Top 5 Reasons Not to Become a Foster Parent

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

Do NOT become a foster parent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Top 5 Reasons Why YOU Should Become a Foster Parent 

Do BECOME a foster parent if:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ephesians 4:2 –

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

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An Adoption Party with Lilo and Stitch

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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A Day at Epcot

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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A Busy Day at Magic Kingdom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hollywood Studios Rewind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Change in Plans

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

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

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

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

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

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Jeremiah 29:11

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

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Legoland Florida Theme Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Ride through the Sky and Legoland Beach Retreat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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When God Says Wait After He has said Yes

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

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

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

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

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

What if? What if? What if?

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

Fear – a 4 letter word that steals our joy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When Trials become a Blessing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                    

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

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

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

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

  

  

  

  

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 3:20King James Version (KJV)

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

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

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Happy 2 Years to our Littlest Guy!

Dear Sweet Boy,

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

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

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

Love,

Mommy

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

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Happy 8th Birthday Sweet James!

Dear James, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Always, 

Mommy 🖤

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

 

Matthew 5:16King James Version (KJV)

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

James’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 8

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

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

What is your favorite thing to do? Play Minecraft

What is your favorite animal? All of the rare ones

What makes you happy? My mommy and my family

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

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

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

What is your favorite song? Amazing Grace

Where is your favorite place to eat? Red Lobster

What is your favorite book? The Ear Book

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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A Beautiful Day in the Mountains 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 52:7King James Version (KJV)

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

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

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Happy 3rd Birthday Little Man

Dear Jayce,

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

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

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

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

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

Love Always,

Mommy ♡

Jayce’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 3

What is your favorite food? chicken nuggets

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

What is your favorite thing to do? play with Blaze

What is your favorite animal? giraffe

What makes you happy? swimming

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

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

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

What is your favorite song? Bob the Builder

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds

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

Where would you like to go on vacation? Africa

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

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


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The Teen Years Have Begun!

Dear Jacob,

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Always,

Mommy 

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Jacob’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 13

What is your favorite food? Crab legs

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

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

What is your favorite animal? Puppies

What makes you happy? Getting surprises

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

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

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

What is your favorite song? Love Broke Thru by TobyMac

Where is your favorite place to eat? Japanese Restaurant 

What is your favorite book? The Terrestria Chronicles 

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

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

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The Toddler Years are a Thing of the Past!

Dear Jayla,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Always,

          Mommy  😉

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

Jayla’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 5

What is your favorite food? Waffles

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

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

What is your favorite animal? Giraffe

What makes you happy? Spending time with Merritt

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

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

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

What is your favorite song? Amazing Grace

Where is your favorite place to eat? Subway

What is your favorite book? Little Critter

Where would you like to go on vacation? Dollywood

What would you like the world to know? About Jesus

 

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

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

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365 Days of Foster Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The KJV Bible (always a must!)

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

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

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

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Double Digits Strike Again

Dear Jaden,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Always,

Mommy ♡

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Jaden’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 10

What is your favorite food? Alta’s potato soup

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

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

What is your favorite animal? kittens

What makes you happy? playing with my friends

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

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

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

What is your favorite song? Carol of the Bells

Where is your favorite place to eat? The Cruise Ship

What is your favorite book? American Girl Doll Books

Where would you like to go on vacation? Clearwater Beach

What would you like the world to know? About Jesus

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

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Happy Birthday Little One

Dear Little One,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy 7th Birthday to a Sweet Boy! 

Dear James,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Always,
Mommy

James’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 7

What is your favorite food? ice cream

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

What is your favorite thing to do? playing legos

What is your favorite animal? white tiger

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite song? This Little Light of Mine

Where is your favorite place to eat? McDonalds

What is your favorite book? Charlotte’s Web

Where would you like to go on vacation? Disney World

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

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

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Happy 2nd Birthday to our Sweet Boy

Dear Jayce,

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


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


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


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


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

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

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Saying Goodbye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy Birthday to our Oldest! 

Dear Jacob,

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

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

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

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

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

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

All in all you had a great day. You actually got to have a celebration that focused just on you. For several years, you have shared a birthday party with several of your siblings. But not this year. I’m glad you were the center of attention for a change.

Being the oldest is not always easy. You have a lot of responsibilities around here. Please know that your willingness to help out doesn’t go unnoticed. We are all so grateful.

Our family wouldn’t be the same without you. Your servant’s heart will never fail you as long as you stay focused on the Lord. Through the good times and the hard times, I’ve watched you rely on the Lord. I know you will continue to do great things as you serve your Savior. I love you sweet boy! I love you!!

(Thank you for talking me into riding a roller coaster with you not long after your birthday! It was a lot of fun. I hope you didn’t mind me screaming in your ear and squeezing your hand to death. 😜)

Love Always,
Mommy

Jacob’s birthday interview:

How old are you? 12

What is your favorite food? crab legs

What do you hope you never have to eat again? ice cream

What is your favorite thing to do? play at Just Jump

What is your favorite animal? Husky

What makes you happy? when we go fun places as a family

What is the best memory from when you were 11? getting a four wheeler from Pawpaw David

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 12? finish my jeep with Pawpaw

What would you like to be when you grow up? a park ranger

What is your favorite song? I’ll Fly Away

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? camping so I can go kayaking

What would you like the world to know? Just jump is awesome!
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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Happy 4th Birthday to our Little Firecracker!

Dear Jayla,

Happy 4th Birthday little firecracker!

You bring so much excitement to our lives every single day. No one and I mean no one has to wonder what you are thinking or your opinion on any matter. There is not a shy bone in your little body. However, you have just as much sweetness as you do boldness. I know the Lord is the only one who could have conjured up that combination. He is going to help you accomplish great things for Him! We already love to hear you bolt out gospel songs. And, you do it oh so often. Each time you pray you have to sing amen at the end at least three or four times. What a blessing you are! What a blessing!

I loved celebrating your birthday with you two days in a row! That seems to happen a lot around here. One day is just not enough to celebrate your life each year. Weeks before your birthday, I tried my best to talk you into staying three for awhile longer. But, you insisted that it just doesn’t work that way.  You tried your best to figure out if you really could be three awhile longer. You just knew God wouldn’t let you stay three. So, you comforted me by insisting that four is still little.

