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Beautiful, Hot Mess

For so many years we prayed and waited for the Lord to grow our family through adoption.  We talked orphan care to just about everyone we met.  Our kids asked us for years when their new baby would come.  So many years.  14 years of talking and planning.  9 years of working and waiting, paperwork and praying.

And then it happened!  God added two, new, precious souls to our family.  Is it how we imagined it?  Hardly ever.  Is it easy?  Rarely.  But is it worth it?  Absolutely!

Today I looked around at our crazy life and couldn’t help but laugh.  We are a hot mess!  But the mess is also beautiful because the Lord is faithful and good.  And what a joy and honor to be in this crazy family!

We don’t know if our two, new littles will be with us forever.  We hope they will be. For now I am striving to make the most of each day we have.  And I am so very grateful for every day I have in this wild family of seven!

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Results of The Meeting

Thank you all so very much for your loving support and prayers.  The Lord is so gracious and kind to give us so many wonderful friends and family members.

The meeting went…fine.  Nothing has been legally finalized, but some plans were put in place to move along our foster children’s case.  There were some tears and a lot of questions.  I believe that the Lord’s will is being and will be done in our little ones’ lives.  What that will be, I don’t know.

We did get to meet the littles’ birthmother, and we were able to take some pictures of them together.  I pray that she was able to see our compassion and love for her and for her children.

In a nutshell, we don’t know what will happen long-term.  But God showed us again that He is faithful, and we will continue to trust in Him.  Praise to His name!  And thank you to all of you who so lovingly walk beside us.

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Big Decisions and Compassion for All

Those of you who follow us on Facebook may know that this week some important decisions are supposed to be made regarding the future of our foster children.  I have spent the last few days in a complete and total turmoil.  I keep praying for God’s will for all those involved; but my heart is so grieved.  The truth is that foster care and adoption are not God’s perfect plan.   Foster care and adoption are a way that God brings restoration and beauty into our brokenness.  Sin leads to destruction of ourselves, our relationships, and our families.  But God in His great compassion can bring healing and joy.  And that is what foster care and adoption are all about.

I always want to be truthful with you all.  This week has been rough.  One day was the worst we have had since the littles originally came to us.  But the Lord has challenged me to keep thinking about the beautiful things that He has done in and through the lives of our foster kids.  His goodness and love are truly amazing.  I am so honored to be able to love and care for these children.

This week we may meet our foster children’s birthmother.  And I keep asking myself:  “who is loving and caring for her?”  Her children are in foster care because things were not going right in her life.  In this difficult time is there anyone who loves and supports her, anyone who walks with her through the dark valley?  Does she have anyone in her life who will share with her the salvation, love, and restoration of the One true God?

I hope you will pray with us.  Pray for God’s light to be shone in the darkness.  Pray for God’s will for all those involved in this difficult situation.  Pray for our family to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can fully love the children who are in our care.  And pray for God to raise up others to come alongside their birthmother.  God’s compassion and love is for us all.  Oh, how we need Him!

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The Reading Challenge Continues: July

In July we continued working toward our reading goal of 120 books over the summer.  Here are the best things we read.

Amanda’s Book List

At Home with Madame Chic:  Becoming a Connoisseur of Daily Life by Jennifer L. Scott         This is the second book in the Madame Chic series.  I really enjoyed it.  The book is full of encouragement to and tips for finding pleasure in the mundane aspects of your day.  And let’s be honest, don’t we all have so many of those mundane moments!  As a homeschooling mom, I can get caught up in the struggle of all I need to accomplish and forget to find joy in the life God has given me.  Scott also gives great tips on conquering clutter.  I am working on this, though I have thousands of miles to go.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Di Camillo                                                       Di Camillo is an author of mid-grade novels, and they are all amazing!  This book was no exception.  The story of a toy rabbit seemed simply cute and interesting at first, but I got really into it.  I do want to warn you that the book takes a bit of a dark turn in the middle with some scenes of domestic abuse and extreme poverty.  The issues are handled in an honest but age appropriate way; but if you have any extremely sensitive child, you want to give this book a pre-read.

Polish Your Poise with Madame Chic:  Lessons in Everyday Elegance  by Jennifer L. Scott         The third book in the Madame Chic series was just as enjoyable as the first.  In truth I almost never feel poised; I am a bit of a disaster a lot of the time!  My hope is that I can put some of these lessons into practice so that I can show more poise which Scott says, “is defined as a graceful and elegant bearing” (p.5).

