Sunday, May 21, 2017

No Fear in Love {Foster Care}

One of the most common things we hear from people when they find out we do foster care is some variation of:  "I would love to foster, but I'm scared to love a child and have them leave." I get it, I really do. I used to have the same feelings, but God broke down my walls a few years ago and here we are: loving kids who might leave. The goal of foster care is reunification. Ideally, that's what foster care should accomplish. Families being brought back together. Families healing. Families finding a new way. Families overcoming huge hurdles in their lives so they can be together. Does it always happen? Of course not. But to step into foster care, you really have to be aware that putting families back together is the goal. That you are part of a team working together toward that goal. That there is a pretty good chance that somewhere along the way, you will love a child who will leave. 
I fully understand the fear of becoming attached to a child, loving them like your own, giving them your entire heart, only to have them move on and possibly forget you. I have been knee deep in that reality for the last year and a half. In my opinion, that is proof you would be a wonderful foster parent. Those who attach to kids, love them with their whole heart, and love them unconditionally are the exact kind of people kids who come from hurting places need. I can't imagine any great foster parents start out thinking, "Yeah, I probably wouldn't love these kids very much. Where do I sign up?!" But just because it's scary doesn't mean you shouldn't do it if you're feeling the pull.
Here's how I see it. The first time you started a dating relationship with someone, what did you feel in the beginning? Were you already scared that it might end painfully? Or did you let yourself fall in love and experience the experiences? Did you constantly think "what if this doesn't work out? What if I end up with a broken heart?" Or did you let yourself fall for that person, taking a risk on love? What about subsequent relationships? If you had your heart broken once before, did you swear off love forever? The way I see it, foster care is an opportunity to take a chance on love. Yes, you might get your heart broken. Yes, you will probably get deeply attached to kids and they might not stay with you. Yes, it is risky and scary. But it's also amazing. You also get a chance to learn to love in completely new ways. You get opportunities to show precious children how to attach and show them that there are people who will love them unconditionally, no matter what. Is that worth it, even if they leave? Yes, 100 times over. My personal feeling is that I would much rather my heart be broken than theirs.
In 2 Timothy 1:7 we are commanded not to live in fear. "for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control." Would you be willing to walk into a relationship with a child who needs you, not filled with fear of the future, but ready and willing to love? Just like you probably have walked into relationships with significant others, or even with friends, not wondering how or when it would end, but enjoying the time your relationship gets to grow. I don't personally know anyone who has completely sworn off love because of the "what ifs". I don't know anyone who has said "I never want a relationship-it's too risky." Yet, it's the most common reason I hear for not stepping into foster care. I know foster caring is not for everyone. It really isn't. But for the people who truly have a deep desire to step into this place, why haven't you? If it's because of fear of loss, please truly consider what I've said here. There are kids out there who need you. Trust me, I get calls every week for them. It's easy to turn a blind eye to the need when it doesn't personally affect you, but it is there. If you know me personally, you know two of the faces for whom this is reality. Think about those precious faces, as they may be the only ones you know who are affected first hand by this. Consider all that God has done in their young lives. There are many more just like them, right here in our county, who need someone to take a chance on loving them. Take a few minutes, if you will, to let some of the words from the song "No Fear in Love" by Steffany Gretzinger, seep into your soul. 

Stir in me a love that's deep
A love that's wide
A love that's sweet
And help me Lord to never keep it to myself 

Has God given you enough love in your heart to share with someone who really needs it? Someone who is deeply worth it? If you're feeling the pull, ask Him to show you how you can share that deep, wide, sweet love that He has stirred up in your heart.
If my babes leave, will I be devastated after having loved them to the best of my ability for so long? Absolutely. Will I regret having experienced the joy of loving them, and having them love me in return? Not a chance. 

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Front Porch Makeover

Last week, I got an itch to work on our front porch a little. We have a nice little porch area that has a beautiful view off to the side, and is a good size, but I've just never done anything with it. Besides a wreath and some furniture, it has been completely neglected since we moved in 3 years ago. It was time to change that! I should have taken a before picture, but basically it was just a giant messy pile of outdoor furniture. We had 2 chairs, a little table, and a bench, and then last year my mom gave us these 2 cute little rockers she had. I liked all of it, but it was too much to make work and just looked messy. 
My first step was deciding which furniture I wanted to keep and messing around with some arrangements. 
Once I had that figured out, I made a mental list of things I wanted for the porch--a couple of pillows for the bench to cozy it up a little, some kind of stand or table in the corner, and a wreath. Not a whole lot! I also later thought of the idea to hang string lights out there, and now I'm obsessed with them! I have always wanted some in our backyard but we really have nowhere to hang them back there, so I'm glad I thought of this and that it worked out! 

