9/16/14

Summer Summary



I have definitely not been good at keeping up with this little blog.  So much good intention, so little time and brain function to accomplish it. After posting so little for so long it's hard to even know where to begin.  It feels a bit overwhelming to jump back in.  I really want to capture our memories though...because goodness knows this is the only place my memories are safe.  My sleep deprived brain is leaky.

This is our summer at a glance.
Over all it was a cool, wet summer.  Everything is so unusually lush and green on the Prairie this year.  The mosquitoes and weeds in my yard particularly loved the damp weather.  We did get a few weeks of summer weather before our first frost hit a few days ago.  I'm hoping for an extra nice fall.  I'm so very not ready for the cold to return.


We prefer the summer.   

Cece was my little berry picker.  Our raspberry bushes produced a decent little crop this year.  




We did some camping with friends...in the cold and rain.




                                                               Note the winter hat and coats in June.




Some backyard play time. 





We camped with friends at Cypress Hills.  It was wet and cold..but pretty.





we celebrated being Canadian.


We celebrated 11 years of Roman.



My sister in law Brook and her son came up from Seattle for a few weeks again this year. 
We went to Arlington Beach Family camp as one huge family of 10. 




                                                                 I turned 37.
                                I really did think that getting old would take longer than it has.






We celebrated Baby Violet's three month birthday,

and her fourth.
When a future with her is uncertain and time is precious we are reminded to celebrate the little things in life,


like our daughter officially becoming a teen.


and no she didn't know what that was on the front of her shirt...



Aili will soon be taller than me.
Kids growing up also happened a lot faster than I thought it would.


Speaking of growing up.
Look at this big kid on his way to school!
This picture makes my heart skip a beat. 
Only a couple years ago he was merely existing, classified as bed-ridden, and hidden away alone in an institution.  
Here he is standing tall all on his own, a big smile on his face and getting an education.
Parenting this boy has it's share of challenges but when I stop to see how far he's come it puts all those small irritations into perspective.  Little by little his heart is healing and he is gaining confidence and security.  A year ago he never would have tolerated leaving my side and being taken away on a school bus.  It would have been sheer terror for him.  Now he trusts and understands so much more. It's been a big step for him but he's doing really well.  I'm excited for him. 




We are now in the middle of Harvest season on the farm...aka single parenting season.  I keep thinking "next season" will be slower....but I'm starting to realize that with six kids there is no "not busy" season.  There's just a fluctuation between hectic busy and chaotic busy.

It's good busy though.
I love my life.

Soli Deo Gloria, 

8/22/14

A letter to my baby Girl.


I referred to you as mine in the title of this letter.

When push comes to shove you are not actually mine.
I have no claim on you legal or otherwise, but you will always be my baby girl.

Although you fit so beautifully and peacefully in my arms you did not come from my body.
Although you soothe at the sound of my voice and are nurtured by my hands, I am not your mother. We share no blood or DNA.

It's true,

but it's also true that a love that bleeds is stronger than just blood.

As the Mama who has had the great privilege of loving you for these 114 days and nights (and hopes to for many more), I want you to know a few things.

You are loved.  Regardless of what the future holds, or where this life takes you, we love you. Always.We will be here for you. I will see you in every black eyed little girl I come across. As the years go by I will glance at each passing face for one that looks familiar.

I pray for you. So far, we have given you four months filled with kisses, snuggles and care.  In the years to come, should you leave our home, we will love you from a distance and we will pray for you each time you come to mind. We may not be able to see you, but He always will.

As much as we love you, God loves you even more. You are not an accident, and you were not a mistake.You were intricately and beautifully designed for a purpose. Your very existence testifies to God's glory and goodness. I am amazed at the work of his hands when I look you, and watch your sweet smile.

You are beautiful. Maybe I'm biased but you happen to be one of the most gorgeous babies I have ever seen. I have spent hours just staring at you as you sleep in my arms. Your big dark chocolate eyes captivate me. I suspect that you will be told that you are pretty by many people in your life. Someday you will learn that there is both power and peril in physical beauty.  What I want you to know is that your beauty is so much more than skin deep.  It will resonate from your joy, your kindness, your strength, and your compassion. In my heart I have given you a name that means "gracious and merciful", and another name that means "light".  I pray that your life would be marked by those qualities.

You are precious. Regardless of how your life began, or where your life will take you, remember this. You have value. You are a treasure. Don't allow anyone try to take that from you.

