Barrenness Hit Me Today

I glanced up towards the beverage coolers of the grocery store and noticed a pregnant woman walking by. Her skin was glowing, belly round and full, and she was beautiful. I  noticed the woman in front of me noticing her as well.

In my head, I thought, “Pregnant women really are beautiful. I bet she is so happy to be carrying her baby. I wish I could have carried mine.” 

Yep. Right there as I’m checking out, answering the cashier about my choice of a paper or plastic, barrenness hit me today.

I don’t think about it all of the time. Honestly, barrenness doesn’t knock on my door like it used to. Most days, it never even crosses my mind…most days.

Today, it did. Perhaps, it is because this week has been filled with teaching others about trauma that can occur in the womb. Maybe, it is due to explaining to teachers, who don’t know my children that well (yet), about their challenges. Or, it could be that both worry and sadness have visited me this week.

As soon as I got home from the store, I packed the groceries into their allotted space in our kitchen and headed back to our safe spot where we put meaningful items that belong to our family. I dug through the paperwork and pictures and found a copy of a letter that I had sent to a former pastor of mine many years ago.

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2008

I wrote it on the eve of my husband and I filing our adoption petition for our oldest son in 2008. The image above is just one section of a one-and-a-half page letter to my pastor. I’m not sure why I kept it but am glad that I did.

Life has a funny way of kicking us around a time or two, doesn’t it? Hard experiences like to sneak their way around our hearts a bit. They lay dormant for a while and then, BOOM, there they are. There.They.Are.

I’ve heard that, sometimes, you have to look back at where you were to appreciate where you are. I’m finding myself doing this more often than not; especially on days where barrenness seems to smack me upside the head. With regard to the letter, I read it again and felt as though I was typing it for the first time; my eyes filled up, my hands trembled a bit, and I exhaled deeply. I needed to visit the elation, promise and revelation, even in barrenness, that I found through the Lord ten years ago. I needed to take a step back and remember all of it.

I am 46-years-old and have known for thirty-five years that I would never have a biological child. You would think by now that I would be “over it”. In many ways, I’m so over it – like bye-bye. Yet, in other times, it seeks me out, dances around me, and teases me like a school-yard bully. It ticks me off, makes me feel insecure, and breaks my heart time and again.

I still look at pregnant women with awe but a sliver of jealousy. I still wonder what it would have felt like to announce our pregnancy to my husband and our parents. I imagine the feeling of my children growing inside of me and the passion I would have carried to give them the best in utero experience possible.

Yes, sometimes, you have to look back at where you were to appreciate where you are. For me, looking back at the empty space of barrenness and then recapturing the feelings of going through the motions of adoption, does my heart good. It does it so good.

Barrenness hit me today. It sucker-punched me at the grocery store when I was least expecting it. I didn’t have my boxing gloves on. There wasn’t a coach in the corner telling me how to handle it. Nope. None of that. It’s not that I have ever had that to begin with, though. Instead, I revisited a moment in time that has carried me through these past several years.

To recall the feelings of hope and love, to dwell for just a moment in the silence of gratitude, and to revel in understanding that comes from the Lord is by far, the best defense when hard experiences try to find a way to slither back into our lives.

No one is the keeper of our past, present and future like the Lord is. No one can turn devastation or despair into goodness like the Lord can. True peace and understanding comes from the Lord. It always has and it always will.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:7

 

 

 

 

 

Be Bold {let your light shine}

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I wish I could tell you that it is “easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy” (as my 5-yr-old likes to say) to parent children who have been adopted or to be a foster parent.  I’d love to say that once a child enters your home either for foster care or adoption, all problems go away and it’s just downhill and smooth-sailing from there.  It would be fantastic for me to declare that I never second-guess myself and that we are all about lollipops, rainbows, and laughter.  However, if I were to say any of these things, my words would be false.  They would not bear a truthful witness to what it is to be a parent through adoption.

A few months ago, I started praying/speaking these words to God, “What do you want me to do with my life?”  “What do you want from me?”  One morning while praying, I heard the words, “BE BOLD.”  A little startled at the immediate response, I asked, “What do you mean?”  

