Happy Birthday, Awesomeness!

April 29, 2017

I can’t believe you are 13. Your child-soul is fighting hard against your adult-body, but life and growth follow the pattern God designed, and whether we like it or not, you are growing up. I am amazed by you. Every. Day. (I can hear your playful response in my head, “Yeah! I am pretty amazing!”)

Your sweet, little stuttering voice has given way to a deep manly voice that only breaks when you giggle. Your bright orange hair has darkened, leaving only a faint trace of the “read-head” you used to be, and the redhead temper has faded as well. (Thank you, Jesus!) 🙂  The fiery, strong-willed spirit of a defiant toddler now has a voice. You’ve changed, and you’ve stayed the same. You know who you were, and who you are, and who you are meant to be. You have grown to recognize the value in how God made you (as have we), and you have taught us SO MUCH about His goodness, His grace, and His creativity.

We used to call you our BULLDOZER. You plowed through anything in your path and were not deterred by stumbling or even falling. You were tough as nails, and we feared a future of frequent-flyer miles in the ER. You were loud, and bold, and in a constant state of motion. You have been our real-life example of inertia, and we now know for certain that an object in motion TRULY will stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. 🙂

I often find myself watching you and admiring your handsomeness, your gentleness, your contagious smile, and your magnetic personality. You put others at ease. Well, okay… you put other kids at ease…and you put Daddy and I at ease…but you make some adults very, very tense. 🙂 HA! That’s okay, though. Your easy personality draws others in, and kids of all ages find joy in friendship with you.

You will not be contained. Tight spaces, tight clothes, anything that prohibits your freedom of movement crushes your spirit and ignites the fight in you. Just like when you were a little man fighting to be free of our arms restraining you, you are still full of fight for freedom. You pursue freedom and you promote it.

Remember the time you asked me why in the WORLD I would spend time putting on make-up instead of just looking “regular”? To you, “regular” is better…more honest…more free. You challenge my way of thinking, and I am a better person because of you.

I am amazed at the maturity you show in valuing your childhood. It seems ironic to call it maturity, but it really does take a wise soul to appreciate this time in your life. You have a Peter Pan mind-set and have zero interest in growing up and being forced to become a responsible adult. You TREASURE the freedom of being a child and I love that you LOVE being a kid. It makes me smile to picture you as a grown man, looking polished and refined on the outside, but – no doubt –  keeping the child alive on the inside.

Even though you don’t want it to happen, I see it happening, sweet boy. You are growing up. You have passed me in height and could now lift me more easily than I could lift you. It’s not just your physique and voice that announce your manhood, but also your willingness to lay down yourself for others. You stop what you are doing to tend to the needs of your baby brother or sis without a single complaint. You jump at the opportunity to help someone to understand something. You are a natural teacher and a leader.

While I will always treasure your childhood, as you do, and fondly remember your roly-poly baby days, your bulldozer toddler days, your spinning through the halls elementary years, and your transformational teen years, I look forward to seeing each step of your growth into manhood. I admire and respect you and can’t wait to see how the Lord uses your life for His glory.

Happy Birthday!

He did what we couldn’t

Because Jesus did what I couldn’t, I was able to stand and praise Him Sunday – knowing that my praises ring out to a LIVING God. EASTER, Resurrection Day, as I like to think of it, is the crux of Christianity. It is the pivotal, powerful, perfect completion of the work that Christ came to do on the cross.

And this year was especially powerful for us, as we have experienced a resurrection of sorts in our family – a coming back to life – an overcoming of death and destruction to awake to beautiful victory. Almost exactly a year ago, the final court session was held which declared our foster children officially “fatherless” and “motherless,” as the legal parental rights of their biological parents were terminated. Termination. Heart break. Death. Destruction There is nothing pretty about foster care. Its weight is immeasurable.

These innocent, precious babies were completely unaware of the storm they had been in for more than a year and a half prior to that day, and they remained unaware of the uncertainty of their futures – of our future as a family.  Termination was not followed by an “end” or a break to the stress. Instead, we were greeted with shocking news that they may be taken from us forever.

We couldn’t do it.

We couldn’t take it.

We couldn’t breathe.

We couldn’t think.

Heart break. Death. Destruction

How could the Lord have brought us so far to let us be drowned in the sea?

We recounted His many protections, interventions, and miracles over the past year and a half of our lives as we learned new terms like ICPC and contested adoption, and we cried out to Him to help us. We chiseled hard at our stubborn hearts trying to make them willing to obey even if our fears were realized.

