Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Story of Your Life

Our Sunday school class is being challenged right now through a video series by Matthew West called the Story of your Life.  It talks about how each "ending" is a "beginning" of something new and a chance to make things different . . . better.  It has challenged us already to take a hard look at our lives and the direction it's going-to see if it's going the direction we WANT it to go.  Are we leaving a legacy worth reading?  Through the last few years we can see a definite change in us . . . our "story" has had so many chapters-so many growth opportunities.  Many we have wasted in our grief, unable to see past ourselves.  Some we have grown through.  Some, even now, we stand at a crossroads.  

This is our story-Chapter: Foster Care

We got into foster care for one reason.  We want to adopt another child.  We have tried without any luck to adopt again through a private agency and many many thousand dollars later and three years later we are still "number 1" on their "waiting list".  In spite of the fact we prayed and prayed and sought Biblical counsel on that decision, and truly felt we were doing the right thing to sign on with this agency God has closed that door so far.  We got into foster care thinking it would be a faster route to a child.  We began all our classes with the intent to be foster/adopt only and only take children that were ready to adopt.  As we sat though many many lectures on the needs these children may have that are placed in our home, God worked on us individually.  God began, ever so slowly to soften our hearts to the need for foster parents.  Although we argued with Him over this (how could we give them back?  What will that do to Andrew?  How can we love when we know they are leaving?) we knew God was calling us to traditional foster care.  Putting our fear aside and trusting God with our hearts we jumped in head first and opened up our house to the foster care system.

Before our paperwork was even processed we got a call about a healthy baby girl 3 weeks old.  The situation was amazing . . . her first AND middle name was even within one syllable of the name we have always picked out for a girl.  This was the one!  We, from the beginning felt like this was God's "reward" for us being patient and being WILLING to jump in head first.  Sometimes God calls you to be willing to give up everything, but then gives you the desires of your heart.  Remember Abraham and Isaac?  God wanted Abraham's total trust but never intended to have him kill Issac!  We had given our total trust, and now God was granting us the desire of our hearts.  For 11 months we were madly in love with this beautiful little girl.

Through those 11 months though, we experienced a side to foster care we didn't expect to care about.  We watched the grief of a mother who lost her child.  We watched as every court date passed and each date was grief for one family and rejoicing for another.   We saw that foster care has a very difficult side where my rejoicing is another woman's sorrow, her rejoicing meant tears for us.  We realized that this wasn't as simple as adopting a child that was willingly given up.  This was a chapter of sorrow for another family.  What kind of people are we if we rejoice over another person's sorrow?  But, how are we supposed to feel? 

We began to question God a little.  Trying to convince Him that this could not be the ending of a chapter for us.  Reminding him of all the ways he had opened doors for Baby K to be with us.  One of our friends had even remarked "what a God story you will have to tell about how your daughter came to your family"  See God?  It's a God story, it's PERFECT . . . people will praise you for years to come on how you orchestrated all of this so perfectly.  But, it wasn't a God story.  It was my version of my Fairy Tale Ending with God thrown in. 

This WAS God's story, but the ending would be HIS ending and not mine.  A few days before Christmas Baby K's mom got the one thing she wanted for Christmas and her beautiful little girl came home.  While there was much rejoicing in her house and her family . . . we were left trusting God, but full of grief.  Baby K wasn't ours to keep.  She was ours on loan so that we would learn to draw closer to God.  She was a part of our story to show us that in deep sorrow comes deeper love and trust for a heavenly Father that knows all things.  She was a part of our story that has resulted in tremendous growth through deep pain.

Less than a month later our home is filled again this time with a sibling pair.  Beautiful blue eyed baby boy and a stunning brown eyed spunky girl.  We were cautious this time.  Holding back the part of ourselves we gave so freely to Baby K.  We were met with a lot of grief, tears, and came very close to sending these two to another house because we could not handle it.  There were very difficult sicknesses, contagious things we exposed our family and friends to, physical harming of Andrew . . . You see, to love a child is painful.  They say things that hurt you, they disobey, they don't make right choices and they sometimes don't want you near them and sometimes it's just down right tiring!  Getting two children thrown at you with a couple hours notice is hard, very very hard.  The one thing we were missing though was that these children, Little Lady especially, needed ALL of us, not just the physical safety from harm and medical attention.  She needed unconditional love-a commitment that we would love her no matter what, and that we cared for her no matter how it might break our hearts in the end.  How could we give that again?  We were still too raw from last time.