“BE BOLD.”  The words were clear, concise and not complicated.

Several months have passed and to be honest, I just kind of ignored this answer.  I know the Lord told me to be bold but it was just too simple of a declaration.  I am a detail-oriented person and the two-word response to my prayer just didn’t cut it.

With the dawning of a New Year, the Lord’s answer of “Be bold” has never strayed too far from my mind.  I wonder, friend, if His words are not only meant for my ears but also for yours.

For prospective foster and adoptive families, you need to know that being bold is imperative.  It’s more than just declaring an injustice in what you are witnessing.  It requires a stillness of faith AND a movement of courage.  

Being bold, in the sight of others who do not understand, is necessary.

When you are asked, “Why in the world would you want to do that?”, be bold.

When people say to you, “I would never subject my own kids to that”, be bold.

When you are quivering in fear over what is going to happen with a child you love, be bold.

When you have the opportunity to love on biological parents, please, by all means, be bold.

Foster parenting and adoption both have this funny way of knocking people to their knees.  We fall down time and again, but we get up.  We wonder what we are doing and why in the heck are we doing it, but we keep on.  In the face of many obstacles and trials, we stand up.  We are bold.

When parenting children who come from extremely difficult situations, we learn of our own blessings and our own stumbling blocks.  Their histories collide with ours and we realize how different life could have been for us if we were handed down the same hardships these children have been dealt.

I know the saying of “What would happen if you weren’t afraid?”  It’s fine and everything but I like this version better:  “What would happen if you were bold?” 

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold… -2nd Corinthians 3:12

How could your courage and boldness literally change the course of a child’s or adult’s life?

What would your boldness show to children who look up to you?

How could you make an eternal difference for someone?

What if you took that darned thing called infertility, grabbed it by the neck and said, “No. I’m not going down that way”?

What if you become a foster parent and take in kiddos that absolutely soak up your love and attention?

What if you step outside of your preconceived comfort zone and foster a large sibling group, older youth or ones with special needs?

What could happen if you decide tomorrow to wake up declaring that boldness is the only way to live?

We are well on our way into 2018.  We don’t know what we will have to face or overcome as the year unfolds but let’s live this year with a boldness that leaves an impression.

Shine your light, friends.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

 

If you are considering foster care or adoption, my wish is that fear would not stop you.  It isn’t easy, but it is so worth.

Goal for 2018:  Let others see that boldly living and courageously loving is a remarkable way to live.

Question:  How are you going to live boldly this year?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child {letter #7}

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Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

I remember the first time I felt I could exhale.  I was sitting at a table with a pitcher of water, Styrofoam cup, microphone, couple of attorneys, a social worker, juvenile officer, Judge, and my husband with the twenty-month-old little guy who had stumbled his way into our lives, and our hearts.

The moment the Judge declared him as our son, I exhaled.  I didn’t even realize I had been holding my breath through the year and a half we had been fostering him, but that incredibly beautiful moment seemed to deflate my lungs.

Here I am with two more kids and nine years removed from that pivotal moment, and I’m still thinking about that time back in 2008; the first time I understood what it truly meant to exhale.

You’re still waiting, aren’t you?  You get up each day with the same things on your mind:

“Is a decision going to be made today?”

“Will they let me know the answer soon so that I can prepare?”

“What if the Judge disagrees?”

“What will happen if this child leaves or stays or just keeps lingering along in the system?”

“Can my heart take any more?”

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

You are not alone in your thoughts.  There are others out there walking a similar path. It’s not an easy one to navigate; although, it is an important one.  Even if others seem to fluff off the gravity of life as a foster parent, you know it.  You live it.  Your life is changed by it and your love dwells within it.

One of the hardest parts of fostering is not knowing what to expect and when to expect it.  It is raw and unbearable at times, yet, it also makes you feel every ounce of what it is to be human and to completely be at the mercy of others.

