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Category: Foster Care

Foster Care

How breakthroughs in bad dreams came to our home

Milestone #672:

This week called for a spring cleaning of the boys’ room. The kind where you pull the beds and dressers away from the wall and bust out the crevice tool that came with the vacuum.

It felt so good.

The sun was shining through the window, the kids were playing or doing chores nearby, and I was going to town, sweating from sucking up months of dirt, dust, a couple black socks and a few spare pennies.

I pulled the bed out a little farther and a piece of paper caught my eye. I pulled it out from between the trundle drawer and the wall, opening it so I could read it. Before I even finished smoothing it, my heart thudded to a stop as I remembered the font.

When foster buddy first came (15 months ago now!!!!!) he did not know how to sleep at night. He was petrified. Not only had he been taken from the only life he had known and then all of his siblings too, but the life he had before he came only added to his nightmares.

He could not sleep through the night. That meant we could not sleep through the night. Sometimes, he would come get me 3-4 times in one night, pale and shaking from his dreams. He would also sleepwalk in between, never remembering anything the next day. If I didn’t tuck him into bed that night, he would come and find me at 2am every time just to know I was home. It wasn’t long before we were the ones who felt like we were living in a nightmare.

Doctors appointments are difficult to make quickly and when you’re losing your mind from lack of sleep there is not much that can help at that point. We were desperate.

One day, I found the verse in Proverbs that read, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.” I printed it out and even though little buddy couldn’t even read yet, we taped that sucker to the top of his bed and read it out loud every night as we tucked him in. We laid hands on him and prayed over his mind, his heart, his will and his emotions.

A few more bumps in the road and we found the magical melatonin that got him sleeping through the night. Things got better, slowly but surely. Sometimes it was two steps forward, ten steps back. One night in a tough tantrum, little buddy ripped off the paper and it must’ve fallen behind his bed.

I never noticed at the time. He mentioned it once in a blue moon as I tucked him in, but I assumed the boys had ruined it in play and it had long since hit the landfill. I prayed a patched up prayer of sleeping through the night, but I was no longer begging God for that: I was thanking Him for how far we had come.

Until I saw that paper.

All the feelings came rushing back through me, and I remembered the exhaustion, the sadness, the deep grief of walking a child back to bed night after night, the desperation of seeking God in this seemingly forsaken place of loneliness. I even remembered how my legs ached, my hips feeling hollow in my bones for climbing stairs every few hours when I should have been sleeping.

I shook my head in awe and amazement.

In my moment of flashbacks, something else was breaking through: it was the song of a beautiful, happy six year old as he snuggled our family cat and swept the bathroom floor before playing Legos outside his room. The song got louder and my memory faded softer.

It was a memory that I knew we were never going back to. We had overcome our nightmares and our sleep was now sweet.

Outside of the random nighttime snafus that come with six children under my roof right now, I sleep through the night pretty much all the time.

Okay, often for that ratio, anyway.

But faithfulness is all I hear in that song, that even on the hard, exhausting, trying days, we are never going back to that again. His promise is true, and when we lie down, we are not afraid, and when we lie down, our sleep is sweet.

I breathed out a sigh of relief as I said goodbye to that faithful promise: no longer needed on paper taped over the bed; now fully engraved on our hearts.

And I had a sweet singing six year old to prove it.

Originally posted February 8, 2019

To download free printables of that verse, click here.

For more about our foster care journey, click here.



I. Welcome & Introduction – Point Person and Ministry Leader


II. Play Video “Tale of Two Rivers” to introduce how trauma occurs and the Vision30 Goal. (2.5 min.)    

 

Discuss Vision 30

Discuss System Flow Chart

-Play Kelli Moore’s video on CarePortal in action. (7.5 min.)

Q & A


III. CarePortal Tier One Grid Basic Training (3.5 min.)     

-Discuss relationships as the foundational goal     

-Tier One is where every church begins, meeting basic needs as a friend and neighbor.     

-Tier Two is a higher level need requiring background checks and more committed care.     

-Tier Three is CPS certified care heading in to foster care/respite care/adoption.     

So this is a GREAT way to get your feet wet, see needs, meet needs, get involved in the community and figure out where YOUR place is in both CarePortal and the Kingdom.


IV. Our Mission field is BOTH Vulnerable Families and Case Workers     –

Lesson #1: Keeping Families Together is Top Priority.       

-“good enough” is best.       

– Explain the grief and trauma of breaking a family, consequences of negative view of police officers and social workers. Fear, anger, rage, loss… 

-Positive impact of supporting the WHOLE family, not just the child. Break the cycle.       

-Watch Church video about single mom’s testimony with CarePortal. (2.5 min.)    “One CarePortal Story”

 

– Lesson #2: Case Workers Have the Hardest Job.       

– Average 2 year life span in the field without support and people helping their families.

-They are bound to legal and best practices, etc. that they have to abide by.  They are emloyees of the state and have their livlihood to consider.

– Secondary Trauma and Compassion Fatigue are real and present in their lives.

V. Bringing it All Together   

-Watch BattleCreek Church’s Announcement about CarePortal (8.5 min.)   

-You guys are our pilot group as we work this out. We would like to have each of you figure out your place in this over the next few months and then we will put it all together and invite the rest of the church to work with us as the needs grow and we establish order for CarePortal for BRGT.    

-Church Challenge video to Share the Miracle #myconnection (1.5 min.)


Q & A

Print copies of this guide once you format it for you and your church. Use this template if yoou’d like to copy and paste:

BRGT CarePortal Team Informational MeetingMonday, June 15 at 7p at BRGT Bible School Classrooms


I. Welcome & Introduction – Point Person and Ministry Team Leader

II. Play Video “Tale of Two Rivers” to introduce trauma and the Vision30 goal. (2.5 min.)      
-Play Kelli Moore’s video on CarePortal in action. (7.5 min.)

Q & A

III. CarePortal Tier One Grid Basic Training (3.5 min.)     
-Discuss relationships as the foundational goal     
-Tier One is where every church begins, meeting basic needs as a friend and neighbor.     
-Tier Two is a higher level need requiring background checks and more committed care.     
-Tier Three is CPS certified care heading in to foster care/respite care/adoption.     
So this grid is a GREAT way to get your feet wet, see needs, meet needs, get involved in the community and figure out where YOUR place is in both CarePortal and the Kingdom.

IV. Our Mission field is BOTH Vulnerable Families and Case Workers    Lesson #1: Keeping Families Together is Top Priority.       
-“good enough” is best for everyone. Explain.      
– Share about the grief and trauma of breaking a family:
Negative view of police officers and social workers. Fear, anger, rage, loss…  -Positive impact of supporting the WHOLE family, not just the child. Break the cycle.       
-Watch Church video about single mom’s testimony with CarePortal. (2.5 min.)     
– Lesson #2: Case Workers Have the Hardest Job.       
– Average 2 year life span in the field without support and people helping their families. They are bound to legal and best practices, etc. that they have to abide by. As friends helping friends, we are not bound to anything like that. We can even be their hands and feet, and step up to help in ways that they are not legally allowed to do, or become a testimony to them as they see God work and come to know Him because of it.     
– Secondary Trauma and Compassion Fatigue are real and present in their lives.

V. Bringing it All Together   
-Watch BattleCreek Church’s Announcement about CarePortal (8.5 min.)   
-You guys are our pilot group as we work this out. We would like to have each of you figure out your place in this over the next few months and then we will put it all together and invite the rest of the church to work with us as the needs grow and we establish order for CarePortal for our church.    
-Church Challenge video to Share the Miracle #myconnection (1.5 min.)

Q & A

Have all the links ready to go either here or bookmarked on your device. Send a reminder text in the weeks and days ahead of time, and have copies of this layout edited and printed for your interested people by the time the meeting starts.

Happy Launching!

