Foster Parenting Interview

What I said (and didn’t say but wanted to) that you should know! 

Our local social services agency called me this week and asked if I would consider being interviewed on TV as a foster parent. These interviews are the bane of my existence, but when I really believe in a cause, I feel it is my responsibility to help raise awareness. 

The TV station had contacted them because our state was ranked number one  nationally for having the lowest number of children in foster care. This came as a surprise to our specific locality since we are a relatively small community and currently have 172 children in care!

Anyone who has ever been interviewed for a media interview knows the anxiety of entrusting your story to a reporter. As a former staff-writer for a community newspaper, I also relate to the responsibility of the reporter to capture the true angle and emotion of the story. This is no small task. 

I truly appreciate the TV station’s effort to help raise awareness and the kindness of the reporter, but understandably they only have a limited thirty seconds or so to devote to what I believe deserves much more time and attention. 

What I said was that “We had the same concerns many people have. Would we be able to love a child as we love our biological children? What if we got too attached and they returned home? What if our house is too small? What about our busy schedules? What if we try and it doesn’t work out?” 

These are all valid logical concerns so I’d like to address them individually. Before I do, I want to state that I’m no expert on foster care. We were approved as a foster family exactly one year ago and have had (still have) one placement since last fall. These are just observations and thoughts from our very limited experience. 

The concern of loving someone else’s child as your own was huge for us since we do have biological children and we would never want to be unfair to another child. We had family and friends who have done foster care/adoption and they modeled for us that no matter how the children come to you, you love them as your own. 

I knew I loved our foster child when I got the phone call to pick her up at the social services office. 

In my mother’s heart, it was like seeing the positive pregnancy test and being beside myself with love and joy and anticipation. 

My husband confirmed his own feelings weeks later when I overheard him telling someone he felt no different about our foster daughter than our own children we brought home from the hospital. 

For us, loving her has been easy, natural, and without reserve. 

Which leads me to the next concern. What if we get too attached and they return home? 

This one will keep you up at night! We’ve had family and friends to whom this has happened. We saw their hearts shatter and their world crumble. We see how they continue to carry this love for a child now far removed from them and how the child (and concern for the child) lives on in their hearts. 

But more often, we’ve seen those who hope to adopt through foster care be able to do so. (Just this week my brother and his wife officially adopted two brothers through foster care!) For this concern though, it should be broken into two parts.

First, if someone goes into this process open to foster care without the intention of adoption, the attachment part is different. You can love and nurture the child knowing it is just for a season. That helps prepare for the outcome. From what I’ve been told by foster families who provide care in this way, the releasing back to biological family or into an adoptive home is difficult, but easier, because it was expected and planned for. There is a great need for foster families to provide care in this way. 

For us, as with many, our hope is to adopt. To love a child as your own and want to be their forever family, adds a different component to the process. We were honest up front that this was our goal, knowing that the ultimate goal of social services would be to strengthen and support the biological family so that the child returns home or with a relative. 

Holding these two goals in tension as a foster/hopeful adoptive family has been one of the most stretching parts of this journey. 

There have been moments where the thought of this precious child being anywhere but with us literally takes my breath away, brings me to my knees, leaves my heart vulnerable, exposed, bleeding on the floor, and feeling completely helpless about every single part of it and you realize the biological families must feel the same way. 

In our specific situation, we have already had to release a child back to heaven. Our precious first-born daughter, Sadie Rose, whom we loved with our very breath and being, died as a newborn from hypochondrogenesis. Now we have WILLINGLY risked love again with two more biological children and a foster child. 

We have told ourselves often, we never thought we could live through the death of a child, and yet the amazing love and grace of God carried (and continues to carry) us through that dark night of the soul. We cannot imagine or lives without our foster baby being a forever part of our family, but should that be the case we are fully confident that we will be met with that same unchanging unwavering love and grace. 

But that’s easier said than lived. And in those moments when fear of loss overwhelms, friends have sent beautiful messages of reassurance. 

One day I received the most timely text that read, “You don’t know what tomorrow holds, but you have her now. Love her now. Cherish her now. Pour your heart into her now, and believe that whatever her future holds, what you give her now will have an eternal impact.” 

Isn’t that the risk we all take to love anyway? We are never promised tomorrow, not even our next breath, LOVE NOW! 

But back to the interview, what I wanted to say but didn’t.

