Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Five Wishes For Our Baby Girl

We are in the process of creating a life book for our sweet foster daughter as her case moves toward adoption. My homework for last week was to come up with five wishes I have for her. We love her so very much and are so grateful to know God loves her even more and is in control of everything.

5 Wishes For Baby L

1. That you will always know how loved you have always been, and that you are SO wanted and are such a gift.

2. That you will one day find someone who will love you so completely it makes everything else in the world much less scary. That is how I feel about your "dada", don’t settle for less.

3. That you will never muffle that contagious giggle you have. That you will belly laugh without concern for what people think, and always be as happy as you are today. Your smile lights up a room, let that light shine!

4. That you will grow to have faith and love your God. He loves you so much and has been with you EVERY step of the way. You will never be alone and there will be grace for every mistake you make.

5. That you will learn earlier than I did that gratitude breeds joy. Searching for joy in anything else only breeds discontent. Give thanks in all things. Sometimes it doesn’t come easy, sometimes you have to fight for it. NEVER give up that fight. Choose Joy in all things, even and especially in the hard stuff.

We love you to the moon sweet girl!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

If Not Us, Then Who? If Not Now, Then When?

Over the course of the past few weeks there's been a story of a young man who's been in the foster care system his whole life swirling around the news and internet.  This fifteen year old boy stood in front of a congregation of Christians and plead for a family.  I heard the story and it wrecked my heart.  A few years ago, I went to a conference in Chicago at Willow Creek Community church and Bill Hybels spoke of finding your "Holy Discontent" and how that would set you on your mission for life.  I think I've found mine.  I hear stories of children without families and it breaks my heart into a million pieces.  I get on my knees and I pray about what more I can do to help this crisis in our world.  The statistics are staggering.

I sit and I wonder how it is possible for an orphan to walk in to a church and humble himself with such courage and walk out alone.  Now, I know that in the time since that day, THOUSANDS of families have called and inquired on this courageous young man, and I PRAY that all of those thousands of people who do not end up being the boy's family will open their minds and hearts to a different child, because the truth is there are THOUSANDS of kids out there, not unlike this young man, who want nothing more than to know the love of a family....a love that will be there forever.

I wonder about the state of the "church" when statistics say that if only 7% of Christians adopted there would be no child without a family.  If ONE family out of every THREE churches adopted there would be no crisis.  I'll be honest here.  I am struggling to understand what on earth is going on.  There are over 116,000 children in the foster care system RIGHT NOW who are available for adoption.  I cry as I type this because "Christians" all over are spewing Bible verses and taking a stand on many things...some that matter...and some that maybe don't....this matters.  The Bible MANDATES us to act.  If we claim we believe what the Bible tells us, I don't know how we can turn a blind eye any longer.  If we as His body don't act, how does that reflect on Him? 

That said, adoption isn't easy, and it isn't something all people can do, although it is awfully easy to find an excuse as to why you can't.  These kids often come with much baggage and are so challenging, I am coming off of a day full of therapist and social worker visits, tantrums and tears.  It is no joke and if your heart truly isn't in it, you shouldn't do it.  Faith requires action and sometimes that action makes life harder and makes things uncomfortable, but we aren't called to live this life for only ourselves.  God tells us that "Children are a gift".  I guess I just think it is time we start believing that and treating them as such.  They are after all our future.  They are not a nuisance to put up with for 18 years so we can then retire and travel on easy street as empty nesters.  There are REAL kids out there hurting who need a home and a family to commit to them and show them unconditional love even when they aren't loveable (and especially then).

Jesus told Peter to "feed His sheep".  He didn't tell him to go out and crusade for and against all of the causes we seem to be crusading for and against.  He merely said, "Feed my sheep.".  I pray each day about what else we can DO, and currently most of our family doesn't understand why we'd "make life so much harder for ourselves by taking these kids in" but the truth is...while it is exponentially harder, it is also exponentially better.  Living in His will, and being His hands and feet are a privilege we can ALL enjoy....right now the harvest is great and the workers are few...I'd invite you to pray about how you can act.  Maybe you truly just are not in a place where you could foster or adopt, maybe you are, either way there is SOMETHING you can do.  Foster and adoptive families don't always receive overwhelming support, so if you can't foster or adopt, maybe offer to come along side a family who is, this is hard work, and we all could use a helping hand.  Maybe offer to do respite or babysit, cook, deliver some groceries,clean or fold laundry, even just delivering coffee to a weary mom does wonders.

Would you join me in praying for these children all over the world currently living without a forever family.  The truth is, the answer isn't just adoption.  Adoption happens as a result of a lot of other brokenness.  Adoption is a necessary thing but it is far from ideal.  Ideally kids would live forever with their first family.  So maybe your place is coming alongside a struggling family and helping them do just that!

I surely don't have it all figured out and I can certainly do more myself.  But we've got to act now.  Each day these kids spend feeling unloved and unwanted wounds them further.  Every kid deserves to know the love of a family.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ten Things I've Learned in Ten Years of Parenting

Luke turned ten in August.  Ten years ago, I was a 24 year old new mom who had it all figured out.  Funny.  Ten years in.  I have it less figured out that a decade ago.  As I sat and reflected over my decade of parenting, here are a few things I've learned about being a parent.

1.  All of that "stuff" you get for your first baby, most of it...isn't really helpful and is completely unnecessary.  Aside from a good carseat, some clothes, a crib (not even that for a while for us)  some diapers, and a good baby carrier, all that fancy stuff you somehow think you NEED just weighs you down.  We went ALL out for Luke, had to have EVERYTHING and have slowly learned...less truly is more.  Baby stuff quickly can take up a whole house if you let it.

2.   Baby carriers are a gift from God.  My personal favorite is the Ergo.  I can wear two at a time, donning both babies and still take the older three out for a field trip.  I can also get housework done and grocery shop more efficiently if the babies are close by and don't need to seek my attention.  Keep them close, you can't spoil them.  You'll never be sorry for holding them too much.

3. Our kids are ALWAYS listening.  Even when we think they aren't, they really are absorbing everything, our words our attitudes and our demeanor, there has been  nothing more humbling for me than parenting.  Sometimes it is like looking directly in a mirror and sometimes the image isn't pretty.

4.  Development and milestones are not a race.  Every child truly does develop and learn on their own timeline and it doesn't do any good to compare children.  We need to just let them enjoy being kids and not push our own agenda on them...childhood is supposed to be fun, we need to relax and let it be so.

5.  No matter what parenting choice I make, someone will disagree and that is okay.  Just as all children are different, so are all parents.  We all need to truly judge less and go with what works for our own family.

6.  You can't be a good parent and a lousy spouse.  When I slack off and don't pour into my marriage, it directly affects the kids.  It is true that one of the best gifts we can give our kids is a healthy relationship with their other parent.  We model for them what a relationship should look like and that is more powerful than we give it credit for.

7.  Always stop and try to see the big picture.  In a chaotic moment, things might seem like the whole world is ending, I set a timer for 20 minutes and just endure in the moment and typically 20 minutes out, I can laugh, breathe and see that in the grand scheme of things that hard moment is just a moment and I am able to see the long view and show compassion and let go of anger and frustration.

8.  My house will never be as clean as I'd like it to be and it has to be okay.  A fellow foster parent shared her motto with me, "Trading sanity for love every day" and somedays that is how it feels for me as I do like order and a clean house, but in the grand scheme, the fact that we get to play a key part in helping to shape little people and love them is far more important than a house that looks like it belongs in Better Homes and Gardens.

9.  Trust myself and trust God.  Every one wants to chime in and give advice to a struggling parent, but the truth of the matter is that there is no one right way to do any of this.  We all just have to wade through and find what works best.  We know our own kids and we know what works for them.  I often feel like I must be screwing my kids up forever, but the truth is that we make mistakes, I make a LOT of them and what is important is how we deal with those mistakes and move forward.

