Land that I Love

Well, I’m about 749 miles away from home in sunny California, just enjoying some family time, celebrating my husband’s birthday, and soaking up A LOT of warm rays!

I had hoped to have a new story of motherhood to post this week, but in true blogging fashion, especially when the majority of my content consists of other people’s stories, things got switched around and M2M was left with a big, huge gaping hole. Hmm…what to fill it with? How about some beautiful pictures of our amazing country, in celebration of our nation’s birthday this week? Okay, twist my arm!

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So, happy 238th birthday, USA, you don’t look a day over 237! And may God continue to bless!

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Oh, beautiful, for spacious skies

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For amber waves of grain

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For purple mountain majesties

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Above the fruited plain

America! God shed His grace on thee!

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And crown thy good with brotherhood

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From sea to shining sea!

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The Purpose in My Pain – S.L.’s Story

I didn’t become the mom I am when my husband and I decided to start a family. Like most people, God had been shaping my life for motherhood before I even knew it. It began when I was in preschool. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was sick. I’m not certain exactly when it happened because I was so little, but some of my earliest memories are painful ones. The problem with pain, though, is that you don’t realize it’s pain when you’ve only ever been in pain.

When I was 17, I spent a an unforgettable summer on a mission trip with some wonderful friends from my church youth group. I knew then I wanted to be a missionary. The warm air in that impoverished Caribbean nation made me feel so good and I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing what God wanted. It was humbling and exhilarating all at the same time to have the opportunity to daily share Christ with the kids I worked with. And though it was also hard, I loved being completely dependent on God. He daily gave me strength.

I didn’t want to lose the closeness I had with God or the purpose that I felt on that trip, so when I came home, I made one of the most pivotal decisions of my entire life, although I didn’t know it at the time. I prayed that God would continue to keep me completely dependent on Him. God isn’t safe. He’s good, but His ways aren’t our ways. I had no idea that only three weeks later, the pain that I had felt my whole life would become excruciatingly unbearable. I went from being an athlete to barely being able to walk. It was so bad, I had to crawl up stairs and it hurt even to be touched. If someone just accidentally bumped into me, I was reduced to tears.

The summer ended and I began my senior year of high school, but everything had changed. I needed all the support I could get, so gone were my plans to attend college out of state and when I lost my voice, my dreams to major in music also ended. I realized I wasn’t healthy enough to go live overseas anymore so I couldn’t go into missions, either. I was devastated. And, to make it even worse, I still didn’t have a diagnosis. I was so scared because pain like that usually means something bad. Really bad. It took a year before I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia; a chronic illness that has to do with overactive nerves and causes miserable pain. There is no cure for it and my case was severe, yet, I was relieved knowing that it wouldn’t take my life like some of the others diseases that were being considered. Still, I felt so hopeless and lost in darkness. Didn’t God understand that all I wanted to do was to serve Him? I felt like He took my ability to do that, but truly, I had the complete dependence I had asked for.

It took me a few years before I could understand the point of all my failed dreams. God wanted to teach me something first. I learned how to manage my illness and got it under control so I could live pretty normally despite being in constant pain. I met and married my husband, Brian, finished college with a degree in psychology, and we started a family.

I had always wanted a little girl. Desperately wanted a little girl. And we had Ethan. Then, two years later, we had Luke. Four years after that, Jackson joined our family. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my three boys! But, when I found out that I was having a third boy, I cried. All the feelings of loss crept back upon me and another dream died. I sobbed to God, asking Him, “Why can’t I catch a break? I’ve lost so much already and now I’m never going to have the daughter I’ve always wanted. Why does my life look so different from what I planned on it being? I just want to be normal!”

When Jackson was born, everything changed. I fell in love with being a mom of three boys. God started showing me how wrong I was to think that my plan might have been better than His. I couldn’t have been happier being mom to my Monkey, Gremlin, and Trouble, respectively. And I love that we laugh. A lot. There was the time that Ethan colored himself and Luke completely with a blue marker in three minutes while I was on the phone. Later,when Luke was a toddler, he drank day-old cold, black coffee, straight from the coffee pot when my back was turned. And once, at two years-old, Jackson snuck out of bed in the middle of the night and we found him watching The Chronicles of Narnia with the sound turned all the way down and the subtitles on. Yup. All we can do is laugh!

