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.


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!


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.


Prayer and Books

Thank you so much for your prayers as our family continues to change and grow.  Please pray that the Lord would continue to give us mercy, strength, compassion, and love.  Pray that He would bind us together in love as a family.


Amanda’s Book List

With the preparation for our additions and trying to finish up the end of the school year, we didn’t read a lot this month.  Honestly I think I am the only one who read anything worth sharing about, and my book list is short.  By the way, I would love to hear if any of you have read any of the books we are reading or if you are planning to read them.  I would also love to hear any of your book recommendations!

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren                                                                                             I was a huge fan of Pippi as a child, but I realized that I don’t think I ever read about her.  I apparently only saw her on the screen; though whether I was introducted to Pippi through one of the movies, on TV, or on the cartoon, I can’t remember.  Maybe it was a mixture of all three.  But I do remember having my mom thread pipe cleaners through the middle of my braids so that they would curve up like Pippi’s; so when I happened upon a copy of the book, I was really excited.  And then I was really disappointed.

Now every character doesn’t have to be a role model.  We learn a lot and get great interest in reading about people who royally mess up their lives.  My problem with Pippi was that she was so interesting and likeable that she was clearly the hero in the story.  Who wouldn’t love a story about a super strong girl who has a pet monkey and a horse who lives on her front porch.  (She carries him into the yard when she wants to drink coffee on the porch.)

But Pippi is a liar.  She lies a lot, all the time in fact, as in numerous times in every chapter.  She sometimes admits that she is lying, but then she uses the excuse that you can’t expect her to tell the truth because she doesn’t have parents.  It drove me crazy the whole book.  In the last chapter Pippi plays with a sword and two loaded pistols, purposefully shooting holes in her ceiling right after saying:  “Never let children handle firearms.”  She offers two of the pistols to her friends as gifts; one is “enchanted”, and the other accepts as long as hers is unloaded.  The friends’ father seems to have no issue with this.  The whole book left me frustrated, and honestly I felt mad at the neighbors who all seemed to believe that it was too difficult to force Pippi into a children’s home and apparently didn’t care enough to welcome her into their families, curb her bad behavior, or talk her into going to school.

 The Princess by Lori Wick                                                                                                                  This is one of my go-to, happy books.  I commonly read this book when I am stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.  But I wasn’t actually feeling any of those things this time.  Perhaps I read the book to get the bad taste of Pippi out of my mouth… The Princess is a story about a young woman who agrees to an arranged marriage with a man she doesn’t know because she feels that this is a way for her to serve the Lord and her country.  The book is a light, easy read.  In some ways it feels like an unimportant book, something quick and frothy to enjoy.  But the story is also filled with deep truths about love being an committed action over a feeling and about how God expects us to deal with anxiety.  Reading The Princess makes me so happy!

Better Together:  Strengthen Your Family, Simplify Your Homeschool, and Savor the Subjects that Matter Most by Pam Barnhill                                                                                       Pam Barnhill is one of my favorite homeschool gurus.  I listen to all three (that’s right.  Three.) homeschool podcasts, and I use her Plan Your Year resources for my homeschool planning.  She is so practical and helpful.  Her book is inspiring and oh so practical in helping homeschooling parents plan a homeschool that works for their family.  I will be going back to this resource again and again.  Oh, and Pam is a fellow Alabamian!

Family Read Alouds:  

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell                                                                                I loved this story as a kid; and I had fun sharing it with my kids, though in retrospect I decided pretty quickly that worm eating may be a lot more interesting to children than grown ups.  They really liked it.  I think their only complaint was that the chapters were very short.  How can they insist that I haven’t read long enough if I have already read 4 chapters?!  Truthfully this book is such an easy read that my boys could have read it individually in one short sitting.  In fact I tried to get them to read it on their own, but they wanted to share it as a family.  Honestly, how could I say no?  🙂


Thank you again for all of your support and prayers.  Please continue to lift us up!  We really need it.  Also let us know what your family is reading and how we can pray for you.  Love to you all.


Great Blessing and Spiritual Warfare

Last week the Lord answered our prayer to grow our family through foster care!  We are not allowed to share any personal information on social media, so all I can tell you is that for right now Jeremy and I have 5 sons.  You read that right. 5! Sons!

We love our new additions, and we are so grateful that the Lord has placed us together for now. Of course it is definitely a learning process as we all get to know each other and learn how to be a family.  G seems to have struggled the most so far since he is no longer the baby.  He has been frustrated that the new kids want to play with his toys!

We were told over and over that foster care would bring spiritual warfare.  I expected it; but to be perfectly honest, we have had a difficult time.  24 hours after our family grew, we were all at urgent care, concerned that G needed stitches in his toe.  Thankfully the doctor was able to fix the cut with glue! Then over the next 48 hours everyone in the family succumbed to a stomach virus.  The kids seemed to recover the easiest.  I ended up going to the ER in the middle of the night for IVs.  I feel extremely rough.

Foster Care is hard.  Family is hard.  But God is so good!  I can’t wait to see what He will do in all of our individual lives and in our family.  Please, please keep us in your prayers.


