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

 

 

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.

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year 14

14 years ago today we were married.

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14 years and seven children later, we’re still here.

still finding one another in the midst of the chaos and the noise.

this has probably been our most difficult year.

we’ve been pulled and stretched in ways we never expected.

our faith has been challenged.

our hearts have grown faint.

our marriage has been tested.

our integrity has been questioned.

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.

warms legs for my cold feet when we literally crawl into bed.

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

there are a lot of kids around so that happens often.

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

thinking back on that day, 14 years ago, we just had no idea.  we would not have predicted any of this.

7 children.

7 brown children.

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for better or worse.

for richer or poorer.

in sickness and in health.

with more children than we could have ever imagined.

 

a few weeks ago we were able to slip away to one of our favorite spots near pittsburgh.

our most recent us.  we still have fun.

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“better than the 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

’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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 years

today is our 13th wedding anniversary.  normally, we’d have made plans to escape for a night or two, but this year things are very different.  we currently have seven children.  c.r.a.z.y.

i turned on our wedding video this afternoon.  the three and a half year old who is living under our roof said, “i’m so happy.  i’m gonna get a josh when i get married, like you!”  be still my heart.

the prayers offered on our behalf, the day we got married, are full of things that have actually happened over the past 13 years.  i can’t believe where we are.  i never would have imagined any of this the day i stood with my man and pledged my life to him.

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“upon joshua and kirsten may Heaven’s richest benedictions abide, making you a blessing to all who shall know and love you.  may the blessings awarded the compassionate be yours in abundance.
may God tie your hearts together in the never ending bond of pure love.
if you should be blessed with children, may they bring you joy,
returning your love for them many times over.
may you be blessed with true friends to stand with you through the joys and sorrows of life.
may daily work never cause you undue anxiety nor the passion to acquire captivate your hearts.
may contentment and peace characterize your spirits
and may grace and mercy saturate your relationships.
may you live a long and happy life together serving others in humanity’s kingdom on earth
so that you may reap the reward of the faithful in God’s eternal Kingdom in Heaven.
may almighty God bless you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
blessed forevermore.  amen.”

“and now we pray for this couple.  we ask that Your blessing be poured out on them.
we pray that they would learn to work together.
we would ask that they would get everything in life that they desire,
but then we realize that most of the time it’s when we’re in need that we learn to hold together.
so i pray that they will have tests that purify, that they will experience those things that unite them,
and that Your hand of love and grace would always be upon them in whatever circumstances they face.
i ask that they would love one another for a lifetime.
i ask Lord that they’d laugh together and weep together.
that they would serve together.  that they would hold one another, encourage each other,
and be to each other what the other needs.  and in the moments when they cannot,
may the understanding hand of God reach into their hearts and help them.
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.”

wedding

13 years.
3 times of unemployment.
infertility.
sickness.
the adoption of three children.
the fostering of four more.
a 12 passenger van.
seven children.
i can’t believe it!

“better than the 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

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“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

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chicken daddy

i’m not quite sure when my desire to have children with you started.  i think before i met you, and your mom was trying to get us together, she told me you wanted to get married and have a family someday.  i wanted that too.

and when we were working in the jr. high dept. at church, you always had so much fun goofing around with the kids.  i knew you’d be a fun dad.

and when you’d trek along for my babysitting excursions, you were so helpful and fun and the kids loved you.

and then we got married and started planning for a family.

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we were told we were infertile, but you didn’t want to give up easily.  adoption had been weighing heavily on our hearts and you told our fertility specialist who gave us a 50% chance of conceiving via in vitro that if we’d adopt, we’d have had 100% chance of becoming parents.  you were ready to be a dad.

then we met them.

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our first three.  and i watched our boys look up to you and try to copy all of the things you do to care for us.

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and i watched our little girl fall in love with you.  and i fell more in love with you as i watched you love her.

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our first three know no other daddy than you.  they know no other fatherly love than your love, and our Heavenly Father’s.

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and now i’m watching, first row, center stage, you be a daddy to our next three.  as our first set of three has turned into six, i’m in awe of the father you are.

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there have been nights you’ve been up with our 18 month old son for a couple of hours straight, like last night.  you change his diaper, put lotion on his itchy eczema skin, lay him on your chest so he can calm down and sleep, and then you scoot over so you hardly have any room on the bed so he can have room to roll around and spread out.

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there was the other night, when our 5 year old son was laying on our bed listening to you talk about the video games you played as a kid.  he was listening so intently.  he really wanted to know.  it struck me that this child who had been so badly abused and neglected could be so comfortable laying there talking with you.  his side pressed into my leg as i sat next to him and his face lit up with each game you mentioned.

you are kind and gentle with him, in a way possibly no man has ever been.

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and you’re teaching him so much.

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i’m not quite sure when our three year old daughter started calling you chicken daddy.  but i am quite sure that though she sometimes calls you mr. josh, you are her chicken daddy and she’s not afraid to let people know it.  she can often be heard saying, “mr. josh?  he’s my chicken daddy.”

perhaps the best example of who you are as a daddy is summed up in this conversation i had with her.

“why you boys not play the dancing game?”

she loves wii dance kids and wondered why the boys would choose super mario bros. instead.

“well, they wanted to play this game instead.”

“when i have kids, they gonna play the dancing game.”

“are you going to have kids?  are you going to be a mommy when you get big?”

“yeah, i gonna be a mommy.  and my boys gonna be big.  and my daughter, her gonna be a nice girl.  and we gonna have a daddy like mr. josh.  my kids gonna have a daddy.”

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“and we gonna have a daddy like mr. josh.  my kids gonna have a daddy.”

happy father’s day babe.

you daily take up the cause of the fatherless.

you’re the best.

i love you.