Happy 8th Birthday!!

Dear Jayce,

Happy 8th birthday sweet boy!  Can you believe there was a tornado warning on your birthday? We didn’t let that stop us from celebrating you! 

We ate at Cracker Barrel just before the tornado warning came our way. Then we headed to the movies to watch Bad Guys. Jayla was so excited our family had the whole theater to ourselves. We got to ride out the storm while watching the movie! 

When we felt it was safe, you decided you wanted to go shopping. You picked out so many things for your cute puppy, Sarge. You love him very much. He definitely seemed grateful that you spent your birthday money on him! 

We ended the afternoon by stopping at Dairy Queen for some ice cream. Then we rushed to our new farm to see what damage came from the storm! Thankfully, the damage wasn’t too bad. Despite the weather, we had a great day together.

I’m so thankful for God’s protection on your birthday and every day. We all love you very much. Your tender heart finds ways to make sure everyone around you is smiling!

I hope you have a wonderful year. Stay sweet and keep learning about Jesus. I know He’s going to help you each step of the way and take you so far in this life. 

Love Always, 

Mommy 


Jayce’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 8
What is your favorite food? cake pops 
What do you hope you never have to eat again? broccoli 
What is your favorite thing to do? swimming and playing on the playground
What is your favorite animal? dogs  
What makes you happy? being with Mommy 
What is the best memory from when you were 7? spending time with Mommy 
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 8? go to the beach 
What would you like to do when you grow up? help people fix their houses after a tornado 
What is your favorite song? Speak Life by TobyMac 
Where is your favorite place to eat? Texas Roadhouse 
What is your favorite book? I love math books.
Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney World or Bald Head Island 
What would you like the world to know? I love God and everyone. 

Joshua 1:9 – Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

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Happy 18th to my First Born

Dear Jacob,

I’ve put off writing this letter for several weeks because I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that you are already 18 years old!! How did these last 18 years fly by so quickly? I never thought we would get here in the blink of an eye. But, we have. I’ll never forget the day you were born! What a special day it was. You were such a good baby who loved to be held and cuddled. I rarely ever put you down your first two years!

You turning 18 is definitely bitter sweet for this mama. I am so thankful for the godly young man that you are. You honestly have not given me any trouble over the years. Of course, we all learn and grow as we get older, but you, my son, have done a great job of growing in the Lord each and every year.

You can’t even imagine how much I have enjoyed spending so much time with you from the moment you were born until now. I will never regret being able to homeschool you. I have not missed a minute of your childhood, and I am so grateful. A lot of mamas and sons don’t get the opportunities we have had. From nature hunts, field trips, farming, sports, reading probably over 100 books together, and going on many vacations over the years, I have loved every single second with you!!

I have witnessed you being able to do absolutely anything you put your mind to. You have made homemade fishing baits, skinned a bear, completed construction projects, and dug a trout pond. You have flourished as an artist and pianist. You have cared for baby lambs, raised rabbits, rode horses, and hatched chicks. Farming isn’t easy, but you are always up for a new task such as building fence or helping many different farmers in the area. You started working for others when you were around thirteen years old. Your work ethic is something to talk about.

One thing you have almost completed is writing your first mystery novel. I can’t wait to see it in print! You becoming an author makes me happier than almost anything else you have wanted to accomplish in your life. You know why? Because writing is one of my passions, too. I hope all of the books we read and the plays we watched at the Barter over the years inspired you to become a writer!

I could go on and on forever because it’s difficult to sum up 18 years in one little blog post. It’s actually quite impossible. I can’t wait to see what all the Lord has planned for you in the future. You have been praying and reading your Bible since you were probably five years old. God has already answered so many of my prayers for you. He will never leave you or forsake you! Don’t ever forget that. He will continue to direct your paths as you grow and mature into an adult. Always put Him first in everything you do, and you will never lack joy in your life.

Some things that have helped me along the way are staying strong no matter the situation, playing hard, and enjoying each moment because time doesn’t slow down. And, no matter what, love others with everything that you have in you. I have witnessed you love your siblings well. You have made every single one of them feel special over the years.

I know you will continue putting others first because you have one of the most serving hearts that I have ever seen. Jayce is your little mini me, and he looks up to you so much. He has every reason to look up to his oldest brother. You have set a great example for him.

You will always be one of my first loves because you are my first born. There is something special about your first born child. You allowed me to feel that once in a lifetime feeling of becoming a mama for the first time! That is not something to be taken lightly, ever! It’s an indescribable feeling. One day, you will understand exactly what I’m talking about. I love you so much sweet boy and always will!!

Love Always,

Mom ❤️

Jacob’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 18
What is your favorite food? burgers from Little’s
What do you hope you never have to eat again? All food deserves love.
What is your favorite thing to do? farming and basketball
What is your favorite animal? wolf
What makes you happy? being around people I love
What is the best memory from when you were 17? starting my own sheep herd
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 18? grow my sheep herd
What would you like to do when you grow up? have a family and own a homestead with sheep
What is your favorite song? Working on a Building by Trace Adkins
Where is your favorite place to eat? Red Lobster
What is your favorite book? Adventures of Arty Anderson
Where would you like to go on vacation? out West
What would you like the world to know? Do what you love, but call it work.

John 13:7 – Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

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Happy 5th Birthday!!

Dear Little Man,

Another birthday has come and gone! How is that even possible? You are already 5 years old!! I’ll never forget our first night together when you were just a few weeks shy of being 11 months. Honestly, I will never ever forget what all we have endured the last 4 years.

Together, we have both had to learn how to handle some really tough things. We have learned to let go and love no matter what circumstances are around us. You have overcame a lot these last several years. It brings me so much joy to watch you make progress and strides little by little.

Your sweet smile and witty personality are like none other! You keep us on our toes, but you also keep us laughing. You are so smart and funny!

We love you more than you could ever imagine. Even though none of us still know what your future holds, we know God does. He knew what your life would hold the day you were born, He knew the day you were brought to us, and He knows exactly what is going to transpire. We are continuing to trust Him to make the best decisions for your life. We will lean on each other as the days continue to pass.

Stay cute and keep on keeping on sweet boy! I will love you forever and some more.

Love Always!!

💗💗💗💗💗

John 16:33 – These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 5
What is your favorite food? french fries and hamburgers
What do you hope you never have to eat again? green beans
What is your favorite thing to do? playing with dinosaurs
What is your favorite animal? T-Rex
What makes you happy? elephants
What is the best memory from when you were 4? going to the lake
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 5? eat
What would you like to do when you grow up? work and dig
What is your favorite song? Jesus Loves Me
Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonald’s
What is your favorite book? No David!
Where would you like to go on vacation? the beach
What would you like the world to know? I will take bad guys outside and lock the door.

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Happy Birthday Sweet Girl!

Dear Jayla,

How are you already double digits? It’s so hard to believe it’s been ten years since I toted you out of the NICU. There are some moments in life that you never forget, and that is one that will stay with me forever.

The moment I brought you home from your hospital stay, I snuggled you up in my bed. And, honestly you have never left my side since. You have been stuck to your mama like glue. And, for that, I’m so thankful. You remind me daily that it’s my fault that you still sleep in my bed. You tell me if I hadn’t put you there when you were two weeks old, you would have learned to love your bed instead of mine.

Well sister, I love that you still snuggle with me almost every single night. You see me for who I am. And, most likely, you understand me more than anyone else. You know how to make me laugh when I feel like crying. You know how to find ways to help me when I feel so sick. Sorry I missed seeing you blow out your birthday candles. This pesky sickness of mine can get in the way sometimes. But, you are so forgiving!

You do so much for me out of the kindness of your heart. When the Lord made you, he copy and pasted you to be just like me. We both have a kind heart mixed with a stash of feistiness. Everyone says that about both of us. As you grow older, I hope you will use your feisty, strong-will to do great things for the Lord. There is no doubt in my mind that you will! A feisty kindhearted girl is what this old world needs more often than not! You always stand firm in your beliefs, but you also love so deeply, and it shows!

Don’t try to grow up too quickly. Stay little for just a little longer. Play with your baby dolls and build forts in the woods for as long as you can. Keep shining and singing for the Lord, but just stay little for a few more years. I love you baby girl: forever and always.

Love Always,

Mommy 💗

How old are you? 10
What is your favorite food? Chick-fil-A nuggets
What do you hope you never have to eat? tacos
What is your favorite thing to do? Be with Mommy
What is your favorite animal? Koala
What makes you happy? Abel
What is the best memory from when you were 9? Seeing the ponies at Grayson Highlands
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 10? Build a Barndominium
What career to you want to do? nurse practitioner
What is your favorite song? Amazing Grace
Where is your favorite place to eat? Chick-fil-A
What is your favorite book? Magic Treehouse
Where would you like to go on vacation? Legoland
What would you like the world to know? If you get saved, you will live eternally with God in Heaven.

Joshua 1:9 – Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

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Happy 12th Beautiful Girl

Dear Abby,

Happy 12th Birthday! You are growing up so quickly. You are almost as tall as me now! I don’t think you have to worry about being short anymore because you still have a few more years to grow! You have asked me so many times if I think you will be short forever. Well, I’m pretty sure you can put that fear aside.

However, I think you are perfect just the way you are. You have the most tender heart and sweetest spirit. I’m so thankful for you.

I enjoyed going shopping with you on your birthday. Your new earrings are so pretty, and the cookies you picked out were delicious.

I know you had a blast going to Just Jump with one of your basketball friends. I’m so glad Neannie and Pawpaw Ken took you to celebrate. It has been such a joy seeing you make new friends this year. Basketball was so much fun to watch, but seeing you come out of your shell and develop friendships was even sweeter!

I hope your 12th year is the best one yet! I love you forever and a day!

Love Always,

Mommy 💗

Abby’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 12
What is your favorite food? baked potatoes
What do you hope you never have to eat again? steak
What is your favorite thing to do? play with my bunnies
What is your favorite animal? bunnies
What makes you happy? my bunnies, friends, and family
What is the best memory from when you were 11? when my bunnies had babies
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 12? See Little Man be adopted
What would you like to do when you grow up? hairdresser
What is your favorite song? Made to Love by TobyMac
Where is your favorite place to eat? Texas Roadhouse
What is your favorite book? I’m not sure
Where would you like to go on vacation? Clearwater Beach
What would you like the world to know? There is a God in Heaven

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.

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Happy 8th Birthday, Ava!

Dear Ava,

Sorry I am so behind writing your birthday letter. I’m sure every letter I have written for your birthday has that same apology in it. It’s tough having a birthday on Christmas Day. But, we made sure to celebrate you even if it was during the rush of the holidays.

It’s hard to believe how much you’ve grown both physically and emotionally this last year. I am so proud of you. There are always going to be hiccups and hard spots in life, but you are learning how to handle all of those things a little bit at a time. And, that is all we can ask for!

Thank you for sticking with us and being so patient as we have all learned how to live this life together. You mean so much to us. We love you no matter what situations we have endured together.

I can’t wait to watch how you are going to mature and grow even more over the next few years. There are a lot of times where I will just sit and think about what it’s going to be like when you are a teenager or even a young adult.

What activities will you enjoy? What career path will you take? Will your looks change as you get older? Will you still love to work on the farm and be around the farm animals?

Those are some questions that come into my mind often. Thankfully, Lord willing, we will get to watch you grow and change for many more years to come. Don’t ever lose your focus on the Lord, and He will help you work out anything that crosses your path or has already crossed your path. Sometimes life doesn’t seem fair especially the things you were handed at such a young age, but you are learning how to find healing in the midst of it all. Don’t ever give up!

We love you sweet girl. Happy Birthday!

Love,

Mommy

Ava’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 8
What is your favorite food? mac and cheese
What do you hope you never have to eat again? broccoli
What is your favorite thing to do? ride horses
What is your favorite animal? horses
What makes you happy? Mommy
What is the best memory from when you were 7? playing on the farm
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 8? go to the beach
What would you like to do when you grow up? train horses
What is your favorite song? Jesus Loves Me
Where is your favorite place to eat? Mexican
What is your favorite book? The Bible
Where would you like to go on vacation? Legoland
What would you like the world to know? Jesus died on the cross.

Psalm 86:11: Teach me thy way, O Lord; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.

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Happy 10th!!

Alayla,

Happy 10th Birthday, girl! I am so behind writing your birthday letter, but December birthday letters always seem to come a few months late. I tend to need a little extra time to recover from all of the excitement and hustle and bustle from the holidays.

I loved how you planned your very own birthday party this year. You got every detail together, made invitations, and handed them all out on your own. You are growing up to be an independent young lady, and that’s not a bad thing! You know what you want in life, and you go for it.

I love that about you, but what I love most is hearing you belt out gospel songs as you wash and fold the laundry each day. You do everything in life with a song in your heart. Whether it’s folding clothes or helping Daddy on the farm, you always have a cheerful attitude.

Your laugh is contagious and has to be reeled in every once in awhile. But, I’m so glad you can laugh and find joy no matter what situation arises. You are such a blessing!

Time is going by so quickly, but each and every minute with you is one well spent. I’m so thankful that the Lord brought you to us almost 4 years ago! We love you way more than you could ever imagine.

Love Always,

Mommy 💗

Nehemiah 8:10 – …for the joy of the LORD is your strength.

