Simply Stated, It’s Complicated

In my previous post, I talked about the falsehoods and misunderstandings surrounding foster care. I want to further address a few of those we feel are most relevant to our situation. When we completed our foster and adoption training and learned so many things we were previously unaware of, we set our minds to approach our experience as a teaching opportunity. We KNEW the time would come when people would say hurtful things or cause offense to us or our children, with or without realizing it. We knew we would have to bite our tongues or choose our words carefully in order to share what we had learned in a way that would be honoring to all involved. We are not particularly concerned with political correctness as a whole and sometimes find that excessive sensitivity is annoying and counter productive. For that reason, we want to clarify that this is not an issue of altering language simply to appease people, rather, it is an issue of accuracy. When it comes to children and families, we should use specific language that is honest.

As parents, we aren’t an exception to the norm. We aren’t superheroes, nor have we set out to do a “good thing”. We’re just trying to honor the Lord and pursue the passions He has placed in our hearts. For us, that just happens to include foster care and adoption. We are 100% certain that He has built our family and sustained it solely by His grace and (without a doubt) in spite of our shortcomings and failures.

To clarify, I am not a perfect mom. I love parenting, and being a Momma is positively the best thing I have ever been. It’s what I love more than anything. I do believe I am a good Momma. Some days, I’m a great Momma, but some days I’m terrible. Sometimes I’m both in the same day…or in the same hour.

My husband is an amazing Daddy who has dreamed of being a Dad since he was itty bitty. He’s great at it. It highlights his strengths and suits him well. He would also tell you that it tries him and tests him like nothing else he has ever experienced, and he shares my paradox of finding in parenthood the greatest of successes and the greatest of failures.

We have six unique and wonderful children, some of whom are biological and some of whom are adopted. On one hand, we are happy to share their stories because each one is beautifully painted by the hand of God. On the other hand, we are thrilled when people have no idea they don’t all share our DNA, and we often choose not to answer questions or comments that rob our kids or their biological families of the dignity and respect they deserve.

We love that our adopted children look like they “could be” ours. They are ours. With that said, it is fun to hear people note resemblances that are not in the least bit genetic. Some have even said they could be our REAL children. [Just to review, all six of our children are real. None are imaginary…except maybe batman. I have definitely heard (on more than one occasion) claims that he lives in our home. I am fairly certain that this is imaginary.]

We are permanently tied to biological families whom we love dearly. These “birth parents” as we choose to refer to them, love the children we share tremendously. They live with regrets and heartaches of their own, but they also have the promise from us that we will always honor them and make sure their kids know they love them. The situation will always be complicated, but we face it head-on because we want our kids to know that we grieve with them in their losses and rejoice with them in redemption. This means acknowledging all parts of their stories and celebrating the beauty of having them home with us. (Cue the internal music *God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you*)

Our path of parenthood has been just as unexpected to us as to the people around us. We didn’t set out to follow this path. We were actually pretty oblivious to the tremendous need for foster families, and while we had talked about the idea of adoption since before we were even married, we had a very romantic and uninformed view of what it truly entails. Just over five years ago, all of that began to change and the Lord started unraveling the threads of our self-woven plans. He wrecked our hearts and shook us to the core.

He blessed us with an amazing support system of grandparents, aunts/uncles, cousins, and extended family, church family, and friends who also had their worlds rocked and their hearts wrecked through our journey. They’ve stood by us, loved us by loving our children, and helped us in ways too numerous to explain in this post. Of course we’ve had our share of misunderstandings, foolish remarks made with good intentions, and hurtful words from strangers and friends alike, but we hope we’ve been able to share some of what we’ve learned with the people around us. We, too, continue to learn and adjust our thinking accordingly. (As Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”)

Again, knowing the correct terms for complicated family relationships isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s an issue of dealing respectfully and honestly with real-life issues that foster and adoptive families face. It’s a way to honor the people you know who have non-traditional families and a way to celebrate the beautiful lives of the children most heavily impacted.

Foster Falsehoods

So many questions come when people learn that we have children we have fostered and then adopted. So much undue praise. So much confusion. So many good intentions. So many ignorant comments.

