Moving Day

Throwback to four years ago when our daughters came home!

It’s moving day!

Yes, we are finally here ūüôā¬† Today is the day we get to go pick up our girls and bring them home to start FOREVER together!!

It’s funny how things are never quite as you imagined they will be.

Even though I’ve been waiting for this day for so long…now that it’s finally here I don’t really feel all those emotions I thought I would.¬† Well…I do, but they are alongside others that don’t fit so well.

I am so excited, of course…I mean, why wouldn’t I be?!?¬† My daughters are finally going to be here with me, where they belong.¬† I love them so much and I miss them when they’re not here.¬† I love our weekends together, knowing that they’re here within my grasp.¬† That feeling of walking downstairs after we’ve tucked them in and said goodnight a thousand times and gave kisses and backrubs and cuddles…it’s amazing.¬† I love knowing that they’re safe.¬† They’re just up the steps, safe in their pink room and pink beds and pink pajamas.¬† I will know and hear if they are scared or lonely.¬† I can take care of them.¬† When they’re two and a half hours away…I have no idea what they’re doing or how to help.¬† So I can’t wait to have them here with me.

But the last few days I have also been hit by this tsunami size wave of FEAR.

From now on…everything is going to be different…and I’ve never really been that great with change.

Never again will it be just my husband and I…our little family of 2 that I know and love and am so comfortable in.¬† From now on we will always be a family of 4, not 2.¬† This isn’t really anything to be afraid of…except that I have no idea what that is even going to be like or feel like all the time.¬† And I will miss being a family of 2.¬† I am so in love with my husband, and I will miss it just being the 2 of us.¬† I know what it feels like to have children, because we’ve had children in our home lots already…but other times it wasn’t forever.¬† Eventually, they always moved on and it was just the 2 of us again.¬† It’s overwhelming to realize we are really at the end of this¬†stage, of it just being us.¬† I know it’ll be good…and I won’t even think about it.¬† But I have so enjoyed¬† the last couple months, after having kids around so much in the past year, to just enjoy being a couple.¬†¬†I will miss that.¬† I know from experience that having children around does not make your marriage less rich or exciting, but I do know¬†that it’s harder.¬† It’s harder to find time to talk.¬† It’s harder to have energy to¬†do things that are fun and crazy…just for the two of you.¬† It’s harder to get in date nights.¬† It’s harder to know¬†every little¬†thing that’s going on in each other’s lives.¬† It takes a lot of energy and time to parent…and that often means other areas can get neglected a bit sometimes.¬† Lucky for me¬†I have a pretty amazing husband who is always willing to go that extra mile to make sure that I¬†don’t just feel like a harried mama, but also¬†the¬†love of his life ‚̧

I always imagined what this kind of day…the actual day of moving our child home…would feel like.¬† Immediately,¬†you get all these images running through your¬†mind of tears of joy,¬†hugging, kissing, smiling…perfect.¬† After all, there are tons of home videos on YouTube¬†of¬†parents meeting their child for the first time or bringing their children home.¬† But without having done this day yet, I know that’s not exactly a complete picture.¬†¬†To be¬†honest, I am dreading this day a little bit.¬† I wish¬†we could skip over it, because I’m not sure how to best handle it.¬† My girls are not tiny, wide eyed, oblivious¬†one year olds being passed over to their new Mommy and Daddy by cheering nannies.¬† My girls are 5 and 7, and they know exactly what’s happening today.¬†¬†We have been going over and over and over this for weeks now.¬† Today is the day they are saying goodbye.¬† They are saying¬†goodbye to the families they love.¬† They are saying goodbye to the only normal they know.¬† They¬†will see their foster parents cry today,¬†and they will not know what to do with those big feelings inside.¬† I know what it’s like to be a foster parent…and I have no idea how to stand there and watch someone else’s painful goodbye while I wait for my child to come to me.¬† How¬†do you do that well?¬† I’m not sure if it’s more or less complicated¬†that we’ve formed a friendship with these families over the last couple months.¬† Does that make it easier or harder?¬† I think that once¬†the last goodbyes and hugs are given and we are strapped in the van¬†on our way home…we’ll all be fine.¬† We’ve done that part a thousand times now.¬†¬†But it’s just that inevitable moment where you have to watch your little girl give her ‘Mommy’¬†that last hug and kiss goodbye.¬† There is no pretty way to¬†cover up that pain.¬† Right now, they don’t understand why this needs to happen.¬† They’re excited, they’ve bonded and they love us…but they don’t understand why it¬†really needs to happen.¬† Especially my 5 year old.¬†¬†It’s not fair that to get one thing she loves she must give up another.¬†¬† Those feel like adult decisions,¬†not something a child should have to grapple with.

