Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thank You Notes

I was never good at thank you notes in the first place. I found some wedding present thank you notes in a dresser drawer about 3 years ago. We will be celebrating our 12th anniversary this year. I am good at writing, bad at mailing. Or I used to be, now I am bad at all of it. I think of what I should do or write and then somehow it just doesn't happen. I try to pay it forward by begging people not to write me thank you notes for things, but inevitably their momma taught them better and we receive them as a constant reminder at how good OTHER people are at doing what I wish I would remember to do.
Anyways, that is kind of what I wanted to write about, but not really. One of the other comments I get most often from our situation is, I couldn't do what you are doing! Which I usually respond, me neither!!! Jesus is the reason we have all made it out alive and better after 2 years of unknown obedience. Never could I ever have imagined that I could have not known the future and also tackled the task at hand. In fact, I've often given the Lord time frames. From the very beginning it was, ok, if a year goes by we are going to need to look at other options. At 18 months we will either adopt them or find another option. You know, stuff that God needed help with...we currently are sitting at 23 months of exactly where God wanted us, no timeline or ultimatum could have gotten us here, only Jesus. With that fact being made known there are certain parts of our lives that could not have happened outside of the obedience of OTHER people to fill in the gaps in our lives where we were going to be bankrupt otherwise. Not just financially but emotionally and spiritually. So here it is, my thank you notes I should have written along the way...please know if you are reading this and looking for your name, it probably should've been here. I probably will remember in the middle of the night and add it in the morning. I wanted to write this because even if you could never do THIS, I know you could do the things below, because most of you reading this have done them for me. But I want us all to be encouraged to continue to do these things for others who might be standing in gaps that we aren't called to stand in yet.

Thank you to my friend Erin, from the moment God called us to this task she stepped in to make it doable. From watching over my children in the beginning to talking it out on the daily. Thank you for texting me and staying in touch even when I don't want to. When you asked the main way I wanted you to help on week one, I said be here in a year. Here we are a almost 2 years and you've never moved. Thank you.

Thank you to the hands that made meals for us. The friends and family that paid for things that we wouldn't be able to do/have otherwise.

Thank you for those who showed up on court days. Who sat in the room and watched the craziness with us. Thank you for those who prayed each court date and for asking how it went. Those things matter so much to me.

Thank you to my friend Tiff, who worked within the system. Thank you for telling me like it is and getting me through some of the most difficult days. Thank you for not just saying what I wanted to hear but speaking truth so that I could get to the place God needed me to be. Thank you for being patient and loving me.

Thank you to my bosses (moreso friends). Angie and Lauren both let me work when I can and not when I can't. The lengths that you've both gone to in order to help me stay plugged in and continue an identity that I had pre-blondes are ones you did not have to go to. Thank you for listening and praying and doing things that no one will ever see or know about because you seek no repayment for your kindness and mercy.

Thank you to a church family who has met needs before we have even had to admit them. Our sunday school class has backed us financially and bathed us in prayer. The Acreman Sunday school came in with a gracious donation for us at Christmas that they couldn't have possibly known how close we were to despair at that moment. Thank you to our pastor for caring for us and truly wanting to know what goes on in the situation God has called us to.

Thank you to group text girls. You know who you are. Whether it be middle of the night breakdown or on the way to a visit prayer needs, you girls were on it from the moment I typed hey, sorry for this but...

Thank you to LeeLee, a lady that before this took place was such a kind friend who I didn't know very well. Yet, she has stepped into the hardest role of all in my opinion. She offers to watch my children, for free. No strings attached. She just helps me. When I am stressed or when I am tired, she just amazingly calls me wanting to keep my babies (usually my wildest babies too:)). When she keeps them she also never tells me how bad they are...which they probably were, but she may not even know how this too alleviates stress from my life. She gives me freedom...to go to target alone, to run or to just eat something and remember it. This is a gift.

Thank you to all the randoms. You know, people who I might not have been close with but who for some reason or another have felt drawn to help in our situation. Whether it was just texts or facebook encouragement or money or gifts...it all worked together for our good.

Thank you to my other best friends, I used to have 25, but that number has substantially dwindled. These are the people that I used to see places and go to places with. We don't have that luxury anymore, but they call, text and try, but sometimes I'm not accessible. Thanks for continuing to try. This season isn't forever and maybe one day we will go on a beach trip again.