When we began foster training, many of our preconceived notions were corrected. Previous biases were uncovered, and our thoughts and language about foster care and adoption was permanently altered. Because we have changed, it is now hard to remember which thoughts were ours before and which we have simply observed from other people, but here are a few examples and the revised thinking to go with them:

False: Foster families have some sort of superhuman ability to love kids without getting “too attached” and are therefore different than the rest of the population.

Truth: Foster families are REGULAR people.

False: Foster parents are special and closer to sainthood than the rest of the population.

Truth: Foster parents are REGULAR people.

False: Kids are placed in foster care when their parents don’t want them.

Truth: The vast majority of parents want what’s best for their kids but some are incapable (for various reasons and for various periods of time) of providing a safe and nurturing home.

False: Kids are placed in foster care when they are troubled or have behavior issues

Truth: Kids are placed in foster care when their parents are unable to provide a safe and nurturing home and while these kids do often have struggles that result from the trauma they have experienced, they are not “bad” kids.

False: Parents whose kids end up in foster care are awful people.

Truth: But for the grace of God, that could be me, or you.

False: “Real” parents are the ones kids are born to.

Truth: “Real” people are the kind that aren’t imaginary. Biological parents are responsible for the genetics and birth of a person. Ideally, biological parents also raise kids, but in situations where they cannot, other parents step in. Sometimes these parents are labeled “foster parents”. Sometimes they’re called “adoptive parents”. Sometimes they are grandparents. The reality is, as long as they’re doing the job of a Momma and a Daddy, that’s exactly what they are and no additional labels are needed.

False: “Real” kids are the ones who are biologically connected to the parents.

Truth: All of my kids are real. When I was young, I had dolls and imaginary children, but since adulthood, every single child I have parented has been a real child, really mine, and really worth being valued as though biologically connected.

False: Adoption occurs when exceptional parents take in unwanted or misfit children.

Truth: Adoption occurs when grateful families are blessed to share their lives with amazing, beautiful children.

These are just a few of the things we’ve learned and experienced through our own misunderstandings or the misunderstandings of others. It’s not an exhaustive list. It’s barely even a drop in the bucket, but these are the ones most fresh in our minds, as we’ve heard many comments that closely relate just in the past few weeks. The goal here isn’t just to correct misunderstandings, but to help people see a more realistic view of foster care and adoption. The next post will include more of my family’s personal experience with these misunderstandings and the confusion tied to the world of foster care and adoption, with the hope of helping others.

Breaking the Silence

For months I have been silent. It’s not that there aren’t stories to tell…It’s more that they aren’t fully mine to tell. A year ago, we met and brought home our oldest daughter. It has been a whirlwind of adjustment for all of us since then, and we have all learned and grown a lot. Sometimes growth is accompanied by growing pains, and I think we’ve all felt the ache of those along the way. We’ve also felt the hope of healing.

From the time we first saw our girl’s picture in September 2017 until the day we learned we had been chosen as her adoptive family (December 13, 2017), we prayed for her. She was a name, a story, and two pictures. We had never even met face to face. The day we met her (December 22, 2017) and brought her “home” to our family was definitely a surreal day. We parked at the designated meeting place, a gas station just off of the highway, and waited for her and her foster mom to arrive. In my nervous excitement, I had texted to see if she would be okay with a hug when we met. Her response was, “Duh!”

When she arrived, we got out of our van and matched her nervous smile with ours. She was beautiful! I was instantly overwhelmed by both the gift and the tragedy of this situation.

How is it POSSIBLE that this precious sixteen year old child has no home…no family??

“Welcome home,” I whispered in her ear as I wrapped my arms around her. It would be several days before we were actually home in our house  (that’s a story for another post), but “home” is where our family is, and in that moment, she had finally come home. When I wrote the previous blog post (Sweet Sixteen), I only WONDERED if she was my daughter. My heart said yes, but my mind said wait and see.

Now we know she is ours, and we thank the Lord for His grace that has carried each of us through. December 11, we officially adopted our beautiful girl. In two months, she’ll turn eighteen. In a year and half, she will graduate from high school. These milestones, that most kids long for, bring mixed emotions for her because she’s not quite ready to grow up. Foster care and adoption are complicated: full of heartache and unanswered questions. We’ll never understand it all, but one thing we do understand is that the Lord gives beauty for ashes, and we have seen Him do it time and time again. There is no situation He cannot set right, no heartache He cannot heal. Our precious girl, whose chosen name means “the Lord has added to the family”, is a testimony of His grace, and we stand amazed.