Fostering is an emotional roller coaster ride. You will feel love, fulfillment, joy, but you will also feel anger. You will be expected to support people who, for whatever horrible life circumstances, traps, or addictions, (and sometimes completely helpless situations) they find themselves in, cannot seem to find their grounding in life. While you rejoice when it looks like a child you desperately love and want may stay with you, you will be sad for the brokenness that brings them to you, sad for the person(s) whose lives seem to continue spiraling out of control. Your heart breaks for all the people involved and you find yourself hoping the best for everyone. There is no way to prepare for these emotions in advance except to expect them. 

I wanted to say, “Be prepared to say no.” We received a placement call within weeks of our approval, but it was for a situation beyond what we believed we were prepared to take on. Saying no to children in need made me feel like a horrible human, but if it wasn’t right for us it would not have been right for them either and we wanted them to be where they needed to be. We’ve said no to additional placement calls since, but may eventually say yes again when we believe it is the right fit. Just know it is okay to say no and be prepared to do so when necessary. 

I wanted to say, “People can say ridiculous and hurtful things about foster children.” Sometimes you are left speechless by their thoughtlessness and other times you defend your foster child with the tenacity of mama and papa bear. Just be prepared, because as with many situations, people share their unsolicited thoughts and opinions freely.

I wanted to say, “Be prepared to love more deeply and profoundly than you ever dreamed possible!” This is a redemptive life-changing love. We needed our foster child as much as she needed us. We are eternally grateful for this opportunity to have our hearts opened and transformed in this way whatever the outcome of this experience may be. 

If you have been one of those families considering foster care, or if something in this post stirs your heart to the possibilities, I urge you, please contact your local agency to start the process. You may find during the process that it isn’t a fit and that’s okay too! Fostering/adoption may not be right for everyone, but for us it has been one of the most rewarding experiences we’ve ever shared as a family. 

Because she is not officially adopted at this point and we do not know if or when that will ever happen, we cannot share photos. Instead, here is a picture of the beautiful sunrise from my walk this morning and a field of sunflowers from yesterday. 

If you take nothing more from this post, whoever the important people are in your life, LOVE NOW!


Birthday week is winding down. The girl and I are both another year older. Monday we went fishing for my birthday with my new pole the kids gave me. I caught two little perch. We always catch and release. 

The sky was gorgeous after a storm. 

Wednesday we celebrated our daughter. She has requested bacon and corn on the cob for her birthday ever since she turned 2. We obliged, adding several summer salads. Our friends brought purple mashed potatoes to add to the menu. What fun! 

I wish I could say her cake was a success, but it flopped as big as any flop I’ve ever made. She wanted a strawberry cake. I got out my ever-trustworthy  Mennonite cookbook, followed the recipe to a T, and it was perfectly awful! Flat. Dense. Not in “dense rich deliciousness.” More like rubber. Bleh. 

Her brother wrote her name with Legos and even made a dancing mini figure for the top. (She takes ballet and tap.) The only negotiation was that it had to have a motorcycle jacket and helmet on the dancer. 

The baby has been up the past two nights with a cold. Last night she slept and I didn’t. I got up around 4:30 this morning and started the tomatoes for pizza sauce and ketchup. I ended up with 21 pints of sauce and 13 pints of the best ketchup I’ve ever made. I also caught up on some emails for our non-profit organization. 

I made a double batch of our favorite chocolate chip cookies (totally plant based and outrageously awesome) and a loaf of banana bread. 

My bestie came over to hang out for awhile and I hosted her and four pastors for lunch, including our District Executive Minister and my favorite Hatian visitor. I served them roasted red pepper and spinach Stromboli with leftover summer salads, fresh melon, and the cookies and banana bread I made early this morning. 

According to my Fitbit it has already been a big day. Now I am getting the family ready for an evening at the county fair. It is back-to-school night, but the husband and the children won me over. We will likely indulge in ribbon fries and funnel cakes and who knows what other fried greatness you can only find at a county fair. We are celebrating the end of summer break with a myriad of food, fun, and fellowship.  

While I will be much more productive at our non-profit once school is back up and running, I will miss these precious tag-alongs that are my world. 

Birth Day Story

Thirty nine years ago today, it was 120 degrees in the little spot of earth called Latham, Missouri. I decided I was a morning person from the beginning, arriving around 6:30 am. I was delivered at home. The doctor was in St. Louis for a meeting so our kind neighbor, Mable Martin, came over to help usher me into the world. 

When the doctor came back to town a few days later, he came to check on me and mom. My parents didn’t have the money to pay him, so when he saw two colts in the field he said he’d take one for payment. 

Someone said, “Boy, the doctor made out well with that one!” 

I’d like to think my parents feel like they made out well too. 

