"May the God of hope fill you with great joy and peace as you trust in him." Romans 15:13

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Aloha from Hawaii

Our Hawaiian vacation started with a bit of adventure!  Saturday morning, we both slept through our alarms.  I woke up at 3:53 am (thankfully) - our flight was scheduled to leave at 5:00 am.  We arrived at the airport just in the nick of time, only to discover that our flight had been canceled.  We could either wait to fly out the next day, thus cutting our time in Hawaii a day short and missing the opening banquet, OR we could drive to Jamestown and fly out there at 7:14 am.  It is a 90 mile drive to Jamestown, but we made that flight.  From Jamestown we flew to Minneapolis, then LA, then Honolulu, and then (finally) to Maui. It was an adventure!  Really, it did not stress either of us out a bit.  When can I spend 20 hours either napping or reading?  I arrived at Hawaii rested!  I spent at least 8 hours sleeping on planes on Saturday.  It was awesome!

My only complaint about the change in travel plans is that we arrived after dark.  I was so excited to SEE Hawaii, but it was also very incredible to wake up to this amazing view!

 (all of the above shots were taken from our balcony!)

The ocean is my very favorite place.  I love the sound of the waves crashing, the smell of warm humid air, the birds singing. . .  It was absolutely amazing to wake up to all of it.

We spent Sunday checking out the resort.  We walked on the beach for miles, napped in the sun, and attended a big banquet.  (Although we have a lot of leisure time on these trips there are several business meetings that Chad attends and several evenings of banquets that we both go to.  Chief, our building supplier, treats us like royalty.  They are always fun events.  This year Chad was given an Honerable Mentionaward for the BSC Aquatic & Wellness Center project.  That project was a nightmare to build, so it was encouraging to see Chad honored for his work on it. )
 This photo cracks me up.  Chad is standing on a beach in Hawaii, talking on his cell-phone to a customer in Bismarck about snow removal!  It was really funny!

 Monday, we spent most of the day hiking through the rain forest!  It really was incredible.  Totally different from the "Hawaii" I expected.
 This is bamboo.  It was growing in a huge clump and it made the most amazing noise when the stems bumped together in the wind.  Loved it!

 These are apple-bananas.  They were yummy!
 This is sugar cane.

 (proof that we were actually hiking)
 We saw 4 gorgeous waterfalls.  It was dreamy!

 I love the light shining through in this photo.
 I thought the moss was beautiful.

 We are lunch next to this waterfall.  It was surreal.  It also had amazing cell service!  Better than at out hotel!  So funny!

 We swam in the pool made by one of the waterfalls.  It was chilly, but some experiences are too awesome to skip! 

 Did you know it takes 18 months for a pineapple to mature?

The rain forest hike was really interesting.   We saw a lot and learned a lot.  The one thing that was the oddest to me is that we saw very few animals.  Only birds!  The guide explained that because Hawaii was formed from volcanoes, there are very few animals here.  If they can not swim or fly, they were introduced by man.  There are NO snakes in Hawaii. 

On the drive back to the hotel we stopped to watch the surfers and wind surfers.
That was really neat too.

In ND, when it is windy we complain because it ruins our water sports.  Here they drive around the island searching for the best wind and waves!

Last night we had very fancy dinner at a restaurant called The Plantation.  It overlooked the golf course that opens the PGA tour each year.  The food was beautiful and delicious.  It was a very un-ND experience!

As amazing and glamorous as moments of this trip have been, I am really longing for home today!  My Jamison plays in the 8th grade championship basketball game tonight and I have been so sad all day about missing it!  I am beyond thankful and thrilled to be here in warm sunny Hawaii - but there is no place like home!  I am praying for you Jamison!  It has been a hard season.  I am so proud of how you have risen to the challenge with such courage, strength, and self-control.  I am amazed at the man you are becoming.  I can not wait to hear all about the game, and I know that you can and will "do all things through Christ who gives you strength."  I love you, Jay!

I would also appreciate your continued prayers for my Grandma as she recovers from shoulder replacement surgery.

