brown bears and freedom

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 times a week, my children eagerly lean towards the side of the car, anxious for a glimpse of a bear cub that lives around the corner from us. She’s, quite honestly, adorable, and that makes it easy to forget that a Syrian brown bear lives around the corner from our house in a local man’s backyard and that when she’s grown, she will weigh 1000 pounds. Easy to forget because she’s bound by her cage. All four walls, and even the top, completely enclosed.

The kids asked why she lived there. Would she be put back into the wild someday? We discussed how animals who are born and bred into captivity can’t usually be set free. They don’t know how to function. They wouldn’t be able to survive. She’s half a world away from her native environment. If she were set free, what would she even do? Syrian brown bears are native to the birch-forested mountains of the Middle East. I’m not sure Central Ohio really compares.

I’ve been considering what Daisy (that’s her name) has to teach me. Especially as we parent our children through the beginning of a new school year. We are passionate defenders of public school. We are passionate believers in community involvement. We are also passionate about making the right choices to protect our children. They need to have boundaries, but I don’t want my children to be like Daisy their whole lives, never able to leave the confines of what they know because they aren’t equipped to handle freedom, aren’t prepared to live in the wild of this wide world.

This time of year, I’m usually left with more questions than answers.
Are we balancing boundaries and freedom appropriately for our kids?
Are we raising them in captivity? Are we preparing them to be free?
Are we growing our children up to live confidently and with integrity in this world or are we raising them to be fearful of moving beyond what they know?

I’d love to hear how your family finds that balance, how you’re preparing your children to live free when they leave your home, and how you’re protecting them in the meantime. We’re comfortable with some the lines that we’re drawing (for instance, public school, sports, certain friendships) and we’re less certain about others. (Do I let my kids ride their bikes around the neighborhood on their own? Do we allow sleepovers? etc.) Do you struggle with those same things?

hospitality revisited

Monday, July 30, 2012

For the first time in more than two years, we had people over for dinner who were not related to us.  We just spent two years building stability and security into our family and making sure that our home felt completely safe and secure for our littlest two. We did do things at other people’s houses, we’ve had a couple of outside birthday events here, but we really focused on making our home a sanctuary for our children. We did start out without really decreasing our hospitality schedule, but it quickly became clear that hosting people for dinner and having guests in our home was too traumatic and too disconcerting to our children for us to continue. It was a necessary sacrifice, but it is definitely something both of us have grieved.

Tonight, we broke that streak with the absolute perfect guests. Something about the relationship they have with our children made it just the right evening. We had some predictable behaviors prior to their arrival, we may have some recovery tomorrow, but tonight, our little man went to bed with a new present, a smile on his face, and definitive expressions of affection for our guests. I’m thankful to have taken a step forward in the life of our family.

well past 1000 gifts…
my little girl in a bike helmet, riding a horse for the very first time
painful confirmations
happy exhaustion after a day at the fair
the painful hope of impending closure
passing storms without the loss of electricity
much needed rain
vacation plans
truth-telling with no hesitation, a valuable commodity for one of our children
helpful attitudes
healing interactions
my littlest wanting “two!” to take her to bed (mama and papa both)
new life, miraculously beautiful
meeting my newest niece, Althea (isn’t that the most adorable baby name?)
successful dinners out
a backseat chatterbox
reminders of the beginning
spending the evening with an old friend who’s almost all grown up, marveling at what God has done
happy smiles from my nephew
watching a family connect in a surprising way
happiness and hope

five beautiful things coming to me in just a couple weeks

Friday, July 27, 2012

The husband and I are going away for three short days. Three days might be short, but it’s better than no days at all, and we haven’t been without children since a couple days last fall. Even then, we were visiting friends, which was delightful and fantastic, but not the same as going away ALONE. The last time we went away alone…well, I can’t remember. We’ve visited friends, we’ve been to conferences, but alone? Just that word is making me a bit weak in the knees. Alone. Happy sigh.

1) There will be no children. None at all. Unfortunately, there’s a tiny bit of stress for me regarding the babysitting arrangements, but hopefully I’ll quickly forget about it. (Please pray it goes smoothly?) The facts are that even though I feel stressed about it, the plans have come together very smoothly for once.

2) Jeni’s ice cream: I plan to eat it every day. Maybe that won’t happen, but I am dreaming about it anyway. The real question is, what flavors will I get? Some are guaranteed – at least one time I’ll have the salty caramel and Queen City Cayenne. I absolutely will be trying the Riesling Poached Pear. I loved the Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry I had last year. (if there is a flavor that tastes more like Ohio summers, I’m not sure what it would be.) I’ll quit with this discussion for now before I decide to just pack up the kids and drive over today. Have you had Jeni’s? What flavors should I try this season?

3) The Ohio State Reformatory: To be honest, Wendell is probably looking forward to the actual tour a bit more than me. I am mainly looking forward to quoting Shawshank the entire time. There’ll probably be some opera singing. I’ll wax eloquent about how fear holds you prisoner and how hope sets you free. (It might be embarrassing when I tell the tour guide that I understand he’s a man who knows how to get things. I’ll try to refrain.)