The day before your special day, we had so much fun decorating your very own chocolate covered peanut butter Easter egg!


You couldn’t wait until you got home to have lunch, so we sat down in the grocery store with your big sister and enjoyed a salad. You also decided Jaden should share her plate with you. Of course, she did. I wouldn’t have expected anything different from her servant’s heart.   After you were all finished with your meal and that tasty peanut butter egg, you decided it was time to fetch your brothers and Daddy for a pottery painting party at the Herb House. What a great idea! You’ve figured out that having 5 siblings comes in handy when planning a last minute party! They truly are your best friends. And, you especially have the two oldest wrapped around your little finger.


We all enjoyed picking out our favorite pottery pieces and putting special touches on them! Mommy and Daddy even got to paint!


  
Next, you chose to have dinner with Pawpaw and Neannie at your favorite Mexican Restaurant. You made a great choice! It was delicious.  

You asked to go to the park to walk around. While you were there, you opened an early gift from Aunt Bev: a big baby doll. You named her Isabel and said that she was exactly what you wanted. You pushed her all over that park in your pretty pink and purple stroller. You are going to make an excellent mommy one day. I just know it.

     After getting a good night’s rest, it was finally your big day! We rushed to Easter Sunrise Service at church.

 Then, we enjoyed having breakfast with the best church family around. It was so cute when you thought they had all showed up at the Ministry Center for your birthday party. You became a little confused when you couldn’t find your cake! You got over it quickly when you remembered you had turned 4 years old. You didn’t have to wait a minute longer to turn 4. It had already happened. You were so excited!

After church, we went to Mawmaw’s and had Easter dinner, and you finally got to have your last birthday party for the year. You loved your chocolate cupcakes. And, Jaden worked especially hard making the chocolate pudding smores dessert that you had picked out.  

You were thrilled as you opened all your gifts. It was no surprise that you got 4 more tiny baby dolls. You are a baby doll fanatic. That’s how I know you are going to be a sweet mommy one day. I have a feeling that you might be a mommy to many. One or two baby dolls are never enough. 🙂


After the presents were opened and the number 4 candle had been blown out several times, you headed outside for an Easter egg hunt.

Then you decided it was time to head home. You were out like a light before we rounded the first curve. You were officially tired and not feeling so well either. But, God is good. You enjoyed your special day anyway! Taking two days to celebrate allows for a lot of sweet memories to be made. I pray you will never forget them!

We love you Jayla Precious Starling. Ask me how I know you are our little firecracker? One simple reason is the fact that you added Precious to your middle name, and you aren’t afraid to announce it to whomever asks! Keep using that creativity to shine for Jesus! Don’t ever change baby girl! We love you more than you will ever know!

Love Always,

Mommy

Psalm 139:14 – I will praise thee, for I am fearfully, wonderfully made. Marvellous are thy works; and [that] my soul knoweth right well.

Jayla’s Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 4

What is your favorite food? Cereal

What do you hope you never have to eat again? Real Easter eggs

What is your favorite thing to do? Playing with ponies.

What is your favorite animal? Pigs

What makes you happy? Friends

What is the best memory from when you were 3? Opening presents

What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 4? Play with my new baby, Isabel.

What would you like to be when you grow up? I don’t know yet.

What is your favorite song? Under the Blood

Where is your favorite place to eat? The Mexican Restaurant

What is your favorite book? My Little Pony

Where would you like to go on vacation? Camping at the lake

What would you like the world to know? I would like Jesus to make a world that only has ponies, and I would like to live there.

 

Want to see how much Jayla has changed over the years? Click here: https://learninggodsway.wordpress.com/category/lets-reminisce-and-reflect/jayla/

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Foster Care – A difficult yet rewarding journey 

Not so long ago, our family felt led by the Lord to become certified foster parents or professional parents as our agency calls us. I kind of like that title. It has a nice ring to it. I wholeheartedly believe the Lord called me to be a stay at home mom. That’s the exact calling He handpicked for me, and I love it! I am not who He wants me to be just yet, but I am willing to be fine tuned as He sees fit. I want to be molded by Him. The Lord blessed Jamie and I with five biological children, and now He has trusted our family to care for a sweet little baby boy. I know the calling of Mom might not seem like a lot to some, and I absolutely fought to work outside of the home for awhile. But, when the Lord tells you to do something, you stop what He previously had for you and you obey. A little is much when God is in it! Whatever He calls you to means a lot to Him.

After graduating from college, I was already married and pregnant with my first child. But, God did not allow me to stay home right away. He had a different plan for six years or so. He knew I needed some hands on experience before jumping into homeschooling and the diverse world of foster care. So, I worked as a certified teacher and developmental specialist. And now, I completely understand why the Lord put me in those professions before making a way for me to come home full time. I have used every bit of the knowledge those experiences brought since coming home to be with my children. I’ve needed those experiences especially homeschooling and wading through two NICU stays and the complications that come along with them. The training that I witnessed as a teacher and developmental specialist have been invaluable as a parent and as a foster parent as well. There is no difference really. Once you are placed with a child, he or she instantly becomes a member of your family even if it is just for a short time.

I left my career outside of the home when our oldest was going into first grade. He is finishing up his first year of middle school in May! Yikes! It’s been a minute or two since the Lord asked me to turn in my resignation. But, He is sovereign, and He has been here for us every step of the way. He has especially been here for us as we have prayed about foster care and adoption.

In the first month of this year right after a domestic infant adoption plan fell through, I was busy trying to orchestrate my own plans as our family inquired about adopting a sibling group waiting in Virginia. Please pray for those sweet children, but it was clear that the Lord sent a phone call that said, “Stop! I have the perfect placement for you. I have the placement that I picked out for you.” It’s always best to be patient. It’s always best to wait on the Lord. Trust Him in all things because He knows what is best.

