Regrouping…

This past weekend we decided to do a little family “regrouping.”Not surprisingly, moving to another country can be pretty complicated and things have been pretty nuts around here. On top of that, having to say goodbye to our foster son was emotional and left us feeling a little out of sorts for a few days. We aren’t unaware that fostering implies something temporary, but frankly, it is weird to do life with two babies for ten months and then to suddenly go back to bathing/feeding/taking care of one child.

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Mariah wore those sunglasses the whole weekend… loves ’em

So naturally, we decided to go to the beach…because obviously the beach is a great place for a family regroup session. We found a deal on the Costa Rican equivalent of Groupon and we high-tailed it out of the city. We had an incredible time together. We had great weather, great food, and time to process and take a step back from the madness for a second. Minus Mariah pooping in the beautiful pool (which was mortifying I can assure you), our trip was nearly perfect and I’m so thankful.

We’ve been thinking it would be a good idea to make a little getaway a family tradition each time we transition a foster child out of our home. Sort of a way to process and reconnect with each other. It was a quick, three-day trip, but it did wonders for our souls.

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So many answers…

Just a quick update because A LOT has happened in the last week. God has been showing off these last few days which is giving us a lot of peace.

  • Saturday we were able to meet the beautiful family that J will go to live with. I was pretty anxious, but we were so surprised to find out that they weren’t complete strangers! They actually went to high school with Albin  :). So not only were they a wonderful family, but we’ll also be able to keep in regular contact with them to know how our sweet baby is doing. He will go to live with them this Saturday, but we have so much peace now. I LOVE seeing God’s hand.
  • There was some confusion about when we would be able to fly home because of a check we needed from Al’s employer. We heard from HR and were given the green light for them to deposit into his account rather than him needing to go and pick up the check…which means we will be able to fly home in time for some family events we really wanted to be home for.
  • Since we had the green light from work, I started seriously looking for flights. I’ve been searching for the last couple months and was anticipating to pay around $1000 for all three of us to fly home. I prayed in the morning that God would make it incredibly obvious which day we should fly and later that day I found a great flight that was half as much. I spent $540 for all three of us to fly home. Just huge.
  • As a lot of you know, we’re still in the process of selling our house. We really want to sell it before we leave, but we also felt like we should buy our tickets for September- so we bought our tickets in faith that God will sell our house in His perfect time. We hadn’t heard much over the last few weeks, but in the last four days we have had four showings (two of those with the same family because they wanted to see it again!). No one has made an offer yet, but we know at least two of those families were extremely interested, so please pray that they would make an offer so we can close on the house by mid-September.

In short, this week has been encouraging and peace-giving. Even in regards to selling our our furniture and finding a dog flight kennel for cheap (which is not easy in CR), God has been aligning this thing for us in incredible ways. There was never any doubt that God was guiding this process, but it is doubly- exciting when He shows off.

So that’s where we’re at. We have about a month to finish everything up and say goodbye. Obviously there are a lot of mixed feelings, but man, its a relief to know a Sovereign God has it all in His hands.

Saying Good-Bye to our Fuzzy Foster Baby

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The fostering agency we work with asked us to create a photo album to document the last nine months we’ve had with our foster son. As I was looking for quotes to put in the album, I came across the one above and it stuck with me because soon we’ll be saying good bye to our fuzzy foster baby. He is almost 10 months old now and we’ve had him since birth. The tiny, premature, five pound little bundle that was handed to me nine months ago is now a thriving and happy baby ninja who literally does not stop moving and surprises us every day with his stealthiness. Of all the countries and islands and babies in the world, we were given him. It has truly been a privilege.

Over the next week or so, he will be transitioning to another family as we are not allowed to bring him to the U.S. and as I mentioned previously, Costa Rican Social Services doesn’t allow foster families to adopt (of course we tried). As I prepared his album, I was thinking about what a privilege it was to have spent these last nine months with him. It hasn’t always been easy, and it most definitely won’t be easy to see him go, but God allowed us to meet him and raise him for this period of time on purpose. Of all the babies and all the families, somehow we ended up together and I pray that the time we had with him created a foundation in him that will set him up for blessing in the future.

