Friday, July 1, 2016

I Have A Band-Aid Now

   I am certain that I never did grow in grace one-half so much anywhere as I have upon the bed of pain.  ~ Charles Spurgeon
      The other day, the kids and I went to the Library to play with the toys and look at books. We had a really good time, but on our way to the car, Evelyn fell in the parking lot and skinned her knee. Later that night, when I tucked her into bed I told her how sorry I was for her that she had gotten hurt, and she just looked at me with the sweetest smile and announced "But, I have a Band-Aid now!" Princesses were staring back at me from her knee, where she had been hurt. She was looking on the bright side and it struck a chord for me deeply. In a way, all of us Blooms have a Band-Aid now. This is our story, how we came to meet the Sunshine baby and how we said goodbye.

             Exactly 40 weeks before our now gone foster daughter was born we were at a CALL information meeting. . The Call is a Christian organization in Arkansas that opens homes of foster parents and encourages them along the way. My husband and I had been praying about what God's next step was for our family. I had ,had two wonderful children, but my pregnancies are very hard, so having another baby was not something we felt peaceful about anymore for a lot of reasons. We next looked into adoption and lastly, into being foster parents. I just wanted to do whatever God wanted me to do. The day we went to the info meeting to become foster parents, my husband and I both clearly heard God tell us to become foster parents. We still had a desire to adopt, but God had a "detour" for us, that we did not expect. I don't specifically believe I was called to foster forever, but that God had a specific little soul for us to care for. I was called to a PERSON, to the most precious little girl. We walked out of the building saying confidently that we knew this was the next step for us. Nine months to the day, we got a call at two in the afternoon that a baby girl was at the hospital and needed a family to stay with.
        The night of our once foster daughter's birth, I couldn't sleep, I was stirred to pray. I had no idea she was being born at the time, I just knew God wanted me to pray for a baby girl and her family. The day Liliana was placed with us, I got a call that afternoon about another child and I said "yes", but in the middle of that call, I got the call for our baby girl. It was like God was telling me I needed to say yes to the second call that was HER and decline the first. My heart raced in anticipation as I felt so wholeheartedly that she was meant for our home. I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off grabbing last minute things and then by 4 pm I was waiting on my front door steps. I could see the car driving down our street. I ran up to the curb, my heart completely on  my sleeve. What would she look like? What will this feel like? I have no idea what to expect. The case worker who brought her from the hospital reached in to grab her carseat and then I saw her for the first time. The most beautiful and tiny baby girl I had ever seen, since Evelyn of course.;) Five pounds of innocent sunshine was handed over to me and within twenty minutes the car that had brought her, drove away. I was her "mom" now, we were her family now... For now.
           I was scared for me. I loved her so much more than I ever imagined, my heart grew just seeing her and then it turned out that she ended up being the most delightful baby, a personality summed up in a ray of sunshine. People would hear I was her foster mom and say "wow, I could NEVER do that, it would be too hard." and all I could think was I have no idea how im going to do this! It IS too hard. God will have to prove to be a healer who's grace is sufficient if I would be able to make it through, because in my own strength there was no way. I spent the first month with her crying myself to sleep, never wanting to be apart and during the day being so happy, because she brought joy. I didn't know how I would survive without her. One night I remember talking to my Nana, and she said something that stuck with me. She said: "I have had many moments in life when I wonder how ill survive this, but I always do. God always makes a way."
        Baby girl laughed extremely early and smiled through life. Samuel had an immediate bond with her as well. He said I can have all the babies in the world, but this baby was HIS baby and he's stuck by that, even after she's gone. He was the best big brother to her, and his love hasn't stopped. Evelyn was a sweet sister, but so young she was more jealous for mommy. Samuel claimed baby and Evy claimed mom. :) Logan poured his heart and soul into her, doing most of the night shifts. He is my hero. Very long story short, I spent a lot of the time at the doctor with her. We had not expected a special needs baby, but God gave me all I needed to be the mom of a baby with a lot of special needs. It was not a burden, but a joy. I miss taking her to the doctor, we had so much quality one on one time there. Even the hard stuff, was good. God's grace is enough.
           Almost seven months later, I got the email that stated the judge was moving custody to someone related to her. No matter how much I know foster care is meant to reconcile, it doesn't make that moment any easier. My heart thumped and eyes burned. Head spinning, I picked her up and started bawling and she started LAUGHING, hysterically. That is so her.:) I kissed her all over her precious little head and she continued to just laugh and laugh. "How Lord, will I survive without this laugh? Will she feel abandoned? Will her laugh go away? She's going to leave the only family she had known. God, let her know how much we love her, let her know we never wanted her to go."I cried until I didn't think I could cry anymore, my mom had to come get the older kids and she cried, too. My cousin Madeline came over with cookies and cheered me up. She helped me get back on my feet that day. There have been a lot of God winks along the way and this was definitely one of them.

