Deep Waters, Transitions, and the God of Rescue

sI can’t explain all that these last six days have been for our family but suffice to say, “We’ve been at not only a beautiful place of abundant joy, but also a place of complete and utter dependence.”

When you receive a newborn on a Friday afternoon, nothing adequately prepares you for all the changes that come alongside that diaper bag and that car seat. Nothing. There is no wading in and getting your toes wet. There’s no slow saunter from the shallow end to the deep end. No. It’s just a cold, hard, fast jump from the high dive into the deep waters.

It’s been beautiful, friends, and it’s also been overwhelmingly NEW. And QUICK. And DEEP.

And with that NEW, and that QUICK, and that DEEP has come some serious re-orienting and re-adjusting to not only our home and our family life, but also to our schedules, our capacity, our goals, our expectations, our routines, our sleep patterns, our eating times…our EVERYTHING.

And though a majority of all the adjusting and changing has been smooth and sweet, it’s still been a transition; it’s still been a change. And I don’t know about you, but for me…transition requires trust. A whole lot of needy, dependent trust. And though I would like to say I have flawlessly trusted the Lord and relied on His all-sufficient power, I can’t say that. I just really can’t.

So as I was reading through some passages in Isaiah yesterday afternoon, I was struck by the situation of God’s people.

Quick summary: God’s people are in trouble, and they are looking for help. 

See, I told you it would be quick.

And here is what some of the people did when they found themselves in this place (paraphrased passages from 30:1-2, 16; 31:1). 

They carried out a plan, but not God’s.

They made an alliance, but not with the Spirit.

They went down to Egypt without asking for God’s direction.

They took refuge in the protection of Pharaoh.

They sought shelter in the shadow of Egypt.

They fled upon horses.

They went to Egypt for help.

They relied on their horses.

They trusted in their numerous chariots.

They trusted in their strong horsemen.

And here is what God said to what some of them did (paraphrased passages from 30:7,15; 31:1). 

Egypt’s help is worthless and empty.

In returning to me and resting in me, you will be saved.

In quietness and in trust, you will have strength.

Woe to those who don’t look to the Holy One.

Woe to those who don’t consult the Lord.

The Egyptians are man and not God.

Horses are flesh and not the Spirit.

Now, trust me, the judgment upon God’s people and their looming-dooming destruction is NOT anything like receiving a newborn on a Friday afternoon. I get that. I admit that. But here’s what rang similar in my heart and soul as I read these passages.

When I face change, I can either run to Him…or I can not. 

I can rest in His provision, or I can clamor and rely on that much-needed nap.

I can seek the shelter of an 8-hour night of sleep, or I can rest in His strength.

I can search for that schedule stability and battle for that secure routine, or I can safely dwell in His all-knowing omniscience.

I can trust in my ability to multi-task, or I can consult the Lord with my plans.

I can run for the approval of others, or I can turn my face heaven-ward.

I can reason in the recesses of my logical mind, or I can trust in the sovereignty of His almighty, perfect plans.

I can find security in the temporal, or I can find salvation in the eternal.

I can find rest in the finite, or I can find rescue in the infinite.

I ALWAYS, ALWAYS have two options. 

And though there is nothing wrong with naps, routines, logic, and supportive affirmation from others, I cannot depend on finding true peace, quiet security, and forever rescue in those things. I just can’t.

In fact, Isaiah 33:2 summarizes my current need in such a beautiful and concise way that I want to pen it all over my mirrors, and all over my walls, and all over my arms.

I’ll personalize it for me, and you can do the same.

“O Lord, be gracious to [me]; [I] wait for you. Be [my] arm every morning; [my] salvation in the time of [transition] and trouble.”

Friends, I don’t know what you’re facing right now, but here’s what I do know:

We have a Savior who can be trusted in ALL times, in all transitions, and in all troubles. 

Praise be to His name for He truly is our quiet peace, our secure dwelling, and our resting place!