We will fight for you.  While you are in our home we have committed to protecting you and seeking out your best interest but ultimately we have very little say in what your future will be or where you will go. Should we ever discover that you are not being loved well, and if you end up with no one who will protect you, we will do everything within our power to change that. Whether you are 3 years old, or 13, or 30, you have a Mom and a Dad who love you fiercely.

No matter what.







Love always,
your Foster Mommy

8/11/14

My 2 cents on the Driscoll fiasco.

update disclaimer: Below are my thoughts on the subject as of a specific date, given the limited information I had. As the situations changes and more is brought to light my opinions on the matter change as well.  
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My blog has been crickets and cobwebs this summer.

There have been many times I feel like sitting down to write but it has been so far down on the To-Do list that it hasn't actually made it on the To-Do list at all.  It's a busy season right now but I'm hoping  I'll be able to visit my little corner of the internet more often this fall.

So, what has compelled me to set aside my piles of laundry, let my garden sit, and prop my kids in front of the TV?

The latest Mark Driscoll controversy that has lit up the Inter-web.

I feel I need to lay my cards on the table and wear my heart on my sleeve for a minute.  Not because I want to ride this sick wave of rubber necking Christians, or join the ranks of people who think that their opinion on the matter actually matters...
or because I think you want to read another blog post on the topic.

In reality the whole things seems ridiculously insignificant compared to what is actually happening around the world.   Christians are being slaughtered in Iraq and Syria and yet a pastor using some profane language 14 years ago lights up the media and spurs the Church to collective outrage?
The silliness of that gives me a headache.

I'm mostly writing for me (I process through my keyboard),
and for those who might wonder or assume.

I'm heart broken over the whole thing, but yet I have a whole lot of peace and confidence.
This is why.

There is nothing shocking, scandalous, or nonredeemable happening here.  All I have to do is look in the mirror to know that we are all saved by grace and will continue to wage war on our sin nature until the day we die. Mark Driscoll is no different.  Sin shouldn't shock us, although we are saddened by it.

 There is no one worthy of our worship other than Jesus himself.  What we idolize we will also grow to demonize.  Neither is appropriate for a Christian.

Jesus promises to build his church and he will.  Come hell, high water...or a quick tempered Pastor who had some bad days.

In case you have been completely unplugged or are out of the Christian culture loop.  Acts 29, which is a interdenominational church planting network (founded by Mark Driscoll and now led by Matt Chandler and a group of others) has removed Mars Hill church from the network because of some issues with Mark Driscoll. The letter from Acts 29 to the leadership of Mars Hill was leaked into blog-sphere and a media frenzy resulted.  It has since been addressed on the Acts 29 web site.

I have confidence that the leadership of Acts 29 has much more information that I do and is doing what needs to be done.  I also know that this decision was made with an enormous weight of grief, a ton of prayer, a lot of deliberation, and an unwavering love for Pastor Mark and our brothers and sisters of Mars Hill church.  This decision also highlights one of the things that I love about the Acts 29 network.  They take high standards of leadership and integrity extremely seriously.  They can't be bought with public opinion, celebrity status, or a check book.

I love Mars Hill church and I know without a doubt that they will weather this storm and come out the other side refined.   This church is far more than one pastor.  It is made of up many congregations, pastors, and gospel communities living on mission with one another.  It is made up of people who love Jesus and love his Church.  They serve their communities, proclaim the gospel, have solid doctrine, don't compromise what the Bible says, and reach people that historically the church has overlooked...for God's glory and the good of their cities.  There is so much ridiculously awful untrue slander being perpetuated on both secular and "christian" media.  I have attended a couple different Mars Hill churches and have close family who are very involved and who's lives have been completely transformed by the love, discipleship, and careful nurture of the people of Mars Hill.  It's a family and we felt welcomed into that family...even if only as visitors and online extended family.

I owe a debt of gratitude to Mark Driscoll for the truth he has spoken into my (and my husbands) life.  We began podcasting his messages a few years ago.  We were floundering and wilting in so many ways.  We were malnourished sheep.  I was absolutely blown away when I first started listening to his sermons.  It was like a bucket of fresh water to a parched and dry soul.  It was like drinking from the fire hose when I was used to squeezing water from a damp sponge.  His courageous preaching of the gospel, and gift for teaching the Bible spurred on my faith and spiritual growth like few others have.  Light bulbs went on as I heard my first bits of reformed theology, and for the first time in my life began to dive into the depths of the gospel and apply it to my life. The missing pieces started coming together in my head and heart. I honestly don't know where my family would be, or where my marriage would be without that timely nourishment.

