We press in.

We press in. When we have hard days, weeks, months, yeaaarrrsss. We press in. Which is not our natural response. His natural response is to find solitude and quiet. To withdraw by himself until the hardship blows over. My natural response is to avoid even acknowledging that there is a hardship and instead pour myself into the next project.

But we’ve learned that our natural responses are not what is healthy for our marriage. It’s not healthy to withdraw and avoid. We must press in. To each other. To the hard. To Jesus. And through the trials we’ve learned what works for us (not as individuals) and our marriage.

We stack date nights. Last month we had a little more free time (what even is that) and we went on several dates. An overnight date, a couple dinner dates, a coffee date. We knew looking ahead that this month was going to be crazy busy and stressful and hectic. In order to get through these season we needed to be strong. Like an athlete who trains in the offseason to prepare for the long grueling days when the season approaches. Dating (any time without children asking a million questions is considered a date in my book!) is our training.

We have individual quiet times. Which looks differently for each of us, but it is there that Jesus speaks to us as people and that wisdom pours over to our marriage.

We communicate often. Every other Wednesday after the kids go to bed we have a business meeting. We can talk about budget and meal planning and schedules and new ideas. No one really has control over their lives, but we make sure there are as few surprises as possible. Last year I bought a 3 year journal that has daily prompts. And we both answer the prompt. Some of them are entirely ridiculous. But some prompts bring up bigger, necessary, or funny conversations. We check in throughout the day. Sometimes that just means a note in his lunch box or a quick text. Sometimes that means meeting for a quick coffee or a phone call driving between appointments. The communication is key for pressing in.

This particular week started with a day full of funeral services for our beloved Grandpa and is rolling into several 12-hour work shifts in a row plus some therapy and a bio family visit. Dating is impossible, communication will be minimal, and general lack of sleep makes our irritability higher. But as we work to build a strong foundation, these weeks become bearable. Not easy, by any stretch of the imagination, but doable. We are pressing in. We made the choice to press in. To each other. To the hard. To Jesus.

I’m going to love you…even when I’m tired.

The older the children get, the longer stretches of nice, relatively quiet play we get. It’s glorious. I don’t panic every time they are playing quietly together in the other room. Most of the time they are sucked into their pretend world. Cooking and fighting dinosaurs and playing therapy and doing gymnastics.

Just a few days ago the younger two were playing so nicely in the sensory room together while I made lunch. When, for seemingly no reason, I heard her tell her brother, “I don’t love you anymore”.

My ears perked up and I quietly eased dropped on their conversation. There was not any anger behind the words, and there was not any fight or disappointment from her brother. When they had moved on I sat next to her and asked her what caused her to not love her brother anymore. She said “because I’m just tired” and I said “even when we are tired we still have to love our people”.

As the words came out of my mouth I could feel the wind leave my lungs. The Lord had just spoken through me, to me.

I honestly could not breathe. The weariness of this season has made me so intensely tired. The last two months have been overwhelming and hard for me to love even those closest to me. As we sat side by side on her balance beam, she looked at me expectantly and I looked back at her with a new and deep compassion.

“Sometimes mommy gets tired too, and it’s hard to love. You know, how sometimes, when mommy is cooking dinner and she just wants everyone to be a little bit more quiet? That makes me tired and makes it hard to love. Sometimes, when you have scary dreams and need mommy to rock you in the nighttime. That makes me tired and makes it hard to love, sometimes. So I get it. But, Jesus wants us to love even when we are tired. Because Jesus loves us, even when we are tired, and cranky, and rude, and need a break.”

She looked at me with real tears flowing down her cheeks (because, hello, this girl is a precious and sensitive angel) and told me that she was going to love me even when she was tired and even when I was tired. She went to her brother and told him she was going to love him even when he was a booger to her and hides her Elsa shoes.

