Grace and Whimsy

a life of laughter, tears, and irrepressible love

For Mother’s Day

Being a mother is tricky business. Many days I feel as though I’m just trying to keep my head above water. Wading through the myriad of parenting advice and other people’s opinions and judgment sometimes leaves me feeling drained and completely inadequate to care for the little ones God has given me. And then I remember my own mother.

My mom and I have not always had the smoothest relationship. It has definitely had its mountains and valleys… any other strong-willed children out there?! But there is one thing I know with absolute certainty – I am a follower of Jesus because of my mom.

From the time I was a young girl, she talked to me about God’s love and goodness. She showed me His love and goodness in how she treated others. My mom is one of the most generous people I have ever met. Although we didn’t have a lot, she would give what little we had to help those in need…truly exemplifying the nature of Jesus and showing me what it looks like to follow Him. She has spent much of her life caring for the people that many overlook. When I was a child, she used to take me along as she visited people in the hospital or nursing home. We would visit shut-ins and poor people in our community. I have to admit that I was often uncomfortable and didn’t want to go, but I’m glad that I did. Those experiences have helped mold me into the person that I am…and, even more so, have given me a picture of the kind of person that I want to be.

Her life has held more pain and sorrow that I could ever imagine bearing, but she found her strength in the redemptive love of Jesus. And I doubt her motherhood journey is anything like she thought it would be, but God has definitely blessed the broken road.

Mom, through all of the brokenness and disappointment I still stand certain that I am a follower of Jesus because of you. I can’t think of anything more valuable than what you have given me – first life, and then the knowledge of a God who loves me and wants to have a relationship with me.

Now as a mother, I think about my own children. What example am I setting for them? Will they see, in me, the love and compassion that I so desperately want them to know? Will my influence point them to Christ? I hope and pray that it will. May I daily be reminded that motherhood is more than making sure my kids have clean clothes, food to eat, and that they make it to school on time – my highest calling as a mother is to point my children to Jesus. Thank you Mom, for showing me how to love and follow Him.

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Safe

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I love Facebook’s “On This Day” feature! Every day I get a notification about things I posted on the date in years past. I was introduced to Facebook my freshman year of college – now 11 years ago! 7 years ago I posted about bubble wrap. 5 years ago I posted a note about the break-in that had happened at our home a few days earlier. My husband and I, recently married, had just moved to Fort Wayne and were renting a home in a nice neighborhood. While we were away for the afternoon, someone broke open our door, ransacked our home, and stole our things. Below is the the note I posted about it…thanks for the reminder, Facebook!

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    Today is the first time I’ve been home alone since the break-in. And however silly it may seem I’m scared! As Nate and I begin the process of filling out insurance forms to cover the items that were stolen I thought how nice it would be if I could buy back peace of mind. 

     The break-in happened in the middle of the day, which is usually when I’m home alone at the house. On Friday, when it happened, Nate worked until about 2 o’clock, then taking the rest of the day off he picked me up and we went out to lunch.  We were gone for just about three hours. When we got back the front door was busted open and the house was ransacked. When I think about it all sorts of “what ifs” start running through my mind… what if Nate had stayed longer at work I and I was home when they broke in? what if we came home earlier and walked in on a burglary in progress? what if they come back!?

    All of these thoughts keep distrurbing my once peaceful mind…but I’m not gonna let that happen! There’s a passage in my all-time favorite book, The Hiding Place, that gives me courage. If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s about a woman named Corrie TenBoom and her experiences during World War II. In one passage Corrie wakes up in the middle of the night to flashes of light and the sound of exploding bombs. The city where she lives in Holland is being attacked by the Germans. She hears her sister in the kitchen making tea and she joins her for comfort. When she returns to her room its dark so she feels her way to her bed. As her hand slides across the blanket it catches on something sharp. A shrapnel shard lay on the pillow where her head was just minutes before.

    As all of the “what ifs” start in her head, her sister speaks this word of truth to her – “There are no “ifs” in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety – let us pray that we may always know it.”

