Beautiful Chaos is now AVAILABLE!!!

Hello everyone,

For those of you who have been following the release of my first book Beautiful Chaos Our Story about Foster Care, Adoption, Faith and Love, the wait is over!! It is now available.

I want to thank all of you who have supported this project in some way. For those that helped me fund the project THANK YOU!! For those that have prayed for the book and for me Thank you!! For those that gave me the encouragement to get it started and then to get it completed Thank you!! I am truly humbled by what is taking place.

Thank you to my beautiful family for allowing me to share a glimpse of our life with the world. Thank you to my wonderful husband who not only lives this crazy life with me but also has had to listen to me over the last few months give him play by play details as our story became a book reality. Mostly I want to thank God for allowing us to be a small part in His beautiful masterpiece. He has allowed us to be part of some many lives on this foster care adventure. He has been my comfort when a child is placed back with a birth parent or relative, He has been my guide when I did not know what to do, He has been my protector when situations have become unsafe, but above all He has been my friend that has walked with me every step of the way. To You oh Lord, be ALL the glory.

This book is for you!

If you have ever thought about becoming a foster parent or have ever wondered what it takes to foster a child, if you have ever thought about adopting, or if you have ever questioned your plan in Gods story I encourage you to read our story. My hope is that it inspires at least one person/one family to open their heart to the idea of becoming foster parents. If one child gains a safe place to lay his or her head at night then everything struggle and every worry in making this book a reality was worth it. It’s all about the kids. Always

You can find the book at the following websites:

WestBowPress.com

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Check it out and let me know what you think

From our beautiful chaos to yours, may you find a way to make your mark In this great big world. One act of kindness at a time

Grieving a Foster Child

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I looked over at the empty crib and tears ran down my face. I need to take it down but my heart is just not ready. Being a foster mom hurts sometimes.

We loaded up the van this morning and headed off to church, daddy T and I both had this empty feeling we were forgetting something. But we were not, you are no longer here. Being foster parents brings sadness sometimes.

As I washed up last weeks laundry I ran across your favorite outfit and I lost it. Tears ran down my face and all daddy T could do was hold me and tell me everything would be alright. But he too had tears in his eyes. Being a foster parents is painful sometimes.

The kids have looked for you since you left, Wild Man does not understand why you are not here and keeps saying Momma go get Baby P bring her home please. I force a smile and tell him you are so happy at your new home and that I’m sure you are doing just fine. But my mind races and wonders if you are ok and if you are safe. Being a foster mom makes one worry sometimes.

I found myself wide awake at 2 am, that was our one on one time. I wonder if you were awake and thinking to yourself where is she? Why is she not singing to me? Why is she not holding me? Again I find the tears rolling down my face. I grab your favorite blanket, I’ve not washed it yet so it still smells like you, and I cry myself to sleep. Foster care is not easy sometimes.

In all our years of fostering we have had to say goodbye to many little loved. You my little love have been to hardest to let go. God blesses us not once but twice to be part of your story. We know that reunification or placement with a family member is always the priority, but when you came back to us we could not help but dream. I allowed myself to see you as part of our forever family. I allowed my mind to dream of first days of school and dances and family outings. I allowed myself to go where no foster parent mind should ever go. I saw our future and you were in it. This journey can be cruel sometimes.

So I didn’t see it coming. As I sat there in the courtroom listening to the judge I heard words I did not want to hear. I was not prepared for the change of events. I went in thinking you would be here forever and left with an hour to pack all your things for you to leave. Being a foster parent is heart wrenching sometimes.

But that’s how this goes. The system is not perfect and I pray those that do not know you those that have never held you those that do not love you like I do I hope they have made the decision God would have made. I pray He looks after you and keeps you safe. I pray He gives you comfort and that you feel Him near you. I pray you will always know how much we love you.

If we would not have stepped out in faith and followed Gods plan for us we would have never met you. We would have never seen your smiling face. We would have never held you or seen you crawl. We would have never falling in love with you. Being a foster parent is beautiful sometimes.

