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 in 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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