Temporary Forevers

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency[a] in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”  2 Corinthians 9:8

There are a lot of very unique challenges to being a foster parent, but there are also a great number of privileges that most others will never experience.  This past Sunday I celebrated my first ‘official’ Mother’s Day.  It was incredible.  My daughter, and my two younger siblings were dedicated at church Sunday morning.  My little girl picked out a very special mother’s day gift for me all by herself.  She got me a silver heart split in half with one side engraved “Daughter” and the other half engraved “Mother”.  It might as well have been made out of the most precious stone in existence.  I cherish it!  I spent the whole day surrounded by family and friends, and two extra special visitors.  Beginning last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of experiencing what it is like to parent a family of three little girls!  I have been very fortunate to have kept in close contact with my daughter’s previous foster mother, and from time to time she calls me for respite (temporary placement for foster kids, short term) care for her other foster children.  For 5 whole days I was mommy to a one year old, a two year old and my six year old little girl. 

What a dramatic shift it is to go from parenting one mostly independent six year old to changing diapers, assisting with feeding and making mad dashes to the potty with a potty training toddler!!!  I remember turning to my husband at one point in the midst of pure exhaustion and saying, “Maybe three is too many!”  Like I said, it can be challenging when your entire world shifts like this in one day!  I found it difficult at times to figure out how to balance my time between all three of them.  They all have really unique personalities, needs and interests.  At times I felt like there just wasn’t enough of me to go around.  We managed to work it out pretty well though, and it seemed like it was smooth sailing into the weekend.  Sunday morning the children’s classes were pooled together so that they could make Mother’s day crafts.  Of course it HAD to involve paint!  I valiantly offered to stay and help since I was contributing three little busy bodies to the class size.  I also LOVE kids crafts!  I was blissfully unaware that my sweet little one year old who hadn’t cried a peep the whole week was about to have an emotional breakdown that threatened to crater my confidence and all my newly honed super-mom skills.  She did though, and an hour or so later she wasn’t the only one in tears.  When the Sunday school bell rang to dismiss classes I made a mad dash down the hall way to find my husband.  I’m sure I looked desperate and frazzled when I handed her over and said, “Your turn!” and then ducked back into the classroom.  To my surprise I peeked back into the hall to see her happy as lark just staring at him like she’d been looking for him all day and was relieved to be in his arms.  My friend, who is more like a sister, must have sensed my distress. Ladies, we all know that it merely takes someone asking, “Are you okay??” and the water works just go into over drive.  I stood there blubbering like a whipped puppy telling her how frustrated and inadequate I felt.  I felt guilty because at some point it felt like my attitude became less about the babie’s needs and more about me just wanting her to stop crying and grant me a moment of peace!  What kind of mother gets frustrated with a crying child that clearly needs her?  She just smiled and put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Every mom that ever lived.”   

The time we have with these foster kids can be so short, and as a mom I have this deep rooted desire to make as much of a difference in their little lives given the time that I do get to share with them.  You never really know where they’re coming from, or even where they’ll end up.  They have emotional challenges that we mistakenly think are beyond their capacity to really experience, and it’s hard to understand when they react to things differently or just can’t be consoled.  Like any good foster parent I just want to make sure that they know love and affection and the security of a safe environment.  I often feel I’m unworthy of such a big task, or that someone else could’ve done a better job than I did.  Fortunately, God has blessed me with a level-headed, spiritual husband who is always available to reassure me that giving all the love we can while we can is all they really need and want.  He reminds me that we didn’t become foster parents by chance, and that God chose us for this special purpose.  Knowing that God has led us here reminds me that He would not have done so without providing all that we need to fulfill this calling to service.  You see, so many people have told me coming into this that I need to “guard my heart” so that I don’t get burned out or crushed under the pressure of the system.  Some have said to “hold tight to my heart strings”.  The truth is that it would be easier to rely on myself, to not trust, and to hold back and be hard and distanced.  I believe God had a greater purpose in mind for us to love these children, and to not withhold ourselves no matter what the emotional price tag may be.  No matter how frustrated or worn out I am, or whether I’m struggling with self-doubt, I love them through it.  When they’re scared, or upset and can’t decide what they want or who they want, we love them through it.  When little minds are anxious about their future, we love them through it.  Clearly there will be times when we aren’t enough, or we are less than we hoped to be, but God loves us all through that and pours into us all that we need and ask for in prayer.