Sweet Sixteen

I don’t know you, baby girl, but I feel heavy-hearted for you. It’s not heavy-heartedness in the sense of pity because I don’t think you need or want pity. You are tough and strong; I can see it in your eyes. To pity you would be an insult to your character and courage.

This is not pity.

This is heavy-heartedness that comes with deep regret, deep disappointment, deep pain. This is the instinct that compels me to defend you because you’ve gone way too many years without a defender in this world.

This is the weight of responsibility that is, in some ways, not mine to bear. I mean, you are not in these circumstances as a result of my choices. That means this isn’t my responsibility, right?

It seems like a logical conclusion, but my heart beats out the lie of the logic.

You are carrying the weight right now, and you probably feel that you’re carrying it alone. You didn’t ask for this weight. It’s not a result of your own choices. You are burdened with loss upon loss upon loss, and you’re asked to stand beneath a weight that no human should have to bear.

I can’t save you, sweet girl. I can’t be your hero. I can’t fix all that’s broken. For goodness sake, I can’t even wrap my mind around all that is broken in and around your life.

One voice…one steady, droning voice says that can’t is the end. There’s obviously nothing more to say.

Lub dub

lub dub

lub dub lub dub lub dub lub dub

Like a strong and steady steam engine, my heart trudges on through the trauma, through the tears, through the tragedy, and the Engineer whispers into the night “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged…I am with you wherever you go…

Do you hear it, beautiful child? Do you hear the rhythm of hope that keeps time beneath the chaos?

I hear it. How then, can I entertain the lies of logic that say can’t wins and I’m not responsible anyway?

If many hands make light work, then why are so many of us standing by while the most precious among us carry it all?

I may not be able to bring a solution, but I am not called to stand by;

I am called to stand by you.

Three Years Ago Today…

Three years ago today, I paced the floor as nervous and nauseous as if I was getting ready to run a race.

Three years ago today, I fretted over what to wear to make sure I could snuggle two little strangers closely and make them feel safe and secure. I settled on a soft t-shirt and scarf.

Three years ago today, I sent my 12, 11, and 9 year old sons to school with the knowledge that they would come home to meet their baby sister and brother for the first time.

Three years ago today, I prayed and cried my anxiety to my own adoptive Father who reminded me to work WITH Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matt 11:28-30).

Three years ago today, our foster training, planning, and preparation was given its first test in reality.

Three years ago today, we tried to make sense of confusion for two people with little to no ability to communicate.

Three years ago today, we watched the body of Christ in action as our family and friends rallied to offer help and support in the form of prayer, visits, texts and calls, offering rides for our kids, and bringing meals for our family during our adjustment time.

Three years ago today, I marveled at how a piece of paper and a very short visit from a caseworker could somehow dub us “qualified” to care for little humans we did not know.

Three years ago today, I learned to mix formula and got back in the saddle of parenting babies when I thought I had retired those reigns.

Three years ago today, I willingly conceded a nap-time battle, and a mealtime battle, and who-knows-how-many other battles to try to settle a little girl’s anxiety.

Three years ago today, I took selfies with our “new kids” and texted them to an anxious Daddy to say: “They’re here!”

Three years ago today, I read a letter from a heartbroken aunt who worried about where her niece and nephew would end up and who wanted to make sure I had all of the info about them that I would need to make a smooth transition.

Three years ago today, we began our commitment to love and to pray daily for the parents who gave these babies life.

Three years ago today, I watched my boys step into their big brother roles as if they were MADE for it.

Three years ago today, God used two sweet children to bust through our hearts, our lives, and our plans and to make us more willing to follow Him wherever He leads.

Three years ago today, we met our daughter and our son for the first time, but we did not know they would truly become “ours”. We did not know the rollercoaster of heartache and pain and joy that was ahead. We did not know their parents, their grandparents, their aunts and uncles. We did not know their CASA, their GAL, their DJO, their future Caseworkers, the judge. We did not know how to meet their needs, heal their hurts, or guide their hearts. We did not know. There was far more unknown to us than known at that point in time, but what we DID know surpassed it all: The Lord said “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Cor 12:9)

Three years ago today, He met us in our weakness and we can say without question, we have witnessed HIS power.

