Hot Salsa and Hair Ties

The strangest thing happened this weekend.

I took Emma and Caleb to visit grandparents. Grandpa has been sick, so before we left they made him a card. They got out some construction paper and carefully folded it in half. Caleb determined what he wanted it to say and Emma helped him spell the hard words. They used markers and tape and pictures. It was cheesy and cute.

When we arrived, Caleb ran right in like he owned the place. He proudly presented the card and then he and Emma played with the puppy while I chatted with Grandpa about baseball and his garden. Then Grandma got home from the grocery store and we all met her outside and helped her carry in her bags. We visited in the kitchen and she told me about her pretty new wall hanging.

It didn’t take long for Caleb to start showing off. He does a pretty cool trick where he walks on his hands. Impressive, yes; but not for inside. So, we moved the group out to the front yard. Caleb showed off until his audience got bored and then the kids played volleyball with cousins.

It is August and although it wasn’t as hot as it has been, it only took a few minutes of running around for Emma to get hot. She came over to me, fanning her face and asking for a hair tie to put her hair up. I checked my pockets and had nothing for her. Aunt B offered one off her wrist and I helped Em wrangle her hair into a sweaty pony tail.

Caleb quickly tired of their structured play (he is much more of a free play kinda guy) and wound up on the porch swing with Grandma. We all sat out there for quite a while, talking about school and teachers and the Olympics and family and church and life.

When it was time to go, Grandpa sent us with 2 jars of his fresh, homemade salsa.

Seems completely normal, right? That is what makes this scenario strange and wonderful.

The strange part is how very normal it was. The strange part is how I came to be a part of this family. I wasn’t born into it. I didn’t marry into it. I was (kind of) adopted into it. This is Caleb’s birth family and they have embraced all of us in a pretty incredible way. They have been kind and patient and understanding.

We adopted one of theirs and they adopted all of us.

Strange. Unique. And really, really beautiful.

God’s will?

I’ve spent a whole lot of time all twisted up about God’s will for me. I’ve spent many hours thinking about it, talking about it, praying about it. Honestly, I’ve been obsessed at times. And I’ve been frustrated beyond belief.

This journey of foster care/adoption has brought me TO MY KNEES on more than one occasion. My prayer usually ends up being that God would show me His will with a big neon sign (subtlety isn’t my strong suit). I’ve thought that if there was something God wanted from me He would make it obvious. And He has done that. And that didn’t work out.

We were at a crossroads once and I didn’t know which way to go.  I knew there was a correct answer, but I couldn’t figure it out. I knew there was a sure bet, but I didn’t know what it was. I thought and talked and prayed about it. So much (too much??).  Then He revealed his will. I saw The Plan and it was perfect and obvious and beautiful. We moved forward and felt so much peace. And then it fell apart.

Frustration is an understatement. I was crushed. Confused. I felt abandoned. I had been so sure that we were following The Plan and yet, we weren’t. What I thought was the sure bet, the correct path, the right answer?? Well, it ended up being a big, fat nothing and we were back to square one. There was still a decision to be made and I felt less equipped than ever to make it. I fasted and prayed and listened. NOTHING.

Have you ever been there? Maybe you’re sitting there right now. At a crossroads, pondering a decision, ready for a change but with absolutely no idea what God wants you to do. Questioning a job change? A move? An adoption? Have you prayed about it? Still, nothing?!!? Let me share with you something that someone told me when I was in that scared/frustrated/crushed/confused place. Could you consider that maybe, just maybe, IT DOESN’T MATTER. Don’t misread that. I’m not saying that YOU don’t matter or that the decision you’re making isn’t huge and important. But do you think there’s a chance that no matter what decision you make GOD WILL BE THERE? That maybe there’s no correct answer, no sure bet? That God is waiting patiently to hold your hand no matter what? I think so.

This has changed me. As a recovering legalist, things have always been right or wrong in my eyes. It blew my mind to think that maybe there’s not a right or a wrong answer in every single situation. Sometimes there’s just a decision to be made and you make it the best you can and God is there on the other side of that decision to help you through it. He’s not waiting behind door number 1 or door number 2. He’s behind all the doors. He’s a big God.

God’s will for my life? To love Him and love others. If I’m faced with a quandry, and regardless of my decision I will be able to love God and love others, then I just do the best I can. God can use me no matter which way I end up going, as long as I’m still loving Him and loving others.