The thing was, we couldn’t do it.

We couldn’t fix it.

We couldn’t make ourselves submit.

We couldn’t bring beauty from ashes.

But God

There it is again. That life-changing conjunction that started it all: but God. We used to be among the masses of people who “couldn’t” imagine fostering because we “couldn’t” bear to lose a child. We used to struggle to find compassion for people who made foolish choices that destroyed their families.  The list of what we “couldn’t” do goes on and on and on.

Mom and Dad used to say “Can’t never did anything”. It’s true.

But God did. He overcame sin and death. He defeated hell. He promised His children the VERY SAME resurrection power that raised Jesus from the grave, and He gave us a beautiful thing called GRACE that floods our veins just when we think “can’t” is going to win out.

My mind flashes back to the day we received “the call”. Two babies – one boy, one girl. Will you take them both? The kind woman inquired. Lots of people are willing to take one or the other, but we want to keep them together.

I raced to call my husband who was far from home in a job that kept him busy for long days, and he met my question with a question: Well, can you do it? Because the reality is that most of it is going to fall on you, at least for now.

My eyes welled with tears because the truth was that I could not do it.

But God…

And we said YES not because we were able, but because we were willing and HE was ABLE.

Because He did what we could not, we love two children that weren’t born to us, as if they were.

Because He did what we could not, we love the families from which they came.

Because He did what we could not, we invested every part of us into helping those parents of theirs, into cherishing their original family, into walking through the fire of foster care only to find ourselves compelled to walk it again and again.

Because He did what we could not, we celebrated THIS Easter, Resurrection Day, with all five of our beautiful children and five biological family members worshipping the Lord with us and our church family. Together.

And I stand amazed.

As I watched my children surrounded by the love of BOTH of their families, I could not help but think of how far beyond us this is. We couldn’t fix anything. It was hard, and ugly, and awful, and full of death and destruction, but the resurrection power of Jesus Christ brings beauty from ashes. He didn’t bring us so far to be drowned in the sea. He brought us to the end of ourselves so we could KNOW the work was HIS.

“He’s alive. He’s ALIVE! Oh Happy Day! Happy Day! He washed my sin away. Oh Happy Day! Happy Day! I’ll never be the same. Forever I am changed” We sang it Sunday, and my baby boy’s eyes lit up as I sang it to him again today. This Easter was an especially “happy day” for us because in more ways than one, we got to see the resurrection power of our Savior do what we couldn’t, and we will never be the same.

Strong in Grace

Runners to your mark. Get Set. BOOM!

My mind flashes back to the thrill of the race as my own son trains for his first track meet and my nephew experiences his first today. Somehow, my sister and I have been ushered from our place on the starting line to the place our parents once held in the stands, and we can now understand the excitement they felt and their drive to witness every race.

I cannot help but recognize the parallels, as I am currently witness to (and participant in) a much more significant race happening now, and two of the most influential men in my life are nearing the home stretch. My mind can barely process the speed with which this race of life takes place, and my heart is both broken and at peace about it all.

The two men I speak of have held similar roles in my life. Bro. Collins was my pastor from birth until I left home for college at the age of eighteen. That is when Pastor Lingo became not only my pastor, but friend and father-figure as I learned to navigate the waters of independence.  Now these men are both “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” and they are laying aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and running with endurance the race that is set before them (Hebrews 12:1). Their earthly vessels may not seem strong in this moment, but they ARE still running with endurance and there is NO DOUBT they are both “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2) My eyes fill with tears and a smile tickles my face as I think about the memories I cherish with each of them.