When I was out shopping, I couldn't find just the right thing to put in the corner. I had something in mind and am completely blanking what its called right now. It's a metal thing that can be decor, or also a little seat. About knee height. For the life of me I cannot come up with the name for it--someone help me out here!! Anyway, I only saw a couple of them in stores and they were about $90 which is way more than I wanted to spend. Finally, at TJ Maxx, they had a cute little yellow table and I almost bought it, but then realized I could just spray paint the table I already had that I was planning to get rid of, and use that instead, so I did! I threw a little plant from TJ Maxx on top and called it good.
The pillows were a little bit tricky. I couldn't find anything I loved until I came upon this hello pillow at Hobby Lobby. But I couldn't find anything to go with it. I bought it anyway, thinking if I couldn't find anything else I'd return it. 
Then I found this bike pillow at Kirkland's and loved it, too. I wasn't sure how well they'd go together.
 At first, I didn't like them together because the whites aren't exactly the same and the bike pillow is a little bigger, but then I decided that I love both the pillows so I'm keeping them both, even if I'm committing some kind of decorating faux pas. 
I got the wreath at Kirkland's also. I just wanted something simple that could work for spring or summer. I think this would probably work for fall, as well! I have several holiday wreaths that I switch out, but I didn't have a very versatile one. I have made my own in the past but was going for easy this time, however I really didn't want to spend the $60+ that most of the wreaths at Hobby Lobby were, so I was glad to find this one! 
I got the lights at Target. I had no idea how many we'd need, so I just got 3 and it ended up being perfect. The pictures don't do justice for how cozy it feels out there at night. I see many nights after the kids go to bed with a cold beverage and book, or long talks with my honey. 
It's not a whole lot, but it's amazing how just a few little things can make a big impact! I feel like we are all ready for spring and summer now! 

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Flower Girls

Last weekend, my sister-in-law got married! We have been looking forward to this for a long time! It was such a beautiful and fun weekend spent with family and friends. AND, the girls got to be their aunt's flower girls! Needless to say, they were just about the cutest thing of my life :) 

The wedding festivities started Thursday evening with nails. My girls have never been into a nail salon so it was extra special. They were so cute sitting so still and watching so carefully as their nails got painted. 

Friday was crazy busy. We dropped the little ones off for respite for the weekend and then headed to the church to help decorate. We left the church and went to the reception hall to set up tables and chairs, decorate and get everything together. This was one of those times I realized how grown up the girls are getting. They were actually helpful and I never once had to worry about who they were with/where they were/what they were doing because they were just doing whatever people needed them to do. It is crazy how fast the years are going by and still baffles me that we are into this stage of life. My little girl came with me to pick up lunch for the crew while big sis stayed to keep helping with flowers. 
By mid-afternoon, everything was set and we all broke for the rest of the afternoon. I took the girls home to rest for a couple hours since we had been on the go all morning, then we met back at the church at 6 for the rehearsal. I forgot my phone at home so I have no pictures of that evening. My little girl came up to me while we were waiting for the rehearsal to start and said "Mom, I'm embarrassed. Everyone's going to be looking at me!" She is usually the more outgoing one, but then when it was time to practice she started bawling with just the few people sitting there watching. Poor thing! I told her just to look straight ahead at Daddy (he was officiating, so he would already be standing at the front) and don't worry about anyone else. She made it through and was excited for the next day. We headed back to the reception hall for dinner, then left to head home at dusk. Those girls needed rest badly, and we had another long day ahead on Saturday!

Saturday we woke up bright and early for the girls to get their make up done with the bride and her girls! We stopped by Starbucks to pick up caffeine reinforcements for the bride and cousins, then got there shortly before 9. 

The girls were pretty juiced at this point! They were running back and forth from the makeup room to where the other girls were getting their hair done. Pretty sure they thought they owned the place! After about an hour we ended up leaving to go have a friend of my SIL do their make up because this place said they wouldn't get to them for another 3 hours or so! No idea what happened there since their appointment was at 8:30. 
When it came time to actually get a little makeup on, they got really somber and serious. It was cute :) 

We rushed home so I could get ready and do the girls' hair. Then headed off to the church for pictures! 