10.  The biggest thing I've learned, that I am JUST realizing this year, is that God didn't give me kids because he wanted me to perfect them and make them better.  He gave me kids because they are a gift.  He is using them to perfect ME and make me better.  They are a gift to me, and it isn't my job to fix them.  It is my job to allow them to mold me and make me more Christlike. My kids have taught me SO much.

Okay, I had to edit to add number 11 because it really has been life changing for me:

11.  NEVER, EVER look at the clock in the middle of the night when up with a restless child.  Keeping score and adding up lost sleep is NEVER helpful.  You can't get it back and there is nothing you can do about it, keeping tally of lost sleep won't bring it back, it just causes anxiety, you can't fret over what cannot be changed...one day we shall sleep again, right?

Above all, I have learned that these precious ones are truly His children, and each day I need to pray and hand them back over to Him.  He gives the grace for each moment, even the really ugly ones if only we'll receive it, and our kids deserve for us to extend that grace on to them.  Kids will be kids and we should expect that.  I will probably never have this all figured out as I once thought I did.  You can read every parenting book on Earth and still not have a clue.  I've read most of them and I can finally admit, I don't have it all figured out, but I sure do trust the One who does. 

What are some things you've learned since becoming a parent?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Just Another Day in Paradise

So, reality is that with five children some days are better than others. Most days have their intense moments, and I have learned to just breathe and buckle down and get it done. Today...well...today is one for the books...so here's hoping that I read this one day and laugh.

After going to bed just after an argument with my dear husband over Fisher Price Little People (yes, you read that right). I was grateful for a new morning and a fresh start. I woke about two hours before the kids to get some chores done because today was a Occupational Therapy AND Physical Therapy day for our foster girl. (Trying to entertain four other children while giving my attention to baby girl and her therapist so that I can help her with exercises the rest of the week, makes me break into a sweat 24 hours in advance and have a bottle of wine chilled and ready to go.)

I digress. I went downstairs to toss a load of laundry in and stepped on about twenty pieces of glass...er...I mean LEGOS on the way while carrying a grossly overstuffed hamper of dirty laundry. I started the laundry and headed back upstairs to mop, get breakfast started and get dressed, and as I brushed my teeth, Jacob began to wail. Freshly dressed I picked him right up for a morning snuggle only to find that his diaper had malfunctioned and he was DRIPPING wet. Awesome. Got him changed, changed my clothes again, stripped his bed and got him in his high chair...at which point all other little Bolte children begin to emerge wanting breakfast.

Making toast for five kids with a two slice toaster (because I refuse to buy a new one because ours still works, it is THIRTEEN years old...it has to give up someday, right?) takes me, well...until lunch. ;) SO I sent Ben outside to dump the compost and grab the mail I'd forgotten to get yesterday.

He bounces in the front door with a jar of bugs with holes poked in the top, Ben is the bug whisperer so this was nothing new. In the jar he proudly announced were not one, not two, but THREE "snowy white crickets" he'd found in his journey to the mailbox! He deemed it the best day EVER as he proudly showed them to each of the other kids. I continued to bustle around trying to get everyone fed and asked Ben to please pour his cereal.

He set the jar down. A baby child, who will remain nameless...picked the jar up.  The lid was not properly screwed on the jar, and a wild cricket chase ensued.  Said, baby, won the wild cricket chase and well...crickets ARE a delicacy in some areas of the world so I'd say this baby was simply broadening his/her horizons.

Ben sobbed, mourning the loss of ONE cricket...the other two remained in the jar...I am guessing they saw the toddlers and decided to cut their losses and stay put.  I comforted Ben, we got the lid on the jar and took the crickets to the porch for safety.  When I turned back around Jacob had removed his diaper, and proceeded to pee all over the floor I woke up early and mopped.  I grabbed him and ran to get a towel.  I was not fast enough because in a split second baby number two found the pee pool and decided to have  some fun splashing in it.

Both babies make their way to the tub, babies washed, diapered and dressed.  I remind myself to breathe.  I actually set a timer from the moment of the cricket escape.  This is my coping skill.  I set a timer for 20 minutes because what seems like it must be the Bolte Apocalypse  happens daily, and while it seems like I am in it forever, in twenty minutes, typically life looks different and things aren't so chaotic.  It helps me focus, not become overwhelmed and just buckle down.  So I am in full buckle down mode.

Therapist number one is due at any moment. I still need to get tonight's pot roast into the crockpot so it is done in time for the boys to eat before heading to our local fair to enter their prized projects. I put the babies down to play and frantically search for the aforementioned Fisher Price Little People for baby girl's therapy session.  I hear a crash.  I turn and Ben has dropped his bowl of cereal, creating an organic O's BOMB all over the table, floor, sliding glass door and stainless appliances.  The timer begins to beep.  I sit down on the floor in the cereal carnage and begin to weep.  Ben sees my distress and brings me a tissue.  I look up and he says, "Mom, don't cry over spilled milk".  We all laugh and there is a knock at the door.  I wish it were a therapist for me.  I still can't find those darn Little People.

The moral of the story:  Don't cry over spilled milk, but it is PERFECTLY acceptable to cry over an ingested cricket friend.  :)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

It Matters.

Tonight we celebrated our sweet foster daughter's first birthday. Sometimes the lack of support for our decision to foster children still catches me off guard and sucks the wind right out of my sails.

Tonight I am reminded of those who were there, and who are there. Those who make our kids a priority, all of them...treating each kid the same whether biological or not. I watched a few of my dear friends love and hold that one year old princess and I was reminded not to let those who just don't "get it" to make me overshadow those who are embracing it with us.

This fostering thing, it is hard, it is a roller coaster of emotion and activity. Appointments are many and downtime is scarce. I watched as a few close friends and family watched that sweet beauty light up as she opened gifts and was overwhelmed with gratitude that they chose HER today. They made her a priority and they celebrated the gift that she is with us and while my heart was heavy that a few immediate family members made a different decision, I know it is more important to focus on those who chose her.

We choose her. We love her as our very own, not knowing if she is here forever or just a few more months, we put our hearts on the line and though we've chosen this, our family and friends haven't. So, when a friend or family member goes out of their way to show love to her, we notice. We notice every effort made to come alongside us in this battle. We feel every prayer and appreciate each sweet gift.

When we see others loving her with abandon the way we do, it makes my heart soar. The fact that a friend calls to check in or stops by to visit knowing the enormous amount of effort it takes for me to get this brood out of the house, helping me feel not so alone, it doesn't go buy unnoticed. I don't send the thank you cards I once did, as I can barely find time to pee. But in case you ever wonder if I notice the little acts of kindness, the gifts of love or the loving support and prayer...make no mistake...I do! I notice and it matters more than you could ever know.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A New "School" Year

It seems the world is all back in the back to school frenzy. After a summer of day trips and playgrounds, creek walks and fun everyone is school shopping and buying new clothes, books, pencils, backpacks, lunchboxes etc. The first year we chose to homeschool, I remember feeling a little nostalgic as everyone else was posting back to school pictures on Facebook. This year, I am also overwhelmed with feelings, but they sure are different feelings. While truth be told there ARE days where I wish I could just get a break and send the bigger ones off on the bus, I am SO grateful I have the choice to opt out of that scene.

I am so glad that every family gets the chance to make the choice of what works best for THEM. I don't think there is a one sized fits all answer for all families and all kids. I think there are great schools out there, and amazing teachers who are striving to teach outside of the box (Howard is one of them, though I might be biased). There may come a day where school works best for our family, but for now...I am grateful that we don't HAVE to subscribe to sending them to school every day.