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Every Child, Every Step

On May 15th, 2016, we made the decision, as a family of four, to walk through the door of opening our hearts and our homes to another soul. When we started the journey, we really had no clue where it would take us, how long it would take us, and to who it would take us (we still don’t know that).

We didn’t know the challenges it would involve; we didn’t know the frustrations that would come; and we certainly didn’t know that it would lead us to a door of more and more unknowns.

All we knew is we were opening the door of our hearts and walking through a possibility.

At t he time, we weren’t sure if the door would lead us down a path of a private adoption with a private agency, adoption with a big-name organization,  or fostering through our local, county agency.

One step in front of the other. One prayer after the other. One call after the other. One prompting after another. One conversation after the other. Walking, walking, walking; we have continued to put one foot in front of the other, leaning on our Savior and trusting Him for every step of the way.

Some steps have been clear and some have been not-so-clear. Some steps have been easy and some have been hard. Some have been fun and some have been scary. Some have been fast and some have been slow. Some have been in a straight line and some not-so-much.

Suffice to say, it’s been a journey filled with lots of steps…with only more to come. 

On May 15th, 2016 we walked through a door. And today, almost exactly a year later, we walk through another. On May 17th, 2017, we can officially say, “We have been dual-licensed to foster and/or adopt!”

We have no clue what is behind this new door, or where this path will or will not lead, but here’s a few things I know and choose to believe.

Every child is worth the paperwork.

Every child is worth the hours.

Every child is worth the sacrifice.

Every child is worth the money.

Every child is worth the appointments, the meetings, and the emails.

Every child is worth the changes.

Every child is worth the renovations.

Every child is worth the questions.

Every child is worth the awkward conversations.

Every child is worth the exhaustion.

Every child is worth the tears.

Every child is worth the fears.

Every child is worth the wait.

Every child is worth the walk.

Every child is worth every single one of those steps.

Because every child (biological, fostered, or adopted) is worthy of being loved, protected, and nurtured by hearts that are willingly open to be broken and changed along the way.

Every child, every step. 

To God be the glory, great things He has done… and great things we believe He will continue to do.

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Foster-to-Adopt: Filling an Empty Crib with Love

We haven’t even received our first placement and our kiddos are already struggling with the idea of sharing and caring with a new “sibling.”

We haven’t even received our first placement and our kiddos have already shed tears over this “brother or sister.”

We haven’t even received our first placement and yet, the change is already happening and the kiddos are having to make all kinds of “extra room” for this new soul.

Rewind to about a month ago when we first set up the crib…

There was a new crib (a real, bona fide crib) complete with a crib sheet and a blankie. And all of a sudden, things got real.

The kids were pumped–absolutely pumped!

There was all kinds of talk about the age of the child (baby or toddler), what the child would look like (fair skin, brown skin, black skin, or something in between), and if the child would be a “brother” or a “sister.” Honestly, I think they could really care less who or what, they are just super excited to have that crib filled with ANOTHER SOUL.

But then daddy broached the subject of the empty crib, the one with no stuffed animals and no lovies and all of a sudden…the fist-pumping seemed to dissipate and a few tears were shed.

The thrill had simmered.

Why?

Because daddy had suggested that there was a little boy and a little girl who had a plethora of pandas, polar bears, and penguins and scads of caterpillars, cats, and cuddly bears filling their comfy beds. They had stuffed lovies in every nook and cranny of their beds, many who haven’t been cuddled and loved for quite some time.

“Caden and Evie, have you seen this empty crib?”

Heads nodded.

“I was thinking that maybe you guys could look through your stuffed animals and maybe pick out several that you could share with the new baby.”

Heads sunk and the protests started.

“But I use all of mine,” our son insisted.

“NO. I not want to share,” our daughter proclaimed.

“I understand that, but how do you think this child would feel if they were removed from their home, taken away from all of their special things, and were placed in a home with an empty bed. How do you think they would feel?”

Immediately, tears pooled in our son’s eyes.