When I was 16 years old, I went on a cross country tour with my mom and some other family and friends. At Four Corners, two Native American men looked me up and down and asked mom if she would trade me for six ponies. Of course they we’re joking, but we had to laugh because there had already been a horse trade for my birth. Considering one horse was traded for my birth and six was the offer on the table at 16, my value must have increased significantly. 

My life is far different and far more fulfilled than I ever dreamed it would be. Happy birthday to me. 

Corn working day

Two of my sisters and I worked sweet corn today for the freezer. I left over lunch to honor a commitment to my mother-in-law and then had to skip out before we were done because it got too hot and sleepy for the baby. All told, we put 50 quarts of corn in the freezer today. That doesn’t count the crazy amounts we fed on as we worked. #summer #gratefulfortheharvest #willenjoycornthiswinter 

Vegans can potluck too!

Wait! Carnivores! Before you dismiss this post. This dish was a hit with people across the board, except for my one friend who merely tolerated a taste for my fancy. And you can always serve meat with whatever vegan/vegetarian dishes you make. You won’t regret giving this recipe a go. 

Mung Bean and Coconut Curry over Brown Rice

I bought a bag of mung beans without having a clue what to do with them. 

I searched the www and eventually came across this recipe at 

I tried it Monday and we loved it so much I made it again Wednesday for our church picnic potluck. I came home with an empty dish and multiple requests for the recipe. 

Mung Bean and Coconut Curry over Brown Rice

I hope I didn’t mess this recipe up too much by all my comments throughout. I just like to let you know if I made any changes or what I found to be essential. For a cleaner version, click on the original link above where it says, “this recipe.”

Here we go. Happy cooking… And eating!

4 TBSP coconut or canola oil (or water if avoiding oils.)

1 Tbsp whole cumin seeds (I used ground cumin the first time and added it when I added the other spices. It was still fabulouso!) 

9 cloves of garlic, crushed (about 3 Tbsp crushed garlic) yeah! You read that right. Don’t skimp! You should also mince the garlic about 10 minutes or more in advance as it releases more nutrition that way. 

1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes

2 Tbsp freshly grated ginger (I always add a little extra fresh ginger because I have a love affair with fresh ginger.)

2 Tbsp ground coriander (This is a necessary ingredient for this dish!) 

1 tsp turmeric (I messed up first time and added 1 TBSP and it was still awesome)

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp cayenne pepper (I didn’t add)

(For this next step, I skipped the four cups of water entirely because I had pre-cooked the mung beans. If you precook the beans, simply add the cooked beans when the recipe calls for adding the water and uncooked beans. You just won’t need to cook the dish as long.)

4 cups water

1 cup mung beans, picked over for stones and well rinsed

1 can coconut milk

juice of 1-2 limes

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro


In a large pot, heat the cooking oil over medium-high heat.

Add the cumin seeds and cook for about 1 minute, until they just begin to darken. Add the garlic, and sauté just until it has browned. Watch very carefully so that it doesn’t burn. (1 minute or so.)

Add the crushed tomatoes and stir to combine, then add ginger, coriander, turmeric, salt, and cayenne.

Sauté this mixture for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the water and mung beans. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring the mixture once or twice. (Here is where I omitted the 4 cups water and just added the pre-cooked beans.)

Taste a few mung beans to make sure they are cooked. If they are, stir in the coconut milk, and increase the heat to medium-high.

Once the curry comes to the boil turn off the heat. Stir in the cilantro and the juice of one lime. Taste and decide whether you’d like to add the second lime as well.

Serve hot.

I served this over hot brown rice both times. For the potluck, I placed the cooked rice in the bottom of a casserole dish and added the curry on top. 

Family, Camping, and Food

Our family (my husband and I) have mostly adopted a whole-foods plant-based diet, but we make exceptions and camping weekend is one of those. 

For the next three days, twenty plus cousins will play with sticks and stones and water. They will play frisbee and Uno and blow bubbles. They will NOT play on electronics. 

My siblings and mom and a few other relatives will reminisce family stories around the campfire. We will passionately debate religion, politics, and current events and afterwards we will play music and sing together like we never disagreed to begin with. 

We will eat Stromboli and tacos and Granddaddy Garry’s famous chipped beef gravy and mamaw’s famous biscuits along with copious amounts of other deliciousness. 

Last night I made two Strombolis; one filled with meats and cheeses and the other filled with spinach and roasted red peppers and such. Picture to come when I get around to posting the recipe. 

I made a batch of Chex mix so large I had to mix it in a large kitchen-sized garbage bag. (Clean of course.) 

I made layered Jello squares. 

And mixed the dough for four cream cheese cherry Danish braids. This morning I rolled out the dough and assembled the pastries. They are rising now and almost ready to bake. 