Tomorrow we will fly over to Honolulu to tour Pearl Harbor.   Chad and I are both very excited for the day.  It is also the 20 anniversary of our "going together."  How amazing that we will spend that day - February 29 (yep, we started going out on leap day) in Hawaii.  It is an incredible blessing to say the least. 

Friday, February 24, 2012


It has been one of the busiest weeks of my life.

Chad and I leave for Hawaii tomorrow morning very early, so the week was filled to brimming with packing, working ahead at all of our jobs, basketball games, concerts, meetings, and house showings.  My schedule was truly daunting, even for me!

For example yesterday I: cleaned the whole house top to bottom, shoveled snow, watched a friends son, did some important research online, payed bills and ran payroll for our business, took the kids to supper (while our home was shown), watched a basketball game, attended Brenna's school program, started and finished one week's worth of laundry, and had new adoptive friends over for coffee.  YIKES!

The big news of the day/week is that TODAY our home was sold.  WHEWWW!  No more home showings!!!!  We need to be moved out by May 31.  We are so thankful that it has sold, and we do not have that to worry about.

However, we are not fully prepared to build.  We do not have full plans or prices or financing in place.  We should (hopefully) be ready to start when the ground is thawed.  Even so, it is unlikely we will have our new home completed until Sept. 1.  That leaves us with 3+ months of "homelessness."  Ugh!

Our tentative solution is to purchase a second camper and to have the 7 of us live in between 2 campers.  (Doesn't that sound like a crazy adventure?!?)  The plus side of that is we would live rent free.  We would be able to resell the camper.  The negative is, well actually living in a camper for 3 months.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE camping.  But there is just NO place like home!

I am also concerned about leaving the older kids at home in a camper while I work.  Wondering about laundry, personal space, small water heaters, etc. . .

Similarly, I do not know what this means as we consider another adoption.  On one hand we would be crazy to consider adding another child to our camper-housing situation.  On the other hand, it would be the perfect time for me to take a 12 week "maternity" leave as our expenses will be much diminished.

So, tonight I have more questions than answers!  And that is OK.  I am way too tired to try and figure anything out. Answers will come in time (though I am a terrible waiter.)

Anyway, there is light at the end of the tunnel!  My bag is packed, my alarm is set, and tomorrow at this time I will be walking the beach!  I am so very thankful for some time to rest and reflect before the next crazy season of our family begins!

Please pray this week that
  • my Grandma will have a successful shoulder replacement surgery
  • God will be near our kids while we are away.  My parents are staying here, and Chad's mom and many friends will also be helping with their care.  I am so thrilled to report that I am not worried!  I think they will all do great, especially Joshua. 
  • Sierra's drum solo will go well tomorrow.
  • Jamison will play to the best of his ability during his basketball tournaments this week.
  • God will bless all the special people who will be caring for our kids, and that He would fill our home with peace, gentleness, and love.
  • things will go smoothly in our business while we are away.
  • Chad and I have a very special time of rest. reflection, and recuperation.  That He would provide clarity, unity, and direction on some child-related decisions.
  • the road to our new home would be a "fast track!"
As always, I am so very thankful that God has a plan!  Praying He will be glorified as we do our best to follow Him.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

4-Year-Old Boy, 2-Year-Old Tantrums

It has been a long time since I have posted about Joshua's development.  This is due in large part to him being "caught-up" in many, many areas. 

While he was very delayed in most if not all areas 18 mo. ago, we now celebrate that his gross motor skills are in the normal range.  I even joked this week that he is almost coordinated!  That probably sounds really mean, but it is true.  For a long time, Joshua could run and jump and climb and dance - but his motions were not fluid, they were forced.  It took great concentration for him to climb steps, run across the room, or jump on his trampoline.  Those motions are becoming fluid, graceful, and (dare-I-say?) coordinated?!! 

His language skills have caught up as well.  He struggles a bit with the "r" sound and some blends, but that is developmentally appropriate for a 4 year old.  He no longer stutters, at all!  It is amazing!  I have no concerns about language.