Our little siblings have been here now for 7 months and God has changed Tim and I.  We have a new vision for not only these two precious children, but for children in foster care in general.  These kids need a family to love them.  They need a roof over their heads, three meals a day, and to be clean.  More than that though, they need to know a Heavenly Father loves them and cares for them.  They may be little to us (even babies in some cases) and won't remember anything about who we are but they can know Love.  They can know God's love through us.  I can't make a difference in the entire world, but I can make a difference to the one or two or three God brings in my door. 

We have a long way to go.  We still lose our patience, raise our voice, and act out in anger are not at all Christlike more than I like to admit.  We still have moments, and even days of doubt where we wonder if we can do it anymore.  With God's help though we will move in the right direction.  With His guidance we will take three steps forward for every two we take back.  Remind us when we are down that God's not through with us yet.  Remind us that He is creating a good work in us and that EVERYTHING he does is perfect and right and for His glory.

Our time with these two little ones may well be coming to a close.  In the next few months if all goes according to the timeline in the court they will be adding more and more time with their mother and phasing out of our home.  Christmas this year may be a repeat of last year and our time of influence over these two will be over before the start of a new year.  Will we sorrow a deep grief like last time . . . absolutely.  It's impossible to love deeply without experiencing a deep pain and sorrow when love is lost.  It is not a sorrow without hope though.  God has been faithful before and will be faithful again and again and again if that is what we are called to do.

So, is this the end or only the beginning of a chapter?  Only God knows the answer to that.  Even as I type this I can hear the deep breathing of a sleeping baby behind me and I wonder myself how much more I will know of his life.  Will I see him walk?  Will I hear his first real words?  Will he run and play in my yard?   Will I ever hear his little voice sing Jesus Loves Me or say I love you?   God has them here now, today, for a reason and I will not live in regret or sadness over what is to come.  I will love deeply, leave my fear behind, and rejoice for the time I have been given.

If adoption is in our future for G and L or someone else, then we will rejoice that God has granted the desires of our heart.  Our story still has pages to be written and we want them to be written in God's handwriting and his plot . . . whatever that may be.

This is our story

First Day of Kindergarten

Still my little boy . . . clutching his favorite teddy bear. 

"take a picture of me running to school!"

For the first time in his little life, another woman will be spending more waking hours a week with him than I do.  The beginning of a whole new phase for both of us.  I love you so much buddy, excited to see what God will help you learn this year and how you will mature.

Mrs. Jones, you are in my prayers and thoughts daily as you take over this responsibility for all the kids in your class from us mommas.  My God give you the grace to get through each day, and the wisdom to train these children up in the way they should go. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pittsburgh, PA take 2

Idlewild also has a waterpark which I had been looking forward to all day.  When we got there though the water was freezing!!!  Only one of the kids REALLY enjoyed it and that was Little Lady.  The cold did not phase her one bit!  She LOVED this more than anything all day I think.  Tim, Zach, Tyler and Daniel did disappear for a while and ride the big waterslides and they enjoyed that, but Andrew, Cherith and Megan were all ready to go pretty quick after we got there I think.       

Last stop was off to kiddy land where the rides their size were.  This was great to leave to the end because they were all tired by then but these rides just their size perked them right up.

We had enough kids to completely take over the bumper cars!!!

The girls had it easy, the boys did the work and the girls got the ride!
That night we all stayed at a hotel and Stephanie and Zach provided everyone a pizza dinner and birthday cake, we opened gifts and Marisa provided us all with movie theater popcorn!  Then it was off to bed with very tired kids.  After a very short night (thank you Baby G) we were headed home.  We all said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  We stopped for lunch and then headed into Cabala's to see the animals and stretch our legs a bit.  Little lady has not been to a zoo to our knowledge so this was the closest thing we have done so far.  She really enjoyed seeing the animals especially her all time favorite . . . the elephant.  Seriously, this girl LOVES elephants.  Dora, Elephants and purses would sum up her favorite things!  I can not wait to take her to a real zoo and see them alive . . . for now this had to do. 