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There are a lot of emotions surrounding saying good bye, but most of all we’re thankful for and humbled by the privilege of being a part of J’s life.  Many people make comments about how he should be ours and how unfair it all is, but truly, he never was ours. God entrusted him to us for a time and God is far more aware of J’s care than we are. So we entrust him back into the hands of the perfect Father, knowing that God is more than able to guard what was always His anyway.

Of course it’s a struggle. We knew it was going to be hard when we signed up to foster. Naturally it is heartbreaking to give him up, but it is more than worth it. It is far more important that J learn how to form an attachment than it is for our family to protect ourselves from the pain of losing that attachment. Rather than laying in a crib all day in an orphanage, he was a part of a family that taught him how to love and be loved. In all sincerity, we didn’t always have perfect attitudes and we definitely had days we were exhausted and questioned why we volunteered to foster, but there were far more good days than bad. We know he’s too little to remember us, but we know that the rocking him in the middle of the night, the physical therapy we gave him several times a day, the word of God being read to him at bedtime, and the love showered on him by us and those around us have profoundly stimulated his physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development.

So we have a lot of peace. We’re reminded that life isn’t about us. It’s about Him. If He asks us to receive a newborn and then give that baby up ten months later, we will. If He asks us to move to another country with only a vague idea of what He is calling us to, we will. We trust that God has all of this in His hands and that He has incredible and unimaginable plans for both J and our family. We can move forward knowing that while we didn’t do everything perfectly, we did our best to do what God asked us to do and walk as Jesus walked (1 John 2:5-6). We have learned so much, grown in incredible ways, opened our hearts and our home, died to ourselves over and over again, laughed a lot, cried a little, loved well, and have tried to bring a little more of God’s kingdom to earth.

We love you and will miss you J!

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What I Envisioned for My Life vs. Reality

This week I got a serious personal reality check when I was supposed to be giving some advice to a friend. As I typed a message out to her, I became increasingly aware of how close the topic hit home in my heart. She had written something about how it is difficult to submit our dreams, hopes, and desires to God’s authority.  As I told her what I thought she needed to do (i.e. surrender her dreams to God), I felt increasingly aware of my hypocrisy. 

I have so many goals, dreams, and desires. A lot of them are great, God-honoring, kingdom-bringing, world-changing desires. My problem is when God isn’t making those desires happen on my timetable, I feel discouraged, impatient, or frustrated. I know what I have envisioned for my life; but why does my reality not look like that? I put a lot of pressure on myself to do big things, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But while I’m fretting over what I’m not doing, I’m missing the joy I can have about the things I am doing. Sometimes I feel that if I’m not the president of World Vision, setting up tents in my backyard for refugees, AND adopting every child without a family in the world, I’m not doing anything. I start to minimize the ministry that I have to my daughter, our foster baby, my husband, and our neighbors. I feel like praying for my friends serving in ministries and supporting them financially isn’t enough and that I should be there fighting in the trenches with them.

And then God asked me … do you trust Me enough to surrender to My plans for your life?

My answer: yes, but Your plans involve me bringing total world peace, right?

So, my daughter is pretty strong-willed. She thinks her little 15-month-old self knows what is best. I love that kid more than life itself, which is why I don’t let her do everything she thinks is best (like sticking millipedes in her mouth. Yes, that happened). Sometimes I just randomly shout out, “I’m in charge here!” She then gives me that one going on sixteen adolescent look that says, “I got this, lady.”

Sometimes, I think that I probably sound like my 15-month-old when I’m talking to God. He’s telling me that He’s in charge and knows what best and I’m hollering back, “I GOT THIS!”

As I’ve prayed about this particular flavor of sin in my life, I’ve realized I need to surrender to His plans. For some people, those plans include being the president of World Vision, but am I going to be content if God’s plans for me are less-noticeable, not in-the-spotlight ministries? Will I submit to changing poopy diapers and be okay with not writing a book and saving every bicultural marriage today? Yes, because I’m realizing that those visions of grandeur need to be surrendered; that’s where true life is found. When I lay down my self-envisioned life, only then will I truly find the abundant life Jesus promises. Maybe my reality doesn’t look exactly how I thought it would look, but if I’m submitting to His plans, it will be exactly what God wanted for His kingdom. And really, at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Maybe someday soon I will adopt all the orphans, direct a global ministry, and house all of the refugees. But for now, I’m going to be faithful in what God has for me today.

