Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Big Leap

           Everyone has dreams. I had plans, big plans, to be a nurse, but then realized Science and math aren't my forte and I pass out at the simple sight of a removed mole. Then, I had hopes to be in ministry, particularly Women's ministry someday and to always in every season be around children somehow.  My most lofty dream was to be a writer and speaker someday, to create Bible studies and build relationships as a full time job. But, the dream that trumped them all was to be a mom. I wanted with all of my heart to stay at home with my kids until Kindergarten, whatever that took. Before getting married, I told Logan if we have to live in a one room cabin, that's ok, I just want to be with my kids when they are little. Maybe I couldn't give them everything money could buy, but I could give them all my time. Everyone has dreams and convictions. This was mine. He had a calling to work in ministry and I fully supported that and felt called to it myself. To make all dreams and convictions come true, it would take some faith, action, and trust that God wouldn't let us fall.

       Fresh out of college, and newly married, when Logan still had a year of school left, I had the surprise of a positive pregnancy test. This was NOT the plan. I had just turned twenty-two a few months before and we were living in a one bedroom apartment in a not so amazing part of town. Wolf spiders surprised us in every nook and cranny of that place. It didn't seem ideal, but I guess a one bedroom apartment was similar to my one room cabin idea? Thankfully, we serve the God of miracles and just like he always does, he blew us away with miracles every step of the way. Two months after Logan's graduation, we welcomed Samuel into the world and came home to a house not infested by wolf spiders, and plenty of space. The only con was our neighbors were very obvious drug dealers. I always said, they were after someone, but it wasn't us! They kind of felt like body guards, as big as they were and as much as they seemed to like us.  Miracles come in all sorts of packages!;) We lived a full and beautiful life there.

        People have called me lucky to stay at home through the years, and in many ways I am, but I have actually worked really hard to be able to do it. For me it meant no car for a year, consignment sales as a lifeline, early on making concoctions in the crockpot out of whatever we had left over, smaller houses, older cars, some in home babysitting for others and a lot of budgeting. Rhealana of Rhealana's consignment greets me by name every Fall and Spring as I come in to the pre-sale ready to stock up for the season on sizes just a little too big. I don't walk into the uniform consignment sale for school until the hour it is half off, of half off! Kids grow too fast!! :) I have no shame, consignment sales have come a long way! Try them out no matter your budget, trust me! Moms before us didn't have so many resources at their hands. 

         The first year of Samuel's life I didn't have a car, it wasn't something we could afford at that time. For an extrovert on the go, this was a major test for me. It ended up being such a blessing, because it made me slow down, focus on Samuel, and see God open doors right in front of me. He gave me a neighbor with a baby the same age four doors down who would go on walks with me and have morning coffee dates. There was also a park that was newly renovated and a community center one street over from us. We spent many days at the indoor pool there and enjoying the park. Looking back, I wouldn't change a thing. I thank God for his provision and sometimes for the seasons where what I thought I needed didn't come. I didn't know that by the time Samuel was thirteen months I would be surprised by a second positive pregnancy test. I didn't know I would be so sick that I would have to move in with my parents and not be able to take care of him for many weeks, sometimes I even struggled to smile at him during my sickest days. My mom was our hero during those days. Samuel has seen her as a second mom ever since. I didn't know we would foster in just a few short years. I didn't know our life was about to be on a roller coaster that didn't seem to slow down. I didn't know how fast the first years would really go. God knew and he gave me a gift when I didn't have a car. And at just the right time, a car was miraculously provided. Houses and cars have always had miracle stories behind them for us. Both the times with them and without them. I will always think of those days as some of the sweetest and best of my life.

          It has completely blown me away how doors have opened and closed for us at the perfect times. Jesus, The Good Shepherd, has lead every step of the way. One major way he has lead us is the path for Samuel in his development and schooling. When Samuel was two, he still wasn't speaking and his developmental age was twelve months when he was evaluated at a therapy center. He had had sensory and developmental hurtles from the day he was born. It was a very scary time for me. I didn't know what the future held for him or for us. I didn't know the right paths to take or what was best, but something I realized early on was that I have to accept help when raising him. He has needs that are beyond my capabilities. We had moved to Arkansas by this point and there is a program here called Early Intervention which pays fully for children with therapy needs up until the age of three. They believe that early intervention is key to help children thrive who have developmental delays or needs. These services changed our life! I call our Occupational and Speech therapists our angels. Samuel was held back by sensory problems so much that he wouldn't even play on a playground and at four he still used only one word to answer questions. Life was very frustrating for him before he had the tools to cope and express himself. His brain knew what he wanted to say, but its like the door to say it was locked. It was heartbreaking for both of us. I could see the fear and frustration in his eyes. The world was an overwhelming place for him. It felt the same way for me at that time. A mother feels what her child feels.