Because of that growth and hunger for deeper teaching and genuine community, we began searching for a church to plug into. We had heard about Acts 29 and really liked what we had witnessed, the model of ministry, and the missional focus of it's churches.  Out of curiosity I typed "Saskatchewan" into the Acts 29 web site church search.  I was surprised to find a new small church plant about an hour and a half from our home.  We decided to go get a taste of it and see what God was doing there although we had no intentions of commuting that far to be a part of a new church family.  In one week we were hooked.  After knowing so much chaos in church and ministry...we were very refreshed to find something healthy.

We absolutely love our church and our pastors. We have a great fondess and respect for the Acts 29 network and it's leader Matt Chandler.  Three years ago my church community, Grace Fellowship, filled the first couple rows of the theater we rent.  Since then we have steadily grown, are busting at the seams for space, and are now sending out our first church plant.  With all the change ahead I know there will be growing pains and adjustments.  Church is messy sometimes, simply because people are.

  Over the years, as I have listened to his sermons via podcast, I have heard Mark Driscoll's love for Jesus and the church and his burden for the lost and hurting. I noticed a gradual softening in tone. Over the years the young intense prophet became much more like a gentle father. I've never heard a preacher be so honest about his own struggles and repent from the pulpit as much as I've heard it from him. He is a gifted preacher and a brilliant Bible teacher. He has a unique charisma and boldness that is a refreshing contrast against our PC culture. As his notoriety and numbers have grown he has carried an increasingly enormous burden of scrutiny and temptation, as well as administrative stress. It's a heavy load. In this age of technology I don't envy pastors. Everyone feels the need to dissect every word and action with a fine tooth comb, and then tweet, blog, and comment their vitriol laced opinions.  So much of what spreads on the internet is complete garbage.

 I have little interest in the details of every offense and knowing every mistake that he has made.  I have no desire at all to scan FB groups and websites looking for juicy morsels of gossip.

 From what I can tell, there are some major structural and policy changes that need to happen.

Beyond that, it appears that there is some repentance and reconciliation that needs to occur.

None of that...not a bit of it is my cause to crusade for.

I am not his judge and jury.
There are many faithful elders who are biblically holding him to account, and I trust that what needs to happen will happen...even if that involves a season of intense pruning and chastisement.

I refuse to join the pitch fork brigade and the giddy lynch mob made up of everyone from bitter liberal feminist bloggers, to ultra-fundamentalist pharisees, to a watching world looking for any reason at all to justify their hatred of the Church.  That is what breaks my heart the most.

Church, put down your stones...and instead get on your knees in humility.  Not one of us is beyond falling into the traps of control and pride.  How many of us would fair any better?

Enough of the crazy accusations and smug celebrations.  It's nauseating to witness from the very people who claim God's grace. 

I ache for the Driscoll family, for Mark, Grace and the kids.  Regardless of both the very legitimate and perceived offenses this is a difficult season for them. The wounds of a friend sting deeply...even if they are inflicted in love and truth.

I can't imagine the weight of stress that is involved when you stand in front of a firing squad of public opinion and have your sins laid out before a gawking world.  I know what it's like to have a few people slander me. It's a horrible feeling.  I cannot imagine how awful it would feel if thousands of strangers did so on a regular basis.

I have nothing but sympathy, prayers, and hope for the people of Mars Hill.
I have nothing but the deepest respect for the leadership of Acts 29, for Matt Chandler and the others.

This is not a feud.

It's a heartbreaking decision made by people who love Pastor Mark and ultimately desire restoration, but who are unwilling to compromise biblical standards and deep conviction.

It's brothers who have stood at the pulpit together, prayed for each other, and worked together on a common mission for years. This is one of those occurrences of tough love, strong leadership, holding others accountable, and telling the truth even when it's inconvenient and painful to do so.

I am unwilling to stand in judgement over the decision that was made merely because it doesn't actually involve me personally, and I'm not in a position to know the gritty details. I can trust that those who are involved are doing the best they can to work through this.

What I can do is pray.