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Still, my heart ached. I didn’t feel done with our family. Brian and I lost a precious baby between Luke and Jackson and I found myself wishing that I could make some difference. I’ve always had a desire to adopt, but it never worked out. The doors just kept closing until, one day, one door stayed open. Foster care. It wasn’t what I planned. It was messy, complicated even, but the need was great. I brought it up to Brian and he was immediately in. I know it makes no sense to do this. I was only 29 years old when we started the process. We have our three boys, live in a house with only three bedrooms, and I’m sick. There were so many reasons to not do it, but God put it on my heart. The desire wouldn’t go away and when God asks you to do something, you can’t say no.

Right now, I’m a mom to four. We are on our second placement with a precious infant foster daughter. God gave me my girl. I might not get to keep her, but that is okay; God is bigger than the pain of goodbyes. If there is one thing I learned from my miscarriage, it is that I am going to make the most with all the time I am given with my kids, biological or not. They are all my kids. I’ve also realized that I don’t want to be normal. My boys are amazing; they love their foster sister and are incredibly compassionate. They’ve seen so much pain as they’ve watch me struggle with illness and they want to take care of their foster sister since they understand she has lost her biological family. They are so empathetic and are learning to serve God sacrificially even at the tender ages of 8, 6, and 2.

It occurred to me once as I walked into the social services building that I actually am on the mission field. I may not have been able to go overseas, but God brought the mission field to me. The psychology degree I hadn’t planned on getting was exactly what I needed. And I might not be using my voice to sing, but I’m using it to tell others about God. As a foster parent, I get to work with these precious, hurting birth parents and make a difference. Because of my pain and chronic illness, I am open with them about how I don’t have it all together. They know I understand and so they listen to me. I never expected my pain to be so important.

