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Somewhere Between Donuts and Blueberries

Enjoying and Sharing the Goodness of God

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betweendonutsandblueberries

Shining light on God's goodness by giving a bite of the best I've tasted and a glimpse of the best I've seen.

Lists and Lessons

Crying, so much crying. Me, the girls, occasionally the boys. This was supposed to be the best summer. We had a bucket list and everything. We were crossing stuff off every week and I thought it was supposed to be fun.

But the tears said it was not. It just felt like so much failure. Normally things crossed off the list meant success, but me and my list both knew there were more important things to life and those were not being achieved. There was connection and security, gratitude and joy and all those seemed to be slipping away more and more with each week.

I’ve never been great at knowing my own feelings right away. Turns out I can be slow to process and quick to try to fix, which is not terribly helpful. It was bound to end in catastrophe eventually.

My emotional fragility was so frustrating because I knew I was supposed to be the one helping everyone regulate and I couldn’t even keep myself together. I was yelling more. Every disagreement felt like it was ending with bigger feelings and larger outbursts. I was losing control of the situation and myself. My goal was connection and to protect against the trigger of rejection, but most arguments had some version of, “I need to leave this conversation/confrontation before I say something that has lasting damage.” And it felt like failure because it would exacerbate the already hurt feelings of fear and rejection and lead to bigger behavior, louder yelling, and longer tantrums. And if this is 8 years old, how are 13 and 15 and 18 going to be? Things were not looking good!

How did we get here? How did we spiral so far down? How did I become the people I judged? How have I become this sad, despondent, hopeless version of myself?

“It’s their fault,” I kept telling myself. I just wanted to be fun and make good memories and they are never satisfied. Every tick off the list was met with complaint or critique. Why? Why do I even try to give them good things if they are just going to ruin it with their attitudes?

I don’t know who sets the emotional atmosphere in your home, but we typically have two kids who dominate. You think fighting over the thermostat in the house is hard, try managing one that is invisible and resides in the soul of a human.

We were praying and reading books. It just felt like it was getting worse. Everyone was on edge, and we had to try to put on happy faces for public but not even that was working. Arguments happened the minute the third person woke up. It didn’t even matter which 3 were awake. I was not doing well.

I know God is good. He has proven it over and over. I know life is hard, he has told us repeatedly in his word. I know that we need him, but somewhere, some how it felt harder and harder to believe these things and remind myself of them.

We needed more help. We needed fresh fighters who could join us in the spiritual battle, praying on our behalf, reminding us of truth that I was having a hard time grasping. Thank God for his church and their willingness to join us and speak up.

This is why we need godly community: To say the truth we can’t say ourselves. To fight the fight that we have become weary of fighting. To call us out and up.

I didn’t completely appreciate it at first. When Gunnar prayed for the spirit of defeat and hopelessness and melancholy to leave our house, I felt offended. If he wanted me and my attitude to take a hike, he could have paid for a weekend away!

But the truth of the matter was that it was exactly what we needed. Not a weekend away (though I am totally open to it and heard of a nice spa to visit), but a spiritual transformation. And by God’s grace it came. The next morning while reading through the kids devotional the lesson was on honoring your father and mother (Ephesians 6:1-3). God came and spoke to my kids in a way they could not hear from me. Of course babygirl spilled her cereal bowl half way though and there was sticky milk all over the counter and floor and the clean up took longer than the reading itself. But God was there and the kids were convicted and repented in a real way, and mostly I felt like God came and fought for me where I had no fight left. It felt like hope.

And Gunn kept praying prayers that felt slightly offensive. A few nights later as he prayed, he led me through the timeline of the summer and when things started going down hill. We learned almost a decade ago when people are annoying and frustrating, we have to go back to the original offense and forgive there and every time after it to find true healing and freedom… and not hold onto unforgiveness and resentment that leads to death. At first I didn’t see what I had to forgive because I didn’t see any obvious offenses.

But as he prayed and as we reviewed the summer, it became crystal clear that there had been so many wounds that I tried to say didn’t hurt or bother me. You cannot forgive an offense you refuse to recognize. You can harbor a lot of resentment if you wont admit an offense. In my effort to be a fun, good mom/woman/friend I somehow let my pride hijack my ability to be honest with myself and in turn God. In my pride, I didn’t want to be the be the needy or petty people I had judged. It turns out my terrible summer wasn’t their fault. The enemy is a liar and I had assumed the worst buying into all kinds of lies about myself and those I loved. We all had a part to play in the storm of sin, shame and blame, but no one more than me.

The truth is that there was an accumulation of hurt and offense, and the original offense led me to interpret other slights with deeper meaning than ever intended. Telling me that she wanted to stay with another family said that she did not care about the sacrifices I’ve made in my heart, home and life for her. It was the rejection I try so hard to protect her from. The hurt I felt at cancelled plans told me that I wasn’t important enough to prioritize. The greediness of my kids always wanting more translated into accusations of never giving enough. In the jealously of other friends doing things together, I heard that I was unwanted. All the times the enemy whispered to my fear that I am only valued for what I can do or give but not at all for who I am. So many hurts, some real, some only perceived, but pain all the same.

