The girls

If these girls don't start earning their keep around here, there's no telling what I'll do.

(from L to R: Missy, Dora, Henriletta, and Flora)

God's list

I began Thursday with a full TO DO list:

-clean living room
-straighten basement
-clean bathroom
-straighten upstairs bedroom
-clean out craft cupboard
-fold laundry
-get fingerprints done for adoption
-pick up groceries for dessert
-make dessert for small group
-make dinner

That morning as I looked over my list, I prayed not only that God would give me the strength and time to accomplish all of the items on my list, but also that He would help me recognize His purposes, and that I would be more concerned about accomplishing His "list" for me than my own list.

As the day progressed I worked hard to get through my list, but I was also mindful of His promptings, and He faithfully and gently challenged my plan on many occasions.

For instance, when two of my children were fighting in the living room as I was washing dishes, I wanted to holler from my position at the sink for them to stop fighting.
He wanted me to set down what I was doing and go to them, and patiently instruct.

When Ella was helping me load the dishwasher and it was taking FOREVER, I wanted her to go play so that I could just get it done.
He wanted me to take the time to teach her how to load it, to praise her for her hard work, to work alongside of her. He wanted me to be patient.

When we went to do our fingerprints and the woman standing behind the desk was discourteous, I wanted to call her out on her rudeness to us. (And I did.)
He wanted me to apologize. (And I did.)

When the day ended there were items on my list that remained undone. But I am so pleased that there were items on His list for me that were accomplished. And the thing about His list? It's so much richer than my own. I know that's a big "duh", but I was struck afresh by the fact that His ways are kind, unhurried, loving and patient.

It is my prayer that every new day I will have the discernment to recognize the items on His list for me, and that I will joyfully obey.

After-meal chores

For months on end we can be in a really good routine around here and then for one reason or another it all sort of falls apart. For instance, the kids used to dutifully clear their dishes from the table after each meal. Within the past week or two I've noticed that when the meal is done, they ask to be excused and scurry off to play. ~Huh?~ I probably let them the first time or two for one reason or another and now it's become a habit. And it's a habit I now want to break.

In an effort to get them back on track, I've implemented a new system for cleaning up after meals in our home.

I made this:

The three chores are:
1. Clear dishes off the table and wipe down table.
2. Sweep kitchen floor.
3. Mommy's helper-- meaning that this child will report to me for their chore. That way they can do whatever is most needed: unload or load the dishwasher, put the food away, etc.

Each morning we turn the wheel and reveal their new chore for the day, and then for each meal that day they will be responsible for that chore.

So far, so good! :)

Evening with daddy

-One fierce lion, prowling around in our dark basement.
-Three happy children.
-3 flashlights, gripped tightly and shining.

Gathering courage on the stairs

Descending into the lions den

*Yikes!* Little hearts are beating fast

Settling in a little further up the stairs after that encounter

Feeling pretty brave now that mama's in between them and the lion (and mama is feeling a bit jumpy that the lion may try to grab *her*)

Feeling so at ease they ventured all the way down the stairs and....


Current read-alouds

Have you read this one?

You must. Our kids (5, 3, and 2) loved it! As did their daddy and mommy.

We're currently reading this one:

...and this one:

And we just checked these out for the first time at the library:

(The stories are very sweet, and they have that wonderful combination of a full illustration on one page and a full page of text on the other, which the kids appreciate.)

What are you reading aloud to your little ones right now?

What I have in common with Sarah

Last week I was struggling with my attitude pretty much every other minute. I absolutely needed a muzzle for my mouth so that I would stop snapping at my children. One morning I actually seriously considered putting some duct tape over my mouth. (Until one millisecond later when I thought of the pain of ripping it off and decided that would be a no.) And my husband-- oh, poor guy-- patiently put up with more criticism and irritability than anyone ever ought to. I wish I could say it was just an off week. But this does occur approximately once a month in my life, and in the lives of all who suffer living with me during that time. (My apologies to the one male reader who occasionally checks in --hi, Dan!-- but that's the extent of that kind of talk, I promise.)

This excerpt from John MacArthur's book Twelve Extraordinary Women gave me such hope. In this portion he is writing about Abraham's wife Sarah.