So here is my prayer:

Lord, help me never to forget that the center of Your will is my only safety. When I get scared remind me of Your truth. Calm my mind and give a peace that passes understanding. And Lord, I don’t know who broke into our house…but You do. I pray that they would come to know You and the grace and forgiveness that You offer those who call upon Your name. Let them know their worth and the great life that can only be found in You.  Thank you for your constant protection. Amen.

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The Things We Never Had

It’s a strange thing to grieve the loss of something you never had.

Today I opened up an email from my child’s teacher. It was a pretty typical recap of what the class has been learning as well as some upcoming events and projects. At the end of the email, the teacher asked parents to send in a baby picture. A simple request…but we don’t have any baby pictures.

There’s a question that, I imagine, runs through everyone’s minds when they find out that we built our family through adoption – “Can you not have your own?” Surprisingly, though, no one ever asks me that question. People seem to understand the sensitive nature of the subject…so they ask my husband instead. In case you ever wondered, adoption was our first choice. And even though I did not give birth to them, our children are still completely and blessedly “our own”. God laid adoption on our hearts, and it has always been our desire. But that doesn’t mean we don’t grieve for the things we never had.

I wasn’t there on the days my children were born. I never heard their heartbeats on an ultrasound machine or felt them kick and squirm inside of me. My face wasn’t the face they saw in their first minutes of life, and I didn’t get to hold them in my arms or count their little fingers and toes. I didn’t get to hear their first words or witness their first steps. I didn’t walk my son to school on his first day or laugh as my daughter smeared cake in her face on her first birthday. I don’t know what it’s like to look into my child’s eyes and see a little bit of myself or my husband smiling back at me. So we grieve the things we never had… and that’s okay.

And while we missed much, love has filled in the gaps. Every day we build new memories together – memories and experiences that bind not only our lives but our hearts as well. Adoption is beautiful…and painful and heartbreaking and miraculous. This is my perfect family, and I’m so glad that God chose me to be their mother.

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White Picket Fences

When I was a child I had a vision of what I wanted my life to be. Like many people my dream was of a comfortable life complete with a beautiful family and home…with a white picket fence. I don’t know why, but white picket fences always seemed like a symbol of an idyllic life.

In the turbulent times of my life I craved stability and normalcy. During times of emotional upheaval I would comfort myself by imagining the many details of this future life. This dream of mine was very ordered…right down to the contents of my linen closet- 4 fluffy pillows, 6 white pillowcases, 12 bath towels, etc. I would focus on these seemingly mundane details to provide a strange mindless comfort.

Now, as an adult, my life really is much like the dream life I imagined…except for the picket fence and tidy linen closet parts. I have a beautiful home and a beautiful family. But it did not come about it in a comfortable or expected way. It came through brokenness.

I recently came across an article about foster care. It resonated deeply with my own feelings and personal experiences.

In it the author wrote these powerfully true words:

“People tell me all the time, ‘I don’t know how you do it! I could never become a foster parent. It would be too hard to say good-bye to the kids once I’ve gotten attached.’ And I get it, I do. I used to say the exact same thing. But now, I wonder what in the world I was thinking. Was I serious? It would be too hard for… me? Make no mistake. It is hard…And yet these kids are forced to do hard things every single day, through no fault or choice of their own… 

The next phone call will come. And my husband and I will say yes. Not because we are some amazing poster family for foster care. We will say yes because these kids are forced to do hard things. The least we can do is look into their broken eyes and say, ‘Yes. I will do hard things with you. I will hold your hand and kiss your head and calm your tantrums. By God’s grace, we will figure this out together.’”

I never wanted to be a foster parent. I didn’t have particularly positive feelings about it and it definitely didn’t fit into my plan for making a comfortable life. But I knew that as followers of Christ we are not called to comfortable, easy lives. We are called to bring compassion, healing, and restoration to a world in desperate need of His love. We are called to place the needs of others above our own comforts and desires.

