Foster Care/Adoption · Infertility · Life

When Dreams Die

As many of you know by now, we received a phone call about 3 weeks ago about a little 6 year old girl who needed to be placed into a more permanent foster home, and that it most likely would end up in adoption due to rights of the parents leading towards termination.

We said “yes!”  Remember when I talked about “When Yes’s Become No’s?”  At this point I was still guarded with my “yes,” because our social worker from our foster agency then had to contact the county caseworker overseeing our case and tell her about us.  The county then reviewed our profile (basically a large document with a ton of information about us….basically our entire life story for them to read and make sure that we our family is a good fit to take on a foster child).  After reading our profile they had one question for us and that was to confirm that we indeed were interested in pursing adoption for this child.  I said “yes!” (possibly shouted it lol) and we found out early the next week that we were the chosen family for this child.

The county’s next question was “When can they take her?!”  I said “we can be ready now if that’s what she needs,” and so I was sent into a tailspin of preparing her room, sorting through Abbie’s old clothes that would be about the size a 6 year old would need, friends dropped off car seats, and set up a meal train for her arrival.  I even bought her goodies for an Easter basket since Easter was only a few days later in case she arrived before hand.

Her room had become somewhat of a catch all zone in the past few years of waiting.  It typically serves as our guest room, and we did get it ready 2 years ago when we first finished our licensing requirements.  Then it sat empty, and then we had guests so we ended up putting the Queen bed back in there, and figured we would switch the beds once we officially had a placement.  So in my mind I always knew it was her room, but there was no sense leaving it empty when it wasn’t being used.

When our “yes” officially became the county’s “yes” we were excited to get things ready.  I made the bed.  I moved the dollhouse into her room, and barbies too.  I made plans in my head that once she arrived we would make a trip to pick out her favorite paint color, and decorations for her new room.  About 2 1/2 years ago, Abbie picked out a present for her someday “sister” and stashed it away in her room, and I was brought to tears when she brought the gifts out completely on her own, and left her this note….

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I think that was the first time I cried after hearing the county’s “yes.”  Prior to that I felt numb.  Wanting to still hold my breath, not trusting for real if she would actually be here, but when Abbie wrote that, I knew that regardless of what happened, whether she was here in our home or not, that this child deserved to be loved, and wanted, cried for and prayed over regardless of what happened, and so like any “expectant” mother….dreams were beginning to form.  Plans were being made.  My mind was already weaving this new child into the tapestry of our days, and the dynamic of our lives.

As we waited for the news from the county of the actual date of her arrival, I kept in contact with our social worker who periodically gave me updates as she had them.  Initially I found out that the county was closed on Good Friday so she would not be coming prior to Easter at that point.  I expected the Monday after Easter then because that is originally when they said she would be placed.  Monday came and went.  Nothing.  I knew her brothers were being placed in their permanent foster home the following Friday.  Still I heard nothing.  I checked in with our social worker at that point because she was with her brothers when they were placed and she did give me an update that the county told her the little girl was doing really well in her temporary home, and that they reported already in a short time seeing lots of progress and that she was really a very loving, sweet girl.

Two days later, on May 1st, I received a call from our social worker as I was driving Alex home from preschool.  I’m sure that was honestly a dreaded phone call for her.  She knew we were making plans.  She knew our hopes were high, and that this child was already so wanted, and loved by us.  I can’t remember entirely what she said.  Most of her words were a blur, but I do remember the obvious conclusion of what was being said “She is no longer coming.”

I think I said two words to our social worker in the context of that conversation.  One was “Ok” and the other  was a very choked up “bye.”   She was encouraging in that she said that the county really liked our profile, and that they were very excited about our family, and would definitely be keeping us in mind for another placement.  Since this technically was the first time the county had ever even looked at our profile because all of the other times we said “yes” by the time our social worker responded to them they had already found another family which means that they most likely never even knew a thing about us.  Now they do which is great, but also we aren’t the only family they are looking at…they look at hundreds so while we are fresh in their minds this week…as time goes on, probably not so much.

That afternoon I was of course sad.  Dave was shocked when I called him.  He didn’t even think that them changing their minds was an option at this point.  I just honestly wanted to be left alone.  It’s how I process, and I knew in due time I would want to process with people, but in that moment I just couldn’t.  I needed to just be.  My heart just hurt, and though I would never ever compare my grief to another person, for a moment I wondered if this was a tiny glimpse of what it felt like to struggle with infertility and miscarriage.  Though this baby didn’t grow inside of me, the love for our future child has been growing for years.  We prayed about potentially adopting even before we ever had biological children so this desire has been growing now for over 10 years, and there was definite growth in my heart of a deeper love for her as I learned her name, her race, and her story.  I imagined what her sweet face looked like after being told she was Caucasian and Hispanic.  I envisioned her having a mop of dark curls and fitting in with our current curly haired ratio of 3:1 (sorry Dave!  Though her skin would surely not even be close as white as the rest of us!)  But this love…these dreams for her, for a child that I finally let my guard down for, and allowed more love to grow since my “yes” was met with a “yes” from the county…that dream was now gone.  At least for this child.  Not for any child ever, but for this specific child that I prayed for, longed for, and already loved so much….the dreams I had that I thought were God’s plan were suddenly gone as quickly as they started with a phone call, they ended with a phone call as well.

The day after our news I woke in a much better place sadness wise.  I really and truly was happy for her.  I’m so glad she doesn’t have to transition to yet again another home.  I’m grateful that her respite (temporary foster care) family fell in love with her and she with them, and could finally have a forever family, but Day 2 brought more anger in my grieving process….it wasn’t the loss of specifically her that I was mourning, it was the death of this specific dream, these plans, and my expectations that was really what I was wrestling with.  “God what are you doing?  I know this is a good desire, but why this waiting?  Why all the yes’s turned to no’s?  Why this false hope only to have to lay it down once more?

