Nobody wants to be a birth parent.

Nobody wants to have their child taken out of their arms and handed over to complete strangers. No one wants to go to court and face the judge and face the assigned lawyer and pay the fees for those alleged charges. No one wants to own up to the mistakes they can’t believe they made that may have hurt their children for the rest of their lives. Nobody wants to have a mental health issue, or a physical health issue, or any other kind of issue, that gets in the way of motherhood or fatherhood. Nobody wants to be seen as the worst of people in society. Nobody doesn’t love their baby. And I promise, nobody meant for this to happen.

But it did happen.

And, for lack of a better word, it sucks.

And somehow, normally kind, humble, God-loving, people-helping, puppy-rescuing, charity-giving, underdog-championing, cheer for the little leagues and peewee football kind of church-goers suddenly are overcome with a self-righteousness that knots up in my stomach and makes me wretch silently on the inside when they think it’s ok to judge viciously the very people that gave my babies life. Please, for all that is the love of God, don’t bash the baby-daddy.

No one wants to be a drug addict. But it happens.

No one wants to neglect their child. But it happens.

No one wants to get in legal trouble. But it happens.

No one wants to screw their life up this bad. But it happens.

It happens to normal, ordinary people who make 1 bad choice; 1 mistake, just 1 time, and they become forever addicted to something so heinous as heroin. Probably before their tender teenager years have even crossed the tiny line into a shaky adulthood their own hurt and pain drove them to one weak moment, one bad choice.

Or maybe it isn’t even heroin. Maybe it’s a prescription pain killer to help them overcome a bad back, or a work injury, or a broken heart. And somehow, that pain killer just isn’t strong enough to deaden the pain that came from the lost job or the lost spouse or the loss of dignity when they are suffering the devastation of a freak car accident. And maybe they just don’t know Jesus or they don’t have a family or a friend that they can count on to pull them up when they hit rock bottom or when they just need a shoulder to cry on. And suddenly, everything is spiraling out of control until they’ve lost everything they have ever loved and hoped for and worked at, including their precious, perfect, beautiful babies. I’m pretty sure, given 1 wrong choice, 1 bad situation, that could have been me. And I’m pretty sure, given 1 wrong choice, and just 1 bad situation, that could have been you, too.

Yes, the tummy mommies of this world have made bad choices. But I’m pretty sure that I’m not a perfect parent, because I’ve made a few bad choices too. And I’m pretty sure that you, you who look like you have it all together, you aren’t the perfect parent and you’ve made a few bad choices here and there, too.

So don’t you dare bash my baby’s bio-daddy for making 1 wrong choice that led to another wrong choice, and another. Because Jesus didn’t just die for you, with your nice job and your nice car and your nice house and your nice family and your nice church. Nope, sorry. You cannot corner the market on Jesus. (Jonah tried that and it didn’t work out so well for him or the vomitous whale). Oh, I felt that way, too, a little self-righteous, a little bit better than those other people, that is, until I met my babies. And then I became a little bit unglued.

I unraveled just a little bit at first, and then a lot, and then a whole lot more until I couldn’t stop the tears from coming all at once when Jesus tapped me on the shoulder, and said, “Don’t you see? I died for him, too.”

And then my eyes were opened to the grace that Jesus is, and the grace that Jesus gave, and the grace that Jesus gives us, and the grace that we need to give to those who made 1 single bad choice in a bad situation that led to a life shattering series of events.

And then I see those little eyes, wide open to things that they never should have seen, and now hearing things that they should never have to hear about the people who gave them life. No matter what mistakes a baby-daddy made, no matter what wrong choices a tummy mommy chose (and I won’t tell you the details of my family’s stories so don’t bother to ask), there are a set of listening ears who still cling to the hope that those broken people that gave them life have a love for them. Those tiny humans, born into a situation that was out of their control, had to leave behind the only home they ever lived in, the only love they ever knew, and the only parents that ever held them tight. And maybe it wasn’t a home or a love or a set of arms that we could possibly understand, but it was all they ever knew and they are fiercely dedicated to the hope that there is still love and goodness and kindness there. And each and every day these tiny humans try to reconcile their past life with their current life and try to come up with some kind of future life and they just cannot comprehend how any of this ever could have happened to them in the first place.