My own personal CarePortal Testimony and Story:



And How We Use it With Our Kids

I have been reading a Bible for nearly twenty years now. Well, to be fair, I can remember taking my parents’ super special holy Bible off the coffee table in the living room as a child and reading the stories and psalms, and turning the pages to look for pictures. Since we had grown up in the Catholic Church, it was common knowledge that that was the most sacred book of all, unlocking all the secrets of life. We just did not read it for ourselves. That concept was unheard of to me.



Once I really gave my life to the Lord and started reading for myself, I read as much as I could stand. I thought I was the holiest if I read the King James version, and even though it took some time to adjust to the old English version, I was able to read and understand the beautiful words. When I went to Bible School I actually needed a Strong’s Concordance as part of my textbooks, and I started to understand how to use the King James version to go back to the Greek and Hebrew original words for deeper and clearer meanings. It was amazing what I could learn in one simple verse just by breaking it down and researching its roots.

To get your copy of our free kids and family devotional releasing in May 2020, click here!

As time went on and I started to grasp the context of each verse, I turned to many different versions for help and understanding. The first Bible I ever bought myself was actually an NIV version, which I felt was “acceptable” to write in and make notes in, but the King James was a little too “holy” for me to feel comfortable writing it in those first years. I am laughing at myself even as I write this, though I tell you the truth to be sure.

Time went on and our kids came on the scene, and I was faced with a huge dilemma. I wanted them to understand the old English and not be afraid of it, but I also one of them to have an every day understanding of what the word of God meant to their daily lives. When Tim and I took over the Children’s Ministry program at our church, I had to decide even further what version of the Bible we were going to use in the current curriculum there, and what we would keep on hand for our newcomers and visitors to take home.

(Sidenote: have you ever taught a Children’s Church class where every one of them has a different version to read from? I do not recommend that. At all.)

Anyways, we bumbled our way through parenting those first years and then into the Children’s Ministry program. Before I knew it, we were fostering and inviting a four-year-old little boy into our home who had never seen the likes of this Jesus we have talked about before.

He was petrified. It was like Greek to him. Our music, our prayers, the way we talked with life and love and hope… It was all too much for him and all the trauma he was going through.

In those first few weeks, many friends and relatives would ask if we needed anything. Truly, so much of it was things we just found out at the last minute and had to scramble to make it happen. One of the greatest challenges was that out of three smaller children, he did not have what they had and it was painfully obvious that they could not share at all, but they needed their own special things. Lego bins that were labeled with kids’ names on them now needed another new bin with a new name. Special bins that were assigned to each child now needed an extra bin with a new name… Desperately trying to make it look the same so he did not feel separated from the rest of our family as he walked through the darkest days of his life.

Day after day, new things crept up that we had to collect and label and sort.

Then it came to Sunday School: we had it set up where each child would get a reward if they brought their Bible to Children’s Church class. Most of the time it was just a small piece of candy or a tiny toy, but everybody knows that means the world to every child. So as many Sundays as they would remember, our kids would race around the house as we loaded into the van, looking for their Bible as they strapped their shoes on their feet and ran out the door. They knew that if they could not find it, they were missing out on their candy or toy for that week.

Our new baby boy could not participate if he did not have a Bible.

For the first few Sundays, he would bring a tiny Gideons Bible that one of the kids had stuffed in a toy bin some unknown months ago. But as the others brought their own special Bibles with their names written in them, it became glaringly obvious we had to fix the problem.

“Is there anything he needs?” came a text from one of my friends. She was single, a hospital nurse, with no understanding of what a small boy in foster care could need, but she offered to ship anything we needed straight to the house, as long as I told her specifically what we needed.

To get your copy of our free kids and family devotional releasing in May 2020, click here!


We had just plunked down a chunk of change to get him school supplies, a few sets of legos to call his own, and some clothes that actually fit. I swallowed my pride, sent her a description, and a few days later, his first Bible showed up.

I have tears in my eyes now as I remember writing his name inside. At that time, we thought he would eventually return to his family, so I felt all warm and fuzzy inside that we would be sending him back with a gift he could call his own and treasure as long as he wanted. I imagined him sharing it with his siblings and reading from it whenever he was lonely or afraid.

We never could’ve known the road we would all walk down, needing those words in that blessed Book to become life to us more than anything in the world.

Week after week he stayed, and took that Bible to church. Some Sundays he forgot it or lost it, just like any other five year old boy would do, but he was getting it, he was doing it, and even when it looked like nothing was sinking in and all would be lost except his candy… God showed up.

To get your copy of our free kids and family devotional releasing in May 2020, click here!

Many of you know our story, how our Little Buddy (as we used to call him for safe social media practices) struggled so much with anger. It was really the only emotion he knew. Coupled with sleep walking and night terrors for months, we ALL struggled with controlling our emotions by the time he was able to sleep through the night. He was not able to listen to any adult figure in his life, because every adult to him was a sign of hurt and betrayal and pain. For MONTHS I was the only one who could tuck him in, and if I did not, you could be sure that around 2am that morning he would be downstairs looking for me, just needing to be walked back to bed.

Babysitters were no longer an option. We had a close family of friends that had been there since the beginning of all of our kids, and they had walked us through some really bleary parts of parenthood and the girls grew up to be our big sister/babysitter friends, but THIS was a whole new level of babysitting. Basically, Tim and I could not bear the thought of one of our “girls” getting hurt in the wake of one of Little Buddy’s awful rages.

They could not help us in that time. It seemed no one could.

In came an in-home counselor to try to help us navigate this insanity. You can read a post about her here, but I don’t want to get too off track right now. She listened, she loved on us… and then she pushed us to start making steps to grow Little Buddy to learn about other safe adults in his life.

As much as I dreamed of a date night and cried over my lost freedom in those months, I could not allow others to be hurt by this child.

Our in-home counselor challenged me: how can you call it love if you allow Little Buddy to stay this way?

So she taught us HOW to help the girls as they babysat, what to say, how to act, and told us to start trying.

We were petrified.

How could we possibly enjoy a date night, wondering just how bad things were going? You could have cut the tension in the van between us, as both Tim and I did our best to fake enjoying ourselves, pretend we were not on pins and needles waiting for a horrible phone call, and not blame this little one who was only living what he had ever seen and not been taught.

Some nights were just as awful as we thought they would be, and my heart aches to this day when I think of the scratches and emotional pain our girls went through as they learned to walk through the trenches with us. I have never seen Tim so close to losing it as when his girls were injured by a temper tantrum from a little boy we could not even know how to control.

It was a pretty dark and hopeless time.

Then came the night we never expected.

Tim and I were driving aimlessly through town, trying to kill time before heading home too soon. We were both too exhausted to say much of anything, and there seemed nothing good to say anyways. We were not just prisoners of our own home at this time: in that moment, we couldn’t even GO home to rest, if there was any rest to be had there.

As we tried to pretend a decaf coffee was fixing all our problems, the Text of Dread came through to our phones. We each grabbed our phones to accept the next awful report, and could not believe what we read: “You did it!” Alisha wrote us. “They are both peacefully sleeping in bed, and when I let them pick a story, they both chose their Bibles. No problems, no tantrums, just perfect. They took turns reading to each other, and all is well.”

We were stunned. We weren’t even sure if what we were reading was true. Maybe they all just got together to make up this story so we wouldn’t lose it.

But it was true.

And bump by bump, smooth place by hiccup, we started functioning past this mountain.

There was a bit of a calm period as he settled in and started making peace with our crazy, loud, loving life. We started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and began to believe that we could help him in to his forever with us while almost having hope of functioning as a normal family again, whatever that looks like in my old mind’s eye… He was smiling a little, and learning jokes and fun and kindness. And one day, I heard his belly laugh, pure and unhindered and free, and I just knew we were going to make it.

But Life has a funny way of letting seasons teach you lessons, and when we moved his sister in to live with us Forever, we found ourselves in the greatest struggle of our lives.