I want to live my life “all-in” for Jesus. I want to answer “Yes” to whatever He calls me to do, knowing that this willing response could lead me to difficult and heartbreaking places. It could, and has, meant sacrifice and pain. Yes, I will do hard things. Yes, because Christ has loved me with an overwhelming love. Yes, because He loves the least, the last, and the lost. My answer will be yes.

May we, as followers of Christ, be people who step outside of our comfort zones and carefully laid plans to extend His life-changing grace to others…even when it’s painful and costly. May we focus less on building our own kingdoms and picket fences and more on building His Kingdom.

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Is Jesus Coming to this Town?

Yesterday we observed Palm Sunday…an important day for followers of Jesus, as it is the start of Passion Week. In the busyness of life I often neglect to take the time to reflect upon the importance of this season. And now with kids it is even more difficult! Just yesterday I fell into a mental panic when I realized that Easter is just a week away and I have given absolutely zero thought to Easter outfits, dying Easter eggs, egg hunts, baskets filled with candy, family gatherings, and the like! But much more importantly, I have failed to pause in my busyness to remember the impact Christ’s sacrifice made those thousands of years ago, and how God’s redeeming plan is playing out in my life and in the lives of those I love in this very moment.

I recently came across this article that I wrote a couple of years ago for a foster care parent newsletter. After a Bible lesson talking about the triumphal entry my son, then 6, asked the question, “Is Jesus coming to this town?”. Below is my response to his question. As a family, we’ve experienced so many changes since I wrote this article – we finalized the adoption of our children and have witnessed healing in so many ways. When I think about where we were then and where we are now, I am completely overwhelmed by the evidence of God’s grace in our lives.

May we be ever-mindful this Easter season of Christ’s ability to restore, redeem, and make beauty from the ashes of our broken lives.

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“My husband, Nate, and I have been foster parents to our little family for seven months. This time has been filled with ups, downs and countless lessons. 

One of the biggest lessons we have learned is that parenting is hard work! Before we got out placement of our three little one, we had no children. Oh the tranquility! Since that first day, our lives have been turned upside down. Our already busy schedules have become whirlwind of activities, visits with biological parents, doctor’s appointments, counseling, meeting with case workers, and so on. In the crazy day-to-day it is too easy to lose sight of the big picture. Why are we doing this? Why did we give up our once (relatively) peaceful lives for this chaos? 

The answer often comes in little God-sent reminders. Recently, our 6-year-old son heart the Bible story about the Triumphal Entry – Jesus entering into Jerusalem on a donkey. In his naive, childish way he asked us, “is Jesus coming to this town?” – a seemingly simple question. But as I formulated an answer in my mind, I felt the significance of the response. I told him, “Yes, Jesus is coming to this town. Jesus is coming and He is going to make all of the things that are wrong in this world right. He is going to fix all  that is broken and, if we believe in Him, we will be a part of it.” 

What an important truth for those children whose lives have been torn apart by violence, abuse and neglect! How important these times are for those of us to feel called to stand in the gap and a part of God’s redeeming work here and now.”

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My New Year’s Resolution

Early this morning, in the first hours of the new year, I leaned over to my husband and shared my New Year’s resolution – “Let’s suck less this year”. 

Suck less. Pretty simple. 

2013 was a difficult year with a lot of stress and challenges. At many times I became the worst version of myself. Maybe you can relate – impatient, irritable, easily discouraged ,and just down right cranky! Other days I’m the ideal version of myself. In those rare moments I’m a delightful hybrid akin to Mary Poppins and Fraulein Maria (from the Sound of Music!) with a dash of Martha Stewart (not the inside trading part). I twirl around my tidy home gently instructing the little terrors in my care (as they are sometimes the worst versions of themselves too) while fulfilling all of my other responsibilities with excellence. 

Sadly, those moments are few and far between. Most days I fail. Like if I was being graded on a scale of A to F I would be an F…or possibly an F+. 

So this year I want to suck less. And I’m going to do it by being more aware of God’s grace in my life.  I will always mess it up and come up short. I’ll never have it all together. But I don’t need to. If I believe that God’s Word is true (and I do!) I know that Christ in me makes up for any of my shortcomings. He is strength when I’m running on empty and have nothing to offer. He is peace when I’m anxious and afraid of what the future holds. He is love when my heart is angry and cold. 