Alayla’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 10
What is your favorite food? Pizza
What do you hope you never have to eat again? Lasagna
What is your favorite thing to do? Play outside
What is your favorite animal? Horses
What makes you happy? Spending time with my family
What is the best memory from when you were 9? Going to NY
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 10? Go on a cruise
What would you like to do when you grow up? Be a veterinarian
What is your favorite song? Mr. Red, White, and Blue
Where is your favorite place to eat? Texas Roadhouse
What is your favorite book? The Bible
Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney
What would you like the world to know? The world needs the Lord

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Happy 15th!!

Dear Jaden,

Happy 15th sweet girl! I never thought 15 years could go by so quickly. It seems like you should still be 2 with me carrying you around on my hip.

Even though I’d love to go back in time and watch you grow up all over again, that’s not possible. It’s impossible to go backwards, so I’ll just hold all of the memories we’ve made so far close to my heart.

You are one amazing, beautiful girl! You have became a hard worker and are compassionate about the things put in front of you. If you set your mind to a task, it always gets completed especially when it comes to farming, horseback riding, or caring for animals. You made me smile the time you snuck two abandoned baby opossums to church in your purse because you wanted to keep an eye on them.

You’ve recently proven that basketball might be a new hobby for you. I’ve enjoyed watching you play on a basketball team for the first time ever this year! You are doing so well!

I’ve also enjoyed watching you break and train your first little Quarter Horse filly. You saved your money, and you patiently waited until you found the perfect match. Your patience paid off because Dakota has definitely bonded with you! You are the best team I’ve ever seen, literally.

I’ve never seen a horse bond with a new owner so quickly. She’s so gentle and willing to learn. I hope Dallas will prove to be the same in a few years! I’m so thankful your daddy went all the way to Missouri and picked her up as a surprise for your birthday! I mentioned that I wanted to get you a little weanling, and he made it happen!

We love seeing you excel in your hobbies, but more than anything, we love your heart for the Lord! Don’t ever change for anyone. If you continue to put the Lord first in your life, you will go far. This old world can be tough, but finding strength in the Lord will always help you find success. There will be difficult times along the way, but God’s mercy and grace will carry you anywhere you need to go.

I love you, JJ. Thanks for always being willing to help out on the farm and with the kids. You are definitely one of a kind.

Love Always,

Mommy 💓

Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Jaden’s Birthday Interview

How old are you? 15

What is your favorite food? Cheeseburger from Little’s

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

What is your favorite thing to do? ride horses

What is your favorite animal? horses and dogs

What makes you happy? horses

What is the best memory from when you were 14? getting two new fillies

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 15? get my learner’s permit

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

What is your favorite song? Tasha Layton’s songs

Where is your favorite place to eat? Little’s

What is your favorite book? I don’t really have a favorite one.

Where would you like to go on vacation? Hawaii and Texas

What would you like the world to know? Jesus loves everyone!

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Happy 20th Babe!!

Dear Jamie,

Our trip to Disney World and Vero Beach this past week where we celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary turned out to be a trip like none other. Getting away and spending quality time together was something we both needed.

The theme parks, the resorts, the beach, and all of the fine dining restaurants made our trip memorable.

With God’s mercy and grace, we have accomplished so much over the last 19 years. We have accomplished way more than I ever imagined we would be able to. I recently found a paper I wrote about 13 years ago when I was in college. My assignment was to introduce myself and to tell about my future aspirations and goals.

In that paper, I listed that my dreams and goals for the future were to own a farm with horses so kids could come and have an outlet and to have a house large enough so we could become foster parents one day. I didn’t even remember writing that paper or putting those things as my dreams! I guess life just got busy for a few years after college as I was raising our babies and teaching. But, I am so thankful God remembered. Not only did He not forget, but He also made those dreams that I had forgotten or maybe just put on the back burner come to fruition. He worked on your heart along the way, too. He put us both on the same page in His timing. Isn’t that amazing?

There have been wonderful times, sad times, and bumpy times along the way. But, God has seen us through them all. He has held our hand as we have welcomed each baby, toddler, or child into our family. He has helped us keep breathing during births with complications and challenging foster care cases. He continues to give us hope as we trust Him on our journey.

He keeps us strong as He helps us raise all of these kids He’s given us. I think it’s easy to say our days are never boring and are always somewhat chaotic; however, it’s also very easy to say that we are so blessed! You will always be my greatest adventure!

I’ll love you forever and some more. You have always been my biggest encourager. Thanks for celebrating 20 years with me this past week!! I can’t wait to celebrate 20 more!

Love Always,

Amanda ❤️

1 Corinthians 16:14 – Let all your things be done with charity.

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Happy 6th Birthday AJ

Dear Abel,

It’s hard to believe you are already 6 years old. I’m pretty sure I start every birthday letter with words very similar to those. The years just pass by so quickly.

You have grown so much this year. You still have the cutest grin and the biggest blue eyes. You make me smile many times each and every day.

The Lord has worked so many miracles in your life this past year. He healed your lungs and you learned how to drink thin liquids without aspirating! That’s such a big deal for you and truly a miracle from the Lord. After all of the surgeries, medical tests, and specialist appointments you have endured over the years, I definitely feel like you are finally free from all of those things! I am almost positive that the last surgery that you will need was most likely this summer.

You have the most tender heart and have such a strong desire to do what’s right. We loved watching you be a part of a football team this year. Seeing you run the ball and pull those flags brought so much joy to our lives.

I hope you loved your new Spider-Man bike. You are slowly learning how to ride without training wheels. Jayce was so excited when he saw you riding all on your own!

You are so special sweet boy. Thanks for loving all of us so well. We will love you forever and a day.

Love Always,

Mommy

Abel’s Birthday Interview

How old are you? 6

What is your favorite food? pizza

What do you hope you never have to eat again? hot dogs

What is your favorite thing to do? play

What is your favorite animal? donkeys

What makes you happy? puppies

What is the best memory from when you were 5? going to the beach

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 6? go see dinosaurs

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

What is your favorite song? Jesus Loves Me

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds

What is your favorite book? books about snakes

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

What would you like the world to know? I don’t know.

Jeremiah 14:17 – Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved: for thou art my praise.

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Happy 12th Birthday, James

Dear James,

Happy Birthday, buddy! It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that you will be thirteen in less than 365 days! I will have three teenagers in the house oh so soon.

You are growing up quickly. I know you can’t wait until you are an official teenager. You’ve been begging for your own phone for years. But, you know you have to at least be 13 before that can happen.

I’m so proud of how much you have matured this past year. You have overcame so many fears. You are once again enjoying singing in the choir at church. There was a time you felt like singing just wasn’t going to be your thing. I’m proud of you for trying it again.

On vacation, you swam in the ocean like a champ. I really couldn’t believe how well you swam under all of those waves. You had a blast every single day while we were at Bald Head Island.

You have also recently found a new hobby. You have battled in airsoft games with your friends and siblings. I love hearing you tell me how much you have enjoyed being around your friends once again.

One of the biggest steps you took this year is how you willingly took your COVID vaccine after you watched your great-grandpa pass away due to COVID complications. I’m so proud of you for taking such a big step and making such an important decision in your own life. I heard you pray many times in 2020 for COVID to leave.

I know you will feel safer traveling to Wyoming with Neannie, Pawpaw, and Jacob. I know you feel relieved to finally be out and about again. We all do! I hope your trip goes so well for all of you.

Happy Birthday once again sweet boy! I had a blast celebrating with you with a Star Wars themed party. It was a blast! Stay strong in the Lord this year, and He will direct your paths.

Love Always,

Mommy 💙

James’s Birthday Interview

How old are you? 12
What is your favorite food? Sushi
What do you hope you never have to eat again? heath candy bars
What is your favorite thing to do? travel
What is your favorite animal? wolf
What makes you happy? seeing wildlife
What is the best memory from when you were 11? going to Bald Head Island
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 12? help with wildlife rehabilitation
What would you like to be when you grow up? Wildlife rehabilitator
What is your favorite song? Help is on the Way by TobyMac
Where is your favorite place to eat? Mexican
What is your favorite book? Magic Tree House books
Where would you like to go on vacation? Alaska

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 7th Birthday to a Sweet Boy!!

Dear Jayce,

You are such a sweet little boy. You brighten my days. I can’t believe you are already seven years old.

I will never forget May 6, 2014. God showed me that day that He has a great purpose for both of our lives. His love for us is amazing!

I am so thankful that I have gotten to witness the last 7 years with you! I know this year is going to be a great one because you celebrate each day to the fullest. You are my little cowboy who loves to farm.

You are so energetic and full of life. You have so much love to give. Your hugs and kisses are like no other.

I had the best time celebrating your big day with you at Bald Head Island. We all wanted to make sure your day was special, and we spoiled you to the max. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

I love you sweet boy and always will! Stay kind and you will go far.

Love Always,

Mommy 💙

1 Corinthians 13:13 – And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Jayce’s Birthday Interview

How old are you? 7
What is your favorite food? plain cheeseburger
What do you hope you never have to eat again? tomatoes
What is your favorite thing to do? play outside
What is your favorite animal? goats
What makes you happy? seeing Mommy
What is the best memory from when you were 6? going to the beach
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 7? play with Rachel
What would you like to be when you grow up? an artist
What is your favorite song? Raise a Hallelujah
Where is your favorite place to eat? Chick-fil-A
What is your favorite book? books about goats
Where would you like to go on vacation? the beach What do you want the whole world to know? God loves you.

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Happy 17th!!

Dear Jacob,

I lose my breath often when I think about having less than 365 days until you are 18! Watching you grow up has came with great blessings, but realizing that it won’t be long until you achieve adult status makes this mama a little sad at times.

I don’t ever want to think of the day that you won’t be here on the farm raising your chickens and ducks, fishing at the pond, or making fishing baits for others. You are always willing to help out whether it is building with your dad or fixing my hair when I feel too weak to do it myself. You are the best!!

You are so smart and are exactly how I imagined you would be at this age. You are using your talents to be productive and help others along the way. I’m so proud of you!!

Please help me slow this year way down because we both know that 18 is just around the corner. Year sixteen left just as quickly as all of the others have. No matter how fast each year comes and goes, you will always be my first born and my baby!

I love you more than words can describe! I hope 17 is your best year yet! Stay strong in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Love Always,

Mommy

Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Jacob’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 17
What is your favorite food? seafood
What do you hope you never have to eat again? I like everything.
What is your favorite thing to do? raise chickens and ducks
What is your favorite animal? Bantam Chickens
What makes you happy? Taking care of my animals
What is the best memory from when you were 16? Hanging out with friends
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 17? Have a successful homestead
What would you like to be when you grow up? A farmer
What is your favorite song? Any Christian song
Where is your favorite place to eat? Little’s
What is your favorite book? The Fishing Chronicles by Lane Walker
Where would you like to go on vacation? Wyoming. What do you want the whole world to know? Life is a lot simpler when you farm.

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Happy 9th Birthday, Jayla

Dear Jayla,

It’s hard to believe you are already 9 years old. I think I type something similar every single year as I write your birthday letter because time is not slowing down even though we wish it would every now and then.

You always tell me that you aren’t growing up, and you aren’t leaving home because you want to stay with me forever. I’m starting to believe the second part since you still sleep snuggled up beside little Lucy and me every single night.

You say it’s my fault that you don’t want to sleep in your own bed because I’m the one who put you in my bed the day you came home from the NICU. I guess you do have a point.

All of your siblings accuse you of being my favorite because you are always close by my side. You never want to be too far away, and even though I don’t play favorites, I’m thankful you love me so well.

I’m sure there will be a day when you spread your wings and fly on your own. But, right now, I’m soaking up every minute I have with you. You know how to love in a fierce way. We’ve been through a lot these past few months with losing Papaw Paul and Grandma P., but the sadness has brought us closer. I’m thankful we have each other to lean on. I love you so much sweet girl.

Love Always,

Mommy 💕

Psalm 4:8 – I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.

Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 9
What is your favorite food? Tacos
What do you hope you never have to eat again? Pickles
What is your favorite thing to do? Ride horses
What is your favorite animal? Dog
What makes you happy? Mommy and Daddy and my family
What is the best memory from when you were 8? Spending time with Mommy
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 9? Hike to the top of Molly’s Knob
What would you like to be when you grow up? A doctor
What is your favorite song? Love Broke Thru by Toby Mac
Where is your favorite place to eat? Taco Bell
What is your favorite book? To Kill a Mockingbird
Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney What do you want the whole world to know? The Lord loves you.

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Life is Hard, but God is Good

Dear Grandma,

I knew this day would come, but I’m not prepared. Even though I’ve wondered when this day would get here every day for the past several years, I’m still not ready. I’m not ready to say goodbye. I’m not ready today. I won’t be ready tomorrow or the day after that. We don’t know when God will take you, but we know, it’s not going to be much longer.

We have all watched your health decline and your mind slowly leave. You look peaceful right now lying beside me. But, I hear you slowly slipping away. I’ve been holding on to hope that you will open your eyes, look at me, and say my name. As much as I want to hear it one last time, I haven’t heard you say Amanda in several years. You are just tired. You have fought so long. And, boy, have you put up a fight!

I have told dementia that it is not my friend so many times. I even wrote a blog post about it once. This disease has robbed us of so many years with you. We don’t understand why. The only response that we have is God is still good.