It wasn’t our little girl that had the trouble adjusting, no. She was in her honeymoon, learning this whole crazy life that she had begged to be a part of for months of visits beforehand.

It was Little Buddy.

He was terrified. We had unwittingly invaded his safe place, and the last time he had lived with his sister a year before he was living in a darkness and terror that I feel my wildest imagination cannot piece together for reality.

He was a mess. The anger, rage, tantrums and violence was back and worse than ever before. Even if it wasn’t worse, we were just so worn down from enduring the battles before that we truly had nothing left to give.

I share about the turnaround a little bit here on our Adoption Day post, but suffice it to say we were utterly lost and done.

Until God showed up.

One day and one moment and one prayer at a time, we made it through and God showed up. We drew lines in the sand with the enemy of our souls and asked for prayer from our church family. As many as could pray, we begged them to join us, to help us find our way through. I sobbed on the phone with my parents, asking them what I should do and how were we going to make it, and they could only offer love and prayers. I have never faced spiritual warfare to such a depth as we faced it then, and it may take a lifetime to fully explain what we went though, but finally I can tell you…

God showed up.

Out of the trenches and into a wide open safe place, we went. Leaving the darkness and pain behind and heading in to the light.

That’s what happened to us, when God showed up.

A few months went by and Adoption Day came faster than anything after we had waited months for nothing.

We were still a little apprehensive about this whole Forever business on Adoption Day. I mean, we knew that we knew that we knew that it was the right thing for all of us, and it was God’s plan for our lives… but we could still see the spooky woods in the background and had to practice believing our Good, Good Father that we heard Him clearly as we moved on ahead.


To get your copy of our free kids and family devotional releasing in May 2020, click here!

But He is so faithful and just.

And shortly after Adoption Day, one of our girls captured this photo of our Little Buddy, now our handsome and sweet Liam Philip Wall, reading his little Adventure Bible on the way to church one Sunday morning.

And I will make sure the candy in the Sunday School classrooms is OVER-stocked.

Because that’s just how far we’ve come.

To get your copy of our free kids and family devotional releasing in May 2020, click here!

To get your copy of our free kids and family devotional releasing in May 2020, click here!

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To get your copy of our free kids and family devotional releasing in May 2020, click here!


Snow Days, Cancelled Church Services, and Spring Revelations

Originally Posted March 2018.

When I was a little girl growing up in the Roman Catholic Church, I loved Palm Sunday.  Maybe it was because the sun was melting the dingy grey snow piles in Western New York, and we knew the next week we could wear our new Easter dresses, and possibly our new white patent leather shoes if we could get mom to believe our promises that we wouldn’t stomp in the snow piles with them. Or maybe it was because it was all part of the season changing, showing decorations of bunnies and chicks and Easter eggs and, of course chocolate, candy and jelly beans. 

I remember sitting at church, staring at the front throughout the service: they had huge urns full of palm fronds, and at the end of the service, they passed them out to everyone, and we got to take them home.  I specifically remember my dad taking a frond with him and weaving it with another to make a neat design as we waited for brunch at a local restaurant after church.  It was mesmerizing, different and new, and I never forgot the impression it left in my mind or heart.

Of course the significance of Palm Sunday itself was not lost on me, either:  this was the Sunday that Jesus himself came riding in to Jerusalem, less than a week before His death, sitting on a donkey that had never been ridden before, and as He rode, the people cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Glory to God in the Highest!” laying down their cloaks on the road before Him, and cutting off palm branches to lay on His path, anything to show admiration and respect towards the man they wanted to see as King.

It was all so magical to me as a child; the King was getting His glory, and the best was yet to come.

As I got older, I went my own way until my college years, when I truly realized that giving my heart and life to the Lord first was the only way I was ever going to do anything significant in my time here on earth.  Within a year, I was in Virginia attending a Bible School, soaking up anything and everything that had to do with my childhood King.  I was changed forever.

When the Gospel came to life for me and I began to see that King in a different light, the heartache and pain I had to see in myself was sometimes overwhelming.  Because here is the thing: that King that rode into town that day was going to be crucified by those same people just five days later.  And He knew it!  He knew His purpose, He knew why He came, and He was all about doing His Father’s business, to the bitter end.  The irony of it all was not lost on me, and for years I wrestled with the question “How could He do that for me?”

The kids came along and Easter took on a whole new meaning for me: I was elated to be the one to create such beautiful holiday traditions like the ones my mom had always done for us girls: baskets full of chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs, hiding them to be found on Easter morning, brunch with waffles and orange juice, new dresses for my girls and new shirts for my boys, a huge ham dinner that lasts for days… it was all so integral to the celebration that Easter was the beginning of new life in so many ways.  The King had Risen, and death was defeated.  I cried every Easter Sunday for years at the magnitude and power of the message.

But it all came after Palm Sunday. And it had to get worse before it got better.

As we walked this road of raising our kids and running our business, we felt compelled to adopt two children.  That’s all I knew in my heart; that’s all I saw when I prayed.  And I knew that was the next step in where we needed to go.  Well, if you know anything about the Lord and His “wonderful works” you may have also discovered that He only shows you pieces and parts of what is to come.  So we became certified to adopt, and still a year later we had not found our Forever Kids.  My heart was broken open so hard for so long I was convinced it was physically breaking.  It was a void I could not explain, and it sent me back to my bedroom window every morning, asking the Lord to show me what it was that He wanted me to do. I would do anything to get rid of the ache in my chest, anything to fill the void in my heart.  So He sent us a foster child.  One that was supposed to be reunited with his parents, and needed as much if not more healing from all the trauma than they did.

When Tim and I first signed up for the foster classes (believing it was the best way to pursue adoption for us), the only two stipulations that we stated to each other in our decision making process were (1) that we would NEVER foster for reunification, and (2) that the children would NEVER be local.

It’s amazing what a year of waiting and the word “yes” will do to change your heart and life.

Our new little guy was supposed to head home to his parents and he was indeed from Roanoke.  Each time I drove to the city to run errands with him, he would point out to me places that he knew well, and roads that he knew as friends’ houses.  It was unnerving, for sure: this child had lived a life completely unrelated to me for nearly five years of his life, and in one moment, he is moved in to my home as my son for an untold amount of time, needing love, kindness, teaching, training and medical care.  And I don’t even know where his past life was or what it was like!?!

Five months into it, we have walked a path I never thought existed to human kind.  It just was not part of my world, and even as I walk it, I am in disbelief that so many of my other amazing foster parent community friends have done this, some for twenty years or more.  The lives they have changed!  The corner of their world they have repaired!  What it has silently done behind the scenes to better our community, all in my accidental indifference.  It is so incredibly beautiful.

But beautiful is not always pretty.

You see, the children that need the most love and kindness are not the ones in the sweet Fisher Price ads or the ones that ask for it nicely.  Don’t get me wrong: our little guy is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, especially when I look right into his eyes and he can lock eyes with mine (something he could not do when he first came) as I sing him “Hush, Little Baby” at bed time.

But many, many times, he asks for love in different ways than the rest of my kids do.

His last couple visits with his parents have not gone very well, and it takes a toll on his little heart and mind.  He can’t process all those feelings and emotions, some of which I’m sure are greater than you or I have ever experienced.  It comes out in awkward ways, in awful ways, in ways that could break your heart if you let it.

Well, because of that crazy snowstorm that came in Saturday night and was nearly completely melted by Sunday afternoon, church got cancelled.  On Palm Sunday. 

I was really sad about that, honestly.  Probably because I am more desperate now than ever to hear the word of the Lord being spoken in my life, but also because this is my favorite Sunday of the year, the one I was still grappling with, even at 36 years old, and I was not going to get that message to help me sort it out that day.

So I had to face my own theologies and intentions and try to find out what God was saying to me about this issue on my own. On top of cooking for seven people, running a household of that size, and factor in the snow clothes for all the kids, two of which I am certain are five year old part monkeys.  Basically, it was going to be a big day.