Hearing the conversation from a room removed, I entered the room and empathized with the difficulty in sharing and caring for a soul they’ve never met. I normalized their feelings and suggested the following:

“How about you guys think and pray about giving up some of your animals and when you feel like it, you can take them upstairs and place them in the crib? How does that sound?”

They both nodded their heads and we moved on…and so did the Spirit.

But later that night, when we went to tuck in our littlest, there was a white polar bear and a soft, brown puppy sitting in the middle of the crib.

And then a few days later, when I was putting away clothes, I noticed that our oldest had placed a rainbow-colored caterpillar.

We didn’t say anything; we simply smiled. The Spirit was moving; hearts were softening; and the crib was slowly being filled. 

And then, about a week later, I spied a blue lovie with a monkey head; it was placed by our daughter.

And today, when I went up to empty wastebaskets, I found our son’s stuffed, green frog squatting between the puppy and monkey.

Again, my heart smiled and my face beamed.

Exclaiming from upstairs,”Oh my goodness!!! Have you seen this crib?!?! Look at how much love has filled this crib!!!”

Immediately, little feet were storming the stairs and tumbling into the little, yellow room.

As I affirmed their kindness, thanked their generosity, and pointed out their softened hearts, two sets of eyes were beaming beside the crib. And then our daughter spoke.

“I give them my monkey because they gonna need it.” 

Immediately, my heart filled with another burst of love.

She was right; sooooo right. Whoever occupies that bed, is gonna need some love. ALLLLL. KINDS. OF. LOVE.

Now I realize that they didn’t give their favorites and their most-very special (aint’ nobody gettin’ “Baby Bear” and “Charlie”) but it doesn’t really matter.

Why?

 

Because giving anything at all was both a BIG DEAL and a LITTLE STEP.

And to us, LITTLE STEPS are part of the journey when choosing to live a life of BIG LOVE.

And when choosing to live a life of BIG LOVE, there are many, many, many moments when sharing and caring is a SACRIFICIAL CHOICE. 

And sometimes, those LOVING CHOICES look like shared puppies and gifted monkeys from kids who have shed a few tears along the way.

So as we wait and pray for this child (the one who will be surrounded by the comforts of a frog, a puppy, a caterpillar, a polar bear, and a monkey) we covet your prayers for softened hearts as we make all kinds of “extra room” in both our home and in our hearts.

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Fostering, Adopting, and Messy Messes

I am not the most persevering person; I know this about myself.

I am not the most patient person; I know this about myself.

I am not a person who likes messes; I know this about myself.

I am not the most persevering and patient person when things get messy and long; I know this about myself.

So this past weekend when my hubby started whacking out plaster to make room for a new door (for a new soul to move into our home), I got a little overwhelmed by the mess and the length of the mess.

Originally, we estimated that it would take about two hours to cut out the round-shape hole for a rectangle-shaped door. I knew there would be mess because that’s what happens when you get out tools and then hand them to men. I figured as much, and I was ready for that.

But when I heard a loud bang, and then a loud crash, and then heard, “Are you kidding me?! Jessica, you gotta see what’s under here,” I wanted to run for the hills. For the easy, clean, no-demolition hills.

Tentatively, I poked my head up the stairs to not only find a large piece of plaster smattering our hardwood floors, but I also saw a bunch of metal hanging from the top of the hole in the wall. Not only had plaster fallen onto the upstairs banister, giving the wood a nice blow and a pretty scar, but there was plaster dust EVERYWHERE. On my walls, on my pictures, on my wood floors, on my hubby, and on my lungs. EVERYWHERE was the dreaded, white dust of home improvement. Oh, and there was METAL hanging from the hole in the wall. METAL. Like hard, metal lathe…stuff that you make castle, prison cells out of…benches found on Alcatraz…weird, modern art monuments found in big entryways of glass lobbies….THAT kind of stuff. THAT was what was hanging from the doorway.

Ugh.

I could tell from the look on my hubby’s face that this was no longer a two hour job. Nope. Not happenin’. We had just moved into the land of “indefinite, demolition time.”