We know your pain and suffering has to be for His glory. He has used it as recently as tonight to show me areas that I really need to work on in my life. He has a way of turning really tough situations into something to be used to point others to Him. I’m so thankful for that.

I love you. I am so grateful that I have had you in my life for so long. In my eyes, you are still such a young grandma. When I was in middle school, I used to brag to my friends that my grandma was the same age as some of their parents.

That’s why it’s so hard right now. You still have years left to live. Your mind was taken from you way too young. I know I have to stop focusing on that. My kids are afraid. They are afraid their grandparents, their mom and dad, and even when the time comes, they might suffer with dementia and Alzheimer’s one day.

We all know we shouldn’t live in fear, but watching you decline from this horrible disease, has changed us. It has created a whole new thought process. It has made all of us think, “What if it does happen? or “If it does happen, how early will it come?”

These thoughts make me cry out to God and ask him to have mercy on all of us. We do not want to have to suffer the way you have unless it’s His perfect plan. We don’t want our family members to see us suffer the same way you have had to.

We don’t know God’s plans. And, honestly, that scares me and punches me in the stomach more times than I care to admit. What are we going to face in the years to come? Can we handle what is ahead of us?

The answer is simple. Yes. We are all going to be okay. No matter the outcome. No matter what He has chosen for us. Even if dementia or Alzheimer’s is in our future, He will continue to give us grace. He has given us so much grace and mercy this entire decade with you as you have declined. And, even through the fear, watching you suffer has taught my kids how to really love. You have taught them how to take care of others and how to be selfless. Thank you, Grandma!

Just today, I was able to smile at some of the things that happened a several years ago as your mind began to change. I smiled at the time you fed the fish every few minutes because you couldn’t remember you had just fed it. I chuckled at the time you gave the cat a plate full of pretzels because you thought it was cat food. I also smiled thinking about the day the kids got you on their horse! I didn’t know how in the world I was going to get you back down. I’ve smiled because if I don’t I will not stop crying.

You are my last grandparent. This chapter in my life will most likely close sooner rather than later. That’s a tough pill to swallow. We lost your mama just a little over a year ago and Papaw Paul just a month ago. Grandma Yvonne has been gone almost seven years now, and Papaw Pennington since 2002. That’s so hard to believe! You have missed him so much. The pain was almost too much for you.

Growing up, I never even gave a second thought to the day you all would leave me. I’m glad we didn’t understand how difficult these days would be when we were little. If we understood how badly these days would hurt, we wouldn’t have been able to breath. We wouldn’t have been able to live. We wouldn’t have been able to enjoy each day we spent with you. We wouldn’t have been able to laugh as we explored the woods behind your house, we wouldn’t have sang to the top of our lungs as we traveled to the beach every single year, we wouldn’t have participated in backyard baseball, kickball, or badminton, and we wouldn’t have celebrated each holiday to the fullest! Those holidays always brought all the fried chicken and mashed potatoes anyone could ask for! You loved to cook for your family. I have missed that so much these last ten years. I have missed you!!

Sometimes in life, we focus on the negative things of the past. But, God has a way of making those memories disappear, and He allows us to focus on all the really good times we had! He opens our eyes to how wonderful our lives really were. How wonderful they still are. He shows us the truth.

I’m thankful I’m learning how to breathe through all the hurt. I’m learning how to accept God’s love and His plan. I’m learning how to be molded for His glory. God has used your sickness to show me how important it is to trust Him.

There is one thing for sure, this life is not getting any easier. I know as the days go by, it’s just going to get more difficult. But, God is good even though this life is hard. I can’t wait until you get to see Jesus not because I’m not going to miss you, not because I’m ready, and not because it’s going to be easy to say goodbye. It’s because I can’t wait for you to be free again. I long for you to be whole again! I know you are so ready. I love you, Grandma!! 💕 I love you so much!! And, I know you love all of us, too.

Love Always,

Amanda 💕

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 11th Birthday

Dear Abagail,

Happy 11th birthday, girl! I can’t believe you are already 11 years old. Time is definitely going by way too quickly. It’s hard to imagine that over five years have passed since we first got to meet you! Your reserved yet somewhat strong personality helped you stand out in the crowd. You were quiet until you needed to let others know exactly how you were feeling!

That’s why we love you so much. In 2018, two years after we met, we got to scoop you up and bring you home with us. And boy did you let your voice be heard! You started to work through all your hurt and pain, you stomped your foot a few times, and you began your healing process.

We are so so proud of how much you have grown. After your adoption last year, you finally learned how to take deep breaths, and you have learned how to let go and live your life to the fullest. I’m so thankful you have trusted God to help you navigate the ups and downs each and every day.

Your life has not been an easy one to navigate. But, we will continue to be here with you every step of the way. We love you and are so excited to celebrate number 11 with you. We would be completely lost without you. We love you more than unicorns and bunnies. Keep smiling and keep showing this world how strong you are!

Love Always,

Mommy ❤️

Ephesians 6:10 – Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

Abby’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 11
What is your favorite food? Lasagna
What do you hope you never eat again? Hotdogs What is your favorite thing to do? Play with Buttercup my bunny
What is your favorite animal? Bunnies
What makes you happy? My family
What is the best memory from when you were 10? Going to Bald Head Island with Neannie and Pawpaw and the TobyMac concert
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 11? Go to Disney
What would you like to be when you grow up? Hairstylist
What is your favorite song? Backstreet Driver by TobyMAC
Where is your favorite place to eat? Taco Bell
What is your favorite book? A to Z Mysteries
Where would you like to go on vacation? Hawaii
What would you like the world to know? I have the greatest family in the world!

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One Last Letter

Dear Papaw,

When COVID first hit, I remember telling Jamie that I didn’t want our family to become a statistic because I didn’t know if I could handle our family looking different because of this virus.

Truth is, as of today, like so many other families right now, I no longer have a choice in the matter. You fought so hard, but your body finally said enough is enough. The good Lord took you home. He took you home to be reunited with Grandma, all of your siblings, other family members, and your many friends. We already miss you so much!

You taught me so many things in my forty years, but some of the most important ones are to always be kind, to smile often, to love like Jesus, to work hard and save every penny possible not just for myself but for others who may need it, to take time and visit the beach, and to enjoy every meal I can get. Grandma’s cooking couldn’t be compared to anyone else’s. We all learned to love food because of her. You both made sure we were always fed.

Thank you for always having your door open. I won’t ever forget picking beans and breaking them in the basement, swinging on the swing set in the back yard, picking apples, eating dip dogs and onion rings, and your neck rubs as I sat in your kitchen. I won’t ever forget you being here for football games, special occasions, your great-grandkids’ birthdays, and holidays.

The last time I entered your door was just a few days before Christmas. I will cherish that moment forever and so will all of the kids. I wish I would have opened your door more often in recent years. Sickness, being a mom to so many, and life in general seemed to get in the way too many times. But, thank you for always checking in on us and showing us how much you cared.

Not having the opportunity to open your door once more has came too quickly. While you were in the hospital, I was looking forward to the day I could run up your steps and through your door. I was counting down the days until I could see your smile and sit and talk with you about how God healed you. I was longing for you to finally make it back home. I always said that you were going to outlive us all. And, I truly believed it.

We both know that’s not going to happen. But, as I sit here, I can imagine how grand your heavenly home is. I might be just a little jealous. This old world seems to be crumbling around us.

Your strength and determination have taught me to keep going and never give up no matter what’s going on around us. Thank you for loving all of us so well. Thank you for teaching me so much and leading by example. I don’t ever remember a time in my life where you criticized me for anything I was doing. I could have used some criticism every now and then. You chose a different route: unconditional love. Your life always showed me how I needed to be living.

There was never any question whether you loved us or not. You simply showed it. I will miss our talks about your bowling scores, my kids, and all the times we reminisced about the past. Most of all, I will miss hearing you say, “I love you, too, sweetheart.” I long for just one more visit and just one more hug, but I know Heaven is too sweet to wish for you to be back here with us.

You really were the greatest grandpa! Enjoy your final destination and reward. You deserve it so much! It was an honor having you love me for forty years!

I love you, Papaw and can’t wait to see you soon. Life goes by so fast, so I know it won’t be much longer.

Love Always,

Amanda ❤️

Matthew 25:23 – His Lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

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Happy 7th Birthday, Ava!

Dear Ava,

You are seven-years-old already!! Your birthday is so special because it’s on Christmas! Some people might not like a birthday on or near Christmas. But, you love it because you get to celebrate your birthday the same day that we celebrate Jesus’s birthday. You always remind me that it’s your birthday and Jesus’s.

We had your party the day after Christmas because we wanted a day where all the focus could be on you. When you have so many siblings opening presents on Christmas, things can be a little chaotic at times.

You seemed to love your Charlie Brown and Friends cookie cake. It was so cute. It was a perfect cake since you got Snoopy pajamas for Christmas. And, we also got a new puppy named Lucy!

You were so grateful for all of your gifts. You are still a Disney girl. It was obvious considering 99 percent of your gifts were Disney themed. Maybe one day we will make it back to Disney World, and we will ride the Frozen ride together. I know you would love that.

For now, we will just enjoy playing with your new Frozen castle at home. I’m so proud of all the great changes you have made over the past few years. And, I’m super happy that you are my girl.

Love You Forever,

Mommy 💕

Jeremiah 29:11 – 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.

Ava’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 7

What is your favorite food? hamburgers

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

What is your favorite thing to do? play

What is your favorite animal? horses

What makes you happy? Mommy

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 7? Ride horses

What is the best memory from when you were 6? Playing in the water

What would you like to do when you grow up? a horse trainer

What is your favorite song? Let It Go from Frozen

Where is your favorite place to eat? Cracker Barrel

What is your favorite book? Elsa books

Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney World

What would you like everyone in the world to know? I’m not sure.

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Happy 9th B-Day Princess Alayla

Dear Alayla,

How can you already be 9 years old? These past almost five years have really flown by. It seems like you should still be the cute feisty 4 year-old who I met in January 2016.

You stole my heart the first time I heard you giggle. Your laugh and smile made the whole room light up. No matter what you were going through, you still brought that smile out every single time I got to see you.

I’m so grateful God allowed you to officially become our daughter this year. We waited so long for the Lord to work out all of the details. And, you endured way more than any child should ever be asked to before we got to scoop you up and bring you home where you belong!

But, all the trials and tribulations haven’t taken your smile away! You are such a joy to be around. And, you are one of the hardest workers that I know. You have learned to use all of your energy to help others. That makes me so proud, baby girl! I love you to the moon and back and some more.

Love Always,

Mommy 💕

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.

Alayla’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 9

What is your favorite food? sausage biscuits

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

What is your favorite thing to do? feed the animals

What is your favorite animal? my pony, Greta

What makes you happy? my family

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 9? I want to go to church.

What is the best memory from when you were 8? Jayla and I pretended to be twins.

What would you like to do when you grow up? help ponies

What is your favorite song? Jesus Loves Me

Where is your favorite place to eat? Cracker Barrel

What is your favorite book? books about Ariel

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

What would you like everyone in the world to know? Jesus loves everyone!

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Happy 14th Birthday, Rae Rae!

Dear Jaden Raeann,

Wow! How are you already 14 years old? I really can’t wrap my mind around it. This morning, Facebook memories reminded me just how quickly time goes by. It seems like all the fun on your 4th, 7th, and 8th just happened yesterday! It doesn’t seem possible that you are already 14!!

A few days ago, I began your birthday video with a picture of me holding you so tightly when you were a baby. As I stared at us on the river bank, I could once again feel the breeze blowing across our faces and smell the freshness of the water. I could hear laughter of those around us. If I could go back to that day one more time, I would in a heartbeat. I would give anything to be able to snuggle you so close and kiss you all over your chubby little baby cheeks.

Mommies don’t realize their babies are going to grow up so quickly. If we did, we would take in every single moment and take time to run our fingers through all that baby fine hair over and over again. I can’t even remember the last time I was able to pick you up. If I had to guess, I would say it was at least 6 years ago. I would give anything to be able to carry you on my hip one more time. Or to hear you say, “Mommy, pick me up!” I would never tell you no!

Despite my mommy heart wishing you were still little, I’m so proud of the Christ honoring young lady that you have become. You are one of a kind! You make my heart sing with joy every single day.

You, my daughter, put others first no matter what. You love others something fierce. You make sure everyone is taken care of even your furry friends. You hurt when others hurt, and you laugh when others laugh.

You have a way of knowing exactly what we all need. You always face difficult times with such strength and compassion. You have shown grace and mercy as you have welcomed many brothers and sisters into your life. Thank you for that! You will never understand how much that means to your daddy and me.

2020 has brought a few heartaches, but you have allowed those situations to make you even stronger. You use difficult situations as motivation to reach your goals with passion. You let the joy of Christ shine through your life every single day! Don’t ever change sweet girl. We love you more than chocolate pie on Sunday.

Love Always,

Mommy 💕

Hebrews 12:1 – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Jaden’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 14

What is your favorite food? cheeseburgers

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

What is your favorite thing to do? hanging out with my friends and riding horses

What are your favorite animals? horses, dogs, cats, pigs, and donkeys

What makes you happy? riding horses and spending time with my dog, Skylar

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 14? ride horses on the beach and build a horse barn

What is the best memory from when you were 13? training my horse, Lily and going on trips

What would you like to do when you grow up? a horse trainer and a police officer

What are your favorite songs? Trust in You by Lauren Daigle, Burn the Ships by For King and Country, and Into the Sea by Tasha Layton

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

What is your favorite book? The Littles series

Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney World with Mabreigh and Maryleigh

What would you like everyone in the world to know? Jesus loves them!

