I want to remember the hard and ugly, not just easy and pretty.

Lately I’ve felt a stronger pull to live in the moment more. Our community has lost persons in it recently. I’ve read about things on news pages about lives lost at young ages. I’ve really felt the shortness of life being emphasized around me.

It’s not that we don’t know it deep down, but at certain times of life events bring it more to the forefront. I’ve seen posts about wanting to savor moments when kids have done something cute, or are wearing something cute, basically anything good that people want to remember. I get it as well. I want to remember the good times all the time. Those are the memories that keep us a little bit encouraged when facing hard days with them.

I want to start living in the moments that seem harder at the time as well though. The days I’ve told (and been ignored) by my one year old after telling him “no” a million times-I want to be there. The days I’m exhausted from the time I wake up until my head hits the pillow at the end of the day-I want to be there. The days my girls fight nonstop and I feel like all I’ve done is referee-I want to be there. The days I feel like I’ve done nothing but keep my kids alive-yep, I want to be there too.

I don’t want to just live for the good moments. I want to be an active participant in every part of my life. Why? Because it all serves a purpose. When my one year old does finally listen to that “no”, it emphasizes how important the incessant “no’s” were. The days I wake up exhausted, I know it’s because I’m busy with little people who are some of the most important to me in this world. The days my girls fight and are forced to make amends, relationship is being built. (You can’t have two divas in the same house and it expect arguments to occur while living in close quarters). The days my only accomplishment is keeping them alive is reason to celebrate-because it’s no easy task.

Another reason I don’t want to wish any day away is because I’m not promised rainbows and butterflies throughout life, let alone try to plan it so that’s what I get right before anything bad ever were to happen. Life doesn’t only have purpose when it’s easy. Life doesn’t only have purpose when it looks good. Every moment has purpose because you were given it to live in. In James 4 we’re reminded that life is a vapor. We don’t know what tomorrow holds. We’ve got today, and regardless of the circumstances, I want to be all in.

We don’t live life with only today in mind. A life lived for the short term, in any aspect, isn’t very encouraging. You can’t spend money without thought for tomorrow. I mean, you could but it’d probably get you into some monetary issues. We don’t think of our diet in terms of today. We don’t gorge ourselves daily because we would careless about the long term. The good and the bad total up the sum of your life-and it all has value. Let’s not forget there is purpose in moments of adversity as well.

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved”. -Helen Keller

Break Pride to Pieces

This past weekend, I had a moment of dread when I thought I had been doing something wrong to my daughter’s hair the past 5 years. For those that don’t know, child #3 is adopted and is a different race than me. I’ve spent hours and hours reading, watching, practicing, and talking with others in order to better learn how to do her hair.

I initially learned how to do it because I do not ever want my daughter to feel like she HAS to go outside the home to have her needs taken care of. Yes, it will look better when it’s done at a salon as she gets older. Mine looks better when I go to a salon as well. So, it’s never bothered me that some day we may end up at the salon.

The other night revealed a less desirable trait in me as well. The first thing I felt when I thought I was wrong, was embarrassment. Embarrassment because I was worried what people would think if they found out I had been doing her hair wrong? Would it confirm the idea that multi-racial families are just too complicated? Would people think I’m not the best fit mom for my girl?

After this brief moment of doubt, I was reminded that I felt embarrassed because I had put too much pride in myself and my own abilities. Pride has no place in the heart of a believer, when placed in anything other than God. Can I have pride during my lifetime? Absolutely-but I put my pride in the right context when I realize any and every ability I have is given to me by God.

I’ve been reading a Puritan prayer a week from the book The Valley of the Vision by Arthur Bennett. My prayer this week is called “The Great God”. There is a section that goes like this: “Annihilate each clinging shred of self-righteousness, Implant in me true lowliness of spirit,… break me, then bind me up;…Thus will my heart be a prepared dwelling for my God;”. To annihilate means to utterly destroy. To implant means to establish. We should ask God for the grace to utterly destroy every shred of our own self-righteousness. (Because we cannot do it on our own). We should then constantly ask for lowliness of spirit to be established in us. (Because it’s not easy to not feel full of ourselves).

I get that the Christian life is often a topsy-turvy, upside down kind of life. What we are told to do often doesn’t make sense to the masses. But remember there is freedom in learning to die to self and live for God-in all aspects of life.

What reinforces this belief? The fact that when I realized doing my daughter’s hair correctly or incorrectly is not about me. It’s about her, because I want it to be done correctly. It’s mostly about God though, because in all areas of my life I want to glorify Him. There are times that only way we can glorify Him is correcting our mistakes and trying to do different. We try to do different by reminding our selves of the truths of the only person who truly can bind and heal our hearts.