Socially, he is "caught up" as well.  He plays nicely with friends.  He separates from me appropriately.  He is quiet and cautious around strangers.  He is loving, outgoing, and very verbal with people he knows and trusts.  He knows mommy and daddy are the "ultimate rulers," yet he listens well to other adults who are in charge as well.  He also transitions well between being "Grammy spoiled" and "Mommy parented!"

His fine motor skills and "knowledge" lag behind.  I am not overly concerned about those delays, yet we are aware.  Most of those delays are due to lack of experience.  We have worked so hard on language acquisition, gross motor skills, and family bonding/social skills.  He has "mastered" those, so now we will move onto more"school-type" skills.  Right now he colors and writes like a child between 1.5 and 2 years old.  He does not identify all the letters of the alphabet.  He can cut with a scissors, but not well.  Because I am quite certain these skills will develop rapidly with practice, I am not concerned.  Our plan of attack includes beginning Montessori preschool this summer.  I think it will be best for him to have a full year of preschool at Montessori, then a full year of Kindergarten there before he starts public Kindergarten at age 6.  Our pediatrician it totally supportive of this plan.  He told me he never recommends that kids start Kindergarten at 5 anymore.  He feels that full-day school is not developmentally appropriate until children are 6.  So, while I am aware that Joshua continues to have small motor delays, I feel like they will correct themselves in the same manner that his other delays have with time, love, experience, and practice.

It has been a long time since I have posted about family age versus chronological age.  It is common for a child's behavior/needs to go along with his family age.  His family age is the amount of time he has been in his family, which is often VERY different that a child's chronological age.  It is HARD to remember that some behaviors may be appropriate for the child's unique development even though their body size/chronological age say those same behaviors are NOT OK.  It is, however, very important to meet kids at their point of need!  They need to go through different developmental stages even if we/society think they are "too old" to be acting a certain way.  Skipping stages causes children to miss out on important lessons.  While kids who come from "hard places" often go through developmental stages at an accelerated rate once they are in loving, nurturing, and safe homes, they still need to go through them.

Family age related issues can be tricky to spot and tricky to parent.  For example, the first summer Joshua was home he would yell, call, or whisper "Momma's baby's crying.  Hold you!"  And I would run (seriously) to hold him, just like I would run to hold a screaming infant.  This behavior was constant for a time.  It drove the older kids crazy some days.  But I understood that because I was not there to run to Joshua when he was an infant and comfort his cried, he needed me to be there now!  He truly tested me (not that he even knew he was testing me) in those days.  Every time that I dropped everything to hold my baby, his trust and attachment toward me grew.  Eventually his call to be held diminished, and at the same time I was able to say "Just a minute baby.  Mommy will be there as soon as I am done with ______"  Even though he was 2.5 years old and used words instead of cries, he needed to go through that infant stage of development with me.

In Joshua's first 12 mo. in our family, we noticed many, many needs he had in relation to his family age.  And then he suddenly felt caught up!  I savored the next 6ish months - really, really savored and celebrated them!

In the last month or two, I have noticed that Joshua has been really struggling with transitions.  When he is not ready to leave someplace fun (like church or Kristen's house) he will run from me, giggling as he goes.  He laughs as I chase him and then tries to run away again.  When I hold tight and carry him to the car, he will whine, cry, and kick. (Kind of like an 18 mo old. . . hmmmm  . . .)

We have also noticed some tantrums.  One day this week he decided I must stop and buy him root beer (his favorite treat) on the drive home for work/Kristen's house.  I said maybe another day.  When we got home he refused to leave the van.  Then he threw a fairly major tantrum when I insisted he come in the house.

As we were discussing his naughtiness, I commented "This feels a bit like the terrible two's!"  Light bulb moment there - Duh!  These ARE Joshua's terrible two's!  He did not have a chance to be "2" at 2.  So he needs to resist arrest a bit, fight for his "freedom," and have boundaries lovingly, and patiently enforced NOW as a 2-year-old-in-our-family.