Coraline by Neil Gaiman                                                                                                                 Some of you may seen the movie based on this book, but I never had.  I picked it up knowing it would be a stretch for me.  I don’t like scary or creepy things, and this mid-grade novel was very creepy.  Coraline is a great book though, and I believe the author set out to do exactly what he intended:  to teach kids that evil can be overcome.  The book even begins with a paraphrase (which I love) from a G.K. Chesterton quote:  “Fairy tales are more than true:  not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”  If you or your child love creepy stories, this is the book for you.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart                                                                I loved, loved this mid-grade novel!  In fact I will be reading it with my kids very soon, and then we will be watching an author access event (a video interview with the author) through our Read Aloud Revival Membership).  In this story four, uniquely gifted children are chosen to join up for a dangerous mission; and the future and freedom of all mankind rests on their success.

The Kids

Jonathan read three more Diary of a Wimpy Kid books:  The Getaway, Hard Luck and Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney.  My two oldest boys love these!  He also read a little of the Calvin and Hobbes Treasury by Bill Watterson until the book was lost somewhere in the house.  Does this happen to your kids?  I swear I need to put trackers on my kids’ books.  And one on my phone, but that is another story….

Samuel read a very large number of simple, chapter books from the Hey Jack! series of Usborne books.  My boys love these books, and Sam was excited that he could tear through them and quickly up his number of read books!

Gideon and I read Secrets of the Seashore by Carron Brown and Alyssa Nassner.  This is a shine-a-light book by Usborne, and I think this concept it brilliant.  You shine a flashlight under the illustrations on the right pages of the books and more illustrations appear.  So fun!  There are quite a few shine-a-light books, and I would love to have them all.

Gideon and I also read “The Twiddlebugs Dream House” by Pat Tornburg.  This is a book from the Sesame Street Book Club, and it was one of my favorites as a child.  The Twiddlebugs move into their dream home, but then discover that it may not be as wonderful as they thought it would be.  Photographs are used instead of illustrations, bringing a remarkable creativity to this adorable book.  Sharing this book with Gideon was such a joy!  I looked, and you can buy copies for cheap on Amazon.  Here is a link:  https://www.amazon.com/Twiddlebugs-dream-house-Pat-Tornborg/dp/0307116131

Jeremy

Capital Gaines:  Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff by Chip Gaines                               After many years of wondering why Jeremy didn’t like the books I recommended to him, I have finally figured out what he loves:  contemporary biographies!  Still, buying him a book is a big risk!  I bought this one for his birthday because his favorite TV show is Fixer Upper, but even so I bit my lip while he opened it.  Thankfully, the gift was a huge success.  He really liked it, and even told me some of the stories from it!  Honestly, I think my husband is a lot like Chip Gaines!

Family Read Aloud

Ember Rising by S.D. Smith                                                                                                             We are still reading this book.  Have I mentioned that the Green Ember series is a long read aloud?  The effort is totally worth it though.  This book has a crazy amount of excitement!

 

July was a book heavy month, and I loved it!  Do you have a special memory of a book from your own childhood?  Please tell me about it in the comments!

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Glorious, Unconditional Love

I have already learned so much from being a foster parent.  But what I have experienced most clearly is God’s glorious, unconditional love.  Our new children are precious and adorable.  But entering foster care causes trauma.  When they came to our home, we were strangers!  And we were their third foster home in as many months.  I can’t imagine how confusing and terrifying that most have been.  Naturally our littles sometimes exhibit trauma behaviors.

Trauma behaviors are like most kid behaviors.  They are just more extreme, last longer, and/or are more frequent.  When our littles came to us, they were often physically violent, especially with me.  I want to say right away that these behaviors have dramatically lessened.  Praise the Lord that things are so much better now!  But in the beginning, things were very hard.  Our new littles are tiny so there was no danger in any way; but being bit, slapped and scratched take a toll on your body, your emotions, and your relationship.

I have lived a very protected life.  I have never been purposefully struck across the face by anyone.  Until now.  Though the damage is not lasting, small children do hit hard enough to hurt!

