Three Lessons

Yesterday marked five months since the boys came back to live with us. I think I can officially say we are out of the weeds. (Or maybe you prefer “woods” but for those of us that worked in the restaurant industry, it’s “weeds.”) We still face our challenges. There are still hard days, many behavioral and trauma related issues, and plenty of legal annoyances to settle (the boys are still not officially adopted) BUT we are eating less corn dogs, our home is a little less dirty, we are getting a lot more sleep, and I’m not crying nearly as much from exhaustion and being overwhelmed. Yay for progress!

I’d like to share three things the Lord is teaching me.

1.) Appreciate each little step.

I find myself more and more in these moments where I can look at the boys and really FEEL in my bones they are mine. I smile and giggle over their little personalities and the unique ways God has created them. I can envision the ways He might use them in the future. The frustration of their negative behaviors lingers less and has been replaced with a passion to equip them however I can for life. I appreciate little things like leaving undergarments ON and making it to the potty. Snuggling up for a book and going to sleep without tears. Learning to like tilapia and other healthy foods. And being the one that can fix their boo-boos. For the first four months I was not the one who could fix a boo-boo, it was “mawmaw will fix it.” And one day K got his fingers caught in a door at school and it was pretty bad. He only wanted ME. “Mommy will fix it. Mommy will make it better.” I never realized how something that simple really signifies me being the mommy.

2.) Be content when there is no progress.

This is a hard one. There are definitely days when you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere. When the tears never end, and the kicking and screaming is volatile, when the aggressive behavior continues, when all you here is “NO!” or “I don’t want to!”, when you look at your children and just wonder, “Are they happy here?” “How can I help them?” “What’s happening in their little minds?” We all want for our children to be peaceful and happy. No one wants to see their child in turmoil and chaos all the time. As a foster/adoptive mother I also want to be confident that I am actually helping my child move forward in healing. So a lack of progress can make you feel like a failure in that. But instead of focusing on progress God is calling us to have patience, trust Him and love unconditionally. Love when there is no progress.

3.) How much are you willing to give?

Being called to foster/adopt you know it will involve sacrifice. But you can never know what little daily things God will ask you to give or give up for these children. I have a tendency to think that “I’m sacrificing this so I deserve this.” That’s just not a Biblical way to view sacrifice. There are so many moments in my day where I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me, asking me “Can you stop that for now?” “Can you put your phone down?” “Can you let the laundry pile up a little bit more?” “Those dishes can wait.” “Will you read a few more books?” I know its opportunity to serve my children better and to be more intentional and present in my parenting but many times I respond, “No, I can’t do that.” or “I deserve this bit of down time.” I’m praying for growth and maturity in this area. That I would see the immense value in all those little mothering opportunities and that my heart would desire pleasing the Lord over what I think will make me feel better in the moment.

Yesterday I went to the library and checked out a stack of books in an effort to continue my education on the layers of adoption, trauma, attachment, sibling rivalry, and developmental delays. I’d like to ask you to pray that I would be able to become well informed on how to meet the various needs of our children. I’d also like to continue asking for prayer that we would not run into any more delays or hang ups with the TPR hearing. It’s so important for these boys to have stability and with rights still in place it puts them at risk for unnecessary interference’s. Thank you for all the ways you continue to encourage and support our family. We are blessed beyond measure.

~Katie

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A church. A family. A home.

This evening my heart was completely flooded with joy and praise. And before I go further, let me just interject that today has been HARD. Like WAY hard. So before you get some unrealistic picture from what I’m about to paint…. Picture it all amid several melt downs (including one of my own), a dirty house, a few bite marks,….at this very moment I have a screaming three year old that doesn’t want to sleep because four books was not enough. It’s been hard but you guys God is good even in the hard, amen? The kids and I gathered around our kitchen island (seriously, I can’t believe we are still squeezing the six of us around this thing and there is a dining table four feet away that seats eight! Haha!) I served everyone their plates and Caleb said “And now we can pray!” and Micaila said “Yeah! You’re right, lets pray!” I asked them who wanted to be the one to pray and they all were saying “Me! Me! Me!” This may surprise you all. I mean I AM a pastors daughter, why is this such a big deal? Well I have an even bigger shocker, it’s a big deal because it’s NEVER happened. My children have NEVER wanted to pray at the dinner table. When I have tried to encourage them to, they mostly look down and hope I don’t press to hard.

In April, we visited a church in our small town. This was like our last effort and if it didn’t work out I figured we would just have to move. They were the most genuine welcoming people I had ever been greeted by. They didn’t just give a casual “Good morning, nice to have you.” And assume “You’ll figure the rest out.” They warmly welcomed us, made sure we knew of every event, activity, and appropriate class we could be a part of. Basically, they went great lengths to assure us that they wanted us there.

We’ve visited a lot of churches and one thing I have learned in the process is how important it is to WELCOME visitors. I know. It’s hard. You feel a bit awkward. You wonder if they even want to be spoken to. We have got to get over our own comfort and church cliques and ENSURE people feel welcomed by the body of Christ.

