Wednesday, October 26, 2016

My Desert Season: It's okay to not be okay

I live for Fall in Southern Oregon.
I enjoy winter, tolerate spring and wish summer away just so I can get to Fall. I know we are incredibly blessed to actually experience each season in their truest forms, from the occasional snow and ice, beautiful lush green, hot summer days and all the autumnal colors of the leaves you could imagine.


Sometimes it's hard to find the good in the seasons. Maybe it's an endless season of bitter cold winter that leaves you feeling dry, the early darkness settles over you like a winter coat and you never take it off. A numbness creates a callous layer over your heart and instead of feeling everything, it just slides over you. It's too much. You long for a spring breeze to melt away the ice, to see new life spring up from the frozen ground and maybe catch glimpse of a rainbow promise in the sky.

I've been there. In fact, earlier this year, one disappointment after another amounted to a whole lot of lost hope and doubt in God.

I was done with the whole thing. I was done pouring my life out only to feel like all I was getting in return was neglect and that I'd been forgotten. I felt like God probably loved me, but He didn't actually care about me. It wasn't anything massive, it was just a lot of little things that piled up. 

In fact I was most angry about this part. I'd never doubted when a close family friend died quickly of cancer, when my own Mom was diagnosed with cancer, when we faced a time where we thought we might be leaving our church, when my family broke apart. I clung to God and took great leaps and bounds in my faith during those times. I was angry that this season, this series of little events was derailing my faith.  

I was angry. Our family was nearing the end of our first ever foster placement which put incredible strain and exhaustion on our family, albeit moments of great joy. We literally had our lives put upside down and I felt like God just kind of forgot about it all, didn't care, couldn't be bothered. 

I stopped talking to God. I made a conscious decision to not pray. I'd never been in a place like this before. It was scary, it was very real and I was determined to not show up unless God did.

I did let my husband and my close friend know what I was walking through. I decided to read Henri Nouwen's book about when he walked through a similar time. I needed to know others were praying for me when I wasn't, and I needed to know it was okay to be in this "spiritual crisis". 

Everyday I said, "I'm not praying, but if you're there you need to pursue me- because I'm not going to do it". 

I read up on Mother Teresa's own season of spiritual doubt, and incredibly she went through a very long season toward the end of her life, and some say she died still feeling that way. We don't often hear that talked about, but it made me feel better. If Mother Teresa was doing all she was going and giving her life away while living in a desert of sorts, I guessed she wasn't the only spiritual leader that had walked through this thing. 

I did more reading, and more searching all the while avoiding my Bible because I was still angry. I cussed at God. I told Him how I felt, often. I continued to tell Him that he had to make the first move. I was tired of the one-way relationship and I wasn't having it anymore.


When seasons change it's not very sudden. There's a gradual shift in the daylight, the grass slowly turns brown, the leaves turn one by one, each day looking a little different than the one before.

That's how it was for me. Nothing changed overnight for me. God didn't show up in some mighty way, cementing that He was in fact there and that He did in fact care for me.
It's just that my heart slowly softened, I remember the day I actually prayed instead of telling Him off. I picked up my Bible and asked for Him to show up. 
I didn't rocketship out of the desert I'd found myself in, it was a slow army crawl. One day I just realized I wasn't mad anymore.

I knew deeper in my soul than I ever had before, that while God cared for me, it was not in the way I'd been looking for. My carnal eyes saw the finite things and longed for God to show up in the areas I expected outright demanded Him to. God cares in the infinite ways, in the eternal ways and those are beyond my comprehension. His timeline is endless, unlike mine- His is forever. It's the soul he longs to win and capture. 


It's okay to not be okay. It's okay to wrestle and question and probe- God's mercy allows us that, His Grace covers it and His sovereignty redeems it.

It's October now but life feels like summer- a season of abundance and joy, and while it feels so good to be here, I am thankful that I can look back and see how God gently guided me.


He carried me here, into this season and as the seasons change, because they undoubtedly will, I can say with absolute certainty I will be okay. Even if I'm not okay. 




"I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me."
Psalm 16:8

Friday, August 26, 2016

From Work to Home and Back Again: A Mom's Tale

I didn't know much, but I knew that one day I would be a stay at home Mom. I had known that from the time I was pretty young. I never felt pressure to do so and in fact my own Mom had worked part time outside of the home most of my growing up years. I just knew that was what I wanted to do.

I decided at orientation day, after registering for my first semester at SOU that a traditional 4 year college was not for me. After spending a few more years working at a local coffee shop that I had been working at since I was 16, I decided to try something that had always fascinated me. Phlebotomy. A dear friend of ours had just gone to school and then been hired at a lab and encouraged me to do the same. I was pumped. I nailed every test and quiz and practiced drawing blood on my supportive family and friends. I immediately got hired at a integrative doctors office and began my career as a Phlebotomist, Shortly after being hired they began to expand and I set my eyes on becoming a Medical Assistant for the new Endocrinologist in town. I was trained on the job and loved the new challenges it brought and I would spend the next few years there working full time.

Trevor and I had been married for 5 years when we decided we wanted to expand our family. I left work just a month before Jack made his nearly 4 week early arrival. It was an incredibly hard adjustment, not really going from working to being home- but caring for an early baby with reflux and the sudden feeling of isolation. On the hardest days when I was lonely, crying and holding a crying baby I would think..."Would I rather be at work right now?" The answer was always no. The hardest, craziest days at home would always be my personal choice over working outside the home and having someone else holding my baby for me. I just couldn't fathom it. And so we trucked along.