Redneck in the making .  .  . his cowboy face and then his first time shooting a real gun (pellet gun actually).  I am perfectly fine with my boys not being hunters, but a little lesson on gun safety and shooting one certainly isn't a bad thing.

Then it was back home to prepare for school to start.  I, for one, am ready to have a normal schedule again and not live in suitcases.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE to travel and we have certainly done a lot of that this summer, but I am ready for a normal schedule and routine again.

Pittsburgh, PA take 1

As our final "trip" of the summer we went with my family to Idlewild Park in PA.  We used the trip to celebrate my nephews birthday and my birthday but truthfully we went because my youngest sister was given free admission tickets so we didn't want those to go to waste.  We had not been to this amusement park since Andrew was 2 so we were anxious to see how much more he would be able to do this time.  Stephanie and her family go here every year and absolutely love it.  I wouldn't say it's going to be a yearly tradition for us but it is a nice park and one that I will go anytime with free tickets.  :-)  It was aslo a nice way for me to get over my cabin fever after having sick kids for the couple weeks prior.  Pardon the excessive number of pictures.   My sister Shannon just had a baby and couldn't come on this trip-she let her two oldest come along with grandma but wanted to see pictures so I'll post more than usual of her kiddos.

In Storybook forest we had to try to pull the sword from the stone . . .

The giant ball pit. Remember when these were at every fast food place.  Now this is the only one Andrew has ever been in.  Sad, they are so fun!  Little lady sunk to the bottom and was like this until I rescued her . . . LOL

The boys pulled themselves across this little river and back at warp speed .  .  . my boat driver took the S L O W route!!!  :-) 

Train ride around the park.  Even baby G got to ride this one! 

The carnival style rides . . . not my cup of tea so I enjoyed taking pictures of the thrill seekers!

 Andrew's favorite ride and the only one he rode twice!  Little Lady was in on all the action her height would allow.  She rode the ferris wheel with Grandma and wasn't afraid to go on anything! Andrew, however, would only ride things that did not go up in the air.  He is more than a little afraid of heights

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Boys only Road Trip

Our kiddos have been through a sickness recently and they all three got it.  High fevers (Baby G as high as 105!), sore throats and general not feeling well.  Unfortunately, they did not get it at the same time and so for three weeks we had sick kids!  Our trip to Cleveland was right in the middle of it all and Little Lady was fevered the morning we were scheduled to leave.  After talking to Tim's mom we decided that Tim and Andrew should go ahead and go.  It was their first father/son roadtrip and they really had a nice time.  Tim took some pictures on his phone so they are not great quality but I so enjoy seeing Andrew with his uncle and grandparents having a great time!  Uncle John even taught him how to line up dominoes and knock them down!  I was especially jealous when I saw this awesome dessert they had!

They ended their visit with a LOWES build and Andrew had lots of help to finish his airplane. Love his little tongue sticking out.  LOL

Thanks grandma and grandpa S for hosting my boys and giving them such a great time . . . hopefully the rest of us will be there at the next visit!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Phone Photo Dump

The end of summer always marks the end of library events for the season.  Sad day for us (me especially).  I have logged over 130 books read this summer with both Andrew and Little Lady.  Considering that book time was usually a one on one time with each of them that's over 200 books for me!!  I am very proud of that I must say.  If reading to them will help them academically then they should both have a good start after this summer.  It's something I really enjoy doing with them and they both love it too so it's good for all of us.  Andrew has once again this summer read every book with pirate in the title in the children's room and Little Lady has read every Dora book available.  We also read lots of other books.  No author studies like last summer (I'll blame it on double the kids to read to) but we enjoyed a great variety of books.  Here Andrew is the audience volunteer at the last magic show of the summer.  He was so nervous. :-)
Oh, and just so you know our littlest member isn't left out of ALL the action . . . we made Baby G his own ball pit in the living room but the poor child never gets any time alone in there . . . the other two are constantly stealing his fun!

Mom continued her tradition of taking Andrew to the butterfly house in a local greenhouse.  I just love seeing him be so gentle with the butterflies .  .  . I am amazed at God's beauty displayed in these tiny little creatures.  Little lady really wasn't all that into it all and was way too rough to hold them but the whole thing has a very calming effect on Andrew.  Thanks mom!

