[A note to anyone who thinks they are not enough to foster/adopt…]

I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for months, even before knowing it was National Adoption Awareness Month, but I honestly almost backed out because I found myself thinking, “My words aren’t going to change any of their thinking, so why even waste my time?” But then I had another thought immediately after: “Waste my time? There are lives on the line here. Real, living people. And I am an advocate for them.” So, here I am, praying my words will inspire even just one person to move. To make a difference.

If you don’t have time to read this giant post, scroll toward the bottom and find the reason you think you’re not enough. See if I can help encourage you out of that.

As some of you know, my husband and I began this adventure of fostering-to-adopt after finding out we could not have any biological kids. For those who don’t know that story, you can read the full story here.

This desire was not necessarily to make a change in the orphan crisis, but rather to fulfill my desire to become a mom. I quickly realized, though, that once you’re in it, you simply cannot stop thinking about all the other beautiful lives that are waiting to have the same opportunity that mine now have. It created an urgency in my heart to show people this same need and watch them take action with me.

This first started to unfold in my heart with the desire to foster/adopt even more children. We are currently waiting to finalize the adoption of our four kids and after that will prayerfully open up our home again. If this is in the form of foster care or adoption, I’m not sure. I just know there will be more.

The second way this started to unfold was with a passion that ignited in me. A passion to begin advocating for the children who are waiting for a home to want them, love them, and let them know how absolutely precious they are. I am still feeling out this passion, seeking the Lord, and trying to figure out which direction to take it. I know that you cannot make anyone foster or adopt. People will give you every excuse in the book as to why they can’t do it. But I want to take this passion somewhere and do something more. I want to find a way to reach and inspire people to be a part of this.

The third way was that I began to feel angry. Why? Because adoptive parents shouldn’t look so unique to the world. Especially in the church. We shouldn’t look like saints, angels, saviors, or whatever anyone else wants to call us. As Christian’s, we should be seeing families all throughout our church that are joyfully opening their hearts, lives, and homes to these precious kids that have not had a fair chance at life. Those numbers of waiting children should be way lower. Why does my family stand out? Why is it so hard to find someone who understands parenting children with trauma and find the support system we need to navigate these difficult waters? Our church should be full of that kind of support because the church should be obeying the Lord when he tells us to look after the orphans and the widows. I don’t believe this is optional.

Yet, all throughout, I hear, “Oh, I could never do that.”, “You’re so amazing for doing this – I sure couldn’t.”, “I thought about doing it but I couldn’t bear it.”, “You must be a saint.”, “My kids would never be okay with us being foster parents.”, “My husband/wife won’t agree.” and on and on.

Yet, James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” and Isaiah 1:17, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”

I firmly believe that my specific purpose is to do this. I see no other reason that the Lord would have chosen me and Drew to hold the title “infertile” if it wasn’t for this very reason. I also believe that other people have different purposes beyond this. I get that. I’m not trying to say mine is better than yours. But I also know that, as Christian’s, our purpose should line up with one main goal: to become more like Christ, to serve Him, and glorify Him with our lives.

Here’s one characteristic I know about Christ: He loves children. All over in scripture it speaks about how Jesus said to let the little children come to Him, that if anyone causes a little one to stumble it’d be better if a millstone was hung from their neck and thrown into the sea, that children are a gift from God, how He, Himself, is a Father to the fatherless and how He sets the lonely in families.

Mark 9:35-37: “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.’ He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.'”

I kept verse 35 in there because fostering/adopting requires us to put ourselves last all the time. But then again, doesn’t all parenting, biological or not? He never said any of this would be easy but He did say to do it.

So here’s my question… What is holding you back? Why do you feel like you’re not enough? What is your excuse for why you could never do this? Why are you not stepping forward to give a life a loving home?

It’s too expensive. 

Adoption is very expensive, yes. But did you know foster care is not? In fact, foster care reimburses you generously. Any costs incurred from the process, from what you need to provide for the kids, for travel, for clothes, for gas, medical… They cover it all. And more. Fostering has allowed me to stay home and just be mom to my children and we have more money coming in now, because of reimbursements, than we did before I quit my job. I don’t feel comfortable posting the numbers on a public blog, but if you’d like to know the realities of this to see if it’d work for your family, please contact me. We can chat. I will be completely honest with you.

Adoption out of the foster care system is also completely free. If you have any upfront charges, they are reimbursed. They have so many incentives to get people involved in this process, yet so many still say no because “it costs too much”. Quit buying into that lie.

As far as the costs of adoption, YES, it is so expensive. Infant adoption, especially, is very unpredictable, so the financial aspect is terrifying. But there are so many grants out there, fundraising opportunities, and I’m sure a community that could pull together to help you out. I’ve seen this done. Or quit living beyond your means. Quit grabbing those $5+ coffees everyday, quit popping $1.50 in the soda machines at work, cancel a few subscriptions, quit eating out so often, quit accumulating more unnecessary debt, and save all of this extra cash. It all adds up. Even if it takes several years, start taking action today.

And if that still seems too hard, pursue adopting out of the foster care system. This is free to you, reimburses you, and reimbursements continue until that child is 18. There are no financial excuses valid enough to say no to fostering.

We spent around $150 for training, all 40 dollars here, 20 dollars there, which is trivial in the grand scheme of things.