I cannot count how many times people ask about our family and comment on how busy things must be and then they find out we "school" our kids at home and they make comments like, "I don't know how you do it!" or "You must be so patient", and the truth is...it just fits for us...it works and I am NOT SO patient, but God sure does provide me A LOT of opportunities to practice that skill each day. :)

For us, I am glad that as everyone goes back to school, we will get full run of the zoo, children's museum, science museums and playgrounds again, I am glad that we can live at a pace that works for us and incorporate learning into our activities all day long. For us a new "school year" never really starts because the previous one never really ended. We are learning all day every day and following the kids interests and we are astounded at how they are growing and thriving. Learning and living are one in the same and we've seen the kids just take off learning things they are excited about and that they likely wouldn't be necessarily learning in a classroom that is confined to teaching standardized test material.

It has taken us a few years and a lot of mistakes and trying to recreate school at home to realize, that I don't need to spend hundreds of dollars on curriculum and materials, letting a kid loose at the library has proven to be much more lucrative for us although, I also have learned to set aside a little money in the budget for the fees that often follow a trip to the library. Learning to trust these kids to KNOW what they want to learn and trust the process that they will WANT to be educated when it is made relevant to them has not been easy for me and sometimes I still struggle, but last year instead of spending a fortune on curriculum, I set aside some money for daytrips and projects and both Luke, Ben and even Hope went so far above and beyond my expectations that I just couldn't argue with the process.

“True learning -learning that is permanent and useful, that leads to intelligent action and further learning, can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner” ~John Holt

I feel like we are intentionally preparing our kids for real life. Learning isn't just for certain hours and certain days of the week here...we find teachable moments all day long every single day and it is a fit for us. As we begin our fall and Howard goes back to school, and tries to inspire and make a difference, I get to do the same for my own kids and I am grateful. I am grateful that I have that choice, and I am grateful that for those families who school is a fit for, get that choice. There ARE great schools out there, great teachers, and I am sure many great parents who supplement those schools and help their children learn and discover in their time out of school. There is no perfect situation, I am just super grateful we found what works for us right now.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Adoption: One Year Out

A year ago August 3rd, our adoption of Jacob was finalized. Little did I know this was just the beginning. I think I went into adoption thinking that it was the fairy tale that it looked to be. I was a bit naive and that might be an okay thing. I remember reading this blog from Jen Hatmaker and I can tell you that I referenced it more times than I can count in this past year. This year has, even with all we've been through been one of the hardest yet.

I am going to be real with you here.  We brought Jacob home and I was so happy to have him here and for us to be a big happy family, and for the first few weeks it was just that...but as reality set in I found myself disillusioned.  I expected to love him so fiercely in an instant, the way I did my biological kids...the trouble is...in adoption, biology isn't on your side...there are no post pregnancy hormone surges to keep you euphoric and adoring as this child wakes up incessantly at night as he is only used to hospital noises.  For me, bonding did not happen immediately and it made me feel like a horrible person.  I was honest with our social worker that visited and she kept reassuring me that what I was feeling was normal and to just give it more time...that bonding takes time in adoption.

I'd read so many "Hallmark" stories of adoption and love at first sight, and that might be reality for some, but it wasn't for me.  I kept going back to Jen's blog to remind myself to put those feelings on the back burner and just let my hands care for this boy, I had to constantly remind myself that he was NOT in fact a tiny terrorist who'd come from Arizona to make my life miserable, but that he was a sweet gift of God who'd endured more than a baby ever should and that he needed to be held and loved and to learn to enjoy those things.

Each time he'd push me away, my heart would sink, I had figured that adopting him at three months was still early enough to bypass any grief issues or attachment problems...and I was wrong.  Adoption is NOT the natural way of things.  It is necessary BECAUSE of the brokenness of this world so to disillusion ourselves into believing it is a happy fairy tale doesn't do any one any good.  It is hard, it is heart wrenching, exhausting work.  It is worth every tear and every heartbreak.  Each time we lay ourselves down and allow ourselves to be His hands and feet to one of his children, he blesses us...boy has he blessed us.

It seemed like the more love I tried to lavish upon him, the more he resisted me.  It almost felt personal...he had more issues with me than anyone and I was the one who came to the hospital and got him...oh WAIT, I was the one who went to the hospital and took him from all he knew.  We sometimes think that because babies are so tiny, they are just resilient and can move beyond early hardship unscathed, the trouble is...those first weeks and months are key to development...they set the stage so to speak, and what we were missing was that we needed acknowledge that so that Jacob could move forward.  He'd missed out on all of those early snuggles and cuddles and he didn't know how to receive them...his normal changed in an instant and he was and is grieving.  

I have never lived life feeling so isolated, exhausted and overwhelmed...I have never had so many people in and out of our home on a regular basis watching us under a microscope to be sure we are thriving as a family.  I wasn't prepared for trying to learn to juggle biological family along with all of this or for sorting out what exactly is best for Jacob in that arena.   I read "The Connected Child" by Dr. Purvis and everything began to click.  Jacob wasn't showing a stubborn and tantrum throwing terrorist personality.  Jacob was simply using the coping skills he'd developed on his own.  Slowly we've begun to see our boy in a different light, we'd not given enough credit to the trauma he'd suffered.

Truthfully I say all of this and it has been intensely hard for us, but the hardship on our part isn't even a fraction of the hardship and loss on Jacob's part and once we really acknowledged that and educated ourselves on how to parent him, things have taken off at light speed in a much better direction.  We all know that each of our children need different things from us as parents and for Jacob, his needs are far different than the needs of our oldest three.

Parenting Jacob has been humbling, I've had to re examine all of my parenting techniques and all I thought I knew about child rearing and really come at it from a different angle.  I am beaming as I tell you that today my aunt watched Jacob for about an hour for us and when I walked back in he ran to me with his arms wide open and it might just have been the best feeling I've ever felt.  It was genuine.  He is my son and I am his mom, and it has taken time for us to fall in love with each other and I am head over heels.

Adoption has been hard, I am being authentic here, there are a lot of messy and hard things that no one tells you.  It has caused me to really make some much needed changes and examine my relationship with my kids, my husband and our God.  There were times in this past year that I wasn't sure I could put my feet on the floor and do this another morning, but one foot in front of the other, we did it.  Jacob is blossoming and he is TOTALLY a beloved member of this family!  He is the sweetest, funniest and most adorable curly haired little guy you can imagine and we are AMAZINGLY blessed to get to be his family.

I read this quote on a blog today and found it to ring SO very true in my heart...the bittersweet that is adoption is summed up right here...

"Adoption is an imperfect answer to an impossible question. I happen to wish that all Babies could be raised by their first mothers & fathers, the people who brought them into this world, the people whose blood history they share. But we don’t live in a world where “shoulds” always happen. Life is messy and painful, life includes loss and heartache. And so adoption exists.
And make no mistake I believe adoption is absolutely beautiful. I believe my family, built on adoption, is beautiful. It is the family I always wanted. It is the only family I wanted.  But I am very aware that I am the one in this adoption triad (the first parents, the child, the adoptive parents) who suffered the least loss to get to this place, to be part of this family. I am “the lucky” one."

Adoption is crazy hard and crazy beautiful and it has changed my life.  It has made me a more understanding, more patient, more compassionate person.  It has helped me to understand God's relationship with us in ways I never imagined.  Jacob was hand chosen for our family and I am so excited to see more of his sweet and spunky personality blossom in the coming years.  It has been hard for me to look at him and rejoice that he is my son when I know his first mom hurts and misses him.  I pray for her daily and I love her more than she'll ever know. I hurt for her but Jacob NEEDS me to rejoice for him...he DESERVES to have a mommy who rejoices for the gift that he is and rejoice I will!