          We didn't know exactly when she would leave, so I planned a trip to OKC to see my new nephew at his birth. On my way to the hospital to meet him, I got the news. She would be leaving Monday at 3. My heart raced, I had a flight home on Monday that landed at 2 pm! I felt so out of control, and so shaken. My dad helped me try to move up my flight to Sunday and it was successful. My personality can be both happy and sad all at once. I had an amazing weekend hugging on my baby nephew, and seeing God's gift for our family, a forever nephew was wonderful medicine. On my way to the airport, I got a text that my flight was delayed so long that there would not be a connecting flight until the next day. The weather was ideal, but my particular plane had had some technical difficulties earlier in the day. I was not in control. I had no option, but to leave the next day, the day "my" baby for the past seven months would leave.
          I decided in that moment I could either accept that God was in control and that he was good, or freak out. My inlaws were at my house helping to pack her things. I ended up choosing not to freak out and hugged on my nephew and spent a lot of time with my cousin, Macy. It was a really fun day. I was able to cry and pray with my parents before bed as well. They said how weird and sad that they were losing one grandbaby as they gained another in one weekend. Joy and sadness side by side. I only got two hours of sleep, because much of my night was spent crying, praying, and talking to Macy.
             I woke up at 3:30 to catch the earliest flight possible. My dad drove me to the airport and we mourned together the loss of our sunshine baby. All of our hearts were in for pain that was inescapable. We prayed together and he hugged me goodbye, ill never forget the look he had in his eyes. I know he wished he could go with me all of the way, but this was my journey to take alone. And I wasn't alone, at all. God would be there every step of the way. I was in a really long line waiting to go through security. I noticed my dad was still there, sitting on a bench watching me until he saw I had gotten through. It meant so much to me. I read stories about miracles and God's goodness in hardship in the airport and on the plane. Its like everything I needed to hear was everywhere I looked. I got on the plane in the dark, and in the air I watched the entire sunrise. It was a day of new beginnings and reminded me the sun comes after the darkest night and I felt peace sunshine was still there for me in my future even if my sunshine baby was not.

          I arrived in town and a carload of my three kids by 9 am and Logan picked me up. I kissed sunshine baby all over and she laughed her amazing laugh. I spent several hours packing all of her things. I went to a meeting at the DHS office to discuss details. The relatives were SO kind to me and ended up giving me one more night with her. I smiled as I knew God had known I would have a last night with her afterall, even though my flight could not make it in on Sunday. I was glad I had such a fun Sunday instead of freaking out. I rocked her before bed and sang "God is good, all the time" and she sang with her baby squeals right back. I also sang the country song "You're going to miss this, youre going to want this back, youre going to wish these days hadn't gone by so fast. These were some good times, so take a good look around." and then she was bundled up and asleep. It was her last night with us. I I knew the treasures the past seven months had brought my soul would be a part of me for the rest of my life. I also knew the lesssons I had learned would take a while to fully process, but I keep seeing more and more the beauty of them.

          Time has a horrible way of going way too fast. Before I knew it, it was morning and her relatives were on the way to our house to get her. I went in to wake her up and there she was, smiling big just like every morning. I sure was going to miss that smile. I hugged on her and got her dolled up for her family. When they arrived we all got a picture together and spent a few emotional minutes exchanging kindness and thanks. Samuel laid beside her carseat as she was being loaded up. He cried "I am not ready!" I wasn't either. We went out to the car and gave her our last kisses and hugs and I love you forevers. Samuel grabbed her hand for dear life and wouldn't let go. I had to take his hand from hers, the most sad part of that day. As quickly as she had arrived as a newborn so many months earlier, she was loaded up in another car heading away. Her relative hugged me so tightly and we cried together. "Thank you for loving her and taking such great care of her." I now know I can say the exact same thing back to them. They have been nothing,but amazing. They saw our sad faces, especially Samuel's and the last thing one of the relatives said to us was "Im going to tell her about Jesus!" And then they drove away. We stood there for a while, just staring at the empty street. "Its just us now, our baby is gone." said Samuel.