It’s always hard on “take-back” days.  It’s kind of like the midnight hour when the magic fades, carriages turn back to pumpkins, and reality checks in and reminds me that my time with them has come to an end.  I know that without faith in God’s sovereign power this privilege would be impossible, and the fear of what their future holds would consume me entirely.  I try not to mourn their departure, but my humanity often gets the better of me on days like these.  It was an emotional challenge to go from one young child to three in one day, and to subsequently go from three to one five days later.  The house is always especially quiet when we get back.  The beds are still unmade from when we woke their sleepy heads up that morning, and toys are still strewn out all over the house.  Sippy cups are still being pulled from the most random of hiding places, and it’s not uncommon to find a stray piece of cereal or pop-tart stuck to the floor or the wall or the dog :).  The little one is not sure what to do with all her companions gone, and only us boring adult types left to entertain her.  All around us there are all these little remnants and reminders that someone is missing.  But then….I stumble across a popsicle stick glued together to look like a wand that’s covered in stickers and crayon scribble.  I smile because I think about the good memory I have of us all gathered around the table making crafts for each other and laughing about the two year old who giggles and says, “You silly Ms. Carly!”  I see the ripped up construction paper and recall the sweet one year old that would rather eat the craft supplies than assemble them, and how she barely knows any words but would perk up and say, “Daddy, daddy!” every time my husband came near.  People have commented, “Why get so attached when they were never really yours to keep?  When you barely even knew them?”  My response is this –  they are my temporary forevers.  My time spent with them is fleeting, but the memories we create are lasting.  The lessons I learned from them about how to be a better mom are enduring.  The way they unknowingly point me back to faith and trust in hard times is everlasting.  They may only be with me for a brief temporary time, but they are in my heart forever.

Please take a moment to pray for children in need, and for those who aid them in finding their way to reuniting with family or being adopted into forever homes.  Join me in giving thanks to a God who fulfills the needs of all His children in His perfect timing.

Be Blessed!

Carly

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Signed, Your Secret Encourager

Signed, Your Secret Encourager.

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Signed, Your Secret Encourager

015I know it’s been a while….but today was definitely a blog worthy day.