While typical-two-year-old tantrums are not cute in a 2-year-old (and even less charming in a 4-year-old) it helps me to parent them when I know and understand the developmental stage is appropriate and (unfortunately) needed to help him learn self-control, respect, and conflict-resolution skills.  His behavior is "normal" for his family age.  Choosing to parent him as is appropriate for that age will (hopefully) help him pass through this developmental stage quickly and successfully!

(That is the plan anyway!)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Never Fail Gravy

You would think that since I post recipes once in a while that I would love cooking.  In truth, I love finding simple ways to cook so that I have more time for things I truly enjoy!

Anyway, last winter I discovered this super-simple, never-fail gravy recipe.  It is seriously yummy, and it takes NO effort! 

In a crock pot combine:
  • 2 - 3 lbs round steak (cut into pieces) or meatballs (the ones from the freezer section work)
  • 2 pkg. onion soup mix (I like the beefy onion soup mix best)
  • 2 cans (10 oz) cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 soup can water
Put the cover on the crock pot and cook on low 3-6 hours (depending on the meat you choose.)

A couple of Sundays ago, I dumped 2 bags of frozen meatballs and these ingredients in my crock pot before church.  We returned home a couple of hours later, and all I had to do was boil and mash some potatoes before serving up a "real" Sunday dinner.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Is This God Talking?

I am a very black and white person.  I thrive on facts, knowledge, and logic.

Which also means that I often struggle to "hear" God.

God rarely calls us to do what comes easily and naturally.  He rarely (maybe even never) speaks to us audibly.

So, how in the world, can I discern if an idea is "of God" or simply craziness?

Lysa TerKeurst, in her book What Happens When Women Say YES to God has designed 5 questions to sort through our thoughts/dreams/ideas/aspirations/emotional reactions to discover which are the plans God has for us.  I personally LOVE these because they provide a "system" of discernment.  (Yes.  I DO thrive on structure!)

  • Does what I am hearing line up with scripture?
    • Romans 12:2 says "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing, and perfect will."
    • For me there are 2 really important concepts in that verse.  One is to remove what "the world" would have me do or expect me to do from what I expect myself to do.  I all too often limit my actions because of what others may think or how they may respond.  The other talks about being able to test and approve what God's will is.  In order to do that I must know what His word (the Bible) says!  I am often amazed at how a passage of scripture I have read many times can take on a completely new meaning.  God continues to teach me and grow me, even when I think I have "mastered" a passage of scripture.
  • Is what I am hearing consistent with God's character?
    • Lysa uses Galatians 5:22-23 as a glimpse into God's character.  That passage says, "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law." 
    • When we know what God's character is, we know He will never ask us to act or react in a way that is contrary to His character.  God will never tell us to speak mean or ugly words, even to someone who "deserves" them.  He WILL call us to love more deeply than we can imagine possible, to have peace in the midst of chaos, and to be kind to someone who has hurt us.
  • Is what I am hearing being confirmed through other messages?
    • Lysa singles our the words from Isaiah 30:21-22 here. "Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, "This is the way, walk in it." Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, "Go away with you."
    • I love this passage because it tells me that if I really, really listen - God will show me the way to go.  And when I am in the center of His will, all that "worldly stuff" will not sway me.  It will be meaningless, as repulsive as a menstrual cloth.
    • Lysa also speaks here about how when God wants us to do something, He keeps repeating the message over and over and over.  You may read about it in the newspaper, your Pastor will preach about it, the song on the radio speaks of it, your BFF calls and tells you something related, etc...  I have a friend that says she does not believe in co-incidences ONLY God-incidences.  I think she is onto something!
  • Is what I am hearing beyond me?
    • 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, "The one who calls you is faithful, and He will do it."
    • What you want to read here is that if what you are feeling called to do is beyond you then it is SURELY NOT OF GOD, right?!?  WRONG!!!!!  God calls us to do things that are totally, utterly, completely beyond us so that when we succeed GOD will receive all the glory!
  • Would what I am hearing please God?
    • "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ." Philippians 1:9-10
    • Bottom line. . . if what you are considering would please God, DO IT and GOD WILL BE PLEASED!
Dontcha love it?

Me too!