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Happy Birthday Little Dinosaur

Dear Abel,

We had so much fun celebrating you today! You had the best day playing with all your new dinosaurs. It is a rare occasion if you don’t have a dinosaur in your hand. You are a lot like James was when he was around your age. He loved dinosaurs, too. And just like him, you can name almost every single one of them.

It is such a blessing watching you grow and change each day. You were too cute this morning as you ran around and told all of your brothers and sisters that you are now five!

It made my heart sink a little each time you said, “Me five!” It only sank because I can’t believe you are already 5 years old! Time has got to slow down. When I close my eyes, I can still see you as a tiny little 4 month old.

I will never forget the first day we met. It was one of the best days of my life! You are so special sweet boy. God has brought you so far. He will always carry you through this life no matter what is put in front of you.

Thanks for including us in all of your celebrations today. You have so much to celebrate. We are so blessed to be a part of your journey.

We will love you forever and a day.

Love Always,

Mommy 💙

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

Abel’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 5

What is your favorite food? Chicken nuggets and fries

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

What is your favorite thing to do? Play with Dinosaurs

What are your favorite animal? Cows

What makes you happy? My family

What is the best memory from when you were 4? Eating waffles with Lilo and Stitch at Disney

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

What would you like to do when you grow up? A builder like Daddy

What is your favorite song? All is Found from Frozen 2

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds

What is your favorite book? Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney World

What would you like everyone in the world to know? I love my mommy.

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Happy 11th Birthday, James!

Dear James,

How have 11 years already passed since you were born? It doesn’t seem possible. You were known as Baby James for so many years.

I’m afraid you have outgrown that name. I still see you as Baby James though. You will never be too old to be your mama’s baby.

Over the years, you have grown so much and you are anxious to be as tall as me. Trust me, in just a few short months, you will be. I’ve enjoyed seeing you grow physically but also intellectually.

You are so smart. I have learned so much about nature and animals from you. You have been my teacher since I can remember. I also love all of your jokes. The way you come up and tell me funny little jokes throughout each day keeps me giggling. I enjoy all of our talks about life in general.

I’m so thankful that you are planning for the future. You’ve had everything planned out for at least 5 years now. I love listening to all your dreams, aspirations, and plans.

The best part of it all is that you are turning to the Lord as you ask Him to plan your future. You are praying for God’s will in your life. It brings so much joy to see you walk in Truth.

I loved celebrating your birthday with you. It was so exciting to see your face when we surprised you with a donkey. He’s so cute! And, he is just what you had asked for.

I hope your birthday was one to remember! We love you to the moon and back and some more.

Love Always,

Mommy ❤️

James’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 11

What is your favorite food? steak

What do you hope you never have to eat again? white rice

What is your favorite thing to do? ride horses

What are your favorite animals? White Tiger

What makes you happy? my family

What is the best memory from when you were 10? spending the night with Mawmaw

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 11? learn how to jump on a horse

What would you like to do when you grow up? zoologist

What is your favorite song? Love Broke Thru by: TobyMac

Where is your favorite place to eat? Mexican

What is your favorite book? Magic Tree House books

Where would you like to go on vacation? NC Zoo

What would you like everyone in the world to know? Jesus loves everyone!

Proverbs 28:1 – The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.

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Happy 6th Birthday

Dear Jayce,

Wow! I can’t believe you are already six years old. It truly doesn’t seem possible. This day six years ago, you were born at only 3 pounds and 12 ounces. You were so tiny and would fit in your daddy’s hands.

The Lord has done great things for you over the past six years. He has taken care of you and helped you become the sweetest boy around. He also gave you enough energy to help me stay young. You keep me hopping each and every day.

I love when you snuggle with me and tell me that you love me more than anything else in the whole wide world. I love it when you say you will love me even after I’m in Heaven.

The Lord made you a tiny little guy because He knew I would need you to stay small as long as possible. I love it when you wrap your little arms around my neck and give me the biggest bear hugs. I love it even more when you fall asleep in my arms. You still twirl my hair when you are sleepy. I don’t mind at all. I love that you still like to be held by your mommy.

I hope you loved everything about your 6th Birthday. We had so much fun celebrating with you at home. Hopefully we will be able to do something special really soon. Today, I’m just thankful we are all healthy and together.

I’ll love you forever and always!!

Love Always,

Mommy 💚

Jayce’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 6

What is your favorite food? chips and cake

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

What is your favorite thing to do? playing with nerf guns

What are your favorite animals? dogs

What makes you happy? Mommy and God

What is the best memory from when you were 5? Going to Bald Head Island and Rachel giving me birthday presents

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 6? ride in my Batman car

What would you like to do when you grow up? I want to cook.

What is your favorite song? I Can’t Even Walk

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds

What is your favorite book? My Hat

Where would you like to go on vacation? The beach and Disney World

What would you like everyone in the world to know? Everyone is good except bad guys

Luke 1:37 – For with God nothing shall be impossible.

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Happy 8th Birthday, Jayla

Dear Jayla,

Your 8th birthday was probably a little different than you had hoped for. You are my social butterfly and like guests galore at your parties each year. Considering we were on coronavirus lock down, guests weren’t an option.

We didn’t let the virus stop us. We still celebrated. Daddy picked up Happy Meals from the famous McDonald’s. Jaden made you a Fancy Nancy cake. You opened your packages. You loved your Baby Minnie and your Belle nightlight.

Thank you for making a huge compromise this year and celebrating at home with your family. You are definitely our feisty, tenderhearted child. I’m not sure how that’s even possible.

You are always quick to let me know that you get your strong will from me, your mama. That’s okay by me. I completely understand when you say that you just can’t help feeling frustrated at times. It’s because you are so passionate about what you know is right.

You wear your heart on your sleeve. I hate to break it to you. You will have to fight hard to hold that temper back throughout your life. Just keep working on learning how to control those emotions and use them to do great things one day. I know you will. I already see you learning how to get those strong emotions out by singing your heart out for the Lord. Keep being passionate about the things that matter little mama.

The Lord will lead you and guide you to His perfect will if you continue to seek Him. I love you so much my little twin. And as you already know, I wish you could stay 8 forever! Considering I’ve said that for every single birthday that’s come and gone, I’m sure you will be 9 before I know it.

Love You Forever,

Mommy

Jayla’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 8

What is your favorite food? tacos

What do you hope you never have to eat again? Brussels sprouts

What is your favorite thing to do? visit Disney World

What are your favorite animals? toads, dogs, and giraffes

What makes you happy? Mommy

What is the best memory from when you were 7? going to Disney World

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 8? build a swimming pool at my house

What would you like to do when you grow up? a songwriter

What is your favorite song? Raise a Hallelujah by Bethel Music

Where is your favorite place to eat? Red Lobster

What is your favorite book? Fancy Nancy

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

What would you like everyone in the world to know? Jesus is our Heavenly Father

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.


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Happy 16th‼️

Dear Jacob,

I really cannot believe that you are actually 16 years old. How has 16 years flown by so quickly? I can still remember sitting in that hospital room looking down into your eyes for the first time. You made my dreams come true. You made me a mommy!

You were the best baby. For months and months, I sat and held you all day and night. I never thought I would ever have to look up to see your big blue eyes. Goodness, it has all happened way too quickly.

In just two short years from now, you could fly this coop. I’m praying you stick around a few more than that if it’s God’s will. You are such a big help around here and to your daddy. He enjoys you being able to work with him.

You have learned so much in your 16 years. You haven’t came across anything that you can’t build or create. You amaze me more and more each day.

Most importantly, your love for the Lord shines through in the way you love your family and your friends. I’m so thankful that God chose you to be my firstborn. I love you more than words could ever say. Thanks for being so patient and showing so much grace over the past 16 years.

Love Always,

Mommy 💚

Jacob’s Birthday Interview

How old are you? 16

What is your favorite food? seafood

What do you hope you never have to eat again? I like all the foods that I have ever eaten.

What is your favorite thing to do? spending time outdoors

What is your favorite animal? dogs

What makes you happy? fishing

What is the best memory from when you were 15? fishing on Bald Head Island with Branson

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 16? get my driver’s license

What would you like to do when you grow up? a home inspector or an occupational therapist

What is your favorite song? Almost Home by Mercy Me

Where is your favorite place to eat? Red Lobster or Kobe’s Japanese

What is your favorite book(s): The Adventures of Arty Anderson, Poison in the Colony: Jamestown 1622, and Blood on the River: Jamestown 1607

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

What would you like everyone in the world to know? Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. He’s the only way to Heaven.

John 13:7 – Jesus answered and said unto him, what I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter.

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Happy Double Digits!!

Dear Abby,

I can’t believe you are already ten years old. A lot has changed since we first met you a little over 4 years ago. You were a few months shy of being 6.

I’ll never forget those first moments of seeing you during those uncertain times. God has brought you so far these past 4 years. You have matured and grown so much since you came to live with us.

I’m sorry you have been through all that you have. But, I’m thankful you are allowing God to shape you and mold you. You, sweet girl, are allowing Him to use your story to help others. I am so proud of you!

It has been a long road, but I see you relax and trust a little more each day. You have taught me so much. And, I’m so so thankful that we have gotten to celebrate the past two birthdays with you. We’ve missed so much time together, but God is allowing us to make up for lost time.

I don’t even want to think about the fact that you will be 18 in just 8 years. I know the time will fly by so quickly. I plan on cherishing each moment that we have together. No matter how old you get, you will always be my daughter. I love you more than you could ever imagine.

Love Always,

Mommy 💓

Abby’s Birthday Interview

How old are you? 10

What is your favorite food? Lasagna

What do you hope you never have to eat again? Hot Dogs

What is your favorite thing to do? Play with people’s hair

What is your favorite animal? A rabbit

What makes you happy? Jaden

What is the best memory from when you were 9? I liked it when I got a fluffy marshmallow unicorn pillow.

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 10? Learn new hairstyles

What would you like to do when you grow up? Be a hairstylist

What is your favorite song? Friend Like Me

Where is your favorite place to eat? Milano’s

What is your favorite book? James and the Giant Peach 🍑

Where would you like to go on vacation? California

What would you like everyone in the world to know? I am adopted!! 💕

1 John 4:7-8 – Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

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Paralyzed

Have you ever felt paralyzed to the point of not being able to have the energy to move two more steps forward? Despite all the blessings going on around you, you still feel like the lies and deception in other areas places a black cloud of fog over the good that has just occurred. Have you ever felt fear creep up and try to unravel all the wonderful things that have came to fruition?

Fear makes all the small victories along the way seem like they are not enough to hold it all together. Fear! It’s a four letter word that I’ve probably written about so many times. It takes our breath away. It makes our faith weak. It makes us say and act in ways we aren’t always proud of.

Fear has crept into my heart so much these past two years. So many things that are happening behind the scenes that I have no control over are taking my breath away over and over again. Yes, we have seen victories that we are so thankful for. Victories that only God could have orchestrated. But, are those victories enough?

There are still things lurking in the background that remind us that some things are incomplete. Some things continue to be undone and down right scary due to lack of information and so much more that I can’t even comment on.

We have babies dying and children living in their worst nightmares because of the brokenness of our system. But, we are silenced. We aren’t aloud to speak. We have to live in fear. We have to pretend like we are nobodies who could care less if things turn out in a way that could be harmful, neglectful, and abusive.

We are temporary caretakers who do not matter until the system says they need us to step in and become more than just foster parents. Until that point, we get to have our names run through the mud, get lied about, and practically get spit on and ignored.

But, guess what? We aren’t doing any of this for ourselves. We have and continue to do what we do not for ourselves, but for kids who have no voice or rights in this United States of America. Before a huge change is made, how many kids have to die, have to grow up in horror and filth, or have to be arrested because they chose the same path as their parents?

When is this system going to be focused on the child as the victim instead of the abuser? When? We are just foster parents as I’ve heard it said just as recently as yesterday, but we are also humans. We are humans who care about the well being of children who have been dealt a hard hand in life.

Even though we are “just” foster parents, we will continue to be the voice behind the scenes as long as the Lord allows us to. We all have recently seen what happens to children who fall through the cracks. We’ve seen what happens when lies are told and when no one is held accountable for his or her actions.

When I think about what’s going on in our never ending case, the song “Nobody” by the Casting Crowns comes to my mind. “Cause I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody. All about Somebody who saved my soul. Ever since You rescued me, You gave my heart a song to sing. I’m living for the world to see nobody but Jesus.”

I love that song because it reminds me of my purpose in all of this. Yes. I’m just a nobody, but God has given me a huge job to do for Him while we wait and trust in Him. He wants me to live in a way that shows these kids, their parents, the lawyers, social workers, and all those involved in these cases who Jesus is. So, even though I’m “just” a foster parent who is far from perfect, I will stay the course. I pray I’ve not lost my testimony for the Lord along the way because fighting for what is right can get messy at times. Thankfully, the Lord is merciful and gracious.

I’m so thankful for His mercy and grace. I’m thankful to be a nobody. But, we can’t fight this fight alone! How many “nobodies” out there are willing to pray for the fear to be squashed while we wait for God to reveal the truth? I truly believe if we have faith than a lot of “nobodies” working together to pray for God’s will can change not only a child’s future but prayer can also change the world! Are you ready?