It’s been a rough morning in mommy land. Today was one of those days when I needed to be at the top of my game, and I just wasn’t feeling it. I had lain awake last night for hours shivering with fever, but what was worse was worrying about our little boy who was away on an overnight visit with his biological mother. Was he sleeping soundly? Did he wonder where we were? I pray so often that he knows we would give anything to be with him always. If it wasn’t for cold medicine I could have stared at the ceiling all night. I awoke from my Nyquil induced coma at 7 a.m. to the buzzing of a text message saying that she was on her way to bring him home. God is so good, and by grace alone she had asked to bring him home early today. I couldn’t wait to have him back in my arms. It was time to get up and get moving but my body ached like I had aged sixty years in my sleep, and my leap out of bed was more like a sad little creeping crawl to the shower. We had to get going though, ready or not, it’s Christmas program day!
We gave sloppy cereal breath goodbye kisses to Daddy as he headed out to work this morning. We’re short-handed at work so there was no way he could come with us today. He felt terrible about it, and we sure do miss him when he’s gone during the day. At least he got to see the baby this morning before he left. It’s so hard on him when he has to head out before Baby wakes up, and then he’s gone when he gets home. We finished up our breakfast and began the Hudson madness chaos dash to brush, dry, fluff, apply bows, and get shoes on the right feet. Once again it was ten minutes until time to leave and there I was with wet hair, still in my pajamas, and trying to keep my wheezing and coughing somewhat isolated from my three little germ catching munchkins. Somehow, someway, we survived and managed to get everyone snapped, zipped, polished (sort of), loaded and buckled in.
We FINALLY made it to school, albeit ten minutes late, but we made it. I threw on as much make-up as I could in the car, and loaded up Baby in the stroller while trying to keep the girls from darting across the parking lot full of cars. You know they only want to run in different directions when your hands are more than full and your throat feels like you swallowed hot coals for breakfast. As we’re heading in, Aryanna looks at me and says, “Mom did you even brush your hair today?” Truth hurts, doesn’t it? I calmly replied that yes I did brush my hair and that I had decided to wear it “curly” today. She was not convinced. She looked me over again and said, “Hmmm…okay.” It would do no good right now to explain a mother’s sacrifice, and my feelings of inadequacy and stress at the moment, so we just walked as quickly as we could with no more talking. My fears were confirmed when the first person we encountered was the school director. She had a concerned look on her face when we blew in (literally…the wind was crazy) through the door and she asked, “Are you alright?” Ha-ha, if only I could answer that openly. We would need a great deal more time to discuss exactly how NOT alright I am feeling right now. “Oh yes,” I replied, “I’ve just been a little sick that’s all.” If running a 102 plus temperature for the last two days constitutes being “a little sick”. This is one of those moments when moms find themselves quoting obnoxiously optimistic kid shows…..“Just keep swimming.” At long last I made both drop offs, and now all I had to do was find a seat, try my best not to appear sad, exhausted and awkwardly alone, and try even harder not to let Baby take over the Christmas program with some out-of-this-world tantrum. He had already been giving me that not-so-subtle “I was woken up too early” cue. Can we do it?? Yes we can!! 
Astonishingly, the little one almost made it entirely through both programs….almost. I’ll call that one a win. The girls did FABULOUS! It was definitely one of those moments where you find yourself sitting there looking at them thinking God I cannot believe that you have blessed me so with these beautiful and talented children. Every ounce of chaos is worth being their mom. Every bit of it. It’s impossible to feel sorry for myself at that point no matter what I am going through behind the scenes. Building a family through the foster system has been an ongoing spiritual battle to say the least. Our children have become ours against incredible odds. There is no other way to explain it than just to say it is a God thing. Still, it is all too easy at times to overlook that incredible victory, and become so inwardly focused on the struggles we’re facing right now. I was blessed to run into an old friend as I was leaving the school on Monday. I was in my normal state of frazzle without the dazzle (some of you manage to pull off both nicely), and toting a heavy wiggly baby on my hip. She asked me about him and I told her that he would be leaving us soon. She was sympathetic of course, but then she smiled and she said, “But the girls are all yours right? They’re okay?” Yes, they sure are. They are all ours and nobody can ever change that. God is good. He has been good and He continues to be so so good, even when it feels like we are experiencing a season of hardship. I was thankful right then that she had reminded me of that. I find myself needing to hear it often lately.
I have definitely been feeling like we are in the throng of a powerful storm recently. I have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to figure out how to wage this battle over Baby in a way that is edifying to God. I have failed on so many levels time and time again, because my heart just aches for my little boy. I have pain to the very depths of my soul over the grief that I have watched my husband and my girls endure as they try to make the most of what time we have left with him. We have prayed over the other families that have been affected by the case; namely, the caregivers who had taken temporary custody of Baby’s siblings. I have been fortunate to keep in contact with the grandmother of one of the children. She is grieving much the same as we are. Late last night she sent me a message asking, “Do you ever feel forsaken?” Yes I do sometimes. I feel forsaken, punished, abandoned…you name it. I feel broken. As we talked we realized that we were both experiencing the same fears and doubts. Then she asked me how we get past these feelings. I sat there searching my heart, and all I could think was that I wished he was home right now so I could hold him. You know why? I LOVE loving that little boy. It has been one of the greatest blessings of my entire life. Whether he stayed forever, or only for a moment, it does not diminish the mercy, grace and incredible affection that God showed in allowing us to be a part of his story. People tell me all the time that we have been such amazing parents sharing God with him and planting seeds in his heart. Maybe there is some truth to that, but through and through I have learned more about God through this little baby boy than he has probably learned from me. It has been quite a humbling experience. So that is what I shared with her in that moment reminding her to focus on the blessings and the great joy she had shared with her granddaughter. I told her to seek wise counsel, and look to the Word. I also told her that being surrounded by godly people who have prayed over us, built us up and encouraged us has been so crucial. I can’t even begin to express the love we have received from both old friends and new friends. It has been incredibly moving. It has been a constant reminder of how God provides when it just seems like giving up is the only option. He sends messengers of grace at exactly the right moment. Today was one of those moments for me….
We made it back home about 10:30 this morning after avoiding any melt downs about not staying to see Santa for the 3rd time this month, and not indulging in donuts after we had already had a full breakfast an hour earlier. Baby was in desperate need of a nap time. I rocked him gently, running my fingers through his hair and singing a raspy version of unchained melody. He didn’t seem to mind that I was off key. He had just nodded off when I heard a car pull into the driveway. Who could be here right now? I stood up slowly trying not to wake him as I saw a flash of blonde hair whisk past my front window. Then the door knob rattled. I had a little moment of irrational panic thinking heaven help us someone is trying to break in!! Then before I could get to the door the car was backing down the driveway just as quickly as it had arrived. That was strange. Hanging there on the door knob was a Christmas gift sack. How unexpected. Why didn’t they knock and let me thank them? Did they come to the wrong house? Did we leave something at school in our mad rush to get home? I laid the baby in his crib and sat down on the couch with the sack. As I opened it up I saw that it was filled with cards with my name on them. Tears were already welling up in my eyes. “Now, what is this all about?” I asked myself. One by one I opened them and read them, with the sound of the girls playing in the room behind me.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:2