I’ve cried a fair amount of tears this week, and I really appreciate all the love and encouragement many of you have shown me.  As with all grief there are triggers that I didn’t expect.  Evidence of a love already growing much deeper than I anticipated even before her arrival.  Like when I walked downstairs in our storage room in the basement and saw her Easter basket still sitting there, or the clothes I sorted out for her, and her room…I can’t touch that yet, nor do I really plan to for awhile.  Events beginning to happen in our lives that I thought she would be here for and she’s not…there’s an empty spot in our car that I thought would be full, or a vacancy on the sidelines at Abbie and Alex’s soccer games, or the mother daughter pajama party at church on Friday…I thought I would have another with me that night…..

I didn’t expect any of those triggers, but they are there.  Reminders of the plans I thought we had that no longer will be.

I really am ok though.  I really am happy for her.  I’m not much of a wallower.  I am more of an “It is what it is” type of person so I tend to focus more on “Ok what’s next…if not this, than what?”  So my sad moments are fleeting, and far less in number than they were on Day 1, but it is still a loss none the less, and grief is a part of loss.

Have you have ever experienced the death of a dream or your plans?  Shattered expectations?  This isn’t the first time that’s it happened to me, nor will it be the last, but each time it happens doesn’t hurt any less than the time before.  The only thing that is different now than when I was much younger is that I have had the gift of time on my side to see how faithful God is even after our plans are shattered.  I have come to know full well that He is good all the time even when my circumstances don’t feel good or favorable to what I wanted…He is good, and worthy of my praise.

My desire to control, and plan wants what it wants, but even in the middle of grief, in the midst of broken dreams, and changed plans…God is always working.  God is always good.  His plans are much greater than mine.

Psalm 55: 8-9

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

My devotions this week have been rooted in a theme of “Faith and Trust…”

 

If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,’ and it will move.”

Matthew 17:20

 

“When I am afraid I put my trust in you.”

Psalm 56:3

 

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:1

One of my closest friends and greatest prayer warriors reminded me this week of something that brought me to tears.  She has faithfully been praying periodically for every single child they have ever received a call about.  Our list of kids has been added to her list as well and in total that list has 29 children on it.  Some we know the names and ages of, some we don’t, but she reminded me this week of how much of an honor it is that we get to pray for these kids.  That if nothing else….kids that may have never had a single prayer uttered for them in their life…now have people praying for them.  I’m humbled to think of the impact that could bring in each of their lives, and our girl….the one we thought was God’s “yes,” had so many people praying for her that I am just in awe that God would be gracious enough to provide her respite home parents with a change of heart to welcome her home for forever.

And so whats next for us?  We press on.  We wait, because for whatever reason THIS wasn’t God’s plan even if we thought it was, and someday it will make sense, and we will understand.  Possibly not on this side of eternity, but it doesn’t matter…We are to be faithful even in the waiting.  Even when the dream gets shattered.  Even when our expectations don’t get met, because He is faithful, and good, and worthy of all of my praise.

 

Blessings,

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Life

Confessions of a People Pleaser

Ya’ll I had a break through moment yesterday, and I wanted to share it with all of you in case it helps encourage someone else.

I want to talk for a minute about codependency.

Websters dictionary defines codependency as:

“A psychological condition or a relationship in which a person is controlled or manipulated by another who is affected with a pathological condition (such as an addiction to alcohol or heroin)
Or the broader definition dependence on the needs of or control by another”

Codependency.  A term not foreign to me.  It’s something that I have had to process with some relationships with others in my past, and acknowledging that their behavior was codependent.  Recognizing this was HUGE for me.  It allowed me to start to set proper boundaries in these relationships so that I didn’t lose myself within them.

When I first started recognizing this I thought codependency was just people being manipulative and controlling, but lately I have been really struggling with somethings in my life.  Some situations where it actually becomes so consuming and debilitating to me if  things aren’t fixed in a way that meets other peoples expectations and that they ultimately end up happy.  Newsflash….not all things in life will make everyone happy.

As I dug deeper I started to realize that codependency is multifaceted.  There is another side….the people pleasing side.  Where we ourselves cannot be happy if others aren’t happy.

Without realizing it, I’ve been carrying around a weight of feeling like I’m solely responsible for some people’s happiness. Not all, just some.

Without realizing it my self worth has become dependent on some people being happy with me or with my performance instead of just being  rooted and content in a solid foundation of who God created me to be.

I say “yes” when I really mean “no.”  I’ve gotten so much better at this over the years, but I still struggle.  In fear of disappointing or hurting someone I will sometimes say yes, when really I want to say no, or I am afraid confrontation so I back down.

When I spent some time in self reflection to try to figure out the source of when this all started it was definitely in childhood.  How do you undo close to 35 years of people pleasing behaviors?  It seems impossible, but yet God says “nothing is impossible with Him.”

I can name off pivotal moments in my childhood that defined steps taking in this direction of people pleasing codependency.

My struggle with weight and self image issues…

-A classmate saying something about how “old fashioned my clothes were”

-Having a boy give me the nickname of “Heifer” in junior high.  Do you know what a heifer is?  A heifer is a young female cow who has not had a calf yet.  A cow guys…..he called me a cow, and the name stuck….for several years.  It came about because of a missions project we were working on at church called Heifer International and somehow out of that I received the nickname of Heifer.  I was a little overweight for sure at that point in my life, but definitely not obese, but alas kids can be cruel and I became the target. I remember we went to the park one day for Sunday School and I happened to sit on a swing that was half broken without me knowing, and I ended up breaking it entirely….you can bet the nickname Heifer at least in my mind took on deeply rooted value inside me that day.   I actually later became friends with some of the guys from my sunday school class, even went to high school dances with a few of them so eventually it became ok, but the lie was still rooted there, inside of me.

One of the saddest parts of this story to me is that it happened at church.  Church should be a safe place, but I know I’m not the only one who has been hurt in a church.  That’s not the only time I’ve experienced hurt from people in church either.  It’s helped as I’ve grown and matured to remember that only Jesus is perfect.  Church is made up of a bunch of imperfect people.

I also somewhere along the line started behaving in a very legalistic way.  I received praise when I performed a certain way or did what I was told so my behavior became very fear and performance based in order to hear the praise and affection of others.