       I prayed so hard that God would direct our steps, bring us to the right people and to the right places. I felt in my heart that Samuel was capable of more, if he just had the tools to do it. I was encouraged to put him in a full time special needs daycare, but it just didn't feel right. I felt like God was telling me to raise the bar and he will meet it, he just needs help to him get there. If a special needs place was best for him, I wanted that, but what if it wasn't? We continued OT and Speech and saw amazing strides. Samuel learned to cope with sensory problems, they haven't gone completely away, but they don't overwhelm him like they used to.
        Samuel has an August birthday and we always knew he would be held back as a boy with a late birthday, despite the developmental stage he was in. The year he turned four, I applied to the school I was an alumni from a year in advance for him to go to pre-k four at age five. It was a shot in the dark for many reasons, a leap of faith, because I wasn't sure if after I told them his background if he would be accepted or if the finances could work. I felt like it was worth the try, and was completely honest and with amazing grace the school let us try it out experimentally in hopes that it would work. Samuel has always been a gentle and obedient soul, so I wasn't worried he would disrupt the class, but I did wonder what a college prep school situation would be like for him. I knew he was smart, if the door could just unlock for him to live up to his potential. He went to pre-k three for one semester when he was four and a half. The day he went for the first time, he still was only using one word responses. For instance, I would say: "Samuel what was your favorite part of the day?" and he would respond: "Ball" or another one word response. He could build his own ideas pretty well, but I hadn't heard my son speak a sentence in response to me and he was four and a half.
       The first experimental day of school, I will never forget the life changing moment when Samuel got in the car and I said "How was school?" not expecting much of an answer in response. He excitedly announced: "I love school! And my teachers are my friends!!" I cried with the biggest smile my face could hold. My son could talk!!! It was like the door that had been locked flung open all at once. His teachers every year have trouble believing me that he really wasn't talking just one day before. He has been talking ever since!! Therapy helped unlock the door, but school opened the door for him. He feels a little lost in the Summer, but when school comes around the structure and educational push makes him come alive. 

     Honestly, I feel a little lost when he is at school. We had a hard time being apart for a full school day. It was really hard on us the first couple of weeks. Tears were shed, mine in secret, his in plain sight. He is now used to it and loving it, but the change is a very big one. I have called myself Mr. Monk's assistant his whole life, but in many ways he has been mine. I miss the boy who goes behind me closing my cabinet doors I leave open and following me with a vacuum. I am an ADD mom with an OCD son. We are a good pair, though! He comes home wanting to practice what he learned that day and stopped watching TV and playing video games when Kindergarten started, because he wants to practice all he has learned. He makes up homework for himself! Meanwhile, I am wondering when we can start the FUN!;) He can be hard on himself, trying to be perfect, but I show him life doesn't have to be so serious.

       Kindergarten has been a big leap, the biggest leap we have taken so far. I went from only having him gone three mornings a week and spending most of life with him to having to let go. Quality time over quantity time is my anthem now. Our seasons are changing, my dream and conviction now is to make sure my kids are where they need to be to be all that they were created to be.  That looks different for every kid and every family. For us, it means letting go a little bit more. It means taking leaps of faith and allowing other people to pour into my kids lives, alongside with me. I am so thankful for all the people who have come along side me to help my kids thrive. I know that God has a very special design and plan for each of them. He doesn't make mistakes and I cannot wait to see what their futures hold!

        As for me, I am spending as much time with Evelyn as possible before she goes to Kindergarten next year. She is only away three mornings a week. Every so often you'll see me around recess, taking in the miracle of Samuel playing on the playground with a smile and enjoying friends. Confidence, not fear beaming from his eyes. You'll find me in the carpool line by 2:30 and home by 3:06 so we don't miss an ounce of afternoon time with Samuel. Ill be building my resume as old dreams stir back up in my heart and hopes to work with Women, children and families from my yet to be used college degree come back to surface. Maybe I will write a Bible study after all! Surely,I didn't go through Bible and theology as the only girl for years for nothing!;) You never know!!