Being a mom is so much more than simply taking care of kids, making PB&Js for lunch and reading bedtime stories. Being a mom means giving of ourselves in ways that we never expected and serving God even when it doesn’t make sense. My journey wasn’t what I had planned, but it was what God planned and His plans have proved far better than mine ever could.

~~~~~

S.L. Payne, a Southern Californian transplanted to the South, lives with her husband, three biological sons and foster daughter. She is thankful for God’s faithfulness in her illness as God has used to it help her see Him in everything; the three boys have supplied the humor! She loves writing, photography and laughing with her family. She writes at Rest Ministries and on her website, www.uncommongrace.net, where she hopes she can encourage others to live in grace. You can follow her on Twitter @saralynnpayne.

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Hiding Behind Masks – An Unnamed Mother’s Story

When I was growing up, my favorite Halloween costume was Super Girl. It was the first and only time that my very practical mother ever let me have a store-bought costume. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends that I would not be going as a gypsy (draped in scarves and grandmother’s vintage jewelry), a business woman (Working Girl, anyone?) or a princess in a flower girl dress from one of my many aunts’ weddings. I was thrilled that this year I wouldn’t have to wear my raincoat over my costume (rainy Oregon) because the entire full-body suit was made of plastic. But even more exciting for me was the mask. It was wonderful; with blonde, perfectly-styled, molded plastic hair, a porcelain face and a make-up job complete with ruby red lips. For the first time in my life I felt beautiful. But more than that, when I wore the mask, I could be someone different. It made everything perfect on the outside while hiding the real, flawed person underneath.

As I grew up, I realized that I could wear masks in real life, too. I became a pleaser, ready to do anything for anyone to win approval. I was perpetually sunny; the girl who was friendly and fun, but not close to any one person. A girl that held a lot of secrets and a lot of scars deep within. I learned to never reveal too much about myself, because that would give someone power over me and even worse, I worried that once someone knew what I was really like, they would be disappointed. And the fear of rejection was unbearable.

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So I developed and wore many masks over the years. Masks I thought people wanted to see. I had a well-behaved daughter mask, an upstanding Christian girl mask, and as I grew into adulthood, I put on a corporate business manager mask and eventually, loving wife and doting mother masks.

It was exhausting keeping up every facade, especially when the person hiding behind all the masks was so broken from the years of pretending and keeping secrets. For most of my life, I had hid from my family the fact that I was sexual assaulted on two separate occasions; once when I was six and another at sixteen. Because of those, I feared true intimacy of any kind and went into a marriage where I never expressed what I was thinking or feeling. Yelling or even raised voices were traumatic for me and I developed a strong aversion to nagging or bickering. In my effort to please everyone around me, I lost myself and my own desires for the future, taking on everybody’s hopes and dreams as my own. I felt guilty when plans didn’t work out the way my friends or husband wanted them to; that it was my fault for not being able to please everyone.

When I was young, I had never considered having children. My own childhood was filled with pain, guilt and a load of responsibilities caring for my younger siblings and endless chores around the house while my parents worked full-time. I wanted to study music and perform, but when that dream died, I was lost. What was next for me? I thought God provided an answer when I met a man; so six months later we were married and I convinced myself that the new dream was to be a good, Christian wife, making and raising good Christian babies and baking cookies.

Unfortunately, the motherhood mask was the hardest one for me to wear. After five years of wandering in the infertility desert and all that comes with it, getting pregnant was the Promised Land. Or so I thought. Pregnancy actually ended up being one of the hardest experiences of my life at that time. Inwardly, I loathed every moment of it, but on the outside, I forced myself to be sentimental and “glow” like many of my friends had during their pregnancies.

When my son was born, I was secretly thrilled that my doctor told me he would be my only natural child. But three years later, I was devastated to learn that my month-long ‘flu’ would not be cured with antibiotics. At the time, I could barely keep up with my strong-willed, ridiculously active and verbal toddler, how on earth could I handle another one just like him? After a second high-risk pregnancy, ending with ten weeks of prescribed bed rest (impossible with a three-year old boy); I was relieved to deliver a nearly full-term baby girl. The doctor and I both agreed that I should never do that again.

For the next several years, I juggled raising two children, working a stressful sixty-hour a week job all while dealing with a husband who was becoming more and more detached from reality. Keeping my super-Christian mask in place was becoming too much and I knew that something had to give. I never anticipated it would come from another brutal sexual assault which would result in a complete mental breakdown and subsequent hospital stay.

My marriage, already badly suffering, could not survive the posttraumatic stress and eventually fell apart. The relationship with my parents became strained, and I could no longer be the cold-hearted executive at work anymore, so I ended up moving several hundred miles away, back to a place that I felt safe with just my children and me on our own.

After that, keeping up with all of the masks became impossible and I finally began to let some go. My motherhood mask was replaced by a new and much heavier one, single motherhood. Surviving each day as a child of God, saved by grace, became much simpler and more real than I ever thought I would allow. I don’t miss the married mask, but I sometimes long for something to hide behind when I walk in the church door without a husband and it’s obvious that life has gone awry for me. Showing even that much vulnerability is still something I struggle with.

I hate how much pain my personal agony has caused my children. They don’t know and couldn’t possibly understand what I struggle with daily, but it’s all I can do to try to keep things going and keep the mommy mask in place. I love my children with all of my heart, but I don’t love motherhood. I despise the never-ending monotony of chores and most nights I just want to go to sleep without my hands smelling like poop or bleach.

Both of my children have emotional delays and if I were really being honest, I think they would thrive and soar if someone else was their mother. A better mother would make sure that they get the structure and help they need. I’ve met so many amazing women that are unable to have children of their own or others whose kids cannot walk or breathe without help. And many who have lost their children entirely. I am awed by their strength and courage. But what I struggle with is why God didn’t give my angels to one of them?

I know that God has a plan for us and I hope that His grace and love continues to be sufficient so I don’t have to feel like I need to wear masks for the rest of my life. Perhaps one day He will allow me to forgive myself and help release the crippling guilt I feel every day about the choices that I’ve made. Sometimes seemingly small things have had big impacts and I find myself getting stuck playing the “if only” game. However, I know that is not healthy and I’m working on it. Finally, I hope and pray that my children will grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults and only remember the fun times I’ve tried to create on the days when mommy was not too exhausted to wear her cool-party-mom mask.

~~~~~

The author to this story prefers to remain anonymous, but I think she presents a wonderful opportunity to talk about the not-so-joyful parts of motherhood and, frankly, just personhood.
It’s okay to own not loving motherhood. It’s okay to say you don’t always like your children. And it’s okay if you, as a woman, don’t even feel called to be a mother. We all have scars and ugliness that we would rather put a mask over than open ourselves up to the possibility of more hurt.