A mere 2 1/2 years later the twins were born. I was now home with 3 kids under 3 and it. was. crazy. I was a wreck at times and loved my breaks away from the chaos...but I couldn't keep away long. I'd rather the chaos than the feeling of being away from them.

It was hard. Not just emotionally. but financially. We went from a double income and no kids to a single (pastor's) income with 3 kids really fast. We rented for 7 years, we said no to a LOT of extras and we had a lot of financial setbacks due to necessities for our family. For us, it was worth it. A million times over.


So, here we are 8 years and 2 months since I left my job outside of our home and we are entering a new season. A season where all three of our boys will be full time in a wonderful local public school. I really can't believe we have arrived at this point, but we are here. It made sense for me to look for work outside of the home again and so at the beginning of summer we started talking about what that would look like. One thing led to the next and now here I am, just a few short days away from starting work again. I have the great opportunity to work part time at my boys school. It's so fantastic I can still hardly believe it. Getting to be where they are, and home when they are home including breaks and summer...it's just amazing. Being that it's part time I still get to do the volunteer work I've been doing as well, and even coffee dates with friends and lunch dates!

I am looking forward to this new adventure, this new reality for our family and this next season. I would be lying if I said I wasn't sad my boys were at this stage, or nervous about re-entering the workforce after 8 years. Those things are normal, and I will walk through it all with my biggest fan of a husband.

The past 8 years at home have been some of the hardest, best, exhausting and yet most rewarding moments of my life and I am so thankful I got to be with my kids every single day- raising them, holding them and being there for every first. The hardest, ugliest days were still worth it.


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Good Parts of Saying Good-Bye

I've shared so much about the heartache of saying good-bye to our foster son. But honestly, having him here was really really hard.

There have been a lot of good things since he left and I wouldn't be telling the whole story if I left those out.

I was in a pretty dark spot for awhile when Little Man was here. I wasn't able to do the things that keep me afloat and I was struggling. So many people were willing to help, but I didn't even know what to ask for, or how to ask it. After he left we talked a lot about what sort of things would need to happen if we were to take another foster child in. There would be things we would have to do differently if we were going to not just survive in it, but thrive. It's so important to have the hard and honest conversations about how this sort of thing affects you and your family, otherwise you set yourself up for burnout and failure.

Jack really started to hate school. He's an amazing student, extremely smart and has lots of friends, and yet getting him to school became a battle all of the sudden. He started having stomach aches and I got a few calls from the office. He may not have been able to verbalize everything he was feeling, but what we got out of him was that he was at school and Little Man was home with me, and even his brothers were only in school for a short amount of time. He was feeling left out, sad that he was away from me and he wasn't angry at Little Man but he definitely felt the transition of this in a different way.

The boys miss Little Man a lot, and ask about him often. Jack even asks if we can adopt him. There was not a lack of love and acceptance, and only once did one of our kids say they were annoyed by him. That doesn't mean it wasn't hard to share not just their space, but their time with another child.

We've loved the freedom again to just pick up and take off, go on a trip or head out of town to the beach for the day. I don't miss changing diapers. I don't miss the mess of a new eater and I was so over making bottles! While I loved rocking him to sleep, I missed my sleep. Our boys are great sleepers, and for the most part have always been. I took that for granted!


Since Little Man went back with his Mom, we've been much more in tune with each of our kids needs. We've been more intentional and it's been a good time for us to evaluate. I've also been able to be a lot more honest with myself about what I'm capable of, as a stay at home Mom of three (then 4) boys and the kinds of things that I need in my life to be able to function in a sane way.

It's a tough balance. Figuring out the part that says "sacrifice will hurt" and also "don't kill yourself or your family". It looks different for every family, and while I don't want to scare anyone away from doing foster care....you have to be able to honestly asses what you and your family are capable of long term.

As we move forward in evaluating our lives and schedules, it's important to us we continue to have those honest talks and stay involved in some way. The need is desperate, I cannot stress that enough. We hope to be an example of a normal family with young kids that took a leap of faith and despite the hard parts--it was worth every single second.

Even if we didn't have the relationship with Little Man's Mom that we do, it would be worth it. I'm so thankful for the added bonus of our continued involvement. I am looking forward to seeing what God does.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Two Months Later

It's been quiet around these parts. Sometimes writing things down is so good for my processing, and other times I have to process first before I can write anything coherent.

According to my last post we were preparing to say goodbye to our foster son. Preparing is a funny word. When I prepare dinner I have the ingredients at the ready, but there is nothing at the ready in this sort of situation. You wash the clothes and sort out the ones that he still fits in and will go with him. You fold and store the ones he has outgrown in his time with you, remembering each outfit and thankful you took so many darn pictures. You set aside the one pair of footie pajamas he came in, sniffing in the smell of them and tucking them in a special box. You sanitize the toys, boxing up the ones that are his and putting the others away in case another little one comes to stay for awhile. You then ask your husband to remove every item in the home that would remind you of him, the gate, the high chair, the bottles and diapers... because if it's there after he is gone, every time you look at them it will punch you in the gut. You do leave his picture on the wall, the one you took and the one made into a Mother's Day gift. You don't erase him, you honor and acknowledge his space in your home and in your life, if even for a few short months. You watch the window for the social worker to pull up in the state car and remove him from your arms. You rock and rock and sing and pray and squeeze and hold tight until she comes.