Friday, June 23, 2017

The Golden Year

         I sit here tonight staring at a new season in our family's life just on the horizon. I see it with the floaties for the pool put up in storage this week, as my kids learned to swim. I see it in ordering school supplies for both kids, I see it in not being needed as much, I see it in actually having time to read a book, I see it in the way every day my kids look less and less like babies and more and more like KIDS. I see it in their hilarious sentences that show the depth of their personality and creative minds at work, I see it in their craving of figuring out life and relationships, I see it in their spiritual curiosity as well. We are entering the true childhood stage, babyhood is getting farther away in my mind's rear view mirror and looking at old photos, things have changed so much in just a few years. Seeing baby announcements and maternity photos feels like a dream that it happened to me before. Those times are feeling farther and farther away.

     The BABY of the house is four and that is a very weird reality, especially since in September we had a newborn boy who was seemingly going to stay in our family forever. I thought we had more years of babyhood, and who knows what tomorrow brings, but for now this where we are. We aren't in the baby stage any more and amazingly, I am at peace and also happy about that fact. Our long peaceful roadtrips this Summer are proof that sometimes things really do get better with time!;) We lived up babyhood, we soaked it in and now its time for what the next stage holds...and I couldn't be more excited!

         God's grace and mercy has a really amazing way of showing up right in time in unexpected ways as the seasons change. This past year has been what I call "The Golden Year". Its been the year before Samuel starts kindergarten and before Evelyn will do Pre-k Four. Evelyn has been home with me full time until this coming school year. It has been a time of focused attention on each other, a time of peace in our life situation, a time of non stop fun and memories. This past year has been full of restoration, strengthened souls, and beautiful days. The kids and I meaningfully didn't do a lot with friends, because the kids specifically said they wanted it to just be "us" more. I wanted to spend more time playing with them and less time talking to my friends when at parks etc. I could see the clock ticking on life and I didn't want to miss a thing, especially now that we weren't fostering and I never know what tomorrow brings. I wanted to pour my heart and soul into Samuel and Evelyn fully again and instead of staying sad about the adoption that didn't go through, to thank God for the children he did have for me and that are right in front of me.

    This year was nothing short of a miracle in the fact it was just so much fun. The kids got along well, we went on adventures, we basked in the sunshine, smelled the flowers, and found joy in the little things. We went to the pumpkin patch so many times, we were even there through them tearing it down. We picnicked, we saw my mom multiple times a week and she came on many of our adventures.  Honey has done life with us!! She is a part of the "just us" my kids are referring to, a very vital part of our group!;) Samuel was five, Evelyn was three(just turned four) in this golden year. Their ages being so tender and bright eyed made life seem so magical.  The golden year was like reaping a reward from the terrible twos when I felt like training with determination and conviction, along with loving intensely was my full time job. I feel like just getting to enjoy the quirks,wonder and hilarity of who these two people are was more of my full time job than it could be before. I loved that. I love getting to know them more.:)

        Looking back at a year ago, June was one of the most shaking times in our life, both with Logan's job and our first fostering goodbye. What I didn't know then that I know now is that those shakings would be unto so many beautiful things and our life would not be worse for the ware, but better. Arkansas For Christ has been such an awesome experience and we see God opening doors all around us. Everything about it has brought peace and good things and I thank God for that. We had no idea a year ago when it was getting started, that it would even last. It has been above our hopes and expectations and I love seeing God at work so tangibly right in front of our eyes.

         I am still in touch with the birth families of our foster babies and it has been such an amazing experience. I am humbled by and grateful for all the ways God continues to bless my life through these people and how I get to stay in touch with the babies that hold my heart forever. Their families hold my heart just as tightly and the bigger picture of what God is doing has become more apparent to me. I used to think my family was about me, that I would have a certain amount of kids or adopt someday. Now I see more than ever that my family is about eternity, about bigger pictures and plans. There is a reason I have the kids I do, there are seasons and God shows us when its time to step out and when its time hold onto what is already right there. This year was holding onto what we already have and enjoying each other with faith and gratitude. It was a season of rest, and enjoyment. I thank God for the many seasons life brings and that he let us have this year to love on each other so intentionally.

        The wind of change is blowing, I cried tears in the Spring worried about not getting to see Samuel all day when he is in Kindergarten, but life has a way of making growing pains happen at just the right time to help the letting go get a little bit easier. I can tell he is going to be ready. I can tell I need to let go just a little bit more. I can see for the first time I am actually a little bit looking forward to less time with kids. (it has to just be grace bc im prone to helicopter and try not to;) Motherhood is a process of letting go after all, but always the heart holds on tightly. My heart holding tightly will fuel my prayers, but the action of slowly letting go when the time is appropriate will allow my kids to become who they are meant to be. I know they are in God's hands. I know I am, too. Thank you, Lord for this golden year. Thank you for helping me soak up the moments that pass so quickly and for giving me the best kids ever!