I mean that as this story relates to where my mind goes when I do make a mistake, and how I handle the mistake. Long story short-I reached out to a friend who told me I was doing it correctly. I didn’t have anything I did need to correct. If I did, guess what? I would have corrected it next time and life would still continue.

If I wouldn’t have been focused on self, I wouldn’t have questioned whether or not I was the right mom for my girl, because I know God has given me this child on purpose. I don’t have to care about what others think of my mothering, because only one opinion truly matters. I wouldn’t focus on the difficulties of multi-racial families because I would recall the truth that no life is without difficulties.

Moments like this are bound to reappear all throughout life. Thankfully God’s truths are still here and they apply to all facets of life, even hair.

The Most Important Relationships

I stayed home tonight from my oldest son’s football practice to clean my house. I know I have 4 kids but my house will not be a disaster regardless. Yes, throughout the day there are many toys and other items strewn throughout the house, but I know those will easily be picked up at the end of the day. I do not like messy bathrooms, kitchens, dust on furniture, etc.

When my 8 year old daughter heard I was staying home, however; she decided it was a perfect night for some mommy and me time. We went on a walk. While on the walk, we stopped and watched the Monarch butterflies fluttering about the empty land around our area. She pointed them out to me. She stopped and took pictures. She was elated. I offered up a silent prayer of thanksgiving because I knew these are the moments.

Our kids long for relationship with us. More than any other thing in their life, they long for connection and acceptance at home. They want to know we’re a safe place for them. Kids want to (and need to) know that no matter what happens, we are there for them.

A lot of times this looks like us giving up our time, or talking about things we don’t want to talk about. (No, I don’t know Patrick Mahome’s favorite color). (No, I can’t dance like that). How many times have I done girls hair while secretly wishing I could relax? How many times have I laid with them for a couple minutes to tickle their arms? I read a quote somewhere listening to the little things so they will learn to trust you with the big things.

Some of you are thinking “that’s not how I want to spend my life”, “what about me?” The people in my home are the closest proximity to share my witness and testimony with. It is my life’s joy to walk side by side with these little people, not because it’s easy. It’s my joy because I’m not nurturing to be my little people forever. I’m nurturing them to be adults. Who I am around them matters. So many of us save our best selves for those outside our home, but friends, it ought not be this way. Yes, we may apologize more to them (because they’re more likely to see our flaws), but even in our faults-relationship happens.

What makes it easier to want to live a life of flexibility with my time in order to build connections? In Philippians 2:6-7 in reference to Christ it says “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:”

We know according to John 10:30 that Jesus states He and His Father are one. So by that verse, we know Jesus doesn’t think he’s anything he’s not. We also know that Jesus didn’t come to the earth in the form of a King. He came as a servant to men, even until His death on the cross. So I know if I am to be like Christ, I am to live a life after His example. We should bear a resemblance of His life, if we expect the benefit of His death.

On our walk, my girl asked me what she would do if an anything ever happened to me and she was with me. Of course, we had to play out several scenarios. Then she said “I just don’t think I’d be able to do anything”. I told her “Yes, you will because you don’t walk alone. You have the strength of God with you as well”.

How am I able to have conversations like that with my daughter? Because of my relationship with God. Relationship is what He wants from us as well. More than any other thing in my life, I have connection and acceptance with Him. I know He is my safe place. I know that no matter what happens, He is there for me. It’s because of my relationship with God that I can attempt to emulate relationships with my kids. God doesn’t leave me as I was when I first went to Him. I don’t plan to let my kids leave me without trying to show them the truth, where I can, in whatever ways I’m allowed to. If we would do it for others, we should be more than willing for the ones we’re entrusted with.

Don’t worry, my bathrooms got cleaned as well. 😉

The year we didn’t ask for…

I love stories. I remember one of the first children’s books I fell in love with, The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. The shiny scales captivated me. I remember the sadness I felt the first time I read Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park.

My fascination with stories has continued well throughout my life, but expands further than just books. I collect antiques because I love picturing the person who once owned the piece before me. I like imagining how they might have decorated with that item. I put stickers on my vehicle from where we visit because I like looking at the locations on the stickers and remembering the trip and stories that go alone with it.

I recently read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. In that book, Alexander goes through all the bad things that have happened to him throughout the day. He wakes up with gum in his hair. He found out he had a cavity. He falls in mud. His brother calls him a cry baby, along with many other wrongs in that particular day. The book ends with saying “mom says some days are like that”.

Well guys, this is our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (year). It seems as though things have been piled on one right after the other. We adjust to one thing and a new situation appears. Things have been piling up one right after another.