But…that is the reality.

I’m nervous.

I’m scared.

I’m excited.

We will get through today…and maybe it will be better than I¬†could ever hope ūüôā

Tomorrow…on the first day of forever…things will feel pretty normal.¬† The girls will wake up around 6:30 am, start giggling and chattering to each other and creep downstairs¬†once the alarm goes off telling them they may get up.¬† We will eat breakfast…probably Fruit Loops…and go for either a walk or a bike ride.¬†¬†They will play with their dolls and maybe¬†run in the sprinkler if it’s warm.¬†¬†We¬†probably won’t be thinking about forever or goodbyes.¬† In the next week sometime, when they start feeling homesick, we will call and talk to their foster moms and tell them all about what we’ve been doing.¬† I’ll send emails and pictures whenever I think of it, to let them know we still value the love and energy they gave to our daughters and let them see their smiling, happy faces…because that is such a gift.¬† Eventually, after maybe six months or a year, when we know¬†it won’t do more harm than good, we will go back and¬†visit.¬† Maybe we’ll play at the park together or just hang out in the backyard.¬† We’ll build the tentative first straws of a new¬†relationship.¬† One day at a time we will become a family…us¬†4.¬† The girls will eventually have that first day where they call me Mommy every time they talk to me.¬† One day they will be able to talk about how they came to be here, in our family, without that shadow of fear and confusion in their eyes.¬† We will start our own traditions, build our own memories and life will become normal.

I’m ready to begin that.

So…if you read this before 1:00 pm today, June 24, 2014…please say a little prayer for us.¬† We could use¬†some help today.¬† Mostly pray for Akeisha and Alexa…because more than anything I wish we could become a family of 4 without them having to go¬†through this pain¬†and loss.¬† They’ve already dealt with more pain and loss than is fair.¬† Pray that they will be able to¬†do one day at a time, and that¬†they will feel safe and loved…always.

For the next few months we’ll be doing lots of hibernating here…spending as much time as possible just making sure we know who our family is ūüôā¬† Busy starting forever.

Cheers

AF

The Cross, Chocolate Eggs & the Resurrection

Then we come to this weekend,

Spring still making its shy debut.

Snow is still heaped against the shadowed places beside the fence and ice covers the tops of the puddles that the sun melted yesterday.

The lawn is brown and yellowed, the trees bare; life beneath the ground holds its breath waiting for the sun’s warmth to signal that it is time.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”¬† John 12:24

We wake up Good Friday to the sky cold and dreary.  All day it changes back and forth from cloudy to sunny to cloudy again.  It cannot decide whether its a day of light or darkness, and our hearts agree.

So much grief; so much joy.

So much loss; so much gain.

Pain in the midst of victory; the greatest sacrifice to accomplish the greatest rescue mission the world has ever known.

“He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5

We do our Easter hunt a day early, scavenger clues scrawled on colourful pieces of paper.

They shriek and run eagerly with buckets banging by their sides.

Their eyes light with joy at each new discovery.

The chocolate is sweet and sticky on my tongue.

Mmm.  So good.

And I wish that all of life was this sweet and perfectly mesmerizing.

But they tear into packages and leave bits of paper and cardboard all over the counter, knocking each other over in their haste.

I prickle with irritation and the magic of it all starts to dissipate.

The sugar high brings chaos and silliness and fighting naps and I get frustrated at it all.

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And its this.

It’s for this that I needed that cross.

Impatience, sarcasm, frustration and pride.

My sin glares ugly in our faces and rips and tears at what wants to be whole.

We are only humans and we feel it oh so real.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”¬† Romans 3:11

We cling to that hope in our brokenness.

Because of the gift; that cross so crude and unlovely,

We are justified!

We are whole and spotless and beautifully redeemed.

Because of death, yes…

But also because of Life!