But here is the thing….I must not forget that I get to choose my path of whether I will stay enslaved to those lies or move forward in freedom.  I get to choose the direction of which I will go after hearing or experiencing things like this.  As a child…I had no idea.  I was just surviving.  It’s ok to claim those moments for what they were.  It’s ok to give them a name, and acknowledge how hard and awful those things were, but I don’t have to remain a victim.  Those moments don’t get to take away my own power and authority over my life.  I serve a greater God who is bigger than all of those things, who can absolutely heal, and bring new life from brokenness.

I often times lack brave.

I lack confidence.

I fear deeply what others will think of me or if I will be good enough for them

But the truth is God has made me capable.  He has made me strong.  He has made me beautiful.  He has given me freedom to not have to live in constant fear, guilt, or shame anymore.

Realizing all of this was a huge moment for me yesterday.  I researched a bunch of books, and made a trip to the library today, and to my own library (ahem books of unpacked boxes still 3 years later 🙂  of several titles I read years ago that I knew might help me start to process and break free from the people pleasing codependency issues I have struggled with my whole life.

There maybe some therapy that’s necessary.

I’ve already cried a lot of tears, and I’m sure more are to come.

But for now I start here….with a stack of books, support and encouragement from my closest people, and I let God start to chisel away at these parts of me that I so desperately want to be healed from.

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One of the most eye opening parts for me was realizing how hard it is for me to really grasp, and actually belief the depth of Christ’s love for me.  Even now as I type these words I am tearing up knowing how easy it is for me to be the first to jump in and encourage another with scripture and truth of God’s love for another struggling person, but when it’s me….my head knows it but my heart struggles to actually believe it.

Part of this journey will be me working on just that….replacing the lies with God’s truth of how much I really mean to Him and the depth of His love for me.

It’s not going to be an easy journey, but it IS a necessary one.  If you are reading this for the first time, and realizing that you too struggle with the same…feel free to send me a msg or comment!  I’m cheering you on too friend!  We are in this together!  Or maybe you have had your own journey of healing from the struggle of people pleasing-  I would love to hear your tips, or book recommendations of things that have helped you so please share!

Blessings,

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Foster Care/Adoption · Life · parenting

Foster Placements: When “Yes” Turns Into “No”

20-1-20

I’ve been pretty quiet about foster care lately.  We have actually had several phone calls from caseworkers lately that were cases we could say “yes!” to, and we did.  Which honestly felt great to actually be saying “yes,” to something because for awhile it felt like every case we received a phone call about were cases we had to say “no” to.

Only problem is, when you say “yes” in foster care it still doesn’t mean a child is going to show up at your house that afternoon.  It just means you are saying “yes, we are willing to take this child in,” but what you don’t understand when you aren’t walking the road of foster care, is that many other agencies are all reaching out to their own foster families who could be a match for this particular child at the same time our agency was calling us.  So it really becomes a race against the clock….whichever agency finds a family that matches this child’s description, and gets that family to say “yes” wins.  Well….not really wins, but from my seat as a spectator that is what it often times feels like.

The first few times we said “yes,” my heart was beating faster.  I was waiting in anticipation to hear back from our caseworker.  I was envisioning what our supper table would look like that night with one extra face sitting around it.  I was wondering how hard the first few weeks might be.  How much sleep will I lose?  Juggling around schedules in my head of how we would make this next season work, and right about the time when I was coming to a place of peace with it all, I would get a phone call back from our caseworker saying “The county chose another family.”

It kind of feels like a big punch to the gut.

So I would mentally shut the door in my brain to knowing that child was no longer a possibility for being a part of our family, and would pray for trust in God’s timing for the child He had chosen for us.

Until the next call…then I did it all over again.

Two weeks ago our caseworker reached out about a child we will call “L” (for privacy purposes), whose parents rights had been terminated so she was legally free for adoption.  I started sobbing when I received the email with information about “L.”  The ups and downs of foster care are no joke, and a huge part of the hardness in it all are ALL the unknowns that as a foster parents we have absolutely no control over.  One day the county rules for increased visitations for a child that has been placed with you, and you know how hard the shorter visits have been for this child, let alone increasing the length of time and frequency, but you are at the mercy of the county to have to follow the rules, and do what they say even if your instinct as a parent would choose something completely different for them.  To know that “L’s” parental rights had been terminated meant that it would be a much shorter road to get from point A to point Z to actually adopt her.  That’s one of the reasons why I was sobbing….the thought of potentially not having to go through all of that was relieving.  The other reason why was because this time I had a picture of her, and a name….often times when you receive phone calls for placements you don’t even get a name before you say “yes.”  They tell you age, gender, and pertinent information, but very few details before they are placed with you.  I saw her sweet face, and now not only did I envision another person around our dinner table, and in a bed in our home, but she had a name, and I knew what she looked like!

We said “yes” to submitting our profile to “L’s” caseworker, and even though I knew better by this point, I got my hopes up, only to find out within hours that her caseworker didn’t think our family would be a good fit due to our biological children being so young, and the attention she would probably need.  I literally had just told a few of my closest friends, and then worked up the guts to tell the girls in my bible study, only to find out minutes afterward that our answer had come quickly….

“L” would not be joining our family.

That time it felt like a much larger punch to the gut.

You see, my heart breaks a little bit each time our “yes” turns into a “no.”  Knowing that more often than not, the “no” is probably coming, makes it really hard to want to tell anyone.  When I was talking with one of my foster friends about this she empathized and said she knew how much it hurt, but she encouraged me to still share, even though it’s hard, because it helps people on the outside looking in understand more the emotional roller coaster that this can sometimes feel like.  It helps me lean on others for strength when I don’t have it, and helps them know how to more specifically pray for us in this process.

Last Thursday when I was traveling to Chicago, I received an email from our caseworker about another little girl whom we will call “R.”  Her current foster family is unable to adopt her, and they are looking for a family to permanently place her with before terminating parental rights.   So though “R’s” case is not as far along as “L’s,” the situation is very similar.  There would still be hard things if she was placed with us, but not as long and drawn out as a placement can be when they are placed with us from day 1.  We said “yes” to “R,” and have not heard anything yet.  It could be days, or months before we do.

