year 17

“we’d like you to meet our oldest son someday,” they said.

“ok,” i replied.

i barely knew them.  and i had no idea who he was.

two years passed.

and then we met, this son of theirs and i.

he came to volunteer at a church jr. high event that i was leading.  and he was silly and goofy and obnoxious and cute and also a little mysterious.  and the kids loved him.  and he made me smile.  and he made me laugh.  but, he was seeing someone.

i had just graduated from college.  i was looking for a full~time job.  i was contemplating moving to connecticut with my sister.

we saw each other a couple more times that summer.  then i was going to make the big move to CT.  then he broke up with his girlfriend.  then he asked if i’d have dinner with him sometime.

that weekend, we had dinner.  it was october 2nd, 1999.  and i am pretty sure that at the beginning of dinner, when he told me that our waiter (whom he actually knew) who had a patch on his eye really was a pirate, i started to fall in love.

we had one date, and that was it.  we were together.  sadly, we don’t remember our first kiss.  and we don’t remember the first time we said ‘i love you’.  but we do remember that we both knew he was the one for me, and i was the one for him.  we were it for each other.

our time of dating was fun.  josh always made me laugh.  we really enjoyed spending time together and with his family.  we got involved with a great group of people at church.  and josh was always finding ways to make me smile.  one time, while leaving the grocery store, he bought me a ring from a gumball machine.  it was a cute idea.  and very sweet.  apparently i liked it so much he decided to do it again, a few times.

we talked of marriage.  we talked of family.  we shared the same faith.  we shared the same goals.

in december of 2000, he proposed.  it was just the two of us, at my apartment.  we were asking each other questions from a packet of papers about marriage given to us by a pastor at church.  the questions went something like this, “would marry someone who _______?”  we were laughing and having fun, really enjoying one another.  and josh asked if i’d marry someone who gave me a ring from a gumball machine.  i said yes and when i looked up, he had a gumball machine ring container, only inside was a real diamond engagement ring.

we were married on august 11, 2001.  the weather was cool, breezy, sunny.  we had an amazing day!  we also had no clue what we were getting into(i know no one does!).

we didn’t  know how the vows we took before God, our family, and our friends, would be tested.

we couldn’t have predicted that one year after we said ‘i do’, and one month after buying our home, josh would lose his job.

we didn’t know that waiting until we’d been married for two years to start a family would eventually lead to the diagnosis of medically unexplained infertile.

we didn’t know that a surgery for me would not aide our attempts at conceiving.

we didn’t know that God would call us to foster care adoption.

we didn’t know that God would call us to the adoption of a sibling group of three.

we didn’t know that two months before the children came home, josh would again lose a job.

we didn’t know that the lives our children lived before they came home to us would be so difficult to work through.

we didn’t know that six months after our children came home our daughter would start having seizures, multiple times a day.

we didn’t know that after seven years of marriage, i’d battle through a bout of depression and spend a year in counseling.

we didn’t know that after eight years of marriage josh would once again lose a job, this time for over a year.

we didn’t know that after 12 years of marriage, God would call us to foster care again.

we didn’t know He would call us to a sibling group of three again.

we didn’t know that right before we celebrated 13 years of marriage, another child would join our family making a grand total of seven children under our roof.

we didn’t know that right after we celebrated 14 years of marriage I would begin a series of medical tests that would reveal I had cancer.

we didn’t know that God would be sending two more children our way after my cancer treatment.

we didn’t know that when we got to our 17th wedding anniversary, we’d be the adoptive parents of nine children.

we didn’t know that we’d question whether or not we should have gotten married.

we didn’t know that we’d question whether or not our marriage would survive.

i didn’t know that this young man i was pledging my life to would be strong when i was weak. would have faith when i had none. would take kids to dentist and eye doctor and adhd and autism and orthodontist appointments. would go grocery shopping at midnight.  would pick up the pieces when they’d all fallen apart. would father as his own nine children that didn’t come from us. would say yes each time we were asked if we’d adopt. would stand by me when i wasn’t sure i could stand by myself.

we’ve lost each other. we’ve found each other.

we’ve laughed. we’ve cried.

we’ve been great teammates. we’ve managed things on our own.

we’ve yelled. we’ve whispered.

we’ve been exhausted and overwhelmed. we’ve been amazed and full of joy.

we still find each other when we reach out~a hug in the kitchen, a hand to hold in the van.

a smile across the room when one of the kids does something cute.

a tag team send off when one of us needs just a few minutes alone.

