Sleep, Sweet Babies, Sleep

It’s nearly proverbial, you know. That resistance to sleep that is wholly ingrained in the youngest of people, the ones who always need that nap the most. My gentle reminders for a short restful nap are met with shrieks, and tears, and running, and bargaining, and just about any other tactic or obstacle that my busy toddlers can create to delay the inevitable nap. A little rest. Just rest. It must be ingrained in the mind of a toddler to fend off sleep with the fury of an angry rooster. Some days it seems easier to skip the afternoon siesta, but in reality, it isn’t. Rest, naps, and sweet slumber are critical to the emotional well-being of my toddlers. And of course, to their mom.

But in all honesty, I am no better. At 10:30 pm my fitbit reminds me that it is time to unwind for bed. And yet, at 10:30 pm I am still going strong. Finishing a load of laundry, folding a few towels, setting out the outfits for the following day. Clearing the days clutter so that I can start fresh in the morning. Jotting down thoughts for one more blog, one more article, another piece of music, then scrambling to pay a bill, tuck in the baby chicks for the night, and turning off all the lights. It’s more than an hour later that I finally crash, and yet my mind keeps racing as I try to get my body to sleep. When we are too busy to rest, we are simply too busy.

There is a hush that falls across the homestead in the middle of the day. Funny how it coincides with my own wee ones nap times. The activity in the chicken yard comes to a halt, and I see little groups of hens, snuggled up beneath the goat shed, or huddled under the belly of the van. The goats cease their playful antics, and cuddle up in a mash of straw and bits of left over hay. The silkie chicks pile up in the corner where the sunlight plays across their pen, a heap of fuzz and feathers being warmed in the sun.  My elderly kitty leaves her post on the bed, only to find just the right spot where she can snooze away the afternoon, relaxed in the sun. How is it that these animals know better than I? I, who try to cram every last bit of work and hustle into the hour and a half that my little ones are tucked away in their rooms, racing to accomplish just one more task, while the rest of the world that is my little homestead peacefully rests? The soft chirping of the brand new buff orpingtons tucked beneath their Ecoglow is soothing as I struggle to finish up one more thing before my gaggle of toddlers is jumping for joy to climb out of their beds again.

We are all in dire need of rest. We are all in desperate need of a break from the busy lives of parenthood, where the chauffering of children to their activities is draining on parent and child alike. We are in need of a break from the hectic rhythms of the work day, to slow our pace, and spend time together. We are in need of a break from the onslaught of information that we constantly crave, the status updates, the tweets, and the wealth of Google’s knowledge at our fingertips. We need to let our bodies, our minds, and our souls, find their rest.

I know what it is I need.

I need to still my body from the work, close my eyes, and allow my body it’s sweet slumber so I have the strength to face another task, another day.

I need to still my mind, to shut down the tech, to breathe in the fresh air of the country and breathe out all the cares of my day, and just be, alive, and refreshed, in the sunshine of the day or the stillness of the evening.

And I need to still my soul, to place it’s care into the hands of the ever-loving Jesus, to accept His rest, and allow myself to receive His peace. But I won’t find it if I’m running, I won’t hear the quiet of His voice if I am scrolling and surfing and tuning the world out with my iPad or my phone. If I truly want to find His rest, I need to make some time to be at rest.

It’s hard to shut it down. It’s hard to disconnect from the technology that I enjoy. It’s hard to refrain from googling the answer to every question my children pose. It’s hard to cut myself off form the workload, and lay my weary body down to sleep. But I am no longer a toddler who does not understand the things his little body needs.

I know my little ones need their slumber, so I’ll do the work of calming their little bodies down for sleep, no matter what antics they throw my way in order to thwart their own rest. And if I am going to care for myself so that I can be strong, and kind, and joyful, and accomplished, I need to stop the antics, and cease thwarting my own desperately needed rest.

Turn if off and shut it down. Close it up and pull the plug. Turn off the lights. It’s time to sleep. Sleep, sweet babies. Sleep, sweet mama. Just sleep.

 

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10 Reasons you need chickens of your very own

10. Because chicken snuggling is a thing.

 

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9. You can feed them your leftover pumpkins from Halloween.

 

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8. You can drink out of really cool mugs like this one.

 

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7. They will entertain small children for hours.

 

6. They will gladly till and fertilize the garden for you.

 

5. They look quite glamorous in photos.

 

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4. It’s fun to watch them dance.

 

 

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3. They are great watchdogs. I mean, watch chickens.

 

 

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2. Because cuteness.

 

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And because love.

 

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And because cuteness.
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1. And because eggs.