That is the preparing you can do. There is no preparing your heart for the feeling of loss that comes. You have mothered a child. You've attended to the midnight cries with soothing rocks in the comfy chair and warm bottles. You've sung the goodnight song, said the prayers and the scripture over him. You've done the doctor visits, the antibiotics, the care of wounds. You've been the arms he's come back to after visits with him Mom, you've been the safe haven and the routine and schedule he's depended on. Your kids have bonded to him like any other new sibling, your family has embraced him as their own. Your church family, scrambling to hold him or see him- to love on him. You have given birth to a kind of love in your heart you didn't know existed. A new kind of love that represents a new characteristic of Christ, one that doesn't even make sense because you are loving a child that is not your own, nor will he ever be yours....and yet you go all in because you don't know how not too.

You've done the dance with social workers, judges, attorneys, and extended family. You've shown grace when you wanted to curse. You've advocated for him and been protective of him while also championing his mother and that has not been easy. You have put your own feelings aside, and trusted God to write this little one's story. 

And now you must relinquish him. You will no longer have a say in his care, his future, his life. You were a middle mom. You served your part for a time and now that time has come to an end and while the daily routine of caring for him ends...your heart does not stop caring. It can not, will not stop the loving, caring, aching for this child because that is not how love works. And there is no preparing for the hurt and grief you feel when that separation happens. 

It's been just over two months since we said goodbye and although we are still in touch it is so very different. To go from Mom to friend, to watch and not step in as he's given food too old for him or starts to run out into danger. To give his Mom space to learn to mother him while also not just turning a blind eye. Carefully choosing words that encourage and guide instead of judging. Walking the line of support and care, while creating boundaries for us all is a whole new sort of balancing act.

His eyes light up when he sees us. He knows us. I pray someday he will know just how much we loved him and still do...and why we loved him the way we did. This is the good and hard love we are called to. 



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

A Letter To Our Foster Baby: Preparing To Say Goodbye

We knew your time with us would be temporary. We knew that whether it was a month or a year, at some point we would say good-bye to you. We knew it would hurt. We knew that it would be difficult no matter when the good-bye happened, but we also knew there would be no way to fully prepare for it.

I will never forget when you were dropped off at our home. 7 months old, wide eyed and curious. I can only imagine what was going on in your head. I think I was just as wide-eyed and curious as you were. The next few weeks were such a blur, I'm thankful I documented your days with pictures. My how you've grown.

You got two teeth while you were here. You learned to walk and say your first words.

I want you to know, you were afforded everything our own children were while you were with us. Every bit as much love, as much care and every bit as much prayer. We sang you the same songs we sing to our boys every night when we tuck them in. We picked out your own Bible verse to pray over you, and we often said it through tears. My Mom made you a Lovey, just like she made one for our boys and you instantly attached to it, seeking the same comfort from it that they do.

You were tenderly rocked to sleep on the nights you cried out when we couldn't think of anything else to do. You were tended to with care and concern during the several sicknesses you endured while you were here. You were a part of our holiday traditions, our "framily" time and birthday parties. You were a part of our training for races, church life and everything else. You were never treated like anything other than a child of ours.

We did not hold back in our love, or in our fervent prayers for you, or in our supplying you of everything you needed. You have not wanted for anything. We have asked the Lord to intercede on your behalf, we have asked Him to protect you and to draw you to Himself. We have asked that no matter where you go from our home, you will know deep in your soul that you were loved here and that as deep as our love goes for you, the Father loves you that much more. We pray you will seek Him and find Him in the days ahead.

Little Man, our boys have loved you from the moment you entered our house. They have never treated you like anything other than a brother. They've been protective of you, thoughtful about you and they have loved you with a love that we had never seen. You taught them how to love in a whole new way and they are more like Jesus because of it.

You will leave a void in our hearts. My heart is already breaking into a million pieces at the thought of you not being with us, but I do not regret for one moment saying "yes" to this, and "yes" to you. You are worth the pain in my heart, you are worth the sacrifice we've made to love you big, and hard, and without strings attached. You deserved to be loved so much that it hurts. You are not a mistake, or an accident, or a problem- you are precious. You have a hope and a future and we are grateful to have played, even just a small part, in your life.

You, my sweet boy...you changed us. You showed us what it really means to have our heart broken for the things that break the heart of Jesus. You have shown us that it is possible for things to be hard and good, and ugly and beautiful all at the same time. Your little life matters.

We will grieve you. It will not be pretty, but we will do this again for another little one because there are more of you out there that deserve this love. And we will pray that others who have watched us open our hearts and home to you, we will pray that they will choose to say "yes" as well because there are so many like you who need to be loved hard, and fully and we will tell them...it is so worth it.

You are so worth it.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Wounded Birds: Caring For The Least Of These

We came upon an injured robin at our doorstep. He'd been hopping along, but as Trevor grew closer and he did not fly away we saw his wing was damaged.

I quickly googled "what to do with an injured bird" and we placed him on a towel in a box very gently and closed the lid.

I called our local wildlife rescue and they asked us to bring him in. Our boys hopped in the car with Trev and they made the trek 45 minutes away. 

That might seem like a lot for a bird, but we felt it was important to teach our boys that we care for animals too, and a suffering bird matters and that there are really cool places that exist to rescue and rehabilitate animals from the wild.

They handed the box over and Trevor took them for an ice cream treat for a job well done.

I messaged the refuge today, hoping for an update on Mr. Robin. Unfortunately it wasn't what I'd hoped for. He had suffered a severe compound fracture in addition to a dislocated wing and couldn't be saved. While we are so sad, we are glad the little guy didn't suffer more- as I'm sure a cat would have gotten to him quickly. 

It didn't really end the way I had hoped or wished for, but if we had known he wouldn't make it we would have still picked him up and driven him to get care, we would have still taught our boys to be responsible and caring and to seek help for wounded ones. Despite the ending we did not plan for, the 2 hour trip on a Sunday afternoon wasn't wasted.