“I found my life when I laid it down.” –Hillsong, “Touch the Sky”

 

 

 

Two Babies: Our New Normal

Not surprisingly, I haven’t had much time to blog over the last few weeks. Having a 13 month old and a one month old in the house has been a little time-consuming. It has been interesting being back to spit-up encrusted shirts and pulling the nightshift again. If I wasn’t a frumpy-frump before, I most definitely am now. In my head, long nights with a colicky newborn and long days with a mobile toddler justify my refusal to wear anything but yoga pants and never fixing my hair (and don’t even get me started about tweezing).

Also, I don’t know if it’s just in my head (or stuck in my nose), but I’m convinced our house smells like one huge sick-nasty diaper. Along with the smell, our house is now an unsightly obstacle course set with gates, clips, and locks in order to keep our curious daughter from trashing the place (even more). Oh, and the used baby bottles strewn throughout the house are reminiscent of a frat house after a drunken party (ex. I found one under the Christmas tree this morning).

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Don’t judge me for having a blow-up pool in my living room (Hannah).

When I do get out of the house, I’m amazed at the planning and strategy that it requires. I’ve been able to successfully cut down the number of hours it takes to get everyone fed, ready and out the door, but I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that while I once lived out of backpack for a year, I now have to pack twice as much gear to do some “quick” errands.

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Pure joy over peanut butter. She’s obviously my child.

Basically, I have a whole new respect for parents. The fact that some moms keep up with things like bathing themselves AND Pinterest is impressive.

Because I’d rather sleep than write, I’m going to jot down a few highlights from the last several weeks:

  1. Our fuzzy foster baby gained almost 2 pounds since coming to us a month ago (I told you we were chunky baby experts). His pediatrician is so impressed by how strong and healthy he is despite his prenatal circumstances. Praise Jesus.
  2. I have become a ninja when changing diapers. Baby boy parts cannot be trusted under any circumstances. #peeEVERYWHERE
  3. My mother in law has been a HUGE help to me and has even spent the night a few times. We have started to really work as a team and our relationship has been strengthened immensely through this.
  4. I’m starting to really enjoy watching how people curiously approach the subject of our babies’ ages. When we’re out in public, it’s almost a guarantee that someone will casually start a conversation for the sole purpose of finding out just how soon after Mariah’s birth Albin and I got back to making babies. I usually let them do the math in their heads before I mention the tiny one isn’t ours.
  5. I’ve spent somewhere around eight hours over the last two weeks waiting in the public health clinic lines to get fuzzy registered, screened, and checked up. Thankfully, this time around wasn’t nearly as complicated as it was with our first foster daughter since now the staff know how to handle temporary custody cases. I only had to go semi-postal on one miserable secretary that tried to override a doctor’s order in scheduling our next appointment (I still don’t know why she became so belligerent). I called her out and she became sickly sweet when she realized that I wasn’t some clueless foreigner and that I was doing a public service for a high-risk newborn. It’s rare that I’ll pull out my gringo directness on a Costa Rican, but when it comes to my kids…
  6. People have been incredibly generous with clothes and baby boy items. Friends, family, and even a Pharmacist from the free clinic have showered us with clothes and diapers. God bless.
  7. Sometimes I get in the fetal position and hold myself when both babies are trying to out-cry each other.

I can’t deny it’s been chaotic with two littles under 13 months, but I wouldn’t change it for anything. Waiting in lines, dodging streams of urine, and fielding lots of curious questions are a small price to pay when I consider the privilege it is to get this little guy off to a healthy start in life. I am thankful that I can be a stay at home mom and love on these kids even if it’s not always pretty. I love falling into bed at night knowing that every ounce of my energy was spent loving on the precious lives God has entrusted to me. I know that we’re right where God wants us right now and that’s a good place to be.