And in the confession came a flood of tears, but this time with relief. I didn’t have to let these wounds determine my life anymore. My pride had held me hostage in this tower of offense and in confessing it all God tore down the walls and his streams of mercy came.

God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Without realizing I had lifted myself, my role of good mom high, only to be trapped by my own sin and despair. And since sin leads to death, it was easy to believe the lies that I made up about people’s motives and feelings toward me. But God, in his grace, brought humility in confession and rescued me by his truth.

My heart was hurt and there was a lot to forgive. In my confession, there was a lot to repent. In the exercise of repentance and forgiveness, the dark, dreary cloud that had been covering my heart and mind seemed to dissipate. I slept good and hard for the first time in weeks.

The next morning I felt like my old self again… the one who could see the hard and remember that in this life there will be trouble, but I could take heart because he overcomes the world. My unresolved aching had blinded me to the good and beautiful that had transpired over summer. I let the heaviness of failure and defeat have the louder word in the narrative of my heart and had blatantly disregarded the the joy and healing that had been achieved. Just like my kids, I had let what was lacking be bigger than what was provided and in due course lived in a spirit of scarcity and anger instead of gratitude and joy.

There are still difficult days and there are still tantrums and hurtful words, but now I can identify them more easily, acknowledge the pain and deal with the forgiveness promptly. I didn’t like to admit that you could hurt me. I thought it would give you too much power, but now I see in not doing so, I’m giving the enemy power over my heart and mind.

So here’s to being honest, to learning more humility, to processing with the One who knows it all. The truth is that some of the summer was rough, but it was also had sweet and fun too. In the end I can honestly say I learned some of the best lessons.

A Stroller and Permissible Grief

I donated a stroller the other day and then sat in my car and cried about it for a solid five minutes.

It was the best stroller I ever had. It was a double umbrella stroller that could recline for napping kids and fold up tight and was light enough to carry. It had carried two little boys numerous times through Disneyland, airports and had logged at least a hundred miles. It was convenient and helpful and carried a lot of hopes and dreams I hadn’t realized until I handed it over to the woman at the parenting center.

The boys grew out of it a few years ago but I held on to it because I knew we were planning to foster and adopt and I wasn’t sure if we would need it again.

We got our girls in March of 2019. We had started the process in 2018. We took the classes, read the books, got certified and waited. We said yes to a few different placements but were not chosen. It was disappointing and also good as I cherished these times with my two little boys knowing they were short lived, things would change soon.

When we got matched in Feb 2019 we were thrilled and scared. I started to grieve the life we were leaving and dreaming about what was coming, I had been around enough foster and adoptive families to know that you kind of never know what to expect.

Trauma and loss bring a whole host of hurts and changes and questions and tears. We were thrilled to have them and worked hard to connect and build trust. We tried hard to meet all the needs but going from two to four kids, 2-7 years old, that was impossible. But we did the best we could. It was hard, it felt overwhelming. Would the girls feel safe? Would the boys think we ruined their lives? Would we ever have a semblance of predictability again?

Yes. Yes to all of it. And also yes to things we never even thought to ask? Would our adopted daughter and bio son look more alike that any of the biological siblings and people would think they were twins? Yes. Would our special needs baby would grow so much and learn so many words doctors and therapists would be in shock? YES! Even though our oldest would question this addition would he love and protect his sisters? Yes!

Would we all grown and learn and change?

It’s been almost three years. We have more good days than bad and things are fairly predictable. Not to say they’re perfect, we still have melt downs and tantrums and hurt feelings, but even then I can usually see a trigger and anticipate where we are going.

We don’t need a double stroller anymore. They are 10, 7, 7, and 5 years old, they are too big for it. So it was time to give it away.

I cried tears I didn’t know I had. I had started driving away and realized I needed to park, this was not safe. I was not just saying bye to a stroller, I was saying bye to a part of me I was sad to see go. The mom of two boys with a fairly easy life. The woman who dreamed of adopting and didn’t know the hard that would come with it. I was saying bye to a life that looking back looked idyllic compared to the wild and crazy one I was living.

As I cried I felt the compassion of God. Like he was there with me, comforting me and letting this wave a grief hit and take it’s time, not rush me out. It made me think of when Jesus wept with those mourning the death of Lazarus. He knew he was going to bring Lazarus back to life, but first he wept with those who were weeping, acknowledging their pain and joining them in it.

I texted my mom and sister and sister-in-law, the one who had bought me the perfect stroller to begin with so they could mourn with me. We got those strollers because we each had two small kids. We both lived in Southern California when we had our first. We have been close since she joined our family. She is such a gift to me. When I moved we both cried so many tears, grieving the fact that we would not get to see each other so often. Since we now lived more than three hours apart when we could get together to cart those kids around it was a sweet reunion every time.