I cannot begin to explain what a humbling experience fostering the sweet baby that came as a result of that phone call has been so far. He has brought so much joy to our home. Of course, there are times when I have felt and continue to feel uneasy about the fact that this baby that I love unconditionally with all my heart may leave and return home within the next few months or so. But, the fact remains that he has a birth family. A birth family that we are praying for. A birth family that hopefully sees Christ living in us. A birth family that needs to raise their baby if at all possible. I pray they will get ahold of Christ’s love for them.

Mostly the uneasiness is felt for my kids, my husband, and me. It is a selfish fear. A fear that worries about our hearts being broken more than God’s will being done. However, the uneasiness comes simply because we do love him more than I could ever explain. But, our family has prayed for this little guy time and time again. And, we know that God knows best. We know that God knows all things. It is important to us to follow God’s will no matter how hard it may be. It is vital that we teach our children that God’s plans are most likely going to seem too hard to bear on our own, but that doesn’t give us an excuse not to follow through with them.

We are the ones who signed up for foster care. So, we are well aware that if it is God’s will, reunification is most likely always going to occur. Is it going to be easy to say good bye? No! Are tears going to be shed? Yes! Have tears already fallen? Of course! Do tears well up as I write these very words? Oh yes! But all of that is okay as our family focuses on the simple fact that God works all things together for His good! We are here to live out Matthew 25:35-40. As you read those verses, you quickly realize that there are some tall orders written. And in our flesh we question God over and over, but God always strengthens those He loves. He has recently helped us stop questioning. He has strengthened us in a way that only He can. He has brought our family closer together.

Faith and trust go hand in hand when fostering a child. We have learned that you cannot have one without the other. It just will not work. Not taking a child into our arms and loving and caring for him just because we are afraid of getting hurt is not an option. This baby needed us. As I mentioned before this has been the most humbling experience we have ever walked through. So with every bit of humility that I have in my body, I say this baby needed us. God has shown us in the most perfect way that He trusts us to care for him. It is really hard to fathom because satan has screamed inadequacy more than once these past two months. God is greater than satan. He has already won that battle. And, He keeps all of us on our knees in prayer.

God knows exactly how long He needs us to hold His precious baby boy and care for him. He has reminded us time and time again that he really does belong to Him. His life was created by his hands, and He will take care of his every need.

This baby’s smile is contagious. And, we are so thankful the Lord has allowed that smile to brighten our days. We are so blessed! (I wish I could share a huge lot of pictures that have cuteness written all over them. But, as of right now, I’m not allowed. So just imagine the cutest half a year old baby boy with the cutest smile in the world. Don’t forget to imagine one of my kids hugging and kissing on him because that is what they do all. the. time.)

 Matthew 25:35-40 King James Version (KJV)

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

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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Ready to Share

Finally.  I am finally ready to share what has been going on over the past five months.  I wasn’t sure if I would ever share what has happened. But, if our story will encourage one person to trust God in all things, then sharing will be well worth it. Writing helps me heal and gets me moving forward. So today, I would like to share how all things work together for God’s good.

As many of you know, adoption has been placed upon our hearts. As a family, we have prayed and asked God to guide us as we pursue His plan. We have taken tons and tons of classes and filled out tons and tons of paperwork that has exposed every single detail of our lives beginning with our first breaths. 

We are now certified in CPR and First Aid. Our fingerprints and background checks received an A➕. Our house has been cleaned and final touches have been made. Our home study has been completed and approved. The list could go on and on. Just ask any family who has adopted.

We began the foster to adopt process without a specific child in mind. And, at one point, we stopped the process because we became overwhelmed. However, the Lord didn’t promise an easy journey, so we persevered through His strength and finished each step.

In September, not long after we decided to move forward, God led us to a birth mom seeking a forever family for her baby girl. We felt that He had urged us not to give up, and that He had put this mom right in front of us for a reason. That reason was not completely clear at first.  We were not asked to adopt right away. We were asked to pray and wait. We prayed, some of our closest friends prayed, our children prayed, and our extended family members prayed. And, we felt like our prayers had been answered in November when the birth mom explained that her original adoption plan was not going to work out, and she asked if we would adopt her sweet baby. We talked about how the name would be chosen. And, she asked if I would try and get permission to be in the delivery room with her.

We were so excited. We were getting ready to add another baby girl to our home. Our last was a boy, so we felt God was continuing the pattern of boy, girl, boy, girl, boy… She was due the second week in December.

A week or so after we said yes to the adoption plan, the birth mom agreed upon the name we had chosen. Of course the first name started with Ja like our other children. I was planning on nursing the baby since Jayce has yet to wean. Everything was working out just as I had imagined. 

Not long after Jayce was born, adoption had been rekindled in my heart. I had prayed that the Lord would send us a baby in need of a forever family a few weeks after he was born. That prayer was first spoken well over a year and a half ago.

And when we were asked to adopt, it seemed that my prayer was being answered with a yes! Deep down, I wanted to believe we were witnessing God’s hand in all of it. But, it didn’t take long to realize that there were certain details that just weren’t adding up, and we know God’s plans are always peaceful.

So, in the end, our prayer to add this baby girl into our family didn’t get answered with a yes. This precious baby was born on her due date, but she didn’t join our family. She actually didn’t have a forever family at first. She was placed in foster care a few days after her birth.

 (-an excerpt from my devotion the day she was born)

My heart ached for her. My heart ached for her birth parents and for the couple who had originally planned to adopt. My heart ached for my family. I longed to know if the baby girl that I already loved was okay. I felt separated from my newborn baby. And at one point in the process, I really grieved for her.

Earlier in our journey, when I felt sure she was our daughter, I wrote her a letter. I explained how difficult it was not being able to feel her move in my tummy like I did the rest of my children. I explained how much her birth mom loved her because she was giving her a chance at life. I told her how much our family already loved her. This letter was written in faith.

God expects us to have faith. He wants us to know that He is able to answer our prayers with a yes. But, He also expects our faith and trust to collide. There comes a point when we have to understand that God always works things out for His good. Our faith has to be so strong that we understand that even when we pray asking for a yes, we have to wholeheartedly accept a no and have enough faith and trust to understand that it is for the best. Sometimes we can do things through faith and ultimately still get no for an answer. We must be content with that! I did long for this baby girl. I believed Luke 1:37. But, I only wanted this adoption to occur if she was meant for us.

