Jeremiah 29:11

Do not fear what’s already been planned out.

I’ve never really been an anxious or fearful person. I like to have and make plans, but overall, I’ve always easily been satisfied with the answer that God has it all planned out. That was until my mom was diagnosed with end stage cancer. It’s fair to say fear overtook me. I became anxious and fearful, lost sleep, and lost my appetite. This was a huge thing happening in our lives. Not that it was the first huge thing, but this was the person I loved more than anyone or anything else. I didn’t understand it.

It was just my mama and I for most of my life. We didn’t have a typical family, and she was my best friend. I was closer to my mom than most, and when she got sick, my world shattered.These feelings of fear and anxiety were new to me.

While my husband and I were going through infertility, I again experienced these anxious and fearful feelings. Once again, something big was happening, and I honestly wasn’t even partially healed from the experience of losing my mom. But one of the things that God placed on my heart as we transitioned from fertility to foster care was that I needed to come to Him just as fiercely, just as passionately, just as intently when I’m not walking through fearful, anxious, and “big” times. When I pursue Christ daily with the same passion, those big moments aren’t quite as scary. I again find myself feeling some level of peace with the knowledge that He’s got this.

I’m not going to say anxiety and fear don’t exist when I draw nearer to Christ, but I will say that dropping that fear at the foot of the cross and allowing Christ to bear the weight of that load… sister, there’s relief that comes with that action. Why is it so easy to call on Christ when we’re walking through difficulty, yet in the mundane day to day, it’s so easy to cut time with Him short, or worse, skip it all together? Why was this time with my Father not a priority during those easy summer months of relaxing and going on vacation? At first, I knew when I was putting off time with Him or cutting time short, then I’d realize a few days had passed… well I was really busy or the baby was teething during those days…

We again find ourselves walking through a time of transition. Only this time we are walking through with the protection of Christ. The more time I spend with Christ during those easy times, the more I learn of the character of the Father that is walking with me through trials.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future,” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Whether it’s an easy season or a season full of trials, I encourage you, sweet sister, to cling to the Father. Dig into His word and pray He overtakes your soul, equipping you and sustaining you. He is the only constant in this world. As the world changes and darkens, as seasons come and go, He remains. He is good, He is constant, and He loves you beyond measure.


Saying Goodbye

If I had to choose one thing we’re told most when people find out we foster babies it’s that: “I could never do that. It’d be too hard.” Can I let you in on a little secret? It’s too hard for us to.
While I don’t think everyone is supposed to be foster parents, this statement makes me twitch a little. Our hearts are no less big or loving than anyone else. It kills us to. Just as much. Our hearts love these kids as our own. We go through the ups and downs – withdrawals, nightmares, physical pain, emotional pain, moving, schedules, fears, visitation, court, appointments, etc. All these things create a tight bond. We are bonded by what we overcome together. Once we overcome, we sometimes have to say goodbye. I don’t know why this is the plan but it is.
We’ve said goodbye four times. Four times I’ve washed and packed up our kids clothes, their favorite blankies, the stuffed animal we gave them on their first night, their toothbrush, hair stuff, bath wash, toys, and favorite snacks. Four times I’ve sat at my computer and written out their schedule, likes and dislikes, and given our contact info. Four times I’ve gone through and printed out pictures of our favorite memories for them to hopefully have with them for a lifetime. Four times we’ve prayed over our kids before they were carried out the door for the last time sometimes crying, –  sometimes screaming, sometimes looking at me with wondering eyes. Four times I’ve closed the front door and fallen to the ground crying, wondering if we did enough, loved them hard enough, told them about Jesus enough, prepared them enough. And let me tell you –  I’d do it a hundred more if that’s what we’re called to do. This pain of loss is not as bad as a life of not knowing them would be. They grew us, tested us, taught us, and were fiercely loved while they were ours.
This morning was that fourth time. After our last goodbye I didn’t know how we’d do it again… then the phone rang. We got a call for a little girl and instantly we reacted. She needed us and although I didn’t know if we’d make it through the first month in one piece, I quickly learned we needed her to. She taught us the most out of all our kids. She taught me a new level of patience among other lessons. Although I’m slightly scared to think of why I needed to learn to have more patience, I quickly learned the lesson just the same. She grew us and stretched us.
She was walked out our front door this morning. The same door she walked through for the first time at the beginning of this year. Our only hope is that she left better equipped for this transition than when she came. All I could tell her was how much I loved her and how beautiful she is then she was gone. Unlike with our other kids, we will probably never see her again. She took a piece of my heart with her when she left. She may never remember us, but our prayer is that she remembers how loved she is, remembers how someone is always going to be there for her, remembers she is HIS.
Through these moments of loss God’s taught me that He is in control. He’s taught me that He is good because He gave us these kids even for just a little while. He’s shown me, and my mother’s heart, how much He loves me by making me a mama.
I walked back into my house this morning and saw the couple toys we didn’t send on the floor, her high chair with cherrios and a few pieces of waffle left on it, her picture on our coffee table, and I felt the gravity of the loss. But I also felt the gravity of the love. God knew we’d get that phone call and say yes. He knew she’d strip us down with challenges before He’d build us back up, stronger than before. He knew we’d have to say goodbye before the phone even rang. I don’t know why, but one day I’m sure I’ll look back and see that even in this pain His hand was there.
Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

