Caleb turns 6!

Caleb, today you turn six. I can’t believe my baby boy is six. That adorable chubby, tractor loving boy is growing up so fast. No more baby chunk. And your love for tractors has been replaced by legos and a play station. Boohoo. Can we please bring the tractors back?! And now you are not the only boy. You are a big brother to two more boys! And I am happy to see you growing into that role. It’s truly wonderful when I see you running around chasing the little guys and I absolutely love hearing how tickled they get. I love when K requests that you come say goodnight to him and I love when you don’t want to go to bed because you want to keep playing with them. Sometimes they annoy you but I guess that’s what makes all this brotherly love genuine.

This year you completed preschool and I got to hear all.year.long. from your teachers what a sweet boy you are. In the beginning of the year I wondered how long they would be singing your praises, but sure enough your sweet compliant spirit carried through the entire year. They wanted a school full of Calebs! I have to say, you are a sweet, gentle, kind boy and I hope you become that kind of man when you grow up.

Speaking of your sweetness, one thing I want to highlight is your hugs. Every single morning the VERY first thing you do when you wake up is come straight to me and give me a great big morning hug. And you NEVER forget to tell me goodnight and give me like 6 hugs because you always need “just one more”. I love this so much.

We had a few milestones this year. You learned how to swim. You got your very first professional haircut. (Mommy now realizes she has no business cutting hair, haha!) You lost your first tooth and since then two more! You are champ at losing teeth by the way. You’re sisters hate it but you pull them out like a boss!

You still are so silly. It’s just who you are. You still make the funniest facial expressions. You’ve been talking about your birthday every day since last July and last night you asked me if I had gotten you any presents. (I haven’t) And when I said “How can I, I’m always with you?” You responded, “Well I sleep in pretty late.” Oh Caleb. You do typically have a reasonable answer to solve every problem.

Caleb you were ecstatic when mommy announced she was having a baby. And like us all you were sad when we lost the baby. But you know that baby is with Jesus. And every night you bring me my special bear that was given to me in the wake of our mourning. You understand when people are sad and you do what you know to do to offer comfort. I hope you remain sensitive like that always.

I love you buddy. Our whole family loves you so much. I pray you will always know how special and loved you are and how much I loved you being my baby boy for so long. I enjoyed you in ways I don’t think my young immature self could enjoy your sisters. I treasured my pregnancy and every day with you after because I was old enough to appreciate more of mothering. You are kind of the most “middle” child kid I know. You are between two sisters who are so close and two brothers that are so close but I pray you find how God wants to use you and your unique birth ordered experience. I pray you entrust your life to him. Your strengths and your weaknesses. That’s always my prayer for you kiddos. I love you so very much! Happy 6th Birthday, to our first “buddy”. (And now I’ll go have a good cry)

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Hope Renewed: Part 4

Part 4

It’s crazy. So much of this journey has felt long. We have had to wait. They have had to wait. Wait for answers, wait for case plan decisions, and wait for direction  from the Lord. And the waiting is not over. We still have so far to go. But we’re in! We’re pursuing them, pursuing making them our boys. I already catch myself referring to them as “mine” or “ours”. I tear up just thinking about it. I feel like in the midst of trying to decide there were some fears that came with the unknown. But the moment we decided so much of that fear has been crushed! God is infusing my heart daily with more love and trust and confidence. I know we will face challenges, opposition even, but, “The Lord is my Light and Salvation, whom shall I fear? Whom shall I be afraid?”

re·new verb

past tense: renewed; past participle: renewed

resume (an activity) after an interruption.

synonyms:       resume, return to, take up again, come back to, begin again, start again, restart,…

When you look at the definition of renew, I think you’ll understand why I chose the title, Hope Renewed. So much of our story with the boys has been “come back to” and “start again”. And so much of their story is about “beginning again”. Of course I wish the world was not the way it was, that children didn’t come into foster care, and that life altering decisions weren’t so complex and messy. Of course I wish they had not experienced so much disruption in their life and no I can’t understand why it all happened the way it did. But then there is hope. There is Jesus Christ. I thought about titling this “All Things New” because that is the hope we have in Christ, that he IS making all things new. Where sin has broken and torn and messed up, Jesus steps in and offers hope and healing. And that’s what he’s doing in the boys life and in ours.

April 10, 2018….. That date probably holds little significance to you. I forgot how significant it was for me, for our family. The Lord didn’t though. I want to share with you one of the most gracious, amazing confirmations I believe we received from the Lord about adopting these boys.