What is most surprising to me are the emotions I feel.  When a one or two-year-old slaps you, they aren’t thinking nefarious or cruel thoughts.  They are mostly just freaking out.  But getting slapped in the face feels so personal to me, so demeaning.  For some reason I feel a little embarrassed to say this, but sometimes it makes me cry.  Also being bit is kind of enraging.  The violent responses are harder to deal with because I am trying to so hard to meet the kids’ needs and show them love.

And in that struggle, the Lord teaches me.  He has given me so much!  I have salvation, forgiveness for my multitude of sins, and a relationship with the Creator of the universe.  I have a loving family, a safe home, a wonderful church, and the ability to worship freely.  I have more blessings than I could begin to count, and I deserve none of them.  He offers me His glorious, unconditional love.  And how do I respond?

Too often I am too self-absorbed to really notice.  I am too selfish or unwilling to repent to experience the fullness of His joy.  I am angry that I didn’t get my way.  I am too distracted to recognize His presence.  I am too focused on my pain to see His goodness.

I deserve nothing.  He offers me everything.  And too often I reject or ignore Him.  I cannot seem to understand that He is faithful, that I can trust Him, that He loves me.

I look upon our new children.  I experience their anger, their rejection.  And in His grace the Lord allows me to see their fear, their hurt, their trauma.  In His strength I strive to respond with unconditional love.  The way the Lord loves me –despite the rejection, always and forever, no matter what.

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Summer Reading Challenge, the Beginning!

We read a lot this summer; but I didn’t blog, so for the next month or so I will be posting off and on about our summer reads.  Jeremy and I had a big summer reading goal with our four oldest boys.  We wanted to read 120 books as a family over this summer, and we did it!  The books could be any size, but there could be no repeats.  We counted individual reading and family read alouds.  And we obviously read aloud to the youngest two.  We were all so excited to work toward this book goal.  Most of our 120 books are picture books, and I won’t be sharing about them unless I feel they are important and worthwhile.

We also did a summer reading program from the local library as well, with my older boys counting the number of pages they read.  J and S like to read, but a competition really lights a fire under them!  They read everywhere they went…just like I used to do!

Amanda’s Book List

The Reading Promise by Alice Ozma                                                                                             The Reading Promise was absolutely delightful.  Ozma shares the true story of a reading streak between herself and her dad.  They began with a goal of him reading aloud to her every night for 100 consecutive nights.  They met their goal and kept going; the Streak lasted from fourth grade until Ozma’s first day in college!  Did you catch that?  The dad read aloud to the daughter every single day from fourth grade until college!  This book isn’t really about books or even reading aloud though.  The Reading Promise is about a relationship between a man and his daughter, and the great lengths he took to keep them close.

The Moffats by Eleanor Estes                                                                                                          The Moffats is an adorable mid-grade novel, telling the story of the day-to-day life of a family of four and their mom.  I laughed hard at their adventures, and I am really looking forward to sharing this one with my kids.

Lessons from Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott                                                                                I have been watching Scott’s Youtube channel  for quite sometime, and I could not wait to read her books.  I asked for at least one of them for my birthday, and I got all three.  (Thanks, honey!)  While in college Scott had the opportunity to be a foreign exchange student, living in Paris with a French family.  Madame Chic is the mother of that family, and her lifestyle was a huge influence on Scott.  My favorite lessons were on finding simple pleasures, always using my best things, and having a ten-item wardrobe.  I am in the process of making these lessons a part of my life.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt                                                                                             This is the story of the Tuck family who accidentally happened upon a spring of water which gave them eternal life on earth.  When a little girl discovers their secret, a series of adventures ensues.  I had known the name of this book for years, but I had never read it or even known what it was about.  Tuck was a quick and interesting read.  I really enjoyed it and will be recommending it to my sons.

Jonathan’s Book List

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate                                                                                 This was a reread for Jonathan.  We read this book together in homeschool a few years ago, and he read it himself last summer.  When our reading challenge began, he immediately chose it again.  The One and Only Ivan is a mid-grade novel about a gorilla who lives in a tiny zoo inside a shopping mall.  The story is based on a real gorilla who really did live in a shopping mall (and an apartment before that)!  The author personifies the animals, allowing Ivan to tell us his own story of creativity and courage.  I have to say that this book is one of my favorites as well.  The story is so beautiful; I will openly admit that I ugly-cried while reading it the first time.  You really should read this book!

8-Bit Baseball by Brandon Terrell                                                                                                 After reading an extremely heavy novel, Jonathan switched up his reading with this extremely simple read:  a graphic novel about baseball.  There is nothing special about this one.  He found it quick and enjoyable.

