Thursday, January 19, 2012

Letting God Write Your Motherhood Story

We had our first real venture into foster care this weekend. We hosted three brothers, ages 9, 12 and 13, for respite care. Respite care is temporary or relief care for full time foster parents, sort of like sending your kids to grandma's house? Respite care is super fun, who wouldn't love being the equivalent to grandma's house. However, we aren't just respite care for these brothers. We have been asked to consider adopting them. Out of respect for all parties involved and foster care confidentiality policies that is all I can, or will, say about the boys on the Internet. (Additionally, if you see me anywhere in public with the boys or you are in our home do not mention the word adoption as it is not on their radar yet AT ALL.) I have been torn about how much to share about our journey on-line, I want to be honest and open yet I cannot share everything because of the nature of foster care. I also never want to over share about other people on-line. You can see my warts, but it is not my place to share Andy's or any potential children's. And, even with a belief that I should keep it real, some thoughts are best kept private.

So, with all of that in mind. Here is just a smidge of current journey to building a family.

You may remember me mentioning these brothers in this post. The prospect of parenting them has terrified me from the beginning. Andy and I have talked and prayed and I have shed many, many tears. When people ask how foster care is going and you tell them that you have been asked to adopt a 9, 12 and 13 year old, they look at you like you are crazy. You know what, I think it is crazy too, so I don't need the reminder! I have rehearsed all of the "ifs, ands, and buts" in my mind more than you can comprehend. Thoughts of these brothers consumes my mind day and night. Most of the time I am thinking of all of the chaos that this would mean to our lives. I have cried to Andy, "Why can't we just be normal? Why do we have to house a 20 year old and think about adopting three adolescents? Why can't we just be normal and have a baby or something!"

So, we hosted the three brothers this weekend and they were a sheer delight. Not without normal bumps and quibbles of brothers this age, but overall they are just an incredible little crew. It is much too early for us to make a decision about our forever future with these kids and legally several things have to happen before they are technically adoptable. Nothing is ever a sure thing in foster care. What we do know is that we will host them for several more respite weekends and keep praying for God to make His plan known to us.

As Andy and I have discussed the possibility of parenting these boys a quote from Lysa TerKuerst has refused to leave my head. Lysa is the adoptive mom to two Liberian boys who came to her family at ages 13 and 14 -- crazy right? I have heard her talk about their family story and she says, "As Christians if we only do things that are secure and certain then how can we ever walk by faith and not by sight?" That is a profound thought to me as we face down our own crazy adoption situation. Today, I put on a Focus on the Family podcast while I was cleaning and guess what they were playing? Lysa telling the story that this very quote came from. Please go listen to her two part series about her life and the adoption of her boys. If the idea of listening to a Christian broadcast makes you bristle, will you listen to it anyway? I think her life story will move you regardless of your beliefs. Something she said early in her talk caught my heart today. She told her audience to, "Let God write your motherhood story." That is precisely what I needed today. Today I need to let go of the idea of being normal and embrace what God wants for our family. So, you can join me in praying we can discern what that is.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Goals for 2012

It is the beginning of the new year, so everyone is talking about their resolutions or goals for the coming year. I know that 2012 is going to be a year of big change for us since I am working at home for the foreseeable future and hope to add children to our family. So, here are a few of my goals as I look ahead to 2012.

  • Begin attending Bible Study Fellowship so that I can do in-depth Bible study. I start next Wednesday and I am super excited. 
  • Establish Sunday as a Sabbath. We are a go, go, go kind of family and want to learn to rest and rest in the Lord. We are trying to set aside Sunday for worship, rest and enjoying the company of those we love. 

  • Go out on a weekly date with Andy. 
  • Get to know our neighbors better by having people over. 
  • Have friends over for dinner at least monthly. 
  • Become a mom! We hope to have children in our home full time via foster care this year.   

  • Begin to recycle and compost.  I would love any advice on these topics.
  • Start a (very small) garden.  Again, advice welcome! I want to feed us more veggies while reducing our grocery bill. 
  • Blog weekly. What would you like to read about?