The ceremony was beautiful and sweet! Then off to the reception where my little girl danced the night away! Literally, you couldn't get that girl off the dance floor. It was so hilarious and cute. Talk about the ultimate twirly dress....these things were amazing, so she was basically spinning all around the dance floor the entire night, watching her dress spin :) 
My big girl was off making best friends with extended relatives she'd never met. I have no idea how she even got started talking to them, but she was so hilarious about it. She took a special liking to her great, great aunt Nancy and sat on her lap for a good majority of the night. After we left, on the way home, we just happened to pull up next to them at a stop light and she was just tickled to death that she got to see her once last time and talk to her through the window :) Oh to be 5 and so easily amused. 

Both of the girls were just in heaven at the end of the day. They had so much fun and felt so special. We are so happy for the happy new couple and wish them a lifetime of happiness together!!

Other notable things from the wedding weekend...
* During the ceremony, we had told my little one that she could either stay up on the stage with her sister for the ceremony, or come down to sit with me, but she had to stay up there after she walks down the aisle until after Gramps walked Katie down the aisle. Well, right before the wedding, she was determined she would stay up there. She got super fidgety really fast and I had her come sit down next to me because I didn't want her to be distracting. Well, part way through the ceremony she starts stroking my earring and says, "Mom? You know what the real treasure is?" Me: "What?" Her: "Your smile." I mean......
* At the reception I was taking my little one to the bathroom and I said "Hey! Now that Katie & Connor are married, Connor is your uncle! Uncle Connor!" She goes, "Uncle Connor? I hope they never move away." Lol! 
* Before the ceremony started she came over to me and says, "Mom. I'm really excited. And also nervous." It was so cute how she knew it was a big deal and knew she was feeling both ways. 
* After we left, we were talking about how cute she was on the dance floor and asked her if she just had the best time and somehow it came up that this may be the only time they are ever flower girls. To which she replies, "I want to be a flower girl in every wedding!" We told her it was a special honor, and that she might not get to do it again, but that we will definitely go to more weddings, and she said, "Ok. But can I dance the entire time at all of them?" #priorities 
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Thursday, May 4, 2017

WeeHoo Turbo Trailer

Our family really enjoys biking together. Several years ago, we got a regular bike trailer and it has served us VERY well! We have gotten so much use out of many miles! Last year, when we grew to a family of 6 we needed something else, so we bought a second trailer off Craigslist and we each pulled a trailer with 2 kids. The girls have outgrown the trailer though, so for the last year or so we have been talking about what to do. They are too big for the trailer, but don't have enough endurance to ride their own bikes very far. Not to mention they are still on training wheels, and we have hills in every direction getting to our house so it's not a super easy ride. We toyed with the idea of getting at least 1 tag along, but even that I'm not sure how long they could really ride comfortably on at ages 4 and 5. I also have bad memories of a tag along from one summer when I was nannying. It was SO hard to balance with that thing on the back. I felt like every time the kid moved a little bit the whole thing swayed! So we have really not known what to do and weren't sure if we should just push cycling to the backseat for a few years until the girls are at the phase where they can ride a few miles on their own bikes. We didn't really want to do that, but didn't know what other options we had! Then a few months ago, a girl I went to high school with posted a picture of her and her daughter riding and she had this insanely cool looking seat for her daughter to ride in. I showed my husband and we were both like "WE HAVE TO HAVE IT!" 
So we started researching, but holy cow...they ain't cheap. We were back and forth on it for awhile but finally figured out a way to make it significantly less by using a couple gift cards, points from our vacation, and a sale on Amazon! Score! We got them last week and then it rained all weekend so we couldn't! My husband took each of the girls just down the street during a break from the rain and they were obsessed. 

Wednesday we went on our first ride! We went down to a park about 5 miles round trip. It was so much fun! The WeeHoo's are awesome because the girls are actually pedaling and helping to propel, like a tag along, but they are strapped into a seat. I feel like it's way safer and it is definitely way more comfortable for them! They have little handles they can hold on to, and pockets on the side for snacks and a drink, which they love, of course. My only complaint is that my younger daughter's feet come out of the straps a lot and I'm not sure what I can do about it. It's not terrible, she can keep her feet on the pedals without them, but we stopped several times to put them back in. Oh well, minor annoyance. Otherwise we are madly in love so far! 
My husband actually pulls quite the train. His bike is followed up by my oldest on her WeeHoo, and then a trailer with both of the littles. 
Last night, we were discussing what to do for the evening and it was another beautiful night, so we decided to get a little crazy and go to the public library. It's not terribly far, about 7 miles round trip, but since we had just ridden for the first time the night before we were both sore, and our endurance isn't super high right now coming out of winter. Well, I guess I should speak for myself. It wasn't terrible though and it was so much fun. The kids all did so great. It took us about a half hour each way with some wind, but I'm hoping we can up that a little bit. 