“In Christ shall all be made alive.” I Corinthians 15:22

“Death is swallowed up in victory.¬† Oh death, where is your victory?¬† O death, where is your sting?”¬† 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Tomorrow is Sunday!

Resurrection Day.

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We will put on our dresses and buttoned shirts and pretty hair bows.

We will smile and rejoice as we sing the victorious songs.

Songs of hope.

Songs of promise.

Songs of light and love.

We are not lost.

We are not doomed to break under the weight of all our shortcomings.

We are redeemed!

We’ve been rescued and scooped up into the palm of a Hand so gentle and nurturing.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.” Ephesians 1:7-8

Chosen to be the recipient of lavish grace.

Lavish.

And so, it is Easter.

So much grief; so much joy.

So much loss; so much gain.

Pain in the midst of victory.

The greatest sacrifice to accomplish the greatest rescue mission the world has ever known.

~AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

Self Care and Why it Matters

I remember the first time I travelled internationally with my children.

For the first time I actually stopped to listen and observe carefully as the flight attendants demonstrated how to use the oxygen masks and life vests in case of an emergency.

With my baby in my arms and two daughters beside me, it suddenly felt important to know how I would go about saving their lives if need be.

The most important take-away?

Always put your own mask on first.

It struck me how contradictory this was to every maternal instinct inside of me.

As mothers, we regularly play the martyr.

We sacrifice.

We shield.

We protect.

It’s who we are, and who we want to be.

But what happens when the steady pouring out of ourselves leaves a gaping hole?

What happens when the mundane of life covers up the joy?

Is it ever ok to put me first?

As Christian mamas we heap on the added burdens of selfless service, taking up our cross and putting others ahead of ourselves.

We take the verses to heart and stretch ourselves thin and fragile over our treasures.

We want it all.

We want to be enough.

But we foolishly forget we will never be enough on our own.

There is no glory in exhausting our own resources so that at the end of the day we are weary, discouraged women with nothing left to offer.

I realize there are seasons and days when this is the inescapable reality of motherhood.

We all have seasons that drain the life out of us, but sometimes it’s because we are neglecting our own souls.

Self care is a bit of a hot button word right now, but it’s really not that complicated.

It means taking time to infuse hope, joy and energy back into myself.

The purpose of self care is to fill yourself up so that you can once again pour yourself out.

It’s hard to mother well from a depleted soul.

I practise self care so I can tuck my children in with smiles and tender kisses at the end of the day.

I practise self care so that I have energy to be active with my children.

I practise self care so that I reflect hope and joy to a dying world around me.

I practise self care to remind myself of who I am in Christ.

I practise self care so that I can enjoy time with my husband.

If you’re like me you might be reading this thinking, “Great, another thing to add to my never ending to do list.¬† One more thing I’ve neglected to accomplish.”

But self care is probably something you’re already doing…it maybe just needs to be prioritized into your life a little more intentionally.

Self care is doing things that you love; things that make you happy.

It means feeding your passions and pursuing your dreams.

It means disciplining yourself to choose what is best so that you can reach your very greatest potential.

It means that every now and then, you put your own spiritual, emotional or social needs first.

So today…find a way to take care of yourself.

Turn on your favourite music, order pizza for dinner or get out for a walk.

Take a bath…with music so you won’t hear the chaos the kids are causing downstairs with your husband.

Plan a date night at home, exercise or go shopping.

Take a nap while the kids lie down, join a women’s group or book club, journal or call a friend.

Change the scenery around you for a few hours.

When we think of self care we tend to think of hiding away in a corner somewhere by ourselves, but some of these things can be done with your children at your side.

It’s about choosing to enjoy the life you have, and finding ways to make it easy to enjoy.

It’s ok to leave the dishes for a nap sometimes.

Deciding to spend the morning outside in the sunshine instead of cleaning the house is not a choice you will regret.

Losing some weight or cooking a nutritious meal will help you feel more motivated, energetic and happy.

Listening to your favourite worship songs while you feed the kids breakfast could be the difference between staying calm and refreshed or frustrated and stressed through the morning rush.

Pick up your Bible while the kids are quiet or listen to your favourite podcast while you fold the laundry.

I have found it can be such a subtle change to my day but such a great shift in my heart when I take the time to choose things that will fill up my own cup.

 

In John chapter 10 Jesus says,

“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

This is what Jesus desires for you.

Life!

