Dancing; taboo to therapy 

I covered the phone receiver in my hand and whispered to my co-worker, “Is ballet a sport?” Clearly I knew nothing about ballet or sports. (When I was asked to cover my first county-league baseball game my completed article had little to do with the action on the field and everything to do with the community feel at the park. It ended up a cover for the weekly community paper instead of in the sports section as originally intended.) 

But I digress. 

I was trying to keep the caller inquiring about an article on her ballet studio from hearing my howling coworker laughing at my gaffe. “Ballet is ‘the arts’ Regina,” she gasped between breaths, “not sports.”

Being raised in the Old Order Mennonite faith, all dancing was taboo. Other than witnessing occasional polka dancing at my dad’s non-Mennonite family functions and uninhibited childish hopping when our “worldly” friend played the accordion for us, dancing wasn’t even in our vernacular. But oh I felt music in my soul. 

Mom’s nickname for me was the Pennsylvania Dutch word for clumsy, and I lived up to that like a bull in a china shop. I did enjoy the Monday night square dances on the deck of the lodge at Deer Valley Ranch the summer I worked there, but no one seemed to mind my lack of coordination. 

Imagine then, I birthed a daughter that lives and breathes dance! She was two when I took her to see the spring recital of a parishioner who owned a dance studio. I was so out of my comfort zone, I chose a seat near the back exit of the auditorium. Our little girl had never seen “professional” dancing before, and she was mesmerized. She got down from my lap and in the dark at the back of the room, she followed every move the dancers made on stage. From that moment on, all we heard was dance. 

She was determined to attend their summer dance camp, and when I told her she needed to be potty trained to participate we had instant success. Really! Since then she has taken ballet and tap, and this year she is loving acro. 

I’ve shared before about my health issues this spring and summer, and once it was determined that my Psoas muscle was being problematic, my chiropractor suggested I find activities to strengthen my core. Since that initial “just going to support a parishioner” dance recital, the studio owner has become one of my best friends. When I was talking to her about the chiropractor’s advice, she suggested I try an adult lyrical ballet class as part of my therapy. 


I never once considered a dance class for myself. Ever. But something about the idea stirred my soul. I asked our daughter if she would like mommy to take a dance class too, and she was ecstatic. Yes! 

Imagine the young dance teacher trying to instruct this extremely insecure, totally inhibited, self-conscious non-dancer to stretch my non-dancing body like bubble gum. No finesse, no aplomb, more like a chicken after meeting its demise on mom’s block in my childhood years. But this date with other women, all with their own stories, has fast become one of my favorite spaces in my week. 

I still don’t know much about ballet, or sports for that matter, but the day I stop learning is the day I stop living. Ballet has been the most unexpected productive therapy I have participated in, stretching me literally and figuratively in ways I never imagined. These words of Bob Marley sum it up for me, “Forget your troubles and dance.” 

Tattoos, Tributes, and the Harlow Family Seal

I’ve learned to ask for stories behind tattoos. Many are in tribute to a life or a belief, while others have no real thought behind them. In the child-loss community, some have initials, angel wings, or even actual pictures, foot prints or echocardiograms of their child.  

I’m not a tattoo person myself, but at our Sadie Rose Grief Retreat, hearing all the meaningful stories and seeing the unique expressions of tattooed tributes to their loved ones, I began to wonder if I was missing out. 

What I came up with instead of a tattoo is the Harlow Family Seal; a symbol that encompasses our story of life, death, adoption, and hope, that can be used as a stamp, a letterhead, on a t-shirt, or made into pins and buttons. 

De profundis is Latin and means, “from the depths. A heartfelt cry of appeal expressing deep feelings of sorrow or anguish.”

We knew de profundis when our daughter died. 

SEEK are the initials of our four children, Sadie, Eli, Elsie, and Korana. 

From the depths, SEEK joy!

Psalm 30 is a personal favorite that speaks of God rescuing from the depths, turning weeping into laughter and sorrow into joy. 

Psalm 30 NIV Translation



1 I will exalt you, Lord,

    for you lifted me out of the depths…

2 Lord my God, I called to you for help,

    and you healed me.

