Happy 4th Birthday Sweet Boy

Dear Jayce,

What a miracle you are sweet boy! The Lord uses your birthday every year to remind me how incredibly blessed we are. He has brought us through so much the past 4 years.

I could not begin to even explain everything He has done for us these past 4 years. But, one major miracle is that no one can even tell you were born nearly 12 weeks early. The only evidence left is one long scar across your left ankle from an infiltrated IV. Even that ankle hasn’t needed surgery like the doctors anticipated. God is so good.

He also made the extra fluid between your brain and skull disappear after we had been told it would always be there. Our God is bigger than extra fluid. He is the great physician.

We praise His name for allowing us to celebrate you today. We had a blast at your PJ Masks party. Thankfully you had your brothers and sisters and grandparents to celebrate with.

It was so cute that you kept finding toys and things around the house to wrap for your daddy and me. You wanted to make sure we had presents just like you. You wanted us to feel special on your big day.

You are one of the sweetest boys I know. It melts my heart each time you say, “I love you so so much, Mommy.” And, I love to hear you pray at each and every meal.

I know you are going to do great things in this life. The Lord saved you and healed you for a reason. I can’t wait to see how He calls you to serve Him. We love you more than you could ever imagine. Stay sweet baby boy! Stay sweet.

Love Always,

Mommy ❤

Jayce’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 4

What is your favorite food? cupcakes and watermelon

What do you hope you never have to eat again? peas

What is your favorite thing to do? working on the barn with daddy

What is your favorite animal? monkey

What makes you happy? God

What is the best memory from when you were 3? playing and eating ice cream

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 4? play on my roller coaster

What would you like to be when you grow up? policeman

What is your favorite song? Jesus Loves Me

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds

What is your favorite book? PJ Masks

Where would you like to go on vacation? Bald Head Island

What would you like the world to know? Jesus loves Jacob Stillwell and me.

Matthew 14:14 – And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.

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Happy 14th Birthday to our Oldest!

Dear Jacob,

Fourteen! Really! You are really fourteen years old? It’s so hard to believe. So far, you have made the teenage years so easy. I’m so grateful.

I have loved watching you grow into a young man. It seems so strange to look up to you each day. You have surely outgrown your mama. But, that’s a good thing.

I love your passion for the Lord and listening to you sing in the teen choir at church. You are such a humble boy that loves learning more about the Lord each day. You have sacrificed so much for your younger brothers and sisters. Your patience and giving of your time doesn’t go unnoticed. I appreciate you taking the time to teach them and help them as they grow.

You don’t hesitate to bring them along as you explore different hobbies like collecting old bottles, digging for fossils, or metal detecting. They really look up to you. And, you sweet boy are a wonderful role model. Thanks for always being here for all of us. We love you to Pluto and back. Don’t ever lose sight of the things that really matter.

Love Always,

Mommy ❤

Jacob’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 14

What is your favorite food? Crab Legs

What do you hope you never have to eat again? Blue Cheese

What is your favorite thing to do? Search for old bottles

What is your favorite animal? Border Collie

What makes you happy? Finding old bottles

What is the best memory from when you were 13? Getting to adopt a brother

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 14? Find an arrowhead

What would you like to be when you grow up? Firefighter

What is your favorite song? When Love Broke Through by TobyMac

Where is your favorite place to eat? Red Lobster

What is your favorite book? The Adventures of Arty Anderson

Where would you like to go on vacation? Bald Head Island

What would you like the world to know? How to get saved

James 1:17 –Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

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Happy 6th Birthday to Our Fiesty Little Girl

Dear Jayla,

This day six years ago, we welcomed you into our family. You were so perfect even if you became a NICU baby! You broke us in right from the beginning. You let your fiesty little attitude shine through from day one.

You are a tough one, sweet girl. And, we are so proud of how you stand up for what is right. We love that you have the desire to always go after what you set your mind to.

We know with God’s help, you are going to go far. You are not a quitter, and you capture everyone with your huge smile. You always have a song coming from your heart.

Don’t ever change your big personality. It really keeps us going. Thanks for loving all of us so well. We love you more than you could ever imagine!

Love Always,

Mommy

 

Jayla’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 6

What is your favorite food? Cake

What do you hope you never have to eat again? Green Beans

What is your favorite thing to do? I like to play with dolls.

What is your favorite animal? Giraffe

What makes you happy? Birthdays

What is the best memory from when you were 5? Gymnastics

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 6? Get a WellieWisher House

What would you like to be when you grow up? A doctor

What is your favorite song? What Can Wash Away My Sins

Where is your favorite place to eat? Chick-Fil-A

What is your favorite book? Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney

What would you like the world to know? About Jesus Christ

Pslam 105:2 – Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: talk ye of all his wondrous works.

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Dementia: You are not my Friend

I do not like you. You are not my friend. You are not welcome here. I would rather you take a hike. But, I know that’s not going to happen. You aren’t leaving. You are here to stay.

You have robbed me of so much. Not just me, but my whole family. You have taken away every memory she made, every thought she just had, and every memory that she still has to make.

She doesn’t know me. She recognizes my face. But, she doesn’t know who I am. She doesn’t know my children.

She doesn’t remember the day I was born.

She doesn’t remember all the times she picked me up from school and cooked me homemade meals.

She has forgotten all the Easters and coloring Easter eggs. It was her favorite holiday, I believe. She enjoyed getting out the special tablecloth and all the supplies. The room would always fill with excitement each year as all of us grandchildren and great-grandchildren made special designs.

She has no idea where she used to live or how we would play on the swings or in the woods for hours. She doesn’t remember the mailbox flowers.

She has no recollection of all the beach vacations. A time of rest and relaxation that she loved more than anything. It was the one chance each year when we all could let go and just have fun being together.

She has no idea that I got married and she asks how I ended up with all these children. She doesn’t recall the excitement as each addition happened.

She’s just so confused. She’s confused all the time. She’s upset. She’s crying. At times, she wants me to stay and begs me to take her with me. She bangs on the hidden exit door. Where does she want to go? She doesn’t know. She would go anywhere but where she is at the moment. Or, she wants me to leave the minute I get there. She’s agitated and just wants to be left alone. There aren’t many happy moments anymore. Thanks dementia. Thanks a lot!

Dementia – I will not let you win. I will not ask God why. I refuse to let the suffocation of fear overtake me as I wonder if I will be just like her one day. Will I remember all the memories I am making with my children or future grandchildren? Will they all be in vain?

Dementia – Despite how difficult you make each day and the tremendous loss that you make me feel, you are helping my children and I learn how to love without the thought of return. You are showing us that each day matters.

Sometimes, I wish I would have done things differently before things got so bad. I should have went to visit more often. Eventhough you, Dementia, were making things unbearable. I now realize that wasn’t an excuse.

You aren’t an excuse to push her aside or make the wrong choices just because you make things so hard. So today, I choose to make the best of what you have left me with. I choose to love my grandmother no matter how sad you make me, or no matter how much you make me want to hide and scream. I choose to love and show others how to love through such a horrible disease.

So, take that dementia! She might not remember all the memories we shared, but I do. And, I will focus on the good ones. The ones built out of love.

And, even though you have taken my grandmother and made her into someone completely different, we still have a lot of memories to make. Memories to make from the true definition of love. You will not win this battle. God’s got this, and He will carry all of us through. He knows her needs and ours. We will praise Him in the storm of this uphill battle.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 – And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

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Happy Birthday Little One

Today we celebrated your big number 1!

 

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Although our days with you haven’t been many, our love for you has grown with each morning light.

Your smile is so contiguous and your eyes sparkle with delight!

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We trust that God is working out what is best because we know His ways are always right.

We are thankful that He’s allowing us to watch you each day and night.

Happy 1st Birthday one last time. I pray we will always be able to keep God’s Word in your sight.

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We will love you forever sweet chubby cheeks!!

Proverbs 3:5-6- Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

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Why?

Why? Why do I continue to subject myself and my family to the uneasiness, uncertainty, and the heartache that comes along with being a family who cares for innocent children in foster care?

I don’t enjoy all the feelings and emotions that come with the un words. Those words don’t make me feel all fuzzy inside. They downright make me feel UN-happy a lot of the time. Thankfully my joy comes from the creator, but fostering can be down right difficult leaving me asking Why? so many times.

Why do I keep having a desire to help children in need when our system is so broken? Why do I have a desire that hurts so badly and seems so wrong much of the time? The desire to help children whose parents are addicted often brings a big mess of chaos to my life, my husband’s life, and my children’s lives. We all get hurt physically and mentally at times. It would be so much easier to just say no. It would be so much easier to say, “Sorry, we can’t care for these children with life long disabilities due to neglect and abuse.” But, we don’t say no. Not all the time. Sometimes a placement isn’t a right fit, which brings a whole new world of hurt. But, we say yes when the Lord leads us because of the children: the deeply, hurting innocent children who are born into sinful brokenness.

We all must realize sinful addictive behaviors can’t be mended overnight. Yes, we all sin. I hate sin. I hate my sin. As Christians, we should hate sin and feel great conviction when we do sin. But, there is a problem bigger than all of us when habitual offenders don’t see their darkness and have mistaken their sinful habits for light. Have we hid our light from them? Do we reward their darkness and call it light?

Life gets difficult for all those around when we don’t call sin what it is. I’m not judging. Please know I’m not. My heart breaks for those who can’t see the light because I know how freeing the Light of this World is! He freed me from the darkness that this world offers. And, as long as we are willing to share Him, He can free those around us in deep dark sin, too. The burden of addiction is not too great for our God. We have to do our part. We have to tell others about the great I Am!

We can blame a broken down system time and time again, but the brokenness these children are born into starts at home. We as followers of Jesus Christ have to step up and get the Word out to those crippled by addiction. This horrible cycle of babies being born addicted and suffering awful withdrawal symptoms has to stop. These families need to be raising their children. That is God’s perfect plan.The abuse and neglect has to be stopped by the light.