Thank you to my mall lunch friends. Those people that go to the mall even when they would rather go someplace else but they know the chicken house is all I can afford. Thank you for listening to me ramble, watching a certain blonde throw yet another fit and helping me restrain MYSELF before restraining her. Thank you for going again after watching that certain blonde pee herself in purpose to spite me or eat chewing gum out from under the table just to gross me out. Thank you for being an outlet.

I know this thank you note thing may seem silly, and I can't decide if I'll post it or not just because of my fear of forgetting someone vitally important. (my thank you note for family will have to wait, I'm not feeling the waterworks today) But, I hope you've read this far, because the reason I have done it is because I am beginning to understand that not everyone can foster RIGHT NOW. There are a variety of excuses and then there are actual reasons why one can not foster. But if you can't, or I can't, in the future, you most likely can be someones friend, prayer warrior, boss or random person who God can and will call to meet a need. I haven't been super woman, I've just been surrounded my super people who make me better. Thank you! Chances are if you are reading this you are among those people, so thank you!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Are they all yours?


I've mentioned before that this is one of the top 3 questions I've been asked for the last 2 years. It is the oddest question to answer. Please stop asking it. I definitely find myself wanting to ask other people the same thing so I get it. You want to have something to say other than your hands are full so you ask an impossible to answer concisely question. When I feel the urge I have to remember the awkwardness I feel as well as the weirdness of the "they" (at my side and in the stroller) who anxiously listen to how I respond to this really complicated question. I've given to just answer yes if I'm in a hurry because the story lasts too long. I am an analyzer and a truth teller at an unhealthy level (if it can be unhealthy to tell truth;)). But I am always compelled to splain myself to people. Even elderly strangers. Do they really need to know which children exited my vagina and which did not? I am not sure. So I answer lengthy and messily most times. As you can tell by this paragraph it makes for long outings at the mall when we are asked. My most simplistic other than the yes, is legally they are all mine. I say all this verbal vomit to say that I often want to just say we are a foster family. But I feel like such a poser. Refer to my truth telling statement above...

For lack of a better word, we are "fostering" without either the headache of the states involvement nor the helping of the states resources and financial backing. We are a rare anomaly that while our state agency has been involved for the majority of our case we didn't prepare for this by foster care classes nor do we receive the assistance or guidance from anyone really. We have been out here on an island, calling our fostering friends for assistance and lawyer friends when fostering doesn't apply. Because we are family of our niece and nephew things have gone a little differently. I don't say this because I think we need a gold star or are anything special persay. I'm pretty sure if you matched us up against the foster system there are so many pros and cons to both situations and well this isn't a contest and if it were it would be a really messed up one that no one would enter. I think foster parents are amazing. They SIGN up to do what we did a little less excitedly. They prepare and come to their situation equipped, whereas we had no preparation and simply stumbled into God's perfect plan for us and our family. But since we don't have a thing to call what we do, we say fostering, because people have knowledge of that...we aren't adopting or living together with my sister so we are fostering, because there isn't a better word. I always hesitate to say that because its not exactly accurate...hence the paragraph explanation. You needed to know all this, you just did. Most of what I've learned through this process though has given me a much better window into fostering and the great NEED for God's people to step up and out in obedience. BUT, I've also witnessed my own inadequacies and shortcomings. The areas where I believe I am indeed doing something special. But not so much am I doing ANYTHING, so much as me completely failing and CHRIST just filling in big ole huge gaps. At first I wanted EVERYONE to do what we are doing. Got zealous even to think that everyone HAD to foster to be obedient to Jesus. So much so that at another point I felt (still feel)that if our family doesn't foster after this we are being disobedient on His command. But my experience tells me otherwise. What we've done is right for us. I wouldn't trade it or change it for anything because even though I still don't see the big huge picture, God has allowed me to see enough that I know that I know that I know that this is what He had/has for us. But it has been a very hard task. I have not always handled it gracefully and I have a lot of things about my limits that I am still scared to admit because I do want to encourage others to do the same and if they knew some of the truly hard, nearly breaking places I've been they might not even try. In fact, having experienced some of those broken places makes it all the harder to sift through what God's will is for our family in the area of fostering the future. I set sail on this post in order to give those who did NOT feel called to foster another perspective, but my course turned and I've exceeded the attention span for most. So I feel compelled to ask you now to evaluate with me what God has for your in this area. I know most who are reading this are knee deep in babies as is so I really hesitate to appear the Junior Holy Spirit when I know there are those just trying to keep their head's above water...or puke...or poop. But for serious I think it would do us all good to evaluate God's role for us in this need. We ALL have a role just not the same role. Which is what I intended to talk about...maybe this way you'll hang around and read another post another day. Or maybe after this post you'll tuck tail and run. Either way God has you right where He wants you for His next big thing. Just submit. Surrender. I'm committing to do the same, in this season and the next.




Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Hoe Your Row

 
Hoe your row. That's what I keep hearing in my head lotsa ottsa days. No, not slow your roll. Although I probably hear that every now and then too. But hoe your row, Steph.
I did wonder where this idea is coming from so I googled it to be sure I wasn't just about to plagerize something I just read as my own because my brain tricks me like that. But the only reference is a Kasey Musgrave song. Which I will be listening to after I finish this post, but I am just gonna go out on a limb that that's not where I got it;) I do think she gets a lot of things right outside of a biblical worldview but I'm guessing I'm gonna tweak her message just a wee bit. Not hating on her at all. Just loving myself and a whole lotta Jesus more.
Over the last two years I've spent a great deal of time staring at, dreaming about, coveting other peoples' rows. God has been doing far more in me over the last two years as we invest in saying YES to Him in whatever capacity He demands. Taking care of 5 children, 2 of whom that I did not birth not have any say in their issues that I would be required to parent them through. 3 of whom I birthed of my own womb and yet still am required to also parent them through to becoming people that  teacher's, coach's and bosses don't hate. Nevermind the looming pressure to grow them up to obey Jesus and one day claim Him for themselves and live lives worthy of the gospel. The real deal gospel. Not the fake crap churches are pushing on the regular. Harsh, maybe, but I ate up the fake stuff for far too long, and it did NOT serve me well in the trenches. There is so much more to say about this but I'll save it because it does start to push my row over into your row and nobody likes crooked rows. My row is set to have some changes up ahead, down the row, where I can see it, but it's not where I need to be hoeing right now. Hoe your row, Steph. You can't jump ahead and hoe up there before you hoe back here. Got it. Get it?
We've all been given these rows. Places where Jesus has planted what He wants for us. We just gotta get our noses to it. I don't garden often. We don't live on a farm. I'm not amish. I am not even in the garden club. I am not really sure why this is the analogy that Jesus has used with me to get me but it really has me thinking. I guess that is His point. But as I've struggled over the row I'm on I've taken to looking at other peoples rows. Naturally taking me off task and off the subject. My row is being a momma to some people that really need me right now. Today. That's my row. I need to hoe it. But I can't hoe it with my hoe waving over my shoulder while I wish after others seemingly easier rows. I have no idea what their nose is down there looking at or what God has ahead of them in their hoeing. (Let me acknowledge my incorrect usage of verbing the words hoe and row.) But my row is right where He wants me. Your row, if you've sought Him for it and about it is right where He wants you. It's really none of my concern. Unless you get stuck in weeds, need a watering can or feel faint. Then you are gonna need help hoeing and if Jesus wants me there I'll be your girl. But right quick I'll be headed back to my row because I'm confident that's His place for me. I've been reading and praying and thinking a lot how the body of Christ is getting pretty cool when it comes to women and finally lifting each other up and not breaking each other down. My one downfall (or the one I'm gonna mention in this sentence) is comparison. It just helps that God has given us verses like Jeremiah 29:11 that let us know He knows the plans He has for us. When He prospers and protects us it might not feel so if we aren't hoeing our row. Peace is found in the process. In the working it out for Jesus on the daily. If we all commit to hoeing our own row. AKA getting in with Jesus and His work and finding which row He wants you to hoe and then just hoeing it in His strength with all your might. Then we might just get IT done. Everything might fall into place. Messy, weird, not cookie cutter place. But oh I just think it could be big.
Another problem I have (in this sentence) is worrying about what people see when they see me hoeing my row. What they think about my row. If they think it's pretty? If they can tell I worked real hard? If they can tell when I didn't work so hard? If they think I'm in the wrong row. What if God takes something out of my row and plants it in someone elses? Oh dear Lord, that will be too hard.  You see where I'm going with this?? Anyways, before I take a poll from anyone reading about how you think I'm doing at life let me just say this should NOT be. If we focus on hoeing our row and encourage our friends to do the same we would just be covering some ground for Jesus, ya know? God demands that we work heartily for Him, not for men/friends/haters. So, Hoe YOUR row, Steph. Just do it.
 