3 You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;

    you spared me from going down to the pit…

weeping may stay for the night,

    but rejoicing comes in the morning…

10 Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me;
    Lord, be my help.”

11 You turned my wailing into dancing;

    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,

12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.

    Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Read all of Psalm 30 here. 

From the depths, de profundis, from the anguish of the death of our sweet Sadie Rose, the joy of our beloved Eli, Elsie, and Korana is that much sweeter. We will always miss our first born, the one who made us parents. Our arms always ache for Sadie’s presence. Tears still slip from my eyes and there are days I still struggle to function, even ten years later. Yet we love more deeply, savoring moments more fully with each other and our living children, because we know all too well the frailty and brevity of life. Truly de profundis, from the depths, we SEEK (Sadie, Eli, Elsie, and Korana) and have found joy!

The cross in the middle of the seal symbolizes the faith that has carried us through it all. Only God in his great love and mercy could turn our weeping to laughter and our sorrow to joy. Bittersweet as it is, we are grateful for laughter and joy. 

The bottom of the symbol carries an H for Harlow and a c for Cyzick, weaving Lee and I into the circle and the story. 

When you see this symbol, we hope you’re also encouraged to seek joy de profundis. 

From our hearts to yours, 

The Harlows

“I’ll see you in the sunrise, Mommy”

I wrote those piece more than a month ago, but am just finding the courage to share. Writing has always been my therapy, and this piece brought tremendous healing as I imagined what Sadie might say to me from heaven. 

“I’ll see you in the sunrise, Mommy”

By Regina Cyzick Harlow

April 2, 2017

As my body formed inside of yours, I was nurtured by your love. I knew my frame was not coming together as you expected, but I had to wait until a doctor could verify that for me. I wasn’t upset when you cried the day they told you “something was wrong.” I knew I wasn’t “wrong,” but I understood your tears. Your expectations were shattered. Yet I knew how deeply you loved me.

Daddy’s voice reassured me that through it all, we were going to be okay. You both referred to me as “Chickpea.” I still love that name.

I listened as you consulted with the geneticists and doctors about my diagnosis and was delighted that you chose life, when perhaps death “prepared and scheduled” might have seemed an easier option. I felt your body, tense from weeping, release tears into blankets, your hands, on the shoulders of loved ones, and sometimes even with strangers. I felt the hope you carried that, despite all odds, I was going to remain with you in physical form and not die.

I entered this world blue, without breath. Large hands of doctors and nurses cleared my airways so I could breathe. What was this thing called living, being alive? I went from the security and darkness of your womb into a sterile whirlwind of lights, medical staff, and other babies in the NICU, some alone, others with parents hovered attentively over them.

I wondered where you were, but they told me you had been through some pretty hard times and needed rest. After all, we would get to spend the rest of our lives together. We expected a lifetime of years, not hours.

I was so happy to see you during the day. I was comforted by the scent of your nearness when you were finally allowed to come close. The doctors and nurses were very good to me, but nothing could soothe me like your’s and daddy’s voices floating into my incubator. Those were familiar. Those were mine.

Later that day though, I could feel my little body struggling to breathe. You held me, your tears falling warm on my face. I wish I would have had the strength to wipe them for you. I felt myself slipping into another place, but I was reluctant to go. It was as if I could feel your heart shattering inside as you held me so desperately.

The doctors told you it was time to say good-bye. You gave me permission to move into the next place where I could sense I was being beckoned. You saw my body turn blue again. You heard the monitor switch to a gut-wrenching monotone beep, alerting the medical staff I was dead. You fell into daddy’s arms, weeping uncontrollably.

But mommy, what you saw was only part of the story. When I died I simply left my bars of bone and my house of flesh to transition into eternity. You saw my body stop breathing, but I was more fully alive than ever, breathing in the purest air of love and warmth and light. To go back to my little earthly body would feel clumsy and suffocating. My death certificate says I died because of “respiratory insufficiency,” but that was only earthly air for my earthly body. Here there is no lack of oxygen. Here my lungs breathe deep the air of angels.