4) Riding in the car with a boy. Adult conversation. No backseat questions. Playlists are being made as we speak. Any recommendations for driving music? It doesn’t even have to be family friendly – we’re gonna roll with some grown folks music. We’re gonna stop whenever we want to. If we want to get lunch, it won’t need to be a drive-thru or Bob Evan’s. We can eat whatever the heck we want. And if we see a sign that says, “Sale – Amish: half-price”, you can bet your sweet bippy that we’re gonna stop and buy us an Amish housekeeper. (I might be a little regretful that we didn’t stop when I saw this particular sign on the way to visit my new niece earlier this week.)

5) I am confident that the pinnacle of my entire trip is going to be a full night’s sleep in a quiet room. There will be no baby sharing my sleeping space with his inappropriate giggling (don’t ask) and 2 am raspberries to scare the ever-living crap out of me. Just me and the man I love, and we will sleep as late as we want to because we will not wake up with a creepy child three inches from our faces just watching us. No toddler will be in their room with a constant “mama?? Mama!!! Mama??? Mama!!!” until I go to get her up. My only possible regret is that I have recently started to teach my ten-year-old that if he gets up before us, he is duty bound to start coffee. Who will start my coffee? No matter, it will be glorious, and I absolutely cannot wait.

What is your favorite thing about getting away for a few days?

lessons learned at the county fair

Thursday, July 26, 2012

When Brenden came to live with us, that terrible, wonderful day that he stepped onto our driveway in his denim overall shorts, he had been moved six times that year by his caseworker. This was just one more of those times. She didn’t come back to our home for a month, but when we told him she was coming to visit, he went to get his shoes. Time to move again. She would later remark on how he would maintain a significant distance from her during those monthly visits. Not close enough that she could take him.

We worked really hard to make those visits safe. She worked even harder. She brought fruit snacks. She continually reminded him she was just visiting. She complimented his room, his dresser, his place in our home. She was the one who finally got to tell him officially that he was able to live here forever. We gave her every bit of credit for that decision, and so did Brenden. SHE was the one who ‘let him stay here forever’ in his little mind. Every discussion we’ve had about her since has been positive. He remembers her with affection, he speaks about her fondly, and he loves to recount the day that she bought him a Happy Meal and drove him to our house to live forever.

All of that to illustrate how surprised I was at his reaction when we saw her earlier this week. While Wendell and I keep contact, Brenden hasn’t seen her since our adoption day nearly a year ago. She is a leader for a 4-H horse club, and we planned to visit her when we went to the county fair. I prepped Brenden ahead of time; we have a cousin who shares her name, so I made sure to let him know that it was the caseworker that I was talking about.

We walked through the goat barn and petted a calf out on a walk with its owner before heading to the expo center where her club’s horses were housed. We passed some alpacas, and wandered up and down the rows, looking for the right area. I turned down the aisle she was in, saw her, and called back around to Brenden to come. He was with my mom, and when they rounded the corner, his reaction was immediate and intense. He grabbed my mom’s leg, wouldn’t let go, and the easiest way to describe the look on his face was terror. The caseworker did the right things. She got on his level, engaged him playfully, distracted him with her horses. He warmed up a bit, but the interaction was brief. We left to see the sheep, pigs and chickens, and the kids rode rides for the rest of the afternoon.

That night, he talked for nearly an hour while I lay beside him in his bed. None of his stories were about the caseworker. They were all about the trauma in his past. Some were true, some weren’t, I’m sure. A two-year-old mind doesn’t process facts in the same way that someone with more cognition and language would. He told me about some big feelings he was having. Those feelings weren’t about the caseworker specifically either, but that was obviously what had precipitated all the discussion.

Wendell and I have been struggling through a big decision about our children and a choice for their future. This was a confirmation that I wasn’t particularly looking for, but one that came nevertheless. Our boy isn’t ready for anything more right now. It took just one glance at a person that he has positive memories of to throw him into immediate terror and an intense reaction. I can’t imagine what would happen if we attempt to push him into something even more scary and unknown.

We will move forward, and he will be able to process more of this someday. That day is not today. At this point, I don’t even think that day will come for several years. I need to focus on building stability, safety, and unconditional love into my boy. I need to let him know every single day that I am glad he is in our family, that he is special, that he will never have to move to another family again. I need to continue to give him space to feel and talk about those big and scary feelings he carries around with him. I’ve been encouraged because he’s doing so well (and he IS doing so well), but this was an abrupt reminder to me. Even though there is victory coming, we are still in the middle of this battle. Brenden is not yet healed. The day where Brenden can live in absolute victory over his past is coming, but in the meantime, we groan with the rest of creation awaiting that redemption.

the people of God sing along

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Here are some posts that I’ve been thinking on, mulling over, visiting a couple more times since I first read them. In summary: the people of God are writing good, good things. Beautiful things. We’re all coming from different life circumstances, different countries, different continents even, different denominations and beliefs and gender and race, but we’re all singing the same song.

  • Yes, yes, yes, and amen.

    In which we are saved to each other (it's a y'all thing) - Sarah Bessey: “He was talking about the profound disappointment so many of us feel in this life, with this life, with pain, sickness, death, disease and so on. He talked about how God seeks to redeem those things but he is doing it through his people. We’re it – which is terrifying and wonderful and beautiful and redemptive and powerful and holy and daily.”


  • This is simply the best description of baptism I’ve read in a very long time. Our denomination does not practice infant baptism, but this, this makes me want to.