I don’t recall my first meeting with Bro. Collins (though I suspect it was probably on the OB floor at the hospital the day I was born). He was just always there – always a part of my life. He was a larger than life (and much larger than me) person, and all I have to do is close my eyes to hear his booming voice once again. Everything about Bro. Collins is BIG in my memory: his stature, his voice, and his influence. It was under his preaching that the Lord opened my eyes to my need for a Savior. It was his HUGE, gentle hands that covered my face as he announced, “I baptize ye, therefore, my little sister…in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Buried in the likeness of His death. RAISED in the likeness of His resurrection, “ and his “Amen” was the loudest of all. He worked hard throughout our childhood to keep my sister and I straight, and we tried to walk together out the church doors so he could tell which one was “Sayrah” (as he pronounced it) and which was Julie when he shook our hands. I still chuckle at the thought. I remember service after service, he would make us laugh with his stories, and bring us to humility under the heavy truth of the Gospel, as his giant fist pounded the pulpit with the truth of his words. I remember how he was ALWAYS ready. He was ready to go at a moment’s notice to the hospital bed of a church member or the home of a loved one. To him, this meant being dressed in his trademark suit and tie. He was ready – just like that – on the morning that stands out most in my memory. It was the day after my birthday, the summer before my senior year of high school, and Mom had awakened me with the tragic news of my friend’s passing. In my still-shocked state, I joined other friends at Joby’s house where his family was still reeling from the reality of his devastating accident. I was standing near the front door when I spotted Bro. Collins approaching the porch. It felt like my family was there – like a piece of home in the midst of the foreign territory of grief. Seeing his familiar frame, my composure crumbled, and I greeted him on the porch with no words – only tears. He is a big man, but he is a gentle man, and he lovingly held me as I cried. I don’t recall what happened next, but I will never forget the relief I felt when he arrived in that place.

The years have stolen some of the strength and size in Bro. Collins’ stature, but he is still a larger-than-life pillar of faith to those around him. The roles have changed for him, much like they’ve changed for Sarah and I with track meets. He’s no longer visiting others in the hospital, but they are visiting him. Some things don’t change, though. He always has a witty remark or a playful response, he always has his beautiful, sweet wife by his side, and he always has the admiration of those privileged to watch him live out the Gospel he loves so well.They may force him into a hospital gown for now, but he is still spiritually dressed and ready as always. He has fought the good fight, he is finishing his race, and he is keeping the faith (2Tim 4:7). When the time comes for him to enter the presence of the Lord, I suspect he’ll hear another gentle, but booming voice declare “Well done, my good and faithful servant!” (Matt 25:21)

Interestingly, Bro. Collins and Pastor Lingo were connected before I ever knew it. The Lingos served faithfully on the mission field in South America for many years. Our church (under Bro. Collins) had been one of their supporting churches, and he had visited with them on multiple occasions. He even visited them in the hospital when their second daughter was born. I can’t even imagine how many people he has welcomed into the word in this way. 🙂  When it came time for me to leave home and go to college, Bro. Collins suggested that I go to Pastor Lingo’s church in my college town. I took his advice and gave it a try at my first opportunity. I immediately fell in love with this warm and cheerful body of believers and the Lingo family.

Pastor Lingo has played many roles in my life over the years. He has been not only my pastor and teacher, but also my alarm clock. He was very supportive of me using my vocal abilities in church. He invited me to sing solos and encouraged my participation in the church choir. Sometimes, however, in my disorganized college brain, I would forget about choir practice. This is where Pastor, the alarm clock, came in. 🙂  He would call me in my dorm room to remind me to come to choir. Pastor was very fatherly, often checking up on me and showing a genuine concern for my well-being. I had the privilege of going on my first mission trip to Mexico under his leadership.  He provided guidance and council when I met the love of my life, and he led us through pre-marital counseling and had a huge part of sharing our story on our wedding day. Sometimes on our anniversary, we bring out the videos and re-watch that cherished day.  Tears fill our eyes as we listen to Pastor so sweetly describe his observation of our relationship and the ways that the occasion of our wedding renewed his appreciation for his own cherished wife. Pastor is a romantic, tender-hearted man and life with three daughters definitely made him more sensitive than most. His passion and compassion for people came through in his delivery of the Gospel and his interactions with people. I cannot even describe all that I have learned from him over the years. Pastor Lingo challenged me, not only with his teaching, but also with a couple of comical details. He’s the first person I have known with a glass eye. It took me a while to learn about this detail. I could not figure how why I struggled so much to look him in the eye. Once I finally learned which eye was real, the problem was resolved. 🙂 In college, I pursued a minor in Spanish. As a lifelong Spanish speaker, the language was woven through Pastor Lingo’s mind and heart…so much so that it would frequently come out during his sermons. He would give a confused look and call out to his wife to provide him with the proper English equivalent. I personally enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what he was trying to say before the translation was given.