I managed to grimace a weak, supportive smile and then said, “Babe, you’re awesome,” and then I made a beeline for the kitchen where I hatched a plan to make a second cup of coffee.

As I waited for the coffee to brew while simultaneously flinching every time I heard a bang, fall, or crash, I breathed a tired sigh and had a martyr-like thought.

Why is nothing ever easy for us? 

You ever had a thought like that? Like the kind of thought where for several seconds you believe that you are the first and only-ever person who has ever experienced a tumultuous moment?

Yep, I was there. Again.

And then the Lord brought my mind to the blog post I had literally written 14 days prior to the door drama.

Isn’t this what you committed to? Isn’t this what you were resolute that you wanted to do in 2017? Isn’t this what we “talked” about? Open and out, right? Or was that not what happened that afternoon at the sink? 

Gah. True, true, and true. It was.

And God, in His absolute kindness and grace, is loving enough to give us opportunities to practice the things we pray for and preach.

Open and out…when things gets messy, hard, long, unexpected, and frustrating.

Open and out…when the wall is rigged with metal lathe.

Open and out…when your upstairs is being covered and caked with powdered dust.

Open and out…when your banister gets a gash in it.

Open and out…when your husband will now spend seven hours of your Saturday doing a project that was supposed to take three.

Open and out…when things don’t go as planned.

And since that Saturday, a few weeks ago, God has continued to provide a few more of those “open and out” moments. 

Open and out…when the new door and trim increases another $100+.

Open and out…when the new door takes longer to order because it needs a special jamb.

Open and out…when paperwork is taking longer to complete.

Open and out…when the CPR training for your license went from free to NOT AT ALL FREE.

Open and out…when the CPR class was supposed to be four hours but is actually turning into 6 1/2 hours.

Open and out…when your kids are sobbing as they brush their teeth at 9:20 PM because they “miss you” and are tired of the weekly and now bi-weekly training classes.

Open and out…when you just feel tired, and weary, and OVER IT.

Lord, it’s been only 20 days since I wrote that blog post. Were you planning on this “open and out thing” being a daily occurrence?!?! 

As I sank into a tub of steaming bubbles last night, I held out my hands. Open, extended, and with tears pooling in my eyes, I asked the Lord for the grace to keep them “open and out,” trusting Him with ALL THE THINGS.

And ya know what I felt whispered deep into my soul?

Jessica, you can’t make room for a new, little soul and expect that things aren’t going to hurt? You can’t expect that as you create doors in your home and room in your heart that you aren’t going to get a few “gashes,” and feel a little “dust,” and run into some “metal lathe.” You just can’t. Keep trusting me to help you; keep trusting me to provide the tools and time you need to make these “openings” in all ways. I got this.  

As the tears pooled and then ran down my cheeks, I felt like my heart was running…running right into the hard hills of mess. And as I envisioned myself running with my hands open and out, I found myself thinking about sheep.

I started thinking about sheep that make a choice to trust in their Shepherd. I started thinking about a Shepherd who guides His sheep through valleys dark, mountains high, and messes wide…a Shepherd who helps us follow when our hearts get scared and our faith gets weak…a Shepherd who leads us beside His still waters and into His green pastures even when the path takes us places that our feet didn’t plan to walk.

And as I thought about those messy paths and that faithful Shepherd, I felt God’s grace covering my proverbial “hands,” empowering them to remain open and out as He makes ALL KINDS OF ROOM in our hearts and home. 

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your they comfort me. Psalms 23:1-4

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MLK: More Than a Meme, More Than a Monday

I went back and forth yesterday over whether or not I wanted to share anything on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and for some reason (too long to explain and probably not even necessary), I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  My heart struggled in a way it hasn’t before.

And though there is and was absolutely NOTHING wrong with the millions of people that took to Twitter, FB, and Instagram with their posting of memes, quotes, and other thought-provoking sentiments and challenges, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

I just couldn’t.

“Why is this such a struggle for me? Heart, why won’t you act?”