So we tried a Sunday school class and were so impressed by how committed to being in God’s Word this group of adults was. It wasn’t a social hour, it was an hour meant for edifying each other and growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord. And our kids went to class and they thoroughly enjoyed it as well. We recently have been able to start going on Wednesday nights. And we are becoming more and more connected to this church and I see how God is working in the life of this church and my life and my children’s lives. It was not that long ago that Caleb told me “I don’t want to go to church. I don’t like church.” I was heartbroken. As a child I LOVED church. I loved my church family. I loved GA’s and youth, and camp and growing up in church. And I was so discouraged that our children (and me and Jason for that matter) were not connected to God’s people like I had always been.

Last week my kids all shared with me how they wished church was every night. And tonight, hearing their desire to commune with the Lord and thank him for our food and family, I’m just so grateful for God’s faithfulness. We had to hang in there to finally connect with a healthy church. There were times I wanted to give up. Rainy Sundays that I was just fine staying home. But the Holy Spirit kept pressing and pulling and reminding me “You need fellowship with Christians. You need the church. Don’t give up on my Bride!!” I never thought finding a church home would have been the struggle that it was. And I’m so thankful for His grace in that difficult season and for how He has brought us here with this church body.

Link to a previous post on our journey to finding a church. https://familyofgrahams.wordpress.com/2018/02/26/my-struggle-with-church/

Update** On September 23, 2018 our family joined New Harmony Baptist Church. I never imagined how much walking down the aisle, announcing our new membership and being hugged on by the rest of the congregation would mean to me. I was overwhelmed with joy and a very real sense of belonging. I know I belong to Christ but it’s so important to be united to his church. I was giddy all day! And I’m so thankful how God has affirmed our decision with such a joyous confidence.

Thankful for bedtime

So I’m laying in my bed…. Jason had to work late, the girls are still in Florida and I got my buddy Caleb next to me watching Team Umizoomi way to late. I’m reading my new book Confessions of an Adoptive Parent by Mike Berry. I just started it and already feel so encouraged and hopeful.

I don’t know why this struck me just now, maybe it’s the book, “Confessions….” and I felt compelled to write about it but I am SO THANKFUL for bedtime. With our two little guys that is. And let me tell you why.

I love bedtime because on most days it’s the only thing I feel confident I have done right and well.

We have our routine. We get jammie’s on, we read books, we rock a little. For the most part they go to bed well and happy now, maybe a few tears from J but all in all, bedtime is an easy and happy experience. This is a huge deal. We have had bed time issues and I know a lot of children who have experienced trauma deal with on going night time issues.

Our days lately have been hard. The honeymoon is over and we are realizing just exactly what all the trauma and disruption has done to these two little guys. I remember telling Jason one of the “positives” of adopting these boys was that we “know” them. Because we had had them in our home and maintained contact with them…. I naively thought I knew what we were getting into. But I realize now you can’t know or anticipate what you will encounter with children from hard places. There are just so many layers. So much has occurred in their short lives. And it’s all compounding and here we are.

But bedtime is sweet and not just because they are going to bed. Although, that is a wonderful victory for me if I’m being honest. We made it through another day, yay us!! Bedtime is sweet because I enjoy reading to them and they love being read to. And I love reading Pete the Cat and Little Bear and Poems and Prayers. And I know that the simple fact that I get this one moment every night that affirms my soul “This is right”, is not to be taken for granted.

For all the thousand times I doubt myself during the day, I am so grateful to end most nights knowing I did at least one thing well.

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

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

Wherever He leads I’ll go…..or stay

We recently have returned from a wonderful, family filled week in Florida. Jason’s brother Mike is now married to Mrs. Jessica Graham. 🙂 Congrats to those two! So very happy for them. We drove down a few days early and enjoyed time with family and friends in Tampa. We then celebrated their union and marriage over the course of a long weekend in Orlando. As we drove home Sunday I felt I could burst from the precious time spent with the people I love most in this world. As I type about it my eyes fill with tears.

The last few days have been hard. I miss e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. This happens from time to time. I come home from drinking deeply (and non stop) family, friends, love, laughter, affection, all the good, God given gifts of relationship and then find myself home, isolated, and cut off cold turkey. My closest loved ones are 45 minutes away and it’s just far enough for loneliness to settle in comfortably. I remember how, in 2010, we sold our home in Brooksville to move CLOSER to family, only for God to bring us 508 miles away. He has always been gracious, especially allowing us to live in close proximity with our cousins those first few years, but in His sovereign mercy He brought us out a little bit further. And when the newness and excitement wore off I’d be lying if I said I’ve never thought about moving back. Back to Dallas. Back to Tampa. Back anywhere that someone who knows me inside and out resides. All along the way though God has confirmed we should be here. He’s revealed the great needs in this small community and that He indeed wants to partner with us in spreading His Good News to the hopeless. And there are many. Time and again the verse, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sister-yes, even their own life-such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:28 I’m tempted to think life would be better in the company of my family or friends. We’d have more support, help in this ministry, more community with believers, etc. etc. All good things. But God has been clear. My love for Him must trump family, friends, and mostly, my personal comfort. God doesn’t always call us away from these relationships, but for us now He has. His Word also tells us, “We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God. It was all given to us by God’s own power, when we learned he had invited us to share in his wonderful goodness.” ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:3‬ And we can trust that His will and ways are perfect. It may not always feel good but He is in control. I am grateful that family is only an 8 hour drive away and not an entire ocean. God truly knows how to stretch me without my breaking.