Pastor has been a spiritual leader to us and a part of our family since he first welcomed us in 1996. He has trained and encouraged us to lead and teach and has celebrated the births of our children. He baptized two of them after they came to Christ, counseled with us, cried with us, laughed with us, and lived life with us. Though Alzheimer’s has robbed him of the ministry he once adored, our respect and love for him and his family is unwavering. He has showered our youngest children with smiles and laughter, and even if he does not understand that they’re “ours” through adoption, he still shares a part in that. The Lord used his teaching on this very topic, years ago, to prick our hearts and prepare us for where we are today. His impact in our lives and countless others is immeasurable and by God’s grace and with the help of his family, he is running the homestretch of his race, bound for Glory.

I am eternally grateful to have been touched by the spiritual athleticism of both of these remarkable men, and I am overwhelmed to be among the cloud of witnesses watching them finish strong. Only God can see the finish line, but we trust Him with these servants of His and we rest in the assurance that this world is not their home.

As we seek to foster grace in our family and the lives of those we touch, it is godly examples like these that spur us on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Thank you, Jesus, for these faithful men who have not only served You, but have been able to teach others also (2Tim 2:2). We are blessed to know them.

To the Dad of our Littles

Just over a year ago, we penned these words – not knowing for sure what would come of them. We poured tears and prayer into the words and, by God’s grace, the letter was received with gratitude when we delivered it. This man we now refer to as their “first dad” has become an extension of our family and we will never regret the decision to show him love.

To the Dad of our “littles”:

Go ahead and give us your update…that phrase has been repeated in nearly every team meeting as you sit, all eyes on you, forced to face or hide whatever ills you may have encountered in the weeks since it was last asked.

But we’re not writing to ask for an update or to tell you where you’ve failed. We aren’t here to talk about that. We’ve been talking about that on a monthly basis for the past year and a half. In these long and difficult months, you’ve been reminded weekly, if not daily, of your sins and mistakes. You’ve been criticized, encouraged, humiliated, and helped. Thankfully, our role is not to be your judge or determine the legal consequences/accountability; there are others who bear that weight, and though we support them, we also want you to know that we see you in this. We see your effort, your hurt, and your love for your children. You are not the same person you were when you began, regardless of the outcome

These last two years have been rough, and the losses have been inexpressible. We’ve been angry with you and heartbroken for you…and everything in between. We’ve watched your ups and downs, cheered for you, and found our hearts overwhelmed with both grief and compassion for you. The failures you feel may haunt you for years to come, but we are compelled to tell you a different story – the one we’re afraid you might miss in the midst of the anger and hurt. It’s the story of what you’ve done right:

  • You’ve stood

Thank you for standing: in the heat, and under the microscope, and through the trials, to show that you love your children and want to be sure they are safe. You’ve stood strong at times and you’ve been brought to your knees at times, but you’ve continued to stand back up. Thank you for standing.

  • You’ve stayed

Thank you for staying faithful to see your kids so they can have the satisfaction of knowing that your time with them is the highlight of your week. You’ve stayed in baby girl’s life to be “Dad” when you didn’t have to be. You’ve stayed determined to figure out their needs, and wants, and learn what makes them laugh. You’ve stayed supportive of us from the very start, never treating us as the enemy, and possibly never knowing just how much your positive feedback has meant to us.

  • You’ve grown

Thank you for growing and progressing. You’ve willingly taken advice and input to help you grow as a Dad, and you persisted with a colicky baby, always eager to learn what “worked” for him. You’ve grown in your willingness to face this process and you’ve grown by taking more steps in the right direction than ever before. You’ve been challenged and stretched, and the process is painful, but you’ve grown, and growth makes it worthwhile.

  • You’ve given

Thank you for giving life to a little man who wears a portion of you in his features and his heart, and for giving a treasure of a daughter your love and fatherhood without question. You’ve given a part of yourself and you’ve given us no doubt that your love for them is great.

We don’t know what comes next any more than you do, nor can we predict how the story ends, but we do know that teaching these sweet children to love and honor each of their parents is of utmost importance, and you’ve given them a gift with all that you’ve done right. We pray for you daily and count it a privilege to do so.

Thank you for your kindness to us.

Very Sincerely,

The Fosters

It Will Never Be “Over”

Since adopting our kids from foster care, we have heard a number of (mostly) encouraging comments, but one in particular invites the opportunity to clarify a common misconception. We’ve heard it more than once:

“I bet you’re so glad it’s over!”

This is, of course, in reference to the idea that we no longer have to wonder about or worry about what the court may decide to do on behalf of our children. We are grateful to have some finality in that regard, and we understand the intention behind the comment, but we can’t help but shake our heads in wonder. You see, even though our days of weekly visits and monthly meetings are behind us for now, “it” is not over. Adoption is not an end, but a beginning. It will always be a part of our children’s story – and ours.