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Waiting for You

Dear Girls,

We waited for 856 days for you to move with us. Over four years ago, we were told that the 3 of you would come to our family the same moment your brother did. But, God had a different plan. And, as I’ve said time and time again, God’s plans are always right. They are always perfect.

We might not understand all of the details of why we all had to wait so long, but God does. He knew exactly what needed to happen before you all were even born.

Although we always know God’s ways are best, it didn’t make the waiting any easier for us. While we waited, we prayed for you many many times. We would think about you all often, and we would smile as we would talk about how Layla kept all of us laughing at AJ’s visits.

We fell in love with all of you so quickly, and our hearts ached because you were separated from your brother and from us for over 2 years. After visits stopped with AJ, we longed to check to make sure you all were okay. While he was having visits, we could tell things were not as they needed to be with your first family. The waiting and unkowns made us anxious for so long. But, God stepped in.

He works in mysterious ways. He worked out all of the details in His timing. Making us wait and fight for the three of you has made us cherish each of your lives even more. Many nights, we lost sleep over not knowing if you all were okay or if we would ever be united as a family. We hurt when you all hurt. So did God. He loves the three of you more than anyone else on earth.

And, today we can thank our creator in a huge way for working things out the way He wants them to be forever. Because today, you were ADOPTED! God moved mountains, and for that, we are grateful. We love each of you more than you will ever know. Thank you for loving all of us so well. The wait was so worth it!! You never have to be separated from your brother or any of us ever again! We will love you forever and a day!

Love Always,

Mommy 💕

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.

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Happy 6th Birthday!

Dear Ava,

I know! I know! It’s been two whole months since your birthday. Having a birthday on Christmas Day means your birthday letter was not only late this year, but it was also almost just as late last year. I always need a few months to get caught up from all the holiday activities. I’m sorry, sweet girl.

We had a fun time celebrating your birthday on your special day, but we also had a magical time celebrating at Disney World a few weeks early! You loved getting a special treat at Planet Hollywood. You smiled so big. Your new Dumbo stuffed animals made your face light up, too. You had became so attached to Jayla’s Dumbo, so we wanted to get you not one but two of your very own.

I am so proud of how far you have came the past two years! You have had so much standing in your way. But, you persevered and have became stronger than ever. I can’t believe you came to us when you were just 4 years old. Wow! So much has changed since the first day I actually met you. You weren’t even close to 4 at that time. You were a newly turned 2 year old with A LOT of spunk and energy.

You have grown and matured so much the past 4 years. And, I’m grateful that the Lord has allowed you to become my daughter. Even though you aren’t one of my tummy babies, my love for you is just the same. Things haven’t always been easy for us, but I love you something fierce. I’ll love you forever and always!

Love Always,

Mommy 💕

Ava’s Birthday Interview

How old are you? 6

What is your favorite food? mac and cheese

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

What is your favorite thing to do? play outside

What is your favorite animal? horse

What makes you happy? Mae Mae

What is the best memory from when you were 5? playing in the water in the summer

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 6? get a top bunk bed

What would you like to do when you grow up? a veterinarian

What is your favorite song? Frozen II songs

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonald’s

What is your favorite book? Aladdin: The Desert Race

Where would you like to go on vacation? I want to go to Disney World again.

What would you like everyone in the world to know? Horses are pretty.

Psalm 139:14- I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

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Dear Addict

Dear Addict,

I do not hate you. I want you to be better. I want you to make better choices. I want to help you. I hurt for you. I feel sad for you. I love you. No matter what, I always will.

Do I agree with the choices you have made? No. How can I? I see what they have done to you. I see that deep down inside, whether you admit it or not, you are hurting. You are hurting yourself. You are hurting all those around you.

I cry for you. I don’t know how to help you any longer except to continue to pray. You get defensive no matter how much I try to help you. When I come to visit, you deny that you need help. I see it so much differently. I know you need help. That’s why I keep fighting for you no matter how far you push all of us away.

Your addiction hurt when I was 5 years old. It hurt when I was 15 years old. It hurt when I was 25 years old. And, it hurts even worse now that I am 39 years old. The older I have gotten, the worse your addiction has gotten. The older you have gotten…

Time is running out. Time is running out for us to have a relationship again. A relationship of you being sober and enjoying life to the fullest. I want to see you smile again. So badly, I just want to hear you laugh. I am so afraid that time is gone. I know God hears my prayers. I know He can heal you.

But, you have to want it. You have to want to be healed. I cannot help you in my own power. But, I’m so willing to help you in God’s strength. Your addiction is so much bigger than me. It’s so much bigger than you. But, it’s not too big for God.

I have to protect the ones I love from your addiction because that’s my job. That’s my job as a mom. I take that job seriously. But, they all love you. They love you so so much. And, they know you are worth the fight. I know you are worth the fight. They cry for you. They hurt for you. They pray for you. They love you. Please don’t ever give up. We will love you forever no matter what. 💕

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Happy 8th Birthday

Dear Alayla,

Happy 8th Birthday sweet girl. I will never forget meeting you for the first time when you were only 4 years old. You stole my heart back then, and you still have it today.

It is difficult to comprehend all that you have went through. You have stood so strong through it all. Most adults couldn’t handle all that you’ve been through in your short 8 years. But, you are learning how to let the Lord use your past for His good. You are so wise at such a young age. You make me so proud!

I had so much fun celebrating your birthday with you this year not once but twice. Your birthday party on your special day was perfect. But, your birthday party at Disney was even better!! Planet Hollywood was awesome.

Thank you for making each day so special. Your resilience, laughter, and smiles make my days so much better. I don’t ever want to have to live without you precious girl. Thanks for loving me so well. I will love you forever and always!

Love Always,

Mommy ❤️

 
Alayla’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 8

What is your favorite food? Chicken Noodle Soup

What do you hope you never have to eat again? Lasagna- It gives me bad headaches.

What is your favorite thing to do? cook and play outside

What are your favorite animals? snakes, bunnies, and dogs

What makes you happy? being with Mommy and Daddy

What is the best memory from when you were 7? playing in the water in the summer

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 8? go to Just Jump

What would you like to do when you grow up? be a cowgirl

What is your favorite song? Jesus Love Me

Where is your favorite place to eat? Mellow Mushroom

What is your favorite book? books about dolphins and turtles

Where would you like to go on vacation? I want to go to Disney World again and the beach.

What would you like everyone in the world to know? God loves everyone!

Romans 8:28 – And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

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Happy 13th!!!

Dear Jaden,

This past year you have changed so much. You are officially taller than me and your shoes are two sizes bigger than mine. How did that even happen?

When you were a baby and then a little girl, I never imagined you outgrowing me one day. As a young mom, I never thought about the day I wouldn’t be able to pick you up and carry you around. But, these past few years have flashed by, and all of a sudden you aren’t a little girl any longer. You are a beautiful young lady who has officially outgrown her mama! I will never again be able to even give you a piggy back ride much less carry you on my hip!! Just thinking about all of that makes the tears flow.

No matter how much you continue to grow and mature, you will always be my first little girl. You have quite a bit of competition with all the younger girls in the house now, but you will always be the girl who stole my heart first.

You make me so proud each and every day. You love on everyone so well especially your 3 littlest brothers. And, you keep those sisters of yours in line probably better than I ever could. You are stern with them, but you also show them how much you love them.

We could all learn a lot from you sweet girl. Just this year, you showed all of us how important God’s strength is as you trekked through Peru, South America on crutches. You had compassion and wanted to share Christ’s love with others. You are the definition of selfless!

Thank you! Thank you for allowing the Lord to use you in big ways! Thank you for allowing God to be the biggest part of your passions and dreams.

We will love you forever and always. Don’t ever forget that. No matter how tough things may get in your life always remember that we will always be here for you. More importantly, God will always be by your side. He loves you more than any of us ever could, and we love you more than you could ever imagine!!

Love Always,

Mommy

Jaden’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 13

What is your favorite food? cheeseburgers

What do you hope you never have to eat again? soy milk

What is your favorite thing to do? playing with my dog, Skylar

What are your favorite animals? dogs

What makes you happy? being with Skylar

What is the best memory from when you were 12? getting Skylar

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 13? go to Disney World with only my mom and dad

What would you like to do when you grow up? a baker

What is your favorite song? Burn the Ships by For King and Country

Where is your favorite place to eat? Littles

What is your favorite book? Who’s Who Disney

Where would you like to go on vacation? the Bahamas

What would you like everyone in the world to know? Jesus loves you!

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

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Happy 4th Birthday, AJ!

Dear Abel,

I cannot believe you are already 4 years old! Oh my goodness! You have definitely turned into a little boy this year. You have grown so much in so many ways. But, you are definitely still Jaden’s baby! She would literally do anything for you.

These past 4 years have been such a huge blessing. You brighten up our days with your great big smile.

You, sweet boy, are always happy, and you always have the biggest smile on your face. Your birthday was no different. You literally smiled and laughed all day long.

We were so glad that we were able to celebrate with you at Bald Head Island this year. There is nothing better than celebrating a birthday while on vacation especially with special friends.

Your cupcakes that Missy made you were delicious. Double icing is always a win! You thought so, too.

You were too stinkin’ cute opening all of your presents. Your appreciation shines through your excitement! You are always so grateful for everything.

And, we are very grateful for all the Lord has done in your life these past four years. We still have some mountains to climb. But, you are a trooper, and God helps us make it through each and every day!

We love you precious boy, and your story still takes my breath away daily. You will always be a reminder of God’s goodness and grace. I’ll love you forever and always!

Love Always,

Mommy ❤

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.

Abel’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 4

What is your favorite food? peanut butter and jelly, milk, bananas, and pizza

What do you hope you never have to eat again? macaroni, hamburgers, hot dogs, turkey, and ham

What is your favorite thing to do? playing with toys

What are your favorite animals? elephants, giraffes, and bears

What makes you happy? my birthday

What is the best memory from when you were 3? playing with Jayce

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 4? go and see big animals

What would you like to do when you grow up? build barns with Daddy

What is your favorite song? Baby Shark

Where is your favorite place to eat? Mexican Restaurant

What is your favorite book? Corduroy

Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney World

What would you like the world to know? I love Mommy!

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We Get It!

It is impossible for anyone to truly understand the emotions that come along with parenting kids who have lived traumatic lives until he or she has became that parent. No one can truly understand how the fear of the unkown changes a person until he/she has walked a life of raising kids who were removed from abusive and neglectful homes.

Even with great faith, when you do become that parent, your whole life is changed in ways that you never knew were possible. Sometimes or a lot of times you wonder where the “old” you has went. The one who wasn’t so frustrated. The one who wasn’t so frustrated because others might not always get trauma or understand what your life really looks like behind closed doors.

But, I was one of the ones who didn’t fully understand before I started this journey. One of the ones who didn’t really understand what others were walking through. Sure, my whole adult life prior to becoming a foster and adoptive parent, I had worked with children who lived through trauma. But, I still didn’t fully understand what the kids were actually going through in their homes. I didn’t understand why they acted or behaved in certain ways because I hadn’t actually been a foster or adoptive mom.

Now, I am glad I didn’t always understand because the Lord is gently reminding me that it’s okay if everyone doesn’t get it at first. It isn’t possible for them to, and I shouldn’t expect them to ever understand fully. He is teaching me that I need to show more mercy and grace. I have had to do the same exact thing for myself when I have handled situations the wrong way. I have had to ask for mercy and grace. And, I have to continue to try to move forward a little at a time.

However, I will be the first to admit that it is so difficult for me not to become defensive, and so many times I do because I have such a desire for others to understand or at least try to get what these kids have been through. What we have all been through… What they continue to go through. What we continue to go through… What they will face the rests of their lives… What we will all face the rest of our lives…

At times, the Lord has given me a chance to speak these past 4 years. He’s given me a voice that can speak too quickly and abruptly at times. But, if He hadn’t given me those rare opportunities through all of this, where would these kids be today? Would they even be alive? I know at least two of them most likely would not be if things hadn’t turned out the way they have so far. And, just because the others were old enough to open cans of cold ravioli for all of their meals if it was even available, it doesn’t mean they should have had to. They just barely survived and have seen and heard more in their short little lives than most adults have seen and heard. And, it is way more than just cold ravioli. I could spend hours explaining why children often rock back and forth in the floor in the fetal position while screaming and crying. I could talk all day about the self abusive behaviors, aggression, or about food hoarding. But, sometimes I don’t know if I took all of the time in the world even up until my last breath to explain every last detail if it would change other’s views because they don’t live what we do. And, that’s okay.

But, please be prepared if I get defensive. Because I am living it. And, so are they.

Most days we are all just surviving one second at a time. Trauma changes a child, but it also changes their foster parents, adoptive parents, and any other children in the home, too.

There is so much good that comes from this journey. And, it is so worth it, but it is also very difficult!! It is difficult on so many different levels due to a hundred thousand reasons. So, that’s why I do get way too defensive at times. I mean way too defensive. It comes from a great desire for everyone around us to just take a minute and try to understand.