 

I want to do foster care, but I don’t think I’d be able to let that child return into the system after I’ve become attached… I think my heart would break.

This is a valid fear. It’s one of mine, too. But here’s the thing… Whose pain do you think is worse? Your’s? Or their’s – a child who didn’t ask for any of this, who, for the chance at a somewhat mentally healthy life, needs to know that they are wanted, loved, and chosen by you. A child who may never see the way a family is supposed to treat and love one another. A child who may never have the arms of someone to fall into when the weight of their sorrow is too heavy to carry on their own. A child who may never know what it’s like to have someone truly care and want to listen to what’s on their heart. They need you.

Do you really think they deserve to go without all of that so that you can continue to live inside your comfortable bubble? Or do you think it’s worth a little pain on your end to alleviate a little bit of theirs?

 

I’m not cut out for it. I’m not patient enough. I’m not compassionate enough. I’m not strong enough. My personality type doesn’t fit. 

I’ve realized that, as a flawed human, I’m really not cut out for this, either. It is so stinkin’ hard. It has awakened emotions in me I was never prepared for. I’ve realized that being a mom is way harder than I ever imagined and, in reality, this is not my strong suit. In fact, I’m pretty sure I stink at this most days.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10: “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Our weaknesses, when we allow the Lord to work on us, glorify Christ and His power. His power, as said above, is made perfect in our weakness. Allow Him to grow you through this experience, because this is exactly what He asks of us. We were never told to do it alone and we were also never told to stay where we are with our weaknesses. One day, our weakness will be something we’re good at, and we’ll be able to move onto our next weakness. The Lord can do that in any of your weaknesses that you say is holding you back.

I told someone the other day that there is really nothing that makes you realize you need God more than doing foster care. And that’s because it isn’t done through our strength – it’s done resting on His.

 

I’ve already finished raising my children… Why would I want to start over?

Perfect! You’re exactly who someone needs. You’ve already walked the parenting roads of infancy, three-nagers, tweens, teens, and now allowed your adults to fly on their own. You now have the experience to do it all over again and probably be more patient this time around. Don’t feel like you have the energy to dedicate the next several years? Well, there are so many older children waiting to find a home to accept them. You’d be perfect. And hey, you’d maybe be super perfect for the extra rebellious ones because you don’t have to worry about the influence they’d have on younger kids!

And I bet you have those extra rooms now, too.

This life really isn’t about us. It isn’t about retiring well, vacationing to all your dream locations, and “finally” getting to just focus on yourself. This life is about honoring Christ and living a life in full submission to His will and plan.

 

I already have kids… And they’d be really upset if we added new kids. Especially “bad” kids! It’d turn their whole world upside down.

Having kids already is perfect for this. Kids need to learn how to function appropriately inside of a family unit and to have ready-made siblings who have already been raised this way will be perfect. Yes, it’s also extremely difficult because you have to break up more fights, relationships may feel strained because your biological child doesn’t get along with your adopted child, you will have to struggle between the natural bond you have with your biological child vs. the forming, sometimes forced, bond you have with your adopted child, etc. Those are all very valid concerns, as well, but certainly not enough to keep you off the path of adoption/fostering. We’re all given difficult circumstances to shape and mold us into mature adults – think of this as one more extreme challenge for both you and your children.

As far as your children’s world being turned upside down… It’s important to not put so much emphasis on that. Your children do not get to dictate what the Lord has called you to do. We’re born as selfish humans and it is now our jobs, as parents, to teach our children what selflessness is. And, from the experiences I’ve seen, adoption and foster care has a beautiful way of softening other children’s hearts to the needs around them and often can awake the desire in them to make these kind of choices themselves. Don’t rob them of that opportunity!

 

The foster care system is corrupt and I could not possibly live under that! 

Oh boy. This one I get. I get it perfectly. Who wants to live under a microscope, answering for every choice you make, filling out dozens of pages of paperwork a month, be subject to the states rules and regulations of parenting, have surprise visits to their home they already struggle to keep up with, deal with the “dreaded” social workers who have such a bad rep… I know, I know.

I’m currently filling out, by hand, a minimum of 17 pages a month, along with keeping daily documentation about my children’s behaviors which is required by the private agency I go through, and have a case manager/social worker in my home a minimum of three times a month. My water is too cold because I have to make my license agency happy by meeting their requirements, I have to buy a new fire extinguisher every year even though it hasn’t expired, I have my fridge inspected all the time, my house is walked through at each visit to make sure it’s safe, and I’m “interviewed” at least 3 times a month on how I parent and what I am doing about my children’s behaviors/needs. My social worker gets to call the shots on when/if my kids get their hair cut, I can’t cross state lines without a judge’s approval, and I’m not able to feel like a normal parent at this time in my life.

But that’s all okay. Why? Because on the other side of all the rules are four lives that get to feel my love, my acceptance, feel wanted, safe, and as much as they can… normal. And every last bit of it is all worth it because life is so much more important than my comfort or any conveniences.

 

My spouse won’t budge. They just won’t do it. 

You can’t change your spouse and obviously you can’t go into this without their committed approval. So start praying for their heart to change. Don’t lose your passion for it as you wait. In the meantime, research trauma, find ways to help other foster/adoptive parents, educate yourself… Don’t just give up because your spouse tells you no. Present scripture to them and keep praying.