Three years ago today, our babies came home and our lives were changed forever: to God be the glory!

Growth Mindset: Growing by Grace

This summer, I was blessed to be part of an amazing Writing Project “Summer Institute”. (Shameless plug: I HIGHLY encourage all of my teacher-friends – regardless of your subject area – to check for a similar opportunity near you. I guarantee you will not regret it.) During SI, I completed a research project where some of my research talked about “growth mindset”. I also had the chance to visit with a colleague there who had studied this idea in greater depth. Now, this concept is also the theme of the year at work, and I am being continually challenged to think differently. I don’t recall hearing the term before SI, so let me elaborate a bit in case it’s new to you too. Growth mindset focuses on the power of “YET”. What’s that mean? Well, when I attempt something and don’t succeed, I’m not stuck with failure, but simply recognize that I haven’t met my goal….yet. When I’m working with students on a concept that challenges them, I can give them the freedom to see that struggling to learn something doesn’t mean they’ll never master it. It just means they haven’t mastered it…yet.  For some, this feels like common-sense. For others, it is a needed breath of fresh air to revive the life that perfectionism has tried to smother out. Growth mindset is just what the name implies: a state of mind conducive to seeking growth in every way. Growth mindset says that I will not pursue perfection, but improvement in all that I do, and I’ll give others the grace to do the same. Now, if you’re like me and battle the lie of perfectionism daily, this is not an easy switch to flip. There are some areas of my life where my brain is still wired to believe that anything short of perfect is failure, but then…there’s the stuff that REALLY matters and this is where our family is learning, together, to embrace a growth mindset – to believe in the power of yet: foster care and adoption.

When the Lord led us into foster care in 2014, we only had a hint of what might lay in store for us. We knew we’d be stretched. We knew we’d be challenged. We knew we would not be perfect, but kids who need a safe and loving place to land don’t need perfection. They need love, and that we had (1John 4:19). One small yes after another, we journeyed into the Great-Unknown, completely unaware that we would never come back. Just ask anyone who has experienced the plight of orphans in any way. Those who have visited overseas orphanages and looked into the eyes of needy children will tell you they will never be the same. Those who have opened their homes to hurting families or to children in need through foster-care or other similar avenues will tell you they’ve been changed beyond recognition.





It’s like the growth that happens to our children. When I wasn’t looking, someone slipped human miracle-grow into my oldest sons’ water, and now they are men. They cannot go back. No amount of begging or pleading from me will turn them into little guys that I can pick up. In fact, it’s far more realistic for them to carry me at this point than the other way around. They have grown and it’s a beautiful thing. Sometimes we reminisce about the old days and for just a moment, I might wish we could go back, but the reality is, they are bigger and better than before and this is God’s design…growth.

The maturing of our children is very similar to the growth we have experienced as a family through foster-care and adoption. Not only did we grow in number, adding two to our family and adding many extended family members, but we’ve also grown and changed in how we view the world. We aren’t perfect, but we also aren’t looking to be “complete”. We know that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it, but guess what?! As long as we are breathing, He is not finished with us. He will be faithful to complete His work, but He decides when it’s finished: not us.  There may have been a time when we said our family was complete. I’m not sure if we ever said it, but I am doubtful that we’ll ever say it again. It’s not that we’re crazy. It’s just that we’ve grown and been stretched beyond what we were before. There is no going back.

When the state said that we were “full” after we adopted our first foster-care placement, we cringed. How can we be “full” when we’ve just begun the journey? How can we be “full” when we’re willing participants and the need is still great? The next decision was whether to close our license or keep it open. Technically, our options for talking in additional children were limited at best…maybe unlikely or impossible. We could not un-see what we had seen. We could not imagine walking away from the training we had received and saying Mission Complete. By practical standards, we were at a roadblock, or maybe a closed door, but we know the God who led us here, and He is able.

This doesn’t mean that we know what comes next. We don’t: story of our lives. What we do know is that there is no better place to have a growth mindset than with our family. We know the Lord has placed us here and that we love because He first loved us. We agree with our friend Carla’s belief that there’s always room for one more at the table.