If any of you who know me personally have wondered lately where the “old” me has went, please let me know if you ever find her. I really miss her a lot of days. And, I am sure my kids do, too. But, until we can dig her back out and brush her off, please show me a little grace and mercy. Please do the same for my children. We will also try our very bests to do the same with all of you even if you might not completely understand because we get it. We used to be in your place once, too. And, we are still learning how to peel back all of the layers of trauma a little at a time as we do our best to protect the ones who continue to suffer from it the most. It’s better to walk through this journey with others by our sides than to have to walk it alone. We are thankful for God’s mercy and grace and all of yours, too.

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Trapped!

Have you ever felt so trapped in a situation, it stitches your throat closed so tightly that the very breath you need to keep you alive can’t pass to your lungs?

Have you ever felt that no matter how much force you use to push the air through, it cannot make it past that tightly sewn stitch?

I sincerely hope you haven’t ever felt that way in your lifetime because it isn’t a comfortable feeling.

Unfortunately, I have felt that way more times than I would like to admit these past 3 1/2 years. Today is no different.

I am sure these children have felt the same many times as well. They are trapped, too. We all are. Our whole family is trapped.

We are trapped in a system that disregards the miracle of life and its fragility. If courts are ruling to kill babies inside their mothers’ wombs, we can’t expect decisions to be made to protect them once they are on the outside.

What is it going to take to make the much needed changes in our society? Changes are necessary to protect the most vulnerable around us.

What is it going to take to be loosened from the ropes digging deeply into our wrists? These ropes seem to hold us in bondage in an ungodly system.

Many times, I ponder on the possibility of how it is all my fault that the ropes have cut so deeply. Many times, I am reminded that it was my choice to enter this system. Many times, I wish I could go back to the simple days of calling the shots for my family. Man, those days were so simple. I couldn’t see that almost 4 years ago, but I see it clearly now.

I have threatened to give up as recently as today. As I walked out of that stagnate brick building not long after walking in, I became saddened and frustrated. I quickly realized that today was not the day of freedom from the lies and corruption. Upon that realization, I whispered that I am done. And immediately, the Lord whispered back, “This is not about you. You are doing this for me. Just keep going.”

Those words changed everything. They turned my doubt into hope. They turned my fear into trust.

I trust God to not only completely remove the ropes of this trial in His timing, but He will also continue to allow the breath of life to fill my lungs even through the anxiousness. The ropes can only be as tight as I let them become because I am free from the bondage of sin through Christ. When they seem too tight, the Lord holds me closer. If I lean on Him every single time I feel anxious, He won’t allow this trial to overtake me . Goodness, I have failed at that way too many times. But, our God is a God of forgiveness.

And, before walking into that brick building today, I heard a sermon on murmuring during difficult times. Conviction came quickly because I will be the first to admit that murmuring has became my middle name for way too long. But, as the preacher reminded me this morning, as Christians, we have to look at everything we are doing as God’s work. Everything that He has asked us to do, we are to do it for Him. It’s not about us at all. It is all about Him.

I’m tired and exhausted. And, yes, I want these ropes cut from my wrists so badly once and for all. They feel so tight and binding especially when I lose my focus. I want to be free from this unnecessary corruption!

However, I know God is using this trial to prepare me for a greater one that will show itself in the future. That’s scary to even imagine or think. But, I know He loves me. He loves my family. And, He loves these children more than I ever could. He definitely has a way of reminding me that, despite the trauma, they are ALL a blessing. I desperately needed that reminder today! These kids are worth the fight. No matter how many years it may take for this trial to be over, no matter how much disappointment and saddness that has came or will come, and no matter what the final outcome may be, these kids are worth it! God is able! He has proven it time and time again.

Psalm 27 King James Version (KJV)

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell.

3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.

4 One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple.

5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.

6 And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the Lord.

7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.

8 When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.

9 Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.

10 When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies.

12 Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.

13 I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

14 Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.

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Happy 10th Birthday, James!

Dear James,

I can’t believe you are the third one to hit double digits! The time seems to fly by quicker each year. I still remember the day you were born as if it were yesterday. You entered this world weighing nearly as much as a 2 month old. And now, you are almost as tall as your mama.

Your sweet personality hasn’t really changed over the years. You are still the same caring boy who likes to give lots of hugs and plenty of kisses on the cheek. And, you are always one of the first ones to tell me that you love me each day.

You have came so far this past year in so many areas of your life. You take what you are taught about Jesus to heart, and you make me so proud each time you pray. I always know when I see you praying that you have a special burden for someone or something in particular.

I am pretty sure many of your younger siblings came into our family because you were faithful to pray for them! I am also sure you even prayed for twins when you were probably no more than 4 years old. Guess what?

God answered that prayer in His own way when he sent you three sisters because one of them is the same age as you a few months out of the year. You both laugh and joke about her being your “twin.” The other two sisters? Well, one is Jayla’s age and the youngest one is Jayce’s age. So they have their own “twin,” too.

Shew! Are you sure you didn’t pray for 3 sets of twins? God surely has his own sense of humor! But, we wouldn’t want things any other way! You keep praying sweet boy. And, we will all continue to watch God work miracles.

We will all love you forever. And, I can’t wait to make memories with you at Disney this week!! It is going to be a blast!

Love Always,

Mommy 💚

James’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 10

What is your favorite food? macaroni salad

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

What is your favorite thing to do? ride horses

What is your favorite animal? a horse

What makes you happy? Mommy

What is the best memory from when you were 9? going to Bald Head Island

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 10? go to Disney World

What would you like to be when you grow up? horseback riding instructor

What is your favorite song? The Bare Necessities

Where is your favorite place to eat? Littles

What is your favorite book? The Little Green Frog

Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney World

What would you like the world to know? Roller coasters are not fun. I don’t like spicy food. And, I am saved.

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 5th Birthday to Our Little Man

Dear Jayce,

What an awesome birthday celebration you had at Bald Head Island! I was so excited that your 5th birthday landed right in the middle of vacation.

You were so cute to watch as each of your brothers and sisters showered you with gifts! I am almost certain Jacob and Jaden spoiled their little buddy more than anyone. They love you something fierce. They both watched as you fought to stay alive just 5 short years ago. Witnessing that fight changed them for the better. It helped them learn how to love a little deeper.

I am 100 percent sure that you have a part of everyone’s heart in this house. Due to that battle you endured after you took your first breath, you are smaller than most kids your age. You are still catching up in size. You are a five year old in a three year old’s body. 😊 And, we all love it that way! Your squeaky little voice makes you even more adorable. Plus, I love being able to still carry you around everywhere with ease.

You are our little miracle, and you make our days so much sweeter. Each time a stranger asks which kiddo is the most spoiled, your name is always the first spoken. But, that’s quite all right.

You handle all of the attention with grace. We love your hugs and kisses every single day. You are tenderhearted just like your brother James.

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You can’t stand to think you are ever in trouble. And, you are one of the first ones to say you are sorry or that you love me so much.

I love you more than you could ever imagine. I hope you will always know how much you mean to your daddy and me. Stay sweet little buddy. Stay sweet!

Love Always,

Mommy 🧡

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.

(This is the verse the Lord brought me when you were in the NICU. We all trusted that He was going to take care of you in His timing. Praise the Lord for His goodness!)

Jayce’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 5

What is your favorite food? Chips

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

What is your favorite thing to do? Play basketball

What is your favorite animal? Dog

What makes you happy? Playing basketball

What is the best memory from when you were 4? Eating cake

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 5? Go back to Bald Head Island

What would you like to be when you grow up? A dog… um no… a person or maybe a policeman

What is your favorite song? Jesus Loves Me

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds

What is your favorite book? Duck and Goose

Where would you like to go on vacation? The beach

What would you like the world to know? I love God.

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Happy 7th Birthday to a Feisty Girl

Dear Jayla,

Happy 7th birthday sweet girl. There is not one other girl in the whole universe just like you. You are one of a kind! Your feisty personality keeps all of us on our toes. We never know what you are going to say, but that’s what makes you so much fun.

We don’t ever get bored when you are around. You keep us laughing more times than not. And, you always love others so well.

You have went through a lot of changes this past year. You gained 3 new sisters all in the same day! And, each one of them is extremely close to your age! Talk about competition! We have really asked so much of you.

You could have gotten jealous or made things difficult. But, you haven’t! You have chosen joy, love, and selflessness. You chose Jesus. We are so proud of you. Thank you for seeing the blessings in what God is doing around here.

I loved celebrating your birthday with you. We had a blast at your skating party. You are growing up in so many different ways.

But, I am so glad you are still my little girl. Each year, you extend the age of when you will sleep in your own bed. And, that’s okay by me. I love your snuggles every night!

I am learning to cherish each moment because your oldest brother has taught me that time flies when you are having fun. No matter how quickly the years go by, I’ll love you forever!

Stay sweet baby girl! Stay exactly who God created you to be!

Love Always,

Mommy 💓

Jayla’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 7

What is your favorite food? Tacos

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

What is your favorite thing to do? Gymnastics

What is your favorite animal? Giraffe

What makes you happy? My mommy

What is the best memory from when you were 6? My birthday

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 7? Go to Just Jump

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

What is your favorite song? I Have Been Blessed

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds

What is your favorite book? Fancy Nancy

Where would you like to go on vacation? Dollywood

What would you like the world to know? I am happy.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

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Happy 15th Birthday!

Dear Jacob,

Wow! I can’t hardly believe it. You really are 15 years old! How is it even possible that you made me a mommy for the first time 15 years ago? The time has surely flown by.

I can’t even remember the last time you asked me to pick you up. I remember reading a blog post many years ago, and it said that one day you would stop asking me to carry you around. Well, you probably haven’t asked for at least 7 years now! I’ve carried around at least a dozen more kids since then, but I still miss the days when you were little. The days you asked to snuggle up and sleep next to me. Or, the days you couldn’t fall asleep without rubbing my face.

You are at least a half a foot taller than me now. No one told me 15 years ago, when I held you for the first time, that one day I would actually have to look up to you. But, I do!

I am proud of the young man you have become. I am proud of the way you sing for the Lord each Sunday night. I am proud of you for sharing your home with lots of children and for accepting them for who they are. I am proud of you for loving them unconditionally. I am proud of your dedication.

I love the fact that you are growing up, but you still enjoy shooting basketball with your friends or even your mama. I enjoy watching as you skate with your buddies. I like looking at all of the hidden treasures you have found from digging the land with your brothers and sisters. It brightens my day when you explore nature. And, it even makes me smile when you make sure and show me every single snake that you find!

Don’t ever change for anyone sweet boy! Always remember that the Lord is your creator, and He is faithful.

Love Always,

Mommy ❤

Jacob’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 15

What is your favorite food? Crab Legs

What do you hope you never have to eat again? I haven’t ever eaten anything that I don’t like.

What is your favorite thing to do? Play basketball

What is your favorite animal? Dog

What makes you happy? Playing basketball

What is the best memory from when you were 14? Playing basketball

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 15? Get my learner’s

What would you like to be when you grow up? Game Warden

What is your favorite song? Love Broke Thru 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? I get my learner’s on Oct. 2nd.

Jeremiah 29:11 – 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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Heaven Rejoices at the Value of One

In the midst of trials, tribulations, and really difficult times, God has a way of showing up. He has a way of showing all of us that He is in control. In the middle of the storm, He makes it perfectly clear that He is still on the throne.

He makes it evident that He has always been on the throne. He will always be on the throne. And, He is still in the miracle business. How do I know?

I know because a sweet little 5 year old that we met over 3 years ago asked Jesus in her heart today. We have been praying for her since the beginning. She was just barely 2 when we first got to know her, and she began sharing our home almost a year ago. She was full of energy and was quite mischievous when we first met. She brought all of that energy with her. But, that sweet little grin and cute little laugh makes up for all of that energy that she doesn’t quite know what to do with just yet.

I know Jesus will help her put all of that energy to use for His glory. He will help her learn empathy towards others. He will help her heal from all of the hurt she has been through in her short 5 years. Today, she made the most important decision of her life.

And, she has been so excited. Today she found hope! She has wanted to share her good news with everyone. She understands that Jesus now lives in her heart and will help her each and every day. He will never leave her or forsake her.

All of Heaven is rejoicing because of the value of one! Her eternal life matters. She didn’t get saved because of anything our family did. It was all God orchestrating the details at exactly the right time.

All we did was say yes to God’s calling when He specifically asked us to. He asked us to take in this precious child and her sisters who were abandoned, hurting, and all alone. We listened when God asked us to take her to church, kids’ choir, and RU. All we’ve done is teach her to pray and show her Christ’s love the best way we know how by asking for forgiveness when we haven’t always reacted in ways that are pleasing to Him. We have showed her what mercy and grace really look like. We planted a seed.

But, today, despite us, despite our failures, she realized exactly why we all need that mercy and grace. It warmed my heart as I watched my newly turned 7 year old move to sit beside her during communion service tonight. She wanted to whisper in her ear exactly what the juice represents: Jesus’s blood. That girl is my soul winner. She got to lead a sweet boy to the Lord last year around this time. A precious child who needed to share our home for a few short months. But, those months had a purpose!

Through simply saying yes to the call of the Lord by receiving His children into our home, we have been able to witness four children from very hard places ask Jesus in their hearts. Right now, three of them are still with us! God is so good.

As I sit here watching little AJ jump on my bed as he is singing “Jesus Loves Me,” I can say with complete confidence that every single thing that we have endured on this difficult journey has had a great purpose. Life is but a vapor. Eternal things are the only things that matter. Praise the Lord for His promises, His mercy, and His grace. God is so good to us even in the midst of trials! God is so good.