But it never will be until we step up and spread the Good News across this nation. If you don’t think America is in trouble, read Facebook comments on anything pertaining to Christianity, politics, or a simple faith based television show. I have to click off of those posts. The comments are down right disgusting, and they mostly have no regard to the feelings of others whatsoever. So many people these days are so against Jesus Christ, and they aren’t ashamed to let the world know from behind their screens.

We live in a day where technology has taken over and given too many people a voice. Too many people want to be heard. It’s a sad time we live in. What is going to cause a change? What is going to change the hate, the children being abused, the drug addictions, the violence? What can mend a broken system?

The church. Jesus Christ. The gospel. The good news. Christians doing the job that the Lord gave them. I admit I have failed miserably at sharing Christ with others. I want to get upset instead of show love. My fleshly desires are not pretty. But, no matter how much we all fail, Jesus Christ is the only way to see a change in this world. We have to stop making excuses. People are dying and going to Hell every day. People are killing others and themselves because we aren’t being the missionaries God has asked us to be.

Babies are going to be born addicted, moms and dads are going to take those babies home and abuse and neglect them while looking for their next high, the local department of social services is going to remove children from their first families after the damage has been done, foster families are going to continue to feel hurt, abandonment, and sadness because of broken families and a broken system all while falling in love with suffering children that very possibly could be moved at any given time until we say enough is enough. Nothing will be different until we decide to be the change the world needs by sharing Jesus Christ with those who are hurting the most. We can’t expect darkness to change unless we share the light.

Foster families put our hearts on our sleeves knowing they will be shattered. It is just what we are expected to do. It will never get easier. Not until we stand up and move forward by letting the world know that Jesus is the answer! We have to stop letting fear and worry control us. We can do this together. We can fight the evil in this world with the Light. Let’s band together and be the change all these children and families need in this broken world. Let’s say yes to children in need. Let’s be loving and kind to their families. Let’s not be afraid to show them what true victory in Christ looks like. He loves us all the same, and He has a desire for His children to walk in truth. We have to have that same desire! We have to let Him be the change so many desperately need.

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John 8:12 – Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

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Top 5 Reasons Not to Become a Foster Parent

Being a foster parent isn’t easy. It’s actually one of the most difficult tasks the Lord has ever called me to. So, today, I am going to list the top 5 reasons why you should not consider becoming a foster parent.

Do NOT become a foster parent:

1) If communicable diseases and lice scare you – (Due to the drug epidemic in our country, it is highly likely that the children placed in your home will have been exposed to communicable diseases such as hepatitus, TB, MRSA, etc.)

2) If changing your parenting style to meet the needs of children who have experienced trauma isn’t on your radar (Children who have experienced abuse and neglect and have been exposed to drugs and alcohol have different needs than typically developing children who have lived in a loving home their whole lives.)

3) If the idea of sacrificing time from your schedule to take the children to parental visits, weekly therapy and doctor appointments, court dates, family partnership meetings, etc. doesn’t seem fun and if uncertain timetables seem daunting (When you say yes to a child in foster care, you never know how long he or she will stay. It could be a few days, a few years, or forever.)

4) If taking hot bubble baths with candles lit and a book in hand while you sip hot chocolate is your idea of the perfect way to unwind each night. (Give it up. It ain’t going to happen.)

5) If you enjoy getting a full 8 hours of sleep each night (Nope! Don’t even count on it. Children who have experienced trauma Do Not Sleep Well! They have night terrors. Who can blame them?)

Okay! There’s my list. But, I’m not finished. I won’t leave you hanging. Here it goes.

The Top 5 Reasons Why YOU Should Become a Foster Parent 

Do BECOME a foster parent if:

1) You trust God to protect your family from communicable diseases (He will! What time I’m afraid, I will trust in thee. Psalm 56:3)

2) You trust God to give you strength and equip you with the ability to parent a child who has experienced trauma, abuse, and neglect (Don’t get caught up in a power struggle. Do what works for each child. They need love and secruity! I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Philippians 4:13)

3) You trust God to plan out your days and understand that His timing and plans are perfect (God will take care of the anxiousness that comes with daunting appointments and uncertain time tables. Jesus might just use you to show hope to a broken family! Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6) 

4) You understand that taking a quick shower will get you just as clean as a long bubble bath and missing a shower every once in awhile hasn’t ever hurt anyone. (Think of the new mom syndrome! You will enjoy nice long bubble baths when your kids are grown. You have something to look forward to! Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and he shall find rest unto your souls. Matthew 11:28-29)

5) You realize you can live off of a limited amount of sleep (It can be done! Sleep is overrated. These children probably haven’t gotten a full night’s sleep since their birth. They deserve to feel safe. Their sleep patterns do get better the longer they are in your home. When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. Proverbs 3:24)

There you have it! The good far outweighs any bad that might be imagined. Remember these children are not monsters! They need a chance at life. There are no bad children! They didn’t ask to be handed the life thrown at them. None of the things they have experienced is their fault.

If the Lord is calling you to help children in need, consider becoming a foster parent. There are more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. Will you make a difference in a child’s life?

These children need hope. And, that hope comes from Jesus Christ. Don’t be afraid. Just do it! You will fail. You will feel helpless and worthless. You WILL want to quit and give up. But, God will get you through. Don’t take your eyes off of Him! Be the change these children need. The sacrifices are worth it. Your life will be changed for the better. The best things in life come from true sacrifice and trusting the Lord! Step out on faith.

A restless generation
We’re turning over every stone
Hoping to find salvation
In a world that’s left us cold
Can we get back to the altar?
Back to the arms of our first love
There’s only one way to the Father
And He’s calling out to us
To the captive, it looks like freedom
To the orphan, it feels like home
To the skeptic, it might sound crazy
To believe in a God who loves
In a world, where our hearts are breaking
And we’re lost in the mess we’ve made
Like a blinding light, in the dead of night
It’s the Gospel
The Gospel that makes a way
It’s the Gospel that makes a way
By: Ryan Stevenson

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Ephesians 4:2 –

With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

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An Adoption Party with Lilo and Stitch

AJ loves Stitch. So, when we decided to go to Disney during his “gotcha” week, I knew we had to schedule an adoption party with Lilo and Stitch at Ohana. Mickey Mouse and Pluto joined us, too. We are thankful that some special friends helped make this celebration possible!

 

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AJ has been with our family for 2 years now! It’s about time we got to celebrate!! If you know our family well or have read some of the other posts on this blog, you already know that we didn’t officially adopt AJ until this past October (2017). He lived with us, and we fell in love with him for 21 months before his adoption was final. But, January 27th was the two year anniversary of him being delivered to our home. It can all be a little confusing.

 

 

If anyone deserves to have his life celebrated, it is our sweet boy. He has the cutest little personality. And, what better place to celebrate than the happiest place on Earth at Ohana?

 

20180203_105821Ohana means family. And family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten. We love AJ being a part of our family. He is our precious son and a wonderful brother to his siblings. There would never be enough words to describe how much love we all have for him.

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20180203_102012Adopting him into our family changed our lives for the better. I’m not sure if I will ever be able to hold back the tears when I think about what a gift he is from God.

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20180203_103320If your family has been praying about adopting, and you feel God leading you down that path, do it. Your relationship with the Lord will only become stronger because of it. The entire process, especially the uncertainties and waiting, isn’t always easy, but some of the best things in life aren’t easy. God doesn’t ask us to do easy things for Him. He asks us to get out of our comfort zone and have faith that we can do what He asks us to do. If he hasn’t called your family to adopt, maybe he is asking you to help a family who is by praying for them or helping them financially. I know any family who is adopting would be grateful.

20180203_103010Our family would love to be given the opportunity to add more children through adoption one day. We are praying about a special request right now. And, we were also asked to take in two children from foster care this past Thursday. That would have made 6 boys and 2 girls for us. But, since we were on vacation and couldn’t pick the children up that night, it didn’t work out.

But, whether our special prayer request works out (Please pray with us. It is actually a pretty big deal that can bring anxiousness the more we dwell on it. I wish I could share, but I can’t right now.) Or, whether the Lord sends us another child(ren) through foster care or strictly through adoption is all in His hands. And, if He doesn’t have another child for us, we trust Him. He is the only one who knows what’s best. For the moment, we are enjoying officially being a family of 8.

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James 1:27 – Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

 

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom

We weren’t planning on visiting a park on a Saturday, but the two little boys getting sick on Monday night changed our plans a little. All of the parks are crazy busy on the weekends. But, with all of our fast passes, we still managed to have an enjoyable day at Animal Kingdom. (If you are planning a visit, make sure you get your fast passes secure way in advance or you won’t be getting any. They get taken quickly).

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We headed to the Lion King show first. It was an interactive show in Africa. We all really liked it. Jaden and Jayla got to participate in the show.

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20180203_132723(0)Next, a few of us watched It’s Tough to be a Bug. It’s a cute 4-D film, but it isn’t for all children. It has a few scary parts. Jayla is 5 and did pretty well, but the little boys and even James who is 8 wouldn’t have liked it. We had to make a decision based on each child’s personality.

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11984After the film, the older kids, Jamie, Ken, and I headed to Avatar Flight of Passage. It is an awesome ride. If you ever have the chance, ride it.  It was even a little better than Soarin at Epcot. And, Soarin was one of our favorites. Get a fast pass though because the line can be over a 3 hour wait!!

20180203_160328While the older kids rode Thunder Mountain, I took the smaller ones to see all the different animals on the paths throughout the park.

wdw2018034927674742_8170288170_dsnyRes-base_dsnyLoc-regJames was especially interested in seeing the amimals. He has always loved learning about the animals all over the world. He told me that if he wants to see every animal in the whole world then he will actually have to visit each country because he knows they can’t put every single animal in a zoo. Sounds like he has a lot of traveling to do one day.