I will admit that these five questions do not turn "grey situations" into sharp "black and whites."  However, for me, this bit of structure help bring unclear situations into focus.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Too Funny to Forget!

 A couple of weeks ago I took our oldest three out for lunch.  As we sat waiting for our food, I gazed at my biggest kids and just started to giggle.  These three were born in 3.5 years.  When they were all little and we went out to eat, I would pack a big bag of toys.  They always played so nicely as they waited for their food.  Fast forward 12 years and they still play nicely while they wait for their food!  The only difference is that now they pack their own toys!
 First of all, look closely at this photo.
Notice how Joshua is cheek to cheek with his daddy and the way he is laying causes his daddy's shirt to say "son?" Don't you think that is a fun coincidence?

Chad brings Joshua to Kristen's house each Wednesday so that I can go into work super early.  This week, Joshua was being even pokier than usual.  (Joshua moves to the beat of his own drum, and it is NOT a fast beat!)  Chad finally got Joshua into the vehicle and was half way to Kristen's when he realized that Joshua had not brushed his teeth.  Always ready for plan B, Chad stopped at the nearest gas station to buy a pack of gum.  He figured chewing gum would at least disguise the morning breath.

Now Joshua tells me, "I not need brush my teeth!   I just chew gum.  Then I not have stinky teeth.  Daddy says!"

 Joshua is addicted to button-up shirts and ties.  Seriously.  Unless they are all dirty, he wears a tie every single day.
Last night Brenna rode home from church with Chad.  When I got home, she ran to me and when I stooped down to give her a hug I noticed she was crying.  After she calmed down enough to talk she told me that she had heard her dad talking on the phone about a mountain lion that was spotted in town.  After he hung up the phone, he joked with her that we had better watch out for Riley (our dog) or sometime when we let him our to go to the bathroom a mountain lion may sneak in and get him.  You never know, he joked, we might go to let him in and only find his collar.  Even though she knew he was joking, the thought of a mountain lion eating her beloved Riley was terrifying.  Poor girl!

Last funny kid story, I promise.

Last Saturday I was working diligently to clean our house because it was going to be shown (3 times) to potential buyers.  Joshua was being quite uncooperative and trying to wear his dirty boots on my clean floors.  Krissy, trying to help me out, told him "Joshua, you better take off your boots or Mommy will bite your head off when she sees you."  Little man came running to me crying BIG tears.  I scooped him up and he told me, "Mommy, Krissy say you bite mine head off.  That not nice!  You not do that, right?!  You never bite me.  Tell Krissy!"  Poor Krissy was flabbergasted!  She looked at me and said, " Mom, I just meant. . ."  Then we both burst in hysterical laughter as we tried to explain the figure of speech to a freaked out four year old!

I am so thankful for the laughter that fills our home!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An Unwilling Student

In the last few years, the Lord has been laying submission on my heart.  I am a bit of a strong-willed girl and submission does not come easily to me.  However, I did think I was making progress!

You know what that means, right?!?

Yep, the Lord gently whispering to go deeper, submit to Him more fully.

And do you know what verse kept coming to mind, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." Ephesians 5:22.

Not exactly a culturally acceptable verse.  But Biblical.

So, I started praying that God would allow me to see when and how I take control of our household rather than allowing my husband to lead.  Funny thing.  When you pray, He listens.

Funnier thing.  I can be a very unwilling student, even when I have asked for the lesson.

(Big, long, sigh.)

Last week Chad and I had a decision to make.  We had signed a six month contract with our realtor.  When we listed our home we did it with the purest of intentions.  We really felt like it was more than we needed.  We truly wanted to down-size a bit in order to free up more money each month to use for things more important than a big house payment.

However, in the six months we had our house for sale, we NEVER found a single home that would meet the needs of our family AND reduce our mortgage.  We were also TOTALLY unable to find a lot on which we could build.

I was a bit concerned totally freaked out for six months.  What if our home sold?  Where would we go?  What would we do?