We got a call March 23rd that there would be a permanency hearing for the boys on April 10th at 1:00pm. The permanency hearing will be to officially move them to our home and begin the adoption process. The following Sunday I went to put that event in my calendar on my phone. On that day, at that exact time, I had entered something else. Eight months ago I had put on my calendar for April 10th that baby was due. Ironically the default time was 1:00pm. I mean seriously? How in the world is it possible that these two dates, established eight months apart, after everything we’ve been through, would land together? Because God is just that cool and sweet and awesome. I got chills and tears and could not believe how specific God would be in our future and in theirs. I believe with every part of me he is redeeming and healing all these pieces of their life and ours together. And this is just the beginning of it.

So as my sweet friend so appropriately put it, I am “nesting”. Baby shower anyone?? Hehe! We’ve been having fun rearranging rooms and I love hearing Caleb talk about how he “will not sleep in his new room till the boys get here”. He asks me every day “When are we adopting the boys?” and he also very excitedly informed me, “Now that we are adopting K and J we will have enough kids to play manhunt!” I think he’s excited to get some brothers.

This is not the end of our story though. Please keep us and them in your prayers. Pray for our relationship with the great grandparents. We didn’t always know if we would adopt the boys but we did always know that God was using us in the boy’s lives and in the lives of their family. Pray for strength and wisdom as we jump back into parenting toddlers. Pray that the boys would integrate into our family, both immediate and extended. Pray for protection during the adoption process because we still fall under “adoption legal risk” as they are not officially “freed” for adoption yet. Which basically means it’s not over till the court says it’s over.

I am so honored to get to share this amazing story of God’s faithfulness through fearful, unsure, slow learners like ourselves. It’s been awesome to write and reflect on all the ways God sustained us when we wanted to quit and orchestrated His will through the doubts and fears and imperfect steps of obedience, faith, and trust. I can’t even tell you all the ways I look back and see his hands, “Oh, now I understand…” I look forward to writing “Part 5” and we are so grateful for your support and prayers.

Hope Renewed: Part 3

Part 3

From October-January we did not receive a placement. I rested, I grieved, I took steps in healing, I spent lots of time with Jesus, I stayed up late with my family, we traveled to Florida A LOT, I ran, I read, we rejoiced throughout the holidays,…… we slowed way down for a season and it was good.

During this time God overwhelmed my soul with peace. Peace about our loss. Peace about the boys. Peace about the future and His will.

Then we got the call about baby E, who was precious and delightful. He was good medicine for this girls grieving heart. I quickly unleashed all this stored up baby love on him and enjoyed (most) every minute he was with us. He was soon placed in relative care and all was quiet and slow again.

In February, 2018, we were on our way home from Florida. Great grandma calls needing someone to watch the boys. They had to be removed from their adoptive placement and DFCS is no longer considering the family for permanency. They are back to square one, looking for a forever home for these two little guys. Everyone is shocked, the boys and grandparents are a bit traumatized, Jason and I are bewildered. “Lord, what are you doing? What’s your plan here?” At this point, Great Grandma and Grandpa are emphatic, they do not want to put these babies through any more trauma. I don’t blame them. My heart hurts over all the upheaval in their short lives. She expresses to me that the only family (outside of them) she would consider for the boys is us. She knows we’ve been through a lot, is sensitive and not pressing us for an immediate answer.

So we start praying and talking and praying.

Throughout this process I’ve learned a valuable lesson as it relates to adoption. It’s not always immediately crystal clear. Maybe some times it is, but in our experience there has been just A LOT of working through it, questioning, hypotheticals, etc. We want to do what is in their best interest and we can’t just automatically assume that’s us! I share that to encourage the ones considering adoption that didn’t get the “lightning bolt” moment or “know instantly this is my child”. I’ve heard those phrases a lot in fostering and adoption circles and it made me wonder if something was wrong with us because that was not our experience. We’ve known we LOVE the boys, but we had to really work through if we were the best family for them.

As we continued praying and talking through this again, and learned more details of what happened I did wonder things like, did we made a mistake the first time? Did the boys have to go through all that? What was the point of everything that happened? Did we just need more time? I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it a hundred more even at the risk of sounding cliché, God works in the most mysterious ways. It’s not cookie cutter, it doesn’t always make sense to us. We take one step at a time, striving for obedience, trusting God with the outcome, and sometimes it doesn’t look how we expected…. And we just keep walking, taking the next obedient step of faith.

All we knew was God was still weaving their story with our story which kept drawing our eyes to HIS story.