Let's be honest: there are times in the biblical account when Sarah comes off as a bit of a shrew. She was the wife of the great patriarch Abraham, so we tend to think of her with a degree of dignity and honor. But reading the biblical account of her life, it is impossible not to notice that she sometimes behaved badly. She could throw fits and tantrums. She knew how to be manipulative. And she was even known to get mean. At one time or another, she exemplified almost every trait associated with the typical caricature of a churlish woman. She could be impatient, temperamental, conniving, cantankerous, cruel, flighty, pouty, jealous, erratic, unreasonable, a whiner, a complainer, or a nag. By no means was she always the perfect model of godly grace and meekness.
On a week when I was displaying just about every single one of those unbecoming traits in the above list, I was so heartened to remember this part: Sarah's name was among those listed in Hebrews' Hall of Faith.

Oh, and because I spent most of last week being so cranky-- and making Mark feel so unlikeable-- I've purposed this week to go a bit out of my way to tell him how much I *do* like him! Each day this week I'm posting a new list up on the wall containing Reasons why I like Mark [today]...

The toe

Today is Mark's day off. Last week he didn't have a day off, so we were all excited to get to be with daddy today. We kicked the morning off by letting him sleep in, then woke him up when we were all itching for breakfast. Mark got up and headed out for a surprise. He came back with a box of donuts, which we all devoured at the kitchen table. Shortly afterwards I was downstairs, putting in some laundry, and thinking ahead to the rest of the day stretched ahead of us.

Such plans! At noon I was going out for lunch with a dear friend. During the kids' naps/quiet times, Mark and I would hang out, most likely playing this. Later in the afternoon I got to go have my break, which I had big plans for since last week was such a long week. Then we were all going to go for a walk together, and later tonight we were doing an outreach with our church.

I ran upstairs from putting the load of laundry in, rounded the corner at the top of the stairs, and ran straight into a chair. Or, I should say, my TOE ran straight into a chair. A very hard chair. I'm entirely sure it's broken.

It's now nearly 6:00. Our day has been a little different than planned. Namely, I've been Feel free to also read into that sentence: Stacy is trying not to be a total crab about the toe event and is failing quite miserably.

That's all. Time to get this pesky toe elevated.

Eyes of Wonder

Recently I found a lovely blog called Eyes of Wonder, Jewels' little place in the blogosphere. I knew I was hooked the moment I read this excerpt from her blog:

I'm a busy wife and mama to my many treasured children. My dear oldest son is married, to a lovely gentle-spirited gal, who is the mama of our first little grandbaby girl and is carrying our second little grandbaby--safely tucked away, and growing-- in her womb. I'm blessed to have my 9 other children still at home, each one uniquely wonderful, and a joy and delight that I couldn't imagine my life from day-to-day, without. I love the simple things in life the very most, and cherish the gift of time to truly enjoy them. I love to create, and I think my favorite thing to create is memories! How grateful I am for each one that has been made and is stored away in my heart and mind, and the hearts and minds of those I love.

See what I mean? Do go peek around; I think you'll find yourself as enchanted as I am by Jewels' writings of their life as a family, and the beautiful photos she shares, too.

At the beginning of July I read this post and entered the drawing.

Would you believe my name was drawn?! I am so excited! :)

Sweet dreams

One of my favorite things in the world is slipping into the kids' rooms at night to peek in at our sweet, sleeping children. Here's what I discovered in one bed two nights in a row:

(Mark tells me he keeps a stash of baseball caps in bed with him now and selects a new one each night!)

Oh, and yes... that is a black eye. Poor little fella tumbled a week ago and it still looks like that!

More on foster care

I found Kathy Harrison's last book so gripping, I am now reading another, called One Small Boat: The Story of a Little Girl, Lost Then Found

Mind if I share?

[From the prologue]
I can rattle off the bare statistics. Every day more than seven hundred children come into foster care in this country because of suspected abuse or neglect. One-third of those children will never go home to their original families again. One-third who do go home will be back in care again before they reach adulthood. There are more than 550,000 children in the child welfare system in this country. The number is astounding, so large that most people can't comprehend it. Its enormity excuses our tendancy to forget that these are not numbers but real little people.

It is staggering, those statistics. Seven hundred a day? And it's so true; we forget that those are not simply statistics, but behind the statistics are children, created by God and loved by Him. Harrison does an excellent job of putting a face to those statistics, telling the stories of children who have come into her home and what she offers them. Sometimes what she offers is simply a safe home, a clean bed, and a nourishing meal. And yet, that is more than most of them are accustomed to.

