Ring ring

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We chose to foster again after our first biological miracle came along. My husband and I thought  another girl whose age fell between our two girls ages of 6 and 1 would be perfect. We bought a loft bed and painted our older daughters room and also put up another crib (2 cribs in our house!) in our younger daughters room. We were set and ready!

Well, as any foster parent knows, you can ‘yes’ to many kids and it may never work out. Early on we decided to be open and God would bring the kids He meant for us to have. We’ve said ‘yes’ to dozens and yet only 3 ever moved in with us! We had received many calls (I would jump every time the phone rang!) and we were still waiting.

Late one Tuesday  afternoon, I got a call asking if we’d take a one year old girl in for a week. Now, generally we don’t do short term care because our interest is long term and hopefully adoption. We felt it would be too much for our daughters to have kids coming and going frequently. We were getting a bit impatient for a placement and so we said I’d come and pick her up, at least something was happening! It would be fun to have a little guest for a week!

She had nothing but the clothes on her back and one of the care packages that the DSHS offices had been given. I didn’t know her exact age when we got the call except that she was a year old (which could mean almost 1 or almost 2). It turned out she was a week younger than our youngest daughter (and that’s a whole other post!).

Well, fast forward…and she stayed longer than a week. She stayed months…and then a year. And we recently finalized her adoption! Sometimes it’s good to step outside your comfort zone and do something you normally wouldn’t.  We would have missed out.  She’s ours and adds a lot of spice to our life!

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Take my hand

Since it is National Infertility Awareness Week, I thought I would share some thoughts on ministry and infertility;

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Ministering To Those Struggling With Infertility

As I write this, my four daughters lay sleeping in their beds. The quiet is a nice change from our rambunctious day! But this wasn’t always the case, a silent house used to cause sorrow.  Years ago, my husband served as children’s pastor at our church and I helped him while we struggled with infertility and loss. Ministering to other people’s children when you long for your own was very challenging.  Many of our friends from Bible College were already having babies while we waited, took costly fertility drugs and then miscarried our first five babies.

Many infertile couples don’t talk about the challenges they face. I found it hard to get support in the church. Eventually, I found support from an online forum called Hannah’s Prayer (http://www.hannah.org) to help me through the joy of positive pregnancy tests, numerous doctor visits and tears of losing babies. They celebrated the adoption and births of our daughters with me. They allowed me to ask questions that I could not ask anywhere else. They encouraged me when my faith was weak.

It’s estimated that one in six couples are dealing with infertility.  Infertility is described in Webster’s dictionary as: “not fertile; especially: incapable of or unsuccessful in achieving pregnancy over a considerable period of time (as a year) in spite of determined attempts by heterosexual intercourse without contraception”. So, whether you realize it or not, someone in your church may be dealing with infertility and/or loss.

Eventually we became foster parents and adopted a beautiful little girl.  Adoption opened my eyes to how God sees us as His adopted sons who have a full inheritance.  Our daughter filled a huge void in our hearts and arms.

Our sixth pregnancy was successful and brought us a live baby girl right before our tenth wedding anniversary. Eleven months after that we welcomed an eleven month old girl into our home through foster care. We recently adopted her. Our seventh pregnancy brought us another little girl last July.

Though the experience of infertility and miscarriages has made me stronger in my faith and helped me minister to others more compassionately, it is a journey that will never be far from my heart.

Here are ten ways you can minister to a couple struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss;

1. Don’t compare my barrenness or loss with anything. Having no money, being spiritually dry or losing a pet you loved does not compare to the desire for a child. All my future hopes and dreams of motherhood may never become a reality.

2. Being infertile or miscarrying my baby doesn’t mean I lack faith or I haven’t reached a certain level of maturity. Most likely, I am already having a crisis of faith and struggle with this area. Reassure me that God does love me.

3. Keep away from clichés like “its God’s will”, “it’s probably for the best” or that you know “God will answer your prayers”. You don’t know the answers or what God has planned for my family’s future.

4. If I lost my unborn baby at six weeks, six months or six days after birth, don’t compare the level of grief I may be suffering.  Saying things like “at least you weren’t far along” belittles my child’s value as well as my grief and pain.  A child is a child no matter how old he or she is.

5. Do pray for me, and tell me that you do. There may be days or seasons when I feel like I can’t talk to God because of my heartache and grief.  Knowing someone is lifting me up in prayer encourages me.

6. If I share my struggles with you keep it confidential. Please ask permission to share it with others or before putting it on the prayer chain. I may still be dealing with the situation and need time to process it before facing others comments and questions.

7. Please remember to be sensitive on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I may skip the day to avoid the topic in the sermon, being the only one sitting while all the parents stand up or hearing someone who doesn’t know what we are going through say “When are you going to have a baby?” If I do come, there may be tears as I see other’s whose dreams for children have come true, while I still wait. Baby dedications are also hard for us and even Christmas where the focus is all on a baby (even though we know it’s baby Jesus).

8. Fathers have a hard time too. They also long for a child and daily see their wives hurting and longing for a baby.

9. Let me say ‘no’ to situations I may not feel strong enough for. Working in the nursery or children’s ministries may not be the best place for me now. I may not feel able to face attending or helping to host a baby shower either.  Churches are very family orientated and just being there can be a challenge for me, I may struggle fitting into typical peer groups.