(-our oldest daughter’s memory verse that was sent while we waited – it is the same verse from my devotion in September)

In His perfect timing, God showed us that this adoption was not His will for us. Without ceasing, I had asked God to work out all of the details for this baby girl. I fervently asked Him to place her with the forever family that He had chosen. And, He did. She is with the couple that originally planned to adopt. She is with the couple that we believed had decided not to adopt at one point because of circumstances out of their control. Even after we were asked to adopt, I continued to pray and asked the Lord to place this sweet girl in this couple’s arms if it was His will. I also longed for a yes for us if she wasn’t their daughter. I can’t stress how much I only wanted her to join our family if she was meant for us.

Although I grieved for her at first, I now rejoice knowing that God’s perfect will occurred. I rejoice knowing how much God has blessed her with a loving Christian family. I am happy for them. I am happy that they can claim Luke 1:37. And, I will continue to pray for them. It is obvious that this sweet baby girl is not ours. It would be selfish for us to wish that things would have worked out differently. We are committed to faith and trust.

I was reminded of a lot of things through this trial. God’s plans are always right. When we try to work out all of the details and get ahead of the Lord, we miss His best. We must show those learning about the Lord that obedience is always the only choice. Through all of this, I have learned that adoption is a beautiful thing, but there is also a lot of hurt and pain that comes along with it. There is a lot of pain that all of those involved feel (even the family who receives the blessing).

Not long after this test was all over and our faith had been strengthened, God showed us that we did have a purpose in His plan. He showed us that having the opportunity to be a witness to this birth mom and dad was and is all He expects from us. The opportunity to show them who He really is and fervently pray that He will remove their chains of bondage and work a miracle in their lives was and continues to be our only purpose. And that is more than enough. Every child of God has the same purpose in life: to reach one more.

Are we giving up on our adoption journey? God has not brought us this far for us to give up. I am still claiming Luke 1:37. He has sent me that verse multiple times for a reason. We trust that He will bless us with children in need of a forever family at exactly the right time. He knows if those children will come as infants, toddlers, or as a sibling group. We want Him to work out all of the details in His timing.

Restoration of the family is always our prayer. But in some cases, restoration is not possible. In the United States alone, there are over 100,000 children waiting for forever families. I am sure there are many more who are waiting internationally. Therefore, God asks certain families to adopt. (James 1:27). Is there one or more orphans waiting on you to be their mom and dad? Pray for God’s will. These children need to witness God’s hope. You don’t have to be perfect. God will equip you along your journey.

✨ The devotion excerpts were from My Family Time with God and Jesus Calling.

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Baby Jayce Update

We serve a mighty God! When I learned of Jayce’s diagnosis of extra fluid between his brain and skull, I was devastated at first. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew God had made Him exactly the way He wanted, and I was content with that. But, I was scared because I was unsure of what the future might hold.

However, there is one thing I was certain about after we got the results of Jayce’s cranial ultrasound nearly a year ago, and I am still very certain about it today. God holds the future. God is in control. God knows all things. He is a loving God, and He answers prayers.


How do I know? He answered the very prayer that I prayed after I learned of Jayce’s diagnosis.  As I was talking with his pediatrician (who is wonderful by the way), right after the diagnosis, I learned that from what she had read the fluid couldn’t be reabsorbed. I learned that it would always just be there and could possibly cause disabilities. We decided it would be best for Jayce to go ahead and see a neurologist. And through faith, I asked the Lord to completely remove the extra fluid between his brain and skull. His word speaks of faith all throughout its pages. We have to pray in faith. We have to pray believing that God is very capable of answering our prayers. Without faith it is impossible to please God.   I took God’s peace with me to Jayce’s neurology appointment back in the spring. I had prayed and was ready for whatever news I was about to receive. You won’t believe what I heard at that first appointment. I was so excited when the neurologist told me that Jayce’s body COULD reabsorb the fluid if there weren’t any underlying conditions that we hadn’t discovered yet. Hallelujah! Those were the words I wanted to hear. That was exactly what I had prayed for.


I left that neurology appointment with a huge burden lifted. In the following months, Jayce went to his pediatrician for head measurements quite often to make sure the fluid wasn’t building up inside his brain. I am happy to announce that it hasn’t been. His measurements have leveled out nicely. His head growth is right on track. I wholeheartedly believe that his body has already reabsorbed the little bit of extra fluid. It never caused him any problems, and praise the Lord, it never will. He is walking, talking, and getting into mischief every chance he gets. God is good.

Does God always answer our prayers with a yes? No. Does He always answer them in a way that is for our good and His glory? Yes. We have to have faith that He will answer our prayers in a way that will bring us closer to Him. Never stop praying. Give Him thanks in all things. I am grateful that He answered my prayer for Jayce with a yes. And, I would have been just as grateful had He answered it in a different way. It is not always easy when we get a no or a not right now answer, but God is always right and always on time. I have faith that He knows exactly what we need.  

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV) – In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

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Happy 9th Birthday Sweet Jaden

Dear Jaden,

Can you believe you have been 9 years old for a whole week already? I can’t hardly believe it. You have made the past eight years so special. I loved celebrating your birthday two days in a row.

Aren’t you glad the Barter Theatre tradition continued even if we went a day early? A Wrinkle In Time was amazing. It was so neat when the cast sang Happy Birthday to you. You smiled from ear to ear. I know you will never forget it! We had so much fun.

  As you know, the fun continued at the Herb House on your actual birthday. You and a few of your friends from art class and church had a blast painting pottery.

  

  

  

The pizza, cake, and ice cream were added bonuses. Thanks for making the cakes. They were beautiful and delicious. You did an excellent job baking and decorating them.

  

  

It is such a privilege watching you grow and mature a little more each year. Your love for others amazes me. You have one of the kindest hearts. I am so grateful that you are allowing the Lord to shape you and mold you into who He desires you to be.

  

It warms my heart each time I see you at the kitchen table writing in your prayer journal and copying verses from the Bible. I watch as you fervently thank the Lord for all He does for you and pray for those in need. What a blessing to know you are praying for others and growing in the Lord. Sweet girl, your relationship with your Heavenly Father is all that matters in this life. Stay strong in Him and everything else will fall into place.