And oh, how it sucks.

And some day, they are going to have to face the choices that their birth parents made and they are going to have to choose for themselves a path that is hopefully better than what any of us have thus far chosen. But for now, for today, they deserve the dignity that any other child is born with. They deserve to cling to a hope that there was goodness, that there was love, and that the people who gave birth to them are better than the choices that they made.

Please, please, please, for all that is good and for all the love that is God, don’t bash the baby-daddy. Don’t barter for information that doesn’t belong to you, don’t insult the people who gave me my family whom I love with all of myself. Don’t despise the ones that Jesus loves. You don’t need to know the hows or the whys or the what happened. You don’t need to put on a show of condescension as a form of solidarity. You just need to know that Jesus died for them, too. Forget the brokenness of how this happened in the first place; just give grace.

Waiting is hard work. It is blisteringly, back achingly hard work. I wish it was as simple as sitting around with thin mints and a black coffee, watching the chickens go by, but it isn’t. And I wish I was better at this waiting game thing (Why the heck do they call waiting a game anyway? It’s not like it’s fun or even entertaining. It’s more like waiting torture). This is one of those hard lessons in the educational institution that is my life that I just can’t quite seem to grasp. The answers on the test somehow elude me just when I need them most and I cannot seem to study hard enough to get a passing grade. Somehow, I cannot learn seem to learn to wait well.
Oh sure, I can bide my time in line at the grocery when my smartphone is handy. I can manage to entertain my kiddos with sugar laden lollipops while we wait in the car line at preschool pickup, but what I cannot ever seem to do well is wait on God. I want to turn the next page of the chapter of this book so that I can see what God has planned for me, to get started on the next stage, but the page won’t turn. I have to wait. And waiting is hard. It is blisteringly back achingly difficult.

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I was thinking about it today, as I started prepping my garden for spring. Technically, it’s still winter. And there is still a heavy danger of frost for another 2 months even though we had summery temps all last week. I cannot wait to get my garden planted, to see the tender shoots breaking through the soil, to taste the warm tomatoes and smell the earthiness of fresh picked carrots. But it isn’t even time to plant much less harvest. If I placed my tender plants out in the garden, they would wither, and freeze, and die. It would all be wasted.  And so I have to wait.


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Like in the middle of the winter, when everything seems dark, and cold, and endless, I know that spring can only be so many weeks away. But I cannot feel the warmth of the sun or smell the sweet spring breeze. I have to wait. I know it is coming because after winter, spring always comes. And just like in the waiting, I know that God is at work and the next chapter always comes. I just have to wait for it.

But in the waiting, there is so much work to do. I thought about that as I raked straw from the garden this afternoon, hands blistering, back aching raking to remove the excess dead plant material and reveal the damp, meaty soil below. The chickens followed me around, digging around for bugs in the places I had raked, filling their bellies up from all the work I just did while I am waiting for planting time to start. I thought about all of the planning that I needed to do to decide what to grow, and where to grow it, and when to plant it and where. It thought about the friends that came to help us begin construction of our hoop house, and how we all need friends that are willing to pull on their work boots and muck about with us in the mud to help us in our waiting. I thought about the miracles of new life that God would bring about from our preparation, when the time is just right for those tiny seeds to be planted and grow and provide food that fuels our family. And I thought about all of the work I had to do right now during this time of waiting as we all laughed and giggled and chased wayward chickens back to their coop.