To give a bit of background on the intensity of our situation, Bismarck is growing like wild fire.  It is one of the rare places where the economy is wonderful.  Homes are selling like hotcakes.  There is very, very little to buy.  Our realtor shared that one day last week a home came on the market.  It was shown about 15 times in the first 3 hours.  They received 3 offers.  It was sold to the highest bidder that same day.

There is also NOTHING to rent.

There are also NEXT TO NO lots to buy - especially because we want to build our home ourselves.  The VAST majority of the lots available are builder owned.  Those builders will only sell you a lot if you hire them to build your home.I could muster to keep our home on the market for the length of our contract. 
Add to those measly odds the fact that we have teenage children, who desperately wanted to stay in their current school, and you have yourself a bit of a situation (as Krissy would say.)

It took all the faith I could muster to keep our home on the market for the length of our contract. I was counting down the days until it expired. My whole being wanted to have a plan that felt secure and safe. The way I saw it, God had not opened ANY doors and He had allowed us to maintain possession of our home for six months. Those facts alone must mean we should remain where we are, right?

Chad agreed. . .

Until 3 days before our contract was to expire.

Then he dropped some very unexpected news.  He informed me that he really thought we should leave our house on the market.

I was not happy.  (That may just be the understatement of the year.)

I was angry, confused, and very scared.  I could not understand why he could think such a thing.  There was certainly every indication that sooner than later our home would sell, and NO indication that we would have anywhere to move.

His solution, "We could live in the camper inside the shop." was NOT well received.

Seriously ladies, can you imagine living in a camper for an extended amount of time with 5 kids and a golden retriever?  ME EITHER.

So, we reasoned.  We argued.  I cried.

And finally I realized that like it or not, I am called to submit to my husband, as to the Lord.

Have I done some "crazy things" because I am sure the Lord is asking me to?


Would I submit to my husband (as to the Lord)?

NO way!  I mean, well OK.

So I signed the papers to renew our contract with the realtor, while informing my husband that, "I would not be moving unless he had some sort of plan, even if we got asking price for our home.  And I am SERIOUS!"

Yeah, I know, really submissive. (not)

So, I kept praying. 

Over the weekend I tried to explain my very real fear of being homeless.  He listened.  That helped.

I kept praying.   That helped. 

I truly tried to trust in God and my husband, for real.

Saturday our home was showed (shown?) three times.  I cleaned and spit-shined with a lovely attitude.  I texted a couple friends and asked them to remind me that "God is in control and I love my husband."  They did.  And they prayed for me.  That helped.

I would love to tell me that I was in a place of perfect peace, but I was not.

I was, however, humbled and teachable.  I realized that I was not pleasing God by distrusting my husband's leadership.  To the contrary, I was disobeying Him. 

So, I worked and worked and worked at letting go and trusting.

And guess what happened yesterday?

My brilliant, God-fearing, loving, and leading husband purchased a lot.  (I am shedding a few humble tears here.)  He not only purchased a lot for our family, but God lead him to the perfect lot.  The lot that we had been hoping and dreaming of.  It allows our middle school and high school children to remain at their current schools.  It is 1.6 acres, which will allow us a detached garage someday to house the boat, Chad's hunting stuff, and his collector car.  It has mature trees and some little tiny ones, too.  AND although it is technically "in the country" there is NO gravel.

Wow!  God IS in control.  He delights in both teaching us and in giving us the desires of our hearts, in His time.

Do we still have many hurdles to jump?  Yes. 

Our home could sell tomorrow.  We could need to be out in 60 days.  It will take about 6 months to build (maybe longer).  That would mean 4 months or more in the camper.

We continue to consider adding children to our home. 

Life is full and crazy and rich and filled with unknowns.

But God continues to prove over and over and over and over and over, that He is in control.  He will open and close doors in accordance to His will.

So, I do not worry.  Today, I celebrate.  Because although the next bit will be crazy, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is here leading the way.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Starting the Day Lysa's Way

(Yes. This photo cracks me up, too.  It looks like a teen-age facebook profile picture with a part of my reflection in the mirror.)