I’m much more guarded this time, after realizing that even saying “yes” to these types of cases, doesn’t mean anything until the county says it does.

Through all the waiting, though it can be tiresome, and emotionally exhausting, each time what makes me pick myself back up is thinking of these poor, sweet faces, and all that they have lost, and all that is broken in their families in a way that God never intended them to broken, and I’m over here with 2 healthy, biological children who get to grow up in a stable, Christ centered home, and I’m sad that “our family doesn’t feel complete yet.”

My gain will be because of their loss.

Our family’s wholeness will be because of their family’s brokenness.

Perspective.

And I know it’s ok for me to be sad.  It’s ok to wrestle with God on these feelings of control, and timing.  I don’t have to numb myself to that.  It’s ok to mourn that, however it’s not good to stay there forever.  My hope is, and always will be in the wholeness that Jesus brings to each of our lives, not in my biological children, or future children.  Only in Jesus.

You see, before Jesus died on the cross, He had a moment with God where He asked Him to “Take this cup from me,” but then went on to say “Yet not what I will, but what you will” Mark 14:36.  Jesus knew how excruciating the next days of His life would be, but He trusted His Father despite the hard that was to come.

Whether God places a child with us who has had parental rights terminated and is nearing adoption, or if we will get a placement who is just starting their foster journey….we trust that our God is good, and has a bigger plan than we can see despite the pain that it takes to get there.

Take a listen- this a great reminder of where our hope really lies: Cornerstone- Hillsong

 

Blessings,

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Life · Mental Illness

Just Be

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I’ve been thinking about something the last week or so.  My mind wandered over the last 7 years since I was first diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and it made me sad.  Mostly sad because I’ve never known motherhood without my thyroid disease, and it’s side effects.  This morning my feelings about this came to a head as I broke down mourning the loss of all the moments that I wish I had given or could give my children.  In particular about Christmas, but all the moments came rushing to mind like a roaring river from over the years about all the ways I had “failed” my kids.

Comparison can be a raging wildfire.  When we stare at others, and what they have, or at their talents, and feel subpar because we aren’t doing or accomplishing the same, or in this instance, I was becoming a victim of not meeting my own expectations about what I should or should not be doing during the Christmas season with my children.  There have been times when comparison snuck in because I was watching what others did with their children, and felt like a failure for not having done the same.

In the past few years, I have simplified Christmas.  We pick a few favorite activities to do outside of the home, but mostly I try to do a few simple things at home to keep us focused on Jesus this season so we don’t get too focused on toys, Santa, and all the delicious treats that typically accompany the holiday. But even with how much I have simplified things, sometimes it’s still too much, and that’s where I found myself this morning.  The expectations of my “normal” December list of To-Dos, and how fatigued and irritable I have felt with my thyroid levels being off became too much, even if in previous years the list was fine…this year it’s still just too much, and I sat in that for awhile, and I battled those thoughts…

“Come on Bridget!  You seriously hardly do anything compared to other families, get your crap together!”

“You already missed the first Advent reading, looks like you are off to a great start!”(obviously in a sarcastic tone- then I proceeded to gather my children around the table last night at bedtime in order to redeem myself which only ended in disobedient, distracted children that left me really frustrated and even more like a failure than before I started!)

As I sat down, and thought about all of these things this morning, and had a little time with Jesus, I remembered what I know from previous experience….that sometimes when I feel this way….when I’m too tired but to just exist, or my hormones are all out of whack, and my anxiety is like a ticking time bomb….sometimes the only strength I can muster up is to literally just be.  Not even to make the craft with my kids, or engage in the fun Christmas activity, it’s just to show up, and be.  And that breaks my heart, because I see so many amazingly, wonderful things that I could be doing to engage with my kids especially at Christmas time, and in my lack, all I have the strength to do somedays is just be.

As I cried out to God this morning, frustrated at my lack….me…the Type A, always able to get it done reliable girl who probably in a different life would have helped create Pinterest, can hardly even muster up the strength to do any of it without breaking…I  was reminded of what His word says in Psalm 46:10

“Be still and know that I am God!”

I opened my bible to read the rest of that chapter, and just felt relief wash over me as I read the words….

VS 1-5 “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.  So we will not fear when earthquakes come, and the mountains crumble into the sea.  Let the oceans roar and foam.  Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!  A river brings joy to the city of our God the sacred home of the Most High.  God dwells in that city.  It cannot be destroyed.  From the very break of day GOD WILL PROTECT IT.

He is ALWAYS ready to HELP IN TIMES OF TROUBLE!

DON’T FEAR–  let the earthquakes come!  Let the mountains crumble!  Let the oceans roar and waters surge because WE CANNOT BE DESTROYED!  HE WILL PROTECT US!

And just like that…peace.  Peace to know that it’s ok to “Just Be” sometimes.  To just lean in, and rest in Him.  To allow Him to be my source, and strength instead of me trying to muster up the strength on my own to do things that I just can’t do right now.

So I wanted to share this with you today too friends.  Permission to just be…..in whatever way that looks for you and your family in this season and always.  Go be that! Not be who others are…be you!  Who God created you to be!  Now I don’t say this as an excuse to be lazy.  We can get stuck there too, but permission to not put stress on yourself to do things that don’t matter.  Press into Him, and see what He really wants for you and your family.  Maybe this Christmas that is to dominate at all the Pinterest crafts you can get your hands on, or visit every Christmas festival within driving distance, or maybe like me, it’s a season of feeling overwhelmed, and stressed, and that you too need to know it’s ok to Just Be.

Sending love to you friends!  May Jesus alone fill your cup this holiday season!