So let yourself off the hook a little. Absolutely keep praying. Don’t stop. But don’t get stuck. You’re smart and capable. Use what God has given you and make the very best decision you can make and trust that God will help you navigate it. Making difficult decisions is liberating and refreshing. It will build your confidence and your faith. And I suspect that you’ll look around in a few years and realize that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.


1-2-3 GO!!

We bought a camper. It’s been terribly fun to load up on the weekends, drive to the lake and unplug (literally, there’s ZERO wi-fi or cell service where we go). We take the hammocks, a deck of cards, some board games, a set of horseshoes and just veg out. When we get antsy we head to the water and swim. The kids splash and race and giggle and laugh (and fight….let’s not over-glamorize it, there’s always some fighting).

This past weekend we camped with my family. As we were sitting on the sand watching the kids play in the water, my mom commented on what a great swimmer Caleb is….and that he was once NOT a fan of the water at all. It reminded me of this journal entry from three years ago. A great reminder that sometimes really great things require taking that initial scary leap. Don’t be afraid, just count to three and DO IT!!


Ahhhh…..vacation: no alarm clock, no work, no school, no daycare, no schedule, no house to clean, no deadlines: BLISS! Travel: 30+ hours over 7 days in a small car with 2 adults and 3 (yes, 3) kids: TERRIFYING! In our case the benefit outweighed the risk and we went for it. It turned out to be just what we needed. We spent most of our time hanging out in beautiful Colorado mountain country. It was quiet and peaceful and serene. Before we began our journey to CO, we spent a couple of days in St. Louis with some really great friends and their families. Lots of laughs and fun and great fellowship. The hotel that we stay in had a really cool pool. It was an indoor/outdoor pool. The two areas were separated by a “swim under” wall. The kids ventured out one by one and came back reporting how awesome it was. Back and forth. Inside, under the wall, now outside. Outside, under the wall, and back inside. The novelty not wearing off quickly for the kids. Except Caleb. He was afraid. He’s never been a fan of having water in his face, much less completely immersing himself in it but that was exactly what he would have to do to get to the outdoor pool. He wanted to do it so badly but he just couldn’t make himself. He would get ready and get right up next to the wall and then panic at the last second. Knowing how badly he wanted to do it, I formulated a plan to help. Holding him in my arms I used a technique that we learned with our daughter when we took her to swim lessons as an infant: 1-2-3 swim. Simply put, you count to three and then quickly bob their head under water and then pop them back up. I explained to him how to hold his breath on 3 and then *splash* under he went and back up he came marveling at the fact that he was just fine. Again and again we practiced until he was finally ready to try the real deal and go under the wall. He was scared but brave and so incredibly proud of himself when he got to the other side. HE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was scary but he did it. He trusted me when I told him that he would be ok and he did it. Somewhere deep down inside of him he know that he would be alright and he did it! It perfectly parallels this journey that we are on with foster care: it is scary but we are doing it. We are trusting Him that it will be ok and we are doing it. We know somewhere deep down it’s all going to be alright and we are doing it. 1-2-3-GO!


Hitting rocks and throwing stones

We live right across the street from my parents. It has potential to be disastrous but it’s worked out beautifully for us. We help each other out when we can and give each other space to do their own thing. My kids have the benefit of having their grandparents close and they (kids AND grandparents) love it. My folks don’t meddle and they don’t get in my business. With one exception. 

I love to mow. It’s instant gratification. You take a grubby, overgrown lawn and in no time you have a fresh carpet of green. I put on my head phones and jam. And I hit rocks. My husband and I have an unspoken agreement: I mow the lawn and he doesn’t give me grief about hitting rocks and dulling the blades. My dad doesn’t know about this agreement. Or he chooses to ignore it. 

I imagine that when my dad hears our mower fire up he grabs his notebook labeled “number of times Abbie has hit a rock” and goes to town filling up his tally sheet. If that’s not enough, he gives a report when I’m done. Within a day or two he will remark something along the lines of, “I heard you out mowing. You think you’re about to get those rocks chewed up yet?” Or, “I thought you were supposed to pick rocks, not hit them.” It’s innocent and he thinks he’s being funny but honestly, it kind of pisses me off. But you know what? When I know he’s home, listening to me mow, I’m more deliberate about NOT hitting rocks. 

No one wants to hear when they’re screwing up. It’s not fun to hear what you’re not doing right. But. There’s something about being held accountable. It’s not my favorite thing but it’s good for me. 