We will grieve for you and we will miss you. We will find things through the house over the next few weeks (maybe months) that will remind us of you. It will be painful but also such a blessing. For these things will remind us of YOU. A smile will cross my face and I will get to dream of you again. And that will make me happy. Foster parenting can be a blessing sometimes.

If we open our home again to the next little one who needs us, we are not replacing you. You could never be replaced. We are just answering Gods call to help one more. But that decision has not been made; for now we will just take time to heal from losing you.

Fostering is not for the weak but in our weak moments God gives us comfort and strength to carry us through. Thank you Jesus for allowing us to be part of her life over the last six months. Thank you for allowing us to see her smile and hear her laugh. But mostly thank you God for being You. Thank you for allowing us to be your hands and feet. To You oh Lord be the glory.

The Worry of the Unknown

I lay here in bed and I can hear her stir in the crib. She whimpers for just a moment then she finds her bottle. My mind takes me to the day I picked her up from the hospital. Where has the time gone?

I could never do what you do, I would love them and not want to give them back. Why put yourself through the pain of losing them? You’ve done your part let someone else do it now. You are such a blessing/saint to do what you do. You must be nuts to take in another kid. Aren’t you afraid you will become to attached? I have heard these questions or variations of them for the last eight years. My reason I do what I do is sound asleep in her crib. Her tummy is full, her clothes fit her and they have been freshly washed. She giggles at the sound of my voice and she is already saying da da. She squeals with delight as our children play around her. She is safe and she is loved; oh so loved. This is normal for her, we are all she knows. Here she is surrounded by love from our children and love from us. The idea that it could all change with the next meeting hangs over us. But that’s foster care.

No one said it would be easy, if it were there would be more people willing to step up. I’m not heartless I feel pain. Over the years as children have come and gone from our home my heart as felt the sting of a broken system. We don’t just love the child while they are in our home, they become a piece of our hearts. And once they are gone that piece never quite heals. They will forever be part of us, part of God’s masterpiece for our lives for He allowed us to love them for a season.

Baby girl does not know what my worries are about things coming up. She does not understand that her fate will be decided by someone who has never met her, or held her, or seen her smile. Her life is in the hands of people that see her as a case number. They are not the ones who have rocked her to sleep, or kissed a boo-boo, or heard her laugh. But God knows her and He loves her.

She may never remember any of the things that led up to her coming to us. She may be here one day and gone the next. Will it hurt, YES it will, but God has a plan for her. I don’t know what her future holds but I know who holds it. And it is His Will, not ours, that we must follow.

I would not trade my time with any of our fosters for anything. I grew as a person with each placement. I can only hope they remember the love we have for them as they go on with their new lives.

As for this sweet little one we will take it day by day. The months have passed so quickly but these next few days will drag by as we wait. Foster care as taught me so many things one is a huge lesson on patients. Lord help me, guide me and protect her this week.

Until then I will hold her, I will protect her and love her as my own. I am a foster mom

Today was a Good Day

What a great day, just what we needed. Today was well overdue so I am thankful.  The last few months have been brutal.  This was the first weekend in over six weeks that everyone in the house was feeling well.  The month of February alone our little loves had four double ear infections, three cases of the stomach bug, two upper respiratory infections, four fevers, one cutting teeth, and then my husband had the “man cold”.  We all know that last one was the hardest on all of us, right ladies?  I don’t know how we didn’t catch the flu, but praise God it spared us.

On top of all of that we received test results back from the geneticist for Alex.  It has been confirmed he has Alcohol Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND).  Eli with his chronic stomach issues was given the diagnosis of Underdeveloped Bowel Syndrome. And I was told I would have to have back surgery again.  When it rains it pours.

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Today it was time to get out of the house and forget about all the bad stuff and just have fun.