As I said before, when you are going through trauma and recovering from a hurtful situation, sometimes things come out that are not nice.  And they are usually unleashed on the people closest to you.  Nurses get yelled at by patients, spouses take things out on each other… and my foster buddy lets loose on me.

Even on special snow days, hurt can come out.  Especially at the most unwarranted times, and inopportune moments.  Yesterday, as my hands were covered in paint from turning an old step stool into sleek black to look decent in the boys’ bathroom, my little buddy came bounding up the stairs.

“Ta-wuh?” he asks me.  “Yeah buddy?”  “Can I have some lemonade?”  “We don’t have any right now, I’m sorry,” There is a loud huff and a looking down at feet.  “Well, I already had water today.”  “I’m sorry honey; I cannot make lemonade for you right now.  Maybe later.  You can always have water.” “Well, I don’t like water and I don’t want it anymore.” “I’m sorry, bud; that’s all we have right now.”

I’m waiting for the explosion any moment, my own private thoughts of wrestling with this Palm Sunday meaning in the back of my head, and I watch this little guy look me square in the face and announce,

“Well, I don’t love you, and I don’t want to be with you here.” 

I stared back at him, and no wisdom came to reply, no answer would come out of my mouth that I thought right. If he only knew what I had given up to bring him into our life at home!  How much of my job I had passed off on our (very capable) team, how many nights I woke up to tuck him back into bed after a bad dream and I couldn’t go back to sleep, how many trips to Roanoke for doctor and dentist appointments, the list went on and on.  If he only knew what my heart ached for, to be left to myself sometimes while the older kids were in school instead of sitting on my kitchen floor with him reading books that teach him not to punch things, to not have to dread grocery shopping in case he had a tantrum and we had to leave.  The exhaustion.  The grief. The lost opportunities.   The sales I want to promote but my hands are tied because this little person needs me, and the projects I have had to drop because preschool called again and he has had a meltdown. 

Of course he cannot know any of it.  He is in pain, and he is five.  I say, “Well, I’m sorry you feel that way, but I still love you and there is water on the counter if you like.”

He has been saying that a lot lately, and most of the time it doesn’t really hurt.  I understand that he doesn’t really mean it, at least towards me, and that he will be hugging me and saying he is sorry within a few minutes.  But in my wrestling with this King of Kings that morning, I get my revelation: that is who I am with the Lord:  In my best moments, I am ready to crown Him King of my life, crying out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Yet when the chips fall, and I am lost and confused, and my heart begins to stray because the little boy I opened my heart and life to has spit in my face once again, I turn away from my King and close my eyes as He is crucified.  And yet they call it Good Friday. The irony of it all is not lost on me, even in my paint-covered hands and tired mom brain.  My heart hurt.  It caught me by surprise.  And I did not want to be One of Them.  One of the ones who betrayed Him.  But I know I was.  I knew we all are.  And I am so humbled.  I prayed, “God use me, use me!” and He gave me a task and I cried, “God, I feel so used! It’s not fair!”

We ended up needing a time out that afternoon after we threw a tantrum over the water, and after that we could apologize and love one another and move on.  Before long it was time to think of a dinner plan.  We decided on easy sandwiches so we could rush through to watch a family movie, Veggie Tales’ The Easter Carol.  There is a child in my home that does not understand the Gospel yet, and I am committed to show him every ounce of love and compassion I can muster before he has to move on. He does not have any special memories of Easter that he can recall, so I want to fix that as much as I possibly can.  Plus, it is one of my favorites.

The story goes on where a miserly cucumber is taken through time and space by an angel to see what life was and would be like had he made certain choices.  He is about to tear down a beautiful church to build a factory, not realizing his beloved grandmother was the one who had commissioned the stained glass windows there herself.  The angel takes him to the church to share this information with him, and sings a song about those commissioned windows, all telling of the Gospel itself, from the nativity through to the resurrection.  Sitting there with my family, I teared up at each window, ironing out the muddled gray in my mind I had been wrestling with all day, or really, for years.  That baby that came so humbly in that manger was the same man who willingly gave His life on that cross when it was time.  And even when He rode in to town that day, He knew what He was headed for in just a few short days… sentenced by the very people that were praising Him in the streets right then.  He knew it all.  And He still chose to go through with it, still chose to walk the walk, because His sights were not set on the crowds cheering or people praising.  He was already so far beyond that, to the victory moment where He went down to the depths of darkness and looked the devil himself in the face and took the keys of death, hell and the grave from him as He rose again.

So my tears were just a realization that, for a moment that afternoon, my eyes were set on the wrong thing: the words of my sweet, hurting, beautiful baby boy who has no idea what he is saying to me.  And I let myself accept the gift that God so freely gives to me as well: It’s the grace and strength that appears to empower me to look at that child in the face after all we’ve been through that day and sing him “Hush, Little Baby” because he asks me for it at bedtime.  That King understands my shortcomings, my failures, and my ups and downs, where I praise Him one moment and betray Him another.  He is not looking at that, He is looking at the end result.  And I am committed and determined that I am going to see this thing through, and get all that He is trying to teach me in this thing.  It is hard.  It is blood, sweat and tears hard.  But if I got my answer to my decades long search for peace about Palm Sunday in one day, I am confident that only the best is yet to come… like Easter Sunday after Good Friday.


Those are the best kinds of stories.

Our daughter Abby got her license today.

Whoever has older kids than us already knows how we felt in that moment.

Whoever has younger kids than us is headed there soon enough.

I would have to start by saying that our Abby is such a bright, shining star in our lives. Creative, talented, kind and giving, she is an absolute blessing in our lives. Even navigating the torrential teenage waters with her has truly been a gift. Sure, we have our moments where I clench my jaw and inwardly beg God for more patience as I use the last of my self control to keep from outwardly rolling my eyes and inadvertently set off an emotional hand grenade, but as far as kids go, she is the best of the best.

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She has always been on her own path, dancing to the beat of a different drum, and making her own music when she got bored of that, too.

She has many friends that adore her, both older and younger, but she has always struggled with that crucial “best friend” piece of the pie, where she would be able to lean on and look to another girl her age rather than finding no one to hang out with when it came time for a sleepover.

I don’t know of any greater heartache than watching your child struggle to find their place in this world.

A part of me was agonizing over her lonliness and another part of me jumping at any opportunity to cultivate a new friendship for her. Sleepover? Sure! I’ll go buy ALL the cookies and glow sticks and rent ALL the movies to ensure a happy memory for a moment.

Another part of me was screaming inwardly as a grown woman staring at this younger version of my childhood, watching this next generation and knowing I had a choice in how I cultivated it: You don’t NEED a best friend, girl! Just WAIT until you get older, then it will all work out! You are AMAZING and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise!

Nobody WAS telling her otherwise. We all know the voices in our head do a fine enough job of pulling us down in spite of ourselves.

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As we worked through those tough years together, something altogether completely different was growing in the meantime: our friendship. She had me, and I had her. Now I am not a fan of parents befriending their children in a way that they become equals and the child loses out on a parent figure and the peace of boundaries, but that wasn’t the kind of friends that Abby and I were becoming. We were the kind who had been through STUFF together.

You know what I’m talking about. In her loneliness, I was there to cheer her on. In her triumphs, I was there to celebrate. In the awkward moments, it was me walking her through. One year I literally had to take her out of school and together we worked through two years of curriculum to get her in a higher grade level where she better belonged.

[Let me be perfectly clear, I am NOT the homeschool type of mom. I love my children fiercely, but never dreamed of being so heavily responsible for my kids’ education. This was a necessity for Abby at the time, no different than any one of you moms out there would do for your kids if that’s what they needed. With a toddler at home. And a job.]

We made it through. It was tough, it was not pleasant, but we made it through. Looking back now, I’m sure there’s many things we both would do differently, but in any good relationship, it’s the STUFF that makes it great. It’s the STUFF that proves you went through and you still survived.