In many respects, it can be a beautiful experience.  It unveils humility, love, patience, selflessness, and change.  In other ways, it is ugly.  It rips the mask off of hardship, addiction, grief, abuse, and pain.  There is truly no other experience that compares.

I’ve had this thought lately, “Is this what Jesus felt?”  In His walk on Earth, He must have been covered by the pain and the beauty of lost souls; children in need of a Savior.  Just to be clear, I am not comparing the sacrifice of Christ to being a foster parent for nothing compares to what He gave.  Yet, when I think about you, (foster) Momma, choosing to walk with the broken, I can’t help but think of Jesus.

Nothing in my life has had a greater impact on my heart and faith than the time I was a (foster) Momma to a stranger’s child.  On the one hand, I don’t want to go back there; back to not knowing, worrying, and not being able to exhale.  On the other, I would do it all over again…and again.

Dear (Foster) Momma of a Stranger’s Child,

Anything you do for a child matters.  Despite your own weary soul, keep at it. Stay strong. Don’t let those whispers of doubt take root in your heart and mind.  Even in the moments when you feel like no one notices what you are doing, you know and the Lord knows.

Take a deep breath.  Don’t hold it in.  Exhale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Momma-in-Waiting (Part 2)

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you…. You look in the mirror and do not recognize the girl staring back at you.  That girl, the one who radiantly wore your skin, now looks worn, tired, and plagued by a silent war.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….You are surrounded by a crowd of many, and yet, you feel alone, isolated, and slightly misunderstood.  You hear the squeals of delights when others announce their impending motherhood, and all you hear is, “It’s not me.”  

All you think is, “It may never be me.”

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….At one time, you believed in happy endings.  Oh, you were not naive to the hardships of this world.  You knew that not all of life’s wishes are granted.  You understand that the Lord doesn’t give you more than you can handle, but this….this battle….is one you never imagined facing.

Instead, you thought, “One of these days, I will be this kind of mommy.”  Or, “I cannot wait to see my child for the first time.”  Here you are now, waiting to be the kind of mommy you promised yourself you would be.  Here you are now, waiting to see your child for the first time.

And yet, that first time has not happened.  You are a momma-in-waiting.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….You have felt as though the Lord is not listening to you.  You have pleaded, begged, and cried out, but all you get is silence in return, and doors closed, and negative tests, and doctors giving bad news.  You nod your head, close your eyes, stare in the mirror at the girl you no longer recognize, and weep.

You feel lost in the midst of a million prayers.  You might just be questioning your faith, or perhaps, your faith in His plan for your life.  You do not know which one is worse – to doubt the Lord’s plan, or to doubt your faith in Him.  Both cut like a knife.  Both break your heart.  Both do not resolve your struggle.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….I was once like you.  I knew I could not get pregnant, but I wondered, and waited.  I stared at the mirror, and did not recognize the girl staring back at me.  I felt forced into a war that I did not start.  I felt like the loneliest person on Earth; even though, I was surrounded by many.

I too felt lost in the midst of a million prayers.  I questioned my faith, doubted His plan, and wondered if either really mattered at all.  I did not want to raise my white flag to surrender and give up, but I was sick of fighting.  I was tired from carrying the burden of it all.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….Do you want to know something? Sometimes, I still do not recognize that girl standing in front of the mirror.  That girl, the one whose scars seemed more powerful than life, does not even see her scars anymore.

That girl, the one who doubted her faith in a redemptive and loving Lord, feels Him in the slightest of breezes, sees Him in the wonders of her children, and hears Him in the quiet moments of reflection.  The girl, the one who used to believe that being a mommy was not in her plans, understands that her plans were so very small and narrow compared to the promises of God.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….tell that girl in the mirror who you are. Remind her of who you once were.  Tell her that she is not going to give up so easily.  Tell her to be brave, to seek answers, to keep trying, and to take risks.  Tell her to listen to the Lord….

….listen to Him.

Pssst….Hey Momma-in-Waiting.  Yes, you….greater things are coming.  Soon, your skin, the one once worn with radiance, will be radiant again.  Soon, you will not recognize that war-torn girl staring back at you in the mirror.