The mountains and streams and wildflowers, the sunrises and sunsets and stars that help you feel so connected to me, I’m there, opening your eyes to the beauty beyond the veil of your flesh, the reality that the best is yet to come.

You’re still needed there, mommy. I’m safe and free here, but my brother and sisters and daddy need you, and many others who need to hear your story, our story, to know they’re not alone. I wish you knew how many children I play with here while you meet with their parents and siblings there. We have “Sadie Rose” meetings too, but the tears are absent because God himself has wiped them from our eyes.

Hold on mommy, because yet for a little while we are separated in body. But the day will come when you hold me again, and on that day I will take you to meet the One who has given you the hope and promise of our reunion. Until then, I’ll see you in the sunrise, in the faces of my siblings, and in the hearts and lives of others who know what it’s like to lose a child.  

 

Potpourri 

I use this title repeatedly for posts that contain snippets and snapshots of my life at the moment. 


I tried to take the day off today since I haven’t had one in quite a while. This afternoon the children and I weeded the garden until I broke the hoe. Then we raked and swept the bare dirt under our big maple tree for summer play time. I started a fire in the pit and called a family circle time with the children. (The husband wasn’t home from work yet.) We talked about our day; what we liked and didn’t like and about how we could better support each other. I wondered what the world would be like if we took more time for circles like these. My heart is most at home in the mountains (or even our backyard) around a campfire, so for me it seems such an easy solution for everyone to get along. 🙂


As we were weeding, one of the children exclaimed, “You mean weeds have roots?!” I explained that weeds and good plants all have roots, so we need to be careful what we allow to grow in our garden. I couldn’t help but mentally relate that to our lives. Whatever seeds we allow to take root will be what flourishes. Roots of bitterness can grow deep. So can roots of gratitude. What seeds are we nurturing?


I had other plans for supper, but the baby refused to let me put her down. (A combination of how busy I’ve been and having to come indoors.) Last evening I deboned BBQ chicken from church, added brown rice and corn and cooked it in my new electric pressure cooker. It was fabulous. This evening I simply “creamed” the leftovers with milk and sour cream and added some smoked paprika. I wanted to make Indian Fry Bread, but I couldn’t with one hand so I separated leftover hotdog buns from a party we’d had, spread about a half teaspoon of mayo on each one, sprinkled some garlic powder, topped with shredded cheese and broiled to toast. I felt guilty at first. I’ve never done something like that with hotdog buns before, but it was a huge hit with the children. Certainly not the most nutritious meal to grace our table, but it was tasty, our tummies were sufficiently full, we used a number of leftovers, and the baby didn’t have to cry while I cooked. #simplesupperscore


I posted this photo on my Facebook page earlier, but it bears repeating. Really folks, a little kindness goes a long way. As I said on the post, it is easy to be kind to those who are kind to us. The real test is being kind to those who are not. I’ve prayed for special grace from others as I’ve gone through difficult times and perhaps responded or acted in ways that were less than stellar and I need to remember to extend that same grace to others. We truly seldom know the battles others are facing and a random act of kindness and a simple gesture of grace can give someone a boost when they most need it. 


I’ve been reading lots of books while I write my own. Now that our annual Sadie Rose 5K is behind us for another year, I am devoted to finishing my book. 

Beauty from ashes

Nearly every day I travel the same road and turn at this intersection where a house once stood. The vacant house burned to the ground a few months ago. 


The rubble so changed the landscape that the first time I went that way after it burned, I missed my turn.

I took the familiar route for a second time today, but this afternoon was stunned to find merry little daffodils poking through patches of snow and ashes and concrete. 

If you are looking around in your life today and all you see is ashes, rubble, ruin, despair, coldness, hardness, emptiness, I pray for you glimmers of hope. 

When we are in times of great distress, it can feel like our landscape changes. Our sense of direction becomes unclear, landmarks crumble. What was familiar becomes strange. 

But God’s promises are true and he is faithful. 