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Never a false hope


There was that hard time,  when my son was tiny, and frail, and his IMG_0201premature 2 1/2 pounds of life didn’t come with any sort of a lifetime guarantee, and I didn’t know how his desperate lungs could fill themselves with air even just one more time. It was hard to find my hope because I thought my hope was lost. And I needed that nurse who offered me her hope that he was going to be just fine.  She propped me up with all of the hope that was her own so I could be every bit of mommy that his tiny body, heart, lungs, and soul could need to get him through that one very hard day in a series of hard, hard days. Her hope was never false – it was everything I needed to hang on to in that moment, on that one very hard day. And today he is just fine and 8 years strong and smart and full of love and life and a beacon of hope beyond anything we could have ever even hoped for.

IMG_0180And I want to be a hope bearer, too. I want to bring hope to someone else because I’ve been in that place and I know that feeling, that one singular desperate ache, the emptiness, the lonely need, to find someone else who can possibly ever hope on my behalf when I’ve just plum ran out of every bit of hope that I ever thought I had. I know what it is when you try to muster up all the hope that you can find and come up with none to get you through that really hard day in a series of hard, hard days.


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 5:13, NIV 


Sometimes, its easy to see hope in every little place; sometimes, hope is elusive. We know it’s out there, somewhere, but we can’t quite get a grasp of it. And if we catch it by the tailfeathers, maybe we’re afraid to hang on to it for dear life, because, what if that thing we caught is not really a hope at all, but a forgery of falseness that leads us daringly away from our tenuous reality only to dash us on the rocks below.

But I say hope is hope, and if it gives you something to cling to tightly, something to grasp even if it is no more than a handle to pull yourself out of the deepening water, then it cannot possibly be false hope because it is real and it is tangible and it is giving you what you need to make it through that hard moment on that hard day. And I say Jesus doesn’t want you not to hope because the Bible says that our God is the God of hope and He wants you to overflow with hope so that you have enough for you and enough to prop up the person next to you, too. And I want to be that hope-bearer, too.

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And sometimes, sometimes, I hear a tiny chirp of hope in the peeping of the baby chicks nestled safely in my library. And some moments, some days, I watch it grow before my eyes as tiny shoots of kale and broccoli break out of plump little dollops of dirt. And some days, some weeks, I smell a hint of hope in the air as winter’s gasping fades away into the sweet sweet baby breath of spring. My burgeoning homestead shows me there is hope, reminds me when I lose my hope, that Jesus is all of the hope.

It is the possibility of a better, healthier future. It is the summer harvest coming soon, with an unending supply of sun-warmed tomatoes, and delicious zucchinis, and melons snuggled in the dirt. It is the gleam in the eyes of my aging house kitty, invigorated by the joys of spring air seeping in through opened windows. It is the sound of laughter as my children roll haphazardly down the clovered hill, landing willy nilly, belly up, and head over feet trying to find the bottom fastest.

My sweet little baby homestead shows me my hope because it is the footprint of a Creator who came to give us all Hope in the form of a baby, born to suffer, and die, and raise again so He can be our everlasting hope, our one true hope, our greatest, our only Hope. And I have precious little to offer you, friend, but I can walk alongside you on my little patch of dirt and offer you what hope I have. And I can hand you baby chicks to cuddle in your empty arms or playful children needing to be tagged in the warmth of the sun. And I can pass you the freshest eggs, and maybe they will be help you find your hope and show you there is hope so you can remember all of the baby miracles and great big miracles that the God of Hope can do.

But I can do a little better, I can help you plant some seeds in a pot, or a mug, or an old egg carton filled with dirt. And I can introduce you to the One who really is our Hope, and IMG_0209together we can water those teeny tiny seeds of hope and place them in just so, so that as the sun shines on those little seeds and creates a miracle that makes them grow, His love can shine bright right on that broken heart you carry and make a miracle of hope to grow, right there, right here, right when you need it most on this day, this hard day in a series of hard, hard days.

I want to be a hope-bearer, too.


 

“Hope” is the thing with feathersimage

BY EMILY DICKINSON

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Source: The Poems of Emily Dickinson Edited by R. W. Franklin (Harvard University Press, 1999)

 

16 things I’ve heard as a foster mom.

Most folks are well-intentioned, merely curious, really good , kind people who simply don’t know all of the foster care lingo that we, on the parenting side, have become quite comfortable with. And after being a foster mom for several years, I think I’ve heard it all from complete strangers, from very sweet, kind comments about my darling babies, to funny, witty, and sometimes even dirty looks and down-right rude remarks that secretly make my blood boil. Usually, though, I’m too busy tending to my bustling brood to actually care what other people think, but sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I had a snappy comeback to pass along with an impish grin and a sticky hug from a quite thoughtful child. So here’s a quick list of some of the funny things I’ve heard – and what I wish I had said in the moment. Enjoy!