And as I thought about this struggle of mine and why my heart ached throughout the children’s museum we roamed yesterday (side by side with brothers and sisters of all colors and cultures), it wasn’t until yesterday afternoon that it hit me.

I struggle with celebrating a day without living it all the other days. 

And though there are tons and tons of people that posted yesterday AND live out the mantras and memes they shared and liked, I wonder how many of us (myself most definitely included) freely share on days like the third Monday in January without freely sharing all the other ones.

And as I reflected on that yesterday afternoon and into this morning, my heart felt challenged and my soul felt convicted. And because of that, yesterday, I couldn’t and didn’t share.

Why?

Because I wanted my heart to take a silent stand, making a thoughtful and committed promise that in 2017, I want to share on all the other days that aren’t so glamorous…on all the other days that aren’t so publicized…in all the other moments where no one else sees and where the rubber meets the road of our memes.

I want to share in the grocery aisle as I pass someone with different hair.

I want to share in the library as I rub shoulders with someone who has different skin tones.

I want to share in the restaurants as I stand in line with someone with different clothes.

I want to share in our church as I worship with someone who shares a different culture.

I want to share in the places I walk and in the places I live with all the different people my feet may meet.

I want to be a bridge builder, a gap-closer, a peace-maker, and an open hand on all the other days.

I want to be a safe place, a kind face, a thoughtful space, and an arm of grace on all the other days.

I want to live my life on all the other days asking, learning, reaching, and growing.

I want to live my life on all the other days ridding myself of my notions, my assumptions, my fears, and my close-minded blind spots.

I want to share on all the other days of what it means to be in relationship with those who don’t share my piece of culture, my piece of skin, and my piece of experiences.

I want to share on all the other days, in both my words and actions, that my arms and heart and mind extend beyond the confines of my white, suburban, middle-class culture.

I want to share, teach, encourage, and help our children understand, appreciate, and value all kinds of others on all the other days.

I want to live life and share love while humbly learning (Lord knows I have a lot to learn) what it means to live with open arms and an open mind on all the other days.

I want to share love and support on all the other days when no one else sees and where no one else likes.

Why?

Because there was an earthly man and a Heavenly Man who sacrificed their lives so that we could live all the other days learning how to love HIM and embrace ONE ANOTHER. 

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Adoption Update: Little Loaves and Tiny Fish

Sitting at our loved-worn table with a Christmas tree behind us, we reviewed our completed paperwork with our home assessor.

As we went through the checklist of gathered documents, signed papers, printed pay stubs, past water bills, and completed forms, we breathed a sigh of paperwork-relief as we watched her make blue check marks on the paper in front of her.

Whew! Another piece of the puzzle, another step closer.

And then, turning to me, she asked the question.

“So you’re only able to take one child at this time?” 

I wasn’t prepared for the question and though it was completely fair and entirely understandable (the children in need is FAR greater than the homes that are opened), my heart was startled by the littleness of my answer.

“Yes, at this time, we are only able to care for one.”

One. As in one more than zero. Like little. Like practically nothing. Like a drop in an ocean. Like one tiny star in an atmosphere of billions. One.

My answer sounded so little. 

As we finished the rest of our home visit, surveying the layout of our little home and locating extra crib space for one, little soul, I kept mulling over my answer.

Yes, we were only taking one. One of hundreds in need. One. As in one more than zero.

And as I found myself lingering on the littleness of our “one,” it was as if the Lord swooped down in that moment and spoke to my heavy soul.

Jessica, do you remember the little loaves and the tiny fish? Do you remember how I took that little boy’s lunch and fed thousands? Don’t worry about the size of your offering; keep your eyes on the ONE to whom you offer.

My soul breathed a sigh of gratefulness.

He was right; He IS right.

Why?

Because God is in the business of taking the little things and making them big, KINGDOM BIG. 

Remember that little lunch?

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then He gave them to His disciples to set before the people….the number of the men who had eaten was five thousand. Mark 6:41, 44

Little loaves that fed and awed the crowd of 5,000+…

Remember that little mud?