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Waiting is not for the faint of heart. Sometimes, I think that God is silent when I’m waiting for Him to show me my next move in life. I have asked God to show His plans, to direct my path, to give me a vision or have an angel – or at least a good friend – tell me what to do so that I can get beyond this time of waiting. But angel didn’t knock on my door, the vision didn’t show, and the answer hasn’t come, and I am still just here waiting. Why won’t He answer me? Did I screw it all up and now I have to wait? Is this a spiritual time out? And what is wrong with me, that I am still floundering for His answer – why can’t I just wait to hear His voice at the right time? Where is my faith that God is at work even when it doesn’t seem possible? Why am I in such a rush to be something significant when I know that God can do more in a single word than I can do in a lifetime of homesteading?

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But perhaps God is already at work, doing that hard work in me, the blistering, back aching work that needs done to prep my heart to become the fertile soil that is ready to grow and nurture something new; something that will become a miracle. Perhaps in my waiting God is raking away all of that hard deadness in my heart, gladly taking on the blisters of digging out all of the stuff and sin and baggage and wasted time that gets in the way of His work in my life. Perhaps God is prepping me for a new kind of planting and a harvest beyond my wildest imagination; perhaps He is turning me into just the right soil for a special kind of seed that only He can nurture. And just perhaps, I’m not waiting on God so much as I’m waiting on God to do His work in me.

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Friend, what are you waiting for?

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Philippians 1:3-6, NLT 

Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Coming up with delicious clean/paleo recipes is always a challenge, especially when I’m short on time – which is pretty much every single day of my life. My dear friend sent me an awesome cookbook for my birthday – Well Fed – you can buy it through the link below (this is an affiliate link which means I might make a little cash if you buy it here):

I am totally in love with this cookbook. It is clearly written, practical, offers suggestions, substitutions, and amazingly delectable paleo meals. Even if I don’t have the time or all of the ingredients to make the recipes exactly as written, they definitely jolt my culinary creativity and inspire me to get cooking (which is not usually my favorite thing to do). My first attempts were zucchini noodles using the Spiral Ninja:

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As we as the chocolate chilli.

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I am totally hooked on both and I can’t stop making zucchini noodles. The kiddos were enraptured! I even made some fancy cucumbers with the spiral ninja for my salad. But Tuesday was even more of a rush, and I really needed to get groceries. So I got creative and used just what I had on hand. I came up with pan fried coconut lime chicken, which is both clean and paleo. How easy is this!

Coconut Lime Chicken

Dump your frozen or fresh chicken in a large skillet.

Dump in a nice sized scoop of coconut oil (several tablespoons should do the trick)

Pour lime juice over top.

Simmer until it’s cooked.

It was so good that I made it for dinner again tonight!

I also added the cumin-roasted carrots from Well Fed and a heaping fresh greens salad with red and yellow pepper, tomato, and homemade dressing. It was so good that I ate a ton, and the best part of it is that I didn’t have that heavy, boated, fatigued feeling that I get after a full meal of carbs. I had the energy to get up, clean up, and get going to work. What more could I ask?

I admit, I cheated on Paleo just a bit with a little touch of shredded cheese on my salad and this dressing: 

Mayo Dressing

Several tablespoons of mayo or Miracle Whip (there is a recipe in Well Fed for a Paleo friendly mayo but I haven’t had the time to whip it up)

A generous squirt of mustard

A tablespoon of maple syrup

Celery seed, salt, and Italian seasonings to taste.

Stir it up with a fork and add just enough milk to make it creamy.

It’s very sweet and tangy so the kids loved it, and so did the grownups.

It doesn’t take much to get me excited about food, fresh yummy food, but it does take a lot to get me excited about COOKING the fresh yummy food. Thanks Well Fed, for bringing back the joy in cooking. Delish! 