“better than our promises
is the day we got to keep them
i wish those two could see us now,
they never would believe how
there are different kinds of happy”
different kinds of happy sara groves

“i do” are the two most famous last words
the beginning of the end
but to lose your life for another i’ve heard
is a good place to begin

’cause the only way to find your life
is to lay your own life down
and i believe it’s an easy price
for the life that we have found

and we’re dancing in the minefields
we’re sailing in the storm
this is harder than we dreamed
but i believe that’s what the promise is for

’cause we bear the light of the Son of Man
so there’s nothing left to fear
so i’ll walk with you in the shadowlands
till the shadows disappear

’cause He promised not to leave us
and His promises are true
so in the face of all this chaos, baby,
i can dance with you”
dancing in the minefields andrew peterson

now we pray Lord, that the union they have brought to this place would be forever blessed by Your Spirit, Your presence. that it would be the interjection of God in a world that really needs to see it. and may others watch them live, live out this faith of theirs, no matter what comes their way. amen.” ~pastor bryan feathers praying at our wedding ceremony



today i’m 41

in june 2014 a baby boy was born, a sibling to the kiddos we were fostering at the time. he was born on my birthday and we were open to having him placed with us if need be. the court placed him with relatives. we thought that part of the story was over, but six weeks later, he came to live with us.

in june 2015 we were preparing to lose him. in march i lost my faith. but in june i got it back, even though we made a transition plan for him to leave us. we celebrated his first birthday, and my 39th, and the next day he left for a five day visit. we felt as if someone was literally tearing our hearts out of our chest. that visit only lasted two days. but visits did continue off and on for several months.

in june 2016 i wrote about 40 things i’ve learned on my journey to 40. today i’m 41 so i could add one thing to that list. or, i could make a new list. but lately i have been thinking about how i’m not really who i thought i would be and how my life looks nothing like i thought it would. then i realized, i am who i thought i would be, but my life still looks nothing like i thought it would.

i am who i thought i would be because years ago i chose to follow Jesus. and for years i’ve told Him i want to be who He wants me to be. i want to live with open hands. i want to follow where He leads me.

i thought my life would look cleaner than it is. i thought it would be easier. i thought i’d have less children. i thought adoption would come much later, after i had raised biological children. i thought i’d have more free time. i thought i’d drive a black range rover.

instead my life is messy. so messy i can’t stand it sometimes. and it’s so hard that i often  want to run from it. there are nine children. nine. it’s been this way for a year and a half almost and i still can’t wrap my mind around it. and those biological children? there are none. i’ve never even been pregnant. free time? i usually get that when i’m on the toilet. or on a late night target run. a black range rover? nope, a 12 passenger ford.

last year, for my 40th, my dearest friends threw a surprise dinner party for me.
i wore a long black dress with skinny straps. it didn’t quite fit the way i wanted it to so i vowed to myself that it would fit better for my 41st birthday. it doesn’t. my body hasn’t changed much over the past year. but as the Lord continues to mold and shape my life as i follow Him, He has allowed me to adopt four more of our nine kiddos.

these three in november of 2016.

and this one, just last month. the one who shares my birthday, the one we almost lost.

what an absolute honor and privilege to share a birthday with this boy and to get to be a mama to him. 41 and 3.

tomorrow is mother’s day and all i want is some time alone

tomorrow is mother’s day and all i want is some time alone to try to process this life i’m living. so i’m at panera.

i am sitting here physically on my own, but I’m never really alone. a break is never really a break. time away is never really time away. because they don’t leave my mind, these kids of mine. because they are tethered to my heart. because they are wounded and somehow, some way i’m supposed to be a part of they’re healing. and in the process i’m being wounded too. because i have asked Him many times to break my heart for what breaks His. and He is.

i feel more like a ring leader in the circus than a mom.

in this ring, manage the rage. in this ring, manage the anxiety. in this ring, manage the eating disorder. in this ring, we have five performers, and prepare to be amazed, they all have PTSD. jump right in ring master mom! in this ring, manage the bowel disorder. in this ring, manage the developmental delays. in this ring, manage the learning disorder. in this ring, manage the ADHD. in this ring, manage the tied tongue. in this ring, manage the fear. in this ring, manage the loss. in this ring, manage all the hearts so broken they still can’t really let me in. manage the housework, the homework, the laundry, the meals, the paperwork. juggle, juggle, juggle.