Soon…yes, soon….you will no longer be a Momma-in-Waiting.

Related Articles:  Momma-in-Waiting 

Wading in the Water {best laid plans}

IMG_2177We celebrated the little one’s first birthday today.  He had a good time seeing familiar faces, and squashing the bright orange and white icing between his stubby little fingers.  Grandmothers, a great-grandmother, a “Mamoo and Papa”, uncle and his birth mother were present to celebrate the first year of this sweet boy’s life.

I know that by honoring his birth mother, I honor this child.  I also know that loving him is loving her, and vice-versa.  I feel quite blessed to raise him, and to have an open relationship with his birth mother.  Truthfully, I’m honored that she trusts me enough to parent her son.  I’m not going to pretend for one minute what it’s like to be in her shoes, nor am I going to judge.  The important facts of the situation are that we all have a vested interest in the safety,well-being, and love of this little boy who is a gift to us all.

Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I tell people how many children I have. Three.  Three children.  I remember moments of anxiety while we were getting approved as foster parents as if they were yesterday…moments like this one

It was the mid-summer of 2006 when my husband and I had finished up our foster parent training classes and were waiting to become licensed as foster parents.  Earlier in the year I had met a little girl in a foster home and instantly fell in love with her.  She was a pixie of a girl with blonde wispy hair and big blue eyes.  I truly felt she was supposed to be mine.  She was the reason we sought to become foster parents.

Months passed by, and we were not approved yet.  In the meantime, the little girl that I swore was going to be my daughter went to live with another family so that she could become their daughter.  Our process to become a licensed foster home took longer because I had previously worked for the state, and I figured that they needed to make sure it was all on the “up and up” that we were approved as foster parents.

During that summer, I went to the lake to play on the water with my parents, cousin, and her young son.  As I swam away from the boat a bit, I looked back and watched my cousin interacting and swimming with her little boy.  The vision of this mother and son reminded me of what I was missing.  Before I knew it, I started sobbing.

I quickly turned myself around so that my cousin and dad could not see my tears.  I felt foolish, but could not stop.  I was floating in the middle of a lake having a full-blown, heart-wrenching breakdown.  The water usually gives me a peaceful sense of weightlessness, but not on that day.  The weight of my broken heart made it hard to keep myself above the water.  My mother saw what was happening, and made her way over to me.  I don’t remember if we really even exchanged words, but she knew why I was crying.

My best laid plans for that summer were to become a foster parent, accept placement of that little girl I fell in love with, and go about our merry way in becoming a family.  My plans fell through.  Just like the drop of my tears into the lake, my plans quickly dissipated into a vast sea of confusion.  I had no idea what was going to happen, and was tired of worrying about it.

After crying it out a bit, I pulled myself together, swam back to the boat, and put my sunglasses on so that my red eyes would not give away what just happened in the water. I put on that familiar mask of a smile that I’ve worn so well through the years.  I don’t think anyone except my mother knew that my heart broke apart a bit while wading in the water.

A few months later we were approved as a foster home and received a call about a baby boy who would become our first foster placement, and then our forever son.  A few years later, we would get a call about a baby girl who also became our forever daughter.  And now, seven years removed from that moment of despair in the lake, I watched with eyes of love as another little one dug his hands into his first birthday cake.

That moment of wading in the water plays in my mind quite often.  I remember the feelings I had, and the thought that my plans….my best laid plans….would never happen.  I think about my worry, about my struggle, and about the sorrow I once experienced.  If I could go back and swim alongside my broken self, I would say, “Don’t worry.  Don’t let your sorrow weigh you down.  Your best laid plans are nothing compared to His plans for your life.”  