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 63:1

Like the seed that is buried in the ground, dormant, lifeless, and cold, eventually the seed germinates, a sprout emerges, and a bud bursts forth. 

At just the right time, when it seems there is nothing left to live for and despair seems to have the final word, hope springs forth from the ashes of our lives. 

These “dark nights of the soul” are potential times for great transformation. 

I am reminded of this “Hymn of Promise” by Natalie A Sleeth. 

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.



There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;

There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.



In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;

In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,

In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

May you sense these blessed promises in your own life today! 

Glimpses of the indomitable women that shaped my life

From day one, my life has been blessed with multiple indomitable women. In honor of Honoring Women Day, here’s a brief post about the virtuosic women that have shaped my life. With mom’s stoic Old Order Mennonite family and daddy’s colorful Russian/Hungarian family, I’ve had quite a conglomeration of influences, all of them prodigious!

First and foremost, my mom.

mom 1mom 2mom 5mom

This woman birthed seven children in nine years and three months. Due to circumstances beyond her control, she found herself a single mother and the sole provider for our family.

She literally worked her fingers to the bone, milking cows, tending chickens, butchering animals, working in a bake shop, caring for yet more children, and still running our household.

She lives most of our childhood with a crushed spirit and a broken heart, but her tenacity to provide and care for her brood never wavered. She is a women of quiet yet profound faith. She never allowed us to speak ill of our dad for not being there, even when she had every right to complain herself. She was and is quiet, meek, gentle, soft-spoken, and timid, but hear me when I say she is a force to be reckoned with when her mind is set and when the concerns of her children and family are involved.

Mom, it would take a book to begin telling you all you mean to me, but I pray my heart and life speak as loudly as anything I might say of the legacy you have instilled in me. I love you!

Aunt Lois, mom’s sister, played a tremendous role in my musicality and appreciation of music and singing. Although she was not permitted to have instruments or “worldly” music, I spent hours with her metronome, pitchpipes, tuning forks, and vast supply of hymnals. Aunt Lois taught me how to feel music in your soul. She was also a woman of great faith and conviction which she exemplified by the manner of her living. She died when I was a young teenager. I still miss her.

All mom’s sisters played their own unique role; Aunt Edie let me dress up in “fancy” clothes.

rrh.jpg

She still sings like a song bird and her talent as a professional seamstress is second to none. (That’s a skill I never mastered, but have great admiration for.) Aunt Ruth, mom’s twin, has always been a quiet loving presence. Aunt Mim always sees the silver lining, is a prolific writer, and gifted photographer. Aunt Mary Etta, for as long as I knew her, endured tremendous physical suffering and yet praised God anyway. I didn’t know Aunt Mabel as well, she lived in Missouri and I seldom got to see her, but she came to help our family when mom was laid up after being hit by a car while riding bicycle.

Two of my great aunts, Mary and Wilda Beery, and their mother, grandmother Mary Beery, instilled in me a love of memorizing and reciting Scripture and poetry.

Switching gears now, Aunt Nellie, one of my dad’s sisters, could make a sailor blush with some of her language, but she was one of the most caring persons I’ve ever known. I seldom saw her without curlers in her hair and a Coke and cigarette in her hands. She often held a fly swatter too, and her grandkids would say, “no beaty a$$, Nan, no beaty a$$.” Aunt Nellie worked in the coal mines.  Her rosary in her casket was made of Mardi Gra beads and a miniature Coke bottle. She left bags of “beads” for us, and my favorite colorful crocheted afghan for me.

I’m pretty sure Aunt Ethel has an Energizer Bunny inside. She has endured many physical complications from a horrible car accident years ago, yet at nearly 78 years old, she still works and cares for others. She lives a good four hours from us and we’ve never arrived at her house without an entire feast prepared. And we ARE expected to eat, even if we arrive late at night. I recall arriving around two am when we were children (car trouble) and she had baked ham, macaroni salad, and all kinds of other goodies prepared for us and was vacuuming her living room.

Aunt Tresa was full of life and laughter. She wore red lipstick and red heels. She kissed my brothers and made them cry. (Not really, she just loved how embarrassed they got with a bright red lip print on their little cheeks.)