Blessings,

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Foster Care/Adoption · Life

Waiting Expectantly

 

20181110_214040

We put up our tree today.  Yeah, I know- it’s November 10th.  I’m fully aware that Thanksgiving still hasn’t happened yet.  I just like putting it up early!  When we moved here a few years ago I put it up early out of practicality, because Dave’s family was coming over Thanksgiving, and I didn’t want to interrupt our time spent with them, by feverishly decorating while they were here, so I did it early.  Then I realized how much I liked putting up the tree early.  It allowed us to really savor Christmas more.  To slow down, and enjoy the moments instead of fitting everything into 4 weeks, so honestly…I’m never going back to putting our tree up after Thanksgiving again 😉

On a more serious note, putting our tree up this year was more emotional for me than normal.  I got the tree up without a problem, and hung up the lights.  Then I started with the ribbon.  Placed the angel at the top, and as I stood back to make sure everything looked just right before we placed the ornaments on, I got sucker punched right in the gut, because I realized this is one more Christmas without our little girl here.  I started crying, and I grabbed the kids, and said “Can we pray?”  They asked me “What’s wrong mommy?” And I told them, “I’m just sad that Christmas is coming, and our little girl still isn’t home.”  By the end of the prayer Abbie was weeping too.

Earlier this week, we had another phone call for a foster placement.  This child fit the description perfectly of everything we were hoping for….we finally got to say “YES!!” and yet another family was chosen, and my heart was a little bit more broken, but then I realize in my brokenness, how selfish I am.  My empty home pales in comparison to how empty this poor sweet girls world must feel.  I weep for my loneliness, and yet a child is about to be taken from her mother, because of her mother’s bad decisions.  My arms ache for a little girl to hold, and yet her whole world is about to be shattered.  In the same moments I will celebrate to bring a child home, a child is internally broken for all that is lost.  

As I stare straight into the face of another holiday without a sweet girls face around our table, I’m reminded of how many others are waiting in their own expectancy….for a long prayed for baby, for reconciliation in a relationship, for a new job in a season of nothingness, or for the pain to subside after the loss of a loved one.  So many wait in anticipation, longing for hope…for something to hold onto despite how painfully hard life can sometimes be.

At the very base of our Christmas tree, I place an empty manger.  On Christmas morning, we wake up, and see that what we waited for…what we had been hoping for in expectancy all Christmas season leading up to this day….Jesus is finally there on Christmas morning!

Our sad moment by our tree this afternoon reminded me that in our season of waiting,  in this time of expectancy, we aren’t alone.  I realized that God’s people waited for the arrival of Jesus for thousands of years….

The first reference to the Messiah comes at the very beginning of Genesis, right after the Fall, and God speaks to the serpent (satan).  He curses Him, and in vs 15 says “And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring.  He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”  (This is referring to the ultimate restoration and fulfillment that will come in Christ’s death, resurrection, and final victory over Satan).  In the book of Isaiah CH 9 vs 2-9 we see a famous passage in reference to the Messiah:

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.”

There are many other passages referencing Jesus coming in the bible besides these, but the point here is….they waited, and waited, and waited….a VERY long time for Jesus to physically come to earth!  As I pondered this I could not get the words from this hymm I sang as a child out of my head…

  Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

You can also listen to Meredith Andrews version of the song here: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

The waiting can feel lonely, hopeless, and very dark, but this reminds me that even in the loneliness of waiting, when hope seems too far gone, and when there isn’t even a flicker of light in the dark, our God is still there…we may question His presence, and His plan, because things aren’t happening the way we want them to, but He is there and at work.

I pray for each of us as the holiday season approaches, that we will hold onto the hope we have in our Savior, and wait expectantly on Him!  To know that even if our own manger lies empty from whatever thing we have been hoping, and praying for, that God brought the long-awaited Savior into the world in the form of a baby to fulfill His long awaited promise, and He is truly the only hope we will ever need!

Blessings,

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Life

Family: The Making of Us

Since moving here 3 years ago, God has provided for us in more ways than I can count.  We left behind both sides of our family which was incredibly difficult, but we also trusted God’s plan and knew that He was asking us to step out in faith and move here.  We had no idea what He had for us here other than a job for Dave.

Moving across town is a pain in the butt, moving across the country is in an entire league of its own.  Transferring licenses, transporting cars, flights, negotiating on houses almost 1000 miles away, finding new doctors, dentists, pediatricians, hairdressers, registering kids for school…it can be overwhelming.  At times I let myself grow anxious in the process, and other times I found myself just submitting to the inevitable that these things had to be done, so why make it harder by being scared of these changes.

At the very top of my list upon arrival here was finding a church home.  I knew if we could make it here and plug in somewhere immediately that we would be ok.  The very same weekend Dave, and I flew out here to find a home, we also visited a church at the top of our list, Faith Church.  I had done a lot of research online, and narrowed my list of churches down to my top 2 or 3. Our #1 choice was where we visited that weekend.  We just didn’t want to move here, and drag the kids from church to church, new transition upon new transition, and bring even more chaos into their lives than they were already experiencing.

We laugh now because after we left church that day, I asked Dave as we were walking through the parking lot “well, what did you think?”  His response “good enough for me!”  And so technically it was in that now hilarious moment that we decided this church would be home, however, a little tip for anyone looking for a church home, I wouldn’t recommend choosing one solely based on how you feel after 1 visit.  Please understand there was a lot of prayer, and research of the churches values, belief system, etc going on prior to this moment that ultimately led us to make that decision 🙂

Our first goal after finding our church home, was to find friends so that we could start to build our own family here.  We immediately started plugging ourselves in.  We attended Sunday school which ultimately led to finding a small group, and I regularly attended MOPS and bible study during the week.  I met many lovely women this way.  I chose to be vulnerable even when I didn’t feel like it, because I knew building up walls wouldn’t build authentic friendships.