 

I don’t have the skills necessary to parent trauma kids, kids with special needs, kids who have been exposed to and exhibit sexual behavior, etc.

There is nothing that says you have to foster/adopt children with extreme special needs. Yes, that can require special skills and care, require that you live in a community that can meet that child’s needs, and so on. You can say no to certain placements, you can say no to certain needs, and tell them what you’re willing to take on. You, absolutely, have the say in who you will take.

For behaviors that scare you, there is support and help for any kind of behavior you come upon. Some are more difficult than others, but most of these behaviors do not come as a surprise in the foster care/adoptive system. And yes, so many of them are terrifying. But help is available and this is not something you have to go about alone. I promise that making the difference in the life of a child with these severe or scary needs makes it worth it. Even if you don’t see how worth it is here on earth… You’ll know when you reach those gates of heaven and you hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant…” and all the years of difficulties will suddenly fade away….

And yes, trauma you cannot avoid. However, there is no shortage of education out there for this and you’re actually required to educate yourself on this. No need to worry – help is on the way! In fact, if you do some looking back on your own life, you’ll most likely quickly see that you, yourself, have faced trauma, or dealt with in in other peoples lives, and realize that it’s really all around you. Simply avoiding adoption or foster care will not keep trauma from your life.

 

I plan on it someday…

Today is someday. Quit waiting. Now is your day. That’s like saying you’ll start a diet on Monday. We both know that doesn’t work. We have to start now.

I know there are probably a billion more reasons you can come up with for why you can’t do this… Why you’re not enough… But the things is… You can. You just have to quit making those excuses, jump in, and take it one step at a time. Saying “yes” can make all the difference in the life of a child that otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance and saying “yes” can make all the difference in your life. Saying yes may lower the suicide rate one person at a time. Saying yes may encourage a child to not make the same mistakes that were made before them, guaranteeing trauma in generations to come. Quit allowing foster/adoptive parents to be the ones to stand out. Let those who haven’t said “yes” stand out and inspire them to make the change, too.

 

Say yes. Today. Contact your local social services. Research your state’s private agencies. Make the call. Change a life.

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24 Things I’m Blessed to Have for 24 Years Years of Life

[not in order of importance]

  1. Drew. There are not many men who would go for this crazy life we live. Drew is such a selfless guy who, after working 10 hours, will still go get me pizza and rub my feet. Even with a “man cold”!
  2. My kids. Oh, thank you, Jesus, for my babies.
  3. A mom and dad who love me and taught me how to live a life pleasing to the Lord.
  4. Siblings. All 9 of you. I wished every year for 10 years for a sister and I ended up getting 5 sisters and 2 more brothers!
  5. Friends – new and old. I’m so blessed to have my friends. I started making plans of how I could move back to Warroad because I felt so lonely. The Lord definitely provided me with amazing people in my life here in TRF.
  6. My amazing sister-in-laws and the babies that made me an aunty. My brothers married well!
  7. My home. We are so blessed to be home owners and even more blessed to have a home big enough to fit all my kiddos.
  8. My puppies: Butch & Char Char Binks. They were my babies when I didn’t have any and the Lord used them to help try to fill a void in our lives.
  9. My church. Switching churches after our move was terrifying. When you grow up going to the same one for almost 10 years, restarting is intimidating. The Lord has used our church in my life in profound ways and I’m so glad he led us there.
  10. My Lord & Savior, Jesus Christ. We all know where I’d be without him. I’m so grateful for a patient and gracious God who drew me back to him and even closer than before.
  11. Coffee. Oh, Jesus, thank you for something to look forward to waking up to.
  12. Digi-Key. I am so grateful to have worked for such an amazing company and so grateful for Drew’s employment there. The benefits and care they have are exceptional.
  13. Muffins. Drew asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I wanted a muffin for breakfast. Hahaha!
  14. The sun. I think my mood swings are seasonal, but there is nothing like the sun on a summer day.
  15. My health. I abuse my body and need to start taking better care of it again, but I’ve never had any major health issues and I’m grateful for that.
  16. Dry shampoo. I never used it before 4 kids came into my life, but this is definitely in my top 24.
  17. Food. Especially Pizza Corner’s Chicken Alfredo pizza!!!
  18. Vinegar. Why? Because it goes great on fries but also THE STUFF YOU CAN CLEAN WITH IT!! Miracle stuff.
  19. Dave Ramsey. He’s really helping me get my life in order.
  20. Dancing. I definitely dance and sing my way through the day – pretty sure I’m a living musical [when in the privacy of my home].
  21. My Bible study ladies. I adore their guts and I’m so grateful the Lord places them in my life.
  22. Humor. Especially my kids who fill my days with so many things to giggle about.
  23. A husband who is a Mr. Fix It DIYer. He said I should mention him again because he’s “kinda a big deal”.
  24. Another year of life.

[when God seems silent]

In January, I finally decided to share my story with infertility and the impact it had on my life. You can read that here.

It was my prayer that the Lord would use me for His glory – after all, that is why He gives us a story. Two weeks after sharing this, I was asked to speak at a camp, sharing my testimony and how the Lord has worked in my life through it. It produced a few ideas for blog posts.