Dear readers, If you find yourself wondering when or if you will become a mother, please do not give up hope.  You are not alone in this, even though it might feel like it.  Reach out to others who understand what it feels like to be walking in your shoes.  Be encouraged, and know that your Father in Heaven hears you.  He sees you, and He holds you.  Blessings – Caroline

Bikes, Blackbirds, and Corn

photo (80)Last weekend, over 1,000 cyclists converged onto the small farming community of East Prairie, MO (population 3,176) for the annual Tour de Corn cycling event. This was my first time riding in this tour.  I’ve been told that if I wanted to complete a century ride (100 miles in one day), then this was the one to start with.  The landscape is flat and the ride is well supported.

The town of East Prairie is about 4 1/2 hours away from where I live.  My friend and I enjoyed coming up on a bus loaded down with bicycles and cyclists.photo (76)

This group of riders happens to be from where I live.  They travel together, camp out, and ride in the various cycling events.  As you can see from the picture, they appeared to be having a very good time on that bus!

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The night before the ride, it seems all of the townsfolk were celebrating on the main street with food, music, vendor booths, and carnival games for kids.

I don’t live in a small town, and not even sure I would enjoy it all of the time, but there’s something special about these tiny communities. photo (81)Everyone seemed to know each other.  They all were happy, laughing, and socializing.  I could tell how excited they were to have so many riders from various places in their tiny town.  The town water tower was quite a neat site against the backdrop of the setting sun.

One vendor I met takes bicycle chains and makes jewelry out of it.  Her idea came from the Tour de Corn.  She saw a sign stating, “Thank you for the $1,600”.  The sign was being held by a woman alongside the road cheering on the riders.  She stopped and asked the woman about the sign she was holding, and  learned that the $1600 was a portion of the funds raised from the ride, and it helped out children in the community.

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She went home  with the desire to earn money and donate part of her proceeds to promoting healthy living.  She was retired, kids were out of the house, and she had the time and ability to help.  While watching her friend take apart a bicycle chain, she thought, “I could make jewelry out of that!”  Soon after, she created Chainspirations.  The link to her website is www.chainspirations.com   Check it out!

The next morning we got up early, and headed out on the ride.  I started off with a quick pace,and felt really good.  At the first rest stop, there was even fresh corn to eat, and some live music. photo (88)

The terrain is quite different from my usual rides.  I’m used to hills, valleys, and lots of trees.  I enjoy the sights around my area of the state, but I gotta say, this part of Missouri was pretty as well.  I especially enjoyed the corn fields, sunflower fields, and a field with buffalo on it!  photo (82)

those are Buffalo - little hard to see though
those are Buffalo – little hard to see though

The first sixty miles felt great. My pace was faster than usual, and I was staying very well hydrated.  This all changed as I was entering the last forty miles or so of the ride.  The route turned us back towards East Prairie, and straight into a strong headwind.  With the high heat index (I later learned that another rider’s Garmin showed it as 102), and the strong wind, I felt as though I had hit a wall.

It was all I could do to keep pedaling.  It was during this time that I realized my battle to finish was not about the wind, the heat, loss of feeling in toes, and numb hand, but more about the sheer willpower it took for me to stay on the bike.  I’ve never faced that kind of wall before.  I’ve gotten frustrated on the bike, but not to the point of wanting to cry, quit, and get off the bike.

photo (84)During this time, the endless fields of green and yellow that I admired earlier became my annoyance.  All I could see were fields; fields upon fields.  There was no end in sight.  I kept telling myself, “You can do this.  You can do this.”  My legs felt good, but the rest of my body wanted so badly to stop.  Each mile seem to be longer than the one before.  Huge trucks would pass me which created wind gusts full of dust, which would in turn just make me mad.

I felt the emotion of anger while out there.  I had never felt anger to this level while on the bike, and it was hard work to pull myself out of it.  I had to force myself to keep downing the fluids as I knew that at this point in the ride, it was crucial for me to stay hydrated.  To say I was miserable is an understatement.

It was also during this time that I began to think about my kids.  I would not want them to give up something they have worked for; especially right at the finish line, and they would not want me to do the same.  I also thought about Jesus carrying the Cross, and how He did not put it down and walk away.  I thought about His strength and began reciting the following verse:

I can do all things in Christ who gives me strength. Philipians 4:13

Soon after reciting this, I started noticing that on every section of electrical wiring between poles above the road, a single Red-winged Blackbird would land and start calling out.  It felt as if these birds were cheering me on; as if the Lord sent them to meet me at each section of the road.  I thought about how He cares for birds of the air, His eye is on the sparrow, and surely, He cares for His children.