            The last three weeks have been proof that we can make it through things that seem unimaginable. We can love with our whole hearts and mourn and be ok. God's grace is always, always enough. Grace to help us grieve and grace to help us heal. One of the hardest parts was the first night, her empty crib. I know I am not the first or last foster mom who will cry over an empty crib. My sweet babies have needed a lot of love and care. I feel guilty about their pain. I also have prayed and thought a lot about what our family is about and what we want to show our kids as parents. I know I want to show them how to know God and follow his voice. I know I want to show them to love with all of their hearts, despite what may be lost. I know I don't want to shelter them from hardship and pain, but show them who to turn to and how to navigate pain well. And I want to love on them and give them one of the happiest childhoods imaginable. We have been filling our time with fun activities and quality time. We have also talked about Jesus a lot and I have seen their faith life come alive in a new way. Their prayers and stories about Jesus are so precious. Every night they tell stories that start with: "Once upon a time there was, JESUS..." and Evy will say he holds me, Samuel will say he helps me. Samuel also says he makes us all better.

          God is a healer, and his grace is enough. The only reason we are so sad, is because we have so many beautiful reasons to be happy. The good was so wonderful, it is hard to see that time go. I'll always look back and think about our sunshine baby. All the lesssons we learned and all the memories we made. I still cant process it all fully, but I know more than ever that I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength. I want to live with my heart fully on my sleeve. I want to love without limits and dive into the seasons God puts me in. I only have one life to live and I want to live it like I lived it with sunshine baby. Fully.

We have a Band-Aid now. Our hearts are missing someone so special to us, but also we know that her laugh and smile are in full force at her new home. We have the honor of keeping in touch, so we know truly sunshine baby is spreading her rays of delight with relatives. What a beautiful thing restoration is.



Monday, May 2, 2016

Lessons Learned At The Gym

            Six months ago, I became a foster mom and the emotions of it all were new to me. It has been both tough and wonderful. I prayed that God would help me to turn to healthy places with all that my  heart was going through and he has given me a lot of perseverance to make time alone at the gym a priority. I wanted this time of stress to make me stronger and healthier in every sense of the word. At first, I wanted to eat chocolate cupcakes all the time to cope, so I knew I needed a new method! Working out has helped me have time to put my mind on Christ, while at the same time moving my physical body in a healthy direction. Through my work out times, I have been amazed at all the spiritual lessons I have learned. There are many that come to my mind, but I am going to focus on the most recent lesson I have been learning.
            Once a month I have been meeting with a trainer, so that I can learn how to use all the gym equipment and start new exercises I haven't tried before. The first advice I received was to focus on building lean muscle through strength training. I would need to work on changing the body's composition to lean muscle and strengthen from the inside out. I set out to weight train three days a week and started spending my time on the process of strengthening. It hurts. There is no painless way to create strength. First, it takes endurance during the exercise and pushing past what you thought you could do. Then, it takes feeding the body good things in order to build the muscle to its fullest healthy potential. There are many days of being unseen while building strength. You know it is being built inside of you, but others cannot see what is happening beneath the surface. Through perseverance, over time all that was done in secret will come to light. The body changes and looks noticeably healthier, but only after it has gone through the process of building strength through perseverance, healthy food choices, and endurance.
        In life, strength building tends to work the same way. It hurts. When challenging seasons or opportunities to live outside comfort zones arise, it is what we do to strengthen from the inside out daily that will one day come to light as a new level of strength and ministry. First, patient endurance are needed to build heart strength. Next, our soul has to be fed with the word of God, prayer, and friends that will encourage us toward Christ. The time spent in secret seeking the truth and presence of God will show from the inside out. Things done in secret come to light! I  pray for all of you reading this that you would not grow weary in the strengthening process life inevitably brings.  Nothing you are doing is in vain, keep lifting!

1 Timothy 4:8 "For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come."

Monday, April 4, 2016

Psalm 123:6

Psalm 123:5-6 "...My cup overflows with blessings. Surely, your goodness and love (mercy) will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