If you are out there and you are in your first year and you are exhausted and overwhelmed, misunderstood and at the end of your rope...I urge you to keep hanging on because the miracle follows the hardship...I look back and see how far we've come and I am just so humbled that God has chosen to use us at all. It may not be a fairy tale, but there is HOPE!   I encourage you to seek out an attachment counselor and read "The Connected Child".  If I had to do it all over again, would I?  Well stay tuned...round two has already begun.  :)

His grace IS enough.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Eight Years in Heaven

I Will Carry You

This video is how we ended this day...a day of sorrow, and joy, of grace and forgiveness, of confusion and peace.  Eight years out it seems like it should be an easier day to navigate and yet I still struggle like I did the first year.  It is tough not to allow your mind to walk through every single moment of a day that changed EVERYTHING.

On this day eight years ago, we packed our lunches dropped Luke off with his grandparents and headed to the hospital to see our sweet Isaac.  He'd been doing well and though we knew the future didn't look like it would be a long one for him we knew God knew better than we did and we wanted to soak him up.  Tired and apprehensive about another full day in the NICU, I decided to take a tape recorder along and read children's books into it so that when we came home that night to put Luke to bed, Isaac could still hear my voice.  It always seemed to soothe him. 

Little did I know that he'd never hear those recordings, and that the end part of my reading "I'll Love You Forever" would be the way the memorial service would end the following week.  We showed up and knew in an instant things had taken a turn.  It all happened so fast...there were tears and vomit (mine) and sweet amazing nurses and gut wrenching agony...it was eight years ago and yet it seems like yesterday.

It hurts...boy does it still hurt, yet eight years out I can tell you while the pain is still there...we look back and see so much purpose to that child's life.  He has accomplished great things on this earth even though he was only here six days.  I am so very grateful God chose me to be his mama.  Days like today make me ever so homesick...but I can grieve and cry out to a God who knows...who cares, who holds my every tear in His mighty hand and will some day make it all right.  It IS well with my soul. 

Yet this morning, I got out of bed, determined to live this day to the fullest and was kind of sideswiped when I learned that my grandfather was in the hospital.  He's 86.  He had suffered some heart trouble and had a procedure done and was having a tough time.  Of course when I asked what hospital he was in and I was told the VERY hospital my son had died in eight years ago...I felt anxiety set in.

I prayed and prayed about what I should do.  Ultimately I knew the only way I'd have peace would be if I went in to see my grandpa.  I parked in that garage and as I approached that familiar building I thought I might turn and run.  As I entered the rotating doors, I watched as families loaded their newborns into the car, and I felt like I couldn't breathe.  I walked to the desk and asked for his room number and had to truly fight the urge to RUN, the memories washed over me like a flood and I was losing my grip.

I made a quick trip to the restroom before boarding that elevator.  I took a deep breath and I prayed, I prayed for grace and for strength and for peace.  I prayed and I took another breath, and I walked through those elevator doors...

And you know what?  It was good.  I got to see family and I had a great visit with my grandpa and He granted me the grace and the strength and the peace...all of them...for each moment as they were needed.  Tears flowed and laughter erupted and it was a great visit.

I got home and we had a nice family dinner and headed to the beach to light Chinese lanterns and tears are still flowing, but there is peace and there is joy and there is grace...and it is well...it is well with my soul. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

He'd Be Eight

Eight years ago we were BLESSED to meet our second son. The day was a swirling whirlwind and I so wish I could have a do over and soak in every single moment, eight years out I am still terrified of forgetting...forgetting what his little face looked like, how his body would just relax when in my arms and the little squeaks and sounds he made. I sit here and can't help but wonder what 8 year old Isaac would be like. What would his interests be, what would he choose to do for his birthday week celebration?

It still stings...two years shy of a decade out and the tears still fall as we struggle to find a way to celebrate the gift we were given in July of 2005. He deserves to be celebrated, yet celebrating a child who is in Heaven is tough. Each year has gotten a little easier as I remind myself that there is no rulebook for this...there is no right or wrong, and that we just have to do what we think will honor him best. We typically do something to serve others and then release balloons and have cake. The kids look forward to Isaac and Asher's birthdates because we have a family fun day...and while it is bittersweet, I am so grateful it is an event the kids all look forward to.

I am so grateful for all that God has done in our lives since he blessed us with Isaac. We are changed people and the blessing Isaac is overwhelms me. So this July 14th, we will try to honor him the best we can, knowing the gift he continues to be far outweighs anything we are capable of. The hurt is still there but the gratitude continues to grow and take just a bit of the edge off of that intense heartache...as we celebrate another year we are grateful, grateful that though our hearts still ache like crazy, we have been blessed and we continue to see beauty coming from the ashes. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing...it still takes my breath away that God chose US for this sweet boy...

I desperately wish I could look into my 8 year old's eyes and tell him how he has blessed this family and how much I love him...my heart will ache, but I take comfort in knowing that one day...I will get to do JUST THAT.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

It's Not What You Might Think

I have had a couple of people ask me recently, what the hardest part of fostering is, what my advice would be for those who are considering it and just my overall impression. I wasn't sure how to answer any of these questions and found myself really pouring over them in the past few days.

As for the hardest part of fostering, strangely, it isn't what you might think, in fact it isn't what I would have thought prior to my experience, and it is likely different for all foster parents. Initially I really prepared myself for trying to love children who were mine for just a time, and who would likely spend their forever elsewhere. I prayed hard for God to give me the courage and strength to love them with all I had and let go when He decided. The thing is...that part, the part I thought would be the part that would make me want to throw in the towel and quit, isn't the hardest part...in fact it is kind of the best part.

I am not going to tell you it is EASY, but truthfully I have never felt so called to something, I have never felt so HONORED to be used by God as when I am rocking a sweet baby HE placed here as a safe place in the middle of the night...it is sacred and heartbreaking and so humbling. The loving them part is easy, and the letting go...tough but sacred in its own right. 

Our current foster daughter has been here for nine months now. Loving her has been so easy from the get go. She is the most content, happy and easy going baby I have EVER had the pleasure of mothering. Her smile engulfs her entire face and she lights up a room in an instant. She belly laughs more than she cries and is the cutest little thing ever, her blue eyes see right into your soul and you can't help but want to be better when she is around.  EVERYONE loves her. She is a delight and we are so very honored to have had her this long.

I won't lie and say it hasn't been hard loving her and knowing her situation. I pray for her mother every single day and have rooted for her all along. I'd love nothing more than to see a fairy tale ending to this story, it rips my heart out knowing that her mom misses her every single night and that she struggles so.

 Seeing the brokenness of the world right up close in your own living room is something you don't recover from.  You are changed...addiction, poverty, abuse, all become real and living beings with a face, we prayed for Him to break our hearts for what breaks His and boy did he ever.  We have struggled because it sometimes all threatens to overwhelm, but He reminds us...HE is the healer, and that love covers a multitude of sins...so we hug and we pray and we do all that we can do because becoming overwhelmed and doing nothing...well...that won't help anyone.

Managing five kids is hard, two babies is harder than I've ever dreamed, but we've hit our groove and we make it work. I watch the older kids, even Jacob love on her and my heart swells. I remind myself daily of how God is honoring our obedience and that while society might tell us we are taking away from our biological kids, I can see beyond a shadow of a doubt that HE is giving them more than we ever could through this experience...they are learning to love, even when it is hard, and they amaze me every single day.

So, you ready for the hard part? It is going to sound trite and selfish and insignificant...but...it is the appointments! HOLY MOLY...NO ONE in classes prepares you for all of the ever loving appointments. I mean they teach you how to look for signs of abuse, how to follow all of the guidelines and stay within your rights as a foster parent, how to keep the kids safe, etc, but Feeding Therapy and Speech Therapy, and Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy, and GOOD GRIEF I NEED THERAPY. ;) I am a girl who loves to have an open calendar...I love to head for the beach when it calls and have an impromptu road trip or zoo day when the mood strikes and good gracious, that is no longer an option. In addition to therapies, there are doctors and specialists and social workers and birth parent visits and child profile visits and oh my goodness this 10 month old has a fuller calendar than a NY Socialite!