This Golden Year couldn't have happened without you, Samuel and Evelyn. Thanks for being so much fun and making me laugh! I am so excited for the adventure of childhood and all the new and exciting things that come with it. Let it begin!!!!!!!




Saturday, January 28, 2017


       The last time I posted on my blog about our life personally was last Summer. It was the one called "I have a bandaid now". It was a raw and bitter sweet time. We were in a place where our hearts were needing to be healed as we missed our foster daughter. Another baby came into our life, but its been too hard to write about, until now.
        In the months following sunshine baby's absence, every night as I would fall asleep, I felt like my soul was searching for someone, like someone was missing. It was a really hard feeling, because I knew that it didn't have to do with sunshine baby, but with another one. My heart started really being drawn to adoption, the goodbye of sunshine baby showed me all the more that our family was in a place that adoption seemed like the best thing to do. One afternoon, I got a call about a baby boy who was needing a long term placement. He had been put up for adoption by a loving mother who felt her life wasn't in a good place. The papers weren't signed, but a court date was a few weeks away. As far as anyone knew, this would go smoothly. I knew that this was a legal risk, because mom could change her mind before then or even the day of, but it was a risk I wanted to take. I had ten minutes to decide if we were going to go get him or not and my heart pounded as I felt in my heart, "this is my son, this is who my soul has been searching for." We sat the kids down and talked to them about it and prayed together. We were all in unison that we wanted him to come home to us. Within thirty minutes of the call about him, I was at the hospital doors. My veins felt like they might explode as my heart pounded and I walked toward nicu to hold "my" baby. "Oh you're here for the adoption baby, come on back." I peeked through the door and there he was. I knew without a doubt this was the one my soul had been searching for. Other beds were surrounded by balloons, stuffed animals, special blankets and special clothes, but this precious little bed, with my precious little son was barren other than a little bunny that the neighboring family gave to him. He looked JUST like me. It was the moment I had expected with both of my bio babies, but they had surprisingly not looked like me much at all. :) But, this time, my baby looked exactly how I imagined. I put him in clean clothes, wrapped him up and held him for hours. "You're not alone anymore, mommy's here, mommy's here." I said kissing every inch of his sweet little face. It seemed to be something incredible on the horizon, this was the happiness after heartache. Or so I thought...but this time of a family of five would only last two months. Although, anyone with a newborn knows that eight weeks is an eternity with a new one. After all, it is their whole life. Court rolled around and mom had changed her mind. I don't blame her, I don't blame her one bit. He is the best little son a mother could wish for. He is a treasure, and he will always in a way, be my son.
      I grieved again. I cried harder than I ever have. Its like the floodgates of it all just gave in and I had to fully feel the weight of it. I felt like my heart was full of holes and that my tears that wouldn't stop were representing it. I wondered if I would ever feel whole again. And then, something incredible did happen. As days turned into weeks, I experienced the miracle of a healed heart, a restored soul, and renewed joy. I write now as a heart restored! :) Our "son" left at the very end of September, and since then God has been at work making all things new for us. Thanksgiving was very hard, because as everyone had their families together, I thought of the little daughter we had the year before, and now the son that was supposed to be there. At Christmas, the grandkids of my family all wore matching monogrammed pajamas, but one pajama set my sweet mother bought would never be worn. We were missing a grandchild, a cousin, a son we planned on having for the holidays both this year and forever. Even so, Christmas ended up being one of the best ones yet. God gave us so much joy and the season seemed nothing short of magical for the kids. Their ages and personalities truly made it the best year yet!
       On New Year's Day as I was praying about resolutions and what the new year would hold, I felt very strongly lead to this verse as the theme for our family in 2017:1 Peter 5:10  "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast." I have felt this truth become real in my everyday life so incredibly.
      We have spent these months becoming "us" again. The four Blooms. :) We are not just ok, we are joy filled and the care free spirit I love about our house is back in full BLOOM. I don't know how long this season will last, but im taking in the restoration with all my heart. We grieved deeply and now its time to laugh until our stomachs hurt! Its time to be content, to be thankful for the blessings we have and have had. To see the beauty in the pain, and the redemption in the healing of  our hearts.
       Not a day goes by that I don't think about the babies God gave me for a time, not a day goes by that I don't pray for them. They have my whole heart and they always will. But that doesn't mean my heart has to always be broken, they hold my heart, not in pieces, but in fullness. Thank you, Lord for restoration! You are the restorer of my soul!
He restores my soul…” -Psalm 23:3

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.