I'm confident and feel peace about it all because I know God has this.  He is will continue to work through flawed servants like he always has. He will take our great heaping piles of manure (that are rather effectively hitting the fan this week) and use it to grow a bountiful crop for his glory and our good.

That's just my 2 cents.


Soli Deo Gloria,

6/28/14

Attached



Being a foster mom is a strange thing.  It feels completely natural to care for this child and yet I am reminded repeatedly how unnatural this situation actually is. 
 I am "just" a caregiver, but I am also a mother. 
I mother this child and yet I'm not.

She doesn't know the difference, and honestly neither does my own heart.

When I said goodbye to my first little foster newborn about 5 years ago (who was actually my fourth foster child) I wondered if I had done something wrong.  Was there some sort of foster parenting trick I hadn't learned, was there a secret that would shield me from the hurt? Was I just not cut out for this sort of thing? I was convinced I was a failure at fostering simply because I loved him, and I didn't want him to go.  I didn't want to send a tiny baby out into the unknown. It was a painful letting go.  

When something feels really bad it's natural to assume that it is bad, that we are doing something wrong.  I felt a little guilty...like I wasn't being "professional" enough. I thought maybe I was just doing it wrong. 

Over the years, a few more foster babies, a couple adoptions, and conversations with other foster parents, I've decided that "getting attached" just means that I'm doing what a foster mom is supposed to do.  Loving.  Grief is just part of the gig when you let go of someone you love.

It's hard though.  It's hard not to want to put up walls of self preservation and hide. Part of me wants to run far and fast. Every instinct I have tells me to jump from a train that's barreling towards certain disaster, to climb into a life boat and row away to safety while this ship flounders. 

This is where the gospel weaves it's way into my heart and realigns my thinking.  I am set aright, even when all seems wrong.  

I choose to walk with her in the mess. 
Press into the pain.
Double down.

The word "attached" often comes up when someone is asking or commenting about fostering.  

"I could never do that I would get too attached"

That's a fair assessment.  Most likely you would.

Getting "attached" is what we do.  I don't have a heart of steel that can care for a child like I would my own, and yet feel nothing but a vague fondness for them.  It also implies that I might be stronger than your average woman, or some sort of super saint...which is not only untrue but it encourages the idea that fostering isn't something more people could do.  I'm just a regular mom who said "yes".  "Attached" just means you have loved well. 

If an abandoned baby, or child in need, showed up on your door step you would do the same thing.  
I just volunteered to be that doorstep.  

That volunteering for it can create some confusion in my own heart and mind though. 
"This child is most certainly not yours, how dare you ever feel like she is".

 It can also give the illusion that because "she signed up for it" she has no right to feel actual genuine grief when that child leaves. 

The word "attached" can also be used in a head tilted condescendingly to the side, sympathetic  toned, "I guess you got attached, didn't you".  It generally implies that getting attached is a pitfall to be avoided, or an inherent weakness to be overcome.  My ability to bond with a child that needs a firm parental bond is not a liability but an asset. 





I will love her like she is my own, because for right now 
in this moment
today
she is.

I am woken multiple times a night to comfort and nourish. 
I stumble zombie eyed through the dark kitchen making a bottle.  
I pace the carpet waiting for little eyes to close. 
I sit and rock a fevered baby while carefully wetting her hair.
I hold her in my firm grasp, hold back tears, and whisper soothing sounds into her ear as she is vaccinated, and has blood drawn. 
I am filled with pride and joy with every "first".

I am warmth, comfort, security, and sustenance.
I am mother.

She gazes intently at my face as she feeds.
Her smiles break out as milk drips down the corners of her mouth.
She turns her head at the sound of my voice,
quiets and calms as she feels my arms.
Right now, in this moment, I'm mommy.  I am the foster mom...not a babysitter, an impostor, or a pretender.

Simply because that's what she needs. That's what God designed every new baby to need. 
I can be that for her. 
I know how to be a mom.
Even if its only for a while.




What is it like to foster parent a newborn?
Its just like parenting your own newborn...without the leaky boobs and stitches down under. 

What is it like to say goodbye?
I'll let you know when that day comes. 



One day at a time. 
Today I'm going to give her as much love as she needs. 

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."  Matthew 6:34



6/4/14

Bubbles

Bubbles are serious business around here.



I love how a few dollars spent on soapy water will entertain this Littles for....the time between when I give it to them and until they spill it all. 