Hurry up and Wait, Plus our Reading List

We are still waiting for our foster care license to come through.  We have done everything (so many big and little things), and we are waiting again!  So much waiting… Amazingly, no matter how long we wait, we always manage to find something else that needs to be done!  We really are done now though…except for re-cleaning the house and hang a little art work.  Officially we have done all that we need to do.  Now we wait for the powers that be to give us full approval, and then we will be eligible to be foster parents!  We are all so very excited to serve the Lord as a foster family; I have to keep reminding myself:  God’s timing, God’s plans.

Amanda’s Book List

I finished very few books this month, because I lost the first book I had been reading.  I was determined to find the book before I started another.  This was a mistake because unfortunately, it took me many, many days before I found the book–under my son’s bed!  Since I never read this book in my kids’ room, I am at a loss as to how it got there!  Perhaps a Bedtime Book Monster…

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells                                                                                                 Lately I kept hearing people mention H.G. Wells, and I realized that I had only ever read one of his books.  When I happened upon a copy of The War of the Worlds, I had to pick it up.  I am not usually a science fiction gal, but I really enjoyed this book!  The story was vivid and unique.  I was amazed at the depth and interest of the author’s vocabulary.  He used so many interesting words, like heliographululation, and integument.  Honestly, I was so fascinated by Wells use of language that I marked the words I didn’t know and looked them up in a dictionary later!

If You Can Keep It:  The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxas                    I mostly prefer fiction, but Metaxas is my very favorite non-fiction writer.  He is actually one of my favorite writers hands down.  When the Constitution was drafted in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was approached by a woman asking what kind of government the founders had given the American people.  Franklin replied:  “A republic, if you can keep it.”  Metaxas illuminates the story of our country’s beginning and the lives of some of those who helped to form her:  George Whitefield, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and more.  If You Can Keep It is fascinating, inspiring, and challenging.  I think this book should be read by every American.

Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart:  The Story of Amber and Essie told here in Poems and Pictures by Vera B. Williams                                                                                                          This is a short, middle grade novel written in verse.  Each one-page poem slowly reveals the story of two sisters’ joy and heartache.  I struggle to find the words to explain this book to you.  I happened upon it at the public library and read the entire book while my children used the library computer.  I laughed, and I cried.  The book moved me in a beautiful way, and I left changed.

Jeremy’s Book List

Jeremy read this month, but he wasn’t able to finish any books.  He’ll get back to you next month.

The Kids:  Both boys have been reading books by Andrew Clements, the author of Findle.  All of the books are delightful and funny.  The boys have enjoyed them all.

Family Read Alouds:  

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis                                                                              We finished this book (the third in the Chronicles of Narnia series) and really enjoyed it.  We were inspired to have some spiritual conversations due to this book.  I loved seeing understanding dawn in my children’s eyes!

Couple Read Aloud:

We are still reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.  Reading aloud as a couple is slow going, but we are enjoying the book.


Reading Log: March

We are still chugging along toward our foster care licensure!  Somedays I feel like it is coming too fast; other times I feel like the process is creeping.  I am trying to trust the Lord and His timing.  Hopefully we will have some specific information next week!

Amanda’s Book List

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome                                                                                   I had somehow never heard about this book until recently when it was recommended on a bunch of different podcasts.  The book is considered a classic by many and was published in 1930.  This was one of my favorite books, maybe one of my favorites ever!  I loved every second of it and can’t wait to share it with my kids!  If you and your family love stories about independent children, wise moms, sailboats, and pirates, then Swallows and Amazons is the book for you!

The Borrowers by Mary Norton                                                                                                     The Borrowers is a children’s novel about tiny people who live under the floorboards and survive by “borrowing” things from the humans who live above them.  This book was a fun, light read.  I don’t think it was anything super special, but I enjoyed it and would be happy to pass it on to my kids.

Airborn by Kenneth Opel                                                                                                     Generally I like middle-grade or adult novels.  Young adult novels have never really been my thing.  But I gave this book a try, and I am glad I did.  Set in a world where airplanes were never invented, and airships rule the skies; Airborn was an interesting and fun read.

Jeremy’s Book List

Through My Eyes:  A Quarterback’s Journey by Tim Tebow with Nathan Whitaker                  Jeremy’s take:  This book was encouraging.  It was great to see how God uses college athletes, such as Tim, to share the Good News with the nations.  It was also great to read passages aloud to my boys.

The Kids:  More Diary of the Wimpy Kid books.                                                                            Jonathan has been re-reading some of the Flat Stanley books by Jeff Brown, and Samuel is enjoying them for the first time.                                                                                         Frindle by Andrew Clements.                                                                                                Jonathan read Frindle this month.  I had to talk him into trying something new, but he really liked it and asked to read other books from the series.  The story is about a mischievous boy who is always doing something mischievous at school; this time he stirs things up by inventing a new word:  frindle!  Jonathan thought the book was funny.

Family Read Alouds:  

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis                                                                              We are still reading this book which is the third in the Chronicles of Narnia series.  So far the kids seem to really be enjoying it.  I will let you know for sure when we finish!

Couple Read Aloud:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle    Jeremy and I just started this book as a read aloud.  I read this book myself last month; but since Jeremy had never read it, we decided to try it together.  The original plan was to read the book before the movie came out, but clearly that didn’t happen.  Since Jeremy didn’t like the movie, I had to push him a little to try the book.  I will let you know what he thinks when we finish it!