In my little world, with a homestead to build and music to schedule and blogs to write and an overwhelming amount of laundry to wash and fold shove into dressers that are way too small, nap time is seriously critical. I’m talking my life revolves around nap time, critical. I mean, I’m pretty sure I might actually expire from the overwhelming level of insanity if my children don’t take their naps level of critical. And with 6 kids under the age of 9, it feels like an assault on my personhood when they decide they would rather eat, play, yell, scream, jump on my head, make a mess, or be silly instead of taking their nap. If I don’t get a little break in the action so that I can eat, sleep, read, write, plan, have a coffee, schedule, think, drink a glass of water or take pictures of my chickens, then I’m probably not going to make it to parent pickup with my pleasant mama attitude intact. In fact, it could get downright ugly in that oversized van of mine if I haven’t had a little bit of quiet time to get recharged. I love my children more than life itself, but I honestly NEED to catch a breather from the ADHD of it all. Really.

Since no one wants to see me when my babies haven’t had their slumber, and begging, pleading, scolding, and sobbing doesn’t really at all, help I’ve learned to be very creative and consistent in dealing with naptime struggles. Here are just 10 of my favorite ways to deal with nap time when it’s not going well.

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10. Know the signs. Once my kiddos get wound up, there is no hope of a nap. The more tired they are, the more hyper they become. So the instant I sense a spike in hyperactivity, no matter how slight, it’s off to bed. Even before lunch. Ok, I can’t usually make it to lunch. It’s now.  Nap time is now.

9. Initiate quiet time. We don’t really have a television, so if they kids won’t nap, I can’t just plunk them down in front of a tv show while I get some work done (although it’s not a bad option if your littles will sit still for an episode or two of Blue’s Clues or Barney). So I tell them if they can’t sleep then they must relax in their beds with a book, a stuffed animal, a cozy blanket, and, when absolutely necessary, a sippy cup of milk (please don’t yell at me for ruining their teeth, thank you very much, not napping is an emergency in this house). Once in a while, forced quiet time has the desired effect and these always-on-the-go busy kids slow down and somehow fall asleep. To which I silently shout, “HALLELUJAH!”

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8. Get them outside. Nothing tires kids out better than playing outside. Whenever possible, out they go. See kids. See kids run. See kids run some more. See kids take a nice, long nap! See mommy turn into a normal human being again.


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7. Go with the flow. If the little minions have slept later than usual (And by the way, sleeping in is 6:00 in this house), I know they won’t be ready for a nap at noon so I can push it off a little bit, schedule permitting. But whenever possible, I like to keep them busy until the baby falls asleep. As soon as she is blissfully snoozing away, I race (on the inside anyway) to get them all in their beds so I can enjoy them all sleeping at the same time. The peace is indescribable. [Insert fist bump here for the awesomeness of 4 simultaneous nappers].

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6. Behold the sugar rush. Nothing destroys nap time quicker than a cat nap on the way home from preschool pickup. So I’ve recently resorted to passing out lollipops for the 12 minute ride home in order to keep their eyelids wide open until I can tuck them in their little beds.  I guess desperate times call for desperate measures. Does it make the van sticky? Yes. Do I care? Not if it means I get to eat my chocolate chip cookie at the kitchen table all by myself instead of hiding in my bathroom with the lights off…

5. Give them carbs. Yes carbs, the dreaded substance that stays on a mamas hips forever creates sleepiness in little tykes. I like to give them a nice carbohydrate type snack right before their nap- a banana, some pretzels, even some goldfish crackers – to help their little tummies feel full and happy for a nice long snooze. If that’s not ‘clean eating’ enough for you, oatmeal has the same effect, it just causes a lot more mess.

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4. Try alternate activities. If the nap just doesn’t happen, and quiet time is a total bust, you might have to try some other plan.  Just remember the rule: the messier it is, the more enraptured they will be. But hey, I’m not at all confessing or admitting to the time I  let the bambinos play in a bin full of whole wheat flour, brown sugar, and miniature diggers, or have play dough at the coffee table, or spend 3 hours in a bathtub just so that I could sit down with an actual hot cup of coffee (I was pretty convinced they were extinct.)