  1. You’re a saint for taking in those children.  ME? A saint? You must have me confused with someone else, because I’m just a normal, boring, imageregular, non-perfect, plain old, run-of-mill human being with normal, boring, regular, non-perfect, plain, old, run-of-the-mill problems who happens to be a mom. I’m taking life one day at a time just like everybody else. I make messy mistakes, sneak chocolates when the kids aren’t looking, beg God to let me sleep a little longer each morning, and I long for the peace and quiet of bed time every night. I’d say those children are saints for not complaining when all of the yummy dark chocolate has completely disappeared from their Easter baskets after I accidentally ate it all.  Shhhh don’t tell them I told you…

2. Are you a daycare? Not since the last time I checked.IMG_3428

3. Which one is yours? All of them. They are all mine. Every single one. Some people collect shot glasses, I collect children. Hoard them, as a matter of fact. And no, I won’t trade, sell, or barter any of my precious collection, they are worth far too much, but I’ll gladly help you start your own collection of highly adorable, completely priceless miniature human beings.

4. Is the mom in jail?  Well, I’m the mom and I am definitely NOT in jail. But thanks for asking about how I’m doing… as a matter of fact, I do feel a little trapped by the all the laundry I have to do each week…. How about I bring over a couple of loads of wash for you to fold?

5. What’s wrong with that one? What’s wrong with you?IMG_1655

6. I could never love another person’s child. Wrong. Just wrong. If you’re saying that (out loud even), you’re just trying to convince yourself not to get involved. Here’s how I see it. Any child under my roof is MY CHILD. And I will love him or her for the rest of my life and well into the next. Because that child is lovable and worthy of love. Love is a choice, an action, and I double dog dare you to choose it. You haven’t learned what love can be until you hear that child call you “Mommy” and I promise it will make your little heart burst with joy.

7. They’re lucky to have you.  I don’t believe in luck. I believe in Jesus.IMG_1628

8. Don’t you have enough kids? Nah. There’s always room for one more.

9. Are you going to adopt that one? Which one?

10. Doesn’t the mom want them?  Of course I want them!

11. Did the real mom do drugs? I’m the real mom.

12. You look great for just having a baby, I didn’t even know you were pregnant. Gee, thanks, at least someone thinks I look good!

13. Is the kid safe? Does he ‘have something?”  Well, the last time I checked, IMG_1528there were a couple of rocks in his pocket and he had just picked up a frog, but I’m pretty sure they don’t bite because frogs don’t have any teeth.

14. You must be in it for the money.  Hahahahahahaha.

15. Your husband must make a lot of money. Again. Hahahahahahaha.

16. Is that a drug baby? Nope. “That” is a child. A tiny soul, created by God, to grow and love and live and spend eternity worshipping Him. Why do you ask?

Don’t bash the baby-daddy.

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.

Hope for the weary parent: 10 tips to make sure naptime is your time

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.

Foster care: it’s not what you think

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.

 

What to do when I’ve lost my happy

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.

 

 

Why?

Such a tiny term, that little word why, but the very sound of it is like the screech of nails on the world’s largest chalkboard. Each and every utterance of that one word invokes a desire in me to head for the hills… or at least disappear mentally into my happy place. Why why why must they ask why?

Being the mom of a rather large lot of rather small children, I hear the word

Why?
Why?

“why” incessantly. Why won’t they stop asking me why? I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard the word “why.” I think I could fully fund my children’s college educations. Every. Single. One of them.  My children love the word why.

For the most part, I can put each “why” into one of 2 categories. There’s the quest for more information – the curious why. When my children really want to know why there are chickens living in our garage or why the cat left a 4-footed present at the foot of the bed. Why does the sun come up every morning? Why do I go to school today? Why do we have Christmas?

This kind of why, I love. I love that my children are curious about their world. I love that they want to know more. I love being given opportunites to share with them the things that are important to me. And I love those precious moments of everyday conversation that build our relationship.

Why did God make rainbows? Why did Jesus die? Why don’t you give me a hug right now?

Those kinds of why’s make my heart happy.

And there’s that other “why?.”  It’s the why that gets under my skin, every time. It’s full of attitude. Selfishness. Stubbornness. It’s not a question, it’s a complaint. Not spoken with curiousity, but the kind of defiance that toddlers are known for.

“Honey, please put your shoes on.” “Why.”