It’s crazy but God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness! And I’ve got a whole lot of weakness, so bring it on 2014!

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Life After Student Loans

I remember the day…the day I made a deal with the Devil…ok, not really, but please humor me.

The room was filled with rows of bright-eyed college freshmen, completely unaware of the evil about to befall them. We should have seen it coming…I mean it was written right there in black and white. But we didn’t.

And the presenter prattled on about compound interest and amortization while visions of diplomas danced in our heads. Then that fateful moment…a signature on the line. And it was done.

4 years later I walked across the stage of a larger room and received a piece of paper that represented all of my hard work and sacrifice. It was the biggest accomplishment of my life! I had worked hard, sometimes holding as many as 3 jobs to help cover the cost, and graduated with honors. I was overflowing with hope for the future.

Then a few months later I received a different piece of paper and reality set it. You have to pay back student loans?! Of course, I knew that, but knowing it in theory is very different from knowing it in reality. And so my hope was overshadowed and the drudgery began.

“Congratulations and have a nice day”. That’s what a lender said to me several weeks ago when I made my final student loan payment. “Congratulations”, really, that’s it?! I mean, a high school style marching band should have broken out into song and fireworks should have been rocketed into the sky!

Disappointingly though, that didn’t happen – the world went on as usual, completely oblivious to the miracle that had just happened- and I was left to do a celebratory dance around my living all by myself.

Nearly 4 years of tears and frustration, and wanting to gouge my eyes out every time I looked at my bank account and I can finally say that I’m free! Thirty-five thousand dollars (plus interest, of course) paid in full!

 

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Stuff Rich People Do

When I was a child my family didn’t have much money. We had enough to meet our basic needs, but not much more. With eyes full of wonder I would peer into other people’s lives and marvel at the way the “other half” lived. I look back now and laugh at the things I saw as clear markers of wealth.  

 Here’s a few:

  • Rich people drive cars that don’t have rust… and their vehicles don’t set off car alarms when driven down residential streets – my father owned a hideous Jeep Wrangler that you could hear coming from a block away…for real. I don’t even want to think about all of the little old ladies in our neighborhood who probably had heart attacks each time that jeep back-fired. 
  • Rich people have white carpet – apparently only rich people can afford to remodel their homes, and only rich people would be so daring as  to lay such stain attracting stuff as white carpet. My siblings and I played outside all day long, and brought a lot of what belongs outdoors, in, so white carpet wouldn’t have lasted a day in our home!
  • Rich people buy popcorn and soda pop at the movie theater – This one’s legit. I could buy enough popcorn to fill a swimming pool with the amount of money they charge! 
  • Rich people head south for vacation. Driving down to South Carolina or Florida for vacation? Rich. Flying down? You must be a millionaire! And if while in Florida you visited Disney World, move over Bill Gates! Non-rich people went tent-camping in Michigan. 

 Are there any silly notions you had about “rich” people as a child?

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Six Months – Our Foster Care Journey

Six months ago today my husband and I started on a journey that has changed our lives – we accepted our first foster care placement. We had been licensed for three months and were anxiously excited to welcome a child into our home…we had no idea what was in store for us!

At 2:45 on October 10th, I received a phone call from our placement agency, informing me of a group of children in need of a home…that’s right…not just one child, but three (ages 18 months, 3 and 6)! We had received several similar phone calls in the 3 months that we had been licensed, but didn’t feel as though any of them were the right fit. This call was different – I had an immediate assurance in my spirit that this was the one. I called my husband at work and we prayed together, asking our Heavenly Father to guide our decision. The decision had to be made very quickly – we literally had 10 minutes to decide. When the decision was made we were told that the kids were waiting at the Department office and needed to be picked up as soon as possible.

Within the hour we arrived. We walked into the room and were immediately greeted by a case worker who introduced us to the children, gave us a very brief overview of their history and handed us their belongings – a diaper bag, book bag, and one small suitcase containing their few articles of clothing.