Today was the first day I've really thought hard about when we have to say goodbye to Little Man. The reality is we will say goodbye. It could be rather soon, or it could be awhile from now, but that day will come. We'd like to hope that we would be hopeful about where he goes from here, we'd wish for the best possible for him and we'd like to see a future before him that is full of joy and possibility and healing. The truth is, we may not like where he goes from here. We may have concerns and worries about where he goes to when he leaves us and those are beyond our control.

You want, ever so much, for this to be a bridge between brokenness and healing but the reality is you may not ever get to see that healing. You may not be privy to that information or it may not bring the wholeness you prayed for in your time. We cannot say yes to foster care if we can only handle the "good" goodbyes. The ones that reunite a healthy family that has worked hard, or the new forever family that offers so much love and redemption you couldn't have asked for more. These happen, but the other kind happen to. The returns to family that make you question the system over and over again. The returns that make you weep in fear for the future of the child who you loved while they were in your care. Some returns do not offer the hope of healing you so desperately want to see.

Would we say no if we knew when they left us it was not for what we hoped? If we could have seen the future and saw the continued heartache and loss a child would endure, would we have still stepped in to offer comfort and peace in the midst of that storm? Absolutely. Because that is not the reason you foster. It is not about happy endings.
It's much bigger than that- there is a bigger story you are a part of- a bigger Hope to hold on to and that is what you cling to when the water seems muddy and you're broken for these children. You must cling to the hope that the story doesn't end there- 


So you love. You love hard and big and you provide comfort and safety and you go all in- because you do not know what may lay ahead, you battle for them while they are in your care and trust as they leave your nest there is Someone who watches over them and cares for them more than you ever possibly good and He knows all about redemption and restoration and He is still writing those stories...

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Day I Tried To Quit

Today I wanted to quit. Little Man woke up with a yucky nose- we just can't catch a break. It's been 8 weeks since placement and we've not gone more than 10 days without some sort of sickness with him. He's miserable when he's sick, obviously and when babies are miserable so are the parents. He still wakes up in the night- we are exhausted.

People ask us all the time how long we will have him, but that's just not how foster care works. You aren't given children and told it will be "x number of days". You really have no idea, and even when you might start to, things change in the 11th hour and you just have to go with the flow. Nothing is concrete or absolute. It's all so day to day.

I had to pull out of the Avenue of the Giants Race completely. First I pulled out of the Half-Marathon, after my concussion and broken toe I knew I wouldn't be ready to train the way I wanted for it. I switched my registration to the 10k and then I decided I wouldn't be able to even do that. There is no margin for me to train. No margin for the things I had been doing. To say I was upset is an understatement. I couldn't even talk about it with Trevor because I was so teary. Sure I could walk the whole thing, but I'm stubborn and I want to do it the way I planned to do it- I don't like feeling like I didn't meet the goal I had so I'd rather not go half...bottomed.

The reality is, some days I cope with my new situation better than others. Some days I'm pretty okay with this new life and some days I struggle to make it to bedtime without a breakdown. It can just be so very isolating and there is nothing I can do to change it, nothing anyone else can do...it's just a reality.

So I told Trevor I quit. When he leaves us I'm done. I can't do this anymore. It's just too hard.

And then Kristen Welch from We Are That Family wrote a blog and published it the same day. The title of the blog?  For When We Are Too Tired To Keep Going - the section that made my eyes well up said "How many challenging marriages and hard parenting seasons and difficult jobs and acts of wild obedience have worn us out and begged us to walk away. Let’s face it, sometimes quitting is easier. But often, digging in and pushing past our weariness is where we meet a holy God that says, Come unto me and lay your burden down.
And then He fills our arms with Blessings and says this is why you must not stop."
Yeah, okay so that was timely.  And then, later that day Ann blogged, about their journey this past year and about their road to adoption. Yeah, I cried some more. 
"Sometimes — The story isn’t going how you planned, but that isn’t a reason to stop trusting that the story has a plan. Sometimes, turns out? You clearly not being enough  —- is what makes the enoughness of God most clearly seen."
Oh for the love...okay I get it already.
But a few hours later, on Instagram, Angie Smith shared about a rough day she was having, missing her Charlotte and feeling the prompting of the Holy Spirit when to where she was buried, and posted a video of her driving by it with the beautiful spring in bloom and the song that played? 
UGH. 
The song that is Little Man's, the one he fell asleep to in my arms that first night and the one that speaks over him...even though you are lacking in an earthly father right now- Jesus is the Good Good Father who provides all you will need. 
So, I won't quit. I will keep on, trusting that my not being enough is what shows Jesus most clearly to others, and trusting for Little Man and that our God is a Good Good Father, who provides all we need. 

(*Update since my "I tried to quit day"--  I emailed the race director and said I still wanted to do the 10k, even if it meant walking the whole time--stubbornness be darned)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hard But Good: Honesty (Foster Care)

Hard but good. That's sort of the best way to describe the past 6 weeks. So much has been hard, and yet so much has been good.

When we got Little Man, Trevor had such a bad cough he spent the first 5 nights on the couch so his coughing didn't wake up the baby. Shortly after that, Little Man cut two teeth the same week he came down with a cold (I think he was starting this before we even got him). As his cold worsened the Doctor confirmed my suspicions that he had developed a double ear infection. He was miserable. Screaming, difficult to soothe, which I think the removal from his home only amplified, and would honestly downright yell at us throughout the day and especially during meal times.