This winter our women's Bible study, which I have affectionately nicknamed the "Lunch Ladies" because we meet over noon hour each Friday, is reading and trying to live out Lysa TerKeurst's book What Happens When Women say YES to God.  Being able to be a  central part of this Bible study is the biggest blessing of my job!  I am encouraged, inspired, challenged, and loved by this group of ladies each week.  Meeting with them makes me want to be more and serve better, not because they (or God) will not accept me if I am not "performing," but because it is just so exciting to see and hear God working in each of our lives. 

One seemingly very small way that I have been inspired by our study and Lysa's book has come in the very simple prayer that is taped to my bathroom mirror (pictured above).  Each morning as I am dragging my sleepy body out of bed and into the shower, I pause to brush my teeth.  As I am brushing my teeth, I can not help but to read the words of Lysa's prayer.  (It certainly beats the view of myself in the mirror pre-shower!)  This prayer has begun to direct my day.

God, I want to see You.
God, I want to hear You.
God, I want to know You.
God, I want to follow hard after You
And even before I know what I will face today,
I say YES! to You.

Isn't it beautiful? 

And even more beautiful than the words is the openness and excitement that dedicating my day to saying YES! brings to my heart and mind.

I highly recommend starting your day the same way!

(Some day very soon I will share Lysa's strategy for discerning if the thoughts/ideas/dreams/intuitions you have flow into your heart and mind are just "crazy" or are totally Godly.  I love it, and I know you will too.)

If you are in Bismarck, I would love, love, love to have you become a "lunch lady."  Message me if you are interested.  I promise you will leave inspired and encouraged.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Remembering to Be Joyful

Some weeks do not go quite as expected.  I usually do a pretty good job of rolling with the changes, but this week I failed miserably. And while I continue to struggle a bit, I am also realizing as I chose stubbornness, frustration, and grief this week - I forgot to be joyful. 

Unexpected change of plans or not, I have much reason to be filled with JOY every day.

Here is a peak at the JOYFUL moments of my week.

 There is so much comfort and joy that is shared between a girl and her dog. 
 As "head chef" in our family, I cook - A LOT!  I am a competent cook, and I do my best to provide my family with healthy, affordable, tasty meals.  But Chad, he LOVES to cook.  He is creative and passionate in the kitchen.  His joy for cooking is something we all appreciate.  (Pictured above is his new specialty - stuffed crust pizza!)
 Smiling siblings, playing silly games bring great joy to us all.
My absolute favorite sound, is the sound of my children laughing.
Their giggles bring instant joy to my heart, every single time!

I am choosing joy today.

"This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it."
Psalm 118:24

(Because I know you are wondering, nothing too earth shattering happened this week.  We just decided to leave our house on the market.  I was really looking forward to pulling it.  Submitting to my husband did not come easily, but it is what I am called to do.  I am most thankful that we rest in the knowledge that God is in control.) 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Foster-Adopt, Learning as I Go

So what does the foster-adopt process look like? I have been asked.

It is really, really different than International adoption!

The process begins the same, with a homestudy.  Part of the homestudy is discerning characteristics you feel capable/comfortable parenting.  That includes things like the number of children you could/would adopt, age span, race, gender, abilities/disabilities you could "handle", etc. . .

From then forward, it is very different than the type of International process we experienced with Joshua.  In Joshua's adoption, we were confident that we were called to adopt a 3ish year old boy.  We also felt very solid about an agency.  When we started his process, they did not have a child within those parameters waiting - so we were placed on the agency's waiting list.  We knew that when we finally received a referral it would include very little information.  We were prepared to move forward fairly blindly.

The paperwork we received when we accepted Joshua's referral was scant.  It included a photo, an extremely brief medical report, and a social report. The medical report basically told us his blood work was "clean."  It left our many things - like the fact that he was not walking at age 2.5.  (I am not criticizing our agency as I say this, just using it as an example of how limited the information you receive in International adoption can be.)  It also included a "social" report.  The social report only told us a bit about his birth family, where he was born and the names of his Ethiopian parents.  We moved forward with FAITH, HOPE, great JOY and ANTICIPATION based on this tiny bit of information.