This will all be added to the wonderful dishes contributed by other family members. 

This is the weekend of the year that recenters my soul, that grounds my sense of who I am and where I’ve come from. 

Praying for a safe and great weekend for all. 

Song leader says ‘Singing gets into people’s souls’

While searching for another church-related piece, I came across this article I wrote that originally appeared in the The Shenandoah Journal, (Dayton, VA) – Tuesday, February 24, 2009. Although my personal taste in music varies from opera, classical, folk, blues, classic rock, southern rock, roots, old country, bluegrass, world music, etc., the four-part harmony acapella singing is still what gets into my soul. It was in the first setting described in this article of the Old Order Mennonite Church where I first felt the connection to Someone/Something way bigger than myself. It was where I first found God. 

I’ve included a poor-quality cell phone video of the described four-part harmony singing during our Hickory Hollow School reunion in 2011.

Song leader says ‘singing gets into people’s souls’

Author: Regina Cyzick Harlow ; STAFF WRITER

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY – Enter one church where stoical parishioners sit on slatted wooden benches and quiet children rest on their parents’ laps. The minister calls a hymn number from behind the pulpit and reads the first verse from a small hymnal. Then a man from the congregation begins singing the first line and slowly others join in. By the end of the first verse, the church echoes with four-part harmony.

Down the street in another church, several people gather on a carpeted stage. The worship music begins with keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, drums and bass. The congregation joins in with the singers, sometimes clapping to the beat and reading the words from a projector.

Two churches – two styles of worship – praising one God.

While different congregations follow different musical doctrines, they all agree that music is an expression of worship and plays an important role in their services.

Even among conservative Mennonite congregations, the style of music varies. According to an Old Order Mennonite minister, instruments are not allowed in the service “for fear of honoring man the creature more than God the Creator.”

However, acapella singing is an important part of their worship. Joining in song is one of the only times during an Old Order service in which the congregation participates; the rest of the service is conducted solely by the ministers.

Singing “gives you a measure of unity you would not have otherwise,” said one song leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “It allows you to become a participant.”

The congregation uses several tunes for many sets of lyrics. The first meters of the tunes are depicted in shape notes in the back of the small black hymnbooks.

The importance of singing together is emphasized among the youth who gather nearly every Sunday evening for singings in a church member’s home.

Calvary Mennonite Church, in Mount Clinton, shares some doctrinal beliefs with its more conservative Old Order roots. Instruments are used only on special occasions.

Pastor Paul Emerson said music is important as a preparation to teach the scriptures. His congregation generally sings hymns and gospel songs, with the aid of hymnbooks familiar to most Sunday church-goers.

Music is not viewed as an evangelistic tool and Emerson thinks an emphasis on its selection and presentation to draw congregants is “unfortunate.”

Emerson isn’t opposed to contemporary music, but he “can’t see leaving two thousand years of history behind for a passing fancy.”

“It’s not a question of old versus new. It’s a question of musical structure and harmony,” he said. “We’re talking about a good and best comparison, not a right and wrong.”

He thinks there are distinct disadvantages to its performance-oriented structure. Most praise and worship music is “not well-structured” and appeals only to one generation, he said. In addition, congregants do not participate as much. While listening, they tend to focus on the people on stage.

Mainstream traditional Protestant churches often add piano or organ accompaniment to their songs and hymns are led by the choir or song leader, but do not use church music for entertainment purposes.

“It is to praise God and to communicate and proclaim the gospel,” said Jeffery Sonafelt, pastor of Reformation Evangelical Lutheran Church in New Market, adding that many of the Lutheran hymns are “Biblically-based.”

The Rev. Kathleen Miko, with St. Paul’s Lutheran and Rader Lutheran in Timberville, said while the congregation generally sings hymns during worship, they occasionally add a guitar, violin or flute.

People are drawn to certain styles of music, Miko said.

“I’ve seen people move from church to church because of music.”

Praise and worship music is a major part of the services in some inter-denominational and non-denominational churches such as New Beginnings in Bridgewater and The Potter’s House Worship Center in Harrisonburg. Both churches open the service with several worship songs, accompanied by a full band.

The Potter’s House music information on their Web site references II Chronicles 5:13-14 where the “choir and the trumpet made one voice of praise and thanks to God…”

Although the majority of songs at New Beginnings are modern praise songs, they try to incorporate a hymn into their service weekly.

“The culture we live in now does not really appreciate hymns from the early church,” New Beginnings Pastor Ed Heatwole said. “With a band, we can jazz up the music without changing the lyrics.”