             Something I have learned in my relationship with Christ and journey of faith is that faith is tested time and time again as we have to choose to believe God means what He says in His word. Every verse is true, even when we can't see it from our current perspective. Sometimes the most courageous thing you can do is choose to believe,when it cannot be seen. The truth will come to light as we trust in the character of Jesus and that he is fully good and right in all that He does. As we put our faith in our loving God, all that we go through is for His glory and our GOOD.  
          What is good for us in God's eyes, many times is opposite from what our human nature thinks to be good. For me, in my motherhood I have been put on a journey that doesn't always seem like "goodness" following me. My pregnancies were very trying and medically dangerous as I suffered from hyperemesis gravitum and low immune system. Post partum I dealt with thyroid problems for the first year each time called Post Partum thyroditits. Along with this, it was noticeable that my son was developmentally behind and showed signs that something was not right. From an early age with him, I had to realize that his needs were beyond my capacity and that we needed therapy interventions to help him thrive. He is high functioning on the Autistic spectrum, noticeable from the moment I laid eyes on him that something was different. By the grace of God he is thriving, but not without a road of many heart aches. I have a daughter as well, my pregnancy with her proved to be my hardest and the one which we realized it would be best to no longer have biological children. My third child right now is through fostering. This baby has rare special needs that require many appointments and much about her future in life and health is unknown. This has been the most emotionally hard situation as a mother. 
             We are creatures of comfort and searching for happiness. God is holy and after our hearts and holiness. He is after our best interest, a purified heart and deep relationship with Him. His will for us is usually out of our comfort zones and beyond what our human capacity feels it can take. Also, the glory and good it brings is better than we could imagine, if we persevere and trust. When I imagined motherhood, I never imagined being a special needs mom times two, or that I wouldn't have more pregnancies. What else I didn't imagine is how in every circumstance God has brought me to, hard or happy, it has been used to bring me closer to His heart and have the opportunity to become more like Him. His goodness and mercy follows me every single day both tangibly and sometimes in the unseen, but truth ALWAYS proves true.
           Whatever your circumstance as a mother, God has overflowed our cups with blessing and his goodness and unfailing love meet us everyday in full force. In the mundane, in the joyful, in the hard, we can always be sure of this.  

Lord, would you open our eyes to the blessings that you have poured so generously into our lives and help us to live our life in the moment to the fullest. This life as a mother was given to us as a gift, to make us more like you and know you on a deeper level. Don't let tiredness or discouragement get in the way of us realizing the fullness of your love in our lives and the blessings we have from you. You gave me my circumstances and my children to me for a reason and I thank you for the beautiful roads you have us all on. Help us to not compare and to gaze upon your beauty in the everyday moments and not waste the lessons and growth you have for us in this season. Thank you that you pursue me passionately and that forever I will dwell with you.


Answered Prayer

         On November fourth I wrote a letter to God. This is what I wrote: "I don't want to compromise. I want every part of my life wholeheartedly devoted to you, Jesus. I don't want to be lukewarm in my life with you in any area. I want to be sensitive in my spirit and have a contrite heart. I want to be a genuinely repentant person and also be genuinely changed. I do not want to cower away from purification and conviction. I want to see my flaws as they are, repent, forgive myself, and be changed. Lord, let me be a person who when I read your word, I make it a part of who I am by the power of your spirit." The very next day I would become a foster mom and a little love would steal my heart instantly. I wish I could say I have whole heartedly trusted Jesus through this, I wish I could say I haven't lived in fear. I wish I could say I didn't let my emotions get the best of me. I wish I could say a lot of things that I simply cannot. I can say, though, that God held up my prayer even when I didn't have the strength to pray it anymore. He has not let me cower from purification and He has gently shown me areas that need His help to change. He has been the strength of my heart, my comforter, counselor, and friend. He has helped me just like He promised that He would.
            I have seen both my strengths and weaknesses come out boldly. My strength to love, had moments of holding too tightly. My strength of hope, gave way to fears and vain imaginings, but God's grace has been ENOUGH. I am thankful he is truer to me than I am to myself. He listens to my prayers and answers, even when the answer is harder than I wanted it to be.
Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do and he will direct your path."

          When I first became a mom, I was overwhelmed by the many different ways to be a mom. From how children are fed, to how they are schooled, or how they should or shouldn't sleep, and so on, the list felt endless. How was I supposed to know what the right path was for my life as a mom and my specific children? I knew that if I drowned myself in endless books and articles, I would get some insight, but if  I was going to do what was best for my family, I would need to seek the Lord and see what His agenda was for my family and my motherhood. He knows our children better than anyone and He has not left us on this crazy journey alone. God cares about every detail of our family's life and not only that, He is ready and willing to be our counselor and closest confidant in every moment of it.
           Being a mother is not about working for our agendas in our children's lives, but about leaning on Christ, following Him and showing our children that the most important thing is to know Jesus and follow His call on our lives no matter the cost. It is easy to become fearful as mothers about our children, it is easy to want to take control or dream our own dreams about how their life should play out, but as Christ followers, our ultimate goal for our children is that they know the Lord. Also, that would they trust in Him with all of their heart and lean on his understanding and follow the path he directs them on.
           I encourage you, in your motherhood, both in the big and little decisions, walk boldly in what the Lord tells you to do as the mother of your family. Let us seek God and follow Him and not judge other's paths. Let us show our families what it is to not lean on our own understanding, but lean on the Lord's perfect wisdom. Let us pray big prayers for our families, may God's will be done and love be felt to the fullest extent in our lives.