So as I sent the text about crying over a stroller I knew she would feel the depth of my sorrow. The next day she sent me such a comforting message. That in sharing my grief it gave her permission to acknowledge the things she misses too – the younger kids and the easier days.

And it made me realize how often we don’t really acknowledge our pain for a couple reasons. One, who has time to sit and cry when there are literally so many things that need to be done and kids with needs and the Target pick up I was off to next! And second, am I even allowed to acknowledge these hurts and losses when I literally signed up for this?

But let’s be real, no amount of books or people telling you really prepare you. I knew (theoretically) it was going to be hard, but I didn’t KNOW how hard until I experienced it. I knew with my head, but now I KNOW with my life and there is a difference.

And then I thought, how kind it was of God to let me feel my feelings and meet me there and not rush me out. As I dried my tears and finished the drive to Target I thought how thankful I was that I am a grown adult and could process these feelings with God and articulate it with those who love me and can comfort me. And it made me think of these precious kids in my care who are having their own triggers and reminders and waves of grief and maybe don’t know how to articulate it all.

Ah, poor babies! Poor Sissy and her big behavior, how many times is it more than just sharing or taking a turn, it’s a feeling of being overlooked or forgotten? Poor big brother who remembers what it was like to have years of mom falling asleep in his bed as I tucked him in and the last three years being mostly rushed or mom not there at all as mom and dad rotate nights between the girls’s and boys’ rooms. Maybe the bed time drama has more to do with feeling rushed or pushed aside?

Whatever it is, by taking the time to acknowledge and grieve myself, it let me also feel the comfort and compassion of God. He does not despise our weaknesses. He made us, knows us, and already accounted for it. He loves us and in giving me that compassion he refilled my heart with compassion to pour out to those who need it most, the very kids I always dreamed about, the precious sons and daughters, full of life and love.

He is a gracious God. He gives us good things so we can give them to others. Life is hard and beautiful, heart breaking and yet there is much healing to be had. It was just a stroller, but it was much more. It carried hopes and dreams, giggles and crumbs, grief and so much compassion.

A little TED Talk and a lot of Prayer

I read someone was having a tough time with their adoptive son and I wanted to help but didn’t want to give unsolicited advice. I reached out and told her I would pray and if she wanted to chat I would love to. She was busy but said she would be happy to read the resources I had to share. I didn’t mean to give a Ted talk, but once I started I realized I needed to preach this to myself as much as anyone. So in case you are needing the reminder that parenting is tough but also a sacred privilege that God can help us in, pull up a seat and welcome to my talk.

Here’s some thoughts on what’s been most helpful for me and you can take what you want and ignore what’s not for you. Ask God he’ll help you know what is what.

Don’t take their bad behavior personally, it’s not you they hate even if their words say it. They feel sad, angry and hurt. The devil wants to steal, kill and destroy and the best way to do that is to sabotage the relationships they do have.

It’s not us vs. them, it’s us and them vs. fear, hate and despair. We have to fight for them not against them, which is hard because they are trying to fight against us.

Remember that fight is part of the fight or flight instinct that happens when we feel fear or danger. So instead of fighting them we can ask, “what are you afraid of?” “How can I help you feel safe?” “What’s making you feel sad right now?”

We need to be calm and with compassion we can be honest with our feelings too. “I’m sorry you are hurting, the way you are talking to me, disobeying me, etc is making me feel hurt too. Do you want other people to hurt like you? Why?”

We can’t correct until we can connect, we can’t connect until they trust, they will not trust until they feel safe. You can ask, “what makes you feel unsafe right now?” And in those answers find answers together. Maybe covid is making him feel like things are out of control or going to change and change reminds him of his mom dying or being separated from family and maybe it’s making him miss her and be afraid of someone else dying. Trying to help them talk about what he’s thinking and feeling will help foster conversation which can help him feel safer.

When our older daughter has a bad attitude or get’s real difficult I always get mad and want to yell and give consequences but when I remember, I can stop and consider: she might be thinking and feeling things that I don’t know about or haven’t realized. So I try to pause and sometimes consciously whispering when I want to yell helps me remember to use self control like I want her to and I ask what she’s feeling, what she’s thinking of and what or who she is remembering. 9 times out of 10 she says something about her bio family. Now might she be manipulating me? Totally possible, but I didn’t yell, which is a win, she got to say something and we can still have the consequences for her behavior, but now I can approach it with some compassion and hopefully I have cooled down enough to have a reasonable one that fits the crime and not a dramatic, harsh one.

It’s also important to apologize for when I do yell or over react. We usually will review the whole interaction so every guilty party has a chance to say sorry for the part they played. Because rarely is it just one person’s sin. Usually everyone played a part in whatever trouble we are having.