Abundantly.

~AF

 

 

 

 

 

This One’s for the Moms

Parenting is hard work.

Nobody is perfect but somehow we still expect perfection, especially from ourselves.

It doesn’t help that we have access to so much information.

Every day we as moms are bombarded with hundreds of messages of what we should and shouldn’t be doing, wearing, saying and eating.

Sometimes I feel like no matter what I do, it’s never enough.

How do I know if I’m doing this well?

What are the most important things?

Am I getting it right?

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But God gave those children to you for a reason, Mama.

The best parenting moments often happen when we are confidently parenting in the ways that we instinctively know are best for us and our children.

Here are a collection of some things I have told myself and other moms.

Because we could all use some grace.

***

Dear Moms,

Your child will not die if they eat Kraft Dinner tonight…or three times this week.

Your integrity as a person does not depend on the cleanliness of your home.

It is ok not to breastfeed your baby.

Not all immunizations are good and not all are bad.¬† It’s ok to make your own choices and its ok to just follow the immunization schedule your doctor suggests.

Colds and flus happen and there is very little you can do to stop them.  They will run their course and be over soon.

Some of the best days happen in pajamas with unwashed faces, bare feet and dirty floors.

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Having devotions every day is not always possible when you are a mom.  You are not going to hell for being busy caring for the little people He entrusted to you.

Sometimes your child will be the bully and other mothers will misunderstand you and yours.¬† Take it as an opportunity to develop character in yourself and your child…and remember in detail all the times you were mean to others as a kid.

Most children do not enjoy church.¬† This doesn’t mean they will never be Believers, it just means they’re regular children.

Sleeping through the night for babies, toddlers and mothers is a myth.  Few nights will go by that both you and all your children will sleep for 8 hours with no interruptions.  Lower your expectations and you will all be happier.

Sometimes bribes are the perfect solution.

Don’t turn everything into a lesson.

Babies cannot be spoiled by being held…but it’s also ok to put them down so you can take a shower.

You don’t always have to give a reason other than “Because I’m the mom.”

Co-sleeping can be wonderful…or terrible.¬† It really is YOUR choice.

Follow your instincts…but don’t expect to be a super-human.¬† You never did or will know everything about everything.¬† Sometimes it’s better to call the Doctor.

Pretending you did not hear or see something is a coping mechanism every parent will use sometimes.  Stay sane!

Siblings will fight, and sometimes they will hurt each other.  This is normal.

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Every parent does hundreds of things they will later regret.  Say sorry, do what you can to resolve the situation and then move on.

When the dentist says your child has cavities it does not necessarily mean that you are not brushing your child’s teeth well enough or often enough.¬† Also, no one expects you to have time to brush and floss three kids’ teeth for them every morning and night.

Living off the grid and growing your own food is probably not a good option for most of you.

Whichever way you choose to educate your child has worked for hundreds of other children on the planet.

DIY sometimes just means that it looks like you did it yourself.¬† Don’t let Pinterest fool you!

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Love really does cover a multitude of sins.

The TV is a good babysitter and its ok to use it some days.  If it provides you with the breather you need then it is probably worth it.

Children under 5 rarely handle social situations well.  They hit, they bite, they scream and they grab.  This is perfectly normal.

Sometimes you need to put your own needs ahead of your children’s and practise some self care.¬† Don’t be a martyr.

No matter how hard you try, there will be some things you do badly.

It’s okay if you’re aiming for just OK.

Life is not fair, and your kids should know that.

Children love time with you.¬† It doesn’t always have to be quality, it doesn’t always have to be quantity.¬† Both have value and significance.

Your kids will not always be happy and they will not always like you.¬† That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.

It’s ok to say no.¬† It’s also ok to say yes sometimes.

Adolescents will be grumpy a lot.

You will not enjoy your children, or parenting, all the time.

God loves to fill in the gaps that we miss as parents with His perfect, extravagant, more than enough love.

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Keep your chin up and your smile on.

You.

Are.

Doing

Great.

With Love and Grace,

Another Imperfect Mom

~AF

*Photography credits to Unfrozen Photography

 

 

Be Kind to Yourself

It’s been a long week.

I started strong on Monday, with ambition and the best of intentions.

But along came Tuesday,

Wednesday,

and then Thursday;

trampling tenacity and smothering resolve.