 

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20180203_145052We all rode Na’vi River Journey together. It was a pretty neat ride, but I wouldn’t suggest standing in a really long line for it.  (Get a fast pass if you can because it isn’t really worth wasting two hours in line. We had fast passes, so we got right on.)

 

Next, the kids headed to DinoLand U.S.A. They were able to ride all of the rides in that area before heading to the Safari. James was not thrilled about riding Dinosaur, but he toughed it out. He did hide his face the entire time, but I was proud of him for trying. It is pretty intense especially for kids who are frightened easily. Jayla was fine, but as I said before, she has a high tolerance for things. She is my most outgoing child for sure.

 

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By the time we finished with DinoLand, it was after dark, and it was nearing closing time. We rushed to the Safari and got in our jeep just in time. The Safari focuses on the wild animals of Africa. We were able to see hyenas, elephants, giraffes, lions, and several other animals. Of course it was dark, so we couldn’t see really well, but we are glad we took the time to do it. We couldn’t get our times worked out to take the ride before dark, but if we ever get to visit again, we will be getting a fast pass earlier in the day if at all possible.

 

We ended our day at Rainforest Cafe on Animal Kingdom property. Most of the kids fell asleep while they were eating. Literally! We were all so tired. But, like I mentioned earlier, we had a great day together.

 

(You almost need two days to do everything in this park unless you arrive at opening. We arrived around 11:30, and we were exhausted by closing at 8. So, I don’t know if we would have made it from opening to closing with all the kids. The walking back and forth from each land even made the older kids tired. Keep in mind this was our last park on this trip, and if you do Legoland and all 4 Disney parks in a row, you are going to be tired by the last day. The tiredness was worth it though! We made a lot of memories that I know the kids will remember for a long time.)

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wdw2018034927637704_408513452525_dsnyRes-base_dsnyLoc-regGenesis 1:31 – And God saw everything that he made, and, behold, it was very good.

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A Day at Epcot

We visited Epcot on Friday. The older kids took turns exploring the park with Jamie and their Neannie and Pawpaw for most of the day. The smaller kids and I joined them for the afternoon. We were too exhausted from Magic Kingdom to get out early.

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Although Epcot doesn’t have a lot for younger children, and our little ones slept through most of it, I’m glad we went. We enjoyed all the rides and going to all the different countries.

 

Jaden had been looking forward to Epcot since she learned that we were going to Disney. She wanted her picture taken in each country. The teacher in me thinks it is a great place to take your school age children. There are a lot of cultures to learn about.

 

If you get to the different countries early enough in the day, you can see a lot of the  princesses. We missed most of them.  But, we did see Sleeping Beauty and Elsa and Anna.

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wdw2018034927106321_408494063618_dsnyRes-base_dsnyLoc-regThe Soarin and Frozen rides are two of the best rides in all of the Disney World Parks. Snag those fast passes early for both of them. You won’t regret it! Jacob and Jaden probably rode Soarin at least 3 times. We would have ridden Frozen again if we had had time.

 

wdw2018034927098762_8169877943_dsnyRes-base_dsnyLoc-reg.jpegEpcot is the park to go to if you are tired or just need a break. If you only have small children, you won’t need a full day in Epcot, but the older kids and adults could easily spend an entire day or two there. We are all looking forward to visiting it again soon.

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Galatians 3:26 – For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

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A Busy Day at Magic Kingdom

Yesterday we tackled Magic Kingdom. It is clearly the park to go to if you have younger kids. It is very over the top and fun for them. I really like it a lot myself. However, it is always very very very crowded even in the off season. The crowd predictors have been way off on the crowd levels this year. Yesterday the crowd was predicted to be at a 3, and it actually came out to a 6 out of 10.

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We still managed to have an awesome time. After meeting talking Mickey, Tomorrowland was where we started off our day.

wdw2018032925968491_408458690359_dsnyRes-base_dsnyLoc-reg.jpgThe older kids loved Space Mountain. They would have ridden it all day if the lines hadn’t been so long. The Buzz Lightyear ride was a hit, too.

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After we finished all the rides in Tomorrowland, we headed to watch the parade. We had read several Disney stories or watched the movies before we came. The parade helped the stories come to life for them.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was a chapter book that we read together during the month of January. Alice has became one of their favorite characters.

We all watched Dumbo a few days before we left for our trip. It is one of my favorite childhood movies. We didn’t have a chance to ride the Dumbo ride, so I’m glad they got to see his float in the parade. 20180201_152144All of the floats are over the top and nicely done. We were glad we took time to watch the parade. All the kids enjoyed it.

After the parade, we met Cinderella and Elena. Jayla had just fallen asleep while we were in line, so it wasn’t the best time to get to meet them. She would have rather taken a nap. But, she tried really hard to smile. She got to finish her nap right after the pictures were snapped.

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While all the little kids napped, we checked out Tom Sawyer Island and Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse. We also read both of these chapter books as a family before our trip.

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We liked both books, but the older kids liked Swiss Family Robinson the best. They have their own secret “home” in the woods on our farm that they visit very frequently. All of the things they have made for their outdoor home are amazing. They even have it divided into rooms and have made a broom from evergreen leaves and a large stick. Kids need to be creative, and they will be if we give them the chance.

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My oldest two kids would choose to live this way everyday if they could. They love the outdoors and adventures. I know they got more ideas for their “house” by seeing this one.

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Next, Jaden and I hopped on the Magic Carpet ride. Her favorite characters are Jasmine and Aladdin. The silly camel spit water directly in my face. So, if you ever ride this ride, be aware. We hadn’t ever ridden it before. It was fun though!

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Fantasyland was our last stop for rides at the end of the day. We rode Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, It’s A Small World, Winnie the Pooh, and Peter Pan’s Flight. Jayla’s favorite was Peter Pan. Jayce loved It’s a Small World, and AJ really liked the Winnie the Pooh ride. All of us “older” kids chose the mine train for our favorite. But, they all were great fun rides!

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(We read the first Winnie The Pooh chapter book in January, too. It was actually included as a read aloud in our Sonlight curriculum. All the kids were eager to explore Winnie the Pooh’s house and ride the ride. We plan on reading the second chapter book when we return home.)

20180201_191615 (My phone was about to lose charge, so I didn’t get good pictures on Peter Pan.)

By the time we finished the rides in Fantasyland, it was time for the fireworks. We grabbed a bite to eat at Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant and watched them from the back side of the castle. It was a great spot to be away from the crowds.

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All in all we had a very busy but magical day!

wdw2018032925865096_8169116927_dsnyRes-base_dsnyLoc-reg(Pre-teens and teens really do love Disney, too. This has been a great trip for our oldest two. So, if you think your kids are too old, they aren’t! They will have a wonderful time!)

Notes: If you really want to experience everything in Magic Kingdom have a plan in place before you enter the park! We used touringplans.com. Also, you need at least two full days or you could spread it out over 3 days. That means you need to stay at least 6 days because you will want to visit the other parks, too. There were several rides and places we didn’t even make it to. All three youngest took at least a 2 hour nap in the middle of the day. So, if you are traveling with smaller kids, keep in mind that they will need a break! If I had it to do over again, we would have went to a special Magic Kingdom after hours event and then got park hoppers so we could have visited Magic Kingdom several times before the trip was over. Don’t forget to secure your fast passes at least a month before your trip. They get booked up quickly. Magic Kingdom is not a magical place without them!

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Hollywood Studios Rewind

Yesterday we visited Hollywood Studios. AJ still had a slight cough, so we took turns keeping him at the house. Out of all the Disney parks, this was the one I didn’t mind him missing because it is definitely geared towards older kids and adults.

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Children 3, 4, and 5 aka James, Jayla, and Jayce were ready to go after about 2 hours. They wanted to ride rides, and there was only one ride for their age group: Toy Story. We all loved it!

20180131_184309.jpgWe watched a few shows such as The Little Mermaid, Frozen, and Disney Junior. They liked Disney Junior the most because it was interactive.

20180131_132704.jpgThey got to meet Doc Mcstuffins. She did really well with them. Her set design was so cute.

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After all of that was said and done it was just after lunch and James got a huge ice cream cone while Jayce and Jayla took a nap. Jayla swam for about 5 hours on Tuesday, and she was just really tired. She decided to purchase as few princess toys and go back to the house with Neannie and Pawpaw. Thank the Lord for Neannie and Pawpaw!! They kept the youngest 4 kids for the rest of the afternoon so Jamie and I could enjoy the park with the oldest two.

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Jacob is into Star Wars, and there are a lot of attractions geared toward those movies at Hollywood Studios. There are also several larger thrill seeking rides, which was perfect for Jacob. Jaden will do most of the scarier rides, but she would not do Tower of Terror. And, I don’t blame her. Thankfully Pawpaw Ken took Jacob at least 3 or 4 times before he left for the day. The lines were no more than 20 minutes of wait time all day except for Toy Story, and we were able to get fast passes for it.

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Jaden really liked watching Beauty and the Beast and meeting all the characters. I know Jayla would have loved Beauty and the Beast as well, but she slept through it. Oh well! Maybe next time.

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After enjoying the park all day, we decided to eat at the Sci-fi Dine-in Theatre. I was concerned that the movies might be a little scary, but they weren’t at all. They were mostly funny little clips of 1950s movies. We had a great time eating together. The food and service were wonderful. The chef even made me a special dressing because of all my problems that come along with my autoimmune disease. They are so accommodating at Disney. The cast members go out of their way to make sure your trip is special.

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After dinner, we watched the Star Wars fireworks and headed home. All in all we had a great day especially the older kids.

As a mom with several kids 8 and under, our next visit I will get park hoppers simply because there isn’t a lot for the younger kids to do at Hollywood Studios. You could easily do a half a day at Hollywood Studios and then move on to another park (in the less crowded off season). If we only had the two oldest, a park hopper wouldn’t have really mattered because they enjoyed staying in the park from open to close. And, I enjoyed getting to spend so much time with them especially the last 5 hours of the day when all the little ones were back at the house playing. I hear Toy Story Land is coming soon, so I bet it will be geared toward younger kids. If so, I am sure they would want to stay longer and a park hopper probably wouldn’t be necessary. I guess we will just have to wait and see!