and while i’m juggling all of my little circus performers, i’m supposed to deal with my own broken past. the one that tells the story of the mom who gave up on me when i was seven because i wasn’t what she’d hoped i’d be. she didn’t abandon me physically, but emotionally, she cut ties. i was too independent and too strong willed so she decided i didn’t need her. the love i didn’t receive, i’m now supposed to give it x 9.

and then there are their birth mothers.  two of them for my nine.  two mothers who caused some damage. two mothers who allowed others to cause the rest.  two mothers who were so broken themselves, they transferred their brokenness right on to their children.  and i get to pick up the pieces. and my heart breaks for them.  if only someone safe and loving and Jesus following would have stepped into their stories when they were young children.

and i need to put on my happy face so my circus parade looks pretty when we pass by the crowds as they stare in awe and wonder at our spectacle. it looks so neat! there are so many of of them!  so many ages.  so many sizes.  so many colors. but looks can be deceiving, it’s really all so broken. i don’t need to worry though, most won’t get close enough to really see what’s going on. they’ll keep themselves at a safe distance.

better let the crazy lady live out that crazy on her own.

i don’t get what keeps people away.  is it all too much?  too big?  too colorful?  too scary?  too unknown? oh there are a few who dare to wade these murky waters with me.  a few who dare to get close.   a few who see behind the curtain on the stage of our circus and choose to enter in.  a few who choose to let their hearts break.  a few who choose to love even in the face of rejection.  a few who choose to help hold me up when i feel like i can’t keep going.  without them, i’d start to sink.

where does one even begin to learn to juggle all of this?

where does one even begin to learn how to love all of this?


if i didn’t know Him, i wouldn’t do any of this. if my hope wasn’t anchored in Him, i’d surely set the course of this ship in a different direction. but because of Him, my circus performers aren’t doing amazing tricks. no, they are defying death. they are breaking chains. they are the beauty rising up out of the ashes. because He alone heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds(psalm 147:3). and me, i get a front row seat. day after day i step into their muck and mire so i can watch Him make beautiful things.

so i took a little break to try to process through my thoughts and feelings.  but this kind of heartache, the kind my kids carry and the kind i carry for them, it can’t really be processed.  it’s too messy.  it’s too big.  the only thing i can do with it is open my hands and lay it at the foot of the cross.  where we are all, my children and i, being redeemed through this story.

the children who needed a mother.

the girl who needed a mother now being a mother to nine.







the twins first birthday

they were born one year ago today. there was no fanfare. no one was pacing back and forth down the hall in the hospital waiting room. there were no facebook announcements. no parade of family and friends coming to visit. no photographer hired to capture the special moments of their lives entering this world.

a day that should have been full of joy turned into a day of chaos. one baby whisked away to the NICU. phone calls with agencies. social worker visits. court papers.

they were born a month early. no one was expecting them for at least a couple more weeks. we had no idea they had arrived. while we wouldn’t find out for two more days, God knew the whole time.

“for You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
i praise You because i am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
i know that full well
my frame was not hidden from You
when i was made in the secret place,
when i was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me written in Your book
before one of them came to be”
psalm 139:13-16

i’ve been here before

monday august 8th josh found out he won’t have a job after the end of this year.  the bank where he works has been acquired by another bank and the new bank isn’t keeping his position.

i’ve been here before.

i’ve been here four times.

in 2002, right after we celebrated our first wedding anniversary and bought our first home, josh lost his job.

in 2006, right before our oldest three kiddos came to us, josh lost his job.

in 2010-house, three kids, vehicles, dog-pretty comfy life, josh lost his job.

i’ve been here before and here i go again.

in 2016-house, vehicles, cancer recovery, nine kids-josh is losing his job.

our last period of unemployment was just under 13 months long.  we never missed a car payment.  we never missed a house payment.  our kiddos stayed in their school. this morning i’m encouraging myself with some of the words He gave me during that time.

“the LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”~deuteronomy 31:8

“have i not commanded you? be strong and courageous. do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”~joshua 1:9

“let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in Him, for He shields Him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between His shoulders.”~deuteronomy 33:12

“it is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.”~2 samuel 22:33

“you will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety.”~job 11:18

“LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure.”~psalm 16:5

we trust the Lord and His provision for our lives.  we’ve tasted and seen His faithfulness to us.

will you pray for us?  that we continue to trust Him, to follow Him.

will you pray for me?  that i will be an encouragement to my husband.

will you pray for josh?  that he will be confident in who the Lord has made him to be-in his gifts and abilities, that he will be himself for interviews, that he will not take a ‘no’ as personal rejection.

we are excited to what the Lord has prepared for our family.