We are planning to do a lot of biking for the next several months! Our amazing library, the girls music class, and their swim lessons are all in the same vicinity which is about 7-9 miles round trip for each of those, so we are planning to do a lot of bike commuting to those things in the evenings. I wasn't 100% sure how the littles would do, because last year they didn't tolerate the trailer very well and it was, well, a bit of a disaster and we didn't bike much. But they have done awesome so far! I thought we'd have to do a lot of short rides for them to get used to just sitting in there, but there was only a little bit of whining which was them fighting over a snack on the way home... #toddlers. 
I had to blog about this in case anyone else needs a WeeHoo....seriously they are incredible and worth every penny!! I am so glad we found these, and the weight limit is 80 or 90 pounds so we should get several more years of use out of them!!! 
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Monday, May 1, 2017

There is Wonderful Joy Ahead

I just got done spending time with God, and I have all of these thoughts swirling around in my head and heart about what I just read. I was going to type this all out, journal style, into a google doc, just to get it out of my brain. But then I thought, "maybe someone else needed this today, too." So here I am. A jumbled mess of thoughts, doing my best to share what I just took away from this fruitful quiet time. 
Last year was really hard, and I did not handle my stress well (as I've talked about before). This year, I've really made an effort to lower my stress levels, handle things better, and take time for myself and to decompress when necessary. Up until about a month ago, it was really helping a lot. Then, several really stressful situations all piled up and the last month has been just really hard. This weekend, I was doing a lot of reflection on what I can do in the coming weeks to combat some of this and not be such a mess of stress. One of those things was to actually sit down and have a good, deep God time. I have been consistently reading and following a reading plan, but the last several weeks I've just been reading it on my phone and maybe praying a little and it hasn't been cutting it for me. I grow most when I sit down, open an actual Bible, spend time reading, reflecting and praying on all of it. So today that's what I did. My reading plan had me in 1 Peter 1 and it was definitely one of those times where I'm like, ok God...I see you. 
One thing I have really been learning lately is that there are just so many things I cannot control. I can do as much as I can do, and I can pray, but the rest is in God's hands. I have been learning that God is God. I am not God. This has been huge for me lately. Of course, I didn't literally think I was God, but so often I try to control things and sometimes, you just can't. You have to just let go of things and trust God with it and trust Him with whatever the outcome is! GOD has the bigger picture....I don't. We won't always know why doors are closed, or why things do or don't happen, but God always knows. 
So back to today. I'm reading in 1 Peter 1. The first huge "I need to stop and ponder and pray on that" verse was verse 6: 

The context around this verse is Peter talking about salvation. In verses 4-5 he mentions our "priceless inheritance that is kept in heaven". But did you get that?! Be TRULY glad. There is WONDERFUL JOY ahead (salvation), even though you have to endure MANY TRIALS for a LITTLE WHILE. The trials of this life are but a blip in eternity, aren't they? Easy to forget when they feel so overwhelming, or like they are going on forever (hello, foster care). But God wants us to focus our eyes and hearts on eternity. That is the true gift, isn't it? If all of the things I am momentarily stressed out about end up well and in my favor, that still won't be enough to give me true joy. Jesus is the only One that can make me truly glad. So as I am spending time thinking about all of this, I am realizing how important it is to not just be wishing the trials were over, and looking forward to when this is all said and done, but to actually be living in this moment, however hard it is. To be bringing glory to God with my actions and how I handle these situations, and where I place my joy and gladness. Verse 7 goes on to say, "So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world." 
Later, Peter goes on to write, "So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God's obedient children. Don't slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn't know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the scriptures say, "You must be holy because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:13-16 emphasis added) 
How often am I holy amidst trials? But there he says, in everything you do. Not just when things are going well. Not "be holy when it's convenient for you". But be holy in EVERYTHING. Why? Because GOD is holy and we are to be His obedient children. Whew. That is convicting. I don't have to like my trials. I don't have to be glad that I am stressed out and going through these things, but I am called to be holy in Christ likeness, no matter what my circumstances are. I can be so shortsighted some times, not thinking about the glorious day when Christ is revealed. It is so easy for me to fully envelope myself in stress and hard ships, not focusing my heart on eternity and spending forever with my savior. I am thankful for that reminder today, and for the reminder that I don't have to wait until my trials are over to glorify God. I can do that every day with the way I handle things, and with where I fix my eyes. 
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