To be held accountable you must first admit that you’re not perfect. Ah, humility. And vulnerability. Ugly words sometimes, aren’t they? Well, I am not perfect. Far from it. Here’s one of my (many) shortcomings: I have a nasty habit of noticing people’s faults. Embarrassing to admit, but it’s honest. I give way more slack to the world but tend to hold my brothers and sisters in Christ to a much higher standard. And when I don’t think they’re doing what they ought to be, I get a little judgey. 

I need to be held accountable for it. Don’t allow me to engage you in conversation about what others are or are not doing that doesn’t meet my expectations. My expectations are skewed and don’t really matter. Only God’s opinion matters. 

I don’t need you to slay me or lecture me or counsel me. Just a gentle reminder, please. A simple, “watch the rocks, girl” will do just fine. 

I don’t want to be known for hitting rocks or throwing stones. Call me out when I do either, ok? Yes dad, I’m giving you permission too (not that you asked or require it). Just because it pisses me off doesn’t mean I don’t need to hear it. 

Birthday blues

Have you ever had a zit in your nose? Not on your nose or beside your nose, but INSIDE your nose? If not, you’re lucky. If so, you know they suck. I have one right now. The self conscious side of me is happy that at least the blemish is where no one can see it. The practical side of me is miserable. It’s allergy season so I’m a sneezing, nose wiping mess. Every time I sniffle I’m reminded of that pesky little pimple. Ew. Ow. TMI? Sorry.

Have you ever had a sad day? You don’t really see it coming and you can’t exactly explain it but you also can’t deny it? I’m having one of those. It’s not the soul crushing devastation that I’m unable to cover up. It’s more of a subtle nagging in my heart. A little “sad tug”. I can put on a happy face and count my blessings (I will. I. AM. BLESSED) but deep down, I am sad today.

Today my boy turns 8. When we met him, he was 4. This will be the year that he will have spent more than half his life with our family. It’s not like he will be any more “ours” when the scales tip, but I’ve been waiting for this. Now that it’s here, I’m unexpectedly sad.

When we celebrated his 5th birthday we had known him less than a year. On birthday number 6 the “plan” was so up in the air we didn’t know what was going on. By birthday number 7 he was an offical part of our family. And now we have reached the birthday that will mark half his life in our home. It’s a day to celebrate! We will eat cake and give presents and sing and smile and have fun, but inside I will be kind of a little sad too.

Today I’m reminded of the beautiful tragedy that is adoption. Adoption is redemption and love and grace. It is also grief and loss. I don’t know how you get one with out the other. It’s a package deal. Today I am sad because of all I missed those first four years. The more I get to know this incredible kid, the more I am grieved by what I don’t know. I wasn’t there for the first steps and the first words and the first birthdays. And that makes me sad.

I get the feeling he might be a little sad too. Grieving his own stuff. So tonight, after the wrapping paper has been picked up and the candles have been blown out and the wishes have been made, we might talk a little about our sad. Just because it isn’t visible to the world doesn’t mean it isn’t there. You know, like a zit in your nose.

Celebrating Laundry

  I’ve lost my touch in the kitchen. To be fair, I’ve never been a great cook. In the last couple of years, the few skills I had have gone completely down the drain. Due to our work schedules, my husband beats me home most nights. Because he’s a great guy, he has taken over dinner duty. Because he’s taken over dinner duty, I’m out of practice. It’s really not a bad gig and I’m certainly not complaining, but on those occasions that I NEED to cook, I struggle. My current repertoire includes spaghetti, taco salad, quesadillas. That’s pretty much it, except for the really desperate nights when I’ve called ramen noodles and grilled cheese “dinner”. 

I am not a great homework mom.  At the end of the day they’re tired, I’m tired and the last thing I want to do is figure out how to do common core math. Did you know you can You Tube “how to do long division”? Siri is also a valuable tool. She can tell your son why vegetables are important when he has to write 4 reasons and the only one you can come up with is, “I think they have fiber.” I pay my daughter to read with her brother so we don’t have to lie on the nightly reading log. 

I do not have a green thumb. Not for lack of effort. I would love to have a big, beautiful garden. I think it’d be really neat to grow our own veggies. I’ve tilled and fertilized and fenced and weeded and hoed. I grow terrific weeds. And the rabbits really enjoy my green beans. I can keep annual potted plants alive until mid-July most years, then they’re goners. 