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It was during this time in her life that some other sad things were happening. Tim’s dad was diagnosed with cancer, and while he fought, we made some shift changes to spend some extra time with him while we had it. We bought a pop up camper and went camping together when our baby Caleb was just six weeks old, using an empty suitcase as his bed. I won’t tell you how many postpartum and hormonal tears I cried as I laid exhausted in bed every night, but I would not trade any of that hardness for even one lunch by the fire with Tim’s dad as I used the quickie pie maker to try to entice him to eat a sandwich as he rested in his favorite anti-gravity chair.

Being the oldest at home during that time gave Abby an unfair advantage with her grandpa Andy. Being the first grandbaby in a long time on that side of the family, we enjoyed the overwhelming spoiling of her in those first couple years: they would make trips 600 miles down to see us and visit for a few days at a time. We would visit parks, go out to eat, and Grandpa Andy and Grandma Max would laugh until they cried at the cutest little Abby who played with her pasta noodles in a highchair at Olive Garden. It was wonderful.

Times changed and more grandbabies came and then came the C-word diagnosis. Grandpa Andy was so brave, and he fought hard for another couple years of his life. Abby was old enough to understand a lot of what was happening, and the unfamiliar road of scary stuff was already known to her, so she really stepped up to cherish those last couple years. It was so bittersweet.

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Tim was very aware of the hourglass sand running through the days, and he would drive up to NY several times in that season to be able to take his dad to his chemo treatments and try to help around the house. He could get straight answers from Grandma Max and try to relieve even just a moment of her caretaker responsibilities that way, and try to understand where they were at as best as he could.

Grandpa Andy bought a new truck in those last years. It was a beautiful black 2008 Dodge Pickup with the bench seat in the back. He had never bought a new truck before, and he was so, so proud of it. Our hearts were filled to see him love something so much. He was a strong and simple man, quiet and steady. He did not ask much of anything, so to see him light up over it made us smile.

One of the weekends Tim drove up there was a very difficult trip. It was a cold, harsh winter in Western New York, and it was probably the bitterness of chemo that hurt worse than the weather, but it was tough just the same.

Grandpa Andy wanted to take his truck to the treatment center, and they started out with just some small talk. At one point, Tim told his dad he was sorry that he couldn’t be closer, couldn’t be more help, but Grandpa Andy just nodded and smiled. “That’s alright,” he answered. “When you’re not here, Jesus is usually sitting right there in your seat.”

For a man of few words to open up about anything that had to do with politics or religion or any of the other things our parents told us not to discuss, it really was short of a miracle, and Tim held on to that conversation for the rest of that season, and it carried him through some very dark times he would have to face soon after.

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Saying goodbye to Grandpa Andy was so, so hard because we never thought we’d live far away from our families. All the things we took for granted and all the memories we still wanted to make were all gone in one small word: goodbye.

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We knew we had a hope and a promise that we would see him again someday, and we were so grateful to be a part of his Celebration of Life service, but when we got back home, the grief was like a silent intruder in our home, lurking, dark and black, constantly weighing down every corner of our hearts. It shut Tim off and made him shut me out. In all our years of marriage, NOTHING had come between the two of us, and now here we were in the middle of this broken space, trying to exist in the middle of pain he could not even find words for.

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Slowly, slowly we walked through the grief and over time the memories became more sweet than bitter.

As we got past the one year anniversary of his passing, Grandma Max got the strength to sort through some of necessary things to try to begin the next phase of her life.

She wanted to sell the truck.

The first minute I found out, I knew we had to have it. I didn’t even really want to discuss it with Tim because I was so sure it was the right thing to do and so worried he could not yet see clearly, I secretly just started forming my own plan. I called my banker friend to see about out-of-state loans, called the NYS DMV to see about the transfer process, and called Tim’s brothers to make sure they were all okay with the deal.

All signs pointed to YES. The purchase of the truck brought a type of redemption to our hearts that we really needed, and I knew I was doing the thing and going to be there for all of it.

Abby went with me on the trip that I sneaked up to NY on what Tim thought was a simple girls weekend away, in which we brought that truck home to surprise him.

It was one of the craziest and happiest things I have ever done, but I knew it was right and I knew it had to be done.

It was a place of comfort or home or a reminder of a legacy that could carry on, even in the middle of the loss we were dealing with.

I still don’t know exactly what it was, but I’m glad I did it.

For those next few years, if Tim was in a tough place or just needed a longer commute home than walking down the hill from the shop to our house, he would hop in that truck and DRIVE.

He thinks when he drives, and he processes when he drives. And each time he climbed in, he thought of Jesus in the passenger seat and he would open the center console to see his dad’s last receipt from a trash drop off and the door handles Tim never replaced for him while he was still alive. They got a few chuckles over the parts jangling in the bottom of the console once in awhile, but they are still there to this day, making peace with the unfinished business we may have in our hearts.

A year or so ago, as we were drowning in foster care challenges as great as our financial desperation, Tim felt forced to sell the truck to pay off some debt.

Several people instantly replied to the sale, but the truck mysteriously broke down and we parked it in a back corner of our minds until we came through some of the trenches.

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As hope slowly started to come back in to our lives, we turned around and found ourselves getting out of debt, watching our foster babies heal and head to adoption… and our other kids had grown up in and through it all.

Abby was about to get her license and we had to decide.

In so many ways, made sense. Her love for her grandpa and the sentiment the truck had for her, the memories and the gift that had been passed down…

We had to do it.

She begged us to sell it to her and offered to drain her savings. We told her to hold on so we could assess the repairs and decide together.

As she studied and worked and saved, we secretly fixed the truck and assembled a plan.

The day of her actual road test, I ran to the store while the kids were in school to try to pull together the biggest bow and ribbon I could find, and maybe a keychain to commemorate the event.

As my other kids learned of the surprise, they rallied to decorate the truck while she was at her test, and I dashed downstairs to put an “A” sticker on the key chain to personalize it.

I dug through the craft bins searching for the perfect one, and as I stuck that letter “A” on there, my breath choked on the irony of her Grandpa Andy, then my son Andrew Benjamin, named after him, while my Abby carried that same initial that I was now attaching to his original key chain of his original truck that he had purchased brand new for the first time in his life, just a few years before he passed away.

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As she returned from her road test, she saw a gift of a dream come true.

Today we came full circle and our hearts were healed one step further as we passed down a legacy.

All those days of loneliness and all those awkward years of stumbling just made her draw closer to the Lord and to us, her parents.

All the hurt and pain and uncertainty of who she was had come in to a moment where we knew that she had gained so, so much more than any childhood memory she may have thought lost.

In all those different days walking on a different path writing a different story, hers came through to be the best gift, because she gained so much more than any normal childhood could have brought her.

She had a stability and a relationship and a legacy that could not have been gained any other way.

I felt like she had come full circle and we gave her a pair of wings as we gave her that truck as her own.

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As parents, I don’t know if you ever REALLY know if you got it right. I mean, I’m not sure there has ever been a moment that I knew that I knew that yeah, we definitely did the right thing.

But in that moment, as we watched Abby cry tears of joy and disbelief that yes, not only was the truck staying in the family but yes, it belonged to her to be free to find her way, her friends, her schooling, her dreams, her way of blessing the world…

I knew it had to be done, and I knew it was right.

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In Loving Memory of Grandpa Andy

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To watch the vlog Tim made of that special day, click here for it all.


That Magical Day in February 2020.

Everybody’s journey through foster care or adoption is different. To me, it’s like a birth story: so precious, so emotional, so unique, where you listen and hang on to every word, rejoicing at the highs, holding your breath at the lows, and laughing at the funny moments in between.

Our story to get to that moment is no different, and I count it the greatest privilege to be able to have shared so much of our journey with you. At the very “least,” I thank you for your prayers and encouragement along the way. At the very most, I pray it inspires you to tackle a big scary thing in your life that could change the world.