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Psalm 118:24 – This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

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A Change in Plans

Yesterday, the little boys weren’t feeling the best, so we decided to take a day off to let them rest. James had a virus a few days before we left for our vacation, and they have had the same exact symptoms. You know how kids like to share germs. Right?

Even though we had to push our plans back a day, it became a blessing. The older kids played in the pool at our house nearly all day.

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Then, that afternoon, I took Jaden, Jayla, and Jacob on a carriage ride around Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground. It was nice just to sit back and enjoy the scenery.

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After the ride, we met up with Jamie and James and went to the campfire in the campground. We roasted smores over the open flames. And, we met Chip and Dale there! We all sang campfire songs as we danced the night away! Talk about a good time!!

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Our best laid out plans aren’t ever as good as what God has planned for us. He gave us all a much needed day of rest. And, he provided an opportunity for Jamie and me to spend quality time with our 4 oldest. My mom and Ken watched the two littlest boys for us so we could have a fun night out! Thanks guys!! ❤

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Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

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Legoland Florida Theme Park

Today we started off with a free breakfast inside the Lighthouse at the Legoland Beach Retreat. It was a great breakfast with a wide variety of food. The kids ate really well.

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After breakfast, we headed to the theme park. The day was so nice. The weather was perfect and the lines were super short! We really didn’t wait more than 5 minutes most of the day.

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Each child seemed to have favorite parts of the park. Jayla and Jaden were excited about seeing the characters from Lego Friends. Jayla also loved riding a few roller coasters. This was a first for her.

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AJ loved Duplo Valley. Jayce slept through that section, but I know he would have liked it as well. There were plenty of other rides that he got to ride.

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James said he loved every part of the whole park. He plays with Legos a lot at home. I think he really liked exploring the Lego cities. He has a very creative mind, so I know his wheels were turning. He didn’t want to ride the bigger rides like the older kids, but he still enjoyed his day. Sometimes I forget that he is only 8, and it is okay that roller coasters still seem scary to him. There were more rides geared towards his age anyway.

Jacob really enjoyed all the larger rides. He is my thrill seeker and isn’t really scared of anything. He always tells me that I worry too much. I’ve gotten over a lot of fears though. Life is too short to be worrying all the time. He liked the Lost Kingdom Adventure and Flying School the most. He is always so good about riding the rides with the younger kids, too. He wants to make their day special. Jaden is the same way. They love seeing their siblings happy.

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All the different sections were really neat and worth exploring. All the kids said they want to come back again one day. As a mom, I highly recommend it. The day was so peaceful and fun for the kids. The layout of the park is really nice and well thought out.

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20180129_115147It is geared toward kids 12 and under. If you love huge roller coasters, it might not be for your family. Our day was planned strictly for the kids to enjoy. And, they all had a great time!

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(Jayce was literally asleep standing up in this picture. He took a long nap right after this. 😴)

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A Ride through the Sky and Legoland Beach Retreat

We are so excited to be celebrating the fact that AJ joined our family 2 years ago this week. Some families call the day “Gotcha Day.” Others choose names such as “Family Day” or “Adoption Day.” To us, the name really isn’t important, and the day he came to us was many many months before the day his adoption was final. So, he will get to celebrate at two separate times each year plus he will have a birthday celebration on top of that!

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Some find the “Gotcha” celebration controversial, but for our family, this week is so important. His life is worth celebrating! Every life is! Life is a gift from God. And, if it wasn’t for the foster to adopt journey, he might not have even made it to see this day. God has worked many miracles in his life.

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We always want him to know that he is loved so so much. Does he have to have a trip filled with awesome adventures to show him how much we love him? Of course not! Is it a good way to bond as a family and make special memories? Yes, of course it is!

We understand all too well that adoption comes with loss, and it isn’t hidden that his birth family continues to need our prayers. We feel the trauma almost daily. He will possibly live with life long disabilities due to the circumstances he lived in before coming to us. But, we choose to forgive and hopefully his birth family understands how much we care for them and love them. He will always be a part of them. We pray for their healing! God wants them to be healed, and so do we!

AJ is still young, and he doesn’t understand it all, but we pray he will grow up seeing God’s hand in His life. We pray he always understands that God’s plans and purposes for his life are always the best. We have a great desire for him to see his birth family healed and walking with the Lord. But, we also know it is all in God’s hands, and He already knows when and if they will be willing to walk the path He has chosen for them. We pray that God will bring our boy comfort and peace no matter the outcome.

Despite the hurt and loss, we want to stay focused on the positive sides of adoption providing AJ the support and love he needs along the way.  We want to celebrate all the Lord has done in his life. We want to make a big deal of what a miracle he is as long as he feels comfortable doing it. We will follow his lead. So far, he isn’t complaining about the fun, attention, and family time he’s being immersed with.

FB_IMG_1516589052425So, on to our first big day of our week long trip! We started off with a short plane ride to Florida. It was so much fun. I used to get nervous flying. But, we are in God’s hands. We don’t need to worry about our future. And, honestly, I feel like flying is safer than driving 13 hours in the 12 passenger van with 6 kids. AJ and I sang songs, clapped, and took pictures until he fell off to sleep. He curled up with Daddy for the last part of the flight.

 

Right when we got off the plane, we hopped in the rental and headed to Legoland Beach Retreat.

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This part of the trip was a gift from my dad. The kids opened a package at Christmas with Legos, a Lego themed shirt, and a picture of the Legoland Beach Resorts. James loves Legos and wants to design new Lego sets as a career one day. So, he was very excited about his gift.

 

The kids have really enjoyed Legoland Beach Retreat so far. There have been plenty of things for them to do, and the staff has been great.

 

The older kids had a fun time in the pool – even if it was pouring the rain. You have to love Florida weather. Swimming in the rain in January! Why not?

 

Tomorrow we will hit the Legoland Theme Park. But, for now, we are going to call it a night.

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(By the way, we got a pretty big discount on tickets with the homeschool rate. If you homeschool, you should seriously check it out!!)

James 1:17 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

 

 

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When God Says Wait After He has said Yes

Sometimes God puts a desire so strongly on our hearts that it’s hard to wait on His perfect timing. Anxious fears creep up in the waiting. Insecurities place a cloud of doubt right over our heads.

The what ifs speak louder than the faith and hope of the one who called us and gave us the burning desire to begin with.

What if He just asked our family to do this to see if we would say yes, but in the end He’s not going to bring it to pass?

What if He decides to say no despite the many many many prayers that have been prayed over this issue for more than a year?

What if those in control of the situation don’t see things the same way we see it?

What if? What if? What if?

Then God says, “Hush my child. My will will be done. I am the one in control. If I want to bring it to pass, it will happen at the most perfect time. If I do not bring it to pass, you were willing, and that’s all I ask. But, trust me to work out all of the details.”

Fear – a 4 letter word that steals our joy.

Hope – a 4 letter word that brings all joy and peace through the power of the Holy Ghost

We must be faithful. We must say yes when God puts a longing and desire on our heart. We must choose hope instead of fear. We must trust that the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt can also work a great work in our lives and in the lives of those we are so desiring to help. There is so much at stake and the waiting is so difficult.

But, we must sit back and expect a great unfolding from the Great I Am! He’s the only one who calls us to do His work, and He’s the only one who can and will bring it to pass.

We must trust and obey and watch God do amazing things. Today, I choose to believe that commitment to the Lord and trust will bring this giant in front of us down in His perfect timing. If it’s meant to be, it will happen and nothing can get in His way. Nothing can stop Him.

And if He doesn’t bring it to pass? There is a good reason that He can see that we can’t. But, until He shows me that His plans have completely changed from the longing and desire that He placed on our hearts what seems like forever ago, I stand firm in believing that He is weaving together every detail into a beautiful story. I choose faith!

Romans 15:13 – Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.

Psalm 37:5 – Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

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When Trials become a Blessing

I listened to the song “Blessings” time and time and time again after Jayce’s premature birth and my hysterectomy. For nearly a year, I cried so many tears that it would be impossible to count them all. But, God never lost count.

He turned my tears into faith. He created a trust that helped me understand that the trial I was facing was going to be His mercy in disguise.  I had faith that one of my greatest disappointments that was causing so much aching was the revealing of a new plan that God would put before me. That faith and His mercy were finally revealed when Jayce was nearly 4 months shy of being 2 years old.

God’s love showed up on January 27, 2016. It was on that snow covered Wednesday evening that the most precious, frail, congested, dehydrated, severely underweight 4 month old baby boy was delivered to our side door by the director of our foster care agency. The sweetest little boy who was wearing newborn clothes and who was most likely experiencing withdrawal symptoms was placed in my arms.

Just a few seconds after I first held his tiny little body, he quickly began screaming from hunger pains. As his formula was being prepared, nothing I did consoled him. It was that very minute that I realized A.J. wasn’t just small and sick, but he wasn’t a typically developing 4 month old baby. And those shrill, raspy, inconsolable cries did not end for the next four days. Despite the hard battles he faced, he was perfect. Despite the neglect he had endured, he was a fighter.

We all fell in love with him the moment we saw his precious little face. It didn’t take but a few moments to understand that we were ready to do anything God asked us to in order to help him begin to thrive. Nothing that he was going through was his fault. Nothing.

God knew what A.J. needed. I trusted Him to get us through whatever was thrown our way. And, He trusted our family to nurse A.J. back to health. He trusted us to clothe him, feed him, and most importantly love him. What an honor to be used by the great Physician.

During those first few weeks, we watched A.J. gain weight literally right before our eyes. We could just see the pounds being packed on. Really! It was amazing and all God. He gained almost 4 pounds during the first 2 weeks! And, we watched him grow longer and longer. The newborn and 0-3 month clothing were put away almost as quickly as they were gotten out of storage.