Boom, Boom Mushroom by Paul Tobin                                                                               Another simple, graphic novel, Boom, Boom Mushroom is a story based on the video game Plants Vs Zombies.   I cannot understand why, but my children find this book to extremely interesting and enjoy rereading it.

Samuel’s Book List

8-Bit Baseball and Boom, Boom Mushroom                                                                                 Sam read both of these as well.  Just finishing his Little League season, Sam was quick to pick the baseball book.  He then moved quickly on to one his old video game-based favorites.

The Essential Calvin and Hobbes Treasury                                                                                 Sam seemed to love this book.  He devoured about half of the comics before moving on.  I believe I mentioned in an earlier post that I was surprised by the big words and complexity of the jokes in these comics.  I think the humor may have been a little beyond Sam at times, be really enjoyed it.

Lego Nexo Knights:  Graduation Day by Tracey West                                                               This is an extremely simple, Lego book.  While Sam is capable of some serious reading, he often chooses what is light and easy.  And since this is summer reading, why shouldn’t he just enjoy it?  This book appears to be a hit for most Lego enthusiasts.

Gideon’s Book List

Gideon and I read a lot of picture books (plus he was listening to our family read aloud), but again I will only share the ones on the blog that I think are super special.

Owen by Kevin Henkes                                                                                                               Owen’s parents want him to give up his special blanket before going to school, but Owen isn’t interested.  Their inventive compromise is so fun!

You’re Here for a Reason by Nancy Tillman                                                                                   Oh this book!  The story is wonderful, and the pictures are so, so beautiful!  While the book isn’t Christian, it teaches a very important lesson that each person’s life is important and impacts those around them.  We read this book to all of our kids, and we plan to keep rereading it to them.  Every person needs this reminder!

Family Read Aloud

Ember Rising by S.D. Smith                                                                                                                   The third book in the Green Ember series is every bit as wonderful as the first two.  We are crazy about these books in our house!  Have you started the Green Ember series for youself?  And if not, WHY NOT?

So that was June!  Have you read any of these books?  Did you like/dislike them?  And what have you been reading?  I’d love to know!

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Strangers Sleeping in the Next Room

I have not posted an update since right after our family grew!  I keep meaning to write.  In truth I have found myself extremely, emotionally drained.  As an introvert, keeping intimate relationships with so many people in my home can be pretty exhausting!  So when the opportunities have come for me to write, I have chosen instead to veg out!  But I want so very much to include you all in our journey, so I am making the important effort I should have done earlier.

Life with our new children has been at times very challenging, and at other times delightful and beautiful.  Our family is bonding together in a wonderful way.  Each week I see positive changes in our relationships.  Inserting new members into a family is awkward.  No one fully knows or understands their new roles, much less who these people are.

For those of you who have biological children, remember back to when your baby was tiny.  Remember how they would cry or fuss and you would have to be the parent-detective.  Is my child hungry? Wet? Cold? Hot? Sleepy? Scared?  Your newborn child only has so many needs; but figuring out those needs in each particular moment takes practice –takes relationship.

In our situation we have new, young children in our home.  They aren’t newborns, but their verbal communication is nowhere near fully developed.  And so they cry or throw fits, and we often struggle to know what they need or want.  When our biological children were this age, we usually knew what their needs were and how to meet them because we knew our children intimately.  But these new children came into our home as strangers.  We didn’t know them at all.  And they certainly didn’t know us.

What makes these children feel safe?  What makes them smile?  What are their fears?  How can we reassure them that we will do whatever it takes to protect and care for them, to give them a safe and happy life?

It is an odd thing to love strangers.  Because I did from the beginning love these new little ones.  I loved them with the love of Christ, with a committed love, a love that fiercely wanted to protect these two delicate souls.

But that love has grown into deep feelings.  When I think about letting these littles go, my heart squeezes.  The thought is painful, and I don’t want to dwell on it.  Because foster care is temporary and uncertain.  If our children become available for adoption, we will rejoice!  But we don’t know if that will happen.

So our job is to love these children with all we have for as long as we can.   We are committed to give them all the stability and security they need, as many hugs and kisses and snuggles as they will accept, and as much knowledge of Christ and His love that they can understand.  We will ask the Lord to use us to pour His love upon them every moment of every day we have them…whether that is one more day or forever.