In case I did not convey enough of the practical side of our journey as I shared on social media, it was hard. And I am not a wussy. It was so hard that we almost gave up. And Walls do not give up. (Neither do Nobles or Knights by my maiden heritage, so to have the triple threat come at this thing, we thought we were golden.)

It was the hardest thing we have ever done, from the paperwork and appointments and meetings and follow ups.

More than all that, to bring a stranger in to your home to live with your family… and not just any stranger, but a child. And not just any child, but a hurting, grieving, wounded child that has been taken from all they know and brought to a place they did not ask for to stay with complete strangers for an Unknown amount of time for an Unknown future they have no power to change.

To unpack that Grief in your home and be powerless to get it out… the only way through is by getting down so low until you reach and connect with that child until you earn their trust and love and care, and slowly, slowly, slowly, teach them how to unpack it for themselves…as part of the healing process.

Truly, they are the brave ones.

And so are we.

And that is probably what makes Adoption Day all the more precious.

We had a Village.

Now that I have been through the darkest part of the journey I can start to look back and “re-see” my Village. They were there. In the darkest moments we had to walk through, and the loneliest hours, the nightmares, the sleepwalking, the weight of the rage, and the heaviness of the Unknown, I truly felt alone.

My family could not have been more supportive, more encouraging, or more loving to these two new human beings we had invited in.

My church family could not have been more patient, more tolerant, or more inviting to these strangers we had just brought in to try to do life with for an Unknown amount of time.

There were text messages, hand-written notes, and screenshots of encouraging words.

There were letters and flowers and hugs and offers of help.

I hope I don’t sound ungrateful or scary when I say that there were days that none of that was enough.

In my lowest moment of them all, I found myself sobbing so hard I could not form words as I sat on the phone with my parents one morning. We were facing a breaking point of fear, where Forever looked more like a nightmare if we kept going, but the heartache of giving up brought me to my knees in gut-wrenching sickness. Little Buddy was in a Crises Anger Management Program for the second time in a month, kicked out of one school then suspended from the second one, and we were still standing in the gap for him, heading to court to sit through an appeal from his mother that was keeping us looped in the system, drowning in a holding tank for a YEAR past the Virginia mandate.

My parents had come for a visit during this time, just trying to bring a little cheer and love and hopefully help.

My heart was breaking from the pretending, and the morning they had to leave, Little Buddy was so awful and I was so heartsick, I could not join them for our traditional goodbye Bo-Berry biscuits at Bojangles.

I tear up when I think about this day even now.

I called them once I knew they were on the road after they kissed my kids goodbye, and what I had thought would be a brave explanation of what was happening on my end turned in to a sobfest I have never been through before.

They listened. They sympathized. They loved. I probably tore their hearts out worse than my own at that point, but I.HAD.NOTHING.LEFT.

I needed them in that moment more than I had in twenty five years.

Mom finally breathed enough common sense in to me to rationalize that no decision needed to be made in that moment. It was true: none of our caseworkers or counselors were telling us that we had a deadline we had to answer to. It was just our grief and fear and pain, raging louder than promise on the other side.

That pause was the breath we needed to catch in order to do the next right thing.

We had some hard conversations and heavy subjects addressing every one of our needs and positions in our family. We could not BUY peace, but we DID have the power to structure our life in such a way that we could BRING peace in to our home.

We had to try.

One tentative foot forward after another, we started addressing the hurts and pains of EVERY family member.

We let each child choose one happy thing to look forward to over the next quarter, marked it on the calendar and made it happen.

We asked our teens how they felt and set them up with fun friends, extra privileges and opportunities to thrive in windows outside our home for a moment. (Side note: it is AMAZING what a late night fast food run will do to the climate in your home once you go through it with your teens…)

We started getting Little Buddy every resource we had ever heard available, and measuring carefully what he needed versus the rest of the family. We called and emailed and cried to our counselors and case workers, and they tirelessly worked us through each question and change.

We put our marriage back up on the priority list that it needed to be. We committed to consistent date nights, practiced forgiveness for the hurts of the past failures and short comings, and agreed to start over from this point forward, honestly addressing the direction of our family and how it was going to go.

Walking that month out was the most difficult part of our journey I can say.

We were still SO scared and still SO unsure, but we just kepy trying to do the next right thing.

God met us in that place.

He was there in the court room the day that mom signed her rights away for her children.

He was there in the thirty day waiting period that was legally held for her in case she changed her mind again and wanted to appeal again.

He was there the day those thirty days were over and I exhaled a breath that I didn’t even realize I had been holding.

It was also the two year anniversary to the day that Little Buddy moved in with us.

Only God can set you up like that.

Only God.

Things You Write a Check For

I hope I can make it permanently clear through our foster care journey that we understood that our job was to REUNITE these children with their biological family. We knew that going in and choosing foster care, and God knows how hard we tried for that to happen.

We grieved with that family as we watched it come apart.

We grieved as we watched those children hang in the balance of permanency, normalcy and Forever.

We grieved at the fact that our own original biological family would never be the same. We knew we chose this path, we knew God brought these children to us, but the family we started with would never be there again, ever. And we had to grieve the loss of that as well.

And coming out of that month that I just described to you earlier, that grief weighed like nothing I felt before.

That grief had become home to me. And that is NOT like me.

In the moments that I felt like surely, we must be wussy foster parents and I need more tips and tricks to get me through, I would ask our case workers if it was true, were we wussies or was this a really tough case?

They assured me, then and now, this case was 100% difficult and complex, and Little Buddy was considered a 10 out 10 on the challenging scale.

So please don’t let me scare you in to thinking that your life will look like this if you are ever moved to say “Yes” to foster care or adoption.

But if you do happen to find yourself in that place, please know you are not alone.

It wasn’t until I got the call from the attorney about the date for the adoption that I came face to face with my choice: was I going to let grief define me and this journey we had been on, or was I going to take a deep breath, stand back up and CHOOSE joy at what was ahead of us?

I had felt so guilty at calling any of this journey victorious or joyful because I was so close to the grief and loss and trauma of it all. I SAW that mama lose her babies. I WATCHED those kids grieve as the original plan that God had designed for that family painfully came apart forever.

It felt traitorous to call this next step a joyful occaision. I have never been more conflicted in my life.

To be clear, we KNEW that these children would not be safe if they went home. We KNEW it was the right decision from both Social Services and the Court of Law. We KNEW they were safe with us, stable with us, and even happy with us. It was their squeals and nervous tries of their new adoptive names that they were choosing that wakened me out of the conflicting grief in those tough moments.

Until that phone call came.

All the pieces of what I had been living up until that moment came to that choice: I could either STAY in that grief over the loss and rob my kids of a life-changing event that needed to be (and deserved to be) celebrated, or I could choose JOY and turn my face to look at what was happening right in front of me: in the midst of darkness and grief and pain, a new life was being created. In the middle of the greatest loss a child could endure was the hope of new beginnings, if I would just let go of the past enough to see it.

Two beautiful, smart, funny and charming blonde-haired children needed a home and a family to call their own Forever. I had worked SO HARD for YEARS to earn their love, trust and devotion. And now I finally had it.

THAT was what we were going to celebrate.

As the attorney gave me the Court Date to show up, I knew it was time to make the final leap:

It was time to choose to celebrate and time to choose joy.

If any one knows me, they know my spirit animal is the party animal. (Totally joking.)

Really though, throwing a party is my initial response to nearly every happy event I come across.

Tim once accused my of wanting to throw a party for the dog’s birthday if I could.

I really don’t see what is so bad about that?

I mean, life is already pretty tough if you’re doing it right, so why not acknowledge and create more moments for cake and friends??????

So when I started the mass text train informing close friends of Adoption Day, I was met with so many “Can we come?!” responses I started to question what we were doing.

Shop Cricut Today!

Here was my Village, showing up for me and my family, and I had just lost sight of how much they had cared along the way, how much they had invested along the way.