There is no judgment or condemnation here; just support, love and prayers. And hopefully, there is also healing. Healing in sharing our stories, our confessions. Healing in feeling camaraderie with others who’ve been there before or are there right now, too. And the strength to move forward toward a healthier future. And maybe, just maybe, some day we can all be released from the fear and bondage of wearing our masks.

Can you relate to this mother? Are there sometimes when you don’t enjoy motherhood? Do you put on masks to protect yourself as well?

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FATHERS Make Us Better Mothers: A Father’s Day Tribute

If you’ve been around this blog much, you know by now how I love to sing the praises of women’s call by God to be mothers. The women who have been mothers to us, and how we mother others…mother, mother, mother! BUT, as we approach this weekend to celebrate FATHERS, I just want to take a little moment and pay tribute to my favorite fathers. Wanna join me and honor your favorite fathers? Please do so in the comments below and be sure to share, tag and forward it on to them!

First and foremost, I need to give a shout out to the love of my life and father of my children, Jonathan. I seriously would not be the mother I am without him. In fact, because of who this man is as a FATHER, I am a better mother! So, here are the top ten things l0ve about or am grateful to him for:

  1. Your hard work allows me to stay home and raise our precious offspring
  2. You taught me the beauty of hot dogs and corn dogs with MUSTARD. oh yum!
  3. You do not think it makes you less manly to say “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” do housework or even cry when the situation calls for it
  4. You’re such a giving person, you can never keep things a surprise or a secret from me for long before they just burst out of you!
  5. Your incredible passion, talent and mastery of craft brewing!
  6. You take such excellent care of our home, the yard, our finances and all our technology devices
  7. Your hilarious ability to turn anything into a silly song about poo
  8. You taught me to love and be successful at gardening
  9. Your ridiculous love of mariachi and reggae music
  10. You love me forever and always!

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Second, I have a terrific father of my own that raised me. The top five things I love about him are:

  1. He loves to ask “is everybody happy?”
  2. His incredibly positive and generous outlook on life
  3. He still calls me squeaker
  4. How athletic and active he is
  5. His unending love for all his family and friends

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Finally, nearly nine years ago, I met the man that would become my father-in-love and my children’s Papa. Here are his top five:

  1. Despite being a very tall and intimidating cop, he’s a big ole softy teddy bear!
  2. His love of tending his lawns, yard and garden
  3. How he is not afraid to tell his children and grandchildren just how much he loves them
  4. He calls everyone dear to him “hun”
  5. How he makes me want him to be proud of me, just as if he were my own, flesh-and-blood dad!

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So, there you have it! Happy Father’s Day weekend. Now, do you have a tribute you’d like to give to the dads in your own life? Leave them a message here!

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A Little M2M Guest Post Action AND A Motherhood Monday LinkUp

Other than motherhood in general, my all-time favorite cause is for birthmothers. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like and I am passionate about championing birth moms all over the world as often and shamelessly as I can! As such, I have the joy and pleasure to network with, speak at and write for a lot of really great birth mother and adoption organizations. Some of my favorites are BraveLove, Called to Love and most recently, America Adopts. I love to take whatever opportunity I can to encourage, support and defend the cause of birth moms as all parties in the adoption triad move toward emotional and spiritual healing and closure. If you are interested in speaking with me further about adoption and birth mothers, please feel free to contact me at wynterkaiser@gmail.com!

Just last week I had the opportunity to do a guest blog post for America Adopts and I chose to speak on the misconceptions of birth mothers in our culture. Here is what I wrote:

As a birth mom I have my own story and it is unique. I think that sometimes it is easy to romanticize the ideal adoption scenario; a young girl gets pregnant and loves the baby so much that she decides to give it a better home and life than she can offer. But there is much more to my story than that typical, idealized notion. And, frankly, I think if all birth moms were really being honest with you, they would say the same thing.

I grew up in a stiflingly Christian home, church and private school. As a child and teenager I talked the talk, but deep down inside, I desired to break free and live how the rest of the world lived. So, as soon as I turned eighteen, I rebelled; and thinking I was invincible, I got involved in drinking, drugs and fooling around with boys. Eventually, my poor choices caught up with me. I was suspended from school after my freshman year in college and became pregnant shortly thereafter….