10. Acknowledge my baby if I miscarry. Let me talk about him or her. It’s okay to say something or send a card. Knowing that someone remembers that I carried a life and that this little life is gone helps me grieve.  I’ll probably keep the card and tuck it in a memory box.

I will carry you

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“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”
― L.M. Montgomery, The Story Girl

I have a box where I’ve tucked away precious mementos from a little girl I didn’t get to know as much as I wanted to. I carried her for 16 1/2  weeks and was just starting to feel her flutter in my belly when her heart stopped beating. Her name is Karin Lily. That she lived that long was a miracle in itself. I had lost four previous babies through early miscarriages and with Karin, I grew more and more hopeful that she would make it.  But Karin’s little body was not able to carry on and she died. I went through labor and delivery one Sunday morning in June and counted her toes and fingers. We could see that her footprints were already formed! Later we found out she had a rare chromosomal issue (69xxx)  that is fatal and she would never had lived after birth.

Every now and then I pull out the memory box and look at the sweater set and blanket she never used. Sometimes I add some little thing that reminds me of her.  I look at her ultrasound pictures of when she was alive and kicking and it’s bittersweet…I’m thankful for the time I had with her and yet I still miss her.

On the sunny side of the street

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I live in Washington…the state. And it’s raining this morning, like it does so many days! We are in the process of enclosing our side porch and turning it into a playroom for the girls. Smokey the cat has already taken to sleeping there on the bench.  We have windows installed and are starting the trim… I say we, but basically it’s my husband and my dad working on it. I’m the designer (don’t tell them that!) if you want to know how I am involved. I look up ideas (I’m told I have too many of those!) and brainstorm and I enjoy it. I can’t wait to paint and pick out flooring and get the door in!  And I may be forced to do a little sewing for cushions or curtains (Yippy!!!).

It will be so nice to have a space for toys, the play kitchen and table, and the Duplos….oh the Duplos….they are everywhere and just like the smaller versions, Legos, they are not fun to step on! I have visions of toys scattered all over the sun room and shutting the door!  Poof! Mess contained and out of sight. I may be a little over-optimistic, but at least there’s hope!

But I also have a little secret of why I am looking forward to having the sun room. I want to sit on the cushioned bench with a cup of coffee and a good book and bask in the light. That is, if Smokey will share it with me.

Somewhere over the rainbow

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“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Hebrews 11:1 New International Version (NIV)

Our first biological baby came as a rainbow in the midst of a storm. My mom was battling the effects of cancer and nearly died when we discovered our little girl…our 6th pregnancy… was on her way. She would be arriving just before our 10th wedding anniversary, later, much later, than we had planned, but very welcome!  Those days of waiting were not easy. They weren’t the joyful experience I had always envisioned. They were filled with the fears of pregnancy after loss (PAL). Each day brought a greater measure of hope, but also of fear. I knew anything could happen at any time through the pregnancy and birth. I was not naive about it.

She made it, though, and is a healthy and active little girl. It was not because I had faith she would, it was because I had faith in Who had a greater plan for me, whether she made it or not. That is where faith lies.

Do you know we belong together?

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JJ Heller puts it perfectly in her song The Boat Song;

If you were a boat, my darling
A boat, my darling
I’d be the wind at your back

If you were afraid, my darling
Afraid, my darling
I’d be the courage you lack

If you were a bird, then I’d be a tree
And you would come home, my darling, to me

If you were asleep, then I’d be a dream
Wherever you are, that’s where my heart will be

Oh, do you know we belong together?
Oh, do you know my heart is yours?

If you were the ocean, I’d be the sand
If you were a song, I’d be the band

If you were the stars, then I’d be the moon
A light in the dark, my darling, for you

Oh, do you know we belong together?
Oh, do you know my heart is yours?

Oh, do you know we belong together?
Oh, do you know my heart is yours?
Oh, do you know we belong together?
Oh, do you know my heart is yours?

After two miscarriages my husband and I decided to open our home to children and become foster parents. We wanted kids in our lives and this was the next step God called us to take.

We got the bedroom all set up with a twin bed and a crib (you never know what age to expect!) and it was decorated in yellow and blue (you never know what gender either!).  Buying the crib wasn’t easy. Every time I tried to pick out a crib for the room, I’d leave with tears in my eyes.  I felt like a fraud in my un- pregnant state and broken body standing there in the store isle. I finally told my husband to pick out a crib… as long as it was white. One day I walked in the door of our home  after work and walked past the spare bedroom and there it was. A crib. In my house.  And yes, I cried. (Even now it makes me cry!)

Not too long after my husband called me at work and told me we were getting a baby girl. How many husbands have the fun of  telling their wives they are going to be a mother? (And I cried again.)  That baby girl slept in that crib and later that bed. She still sleeps in that bed long after her adoption was finalized and legally became ours… because we belong together.

Getting to know me

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Well, I thought I would give this a try. I used to be an avid journal-er, but leaving a pen and book around my house proves to be disastrous.  Toddlers have the ability to go from 0 to a pen in about 3 seconds flat. And I have two toddlers right now. Yes, two. And no, they aren’t twins. I’ll tell you about that at a later date.  Any typos here I’ll blame on my 8 1/2 month old. Incomplete sentences will be courtesy of my almost 8 year old asking me questions.  Having four little girls keeps me pretty busy in a good way!