They couldn’t take my pain away from me, but they sat with me through it, and now I could see again… they had been there the whole time.

If you didn’t catch the back-and-forth of the calls with the attorney and judge and family and friends and teachers and caseworkers, you can read that post here.

Suffice it to say, we created a bit of a shenanigans to get permission for all our Village to show up that day.

It was incredible.

Teachers went out of their way to find subs and bring classmates, caseworkers moved meetings and schedules around to be present, family sat available and waiting for a FaceTime call six states away, and friends gave up their day off to drive downtown to a big scary courthouse just to see it through.

Our attorney thanked us for our bravery and perseverance, sharing his own experience watching the broken system turn over broken things to a broken world. He shared that in the middle of the worst times, foster parents just started stepping up in the last five years and committing to see these kids through to adoption, and how much hope it has brought him in the heartache he had been witnessing.

He said he had read over our kids’ case file many times as he prepared the final order for the adoption. He said he grieved with us but thanked us, sayng how he could see we stuck it out with these kids in the most difficult of circumstances. He commended us for seeing it through, sharing about what a difference it made to him to be able to witness this day.

It was seventeen pages long, he just happened to mention.

Seventeen.

Of course, Lord.

The judge and the bailiff and the transcriber all laughed and loved and teared up right along with us as we signed papers and shared our story with them.

They thanked us for making it such a happy day for them.

Being in that court room was a sobering reminder of all the heartache that had gone on before us, at times even in that same room.

The hallway where our group was waiting was the same exact place our babies’ foster mom hugged me sobbing, thanking me and begging me to please take care of her babies, just over a year before.

None of that was lost on me, but the weight of that grief could no longer be magnetized to me.

We had chosen to come to celebrate the beginning of a new life together with these children. We were celebrating that out of the ashes was beauty, that we were trading our sorrow and pain for hope and promise.

And every child deserves to have a fresh start and a new beginning when they have had to say goodbye to loss.

Pink or Blue, Which One's for You?

That’s what we did on Adoption Day.


After photos and hugs and tears and photos, we all headed home for takeout pizza and half gallon tubs of ice cream.

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There was peace and joy and giggles and rehearsing and love.

If you had told me four months before that what it all would have looked like, I really would not have believed you, could not have believed you.

But as Tim and I sat in bed that night, soaking up the silence of the house, sharing our own insights of the day, he finished his video of his version of Adoption Day…

and I could believe it after that.

Thank you all for being a part of our journey.

Disclaimer: any of the clickthroughs you find on my pages are links to products that I have used and love and trust. I may make a small commission on anything you purchase on the other side of the link, so please know it will go to fund my crazy projects, wild ideas and writing habits. It will not cost anything extra for you. Thank you for your love and support!


Ways to Support Someone in the Online Space

In the ever-changing world of the internet, with technology literally changing at the speed of life, it can be difficult to know how your presence in the online space can possibly help someone else succeed.

It is true, though: your very clicking through the world wide web, the websites you choose, the places you stop to read and shop and learn… they all carry power that weighs in any direction you choose.

There are a few super simple ways that you can help someone who is trying to start out in the online world. Here are just a few that I know I am learning:

  1. Follow them on any social media platforms they have.

This is such a simple way to help because, to put it simply, numbers matter. The number of likes on their Page helps them gain access to greater platforms they may be trying to reach, So if you’re on Instagram, Follow them there. Facebook? Like their Page. YouTube and Pinterest? Subscribe and Follow there, too. There is no limit to the ways that fans affect bloggers on social media.

2. If you follow them, RESPOND to their content!!!

When you see they are posting something that touches you or speaks to your heart, let the world know!! A “Like” on a post is nice, it’s like a nod in someone’s direction, acknowledging they exist. Picking a different emoji, like a heart or laugh or wow, is a more noticeable response to your blogger friend, similar to saying “hello” with a smile. If you REALLY want to support them, COMMENT on their post with MORE THAN FIVE WORDS, showing the algorithms that you are on board with whatever they are posting. If you want to be BFFs for life… SHARE every post that resonates with you.

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When you respond to the content of a post, you are showing the world what you are in to. Facebook will show your Shared Post and sometimes your comments to all of YOUR friends, friends that your blogger may not have, but may need to get connected with. Each time others see your blogger is another chance for the numbers to grow. It is a huge and easy way to help them out.

3. Sign up for their email list.

Okay, only do this one if you are really loving the content they have and want to be a part of their fan base. If you don’t open the emails and use the clickthroughs in there, don’t bother signing up: their numbers will actually look WORSE if you don’t open them rather than just not signing up at all.

Responding to the emails, even with a simple “XOXO” is a great way to let their email company know that the writer is doing a good job and not sending spam.

4. Spend time on their website.

If you like following your blogger, chances are you are probably already spending time on their website. Each time you click a link from Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest or YouTube, that link takes you to their site.

The more people that spend time on that site, the better the numbers look. Those numbers are SO important to companies that are looking at that blogger for up and coming promotions, opportunities and offers.

Are you reading their blog and have a few extra minutes? Click around and read another that catches your attention. It means so much more than you can imagine!

Bonus Tip: Click on any of their links on their pages!

Do you need something from Amazon? Click the link that your blogger posted on her site, and she will get the credit for your purchase, a small percentage given to her at NO EXTRA COST TO YOU!

Do you need to replenish your paper check supply? Use her ChecksUnlimited link so a portion of the sale goes to her.

Photo Checks now available at Designer Checks!

How about stocking up on craft supplies? Click the Cricut link she has listed to give her the percentage of the sales.

Shop Cricut Today!

Do any neices or nephews or grandbabies have a birthday coming up? Click through Melissa & Doug to earn her a little commission off of that purchase.

Melissa and Doug

Do you have a business or help at your church where you can order bulk quantities of Dollar Tree items, where you can get them shipped for $4.95 or even FREE most of the time?

You NEVER have to pay extra for these sales, yet the numbers and percentages can really add up and mean so much to your blogger.

I know how I felt when I saw the first commission hit my affiliate account. Weeks before, as I spent so much time and effort on setting it out and learning it, I was feeling so small and so stupid, thinking it was a waste of time and how could I ever make this work? I knew I needed to stay home with my kids for the next ten years, and I WANT to stay home with them… having the freedom to do that can be such a different thing.

Seeing that $11.96 sale in my affiliate account made my heart soar and make me feel ALIVE.

It worked.

It happened.

I was doing it.

There is still so very, very far to go, but I am just so proud of myself for doing the thing, and after that, watching it work for real.

So the next time you see a blog that you got something out of, go ahead and try a few of the tips I listed here, and know how grateful she will be, and how life changing you can be… even with just one click.

Disclaimer: any of the clickthroughs you find on my pages are links to products that I have used and love and trust. I may make a small commission on anything you purchase on the other side of the link, so please know it will go to fund my crazy projects, wild ideas and writing habits. It will not cost anything extra for you. Thank you for your love and support!


and at the Wall house

the children were stir crazy

much louder than a mouse.

I wish I had better poetry for you to entertain you this evening, but as you can see, it is the night before Valentine’s Day and with all the craziness we have had in our house, I am pulling out all the stops and shenanigans to make tomorrow come together for my kids.

When I was a little girl, my mother had a gift for making every holiday special. She would surprise us and put her magic touch on it, so we never knew how much or how little money we had, nor how much or how little stress she was carrying.

It didn’t matter if it was Easter baskets or presents under the Christmas tree or Valentine’s gifts for birthdays, somehow she made it so every gift seems like the greatest treasure we could have ever received. Tissue paper, themes for each holiday, special lotions or special chocolate… Each occasion was just as special as the other.

I remember one time in high school where mom had a talk with us but things were a little tight this year, so to please not expect too much under the Christmas tree. I had heard her say this enough times before, and with my little sister standing there listening to the lecture as well, she couldn’t help herself: she laughed out loud at mom, reminding her that every time she said that, she always seemed to pull out even more stops and made it great.