After I started developing close friendships, I started focusing on another desire of my heart….grandparents.  I grew up close to one set of grandparents whom I honestly saw almost daily.  My grandpa and my dad farmed together so my grandpa was at our house pretty much every day, and they were frequent fliers at our school programs, and we attended the same church so they were at all of our church events too.  A small part of me always hoped that my kids would have that same presence in their lives…that their grandparents would be around to watch baseball games, and band concerts.  That dream honestly started dying the moment we moved away from central IL to the Chicago suburbs though, before we ever moved here.  Even living 2 hours away makes it harder to spend time together than living down the street like we used to.  It was something I had to mourn, and if I am honest, still makes me sad, but I also know without a doubt in my mind, that this is where we are supposed to be so I can wallow in my own self-pity, or we can choose to make the most of our circumstances and make new kinds of memories, and squeeze every ounce of quality time out of the moments we do get with our parents.

That being said, let me get back to my point….moving here meant no more regular contact with the kids grandparents.  I so deeply wanted others to love and cheer on our kids like we do.  It’s hard to do that when you aren’t blood relatives.  Our friendships here have become deep friendships, but our friends also have young families so I know they would bend over backwards for us, but I also know they have immediate needs to take care of with their own children too.  I began praying almost from the moment we moved here for some sort of grandparent like relationship to develop.  I had no idea what that might look like, and I knew it might never happen, but I decided to ask God anyway, and I trusted Him even if the prayer was never answered.  In my mind I imagined this being maybe a person who was already a grandparent in the opposite situation as us, where their adult children lived far away and thus their grandkids were far away, and they rarely got to see them like our parents now with our kids.  As I got to know more women, and mentor moms at MOPS, I started asking all of them not just to consider being in that role in our lives, but more so if they knew anyone who might fit that role in our lives.  I started asking in the Fall of 2015…..nothing came from that.  No one could really think of anyone to connect us too, but I also wasn’t discouraged either.

Fast forward 2 years, to the Fall of 2017.  I was still praying, but not discouraged, just waiting on God to see if anything would turn into a deeper role with our kids.  Our church did a sermon series that fall on Adoption.  Within the series they revealed a plan to help support families in foster care and adoption, as well as how we as a church can serve in a role to adopt our town and fill needs there, and adopt a people group that we can focus our resources on making a bigger difference.  I came away from that series so encouraged that something God had already called us too, and a fear of ours as to how we were going to be supported in that process was literally being answered before our eyes….when we moved here a friend of mine who has adopted encouraged us find a church with an adoption program because she knew it was on our hearts.  Our church didn’t have one, but we felt peace that this is where we needed to be.  So again, in faith, we trusted God, and chose this as our church home.  So seeing all of this come to light….was like a huge hug from God saying “I’ve got you!  I know your EVERY need, and I know EVERY detail!  Trust me!”

Only about a month later, right before Christmas 2017 I was approached by our Kids Ministry Director and she said “I have kind of an odd question for you?”  I approached her kind of warily.  I had no idea what she wanted to talk to me about.  She went onto say “Someone told me that you have been looking for someone to serve as adopted grandparents to your kids?”  Of course  I said “yes” and she went onto tell me that a couple from the church had approached some of the leadership about having this desire on their hearts to be adoptive grandparents.  She asked if we would be open to meeting them.  Of course a million thoughts ran through my mind….do they have their clearances? (Yes actually they work at the church and all staff are required to have clearances).  What if we don’t hit it off? (every friendship I have ever had has been genuine, not a setup blind date!)  So I agreed to set up a time for Dave, the kids, and I to meet them during church hours in a commonplace.  It was January/February 2018 when we met them.  We instantly hit it off with them, and set up a time to do dinner with them at our house (the entire church staff which I trust a lot knew them well so we knew it was safe.  We had a great time with them that night!

We all stepped into this new relationship with uncertainty, but complete transparency of expectations, fears, etc.  As we got to know them more they shared their story with us.  Their story is one of much heartache and pain.  After years of struggling with infertility, and a miscarriage, they finally got pregnant with their daughter Emily only to have her contract viral cardiomyopathy when she was 3.5 months old which required a heart transplant.  Then when Emily was just 17 she was diagnosed with cancer and died when she was 18.  They told us that the day they lost Emily they lost so much more than just their one and only child.  They lost all of their hopes and dreams of ever having a son in law, and grandchildren, and all the joys that come with having those things in your life.

So here was a couple without any grandchildren or a chance of ever having grandchildren at all, showing up, and saying “we will be your kids grandparents.”  Are you serious God?  How in the world our God can take something so broken, and make it beautiful, I am just in awe of.  His goodness continues to amaze me.

Though my heart did deeply desire adopted grandparents for the kids, I knew that prayer may never get answered, but the fact that it did….I am so humbled by.  Our God is so good to know the deepest needs and desires of all of His children.  He honestly hit it out of the park, and gave me more than I even asked for or expected.  They come to birthday parties, soccer games, watch kids for me when I need to work, etc.  AND they live in our neighborhood!!!  I can literally walk to their house!  Seriously…only God can work out and piece together all the details like that!

Here is a picture of all of us together between Easter Services at church this past spring:

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We have worked hard as a group to find a balance to respect the relationship our kids have with their blood grandparents, and now these grandparents.  We chose to have them call them (once they were comfortable with it) different grandparent names to preserve and respect the importance of the relationships they already have with my parents and Dave’s parents.  So they kids call them, Oma and Opa which means Grandma and Grandpa in German.  Initially, I think all of us were in a dazed and confused “is this really real state?”  We were waiting for the blessing to be taken away, and now they feel like family.  They have proven themselves trustworthy, and safe, and they are a huge part of our lives here.

They have been a part of our church for a long time.  The people who connected us knew their story, and walked with them through Emily’s death, and the darkest parts of their lives, and so to see them receive such a ridiculous blessing after so much darkness…was just a true joy for people to be a part of.  Many have described to me what it’s been like watching them since they have gotten to know us, and they say “it’s like a huge cloud has been lifted, and they have found joy once again.”

Not only are they good to our kids, but they are so good to us.  In true parent fashion, they have stepped in even to help parent us when our own parents are so far away….showing up with tools we need, helping with a house project, always having a full table of food when we come over, taking the kids so we can have a date night, and so many more.  I tear up now just thinking about it….you truly don’t realize how much you take for granted until your family isn’t down the street anymore.  Our family can never be replaced, but it’s so nice to have a hug from someone when your own mom and dad are 850 miles away.