Even after making peace with my circumstances, the biggest struggle I had was understanding why the Lord had seemed so silent during such times of desperation in my life. Whether I was sitting quietly, waiting to hear His voice, or screaming at Him to give me an explanation, I didn’t hear back from Him. This was something I wrestled with in the midst of these struggles, but also after the fact. I believed that the Lord should answer the second you ask. To spend time in my Bible and praying and then be met with silence felt like a slap in the face – that what I was going through was maybe not worth His time.

My prayer time was not a time of repentance – it was a time of demands, whining, and blame. It was a time full of “why” and an expectation for answers. It was full of what my hopes and dreams were for my life and not a time of surrendering to the Lord’s will for my life. I was not ready to accept the fact that He could possibly want something different for my life.

Isaiah 55:8-9 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Just this March, I was visiting my mom in the hospital and began crying as I remembered the times of silence. The silence was so difficult on me as I was trying to understand the Lord and His ways. Even after making peace, it was still a topic that moved me to tears because I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Shortly after that, I did a bible study on the life of David, and the Lord revealed to me why.

In 1 Samuel 28, David and the Philistines were preparing for battle against King Saul and the Israelites. When Saul saw the Philistines, he was terrified. Verse 5 says, “When Saul saw the Philistine army, he was afraid; terror filled his heart. He inquired of the Lord, but the Lord did not answer him by dream or Urim or prophets. Saul then said to his attendants, ‘Find me a woman who is a medium, so I may go and inquire of her.'”

Just before this happened, in verse 3, it says that Saul had expelled the mediums and spiritists from the land. Then, in an act of desperation, after not hearing form the Lord, he turned to a medium for counsel. It seems questionable that the Lord wouldn’t have just answered him to spare him from taking this step of disobedience, but then I read Isaiah 59:1-2, which I think makes it pretty clear.

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
    nor his ear too dull to hear.
 But your iniquities have separated
    you from your God;
your sins have hidden his face from you,
    so that he will not hear.

Saul had an incredible amount of sin in his heart that had separated him from the Lord. The verse in Isaiah does not say that the Lord couldn’t hear, but rather that He wouldn’t. Just like in Saul’s life, the sin and anger in my life had hardened my heart so greatly against God that I believe the Lord would not listen until that sin had been dealt with. Until I was fully ready to give up my worldly ways I had adopted, my anger, and my distrust, my heart was not ready to listen to what the Lord had to tell me. It wasn’t until I had acknowledged the sin in my life and laid it at the foot of the cross that I could finally hear His voice. So often we want answers from the Lord but we’re so often unwilling to do the hard work of reaching the place He wants us in.

I love a quote by Karl Barth which says, “When we are at our wits’ end for an answer, then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can He give us an answer when we are still well supplied with all sorts of answers of our own?”

As soon as I surrendered my desires to the Lord and submitted my life to His plan, I heard his voice. Every Sunday had me in tears with the message that was shared, with the music that was sung, and with the scripture that was shared. Everywhere I turned I felt that Lord wrapping His arms around me, assuring me that His plan was perfect and that it was going to be fine as long as I submitted to Him.

Hearing His voice, not audibly but in ways that impacted me life regardless, was the peace I needed in my life. My circumstances didn’t change, but the peace that He overwhelmed my heart with made it possible to handle.

[summer cleaning routines to give you extra time in your day]

Raise your hand if the thought of summer break approaching made you scared.

All the kids are home full time from school with an extra 8 hours to create mess, more meals to make which leads to extra dishes, excess laundry after they come inside from playing in the mud 5 separate times a day…

This thought scared me, especially because it is my first summer as a full time mom to four kids. I pictured my summer being spent cleaning, breaking up fights, making three meals a day with a million snacks in between. I wondered how I was going to be able to spend any time with them between all the cooking, cleaning, and summer sports.

Yet somehow I’m finding time to write a blog post right now to tell you all about it in the middle of my day. How on earth?

I’m a neat freak now, but I wasn’t always this way. My parents can attest to this. When I was younger, they would make me clean my room the second the piles began spilling out my door and I couldn’t shut it anymore. Cleaning up this mess would take a full day with trash bags full of crap. Once I was married, I still had this issue – unable to find anything through the mountains of stuff on the floor except now I didn’t have parents there to tell me when I had to clean it. I remember my landlord coming over unexpectedly one day and trying to figure out where I could shove the massive amounts of dirty dishes that hadn’t been washed for two weeks. Yes, there was definitely a stench.

But the second I had social services at my house every two weeks for home visits, I knew I had to come up with a system to relieve the stress of last minute cleaning. One of my case managers would do a complete walk through of the house, checking bathrooms, bedrooms, the kitchen, laundry room… everything. And while I know they allow for us to be somewhat human, I also knew, in order to keep my stress level down, I needed to come up with a routine.

I have the luxury of older children to do chores, helping lighten my load. I know the typical way to start out with kids is from birth and on, so obviously some kids are just too young for this, but kids do grow up eventually! My daughter is 14, the twins are almost 9, and my youngest will be 4 this summer – all ages that can help out!

Laundry

I used to spend one day a week on laundry. I would have five different piles going: one for whites, darks, colors, towels, and bedding. Each pile required two loads, totaling about 10 loads of laundry that day. As soon as one load was done, it would be folded and put away. Since having the kids, I’ve never been terribly behind on laundry, but a whole day each week was dedicated to this task, which would put me behind on other things.