Nearly all of my aunts lived out of the area, but they have all left their imprint in my life.

My mother-in-law, Sandy, has spent her life invested in children, teaching them to read. She has traveled the world, and is independent, stoic, composed, intelligent, a master gardener, and a life-long learner and reader.

sany.jpg

My sisters and sisters-in-law have also inspired me in many ways.

sistrs

This brief post is only a glimpse of these tremendous women, and there are many others who have shaped my life in various forms. If I can leave even a portion of the legacy of faith, tenacity, and meekness that these woman have instilled in me, my life will have been worth it.

On this day of honoring women, today I salute my grandmothers, my mom and mother-in-law, my aunts, my great grandmother and great aunts, and my sisters and sisters-in-law. I am who I am because of each of you! I love you!

Unclenching my grasp and breathing peace 

Eight years ago I was balancing work and a newborn baby. My job as a staff-writer for a local community paper allowed me to work from home at times. 

One morning I opened my work email and in place of my signature and work title it read, “I will unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.”

The words took my breath away. 

The message was perfect for me at that time in my life, but I couldn’t imagine who, how, or why my work signature was changed to that sentence. I called my co-workers and they knew nothing about it. I logged back in and there was my original work signature as pretty as you please. 

It left me unsettled not knowing how or why it happened, but the message stuck. My co-workers were equally intrigued and so poignant was the message that one had it written in calligraphy on a beautiful note card and framed for me as a gift. That framed message sits on my desk at the Sadie Rose House today and it always seems to catch my eye at a time when I need to be most reminded.  

I never thought before or since to search the Internet for that quote.  

This past year has been one of grasping, clenching, holding, releasing, and growing with two foster children in our home. One has been with us for more than a year now and the tension of rooting for others to get their lives in order while loving their child that feels like our own has driven me to my knees many times. 

My grasp was firmly clenched, the little fingers wrapped tightly around my heart. Releasing this precious child to the process has shaken me to my core. I breathed way more anxiety and fear than peace. 

Another child joined us more recently. Again I find myself loving, grasping, clenching, and holding even though this one will most likely be temporary. 

I have known moments of peace recently, but the reality is that we are barreling through life at breakneck speed and the train is having trouble slowing down. We are fighting fierce battles against hellish addictions and patterns and learned behaviors. At the same time we are fighting stigmas that are coming from the most surprising places. 

Through it all, I have been grasping my own abilities, answers, sanity, and love, clenching tightly to my own strength. There are many days my well is dry. I open my tightly clasped fingers to see my own strength evaporating like a vapor. What little I thought was there seems more like an illusion in light of the chasm of need. 


Now we are here in this season of advent where, as Christians, we prepare for the coming of the Savior. I’ve said it, heard it, read it… Emmanuel, God WITH us. We celebrate a Savior who enters our darkness, chaos, mess, and brokenness, and whose love permeates every broken messed up hellish place of our life. And yet I’ve struggled to feel it in my heart even though I know it in my head. 

Where is this Emmanuel in the broken stories of our foster children? Where is he  in the grief of those whose children, spouse, parent, best friend has died? Where is “God with us”when nations and cities and regions are ravaged by war. Where is he when people are neglected and power abused, sometimes even in the name of this God?


And then today, my dear friend shared a post on Facebook that once again took my breath away. 

“Christmas at Midlife

I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.

I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.

I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task

I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.

I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.

I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.

I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.

I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.

I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.

I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.

I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.

I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.

-Mary Anne Perrone

Via Sacred Dreams”

Did you SEE that?! Did you catch it?! Right there, smack dab on the middle of this beautiful advent poem is THAT VERY SENTENCE! 

“I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.”

When I read my friend’s post, my breath literally caught in my throat. I have been grasping the wrongs things. I have been looking for Emmanuel in a God who comes and makes everything right, (and I believe one day he will.) But I’ve been caught up in looking for “God with us” in leaders and princes and kings and changed circumstances.  