We had a lot of concerns to work through before we would fully commit. The situation we are in (having relationship with biological family) made me wonder how that would look in the future. How do we navigate this relationship?  Would they respect and support our decisions as parents? Would we agree on waiting till the boys are old enough to tell them their story? Would they allow people in their life that we aren’t comfortable with? Will they finally let us cut baby K’s hair? It wasn’t just a matter of adopting the boys. The great grandparents and all their history are part of the deal, too! We start spending more and more time with K and J and it becomes more clear. Peace and confidence are growing stronger as we talk more about adoption. Each time we’re with them, each time we get in God’s Word, every time we pray, every time Jason and I talk, the only reasons to NOT call these boys are own, are fear driven, selfish or worldly. But you guys, we have JESUS. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 Fearful, selfish, or worldly reasons don’t work! Our hearts begin shifting into “Yes” mode. I start asking the great grandparents some of the tougher questions. There’s this miraculous unity between the grandparents desires and ours. Every step we take, every question we ask, God is affirming our yes.

(to be continued)

Hope Renewed: Part 2

Part 2

Fostering was different for me following the allegation. I wasn’t naive anymore. I knew what hurting, desperate people were capable of and willing to inflict on innocent people. I was overwhelmingly anxious every single time baby K bumped his head or got a bug bite. I continually placed my fears in the Lords hands. Often times these fears kept me from the joy and freedom I once knew, as I anxiously tried to prevent toddler injuries. It totally went against my “free range” parenting method that my children flourished under. It was hard but ultimately it allowed me to exercise an area of my faith that needed strengthening.

In December of 2016 the boys were placed in relative care, with their great grandparents.

I wrote about saying goodbye.

I’ve written about how we’ve maintained relationship with them.

Their great grandparents have relied on us for relief and we’ve been more than happy to provide it. When it was obvious that these boys could not be reunified, we all started wondering what their permanency plan would be. At their age the great grandparents knew they could not provide the level of care the boys needed. Our family had formed quite a bond with these boys. We loved them, our kids loved them, it all just seemed to fit. From May-September of 2017 we were having conversations about us possibly adopting them. There were still a lot of loose ends in their case plan, paternity to prove, parental rights to terminate, and so on. I felt very strongly that this was God’s will for us to pursue adoption, we just had to let it work itself out.

During that time Jason was very busy with Papa Johns and a partner in a new contracting company. We had baby C who, to no fault of her own, was very emotionally taxing for me. I was caring for all these kiddos, in large part on my own and had a lot on my plate. I was fixing my coffee one morning and suddenly felt weak. I knew I was about to pass out. Fortunately I made it to the couch and avoided serious injury. When I came to, I was freaking out. I had been eating fine. I hadn’t been sick. I was really concerned about what had caused me to collapse. I felt horrible. My chest was super tight. I was on the verge of throwing up. We tried going to the walk in clinic but they instructed me to go to the ER. After they ran every test possible (and we racked up a pretty hefty bill) it turned out I was severely dehydrated. Obviously we were relieved, but I was puzzled. I have never been dehydrated. How did this happen? And what good am I to all these kiddos if I’m neglecting my body and it’s shutting down? Doubt was starting to creep in. Was it too much? Could I handle all this?

Then in August we got our surprise positive pregnancy test. I was excited, but also freaking out. We’re talking about adopting two boys, 1 and 2 years old, and now I’m pregnant! We would go from 3 to 6 children in less than a year. Were we ready for that? So many questions loomed. I mean I questioned EVERYTHING. Myself. My husband. God. My motives. My faith. We didn’t know what to think. We went back and forth trying to figure this out, wrap our brains around our situation and what to do. And then I lost the baby. My heart was hurting and broken. Because I had never suffered a miscarriage before, I wondered again about my body. I know I didn’t do anything wrong and I was in good health, but these experiences left me feeling weak and fragile. At that time we decided to back away from any major decisions. I wasn’t in a place where I could confidently move in either direction. I didn’t want to say no or yes. And it wasn’t just about me, it was about everyone, including the boys. Again I wondered if I was in a place of being able to give everyone the care and attention they would need. I just needed time to grieve, heal and process.

During that time, their great grandma called to tell me that some relatives came forward and want to adopt the boys. What could I be but excited? The boys needed permanency and stability. This family wanted to give that to them. Of course I had moments where I doubted and wondered. “Is this family right for them?” “What about our family?” “What’s in the boy’s best interest?” But I laid all those concerns over to the Lord. I entrusted them to Him and prayed for them; their protection, their future, their salvation.

I reminded myself that in this ministry, so often, loving them is letting them go.

(To be continued)

Not So New Resolution

It’s January. I love the New Year. Does anyone dislike the New Year? I mean who doesn’t love the idea of fresh, clean slates. New mercies. New season. I can’t explain why a simple change of date and month causes me to feel so invigorated but it does.