Now, as the kids are getting into their pajamas, I have them bring me their clothes they wore for that day and throw them in the washer. I add mine and Drew’s clothes, any towels used that day, throw in a Shout Color Catcher and wash and dry the load that evening. In the morning, I fold it all and have everyone put away their laundry. Now, instead of dedicating 10 hours a day to laundry, I only spend about 10 minutes each day on laundry – 70 minutes a week. It’s magical. This has also resulted in less messy bedrooms – there aren’t piles of dirty clothes laying on our floors: the kids or mine!

Dishes

My kids were responsible for doing dishes in the evening. “A” would unload the dishwasher, wash, dry, and put away anything that didn’t go in the dishwasher, and then wipe down the counters/table. The Twins would rinse dishes and load them into the dishwasher. We were only doing dishes once a day so the pile with 6 of us would grow quite large and result in an average of 1 hour each evening on dishes. This was not ideal, as a lot of our activities happened after dinner and we always felt rushed.

Now, seeing as the kids are home for the summer, they rotate mornings and each take a turn unloading the dishwasher. Then, throughout the day, we are responsible for rinsing and loading our own dishes into the dishwasher. Come dinner, all that’s left is possibly a couple pots and pans to wash which takes no more than 10 minutes each evening – one kid washes, one dries, and the other puts it away. The dishwasher is then started in the evening and then unloaded by the next kid in the morning and so on. What was taking an average of 7 hours a week now takes 70 minutes a week and it’s no longer a “chore”. If the dishwasher has to be run an extra time in the afternoon, all three unload it in a matter of seconds together. No more whining, fighting, or evenings dedicated to clean dishes. Wah-lah.

Pick-up

This is not much of an issue in our house anymore because my kids know I don’t tolerate laziness and leaving toys laying around. My littlest man is especially good for this – he’ll even take garbage right out of my hand if I don’t throw it away quick enough.

But thanks to my beautiful mother and her clever ideas, we always start a new day with a tidy house. She recommended I try setting a timer for 15 minutes, blasting the tunes, and we all go crazy cleaning anything and everything.

Before, I would forget to tell them to walk around and pick up anything left down. By the time they were in bed, I would spend my quiet time picking up after them and feeling annoyed.

Now, at 7:45 PM everyday, my phone alarm goes off, we set a timer and blast the tunes, and all of us go nuts picking up. We never use the full 15 minutes because we’ve got a good routine going that nothing builds up to a disaster.

We are waking up to a house that is tidy and always ready for unexpected drop ins – even social workers! The stress this takes off me is immense.

Because of all of these routines, I am able to do deep cleaning I wasn’t doing before. I am able to play games with my kids for hours a day if I want (Dutch Blitz for the win!). I’m able to sit at my kids sports practices without giving it a second thought or worrying about what I should be accomplishing at home. When I have a visit from the social worker or case manager, I no longer need to clean or prep for them. My evenings are spent playing with the kids, having a family movie night, or staying late at the park because I don’t have work waiting for me at home. I have time to cook my family a nice dinner now instead of rushing to put something on the table. I even have time to sit on the couch, wondering what I must be forgetting that has given me so much free time, only to realize that I have nothing that needs to be done. It’s a beautiful thing.

Give these ideas a try. Test drive it for a week. I betchu you’ll love it!

The Power of Words & Scripture [unasked for parenting advice from a new mom]

I feel like the last person on this planet who should be giving parenting advice. The amount of “oopsie daisy” moments I have had in my 6 months total of parenting have been a tad bit excessive. If I’m being completely honest, just the other day I absolutely lost it on the kids – not just yelling… I screamed. After I had calmed down, I called all of them downstairs [they were upstairs hiding], and began to apologize for setting such a poor example and being so impatient with them. My, oh so helpful, Twin # 1 looks at me, eyes wide.

“Yeah, Mom. You really scared all of us. Maybe you need therapy.”

Thanks, Bud.

So, like I said, I really don’t feel like I can offer great parenting advice, but I’m going to anyway. Besides, wasn’t my goal this year to be bold?

I was challenged a few weeks ago to think of the power in the words I use and to realize the living power of scripture.

Hebrews 4:12 – For the Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

With my parenting, I run to parenting books, online resources, and, of course, my mommy [who gives great advice, by the way]. But some things, especially with my littlest dude, haven’t been working as I had hoped. Partially because of my inconsistency and lack of patience, but I also believe that it just hasn’t been enough.

I was listening to a podcast from a lady who had a three year old that was so strong willed, defiant, and just driving her to tears daily, making her wonder what on earth she was going to do to help him.

This has been the last several months with my Little Man, so I tuned in.

She talked about how the Lord has placed in on her heart that her words had been demeaning and negative about her son rather than kind and uplifting. Not necessarily to his face, but in general.

Words have an impact. Depending on what comes out of your mouth, you can watch a child’s face light up brighter than the sun with pride or you can watch their face deflate as you realize you’ve just crushed their spirit. All with a few words.

Proverbs 12:18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Matthew 12:36 I tell you, on the day of judgement people will give account for every careless word they speak,

She began to pray blessings over her son, using scripture, such as that he was fearfully and wonderfully made. That he was wanted, chosen, loved. She took the truth that scripture is alive and active and started to use that in her parenting and, within a few months, her son was a completely different kid. Coincidence? I think not.