And probably the most important one, that I forget all the time, before I even start talking, TO PRAY, and ask God to help me see their heart like he does.

We can’t do this on our own, only God has what we need to do this. But he is more than able.

Let’s find a way to talk and communicate because whatever they cannot get out in word will come out in negative behavior!

Friends, you are doing good work, even when you feel like you are failing.

It is better to error and repair than to never have errored at all. For in the repairing we build bonds and help heal what’s been broken.

God, you love our kids. You love our whole family. You want to be our hope and peace. God please pour your Holy Spirit on us and give us all more love and compassion and understanding for each other.

Give us divine wisdom on how to parent and how to help our kids.

And Jesus please come and fill our hearts with hope that you can make all things new, that you can heal broken hearts and relationships. That you forgive all sins, big and small and that we can even model repentance and forgiveness for kids.

God I pray your blessings over them and ask that today would be a turning point for all of us and that we would look back on today and how hard Covid has been as the time God came and met us and rescued us and made good and beautiful healing out of what was broken and scary. We know you can do anything and we pray for soft and willing hearts for all our family.

Amen! And thanks for coming.

Roses and Ivy

Have you ever seen ivy? It’s a looks pretty and harmless enough. Green, romantic, little ground cover.

Have you ever tried to remove ivy?

When we moved into our house a few years ago I was more concerned with the inside that we didn’t give the outside much attention. That means that the ivy the previous owner planted was left to itself for a whole year to creep and crawl over everything in it’s way. When I finally shifted my attention outside I realized I wanted a more functional space so the ivy would have to go.

It took me many hours of many days, in multiple months to get it all out. At first I ignorantly started by just trying to rip it out with my bare hands. Talk about a face palm! So many blisters later I wised up and got me some gardening gloves. It wasn’t until I had worked a week when I realized there were tools that could help. I got some clippers to get the top layers off. Then a pick to dig into the ground and loosen the roots. There was some shoveling too. It’s a hot, sweaty, blistering blur now.

The whole time I worked I remember thinking that ivy is a lot like sin. It looks harmless, an easy way to cover ground quickly. But it doesn’t just stay where you plant it. It moves and creeps and before you know it it’s roots are choking out all other life around it. It over takes and overwhelms and no “cutting it out” helps if you do not get down to removing the whole root system. And it takes a lot of work!

Now I could have put round up on all of it, but I wanted to tear it out and have the soil ready for new plants in it’s place so I didn’t want to douse the dirt in chemicals. And I wonder if that’s how God sometimes goes after our sin? So often we ask him to just remove a temptation be it food, lust, gossip, fear, etc. and He doesn’t. I wonder it it’s because what we want is a quick chop and what He’s after is removing the root of our sin so that our hearts are good soil ready for the next things He has to plant?

This week my roses are blooming! One of the planters that used to be ivy and roses is now roses with some blueberry plants. I love the roses. They bloom in my favorite bright pink and then fade to a beautiful light pink. I didn’t plant them, so I can’t take credit for them, but I did remove the ivy that I think was choking them out. Even the neighbors have said they don’t remember the roses ever blooming so bountifully.

Again, I feel like this is a symbol of God’s work. He plants and tends and grows us in gifts. When we are entangled in sin we can still bloom, but when we are free from our sin we flourish in abundant ways!

I wrote that last year and for some reason never posted. In this time of many of us staying home I hope and pray we can take the extra time to examine our hearts and process with God. He has removed many of our familiar and regular distractions. I wonder what he’s preparing our hearts for next? He is a good Father, and an expert gardener. He’s not removing simply to have fallow ground. He is preparing and sowing and has a harvest coming!

Disappointing Dreams and Freewill Offerings

Twenty four hours in bed. That has been my dream for years now. Thanks to a ductectomy all my dreams came true. But turns out it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be.

February has been rough for a lot of reasons. We have all shared a cold/influenza A/ear infection. We’ve had 11 doctors appointments between us, and been to the pharmacy about 8 times. The kids have missed so much school. And when they have been healthy enough to attend school there has been disruptive behavior and lots of conversation with a teacher. It’s been a long and weary month. And there has been fear.

Fear of little things becoming bigger things. Fear of suffering and not being able to fix the problems.

A duct in my right breast has been dilated and leaking for over a year. No big deal. It could be something but it’s probably nothing. So for months we watched it with ultra sounds and then an MRI which was negative. Then to be safe they did a fine needle aspiration, just to test. There were a couple questionable cells so to be safe they wanted removed the whole duct.

Up to this point it had just been annoying, not scary, but now things were getting real. And now the fears that had lived at the back of my mind started to visit my conscious thoughts more often.

I have found the best way to battle my fears is not to try to ignore them, but to invite them in for a chat and introduce them to someone else. To go as far as I can with my “what if” thoughts and then surrender them to Jesus. So that’s what I did, or at least tried to do.

What am I afraid of? The pain of surgery, sure, but I’ve had four before and love a good anesthesia nap. I can deal with the pain and recovery and praise God for meds.