I don’t have a resolution…. I don’t even have a word this year (or last year apparently!) I do have scripture though. God plopped me down in Ephesians and for a little over a week has basically said, “Stay put.” It started with Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, that it may benefit those who listen.” I began refreshing my mind with this passage. Asking questions like “What IS unwholesome talk?” “What would or would not benefit those who listen?” And getting tough, convicting responses from the Lord.

One of the most memorable sermons I have ever listened to is one John Piper preached entitled, Make Your Mouth a Means of Grace. That pretty much sums it up. In any and every situation I want to ask myself “Is my mouth a means of grace?” “Am I imparting grace to the people around me?” It makes perfect sense for Paul to continue in that chapter with these words, verse 31 and 32 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Jesus taught that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart,….” Matthew‬ ‭15:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬ Whatever we are holding onto in our heart is going to determine whether our mouth can be an instrument of grace. So that got me thinking…. when my mouth is NOT being a means of grace, what is the sin I’m holding onto? Is it resentment, a sense of entitlement, impatience, or unforgiveness? When my words are tender, humble, and loving, it’s because my desire is to love and honor Jesus. And when my words are uplifting, beneficial, and gracious, you can trace it directly back to Who is on the throne of my heart. But when my words are ugly, negative, harsh, or sarcastic it’s not a reflection of my love for Jesus, it’s just me unyielded to the Holy Spirit. This has been a powerful time, meditating on Gods Word and doing my own heart check. God has made me keenly aware of how desensitized I can become to my own sin, justifying these “little” grievances that are detestable to him. Bitterness, greed, resentment, envy, slander, etc. can infiltrate our hearts slowly and subtly and really begin to wreak havoc on our spiritual life and relationships. As I began reading these verses, fully aware that I’m not immune against these sins, I asked God to bring it all to light. Sometimes we have to pray that so we can confess and repent and truly “rid” ourselves of it all.

Bring it to light, Lord.

This morning I honed in on the beginning of Ephesians 4, verses 2 and 3, “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Does that not just knock you out of your chair? Thats a pretty heavy commission for us! I mean, every day I have to fight the inclination to be the antithesis of that passage. I love the people in my life but the fact is relationships are hard. If we’re honest, people we love can be annoying and hard to love sometimes. I know I can be!! My sinful knee jerk reaction to frustrating situations is anger. I get hot, physically, and my chest gets tight with angry feelings. And then if it doesn’t get dealt with properly I might just get bitter or resentful. You can usually tell this by whatever comes out of my mouth and it’s not grace. But I want to speak grace and life. In joyous times, in the mundane times, and in the uncomfortable, hard confrontations I want my heart to be right with God and my words to “build others up, so it may benefit those who listen”.

God didn’t put all this in his Word to make us despairing, feeling as though we can not possibly do this. He put it there because through Christ we are more than conquerors. I have experienced how powerful it is to pray through these passages. I have felt a complete shift in my attitude, outlook, and speech when I apply these truths to whatever is going on in my day. Be humble. Be patient. Bear with one another. According to their needs. Keep the unity. Don’t grieve the Spirit of God. Filtering my thoughts through those truths is the key. It also takes a lot of diligence! But God is faithful when we actively put our trust and heart in his hands. And it is life giving when we live according to his Word!

I’ll close with this because our heart, mind, and mouth are all connected. What we put in our mind nourishes our heart and soul. This year, as every year, I pray I would put more and more of the precious, life giving Word of God before me.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians‬ ‭4:4-8 NIV‬‬

He Is Enough

“I was walking blindly into a new season, a place that didn’t line up with my plans and dreams for the coming new year. A place that I never would have chosen, never wished or asked for. But God’s promise to Abraham spoke to me. God wasn’t promising me ease. He wasn’t promising that things would go as planned. He wasn’t promising a world without trouble, without heartbreak along the way. He was promising me Himself.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

If you are looking for a good book I encourage you to read this one. It was appropriate timing that this book arrived in the mail for me today.

Today I recognized that I still have some grieving to do. I told my mom that I was having a strange urge to cry that I didn’t understand. I’ve been “fine”. When my miscarriage has come up I have felt “okay.” But today it was like the flood gates unexpectedly opened back up and my heart is aching like it did the day I learned of our loss. This is still all so foreign to me. I’m starting to learn that when you experience loss, it never stops resurfacing. And sometimes you can handle it emotionally and sometimes you just can’t.