You already allow Him to guide you each day as you nurture your younger siblings. It brings so much joy. You are definitely Jayce’s second Mama. But, I know you wouldn’t want it any other way. The love you have for all your siblings shines through you. And, the prayer request that you speak often asking for another baby girl to be added to our family shows that you have so much love to go around. You truly have a servant’s heart.

  

Thank you for caring so much. Thank you for being obedient. Your obedience amazes me and is greatly appreciated. It is appreciated so much more than you will ever know! We all love you very very much! Stay sweet baby girl. Stay sweet!

Love,
Mommy

Ephesians 6:1-3 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.

Jaden’s Birthday Interview

How old are you? 9
What is your favorite food? Salad
What do you hope you never have to eat again? Mayonnaise
What is your favorite thing to do? Swing in the barn
What is your favorite animal? I have three: cats, horses, and dogs.
What makes you happy? Playing the piano
What is the best memory from when you were 8? Going to CHATT co-op
What is one thing you’d like to do while you are 9? Take horseback riding lessons
What would you like to be when you grow up? A horseback riding instructor
What is your favorite song? Away in the Manger
Where is your favorite place to eat? Olive Garden
What is your favorite book? Kaya
Where would you like to go on vacation? Pigeon Forge
What would you like the world to know? About Jesus

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Waiting for Answers

Waiting is one of the hardest things that any of us has to endure. We are right now kind of people. We want things to happen this month, this week, this day, this hour, this minute, or this second. We want clear answers to our prayers when we want them. Sometimes we get in a hurry, and we beg God to show us what His answer is going to be.

Well, more times than not, it just doesn’t work that way. God has taught me and is continuing to teach me over and over again that He does not get in a hurry. He is a God of order. He answers prayers on His timetable. He is never early. He is never late. He is always right on time.

God needs us to stay humble. He needs to be in control of our story. The only way that He can be in complete control is if we trust Him.  If we truly let go and let God, we have to trust His timing. As hard as it may be, we have to stop trying to work out the details. We have to be in prayer. We have to seek His will and not ours. We have to be completely content with God’s timetable and His answers. That’s the only way to let God write our story. It’s the best way to live.

So many times, I strive to make things happen. I strive to make things happen this instance. But God always stops me. He reminds me that my constant organization of certain events is not the answer. He shows me that when I get in the middle, I only make things worse for myself and all of those involved. He reminds me that He loves me and His best is the only thing that I need. He reminds me that His timetable is so much better than mine. He reminds me that His thoughts are greater than my thoughts. His Word whispers that He will show me great and mighty things. It is up to me to stay in His will. It is up to me to walk by faith not by sight. It is up to me to pray and not worry. It is up to me to rest in the fact that God does all things for His honor and glory.

Each and every time my sweet husband sees me striving to figure out all of the details, he gently nudges me to let it go. He smiles and tells me to sit back and watch God work. He reassures me that God will make His will completely clear if I just trust Him and believe in His promises. I am so thankful that I have a husband to go to for godly counsel.

What are you striving for today? Let’s stop striving. Let’s stop the worrying and let’s just be in constant prayer. Let’s stop missing what is going on right in front of us. Let’s live in the now and stop boasting of tomorrow. Are you with me on this? We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Let’s let go and let God.


-The pictures in this post are from our recent trip to Bald Head Island. Thanks Mom and Ken for allowing us to take this wonderful trip. It was so nice to sit on the beach and pray for God’s will. The worrying and striving always seem to return when I fall back into my daily routine. But, these pictures are here to remind me that God’s got this! He’s in control.

2 Corinthians 5:7 (For we walk by faith, not by sight)

“The Glorious Unfolding”

By: Steven Curtis Chapman

Lay your head down tonight
Take a rest from the fight

Don’t try to figure it out

Just listen to what I’m whispering to your heart

‘Cause I know this is not anything like you thought the story of your life was gonna be

And it feels like the end has started closing in on you

But it’s just not true

There’s so much of the story that’s still yet to unfold

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding
Just you wait and see and you will be amazed

You’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over

So hold on to every promise God has made to us

And watch this glorious unfolding
God’s plan from the start
For this world and your heart has been to show His glory and His grace

Forever revealing the depth and the beauty of His unfailing Love

And the story has only begun

And this is going to be a glorious unfolding

Just you wait and see and you will be amazed

We’ve just got to believe the story is so far from over

So hold on to every promise God has made to us

And watch this glorious unfolding
We were made to run through fields of forever singing songs to our Savior and King

So let us remember this life we’re living is just the beginning of the beginning of this glorious unfolding

We will watch and see and we will be amazed

If we just keep on believing the story is so far from over

And hold on to every promise God has made to us

We’ll see the glorious unfolding

– This song has helped me the past month or so. It is a great reminder that we cannot see the big picture, but God can! And, when it all unfolds, it is going to a glorious unfolding!!

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Adoption: God’s Will for our Family?

Where do I begin? That’s a question I have been contemplating for a day or so now. I feel the need to explain why our family who already has five beautiful children would even consider adoption. I know many people probably think that we already have our hands full. I am sure others may think that our kids are a little rambunctious. Many may be concerned that we can’t possibly afford to raise any more children. (The Lord is so gracious to provide.) Some may be worried about the feelings of the children that we already have. Possibly others may believe that I am upset with God for closing my womb so I am just going to show Him that He is wrong by adopting more children. It’s okay if you think or have thought those things. I am very grateful for your concerns. They show that you love us and care about us. We welcome your feedback. We will take any concerns that you have to offer and pray for God’s perfect will for us. To be honest, I have thought all of these same things at one time or another myself and have prayed about them.

I don’t have the time or space in one post to focus on every concern mentioned above. So, I would like to take the time to explain only one of them tonight. The Lord closed my womb at the birth of our fifth child. And, now that I have had the time to process everything and think about a time-table of events that have occurred in our lives, it is obvious that my barrenness is not the reason for our family’s decision to adopt. The devil would like to trick us into thinking that we are bitter or mad at God. But, we are not. Adoption was not put on our hearts as a way to get back at God. It was not born from bitterness at all. God only does what is best for us. He is on our side. Adoption is a gift from God. A gift that initially comes from brokenness. But, it is indeed a gift from Heaven. It is the only way to give children in need a chance to be a part of a family. A chance to be a part of a family who loves Christ.