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, the will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

“We are praying for you…”

I can barely write this now without tearing up all over again. It was an anonymous act of great love. Sitting there holding those cards there was no grief or sadness big enough or great enough to outshine the overpowering joy that washed over me. We are only mortal humans, with mere mortal hands and bodies, but when God decides to use as conduits of His great love, the simplest acts of kindness can move mountains and calm raging seas. So….thank you God for reminding me today that I am not forsaken. Thank you for forgiving me when I fail to acknowledge Your nearness and the many blessings that I have received. Thank you for my friends who give selflessly without seeking anything in return. Thank you for loving them in a way that stirs them to share that love with others just to make much of You. Thank you for not being disappointed in me when I need to be reminded over and over…and over….that You desire good things for me, and that You have a greater plan in all of this. Thank you for always being at the top of Your game….especially when I am not at the top of mine. You are good, You are great, and I love You too, God.

P.s. The cookies and the banana bread from Lida’s are amazing.
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” Psalm 34:8

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Temporary Forevers

Temporary Forevers.

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Strength, Patience, Trust & An Empty Crib Full of Hope – A Prayer Request

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Strength, Patience, Trust & An Empty Crib Full of Hope – A Prayer Request.

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Strength, Patience, Trust & An Empty Crib Full of Hope – A Prayer Request

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God – Phillipians 4:6

This week has been a bit trying so it was certainly worthy of a little creative outlet.  I recently sent out a request to many asking for prayers for our family.  As always, the response was tremendous.  We are incredibly blessed with a network of truly caring individuals who, despite their own busy hectic lives, will stop at any given moment and offer prayer on our behalf.  It is one of the truest and most evident expressions of God’s love at work in the hearts of mankind.  Just one more way that He provides in the gap between home and this temporary place that we live.