Now it’s my turn to cry. Because I so deeply love my people. But I am tired. And I don’t always get it perfect. So on this particular day, Jesus showed me grace through my angel girl. Reminding me that we all get tired. Goodness gracious, Jesus himself went into gardens or to the other side of seas all the time to rest. It’s okay to feel tired. When we are tired, is when He shows up to give us every ounce of energy and love we need to love our people well.

This year is the anti-self-love year for me. Because it is so insanely easy for me to make it about…me. So I’m switching gears. This is the year where I learn how to be patient and kind, how to not boast and not be rude, how to be selfless, how to rejoice with others, how to always protect, always trust, always hope, and always persevere. I’m going to love the snot out of my people. Because it is not about me. Or how tired I am. Or how overwhelmed/empty/burnt out I become. It’s about this magnificent calling to love others, always.

Holding our breath.

When I was a kid we would go to the deep end of the pool and have underwater challenges. Have you ever held your breath for a really long time? For a while it’s exciting, then it’s challenging, and then it’s just waiting for the other person to surface so you can also get relief and take big breath.

That is how this season feels. Like we’re holding our breath. Trying to hang tight while waiting for someone to surface and tell us it’s ok to take a big breath. Praying the end is near as we sit in the uncomfortable. Knowing we were called to walk into the uncomfortable and knowing we have been called to stay here.

This season, however, also feels easier. Like we’ve been here before. We know that holding our breath is temporary. The unknowns are still scary but we have a vague picture of what the end looks like. God the Father continues to be gracious is reminding us of his faithfulness. If we only focus on the breath-holding, we get weary and fearful and defeated. As we focus more and more on the faithfulness and holiness of sitting in this season, we remember that He’s walked this road with us before.

The first time we took the kids to the beach we barely knew them, everything was scary and new for them, and it was a lot of work. But this time, as I sat on my beach chair, drinking coffee and watching my people, I realized how much better it gets over time. Now, not only do they know us, they trust us to keep them safe. They know that on their own the waves overtake them, but as we hold them they are safe. There is so much joy on the beach, so much joy they would miss if they hung back because of fear.

If you’re sitting in a season of holding your breath, if you’re scared and don’t know when you’ll be able to get relief, remember Gods faithfulness. He’s gone before you. He knows and holds our future. He loves you, your children, your family more than you can fathom. And when we finally catch a sweet deep breath, we will celebrate and add that moment to the mountain of moments to look back upon and remember His always present faithfulness.

When you’re drowning.

“We are drowning.”

I said those words to one of my most trusted friends today. Words that I’ve been avoiding. Words that I haven’t let my heart feel. But the most accurate words to describe how I truly feel under the “I’m fine!” attitude.

Today I also realized there are 32 unread text messages on my phone. Mostly from people I love. Some checking in, some waiting for a question answered, some funny gifs that I’ve yet to open. My life also has 32 things on hold. Heavy things. Things I’m trying to hold up from the water so even as I’m drowning, I won’t let anyone or anything down.

It’s not that I have problem saying no, it’s one of my favorite words (I’ve obviously been hanging out with my two year old). We have almost zero extracurricular activities this summer. We’ve rarely seen friends. We haven’t made it to our long weekend in St.Louis. The things I’m holding up have almost nothing to do with me. But the people I hold dearest. The people who live in my home. They are carrying heavy, tired, broken hearts…and I am holding them.

Do you know this feeling? The tightness of your chest that you don’t notice until you sit down at the end of the day. The tears that are always close to the surface but rarely fall. The constant strain to grab a breath just in case your lungs have to hold air for a while before you can resurface.

Maybe you’re holding foster care and financial stress and aging parents. Or maybe it’s homeschooling and foster care and mental health. Maybe your combo is infertility and self-employment and moving. It’s possible your situation is a mix of all of those scenarios.

Whatever it is that has you drowning, I see you, I feel it, I know it’s hard. I know your arms are tired and your lungs are burning. I know your prayers are more angry than loving. I know you’ve have to apologize to the Creator for being bitter and ungrateful.

Guess what? He sees you too.