So, inspired, and ready to try anything, I began to do the same thing. I started praying for him, out loud, as we were driving together. I had memorized some scripture before doing this and just started praying it, putting his name in there, and asking the Lord to continue healing his heart and mind from his trauma. I prayed that the Lord would help him to take his huge, wonderful, spunky personality and use it in a way that glorified God, rather than habits that made me want to rip my hair out.

I started our mornings out praying together. I would grab his little hands and we’d press our foreheads together, and we’d pray the Lord would bless our day and help us to honor Him.

Each time he was naughty and I would have originally put him in timeout, I stopped and we prayed together. We prayed that the Lord would take this and use it to teach him. And me.

Nothing happened right away. In fact, I felt attacked by Satan. As I was drawing closer to the Lord, and trying to allow the Lord into every area of our life, I felt like Little Man’s behavior grew worse and my impatience and lack of compassion was surfacing like never before.

It was during this time that I definitely had that freak out on the kids mentioned above.

Then I quit doing it. It wasn’t really a conscious decision to quit, but more of defeat. Kind of like when you diet, only lose five pounds, but you’re not skinny yet? Well, I tried “hard” and Little Man still wasn’t fixed.

Then Monday this week, Little Man greeted me in the morning and we started our daily routine of the bathroom, breakfast, etc., when Little Man stopped me.

“Mommy, you forgot to pray with me this morning.”

Conviction. Oh, the conviction.

So we stopped. I grabbed his tiny hands, we pressed our foreheads together, and we prayed. Not just me. Once I finished, my sweet little three year old asked Jesus to help him to listen and honor God in his behavior.

People.

We have had THE best week to date. We’ve started praying together in the morning again, I’ve been praying little blessings over him throughout the day and my heart is soaring with pride of what this kiddo is doing through Christ. He’s recognizing his behaviors, he’s actively trying to change them, he’s being kinder to his siblings and the dogs, he’s listening and doing as he’s asked… And I don’t think this is coincidence. Trust me. I’ve spent the last five and a half months dealing with the same behaviors daily, some days worse than others. And this has been a full five days of a three year old TRULY trying to obey and when he [in his little human flesh] fails, he’s SO quick to apologize, and without prompting, state exactly what he is apologizing for and change his attitude immediately.

Yes, we’re going to have bad days still. No doubt.

Nevertheless, I encourage you, fellow parents of [difficult] children. Use the tool God originally gave us – His Word. Seek Him in your parenting instead of immediately jumping to harsh words and punishments. Pray with your children when they’ve disobeyed – that the Lord will mold their hearts and minds for Christ. Pray blessings over them – scripture is alive and active!

Trust me. I’m failing left and right – with this and with every other aspect of life. But thankfully, we serve a very gracious God that is here to pick us back up and keep carrying us through. You just have to allow Him to be a part of it.

Tonight, as I put Little Man in his bed, he asked me to snuggle him. Usually, I am so done momming at the end of the day that I give him a quick kiss, say our prayers, and tell him he needs to go to sleep. But this week has been so healing to our relationship and when he asked me to snuggle him, I actually wanted to spend more time with him. So I laid down next to him and, as he softly stroked my cheeks, I cuddled him to sleep. Oh my heart. ❤

My Testimony

First off, I know I’ve written a few posts on Facebook and such regarding our infertility and shared a bit about my testimony. I do not believe in any way that my journey with infertility has defined me, nor is that the center of my life. However, it did consume me for years and due to my grief it is what my life felt centered around for a period of time. So, if it seems that I talk about it too much, I don’t intend to use it in a search for pity. Rather, I truly wish to bring honor to Christ in sharing what He has done in my life in and through infertility.

Just to give a little bit of background on my life, I grew up in a Christian home with wonderful parents who set a great example on loving the Lord. Around the age of 13 is when I truly remember falling in love with Him and deciding to live a life dedicated to Him. One of the commitments I made to Him was to not date anyone that I didn’t see myself marrying. I prayed for my future husband all of the time and wrote letters to him full of prayers and hopes and dreams for our future – the biggest of which was to become a mom.

When I was 17, Drew asked me to date him. I told him that I wasn’t willing to date anyone I didn’t see myself marrying. He agreed that he saw our relationship headed in that direction and we began dating. A year later we were engaged and then on May 25th, 2013, I married the man of my dreams. Leading up to our big day, Drew and I had discussed waiting three years before having children. After all, I was only 18 and we wanted to live our prime years as just the two of us without any added responsibility.

We were hardly back from our honeymoon before I told him that I wanted to have kids right away. There was something about the ability finally being there that created a whoosh of the baby fever and Drew didn’t hear the end of it and eventually had to agree.

Fast forward a year and I felt the ping on my heart that something wasn’t right. People were getting pregnant left and right and after a year nothing was happening for us. Anyone I had talked to said to relax, be patient – that it was normal for it to take a year to get pregnant. The most popular piece of advice I got was to quit trying. As soon as I did that, I’d get pregnant.

So we waited. And waited. As people were announcing babies everywhere (or so it seems to the seemingly-infertile), I was being targeted with questions of when I was going to have babies. I was one of the young, newlywed girls that people were anxiously waiting on to reproduce.