How ‘bout you?

Have you thought about what you can do to make a difference?

Maybe you have seen the need but just haven’t stepped forward….yet.

Photo credit/Thank you to Elijah Hail and Natalie Collins on Unsplash

Happy Birthday, Mr. Incredible

September 19, 2017

I started writing letters to you before you were even born. At that point, we did not know if you were a boy or a girl, but we dreamed of meeting you and filled our time completing silly quizzes with old wives’ tales trying to predict whether you would be Hunter or Kaitlyn. We decorated the nursery and spent evenings watching you kick and move under the ice cream bowl resting on my belly. (My poor rib-cage could attest to your soccer-player potential even then.) I wrote you letters expressing my love for you and my dreams of what life as a Momma would be like. ❤ You were a dream come true, my son. I know that sounds sweet and nostalgic, but for real…my dream came true the day you were born. 😊

I would have to look back at my letter-writing journal to tell you the date for certain, but sometime around April 2002, I had one of many crazy pregnancy dreams. Usually these dreams involved really weird things like seeing the entire outline of a baby body bulging from my stomach. Some nights, I dreamed you were a girl. Other nights, you were a boy, but the dream I’m talking about here is the one that involved nothing more than dreaming you would be born September 19th. I woke up and told Daddy about it. It was so strange to simply dream a date, so of course, I wrote about it in my journal. You were due September 24th and first-time moms rarely deliver early, so it was worth a laugh and a journal entry, and then life moved on.

When labor pains began late at night on September 18, the realization hit Daddy and I at about the same time. As we gathered our things to head to the hospital, I said, “Do you realize what this means?! This baby is coming on September 19th!” We were both amused and amazed. You really were a dream come true in every way.

We felt like we were in a scene from a sit-com as we sped into town headed for the hospital. Labor pains were well under way with only seconds between contractions, when we heard a siren and saw flashing lights swirling behind us. I rolled my eyes and laughed in between breaths. Daddy talked quickly and the officer was observant, so we weren’t stopped for long. Instead of keeping us, he called ahead to the hospital, and the labor and delivery nurses met us at the door, ready to begin providing care. In a few short hours, we went from not knowing what to expect to holding a beautiful, perfect baby boy in our arms. You even came with a “little boy hair-cut” as Mamaw called it, your dark tresses parting naturally in a typical manly “do”.

Just as you gave us our introduction to parenthood, you have introduced us to each new phase of raising children and you have filled them each with joy. Your enthusiasm and zest for life are contagious. You are tough, hard working, determined, driven, and talented. You give 100% in everything you commit yourself to, and you hold yourself and others to a high standard. You are a go-getter and there isn’t much you aren’t willing to try. I love your sense of adventure and your courage. Just this summer, we rode a 200 ft free-fall ride together, and I suspect that someday we’ll share our first sky-dive together.

Today’s adventure was taking you to complete your written test to earn your driving permit. I loved sharing high-fives, smiles, and hugs with you, and then quickly sending texts to Daddy and family to share the great news.

You are such an amazing young man, and as much as I adored you as an infant, a toddler, a little boy, and a pre-teen, each phase of your growth has only made me admire you more and be more grateful for God’s goodness and grace in your life and ours. For the past three years or so, you have had a passion for learning to understand and defend Christianity. You’ve studied God’s Word and learned from some of the greatest apologists around. You have a deeper understanding of what you believe than many adults, and you desire to live a life of obedience to Christ. You are a reader and a thinker: an articulate, intelligent young man. You’re also incredibly talented, playing guitar and clarinet and attempting to keep your great singing voice under wraps. You are a strong soccer player and a fast runner. As a freshman in high school you’ve taken on the challenge of two varsity sports concurrently (soccer and cross-country) while simultaneously serving in your school’s student council, participating in Klife, and competing in debate and marching band. You are eager to try it all because you love a challenge, and because you are focused, driven, and determined to prepare yourself for your future.  You’re also a big goof who will entertain your youngest siblings or your friends and will occasionally let down your walls completely, allowing your sense of humor to shine through. You amaze us, son.