One thing that strikes me as I read this book and as I read her last book: there is no mention of Jesus Christ. It's one of the things that is most difficult for me as I read these books. And it is where my responsibility weighs heaviest upon me. I can do those things: a safe home, a clean bed, a nourishing meal. But I can offer even more. So much more. I can offer Jesus. What an opportunity to guide these young broken children to the One who *is* Healer, Comforter, Deliverer, Savior and Friend.

I believe with certainty that some of these children in the foster care system don't have a fighting chance unless they find Jesus. It is He who has the ability to transform their lives. To heal their hurts. To make them whole again.

Mark and I are in the process right now of adopting a child or sibling group from the foster care system. Adoption. That is what I want for these children. And that is what I want for us; for our family. Permanency. Even this foster-to-adopt process was a leap for us, because there is a risk involved. And there are so many what-if's. And there are birth families to consider and relate with. And the state. And, and, and. And yet, God led us here. And now God is tugging at my heart with these statistics, and with the children hiding behind them. If we as Christians are not taking these children into our homes, it begs the question: who is? If we are not reaching out to them with *the* message of hope, who will? And when?

Thoughts to ponder and pray over, for sure.

Fruit of the Spirit graphic

Last week Trish emailed me to let me know that my blog had been nominated to display this on my blog:

You can click here to read more about this graphic, but an excerpt from Trish's blog reads, "In his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote about the fruit of the Spirit~ love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23). The Fruit of the Spirit graphic was developed in an effort to recognize bloggers whose writings and postings in the blogosphere give us a glimpse of this fruit in their lives."

Wow. I am sincerely blessed by this. Most days I am pretty sure I lack a great deal of the above fruits! And yet any fruit that is in me is purely a testimony to the grace and faithfulness of God and His work in my life. So thank you to whoever nominated With Great Joy for this and also to Trish for her desire to bless bloggers through this graphic.

Summer fiction, anyone?

I just finished an excellent book called Chasing Fireflies, by Charles Martin. If you've not yet read any of his books, it's high time you do. I read his first novel, The Dead Don't Dance, a couple of years ago. That first read and every one since has been a book I simply could not put down. Martin is a master storyteller. His characters are so rich you don't want to say goodbye to them when you get to the end of the book. I really can't say enough about his writing, so do find out for yourself.

The other great fiction book I've read in the last couple of months is this one: Quaker Summer, by Lisa Samson.

I just recently discovered Samson's books and so thoroughly enjoyed her writing that I will be reading everything she writes from here on out. Samson is refreshingly candid and funny-- there were times she had me laughing out loud. Not only that, but this book made me think, too. You can read a review here.

What are your book recommendations? Fiction or non-fiction, I'll take 'em!

My birthday

Tuesday was my birthday, and I am now 32 years old.

I thought about posting a list like I did last year, and I still might do that but I haven't quite made the list yet. As I reach another year of life, I can say with certainty that I know and love God more today than I did one year ago. And is there really anything else that matters?

I spent my birthday at home with the kids, playing in the yard, doing laundry, cleaning the house, and running a few errands. Much like most every other day! A few people called to say happy birthday, and then at 3:30 Amy showed up at my door with three of her kids to deliver her gift to me. Which was a gift card to one of my favorite stores (and if you have long legs and have not yet discovered it, you will be incredibly pleased with their selection of TALL sizes). *And* the gift came complete with the offer to watch my children while I go shopping. Which is a gift in itself.

When Mark got off work, he picked up Thai food for dinner, whereupon I ate Chicken Pad Thai and drank a Thai iced tea. Mmm.

About an hour after that our yard was full of family and friends- the kids playing in the yard and the adults mingling and snacking on Pico de gallo and chips.

Mark had made two ice cream pies, (and he even smashed up Snickers' bars in one of them, proving that he knows me well). The kids were served chocolate ice cream cones.

I was blessed with soaps, kitchen towels, and gift cards-- one to Starbucks, and a couple of Target cards. My mom had scrapbooked a little book for me complete with photos and words from my parents about how much they love me. Inside the pages were tucked a gift certificate to a quilting store here in town and another clothing store gift card. On another page was an invitation to this performance with my mom and my sister.

When we headed inside for the night, the final guests having just left, it was nearly 10:00. Mark and the kids then did their gifts for me. Mark bought me some kitchen stuff and a new wallet. Inside the wallet he'd hidden some money for me to buy myself some clothes (um... do we see a theme, here?) I love to shop, so I'm perfectly happy, mind you.

The kids then handed me their gifts.