3. Make it routine. I don’t stick to a strict time schedule unless a particular day demands it, but I do try to stick to a routine. Free play, then snack, then nap, so the tiny tykes know just what to expect next and their little bodies follow suit.

2. Take a long drive. When I’m totally desperate? This is the way to go. I buckle them in, give them a some water in a sippy cup, and we’re motoring. Just remember to hit the bathroom first, and bring snacks. Lots of snacks. Snacks for you. Because you might be parked in that van with those sleepers for a very, very long time. Do not forget. There is a direct, causal relationship between how hungry you are and how badly you have to pee with how much longer they will sleep while you are doing the potty dance in the driver’s seat of your vehicle. Take my word for it.

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1. Sleep it off. I’m not usually one for napping myself, but for everyone who says “sleep when the baby sleeps,” this one’s for you! Snuggle up with a wayward napper and catch up on your zzzzz’s. Your sleepiness will probably rub off on them, and you’ll get a good nap in as well. It’ll make you prettier inside and out!

Ok, maybe not you, you don’t need to be prettier. But I need that nap to happen.

My attitude needs that nap to happen.

Parent pickup depends on it.


At the mention of a homestead, I always pictured Laura Ingalls Wilder running free through the idyllic fields in the tv show, Little House on the Prairie. Are you with me? That tiny cottage where the girls are snuggled together in one bed, the naughty cows that got loose through the fence, the frightening barn fire, the endearing Papa mending the fences and the occasional broken heart of a small child. I totally wanted to live there. Be her. Learn to write on a chalkboard slate. Have a pet chicken.

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I don’t know if that beloved show was an accurate depiction of the time period or not, but it did point to the difficulties and struggles of homesteading. Having a homestead was risky business, for sure, overflowing with danger, hunger, and hard work. Modern homesteading is really nothing like that (well, it’s still hard work, I suppose). Oh sure, if you REALLY wanted, you could buy a plot of land and live off-the-grid in your vegetable oil powered camper. Oh, come on, why not? Well, maybe because I like health care, and hot showers, and, air conditioning, and gulp, the Internet. But that’s no reason not to have a modern homestead of your own. In fact, here are my Top 10 reasons that we want to turn our home into a little modern homestead.

10.Food. I like food. Ok, I really really really like food. I mean, I like a lot of food. And what I really like is good, healthy, really fresh food with no additives, no fillers, and no chemicals or pesticides. When you grow it, you get to know what you put on it, in it, and around it, and how long it’s been there. As a closet control freak, I resonate with that. And with food.

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9. Homesteading tastes good. Really, it does (and we already established just how much I like food). There is nothing like the taste of a warm fresh tomato straight out of the garden (they’re so good, my favorite five year old eats them like apples). Or an egg you gathered from the coop that morning. And those strawberries that you’ve been watching ripen for days? Freaking amazing, especially when they are still warm from the summer sun. You will be amazed by how good homesteading tastes.

8. Chickens. Do you know how much I love chickens? Me, the worship leading, hair styling, preaching, seminary graduate, bookworm, coffee junkie who doesn’t leave the house without makeup totally loves chickens. If you have a ‘homestead’ you get to have chickens (well, OK, depending on the laws in your neighborhood, anyway).  Chickens rock, but that’s fodder for another post.

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7. Fresher air. No matter where you live, plants clean up the air and give you nice fresh oxygen to breathe (You do remember science class, right?).  Urban homesteaders actually improve the air quality in the city. The more plants, the more oxygen. Grow them in your house. Grow them outside of your house. Grow them inside, outside, up sidedown… right side up, around and around and all year round. Your lungs will love you for it.

6. Grass is so yesterday. Vegetables are much trendier. They look nice, taste great, and you don’t even have to mow them (and if you use the right techniques, weeding is pretty minimal, too). (But I digress, because it’s all about the food).