Psalm 61:1-5 has been at the forefront of my mind, jotted in my journal, and recited from my lips even at points when I wasn’t “feeling” it. In my sadness I have repeated it over and over and the Word of God has been faithful to restore my trust and confidence in Him.

“Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. For you, God, have heard my vow; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.”

Even as I want so badly to be with family I know in the depths of my soul, Jesus Christ is truly all I need. Sometimes it takes many shed tears and pleading with the Lord (and a few wasted hours on realtor.com) to remember that and have peace about it. Feelings and emotions can be so intense. But I know I have not been forsaken and that God is with me and goes before me. I hope if you are struggling with loneliness you will know that, too. Fight for your joy in Christ, through prayer and reading His Word. Even when you don’t think you have the strength, the faith, or simply dont “feel like it”, persevere at His throne of grace.

Psalm 68:19 “Praise the Lord; praise God our savior! For each day he carries us in his arms.”

For those particularly pesky bouts of melancholy blues I highly recommend When the Darkness Will Not Lift by John Piper. You can download it for free at DesiringGod.org

Let Me Introduce You To My Framily

Katie (and baby due soon!!) Stephen, Addie, and Griffin.

Two years ago God brought the Sapp family into our life. I am not embellishing this story in the least. After the joys of Christmas and being with family and friends in Florida, we settled back into normal life in Lindale and I was overwhelmed with sadness. I missed my family and friends. I desired relationship specifically with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We have sacrificed that a little more each time we’ve moved, from Tampa to Dallas, and Dallas to Lindale. I believe whole heartedly that God has used isolation to draw me closer to Him and I’m grateful for it, but I also believe He absolutely desires us as Christians to live in community with the body of Christ.

On a Sunday in January of 2015 we were driving to a new church, that was very small, and I confessed to God and Jason how much I needed friendship. And SOON. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬ On this same Sunday, for reasons only explained by God, the Sapps, Stephen and Katie, visited this church even though they lived 45 minutes away. When I saw this family come in I knew I had to meet them and apparently the feeling was mutual. We shook hands and made lunch plans all within the 60 seconds of greeting. To say we hit it off would be a complete understatement. There was an immediate connection on all accounts. We extended our lunch invitation to, “Hey we just had company leave and our house is a complete wreck but want to come over?!” On our second “date” Katie and Stephen came over and I had to run dinner to a friend and I left them alone in my house with my kids. It felt right and crazy all at once but I really had a high level of trust with them immediately into our friendship. As inseparable as adults with jobs and kids can possibly be, that was us for the next few weeks. Before we knew it Stephen and Jason were in business together. And it’s rare for that mixture to work but it did! Katie and I have a special bond as well, it’s always been easy, natural, like sisters. And our kids, well, they all adore each other. Even if we’ve gone a month with out seeing Addie and Griffin (which is simply dreadful!) my kids ask about them. Caleb had few things to say he was thankful for at Thanksgiving (he’s a 4 year old boy, I cut him some slack for now) but one thing he was explicit about, “I’m thankful for my best friends, Addie and Griffin.” Me too, buddy. 🙂

We all agree emphatically that God has brought our families together, maybe simply for the deep Christian friendship, maybe for future ministry endeavors. Hopefully one day he intends to get us in the same neck of the woods! 🙂 Outside of Jason’s cousins we haven’t had many friendships that have sharpened us quite like the Sapp’s. Is our friendship perfect? No. Do we love each other flaws and all? No doubt about it! I’m so grateful for a couple more friends that encourage us to pursue hard after Christ. Friends that cheer us on to do tough, or what the world might consider risky, things. I’m grateful for friends to confide in, confess to, and be held accountable by. I’m grateful for the body of Christ, for the unique connection Jesus’ sacrifice established for us. I’m grateful for God expressing his love to me through answering my prayers for friendship. And every time we get together with the Sapp’s, I’m reminded of Gods goodness and love and I’m awestruck again by this deeply personal relationship we get to have with our Father in Heaven. As Stephen affectionately dubbed us, we’re framily; friends that feel like family.

“Praise the LORD! I will thank the LORD with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the LORD! All who delight in him should ponder them. Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails. He causes us to remember his wonderful works. How gracious and merciful is our LORD!” Psalms‬ ‭111:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