It seems the common assumption is that we’ll be relieved to be “free” of the biological families we’ve been sharing our kids with for so long now. After all, why wouldn’t we want to go on with our own lives without being subject to the inconvenience of extra family members and awkward situations?

Our state only offers “closed adoption” from foster care. This means that adoptive families have NO obligation to maintain contact of any kind with the biological families of their children. Biological family members do not retain any parental or familial rights once termination takes place, and that fate is further sealed when adoption takes place. Because of the trauma and safety concerns involved in many foster cases, this policy is important for protecting children and adoptive families, so we are grateful the state takes this conservative stance. Nonetheless, the idea of “closing” our adoption was contradictory to our purpose in becoming foster parents, and in opposition to what we believe is best for the kids (given the circumstances), so we have opted to seek an open relationship with their biological families. (I’ll write more about that in a future post).

To return to the original comment, we are not glad it’s over because it will never be over. Our children are adopted, and that is a beautiful part of their story that will forever complicate and enrich their lives.  We are extremely grateful for the privilege of adopting them, for the outpouring of love and support we have received from our family and friends, and for the gracious love and kindness their biological families have offered us. We remain committed to tell our kids their story with openness, honesty, and age-appropriateness. The truth may bring them pain, confusion, joy, gratitude, anger, or any number of other emotions that we will work through as they come; but come what may, we are in this together and we most certainly have only begun.

Sanctity of Human Life

Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, and I am grateful to be able to unite with my church family and believers across the nation to pray for our country, and specifically, for the precious lives of the unborn. I am both heavy-hearted and reflective today.  Three years ago today, I was honored to share the testimony of a dear friend of mine during our Sanctity of Human Life service. Her birth mom was encouraged to have an abortion rather than to bear the inconvenience and shame of an unplanned pregnancy, but by God’s grace, she chose LIFE. Her choice didn’t just impact her, it impacted the beautiful family that adopted my sweet friend, and countless others who have been blessed to know them. We are inexpressibly grateful – not only that she chose LIFE, but also that they boldly agreed to share their story in the hopes that it would impact others. Little did I know that story would be the catalyst the Lord used to start us on our own journey into foster care and adoption. Three years ago at this time, I found myself wondering if the agency through which my friend’s adoption took place still existed and as I began searching, I found information that ultimately changed our lives. Not only did we shift from inquiring about adoption to being passionate advocates for foster care, but we also experienced the great joys and heartaches of becoming foster parents and then adopting. It is absolutely mind-blowing to think through the events of the past three years and all the Lord has done. We are grateful.

When I think about the “sanctity” of human life, my mind goes a thousand directions from the cradle to the grave, but the thought that weighs most heavily on me is the many tears shed with and for friends who faced the dreaded loss of an unborn child. The grief that accompanies such a loss is one I have only observed and shared through empathy with friends, both near and far. The men and women who have walked through miscarriage and stillbirth can attest to the heartache and sorrow of losing a child.

I am, admittedly, an idealist. I wish I could fix every problem and heal every hurt, and I find myself deeply burdened by the pain of others. Most recently, I’ve been saddened by the great division in our nation. Seeing people I love on both sides of nearly every issue only intensifies the situation. On this day that marks the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, however, I find myself baffled that SO MANY people are calling for “rights” to freely end the lives of precious babies. The only difference between these babies and the ones my friends grieve the loss of – is whether or not their parents wanted them. My friends miscarried babies, but people regularly abort “fetuses” of the same age. The loss of a heartbeat marked the end of life for the unborn babies of my friends, yet the start of a heartbeat somehow doesn’t signal life to a large percentage of our population. The contradiction is heartbreaking. The two perspectives, irreconcilable.

The sanctity of human life is the idea that all lives are valuable. Yours. Mine. EVERYONE. When did your value begin? What about the value of your children? Did it start the day you were born, the day you became independent and able to live on your own, the day you FELT valuable?


It began the moment you were created.

Don’t Worry If You See Me Cry

I am grateful today to share a piece of my husband’s heart on this blog. The Lord gave me the greatest gift of my life when He allowed me to marry my best friend, and there is nothing I can add to the words he has written below to make them more clear than they are. I share his thoughts and feelings here, and I know so many others who walk this road of foster care and adoption can relate to the way we as parents are blessed by the love that others show our children. I hope his words (below) touch you as they have me.