Just this morning I was reading in the book of John, and in Chapter 1 vs 4 and 5 it says this:

“His life brought light to everyone.  The light shines in the darkness and the darkness can NEVER extinguish it.”

I love that so much!  He. Is. Light!  And He shines despite the darkness!!

I pray that this is an encouragement to you today.  That you would never give up hope despite your circumstances.  Oma and Opa (or as Dave and I call them, Rick and Cindy 🙂 have walked through one of my worst nightmares, and to see light continue to shine, hope in God still present, and God providing for each of us…..no matter what we face today, we don’t ever have to give up hope because we have Him!

 

Blessings,

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P.S. If you don’t know who Ellie Holcomb is, I love this song by her called “We’ve Got This Hope.”  Take a listen!

 

 

Health · Life

Being Transparent About My Health & Weight

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I honestly am kind of loathing writing this.  Not because I actually don’t want to, but because it involves sharing hard things in my life that I honestly wish I could just hide, but I know when we want to heal, move forward, one of the things that helps set us free is to be transparent.

I have honestly struggled with my weight for a long time.  I can pick out certain pieces of my past, and of course like all things, negative things stick in our mind far more easily than positive things.  I can remember comments from family members when I was a young girl about “being first in line for food at every family gathering,” or a comment in high school from someone I was in a group conversation with who said “You guys I would rather die than weigh 200lbs!”  Little did she know that I weighed about 195lbs at the time….I chuckled with the rest of the girls, but internally it was just one of the many things that was a catalyst to my struggle with weight, and body image.

For some reason my entire life I had this number set in my head of what every girl should weigh, and I have no idea why, but that number was 125lbs.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I weighed that….3rd grade maybe??  I have always been tall with a muscular build, and when I weighed 195lbs I was definitely overweight, but because I was so tall, that weight never looked the same on me as it did on others.  Sure I wasn’t stick thin like many of my friends, but I looked maybe a few pounds overweight….not as much as I really was.

Once I went to college I started caring more about my body but not in an unhealthy way, at least at first.  I started running several times a week, and cooking for myself and just with a few lifestyle changes, I think was in the upper 160s by the time I got married.  At that time, that was a far cry from the 195lbs I was in high school so I was confident in my body, and felt healthy, and didn’t care much about the number on the scale in that season.

If you’ve known me for a while, I wrote a blog post maybe 3 blogs ago (haha!) about my struggle with an eating disorder.  I never was intertwined in it nearly as deep as some become, but it was definitely enough to cause concern.  I was at the time weighing myself multiple times a day, and depending on the number on the scale, would determine what I was allowed to eat (or not eat) the rest of the day.  That happened early in our marriage.  When I finally confessed what I was doing to David, he told me that was absolutely not ok, and took my scale (and it’s batteries) away so I could no longer weigh myself.  After I finally told people what was going on, it became much easier to break the unhealthy cycle and start to heal both emotionally and physically.  A few years passed and I was in a pretty good place- eating well with typical indulgences but in moderation, and running or doing HIIT workouts 3-5 times a week.  I think I got myself down to around 157lbs in that time period by doing Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred, and counting calories, and I was definitely healthy, but for me it was hard to maintain that unless I was working out a lot, and really watching what I ate.  It seemed simple to lose that weight…..I created a calorie deficit (1# = 3500 calories so in order to burn a lb of fat I had to create a deficit in my diet of 3500 calories.  I did this spread out over a week (500 calories less per day) and lost 4 or 5 pounds within a month. This was a far cry from the 125# which somewhere in that time period I realized that I would never be that….ever.  I would seriously be severely underweight if I ever weighed that.

When I got pregnant with Abbie I gained 40lbs which some may say isn’t bad compared to what others gain, but when the average is 20-30 and you hear comments from “helpful” people about how back in the day they only gained 20lbs you again label yourself as “failure.”  Turns out it was my pregnancy with Abbie that ended up resulting in my autoimmune disease:  Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism.  It was about 3-4 months postpartum when I was struggling to lose weight despite watching what I ate and working out that my doctor decided to run some bloodwork, and discovered the culprit.  I think by about 11 months postpartum I was back to my pre pregnancy weight.  Then 3 years later, Alex came along, and I gained less than 30lbs that time, but I think it took me closer to a year and a half to get it all off, and honestly that pregnancy just wrecked me….it was the catalyst to many of the health problems that I started having that sent me on a wild goose chase for a year to find doctors who would help me find answers.  I know what it’s like to have doctor’s basically call you “crazy” and “there’s nothing wrong with you.”  You know what you do with those doctor’s….you leave….and you keep searching, and you don’t give up, because you deserve to be treated with care, by someone who will actually listen!  Turns out…I wasn’t crazy….I did indeed have anxiety, borderline depression, accompanied in full by panic attacks, and as we ran test after test after test so many things became more clear- I had adrenal fatigue (meaning my adrenals were stressed to the max, and needed a lot of help and support to heal or I was going to just collapse).  My thyroid levels were really bad again causing weight gain, the anxiety, irritability, poor recall, and exhaustion.  I found out I had an overgrowth of candida and bad bacteria in my gut, which if you aren’t aware your gut is where so many things start….if your gut/digestive system is in good health, it makes a huge difference in how the rest of your body works, or doesn’t work (if it’s not functioning well).  That all being said, when we moved to Pennsylvania I was in the middle of a year long trek to find doctors who would actually help me.  In April of 2016 I finally had an appointment with a doctor who helped me tremendously!  I had about a million tests in April done, got the results back in May, was loaded up with supplements, and a diet plan (one of the issues that comes from autoimmune diseases is developing sensitivities to many foods so I basically went on a Paleo diet that was on steroids-  no nuts, no dairy, no coffee, no gluten, no corn or grains whatsoever, no legumes at all, or nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant).  I ate meat, vegetables, healthy fats, and low glycemic fruits.  I kid you not within about 4-6 weeks I lost 15-20lbs by only changing my diet, and I think was down to 152 or 153lbs at that point.  I had abs…my arms were ridiculously toned….I loved what I looked like during that time, but honestly in hindsight, I realize now that even that is not a sustainable place to be. I wasn’t supposed to exercise because of all the healing that my body needed during that time.  Exercise, although good, causes stress, and because of the severe amounts of stress, I needed to limit my exercise to walks, less strenuous activity, and really listen to my body, but then around months 5 or 6 post starting this diet, I noticed how weak I felt.  I no longer was as strong as I once was.  My posture wasn’t great, my back was really hurting.  I started trying to workout more, but not excessively, still taking it easy, but trying to regain some of my lost strength.

