Finished! (Never mind … I’ve Not Even Begun)

Yesterday afternoon about 1:30 the phone call finally came.

Our paperwork is complete. Jon and I are officially logged into the foster care system and available to take a child into our home.

Whew! For a while, I wasn’t sure it was ever going to happen.  Those first few weeks, everything flew into place. I couldn’t seem to get it to all slow down.

And then everything came to a sudden halt.

Not only did things not move forward. It even seemed we were taking steps back. I found myself questioning our motives and wondering if we were up to the challenge. A minor family crisis involving one of our five children almost made us decide to close the door on this ministry.

But we decided to wait on God and let Him either close or open the door.

We waited and watched … and very slowly the last few steps were accomplished in an orderly manner.

And with that one phone call, I sat back and breathed a big sigh, “It’s finished!”

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I only thought it was finished yesterday.  What was finished was nothing more than the beginning.

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Today the phone rang again. Almost at the same exact time.

Again, it was our foster care worker with news … two kids on their way to our home.

And suddenly, just as quickly, all the relief of yesterday vanished. My heart is turning in a million directions. I’m overwhelmed with nerves and heartache, while at the same time eager to do what God has asked me and my family to do.

Any time a child is placed into foster care, there has been a tragedy. An awful thing has happened. And yet to have the chance to love on these two precious babies is an opportunity I  want to embrace.

I’ve got just an hour to get ready. I’ve got just a few minutes to get things together. There are a million things to do, or so it seems. Put the crib together. Straighten in the nursery and make sure there is nothing a toddler shouldn’t have laid about. Baby proof the living room. Start supper because I imagine cooking once they arrive will be hard to accomplish. And yet I sit here writing …

Because my heart is breaking… Two babies ripped out of their home … so even though they are coming to me where I will keep them safe and fed and hopefully happy, these two precious ones have already been through something terrible to bring them to my door.

Because my heart is anxious… Will I have enough energy for this? Can my family take the stress and strain of caring for two small children? Are we going to regret this decision or will it be the best thing we’ve ever done?

Because my heart is filled with excitement… God has asked me and my family to dare to love and we’ve said yes. It’s always thrilling to see how God will use us and there is a part of me expecting great and wonderful things.

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Yesterday, when I thought those words, “it is finished,” I recalled how those were the final words Jesus uttered on the cross. We call that day Good Friday, not because His suffering was good but because through it all humanity gained salvation.

Today is a good Friday in my home and in my life. Not that it begins to compare to the Good Friday of Easter, but rather because it signifies that we are following God in faith, dependent upon Him to meet our every need in this endeavor.

It’s good because God will meet us where we are and will give us all we need. This much I know to be true.

Still … if you think of the two babies heading to my home and of my family as we welcome them with love, I would love knowing you are praying with us and for us.

Because we’ve not finished anything. We’ve only just begun.

Let’s Try to Name that Baby

In early 2015, I will be an aunt again! My sister is having a baby … and now, after much debate (which you can read about here) we finally know whether to buy pink or blue bibs!

All along I’ve been guessing her new baby is going to be a boy, dreaming of onesies decorated with jungle animals, blankets edged in blues and greens, and plenty of toy trucks and balls galore.

Boy, oh boy!  Was I ever wrong!

My sister is having another girl … and quite truthfully, I am still tickled just as pink! There will be dresses trimmed with lace, hair bows, dolls and tea parties. Oh, I can hardly wait to meet my newest niece!

Photo Credit: Designed by godofopathy at  www.wordans.com
Photo Credit: Designed by godofopathy at http://www.wordans.com

For the past week or so, my sister and I have been discussing names via text messaging. This is probably the safest way for us to handle discussions on this topic. I’m not naming any names but one of us used to pick weird names for our dolls and stuffed animals. We’ve been arguing quibbling over names ever since.

This time the list of possible names has approximately one that I really like: Abigail.

The rest of the list is consists of names that are cute but I would never chose for one reason or another, as well as several names that cause me to question my sister’s sanity. None of them are quite as bad as something like Bertha, but a few of them are just a step or two away.  Hopefully, my brother-in-law won’t like those options any better than I do.

My sister doesn’t always choose strange names. Her younger daughter has a beautiful name, Bethany Sage.

Immediately upon finding out this newest addition was going to be another girl, I thought how sweet it would be if her daughters had rhyming names. And, in case you hadn’t thought of it yet, Sage rhymes perfectly with Paige.