                    

We not only got to watch him get bigger, but we also got to watch him learn how to trust. It took several days and hours of working with him, but he finally realized that hugs and kisses are normal. He learned not to straighten his back and pull to the right side each time we picked him up. I absolutely melted the first time he rested his head on my chest and fell asleep without a fight. At that moment, he finally accepted my love. He finally understood what it meant for someone to meet his every need right away.

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What a humbling, challenging, yet rewarding experience those first few weeks were. As the days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months into nearly two years, God reminded us over and over and over again that A.J. belongs to Him.

Through the process, we all had to take deep breaths and understand that God knows all things. Early on, we had to become content with whatever He decided. We had to let go and let God. We realized how blessed we were no matter the outcome.  

Deep down we all knew how hard it would have been if we ever had to say goodbye, but we trusted the Lord to do what is best for our precious little guy. He’s the only one who knows what he needs! He’s the only one who knows where he belongs. 

  

  

  

  

We are glad that God is in control of such life changing decisions. We could have never made such an important decision for our little guy or our family.

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Our sweet boy has been loved more than words can express for the past 21 months, and today God changed A.J.’s last name! Today he was adopted!! 💟

Longsuffering always brings forth great blessings. God is good through it all. And, some of our greatest blessings do come through our most difficult trials. Don’t ever let your faith waiver. Trust the Lord with all your heart! He will show you great and mighty things! He will make the impossible possible by giving you the desires of your heart! 

After Jayce’s birth, it felt like my chances of adding more children to our family had ended. It felt impossible. My womb was gone and adoption felt so expensive for an already large family. I felt so unworthy. But, God said, “I’m not finished with you yet. It’s not about your worth. It’s about mine. My ways are not your ways. My ways are better!” And, in His timing, He sent us a sweet baby boy who needed a family to love him and care for him. Each time I look at our son, I am reminded of what a miracle worker God truly is. 

Ephesians 3:20King James Version (KJV)

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.

(The above verse was shown to me by a friend when our family was anticipating whether or not an adoption request from a birthmom in our jail ministry was going to happen. I later realized that it was the same verse that was on the devotion that I read to the birthmom the first night I met her. That devotion was written for September 15th, which is our precious A.J.’s birthday. God knew what He was doing. He sent us the possibility of adopting a baby girl four months before he sent us A.J., so we would know that He was the one who brought us our son. His plans are best. Even when I had no idea that our son – the one God meant for us- had just been born when I was reading that devotion to the birthmom, God had all of the details worked out. God IS Able!)

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Happy 2 Years to our Littlest Guy!

Dear Sweet Boy,

Happy 2nd Birthday! Wow! God is amazing! If those were the only words on this page, they would be enough. We have seen Him work in mighty ways these last 20 months.
We may have missed your first 4 months, but His ways are perfect. He has shown us His love and how He fights for His children time and time again. We are thankful.

Your life is proof that God answers prayer. Faith brought you to us. And, watching God work has only strengthened our faith even more. Despite everything you have been through in a short amount of time, you continue to bring happiness to everyone around you. Your smile and laughter are contagious. Thank you sweet boy for loving us so well. 

Our lives wouldn’t be the same without you. You are a true gift sent from above. Keep being sweet! We love you more than you can imagine. 

Love,

Mommy

James 1:17 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

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Happy 8th Birthday Sweet James!

Dear James, 

Happy 8th Birthday, sweet boy! It seems like I was writing your 5th birthday letter just yesterday. Just like that, three more years have passed by, and you have grown up on me. You are doing more and more each day. But, no matter how much you have grown and changed, one thing has stayed the same: You continue to be one of the kindest, most loving little boys that I know. You are always putting others before yourself. For that, I am grateful. It’s so easy to love you. So easy!

I had so much fun celebrating your birthday! You chose to go to my favorite restaurant: Mexican! You know how to make your mommy happy! 😊

It was so cute when you whispered that you wanted to let the waiter know that you were celebrating your birthday. But, you made sure to whisper that you really didn’t want whipped cream smashed in your face. You were such a good sport when you DID get whipped cream smeared all over your face. I was so proud of you!

You being a good sport set an example for me when I got whipped cream smeared all in my face a couple of weeks later on my birthday! You have taught me how to have fun and go with the flow! We could all learn a lot from you. Thank you for always being who God created you to be! Don’t ever change, sweet boy!

You have not only taught me how to let go and have fun, but you have also taught me the power of prayer. A few weeks before your big day, you prayed that Jayce would get a skating party for his birthday. God answers prayers and is faithful to take care of those who diligently seek Him. Aren’t you glad you got to share his party and celebrate your birthday, too? You had a ball at your skating party. I loved watching you smile and skate with your friends.

It seems like you always have a smile on your face. Keep on having fun and shining for the Lord, sweet boy! Always let your light shine. I will love you forever, and you’ll always be mine.

Love Always, 

Mommy 🖤

We also had fun at the playground on your big day! 

 

Matthew 5:16King James Version (KJV)

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

James’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 8

What is your favorite food? Mac and Cheese, Mashed Potatoes, and Applesauce

What do you hope you never have to eat again? tomatoes

What is your favorite thing to do? Play Minecraft

What is your favorite animal? All of the rare ones

What makes you happy? My mommy and my family

What is the best memory from when you were 7? Going places with Mawmaw

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 8? Go to Legoland

What would you like to be when you grow up? A lego creator

What is your favorite song? Amazing Grace

Where is your favorite place to eat? Red Lobster

What is your favorite book? The Ear Book

Where would you like to go on vacation? Legoland in Florida

What would you like the world to know? I’m not sure…

 

 

Want to see how much James has changed over the years?

https://learninggodsway.blog/category/lets-reminisce-and-reflect/james/

 

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A Beautiful Day in the Mountains 

After being out of routine and all of us going in different directions due to church camp the past few weeks, it was nice to spend time in the mountains as a family yesterday.

We all had a great time at church camp and one of our littles got saved (Praise the Lord!), but it’s always sweet when everyone is back together again. 

I loved going to the mountains with my family as a child. So, it makes me smile when I see how much my children enjoy it. 

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We haven’t been to these mountains for the past few years, so all of the kids were giddy about searching for the ponies that call this place home. 

The oldest girl even brought a yard stick along to measure these so called “wild” ponies. She wanted to put them into categories based on their height. She has been learning all about ponies and horses in her funschool journal. And, she’s determined to buy one at the auction this year. 

How cute is this little guy? The foals are always a big hit!

If you look closely at the ground in the picture above, you will see the oldest girl’s legs… That’s because at one moment just before her siblings decided to join her, I turned around to find her doing this…

This oldest girl of ours reminds me of a mix of Ann from Ann of Green Gables and Laura from Little House on the Prairie.

That’s what makes her so unique and special. The way she sees life, her bravery, and innocence makes me enjoy each day so much more. I rarely hear the words “I’m scared” or “I can’t” come from her lips!

I’m pretty sure she found the pony she wants to bring home in September. This Mama hopes her dreams come true! 

Needless to say, we made some wonderful memories. Memories that we won’t ever forget! 

Isaiah 52:7King James Version (KJV)

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Disclosure: There are some ponies that aren’t as friendly as the ones we found walking on the side of the road and in the campground. So, if you are from our neck of the woods and you decide to visit the ponies, being cautious as you approach them is always a great idea! I would have never imagined that the sweet pony in the picture would have went to sleep on Jaden’s lap like it did. It is a moment that I know she will treasure for a long time to come. She has been around horses practically her whole life, so she does have quite a bit of experience with them. ☺

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Happy 3rd Birthday Little Man

Dear Jayce,

These past three years we have watched God work miracles in your life. He asked your kidneys to start doing their job when you were lying helplessly in the NICU at 29 weeks. He healed an IV infiltration in your ankle without the need of surgery. He made the extra build up of fluid between your brain and skull disappear after we had been told that it would always be there.  He helped you learn how to nurse, sit up, crawl, walk, and talk. Those things seem so simple to most, but these accomplishments are not to be taken lightly for a 29 weeker. God has been so good to us. You are a fighter. We can finally say that you are a typically developing little boy who brings so much joy to our lives! 

We had so much fun celebrating your third birthday at the skating rink. We decided a skating party would be perfect just two days before your big day. After I overheard your 7 year old brother asking the Lord to please allow little Jayce to have a skating party on his big day, how could this mommy say no? God made kids in a way that they know how to get straight to their mommy’s hearts! 

Even though you didn’t skate for long, all of your friends seemed to enjoy themselves. You enjoyed watching them and playing games with Papaw Paul. 

Your PAW Patrol cupcakes were delicious. I loved spending time with you as we picked everything out the day before your party. The balloon you chose was enormous, but it lasted less than an hour. Big sisters have a way of sitting on balloons and popping them. 🙂 You did not mind as long as I promised to get you another one before your party started.

You really are one of the sweetest little guys that I know. I am so thankful for all God has done these past three years. I am grateful that we all get to experience life with you every day! We will love you forever. Stay sweet precious, boy! Stay sweet!

Love Always,

Mommy ♡

Jayce’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 3

What is your favorite food? chicken nuggets

What do you hope you never have to eat again? tomatoes

What is your favorite thing to do? play with Blaze

What is your favorite animal? giraffe

What makes you happy? swimming

What is the best memory from when you were 2? going to the beach

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 3? I want to see PAW Patrol.

What would you like to be when you grow up? a bird

What is your favorite song? Bob the Builder

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds

What is your favorite book? The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge

Where would you like to go on vacation? Africa

What would you like the world to know?
A mouse lives in a hole.

Isaiah 40:31 – But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.


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The Teen Years Have Begun!

Dear Jacob,

I can’t believe you are already 13 years old! My very first baby boy is not such a baby anymore. I must have blinked one too many times because you have grown up over night. You are just 2 inches shy of being the same height as your mama! How did that happen so quickly?? Pretty soon, I won’t hear the words, “Mommy, you are wearing my clothes again!” By the time you’re 14, you will have surpassed me!