What’s the worst that can happen?

Scenario 1. I die in surgery and Gunnar is left wifeless with four kids 3-8. But good news, I’m with Jesus and not my problem. Gunn is a great guy, an amazing one actually, he can find a suitable replacement, but for the love make sure she understands trauma and adoption because she’s getting 4, bless her soul.

Scenario 2. I have cancer and have to live with/fight that. More terrifying than 1. but also, I have seen some amazing battles that have been used for God’s glory (here’s looking at you Amy Pike and Cory Dias). I have also watched people fight and still die and it’s the suffering that scares me most. But also that then turns back into scenario 1 and again, not my problem.

Now obviously I use humor to deflect the heaviness of the fear. But I really did try to have these honest conversations with myself and God and then give them to Him because He’s the only one who can really do anything with my heart and mind. Honestly, where else do I have to go?

I love that He speaks to me regularly through the Bible. That when I cry out to Him He is alive and able to respond.

Surgery was on February 14 at noon. I cried most of the 24 hours leading up to it….

“If any thing happens, tell the kids I love them and I’m proud of them.”

“Remind them that I’m with Jesus and so happy to be in heaven!”

“I love you and you are the best husband I could have ever asked for!”

I am nothing if not dramatic! Bless Gunnar for not being overwhelmed by me or any and all of this! He really is the best at keeping calm and carrying on. His heart is securely set on God and I am so thankful for him!

I came out of surgery like an hour later, thanking God for an amazing nap and headed home once they released me. I slept, drank, snacked, played on my phone, napped, and had almost 48 hours off parenting and it was mostly great. But it was also boring. I had a book that was not intriguing me. I was bored with my phone and kind of ready to join the real world again, only we were in the middle of family sickness 2020 and I felt trapped. And then my mind had time to wander. Scenario 1 was gone and now I had time to think of scenario 2.

I wish I would have read my Bible more. Instead I started and didn’t finish 3 different Netflix duds. But when I finally got back in the groove Jesus met me again!

I’ve been reading a Psalm a night and last week Psalm 54 blessed my heart!

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” Psalm 54:4

Just remembering this helped ease my fears. No matter what we face He is my helper and upholds my life!

“With a free will offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good. For He has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked on triumph on my enemies.” Psalm 54:6-7

I don’t usually have physical, people enemies, I get along pretty well with people. But I do have enemies, spiritual and mental ones. Fear being the biggest. This passages reminded me that God has been ever faithful to me and that the best way for me to fight is to be thankful. To remember all the ways He has been faithful and to thank Him. And to offer a sacrifice of thanks now even before I get what I want or what I’m afraid of.

Thank you Lord for a husband that loves me in sickness and in health, for better or worse, in richer and poorer, in sane and crazy and everything in between.

Thank you God for these 4 precious kids who make me crazy and who teach me so much about my own heart and need for Jesus! God bless them!

Thank you Jesus for friends who dropped off meals and snacks and watched kids and gave rides and made sure we were well.

Thank you God for my mom who puts her life on hold to stay with us for a couple of days and take care of us all!

Thank you Lord for life, as long or as short, as healthy or as challenging as it may be.

Thank you God for truth to hold on to when fears threaten to overwhelm me. I know none of us are promised long, healthy lives. Each day is a gift and I want to live it that way.

We had my follow up appointment yesterday. What a relief to hear that everything looks fine, there was just a lot of inflammation but no cancer in the duct.

Praise be to God, the one who upholds my life!

Counter Tops and Turning Corners

“Pood! Pood!! Poooooodddd!”

She thinks the louder and longer she says it the quicker I will get her food.

A person can only be yelled at so much before they lose their mind. I get yelled at a lot, so needless to say, I lose it more regularly than I would like to acknowledge much less admit. But even here there is reason to celebrate. We have moved from sign language to speech out of her mouth. She is verbalizing her needs. She is recognizing that home, and the kitchen specifically, is where this need is met. She is coming to mama often to state said need.

This is growth and progress and connection. This is answered prayers and this is yet another opportunity to cry out to Jesus for help. Thank you for words, now please help me rejoice and not yell back in the face of a toddler.

We have turned a corner in a lot of ways. Everyone in this family is feeling more secure and less volatile. Things have settled in a lot of ways. Schedules and routines are more predictable. Attitudes and expectations are feeling more manageable. We are having more good than bad. We are feeling more hopeful and less desperate and I haven’t had a real, cry myself to sleep breakdown in months! If this isn’t victory, I don’t know what is. I’m reminded of Psalm 30:5 (b) “weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” I have cried a lot of tears, and probably will again sooner or later, but for now the morning has come and I am so very thankful! Our literal mornings have had more joy recently and the peace has covered even the hard ones filled with conflict and complaining. Good things are happening and I am rejoicing!