    To Brooksie on his Baptism - Micha Boyett: “Today, we offer you to the water because we want you to know that you’re already here, you’re already loved, you already belong to the family of God. You are welcome at this table with us. And this is how the Church has welcomed its family for two thousand years and for more to come. This baptism is just the celebration of what is already true.”


  • Katie’s life looks far more adventurous than mine, but we’re travelling the same road, she and I (and likely you, too). In Africa, in Ohio, everywhere in between, no matter what the circumstances of our lives look like, what we’re all after is that obedient yes and that joyous thank you.

    What we've been up to... - Kisses from Katie
    : “Communion with God is what we are standing up under here – on the days that go as planned and on the days that don’t. On the days with expectations left unmet and dinner running late because of an extra game of hide-and-seek, on the days that seem mundane and the days that seem magnificent, we are saying yes to all He gives and we are saying thank you.”


What has God been saying to you through His people lately?

the next thing

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Lately, I’ve been failing at parenting in a big way. This is not some sort of low view of myself where I just don’t think I’m good enough or something like that. This is absolutely factual failure. It’s the kind of failure where I know exactly the right things to do, and I have found myself incapable and unwilling to do those very things.

I’ve been praying for a breakthrough. Which is rather stupid when I think about it because I don’t need to have a breakthrough. I’ve already had the breakthrough: I just need to do the right thing. I’ve become fond of a certain response when people ask us how we ‘do it.’ Usually, what they want to know with that question is how we raise a large interracial family with foster and adoption and two jobs and a marriage and special needs and all of that thrown into the ring. Typically what I say is, “I just do the next thing.” We do plan for the future, we do worry about our children, but the very facts of how we make through each and every day tend to boil down to just that one statement: we just do the next thing. No matter what it is. We keep going. We do the next thing.

The rub of it all this past month is that in a certain area of my parenting, I have refused to do the next thing. I know what it is. I absolutely have no doubt about that next small thing I need to do. I’m just not doing it. Sure, it’s complicated, and there are a myriad of reasons why I’m refusing to move forward. Excuses, all of them. What I want is for the problem to be fixed. What is happening is that it’s getting worse. I can stop the downward spiral. Just take a step in the opposite direction.

I read several blog posts last week about doing something small because the small things are what brings us big change. Ugh. I know, I know, I know. Then on Sunday, I went to church and listened to a sermon about Jesus feeding the 5000. If you’re not familiar, this is a story where a boy brings his meager lunch to Jesus, and Jesus performs a miracle, making that boy’s five loaves and two fishes feed an entire crowd of people. (My eldest son wants me to remind you that it says 5000 men. There could’ve been well over 15,000 people once you figure in women and children. This is important to him so that we can truly grasp the depth of this particular miracle.) The thing that’s important though is that that little boy brought his lunch to Jesus. That’s it. He couldn’t have possibly thought it would feed all of those people, and he didn’t give Jesus the number of the local Chik-Fil-A so they could order box lunches for everyone. He just gave Jesus his lunch. The smallest of gifts used for the greatest impact.

I think I haven’t been doing anything because I want the next thing I do to be the solution to the whole problem. I want to be the person who brings the greatest impact, who gets the whole thing done, who fixes our entire situation. Today, I’m saying it aloud, because I need to put it on record: that’s not my job. My job is do the next right thing, no matter how small it is. I don’t have control over the ultimate outcome and pretending like I do is doing our whole family a great disservice. I can control my own actions. So today, tomorrow, this whole week, I’m going to do the next right thing. Maybe not every time, maybe not even most of the time, but no matter how small that next right thing is, I’m going to do it. Then I’m going to do the NEXT right thing, and after that I’m going to do the NEXT right thing. Over and over again.

Tomorrow, I’m going to give Jesus my lunch. No matter how small of a lunch it is, and trust me, right now, it is small. I’m struggling to find enough in me right now to even give anything at all, but I do have something, even if it’s the smallest something ever. Tomorrow, I’m going to get up; I’m going to open up those clenched fists where I’m clutching my illusions of control, my own abilities, my pride, my shame, and all of the things that are happening with this whole trauma-parenting thing, and I’m going to give everything I have to Jesus. I’ll let you know what happens next…

living the yes

Monday, July 23, 2012

A ringing phone during naptime is not my favorite sound. It’s not because the kids will wake up; I’ve conditioned them from infancy to sleep through a hurricane. It’s because naptime is my quiet time. I’m often busy still, but the blessed quietness that fills our home is something I treasure. The interruption on Saturday afternoon was not particularly welcome.

I almost didn’t answer, but I’m glad I did. In the heat of the day, sitting on my front porch, those divine, grace-filled moments were the very minutes in my laziness and selfishness I would have passed by. I’m not actually even sure why she called me in her deepest moments of brokenness. When she says I’m the only person she could think of to call, I have no idea what to say. I didn’t even SPEAK to her last Sunday at church. Or the Sunday before that.

I’m thankful that I answered the phone. I’m blessed to be able to pray over this woman. I’m grateful for an equipped team at our church to refer her to when I’m out of answers. I’m continually overwhelmed by the fact that the Holy Spirit leads and guides me daily. I don’t always listen. I definitely don’t always obey, but sometimes, sometimes, I do. Sometimes, I make myself available when I’d rather not be.