“For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our King. It is He who will save us.” Isaiah 33:22

Whatever the injustice. Whatever the pain. Whatever it is that is starting to cover your head. Our Lord, our King, He will save us.

Today, by verbalizing my complete feeling of drowning, I turned it over to the King letting Him know I was ready for saving. I still don’t know what that looks like for me. But I do know that I was not created to live in a state of drowning…and neither were you.

Toddler Travel Tips

Vacation! So fun! So relaxing!

Just kidding. We are going on vacation with three kids four and under. Traveling with kids. Oh so fun. Not kidding. I love showing them new adventures!

To be perfectly honest, we have never driven more than four hours with our children. From where we live, driving to Florida would be two full days each way, and we don’t have that kind of time (or patience). I have several sweet friends who do the driving through the night so kids sleep trick. But if you follow me on Instagram you know that I turn into a pumpkin at 9pm so that option isn’t available to us. Therefore, every tip or story you see here is from our flying adventures.

The first time we flew with children they were 2.5 years, 18 months, and 5 months. On top of their young ages, we had only known each other for three months. We were straight in the middle of figuring everyone out and learning how to trust. Before we flew I did a ton of research, some helpful and some not so much.

Here is my complied list of helpful tips if you’re flying with littles (especially if you’re also traveling with special needs and trauma):

1. Know your airline!

Researching your airlines policy on traveling with children is extremely helpful. We’ve only flown Allegiant with our crew. Allegiant only allows one lap child per row because of oxygen masks. But they do let each child have a free diaper bag. Knowing these kind of policies before arriving will put you at ease. Or, when someone tries to tell you that you’re not allowed to do something, you’ll be armed with policy language.

2. Don’t arrive too early.

Has anyone ever told you that littles are squirmy? Having time to kill at the airport is the worst. Airports are not sensory friendly and cause a ton of anxiety for a couple of my small humans. If you can, leave just enough time to get through security and let everyone pee.

3. There can never be too many snacks on travel day.

A couple of days of snack overload will not kill your routine. And trust me, we are the house where snacks are on a timer, and I still believe this tip. Snacks distract, but they also help clear airplane ears, and keep blood sugar high. Many a travel meltdown has been cured with a box of raisins. I put a gallon zip lock of snacks in each child’s backpack for easy access.

4. Pack brand new never seen before toys and activities.

This might be the most circulated tip but I believe it with all my might. I grab activity books, tiny stuffed animals, and trinket toys after major holidays when they are on super clearance and save it for travel days. Small children don’t care if they are coloring Jack-o-lanterns in June…for them it’s a brand new experience and keeps them engaged longer.

5. Stickers.

Same concept. Melissa and Dog have some awesome reusable sticker books. The reusable stickers can stick to almost any airplane surface and can easily be removed and restuck for at least 12 minutes.

6. Must have Accessories.

Blow up footstool, everyone’s favorite blankey, water cups with straws (again, help those babies clear their ears!), earplugs/headphones (my oldest has a hard time with noises, headphones make all the difference), socks.

7. Breathe.

Hey moms and dads! Take a breath, give grace, breathe. People are going to be grouchy and rude. But guess what, even if they never had annoying loud kids, at one point they were an annoying loud kid. Although we try our hardest to make sure our children are respectful and quietish…is that really legitimately possible at all times? No. So go ahead and plaster a smile on your face and enjoy the fact that your children get to experience the wonder of travel at a young age!

In travel, and in life, your mood and attitude will be reflected in your children. If you feel stressed and overwhelmed, your children will pick up on that energy and everyone will start to spiral. You can real and absorb all the travel knowledge. However, if you haven’t figured out what keeps you cool and calm, do that first. Find an essential oil to wear around your neck, do a breathing exercise, eat a snack. You can do this! You can make adventure fun for your family!

100 ways to Bless Foster Families

It is a blessing that you are reading this. It means you are ready to help serve your local foster care community. As a foster mom, I know that without my village, we would not be able to continue. So as you become the village for foster families around you, know you are doing some truly gospel work! 