I’m going to pause here and be real with you.

Please… Do not ask people when they are going to get pregnant. Do not ask people when they plan on having more children. One in eight couples struggle with infertility. Whether it is a matter of waiting with procedures full of poking and prodding, or there is nothing you can do but keep trying and waiting, or it is impossible outside of a miracle, it is a painful, invasive, and lonely journey. It is no one’s business to inquire about, no matter how curious you are or how close to a person you may feel. In a way, you are inquiring about a person’s sex life, and I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t appreciate it if we asked about yours. It opens up a world of hurt and pain that is no one’s business to open.

I was asked dozens of times when I was going to have kids. One person asked me when I was going to get pregnant and after telling them I was trying, they told me to “try harder”. As if it was on their schedule. If only they knew how hard I was trying.

Bottom line. Quit asking.

Not only did these comments create pain in my heart, despite trying to be strong, they also made me feel isolated. I began shutting everyone out because all people wanted to do was fix me or question me.

Two and a half years after our wedding, when not knowing was now scarier than knowing, we went to the doctor. We were given our diagnosis quickly without any possibilities of getting help. We were encouraged to start researching adoption when we were ready. Outside of a miracle, we would never have biological children together.

The drive home was silent, neither of us able to speak as we processed the information. We had walked into the clinic that morning expecting bad news but we also expected some hope. We expected to be told our next steps for treatment, be told that it was going to be hard and cost a lot of money but that they would help us get our baby. We were not ready to hear that there was nothing that could be done – we would never conceive. I remember walking into the house, knowing I still had to go to work that morning, trying to wrap my mind around the news. I walked up to the bathroom, closed the door, and fell to the floor, unable to breathe from crying so hard and feeling like I would die right there from sorrow.

To someone who has not experienced this, it’s hard to grasp the intensity of this loss I experienced. It is not something that is easy to move past quickly with the choice of adoption being available. It is a huge, unexpected loss that caused me to feel depressed, worthless, alone, and unable to go on in life. Even though the statistics are 1 in 8 couples who struggle with infertility, the journey is lonely. Especially if you abandon Christ, which is exactly what I did.

How could a good God do this to a “good” person? Why the heck would He pick me? What was I being punished for? Would I really have been that bad of a mom? Was it the comment I made to my mom, when I was 13, about never wanting kids? I take it back! Please, God! I take it back!

My life became a sad, boring routine. Depression and a hatred for life set in. I worked 10 hour shifts at Digi-Key and then came home to eat pizza, party size bags of chips, candy, pop, and watched Netflix for hours. Day after day, this was my routine. I ended up gaining 100 pounds living like this.

Slowly, we quit going to church. I quit reading God’s Word and the only time I talked to Him was when I was screaming at Him about how awful He was. I began to abandon my morals and tried to “punish” God for hurting me like this. I guarantee that you would not have picked me out of a crowd and thought, “She’s a Christian.” I remember telling someone that I went to church and they said, “Seriously? And it didn’t burn down?”

My desire for children, through all this pain, was not going away, so in June 2016, I decided to call a private foster care agency in Brainerd to gather information about adopting out of the foster care system. The director there didn’t give me information about it but rather scheduled a visit to our house two weeks later.

By December 1st, we were licensed for foster care and waiting for a placement. I expected the wait to be quick due to the amount of waiting children, but the days turned into weeks, and the weeks to months. We got a few calls, but the need was either too great for our first placement or they just didn’t end up working out. We received a call about a sibling group of 4 kids first and I remember thinking they were crazy – especially because we told them we only wanted one kid, 4 years or younger.

At one point, a picture of 5 siblings began circling the internet that were looking for an adoptive home. They were extremely cute and I, in jest, texted Drew while he was at work and told him that we should call and find out more about them. To my surprise, he texted me back and said, “You know… Let’s do it. I feel peace about this.” This was a huge shock because, again, we were agreeing to one kid, 4 and under. The oldest child in this sibling group was 11.

By the time he had gotten home from work, we were giddy with excitement. We started assigning the kids their rooms, calling them by name, and even jumped the gun so much that we assembled a bed we had on hand. I emailed our case manager to see how we could go about adopting out of state and texted my mom to let her know we were pursuing this.

The next morning, I made the phone call to the agency, only to find out that they had received so much attention that they were no longer taking any applicants.

I texted my mom, devastated with yet another disappointment. I had thought for sure we were the only family crazy enough to want to adopt 5 kids at once and felt angry that the Lord had told me no again and shut the door.

My mom text me back, “Maybe God used that to open your heart up to a sibling group rather than just one child.”

Eventually, I began to seek the Lord again. I remember, on December 28th, 2016, I made a couple blankets so that I’d have something ready for any kids entering our home. Once they were done, I still felt the heavy weight on my heart that I just wanted to have children and the Lord still didn’t seem to be answering my prayers. I remember walking upstairs to the nursery I had set up, sitting on the floor, and I just began praying for any children that would enter our home. I prayed for peace for them during their trials and I prayed the Lord would prepare their hearts and minds to join our family. It was this night that I finally laid my desires at the feet of Jesus and put my future in His hands. Relying on my own strength to get me through each day was becoming an unbearable burden to carry. The more I relied on the Lord, just a little bit at a time, the happier I began to feel. Instead of sitting in front of Netflix for hours at a time, I got myself to the gym every day and began eating healthier.