Raising Our Kids: Top 10 Legacies We Want to Live

In my head, our 30’s will involve raising of A LOT of kids–biological, adopted and fostered. As we embark on this journey of being surrounded by little humans, I want to establish some healthy patterns that will hopefully stick with them throughout their lives. I’m thinking the word “legacies” works to describe the ideas we want to instill in our children. We’ve also realized that if it’s going to be a way of life for our kids, they need to see it from us- so I’ve included in italics how we’re trying to integrate these things in our lives.

IMG_3057First and foremost, we want worshipers of God. I want my kids to have the joy of the Lord
and realize that bringing glory to Him influences atmospheres, changes situations, and provides communion with our Maker. I want them to learn to worship him with their voices, but also with their actions and their lives. To initiate this, we’ve started to have “worship night” once a week at our house where we turn off the lights, put on some (good) worship music, and spend time with Jesus.

Second, we want kids that live out the gospel. Not just kids who are well-versed in all the right answers and know what looking like a good Christian is. We want kids that get their hands dirty and whose first response is to help those in need. We want our kids to know our house is open to the homeless, our food is shared with the hungry, our clothes given to the naked, and our hearts are willing to love well. We want them to stand up for the kids being bullied and make friends with the lonely new student. We want this to be like second nature to them, so we’ve started to live like this: stopping to give away groceries to people begging, fostering needy kids, going onto the streets on Saturdays to talk with the hopeless, finding ways we can stand up for justice, etc.


We want adventurers and explorers.
We don’t want our kids to be afraid of getting hurt, fearful FullSizeRender (25)of the unknown, or planted to the couch watching TV. We want our kids to love being outdoors, to love finding new places, experiencing new things, and meeting new people. We want to raise inquisitive kids that ask questions and look for answers creatively. We want to teach our kids to look for solutions to problems and to not be limited by societal confines. To live this out, we’ve been planning family adventures at least once a month.

We want culturally-aware kids. Obviously, we love cultures and love learning about them. We want our kids to appreciate our Costa Rican and American cultures; but we also want them to have a love for all people. We hope they want to learn new customs, try new foods, learn new languages, and see new places. Obviously, we won’t allow racism in our house, but we want it to go above and beyond that–which means showing our kids how to be open-minded, accepting of cultural differences, and interested in the lives of others that are different from us. I feel like we have a head-start on this one since our family is a fusion of two cultures, but we also have been intentional about visiting other countries, understanding world issues, becoming friends with people from other cultures, and trying international foods.

We want family time to be important and fun. Somehow my parents succeeded in this area and I am grateful. Growing up, I would often choose to spend time with family over going out with friends. We played games, went fun places, respected one another, and had an honest, open relationship. I want that for my kids. I don’t want to be friends with them in a negative sense, but I want them to feel respected, accepted, and loved. I want our family to be a safe place for all of us. A place of trust and acceptance. To do this, one thing we’ve started doing is family game night once a week and the family adventures once a month.

We want individuals. We truly treasure different personalities and interests. We want to encourage our kids to be who God created them to be, not what society says they should be. We want them to feel free to express themselves and be different. I hope that we can encourage their different talents and try to provide them with opportunities to achieve their personal goals. We want to build on their interests, foster their gifts, and teach them to think for themselves. We’ve been trying to do this in our lives as well–to not worry about what people say, what their opinions are, or how they judge us. We’re taking steps to become more of who God created us to be, and learning that it is beautiful.

We want kids our kids to be respectful. We don’t want kids that talk back to teachers and know that we’ll defend them when the teacher calls. We want our kids to be a breath of fresh air for their teachers. We want sons who grow up to be good husbands and daddies. We want daughters who grow up to respect their bodies and hearts. We want a family that respects those in leadership, even though we don’t always agree with their decisions. We hope for a family built on honor: honoring God and honoring one another. In our lives, Albin and I have tried hard to have a mutual respect for one another and to foster a culture of honor in our home.

We want to raise hard workers that know it’s okay to make mistakes. We aren’t looking for perfect kids here, so we want them to know there is grace for when we fail. We also want them to work hard and do their best, so that even if they do fail, they know they gave it their all. We don’t want everything to be about success, failure, or living up to high expectations. We want them to work hard, live fully, and learn from their mistakes. I’ve learned a lot about what true success is in the last four years, so I’m trying to give up my perfectionist ways and live well.