We can focus on all the things going wrong or we can accept the fact that, in life, there will be times like this. Generations before us have faced difficulties in life. Some have faced problems that affect a big population and others have faced personal problems in life, ones that others may not know about.

Our reactions to these situations can make all the difference. This is a difficult part to our story or life, but we get to choose how it ends. The statement “mom says some days are like that” changed the entire tone of the book. It went from a story of hopelessness to one that is hopeful.

I hope where ever you find yourself today, you are able to find moments of happiness or calm. If you are struggling to find the good right now, I hope you find the courage to keep moving forward. I hope you realize that you are never alone. I hope you know, this too, will pass. I hope you know “some days are like that”.

Continue reading “The year we didn’t ask for…”

Rest for Struggle

For my entire life (that I can remember) I remember yearning for the normal, consistent, boring family. I remember watching TV shows thinking “I’m going to have that life some day”.

Welp, here I am: a house full of kids, blessed to be able to (mostly) stay home, a husband who adores me (there must be something wrong right?) and that I adore equally in return. I legit go to bed every night thanking God for giving me so much more than I deserve. These gifts are not lost on me.

I also recognized something else in my life though. There is no normal. We have been through many transitions in our 11 years of marriage. We married young, had babies young, adopted, had a failed adoption, and gone into foster care. That’s just in our immediate family! I’m not even including anything else coming from outside my house.

I started to get pretty confident that I’m a cool cucumber (is that a thing?) now. We’ve handled it all, there’s nothing new to stress about anymore. Then Covid happened. Then school enrollment happened. Who knew signing your kids up for school could lead to eye twitches? (Thanks stress).

But then I remembered something: this is my gift. This life. This family. This struggle. Guys-in this life I’m marching with my eyes set on something much bigger, better even. It doesn’t end with today’s problems, or even today’s blessings.

Every transition or change in life should be approached with one goal in mind- to glorify Christ. Am I trusting in Him? Not just with my decisions, but to sustain me after those choices are made. Do I believe that if I made a choice I regretted, that God will use it for His good regardless, if I’m looking to Him?

Because that’s the truth friends: God is the end all. The decisions you and I are facing may seem huge, even overwhelming, right now. But they are still temporary problems. While Covid and it’s repercussions may last longer than we’d like, and it may effect more areas of life than we’d like, eventually it will end. When it gets to be too much, remember what you’re marching towards- Who you will meet at the finish line. In the meantime, let’s give grace and love each other.

I am not Against Cops, but I do believe Black Lives Matter

I don’t believe systematic racism is a myth. I do believe our culture has conditioned us to be fearful of blacks, regardless of whether or not we realize it. But I also believe majority of Cops go into the position hoping to make a difference and not to wrongly harm others. There are Cops I know who I would absolutely trust with my life. I don’t want my kids to fear Cops if they are ever in a place of danger and need help.

That being said, there is an undertone of systematic racism that has colored our history. I don’t think most people even realize they harbor feelings of it in themselves. I didn’t. Being raised in a small town, with little diversity, did not prepare me for becoming a multi-racial mom. I was bombarded with my own prejudices, prejudices I didn’t even realize I had.

I know I’m not the only one, and I do believe people of all occupations have the same prejudices as well. The black community is not safe until we address and change those prejudices. Prejudices that exist because we still take pride in the side of history that fought against equal rights of all persons in the United States.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize that even though everything right now is unstable, God is still good. He is still good when all that we count as comfort (or maybe just norm) has been ripped away. He is still good even though we are still having to address racism 60 years later. He is still good when uncertainty lingers and everything feels broken. George, Breonna, Ahmaud, and countless others, who have lost their lives due to racial injustice have ultimate hope that doesn’t lie in me or you.

Until then, we have been given a command to mourn with those who mourn. (Including the Cops trying to do right). And to stand for righteousness and justice, regardless of popularity.

Sports are good thing. Sports aren’t every thing.

Some of my best memories from high school are from my time spent as an athlete.  I remember listening to Blue Clear Sky by George Strait religiously while riding with my best friend to softball practice.  I remember being so exhausted the weeks we had 2-a-days that all we could do was sleep in between.  I remember the accomplishment I felt once I got my spiking down in volleyball after staying late with a coach several days to work on it.  To this day, I love the feeling of complete exhaustion after a workout.

My husband was twice (and probably then some) the athlete I ever was.  To this day, his reflexes and how quickly he picks up almost any sport he tries still amazes me.  On our honeymoon we went to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game.  Since we have been married we’ve played on coed softball teams and sand volleyball teams together.  We thoroughly enjoy sports.