The hardest thing for me has been trying to find balance...trying to set boundaries and guard my own family time and still make all of those appointments work...we are learning to write in family days first and to occasionally be honest and say we need a day off.

My advice to foster parents is to set boundaries and to work on NOT being a YES person all the time. My people pleasing ways are getting worked out of me as I learn I just cannot make everyone happy so ultimately I need to seek Him first and make decisions that honor Him and are best for my family.

Overall, for us fostering has been a great experience. Our first few kids were tough because they were all here for just a few weeks or less and so once we got into a groove they went home or to a situation that was best for them, we've now had a longer term placement and have seen both ends...fostering is hard...don't get me wrong...it is tough to be expected to raise a child that isn't legally your own, as your own, except without all the rights...just the responsibilities, but it has been such a sacred honor to love His children and to be His hands and feet to them. To love with the love every child deserves from a parent. While letting go is tough, we've learned even with our own children that sometimes He calls us to love with all we have and let go and while it is heart shattering work, it is His work and it is what we are called to do...parenting is hard work...foster parenting...is also HARD work...but most things worth doing are! The system has flaws and there are frustrating aspects, but we can't let ourselves get caught up there...He says to love His children and to feed his sheep.  The work is hard, but I've got to say knowing we are doing just what He has called us to and seeing him provide for our EVERY need has been simply amazing.

I can't help but think that Isaac and Asher made this difference in us, they helped us see that we can't live life for only ourselves and we have to love with a reckless abandon without fear of having to let go, it is that kind of love that makes this life worth living...the heartache, it hurts, but it is truly better to love and let go than not to love.  I am so grateful for those boys and all of the work they've done here on earth despite their short time here...I am just overwhelmed still that God chose us to be the parents who got to be theirs! 

Foster parents out there, what do YOU think is the hardest part of fostering?  What would your advice be to those considering fostering?

He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young. Isaiah 40:10

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sing A New Song

May has been a whirlwind month thus far in our crazy household, between social worker visits, baseball, therapies for both babies, doctor visits, baseball, specialist visits, sickness, baseball, daily household chores, school, baseball, (did I mention baseball?), we have been going nonstop. It has been hard. The kids have been wired, they are ready to be all done with school and outside, the babies are growing and into everything and well, life with a 9 year old a 6 year old, 3 year old, 15 month old, and 8 month old is shall we say, BUSY.

Most days I barely have time to shower or pee let alone anything else. I am a person who likes to have unscheduled time to just go with the flow and enjoy life with my family and this month I have something and most days multiple things written on every single date on the calendar. There are times where I feel like it is suffocating me. Foster care has stirred my heart in a way I didn't see coming and my intimate knowledge of the brokenness of the world some days threatens to consume me. A couple of days ago I had a day where I was pretty sure it would end with me in a straight jacket in a mental hospital somewhere.

It was nine AM on Monday, and despite my every effort I have yet to become a morning person. I had already fished an entire roll of toilet paper out of the toilet, changed four diapers, changed the sheets on a bed where someone had an accident, fished a barbie out of a different toilet, hung laundry on the line, burned breakfast, put dinner in the crockpot, swept floors, wiped tears, wiped three different behinds, text messaged with two bio moms, and it was almost time for a meeting to discuss some speech and communication issues that Jacob is having. I could feel my heart racing and I was grasping for some assemblance of sanity. I sat down to spoonfeed the tiniest mouth (that doesn't really care to be fed, resulting in me wearing more of the food than she eats).

I could feel every muscle in my body tense as Hope proceeded with her incessant demands and the boys began to bicker, Jake found himself atop the table next to the couch and was ready to toss the lamp we got for our wedding to the floor. Many friends and family members that week had taken the liberty of expressing their lack of understanding for why we'd take on kids that are "not our problem" and it had been weighing on my heart all week. As much as I try not to be a people pleaser, a running commentary was playing in my mind: "It is too much for you Kristy, take it easy for once", "Don't you think life would be easier if you sent the boys to school?" "You've already adopted one child, why even consider adopting another there are far too many families out there who'd just like one kid, you've done your part", "Finances will be too tight", and the list goes on. They'd been playing in my head all week, stealing my joy and robbing my kids of the mom they deserved. Doubt set in and I wondered if it all WAS too much, if it WASN'T time to take it easy for a while.

I sunscreened the older three and sent them to play in the sandbox, got Jacob settled with a basket of books to throw, and turned the TV to Pandora while I sat down to feed baby girl. One spoon of food in, one spoon of food sprayed across my once clean shirt, hearing the doctor's words of, "Adding feeding therapy, Shriner's Hospital, Pittsburgh Children's Hospital for feeding evaluation" all came to mind. I began to tear up and then...I heard a familiar tune. God was about to use Pandora to get my attention and change the course of that day and the days to come.

I breathed in the music as it played and through tightly pursed lips I began to sing, "Everyone needs compassion, a love that's never failing, let mercy fall on me..." I breathed deep and felt Him begin to fill me up, tears began to brim over..." Jeremy Camp's voice flooded my home as God bathed us in a mercy that was tangible. I sang louder and louder and the tears streamed down my face..."Saviour, He can move the mountains,My God is Mighty to save, He is Mighty to save." The words rang so true that peace came over me like I hadn't felt in days. I'd been so busy I'd been neglecting the ONE who could move the mountains and make it all possible. My priorities out of whack, I don't think I'd taken a moment to worship or sing in forever, my heart was parched and dry and seeking acceptance...trouble was...it wasn't HIS acceptance I'd been seeking.

"So take me as You find me,All my fears and failures,Fill my life again. I give my life to follow everything I believe in,now I surrender." I meant every single word as I sang...it was the most heartfelt worship I'd had maybe since, standing in church and forcing a weak voice through pursed lips as I sang "He gives and takes away, He gives and takes away...my heart will choose to say blessed be Your name" at Asher's memorial service. I am ashamed to say I'd forgotten the power of letting the words wash over me and just offering Him my whole heart and allowing Him to transform it.

I won't tell you that my life suddenly got easier that moment, but the peace I'd been missing was returned. My heart was full and His grace and mercy were so very evident. Perspective came, and I was reminded to find joy in the hard stuff, eucharisteo where to others it may not make sense. I know unequivocally that I am where God has placed me. Each of these children in my home are GIFTS, not burdens, GIFTS and it is an honor to love and serve them...and it is hard, and I am tired and sometimes I just want to hide away, but the truth is He has called me to this. I get to be the mom to two sweet boys and heaven, three boys and two girls HERE today, right now.

To many in today's world of American Dream Mentality, five kids, homeschooling, adoption, foster care, and self denial seems like an awful fate. I can tell you without a single doubt that it is anything but awful. It is such an honor that it brings tears to my eyes. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but today...in this moment, He is choosing to use ME, broken, selfish and imperfect ME. I am only one person and when I begin to look too far down the road I become so overwhelmed that the anxiety sets in...but each day...he is reminding me...moment by moment, grace for each one and not a moment too soon...like manna from Heaven, He is there, we start with just loving His children, and he blesses beyond what makes sense. He grants us the patience, the love, the resources, the finances when the need arises and he guides our path as we allow our hearts to be broken for what breaks His and as we make a feeble attempt to be His hands and feet.