Four days after we finished his antibiotics for the ear infection, he contracted Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD) most likely from the visitation center we take him to three times a week. Three days later, Camden got it and three days after that both Jack and Christian got it as well.  In the midst of that I, having not left the home in days and days somehow got a bad cold. I think my body just gave up.

I knew this would be tough, this foster care thing. I just didn't expect that our first nearly 6 weeks would be filled with constant sickness. The HFMD is super common, super contagious and can often be pretty tame despite the fact that you kind of have to wait it out a few days before going back out in public. Little Man's case of it was severe, and because of the every three days someone new got it...I'd been inside my house for 12 days with a sick child, leaving my walls only once in the past 9.

I've been more emotionally, physically and mentally drained than I can remember.

Despite our getting Little Man on a regular eating and sleeping schedule, we have yet to have any consistency in our new normal what with a new sickness popping up every other week. The realities of our sacrifices have been showing up here and there, ones we didn't really realize would happen I don't think. Or at the time maybe seemed small in the scheme of things.

I'm such an extrovert and I get my fill when I'm around people, especially people I love. You can usually find me every Wednesday night with the teenagers at church where I help lead a Table Group. It's often the highlight of my week and it's something I've had to say no to for right now. Little Man's bedtime does not work with Wednesday night schedule. That has been really difficult for me.

 I miss my quiet mornings after the boys go to school where I sit with my coffee, Bible and a book and soak. I miss being able to just head out for a run or walk without worrying about a nap schedule or pushing a jogger. I miss my early morning weekly walk with my closest friend.

Trevor and I haven't been on a date in almost 9 weeks. Some of you may say "that's nothing!" but for our marriage we identified a twice monthly date out as being vital to the health of both of us, our marriage and our family.

Ya'll that's been hard. But the good.....

Little Man's CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) called the other night to check up in him and us. I explained what the past nearly two weeks had been like and she said "You Foster families open your homes up to so much when you take in a child, sickness is one of those things. Another area your family is sacrificing for Little Man's foundation and future and I can't thank you enough. You are making a difference and I'm so sorry it's been so tough, but thank you."

It really was the encouragement I needed. Fostering is definitley isolating as it's extremely hard to explain the world to someone who isn't in it. I love being able to share and talk with people about it, but it is just hard to relate to. One thing that's been amazing in all of this is the incredible support we've received from friends and family. From the clothes, diapers, toys, wipes and formula being dropped off, to meals brought to our home, coffee delivered to my doorstep and numerous other blessings including our van being fixed and that bill unexpectedly paid in full. 

Saying yes to people offering to help isn't easy, but I have said yes on nearly every occasion this past 6 weeks to things people have offered and not only has our family been blessed because of it, the people who have done it have said it's been a blessing to them. Sometimes we just forget, it's not always about us.


As I was rocking and singing (he's too young to know I'm tone deaf) to Little Man the other night, weary from the days inside the house with sick children and a sick me...I remembered what we said to God. That we would do anything he asked of us. We would be used in whatever way he wanted and that we wanted to make a difference in the Kingdom for him. Right now that looks like taking care of Little Man. For this season, this is what "anything" looks like. And he is so worth it. His life is worth the hardships, the inconvenience and the jacked up schedule for a season. And yes we are eager for a healthy household and a new routine without sickness to be formed, but...Little Man is not a mistake, he matters and wherever he goes from our home...we pray that what he experienced here, the love and security and prayers over him would follow him all his days.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Month One: Foster Care

We are just over a month into our foster care journey, and just like everyone told us...it's been a whirlwind. The initial phase of shock and scramble to find all we needed to take care of Little Man soon shifted into a new exhaustion and rawness as we battled a double ear infection, cold and his first two teeth. After a short break and the taste of our new normal was settling in, Little Man came down with a horrible case of Hand, Foot and Mouth. We are still in the thick of it.

We're feeling pretty weary, and worn in all honesty. It already is exhausting, but to add to it the weeks upon weeks of sickness to it...it just feels immense. I refuse to paint a picture that isn't accurate so I won't hide the hard stuff, but there is so much good as well.

He's attaching to us, he's learned to clap and learned to find refuge in our arms instead of fighting it. He's quickly outgrowing clothes and will most likely walk sooner than later.
He's eating foods like avocados and blueberries and spinach, I've gotten him on a solid schedule that is consistent and brings comfort in routine for him. He is still waking once a night to eat but we are hoping to phase that out over the next month.

Our boys have adjusted so well, sometimes it's like Little Man has always been here. Even our dog has been incredible. It's still crazy, and we are still trying to figure out best how to make sure and get time with each of them ( and each other for that matter). Hoping once the "Plague of 2016" has lifted from our house we can get a date and set up some respite care for Little Man so we can have some time with just our boys.


We aren't special or amazing, it's not our desire or strength that gets us in these situations...it's God's. It's our going "all in" with whatever he has for us that has gotten us here and that's what sustains us.
We very much feel we are just doing what we can, we have a safe home and a loving family...that's all that's needed and so here we are. Do we feel "called" to foster care? No. We feel called to Jesus and this is just one way that plays out.

I have had so many people say "I've wanted to do this but I'm not sure how" or "I've thought about foster care but I just couldn't give them back" or "I want to know more about what you're doing"

Please email me. I would love to answer your questions, point you in the right direction or clear up misunderstandings. I would love to share with you more about what this looks like and if it's a right fit for your family...and if it's not there are dozens of other ways to support those that do this.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Jeremiah 33:3

Each of our boys have a Bible verse. We waited until they were several years old and got a sense of what their personality was, their innate traits and things we saw in them. 
We read over several scriptures for each until we really felt we found the right ones. 
These verses we had my friend Lauren design prints for, and we hung them in their bedrooms. 
We pray these over them every night at bedtime and they've memorized them as well. 
They even say them to one another at times. 