As my friend and I turned the last corner and rode the last few miles into town, my exhaustion and anger dissipated.  We even stopped to take a “corny” picture (no pun intended).  It was the end of a long day in the saddle.  It was the completion of my very first century ride.  It was the finale of what ended up being more about mental endurance than physical endurance.  It was also the recognition of how amazing it is to have spiritual endurance.photo (87)

One hundred miles on a bike in one day is hard, but I did it.  It was a day spent in recognition of how blessed I am to be physically able to complete this task.  It was more than about the corn fields, small towns, miles, bikes, and flat roads.  It was one more day of life that I could lean on my God through prayer, recitation of verses, and His sending of some little Red-winged Blackbirds to cheer me on.

Ride through the Storm

Last weekend I went for a ride with the local cycling club.  It was a cool June morning, and although the clouds were a little ominous, they appeared to be far off from where we were.  They were majestic and huge; a fantastic site to look at when riding.  The group I ride with was about 20 miles or so into our ride when the clouds turned ugly, dark, and started to dispense some raindrops on us.

At first, the rain felt refreshing.  I’ve gotten over my fear of riding in the rain, so the fresh cool drops were a welcome guest.  Soon the few sprinkles turned into big drops which in-turn turned into buckets of cold rain.  Thunder started roaring, and ahead of us great big bolts of lightning started to strike the Earth.

Everyone seemed to increase their speed, and pretty soon, I was being passed by a few other cyclists.  I couldn’t help but notice the smiles on the faces of those pedaling by me.  It seems storms tend to give way to an adrenaline rush, a slight fear, and the notion that we are all a little crazy for being out there on the road during thunderstorms.

The more we rode, the closer the storm seemed to come.  It was all around us.  We had to ride into it in order to navigate our way out of it.  I know that might not make much sense, but we knew if we turned back, the storm would eventually find us again.

As we drew closer to the flashing lightning, the rush I had been feeling turned to fear.  I began to pray, “Lord, we need a hedge of protection around us.”  I repeated this prayer for the next six or seven miles.  In that moment of darkening skies, rolling thunder, blasting lightning strikes, and pounding cold rain, I realized that without my prayers and the God I believe in, I was nothing.  I was nothing but a speck in the middle of a mighty storm.  I was vulnerable.  I was small.  I was clipped onto a bike and all I could do was pedal on until I found shelter or a way out of the storm.

I was at the storm’s mercy, and trust me, it was not a merciful storm.

After figuring out where we believed the storm was heading, we were able to cut out about ten miles of road and head back to where we started.  Once out of the storm, I began to relax.  The smile came back on my face, and I realized that we were going to be okay.  Riding through the storm was frightening, but a little exhilarating.  Once back in the cycling group, we began to swap storm stories, and all seemed very thankful to be off the bike.

I needed to ride through that storm.  I needed to feel vulnerable, fearful, and in need of mercy.  I needed to call out to Him for protection.  I needed the reminder that I am very small in context to this mighty world we live in.

I also needed the reminder that storms of life come up suddenly, and without much warning.  When in the middle of the crashing sounds of fear, and the strong waves of pain, I need to hang on, ride through it, and call to the Lord in prayer.

When the storms of life are merciless, and bigger than what we feel we can handle, may we embrace the peace that comes from knowing the One who carries us through them.

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. -Nahum 1:7
The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him. -Nahum 1:7

Courageous Love Photo Gallery

Courageous Love Gallery at Big Momma's Coffee House (Missouri)
Courageous Love Gallery at Big Momma’s Coffee House (Missouri)

May is National Foster Care Month in the United States, so I thought I would share briefly with you about a project I have been involved in.  I was asked to write the adoption stories of a handful of foster families for a local exhibit put on by a photography studio.  The exhibit, titled Courageous Love, was dreamed up by the owners of Freedom Photography.  They too are foster/adoptive parents and live each day knowing the eternal difference that families make when bringing foster children into their home.  You can read their story here:  Colors Don’t Matter.