Looking back now, I realize that our gifts were not always extravagant: we seemed to have a lot, but I also remember getting super excited over an alarm clock, and squealing over outfits that I opened in fresh boxes under the tree. We looked for the orange in the bottom of our stocking every year just as much as the final gift we would receive as sisters, where my parents would usually send us on a Scavenger Hunt through the house with clues hand written from Dad in order to find our last gift, that would be for all three of us collectively.



Once I got married and started having children of my own, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the seeds that she had planted for me as a child had now grown into full-fledged dreams for me for my own children. Every holiday was an occasion to celebrate. Every day marked on the calendar was a pass for me to celebrate something. And I was determined with everything in me to create those sweet moments for my children, just as I cherished in my own childhood even until now.

Having six kids at home is a constant guessing game of how much I can get done in a day versus the daily shenanigans of household hiccups, scrapes and appointments, school projects that I forgot to check their folders for, and friends and family that my kids want to reach out to… which means me because they can’t drive nor pay for the token gift they want to bless someone with…

This holiday came no differently. Finishing taxes and coming off of the Cloud 9 of Adoption Day, Valentine’s Day sneaked up on me like my kids trying to get to the candy cabinet.

I gave myself ten minutes to run into the Dollar Tree on the way to pick them up from school, and did a Supermarket Sweep to grab all things Valentine.

Did I mention the part where I forgot to budget that?

(And yes, budgeting for Valentine’s Day is a thing when you have six kids, each with six sets of friends, six classrooms to party in, and six ways to love them on that day.)

So through the store I went, drumming up the plan as I dashed.

With theater boxes of candy at $1 each and bags of balloons priced the same, I was able to get myself a pretty good stash, stat.

They also had gorgeous Hallmark cards, all wrapped in plastic with the envelope to keep it safe before it’s destination.

I was equal parts sold and relieved.

I knew which candy each of my kids loved, so I grabbed it all and knew I was speaking their language.

I was hoping to blow up the balloons with our helium tank at the shop, but it was rainy and cold and dark and late, so I reminded myself I was doing us all a favor by keeping them from flying in to the ceiling fan just moments after the morning surprise.

I rooted through the basement closet to find the perfect tablecloth in my stash and blew up as many balloons as I could handle.

I felt just a twinge of guilt as I hand wrote their names on the candy with a Sharpie instead of the handwritten cards I have done in the past.

Then I reminded myself that the heightened emotions from Adoption Day have kept us sharing our words and feelings and quality time more than usual.

I am certain the squeals of delight I hear as those little monkeys peek over the stairs tomorrow morning will not be any less quiet because I did not hand write each individual card.

So can I just encourage every one of you to love the ones you’re with, and let them know as often as possible?

Don’t wait for everything to be perfect and lined up before you let them know.

Even if the candy box has handwriting and the card is not present and the balloons are not helium…

Change the world, and start by living your family well.

Happy Valentine’s Day

Disclaimer: any of the clickthroughs you find on my pages are links to products that I have used and love and trust. I may make a small commission on anything you purchase on the other side of the link, so please know it will go to fund my crazy projects, wild ideas and writing habits. It will not cost anything extra for you. Thank you for your love and support!


Both important parts of a new beginning.

Pink or Blue, Which One's for You?

Monday, Monday.

I took some time to go through my emails this afternoon.

With all the crazy shenanigans of adoption week and so much more, I had over 300 emails by the time I started deleting them today.

As some of you know, I started taking an online course last week that teaches you how to use the online space to make money.

It is an amazing course and I am loving what I am learning, especially with how it will enable me to stay home with my kids while being creative and staying local and active in our community. It seems like a win on every side.

It has made me very aware of the brain space that I use in just deleting emails that, quite frankly, are junk.

I unsubscribed to so many different email lists today.

(Why did I need Big Lots and Dollar General ads, again???)

It was a little annoying to do all the clicking, but so very freeing to start making some progress.

I felt like I was taking time back from where I have lost so much the past few years.

I felt like I was organizing life in a better way from where my energy had been sucked out of me the past few years

And then I opened the email from adoptUSkids.org.

That was a tough one.

For over three years I have been clicking through that website. In the beginning, I would scroll it sometimes on a daily basis, praying and looking for our two kids that I know that God had shown me.

One time, Tim even found two children that seemed like they fit both the description in our heart, and what would work for our family.

When we thought Little Buddy was going home, and he was just so hard and things were just so awful, I would login online and look for kids that were easier and more peaceful and just needed a home.

I searched for sibling sets, reading the comments on how to keep them together, and why they worked so well together.

I was jealous of siblings that were better together as I faced the heartache of our siblings that that had to be separated to become healthy.

As I stared at the screen this afternoon, all these memories came flooding back to me.

So many times, I was tempted to leave our profile outdated so I could not access these kids anymore.

So many times, I overrode my aching heart because I could not stop looking at these kids that needed love and homes and prayer.

A few times, I even cut out their pictures from a printed page and taped them near my desk or to my calendar to remember to pray for them. I would check in months later to see that they had found their forever homes.


When you can’t unsee something, the next best thing is to see it through to find peace in your heart.

Today I feel like I have to say goodbye to this part of me.

I feel like I have to accept this part of what I cannot change so I can move forward to do the things to fix the problem in my corner of the world.

I am going to let our profile lapse and I am going to stop logging in to see those kids.

I know that I have finally found a way to help the problem in our corner of the world.

Cricut Gives Your Ultimate Cutting Precision


I know that taking these classes and learning so much about the online space is going to enable me to do more in the world for adoption and foster care and substance abuse and addiction and domestic violence and all the things that I have witnessed and had to keep silent about up until this point.

I know I cannot give this new part of me the best of me if I continue to hold onto things that were a part of the past that need to stay there.

If any of you are at all interested in walking with me on this next part of our journey to help our corner of the world, comment here or send me a message and I will add you to the email list so you can at least see what’s going on.

There is so much to be done, and so many ways that each one of us can help with our corner of the world.

Me? I will start by loving these six kids in my home that depend on me to raise them to fulfill their dreams. Then I will take all that I have learned about the needs in our community to take the next step to change our county and beyond. And I will be using the online space and all these classes to do it.

Saying goodbye to some things can be so very hard, even when we can see a little bit of what is ahead of us. I know those kids are out there, I know they need prayer, but I also know that if I move forward with what I see ahead of me, I can help fix the problem down the line, before these kids get into the system and before they end up on this website.

Truly, it takes a village and I invite everyone of you to come alongside of me with it.

Here’s to our new adventure, no matter how difficult it may sometimes seem to close the chapter behind us.

Love,
Tara

Vintage Minnie Mouse checks at Checks Unlimited

Disclaimer: any of the clickthroughs you find on my pages are links to products that I have used and love and trust. I may make a small commission on anything you purchase on the other side of the link, so please know it will go to fund my crazy projects, wild ideas and writing habits. It will not cost anything extra for you. Thank you for your love and support!


How I’m Learning to Live

“You’re breaking new ground here, my dear…”

Says the attorney to me over our fifth phone call in two days as we try to get permission for all the things we want to pull off on Adoption Day…

We are discussing the number of people allowed, the technology allowed, and the process to make it all happen.

(No one has ever asked to FaceTime in our City Court House before?!?!)

I am so grateful for modern technology, people in authority that are willing to make that fifth phone call, and judges and lawyers that work so hard to follow all rules and laws while honoring the purpose of what they do.

I can’t help but think the attorney was prophesying over every other area of my life when he said that.

I’ll take every bit of that new ground, please and thank you.

And thank you, Lord.

Disclaimer: any of the clickthroughs you find on my pages are links to products that I have used and love and trust. I may make a small commission on anything you purchase on the other side of the link, so please know it will go to fund my crazy projects, wild ideas and writing habits. It will not cost anything extra for you. Thank you for your love and support!

Melissa and Doug