We chose verses that not only felt fitting for them, but that would be true about them in the future. That the truth would become a part of their identity and they would grow in them. 

Jack is a leader, which is pretty typical for firstborns. He's also super cautious and sometimes second guesses himself. He is tender, super smart and wants to know anything and everything he can about almost anything. We pray that as he grows, he would find courage in who he is and stand strong in what he believes. And that he would find his strength in the Lord.

Jack, be on your guard, stand firm in the faith...be a courageous (a man of COURAGE), be strong. 
1 Corinthians 16:13

Camden, as mischievous as he can be, truly is a peacemaker. He is the first to give up something to create peace, he's the consistent helper, and the first to say sorry and forgive. We pray has he gets older he would continue to be a peacemaker but not to be walked on, seeking out mercy for others and that love would be his default. 

Camden, to those who have been called by God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ, 
MERCY
PEACE
and LOVE
be yours in abundance.
Jude 2:1-2

Christian is slight in stature but big in emotions and feelings. He continues to work on controlling those emotions, because at this age when he's angry it's explosive and when he's excited and joyous he's been known to knock down unsuspecting friends with hugs. He's also the one with the most tender heart. As we work with him on processing his emotions in the right ways, we have seen and believe that he's always had this fighter/warrior spirit. Going back to his days in the NICU. 
We fully believe God has big plans for him and cannot wait to see God use him.

Christian, the Lord is with you, MIGHTY warrior.
Judges 6:12


A few days after we had been caring for Little Man I asked Jack if we should pick a verse for him. 
He said yes!
I asked him if he had any ideas, and he immediately said 

"Jeremiah 33:3"

I immediately began tearing up. Our boys listen to Seeds Worship in the car and at home. We love it because it's scripture, put to music but in a non-cheesy, whole family loves it kind of way. It's a wonderful way for kids (and adults) to memorize scripture and in essence hide it in their hearts. 

This is the first song on the album we listen to most often. 
This isn't Jack's favorite, nor is it one we often sing together. 
But it is so fitting. It's so incredible Jack didn't hesitate when he said this and I love that verses are on the tips of their tongues. 

Little Man, call to ME (Jesus) and I will answer you, I will tell you great and
unsearchable things you do not know
Jeremiah 33:3


We pray that wherever Little Man goes from here, wherever his life takes him he would have something inside of him that begs to search for more. That he would not be able to settle until he has sought out Jesus for his answers, because we have a faithful Father who will meet his every need. 

He may never know he was loved by us, we may never see where his life takes him. 
Whether or not we are a part of what his life looks like in the future, we know that God has his hand on him and will be faithful to meet him where he is and be the answer to his questions. 


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Reckless Love is Not Practical

About 3 years ago to the day I felt God moving in my heart to expand our family in a non-traditional way. I had returned from Haiti where I had seen first hand what it looked liked to partner with people so they could provide for their families and not have to give them up for adoption. I saw how partnering with people to help create sustainable businesses and giving them opportunities to succeed was orphan care at the very greatest. Preventing orphans is orphan care. I also saw situations where this was not possible, either due to parents being sick or having passed away or there was literally no other option. This is where I felt the tug. I could work alongside Trades of Hope and help with orphan care by partnering with parents, and we could also adopt.

Over the course of the next few years we took steps towards that, seeking out what international adoption would look like, moving forward with some fundraising which went towards initial paperwork and physicals and then eventually taking classes through child welfare to begin the process of adoption from within the system.

All along I said "I could never do Foster Care".  I could never willingly step into a system that is broken on so many levels. I could never take a child in, knowing that no matter how long they stayed with us, eventually they would leave. I could never put my heart on the line like that and risk the hurt that would come. I could never ask my children to sacrifice for another child that would only be with us temporarily. I could never disrupt the rhythm of our home for weekly visits with parents who may or may not show up. I could never disrupt our solid nights of sleep that we've been blessed with by children dealing with drug withdrawals, abandonment and attachment issues. Our house is too small, we already got rid of all of our baby items. We finally feel we have hit a stride now that the twins are older, we have a good thing going here. Why mess that up? Why tinker with something that is good and working?

People are really good at saying things like "God hasn't called me to do that" or "That is great for you, but it isn't what God has laid on my heart"

Jennie Allen says in her book Anything....

"Some think we need to be 100 percent sure before we do this...saying 'Is God really calling you?' But I think God does not have to over-clarify for us to obey. God has said his piece...Does he will for me to take my ridiculous abundance and bless others in need? Does he want me to care for the poor? Does he want me to lay down my life? Did he command me to care for orphans? God's clarity is not my issue......I don't want to make decisions based on my adequacy and capacity. I don't want to miss what God has for us because I'm afraid"

She goes on to say "We have become such a pragmatic society with our pros and cons and schedules that when we get to matters of radical obedience, it's easy for us to talk ourselves out of it. We rationalize that if the cost outweighs the benefit, then we shouldn't do it....Those of us who know Christ, we live for a different reality. We live for things we can't see and make decisions based on that different reality."


Ouch. 

Along with our close friends, we decided a few years back to position ourselves to just say YES to whatever God might have for us. Just being willing to walk through doors and move forward in trust. One step at a time, one door at a time. They ended up adopting and are now preparing for another crazy awesome change in some other areas. God is showing up. God is moving because they've allowed themselves to be made uncomfortable and vulnerable.