It is too much, it is hard, and it is much much more than I can handle...this life...it just is...but not for my God...no...He can move mountains...I have seen Him do it...he IS mighty to save. I am so grateful for this reminder...brought to me by Pandora...there really is something to the "make a joyful noise" business. ;)

Sing a new song to the LORD! Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! Psalm 96:1

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sometimes I Want to Run (But I Don't Run) ;)

When we decided to go into foster parenting, we went in full steam ahead, knowing that is what God was calling us to. Then Jacob came along, and threw an unexpected and amazing wrench in that plan. After we got him home and things settled we were still both feeling the pull to foster. We figured we'd do it for a few years at least and be His hands and feet to as many kids as we could. We signed our contract in September of last year. We've provided a home temporarily for four little ones and had several respite kiddos. While it is truly one of the hardest things I've done, the foster shoe has seemed to fit. I feel like we are tangibly doing exactly what God wants us to do and I have truly never felt more at peace in my path even in chaos.

I have been more of a homebody than ever lately partly because taking five young kids out is a lot of work, partly because naptime is sacred, and largely because I am still working on that part of me that cares too much what others think. We've had more than our fair share of rude and condescending comments while we are out and about and while I know I should just let them go, they bother me. It bothers me that people think we are out of our ever loving minds to do this and that they somehow have the right to ask personal questions about how so many kids, the last two being so close together, came to be in our family.  I crave normal. I want to be just the regular girl next door, and the funny thing is that I have never been and likely won't ever be her. Following Jesus is radical and I know I am told to expect the criticism and stay focused. That said, it is still hard and I still struggle.

I look at my three older kids. If I had stopped with them, we'd be done with diapers, bottles, and all the baby gear that has engulfed my home. We'd also be being disobedient and likely just struggling somewhere else and we'd be missing out on the amazingness of Jacob and our foster daughter. I think it is human nature to crave easy. I won't lie, there are moments in the middle of the night when I am up for the sixth time with two babies who tag team me all night long that I think of or dream of how "easy" my life would be if I had just stopped with Hope. The thing is, it likely wouldn't be easy because if it weren't foster care it'd be something else. The thing is, this is where God has called us. The thing is, Jacob is a challenge for sure but is the most amazing kid ever. He has taught me so much, has humbled me in ways I have NEEDED and opened my eyes to so many things.  The thing is that God loves these children...and He expects US to love these children.

Foster care has wrecked me, broken my heart and made me want to run screaming for an island somewhere to lock my family in a bubble. The thing is...we are changed. Once we see the brokenness, it cannot be unseen. We can't turn away. We can't run away, if we try, it will find us...it will haunt us. Foster parenting has opened my eyes to the fact that all that junk we see on the news and try to shield our kids from...it is happening...for real...to real people...affecting REAL kids...addiction, prostitution, abuse, neglect, violence, sexual predators, they are all for REAL, they are breaking people every day and once our eyes are opened to this reality, we cannot run from it. It becomes a part of our hearts.

Today, we live with not just the awareness, but the intimate knowledge that not all children are fed, loved and cared for the way children should be. We have always known that this is the reality but now our eyes have truly been opened and we cannot look away. Once you’ve seen the face of abuse so horrific you’re sure you yourself wouldn’t have survived it, or have held a tiny child who has not had even some of their most basic needs met let alone been appropriately interacted with, you cannot turn back. It burns in your heart and in your mind.

Our family has been blessed to be able to love and hold a few children in our nine months since we’ve been licensed and our lives have been forever changed by them. Survivors in their own right, these kids are absolute miracles, but nobody has told them that. We get to. We get to love them and feed them and rock them to sleep at night assuring them that they are safe and secure and the next meal is sure to be served. There is a chance our current foster child will be our last for a while anyhow...it seems God has more in store for our family than we bargained for! Guess I won't be running away anytime soon. :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes

It is hard to believe it has been a YEAR since I got on a plane and headed to Phoenix  to meet our sweet boy.  I sit here in tears as I look back at ALL the Lord has done in the last year!  Jacob has come SO far in every way possible!  He amazes me each and every day!  As I look back at what the Lord HAS done I can't help but look forward to what this year has in store...I have a feeling He isn't done with us yet!  ;)

Jacob's First Mommy Bath, April 24, 2012
Our Cowboy April 2013
Handsome Boy Easter 2012
I am SO glad to be home!  

Jacob meeting his Mommy, April 24, 2012

Jacob at the zoo with Mommy April 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Yesterday I rolled out of bed, changed a diaper, fed a baby a bottle, put her down, fed the next baby his breakfast, made beds, got both babies dressed, got dressed myself combed my hair, brushed my teeth and greeted the older three children as they woke...they got themselves breakfast, cleaned up, got dressed and brushed teeth. During all of that, more than one child shed tears (I may have also), someone bled, someone peed on the floor and the UPS man delivered a case of toilet paper to my three year old daughter who was sure the package was for her...well...sure it is sweetie! ;)

We read a book, got math pages done, sunscreened children and sent them out to play. I tripped over a mountain of laundry the children had haphazardly thrown down the basement steps, picked up that laundry threw it in my only half working washing machine and set it to wash...put one baby down for morning nap, cleaned the aforementioned pee off the floor and took a deep breath.

I swept the floor, changed out the scentsy fragrance to give the scheduled occupational therpaist the illusion that my house was clean and serene. She knocked at the door as she has every week for nearly a year now and I greeted her, today proud that I was fully dressed in REAL clothes, not yoga pants and a tshirt. I had make up on and my hair was somewhat presentable. What I didn't realize was that my maxi dress, which was strapless had slid down below my bra and since my cardigan was only buttoned on the top button, well you get the idea. We laughed and she made a comment about how well I do with chaos. (at least I finally bought myself a NON Nursing bra?) ;)

She sees a snapshot. A small window into my world, we all put our best foot forward when someone else is watching, right? ;) The truth is that I don't handle it all that well, that I explode and mutter things under my breath and deny the grace that is so freely given to me most days. The truth is some days I allow the chaos consume me, but some days I don't.

The day continued and I took the kids to the zoo, all five by myself. I am certain some folks thought we were a zoo exhibit in and of ourselves, alas we had a fabulous time, the older kids were overwhelmingly helpful with the smaller ones and we stopped for milkshakes on the way home. We won't talk about the fact that I had to pull over, rearrange car seats and children because the smallest boy was beating the TAR out of the boys on either side of him and they were strapped in and defenseless. By the time we got home I felt like I used up all my "good mom energy" for the day, I threw some chicken sausages on the grill and got the boys ready for baseball practice. I could feel exhaustion starting to set in...it was that point in the day where you know if you sit down it will be ALL OVER. The boys headed to practice with Howard, I cleaned up dinner and fed a baby or two. I painted Hope's nails and brought clothes in from the clothesline.

Then...I sat down...with a book, while Hope was busy playing...and then my phone started buzzing, I looked and suffice it to say that there is just a LOT going on in our foster care case. I am praying hard for the family and have no idea what the outcome will be. We go to court next month and I am praying for wisdom and clarity as the time approaches...I find myself panicked with the prospective outcomes and my husband reminds me God provides grace for the moment but not for the future because it isn't here yet...trying to live in the moment is really hard sometimes, isn't it?

The truth is I don't do well with chaos. I like order and plans. The funny thing is that my life seldom if ever goes that direction...chaos, albeit organized chaos reigns most days. Foster care brings a chaos all its own and it is an infuriating, and sacred kind of chaos...like most things in life a paradox all its own. I want to plan life out and know what life will look like a year from now, heck, I'd settle for knowing what life might look like next week, I want to feel secure and settled, and yet God continually calls me to a state of uncertainty, gently pushing me to be reminded that my certainty comes from NO circumstance, my certainty comes from Him and it is a certainty I can always count on. I have got to do better about handing it all over to Him and residing in His peace and stability.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

It DOES Hurt

If I had a dime for every time someone said to me, "I could never be a foster parent, It would hurt too much to give them back, I just couldn't do it.", well I'd be rich. That is the typical reaction when folks find out we are foster parents and for the most part I know that more often than not people just don't know what to say to that because in a large way it goes against the social norm. It extends beyond the American Dream of raising 2.5 kids in a big house with a white picket fence and retiring at 60 with a load of cash in the bank so you can travel and enjoy life then. It is uncomfortable, OY is it uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable as people stare as we wrangle five little ones into a grocery store visibly doing the math trying to figure out how we have some so close together, it is uncomfortable when the kids can't quite understand why her pictures can't be included on our Christmas card the way theirs can. It is uncomfortable when she has issues with the doctor or therapist and because I am not her mother I am not authorized to make big decisions.