As I was preparing “pood” the other day I realized something lovely. I am not only tall enough to see the top of the counter and what’s happening there, but I know what’s coming next, because I’m in charge and I have a good plan. Baby girl, at my ankles yelling, doesn’t have that vantage point. She knows we are in the kitchen and this is where we get food, but she cannot understand why I am not giving it to her right now, this very moment! She doesn’t realize raw eggs are gross (unless mixed well into cookie dough, which they were not) and that the cheese she spied was going on her cooked eggs in a couple minutes. Does she need that? No. Does she love it? Yes. Do I love her and love giving her things that are both good and I know she will enjoy? Absolutely. So I gave her a tiny piece of cheese to calm her down and kept going.

And I saw Jesus so clearly in that moment. Here I am begging, crying, sometimes yelling and screaming for Him to give me things. But I’m down here. I don’t have His vantage point. He might very well be working on what I’m asking, but I can’t see and I don’t know what He’s thinking and what He has planned.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts then your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

I am His precious girl and He is my good Father. Just like I want her to wait for the food to finish cooking and to give her what her heart desires, He too is asking me to wait. He is helping me grow in patience and self control and trust. He knows my needs and desires better than I do so He knows how to fulfill them even better than I can imagine.

And He said we can ask and keep asking. He’s not even annoyed like I am. I loved reading Luke 18 last week and the parable of the persistent widow. Keep asking, over and over again, He’s not bothered. Which reminds me to keep going and also have some grace for these persistent children. They are audacious in their requests and absolutely relentless. Is this what He meant by childlike faith? They can hear no 100 times and still keep asking for the toy or candy or whatever else fits their fancy. What if I believed Jesus wanted to give me the desires of my heart as strongly as my children believe that of me? He has given me every reason to believe that. In my humanity and regular irritably I have not given my children that evidence, yet here we are being bombarded by their requests.

So I come to Him again and ask for more grace and more self control, and more gentleness and for the appellate court to hurry it up, and more speech, and more healing, and more attachment, and more rest, and more love! I may not be able to see what He’s cooking up, but I know it’s good and I’m going to keep asking for everything I want and rejoice in the blessings I’m snacking on in the mean time.

Failing and Freedom

I broke my favorite flipping spatula when I threw it in the sink yesterday (it literally is the kind you use to flip things). That was right after I sent every kid to their room and yelled like a crazy person to no one in particular.

“You wanna yell…I can yell louder.”

“You wanna complain…I can complain longerrrrrrrrr!!” You better believe I held out that er for affect.

And then I cried. Wracking sobs of failure and defeat.

That was my favorite spatula!

This is not the mom I want to be!! I knew Gunn was going to be home any minute but I just could not take it anymore. Not one more complaint, not one more question, not one more disrespectful attitude.

Before I got married I was once told “you may get to a day where you think, ‘what have I gotten myself into? Why did I do this?’ And when that happens don’t be afraid, it’s normal and it will pass.”

Good news, it’s true. Bad news, I have gotten to that point in parenting so many times and I’m beginning to fear it is not going to pass. What if I really feel this way forever?

I know that can’t be true because when they are all asleep the love I have covers all the offenses, or at least most of them. I stare at their precious little faces and I cry tears of gratitude that they are mine.

How can you love someone so much and also want to not be around them very much? But I guess that’s not true either. I do want to be around them, just not when they are whining and questioning my competency.

I had three revelations this week.

1. I am not fighting my kids, I am fighting for them, I just forget sometimes.

We got a babysitter and went to a prayer and worship night. I wanted to be with Jesus but even more I wanted to be away from parenting. Praise God that even when our motives aren’t completely pure, He is. While we sang and prayed and people spoke the words of God I remembered Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers against the authorities against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

And I felt like God was saying “you think you are fighting against your kids, but really you are fighting for them. The enemy wants to keep the girls in the system and cycle they have been born into. He wants to blind the boys from the love of God. He wants to ruin the peace God has put in you. You are fighting 5 years olds, but you need to stop fighting them and remember where the real fight is.”

So I want to stop the petty fights that are distracting me from the real war.

2. God accounted for my failures way before he called me and I don’t have to waste time living in guilt and shame and identifying as a failure.

As a friend prayed for me she reminded me that it doesn’t all depend on me. Failure is expected, God’s not surprised. His blood covers every sin, both mine and their’s.

And the next morning I read Romans 8:1. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

It’s just so true! “In Christ” is my true identity! I have been letting my failure blind me to all the goodness. The goodness of God, the goodness of my children, and all the things I have to be thankful for! I couldn’t see them when I was so consumed with my guilt and shame!

3. God loves humility so parenting is probably not going to get easier anytime soon.

These people humble me over and over again and I think God let’s it keep happening because my pride is so big and He loves humility in his people.

“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” Proverbs 23:29

And perhaps my favorite part of humbling myself was the encouragement I got from others when I did! I felt like I was supposed to share my failure and God’s sweet grace with others. I got to share at church and when I did I was blessed by the love, prayer and support of other women and fellow mamas who were in it with me!