I didn’t want to live that way for forever….only eating meat, vegetables, healthy fats, and limited fruit.  Since then my body has healed tremendously, and I have been able to enjoy foods once again like nuts, seeds, and legumes.  Life got a lot easier once I could have some of those things back.  I am still entirely grain free, and nightshade vegetables seem to bother me, but I basically eat paleo now instead of insane version of paleo.  All that to be said because somewhere along the line excuses crept in again….I can eat plantains, and sweet potatoes, and then I discovered plantain and sweet potato chips, and let me tell you….just because it’s “healthy” does not mean consuming a whole bag is good for you.  Somewhere along the line I started binge eating these “healthy” foods again, and emotional eating became a thing again, and then last Christmas I had my check up at the doctor, and my anxiety was back, and I felt “off” and assumed my thyroid levels were once again wacky, and it was there that I found out I had gained 20lbs!!  ( I had stopped weighing myself ever since Dave took the scale away so I had no clue….my clothes were a little tighter but I still could fit into them.  The only time I ever weighed myself was on scales at other peoples houses maybe a few times a year just to make sure I wasn’t gaining too much).  My thyroid levels did come back high so we had to adjust my levels a few times, and I began to watch my calories.  It took me awhile, but I was able to lose 10lbs, but now here I sit again, and I feel stuck.  I’ve been trying to lose this last 10# since April.  Don’t get me wrong I have much to be thankful for healthwise, but right now….these eating issues that never seem to go away entirely….the constant up and down struggle with my weight, and body image that I have had my entire life….the inability to lose weight when you try 4x as hard as other people, and still can’t seem to drop a pound because your endocrine system doesn’t work right…..just sucks sometimes.  It really does! I’ve had people as an adult who brush my struggle with my weight off because I technically look “skinny enough” to them so I’m just the “skinny girl complaining about her body”, but it doesn’t matter if you are someone who is super skinny who struggles to gain weight, or really overweight, we each have a story, and your story matters!  Your voice matters!  Whether I look skinny to some or not doesn’t really matter…I knew spiritually, emotionally, and physically I wasn’t in a healthy place.

And so I tried one method to approach for my diet which basically limited my already limited diet to almost no fruit, and increased my workouts to way more intense than they have been since I started this healing journey, and I’m almost through week 2, and I can frustratedly report that the scale hasn’t budged….at all!  So I sat down last night, and instead of figuring out my own way I prayed (well duh!  Probably should have started there in the first place….).  My body is unique, and I need to approach my body in a specific way, and who else can give more wisdom on that than God?  As I came to him I felt myself breathe a sigh of relief to release something I didn’t even realize I was holding onto…I was idolizing some ideal number on a scale, and when I didn’t see that number appear it was linked to my self-worth, and identity.  I had become enslaved to achieving this weight as my ultimate goal, and when I got there I would feel like I was “enough” again.  “Worthy” of….of what? How quickly I forget God’s promise from “Psalm 139:14  “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

As I walk back through my story I see how over several years in my adult life I lost like 40lbs, but I remember even when I was at my lowest weight how I still thought “maybe just 5 more lbs, yeah that would be perfect.”  So when does it stop?  So as I prayed I felt more wisdom, and peace about what to do than I have had in a long time.  This struggle I have with food, is a stronghold that has taken the place of God in my life many times, and it may always be a struggle, but I don’t have to be enslaved to this struggle.  I can acknowledge the battle, but I don’t have to let it win.  As I prayed I felt God reminding me how much of a role my adrenals healing plays in all of this…messed up adrenals means you have ridiculous levels of cortisol in your body.  Cortisol = weight gain.  Strenuous workouts = high levels of cortisol being released.  So not only did I already have high levels of cortisol, but I also was releasing even more with the type of workouts I was choosing. I can still keep working out, but need to focus on walking, light jogs, less strenuous workouts, and to keep my strength up participate in lifting, but just be mindful that I have to move more slowly than others can.  Food wise my body needs carbs (good ones remember like sweet potatoes, and berries) to heal specifically some of the issues I have-  I was limiting my carbs so much my body was fighting me because it was going into starvation mode.  Water-  I seriously suck at drinking water and many people are chronically dehydrated because they don’t drink enough water so I knew I needed to start being better about this too!  Nutrition wise- overeating is probably my worse enemy.  I like to snack, and eat at night, and really in regards to my diet, I already eat all healthy things, but I do need to be mindful about my portion control, not binging, and only eating when I am hungry instead of when I’m bored or emotional, and my scale was becoming a problem again….so I took my own battery away

The reason I was loathing writing this so much is because in order to do so I have to admit that I’m a failure.  I couldn’t wait to share the celebratory “I Lost 20lbs!!” post, but to wait to do that means that I don’t let you in on the journey….to share only celebrations is misleading to realize how flipping hard the actual journey really can be, and that sometimes we fight like hell, and we still lose, or that actually making it to the finish line means skinned up knees, bruised egos, and bloody knuckles, but to fight with intention…..that means we don’t care how long the battle is…we keep on keeping on, and we don’t stop fighting!

So friends wherever you are in your own battles, I’m cheering you on!  You don’t have to listen to the lie that you “won’t ever get there,” and you also don’t have to listen to the lie that your self-worth and identity are solely linked to actually getting to your destination.  That’s crap….every single part of the journey is something God is using to mold and shape you into becoming more like Him!

 

Blessings,

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