Vulnerability is scary, but when we shut ourselves off from vulnerability, we distance ourselves from the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives- Brene Brown Rising Strong (please go get the book and start reading as soon as you finish this blog, you're welcome) It is not easy to put yourself in a place where you feel exposed or defenseless.

My hope for our children is that by our example they see us making decisions not out of what is best for us, but out of a trust for a God who has never ever not come through. That by living a life of sacrifice and reckless love they would grow up to live a life worthy of the calling of Christ. They would see us be freaked out, and yet be brave. They would watch us not living a perfect life, but a one that is dependent upon the only source that can meet the needs we have.


And so, yes. We have become certified to be foster parents. We have taken the classes, filled out the bazillion pieces of paper, had our home scrutinized and our privacy invaded, our backgrounds checked and fingers printed, our family and closest friends have sent in references and come alongside us in support. We have decided to step out in faith, walking through a door trusting in a God who provides all we will need. We are preparing our hearts and home for what may come, knowing at any moment our lives will look completely different than they do now. That disruption is imminent and that kingdom work is coming in a much more tangible way than before.


Would you pray along with us? For our marriage to continue to stay strong, for our three boys and their hearts and minds. We want more than anything for them to see their parents live out the gospel, see what living for others looks like and that it's normal to give of yourself for others. For finances and all the little details you don't always think about right away. Also for the children who will come into our home. For their little hearts, the brokenness they bring- we pray God's hand on their lives in a mighty way and trust the time inside our family would be forever impactful even if we never see it for ourselves. We don't know what this looks like down the road, if this is forever or just for now. If it's a short season or a long one. If it is one child for a long haul, or many short term stays.  If it leads to adoption or not. We are just being obedient with the next step in front of us, and trusting God for all the steps beyond that.


If you have questions about Foster Care, what it looks like to get certified or anything at all- email me! If you have questions about anything email me! I would love to share with you about what God's been doing in our family over the past several years to bring us to this point.
krystle.bowen@gmail.com

As a side note, I did feel all of these things before my husband did, I trusted he would pray and seek God and I waited for God to move in his heart the same way he did in mine. I'm pretty sure he said he'd never do anything like this at all, and now here we are. So if you're feeling led to start down this path and your spouse isn't quite there yet....keep praying, and ask them to pray too.


The video below is really hard to watch, but I encourage you to do so if you have a moment. 
It's the accurate reality of so many. 
There are approximately 400 kids in foster care homes in Jackson County alone and there is a critical need for more homes. 
Critical is an understatement. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Me Too

Sometimes I fear we believe we must have it figured out before we share.
We must have crossed through that middle space, now having clarity and beautiful perspective before we can share about the depths through which we waded to get to that other side.

The books we read, maybe a memoir or an intended encouragement...all look the same. 
They have a beginning with some sort of challenge/road block/unexpected bump. 
They have a middle that includes an inciting incident/come to Jesus/reckoning moment 
and an ending where it's either all wrapped up in a tidy bow or it's not.
Either way there is a beginning, middle and end. 

The authors share their struggle and the victory they found, in hopes that we might push through whatever we are facing to find that "promised land" as if saying...
Look, over here it's better so keep going.

Sometimes I want to call BS. 

I want to say, your story isn't mine and there is no guarantee I will find what you found in this lifetime so don't give me the steps, the outline or the script. 

Where are the stories of those in the thick of it, the ones who haven't reached the other side of the valley yet? Where are the stories that say, "I'm here in the middle and if you are too...let's do this together because I haven't figured it out but maybe we can together." Why doesn't anyone share that part?


Some days I see things clearly. I see a God who has ordained my every step and still allows me to choose the path I take. Ever patient in my choices, drawing me back to Him no matter which path I choose. Not a puppet master, but an artist who creates along the way--pursing me as I pursue the higher calling on my life.

Some days I feel weighted. I feel as if I'm under water, barely enough strength to come up now and again for a deep breath that ensures I can last a little longer. 
I don't quite see the point of it all, I don't want to be tested, used, or drawn in any which way. 
I question my telling God I would do ANYTHING He asked of me. 
Every step feels heavy and without purpose other than to just survive. 
What the $#&* am I doing anyway? 

Of course, then I feel guilty for questioning anything at all, my doubts rising to the surface make me feel fraudulent and because authenticity is to me as breath is to life I find myself crippled at the thought of being fake. 

So, how do I reconcile my wrestling on the hard days?
How do I give myself space to doubt and process it out without feeling like I must have all the answers right then?

I am learning to give myself grace on the days that I doubt. 
Learning that it's okay to wrestle with the hard stuff and that not having an answer for it at that moment doesn't make me fake but makes me real.

It's okay to shout "this year" "today sucks" and still love Jesus.
To grumble and complain while also reading your Bible and telling Him you're kinda ticked off the way the weeks have gone and you don't even feel like doing this but you're doing it because you do believe He is faithful despite the muddy waters you travel in.

I don't have it all figured out. 
I have days where even the hard stuff feels purposeful.
And there are days when the hard stuff, no matter how big or small feels completely pointless and I want to throw in the towel on this "upstream living".


I guess all this is...

 is a me too.

Feeling weighted? Me too.
Feeling like this is really hard? Me too.
Feeling like some days are easier than others, to live out this life in Christ, to be used and poured out in all the ways? Me too. 

I haven't arrived, nor do I think I will in this lifetime.
But I do believe that each moment that is hard, and each moment that is good and each moment that is painful is doing something in me. 
It's refining me and making me more like Christ and on the hardest of days I still choose that over a life without Him at all. 