In the foster-adopt process (which we are currently exploring) it is a much different story.  For one thing our parameters are different.  We are "comfortable" with children age 8 and younger.  (so younger than Brenna)  We would consider siblings.  Gender and race are of no importance.

Sadly, there are many, many, many children in the US foster system that fit those parameters.  So we are spending time on websites like adopt us kids looking deep into the eyes of the photos of children and then reading their short bio trying to discern if we could/should/would be able to parent them.  As I look, I pray that God would open the eyes of my heart, so that if there is a child He has chosen to join our family I will see him/her/them with His eyes (instead of mine).

When we find children we feel may fit into our family, we email our social worker.  She then emails or phones the caseworker in charge of the children and inquires whether or not our family's homestudy could be considered.

So far we have had a couple of responses to those inquiries.  The caseworker has either already found a family for the child, OR he/she forwards more information (a longer and more detailed bio) about the child making sure we would want to be considered once we have a better picture of what the child is like.  On occasion our family does not "qualify" for a particular child.  (Usually that is because the caseworker insists that the prospective child be the youngest in their adoptive home.)

Reading those reports has opened my eyes wider that I wish.  OOOOOOOOOhhhhhhhh my heart! The things children (even these young ones under age 8) have suffered in horrifying.  The behaviors that have resulted (and are overly documented) are completely understandable.  Yet discerning what we are capable of parenting is very, very difficult.

One thing I want to say in BOLD here is that I do not believe these children have been more or less abused/traumatized/neglected/etc than children in third world countries.  It is simply more documented in the US.  In International adoption parents get to live in "la-la land" waiting for their sweet son or daughter to join their family.  Once the child comes home, reality sets in, and you get to work helping your new child overcome past hurts.  In foster-adopt "la-la land" is nonexistent.

I also do not believe that American orphans are more or less needy than third world ones.  I do believe that pain is pain.  Some have argued that third world adoption is "better/more important" because the children could die of disease/starvation/etc if not adopted.  American orphans will absolutely be fed, but lonely is lonely, and unwanted is unwanted, no matter where you are born.  And while American orphans are being fed, they are not being launched successfully into society once they age out of the system.  Over 99% of the children who age out of the foster care system as orphans end up in prison.  They may be physically saved, but their souls certainly seem lost to me.

I have also be cautioned that American orphans are much more risky.  They are "bad to the bone." They are sure to bring only heartache to a home.  Research does not support this assertion. Some children (adoptive or biological) have long-term difficulties.  The place of their birth has nothing to do with their future success in a family.

(I will now step off my soapbox and move on.)

If/when we are comfortable with the longer bio, our homestudy is submitted.  The child's case worker reads it and if she feels our family would be a good fit for the child, we are then allowed access to the full file.  The full file is a full file!  It contains very specific  documentation about every aspect of the child's life.  I am so thankful that my life has not been as well documented as the lives of these kids.  I would be pretty ugly under the high power microscope too.

(One other difference is that no fees with foster adoption.  We did choose to hire a private social worker to write our homestudy, but we could have used a state worker free of charge.  In our case, we know our social worker will (and has) advocated for us and our future kids.  She is also so capable of helping/counseling us once the child comes home that we felt the money was well extremely well spent.)

We would be able to meet the children pre-placement.  Most likely there will not be multiple visits because the children we feel called to are fairly young, but in the case of older kids there would be multiple visits, maybe a weekend in the adoptive home, and the children would have some say in their future family.

It is not a fast process.  Most workers are overwhelmed by their caseloads.  Many delays happen in dealing with multiple states and various agencies.

For me, the biggest struggle comes in feeling frustrated  and overwhelmed in deciding "what" we could parent.  Every one of the children I have read about needs and deserves a family.  Saying, "we can not do that" is really, really hard for me.

Yet in all honesty, so is saying "maybe?"  I have had moments where I wonder if we really can do this.  Can we really move forward with our eyes SO WIDE OPEN?  Time will tell, I guess.

For now, we are seeking.  We are praying.  We are trusting.  We are waiting.

I would be honored if you would join us in prayer.