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5. You’ll save money on that really fancy gym membership. If you’re homesteading, you’ll get plenty of exercise from weeding, raking, carrying, building, stacking, plucking, harvesting, and whatever other kind of activity you employ to build and upkeep your homestead. Muscles are cool. But muscles you earned from physical labor? Much cooler (and cheaper) than the kind you get at the gym.

4. You can homestead right where you are. Homesteading doesn’t have to mean off the grid living… You can grow a small garden patch or an acre or twenty. Raise chickens and goats, or not. Whatever your space, whatever your situation, you can implement homesteading techniques that positively affect your food, your family, your finances, or even your fun. You can try canning and herb growing right in your apartment kitchen. Or turn  your yard into a gorgeous garden. Homesteading is about making the most of what you have.

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3. It’s great for the kids. They’ll learn the value of hard work, and the reward! They’ll eat healthier food. They’ll learn how to care for animals. They’ll get fresh air. (And they’ll get tired, too!) They’ll learn science, biology, math, nutrition, exercise, and a gazillion other things like self-suffiency. They’ll have a blast checking on a ripening pumpkin or seeking out cucumbers hidden beneath their leafy vines. They’ll learn the joys of chasing chickens and playing in the mud…. Oh, the mud… I guess they’ll learn about taking baths, too.

2. Money. You can save money homesteading. You can even make money homesteading. Because homesteaders aren’t the only ones that love farm fresh food – you might make a few extra dollars selling off your extra eggs, earn a little dough by selling your goods at a farmer’s market as a part time job, or even homestead full time and make it your living. Or maybe, like most of us, you’ll just save a few bucks on your grocery bill and be happy with that.

5 tomato plants served my rather large family with more than enough tomatoes to make a summer’s worth of spaghetti, salsa, salads, and more. We figured out that the amount of money we saved by eating our own tomatoes, rather than store bought, more than covered the cost of the garden fence, tiller rental, and seeds and plants for the rest of the garden. Did I mention that I love to save money almost as much as I love food? (Yeah, I know, it’s still about the food, isn’t it?).

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1. Homesteading brings joy.  There is something amazing about planting a seed, and with a little water, and some good dirt and sunshine, it grows, thrives, and provides food. Every little plant is a little miracle from God. Every egg a gift, every tomato, every zucchini, or squash, or onion, is a reflection of the nurture and care that God has for each one of us. Every connection to our food gives us a sense of well-being and well, gratitude. Each baby chick is a little  glimpse of God’s tender mercy. Every ray of sun, His warmth, His love. Growing, nurturing, tending, sharing – these things feel so good and are so fulfilling that you can’t help but let a little joy sneak in even on those hard and tired days. Perhaps it’s inexplicable, but somehow, someway, homesteading brings joy…

And…

Ok, food.

Homesteading brings food. I’m really about the food.

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I didn’t set out to become a foster mom. It simply wasn’t on my radar for a very long time. It was only after our Chinese adoption agency closed mid-adoption and our biological son was born extremely premature that we considered Foster to adopt for our family. And we’ve never looked back. It was – and is- the right choice.

But Foster care is not what you think.

I’ve heard a lot of difficult comments and been asked a plethora of personal, uncomfortable questions, which tells me that most people don’t really understand what Foster care is all about. I’ve been stigmatized and judged. And so have my children and other children who were unlucky enough to find themselves in ‘the system.’ My children and others who are completely innocent of what their biological parents have or haven’t done. Children who deserve the same respect and love and fair chances that any other child receives. Children who deserve to have privacy about their situation because some day they will be an adult who has no option but to grapple with the choices that their birth parents made or didn’t make. Children whose health and hurts and abilities are not for public inspection, just like your own children. Children who are not bad because of where they come from. Children who are definitely not unwanted or unloved.