Let’s not focus on tomorrow! We all had a great time celebrating your 13th birthday three days in a row. The first two days, we smiled and laughed at Dollywood. Thanks for making sure your littlest brothers were safe on the rides!

 

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The cabin was an added bonus. And, the surprise birthday party your younger siblings planned for you was the icing on the cake.

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Sorry I wasn’t feeling so well on day #3 – your big day. But your daddy made it special as you both feasted on crab legs – your choice, of course! I enjoyed watching you guys chow down!!

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When it was finally time for birthday presents, I could tell you were super excited when you opened something you had been patiently waiting for: a new drone.

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You brighten up our world. And I’m so glad that the Lord blessed us with you first. You make being a mommy of a teenager an easy task. You have shown me how important it is to love others well. Your servant’s heart makes each day worth living.

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I don’t know what I’d do without you. The Lord has used you to get me through some pretty difficult trials.  Thank you so much for always being here and using the words the Lord gives you to make His promises shine through. I’ll never forget the night we were hanging out in a hotel room right down the road from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Tears were streaming down my face, and you hugged me and said, “With God all things are possible.” Your faith was so strong. I couldn’t see past the impossible. But you trusted God. You could see past the circumstances that had been set before us.

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That was nearly 3 years ago, and we’ve got to witness God’s promise come to fruition in a way that I couldn’t have ever imagined. God makes things possible when they are in His perfect plan. Thank you for speaking those words when you were only 10 years old. The Lord has used them in a mighty way.  They have kept me grounded as we all continue to wait on Him to work out every last detail in His perfect timing. Don’t stop trusting in His promises! I love you more than you could ever imagine. Keep putting the Lord first each day.  His promises are going to take you so far! Hope you have a great year, sweet boy!

Love Always,

Mommy 

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Jacob’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 13

What is your favorite food? Crab legs

What do you hope you never have to eat again? Olives

What is your favorite thing to do? Going to Just Jump

What is your favorite animal? Puppies

What makes you happy? Getting surprises

What is the best memory from when you were 12? Going on a cruise to Alaska

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 13? Take another cruise 

What would you like to be when you grow up? Dog trainer

What is your favorite song? Love Broke Thru by TobyMac

Where is your favorite place to eat? Japanese Restaurant 

What is your favorite book? The Terrestria Chronicles 

Where would you like to go on vacation? Bald Head Island 

What would you like the world to know? Jesus saves 
Luke 1:37 – For with God nothing shall be impossible.

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The Toddler Years are a Thing of the Past!

Dear Jayla,

It happened.  You have officially left the toddler club and entered the school-aged club!  I have begged you for at least two years in a row to stop getting older.  In return, you have begged me just as much to please let you grow up. I guess neither one of us have much of a choice in the matter.  So, as a compromise, I decided to have a blast celebrating your 5th birthday! Each passing year is a blessing that I don’t take for granted.

The day officially started when you woke up in your cupcake pajamas.  You explained that cupcakes on pajamas are perfect for birthdays.  You are always finding ways to make each day special.

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I made sure to find the strawberry cupcakes that you requested for your party that we had at Pawpaw and Neannie’s. I’m sure the strawberry ones were delicious, but in the end you chose a chocolate one.  🙂

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The pizza and bread sticks you ate just before your cupcakes were just as good.  You are a wonderful party planner!

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After you ate and Happy Birthday had been sung, you opened your gifts.  You loved your new trampoline from your daddy and me.  You asked your daddy to please put it together right when he got home from work. Of course, he listened and fulfilled your request.

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After you jumped for a few minutes, you asked to go to Cracker Barrel.  Mawmaw Wilma and Pawpaw David were waiting for you.  Neannie, Pawpaw Ken, and Grandma came, too! They got to celebrate with you twice in one day.  While you were waiting to eat, you picked out a baby doll to buy with the money Aunt Heather sent you.  Mawmaw also gave you a baby doll!  Baby dolls are your favorite.

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Every time you beg me to let you grow up, you always mention that you need to get big so you can be a mommy one day.  If the number of baby dolls that you have when you are little is any indication of how many babies you will have after you grow up and get married, it is obvious that you will be a mommy of many.  The way you take care of your two younger brothers also solidifies the fact that you are going to be a great mommy. You make me proud baby girl!

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Don’t ever stop being the outspoken, loving girl that you are.  God created you to shine for Him.  Keep God’s songs in your heart, and you will reach the goals that you have already made. You not only want to be a mommy, but you also want to have your own stage to sing on! The way you love to sing for the Lord is amazing. Thank you for being you. Don’t ever change! Keep on taking care of those babies and keep on singing sweet girl.  Keep on singing! Your 5th birthday was a day I will always remember.

Love Always,

          Mommy  😉

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Psalm 95: 1 – O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. (2) Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.

Jayla’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 5

What is your favorite food? Waffles

What do you hope you never have to eat again? Cucumbers

What is your favorite thing to do? I like to play with my baby dolls every day.

What is your favorite animal? Giraffe

What makes you happy? Spending time with Merritt

What is the best memory from when you were 4? Playing with Merritt

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 5? Gymnastics

What would you like to be when you grow up? A Princess

What is your favorite song? Amazing Grace

Where is your favorite place to eat? Subway

What is your favorite book? Little Critter

Where would you like to go on vacation? Dollywood

What would you like the world to know? About Jesus

 

Want to see how Jayla has changed over the past 5 years?

https://learninggodsway.wordpress.com/category/lets-reminisce-and-reflect/jayla/

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365 Days of Foster Care

A whole year has passed.  A whole entire year has went by since we got our very first foster care placement.  And, what a year it has been.  We have had times of joy, times of laughter, and times of smiles mixed with times of fear, uncertainties, and panic.  We’ve had therapy appointments, doctor appointments, specialist appointments, and hospital stays. We’ve had foster care meetings, training sessions, family visits, and multiple court dates to attend. And, I must not forget the daily notes and medication logs that are to be written at the end of each day plus the expense form that is to be filled out and turned in each month.  There are also a slew of other things that have to be updated every so often such as proof of car and house insurance, driving records, TB tests, background checks, physicals, and the list goes on and on. But through it all, God’s been good.

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It has been a humbling experience as we have been blessed to watch how far our first sweet placement has come since the proper medical treatments and therapies have been carried out. My mommy intuitions kicked in within the first few minutes of him being placed in my arms at 4 months old. Mommy intuitions are so important when caring for a child in the foster care system. Most of the children have experienced trauma in their lives, and developing the perfect treatment plan is extremely important.  Putting an effective plan in place determines whether or not the children will begin to thrive. These children become yours the second they come into your home.  They might not stay forever, but they are yours for the length of time God sees fit. And you become their mommy and daddy, and your children become their brothers and sisters.  Let that sink in for just a few minutes.

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That’s been the hardest part for me in this foster care world.  It’s a world that I couldn’t ever fully explain if I tried.  You have to enter it to understand what all it entails. You have to be a part of it before you can understand why all of those emotions mentioned above can all occur so closely together. Our family felt led by the Lord to become a foster family, but until we got our first placement, we truly didn’t know what it meant to be a foster family.

There have been times where we felt totally helpless especially after we got our second true foster care placement.  We had a family placement before our second foster care placement.  But, that was a temporary situation. She didn’t stay very long.  We love her dearly, but it wasn’t in God’s plan for her to stay with us.

Our second true placement left me feeling broken inside.  I knew God was going to move this precious little girl not long after she came to live with us.  He showed me time and time again that He had to move her.  I fought it for so long, but one day I had to let go. I know it was for the best because it was His perfect plan.  However, I wear my heart on my sleeve so to speak.  There were many days where I absolutely felt inadequate while trying to learn how to best care for this precious three year old who had been through more than you could ever imagine, but I still loved her so deeply.  Our whole family did despite the trials and heartaches that we endured those three months.  Our kids went through a lot, but I pray it made them stronger.  I pray it showed them what true sacrifice for the Lord requires.  It isn’t ever going to be easy when God asks us to step out on faith and do what He has called us to do. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t obey and do it anyway.

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It is important to obey and just as equally important to understand that His will cannot be accomplished in our own power.  I learned that the hard way over the past 365 days. So many days, I tried to carry the weight of the foster care system on my shoulders without fully relying on God’s strength.  Those days were full of uncertainties.  Those days led me to becoming very ill and being hospitalized because of a sickness that I have apparently had for many years without a proper diagnosis. The stress of not being able to control God’s plans for these precious children brought me to a very low point in my life.  It has brought me to a point where I have needed to be for a very long time.  It has brought me to the point of learning how to have complete dependence in our Lord.  No matter how badly I wanted to, I never truly had control of the outcome of my health, the foster care system, or anything else that has occurred in my life for that matter.  Before this trial, my stubbornness and lack of faith made me want to have control time and time again. God wants our dependence to be in Him.

Since leaving that hospital room after a week long stay, God has placed a sense of gratefulness in my heart for the suffering I have endured through this trial.  While in the hospital, I became aware of an apparent autoimmune disorder that has wreaked havoc on my body. Further bloodwork also revealed that there are possibly more than one causing issues. The doctors are working to find the proper medication in order to achieve remission. I trust the Lord already has the treatment all planned out.  He knows what will work and what will not.  I am going to leave all of the decisions up to Him.  While I wait for Him to show us what is going to work, I am enjoying getting closer to Him.  He has restored the joy of my salvation.  A joy that should have been present every single day of the last 365.

I am thankful for the lessons that the Lord is teaching me through this suffering.  If He would not have brought me to one of the lowest points with my health, then I would still be stressing.  I would still be worrying.  I would still be walking in my own strength instead of trusting His perfect plan.  I would still be letting the world pull me in every direction.  I would still be questioning every decision that the Lord has asked us to make. Through this trial, I have been able to truly recognize God’s sovereignty.  I believe His plan will take place, and no matter the outcome, I accept His perfectness. His thoughts are so much higher than my thoughts, and His ways are so much higher than my ways.