Sometimes, from the outside, Foster Care can seem so overwhelming. It can be hard to even know where to start or what would be helpful. I’ve worked hard collaborating with other foster families coming up with 100 different ways, with unique skills and abilities, you can serve foster families wherever you are.

The most important thing to remember about this list: Pick one, then follow through. Foster parents have to make hard (and normal) choices all day long. Instead of adding to their never ending list of things to think about, try instead saying “I would love to do _____ for you. Does Tuesday or Wednesday work better?” Example: “I would love to bring you a meal. Is Monday night ok? Does everyone like pasta and salad?” or “I’m planning on taking my kids to the park tomorrow, could I pick up Rose and Tony and take them too. I would love to give you a few hours to yourself!”. 

I am never more encouraged than when we are thought of! The emotional strain of parenting children from hard places often times feels never-ending. The devil seeks to isolate us and make us feel alone. When others remember to pray, bring meals, send diapers, and more it takes the edge off and gives us the energy to keep saying yes.

Everyone can do something! Maybe you have a lawn mower and a free afternoon to take that burden off a family, maybe you can cook a double batch of a meal and bring it to a family, maybe you have an abundance financially and can pay for a special outing for a family.  Find something within your talent range and extend the offer to a foster family you know. If you don’t know any foster families, feel free to reach out and I will connect you with someone in your area. I’ve linked the PDF below, feel free to share with your local church or organizations. How exciting to rally together and serve!

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  1. Bring a meal
  2. Drop off diapers
  3. Offer to babysit
  4. Send an encouraging note
  5. Host a virtual card drive 
  6. Send a foster mom a piece of “mom” jewelry with initials of children in her home. 
  7. Get licensed for respite 
  8. Hold a baby during church so a foster parent can worship.
  9. Bring a grocery basket full of items.
  10. Take them out to lunch.
  11. Attend court dates. 
  12. Free family/baby photo shoot. 
  13. Send flowers.
  14. Plan a play date.
  15. Take their car to get detailed.
  16. Mail them scripture notes.
  17. Pick up their dirty laundry and return it clean and folded.
  18. Secretly pay for their dinner at a restaurant.
  19. Text “I’m praying for you today”.
  20. Actually pray for them today. 
  21. Gift foster parents a night at a hotel.
  22. Host a journey bag filling night.
  23. Show up to foster children’s ballgames. 
  24. Give a gas card.
  25. Take teens to the mall to pick out a “no strings attached” gift.
  26. Clean their Home.
  27. Hire a housekeeper.
  28. Become educated about the special needs of a foster child you know. 
  29. Email a Starbucks Gift Card.
  30. Mow their yard. 
  31. Accompany them to doctors appointments.
  32. Grocery shop for them.
  33. Weed their garden. 
  34. Remember foster kids names. 
  35. Make a family photo book. 
  36. Take the kids out of the house so mama can nap.
  37. Run errands. 
  38. Bring over new/like new baby gear.
  39. Help them set up WIC.
  40. Back to school shop for them.
  41. Sponsor a family gym membership.
  42. Fold their mounding Laundry.
  43. Send a foster kid to camp.
  44. Host an encouraging note writing party, write notes for kids coming into care and the foster parents who will care for them. 
  45. Remember biological children. 
  46. Start a clothing closet in your home.
  47. Organize a Foster Parents Night Out for your community.
  48. Pray endlessly.
  49. Become a CASA volunteer.
  50. Donate to a Foster Care organization on behalf of the family.
  51. Send a parent on a spa day.
  52. Gift an Audible subscription. 
  53. Speak words of grace.
  54. Organize a Meal Train for new placement.
  55. Stock a food pantry.
  56. Give to a local diaper bank.
  57. Host a support group.
  58. Financial gift. 
  59. Let the foster parents choose what information to give you without pushing for more.
  60. Organize an Angel tree for Christmas.
  61. Invite kids to VBS.
  62. Pick kids up for church.
  63. Ask a local store to donate carseats.
  64. Hold a toy drive.
  65. Spend the night caring for an infant while parents get sleep.
  66. Take the family to the pool.  
  67. Send books. 
  68. Plan a zoo outing. 
  69. Shovel snow from their driveway.
  70. Buy birthday gifts. 
  71. Bake extra dessert to send to foster family’s home.
  72. Gift formula.
  73. Host a network marketing party with proceeds going to a foster care organization.
  74. Come help for an hour at bedtime.
  75. Donate a proceed from your company to a foster care organization.
  76. Include whole family (biological children and foster children) during birthday party invites.
  77. Remember to ask about allergies or eating preferences before inviting the family over.
  78. Donate new bedding.
  79. Bring a supply of freezer meals for when new placements come.
  80. Host a family baby shower for a new foster family as they start the licensing process.
  81. Speak kindly about all individuals involved  in the process at all times.
  82. Call and remind the foster parents they are doing a good work.
  83. Get background checked through the state so you can help without restrictions.
  84. Order supplies off Amazon and have them sent straight to the foster family.
  85. Drop off take out food. “Hey, I’m running by Culver’s, what can I bring your family?”
  86. Bring coffee over and sit and chat during nap time.
  87. Offer free haircuts.
  88. Make baby blankets/hats for babies coming into care. 
  89. Walk their dog.
  90. Donate a mini van.
  91. Celebrate the Foster Parents anniversary.
  92. Host a Christmas party with a foster care organization.
  93. Call a local foster care agency and ask if you can bring the staff coffee. (Happy case workers make for happy foster parents)
  94. Be a listening ear.
  95. Supply a family with new duffle bags and suitcases for when a child is transitioning out of their home.
  96. Offer a scholarship to a college foster teen.
  97. Ask to be a child’s mentor. 
  98. Speak to your church about supporting an organization during Orphan Sunday. 
  99. Help plan a birthday party for a foster or biological child.
  100. Allow Foster Families the opportunity to feel seen and known.