In came sore throats and hot little fevered bodies.  Tears, tantrums, countless night time wakings and bone aching weariness.

The lists get longer, the interruptions more frequent and the laundry pile larger.

By mid afternoon I’m feeling like I want to crawl under the blankets in a dark room for a long, long time.

My throat feels raw, my voice is hoarse and my eyes are gritty from lack of sleep while the fevered chills come and go.

But it’s my soul that feels most defeated.

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I feel I’m at my worst.

It’s not the physical sickness.

It’s all the impatient words I spoke, rolling over and over through my mind like a song on repeat.

It’s all the times I sighed and pushed them away;

ignored their hands reaching for me.

It’s all the missed opportunities to nurture, knowing it’s in those moments I had so much opportunity to deliver the message,

I will take care of you.

Instead, it came out more like,

I’m way too tired and busy for you.

It’s the looking at tomorrow and thinking,

“I don’t want to get up and be the mom anymore.”

I dump it out with hoarse sobs and hot tears on my husband’s kind shoulders.

And the words come.

Be kind to yourself.

He folds me in his arms and kisses my hair.

His calm reassurance brings Truth to this space.

His love is indifferent to my scathing self-reviews.

I hunt down the song on YouTube and let my soul rest in it as I play it over and over again.

You can’t expect to be perfect
It’s a fight you’ve gotta forfeit
You belong to me whatever you do
So lay down your weapon, darling
Take a deep breath and believe that I love you

Be kind to yourself.

I can see it, watching the tender exchange on video between father and daughter as they sing the words.

I love you just the way that you are.
I love the way He made your precious heart.                                                                          Be kind to yourself.

What if I could pass this on to my own daughter, so tender and vulnerable as she unfolds into womanhood before my eyes?

I know it’s hard to hear it when that anger in your spirit
Is pointed like an arrow at your chest
When the voices in your mind are anything but kind

What if I could really embrace it,

the knowledge of all the ways I fall short.

Embrace that love isn’t something to be earned.

Maybe I could carry that grace to others, too.

Well how does it end when the war that you’re in
Is just you against you against you?

Be kind to yourself.

I let the words reshape my reflection.

I look at my daughters as I kiss them goodnight, stroking the freckled cheeks affectionately, and think…

It’s the best way to love them; to show them what Grace is.

When I let failure be my teacher, humility and kindness will settle around my tensed shoulders and I can offer kindness to them too.

Teach them how to handle their own fragile souls delicately.

Be kind to yourself.

Will they see it?

Will they carry it in their own hearts as they look in the mirror each day,

take in the words of the world around them,

try and fail at life.

Be kind to yourself.

I say it as I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror pulling old clothes over an ordinary, blemished body.

I say it as I stare at the to do list and tuck it under the stack of papers where I can’t see it.

I say it as I fall onto the couch for a nap in the quiet of the afternoon while the dishes litter the kitchen counter and harden into crusty layers.

I say it as I scroll through my social media feed, taking in a narration of a thousand best moments of other people’s today.

I say it as I look at the dirty floors, the Kraft Dinner on the table, the children lounging on the couch in front of a screen.

I say it as I glimpse my Bible unopened in the basket by the window.

I say it as I step on the scale that disappoints, look at the grocery receipt that’s too high, and the toddlers eating lunch in their pajamas.

Be kind to yourself.

The words we tell ourselves become the words we tell others.

The disappointment,

the expectations,

the fear,

the anger,

or the kindness.

Live like you are loved.

Live like you are a child of God.

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“That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

-Ephesians 3:17-19

“Be Kind to Yourself” by Andrew Peterson

~AF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emmanuel

Emmanuel.

God with us.

It’s the theme that keeps playing on the screen of my heart this Christmas.

I sit in church on Christmas Eve morning and feel the words seep into my soul.

God with us.

Emmanuel.

The manger scene on my bookshelf, set out at the beginning of Advent, sits as a quiet testament to the Truth of it.

A tiny baby is snuggled in the manger carved of porcelain, surrounded by witnesses of the glorious moment when the world was forever changed.

Through the raw, undignified labor of childbirth God came to us.

On that first Christmas night he found His home in a barn, the breath and body heat of animals filling the air with a sweet, musty odour.

The gentle movements of cattle rustling in the straw were the backdrop to one young woman’s delivery.