The gallery is going to be a traveling one and will be hanging on the walls of various businesses and community centers around the area that we live.  The hope is that it will draw attention to the needs of children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted, and to encourage people to consider becoming foster/adoptive parents.  My family was also featured in the gallery, and we were really blessed to be a part of it.

Here is the one of my family:

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As I spent each night writing out the stories of how God has used these families to open their homes to children, I could not help but be reminded of the importance of obedience in faith.  The choice to step out in blind faith, cling to the hope of a living God, and prayerfully care for His children, were themes that jumped out at me while I wrote the stories of families.  It was amazing to see how the separate journeys of the children and the adoptive families crossed paths to unite and become a part of each other’s lives forever.

The photographers thanked me immensely for helping them out with this project, but to be honest, I count it a blessing to be a part of it.  Getting glimpses into the lives of some special children, and special parents, reminded me that a life lived within the full measure of His presence and the hope that lies within, is a life well-lived.  Story after story spoke of the prayerful desire to fill their homes with children while also meeting the needs of the most vulnerable in our community.

If you would like to take a peek at the photos, click on the link below to be taken to the website.  The stories of each family are found next to their images in a black thumbnail with white writing.  Click on it to enlarge so that you can read it!

Freedom Photography Courageous Love Gallery

If you are a photographer or know someone who is, here are some ways that you can help out foster families and kids in the system:

  • Offer to take senior pictures for free for teenagers in foster care
  • Offer discounted photo sessions for foster families and foster children
  • Suggest to other photographers to get involved with galleries such as the one described in this blog post
  • Put brochures up in your studio about the needs of foster children
  • Offer to take pictures at community events that feature foster families

Above all, let’s all pray without ceasing for the over 400,000 children and youth in foster care in the United States.  Nearly 115,000 of them are eligible and in need of adoptive families.

Beauty in the Storms

Sky in Missouri Monday night Photo credit:  Clarissa Weter
Sky in Missouri Monday night
Photo credit: Clarissa Weter

It’s almost embarrassing to admit this, but lately I’ve been in a little bit of a pity-party kind of mood.  That habitual escape of self-loathing has never helped me, and if anything, it tends to create guilt for ever doing it in the first place.  I hurt my leg a few weeks ago and have not been able to run or ride my bike.  My house is always in chaos with three young children.  The necessity for me to show up at work each day with a smile on my face is hard to do.  Finances are tight due to adding another child.  I even feel a slight envy in my heart over the vacation pictures of numerous friends on Facebook.

I went to bed Monday night prepared to be woken up from the stormy night that was expected.  We had our blanket, flashlights, diaper bag, extra shoes, and bike helmets lined up by the nook of a hiding place under our stair well just in case of a tornado. Thankfully, the storms died down before they entered the area that we live.  I woke up in the morning feeling worn down with my leg hurting and thinking about all I needed to accomplish at work that day.

I picked the baby up and shuffled into the living room.  Barely awake, I made a pot of coffee and secured the baby in his high chair for his morning snack.  I could smell the coffee percolating while I sat there and stared at the laundry pile on the chair next to me.  Pretty soon I picked my tired body up and filled my cup of coffee.  It is rare when I get a chance to watch the news in the morning, so I took advantage of the moment.  I flipped to one of the major news networks to watch the coverage of the tornado that struck our neighboring state.  Pretty soon I could taste the salt of my tears that were meandering their way down my face.

During this time, my daughter got up and sat next to me on the couch.  In that moment of quietness with just the faint sound of the news in the background and the taste of my tears, I thought to myself, “What are you doing? What are you thinking even beginning to feel that you are owed something, or that you don’t have enough?”  I felt shame for the pity-party I had been toying around with for the past few days.  I felt guilt for not trusting the Lord with the areas of my life that are causing stress.  I felt disgusted and sickened for taking what I do have for granted, and for desiring more.