Sitting with someone in their brokenness and pain, even when it makes you uncomfortable, changes you. Listening to someone’s story, sitting in their pool of tears, transforms you. Those are the moments when Jesus becomes everything. The moments when the encounter with the living Christ shows us that He is more than everything.

I am ashamed to admit that many days, I would’ve let that phone keep on ringing. My natural temptation is to turn on the TV, turn off my phone, drown myself in internet browsing. This whole experience was a reminder to me, a challenge to live every day in complete obedience even if it’s at the expense of my quiet time, my sleep, my ‘deserved’ leisure time, or my comfort. Am I in touch enough with the Holy Spirit to listen to His promptings? Am I reaching out enough to people that they feel comfortable coming to me when they need help? Am I cocooning myself in my own problems, my own life so much that I can’t see others? Where is my compassion? Where is my focus? Does my life reflect Jesus? I want to live this every day.

I want my life to always be a Yes and Amen.

What about you? Are there moments where you should’ve listened and didn’t? Boy, do I have plenty of those. What about the moments where you wanted to ignore those promptings, but you listened anyway? Those stories – those are the ones that we need to hear today. Where in your life are you living that “yes” to Jesus?

1089. a really great therapy session
1090. the giggles of our little baby every single time he sees his mama
1091. progress – sweet, sweet progress
1092. a long overdue haircut
1093. a morning with nowhere to be or go
1094. adjustment tensions
1095. my hard-working husband
1096. home-cooked meals
1097. a beautiful steak with that perfect pink center
1098. good news
1099. a miracle-working Savior
2000. unbelievable answers to prayer
2001. my little girls. Sisters, not by biology nor by birth, but because God did it.
2002. blissfully planning a few days away with the one I love the most
2003. ordering new clothes for the first time in a long time, wanting to look pretty for my man
2004. friends to give advice on getaway locations, especially the ones who will send us a complete two-day itinerary filled with things we love to do (complete with links to each location’s website)
2005. an anticipated arrival – a new niece about to make her appearance!
2006. sweet baby dresses
2007. a Word, right at the moment I needed it
2008. my shirtless little brown girl jumping with abandon and no self-consciousness on our trampoline
2009. relaxing and reconnecting with my husband after endless days of work

sunday [19]

Sunday, July 22, 2012

DSC_2697“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen

music for your saturday

Saturday, July 21, 2012

five friday links–an adoption/foster care edition

Friday, July 20, 2012

1) Everything sad will come untrue….

Together for Adoption 2012 Atlanta (Trailer 1) from Together for Adoption on Vimeo.

2) ShePonders: Adoption - Kelly Johnson-Nikondeha for SheLoves/
“Abandonment gives way to belonging, vulnerability cedes to stability and an orphan becomes a daughter by a divine spark of redemptive goodness.”

3) That awkward moment when... - Noisy. Colorful. Lively
”But then in your stream of conscious brain dump (no pun intended here, of course), you realize that none of that stinky stuff really matters, because that big ol’ pile of poop just reminded you that you really are deeply in love with your kids (all of them, even the rogue pooper) and you’ll wade through their shit with them if you have to.”

4) Don't Change the World - How to Talk Evangelical
”Whether the things I do change the world is not my concern. My work is to let my heart expand in that holy, mysterious love so that when I meet the orphan or the widow or my neighbor or brother or enemy, I have something to give them. God’s love is place and power and hope and healing, and it has changed the world before. It will change it again. It will change the world every day of my small, big life.”

5) "Good" Adoption States, Loss, and Ethics - White Sugar, Brown Sugar
”Adoptive parents----don't put on an unethical mask when it comes to adoption.  Don't check your ethics at the door because you feel you are entitled to do so because you are paying big bucks for an adoption process. Don't use your pain, your loss, as an excuse to trample on someone else and scoop their baby up as your own.    Stop.  Think.  Pray.  Breathe.    Act.”


Late editing addition: Foster Care World Daily News – I discovered this paper today. (because my post was featured – what?!) A terrific aggregation of foster care related links, posts, news articles, and sites.


Did you love any of these links too? Let me know in the comments – and definitely let the authors of these posts know too! What links did you love from this past week or month?

parting is such sweet, sweet sorrow*

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Five and a half months, and I’m in love with this baby. I can’t point to the moment it happened. I don’t know the turning point. It happens every time we take a placement. Sometimes I can point to the very moment I knew I loved them, really loved them, not in an abstract love your neighbor, love the little children kind of way, but a true feeling of love. The kind of love that makes me snuggle him tighter, kiss him more earnestly, pray with more passion, brings tears to the eyes, motivates me to make decisions for him that cause me pain type of love.

We’ve been hoeing the same row for the past five and half months. Supervised visits together. Once mom and dad separated, supervised visits apart. Three times a week, I load up five kids and haul the baby to visits. He giggles LOUDLY when he sees his mom. Practically wiggles himself out of his car seat. He comes home from those visits happy. Happy to be alive, happy that he saw his mama, happy, happy, happy. (He’s more ambivalent about visits with dad.) For the first time in our foster parenting years, we are glad for visits. Except for the fact that that’s all that has happened in this case. We’ve done visits. No other progress towards reunification.