At the end of last week we got a call about an infant that could potentially be placed in our home soon.  We have spent many nights with bowed heads, and heart-felt requests for a second child to bless our home.  This isn’t the first of these type of calls that we have received.  There have been many others before this one that, for one reason or another, did not come to be.  It’s always an emotional challenge to wait in anticipation for a child that may never come whether you’re talking about adoption or infertility or troubled pregnancies.  You can’t hope enough that they’ll soon be in your arms, but you can’t let go of nagging fears that they’ll never make it there at all.  When we first made the decision to become foster/adoptive parents we had to prepare our home for whatever we might need.  Part of this process involved purchasing a crib.  I can’t express how long I had desired to have that moment.  I must have looked at a hundred cribs trying to find the one that was just right.  I got so wrapped up in the moment as we carried it home that evening.  I couldn’t wait to unpack it and set it up, and decorate it with soft little blankies and animal prints.  I really let my guard down that day.  I even have a plethora of photos of my husband piecing it all together while I sat in the floor with him smiling from ear to ear, as if I was too fragile to lend a hand.  I kept telling him, “Oh no, this is the Daddy’s job!”  He didn’t dare remind  me that I was just as un-fragile as I’d ever been in the last 6 years.  He just let me be in the moment.  One of the many reasons that I love him so deeply.  For the first few weeks after the room was set up I would go in there and just sit and stare at it smiling uncontrollably.  Sometimes I liked to run my hands along the smooth rounded rails and adjust the Noah’s Ark blanket that lay folded over the front rail.  It really is beautiful. 

It has been almost 2 years since we bought that crib.  Sometimes I look at it now and feel guilty that I had gotten so lost in my excitement and made such a frivolous purchase.  It hasn’t gone completely unused though.  At one time my daughter used it as a couch for her stuffed animals and a bed for her baby dolls.  Other times my baby sister (she’ll be 2 in May) has used it when she spends the night.  It started out in my daughter’s room, but as her toy collection expanded it had to be moved.  We thought about packing it away to storage, but I just couldn’t do it.  I sat crying in the hall that day telling my husband, “We just can’t, it’s like we’re giving up!”  I know he wanted to shove that THING in the deepest corner of the darkest storage unit and forget about its exsistence entirely.  In some ways I felt exactly the same.  I just couldn’t though.  Naturally, it wouldn’t fit through the door in her room so we had to disassemble it to move it to the spare room.  Then we had to put it back together.  It wasn’t as much fun as I recalled it being before.  I sat in the floor across the room with my face covered and cried.  My poor husband was bewildered.  He would stop and come to console me saying, “We can get rid of it if it hurts you so badly.”  I trudged on though shaking my head and pointing for him to finish it.  The job was finally done with and we slammed the door and left that room in the dust hoping all of our hurt and disappointments would stay barricaded up next to that mocking forsaken hunk of furniture.  I knew that would never really work though.

Sometimes people have a hard time understanding how I can feel such angst over the arrival of another child after the incredible blessing that we experienced when we adopted our daughter.  They would never tell me they found me to be ungrateful, but it’s on their minds all the same.  I know the difference though.  In my heart of hearts I can tell you that if my daughter is the only child that I am meant to have then I believe that God has already given me more than I deserve.  She is NOT the minimal expression of His desires to be my good and gracious Father.  Loving her and being a mom is the best thing that has ever happened to me.  Before I ever dreamed of white wedding gowns, and home purchases I knew that I wanted to be a mom.  God has blessed our hearts with an incredible love for children, and as parents we have so much that we want to give.  I don’t believe that’s all for not.  I believe with all that I am that God placed this extraordinary love inside of us for a very important purpose.  He prepared in us as hopeful parents so that when that time came, no matter where our children came from or by what manner of circumstances they arrived, we could love them like we’d known them since they took their very first breath.  What an amazing gift of grace.  I may not have carried my daughter in my womb, but I have held her in my heart my whole life until she came to be with us.  So….I have a crib.  I hold onto hope even though it doesn’t make worldly sense to do so sometimes.  I remember that everything God does in our lives is meant for our good, and we wait for His timing.

I hope that you’ll join us in praying for our family that God would see fit to bless us with this new child in His time.  At times our flesh fails us and the fears of the unknown can weigh heavy on our hearts, so I hope that you will also pray for strength, patience and trust.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would fortify us, and sustain us.  We continue to pray that our desires for God come before and above all others.  We are abundantly blessed to wake up every morning surrounded in evidence of His outpouring of love over His creation.  We remember to say thank you, and tell Him that we love him, too.