Personally, I think Abigail Paige is an adorable name! It’s timeless and classic, with a Bible name thrown in for good measure. In my unsolicited opinion, this is the sort of name you cannot go wrong with giving to a daughter. Besides, I am quite certain that “little Paige” would love sharing a name with her favorite aunt.  Unfortunately, my sister has not been agreeable to my suggestion.

My sister’s oldest daughter is actually her step-daughter so she obviously didn’t pick out her name, which is Madison Rose. However, there is a little connection between those two girls and their middle names. Perhaps you noticed it too.  Rose and Sage are both color names, as well as plant names.  Though I am positive this wasn’t a pattern my sister intended to start, I see no reason she should stop now that it is going.

That’s why I’ve spent a lot of time compiling a lengthy list of appropriate names to help my sister continue this pattern when picking out a name for baby girl #3.  For example, Violet is a lovely name that is also both a color and a plant. I also came up with a list of just color names: Scarlett, Ruby, Amber and Pearl. My list of plant names included Daisy, Lily and Ivy.

Of course, I am not the only one sending my sister suggestions. My mother suggested the very unique name Teal, going along with the color theme.

The name Hazel came up in a recent conversation with my sister.  Not only is it growing in popularity thanks to its appearance in recent books and movies, but it is the name of a color as well.  I also pointed out that it could even be short for the plant named Witch Hazel, which may seem like a bit of a stretch but I thought I’d mention it anyway since there is the naming pattern of plants and colors to consider.

However, when my dad heard about the name Hazel being a serious option, he ranted that he was not at all in favor of naming any of his granddaughters Hazel because once when he was in elementary school he had a mean teacher by that name. Apparently, nearly 60 years later, he is still holding a grudge.

…sigh…

If only we could all agree on a name …

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Of all the things associated with having a baby, perhaps agreeing upon the name is the hardest part.

Consider for a moment these questions one must ask before naming a baby:

Should the name be traditional, popular, unique, old-fashioned or ethnic?

Should the baby be named in honor of a relative or friend? After a beloved character in a book or movie?

Should the spelling be traditional or creative?

There are sometimes additional “rules” which some parents require names to meet before using on their second, third, and fourth babies. These might include certain standards such as names only starting with certain letters or choosing names that fit a specific pattern (for example, presidential names). Sometimes it’s even things like desiring the entire name to contain an exact number of syllables.

It is at this point in baby name conversations that I always pause to wonder about the Duggar family.  How on earth did Jim Bob and Michelle ever manage to find 19 names all beginning with the letter J that they both liked?!  This is perhaps the biggest naming mystery for our generation.

Once all these questions have been answered and the “rules” have been followed, then the parents (who we must remember are two individual people and likely have vastly different opinions) must somehow actually pick a combination of two (or maybe three) names that they both like and can live with, all the while praying their baby will grow up to like the name as well.

Talk about a daunting task! It’s a wonder any of us have names at all!

Speaking of almost not having a name …

My grandfather didn’t have a name until he was nearly a year old. I suppose his parents couldn’t agree upon what to name him. For months he was just called “Nookie” until they finally decided to name him James Herbert. I guess we can all be thankful that they didn’t decide to stick with Nookie.

Actually, I can relate to my great-grandmother’s reluctance to name her baby. Don’t get me wrong … naming my children wasn’t a horrible experience. In fact, many parts of the process were definitely fun. Thumbing through baby name books while pondering the plethora of fantastic names out there from which I could choose, daydreaming about raising a child with various names, asking other moms (and dads) how they named their children and hearing some wonderful tales. I’m so glad for those memories.

And yet, as the weeks turned into months, I found myself fretting that I would ever find the right name for my unborn child. It’s big task to give someone the name they will have for all of their life. What if my baby grew up to hate their name? What if they hated me for giving the name to them in the first place?

Honestly, the pressure is enough to make me wish that babies came to this earth with a little stamp on their tiny bottoms:

This baby’s name is ______________. Love, God

(Of course, the blank would be filled in, otherwise it wouldn’t alleviate the enormous task of having to come up with a wonderful name. And since God would be doing the naming, both parents and child would think the name was completely perfect.)

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Photo Credit: www.tidewaterparent.com
Photo Credit: http://www.tidewaterparent.com

My husband Jon and I have never named a child together.

We are currently raising a blended family of five children, and are preparing to open our home to foster children in the very, very near future. Truly, our house is overflowing with the blessing of children!