“And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, for there was no room for them in the inn.”¬† Luke 2:7

Just like that, God entered the world He had created and sought out the hearts of humanity as He always does.

A young woman and her humble husband,

shepherds working in the fields nearby,

the townspeople of a small town in Judah called  Bethlehem,

the king of a mighty empire,

an elderly woman and man in the temple in Jerusalem,

men from the far east.

God here with us for one purpose;

to redeem the brokenness and seek out the hearts of His beloved creation.

Emmanuel, God with us.

Suddenly, there was hope.

I look back over the past year and it’s those words that ring in my ears.

“God with us.”

He was,

he is,

and he will be.

Steadfast love.

“Never stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever love.”¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†-The Jesus Storybook Bible

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I watch my children’s eyes¬†as my husband walks them through the Christmas story, the porcelain figures in their hands as we recount the events of that first celebration of Jesus’ birth over 2000 years ago.

I see it’s like a story to them.

They don’t understand yet, but someday they will see it;

this Emmanuel feeling…God with us.

So much humility and gratitude in the realization.

God here with us in the mess of our lives,

delighting in our little acts of worship to Him.

We sing Happy Birthday to Jesus and blow out the candle.

My daughter wonders how many cand

les should really be there, and her brow furrows in concentration as I try to explain that there was never a beginning.

I peel back the wrappings on the large wooden plaque and I see a map of the world painted on the rough wooden slabs.

My husband smiles at my delight and I study the span of it.

We point out to the children where we are and where their aunt is, clear across the expanse of the map in Australia.

This one world that seems so huge to us, but is such a tiny dot in the eye of that one God who entered into it.

Emmanuel.

One of my favourite Christmas songs com

es on and I close my eyes and take a moment to settle in it.

God Is With Us

The skies don’t seem to be as dark as usual
The stars seem brighter than they’ve been before
Deep within I feel my soul a stirring
As though my hope has been restored
The shepherds say they’ve heard the voice of angels
Confirming rumors spread across the land
That a child protected well from Herod’s anger
Is our father’s son, and the son of man

Love is raining down on the world tonight
There’s a presence here I can tell
God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel

He’s the savior we have been praying for
In our humble hearts he will dwell

God is in us, God is for us, God is with us, Emmanuel

I feel compelled to tell all who will listen
That peace on earth is not so out of reach
If we can find grace, mercy and forgiveness
He has come to save, he is all of these

You’re the savior we have been praying for
In our humble hearts you will dwell

You are in us, you are for us

You are with us,

Emmanuel

~Casting Crowns

It’s true.

Emmanuel means He has come down here to us.

God is in us.

He is for us.

He is the hope we can hang our heartstrings on and know, without a doubt, that He will be able to hold the weight of all of us and our world.

~AF

 

 

 

A Village

Sasha is a young single mom working a day job…and raising three kids on the side.

What started as a babysitting opportunity turned into weekends, weekdays, weeknights, and sometimes weeks at a time.

For these three kids she is just as much “Mommy” as their biological mother.

They have drawers full of clothing, favourite toys and predictable routines specific to her home.

Sasha is often exhausted and frustrated from the early mornings, interrupted nights, constant transitioning of toddlers and syncing schedules.

However, when the kids do happen to go home for a few days, she can’t help but miss them and wonder what they’re doing.

She is a mom in every sense of the word.

Her parents and siblings help out as well, welcoming these children into their family with open arms.

“Grammy” is adored by all and despite having raised four of her own children spends day after day, night after night caring for, feeding and loving three more little souls.

Sasha and her family’s endurance and generosity have inspired and blessed me.

If it were not for them, a single mom with very limited resources and support would be overwhelmed, frustrated and more than likely unable to cope with the demands of raising three active, young children on her own.

It’s very possible this family would be a part of the foster care system if it were not for Sasha’s daily sacrifices and commitment.

***

Dana is a newlywed.

She and her husband love children, which led her to begin offering childcare out of her home.

Through a series of events Dana was given the opportunity to provide childcare for a young single mom who had recently moved out of a women’s shelter with her two young children.

Dana knew this family would require much more than the typical childcare expectations, including weekends and possibly overnights as this young mom worked on securing employment and rebuilding her life.