From Ella, a new necklace:

From Isaac, some toys for my baths:

And from Isaias:

Don't ask. I'm just not even sure.

Anyway, it was a wonderful day and I feel incredibly blessed.

Two celebrations

Two of my dearest friends had big days today.

Amy celebrated her 32nd birthday! YAY! Happy birthday, you! I love you so much and am especially thankful I have gotten to take part in so many of those birthdays! I'd hug you if we did that. *grin*


Michelle reminded me today that it is "Gotcha' Day" at their house. It was one year ago today that they got their son Micah from Guatemala. WOO HOO! On that day God placed one more child into a family of His choice. And a wonderful family it is. I love you guys and am rejoicing with you today as you celebrate one year with Micah!
I have had the privilege of walking this adoption road with Michelle from the very beginning. And what an incredible treasure it has been to find a faithful friend in her, too. I am so thankful for you, Michelle! Isn't it a wonderful bonus that God brought us together as friends?

I love you two!


Kathy Harrison is the mother of six children. Three of those six children were adopted through her state's foster care system. Harrison has fostered nearly one hundred children over the past several years. This is a gripping book, told with such honesty and heart. Although my heart aches to read it, I recommend it, and find myself pondering excerpts such as the ones I'll share with you here.

Dan was a deeply troubled seven-year old boy who had been in their home for two years. When it came time to move him from their home into another foster home, Harrison writes,

I told Dan on a Friday. I didn't ask if he wanted to go; there was no point. The choice was not his to make. Dan, being Dan, did not argue or question. It is the nature of foster care that one is moved, like an old sofa with a difficult-to-match pattern, from place to place, hoping that in another corner you won't look quite so shabby, quite so out of place.

Another time. It is midnight, and Harrison waits for a caseworker to bring a ten-month-old baby boy to her home. She writes,

What can I say about waiting for a baby? It is a bit like being in labor. Excitement laced with worry, that sense of not being prepared. The questions are one part of fostering that has never changed for me. What in heaven's name have I gotten myself into? What if I can't do it? Suppose the baby screams all night or gets sick? Suppose I do the wrong thing and make things worse? What if I love him and lose him or, worse, what if I don't? [Italics mine]

And later, as she pulled the blanket away from this baby's face, she recollects, "David's face was discolored from his upper lip to the side of his button nose. Several small, unusual bruises dotted one side of his neck. His left eye was swollen nearly shut. I could picture what happened. Someone held David on the back of his neck and slapped him hard across his tiny face." And the results of his X rays the following day? Five broken ribs, and his arm had healed fractures. Ten months old, this precious baby boy.

One of the facets of our training in March was to visit an interim care center for babies who were drug-affected. If a baby is delivered at a hospital and tests positive for drugs, CPS is called and the baby is taken from the mother and can be brought to a center like the one we visited. We sat in a room with a dozen other prospective adoptive couples and heard stories and facts that would shake even the most stoic. The soft-spoken, pregnant woman speaking to us was one of the facilitators of the center. She told us that when she'd begun working there, ten years before, the babies coming in were primarily withdrawing from one of two possible drugs. Now, though? It is not uncommon to have a newborn baby come in who has the effects of nine different drugs in his/her system. Can you imagine? We watched a video of the babies from the center. I will never forget; the images I saw in that short video have lingered in my mind ever since. Tiny, helpless, distressed babies; their bodies seizing and contorting as they responded to the various drugs in their system. Deafening cries; cries like I have never heard from a baby before. Just as disturbing, there were babies who had no muscle tone, who laid quietly and unresponsive to any contact. Babies who simply would not eat.

These are things I would almost rather not think about. This isn't a comfortable topic, and these are not pretty stories. But they are happening in our nation. Can you imagine how much God's heart aches at what He witnesses in the lives of these children? He is clear on the matter. We don't have to look far to find out what He thinks.

My intent tonight was just to share some excerpts from the book I was reading. And yet as I sit here with the cursor blinking at the end of this post I wonder how I am going to wrap this up. There is no neat wrap-up for such a topic.

I read the other day that of the one-third of Americans who consider adopting, only 2 percent of them actually adopt. That statistic surprised me. Only 2 percent? How is that so?

Honestly, I wish I could convince every couple who loves Jesus to adopt. Might He be calling you? Or maybe you know of a couple in your church who is adopting and you could come alongside them with encouragement and support. Maybe your family could have a garage sale and raise money to go towards their adoption?

It is my humble prayer that God would raise up more families who would take in the orphans. There are so many.