It’s a statement of rebelliousness.

“Sweetie, it’s time to pick your toys up.” “Why!”

A rejection of authority.

“It’s time to go now.” “WHY.”

It’s a demand for independance. Just like Frank Sinatra once crooned, “I’ll do it my way.” This kind of a why is more like “Oh heck no.” “I don’t” “I won’t” “Huh-uh” “Nada” “Never” “Not” “Nope” and “No way.” And I hear this why the most.

How often do we say that to God?

When God says, sell your posessions and give to the poor and we say, “Why. I like my stuff.”
When God says care for the orphan and the widow, and we say “But I’m too busy…”

When God says follow me and we say “I can’t right now. I won’t”

When God said, this is the path I have for you, and I say “But, really God, why.”

Why must I do this? Why must my life be this way? Why?

When God says love me above all else, and we say, “Why God?” We are showing Him our rebellion, not love. Our selfishness, not giving. When we endure hardship, and we ask God, “WHY.” When we don’t get our own way, and we ask God “why?” When we don’t have all of the money or the stuff that we want and we say “Why why why?”  And we ask when we’re not really curious, we’re just complaining because we don’t have our way.

But God is far more patient than I am. He handles my “why” far better than I can handle my children’s. I have a lot to learn about patience, but God the Father never runs out of patience for His children.

I try to hide my rolling eyes and my grimaced face when my kids proclaim their displeasured: “WHY.” I stuff down my own bad attitude for the 437th time in a day that “why” crosses the threshhold to my ears. “Because I’m your Mom and I make rules to keep you safe,” I respond with all the kindness and gentleness and sweetness I can muster (which, all too often, isn’t really all that much). God’s patience never runs out. God’s love for us is never quelled by our rebellious, stubborn, independent selves. God can handle our ungrateful “why” because of who He is.

“Because I AM.”

I hate to admit it. It bothers me terribly when my kids say it, because, sadly, I say it, too.

“Why?”

 

 

Slow Down and Sleep

It took me a week, an over-filled, sweaty, ripe, grimey, headachey week to find 42 minutes to plop myself on my plumped up sofa, prop my feet on the coffee table, and zone out for an episode of Bones on my laptop. Yes, it took a good 7 days to find that quality time to spend with Hulu. And do you know what happened?

I promptly fell asleep.

What’s going on here? Am I that old? I don’t even have enough energy to relax! Something is very wrong. How can I discover God’s hand in my life – how can I gaze in awe at Him – if I can’t stay awake? If I am so busy that I fall asleep the moment I sit down, then I need to make a change. When people talk about priorities, they usually mean putting family first, or making time to spend with God, or date nights with their spouse. But what about sleep? Where does rest fit in? Somewhere, I read that Rick Warren commented on this when he said that sometimes, the most spiritual thing that we can do is to take a nap.  Our human bodies need rest, and I am no exception. The problem is, how?

My life is so full that I get in the bad habit of thinking that the only thing that can give anymore is sleep. And with 6 small children in my house, uninterrupted sleep is impossible to find when babies need fed in the early morning hours, nightmares need soothed, and cups of water need to be dispersed. With all this nighttime activity, I need to spend more quality time with my pillow as well as weed out some of those energy sappers – scrolling Facebook on my phone is one of them. Oh, I’m not anti-facebook at all, it’s a great tool. But filling every second of each day with mindless scrolling and random information doesn’t give our brains the needed time to process the days events and emotions, and it distracts us from thinking about God. I’m not going to say I won’t scroll at all – but maybe I can give those spare minutes a good trim? To let my mind wander over God’s gifts rather than Facebook memes and status updates.

So there are 2 steps that I’m taking this week towards finding more awe and wonder in my life. The first is to keep tracking my sleep with my Fitbit, and keep trying to add a few minutes to my night time by doing little things like shortening my shower, enlisting the kids’ help in cleaning up toys, and heading to bed a few minutes sooner. 6 hours of sleeping is my goal, and last night I didn’t even clock 4 1/2. I can’t keep this up.

The second step I’m taking this week is to cut down on cell phone app usage, including Facebook. Whenever I have a few seconds to wait, such as in the parent pickup line, or while waiting for the spaghetti to cook, I want to pause, and think about God first before I pull up my favorite apps or check up on my FB friends. Less information for my brain to sort through means less brain power being used, and more energy being reserved for things that matter all the more.

2 small changes. Let’s hope for some big rewards. What lifestyle tweeks are you making this week? What small things can you prioritize to make big changes in your life?

Pray for me and I’ll pray for you as we seek out the awe and wonder of God.