We have been working (with very little progress) on Andrew riding his bike without training wheels.  He had a nasty fall the other day and went inside to get himself a bandaid . .. he came out of the house looking like this, all geared upand ready to try again . . . LOL . . . At least he persevered!

Andrew cooked us a picnic in the park the other day while Tim was in DC.  He fixed pigs in a blanket, chips and grapes on spider man plates. I added some mac and cheese and we had a really nice little picnic!  He loves making pigs in a blanket and this time I let him use the knife to cut the hotdogs himself.  He was very proud of them!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Florida Part 2

My sisters and anyone else who has been to Cypress Gardens will appreciate this next series of pictures.  Cypress Gardens has been bought by LEGOLAND but part of the agreement was that they maintain at least a portion of the gardens the way they were.  It was fun for me to see the gardens that we visited all the time when at my grandmothers' house again.  They even kept a modified ski show going from the old park.  This was my favorite thing at LEGOLAND, the pirate ski show.  Really amazing stunts and a pirate themed battle kept Andrew interested even as we watched this one twice!  :-)

In the top left of the next picture you can see the Island in the Sky ride, the only other thing left from the Cypress Gardens the way my family would remember it.
The lego shark even made an appearance chasing after the pirates.
The old Cypress Gardens were known for their beautiful southern girls in gowns roaming the garden . . . the girls are still there, only now they are made completely from legos!  My grandmother tried to talk me into living with her for a summer and working here as one of these girls many many moons ago. . . :-) 

The racer build and test area was another highlight of Andrew's trip (not so much mine).  He and Tim built a lego racer and then had lots of racetracks, ramps, and courses to test it out on.  I was proud of my boys though, their little racer beat every car it was up against . . . even with the addition of two mini-figures (most of the other cars didn't have drivers)

Mini-land is truly amazing.  WAY too amazing to describe here.  Entire cities made of legos!  The detail is beyond what I can tell you here.  Truly a work of art and I have 50 pictures just of mini land!!  Here is a small sample.  White house complete with the first family!

This reminds me of the old Full House intro!

mini golf . . .

Very tired boy getting a sky view of the park from the Island in the Sky.

Spent a day at Downtown Disney . . . of all places we end up at a Lego store!  My LEAST favorite thing we did the entire trip . . .

That night though was a pirate dinner theater where we had front row seats and we were put on the PURPLE TEAM!!!  Yippee my favorite!  It was such a great show.  We enjoyed it more than Medieval Times and other dinner theaters we have been too.  Glad though that some of it went over Andrew's head . . . references to drinking and getting drunk were unfortunately referenced quite a bit.

Both my boys got called up on stage to do things so those are great memories for sure.  This show was FULL of tricks and reminded us a little of a Circe de solei show.  Trampolines and aerial stunts that were really quite impressive.  This was a last second addition to our FL trip and was well worth the expense for the show.

 LEGOLAND waterpark.  This was something we were all really looking forward to and since I LOVE waterparks this was what I expected to like the most.  Due to a knee injury keeping me from the bigger slides and the crowd this day it was NOT our favorite day.  We still had a great time but just wasn't our favorite thing.

The wave pool and island was Andrew's favorite part of the waterpark. The even throw legos in the water every time the waves come on so he spent most of his time searching for these huge inflatable legos to build with.

Super jealous of Tim that he got to ride all the big waterslides . . . Andrew wasn't tall enough for these.

We all rode this one together.  If you look close you can see Andrew's feet in the raft with Tim.  :-)
The last day we spent with my Grandma Ilene and Grandpa Al.  They live in FL and we only see them once a year if we are lucky.  They live right on this beautiful (although Alligator infested) lake.  In spite of the Alligators (which we did not see today-they are there though, I have seen them!) I could not keep Andrew out of the water.  He got in up to his waist before I said no more  . . . he would have jumped right over the side if I had let him!!!  CRAZY KID!!!

Saw several Bald Eagles but no alligators. 

This was a great trip for us as a family and a time of refreshment.  We greatly missed the little kiddos and couldn't wait to get home to them but had a nice time recharging our batteries and spending time with "just us" for a little while.