{Click here to continue reading over at America Adopts!}

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And now for the Link Up! Please also visit M2M on Twitter @made2mother and like on Facebook.com/madetomother!

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Grab the Link Up button!

The Made to Mother Project is dedicated to encouraging, supporting and inspiring women by sharing their stories of motherhood. I hope that this link-up will continue to grow our community of mothers. Please read the guidelines below for information on how to join!

Link Up Guidelines

  • Please post family-friendly topics/websites. Bonus points if they have to do with mothering!
  • Be sure to link back to your blog post not your homepage.
  • Share the Linky love – visit a page or two linked up here and leave them a nice comment.
  • Oh, and a link back to Made to Mother using the button above or a sweet shout-out would be awesome, too!

The Story of My Miscarriage – Guest Post by Monica at Mommy & Love

I was haunted by the sound of the pause in the doctor’s room. I was there for an early ultrasound to hear my baby’s heartbeat. It would have been the very first time, but I left with nothing. All the excitement came and disappeared in what felt like a matter of seconds. I was left traumatized, shocked, and furious. It all caught me off guard.

I remember I wore a favorite, flowery dress that day to match my bright outlook on life. But my joyous mood had changed. I irrationally decided to hate the world, everything and everyone in it. I never anticipated miscarrying a child. Truthfully, I had never even anticipated having a baby in my early twenties, but once I found out I was pregnant, I fell in love with the idea. That love grew more and more intense as I discovered a whole new world of motherhood. Never before had I gazed so happily towards tiny little baby clothing, diapers, and nursery accessories. I was in another state of mind, all googly-eyed.

My pregnancy only lasted seven weeks, yet those measly three weeks of knowing I was pregnant changed my life forever. I instantly wanted to try again for another baby despite being in the middle of my college career. My boyfriend at the time, now my husband, was one hundred percent against the idea. The one person I needed to be there for me let me down and I felt alone. I was trapped in a dark cloud of emotions.

That day of bad news went by in a daze. The sun refused to stop shining and the birds continued to sing. The world couldn’t have cared less about my sudden loss. It continued as mine shattered and froze in place. Later that night, the physical pain was triggered and soon enough, I was experiencing full-blown labor pains. My body was cramping up repeatedly, preparing to reject the embryo unworthy of being called fetus. To make matters worse, the doctor insisted on having me collect the embryo once it passed so it could be sent to a lab for further testing. Can you imagine collecting an undeveloped embryo that was supposed to grow into your human child? I am very much in favor of medical studies, so reluctantly I did as they asked. I was fortunate that my loving boyfriend spared me and took care of that part himself.

A small amount of time passed, hardly a month, and sure enough, my sister, sister-in-law, and step brother’s wife both became pregnant at the same time. It was at that time that I should have sought professional help from a grief counselor. My world completely flipped upside down and my mind was plagued by pregnancy hormones. My relationship entered a state of turmoil and I passionately hated everybody in sight. I discovered the most bitter form of jealousy imaginable towards pregnant women and skipped all baby related events. It was unbearable looking at ultrasound pictures and watching baby bellies grow and protrude outward.

One evening, I was driving and talking on the phone with a relative only to discover that my cousin was also pregnant. To say that I threw a crying fit would be an understatement. I had a psychotic break-down. I could not see or hear anything, I could not even breathe. My rage was beyond measureable. That was by far the worst pain I had ever experienced at this point in my life. My boyfriend had me pull the car over and he took over driving once I had calmed down. It is shocking to look back at this period in my life to see how muddied up my vision appeared. I was the first person pregnant in both my boyfriend and my immediate families so babies were a very new and exciting topic those three weeks. I had desperately wanted my sisters to be pregnant with me because I thought it would be the coolest thing ever. Instead, I ended up without child and they all conceived as if to spite me.

Although the pain dragged on and on for over a year, there is a happy ending and moral to this story. I learned that many women experience miscarriages through no fault of their own. Roughly, one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. It has been almost five years since my first miscarriage and I now have a crazy cute two and half year old daughter and a five month old son.