We take great joy in being your parents, and we are grateful for the privilege of guiding you through life. Your fifteenth birthday has been a special one, complete with a surprise party with some pretty awesome friends and the driving experiences you’ve been dreaming of. Lots of dreams are coming true for you, sweet boy, and many are still yet to come. Regardless of the details of the future, you can rest assured that we’ll be standing by cheering you on and thanking the Lord for the gift of you. Happy Birthday, Baby!

3 John 1:4


I know that feeling…
the feeling that people are waiting for you to fail.
You’ve taken on too much, they say.
It can’t be done.
It’s not possible.
The task before you is great.
The hard work and gut-wrenching effort required is not lost on you.
You are made of hard-work, determination, grit that others don’t fully understand.
You get it.
You know.
You believe you can do it anyway.
So do I.
So do I, Son.
I am not waiting for you to fail.
I am standing by to watch you FLY.
~Julie G.
September 6, 2017

Adoption Anniversary

Today was our Adoption Anniversary. It has been ONE YEAR since we took the vow that made our precious little ones “ours” forever, in a legal sense. How exactly does someone adequately celebrate an occasion like this?

We tried to decide what to name the day…”Adoptiversary” was my choice, but we discussed names like “Gotcha Day”, “Family Day”, and even “Pink Glitter Sparkle Day”  or “Twilight Sparkle Day”. Even though the big brothers got a laugh out of offering those suggestions to a wide-eyed, excited little girl, I assured them they would NOT want to be stuck with that title for life. 😊 We didn’t really settle on a great name, but we did decide on a fun way to celebrate. A wonderful local organization just happened to be offering a “Saddle Up” event for foster and adoptive families. Most of us put on jeans and everyone who could wore cowboy boots, and we headed to the farm. There were horses to ride and bounce houses to jump in for the littles, s’mores and snacks for the big guys and a fun family photo opportunity. We stayed until our allergies and our biggest kiddos had enough, and then we headed to the famous “Home of the Throwed Rolls” for a celebratory meal. As I sat in the waiting area with baby boy, a mom walked by carrying an infant who looked to be just a couple of months old. Cue the flashback. I told little man that’s about the size HE was when he came home to us and he grinned joyfully as I commented on how BIG he is now. “I bigger to ride the rollercoaster?!” He questioned for about the fiftieth time in the past week. 😊 (His current obsession is being big enough for the rides he was denied the last time we were at the amusement park. If sheer willpower could increase a boy’s height, he would be about 6 feet tall, for sure!)

My mind struggles to process all that the past few years have brought…the past year in particular as our family officially grew to 7. The kindness the Lord has shown us is simply mind-blowing. The privilege of parenting these kids overwhelms us in the most beautiful way, and the burden of pointing them to Christ and the Truth of His Word weighs on us as a treasured responsibility…the weight of gold: pure, solid, invaluable. These are not treasures laid up on earth where moth and rust corrupt (Matt 6:20), but rather heavenly treasures that cannot be stolen or destroyed. We pray our kids will give their lives to follow the One who gave His life for them; there is “no greater joy” than to hear that our “children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).

A year ago, I cried on the way to the courtroom. I cried because I was so grateful the Lord had brought us to the place of adopting our babies. I cried because our fears had been overcome. I cried because my sister was not able to be there when she and her family had played such a HUGE part in welcoming our littles home and supporting us, while loving them. I cried because our parents, our church family, and our closest friends joined with us to celebrate and experience this occasion that was foreign territory to all of us.

Our Adoption Day was much like the birth of our biological children…we laughed, we cried, we tried to learn and understand the process that was new and different, we held our breath while we waited, we smiled nervously at friends and family who surrounded us, we took pictures, and ultimately, we marveled that “just like that” it was over and they were “ours”. I wish I could go back to it all and listen again. I wish I had a transcript of the words the judge said as he told us this legal and binding decision made it as though these children were born to us, with all the rights of biological son-ship. We already loved them in this way. To have the state officially seal our love with a binding decree, was simply overwhelming.

Though we love these children as if they were born to us, and no external clues would suggest that they weren’t, we still hold the beauty of their story close to our hearts. We tell them their story frequently and we’ve been privileged to maintain an open adoption with the biological family members who love them dearly. The past year has been different because we’ve no longer had monthly team meetings, or weekly in-home visits from workers supporting them. We’ve no longer had mandated weekly visitation, and we’ve no longer had to seek permission for routine decisions and care.