Finally, at a team meeting (where all the players get together to discuss the case, progress on the case, possible changes to the case, etc.) this week, we are moving to a few unsupervised hours of visit per week. (This should be the first step of many – first a few unsupervised hours, then a gradual increase, then overnights, then HOME.) I am so immensely grateful for this case to move forward at long last, but we’ve been doing this long enough to know that as soon as things change, then they change again. I’m cautiously optimistic. I believe this baby belongs with his mom. I believe she’ll do a great job caring for him. I also believe that I can’t predict the future, I don’t know everything about this case, and that while I hope for the best, I’m not the one who will take the blame if things don’t work out well. So I continue to pray for this family and their future, not knowing exactly what that is, because I love this baby. Will it break my heart when he goes home? Most definitely. Do I want to experience that painful day? Most definitely.

It reminds me of what most people say to us when they try to explain why they could ‘never do what we do’. ‘I’d just have such a hard time giving them back.’ Yep: we will have a hard time sending him home. ‘I’d just love them too much.’ Yep: we do love him like our own. It’s painful. It hurts. We all know that about true love, right? It’s sacrificial. My feelings are not more important than what’s best for this child. So I continue to pray for the day he’s reunited. I continue to pray that we will parent him well in the meantime. I continue to pray that when that heartbreaking day comes, it’ll be the sweetest of sorrows. Because I love him.


*My thanks to the Bard for his turn of phrase that rings so true even centuries later.

EDITED: I’m linking with this post to Shaun Groves’ giveaway for the Together for Adoption Conference 2012. Click here to read his post and for a chance to win.

keeping the hours

Monday, July 16, 2012

I grew up in a family and a church that was full of routines. My mother may not have practiced an official liturgy, but she’s the one who taught me to hem in my days with prayer, with reflection, with the Word. I began the practice of a at-home liturgy, what many call “keeping the hours” or a Daily Office, last year. It immediately felt like home to me. My heart is at rest in this habit; there is no quicker way to settle my soul than sitting down at that appointed hour and praying with the church: worldwide, distributed, yet unified.

It wasn’t until this past week that I recognized how this habit was truly framing my day. I might miss the midday and vesper prayers some days, but I always make it to the morning and evening ones. Every morning, I’m opening my day with this prayer:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

And every evening I’m closing with this one:

Lord, you now have set your servant free to go in peace as you have promised; for these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, whom you have prepared for all the world to see: a Light to enlighten the nations, and the glory of your people Israel. Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.

Every single day I’m committing myself to God’s purposes. Every single day I’m recognizing that I have seen God. I might not feel like I’ve seen Him. It might be one of those weeks where counting the gifts seems like the hardest thing. It might’ve been the worst day in a very long time, but that doesn’t matter. Truth is truth even when I don’t feel it, and every single night I am saying it aloud. Confessing before God and in concert with fellow believers around the world: I have seen the Savior.

I continue to count the places I see Him…

1068. that one precious half-hour per week that my daughter is at peace and completely regulated
1069. ideas to help her function better the rest of the week
1070. no matter who I am, I can trust God
1071. learning Scripture with my kids in the car
1072. quick grocery trips
1073. no matter how I feel, I can trust God
1074. a 5-year-old little boy who sleeps in the bottom bunk
1075. my son’s first mama
1076. getting to be the mama who tucks that 5-year-old boy into bed and kisses his forehead
1077. no matter what people do, I can trust God
1078. no matter what happens, I can trust God
1079. Rock Center with my sister
1080. no matter where I am, I can trust God
1081. kids of all colors and sizes, worshiping God together as friends
1082. a much-needed girls night out, relaxing after a busy, busy week
1083. the hope of saving some money that I thought I would have to spend
1084. cool weather to watch my brother-in-law play football
1085. the awe on my little boy’s face when his uncle comes up to hug him in his full football gear
1086. the most beautiful piñatas ever made
1087. the boys’ anticipation over Brenden’s birthday present – a trip to see the Cincinnati Reds play baseball
1088. instant photo sharing so the mama can see the baseball game happiness even from home

sunday [18]

Sunday, July 15, 2012

'Canvas Skies' photo (c) 2011, Nichole Renee - license:

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39

on this particular day in July

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

This morning, I woke my son for his 5th birthday. My son. The first year that I can legitimately call him that. All the while remembering that he’s her son too. She’s the one who got to carry him while he grew inside her. She’s the one who felt him kick for the first time, who saw his tiny beating heart on the ultrasound screen. She’s the one who struggled through labor, a VBAC according to the hospital records, to give birth to her son. My son. She heard his first cry. Counted his fingers and toes. Swaddled him in the soft blanket and put the striped newborn hat on his little head.

She’s the one who held him, comforted him, gave him his bottle, took him to the emergency room over and over when he was sick as a baby. She’s the one who got to see his first smile, hear his first coos and giggles. She helped him learn to sit up, to crawl, to walk. She’s the one who struggled day after day to make a life for them, to choose what’s best, to keep him safe and healthy.

I don’t know where he lived. I don’t know how he liked to be held as an infant. I don’t know when he first sat up, crawled, walked, talked. I don’t know when he got his first tooth. I didn’t get to potty-train him even. I couldn’t keep him safe after she failed. I couldn’t prevent the six moves from family to family to family that occurred during that year that he was two years old. I wasn’t there to tell him he was safe, to teach him that there is always enough food, to love him. I couldn’t protect him.