So, for several reasons (many stated above) we want and even encourage our kids to take part in sports.  None of those reasons include them playing at a higher level or for them to be the super star of the team.  Now, it’s not that I don’t want them to succeed.  I do.  But more than the destination of “success” I want them to pay attention to the work and journey they will be on to get to that destination of success.

I want them to develop life long habits of being physically active.  I want them to know what it’s like to work hard at a skill in order to master it.  I want them to feel that feeling of accomplishment once they do master that skill.  I want them to feel the camaraderie that comes with being part of a team.

I do not, and will not, push collegiate or even professional level sports.  If my kids end up playing at that level, that’s fine and I will support them in every way possible if they do.  I do fear by constantly pushing that with all of our children, we have made a generation of “every one is a superstar” and forgotten that it is beneficial for kids to be just good athletes that support their team and help them where they can.  When we set up those kind of expectations for each child, we set them up for disappointment because not every one can be the all star.

Last point of this blog: if you really want to make sure your kid gets into college on scholarship push ACADEMICS! It’s really not even comparable the amount of academic scholarships you can get to the amount of athletic scholarships.

 

Trauma from Foster Care & Adoption

All of our children that we have fostered or adopted, we have had since they were pretty young infants.  Many think that this helps you to avoid any type of trauma that the children would have otherwise endured had they been older when they came into our house.  While yes, it may help to avoid some trauma that they may actively recall, there is no kid that enters adoption or foster care that does not have some kind of trauma.

I even have another side of our family that some do not: we have both biological and adopted children.  It’s not an “either-or” thing for our family.  I look at my adopted children and am acutely aware of the plan God has for their lives.  That He didn’t mean to leave them as they would have otherwise been left in the world.  He used us for His purpose in their lives.

The same is true for my biological children, although I may not always realize it.  He gave them to the hubs and me so that we could raise them up to be more than what they started out as.  Not only that, He uses all of our children to make us more than we would have otherwise been without them.

I also feel heartbreak when I think about the things I will some day have to tell our adopted children, questions I will have to answer or stories I will have to tell.  Neither one of our adopted children physically resemble the hubs or myself.  They won’t be able to compare us to themselves when it comes to physical features.

They will have to deal with questioning why a parent didn’t want to or couldn’t raise them, because even though things are much more open with adoption nowadays, I never have been able to get those answers.  One of my children will probably never get those answers.  I know, since one of our adopted children is a bit older, that there are some tendencies that we did not nurture but are instead, part of that baby’s nature.

Do I say all of this to be disheartening? Absolutely not, however; I do want parents to be aware of situations that may occur and to be long-suffering with their children.  Now, in my mind it’s not much different than how I raise each of my children.  I try to stay (as best as I can) attuned to what each child needs or responds to the best.  Biological or not, they are not the same.  So it’s not really extra work as far as parenting; it’s different work.

I don’t have to make my biological children feel as though this is where they belong.  Where they were always meant to be.  Even though my adopted children have been here as long as their memory will serve them, we are not their only starting place.  Since our adopted children don’t physically resemble us, (and our biological children often hear how much they do), we find other ways to bring up commonalities.  If one loves a certain food we love, we point it out, “Oh, you like chips just like daddy.  You must have got that from him”.  Or “oh, you’re such a good baby just like your sister was”.

I am going to have hard conversations that I am already aware of and I don’t know yet the effect they will have on them.  I can’t really know until they grow a bit older whether or not they will have an emotional reaction to their first parents not being able to parent them.  With adoption, there is always heartbreak.  There is always some sort of trauma.

Trauma doesn’t look the same from one person to the next.  Some children’s trauma is more apparent than others.  It doesn’t mean it’s not there.  Regardless of the age the children joined your family, you must be intentional in parenting them.  They have to have no doubt that they belong in your family.  That may lead to some uncomfortable moments for you, but if there’s one thing parenting has taught me: it’s not about you.

As parents, we would do anything to make sure our children are well adjusted and loved.  Don’t shrink back just because it may look a little bit different than you thought it would.  Every kid is worth it.

If you don’t give that child a healthy outlet to figure out and express that trauma, they will develop unhealthy coping skills. While some may be more disruptive than others…please, they deserve that space and freedom. Freedom to not feel they need to hide or shrink behind their feelings. Freedom to not be okay sometimes. Freedom to know they are loved regardless.

Motherhood is not my Ultimate Calling

I wake up in the morning to either a baby crying or a kid (or kids) jumping on our bed.  I go to sleep after feeding a baby at night.  My days are marked by what time to pick my kids up, what time to drop them off, what events they have going on, what appointments may be scheduled, etc.  At this stage of life, much of my time is marked around my moments of mothering.

