Hello dear friends! We are so excited to once again have our friend Stephanie sharing honestly about her experience with her adopted child. We were touched last fall when Stephanie shared her story of "How Foster Care Wrecked My Life" and we know you will be blessed by reading her story of what it's like to love our kids through the good and the hard.  

It has been three years ago this month that we brought our teenaged foster daughter into our home. I wish I could sit down with each of you and share with you the journey we have been on. It has been a journey of pride and humility, desperation and fulfillment, joy and sorrow. It has been a journey of soaring on the wings of optimism and wallowing in the valley of defeat. We had no idea how to parent a teenager with a traumatic past. BUT GOD (don’t you love those words?) knew exactly what HE was doing. 

We adopted our precious girl 11 months after she came to live with us. We poured our love into her as much and as often as we knew how. We knew she had spent 15 years without the love and structure of a Christian home. We were constantly on our knees and before the throne for mercy and help as we sought the best way to love and discipline with grace. We love her just as fiercely as our biological children. In our hearts, there is no difference.

We like to talk about the fun parts of parenting – the wonder of a baby’s tiny toes, the cute things our kids say or expressions they make, how they snuggle up to us. But sometimes, if I’m honest, parenting can be ugly.

I feel intensely vulnerable in acknowledging that sometimes my temper can get the best of me.

Last night it happened at bedtime. Elise had been sorting through pictures in the office, putting them in a container for some project she had in mind, but it was getting late so I went in to tell her to put it away for the night. She objected loudly, rudely, then tried to storm off and take all the craft supplies she’d been working with to play with them in her bed.

And – I snapped. I just lost it. I yanked the items out of her arms to put them on the table, but it went awry and they spilled, dropping on the floor in a messy pile. I grabbed her and set her in the hallway outside the office, closing the door firmly so she couldn’t try to run back in. And then I headed downstairs in a huff.

My neighborhood as seen from my front porch.
It is finally spring in Minnesota, and the neighbors on three sides of me have been busy edging, cutting, and spraying their grass. When I drive by their homes, I see the beginnings of lush carpets of green covering their lots. Their lawns look almost fake, they are so beautiful. Their children are grown, and they have the luxury of hunting down every stray clover, every last crabgrass and waging war against any green thing without the word "fescue" in its name.

My lawn, on the other hand, is what I would call "bio-diverse," and I sometimes wonder if we have more weeds than actual grass. With young children and busy jobs, my husband and I these past eight years have barely had the time and energy to run a mower around the yard on a weekly basis, much less primp and pamper our lawn.
Last night I came across a woman’s story. She was sharing about some struggles she’s currently facing and what she’s doing to find joy, even in the midst of walking through hardships. And for whatever reason, her words were like rain after a long drought I didn’t even know had settled on my heart. I found myself nodding in agreement, affirming my own sometimes insecure thoughts, and immediately I felt a kinship with a woman I’ve met only in passing.

But stories, good stories that matter, aren’t just ones we read online or in books. Some of the best stories are the ones told in coffee shops and around breakfast tables, outside under trees or while sharing desserts after midnight. They’re told late at night driving home in the dark accompanied by tears or early in the morning over tea, when the earth is just beginning to stir.

They’re whispered through sadness and bellowed through laughter. They encourage and give wisdom, offer support and love.

And more than anything? Stories let us know that we are not alone.

They remind us that we are all humans who make mistakes, who have fears and doubts and dreams. And our own stories, once told, let others know it’s okay to be themselves.

Our stories are a gift. God-given. God-breathed. In a way, they are sacred.

It was a classic case of good intentions gone bad.

I was 16, and it was my second year cheerleading. Our coach that year was new, and she had grand visions of a revitalizing a somewhat-neglected, not-always-considered-a-sport activity like cheerleading.

With that in mind, she asked her older cheerleaders to help convey her message to our small community via the local radio station. A handful of us trooped into the station, read a few lines from her script, and that was it. I don't think I even listened to it being broadcast.

It wasn't until after it aired that I realized that it may have been a mistake. The radio blurb, while well-intentioned, specifically targeted groups of people in the community who my cheerleading coach thought could help lead the way in supporting the group of girls. My portion of the script was directed at coaches.

As a mom to three girls, I spend a lot of time thinking about raising girls, what that means and if I'm doing a good job. Our culture is tough on girls, and I want to do everything I can to help them to grow into women who are strong and kind. That's why I love today's guest post from Jenny Hill, who brings such wisdom and insight into her reflections on what it means to be a woman. Here's more from Jenny:

There I was, sitting at my kitchen table in front of my laptop. The sun was streaming in through my sliding glass door, and I’m sure there was a glass of something cold and refreshing sweating on the table beside me. I was listening to Beth Moore preach like I do every summer as I dive into one of her Bible studies on my own. There she was, with her beautiful big hair, impossibly high heels, and charming sense of humor. She was roaming her audience, touching the arms of some of her listeners, talking about the joy of her ministry, when suddenly she exclaimed, “I just love women!”

I remember that moment, as if the thought just ran across my brain yesterday. I sat back in my chair, paused, and thought, Do I even know what it means to be a woman? I’m 32 and I’ve never been on a second date. My days don’t revolve around homemaking, meal planning, soccer practice, and homework. My wardrobe does have a fair amount of pink and purple, I love accessories, and I’m enamored with shoes, but I also have mild cerebral palsy. It impacts how I move, how I’m perceived, and it definitely means no high heels. I think all of this begs the question: What does it mean to be a woman when you are single, childless, and flat-footed? I’ve been pondering this question for a while; most intently over the past month. Here’s what I see:

Yesterday morning, as we were getting ready for church, my daughter came into our room and told me she had a song to sing for us and then wondered if she could sing it at our church service.

Several weeks earlier our pastor had encouraged anyone that had a story or a word of encouragement for others was always welcome to share during our services. Jasmine heard his words, took it to heart, and wrote a song that she now wanted to sing during the service.

As we were leaving home, I told her she could certainly ask Pastor Carl if it’d be all right. As we walked into the sanctuary and the music began to play, Kyle encouraged Jasmine again to ask Pastor Carl if she could share her song. She walked over to him shyly, showed him her song and asked if it’d be all right. Of course Carl agreed.

As the worship portion of the service ended, Carl called Jasmine up on the stage as she bravely shared the song she’d written and then felt led to share with others. She was amazing, at least to my mama eyes. I could not have been more proud.