John 13:7 NLT

Our Rose Garden

Last weekend Ryan and I took our girls into the backyard to do some yard work. Can I be honest with you? Last weekend was not my shining moment. Nothing really happened but you could say I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. All. Weekend. Long. [insert “Poor Ryan” here]
At church on Sunday I prayed for the ugliness to leave my heart. I didn’t want to end the weekend on a bad note and I was sure Ryan and the girls were over my ugly mood. Ryan decided he wanted to get some yard work done and, half ducking, asked if I wanted to join. I, of course deep in my funk, said no but changed my mind a few minutes later. I took Minnie out with me to meet Ryan and JoJo on the side of the house. When I turned the corner of the house, I nearly changed my mind again at the sight of our little rose garden. It was FULL of weeds. My only regret is not getting a “before” picture to share with y’all.
As I started cutting back the rose bushes and untangling the weeds from the beautiful stems, it took my breath away – the peace and irony that filled the moment. Do you ever have those moments when God is speaking to you as clearly as if He were literally standing in front of you talking? This is how I felt in that moment. I could touch the face of Jesus.

For whatever reason, my heart was full of nasty weeds all weekend. Maybe it was from the stress of the crazy week we had previously, or the bitterness of the injustice we can’t seem to get away from with the girls, or maybe its because my body seems to know May is coming and the loss of my mom has stretched on another year. No matter what the reason, I felt like God was using this overgrown garden to teach me a lesson.
The sum up of this garden being a mess is because the people tending to it (Ryan and I) had let it go. The winds here have been bad lately, we haven’t checked the sprinkler system in a while, and you could say this little rose garden was “out of sight, out of mind.” This can so often be the same reason for the ugliness that grows in our hearts. We’re too busy to relax, too stressed to take a break during the day – there aren’t enough hours in the day anyways. I often wonder what my heart would feel like if each day I took 30 minutes to do something mindless that I love – be it taking a bath, painting my nails, crocheting, sewing something for my sweet babies, etc. More importantly, if I found some time each day to spend with my Father. Not the typical, semi distracted time, but full attention, quiet mind time.

Sometimes thinking about finding me time is more stressful than anything. Trying to schedule a time out. This is where priorities come in.
Finding this time IS more important than folding that pile of laundry sitting in the dryer.
It IS more important than unloading the dishwasher.
It IS more important than answering that text, or that email.
This is the time that is making me a better mama, wife, and friend. It’s my time to unwind and renew. Now I know all this but I can’t honestly say I’ve mastered when to fit this time in. I can’t even say I have fit it in everyday since this moment we were cutting back the rose bushes. But what I can tell you is when the weeds were pulled, the dead roses removed, the planters raked and watered, and the branches trimmed of their weight, we were left with a beautiful rose garden. When I first saw the garden I didn’t think there was ANY roses worth saving. It just looked like a big ol mess. But when everything was cleaned up, I was left with TONS of gorgeous roses. I trimmed a bunch and put them throughout the house and there were still TONS of beautiful roses left on the bushes. You just couldn’t tell in the beginning because there was too much distracting you from the beauty of what mattered.
So, as I sit and write this, I’ve also come up with my game plan. I have two options – getting up before the girls and having some time to myself or, when Ryan gets home, taking a half hour after dinner to unwind. I’m not a morning person and would probably grow to resent waking up earlier and Ryan already takes over bath time at night, so for me, this is the perfect time. I would normally try to clean up the toys or do dishes or laundry during bath time, but I’m committing this time to work on my heart. I would have felt guilty about this a while ago – needing time to myself – but its not fair to myself to feel guilty. We have to recharge our batteries. For me, it’s crucial to spend time in the Word without the distractions. It sets me up to be a better wife and mama. Isn’t that enough to make this time worth it? Absolutely.

What are some things you do to recharge your batteries, or tend to your garden? When do you find time to do those things?

“Rejoice always, pray continuously, give thanks in all circumstances.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18