But, motherhood is not my ultimate calling.  If it were, what would that mean for my life when my kids are some day out of my house?  What would that mean for some people who never bear children of their own?  What would that mean if, Heaven forbid, something happened to my children?

My ultimate calling in this life is to give glory to God.  In whatever situation I find myself in, I am called to give glory to God. In 1 Corinthians 10 we’re reminded “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”.  That means whatever situation I find myself in throughout life, I can use it as a means to bring God glory.

Currently my main way of giving glory to God is through my mothering.  (As I stated above, with 4 kids, much of my time is spent mothering them).  What does that look like for me?  It’s doing my Bible study in the morning while the kids are still laying around and half of them are in school.  It’s listening to podcasts and sermons while doing dishes, cleaning, or feeding a bottle.  It’s CONSTANTLY praying for me to receive the tasks I’ve been given to do, in a God honoring way.

You may find your job fills most of your time.  You may be a full time student who finds yourself immersed in books and studying.  You may find yourself at a stage in life where you are caring for elder family members.  You may be a lucky grandparent who gets to watch your grandchild during the day.  Your situations will change throughout life.  Whatever your situation is, our calling is all the same- Do All To The Glory of God.

Adopted

I found myself sitting with baby K earlier this week making an “About Me” poster for her Preschool class.  We put her birth date and birth location.  She is the only one of my children who wasn’t born where we all live.  It seemed weird writing it, it felt like writing that made her different from the rest of my kids.  I know, I know, she is adopted.  She is a different race.  So obviously she LOOKS different from the other kids, but I feel like all of them look different from each other.  Sure, you could look at our biological kids and see some of mine and the hubs physical features in them.

I never have felt like they were any more destined to be in our family than baby K though, just because she was once adopted.  There has never been a doubt in my mind that she was destined, before hand to be exactly where she is.  Just like my bio kids.

It’s funny how much we put on “physical traits” to mean that a child belongs to a family.  Some biological families don’t even resemble each other, but when I write her birth location and when I am out and about with my family, I know that people view her as the one that “was lucky to end up in our family”.

Here’s a little bit about the luck that baby had of getting into this family.  She was brought into this first world by a momma who knew she couldn’t provide for her.  She was hand picked, by her first momma to join this family.  She was wheeled directly into a separate room after birth, while being comforted by a voice she didn’t recognize.  She lived in hotel rooms (with her family) for 2 weeks before coming home.  She has dealt with horrible asthma, that we can’t get answers to, since she was a newborn.

Truthfully, while I’m telling you her story, I could do it for any of my kids.  I could tell you how my first child screamed so much when he was a baby that I took all my maternity clothes to Goodwill when he was 3 months old.  I could tell you that I struggle daily with him believing he has to share this house with his sisters.  I could recount the story of #2’s birth and how she or I could have not come out of the operating room when she was born.  How I struggle now for her to not take everything so personally.  My youngest may physically resemble our family a bit more than baby K, but he was left at a hospital a couple of hours old.  He was welcomed into his home after a brief stint in 2 different hospitals.

I say all that to say this, we all have somewhere that our story began.  Biological children are not a formula to ensure the ease of their life or your family unit.  I find this most encouraging because I’m adopted too.  I came from a background of someone who loved myself more than most all others,  someone who lived in several homes growing up, someone who hasn’t always tried to have good relationships with those in my family.  I was someone who did several things I was ashamed of as I grew older.

Then I was adopted.  I was adopted into a family where “in Jesus Christ, you are all son’s of God, through faith.” (Galatians 3:26)  I was welcomed into a family, not based on my race, gender, economic status, or any other means.  I was welcomed because Jesus sought me, before the beginning of time, to be an heir with Him.

My story is different from yours.  My story is different from my husband’s, my childrens’, my friends’, but that’s only part of my story.  That’s only where it began.  Now we are brother’s and sister’s with each other, not because I was lucky or because I met a criteria.  Simply because I was chosen.  My brothers and sisters don’t all look like me either.

All of my children were handpicked to be in this earthly family.  It doesn’t matter that one of my children was born in a different state.  It doesn’t even matter that two of the four are biological.  They are brothers and sisters.  While their beginning was different from the others; they all ended up in this family.  Not on accident.  Not because any were lucky.

Because God chose us to steward each of these lives and raise them up to send them out.  Not for my husband nor myself- but for the One whose family they will ultimately end up in.  That family is for eternity.  I hope and pray to some day call them my brothers or sisters in Christ, because ultimately that’s where our family is headed.  This too, is just our beginning.