Booklet Exterior-2

Booklet Interior-2



thank you to Mallory Nyman Photography for the graphic design work!

Toddler or Trauma

We play this game in our house, it’s not a very fun game, called “toddler or trauma”. It happens almost every time one of our three children has a meltdown, is scared, or refuses to do something. Because we aren’t just raising three small children. We are raising three small children who have lived through buckets of trauma.

If you have a hard kid (or multiple hard kids) I think it’s easy to try and relate. I know I often will compare my children to friends with kids that are in a hard season; asking for advice or encouragement. However, recently I have started to understand the vast difference between hard kids and kids from hard places.

See, when you have a biological child in a difficult season you have lots of recourses available. Blogs and mommy groups and books and doctors. And although you may question the “why” behind the behavior you’re seeing, you don’t have to question the “what” of their past. As a parent of kids from hard places I am always questioning the past. The what.

“What happened to her in the womb that made her body react this way?”

“What happened at mealtime to make this particular restaurant a trigger?”

“What did I say that made them manic out of the blue, and, who did I remind them of?”

It’s a constant guessing game. And it is exhausting. Because on top of the actual parenting, we are always reminded of the hurt our babies are carrying around.

So if you see my child having a melt down-drag out. Or if you see a foster mama reacting differently than you think is correct. And if I say “thanks but no thanks” to your parenting advice. Give us grace. Because where you may say “oh he is such a toddler!” I say “dear Jesus, give me strength for this trauma”.

If you are parenting kids from hard places, know you are not alone in the exhaustion. Trauma parenting can feel incredibly isolating as you say no to fun activities, have to explain yourself to family members, and scream into a pillow in your office. We are in this together! Be encouraged in knowing that truth.

Our almost no.

We really nearly almost said no.

There had been phone calls before, and we (tearfully) had said no to them. The information the investigator was giving me over the phone that Thursday was vague and seemed complicated. Plus these children were all coming from hospital stays with zero information about medical needs. It was so overwhelming to think through all the stuff that still needed to happen before bringing three babies home.