My garden is starting to grow.  The days are warm.  The grass is green and my anemic winterized soul is soaking up all the spring color.  You really don't know how much you miss the colors of nature until you have survived several months of only seeing white..and dirt brown.  Even the dandelions make me happy.  Happy simply because Spring is here.  In fact I should be packing our trailer right now instead of blogging because tomorrow we pull out for our first camping weekend of the year.
                                  Photo: Spring is finally here!  The first flowers have finally bloomed. #saskatchewan

This week was a pleasant lull between the hectic pace of seeding season and all the extra activity/yard work that comes with summer.  I also had no appointments this week...which lately amounts to a small miracle.  Next week I'm back driving kids around to various specialist appointments. I appreciated a slower pace week.  The big kids are wrapping up their school work (just a bit more to go!) and the Littles are enjoying the sunshine.  I indulged in a daily nap.





This is where I spend the majority of my time.  

I tell you she is only about 6 lbs but she has a lovely way of ordering my entire day (and night).
She is a precious distraction. I love to just sit and hold her while she sleeps.  She loves to be held.  It's a pretty good match, although my messy house and malnourished children might disagree. 

I've had several newborns over the years and have generally become quite proficient at getting babies into a flexible routine and gently leading them into good sleep and eat habits. But this one is different.  Maybe because she was a preemie.  Maybe I've grown lazier and softer in my old age.  Maybe I just realize how short my time with her could be and how quick babies grow up.  The focus with her has been to invest as much love, touch, and nurture as possible and keep her growing.  I have been feeding her anytime she desires to eat which typically works out to about every two hours day and night.  This includes the time it takes to feed her, burp her, and then of course I sit and enjoy the sleeping baby for a bit.  She's like a strong force of gravity...I can't quite make myself get up.  By the time I lay her in her bed and decide I should get something done she's mewing for a bottle again and I start the process over again.  She is growing and thriving so its worth it.   Eventually, as she is starting to have more awake time, I will space her eat/wake/sleep cycle out to about three hours.  Everything in it's time though.


                     Photo: New summer outfit.  Nice to see her in something other than preemie sleepers, mostly because I get to see her cute bare arms and legs. She looks bigger in the picture than she actually is, but she is growing. Even a teeny tiny but of pudge.  #babylove #summertime #thereasonIgotnothingdonetoday

Right now it feels like I'm living in a happy little bubble.  I like my bubble.
In here this baby is safe, loved, and every grunt, squawk, and cry is responded to. I kiss a sweet neck, and inhale the delicious baby scent. My arms hold a warm soul soothing weight.

In this bubble my days revolve around the bowel function of a tiny baby (no joke...babies pooping is a big deal. A constipated newborn will rearrange your life).   My hours are filled with the gentle thumping of my hand on her back and waiting expectantly for that glorious belch.  Caring for a newborn takes every bit of you. The best I can describe it is like a dance.  During those hours spent together you learn the subtle cues, she responds to me and I to her.  I am poured out. It's both draining and life giving.

Being a foster mommy to a newborn is really no different than being a regular mommy to a newborn.  The only difference is knowing that with one phone call that bubble can be popped (and I can't show you her gorgeous little face).

                      Photo: Someone really loves her Daddy. #daddysgirl #adoptionrocks

In this bubble little girls are adored, and protected by their Daddy,

                     
                       Photo: Blessed

                      Photo: Roman has been such a sweet baby helper.  He goes and picks her up when she's crying, sits and holds her, and feeds her.  I can't help but catch a glimpse of the nurturing Daddy he will be someday. #bigfamilylove #fosterbrother

Big brothers learn empathy, gentleness, and how to nurture and protect those who are fragile

                        Photo: He has always loved babies. #fosterbrother  #fostercare #soblessed

and a nuzzled into a mommy's neck is always the best place for baby to be.


Photo: Seriously hard to get anything done with this sweet distraction. I finally started to sort out winter and summer clothes ( the big bi- annual season change dresser clean out).... About 10 minutes in she woke up. Then I "had" to feed and snuggle her again. As much as I love the time with her I'm hoping she will soon start to have a longer eating/ sleeping cycle.  Oh well, it's a fleeting season. Even more fleeting for a #fosterparent .

It was just over a month ago that I walked into the NICU and saw her laying in the hospital bassinet.  I ached to get her home, and now she's been home for nearly a month.

Each day, week, and month will be a gift.  She's so worth it.


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