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I stumbled across a local autism group called Autism Site Knoxville (ASK).  They were hosting their fourth annual Day at the aquarium today.  When I saw the invite last week I thought it would be the perfect way for us to spend a Saturday morning. And how could we pass up the low cost of only 10 dollars per person?  As the day came closer however all the normal mom worries started coming to the surface.  We had not even made it to church in two months how in the world would the kids do at the aquarium? Would it be to crowed for JR?  How would he do with the noise? What is he had a meltdown? How would my husband and I handle it with all the other little loves in tow?  This would be the first big outing that we had done in months and we would be doing it without the help of our older children or grandparents.  Not going to lie I was a little overwhelmed.  But when your four hours away from family you got to go out on your own at some point. With our family its just a much larger challenge than most.

So this morning we loaded four very excited and two very sleepy children into our 12 passenger van at the wee hour of 6am so we could drive a little over two hours to be there when the aquarium at 8:00.  The event ran from 730 to 1030 but of course we were free to stay longer.  I am so glad we went.  The staff was super sweet and handed out goldfish, gummies, and water to the kids as we came in.  Being that early in the morning the kids were able to walk around and enjoy all the different tanks without being ran over by other people.

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The event organizers had different sensory stations set up throughout the aquarium so if JR or even our other kids wanted to take a break they could.  The lights were softened and the background music was turned off. Everyone there got it.  Everyone there was living in the world of autism.  There were no nasty remarks about behaviors, or looks when he made his unique noises, and no one stared at us.  Okay some people did look at us but it was not because of JR it was because of the size of our crew lol.  He rode in his stroller for a while then walked with me for a while. He pointed out the scary sharks and the huge sea turtles.  And he made it known he did not like the seahorses, after all real horses don’t look like that.

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He made friends with other people waiting outside and made sure to tell all the moms we passed just how cute their babies were.  And no one cared that he was talking to them or touching them.  Most told him thank you or even told him he was a cutie as well, to which he would just laugh and smile.  He really enjoyed himself. Our other kids had a great time as well.  We don’t get to do things like this often unless we have our backup team to help us in case he has a major meltdown or takes off running. He has no safety concerns at all.  So thank you ASK for making today possible.  Thank you for hosting events like this so that children and adults with autism can go and do everyday things.  Thank you for opening it up to all of our children so that we could attend as a family. Thank you for a day we will not soon forget. Thank you for giving us a day were all of our kids could just be kids. Thank you for helping this mom see her son really enjoy himself today.  Today was a good day and we so needed a good day.

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Then Jesus moments

Hello my friends. I hope the New Year is treating you all kind. So far it’s been good to me.

I was excited to get to back to church as the new year unfolded. I had surgery on my back in November and between the recovery and holidays I had not been able to go. (No worries the kids and I still got our Jesus on with songs and praise here at the house. They love “Jesus music”) I hate missing church and was thrilled to be back surrounded by fellow believers.

The message was out of John. A message that I have heard many times over the years. Short version: Jesus is away teaching when He receives word that his friend Lazarus had fallen ill. By the time Jesus made it back to his friend, Lazarus was died. Then Jesus spoke “Lazarus come out” and Lazarus did. (You can read John 11 1-44 for the full scripture text)

That’s the power of Jesus. That’s the beauty of miracles.

What are your Then Jesus moments? This was the question our Pastor asked. And I have pondered the answer to this question for over a week. Have I even had a Then Jesus moment? The answer is yes. Many actually. They might not be as big as Lazarus rising from the dead, but they have saved my life in more ways than one.

The night my husband (now ex-husband) tried to end my life comes to mind. In the mist of the attack I begged for my life, he laughed and said he could throw me over the banister and everyone would assume I had fallen down the steps. I dangled over the staircase with thoughts of my children and family racing through my head Then Jesus spoke to me and said “You are not alone I have you.” As I felt Gods presence I found myself back on the floor. He had changed his mind about throwing me over.

After my divorce I focused on my two children. I had no interest in finding someone. I would not put myself or my kids in a position to be hurt again. Then Jesus brought Todd into my life. He made me smile again, laugh again, and love again. Things I thought I would never do again. For the first time in years I felt safe, loved and wanted.