Fostering is needed because of the brokenness of this world, much like adoption and because of that it can't be expected to be pretty or to feel good all the time. I will tell you however that there is a sacredness to holding a crying and scared little one and promising them that your home, now their home will be a SAFE place for them where they will have plenty of food to eat, clothes to wear, toys (gasp of their own), and hugs and kisses for however long they are there. There is a strange sweetness about rocking a sweet one in the wee hours of the morning, knowing that just for a moment you get to BE His hands and feet to her. I know that fostering isn't for everyone and that is okay. It just needs to be said though that most of the foster parents I know, don't do it because it is fun or it makes them feel good or for the money (hahaha!) they do it because it ISN'T about them. They do it FOR the children that God calls His. They do it inspite of themselves, because He calls us to. Sometimes it is beautiful, and often times it is ugly and it hurts like crazy.

I am still relatively new to this whole foster parenting world. We've only been in the trenches since the beginning of September, but we've seen four children placed here, all four leave, one come back and several respite children. Each time a child has left it has hurt. EACH TIME. Even when they were only here a few short days...they were ours for those days and we loved them as best we could. Most days between therapies, social worker visits, parent visits, doctor appointments, WIC and the like I am ready to rip my hair out, it is hard, it is time consuming and it often doesn't make sense, and yet I KNOW full well this is where he's called me.

Anyway, our foster girl, we've had for months now...of her short life she's only known a few weeks without us. The kids love her and we love her and she loves us. She looks for my face when she is scared, she screams like she's on fire if I walk out of her view. She looks at her foster siblings just as a little sister would look up to her big brothers and sister. She is our girl. In our hearts she will always be our girl. The truth is, that none of our kids are TRULY ours, none of them. Next month there will be a court hearing that will judge what happens next and who will be her mom for the next portion of her life. The mother who loved, carried, nourished, and birthed her will have to sit before a judge and answer hard questions, and this breaks my heart. This sweet baby has just this week begun visits with her mother and the father she doesn't know and to say it has already caused havoc on her sweet little self is an understatement, it is gut wrenching to see her have to go through such instability. She is freshly into the stranger anxiety phase and the next month is going to be hard on her, and gut wrenching for us...as we sit idly by and advocate for her as best we can. We know her mother loves her and that sometimes love isn't enough...we are trusting that the judge will see the whole picture and do what is right by this little girl, whatever that is.

I am the one who has been up countless nights when she just wants to party, I have been the one to take her to the ER when a cold grips her little lungs, I am the one who has worn her vomit when her belly hurts and her first mouthfuls of baby food as she sprayed them across my face. I have witnessed every single one of her firsts thus far and I am the one who sings her to sleep each night. It will hurt like crazy to let her go if that is what I am called to but I know loving her has been worth it.

If I were to tell you that my heart didn't sink each time she has to go and be with her biological parents, I'd be lying, though to tell you the truth though it would hurt, nothing would please me more than to see her family reunited and whole. I am not sure if that is possible but I do pray for it each day.

My point here is this. Even for those of us who are chosen for or choose this...it hurts a lot...we are not super human or unfeeling, we don't guard ourselves so that we won't be hurt and we aren't some kind of saint. We are every day broken people who know that sometimes God calls us to put it all out there...to lay our hearts on the line and allow it to be broken. Having Isaac and Asher taught us that no child the Lord gives is ever fully ours...they are His, and sometimes we have to let go...and it hurts...it always hurts...we serve a God who calls us to tough places and to serve Him and His people. This is our way of doing it...it hurts us just as much as it would you, we are just being obedient to what we are called to and trusting that there is a purpose that is greater than our pain because oh man...it DOES hurt.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Craving Easy

I sit here in tears as I type, feeling inadequate and exhausted. I am weak. Sometimes God calls us to thinks that leave us feeling overwhelmed and unequipped. Lately I have been feeling that he is calling me to things I am not capable of doing, things I am scared of and truly I want to run away and take a vacation somewhere, secluding myself with only my immediate family. While my heart wants to obey and say "Here I am Lord, send ME! Use ME!" my flesh screams "Uncle" and wants to give up.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Matthew 16:24

Then I read this verse...I probably need to write it in sharpie on a wall or something, God calls us to follow Him...not to do what feels good or go with what comes easy, but to DENY ourselves and follow Him. Denying myself isn't something that comes easy to me. I look at my actions over the past weeks and I see selfishness, pride, lack of patience, misuse of words and insecurity. I've been ready to throw in the towel. God called us to fostering and I'll be honest and say I had no clue what I was in for. I figured it would be fun to take care of a baby for a while and love them while I could and then I could go back to my comfy life. The trouble is that once our eyes have seen...there is no turning back to a comfy life.

The trouble is that it is breaking my heart. I want to run for the hills when I see the brokenness of this world. I want to find a place to hide and be safe and stay there. I want to run from the discomfort and heart ache and yet God keeps calling me back to that very spot. He is breaking my heart for what breaks His and that is what I've prayed for. I knew of many of the issues birth parents deal with in foster care but I had no idea it would personally affect me so much. Addiction and abuse are real. They are ruining lives and causing so much hurt. I want to be mad and shut that out of my heart blaming the addict or abuser, and yet God calls us to extend grace...the same grace He extends to my short tempered, hot tongued, prideful self.

When I share my feelings and struggles, people are quick to say, well, give her back and focus on your family...it is okay to do that...and for some people, maybe that is. The trouble is that I KNOW full well that God has called me to this very place...this place of heartache and struggle. He is holding me here and I have been wrestling with all I have in me. I look at the things he has placed before me in any given day and I just want to vomit. I feel overwhelmed and inadequate and attacked. I keep fighting it and praying for easy...and last night as I prayed something became pretty clear...something I have KNOWN but have overlooked many times...

”My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12:9

Everything feels like a fight for me, I feel like it has been beat out of me and I just don't have any fight left in me...and here is where I've been going wrong...I am trying to do it all...I am hard on myself when I fail and when I can't meet the expectations I have set for myself. The problem in that previous sentence is the repeated use of "I". I am trying to do it...so much so that I've forgotten that I can do all things...THROUGH HIM. I am weak, but He is strong...His grace really is sufficient...He has proven this to me time and time again and yet somehow my flesh takes over and I fight until I am so tired I just cannot fight anymore. I come to the end of myself and only then do I hand it over.

Taking care of five kids is tough stuff...especially when two are babies and fully reliant on me for all things, I need to rely on my Father more. I need to stop fighting and just let go and enjoy. I need to stop with the expectations of myself and the pride and the martyr attitude and seek his peace and choose joy. I have lost sight of what I am doing here and denied the magnitude of what I am doing through Him. It seems like changing diapers and wiping noses all day is mundane and meaningless stuff, and that is a lie straight from Hell. God has brought each of these dear children into my home so that I can be His hands and feet to them...the has brought children from my own womb and children from the womb of other hurting women so I can pray for them and love them and be Him to them...children and mothers...I cannot change them or force change upon them...all I can do is love them the way he loves the broken me.