It has been freeing.

They are ours. We are family forever.

This is true in one sense, but really, they are God’s.

They have always been His. He is writing their story, and it is colored with His Goodness and Grace. He has gifted us the opportunity to be their parents, and no words – no amount of celebrating – can express our gratitude for this gift. This is amazing grace. ❤

Happy Birthday, Sunshine!

August 24, 2017

Today marks 12 years of you making people smile. Actually, you had us smiling before you were born. In fact, the day I found out about you, I laughed. I mean, what else could I do? I was HOLDING a baby AND pregnant with a baby? This was obviously God’s plan and I had NO idea how I could handle THREE babies, but I instantly loved you, and I laughed – in bewilderment and in joy.  Daddy and I had been trying to decide if our family was “complete” with two kids or if we wanted to have another. We weren’t sure. We had said “two” for years, but once we had two, I just wasn’t convinced that we should stop there. The truth was, I REALLY wanted another baby, and while Daddy and I were discussing what was best, I was also praying and asking the Lord for a child. The day we found out about you, I admitted this secret prayer to Daddy. I then playfully asked if I could pray for twins. He said NO! 😊

As you know, when we selected your name, we chose it for a number of reasons. First of all, it had been on our list of likes with your brothers as well. Second, your name comes from the third son of Jacob in the Bible and you were to be our third son. Finally, it means “joined in harmony” and this EXHAUSTED Momma of two very busy little toddlers REALLY needed you to join our crazy circus as harmoniously as possible. You did exactly that.

The one and only time you’ve ever been in a hurry in your life was on the day of your birth. You came quickly. Grammy didn’t make it in time for your delivery and the doctor almost missed it as well. Praise the Lord for his timing and the swift action to protect you from an issue with your umbilical cord. Once all was well, you were instantly a star. The hospital marketing department came to visit us to ask if we might be interested in being part of their photo-shoot for their commercials and other publications. We were thrilled to agree to your very first acting role. You played the part of a BEAUTIFUL newborn baby, and you played it brilliantly. The commercials aired for quite some time and the pictures remained on the hospital website for years to come.

As a little guy, you were very chill. You were content to sit and watch your surroundings for long periods of time. You seemed to be always watching and thinking – quietly learning from the big brothers who jabbered at you and for you. “Levi wants this…Levi doesn’t like that; he wants…” on and on they went translating your expressions and speaking for you.

Somehow time has slipped through our hands, and you are now an articulate young man who can speak for himself. You’re still not quick to do so, though. In fact, you’re pretty laid back about life in general and are not very naturally inclined to push for your own way. Hmm….joined in harmony. There it is again: your beautiful self, adding depth and life to the song of our family in your own subtle way.

The past few years have stretched, and challenged, and grown you. You have changed. We’ve watched the pressing and the heat refine your personality and bring out qualities of courage and endurance that we had not previously seen. Some challenges have come from your own body with dental surgeries, vision issues, attention concerns, and anxiousness (where Carribean-calmness used to dominate). Other changes have come from our family’s immersion into the world of foster care and adoption. You went from being the baby…the “caboose” as we called you, to being a big brother – a role we had not previously known you in. We had always commented on how sad it was that you loved babies the MOST, yet were the only boy who didn’t get to have a baby around. Little did we know what God had in store for us. You are an incredibly loving and attentive big brother. You love to protect, teach, and entertain your younger siblings, and there was never the slightest bit of resistance from you.

Entertaining is your outlet. You love to laugh and you love to make people laugh. You have overcome your tendencies to be literal in favor of embracing wit, puns, and good-natured sarcasm. I am proud. 😊 The days of you asking me to “please not tease” (as you did in your toddler years) have been replaced by you carefully teaching the youngest among us to embrace the fun as well.