But no, “Emmanuel with us” is right here in our home, wrapping his arms around broken hurting foster children. He is with us in the friend that walks with those in grief, sharing tears and offering shoulders. Emmanuel God with us is working through the lives and hearts of those who are silently and anonymously bringing Christmas cheer to the hurting and lonely. Right here in the middle of our messed up broken hellish lives Emmanuel is sharing coffee and bagels with those on the streets, loving the unloveable through very ordinary broken people just like me. 

Clearly this sentence, “I will unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out” is timely, poignant, and personal once again. 


I’m letting go of my own abilities, releasing my grasp and relinquishing all to the One who meets us at the point of our need. When my life is fully surrendered to Emmanuel’s love, mercy, and provision, then and only then can I truly unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out. 

May you also experience Emmanuel God WITH us this Christmas season and in the coming year. 

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Autumn has always been my favorite season. Initially I was going to name this my obligatory thanksgiving post, but there’s nothing obligatory about it. I wouldn’t have to share anything publicly, but I truly can’t help it. There is a well-spring of gratefulness inside me brimming with thanks, and I cannot help but let it spill over. 

I am thankful for all of the obvious things, freedom, faith, family, friends, shelter, food enough, clothing. 

But I’m especially thankful for small things too… 


Like Christmas lights. I hung this string in the boy’s room this evening and haven’t stopped looking at their beautiful glow. I am thankful for these lights and think of those who do not have the ease of electricity.  

And fun in the fall leaves. I love their crunch, their smell, their color, and the endless hours of fun they provide for childlike hearts. I am thankful for fallen leaves and think of those whose hearts are so heavy they cannot find the joy in them. 


I’m thankful for birthdays and feasts. We had a birthday Monday and Tuesday this week in our household, so Tuesday evening I made this spread of meat loaf, hippie loaf (a bean and veggie loaf), stuffing, herbed roasted baby potatoes, Dijon glazed green beans, mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce, and an apple, grapefruit, pomegranate salad. (All recipes except the meatloaf came from the Forks Over Knives App or the Meal Mentor app so everything except the meatloaf and cake were plant-based.)I also made the plant based pumpkin pie and pumpkin cranberry cookies the day before. I seldom cook so much at one time, but this was such a worthy celebration; my husband and our newest foster child whose life and presence is worth way more than a hearty meal. I am thankful for food, for abundance, and think of those who are hungry as we eat. 


I am thankful for frosty mornings. I know most people think I’ve lost my mind when I say this, but I absolutely love a good frosty sunshiny morning. I am thankful for our wood stove, for jackets and coats and a trusty old van with a heater on these beautiful frosty mornings and think of those who are shivering in the cold. 


I am thankful for the beautiful area we call home and that even though I am currently too busy to do much hiking or horseback riding there are scenes such as this that I can enjoy from my van. So often I stop for a five minute reprieve to enjoy the scenery and inhale the fresh air. I am thankful for tranquil places and spaces and think of those who live in fear and threat of violence. 

I am so thankful for the hope and promise of an eternity with God, where all these earthly cares will no longer plague us. I am thankful for this hope and pray for the hopeless. 

I could go on and on and could still never truly count all my blessings. I am bountifully rich in soul and love and even worldly things that to name them all would be an impossibility. 

I will leave you with a link to one of our children’s favorite songs. 

You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd.

Wishing all a gentle and peaceful day of thanks. 

More than we can handle

I’ve never subscribed to that tired worn-out cliche that “God won’t give us more than we can handle.” We WILL at some point or other go through more than we can handle, (whether it comes from God or not is perceived by the individual,) and we WON’T be able to get though it on our own. 


But when going through more than I can handle, I am amazed again and again at the empowering of God’s Spirit and Amazing Grace. 

That doesn’t mean I don’t feel overwhelmed at times, or that I don’t want quit. I’m human and I’m real. Giving up, quitting, hibernating until “it” gets better, are all options that dangle in front of my eyes like candy to a toddler. 

But somehow, with God’s help, we can not only make it through the trial, but find the redemptive work of grace within it. 

Whatever you are going through today, I pray you can sense God’s presence and power within and through you. 

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!