So, I’m a terrible cook, a rotten teacher and have a black thumb…but you guys, my laundry game is on point. I’ve had a system in place for a couple of years and it’s still working. It’s not perfect (I don’t believe in things like “sorting” or “ironing”) but it works great for our crew. It goes like this: every night (every. single. night) I gather up all the clothes from all the hampers. They all get tossed in the washer together. Brights, whites, denim, towels, all of it, I do not discriminate. I start the load at bedtime and in the morning it goes into the dryer. After the kids are in bed at night I fluff and fold and start that day’s clothes in the washer, starting the magical cycle all over again. Each kid has a basket for their clean clothes and they’re responsible for putting them away. Guys, it’s beautiful.  I mean, look at this magnificent rainbow tower of baskets filled with neatly folded clothes….


I could beat myself up over my lack of skills, or I can celebrate my successes. Today I choose to celebrate. Laundry. I will celebrate laundry because I’m nailing it. 

What about you? What are you really owning right now? Are you a master diaper changer? Are you a boss at bath time? Are you a gifted organizer? Go ahead and pat yourself on the back for what you’re great at. It’s better than kicking yourself in the pants for what you’re screwing up.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go match some socks. 

Considering foster parenting?

We are coming up on our four year anniversary of being licensed foster parents. It feels like just yesterday (and an eternity ago) that we signed the last document, had our final home visit and became OFFICIAL!! It only took a few weeks for us to get “the call”, our first kiddo!! We have figured a few things out during the last four years. For what it’s worth, here are some things I’ve learned.

YOUR FAMILY IS GOING TO GROW. Duh, right? You’re inviting kids to live with you, obviously your family is going to get bigger. But your family is going to grow by more than just a kid or two. Spoiler alert: those kids bring with them parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. More than likely you’ll build relationships with those family members along the way. I really hadn’t prepared myself for this new extended family. Honestly, it’s pretty great. A sort of a hidden bonus. Sorry to spoil the surprise.

NEVER SAY NEVER. Because God has a fantastic sense of humor. We were NEVER going to adopt…you know, until the time came that our son was going to live with another family and we declared, “over our dead bodies.” We weren’t going to take a baby because we were NEVER going to do diapers again….then we got a darling 4 year old who wasn’t potty trained. Yes, it is important to establish boundaries and recognize your strengths and your limits but don’t be so committed to your plans that you’re unable to bend a little. Some of our biggest blessings have come from our “nevers”.

OH, THE FEELS. Sure, you’ll experience the expected range of emotions: happy, sad, excited, nervous. Then there’s this whole other subset of feelings that I didn’t even know about. Like when you’ve exercised and wake up the next morning and have sore muscles that you didn’t even know existed. There are these weird combo emotions that I don’t have names for. The celebration of a child being reunited with their family as my heart is absolutely crushed by their departure….what is that even called? How am I able to praise God for the resiliency of a child while being so angry at Him that the same child has lived a life that required such resiliency? Foster parenting brings with it some of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Learn to celebrate the good times and understand that the bad times are only temporary.

READ THE BOOKS BUT TRUST YOUR GUT. If you look, you’ll find a plethora of books. And blogs. And support groups. And opinions. Read them, join them, listen to them…but don’t live by them. You’re smart. You’re equipped to do hard things, do not underestimate youself. If you’re going to lean on something, make sure it’s God. Everything else is just someone’s best guess. It’s awfully easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re not doing it right. Remember that somebody else’s “right” might be all wrong for your family. You know your people best.

REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE DOING IT. Because you’re going to question yourself. Some day when you’re picking nits or cleaning  poop or testifying in court or answering a hotline call (because foster parents get hotlined sometimes) you will say to yourself, “WHAT was I thinking?” When you get a call from the daycare that your kid is sick and you have to sacrifice precious vacation time to take them to the doctor, you’ll wonder why you signed up for this. When we started our journey I wrote an entry in my journal about why I felt compelled to foster. I’ve gone back and re-read it on more occasions that I can count. I’ve needed reminding many, many times.

YOU ARE GOING TO MEET THE TOUGHEST, BRAVEST, MOST AMAZING KIDS. You will wonder why everyone in the world doesn’t foster. Yes, it’s hard. But it is also  incredible. To be able to watch a scared, sad, timid child morph into a confident, happy, silly kid is beautiful. And to know that you got to play a tiny role in that transformation is just one of the best feelings in the world.