If you catch me with a tear in my eye during these holiday times, don’t worry I’m doing just fine. In fact, I’m doing great. There are lots of things to be thankful for during Thanksgiving and Christmas time and during other events that bring people together, but there is nothing that touches me more this year than to see my friends and family enjoying my youngest children. The choice to foster/adopt was a choice that my wife and I decided mostly alone. We did talk a lot with our boys (who agreed with us) and we shared our decision with the rest of the family ahead of time, but we did not want our decision to be based on others’ opinions. It was the Spirit of Lord that softened our hearts toward fostering and it was the Lord who opened the door for adoption. For everyone else to agree to our decision or accept our two new kids as if they always were ours was our HOPE but not our expectation. So again, if you see a tear in my eye, it may be from seeing my brother bring in a updated family cross-stitch picture for my parents because they’ve jumped from six grandchildren to eight grandchildren with our adoption this year. It might be from seeing the laughter that comes from our children when their uncle throws them up in the air or when their aunt calls them over to play. It may be from watching their cousins cuddle them and shower them with love or seeing them excitedly greet their older adult cousins with eager hugs. It may even be from the way the grandparents shower them with gifts and love, just like they do for each of the others. It is just the way that I had hoped it would be, but it still amazes me. Thank you Dan/Kristin and kids, Vestina, Mom and Dad, Chris/Sarah and kids, Darrell and Sandy, and Grandma for demonstrating unconditional love to all. Bob and Jenny, Shirley, Keri, Marilyn and Delbert, Larry and Leah, and the list goes on and on and on – thank you to all of the many other family and friends who take the time to love on all five of our children. Thank you, Lord.




Today, I am wiping tears from my face. Today I am grieving the loss of a child who was never mine. I actually never even met him in person, but I know his Momma and Daddy and my heart breaks with theirs. You see, today they are aching, reeling, grieving the departure of their son. They didn’t choose for him to leave. They fought for his best interest and continue to fight for him through prayer, knowing that the same God who carries them through this valley also holds their beloved son in His hands and loves him beyond understanding. Foster care carries great risk. Today, my mind replays the times when I, too, lived in a constant battle with fear knowing I could someday walk the very road they’re walking. We trained together, prepared together, prayed together for the children who would enter our homes. They’ve faithfully served over the past two years and this is not the first time they’ve walked this road. WHY? my mind cries. Unfair my heart mumbles. But resignation follows quickly behind reminding me that we knew this when we said yes. They knew this when they said yes. We agreed that giving a child the gift of love is more important than struggling through the hurt we will experience as a result. Resignation. This is what it means to live out the yes.

The reality is, we don’t have the answers in this situation or the many others that accompany this ministry. We don’t know why this broken system we call child “welfare” sometimes acts in the best interest of children and sometimes doesn’t. We don’t know why some biological families are able to turn their lives around and some aren’t. We don’t know why some foster homes provide a safe-haven for hurting kids and some don’t. We can’t begin to understand why victims are shackled with burdens while perpetrators walk free. The whys far outweigh the satisfactory answers we can find, but one truth shines through: caring for orphans in their distress is a central focus of the Gospel and the Lord has called us to say “YES” – not to cower in fear. For us, for our friends, for other foster parents, for the friends and family who support foster families, this means we are setting ourselves up for heartache, and that’s okay because it’s not about us. Meeting families where they are and loving broken children and broken parents gives us a unique opportunity to show the love of Christ to a world that desperately  needs to see Him. It’s not a high calling. It’s not reserved for the strong, or the brave, or the talented. It’s a need. The only difference between foster parents and the rest of the world is that we have seen the need, and it is burned into our eyes and hearts. We can’t unsee this. We are now compelled to do something and to help others see the need as well. This is what it means to be changed.