Friday, April 1, 2016

A Few Thoughts About Exercise and Motherhood

         I don't really believe in before and after pictures when it comes to motherhood and fitness. Thinking back, the times I was not able to make regular workouts were times when my life was filled with important things like sticking to couch rest, so that my baby wouldn't come pre-term, or being up all night with a baby and recovering. I had a post partum thyroid condition as well for the first year after baby was born. When mothers see their new stretch marks or post partum body, its not a time to feel shame, but to feel happy that you were able to be everything your baby needed. Be proud of all that you have accomplished as a mama and how you have sacrificed for your little ones. I love that I can both be proud of all that I have done for my children and also look to my future as the possibility of being the healthiest me yet. My body isn't stuck where it has been or is at, but it should be appreciated every step of the way as a vessel of sacrificial love and service. To your family, you are the most beautiful person in the world. Let yourself feel that and believe it is true.

       I have had my fair share of eating too many chicken nuggets, over indulging on baked goods, and feeling too tired to be motivated to workout.After I had my second child, i'll never forget my first gym visit check in when the screen said "Its been 199 days, since this member has been to the gym". I looked at the person checking me in and he simply said with a smile "I've seen worse." No matter how many days its been, the day you start is what matters.  I went on to lose the baby weight that Summer. I still have goals and hopes, but I am taking it one day at a time and being kind to myself along the way.
      My fitness journey has become a spiritual journey for me. I spend my work out times listening to worship music, the audio Bible, or praying. I have also found that healthy living lessons, many times have become spiritual lessons.  Lessons about endurance, patience, running the race to the finish and many more have come alive to me through exercise and eating healthy. I also have to lean on Christ to help me to do it. I am also thankful that God healed me from my chronic facial bone infection December 2014. It was after that, that health became a gift and not just something I took for granted.

Here is to heading toward being my healthiest self yet, but appreciating where I have been and why I have been there. :)

 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13

Monday, November 23, 2015

Things I've Learned Lately

I am going to use the name "Janie" for our little one. This is not her real name, but a meaningful one to me.

1. When I have read about how God has adopted us as His own, I always felt like I was His "good deed". I was, but it is so much more than that. When he took me into His family, it was His good pleasure to have me as his daughter. When Janie was brought to our door, I felt a miracle in my heart take place. I felt the love God had for Janie and for me and for all of us on a level I hadn't experienced before. I don't know what the certain future of this sweetheart is, for now we are her foster family for a season and that is what  I know. She is not legally adopted, but she is our family, as loved and as included as my biological children and this is what she and all foster children deserve. I am living for today, and today she is grafted into our family until we are told differently and that day she will still be prayed for as my own forever, even if only meant for our home for a time. All that said, these weeks have shown me through new eyes what God feels when he takes us in as His own children. The joy of loving Janie has surpassed all of my expectations. She does not have any way to repay me, but that is not what I am thinking about. I am thinking about what a delight and beauty she is in my life. I am thinking about how precious and what a treasure she is. I feel God speaking to my heart that when I feel unable to repay Him, He wants to show me that His love finds great delight in me and He isn't thinking of that. He is thinking of how special he thinks I am and that he would go as far as the grave to have me as His own for eternity, without any expectation that I could have the capacity to pay him back. Our love for him is what he desires. He wants a relationship and this is one of the most fascinating and wonderful realities. We matter to God in a way that's incomprehensible. This is too wonderful for my heart to take in, but I will spend my life trying to wrap my mind around it and it will keep giving me a reason to have joy, even in pain. He loves Janie more than I can comprehend and this truth comforts me. I pray she knows it.

2. God's love left the comfort zone of his throne to come to earth and pay the ultimate price of pain for love. True love denies comfort and does what is best for the one being loved. It doesn't matter the price of pain it takes to love, when its God's love. It matters that the one who is loved is put before personal comfort zones. Jesus showed us this on the cross in the complete sacrifice of perfect love. I left my comfort zone this month. I opened my heart to a situation that would prove to be one of the most beautiful and painful I would ever walk through. Knowing God called me here is my lifeline. I know he is transforming me and teaching me about love beyond my own comfort. True love is painful sometimes...and so incredibly beautiful and worth it. Janie is SO worth it.

More to say, but I must sleep. Zzzz:)