Lovely, I finished with an old saying/country song and then a Nike slogan. Yeah this is gonna take a while. 
 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Been a minute...

 
since I've made a post...made my blog public...or even written for therapy. But things they are a changin'. So, why not jump start all the changes with putting myself and my thoughts back out there? Well, I could give you a list of why nots, but I'm choosing to find areas where I can be with Jesus, share Jesus and also share the things Jesus has taught me in the last two years. This would be the natural spot for that. I have contemplated starting a totally new blog because boy am I not the same girl that blogged about cute firsts and birth stories...and some of the surface stuff I posted is no doubt embarrassing. But, it actually is who I am or has been apart of my journey so I dare you to get lost in my mindnumbing scrapbook of finding my children awesome. Kidding. Please don't.
 
We are a few weeks in the the new year and I had planned on starting to blog January 1st. But isn't that just me that I arrive 24 minutes, I mean 24 days late.
 
God has done so much with The Harper 7 above and I can't even begin today to put it all into words. I am going to start at the ending that is coming near and then work my way back in the next few posts. Because that is how I work, backwards. We found out at our most recent court visit that we will be transitioning our sweet blondes, my niece and nephew back to their mom over the next few months. Ending in May when they will (barring any crazy changes) be put back into my sister's custody. This is a hard and crazy ride we have been on with Jesus and I have FINALLY decided to just wait on Him for the end of this story. So after 2 years with our family they will gradually visit with their Mom until the last day of school, where they will move back in with her. This is where my emotions start working too hard and my rational self takes a back seat so I am just going to say that while I have peace that God knows how this is all going to work and that I will hopefully finish this part of the race with at least some of my sanity I do have lots of trouble with circumstances and logistics. BUT, He does keep working those things out so I will continue to wait. I have trouble verbalizing these things that seem so final and hard so that is another reason I hope that blogging will get me to a place where I can type and then hopefully talk in a way that brings God glory and doesn't revolve around self pity and worry. A wise friend told me at the hearing of this decision that I shouldn't be afraid to grieve deeply, because loving deeply would then require the grieving deeply. So you've been warned. I might not want to read any of my deep grievin;)
 
If you are reading this then that means you are either super nosy (I mean you like to read blogs) or you love me. Either way I hope that you will be blessed by Jesus and His work in a very dysfunctional family and the way that He compels me to share the real in the reality of following God where He wants you to be when it isn't/wasn't the cookie cutter blog I had planned.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Don't name me bitter...


Our #shereadstruth assignment this week feels like a natural process for me this time. 

We've been studying the book of Ruth these last 2 weeks and I have over and over again been amazed at how God reveals the parallels in different circumstance/same God kind of ways. 

You see, it's that whole, I've read this story alotsa times but God's still got something new here just for me. Probably you too.

Here's where it all connects for me. Ruth didn't have to go with Naomi. She chose to, because she was following Naomi and her God. The one true God. It wasn't the easy choice and it probably wasn't the one she was just dying to make ... but she knew somewhere deep down it was right. Then she worked hard. In the field. She got dirty. She provided for Naomi and she trusted the plan. Naomi actually resigns herself to be called bitter in light of she and Ruth's current circumstance. She can't see past the present. She doesn't know the future. Shockers. But still. Then the story changes direction (to the girls, God knew it was the right direction from the get-go!) and we've got love, marriage and the baby carriage. Seriously though, there is provision beyond both women's dreams. There is a birth of a child that gives way to the very lineage of our Savior Jesus. It doesn't get much sweeter than that...redemption in its truest form. Redemption for the women, for Boaz and then for all if us through that same blood line. 

You see, our story is no romantic love story like Ruth so I'm not thinking the two are gonna relate. Yet we've got these 2 blonde cuties that we've watched from afar. Concerned about their well being but unsure of how we could help. Actually I knew deep down exactly how we could help, but I knew that would be way hard. But when the choice game down for the Harper crew we were in agreement. Hard was the right choice for us. The Bible tells us to care for the "orphans and widows". Not to mention thinking of others as more highly than ourselves. I don't need to go on to let you know that the hard choice was the right one. We knew this. But then as we began to "work in the field" we have been like Ruth, tired and unsure if this God we are following is leading us the right way. The discipline is hard. 5 children is more than 3, it just is...shocker, right? Working these fields of paperwork, dfcs and potty training has made me weary. The need for support beyond what we are being given has made my husband question if I'd like for him to refer to me henceforth as...you guessed it...bitter. There are days where I'm just not sure I should've "left everything" and come this way. But then I hear a sweet song being sung by a blonde head. Or a friend rescues me for an hour. I hear my oldest remind ME what the Bible says about our situation. With or without these moments, I'm ultimately reminded daily through Gods word and affirmation that I don't need to see the end to resist the "bitter" name. I can trust that this plan is His and I'm blessed to have the name of Jesus as my cover and shield. Bitter is indeed NOT my name. But satan sure would like it to be. Then God wouldn't get all the glory. 