As I recovered from a very scary and traumatic birth after my C-section with our fifth child, Jayce, I was heartbroken. I was sad. I was happy. I was confused. I was thankful. I was relieved. Yes, I felt all of those emotions all at one time while my body was working overtime to recognize the fact that my womb had been removed. Adding hot flashes and night sweats to an already emotional woman right after giving birth to a baby nearly 3 months early isn’t always the best idea. But, it was God’s idea, so I have accepted His perfect plan, and I am thankful.

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Did my thankfulness happen overnight? Of course it didn’t. It didn’t happen overnight. It took well over 365 days. This past May was particularly difficult because it was the one year anniversary of Jayce’s birth, my hysterectomy, and my precious grandmother’s death. Unfortunately, I was not a pleasant person to be around the first of May. I am sorry to all of those who had to deal with my crazy emotions during that time. But, I will have to say that I am now feeling so much better. I even helped plan a baby shower and decorated for it just last night. I did not even have to hold my breath or fight back the tears. It was actually such a blessing and a lot of fun. It brought great joy to see that sweet mama smile.

I said all of that to say this: I am now content with God closing my womb, but that contentment hasn’t removed the desire to be a mother to more children. I have said it before, He put that desire there. The Lord taking my womb has helped to rekindle a focus for those children who are searching for their forever families. But in my personal case, the desire to adopt came long before my womb was removed. My story and someone else’s most likely will not be the same. God is the author of each person’s personal story.

I believe most of my friends who are unable to birth children would agree with me that adoption does not come about as a direct result of barrenness. Adoption is not the “second best option.” Adoption is prompted by a loving God. God knows what will bring our focus to His plan for our lives. Adoption comes from God. It is His perfect plan for certain families. He is the one who puts the burden of children in great need on people’s hearts. There are just as many couples who are very capable of conceiving a child adopting as those who are unable to conceive naturally. He knows what each family needs to follow through with His plans. Also, there are many, many in both categories that God does not lead to adoption and that is okay! However, He does command all of us in His word to care for orphans in one way or another.

I wrote this statement when I was pregnant with our third child: I would love to help children and families in need one day, but I haven’t figured out how yet. Maybe I will adopt a baby one day. I have always wanted to but seem to keep having them through birth at the moment. However, if it is up to me, this will be the last baby I birth. I am excited and very thankful for my kids, but it is hard to have a baby.

Ha! The last baby I birth… I had a lot of complications and surgeries after my second pregnancy, so I was very fearful going into the birth of our third. God took the fear of birthing babies away as I watched my third baby become a toddler. And, I fully surrendered my womb to the Lord after our 4th child was born. The only regret that I have is not surrendering before I even became pregnant with our first. But, my relationship with the Lord was not the same then as it is now. God doesn’t want me to focus on what might have been.

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Not long after I wrote the statement above, I had the privilege of working with several babies in foster care. I made a short career change after the Lord first called our family to homeschool. I was a Developmental Specialist for a few months. And during those months, I really enjoyed getting to see the progress those precious babies made. I witnessed love in each of those homes. I saw hope.

I have also witnessed hope each time missionary families show pictures of what they are doing to help orphans internationally. Each time I see the faces of those hurting children, I have thought how I would love to bring one or more of those adorable hurting orphans home. I love reading and listening to stories of those who have been fortunate enough to welcome a child into their home through international adoption (any type of adoption really!) I was thrilled when I learned that our friends were planning on raising funds to build a children’s home in Peru. I remember saying that they were living out one of my dreams.

By now, you may be thinking that this is a one-sided deal. That I am dragging Jamie along with me on this adoption journey. But, that’s not the case. Jamie’s heart started opening up to children who need a family while I was pregnant with Jayce. During that time, we had the privilege of meeting a little girl in foster care. He said more than once that he would love to bring her into our family. Around the same time, He also inquired about a sibling group of 5 children who were in need of a forever family. I was very nervous even thinking about bringing five kids into our home at one time. Ten kids? However, I was also thrilled. And while we were on vacation at the end of March, he shared that he had recently learned of triplet infants who were in need of a family. I have loved watching the change that has occurred in Jamie’s heart. It has been the greatest blessing to see. Is this really the same man who was okay with raising one maybe two kids 13 years ago? God has really changed his heart.

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We quickly learned after inquiring about the sibling group, the sweet girl in foster care who just happened to cross our paths, and the triplets that having the desire to adopt these children is simply not enough. Compassion alone will not bring these sweet children a forever family. A family who will care for them, clothe them, give them food, but most importantly love them. Love them with the same love that Christ shows us. “But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

None of those things are possible without an action plan, lots of paper work, and even more training. I was recently reading a book on Nehemiah. And, in that book I learned that God expects us to move when we have compassion for those in need. We are not to sit idle when God says that it is time to move forward. Trust me. We have prayed and prayed and prayed about this decision. Earlier this spring, we started the process of getting our home study complete. And, we stopped that same process when we felt the Lord telling us that the timing was not right. We are listening to His leading. We are humbled by God taking the time to guide us each step of the way. I have cried. I have felt nervous. There are times when I have not had an appetite at all. But, I have felt God’s hand on our family through it all.

It would be easy to be content with five kids. It would be much simpler to say that we can’t find babysitters so attending all of the training sessions that are required to become foster or adoptive parents is out of the question. I am not used to leaving all of my children for more than a few hours every so often. I don’t enjoy being away from them. I love them. God called me to be a mother (a mother of many). I am by no means perfect. I am  a sinner saved by grace. God is slowly teaching Jamie and me how to parent through His mercy and grace.

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There are times I have not felt adequate, or I have felt like a failure. I have asked for forgiveness. I have poured out my love to my children. This whole process has made me appreciate them more. It has helped me to see their worth. It has made me realize what a gift they are. It has helped me to see each of them as individuals. I am so fortunate! I love them so so much. No matter what choices they make, I love them unconditionally.