Drew and I also had been working to become more financially secure so that I would be able to quit my job once we received a placement. On the day we had paid down enough debt to feel comfortable with me quitting, I told Drew that it would be so crazy if we got our call tomorrow because I would be able to actually quit my job immediately.

Sure enough, the next morning, we got our call. Four kids – a girl and three boys, ages 13, 7 year old twin boys, and a 2 year old. Peace flooded us as everything fell into place. That morning we were told of a van we could have to fit everyone, as we didn’t have a vehicle big enough for a family of 6 at that time, we felt financially ready for me to quit my job, and the idea of 4 kids brought us joy instead of fear. We said yes and from there God provided one thing after another for us, assuring us this was His plan. On top of the van, we were given bunk bed, toys, support, and prayer. We met our kids in May and began doing respite to begin the transition of them moving from their temporary home with their grandma to living with us. I did quit my job and got my dream of staying home in June. On July 30th, 2017 A, N, E, and R moved in and became a part of our family. I later found out that, on December 28th when I surrendered to the Lord the night I was praying for my future kids was the very day that my four kids had been removed from their biological parents home and entered the foster care system. There is absolutely no denying that the Lord’s hand was in the entire situation.

Now that I’ve made it out of the depths of despair and self-pity, I see how the Lord was working through it all. Looking back, I can see Him every step of the way, even in the midst of blatant disobedience. He never abandoned me as I tried to abandon Him. He stayed faithful and true to me, even when I was not to him.

I have learned that God did not do this to me. The fall of man brought sin into the world and the pain we suffer is a result of that sin. Mine and Drew’s journey with infertility is part of those consequences. It was not because I was going to be a bad mom and it was not because of some silly comment I made to my mom when I was 13. And it was not because I was not being punished for some unknown sin I committed.

John 9:1-5 says, “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

But God did choose me. He chose me to carry this because He knew, through His strength alone, that I would make it through the valley and come out stronger on the other side. He chose me to do His will, whether I was compliant or not. He chose me, out of anyone, to be the mom to my four beautiful kids that didn’t ask for such unfair consequences to other people’s faults. He chose to use me as a vessel for His glory and to carry out his plans and purposes He has for my life.

One morning, as I set down my bible and Laura Story’s book, “When God Doesn’t Fix It”, I sat and sobbed. And I began to pray.

Want to know what I said?

“Thank you, Jesus, for choosing me.”

I never thought I’d be able to say those words.

I started a blog and didn’t select “private”…

You want to know what I just figured out?

I deeply, deeeeeeply care about what people think.

Like. A lot.

Too much.

Every choice I make, especially if it were to become public, I stress over and wonder what people would think of me. Do you know how many Facebook statuses I have written to only hit “discard” because I’m afraid that people may think I’m obsessed with Facebook and oversharing? I’m afraid people just don’t care and that they’ll think less of me because I wanted to share something on a social media site instead of keeping it in my close circle of family and friends. How stupid is that?

Did you know that I have made multiple 2018 New Years Resolutions and have kept them hidden under the table from everyone except Drew and my mom? Why, you ask? Because I’m afraid of what people will think. Will they think I’m cliche and just another resolution loser?

But what if I’m not another quitter? What if I actually succeeded?

What if 2018 was the year that I quit caring what the world thinks of me and only shape my choices and views upon what the Lord calls of me? What if I started stepping out boldly, in my faith, about my faith, and also in my life. About my dreams and passions.

I mean… So far I’ve:

  • Gotten married at 18. Wanna bet how many people thought I was crazy?
  • Bought a home at 21. Wanna bet how many people told me to keep renting? That I’m too young to settle down?
  • Decided to parent four kids at once. From none to four. I’m parenting a 13 year old at 23 years old. No one ever said it, but just imagine how many people thought I was crazy. Maybe you’re one of them.

Three huge, life changing moments of my life. Three huge moments of my life that I (and Drew) trusted the Lord in and took a leap of faith, not knowing what the future truly held. What if I did that more in the not-so-huge moments of life? I imagine I would feel a lot more passionate about life and that I was accomplishing more. That the not-so-huge moments actually meant something.

Oh hey. Wanna know one of my New Years resolutions?

Start a blog.

So here I am. First post written. Stressing over who is going to see it and what they’re going to think. Stressed that someone is going to think, “What a loser. Another person trying to get famous by having a blog. Get a grip.” Even writing that sentence right there made me feel completely uncomfortable.

But you know what? (I’ve said that a lot. Sorry.)

2018 is my year to be bold. Not in the feminist way of “I don’t care what anyone thinks! I’m gonna do me!” But in the “I’m ready to step out in faith and see how the Lord can use me” kind of way. And I pray He does. Here’s to 2018!

Gonna click publish because I might chicken out.

P.S. Not chickening out, but I wanted to add – I have no idea what this blog is about. I have no idea how often I’ll write. I certainly don’t intend on hundreds of people seeing it. But I now have a place to ramble when the Lord has placed something on my heart.

P.P.S Did you know I was so overcome by embarrassment about this idea that I didn’t even tell Drew about this blog..? Happy reading, Babe. 😉