While I can't see the end of this journey we are on I know the one who does. I also have the privilege of knowing that regardless of how the next few moments or years look...God is in control and Jesus is the end result. Ruth and Naomi knew God and their story had a joyful ending ultimately. God honored their obedience. I believe He will do the same for each of us. That doesn't mean it'll look the same or make perfect sense at the time. But in His time we will see. I'm not on the other side of this circumstance yet but I have been given fresh perspective for my lifetime. As two wise women found in following and trusting God, I will choose to just continue in that light. Anxiously awaiting how God is going to work each situation for His good. Every now and then I might need a friendly reminder though that my names not bitter.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Maybe I'm getting it all wrong.



Maybe I'm getting it all wrong. But at least I'm getting it, right? Right. Maybe. These last few months where we've added two more little blondes to our brunette banchees have been like nothing we could've prepared for or dreamed of on our own. God surely is working things out and stretching us beyond description. The statements I get most often now are:
- I couldn't do what you are doing.
- I bet things are busy at your house.
- They are so lucky to have you!
And the #1 quote from friends and strangers alike is ....
- You've got your hands full.

These things are always hard to respond to. I'm awkward in social settings after any dramatic changes/transitions so my response is usually a smile, nod or shoulder shrug. The main reason I don't know how to respond is because I know these people have no idea about the above pictured chair at my house. Or at least most of them. They don't see it, or that the chair pretty much also mirrors my brain, heart and speech! They don't hear the voice in my head taunting me, saying ..,Maybe I'm getting it all wrong...this living life, ministering to children, wiping booties, potty training, timeout enforcing and just overall run raged feeling. The truths I've been writing about are all also in the "chair". They are somewhere neatly folded in piles but somehow a bunch of unfolded undies and pj's got thrown in top. I know that God's called our family to this new season. I know He commands it in His word even. But days upon days of piled up clean laundry make me feel as though I'm taking crazy pills. I wanted to say somewhere somehow, to all those people who are doing what they know God is calling them to...maybe we are getting it all wrong, but at least we are gettin it. I know I'm guilty of only putting the right "filtered" pictures of my life out there for others to see. But the truth is no, I couldn't do what I'm doing either. Yes, things are busy at my house. I'm not sure if anyone is lucky to have me and I do indeed have my hands full. I am writing a blogpost instead of folding the laundry in the picture above and I've had to stop twice in the last paragraph to wipe someone's rear end. So, maybe ANYBODY could do what I'm doing, right? 
My point in all of this is that we've all got our chairs. (Well, almost all of us) But we've all got stuff we are trying to deal with and we are all wondering somewhere if maybe just maybe we aren't getting it quite right.
Once again, Jesus steps in and tells me I might never get it just right...if I did I wouldn't need Him in the first place would I? Would you? 
So I'm tackling that chair real soon and all these "messy clothes" in my brain...trusting that Jesus will meet me there just as He will at church or in my quiet times. Maybe even more...yep, that's getting it right. Press on friends. I'll pray for your chairs if you'll pray for mine.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Don't forget me, Lord.


This is another "She Reads Truth" challenge. So, here ya go...

Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and it's services.
Nehemiah 13:14

Nehemiah has been working His booty off. Doing everything in his power to get the people to worship His God. He has seen progress and He has seen ignorance and defiance. He has obeyed regardless. He has fought the fight. He has towed the line. Yet things don't just end up in a perfect ending in Chapter 13 of Nehemiah. And that is ... Ok?.? Is it?
Well, it'll have to be...because that's what we got.

All I've got right now are current circumstance. It's hard (near impossible) to get outside of them, but I do believe that's by design. As I read this end of Nehemiah I find myself relating wholeheartedly to Nehemiah. How often do we as Christians work hard to be light, to obey, to tow the line, and yet our days end in a tangled, ugly mess. In my house right now it's a daily occurrence.

To that God says, follow the plan. So I cling to God and I cry out just as Nehemiah:
Remember me with favor, O my God.
Nehemiah 14:31

Such a peace in knowing God sees, God remembers and the only thing He forgets is our sin. Ahhhh...resting there. God doesn't forget us in the times where it would appear He has...He is in control and knows that we, like Nehemiah, can learn in that place.

God's word is powerful. It is active. I am thankful.
Amen.