It was just a great reminder that there is so much blessing to be had when I am real about my shortcomings and needs and invite others in to help.

Praise God for His grace and forgiveness! Praise God for freedom! And praise God Gunn bought me a new flippin’ spatula on his way home.

Updates and Interruptions

4 months

There is a lot to process. Most days are good, mostly. Everyone is fed and clothed and we can say I love you at night and even mean “I like you.” I said most, not all. Because some days I don’t even like myself much less these whiney, arguing, snack needing, amusement seekers who have 360 questions each. I am fielding over a thousand questions a day and I’m exhausted. Because only 900 of those have actual words. The rest are a combination of grunts, signs and words that don’t really mean what you think they mean.

“Mama, mama” is her favorite. Since she doesn’t really have many words that could mean “pick me up” or “look at this” or “I want what my brother has.” If it’s the latter I can usually guess by the yell and angry eyes she throws in his direction.

She can now say “sit” “down” “done” “sí” “agua” “sissy” “eat” and another few I can’t remember, but just because she says them doesn’t mean she meant it. She’ll let me know I guessed wrong by yelling at me again and usually with another “mama” or 5 thrown in for emphasis. But gosh is she the cutest!! Her little glasses and curly pig tales and squealy little laugh will get me EVERY TIME! Her big hugs and her “mas ticko” for more tickles just melt my heart. She is a gift to us all and I can’t imagine life with out her!!!

This is why God made two years olds cute. So you love them even when they are exhausting.

I hate conflict. I like to anticipate other people’s needs and preferences so I can become what they need or want and avoid as much conflict as possible. I’m not saying it’s healthy it’s just what I know about myself.

You can’t avoid conflict with children. It’s everywhere and it’s constant. And no matter how much I anticipate needs there are still 5-28 more in the next minute that I didn’t see coming or couldn’t move fast enough to prevent. And I can’t just let them have what they want all the time. Saying nothing of the monsters they would become, but because most times what one wants is in direct opposition to another sibling. Guys four kids is a lot of opinions and attitudes and demands.

I’m just so tired. Mentally. And physically, but mostly mentally. My brain is going as fast as it can. By God’s grace and wisdom we have more routines and rituals and schedules in place to help keep things as predictable as possible.

The crazy feels more manageable when at least you can predict it. Because then you can also predict the end, or at least have hope for it.

We know that new people, social worker visits, and visiting other people’s houses will make sissy more squirrelly for an hour or 36, or something in between. But we also know that hugs and holding her and telling her how special she is can calm her down…mostly.

We know that a lot of new or a lot of memories

(That’s where I left off last month. Since the big kids are in school and therapy got cancelled today I finally have time I’ll pick it back up now…)

might mean bed wetting. She has lived so much life before us and though we have bits and pieces most of it is a mystery. She tells lots of stories and we don’t know what’s true and what’s not. What’s fantasy and what’s real. We had something really fun here one day and then the next week she told us of a memory that was exactly (and I’m talking detail for detail) the same only it was with bio family. We know it’s not true because they have never been to our house before. It sometimes feels like new happy things get sent to them and old tragic things get blamed on us. It’s not easy, for any of us. But it’s not all bad.

Something easy and wonderful has been school! We had no idea how it would go sending two to kinder, but we have been shocked by their willingness and happiness to go. Granted by Thursday they are tired, grumpy and over it, but they do it and after the weekend are usually excited to go back. And no one needs me to walk them to class!! I am in the drive through drop off line and it’s barely September! This is a miracle! Having Sissy and Avery in separate classes helps I think.

Baby girl has grown about 12 months in the 5.5 months they’ve been with us. This is amazing. Her gross and fine motor skills are almost the same as her chronological age. Her self help skills are catching up. Her words are not. So we continue speech therapy twice a week. We have our first IEP next week and I am excited to see what the plan is for her. She is smart and kind and empathetic. She has much passion and will gladly cuddle me if dad is not available. She loves hard and we are thankful.

Somethings are so good. Most things are hard. Sometimes my compassion runs out and I yell and hate it and myself. Sometimes I can let it all roll off of me and sometimes I take it all personally. We have a lot of highs and lows and the lows are lower than I’m used to. But we’ve lived through it and will continue to do so. We look forward to one day finalizing, but we don’t know how long their case will be stuck in appellate court, 3, 6, 12 months more?

If I let my hope be in anything else but Jesus I am a mess. If it’s in my comfort it’s non existent, if it’s in their behavior it’s uncertain at best. If my hope is in me having things together it’s hit and mostly miss. I need Jesus so bad. I need His peace and strength and steadfastness. Since He can calm the physical storms I’m banking on Him calming the emotional ones in me.

Thanks for loving and supporting us. Thanks for praying for us and helping. Pray for me and the kids. I have yelled way more than I ever planned to as a parent. I want to stop. Pray for more connection with each one and strategy to pour into each one.