Foster parents aren’t some rare breed of parent with a superpower for withholding love and enduring heartache. No. Foster parents – the good kind – lavish love upon the children in their homes as if there is no tomorrow, as if there is no genetic barrier, as if their lives and the lives of their kids depend on it. Because of this, our friends are not immune from pain today. They are the “good kind” of foster parents. They are grieving deeply because they have loved deeply, and have experienced tremendous loss. They will continue to deeply love a child they may never call theirs. If you’ve ever thought I could never be a foster parent…I would get too attached, maybe this doesn’t seem encouraging to you. Good foster parents aren’t able to avoid attachment, and the reality is, we don’t even try. After all, it’s attachment that drives us, attachment that sustains children through otherwise unbearable stress and pain, and attachment that opens our eyes to value and purpose. Conversely, attachment leaves us with heartache and tears when we’re forced to let go. Even so, I beg you, please reconsider. If you think you would get “too attached” as a foster parent, please become one. Just as our friends need to be held, supported, and encouraged in their grief today, children across this world are also waiting, longing, needing to be held. There is hope for the hurting children and there is hope for broken-hearted foster families. The unfailing love of Jesus does not make life pain-free, but He does give us strength and grace to endure the unbearable, to love the unlovable, and to pursue the impossible. He does not promise that things won’t fall apart around us, rather, that through it all, He will be with us. This is what it means to be held.


What’s in a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

by any other name would smell as sweet.” (Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 1-2)

We had the sweetest conversation with our daughter tonight at bedtime. For a long time now, we’ve been regularly telling our little ones the story of when they “came home”. Even before we knew how the story would end, we began giving them this gift of hearing us recount those days that they were too young to remember. This idea to give them age-appropriate pieces of their story has been a PRICELESS way for us to be honest with our kids about their unique journey to our family and our home. (THANK YOU, Jennilee, for this amazing tip). When we first began this storytelling, our girl would ask us to tell the story every. single. night. She memorized every part she could, trying to make our memories her own.

As our case changed and we began the transition from foster care to adoption, we added in a few more details here and there about their story. We began to assure them that they had come home to stay – part of our family forever. During the time we’ve been telling them the story, we’ve taken turns sharing each of our perspectives and adding in little details here and there as we think of them. Tonight, I explained that it took a while for her to be comfortable with Daddy when she first met him. She didn’t want to talk to him or go to him for a while, so he took care of brother and let me handle her as she adjusted. “I was MEAN to DADDY??!!” she questioned. We laughed and explained that she just didn’t understand what was going on and she didn’t know him. We told her that our first trip to Grammy and Grampa’s for Thanksgiving changed everything. She adored Grampa and warmed up to the other men in our family and from that point on, she decided Daddy was okay too.

As I ventured off with these new pieces of the story, she would chime in with the details she remembered from our countless re-tellings. When we discussed how old she was the day they came home (not even two), she informed us that her birthday is coming up soon and she will be 4! She told us the correct month and date. She is learning and growing so quickly! For some reason, this realization prompted me to talk about another part of the story. I began with, “Do you know WHY we chose the names we chose for you?” As a family, we poured great thought, care, and prayer into the name changes that accompanied their adoption. We did not want to cause the kids confusion by changing their names, yet we had some ideas of what we would like to do. We discussed it with her and in her presence many times before adoption, and only opted to pursue the change because she seemed excited about both hers and baby brother’s names.

I detailed for her the sources of their names pointing out that both she and little man have the middle name of their first-dad in their names. She was all smiles. I then explained that the first part of her name is her birth-mom’s middle name. She gasped with excitement, “SHE has a K in her name TOO?!” As I smiled and confirmed, she squeezed my arm and looked at her Daddy and I exclaiming “Thank you!” I went on to explain the portion of her name connected to her birth-father and she again burst into excited thank yous. The gratitude continued (largely due to her love for drama and silliness) as we reminded her that her name means “Pure Grace, Jehovah is God” and that we believe it is HIS grace that has brought them to our family. It was such a sweet time of seeing her begin to understand this precious part of their story.

Though it has been understandably difficult for their biological families, the kids have embraced their name changes and have transitioned with ease. Many questions and tears accompanied our difficult naming decision. We didn’t have to change their names, but naming a child is a right of parenthood that is often taken for granted and it’s one we were able to act on since the kids were willing. We wanted to be intentional about including pieces of their first families, along with a meaning and significance that demonstrated what God had done in our “forever-family”. We rearranged portions of her given-name to accomplish this, and seeing her enthusiasm as we explained all of the connections again tonight made us overflow with joy.

Ultimately, what is in a name? Regardless of what they’re called, these children of ours are precious, priceless, and perfect for us. The gift of calling them ours is beyond our comprehension. We love them, we love their names, and while we realize that these children “by any other name” would be as sweet, we are still overjoyed that our treasured daughter showed so much enthusiasm tonight for the story of her name.

We will continue to share with them “their story” and celebrate the beauty of their meaningful names along the way. In spite of what they are called on a daily basis, our prayer for them is that they will become a daughter and son of the King and that their greatest joy will be in hearing Him say (as He did to the Israelites):

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine” (Isa 43:1).