You are smart, and gentle, and sensitive. You are strong and courageous. It seems that no matter what comes your way, you press on. You don’t like to be rushed, and you long for a laid-back world free of pressures and worry, but even so, you persevere with a sweet smile on your handsome face. You take new opportunities, face new challenges, and find things to laugh about at every turn. You are our book-reading, dog-loving, piano-playing, hard-working, kind-hearted ray of sunshine and we thank the Lord for the gift of you. Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to “Momma’s Baby”

August 19, 2017

You are a brilliant, energetic, funny, witty three-year-old boy, and our time with you has FLOWN by! In your three-year life, you’ve experienced more than you even realize. Your life represents 1,096 days of God’s grace. It’s hard to believe that for 83 of those days, we did not know you. We weren’t there the day you were born. We weren’t able to protect you, comfort you, help to meet your needs. You were 83 days old when you entered our home, and even then, we did not know you were to be our son forever. We only knew that the Lord nudged our hearts towards you with a simple little word: yes.

I remember one of our first nights together. You were awake: first fussing for your bottle and then fussing because of your tummy troubles. My experience as Momma to two other reflux-babies taught me to hold you close and pat firmly to soothe you. You refused to be snuggled chest-to-chest and insisted, instead, on facing away from me. You trained me quickly with your shrill screams, and melted my heart with the sweetness of victory when you finally relaxed in my arms. I remember thinking how strange it was to KNOW that I was up in the middle of the night with another woman’s baby, and yet to have it feel perfectly right. It was God’s grace. I remember whispering my secret question to you, “Are you someone else’s baby??” I could not bring myself to ask what I really wanted to know…”Are you my son?”

Your baby days flew by, as all baby days do, and I found myself sometimes gripped with panic that I might be missing something. It’s hard to explain the feeling because I wasn’t missing anything. You were with us all the time. We saw each milestone, heard each laugh, treasured each moment, but we didn’t know if the “moments” were ours to keep or if we would someday wrap them up in a pretty package tied with heartache and send you “home” to another parent. I didn’t know if I was remembering enough, treasuring enough, doing enough…I didn’t know if you were going to stay, and I was missing you even as I was holding you.

Now here we are at your THIRD birthday. We celebrated your first two birthdays with you also, but this is the first one we’ve celebrated when we can fully, legally, officially say you are our son. What a gift!

You are a passionate, intelligent little man with tremendous athleticism. From the moment you began walking, you’ve been dribbling a soccer ball like you were born to play. You also throw a baseball, dribble and shoot the basketball, easily complete a full jump-stop, and throw and catch anything you can get your hands on. You admire “the brudders” (as you refer to them collectively) and you don’t hesitate  to keep up with them in whatever they are doing. They are your heroes, your protectors, and your friends. You also keep close tabs on big sis and enjoy talking and laughing together with your matching voices and similar giggles. You can make us smile at the drop of a hat and refuse to smile like no one I’ve ever known.  For over two years, we endured photo after photo with our own “Stonewall Jaxon” – refusing to crack a smile or humor us with a laugh. Just in the past few months, we discovered the joy you find in teasing and refusing to cooperate. Now, we use reverse psychology to get you to participate in what we want. “Don’t smile, Jaxon….whatever you do, don’t smile!” The result, of course, is the ornery grin that we know so well.

At this age, you are a fireball of opinionated, demanding independence with a side of sweetness. You are a Momma’s boy through and through, yet you’re tough and daring. You jump from high places and land – solid on your feet – with a proud, growling victory laugh.  You are determined to be “bigger” to ride the rollercoasters RIGHT NOW. You have no fear (which certainly heightens mine), and you can often be heard saying “I wanchew, Momma!” while reaching for me. You’re just days away from mastering potty-training and there’s not much “baby” left in you. You love to ride in Daddy’s truck, watch movies, play outside, line your cars up in a perfect row, play with the wooden trains, do puzzles, read books, play ball, and eat. You are a “hangry” fella, and if we find that there’s nothing we can do to settle your temper, we can almost always bring back our sweet baby with a bit of food to curb the rage.

We are so thankful for the privilege of watching you grow, helping you learn, and being your Momma and Daddy forever. We will never forget the day the Sovereignty of God placed you into our arms and allowed us the beautiful heartache of walking with you and your biological parents through the valley. As the song says, “You’re worth every fallen tear. You’re worth facing any fear.  You’re gonna know ALL my love, even if it’s not enough – enough to mend our broken hearts, but giving you all of me is where I’ll start” (Matt Hammitt – All of Me).

That is where we started, little man, and that is where we’ll stay…always and forever giving you all our love. Happy Birthday, baby boy! May this be your best year yet!

All of Me