My flesh wasn’t ready. It wanted to say no.

But my spirit, the Holy Spirit, it said yes anyway.

And off we headed to the DCFS office to pick up two boys and a girl all under the age of three. I very nearly threw up on the way there, because man, my flesh is weak. But then we walked in the door, she handed me the littlest baby, and my heart was home.

Over the next twenty months we saw some extreme highs and extreme lows. Moments when I thought our yes was a mistake. Days when I wondered how long we would have to keep saying this particular yes. Heartaches that almost made me wish our yes had been a no…

But when she cries for mama from her hospital bed, she’s crying for me. And when he wants to go visit daddy at work, he wants Chris. Big brother prays to Jesus and my heart melts. We are able to comfort them unlike anyone else because they trust us unlike anyone else.

“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Romans 8:13-14

If you’re in a battle with your flesh and the Spirit…go and read that scripture in its entirety. The flesh is where our almost no sat.

And when I think about our almost no my heart aches. Because for now, for however long they need us, our babies are home.

The magical gift of Motherhood.

I never know on any given day which child is going to need all of me. But I do know that every day, every ounce of me is given away.

And every night I sleep interrupted.

And every day we do it again.

Isn’t it incredible? I find it completely fascinating how we are able to do it day after day.

Yes, I drink more coffee than the average human. Yes, I often fall asleep while rocking a little one at nap-time. Yes, some days I am counting the minutes until daddy gets home.

But I also work a job I love, pull off pretty cool birthday parties, know all three children’s routines for every hour of the day, speak fluent toddler, fold approx 20 loads of laundry a week, stick to a grocery budget, anticipate meltdowns before they happen, and can sing any children’s song in the correct voice on command.

Moms are cool, guys! Our bodies and brains are designed to not just keep tiny humans alive, but to help them develop and grow into fabulous big humans. The reality of this mission can often feel like a chore, I know, so I am reframing how I view this job called motherhood.

I get to do this super special mission of loving the lives the Lord has entrusted to me. I get to be the one answering the “mommy mommy!” cries in the middle of the night. I get to teach manners and respect and how to properly brush your teeth. I get to hold hands during blood draws. I get to teach them about Jesus through the way I live my life.

I wish I could take you all to (probably a much needed) coffee and remind you of these truths, but since we most likely all have our coffees waiting for us in the cold microwave let me share it here…

Giving all of yourself, day in and day out, is a super special and magical gift.

I needed the reminder after a hard month of mothering, maybe you did too.

Standing on the Sidelines

This is a story of amazing grace.

In this story I am standing on the sidelines, like a background mom or a funny best friend, and taking in the scenes between the hero and main characters. Although I’m right in the middle of all the action, and feel the effects of the storyline progressing, it isn’t my story being told.

It’s a story of a hero pursuing a princess. A beautiful, perfect, spunky princess with hurt and emotions far beyond her age. The hero reminds her she’s beautiful and shows her safety. The hero listens as she wines and even lets her stomp a bit. He wipes her tears while weeping alongside her.

The princess loves the hero but can’t know for sure if he’s safe.

Here come the supporting characters. Surrounding her and speaking with love of the hero. She hears of how he keeps showing up to save them. They sing his praises.

Her head and her heart meet up and decide he truly must be good and safe.

The hero shows up over and over and over for this princess. Gently pushing her to be brave and wrapping her in his arms when she isn’t. He catches her when she falls. He laughs when she’s silly and cries when she hurts his heart.

Jesus loves her. He pursues her. He rejoices when she jumps in the pool. He weeps when night terrors rage through her body. He is angered by the injustice in her story. He is her perfect Hero and she is his beautiful princess.

This story is far from over. But as each chapter is written there are endless signs of truth and love. How amazing is the grace that Jesus has given me that I am able to be here, in the middle of her story, standing on the sidelines.