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I did end up having a second miscarriage in between those two full term pregnancies, but it was not nearly as tragic as the first one. I miscarried right at five weeks pregnant that second time and due to my first miscarriage, I was wary of announcing my news early again. Not many people in my life even know about that one.

I also learned that it does not matter how long you carry a baby for you to be affected by the loss. I was only pregnant for seven weeks when I miscarried the first time and it made for an emotionally draining and exhausting year of my life. I sunk into a deep depression that did not end until I became pregnant again. But, I am now happily writing about my motherhood experiences. I started blogging while I was pregnant with my daughter. Motherhood has been one gigantic learning experience filled with many beautiful ups and some scary downs. Overall, I realize how blessed I am to be able to raise children and show them a love never before imaginable.

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Monica lives in Michigan with her husband, Bill and two children, Amelia and Oliver. She blogs at www.mommyandlove.com, shares her family’s journey through photos on Instagram and updates on the Mommy & Love Facebook page.

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Saying Yes to the Adventure of Foster Care – Emily’s Story

The call came from a DHS supervisor at midnight: “We have a three-year old girl at the hospital. Her mom was shot and is not expected to live through the night. Her dad has been arrested. Domestic violence. All clothing was taken by police as evidence so if you could bring a blanket that would be great. Can you come pick her up?” Yes.

The call came from a CPS worker while I was making dinner: “I just came on the scene to find a four-year old boy sitting in the back of a police car. His clothing is soaked with urine from his mentally unstable mother; he may have lice, and he is filthy. Can we bring him to your house?” Yes.

The call came from another county as we were getting ready for bed. “We have a two-year old who is sound asleep at the DHS office now. She was brought to the ER with an injury. Her mom was so high on drugs she could hardly function. This little girl is adorable. We just need someone who can take her for the night. Could you?” Yes.

The call came from the placement desk while I was in the middle of a run. “We have a tiny, ten-day old baby boy. Things aren’t working out with his current foster home, and we need to move him. Do you have an infant car seat?” Yes.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

My husband and I are biological parents to two young kids, as well as foster parents to a revolving crew of kids under the age of five. A friend, who also fosters, once told me that calls from DHS are like a Create-Your-Own-Adventure Game. Each “yes” takes your family on a wild new adventure you never expected. I always wonder what adventure we are missing out on with the calls we can’t take.

We say yes because these broken babies need a safe place to land. They need a mommy to wrap them in blankets and tuck them in at night. They need a daddy to hoist them up on his shoulders and gallop them around the backyard. They need clothing that fits and food that nourishes. They need to be tickled and trained and taken to the zoo. They need boundaries. They need love.

I have been surprised to find how much we need these little people, too. They are sweet and feisty and stubborn and funny. They keep us on our toes and teach us lessons we need to learn.

People tell me all the time, “I don’t know how you do it! I could never become a foster parent. It would be too hard to say good-bye to the kids once I’ve gotten attached.” And I get it, I do. I used to say the exact same thing. But now, I wonder what in the world I was thinking. Was I serious? It would be too hard for… me?

Make no mistake. It is hard. There are plenty of days when I feel like I just don’t have it in me to do this. My ideas and energy and patience fall flat. Some kids have night terrors, others have accidents. You wash a lot of sheets. You fold a lot of socks. You buy a lot of diapers. There are endless meetings and appointments and phone calls. There are false accusations and frustrating decisions. Foster parenting can be tough.

And yet these kids are forced to do hard things every single day, through no fault or choice of their own. They are abused and neglected and forced to fend for themselves. They are separated from siblings and shuffled from place to place. Kids in the foster care system have endured more hurt in their short lives than most of us will pause to think about, let alone experience, in our own.

The next phone call will come. And my husband and I will say yes. Not because we are some amazing poster family for foster care. We will say yes because these kids are forced to do hard things. The least we can do is look into their broken eyes and say, “Yes. I will do hard things with you. I will hold your hand and kiss your head and calm your tantrums. By God’s grace, we will figure this out together.”

When it is time to say good-bye, I will wash their clothes and pack their stuffed animals. I will ache and cry and wish it could be different. But I will never regret saying yes.

~~~~~

Emily is a foster mom in Portland, Oregon, who has been married to the love of her life for almost 12 years. They have two adorable kids, who keep them laughing and Googling. Emily also volunteers with Embrace Oregon.

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