I’m the one who got to wake him up on his 5th birthday. And his third and fourth birthdays too. More than two years in one house, with one family who still struggles daily to prove our love, to win his trust. How many birthdays before he believes we will never, never leave? How many birthdays before he knows in his heart of hearts that he is safe forever? Maybe that’ll never come. Maybe it’ll always be head knowledge for him. Maybe he’ll always struggle to trust. It doesn’t matter at this point. I will love him forever. I will prove myself to him as many times as it takes. I’m the one who gets to do that.

So while she sits without him on this hot July evening, I got to hug him and kiss him and tuck him under his new Cincinnati Reds blanket for bedtime while he clutched his stuffed Mr. Redlegs and dangled his other hand down to touch his new treasure box filled with ‘precious’ trinkets. I’m the one who got to watch his grin while a whole room full of family and friends sang him Happy Birthday. I’m the one who got to tell him I love him face to face, lips pressed to forehead.

I’m blessed. I’m grateful. But I also grieve, and I don’t grieve alone. I grieve what I’ve missed, the milestones I never saw, the intimate knowledge of his infancy that I will never have. She grieves much the same. She grieves what she’s missed, the milestones she’ll never see, the intimate knowledge of who he is right now that she will never have.

So tonight we exchange messages, she and I. Wishes for the future. Prayers for one another. A strange intimacy that I never anticipated. For we share the same love for the very same boy. We are both and equally his mothers. Me in a way that she has completely missed out on, and she in a way that I will never get to be. Both of us celebrating our son’s birth. Both of us grieving the losses of this curious brand of motherhood we share.

pure grace

Monday, July 9, 2012

During the past weeks when our house was overtaken with illness, loss of electricity, storm damage, and disrupted schedules, I struggled to count gifts. I struggled with guilt because I couldn’t count it all joy. Even sillier, I still wish as I write this today that I had been able to look through the difficulties, move past my exhausted body, foggy mind, and weak stomach, and focus on what matters. I wanted to focus on the good, see God in the mess, and I really struggled to do that.

Here’s the thing, though. I realize that all of those feelings are totally missing the point. Is the point of naming God’s gifts so that I can feel guilty when I can’t? Is the point so that it becomes some sort of barometer by which I gauge how spiritual I am or how close to God I am? Not so much. The point is this: I want to see God. I want to see God in the mess. If I can’t do that sometimes, that's ok. If I feel really bad sometimes, that is ok. God is not giving me gifts because I deserve it or because I react appropriately and with the proper amount of gratitude. God is in the midst of the mess whether or not I see Him or feel thankful about it. It’s pure grace…

1041. a daughter who gets up in the middle of night to strip down the bed she’s just thrown up on before she even comes to tell us she’s ill
1042. the sacred act of rubbing a vomiting child’s back while they’re sick
1043. cool compresses for the forehead
1044. friends to pick up kids when we’re in a bind and to bring them home when they fall ill in the middle of baseball practice
1045. the joy and pride on my son’s face when he got the call that he was selected for the all-star team
1046. small boys, becoming men, getting to play baseball under the lights
1047. promise of new friendship
1048. swim dates and sleepovers
1049. having my anxiety over my daughter’s first sleepover with a particular friend eased by the thoughtful and safe-practice actions of that family – an unusual blessing and surprise
1050. a husband who will work immediately to get a cover for his shift at the firehouse in the middle of the night when he realizes I’m too sick to care for the children
1051. sprite and saltines
1052. restored strength
1053. generators
1054. air conditioning
1055. a daughter who will hold my hand when I’m feeling a little scared
1056. the amazing blessing of living near my parents who can take my children for as long as I need when I can’t get out of bed to take care of them
1057. Phenergan
1058. keeping down a half-cup of rice and 6 saltines after 3 1/2 days of nothing
1059. a boss who allows my husband to take off work to take the daughter to therapy when I’m still too sick to drive
1060. sisters to drive me around when I’m too dizzy to feel safe on the road
1061. a sewing sister who is willing to help make a needed item for far cheaper than we could get it otherwise
1062. the benefits of living in a community with so many resources for families with special needs kids
1063. the joy of a restored appetite
1064. safety for a relative during a scary health crisis
1065. the love of extended family
1066. new furniture and not feeling embarrassed when people come in to sit in our living room
1067. after illness kept me away for a couple weeks, finally getting to worship with my family of faith

sunday [17]

Sunday, July 8, 2012

like a treeBut you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
Psalm 3:3

10 books week: 10 favorite memoirs

Friday, July 6, 2012

10booksadayMemoirs are some of my absolute favorite books to read. Something about the picture into a person’s life – not biographical, not just factual – but the very picture of how they personally experienced their lives and the events surrounding them….I just adore reading a good memoir. Some of these were really almost life-changing books for me and others I just merely enjoyed more than the average book, but here are 10 of my favorites.

1) A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story by Donald Miller: In this book, Don tells the story of bringing Blue Like Jazz to the movie screen. This book was exactly right for me at the moment I read it, and it quite literally affected the way I approach my whole life. It’s far more than just a memoir.

2) Girl Meets God: On the Path to a Spiritual Life by Lauren Winner: Lauren’s journey towards faith is authentic and revelatory, and I was captured from the moment I picked up this book. It remains one of my favorite memoirs today.

3) Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott: If you have read Anne Lamott, this needs no explanation. If you haven’t read Anne Lamott, do it. That’s all.

4) Three Little Words: A Memoir by Ashley Rhodes-Courter: Ashley’s story of growing up in foster care is an intense, troubling story of hope. I cried more than once reading this book. It’s actually a great audiobook for those who prefer that sort of thing. I’m pretty particular about narrator voices, but I enjoyed Ashley’s voice, and having her read her own material gave it the authenticity of a story-teller rather than just a reader.

5) Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison: Another must-read for those who are interested in or already doing foster care. Kathy’s story is compelling, touching, deeply identifiable for those who share this journey, and extremely interesting even for those who don’t.

6) The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom: This was one of the first memoirs I remember reading, and Corrie’s story still is with me. A powerful story lived out by such a strong and faithful woman. She’s an inspiration.

7) Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles: Sara’s conversion occurred in her mid-forties through the act of communion, and her life’s work of feeding the hungry came as a result. The people of God transformed by God to bring His kingdom come here on earth is the most compelling of all stories, and that is exactly what Sara’s engaging story is about. I absolutely loved this book.

8 ) Night by Elie Wiesel: Yet another that needs no explanation. If you haven’t read it, you should. It’s amazing.

9) All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir by Brennan Manning: I wrote about this one here, and this memoir was beautiful and transformative and just full of, well, grace.

10) Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris: This is my favorite of David Sedaris’s books of essays, but they are all deserving of a place on any list of memoirs. David writes with a dry, sardonic wit that I greatly adore and appreciate.

Any favorite memoirs that I should be reading? Please share!

10 books week: 10 fiction books I read again and again

Thursday, July 5, 2012

10booksadayI worked and worked to find ten today, but I read so many books that I have to greatly prioritize any time that I spend re-reading any particular books. These are the precious few that make the cut. (Plus, numbers 1 and 2 are series, not individual books, so that should count for something.)

1) Harry Potter Series : For this I shall borrow from the oft-used, but completely mis-attributed (apparently Alan Rickman did not say this after all) quote:

“When I’m 80 years old and sitting in my rocking chair, I’ll be reading Harry Potter. And my family will say to me, ‘After all this time?’ And I will say, ‘Always.’ “

2) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: I am an Anne-girl at heart. I’ve read this book more often than any other. It is, by a very large margin, my favorite book of all time, in all genres. It doesn’t get old. The moment I got to introduce my children to these books was a definite sacred moment in my life. Emily Of New Moon runs a close second in my infatuation with L.M. Montgomery books.

3) Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers: This book also made my list of books that changed my faith, but it is fiction. I can read it over and over and over.

4) Chasing Fireflies: A Novel of Discovery by Charles Martin: I had a hard time picking my favorite from Charles Martin as I’ve read several of them more than once, but I really think he hit his stride with this novel. He writes beautiful, poignant prose, full of a warm, misty, Southern loveliness without being overly sweet.

5) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: This book is in prominence on our living room end table. I’m not even currently reading it, but I like the reminder and the proximity whenever I feel the urge to pick it up .

6) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: All of the Jane Austen catalog holds a special place in my heart, but this was the first of hers that I read and subsequently, my favorite still. Close second: Sense and Sensibility.

10 books week: 10 books for the littles

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Today’s list was unbelievably difficult for me. So many books that I couldn’t list here – no Make Way for Ducklings? no The Biggest Bear? no Richard Scarry?? But this the list I’ve found myself with after the agonizing is over. A mixture of old and new, ones from my childhood that I still read to my kids, and ones that we’ve discovered with great joy as a family.

1) Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney: My kids love all the books in this particular series, but this is our first and favorite. She captures the personality of young children perfectly, and obviously a good part of the attraction for my own is the not-too-usual fact that the mother is named Mama. Even spelled the way we spell it here.

2) A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson: I consider this book to be the best introduction to poetry for young children. There are many different publications of this; we own one illustrated by Thomas Kinkade, but I’ve linked to the Golden Book version which is the one I remember reading over and over again as a child.

3) Edith and Mr. Bear: A Lonely Doll Story by Dare Wright: The story of Edith, a lonely doll, is set to black and white photographs of posed dolls and stuffed animals. Edith makes a family with Mr. Bear and Little Bear, and this particular story is my favorite. As is the theme with many of my favorite childhood books, Edith does something naughty, is disciplined, yet ultimately loved and forgiven. Tongue-in-Cheek Parental Discretion advised: Edith is disciplined via spanking, shown quite graphically with a posed bear’s hand raised over a bent-over doll’s bottom. It’s a photo that I haven’t forgotten since I saw it the first time.

4) The Complete Little House Nine-Book Set by Laura Ingalls Wilder: I do not ever get bored reading these books, even aloud and to very small children. This is the perfect introduction to chapter books, both for reading aloud and for beginning readers. The story is timeless, and boy, did I ever sometimes wish that I was Laura, living in the cabin in the Big Woods.

5) Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco: This was maybe my most difficult choice because I just love everything this woman has ever written. This is the most oft-read one in our home however. The perfect book to read on days when the “boom-booms” get too loud, and my little girlies need some reassurance.