When things spiral out of control it is important to remember who holds the control. It isn't me. That is for DARN sure. While my flesh wants to justify giving up and taking a season of easy, my heart knows that sometimes residing in the brokenness and pain is where God calls us, and he calls us to find joy even there and it is hard to do and easy to forget. Sometimes though in order to do what he has called us to...change has to occur...and I am feeling that here...I have got to be more gentle with myself and with my family...I have got to let go of having a perpetually clean sink and let the dishes pile up sometimes...I need to get myself into my Bible and immerse myself in TRUTH each and every morning to arm myself against the lies that come at me all day long.

Because I love Him so much, I know it is worth it to deny myself and follow Him. I know that while I am SO not capable of doing all that is before me, that with Him I can do all things...and the miracle of that starts with choosing joy. Today, I WILL choose joy!

Monday, March 4, 2013

A little update

As I am sure you can guess, being a mom to five kids doesn't lend itself to being able to blog the way I'd like, but here is a quick update for those of you who are still reading!

Well, we made it through February. This year February was filled with birthday celebrations, excitement, sickness, puking, fevers, coughing, Asher missing, swimming, Build a Bear, and grace...lots and lots of grace. I can't say I am sad to see the calendar turn to March. I'd like to say that dates like my mom's birthday and Asher's birthday pass with ease, yet I found myself in tears even this year. I can't help but wonder what my sweet five year old would be like, what kind of cake he'd choose and what his prized gift would be! We took the kids to Build a Bear and made animals for his birthday and we found sweet Hope grieving the most as she never got to meet her other red haired brother. I still find it tough to get through February without thinking of where we were five years ago to the date...the sonograms, the tests, the hospitalizations, the results, the heartache, the joy, the grace, the love, and the tears. I am just grateful that we can continue to grieve with hope.

We are looking forward to spring and summer and getting outside more. Jacob is oh so close to walking and I know he is just going to love all of the activities that come with summer. He is coming into his own and his Occupational Therapist believes as of May he will no longer qualify for her services! This is great news, but we will miss her. He started speech therapy this past week and it was really intriguing. I wasn't sure what speech therapy for a one year old would entail but it was pretty cool!

The boys are chugging along with school work and exploring and using their imaginations like I'd never imagined they would without school. They are growing and becoming such amazing little men. I am so grateful that I get to be home and witness their lives. They are such a help to me!

Hope is as spunky and sweet as ever, she loves being a little momma to the babies and giving her older brothers a tough time...she is trying to figure out this world and what is "true" and "real". She is writing her name and drawing up a storm.

As for foster care....baby girl is still here. It is unclear if she will be here beyond her court date in May, but such is foster care. I find myself infuriated with the "system" most of the time as it is broken and often doesn't do these dear ones the justice they deserve...all we can do is pray for her and her family and know that God is sovereign over all if it.

All that to say, it is exhausting. When the stomach flu starts in this house it takes a full week to work through everyone and by then we've started on fevers, coughing and the next illness. I spent the afternoon yesterday, soaked in puke waiting for chest xrays for baby girl. Four hours in the hospital followed by insurance drama at the pharmacy had me ready to throw up my hands! As I expressed my frustration to my sweet husband, he gently reminded me that THIS is why people "could never do this" night after sleepless night, germs, foster care frustration and insurance drama aside, I am still confident this is where God has placed us. It is so easy to just want to throw my hands up and say, "I quit, this is not my problem", but then I am reminded that it IS my problem, it really is all of our problem. Quitting isn't going to fix anything, and God surely never quits on me, so we will press on.

Truthfully after a little quiet time, I realized what a privilege it was to GET TO sit there with that sweet girl in the hospital making sure she got the care she deserved. Someone has to fight for that precious child, and I get to be that Momma. I have no idea what the future holds for her and that is really hard, but I know right now, today she is safe, and loved and cared for, and truly, that is all I NEED to know.

All in all we are hanging in there, by the grace of God. Some days are merely about survival, others I fail miserably and others yet, I feel a sense of great success. By and large we are more blessed than we deserve to be and are really enjoying life as a family of seven and trying to live in the moment instead of always looking so far ahead, that is one blessing of foster care, you kind of have to adopt that view or you probably go crazy. :)

One of my greatest struggles though is getting dinner on the table during the that hour of chaos when everyone is home, hungry and full of energy. I am finding my crock pot is a very useful tool to beat the chaos...what are some of your favorite crock pot recipes?!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Jacob Adam Bolte

Dear Sweet Jacob,

I sit here tonight reflecting on this past year.  Your birthmom was getting ready to give birth to you a year ago and we had no clue what amazing things the Lord had in store for our family.  Honestly, if I hadn't walked the road myself I'd find our journey almost unbelievable, but God moved mountains and brought you from Arizona right into our Pennsylvania home right where you belong.

You challenge me every day, Bubba.  You have more personality than your little body seems like it should hold and everyone knows it.  You flirt and smile at just about everyone.  You are truly happy most of the time and are more strong-willed and independent than I was prepared for. You love your brothers and your sister.  They make you laugh and cry and all emotions in between but you are most content when they are near especially when I come in to find one of them in your crib snuggling you.  I wish you could have known your brothers Isaac and Asher, as I am sure they'd be smitten with you as well, and I so look forward to the day we are all together again.

The Lord brought you to our family and we couldn't be more grateful.  You bring sunshine to each day as we look at you and see the miracle you are.  You are loved by more people than I could ever imagine and your family extends beyond anything I could have dreamed for you.  You have strengthened our faith in God and our family as a whole.

You've humbled me as a parent as you've brought parenting challenges I thought I'd never see having raised three babies already.  You scream and make yourself known when there is something you want and we are very eager to hear the words you desperately want us to hear from your screaming gibberish.  You gnaw your crib rails like a beaver so I've had to rig up make shift crib rail covers.  You are determined and once you make your mind up about something you don't give up, and while I do hope that you don't scream and chew your crib as an adult, I pray that tenacity stays with you.  You are so strong and have endured much and I cannot wait to see how God uses you in the future as He has already used your life in big ways in one short year.

You love just about all fruits except peaches and all veggies, especially sweet potatoes and avacado.  You've recently become much more independent in eating wanting to feed yourself.  You also love to play games with all of us as you throw everything on the floor and giggle while we pick it up.  I am eager to see what you'll do with cake tomorrow.  :)

You've got eight pearly whites with more coming.  You love to have your teeth brushed and you are going to be upset to give up that bottle.  You love your blankie and you nuzzle your face into it as  you go to sleep.  You are as mobile as any one year old I've ever seen, you are fearless and adventurous and will likely give me several heart attacks before you are even school age.

You have a VERY special relationship with your Daddy.  You beam as he walks in from work and don't leave his side once he is home.  Most nights you worm your way in to our bed and secure your space there by sweetly saying "da......da.....da", (your dad is convinced you are saying his name, I say you are singing and am holding out for ma ma ma).  You love to hum and dance and you LOVE when the Wild Kratts comes on...you rock out to the theme song each day at 5 pm sharp!  ;)

Over all we are smitten with you and still have to pinch ourselves each day to believe God trusted US with YOU!  He has worked such a beautiful story in your life Jacob and I can't wait to live the rest of it out with you!  Your first year has been an absolute miracle and I have no doubt He has BIG plans for you and I am SO excited we will get front row seats.

So tomorrow we will spend a day celebrating you with family and friends, we will laugh, I will probably cry, and since the party is at naptime, probably so will you.  We'll eat good food and smash cake and eat open gifts, but the truth is, Jacob Adam, YOU are the gift.  A year ago we didn't even know you existed, and today, we couldn't imagine existence without you.  Happy Birthay, my son.  YOU are the gift.

You have taught me so many lessons I never knew I needed to learn and I thank God every single day for you sweet boy.  Your smile lights up a room and your sweet and strong spirit makes my heart swell.  You've grown our family in ways we could only have dreamed of and we are just honored and humbled to be your parents.  You are loved by SO many.