Our Story

It all started with a deep love within each of us for children. We’d talked about it from the beginning, and after having three biological children, we still had thoughts of adoption tickling our minds periodically. It’s such a beautiful picture of Christ’s love for us.

Several years later, we found ourselves in an informational meeting about state-custody adoption.  We were there to learn more about adopting a waiting child. My “plan” was rocked.  My “ideal” was shattered. The “too good to be true” was revealed, as the truth sank in that most state-custody adoptions take place through foster families.  I knew about fostering.  I have friends who have served in this way, but they are stronger than me.  I did not sign up to have my heart, my husband’s heart, or my kids’ hearts shredded. “It’s not really about us at all. It’s not about what kind of child or situation WE want. It’s a question of what child needs us” the trainer encouraged…and his words ate at me for weeks.

I kind of knew that there was more to adoption than just redemption, but I had never faced it in quite this way. Besides the beauty, there is another painful side to adoption.  There is loss – GREAT loss – for both parents and children. There is hurt.  The words from our meeting challenged my selfishness – my desire for a “pretty” adoption – my desire for my desire.  To me, the idea of adoption was much more ideal than fostering. For my husband, adoption was not yet something he was ready to commit to, but fostering did not scare him. We were on different paths with the same destination.

When our paths merged at the corner of YES and What Are We THINKING, we began foster training classes and tried to prepare for what was ahead. We grieved and prayed and cried as we learned of the plight of so many kids in care, and we resolved ourselves to agree that “the goal is always reunification”. We knew we must set our minds and hearts towards ministry to the children first, but also to the whole family.

We could never have imagined that the Lord would bring us not one, but TWO babies. When the call came, I contacted my husband at work, eager to hear his perspective…truthfully, I was eager to hear his “yes”. He knew his work schedule would prevent him from helping as much as he wanted, so he asked “Well, can you do it?” Tears fill my eyes even as I type this because the answer was no.

No. I cannot do this on my own. Still, I have no doubt that my God CAN, and I’m willing to go with Him. So, with complete unity and trembling hands, we called back to say YES.

The worker explained that the placement would be brief. Within a month, we were told to be prepared for their departure “next month,” but “next month” was as fleeting as the horizon. We moved toward it. We expected to reach it. Yet, it moved. Again and again, it moved, but God didn’t. He held us TIGHTLY and there’s no doubt He repeatedly set us back on our feet when our strength gave out. Prior to this, the longest rollercoaster we had been on lasted about a minute and a half. Foster care has been, by far, the most difficult rollercoaster we have ridden. The ups and downs are indescribable, and our stomachs have plummeted so many times we’ve lost count. So what’s the solution? Just. Hold. On.

Home-studies, reunification plans, court cases, paternity tests, incarceration, extended family, failure, success, failure again….on and on went the ups and downs, and we sheltered two precious children carefully to ensure that they would be as unaware as possible of the storm they were in. We also committed to pray for their parents daily and to find ways to show them love. We did our best to reserve judgement and to allow the team and the courts to take care of the correction while we sought to build bridges and establish relationships with the biological parents of the children we loved so much. The way we saw it, whether the kids were to return home or stay with us forever, the greatest way we could love them would be to love the parents from whom they came.

The road was hard. It was ugly, it was heartbreaking, and it was exhausting. As the case moved on, we became fully convinced that we were simply waiting for the state to give us the children that God had already given us. We continued to pray and work to foster good relationships with the family, while the support team sought the best permanency plan for the kids. For months, we clung to a passage of scripture in Exodus (14:14) that reminded us that even when we could not see a way of escape, it was GOD who would fight for us.

Against all odds, and completely contrary to what we were told from day one, both the team and the court agreed that these beautiful babies had, in fact, come home “forever.” Praise the Lord He brought us through the sea (Psa 117) and on September 2, 2016, we pledged our love and our lives to OUR beautiful daughter and son, forever.

Post-adoption, we continue to pray for their biological families daily and seek ways to show them love and honor. Even though the state says our adoption is closed, we want our children to know their original family as an extension of our own. We frequently tell the kids the story of when they came “home,” and we celebrate the way the Lord has brought our family together. We have been amazed by the Lord’s work through imperfect people in a broken system, and we stand in awe and gratitude of His work in our family. We would not be here, but by His grace