Yet, Jon and I both have hope that one day God will give us an additional blessing, a child together. In that case, we would obviously have the task of naming such a child. There have been a handful of discussions regarding the names we might give to a future child, and based on those conversations I can explain in one word how I feel about the idea of finding a name both Jon and I can agree upon:

Worried.

My husband and I share a lot of the same likes and dislikes in many areas of our lives. Names for children is not one of those areas.

Perhaps it is a good thing that foster children come already named!

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There is one name above all names.

Hundreds of years before He was born, Isaiah wrote:

He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. ~Isaiah 9:6

And then, in the months prior to His birth, His earthly father Joseph was told by the angel:

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. ~Matthew 1:21

If you don’t know who I am referring to, it’s Jesus Christ.  He is the Messiah, Immanuel, God with us. His name has the power to bring salvation to a dying soul, break the chains that keep prisoners bound, and set the captives free. It’s the only name in heaven and on earth that matters.

When I wake up in the Land of Glory, and with the saints I will tell my story,

There is just one name I’ll proclaim.

It’s Jesus, Jesus, Jesus … the sweetest name I know!

Blogger’s Guilt

It’s hard not to feel guilty.

Following the A-to-Z Blog Challenge I took during the month of April, my new goal for this blog was to publish a post two or three times each week.  But I’ve failed … miserably.

Truthfully, I think about writing on my blog every single day. In fact, it’s never that far from my mind.  Writing is a cathartic hobby for me, a pleasure which never feels much like work. Because of this, I am always eager to find a few moments in which to sit down and write.

It’s actually finding those few moments that is so very hard.

Image from Pixabay
Image from Pixabay

Ten days ago, three of my five children returned home from Germany. I’ve loved having a loud, chaotic house again.  Cooking for a tribe, tackling Mt. Laundry each morning, sorting out disputes, being the chauffeur to five people who apparently have busier schedules and more places to go than myself … it’s all part of the fun and games and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Two weeks ago, the baby I keep each weekday decided to begin to use her walking skills on a regular basis. Suddenly, everything has changed! “Miss E”  is able to quickly get into a lot of things she is not supposed to get into … and I’m remembering things about toddlerhood I had long forgotten. Whew! There really is no sitting down with a toddler in the house! These little people are work, and nap times are just as much for moms as they are for the sweet child.

Most days I am trying to figure out how to fit in time to read my Bible and exercise, much less have time for personal hobbies. My daily schedule isn’t filled with vast amounts of free time. Just like everyone else on the planet, I’ve only got 24 hours a day. The hours are limited, and I’ve got to use them wisely.

It’s during seasons like this I must remember there will be days when writing, even if it is writing for God, must take a backseat on my priority list.

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Last week, I came across this lovely blog post:  Seven Reasons Bloggers Don’t Blog.

I can relate to all seven reasons given by the author of that freeing blog post.  (1) I do not want to post fluffy content on my blog. (2) My biggest desire is to  write encouraging and helpful words for my audience.  (3) Writing is tiring, and time consuming.  (4) The 40% of me that is somewhat introverted needs time to quietly process life before I can write about it publicly.  (5) I’m writing a book …  but I’m only about halfway through the first two chapters. I am discovering it is a painfully slow process to write a book.  (6) Big and wonderful things are happening in life.  My family is preparing to become a foster family. I’m excited and scared and very busy with getting my home ready to take on another child. (7) Finally the biggest reason of all … blogging is not living.

I love my blog. I love to write. But my biggest responsibility is to be the godly wife and mom God has called me to be.

I realize that according to the experts, if I am to ever have a “real” career as a writer, I need to have a platform, build an audience of 5000 or more readers,  and post three or four times a week on my blog. But I’m not there. I admit that many days I wish I was because I think I’d love nothing more than a fantastic contract with some big name Christian publishing house and a couple of books on the shelves  down at the nearest Lifeway Book Store.

Yes, God called me to write … but He simply asked me to write for Him, not for a publishing house or for a set of standards that He didn’t give to me. So that’s what I am going to do … write for God.

And He also asked me to be a wife and helpmeet to my husband Jon.  God called me to be a mother to five wonderful teens and tweens, who are growing up so quickly. They won’t be home with me for very much longer before they leave to start their own lives. God asked me and my family to open our home and share His love and our lives with children I don’t yet know through fostering.  He asked me to be a good neighbor to the lady next door who is dying, and to be a listening friend in real life, not just on the computer screen.