Then Jesus placed us on the journey of foster care. Our world has changed in so many ways not only by the children we have been blessed to adopt but also with the children that were with us for just a season. Our eyes and hearts have been opened to things I did not expect. My older children have grown in the process as well. They take their roles as Big Sissy and Big Bubby very serious, it warms my heart just thinking about it.

With our children we have experienced Then Jesus moments countless times. From car accidents to illnesses, college acceptances letters to working IEP’s, from autism diagnosis to RAD diagnosis, and everything in between. The fact is Then Jesus moments happen all the time, we just need to recognize them. They may be moments were you decide what job to take, or how many kids to adopt. They may be moments where you get to make an unplanned trip back home to see your mamaw. You get to sing with her and she asks about all the kids. The following week you get the call she’s gone. They may be moments of healing from illness, or cancer, or pain. They may be moments your autistic son says I love mom. They may be moments of all your kids get along. Then Jesus moments happen everyday everywhere. We have to open our eyes and see more of what is going on around us.

We may not all of moments like Lazarus, and that’s okay. Our moments make us who we are who God wants us to be. Take a few minutes (or days) and think about all the Then Jesus moments in your life. I’m sure it will bring a smile to your face.

Thank you Jesus for all of my Then Jesus moments. You have been with me through my darkest nights and brightest days. Your unending love brings me comfort when I can’t make sense of this world. Thank you for believing in me and providing me comfort when I need it the most. I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us next.

Love and prayers always

Hello Again Beautiful

Have you ever thought how different things may be if Joseph would have said no when the angel told him about Mary? What if instead of him stepping up and becoming a father to Mary’s child he walked away? What if he would have told the angel “Find someone else. I’m not ready for this.”

What if… that question has crossed my mind more than once as a foster parent. I have spent many nights crying about those what if questions. Every time we had to turn away a child or sibling group because we did not have the room or because we were not equipped to handle their medical needs. I questioned what would happen to him or her. I questioned what their life would be like.

Even with the children that have came into our home I have questioned myself. What if we can’t connect with them? What if she never opens up to us? What if he never talks? What if I can’t give them what they need? We try our best to make the situation as comfortable as possible and we love them as our own for the week, month, or year they are with us. And as the time begins to pass you question what if they need a permanent home? What if the department asks us to adopt? What if a family member comes out of nowhere and wants them? And while your mind races with these questions somewhere a judge and a team a people who are not emotionally tied to this child are making decisions that will ultimately change the life for him or her.

Many times there is but one hello and one goodbye. We get the call we say yes and we say hello to a scared little one hours later. We love them, comfort them, pray with them, and cry with them only to have them removed and placed in their new forever homes. We are just a gateway to their new life. Most of these goodbyes are permanent. And that leaves you to question what if they miss us? What if it does not work out? What if they think we never loved them or wanted them? What if they never know just how much we truly did love them? What if their new home is worse than the one they came from? What if questions that never get answered.

We have been blessed to get a second chance with one of our little loves. A second hello if you want to call it that. Something I never thought would be possible. She became part of us the moment we saw her but we knew the plan is always to reunify with the parents. While she was here we loved her, prayed over her, and enjoyed our time with her. The day we had to say goodbye was hard. So so hard. I knew we would never see she again. But you see God had other plans.

Some time passed and we had calls come in, but none of them fit what we could take in. We questioned if we were really suppose to be do this here? We questioned if our time as foster parents was over. I decided to go on and have surgery on my back that I had been putting off. Then the call came in. She was coming back to us if we would take her.

What if we would have said no? Where would she be today?

Maybe God knew I needed to get my back fixed and He know I would not as long as she was here. Maybe He knew she would be loved at the other house so we made a way for it to happen. Maybe she is meant to be with us a little while longer. Things I may never know and the one thing I do know is none of these would be possible is we would have never stepped out in faith and said “God what if you used us in your plan?” What if we could take in one more?