Luke 15:10- Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.

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You knew!

You knew what you were getting into.

You knew the depths of trauma.

You knew the way things would be handled in this awful, failing system.

You knew!

You knew the kids would get attached only to be told that that attachment doesn’t matter because it isn’t biological.

You knew you would become attached, too, but that attachment isn’t supposed to matter either because it is only supposed to be temporary.

You knew kiddos would be moved at the drop of a hat or sent back home even when things weren’t different.

You knew medical professionals’ recommendations would mean nothing!

You knew you might even have to ask a few children to be moved when extreme circumstances occured out of your control adding more trauma.

You knew you would have to pretend to be a doormat and show no emotion even if it is for the greater good of these children who have crossed your doorstep due to abuse and neglect.

You knew you would have compassion for first families despite the awful, horrible abuse they chose to bring to these children!

You knew lies would be told and court timelines wouldn’t matter!

You took training. You understood just how unfair things are! You knew!

No! No, I didn’t.

I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Yes, I had taken hours of foster care training and had witnessed trauma in the past as an elementary teacher and developmental specialist, but I didn’t fully understand the depths of what I was truly getting myself into because I hadn’t ever brought that trauma into my own home.

I didn’t know what a battle it would be to know what to pray and desire for until that first placement was put into my arms.

I didn’t know the struggle that would arise when God asked me to pray for parents to be healed and kids to remain safe and protected all at the same time.

I didn’t know the nightmares that would wake me out of my sleep due to the seriousness of the pasts that these children bring with them.

I didn’t know trust issues would become a part of my every day life because of lies being told and spread for reasons that I don’t care to mention.

I really didn’t know I would be subjected to such deceit when children’s lives are on the line.

No, I didn’t know!

I didn’t know how trauma would take deep roots into my inner being because you can’t sweep these kids’ trauma they experienced in first families under the rug. That is impossible. And, trauma caused by a broken system can’t be hidden when you had no idea it was coming at you in the first place.

I didn’t know that all social workers, lawyers, judges, and whomever else is involved in these horrendous cases aren’t created equal.

I really didn’t know!

Surely everyone who works in a field with abused children always has the best interest of the child in their minds. How could they not? Right?

I didn’t know the struggles that could come from trying to bond with children who hate every part of human existence due to being hurt their whole lives even by the foster care system. I didn’t know how that bond that had been tirelessly worked on for hours and hours and hours would no longer matter when it became convenient for the system.

I didn’t know how my voice would be completely stolen from me. I didn’t know the fight that always has lived inside of me would be crushed to the point that it is unrecognizable.

I didn’t know!

And, I am so glad! I am so glad I didn’t know all of the things mentioned above. If I had known just how unfair and unjust our broken foster care system is, I would have never said yes. Never!

And, had I not said yes, I wouldn’t have my sweet little AJ. A little boy who was once dying is now alive. He is Safe. He is Protected. He was worth saying YES to! He needed us to say that his life was worth saving.

And, we also wouldn’t have his 3 precious sisters and a sweet little baby boy from a totally different family that we love so dearly. Only God knows when they will be released from this awful system they are forced to be in without a voice! Their voices have also been stolen. Only God knows where they will end up. But, at least for now, they are SAFE! They are PROTECTED! They know what unconditional LOVE really is.

And, hadn’t we said yes, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show several other children what being loved and what safety truly is! Unfortunately, every child can’t stay. That’s where things get really, really difficult. But, now that I know about the darkness that lingers behind closed doors, it makes me want to say YES! even more.

Because my God is the light of the WORLD! And, He can expose the darkness and overcome the pure deception in this awful, broken system that these kids and foster parents are thrown into!

The light will always shine through the darkness! And, that is one thing I will ALWAYS know.

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.

Matthew 5:14 – Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

All of these kids’ lives matter! They matter to the Lord. And, He will take care of His children. He has a plan, and we have to trust His plan.

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 9th Birthday to a Unicorn Loving Girl!

Dear Sweet Girl,

Thank you so much for celebrating your 9th Birthday with us this year! We had so much fun celebrating as we were surrounded by unicorns. Your love for unicorns is one thing that you have made clear to all of us. It is definitely no secret.

I hope you loved all of your unicorn gifts! We had a blast picking all of them out. Shopping for you is always such a blessing. Your sisters got excited each time they found just the right gift for you.

James was super happy when he found a purple unicorn cupcake for your party. It tickled this mama when you asked to save it for school the next day because you were too stuffed after eating a huge plate of lasagna that Jaden made just for you. You have made it very clear to us that lasagna is the best food ever invented!

We love you more than you could ever imagine precious girl! You are going to go far in this life. I just know it!! We are trusting God to write your story.

Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 9

What is your favorite food? Lasagna

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

What is your favorite thing to do? Play with Jaden

What is your favorite animal? Bunny

What makes you happy? Staying with you guys

What is the best memory from when you were 8? Going to Just Jump with Jaden

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 9? Go in a cave

What would you like to be when you grow up? A gymnastics coach

What is your favorite song? You Say

Where is your favorite place to eat? Olive Garden

What is your favorite book? Wonder

Where would you like to go on vacation? New York

What would you like the world to know? I want to be a Bradley.

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Happy 5th Birthday to a Special Girl

Dear Special One,

I am very sorry your birthday letter is so late. Having a birthday on one of the biggest holidays of the year presents its challenges – that’s for sure! I think it took all of us 2 months to recuperate from all of the holiday festivities.

But, you, dear one, deserve to be celebrated. You mean so much to all of us, and we are so grateful that the Lord allowed our paths to cross just 3 short years ago. You have been such a blessing to us these past 9 months. It has been amazing to be able to watch you learn, change, and grow. You are truly an answer to 3 years of prayers. Hopefully you will understand all of it one day.

You remind us so much of your little brother. Thank you for sharing him with us. Your laughs and smiles are identical. We are so happy that you are able to smile and laugh with him each day now. We are trusting God that you two will never have to be apart again.

Stay strong, sweet girl. You have so much life to live. I am thankful the Lord has given you a chance to shine! 💓

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 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.

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Firmly Placed

There are so many words that I want to type right now. There are so many different posts that I want to share. For example, I really need to write a Happy Birthday post for a sweet girl who turned 5 on Christmas day. But, there is also a post that I want to write with words smeared as hard as possible across the page. A post about the frustrations that we are all feeling due to this awful broken system. A system that I have mentioned over and over again these past three years.

But, I can’t. I can’t smear those words just yet. I’d like to type them all out in bright bold letters. However, that would require me to rip off the thick piece of duct tape plastered to my mouth. It has been placed there for the past three years due to the fact that foster parents have to sign on a dotted line printed on a piece of paper that states that our voices are stolen from us the moment we accept hurting, neglected, abused children into our homes.

I know how much it would hurt to rip that tape from my mouth. I can feel the pain just thinking about it. I know, out of anger, I will say all of the wrong things if it is removed too quickly. So, I will stay silent for awhile longer. How much longer? Only time will tell.

So much is at stake to have such a thick gag order in place, but it is reality. It is not only a reality for us but also for the innocent children who are trapped in a system that is spiraling out of control a little more each day. Their voices are silenced just as much as ours.

So why? Why do we continue to be entangled in a system that pulls us in every direction?

I will tell you why. We do it for the children. We don’t do it for the judges, the lawyers, the supervisors, or the social workers. We do it for the orphans. We do it because God has asked us to.

We do it because it has taught our biological children what life is truly about.

It has taught them how to hold hands and pray.

It has taught them how to get along with others despite their shortcomings. It has taught them compassion in the deepest ways. Compassion that tells them to cry with their sister because the fears of court are weighing heavy on all of them.

It has taught them that LOVE means everything.

But, most importantly, it has taught them to fully rely on God no matter what uncertainties may arise.

The past three years have been TOUGH, but they have seen miracles only God could work out for His good and His glory. They have learned to have faith and to believe in hope like they never have before (so have their mom and dad!)

So dear readers, that’s why we keep the duct tape firmly placed over our mouths while we continue to love on all of these children of ours. Yes, our days aren’t easy. Things often seem out of control more times than not, and hateful words and actions can spew out at times mostly due to a broken system. But, God is love. And, He continues to teach ALL of us so much as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death. His rod and His staff, they comfort us!

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 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.

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An Open Letter to my Dad

Dear Dad,

I miss you. I miss you more than you know. My heart breaks for you. I can’t stand to see you in the condition you are in.

I love you, Dad. But, I can’t stand the denial you live in. I can’t stand the alcohol and other things keeping you from us. I’ve watched you suffer my whole life. I just want you to be set free.

Why not, Dad? Why wouldn’t you want to live a life where you don’t drown yourself in alcoholism and other strongholds? I just don’t understand. I don’t understand why you have chosen those things over your daughters and your grandchildren.

I don’t understand what we have done that is so wrong. Why do you choose your drinking buddies over us? Why does it seem like you hate us so badly? Why Dad? Have I said all of the wrong things? I’ve tried to keep my words intact as much as possible. It’s been so hard, Dad. It really has. I’ve wanted to say so much more. But, I love you too much to say all that I am thinking. The hurt inside makes me want to let it all out. And, I do when I’m alone and you aren’t in front of me. I say a lot more when you aren’t around.

You aren’t around much anymore. You haven’t been for years. I am so grateful that I get to see you two or three times a year. I wish you were here more often. You only live a few streets over.

So much has happened over the past 20 years. You keep saying you don’t have a problem, and it’s not that bad. But, actions speak louder than words. Like I told you recently, we really did miss you at Christmas this year. We always look forward to seeing you on Christmas. It’s one of our favorite times of the year because we know you always show up on Christmas.

But, let’s talk about the things you have missed besides this Christmas. Did you know that I have been in the hospital close to 10 weeks over the past 9 years? I waited for you to come and see me every single time. But, you never came. I waited for you to rub my swollen feet and tell me that everything was going to be okay, and that I was going to make it through. But, you never showed up, Dad. Some of those times, it wasn’t just me fighting for my life, but also your grandchildren. But, they are all okay now. And, I am going to be, too. The doctor has found medications that really help control this horrible disease that I live with and was most likely born with.

I wish I could talk to you about how badly I have felt over the past two years because this disease I have can take the life out of you. But, I am doing so much better now except in stressful situations. Like the one my kids and I encountered the other night when you wrecked, Dad.

We saw it all. I saw you lying on the pavement as you were pinned under your jeep. Dad, I was so scared. I was so scared that your addictions had finally taken you away from us. It was only by God’s grace that we pulled up behind your wreck. We were just on our way home, and we saw the most terrifying sight ever. I thought for sure you were going to be dead. But, Praise the Lord you weren’t. I am so thankful that I didn’t have to plan your funeral this weekend. I am so thankful I didn’t have to plan my husband’s or my children’s. If the timing had been off just a little, we might have had to swerve to miss you, Dad. I am glad you didn’t hurt anyone else’s family, too. But, I haven’t given up hope. I won’t ever. I love you too much.

But, what I witnessed next broke my heart worse than seeing your face lying on that pavement. I saw you handcuffed and carried off to jail. I knew it would happen one day, but I didn’t ever want it to. I wanted to see you better before now, Dad.

You have taught me so much in life. You have taught me some great life lessons.

Lesson 1. To hate alcohol and drugs with everything inside of me
Lesson 2. To work hard for everything I have, but use the money I make to help others in a positive manner and not throw it down the drain by buying the world’s drink
Lesson 3: To love other’s unconditionally no matter how they treat me or act towards me because God loves me despite MY OWN weaknesses and sinful habits and so do so many other people
Lesson 4: To never give up hope on those who are addicted because the Lord has worked a miracle in my life, and He can in yours, too, if you let him
Lesson 5: To allow my children to walk through hard times and not hide things from them because those times make them stronger, make them love and pray harder, and will hopefully make them walk away from temptations that will destroy their lives and their families’ lives (I pray if anyone ever offers my children a drop of alcohol or drugs, they will always see your vehicle on its side and see you being taken to jail.)

They hurt, too. You know? Jacob has prayed for you almost as long as he has been alive. He has been praying for you since he could first speak your name. He prayed the Lord would wake you up the day before you wrecked. Did it, Dad? Did that wreck do anything for you?

From what you told me on the way home from jail, it hasn’t helped you yet. It didn’t help you want to be different, Dad. All I’ve heard are excuses. It’s easy to blame others for our actions. I have done it in the past, too. But, it doesn’t do any of us a bit of good, Dad. The excuses don’t make me feel any better. I’ve heard you blame others and use excuses since I was just a small kid, Daddy. I don’t want to hear them anymore. I really don’t. It hurts too much. You always leave me asking myself why.

Why? Why can’t you just say you are wrong? Why can’t you just say you are sorry? Why couldn’t you say thank you when I stayed to help you at your accident? Do you even remember that I was there? Do you even remember that I care about you, and I love you? Do you?

Because I do. I love you so much. You have always told me that you aren’t going to change for anyone. But, do you know what? I don’t want you to change for me or my kids. I want you to change for you! I want you to change for the Lord! I want you to stop killing yourself every single day! We all do.