6) Yonie Wondernose by Marguerite de Angeli: Yet another naughty child story that I loved from my childhood. The Pennsylvania Dutch aspect was important as part of my own heritage, and it’s always cool to see something that you recognize in print and illustrations. This is a beautifully written and illustrated story – a true classic.

7) Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: We read a lot of Margaret Wise Brown in this house, but Goodnight Moon is quite deservedly the favorite. I can recite it, which is helpful when little fingers turn pages too quickly. The soothing, soft lilt of the phrasing is perfect for bedtime stories.

8) A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza: This is a new favorite, perfect for our little family. I consider this to be the better version of Are You My Mother?. In that story, the little bird looks around at everyone who doesn’t look like him until he finds his mother, who looks like him. In this story, Choco realizes that a mama doesn’t have to look like him, and when he finally goes home at the end, the page where the Mama Bear hugs all of her children – a bird, a hippo, an alligator, and a pig – oh, man, that page gets me every time.

9) The Little House by Virginia Burton: This might be my favorite storybook of all time. The passage of time, the passage of city to country – it’s just so well-done. I look forward to turning every page to find out what’s changed.

10) The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones: As I wrote recently, this is a new addition to our home, but there is no bible storybook that we enjoy reading from more. It is the prefect addition to our bookshelf.


And it’s your turn! What are your favorite books for littles?

The 10-book week: 10 books that helped shape my parenting

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

10booksadayContinuing on with the 10 books series, today brings ten that helped shape my parenting. All parenting books should be viewed as tools rather than prescriptive regulations, and these ten reflect the most-used tools in our parenting cupboard. They also reflect the shift in our parenting that occurred when we began fostering, so a couple will be more geared to those types of parenting situations.

1) The Power of Mother Love: Strengthening the Bond Between You and Your Child by Dr. Brenda Hunter: As with many of the books I value in my life, I was first encouraged to read this by my mama. Dr. Hunter writes about the bond between mother and child so tenderly, and it validated all that I instinctually was feeling about becoming a mother. This book powerfully shaped how I viewed my role as a mama, and as the current empty slot on my bookshelf will attest to, it continues to be my most-loaned book.

2) Grace-Based Parenting by Tim Kimmel: This is the first Christian parenting book I read that echoed what I was feeling in my soul - that the performance-based parenting that Christian families typically strive for was not the direction we wanted our family to go. This book gave me a hopeful vision for the future of our family, and I’ve given numerous copies of this book out since.

3) The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family by Dr. Karyn Purvis: I can, without a doubt, say that there is no book that has impacted our parenting more than this one. We were out of our depths when foster children first entered our home, and traditional parenting norms just did not cut it. I wish we had read this much earlier in our fostering journey. No, actually, I wish we had read it much earlier in our entire parenting journey because it has revolutionized our parenting of all our children, not just those who came from hard places.

4) The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie Omartian: Stormie taught me to pray for my children with focus and purpose. This is a great guide to prayer times for your children, and I refer to it over and over, especially when I feel like my prayers are becoming rote.

5) Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas: I absolutely loved this book about raising boys. The focus on nurturing appeals to my mama’s heart, but the reminder to not tame my sons into a pre-shaped mold was timely for me. As a mama to a highly sensitive eldest son who enjoys cooking and reading as much as he does fire building and sports, I also appreciated that it wasn’t full of gender-stereotype parenting advice.

6) Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening for Today's Families by Michelle Anthony: My current favorite on stepping away from behavior-based parenting. Michelle reminded me that I am not responsible for saving my children or for managing their behavior. It’s my job to help provide the right environment, to instill in them the big picture and strong values, and then to set them free to follow Jesus. A great read for this stage in my parenting.

7) Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Families by Jayne Schooler: Jayne Schooler gave voice to what was occurring within our family as we fostered traumatized children. The validation in this book as well as the practical helps gave us such an infusion of hope and encouragement at a pretty dark time in our family’s life. I recommend it to everyone we know who fosters and/or has adopted.

8) The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night by Elizabeth Pantley: An invaluable resource which I found at a time when I felt very little validation for the parenting choices we were making with our baby. The Babywise movement was full steam ahead right then, and I knew in my heart of hearts that this was not the way I was called to parent my children. Looking back now, I know for sure that was God already preparing us for the calling He had for us as foster parents…boy, if there was ever a method worse suited towards parenting hurt and traumatized children….but I digress. This book gave me a printed resource as an alternative to some of the stuff we were getting pummeled with from our young evangelical friends.

9) Let's Make a Memory by Gloria Gaither and Shirley Dobson: I’ve written about my family’s penchant towards celebration before, and this was one of the resources I remember from my own mama’s bookshelf. I have a copy myself, and while it is woefully outdated in style and design, the principles of celebration still drive our home today.

10) What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman by Danielle Crittenden: This book is probably the oddest on my list. I don’t think it was wildly popular, it was somewhat dated, and it was not particularly about parenting. I read it at a time in my life when I was newly married, pregnant, and struggling with decisions about our future. It helped me realize that I can still be a feminist even if I choose to stay at home with my babies. More importantly, it helped me realize that it’s ok to be happy with that choice. I didn’t have to feel guilty or like less of a woman because I wasn’t fulfilling my “full potential.” My thinking on this subject has continue to evolve immensely over the years, but this book was one of the first I read that affirmed my feminist leanings without making me feel guilty or angry.


Your turn – what are some books that have shaped your parenting?

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