He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes…so the man went and washed, and came home seeing. John 9:6-7

A little mud that changed the trajectory of that man’s life and those around him…

Remember that little touch of the garment?

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the hem of His cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch His cloak, I will be healed. Matthew 9:20-21

A little touch of that littlest part of His garment that turned a life upside-down and right side-up…

Remember that little seed?

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you. Luke 17:6

A little seed capable of moving big trees and big mountains…

Remember that little girl?

His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph….The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him “Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:18, 23

A little girl who raised the King of Kings…

And ya know what those little loaves, and that little mud, and that little touch, and that little seed, and that little girl ALL had in common? 

They were touched by thee ONE; they were powered by thee ONE; and they were changed by thee ONE.

In the hands of an all-powerful God, the little wasn’t little.

So as we enter 2017 and embark on the last six of our 12 training classes and as we finish a bit more paperwork, install a new door, set up a new crib, take a CPR/First Aid course, and complete a fire inspection, we are praying that God will take our faith, our obedience, and our choice to take “one,” making it BIG for His Kingdom…and for His Glory…and for His Name.

Because in the presence of THEE ONE, our “one” isn’t just “one.” 

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Yes, We Realize…

If I could respond to all of the concerned sentiments and noted worries of well-intended souls about the realities of fostering/adopting, and how that could affect both our family and this child, this is what I would say…have said…and will continue to say (Lord willing, with both humble honesty and gracious truth):

Yes, we realize that we have no clue what we are “getting ourselves into.”

Yes, we realize there’s a potential that our family life will be disrupted.

Yes, we realize that there’s a possibility that things will get messy and ugly.

Yes, we realize that this child may not immediately connect with us.

Yes, we realize that we may not immediately connect with this child.

Yes, we realize that this child may have problems (both short and long term).

Yes, we realize that this change and transition may be difficult for Caden and Evie.

Yes, we realize that we will be extra busy and maybe even overwhelmed.

Yes, we realize that we may not know the genetic, medical, mental health, and familial history of this child.

Yes, we realize that this child may not be white.

Yes, we realize that there’s a possibility that this non-white child could possibly stir our family to address areas of struggle and face hardships that we wouldn’t face otherwise if he/she was white.

Yes, we realize that the biological mother could have engaged in risky behaviors during pregnancy.

Yes, we realize that these risky behaviors may have an affect on this child.

Yes, we realize that our house is small and will get smaller if we add a child.

Yes, we realize that we have NO clue if this child will be resentful, thankful, sad, happy, or mad because they have been placed in our home.

Yes, we realize that it may sound risky and maybe even dumb.

Yes, we realize that it could put a strain on our relationships, our time, or finances, and our comfort.

Yes, we realize that there might be times when we doubt, fear, and maybe even question our decision to foster/adopt.

Yes, we realize that others have had “horror stories.”

Yes, we realize that we are potentially signing up for a life-long discussion with this child.

Yes, we realize that drug addicts, sex addicts, and alcohol addicts may be a part of this child’s family tree.

Yes, we realize that we might not be a forever home for this child.

Yes, we realize that we might be making our lives “harder.”

Yes, we realize that this child may face difficulties that our other children may not have to face.

Yes, we realize that this process will probably hurt…a lot.

Yes, we realize that there are going to be hard days, long nights, and maybe even unknown years.

Yes, we realize that there are no guaranteed outcomes.

Yes, we realize that we are already blessed with two, healthy biological children…”one of each.”

Yes, we realize that our faith will probably be tested.

Yes, we realize that all these things and more could happen.

Yes, yes, and yes!

And YET…we believe that following Jesus and living-out the Gospel doesn’t always look and feel like safe, comfortable, and easy. 

May God get ALL the glory for ALL He chooses to do (or NOT do) in and through us as we put one foot in front of the other, following Jesus every step of this fostering/adopting path…no matter where the path may lead, no matter how the path may feel, and no matter how the path may appear to others.

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