Jayla, my 6 year old daughter, she just had this conversation with me today:

He’s been drinking beer and not eating. That’s what’s wrong, Mommy. He needs to eat and not drink that beer, Mommy. The Lord tries to talk to him, Mommy, but he says no, Mommy. It makes the Lord sad, Mommy. Has he really been saved, Mommy? Is he going to Heaven, Mommy? If he’s really been saved then it never breaks, Mommy! Even if he does bad stuff, he will still go to Heaven if he is saved. You know that, Mommy!

Please, Dad. Are you saved? Are you on your way to Heaven? Only you know the answer. But, we are begging you to please stop! Please stop breaking our hearts. Please stop before it is eternally too late. If we can’t spend our lives with you here, we at least want to spend eternity with you in Heaven.

I love you, Dad. We all do and no matter what, we always will. And, we will never give up on you. We will never give up hope. We are here for you. We will never stop praying. There is no way that I could ever count the number of days that I have prayed for you.

Love Always,
Your Second Daughter

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The Reality of Foster Care

Disclaimer before you read:

I have wore many hats during my adult life. I began college in 1998. While attending college and after graduating, I was a teacher in daycares, public schools, a private school, and in many different church programs including an addiction program. After teaching for 6 years, I became a developmental specialist through an early intervention program. In recent years, I have taken hours of foster care training. I am now a foster parent and have been for nearly 3 years. I know a lot of foster parents. I am an adoptive mom and also know a lot of adoptive mothers. I was a NICU mom with two babies born two years apart who were in the NICU due to complications out of my control. Each night, I would listen to the babies in the rooms next to mine scream from withdrawals. It sounded like the worst horror movie that you could ever listen to. The examples listed below are from real life experiences, but I will never disclose which experiences they came from. There are many more horrific stories that are too graphic to share. But, I want nothing more than to protect all of the children I have met in every situation that I have been in. Thanks for understanding!

⭐Foster care is unfortunately needed in this country. It is unfortunate that children are removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect in order to save their lives. The tragedies that these children suffer from are unfortunate.

It is unfortunate that a child, as she peeped through the crack in the bathroom door, witnessed her parents snort white powder up their noses. It is unfortunate that a child hid as his father abused his mother many times because he was so messed up on drugs and was angry. It is unfortunate that a child witnessed her father choke her mother and then watched as he pushed her down a flight of stairs.

It is unfortunate that a child watched her mother shoot “something” in her father with a needle and then saw her father shoot “the same something” in her mother with the same needle while she was pregnant. It is unfortunate that the child watched as those same parents flopped around and acted all crazy after they were finished using those needles. It is unfortunate that the child continues to worry as her mother suffers from hepatitis because of those needles. It is tragic that the same child watched as her mother nearly died from drug overdoses and had to be brought back to life as another needle was being stabbed into her body.

It is unfortunate that any child stood by as her father took soap and a t-shirt from the store for her mommy. It is unfortunate that the same child steals because that’s all she has ever known.

It is unfortunate that a child continues to fight fear at night because he was allowed to watch horror movies at a very young age. It is unfortunate that a fort is built for protection because he sees people from the movies as he attempts to fall to sleep. It is unfortunate that the same child is on powerful prescription medications just to numb the psychological behaviors that were bred from the abuse and neglect he endured in his biological home. It is unfortunate that no foster home is educated enough to help him so he doesn’t live with a family.

It is unfortunate that a 6 year old asks to sleep with a curtain locked around her bed because she sees and hears the evil people from the movies she watched with her parents. And, those same people say mean things to her when she’s really quiet. And, when she closes her eyes, all she sees is a dead naked woman lying in the bathtub with blood all over her body.

It is unfortunate that any child was kept up all night for 7 years of her life because her parents were intoxicated to the point of screaming and yelling at each other all night long while having fist fights with the neighbors. It is unfortunate that the same child wonders what happened to the baby she felt moving in her mommy’s stomach.

It is unfortunate that nothing happened when a child flipped on the light switch because the bills hadn’t been paid due to every last dollar going to support her parents’ habits.

It is unfortunate that a child didn’t know when his next meal was coming, so food hoarding is an issue in his life so much so that he eats until he vomits.

It is unfortunate that any child’s dad rinsed the lice out of her hair, but she didn’t bathe any other time.

It is unfortunate that a child through tear filled eyes watched her mommy get arrested and wasn’t able to give her a hug because she had on handcuffs. And, the child stood frozen from confusion.

It is unfortunate that a child had to walk everywhere she went sometimes even barefoot in the freezing rain because her parents have their licenses suspended.

It is unfortunate that a child suffers from reactive attachment disorder and what seems like oppositional defiant disorder because the only human contact that she has ever felt has been hurtful. It is unfortunate that PTSD is even a medical diagnosis for a child.

It is unfortunate that a child self soothes in very inappropriate ways just to cope from all the abuse and neglect he has endured in his short little life.

It is unfortunate that any child sees monsters all around her because her parents called the dead into her home and told her they were hovering over her body.

It is a shame that every single day babies withdrawl from multiple types of drugs and alcohol and suffer from lifelong effects because their moms are addicts.

It’s a tragedy that one mom was not only addicted during her 5th pregnancy but most likely her 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th pregnancies. It is unfortunate that the 5th baby had withdrawls for four long months after his birth and nearly died because of it. It is unfortunate at 3 years old his adoptive parents struggle to keep him healthy because he nearly chokes every day as he violently coughs.

Yes! All of these situations are unfortunate. But, the graveness doesn’t stop at the abuse and neglect. It continues as the child is thrown into an unfortunate system. A system that expects foster parents and the children to act like nothing ever happened to them. It is unfortunate that foster parents are expected to hide their feelings and not let any of the above mentioned things bother them. It is unfortunate that foster parents don’t have a voice. It is unfortunate that most always the children are silenced.

It is unfortunate that the kids are silenced so much that they get moved 4 times before ending up where they should have been in the first place because the system hid things about their past. It is unfortunate that those in charge don’t always admit how the system’s standards damages these children even more, or maybe they do. Maybe just maybe the ones who have to work in the system can’t do a thing about it. Maybe a broken system has made them silent and numb and construed their views to believe something that’s not true. This system will chew you up, swallow you, and vomit you back up again all the while expecting you to put your game face on. Maybe that’s why so many foster parents and social workers quit.

But, there is hope. God is bigger than any broken system.

These children should not live in fear of being put out on the streets because we lack foster homes in America. There aren’t enough people stepping up to help these hurting children who have been tainted by the ones who were supposed to love and protect them the most. There are siblings separated because foster homes are so full they can only take one or two more kids at a time.

Don’t get me wrong, as foster parents, we want to throw in the towel many times – sometimes daily. We long for a normal, stress free life, and so do the kids! It is a challege listening to the awful, unfortunate abuse and neglect these children have been through. It’s just as difficult to watch their biological parents make poor choices day after day. God doesn’t want a family divided. That’s not His initial plan, but sometimes He has to step in when life threatening choices from first families are made. Yes, it’s tragic but also a reality.

A reality that hurts the children the most. And then, it’s a punch in the gut when court dates roll around and everyone is so eager for something good to happen for these innocent kids only to hear so many lies being spoken to down play the abuse and neglect handed to them. These children are handled like a number in our courts. Changes need to be made! Some how… some way…

Hearing all of the unfortunate issues of abuse and neglect and a broken system might just make you think that foster care couldn’t ever be for you. But, have you asked God? Is God calling you to step up and help? Christians, God calls born again believers to help the orphan. Don’t be afraid to do what these children need. I understand how frightening it is! I live it every single second of every single day.

Will every child who enters your home be the right fit? No! Will some of them have to move? Yes! Will you carry that guilt with you every day? Trust me, you will question your decision. But, God removes that guilt. His all knowing power gets foster parents walking with Him through the trauma that is brought into their homes. Being a foster parent will bring anxiety, hurt, trauma, and guilt. You will feel like you’ve messed up time and time again because trauma breeds trauma.

This foster parenting stuff is one of the most difficult things that hopefully you and I will ever do! Parenting kids who have been traumatized their whole lives is not an easy task! But the ONE who has called you to the journey will hold your hand every step of the way. He is ABLE and the kids that enter your home are so worth it.

So, don’t worry about making mistakes and failing miserably because you will. The enemy will always whisper that you aren’t good enough and that you are not cut out for the job of helping kids from hard places, but God’s bigger voice says to dust yourself off and walk in His ways. These children need you!

Their parents also need our love and prayers. Sometimes that’s all we can offer them, but prayer is enough. Prayer is powerful. God wants them to walk in His obedience. We have to show them Christ’s love. He died for them as well as for you and me. He is a chain breaker!

Not every family will be reunited. Not every family can be due to the severity of the situation. He places orphans in families. Families He has chosen. But, God can heal broken families in His timing!

God will protect you and His children. His ways, even if we don’t always understand them, are perfect. Even if we think a decision made from a broken system is not the right one, God knows why. We have to leave all of those details in His hands. He fights the battles of His children! While we wait for much needed changes in our foster care system, we just have to trust Him!

So, if you feel led, take the next step! If God has asked you to, just do it! Sign up to be a foster parent. Take the classes. Don’t wait. There’s too much at stake. Even if you are afraid, these children need you, but most importantly, they need Christ. They are our future.

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Happy Birthday to A Precious 7 Year Old Girl!

Dear Sweet Girl,

You are already seven! I can’t believe time has went by so quickly. You had just turned 4 when we first met almost three years ago! You stole our hearts from that first day.

Your mischievous little grin won us over immediately. You had a sparkle in your eyes and were so full of life. We would have brought you home with us that very minute if God had asked us to.

But, He asked us to wait. As you know, a lot of things had to fall in place before you joined our family this past June. Many prayers were spoken during the wait. Prayers for your safety and for God’s perfect plan. We never gave up hope. We knew He would do what was best for you and for us in His perfect timing.

We might not understand why you endured the things you did your first 6 years. However, God knows why. He has a great purpose for your life. We just have to trust that His plans and timing are perfect. Waiting for you made our reunion so much sweeter. He’s still working out all of the final details. And, we know He is able! He has done so much already.

Thanks for celebrating your birthday with us yesterday! We had a great day celebrating. It all started with red velvet cinnamon buns from some sweet friends. They were so good, and you loved them!

You picked the perfect place for your party later in the afternoon! You waited all day long for pancakes and sausage. You can’t ever go wrong at Cracker Barrel!

Your eyes lit up when it came time to open your presents. I hope you liked your Little Mermaid gifts. You told me that she is your favorite. Maybe we can go and meet her one day in person. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful adventure?

I know the Lord has so many adventures waiting for us to explore. I can’t wait to see what all He has in store. We are so excited for what your future holds. Stay strong in the Lord and trust Him! He will show you so many great and mighty things. We love you so much baby girl!


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.

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Our Oldest Girl is 12!!

Dear Jaden,

It’s your birthday! It’s hard to believe you are 12 years old. Next year, you will be a teenager. Time goes by so quickly. I know you have been looking forward to your birthday for months now because you have talked about it often.

I am glad that you still get excited about the little things in life. You are such a sweet girl who sees the positive in every situation. I am so thankful for that. You have grown up a lot these last 12 months.

You proved how strong you are when changes were thrown at you so many times this year. You have welcomed so many new children into your home over the past 9 months. Just this year, you started with 5 siblings, then two more came making it 7, then you were down to 6, then up to 8, then back to 6, and now you are up to 9! As those numbers show, you have had to say goodbye to some of those siblings along the way, and that isn’t ever an easy task. But, those numbers also show that not long after those final goodbyes were spoken 3 sisters came, which including you, has put us at a steady 10 (5 girls and 5 boys). Only God could do that! You have loved all of the kids that have crossed your path so well! I am so proud of you! You have been Christ’s hands and feet. I know it isn’t always easy, but you always willingly sacrifice so much.

Your faithfulness to the Lord made me want to spoil you a little extra today. I hope you enjoyed your manicure, going out for lunch, picking out a few gifts for yourself, shopping for things for your birthday party coming up this weekend, and getting a special treat before heading home to your party with your siblings.

They all really love you more than you can imagine. They took a lot of time searching for gifts that they thought were perfect for you. Your daddy and I love you so much, too. There isn’t another 12 year old girl in this world as special as you are to us. Thank you so much for being you! Don’t ever change for anyone. Stay strong in the Lord, and He will take you far in this life. His love never fails.

Love Always,

Mommy 💙

Jaden’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 12

What is your favorite food? Hamburgers

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

What is your favorite thing to do? Gymnastics and ride horses

What is your favorite animal? Horse

What makes you happy? Jesus

What is the best memory from when you were 11? Getting 3 new sisters

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 12? Learn new gymnastics skills

What would you like to be when you grow up? A gymnastics coach

What is your favorite song? Stand For Jesus

Where is your favorite place to eat? Little’s Quick Check

What is your favorite book? The Littles

Where would you like to go on vacation? The Bahamas on a cruise

What would you like the world to know? Jesus loves them!

Matthew 25:40 -And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

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Happy 3rd Birthday Little Stitch

Dear Abel,

It was an Ohana kind of day. Early in the day, all your brothers and sisters hustled and bustled to get ready for your party. Excitement was in the air!

When the party hour finally arrived, everyone wore their Lilo and Stitch attire. And, the girls had decorated with your favorite Lilo and Stitch stuffed characters.

Your Hawaiian style birthday cake was perfect. You were so cute as you blew out your candles.