God has a plan for all of us. For Mary it was to become the mother of our Savior. For Joseph it was to become the earthly father of our Lord and King. For others it’s to become a doctor or a lawyer, a cook or a bus driver. For some it’s to become a teacher to share their wisdom with young minds. Still others it’s to be a world renowned blogger sharing their personal stories of overcoming life struggles and being triumphant. And still others it’s about becoming caregivers or foster parents for those that God places in ours paths. We are not here by accident. The people we cross paths with are placed before us for a reason. We may not know all of the what if’s in life. But we know the one who does.

As for us we don’t know if we will have to say goodbye again. And while that is scary and in someways heartbreaking we are grateful for more time with her. We will treasure it and make more memories with her. We will love her and comfort her as if she is ours because in our hearts she is ours (just as every child that has been in our home has been) Whatever happens she will always be part of our hearts.

Thank you God for second hello’s. Thank you for your perfect timing. Thank you for trusting us once more.

And to you little love….. hello again beautiful we are so glad you are home. We have missed you so. ❤️

What do My Kids Need for Christmas?

Yes oh yes, it’s that time of year. It’s almost Christmas. I love this time of year. Our little loves become a little bit nicer to each other, the holiday baking of cookies and hard candy has started, family traditions are being passed down from one generation to the next, even the smell of this time of year makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And while I love all that Christmas entails it’s also that time of year where we tend to over spend on everything.

Being a mom I want to give my kids the very best. However my kids seem to want everything. Which is typical, but they really don’t need anything. It’s not like it was when I was growing up. I remember the excitement building the weeks coming up to Christmas. My brother and I would go through the big Sears catalog and circles and re-circle all of our must haves (it amazed me back then how one catalog contained everything I could possibly need it’s glossy pages) We would write letters to Santa and practically beg him to bring us a few things off our long lists. This of course all while promising Santa we would be kinder to each other if he would deliver the goods to our house.

When I became I mom I wanted my kids to have everything I didn’t growing up. When I became a foster mom that intensified. Many of the children that came to our home had nothing. You want to shower them with goodies and love, especially at Christmas, so they can “just be kids”. Seeing them in their jeans that are too small or shoes that don’t fit breaks my heart. So we over spend and justify it. And that’s okay.

Even after we adopted our little loves I find we still over do the gifts. We use the rewards system for good behaviors at our house. They earn stars for good manners, or completing homework without fussing, or helping with the laundry, theres a list of other things they can earn stars for. Once they hit a certain number of stars they can decide what level to cash them in. Each level has a different value so one child may cash in early and get a “prize” valued at 5 dollars while another may bank his or she stars and safe up to get a prize valued at 50 dollars. This system works great, but it means they received gifts all year round.

So when we asked what do you want for Christmas they had to think about it.

When their grandparents, aunts, and uncles asked I gave them a small list but asked them to keep the gifts to a minimum and asked them if they really wanted to get them something then they could put money into their college funds. Is that mean of me? I hope not. It’s not that I don’t want them to receive gifts it’s just we have so much stuff. With five under the age of seven we are not short on toys around here. Just looking around my living room I see Barbies, puzzles, cars and letter magnets. I understand that they are kids and people want to buy them things (I want to buy them things as well) but we decided not to go overboard this year. Instead of buying them a bunch of toys that will be played with for a few weeks then tossed in the toy box we plan on buying only a few gifts and putting money in their accounts so when they are ready for college they will have money in case they need it. Hopefully they will understand and appreciate it later on.

Besides Christmas should not be about how many gifts you receive or how much money you spend. Christmas should be about the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It should be about loved ones and family traditions. It should be joyous not stressful.

What are your children asking for? What are you planning on doing this Christmas? I would love to hear your thoughts.

From our beautiful chaos to yours don’t stress over the holiday stuff, The perfect gift was given over 2000 years ago. Remember the real reason for this season.