A multimedia projector displays images that correlate with the theme of the words being sung. For example, if the congregation is singing a song about God the Creator, scenic images are played, and if the congregation is receiving communion, images of a cross might be used.

“The background themes are important,” Heatwole said. “We give a lot of attention to that. It draws worshipers into the presence of God.”

According to Heatwole, their worship band is also a tool of evangelism. Nonbelievers in the band have developed a relationship with the Lord because of the music.

“We sing songs that really speak about the person and character of Christ and how he relates in our everyday life,” he said.

Heatwole believes that music touches people’s emotions, regardless of its form of delivery. “God inhabits the praises of his people,” he said, “and that can be all forms of singing.”

The praise and worship band at Potter’s House Worship Center uses contemporary music, and seldom sings a hymn.

“I think that because there are so many different churches and so many different tastes, people gravitate to a church that plays the music they like best,” said Renee Garber, co-pastor and worship leader.

Although there are different preferences in the style of music, most churches share the philosophy that sacred music is an expression of worship and a preparation for the message to follow.

“It’s a form of worship and connecting with the Lord,” Garber said. “It’s also an act of prayer. Songs are musical prayers.”

“Music is one of the most important things we do in church,” Heatwole said. “It draws you into the presence of God.”

“Music is one’s expression to God in worship,” Emerson said.

Singing allows the congregation to participate in the service in whatever style the church uses.

“Singing gets into people’s souls,” said a song leader for an Old Order Mennonite congregation. “It adds a charismatic spirit, some involvement. I guess it brightens the soul.”

Record Number: 10032360 Copyright (c) 2009, Byrd Newspapers, All Rights Reserved.

Watermelon Soup and Cheese Muffins

I love friends and cookbooks. Last week combined both. During a wonderful visit with a long-time friend, she gave me a cookbook she’d bought at a thrift store. I’ve already used it multiple times and will reference it below. 

We ventured way out of the Harlow norm last evening and had “Watermelon and Blackberry Soup” for supper along with “Cheddar Cheese Muffins.” We served this as a meatless meal, but you could easily add a side of grilled chicken breast. Whatever your palate persuasion, carnivorous, vegetarian, whole foods, this soup will delight your senses. For vegans, replace cheddar cheese muffins with bread of choice. 

This was a perfect summer evening meal and was a BIG hit with the kiddos. Let me know if you make it and what you think.

Both recipes come from “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone” by Deborah Madison. I will share variations and simplifications. 

Watermelon and Blackberry Soup

No cooking required. Serve chilled. 

  • 6 cups seeded chunks of watermelon
  • Fresh lemon or lime juice (I used lime)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 Cups fresh Blackberries
  • 3 Tablespoons light brown sugar (I used Sucanat, but found the sugar addition to be a little too sweet. Next time I will half or omit the sugar)
  • Rose water or orange flower water (I had rose water I’d purchased at the International market. Even though it lends a beautiful floral flavor, I’m sure you could substitute with regular water) 
  • 1 pound each red and yellow watermelon (I used red watermelon and a Lemonburst melon which is green in color with a slightly lemon flavor. It went fabulously with this dish. I’m sure you could use cantaloupe or honeydew in place of the yellow watermelon, too)
  • 1/4 Cup pomegranate seeds if they are in season (would have loved but didn’t use)
  • Mint sprigs for garnish 

Method: Purée the 6 cups watermelon chunks and pour into a bowl. Add lemon or lime juice and pinch of salt. Cover and refrigerate. Toss the blackberries with a few drops of rose water and the brown sugar, cover and refrigerate one hour. Seed the remaining melon and cut into bite-size chunks. 

At serving time, flavor the puréed watermelon with rose water to taste, starting with one teaspoon. (I must have used at least two tablespoons) 

Divide the purée among chilled soup bowls and add the melon pieces and then the berries. (If using pomegranate, add one tablespoon seeds to each bowl and a splash of the juice.) Garnish with mint leaves and serve. 

Lazy time-constrained chef tip: throw it all into a big glass dish and serve. 

Serves 4

Cheddar Cheese Muffins

  • 1&1/4 cups flour (I used whole wheat pie and pastry flour)
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 2&1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil (I used olive)
  • 1&1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1-2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Method: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil or spray muffin tin. Combine the dry ingredients in one bowl and the eggs, milk, oil, and honey in a second bowl. Wisk the wet ingredients and pour into the dry. Stir briskly but do not over stir. Add the cheese and stir just until incorporated. Fill the muffin cups about 3/4 full with the batter. (Made 12 for me) Bake about 25 minutes until browned and springy.


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