The images of the destruction, neighbors and family members searching with desperation for their loved ones, crumpled houses, a flattened school, and the numbers of the victims and injured scrolling at the bottom of the television all stuck to me like glue.  They punched me in the gut.  They shook me up.  They took my breath away.  Truthfully, they should do this.  It is easy to get caught in the trap of gluttony and greed.  It is even easier to allow the blessings of life to turn into things that cause stress.

The heaviness I felt in my heart was soon replaced by the thought of this simple truth:

The love of Christ and redemption found in Him can never be destroyed by the wrath of storms.  The promise of the Lord is the only thing that will never go away.  Our homes may be destroyed, our children may pass away, our jobs may be dissolved, and our health may deteriorate, but the Cross will always stand.  He will always stand.  

After these thoughts bombarded me, I finished my coffee, leaned over and kissed my little girl, and went about getting ready for the rest of my day.  I know I will always need reminders of the promise of salvation.  I also know that I will walk the tightrope of trappings of an Earthly life.  I know there will be days where I just want to pull the covers over my head.  There will be storms that rage in my heart, my mind, and my life.

The pictures in this post are of the sky over Missouri following the tornado in Oklahoma.  It was beautiful to look at.  The sky following the Joplin tornado was eerily beautiful as well.  It makes sense though.photo (63)

 It is in the storms of life that the true beauty of faith in Christ is revealed.  

Stuck in the Middle

vinyl-decal-sticker-8951It was December of 1987 when I received my keys to so-called freedom by turning 16-years-old, and getting my driver’s license.  I drove through the quiet streets of my neighborhood before coming up to a stop sign. I stared at the traffic going back and forth in front of me.  I remember staying there for quite some time in fear of pulling out onto the busy street.  My mind was racing with thoughts like, “What if I hit a car?”, “What if a car hits me?”, and “I can’t do this. I’m too scared.”

I got up the courage, checked for traffic, and then hit the gas pedal.  I made it safely into the center turn lane and let out a big sigh of relief.  There I was, a new driver, sitting in the center lane on one of the busiest streets in my town.  I knew I had to make a decision.  I put my blinker on and waited….and waited….and…..

In that moment, panic came over me.  I was stuck in the middle lane.  I was scared to pull out into traffic to join in the line of cars, but I knew I could not go back the way I came.  The only way out of this situation was to either take my keys out of the ignition, and walk away, or take a deep breath, hit the gas pedal, and go.

Both options had good things about them.  Taking the keys out and walking away would have been a little easier on my nerves.  After all, I only lived a few blocks away, and could have walked home so that my parents could go back with me to get the car.  I would have not had to face this big challenge either.  The other option of hitting the gas pedal and pulling into what I perceived as a dangerous, yet exciting adventure appealed to me, if only I could build up the courage to do so.

After sitting in the center turn lane for what felt like a very long time, I sat straight up, grasped the steering wheel, checked for traffic, looked to the side, and hit the gas pedal.  I made it into the lane of traffic just fine.  Excitement came over me once I knew I had successfully overcome the fear.  I spent the rest of the night driving around and listening to music.  My new adventure of freedom as a teenager had just begun.

I have thought of this experience many times throughout the years.  Often, I have felt stuck in the middle of a difficult decision without knowing which way to go.  On one hand, turning back and continuing with the same direction feels comforting.  On the other hand, taking a leap of faith and beginning a new journey is quite exciting, and could lead to multiple open doors and a growing sense of His presence.

Are you stuck in the middle of some life decisions right now?  What would you accomplish if you were fearless?

Sometimes in life, you just need to get the courage up, hit the gas pedal, and go!  Regardless of what you decide to do, make sure to listen to the Lord’s leading.  He will not lead you into on-coming traffic that is harmful.  It may feel uncomfortable at times, but the same God who formed you in your mother’s womb is the same One who will see you safely to the other side of the road.

Blessings to you on new adventures in life!