And since his ways are so much better than mine, despite me choosing to walk in my own strength too many times this past year, the Lord has continued to allow our very first placement to brighten up our days. I will not let the enemy rob me of the joy of getting to spend each new day with this precious child.  Joy will be present in each passing moment.  God is my strong tower. We don’t know what God has planned for our family, but I do know He is working in the background.  I do know that He will use us in a great way if we allow Him.  My prayer is to be able to show Christ to all of those we come in contact with on this foster care journey.  Sometimes it is tough being a Christian in this fallen world because our ways are not going to line up with what a broken system sees as right.  Our family has had to make very difficult decisions in order to stand up for what we believe as God’s children.  Those decisions often led to falling down at the altar in tears and praying because it was so difficult to see how a certain decision could really be God’s divine plan.

Through it all, especially over the past few weeks, I have learned not to question God’s decisions.  Some decisions that we have had to make on this bumpy road have been difficult, but I know they were right.  Even if I still can’t see the big picture, they were still the right decisions to make. For example, we recently had to say no to adding two more children to our home. We felt God urging us to say no.  It was so difficult to say not right now, but we have to trust God to guide us down the right path as we continue this journey. Also, as I mentioned earlier, one of the toughest decisions was letting go of our second placement. It was at that moment, we realized as a family that we most likely wouldn’t ever get to see her in person again.  But, I do still see her every night because she is the one who is holding my hand in the picture hanging beside my bed. She’s the same three year old that little Jayce said he was coloring a picture of just a few nights ago and asked if we could drive in the car to see her. Despite the hurt and pain, I trust God. I will no longer stress over the decisions He asks us to make. I choose to accept difficulties with thanksgiving while anticipating blessings from the Lord. He always goes before us, and He’s always working in the background. These truths are being reiterated time and time again as I study His Word and as I read my Jesus Calling devotion each day.

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I cannot let the foster care system shape me or mold me. I cannot make decisions based on the emotions that such an intense system brings.  Instead, I will simply obey God and do what He has asked us to do: show love to hurting children by bringing them into our home in His timing. These children need Christ, and His love is the greatest gift of all. His love brings us all closer to Him.

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As I have grown closer to Christ these past few weeks, He has used His Word to teach me how He utilized those in the Bible who simply were willing to obey. In the book of Matthew, Joseph obeyed the angel of the Lord. In the book of Esther, Queen Esther obeyed, and God used her in a mighty way.  A way that she probably never imagined. And, there are so many others in the Bible who simply chose to obey what the Lord asked them to do. And because of this, God was able to use them to bring forth His plan and purpose.  That’s my desire as we continue this foster care journey.  I simply want to obey exactly what God asks us to do. I not only want to obey, but I also want to be filled with faith instead of uncertainties.  The devil uses our fears, worries, and uncertainties to make us useless for God’s calling on our lives.  I refuse to let that happen. I cannot get well and have enough strength to carry out God’s will in my life by allowing Satan to defeat me.  I do not want to be filled with fret, worry, anxiety, and fear.  I want to be filled with the Spirit.

I am sure most of you reading have heard how drawn out the foster care process can be.  Maybe you have even experienced it yourself. But, if you haven’t, as I mentioned earlier, 365 days have already come and gone since our first placement was brought to our door. If a child is not moved shortly after placement, then finalization can take well over a year or more. The process is not only long, but it is complicated as well. The lengthiness and complications can bring about the fret, worry, anxiety, and fear. I will be the first to admit that I have the type of personality where I want things to happen quickly.  I want answers right now. I have a great desire to know without delay if the child will return home, be placed with relatives, or possibly be adopted. For the most part, the foster family is not involved in this decision making process. And, separation from the foster family is always a great possibility. That separation can happen within a few weeks, a few months, or it could take as long as a few years! Separation from the foster family isn’t always a negative thing. Separation hurts because the foster family and the children in foster care have emotions and attachment and bonding happens, but the brokenness that these biological families experience also brings great pain. There is always a great sense of brokenness that the biological families and children experience when a child is taken into state custody.  That brokenness is always present until those families allow the Lord to heal them. The Lord wants them to be healed. As a foster family, we have to leave that healing up to the Lord.  He knows exactly what will happen and when it will happen. We can’t carry the burden of their brokenness on our shoulders alone, but we have to surrender it to the Lord. We have to pray for them and ask God to bring them to salvation.  Only the truth makes free!  And that truth is Jesus Christ.  God will decide where these children need to be, and it’s simply our job to love them and care for them. He will shows us His plan in His timing.

I’ve slowly began to realize that no matter how much I long to know all of the answers pertaining to the child’s future, 99 percent of the time those answers will never come quickly. Not knowing what will happen doesn’t mesh well with me not being a champ at waiting for answers.  However, I know that the Lord understood my personality before He called me to be a foster mom.  He was not surprised when I started muddling through the process on my own.  He knows how I am. But, I can also tell you that He hasn’t ever been pleased with my desire for hastiness. It clearly states in Proverbs that hastiness is not of the Lord.  I wholeheartedly believe that the Lord has used this past year to teach me that humbly trusting and waiting on His timing is the only way. I have written about waiting on the Lord many times before, but I continued to struggle to trust His timing this past year.  I cannot be in His will and be used by Him if I don’t trust Him. And, I do not want to miss the opportunity to show others exactly who God is, so I have had to humbly let go of my demands.  I have let go of thinking my timing is more perfect than His timing.  I have let go of any expectations that may not be in His plans.  I have surrendered to Him: my life, this sweet baby’s life, the other children’s lives that have gone from our home, and the lives of the ones we had to turn away. I trust Him to make the right decisions for our lives and theirs.  Why did I ever think my timetable was better than His? My flesh can never accomplish what the Spirit can! As the Spirit continues to help us push forward and trust God’s perfect plan (whatever it may be), will you please pray for our family?

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Thankfully, God has not allowed us to give up.  Through it all, He has been right where we’ve needed Him. Even if from time to time, I let my eyes slip away from Him and tried to bear all of the burdens on my own that come along with being a foster mom, He still had His hand in mine.  He is long suffering. He was waiting for true surrender. I am thankful for all He has taught me. I am thankful that He has taught me what surrendering to Him truly entails. I am thankful that He has allowed me to see how much he desires the brokenness of these families to be healed.  I am also thankful that our family will continue to step out in faith and allow the Lord to continue to use us as we so graciously love on and care for His precious boy and any others that He may bring our way!

We are willing to do whatever God asks us to do in this foster care world because we know His plans are perfect. It is our duty as Christians to love those that the world has thrown away. What better way to do that than through the foster care system? You not only get the opportunity to show the children who God places in your home Christ’s love, but those children also have a family who is hurting.  A family who is broken.  A family who needs Jesus. God knows their hearts.  He knows what will happen with the seed that He asks us to plant. We have to trust Him to work out every last detail whatever the outcome may be with the child and their family. We are to plant a seed and let God do the rest. Will it be easy? Absolutely, hands down, No! Will it be worth it? Absolutely, hands down, Yes! I challenge you to ask God how you can be used by Him.  As Christians, we can change the world: one child at a time.

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If you have ever thought about entering the foster care world or adopting, pray about it.  Do not jump into it without making sure it is God’s perfect plan for your family.  It is a difficult journey that cannot be traveled alone. As I mentioned above, I learned that the hard way.  But, I am so thankful for the difficult lessons that I have endured and the loving correction that has came from the Lord. He is a merciful loving God who is so willing to teach us how to walk this life in complete peace with Him by our side.

Ephesians 3:20 – Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us.

Romans 8:18 – For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

The books that have really helped me since my hospital stay are:

The KJV Bible (always a must!)

Through the book of Esther Finding Security in an Insecure World by Wendy Burks (I highly recommend for every woman to read this book.  You will not regret it! It will change your perspective and your life.)

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Jesus Calling Devotional Journal by Sarah Young (I love to be able to journal how each devotional applies to my life.)

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Windows to Our World: Sarah’s Journal – Growing Up, Crossing Oceans, Finding Love & Giving Life to 10 Children by Sarah Janisee Brown (This book motivated me to seek out God’s perfect will as He teaches me how to be the wife and mom He has called me to be.  I will not let this trial define me, but in the midst of it, I will do the things God has called me to do.  And, with his strength and power, and with a lot of prayers, I will strive to do them well.)

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Double Digits Strike Again

Dear Jaden,

It’s hard to comprehend that your 10th birthday happened nearly two months ago. I can’t believe that you have hit the double digit club. You’re the second in this family to make it in the club. What’s this Mama to do? You guys are growing up way too quickly for my liking.

But, I have to admit that I love watching you grow. You have grown so much this year. You have not only gotten taller, but your relationship with the Lord has gotten stronger. I see you trusting Him to get you through tough situations. We have been through quite a few this year. You, my dear, have handled them with such grace and strength. That makes me so proud.

You’ve stepped up and stepped in so many times when your younger siblings have needed you to be their second Mama. Thank you for always being willing to show grace and love. It means more to us than you will ever know. It comes so natural to you. I love your sweet spirit.

Because of the things you have endured this year, when your birthday came around, I really wanted to make it special. I planned a celebration that put you front and center. My goal was accomplished as you became the princess of your skating party. You and your friends skated the afternoon away. Skating, pizza, and a princess cake made the afternoon perfect.

It was so nice to relax and watch you laugh and play skating games with your friends. It was nice just taking a break and having fun even if it was just for a few hours. I love it when you can just be a kid with all the responsibilities lifted off your shoulders. Although I caught you still helping out a time or two, I could tell you were having a blast.

Thank you for celebrating your 10th birthday with all of us. You are so strong and beautiful inside and out. You know who brings you strength. Keep relying on the one above and everything will fall into place. Stay sweet baby girl. Stay sweet!! We all love you. Keep being you! Don’t ever change. Stay strong and be who God has made you to be.
Happy Birthday!!