I long for another child. I long for our family to continue growing. It also doesn’t help that Caleb asks me every other day, “When will we get a baby?” He tells me he wants a brother, after all “Micaila and Ryann have a little brother. I want one, too.” I mean who can argue with that? We pray for God to grow our family (however he chooses) and right now I’m struggling to be patient as I wait on his revealed plan. Before I found out I was pregnant we thought God was leading us to adoption but that door closed. Then we were having a baby naturally,…….then we weren’t. Now we are waiting for a placement. Which isn’t meant to be permanent but I certainly wouldn’t mind lavishing all this love on someone temporarily. And yet, here we wait. And the thing God whispers over and over and over is, “In your grief, in your waiting, you have Me.” Because so often when I want something, good somethings, I tend to start thinking Jesus + said thing will make everything better, whole, satisfied. And I have certainly searched my heart wondering, “Is Jesus enough for me?” I want to say whole heartedly “yes!” I guess maybe that’s the point of this season. Maybe God keeps us in these places so we will truly understand deep down that He is in fact enough. He is enough when we have and enough when we have not. He is always enough and He is always good.

“His desire is for us- that we would know His love in these unexpected broken places and that we would know the true hope found only in His Son Jesus, the Lamb, who never, ever stops reaching out for us, who cups our pain in His nail-scarred palms and cradles our hearts close to His. He wants to be our reward.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

Coveting, comparing, and Christ

It’s been a LONG time since I have fought the sin of covetousness or have felt sucked in and drug down by comparing. I have other issues but those haven’t seemed to crop up in awhile. I figured I just didn’t struggle in that way, that I was simply “content” with the things God gave me. It’s hard not to be, he has given us so much.

And then it happened.

We were invited to a birthday party for my new friends daughter. And my new friend was a gracious host. She doesn’t live in a huge house but her home is very beautiful. Her decorating taste was very appealing to my eyes. Fresh paint, clean carpet, gleaming hardwoods, beautiful fabrics and accessories. Not over the top but tasteful. Everything was in its proper place, inside and out.

The order, cleanliness, and tastefulness of her home surfaced that old familiar temptation to covet and compare.

Our home is beautiful. I love our home and am so grateful God has entrusted it to us. It’s interesting though how something as simple as someone else’s clean, pretty home potentially can create feelings of inadequacy , or discontent, or wanting more in your own home. I found myself with this “decorating itch” that HAD to be scratched. And scratch I did! I started making a list of what we needed; new area rug, new bedding, more flowers, (because flowers are cheery and bright!) new paint, recover a few things, etc etc. I went to Hobby Lobby, TJmaxx, Walmart, and Home Depot. And then there was all the time spent online,….scrolling.

And more scrolling.

But I was struggling. Not only could I not justify spending the money, I was convicted over the amount of time the whole process of decorating was taking up. This itch was becoming an idol. And my gracious, glorious God will have none before Him.

In His mercy, the Lord kept putting truth before me.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy‬ ‭6:6-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I know that a pristine house is not only unrealistic for our family (Today, thanks to Jake, we have dead animal limbs strewed about our yard) but it’s also not going to be the thing that makes me happy. I think that is the core lie that Satan wants us to believe. That this will bring forever happy feelings. This will satisfy me. This will be the thing that does the trick. But I know in my heart that’s not true. I know it is impossible for me to find true joy in the material earthly things. I may find temporary happiness but it’s just that. Temporary. Fleeting. Lasting joy is found in the Lord and being surrendered to Him. My deepest joys have been found in reading and obeying His Word, in honoring Him in my marriage and parenting, in gathering with the body of Christ, in serving children in foster care,…… but buying new throw pillows? No. That joy lasts all of 24 hours and then they become rocks to jump on to escape hot lava and I’m torn between wigging out on my kids and being caught up in the nostalgia.

Today we sang Forever Reign and I had to ask myself if I meant what I was singing.

“I’m running to Your love. The riches of Your love, will always be enough. Nothing compares to Your embrace. Light of the world forever reign….. my heart will sing, no other name, Jesus.”

If I’m honest, for the last week, that hasn’t been true for me. I have desired an immaculate and well decorated home over Jesus. This past week I have desired what the world deems rich over the riches of Christ love. But the conviction of those lyrics, confessing my misplaced worship, and the power of the Holy Spirit have rightly aligned my heart to His again. I know this is not the last time I’ll fight this battle. Fortunately, I only bought a few fake flowers that were on sale! :-/ But I truly am grateful that, even in my struggle, I’m aware of this truth. “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John‬ ‭2:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬ Christ and His Kingdom are the only lasting treasures.

“But seek first the Kingdom of God…” Matthew 6:33a ESV