Just as He has called our family to help those struggling with addictions, we feel that He is leading us to adopt. The ministry has actually opened our eyes wider to the need. There are children hurting and struggling because of sin. We see it every Thursday and Friday night. There are moms and dads hurting and struggling because of sin. We need to be in continuous prayer for these moms, dads, and children. We need to show them how much we care. There is no greater joy when we see broken families restored and walking in truth. That’s our goal. That’s God’s goal. But, the need for foster and adoptive families remains.

We are not sure when God will add a child or sibling group to our family. We are praying that He will in His timing. We feel that we are walking in obedience. We have asked God to stop the process completely if this is not His perfect will for our family. If we have been misled one way or another, we want to be stopped in our tracks. He sees the big picture. We do not want to be outside of God’s will. But right now we are ready to move forward with what we see as His plan at this time. I distinctly remember telling all of those in the NICU that I was not going to make our 6th child my idol. At that time, I did not even feel worthy enough to think of the possibility of adding more children to our home. I couldn’t understand why we had ended up in the NICU for a second time. It seems that I always question my worth in difficult situations. The NICU journey is a hard one to walk. But, God is faithful. He reminded me that my righteousness is as filthy rags. And, He has shown me that He will help me be the mother that He so desires me to be. All perfect gifts come from above. I want God to be the only one. I do not want to loose my focus. His guidance and direction are so important to our family.

He has taken away a lot of fears. He has spoken to us through His word time and time again. He literally brought a complete stranger to our door to share his family’s adoption story. We want to be ready. He knows if there is a baby, a child, or children waiting for us. A little one or sibling group waiting to call us mommy and daddy.

Is adoption easy? No. Is there a lot of hurt that comes along with adoption? Yes. Is adoption God’s plan? He sent His one and only son to die for whosoever. Are you His child? He wants you to be. He loves you, and He is waiting to adopt you into His family. Please pray for us as we continue our training courses to become foster or adoptive parents. We are moving forward because God has asked us to. We will listen if He asks us to stop…

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

Matthew 25:34-40(KJV)

34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

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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-Deana Fleenor Photography

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Our Father – The Merciful Teacher

Some days the walls seem to get a little closer to one another. Some days seem to go on and on and on. Some days things get blown out of proportion for no good reason at all. Some days our flesh gets the best of us, and we become hateful, rude, and slightly cranky. Some days we feel like we are spinning our wheels or always in a hurry. Some days it seems like nothing ever gets done the way we intended. Have you ever had one of these days?

God knows when we are having one of these days. He knows all about our ungratefulness and fleshly desires. He definitely doesn’t want us to keep having these days. The days where we overlook the fact that we truly have nothing to complain about.

He wants to teach us that every day matters to Him. He wants to show us exactly what is important. We just have to be willing to learn. We have to be students who care what the teacher is teaching.

For me, today was one of those days. One of those days that God pointed out my sinfulness, ugliness, and pettiness. One of those days that He showed me how loving He really is. It is hard to even fathom how much He loves me. Today He should have corrected me in a negative way.

But, He chose to teach me in a kind way instead. He is so good at being merciful. He used what He has blessed me with to show me how much He cares.

He used the giant sunflowers almost ready to bloom. The tiny green tomatoes peeking out from under each leaf. The cute little watermelon resting on the vines. The plump blackberries in the fence rows ready to be eaten.

He used the chatter and excitement of four kids playing tag and a game of cards in the barn as Mommy, Daddy, and Baby Jayce worked on the farm.

He used Black-Eyed Susans and Indian Blankets stretched out from the kindest eleven-year-old’s hands. He used a slightly younger eight-year-old offering a Queen Anne’s Lace because she was prompted by her older brother’s random act of kindness.

He used those oldest two and the middle one’s awe over the beautifully pink tinted clouds and the crescent moon as we walked down the long gravel drive searching out more ripened blackberries.

He used the sweetest 14 month old falling asleep in his backpack carrier as his daddy checked on his big sister’s scrapes and scratches from a sudden slip down the hill.

 He used that sleeping 14 month old as he snuggled into my arms, his smiling big brother, and the hurt sister climbing into the backpack carrier that rested on her daddy’s back. How peaceful it was to watch.

He used bats swooping down to catch moths and a talk about echolocation with the eight-year-old girl that had held the Queens Anne’s Lace. I could have listened to her talk for hours. She is so smart. 

He also used that adorable girl and her older brother taking time to lend some attention to a few of their best friends.   

He used a curious little six-year-old searching for the North Star because not so long ago we read about a Native American named Kaya who used the North Star to find her way home. The trees ultimately blocked his view, but as we cimbed back up the gravel road, he quickly recognized the western side of the farm as I pointed out the setting sun in the distance. 

Minutes before the six-year-old boy noticed the sun going to bed for the night,  God used the precious girl with the scratches and scrapes puckering up for a kiss. And, He used her sweet little whisper of, “I love you Mommy. I love Daddy, too. I love all of you.”

Yes. God is good. I don’t have one reason to complain. I am so blessed.

Psalm 136:1 – O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

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We’re Going on a Bear Hunt: Take 2

It’s been over 1,060 days since I posted about our first adventures with the book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. You can read more about those adventures here:

https://learninggodsway.wordpress.com/2012/08/03/were-going-on-a-bear-hunt-74/

Our first bear hunt seems like it was just a few days ago. However, taller kids and a new family member who is already 14 months old remind me that it really has been three years since we first enjoyed this book as a family. We learned about the book from a homeschool curriculum titled Before Five in a Row. It’s a great little curriculum, and Jayla’s recent outbursts of boredom helped me to realize that she is so ready for more structured activities.  Structure doesn’t have to mean handing out worksheets or completing busy work to fill in time.  Structure for a three year-old in this house equals fun time with Mommy.

So, let’s go on a bear hunt (again)!