  • Exercise 4 times weekly. We joined the YMCA last year and this became a normal part of our lives. I want to keep it up and try out some group fitness classes. Of course, the goal of this is to be healthy and lose weight. Last year I saw very little weight loss despite my faithfulness to exercise, but I am sticking to it for overall health.
  • Establish a healthy nutrition plan for our family. You know that we will try to eat natural, mostly organic food. We tried a Paleo diet challenge in 2011 and liked it. I am not ready to implement a fully Paleo lifestyle, but I want to incorporate a lot of Paleo principles into our diet.
  • Compete in a mini-triatholon like the Tri-Deltathon at UT that consists of a 400m swim, 6 mile bike, 3 mile run.
  • Compete in at least two races of 5K or more. I am running the Knoxville Marathon 5K, does anyone want to join me?

 Personal Growth/Education 

What are your goals or resolutions for 2012?

Monday, January 02, 2012

Our New Kind of Christmas Take 1

You know what? I love Christmas. I just love it. I love the twinkling lights and the parties and the excitement and the excuse to eat sugar and hang out with a lot of my favorite people. I love getting adorable Christmas cards and putting up Christmas decorations. I love pondering Immanuel, God with us. I love thinking about the deep and wide and vast love of God for us to come to this earth to be our brother, friend, teacher and Savior.  (Seriously, you have to watch the Nativity Story next Christmas. We watched it Christmas Eve just before bed and loved it even more.) We attended Redeemer Church of Knoxville during Advent and really enjoyed using the church's Advent guide for weekly family devotions. Andy especially liked talking about how celebrating Christ's birth is supposed to get us excited about Him coming again.

 We hosted an Open House for our neighborhood for the second year and had a lovely time. We have a small neighborhood and a lot of people came by. We have some of the best neighbors that you could ever ask for and it was nice to catch up with them.

 This year we tried our hand at a new kind of Christmas where we gave gifts to Jesus rather than to each other. The week before Christmas Andy and I finalized our choices for our Christmas gift donations. We had a lot of fun looking through the catalogs and choosing gifts. We purchased a year of primary school education for an abuse survivor through IJM and donated a cleft palate surgery for a Chinese orphan through Show Hope among other things. Family members donated to Hope Resource Center in our honor as well as an incredible foster care ministry that is being started by family friends in Missouri. The greatest gift is that our sweet pseudo-sister Sarah was inspired by our donation of the cleft palate surgery and rallied her company (a home health provider) to raise money to donate to Show Hope as well. My heart swelled at that news because our counter cultural Christmas message spread to the hearts of others and their donations will change the lives of some fortunate children.

It was an interesting experiment to have a "gift free" Christmas. I say "gift free" because we still got some stocking stuffers and various gifts from friends and family. However, the focus of our gift giving was to buy for the least of these. I liked that a lot. Yet, I learned that others want to buy you gifts and it makes them really happy. My sister, for instance, told me that she was an adult and could buy me a present if she wanted to. She did and I loved it. I also learned that there is some excitement that goes along with gift anticipation that I don't want to completely remove from our household. I told Andy that it felt really different to not be looking forward to opening gifts. He asked if it felt like going to someone else's birthday party? Touche - it is Jesus' birthday afterall. We spent the Christmas Eve morning with our little nieces and nephews and they were ready to explode with excitement because Santa was coming THAT night. I want the focus our family Christmas to be the coming of Jesus and giving to others, but I also want to figure out how to incorporate the excitement of the season and receiving gifts. Chris and Stacey do a great job of balancing all of this with their little ones and I want to learn more from them. Keep your eyes peeled for how our traditions evolve.

We exchanged stockings with our Sto-Nack family the night before we all went our separate ways for Christmas weekend. Our choice for gift giving made my life a lot less stressful during December. I had fun looking for stocking stuffers and ornaments for Andy, Sam and Sarah, but didn't feel the pressure of having to find the perfect gift.
This is Sam's attempt to look excited for a picture because Sarah gave him a trip to the Grand Old Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. The perfect treat for the guy who can sing every word to every country song ever written.

Sarah didn't follow our no gift guideline and bought us a Keurig machine. Andy has been wanting one so badly and was thrilled with her thoughtfulness. We love our new toy and we are very thankful for her thoughtfulness. 

Our annual trek to St. Louis was a lot of fun. We saw both families and lots of friends.However, we have a woeful lack of pictures. Alas, I resolve to be a better picture taker and blogger in 2012.