Soon the children were spending a lot of time in Dana’s home and she soon learned to love them very much, despite some very challenging behaviors that made it difficult for her to reach around to all the children in her care.

When the family’s new residence turned out to be infested by bedbugs and Children’s Services began considering the children be removed, Dana and her husband stepped forward and offered to take the children into their home full time until the situation could be resolved.

So…on Dana and her husband’s 6 month anniversary, they found themselves curled up on the couch with two children watching a Disney movie, too tired to go out.

While the children’s mother visits regularly and is very grateful, Dana and her husband are the ones who change diapers, tuck the children into bed, deal with tantrums, feed, clothe and pray over these children.

There is no word other than parenting that explains what they are doing.

They are often exhausted and feel ill equipped to parent these children, but in her words,

“It is so beautiful to have something bigger than ourselves to pour into!”

If it were not for Dana and her husband, this family would most likely have entered the foster care system.

Thanks to Dana, this young mom can see her children every day and work at building a safe home for her children to return to without the stressful scrutiny of Social Services which is intimidating for anyone.

Her children were able to move into a home they were already familiar with, with people they already knew and loved instead of being torn from their home and placed with strangers.

It will be a long road ahead for this family but Dana and her husband have proved they are willing to do whatever it takes to support this family and help them thrive.

I truly believe there is hope for this family because of Dana.

***

So many times, when a new little face appears at my doorstep teary, wide eyed and frightened, I have wondered…

Could this have been prevented?

I look at my own children, hear their birth parents’ stories, observe the grief and loss and regret and questions and I wonder…

Could this have been prevented?

What if there had been someone there to walk that young mother through the diaper changing, breastfeeding, teething, and tantruming of young children?

What if there had been someone to bring freezer meals, clean the house, buy tiny baby clothes, give her an hour to nap, throw a baby shower.

What if that young father battling addiction had people around him to support him and his son.

Someone to call out the man in him, the father in him, and to model integrity.

Someone to offer free babysitting for his son, hand me down clothing, a night off or a ride to and from work each day.

What if that teenage couple had someone a little older and wiser to come alongside and gently walk them through car seat installations, nutritious meals and safe sleep?

What if there was someone to say those words every mother longs to hear,

“You’re a good mom.”

What if we opened our eyes to see the families around us who are struggling and to offer the small things we have to them.

Because in our offerings there is dignity.

There is validation and affirmation.

There is a shared strand of survival in the challenges we face as parents.

We all need a little grace.

Of course, not all situations could be prevented.

Many families need more than a freezer meal or hand me downs…

but what if we started there?

What if we stopped trying so hard to get it all right that we had room to acknowledge that you and I…well we’re the same.

We both raise our voices and collapse under pressure.

We both suffer from anxiety and turn our backs when we shouldn’t.

We both make mistakes…

sometimes ones we will regret forever.

it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-child-quote-1

I wish I had been there when my daughter was born in her mother’s tender seventeenth year.

I wish I had been there through the challenging teenage years when addiction lured her into its deathly grip.

I wish I had been there to let her know that she is not alone.

I wish I could have offered up my hands and my baby clothes and my leftovers.

Maybe things could have been different.

I love that I know a God who delights in taking broken things and making them beautiful and whole again.

Adoption and foster care are both wonderful examples of¬† His work of redemption, but make no mistake…

they are the result of brokenness.

While God delights in restoring the broken pieces of our lives, he also longs for His original design to flourish.

Families are created to last forever, and when that initial model disrupts there is chaos, trauma and pain.

Parent and child will bear scars for a lifetime.

But what if there were more Sasha’s?

More Dana’s?

More people willing to enter the core of this problem instead of placing bandaids on top?

How many more families would remain intact?

We live in a broken world.

Every day we witness the evidence of that tragedy, but as believers, we are called to bear witness of the Light.

We are empowered by His Spirit to foreshadow His Kingdom here on earth while we wait for Him to return and restore everything to its beautiful, original design.

I love these verses in Pilippians that teach us how to serve humbly.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;¬†do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.¬†¬†Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.”¬† Philippians 2:3-5

It takes a village.

We were never meant to do this on our own.

I am so thankful for the Sasha’s and Dana’s who are bravely, gracefully stepping into the mess of brokenness and offering up what they have.

It is painful,

it is exhausting,

and it is often discouraging.

But it is good.

~AF