The older two, JJ and Char, seemingly unfazed by their circumstances, were energetic and talkative. The baby, now in my arms, silently clung to me as we headed home.

The months preceding this were full of planning and preparations but we were not prepared! We had not planned on having an infant in the home – not to mention a 6 year old boy. I didn’t own a sippy cup, action figure, toy car, or a crib (among many other things that I was to discover that babies and boys need). I didn’t even know how to properly change a diaper, for goodness sake! But that first day, and many days after, we were blessed by friends who came to our rescue, providing meals, clothes, toys and other things we wouldn’t even have thought of!

Those first days were full of tears – some from the little ones, but mostly from me. It was quite a shock going from zero children to three in the matter of minutes. I think those first weeks I was mourning the loss of my own life. I loved my life! I could pretty much do what I wanted, when I wanted. Quite abruptly that freedom was gone, and my life was now dictated by toddler schedules, court dates, therapy appointments, visits with biological parents, visits from case workers, and all the other different things that now occupy my days.

Six months ago today I made a decision that has changed my life completely. But my life is not the only one changed. I’m reminded daily why choosing this out-of-my-comfort-zone life is worth it. It’s worth it when I sing a lullaby to Shay and watch her sleep in peace and safety. It’s worth it when I kiss the boo boos and wipe away the tears. It’s worth it when I can pray for healing over the brokenness in their young lives or speak to them about the truth of God’s redeeming love.

Six months. Six months of trying to figure it out. Six months of failing. Six months of God’s grace covering my weaknesses. Yes, it’s definitely worth it.

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I’m the Alpha Male!

In my home, we have two non-human family members – more conventionally known as pets. Firstly, we have Linc who was my husband’s dog before we got married.  He is a mastiff boxer mix that my husband adopted from a local animal shelter. I’m not usually a dog person, but Linc quickly won me over with his sweet puppy dog eyes and cuddly personality.  He is the best dog I have ever known!

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We also have a cat, Lily, or as I like to call her the Lily Cat or occasionally Lily Billy Goat. Lily was a gift from my husband when we were dating. She is a rather odd (but cute) looking creature. She has short little legs and a small round face with big eyes. She has a very chill disposition, and spends most of her time snoozing on the couch or sunning herself in our bay window. Even people who don’t usually like cats love the Lily Cat.

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It is also important to note that Linc and Lily love each other. In the early mornings, while they are still rather sleepy they snuggle together on the floor…sadly, as I’m not often up at the crack of dawn, I usually miss this. They also play. This usually takes the form of a boxing match in which Linc nudges Lily with his mouth and she stands up on her hind feet and smacks him repeatedly in the face with her front paws…it’s pretty awesome to watch!

We are a very happy family. However, there have been some difficulties. Namely that Linc behaves very differently for me than he does for my husband. When he wants attention he’ll whine and whimper very annoyingly at me. Sometimes he even barks or paws at me…rude! When we go outside and I give him a command, he  often just ignores me…or sometimes even does the opposite! This is no-no behavior in our home!

I started doing some research into doggie behavioral psychology, and found that as part of pack mentality, dogs will often exhibit alpha male behaviors over their owners. Through a long process of training and discipline my husband has established his authority and dominance as the alpha male and Linc obeys him as such. However, Linc apparently thinks he’s the boss of me! This being unacceptable, I sat him down for a little chat…it went something like this:

“Linc, we need to talk. You think that you’re the boss of me, BUT YOU’RE NOT! I’m in charge here…I’M THE ALPHA MALE AND YOU WILL LISTEN TO ME! ‘ I am stronger than the foundations of the Earth! All shall love me and despair’! Understand? Okay sweetie, now you can go play…BUT ONLY BECAUSE I TOLD YOU THAT YOU CAN!”

You may not be suprised to hear that my little heart-to-heart with Linc did not achieve the results I was hoping for. Maybe I can bribe him into good behavior…

All problems aside, I’m so incredibly thankful for my furry little friends. They bring fun to our home and joy to my heart!

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