I’ve got just one life to live. While writing and blogging is very much a part of my life, it’s not all that I do. And so today, I’m setting down the guilt I put upon myself for not blogging on some made-up schedule. I’m laying aside the burden I’ve carried around for the past two and a half months for not keeping up with an insane blogging schedule, as well as tending to the realities of my life.

Instead, I’m asking the Lord to help me be faithful to do all He requires of me for today, and nothing more. I pray a lot of those days include writing for God.  I think they will.

But whether they do or whether they don’t, I’m done with “Blogger’s Guilt.”

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  ~John 8:36

Fears

Another post combining assignments from Writing 101. This time I am completing assignment 17 (addressing one of your worst fears) along with assignment 19 (an unedited free write of at least 400 words).  

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When I was eight or nine years old, there was a scary incidence which involved me getting caught in a strong current while swimming with a friend. Actually, we were on the underside of a barge-type party boat, holding onto the metal frame and talking in the cool shade it provided. The barge was on the river, anchored but with the motor idling. No parents or other adults were with us, aware of what we were doing. In my memory, it also seems as if it might have been lightly raining as well, which was why we were perhaps underneath the barge, but of this I remain uncertain. However, one thing is always crystal clear in that memory:  I knew my parents would have disapproved of the activity in which I was participating.  Yet I was there … unable to say no to my friend, feeling guilty, but participating anyway.

At some point in the afternoon, my hands slipped off the metal frame, and I found myself trapped in a current. Although I knew how to swim relatively well in a safe pool, I wasn’t skilled at river swimming and I didn’t know how to get out of the current. Suddenly, I realized I was being pulled toward the motor of the barge. In that moment, I recall how everything moved in slow-motion. I never felt frightened, though I rightfully should have been.  Rather it was more like watching a movie of someone else instead of the feeling of impending danger being directed toward myself.

To this day, I don’t recall if anyone, including me,  shouted or screamed. I don’t remember who reached out and pulled me from the current, or whether I thanked them afterwards.  All I remember was the intense relief that washed over me.  I wasn’t going to be caught in my disobedience.

To this day, I have a fear of being caught in the act of doing something terribly wrong. I suppose as far as fears go it isn’t such a bad one to have. After all, it’s kept me from a lot of trouble and heartache over the years.

The older I get, the more I struggle with the fear of obedience rather than the fear of disobedience. Not obedience to parents or laws or even traditional morals. I’m talking about obedience to God, particularly the sort of obedience in which He asks us to do something hard and unexpected. I fear God asking me to do something I don’t want to do, something big and scary that might cause me some discomfort or a change in the lifestyle I’ve grown accustomed to living.

For years, I toyed with the idea of adoption. It was more talk than anything, a sort of respect and love for those I knew who adopted and a desire to follow in their footsteps. Even as a single mother, I expressed a desire and a longing to adopt a child, always imagining a special needs child from a foreign land. After Jon and I married, the topic came up for discussion more than once, but we were never on the same page.

A couple of months ago, Jon called me and suggested we find a way to go to a local Wait No More Conference, sponsored by Focus on the Family. All either of us knew was that it was for families interested in adoption or foster care. Obviously, I was mainly interested in adoption and Jon was still highly skeptical of both.

And yet, by the time the day was over, Jon and I were both on the same page … foster care with the option to adopt.

Let me be frank … obedience in this situation scares me to no end. The mere idea of bringing a child, one who has suffered so much, into our home. I’m sure any questions or concerns you can think of, I’ve already thought of and more. Jon and I constantly check our motives.

Up until about two months ago, I never really gave foster care much of a thought. I didn’t hear of it within my social realms or talk with others who were into fostering children. But once I began to hear God calling out to me, fostering is everywhere. I’ve met other bloggers who foster, became aware of former foster children in my own church, and even discovered a church in my community with a ministry geared toward foster families.

The most amazing part is how in a relatively short time Jon and I have gone from being divided and uncertain regarding God’s desires for our family to being united and certain of what God is showing us to do.  Our hearts and our home are opened to His plan for our family, and very likely one day soon, perhaps even by the end of the summer, there will be more than just the seven of us living here.

I’m sure there will be plenty of hard moments as a foster mother. My eyes are wide-open. And I’m a bit scared of the entire proposition, if the truth be told.

And yet, in the end, I am far more fearful of being disobedient to God than of being faithful to follow through in obedience to His calling for my life.

I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. Psalm 199:60