Jayla and James were so excited when I pulled the book off the shelf a few days ago. We hurried out to the huge maple tree and read. At first, Jayla wanted to read the book her way to her chickens and her baby brother. James and I patiently waited and slowly convinced her that it would be a lot of fun for Mommy to read the book so she could act out the story in the yard. She agreed, and as I read, James showed her neat ways to pretend like they were going through tall grass, a deep river, thick mud, a tall forest, a whirling snow storm, and a dark cave. I was so pleased as I watched James’s excitement build as he remembered the first time he acted out the story in our backyard three years ago with his brother, sister, and two friends.  He was the same age that Jayla is now.  Where does the time go?

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A few days later, Jayla and I decided to grab the book off the window ledge and complete some activities to go along with the story. She thought it would be lots of fun to make a paper plate bear. We mixed all kinds of dark colored paints together until she got a blackish color.  Then she decided to keep mixing until we had achieved a perfect brown color.  She painted while I read the book. Her painting was interrupted frequently as she hopped off the bench and acted out each and every scene. It was quite cute if you ask me.

image10While the paint dried, she headed outside to the fence rows with her favorite stuffed bear, a plastic bucket, and her baby brother. She was on a mission: a berry hunt. She decided that her bear would like to hunt for berries. I loved watching her point and say, “There’s one, Mommy. Let’s pick it!” After she found all the ripe ones within our reach, she brought her blackberries inside, washed them, and ate every last one of them.

image11 image8 image9 image7Then she checked to see if her brown plate was dry.  It wasn’t. However, it seemed as if a certain kitty might have checked out her project while we were hunting berries. She got a kick out of the paw print on her plate.

image6While it continued to dry, we read a nonfiction book about bears and watched a Bible story movie that had a teddy bear as the narrator.

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IMG_1239After a nap, she turned her brown paper plate into a bear. She added two big ears, one brown nose, two googly eyes, and a smile, of course! She loved it.

FullSizeRender (3)Then we made honey oatmeal bars.  She smiled as she pointed out that the honey bottle was shaped like a bear.

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IMG_1237Later in the evening, she played hide and seek with her paper bear and her stuffed bear.  The mama bear had to find her missing baby bear. She really enjoyed the game, and we added steps to it as we played. Eventually the bears were doing the things that they normally do in each season. She was so adorable as she pretended to eat and eat and eat in the fall, snore as she hibernated in the winter, and climb trees in the summer. But, she was even sweeter when she decided that her baby bear needed milk in the spring, and she proceeded to nurse her bear over her shirt. I giggled, and she didn’t hesitate to explain that baby bears have to get their milk that way. Silly Mommy!

image5Proverbs 56:3 – What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.

(Three years later, this verse still applies when talking about bear hunts)

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A True Dad

Dear Jamie,

The past two years, due to uncontrollable circumstances, you were not honored like you should have been on Father’s Day. Last year, we had just brought Jayce home after a long NICU stay, which was a great thing. But, I was exhausted. I slept the whole day while you packed bags for church camp. Thank you for letting me sleep that day. The year before, you cleaned up vomit. Nice. I know. However, it’s the truth. We were all sick except you. You handled it like a champ. I don’t remember you complaining one time. That shows your character. That day showed us how far Christ has brought you.



You do more for us then we ever deserve. Each thing does not go unnoticed. We appreciate every load of clothes that is washed and folded, every appliance that is repaired, each light bulb that is changed, every window that is washed, each meal that is prepared, and every floor that is vacuumed and mopped. You are so willing to help out around here, and it shows just how much you really care. You know that I can’t run this household alone.

  
Not only do you help inside the house, but you also mow and bush-hog, and you build greenhouses, barns, chicken coops, and tree houses. You plant vegetable gardens and flowers. You take care of horses and sheep. You bring comfort when kids are sick or hurt.            That’s not all.  You work a full-time job and humbly direct the RU Ministry. To top it off, you always make time for your family. You take kids to karate,  guitar, and ukulele practices.  You never hesitate when you are asked to pick up books at the library, and you don’t make a fuss when the kids want to stay at the science museum, the park, or the playground just a little bit longer. You make slip-n-slides and join in on a good game of kick ball.  And you are the best birthday party decorator around.

            Most importantly you take all of us to church. You understand that our spiritual needs matter. I do not know how you do it all. But you do!      It is evident that you don’t do these things for yourself. You do them for the Lord, for us, and for others. And, you do it all with so much love and grace.  That’s what stands out the most. Your mama and daddy taught you well.       The kids and I always know how much you love us. Your actions and words make it clear. Thank you for loving us so much! We are truly blessed and grateful for everything you do! We couldn’t possibly keep things going around here without you.       You really know how to show true love. The kind of love that keeps on giving. The kind of love that doesn’t expect anything in return. The kind of love that shows Christ to our little ones that are watching. You handle life’s ups and downs so much better than I do. I have learned a lot from the example that you have become. The Lord has blessed me with a godly husband and you are a wonderful dad to our five amazing kids.     What more could a girl want? I can’t think of a single thing. Thanks for everything you do. Thanks for making us feel special. Thanks for listening to the Lord’s promptings and putting Him first.


   As James always says, “We love you sweet Dada.” And from the lips of our little Jayla, “We really really love you!”

Love Always,

Amanda

☀️How do you know Daddy loves you?

Jacob – He lets me help him build the barn.

Jaden – He takes us places.

James – He takes me to see Mawmaw.

Jayla – He takes me to feed the ducks. I like to give him kisses.

Jayce – He watches me so Mommy can take the big kids to the Barter. (Mama knows what the little guy would say. 😘)

Psalm 127:3-5 – Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.

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Happy 6th Birthday Sweet James

Dear James,

It doesn’t seem like you were 5 years old for 365 days! This past year has flown by. It seems like it was just yesterday when we celebrated your 5th birthday in Johnson City because your little brother was in the hospital.

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But, since last May, you faithfully counted down the days until you finally hit the 28th of May once again. Your counting reminded me that you are growing up a little more each day. You did some pretty amazing things while you were five.

You learned that reading is not so bad.

IMG_0825You figured out that problems that focus on the order of operations aren’t too difficult.IMG_0849You realized that riding your bike without training wheels gets you where you want to go at a faster rate.

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But, the most amazing thing happened on May 9th. You asked Je