We want kids with a sense of humor. I want our kids to be serious when they need toIMG_2388 be, but I don’t want to them to take themselves or life too seriously. They don’t have to be the class clown or be naturally witty, but I want them to have the freedom to laugh and realize how having a sense of humor helps us connect with others. Life application: 90 percent of my family’s conversations are based on witty remarks.

We want little givers. Something I have strived over for the last few years is being a good giver. I am selfish and I’m not a natural gift-giver, so I wanted to improve in this area. I want our kids to grow up with giving in their blood. I want them to come home hungry because they gave half their lunch to the kid who didn’t have one. I want them to pass a granola bar out the window of our car to the man begging on the street. I want them to value giving over acquiring. I want them to learn to use their money wisely so that they can give as much as they can to those in need. I want them to give their hearts, talents, and treasures to the glory of God. Since I turned 30, I’ve tried to be intentional and give one thing to someone everyday (whether its time, a treasure, or a talent).

Maybe trying to raise kids with all the above ideas is a lot to ask. That’s fine; but I want to have a guideline and start these kiddos young on a culture guided by these ten ideas. From the beginning, I want little people that know they have intrinsic value, but know that the world doesn’t revolve around them. I really feel like this super long post could be summarized into one simple statement:

I want my kids to grow up knowing how to love well.

When you love well, everything else falls into place. That makes this list seem way less daunting. When your heart is full of love, the rest just overflows out of you naturally.

“Your greatest contribution to the kingdom of God may not be                                                 something you do but someone you raise.”

–Andy Stanley

Our Family’s Newest Addition…

We’re (foster) parents again! This time around we were asked to foster a newborn baby boy. He is precious and so very tiny due to being born premature. Unfortunately we can’t tell you his name, give too much information, or post a picture of him for legal reasons, but we’ll just affectionately refer to him as our “little fuzzy” because he has the cutest fuzzy head of hair. Anyway, we are so thankful to receive him into our home and for an opportunity to serve God in this way.

What’s really neat about this whole thing is how God prepared our hearts to receive this fuzzy little babe. When Mariah was born, we spent a lot of long days in the NICU. One of the things that absolutely broke our hearts was seeing the “social service babies.” Whether the mother was deemed unfit to care for the child or she decided she couldn’t take care of him/her, the babies were just left in the hospital until social services knew what the next step was. Sometimes that next step was an orphanage, a foster home, or being claimed by a relative. Until then, the babies just waited there. The nurses did their best to give them attention, but they had so many babies to care for. Albin and I have talked and thought about those babies a lot since then, so when our social worker called us asking if we wanted to take this newborn baby boy, we didn’t have to think about our answer for too long. Just a year after we saw those babies in the NICU, God gave us an opportunity to change the situation for at least one precious life. For as long as we have him, we’re going to shower him with love and celebrate his birth. On top of that, we were experienced with premature babies since we had a crash course when Mariah was born. It wasn’t nearly as daunting to be handed a five pound baby this time around. Funny how God uses our experiences like that…

A few weeks ago I posted about how God was speaking to us about walking like Jesus did and living out the gospel. There is no doubt in our minds that fostering and adoption are close to God’s heart since he’s adopted millions of us into His family and commands us to take care of orphans all throughout the Bible. As we change this tiny person’s diaper, suck the snot out of his nose, and wake up every three hours to feed a child that doesn’t belong to us, we have thought about how this must be close to what Jesus meant when He said to “care for the least of these.” If we are honoring God with this act and changing a child’s story, it is totally worth the sleepless nights.

So, if we go missing in action for a couple of weeks, now you know why. Having an extremely active one year old and brand new baby has brought an interesting dynamic to our household. It’s definitely a challenge, not always comfortable, and we know it will be hard to give him up someday, but the Spirit keeps reminding us that living out the gospel is ALL that matters. We’re excited and thankful that at this time the Lord has entrusted us with the huge responsibility of raising up and loving on two precious little babies. Please pray for our family as we transition to this new way of life and for our little fuzzy, his biological family, and the case workers during this time. Please also celebrate this new life with us!!! Thank you!