I haven’t had the chance to tell everyone, but others have shared for us and I have been told of ALL the prayers for us. Thank you for mourning with us and praying on our behalf. We are so blessed and grateful. I’ll end with this scripture from Habakkuk. I love the imagery of this passage and the message it’s conveying and its what I am praying over my heart. That even when I have precious things taken away, I can trust and rejoice in my Savior. Please pray with me.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk‬ ‭3:17-18‬