Foster care is NOT loving someone else’s child. Foster care is welcoming a child into your family and making them your own, for as little or as long as they are a part of your household. Foster care is not all runaways and shoplifting and lost kids and police reports and bad news from teachers. Foster care is offering a safe place to grow and learn through the day to day workings of a family who isn’t perfect. Foster care is being to willing to love no matter what the cost. It is being willing to accept the grief of a child who has lost their home, their belongings, their family, their parents, their everything they have ever known or loved. It is advocating for someone who can’t do it themselves, filling out a few papers, following a few rules, and giving a few reports. But that’s not all.

Foster care is joy and triumph over a tiny human learning how to love and trust and become everything they were meant to be. It is picking up the broken pieces and putting them back together again. It is offering grace and hope and kindness to birth parents who perhaps made bad choices and mistakes and who still love their child very very much. It is offering grace and hope and kindness to children who didn’t have everything they needed and don’t know any other way to act.

Foster care is being the hands and feet of Jesus in a very broken world. Foster care is showing the world just how much Jesus loves children, even the children that the world might see as less than, because God sees them as worth dying for.

Foster care is your responsibility and it is mine.

Foster care is changing the world. One child at a time.

 

My ‘normal’ state of being is a happy contendedness. How I feel when all is well, life is normal, and I am simply feeling pleasant.  It is where I feel most like myself, with an inner calm and a sense of excitement about what life will bring. It is my happy. It’s usually accompanied by coffee.

Only most people would probably agree, my life is far from normal. My family size is definitely not normal – an almost 20 year marriage and 6 kids (a combination of biological, adopted, and fostered) under the age of 9. My dream  profession, also not normal. My deepest desire and calling is to be a pastor. My lifestyle – not typical – trying to build a miniature farm on a suburban 3 acre lot. My preferred food plan – clean/Paleo with an occasional cupcake – is not for everyone. My love of chickens, and cats, and baby everything. My passion for foster care and special needs. My love of fitness and essential oils. My excessive furniture rearranging. My penchant for dreaming up possiblities. My collection of books, both physical and electronic. And my need for creative expression through music and writing, well, OK, that might be the most normal thing about me. These are all of the things that are a part of who I am, whether they are normal or not. And they are the things that bring me to my happy.image

But sometimes, I simply lose my happy. I’m not talking about clinical depression here. Not grief, not chemical imbalances. Sometimes, I simply cease to be happy. Maybe it’s when I feel stuck and the possiblities for moving forward have been exhausted. Maybe it’s when I’m taking on too much at once, when I allow the mommy guilt to build up and set in. If you have a child, you know all about that mommy/daddy guilt. Maybe it’s the state of my budget (red), or when I feel like I’m not accomplished enough for a person of my age (kind of old), when I’m overtired, or when I think everyone else has it better. There – I said it. Comparison.

Comparison. It kills my joy. It steals my happy. It makes me cease to be me because I’m looking outward, wanting to be someone else. I’m pretty sure that this part is normal because a lovely friend – who happens to share a lot of the things of life that I love -reminded me that research studies have shown that Facebook causes depression. Facebook. A freaking website, where we all – in college dorm style – share our breakfasts, heartbreaks, triumphs, vacation pictures, job changes, children, and dirty laundry. All in the same place. All at the same time. It is a caucaphony of life’s stuff. And then we look to see if each other’s best moments are better than our own. Facebook is fun, but Facebook sometimes steals my happy.

But if facebook steals the happy, did you know that exercise restores it? Somehow, exercise brings out some feel good endorphins, causing us to feel happy. Today, I did Pilates from Daily Burn. And it was tough, not because this intermediate level, 19 minute, core strength workout was so hard, but because I was simultaneously managing 2 toddlers who were climbing, throwing, shouting, hiding, singing, playing, dumping, and crashing all around me while I was trying to get 19 minutes to do something to make myself happy. And in that moment, I didn’t feel very happy. It tested the limits of my inner sanctum, but I did it anyway because I know that even though it was difficult in the moment, over the course of the day that little workout would help me to restore my happy, as well as burn fat, get stronger, and seriously stand up straight like my mother used to say. (Guess what – standing up straight can help you feel more… happy).