Hardship produces qualities in you that no other experience can.
The tough stuff brings about such things that cannot, in any other way, draw you into a nearness with Christ. 

I guess I'm thankful for those "reached the other side stories" after all, otherwise I wouldn't know that statement to be true and I wouldn't know there were others who had once said,

"me too"

Friday, January 15, 2016

Shame and Sledding

I love road trips. Long or short, as long as I'm in the front seat to avoid car-sickness I am game.

The last two years I've taken a long road trip...long as in, from here to Tijuana, Mexico in a 15 passenger van with our youth group. I've loved it. Good music, good but not constant conversation (at least in the nearly all guy van!) and just the sense of "getting away". 

I'm unable to go this year, so instead I joined a group of students and adults on the annual winter retreat. This year, in a new place we were surrounded with snow. It was beautiful- there isn't a scene much more peaceful to me than mountains full of snow. It just projects a silence and calm that stills my fidgeting soul.

The topic was heavy for the weekend, looking at the shame in our lives and trying to trace where it comes from. Becoming honest with ourselves and taking ownership of some things while allowing God to heal and mend the areas we've so poorly tried to fix on our own. So often the shame we carry along isn't even from something we've done, but from a story we've allowed ourselves to believe about ourselves. 

That's just touching the surface, and even though I'd had a heads up on the topic and it's been something we've been discussing a little with our families, it still took the weekend for me to process and then formulate thoughts around it.

I'm a verbal processor... or at least a 'put it into words of some form' processor and the moment we got home I was writing and emailing and texting my very patient friends while also spewing slash crying to my husband.

It's hard to be so vulnerable and raw with yourself, let alone with others.

I'm blaming part of my unprecedented vulnerability on the fact that I got a concussion while sledding at the retreat and I've yet to feel like myself. I was told I can't use that excuse forever, but until I'm 100% I might play that card. I'm just glad there isn't a video out there of me. 

Part of my "junk" is that I'm not a fan of failing. It's a few layers thick and one of the reasons is because I don't want to look dumb... and I don't want people to look at me and think I'm dumb and not like me. So I stick to what I know I'm good at. It's why I stood at the top of the sledding hill for a good hour before Iwas forced by Shawn went down. I hadn't done it in years, I was freaked out and what if I messed up??

Well, I didn't... At least the first two times. Third time was the charm and here we are 5 days later and I'm still recovering from a not visible injury that's made me angry. I've felt so mad that I can't seem to start anything without getting my feet kicked out from under me.

I started training for another Half Marathon last week, and now running is on hold until I feel 100%. 

This is the crux for me. Do I keep going, knowing it's not going to be perfect? Do I throw in the towel, say I won't be ready in time for the Half and because I can't do it how I want to do it...quit altogether?

Do I never try anything that scares me ever again? Because that's pretty much what I want to do. 
I have a good case for it at the moment, and yet I know it's not an absolute truth.


Shawn/ the sledding  enforcer  encourager texted me this yesterday...

"When people do failure avoidance, they will never achieve the kind of courage and risk taking that lead to bold innovation."
- John Ortberg

Ouch. And thanks. 

I do not want to be held back by anything.
By perceived shame from failing or by fear of failing.

I've prided myself on being a risk taker in so many other areas, and yet I've come to realize that it's typically been in areas I already secretly know I can be awesome at. Yikes...hello pride!


I sort of feel like Ben Stiller's character in Along Came Polly. As an insurance actuary he assembles and analyzes data to estimate the probability and likely cost of the occurrence of an event such as death, sickness, injury, disability, or loss of property (wikipedia) 
This is all fine and dandy as a profession, but he begins using this in his daily life. 

I'm pretty sure as a Jesus follower I didn't sign up for the "risk free" version of life. The last two years worth of blog posts should show that I'm fully knowledgeable about the uncomfortable and hard places God has asked us to go. 

I wonder then, why I've yet to allow this transformation in these other areas of my life. I think to some extent I've not given them much thought since they didn't seem to be interfering with my daily life, nor my spiritual walk at the present.


And yet... God is continuing to show me layers that I had not fully surrendered to Him and although I can honestly say I hadn't explored them until recently, I would be missing out on 'life to the full' if I were to cover them back up and proceed on.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Hello 2016- New Theme

There is something about a new year, isn't there?
A fresh start.
A new number to have to remember to write down.
A beginning- again.

I'm not into resolutions, but I am into goal setting.
Tangible goals with dates and a reasons and ways to get there. I did a webinar with Michael Hyatt who does the best sort of training on goal-setting. He has several free resources as well as paid ones. I highly recommend just checking out his blog, podcasts and website. There is something there for everyone, no matter if you're a CEO of a big company or a stay-at-home Mom.

If we don't set goals we get stale and stagnant and life passes us by.

I'm excited about the goals I've set this year, excited about continuing to step forward in multiple areas of my life and about what God has in store for me, for us.

My husband and I went out to dinner with our close friends, we refer to them as "framily" because they are friends who really have become family. They know us, our kids, our family.
They hear the hard and the good, they ask us tough questions and make us better people. They kinda know everything. We all went over our goals and not only does that provide accountability, it's exciting to see what God is doing in each of us and as families.

I'm not picking a word this year per say, but I am picking a theme.

For 2016 the theme is "keep moving"

Moving forward into each area God has asked me to move.
Move forward in areas God is taking me...even if I don't feel He "asked" me to ;)
Be willing to move even when I don't have a clue where I'm going.
Move my body more.
Move my mind, my spirit, my prayers...all of it forward.



What about you? Do you set goals? Did you pick a word or a theme for 2016?