Pray for the girls’ case to move along the system and not get stuck and that as we wait we would grow in love and grace more and more.

Pray for Evan in his nut allergy program. He is doing well but as we updosed pistachios to 250mg last week he is starting to have tummy aches. It makes me afraid for what 1/8 teaspoon will be this week.

Pray for Avery and that we would find outlets for his energy and emotions so they don’t come out in screaming and hitting.

Pray for Gunn and I as he is traveling more. We want to be a good team that loves and appreciates each other. Pray for us to keep our eyes on Jesus.

Baby Steps and Celebration

We are two months into our new life and we are still alive to tell about it. Let us rejoice!

Though the days are long, and I mean LOOOOOONNNGGGGG, there is grace to sleep and get up and do it again in the morning. We are seeing some huge improvements, which would probably look like baby steps to the casual observer, but they are making life sweet.

The girls have adapted well. The boys are adjusting. We have found a new normal that has even allowed for a real, actual date night for Gunn and I. The kind where you shower and leave the house!

Can we just say THANK YOU to all of you for the support. Seriously, the prayers, the hugs, the meals, the rides and babysitting have made life possible. Thanks for sending messages and checking in and inviting even though we’ll probably have to say no. Thank you Lupe Lopez for weekly foldling our laundry and picking up our house and Cory Chapon for watching the kids, mostly late at night, so we can put the girls down to sleep and sneak out. Friends, thank you for just loving us well!

Here’s some of the updates and highlights:

Baby girl is leaning words and using them. Since the girls are bilingual we choose the language based on the shortest available word, ie “si” for yes, “up” for up, etc. And where there used to be a perpetual frown, there is now a mouth making a noise or forming a semblance of a smile and it is so beautiful! She loves “dada” most of all and is almost always up for a hug or snuggle before asking “dow” to get down and run about again. She is crying more often and fight us more, but we take that as a good sign. She is more comfortable to let us know when she is upset. She called me “mama” last night for the first time and it was awesome!!

Big sister is growing in self regulation by leaps and bounds. We are still working a lot on safe and healthy boundaries and helping her realize mommy and daddy are her authority, not herself or every adult she encounters. This is a tough one because she has had so many different caregivers. So don’t be alarmed or offended with us if she asks you a question and we cut you off before you can answer her to let her know she needs to ask mommy or daddy not the other adult. Help her understand that mommy and daddy are going to take care of her by redirecting her to ask us before giving her what she requested. We know it’s weird, we hate it too, but we know it’s helping her, so we’ll keep going. She continues to be sweet and super helpful. She likes to sing and pretend and “read” her books. She loves well and hard and we are thankful to receive her love. We have learned that rocking her before bed is a huge benefit to her behavior by helping fill her heart with love and some security.

Evan is doing well. His seasonal allergies are hard this spring, but he is rocking his food allergy program like a boss. He and baby sister have a sweet bond. He will read to her when she brings him a book and they look for each other first thing in the morning. With school almost over I can’t believe he’s almost done with first grade. I’m excited to get some more one on one time with him come summer because the two middles will continue preschool 3 1/2 days through mid July! He’s a fun boy and a great big brother.

Avery was having the hardest adjustment and though he and big sister still have a lot of big emotions, overall he has settled down. He and sister are constantly playing pretend, their favorite is wedding (thanks to Uncle Marcus and Auntie DeeDee’s wedding). They dress up and walk all around arm in arm. His smiles are big, his hugs strong, and his pouting is rivaled only by big sister’s. As he gets closer to turning five my heart feels very thankful for his life and the privilege of knowing him and raising him from birth.

That’s a hard thing about fostering/adopting. We are trying to learn our new kids, love and support them without getting to know who they were and how they got here. The other day I was feeling overwhelmed by some attitude and what felt like constant questioning to every decision I made. I just wanted a break! I was thankful when Gunn got home and i got to run errands ALONE! As I was driving by myself I realized that with Avery starting kinder soon I was no longer going to have that care free, un-hurried time we used to have. And I never had that time with sister. It was like a light bulb from God to help me realize that she needs more play time from me than any of the others right now. And that’s hard, because I hate playing. I like accomplishing things and being super productive. Make believe is my least favorite. But that is what she needs which means that’s what I need. So here’s to playing Anna and Elsa for the 324th time.

When I’m tempted to believe that my life is being hijacked by everyone else’s needs and attention I want to remember all over again that to live like Jesus means to lay down my life for the sake of another.

And so that’s where we are. Trying to triage the needs still and being aware of who needs what, most, and when. Bless you mamas with lots of kids, this is hard work. These people are relentless!! But praise God, so is our God. I am seeing over and over that strength comes from Him. That in every challenge He is still with me.

We are still learning our new normal, but with each day we are celebrating our baby steps and believing the best is yet to come.

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