Other things that help me restore my happy – sleep! Oh how I need sleep, and I also crave alone time with God (but I am never ever alone), taking pictures of my 31 (yes, 31, you have a problem with 31?) chickens, dreaming about the next step in building my homestead (hoop house, goat house, or just a plain old bird house), rearranging the furniture, playing with my 6 children, and blogging during their nap. At least, I pray-plead daily that they really really take a nap.

So if you’ve lost your happy – (not a depression or grief type of lost your happy), but more of a daily grind got you down kind of lost your happy – consider this. Shut off the phone. Close the computer screen. Grab the kids. Go for a walk. And then move the sofa. It will get you moving forward towards your happy.

 

 

At 14 years of age, I mastered squats, wall sits, pull-ups, bear plank leg lifts, and dieting. Because I didn’t  like the way my body looked.

In high school, I biked, I lifted, I did calisthenics for 5 hours a day and I secretly followed my parent’s Weight Watcher’s plan. Because I still didn’t like the way my body looked.

Snapshot_20130902_4

I thought that once I achieved the right degree of thinness I would like myself more. By age 20, I was 20 pounds underweight. I was skinny! But I was tired, I was very weak, and I felt sick.  And I still didn’t like the way my body looked.

Loving your body has nothing to do with how skinny you are. No doctor
ever told me to lose weight. No doctor ever told me to change my diet and get skinnier. In my twenties, Weight Watchers turned me away because I didn’t weigh enough to participate in their program. My BMI was probably never too high. But still, I thought loving myself and having a positive body image would come when I was the right weight, the perfect degree of skinniness. But it never did.

It took something else entirely. It took learning to see myself as God sees me – as fearfully and wonderfully made – to start to get my body image under control. And I’m not there yet; I sometimes still have to remind myself to be healthy, not skinny. To be strong more than slim. To love the body I have and not compare it to someone else’s. For too many of us, we see ourselves as ‘fat’ no matter how thin we are, because we try to compare ourselves to models in fashion magazines, to our thinner friends, or to young teenagers who haven’t even hit puberty. But God doesn’t compare you and me to someone else. He designed us, He loves us just as we are.  I love – and I need-  that verse in Psalm 139 that shows us that God’s works are wonderful – and we, yes you, yes me – are one of those works:

Psalm 139:13-14

New International Version (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

I need to let those verses sink in to my head, my heart, my soul. I need to see myself with the awe and the wonder that God created in me and recognize all of the amazing things my body can do (birth a tiny human, for instance). I admit, I still want to shed a few pounds that somehow appeared as I worked my way through seminary to earn my MDIV. But I’m working on healthier, happier ways to go about it because I don’t want my daughters or my sons to equate thinness with self-love. I want them to learn to love their bodies and show love to their bodies by eating mostly healthy meals, by being strong and fit, by seeing themselves as I see them, and most importantly, as God sees them. I wouldn’t love my children any less if they were short or tall or obese or thin – so why would I put the same pressure on myself? God’s love means I can love myself no matter what my outsides look like.

I’ve done Weight Watchers, Pilates, the Daniel Plan, biking, low fat, low carb, It Works!, Zyng, I’ve juiced, given up sugar, flour, and attempted just about every other diet plan you can imagine. And none of them ever filled up my soul and made me happy because my soul simply doesn’t need to be skinny. My soul needs Jesus. My identity is in Him, not in the shape of my outsides.

I don’t have all the answers, and I’m not totally sure what the right fit and healthy me looks like yet, but that’s ok. I’m just taking a little step at a time, finding the right balance between Paleo and clean eating alongside an occasional donut, staying active every day and exercising sometimes, and trusting that God loves me enough to have made me wonderfully. And that feels better than skinny ever did.