Love Always,

Mommy ♡

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Jaden’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 10

What is your favorite food? Alta’s potato soup

What do you hope you never have to eat again? broccoli, bananas, and tomatoes

What is your favorite thing to do? play with my kittens

What is your favorite animal? kittens

What makes you happy? playing with my friends

What is the best memory from when you were 9? finding a sand dollar

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 10? learn how to jump with horses

What would you like to be when you grow up? a pottery designer

What is your favorite song? Carol of the Bells

Where is your favorite place to eat? The Cruise Ship

What is your favorite book? American Girl Doll Books

Where would you like to go on vacation? Clearwater Beach

What would you like the world to know? About Jesus

Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

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Happy Birthday Little One

Dear Little One,

It’s hard to believe you are already celebrating a year! These past 8 months have went by so quickly. Although we didn’t hold you your first four months, we have cherished every single minute that we have had with you.

Every moment with you is a gift from God. He is the only reason we have been fortunate enough to hold you these last 8 months. He is the only reason that we rest easy each day. We don’t know the plans He has for you, but we do know His plans are perfect. And, we trust Him. He’s faithful and able.

Your precious smile and belly laugh are greatly sought after. You are one of the sweetest babies around. You brighten up the room with those big blue eyes. Watching you grow has been delightful. And, boy have you grown! You aren’t so little anymore. You went from not being able to sit up to crawling and now walking in just a few short months. You are truly a miracle!

Turning one is a huge deal for you! We do not take all the milestones you have met lightly. Those milestones we clearly accept as a true blessing from the Lord. Although all of the details can’t be shared, we can’t hide our unconditional love for you. Our love for you will never fade. It will only grow stronger as each day is celebrated.

The Lord has helped you overcome so much your first year of life. We are so grateful. Joy has been present as we have watched you overcome many hurdles that were placed in front of you. You still have a few more hurdles to jump, but you are most definitely a fighter. You will persevere.

Stay strong sweet boy. No matter what this world throws at you, always remember that our Savior is greater than this world. He will continue to take care of you! We love you sweet baby! We love you!

Ephesians 3:20 – Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us

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Happy 7th Birthday to a Sweet Boy! 

Dear James,

Are you really seven already? How did that happen so quickly? You are one of the sweetest, kindest seven year olds I know. Your kisses are the best. Your hugs are just as good. And, your smile brightens up a room.

You are our analytical thinker. That’s why at 7, every last detail of your adult life is already planned out. You haven’t left God out of the equation. So, I’m okay with you being a goal setter even if you are already talking about who God wants you to marry! I pray she doesn’t break your heart sweet boy.

You put tears in my eyes each Sunday night as I watch you kneel at the altar and pray. Your prayers are genuine, heartfelt prayers. So, keep them coming, buddy. Keep them coming! God answers prayers. We all could learn a lot from your humbleness.

As you know, on your big day, we bounced away at the bounce house in town. Seeing you smile as you jumped meant the world to your mama. I love it when you are happy.

After you became completely worn out, we headed to Pawpaw and Mawmaw’s for a birthday party. Having more than a couple brothers and sisters means the guest list has built in RSVPs. We decided a low key birthday party was what we all needed, and it was perfect.

After your gifts had been opened and the candles had been blown out, we ended your special day at the lake with Neannie and Pawpaw Ken. Thank you for allowing us to spend time with you on you’re 7th birthday. You are one of a kind! We praise the Lord for saving your life seven years ago because we would be lost without you. Keep on shining for Jesus.

Love Always,
Mommy

James’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 7

What is your favorite food? ice cream

What do you hope you never have to eat again? guacamole

What is your favorite thing to do? playing legos

What is your favorite animal? white tiger

What makes you happy? seeing all of the colors in the sunset

What is the best memory from when you were 6? Going to Dollywood with Sadie

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 7? get Christmas presents

What would you like to be when you grow up? a preacher and a zookeeper

What is your favorite song? This Little Light of Mine

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds

What is your favorite book? Charlotte’s Web

Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney World

What would you like the world to know? If you go to Pluto, do not take off your helmet because your face will turn into ice.

James 1:17 – Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above…

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Happy 2nd Birthday to our Sweet Boy

Dear Jayce,

Happy 2nd birthday little man! It is hard to believe two years have passed since you graduated from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. You have persevered these past two years despite the many complications that came along with your birth. You are pretty much perfect if you ask me! God is so good!


I fall in love with your sweet little grin more and more each day. It’s hard to describe the unconditional love your mama has for you. But, I’ll just say, I don’t know what I would do without you. You brighten up each and every day. God knew that you would make each day worth living.


We had a blast at the zoo on your big day. We all loved listening to you jabber as you approached each animal. The newness of life was all around you.


I know you enjoyed seeing all of the sights and wonders, but I could tell you loved the playground just as much. Seeing you so happy and having so much fun with your brothers and sisters made your birthday even more special.


I hope you have a great year being two! Don’t ever stop being Mama’s little boy. I know you are going to continue to grow a little more each year, but you won’t ever be too big to holler, “Mama!” I love hearing that simple word many times throughout each day. More importantly, I love you precious boy! I love you!!

Psalm 145:19 – He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them.

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Saying Goodbye

It happened. A little piece of my heart left last night.  Last night, we had to say goodbye. We had to say goodbye to a little girl who stole our hearts not so long ago. A little girl who we love more than you can ever imagine. I pray she always felt our love. The journey wasn’t always easy. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t her fault! I can’t elaborate, but my heart broke for her after first meeting her.

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We had no choice but to let her go. Her needs are too great for our large family.  We just couldn’t give her all the attention she needs. She deserves lots of attention! She deserves to be held 24 hours per day. That’s how it became clear that she wouldn’t be with us forever.  But! That doesn’t lessen our love for her. It makes it stronger. It makes us swallow our pride for her best interest. It keeps us humble.

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She is God’s child. He will provide for her. He will take care of her. I’m standing strong on that promise. We know He loves her more than we could ever love her. We know He has a great plan for her.  A great purpose…

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It was still difficult to say goodbye. God asks us to do hard things sometimes. But, no matter what, we have to obey God. Even when we don’t understand or see the big picture, we still have to follow God. His ways are always perfect. His ways lead to great blessings. I know He has a life full of blessings planned for the little girl who called me mommy for nearly three months.

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It still feels like she is my little girl. It still feels like I am her mommy. She will always be one of my own. But, going into foster care, we understood that things are not always going to be permanent. Forever was never mentioned. As much as I would have loved to be her mommy forever, that clearly wasn’t God’s perfect plan for her life or ours. We had to let go of her hand.  We had to let go sooner than we thought. We had to let go so she can prosper.

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So we said goodbye for now. Even though we have said goodbye, God is still holding her hand. Please pray for our sweet girl.  A few of you knew her name. If you aren’t one of the few, just pray for our little “Bug.” That was added after her first name almost every time we called for her. She needs prayer. She needs healing. This Mama does, too. God never said serving Him would be easy. All He asks us to do is trust Him. Just trust Him! And learn to breathe along the way.

He is close to the broken hearted. I worry about her heart more than ours. Our kids miss her and have been praying for her, but they understand it was for her best. They have seen their mama shed lots of tears since she left. I’m not afraid to let them see me cry. It just makes us stronger. It makes us lean on each other and the Lord more. Being foster parents has widened our eyes to those hurting in the world. There are more hurting than not. If you feel led by the Lord to reach out and help those around you, don’t ask questions, just follow God’s lead. Let Him guide the way. Things might not always turn out the way you wish, but one day it will all make sense. Great things can happen even in a short amount of time. Our little girl learned how to pray and her favorite song is Jesus Loves Me.  She always asked to read her new Bible each night. I sent her Bible with her, and I pray she gets ahold of God’s love for her.

We followed God’s lead and said yes to a broken little girl, but for now, we have to say, “See you in the morning, sweet girl. See you in the morning.” We don’t know which morning that might be, but we will never forget those words. She would yell them from her bedroom every. single. night. And those are the words she said right before the car door shut. I do pray there will be a morning when we can see her again – if it’s in God’s plan. Hug your kids a little tighter today, and savor each and every moment…a lesson God continues to teach me time and time again…

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Happy Birthday to our Oldest! 

Dear Jacob,

I’m so far behind. And, I’m sorry. Our lives have changed quite a bit over the past 4 months, but I just wanted you to know that I didn’t forget about writing your birthday letter.  I just haven’t had time.

Thank you for being so patient and caring. Thank you for understanding. Thank you for sharing your time with kids who need to be taught how to love and what love actually is. You were sort of thrown into this all at once – we all were. But, you have made me proud. You have came around. You have learned how to love unconditionally, and it has been beautiful to watch you grow into a young man who displays the biblical meaning of love. I’ve watched you love without the thought of return.

Despite the fact that you completely understand that your siblings in foster care could leave at any given moment, you have put aside your feelings and emotions and learned how to love and care for total strangers as if they have always been your brother and sister. Thank you.

Now, on to your big day! As you know, we went back and forth as to what you wanted to do to celebrate. And, at the last minute, you decided to go to Just Jump! I didn’t experience all of the excitement because I stayed home and prepared for your party plus there was not one empty seat left in the van. However, I could tell that you guys were having a blast because thankfully your daddy kept sending videos and pictures.

I’m really happy you got to go! But, I’m even more thrilled that your daddy took you and 10 of your friends all by himself in order to make your day special. That’s just the kind of dad he is – always willing to do whatever is needed to get the task at hand completed. And, he always does it with a smile. I hope you’re taking notes buddy! You have been blessed with an awesome Daddy.

After returning home, you guys feasted on hamburgers with all the sides. The cookie cake you picked out was delicious. What a great choice. Did you know I have a weak spot for chocolate chips? Lastly you opened your presents!