Heaven Rejoices at the Value of One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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You knew!

You knew what you were getting into.

You knew the depths of trauma.

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

You knew!

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

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

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

You knew medical professionals’ recommendations would mean nothing!

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

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

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

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

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

No! No, I didn’t.

I didn’t know what I was getting into.

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

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

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

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

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

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

No, I didn’t know!

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

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

I really didn’t know!

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

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

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

I didn’t know!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Protected: Happy 2 Years to One Awesome Baby Boy!

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Happy 9th Birthday to a Unicorn Loving Girl!

Dear Sweet Girl,

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

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

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

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

Birthday Interview:

How old are you? 9

What is your favorite food? Lasagna

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

What is your favorite thing to do? Play with Jaden

What is your favorite animal? Bunny

What makes you happy? Staying with you guys

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

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

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

What is your favorite song? You Say

Where is your favorite place to eat? Olive Garden

What is your favorite book? Wonder

Where would you like to go on vacation? New York

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

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Happy 5th Birthday to a Special Girl

Dear Special One,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Firmly Placed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has taught them how to hold hands and pray.

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

It has taught them that LOVE means everything.

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

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

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

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

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

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An Open Letter to my Dad

Dear Dad,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love Always,
Your Second Daughter

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