Be blessed friends!

~ Carly

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Turning Points

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As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” – John 9:1-3

 

For the longest time I believed that my infertility was a curse.  I actively believed that I was being punished by God for something that I had done in my past.  Heaven knows He certainly had a large enough list of wrong doings to choose to punish me for.  I guess that’s how I viewed God growing up, as this vengeful, wrathful, authority figure who was just waiting for me to screw up again and again.  It was like I knew God had seen through to my deepest fear and said, “Yep!  That’s the one!  That’s what I’m going to do to you to prove to you how you are off the narrow path.”  My worst fears had come true and I was actively living out my greatest nightmare.

Now there’s a lot of story in the middle of all of those really sorrowful times that I’ll address in future posts, but I don’t believe it’s right to begin there.  The reason is that I simply can’t fathom how fruitful it would be for a young woman or a man reading this, dealing with the same troubles, to read through years of travesty and not make it to the best part of the story.  So we’re going to start with the joy.  In September 2012, after 6 years of failed infertility treatments, miscarriages, and adoption cases that fell through, we adopted our daughter.  She had just turned six years old a couple of weeks prior.  It was/is/will be the best day of our lives.  On that breezy, beautiful day in September, God showed up in an incredibly big way and was very clear to me.  It wasn’t a punishment.  I wasn’t forsaken.  My life was NOT about God making me the poster child for showing others what happens when you lead a life of self and sin.  On that extraordinary day in September, God showed up and said, “I’m here, I’ve been here and I’m going to bring you a testimony.  Go yell it from the mountaintops!!!  Oh, and p.s.  I’ve loved you more deeply than you’ll ever be able to conceive of, but you’re going to start finding that out beginning now.  This is your turning point.”  It was my turning point.  She is my testimony.  My daughter is God’s grace and mercy in one little short spunky living and loving package.  Every time I look at her I’m reminded that I serve a God who is sovereign, and so much greater than any hardship that we may face in life.  Leading her to faith in Christ has been a unique and privileged opportunity, because we are walking that path of learning together.  Both ‘babes in Christ’ as my dear friend puts it.  I can’t imagine life any other way. 

I encountered the verse in the book of John on a warm afternoon drive to Fort Worth with my family.  My husband and I had decided to begin our daily intake of the word in the book of John, and I thought it would be a great thing to read aloud while we were traveling.  I remember the first time I read the verse my mind immediately shot to my infertility.  I read it out loud a second time and looked at my husband and said, “Oh my gosh, did you hear that?”  He smiled and nodded, and I immediately had to pick-up my cell phone and text our pastor the verse.  You know that moment when the teacher walks over to you in class and looks down at your work and gives you that approving smile and nod as if to say, “Well done!”  That’s what that moment was like.  Yes, Carly, yes you finally get it.  Neither the afflicted man nor his parents caused his blindness.  He wasn’t being punished, but rather it was all for a greater Godly purpose.  The disciples were just walking along thinking, “Gee I wonder what this guy did??”  Jesus turns to them and tells them he didn’t do a thing.  The blind man was not representative of the absence of well-being, but rather was fully representative of the presence of God at work.  My story used to be about infertility, but it became a story about grace and mercy.  I used to live as a portrait of sadness and brokenness, but now all I can do is talk about this incredible wealth of light in my life.  It was never all in vain, but so that God’s goodness, mercy, and sovereign power could be displayed through my life.

  There are countless people in this world.  When I try to imagine God loving me individually sometimes I feel like I’m the short kid in the crowd that can’t quite see over everybody’s shoulders.  When I think of this testimony I am just blown away.  Of all the people in this world who have lived purer lives than mine, God chose me and my life and my family to display the magnitude of who He is.  That is humbling.  The takeaway here is to remember who makes the sun come out at the end of a rain storm.  Who makes the mountains of impossibility move like they were nothing but grains of sand?  The next time you’re rounding to the finishing line of some marathon period of despair remember to stop and give glory to the One who carried you home, and then spend the rest of your life proclaiming it to a world that is on their way to their own turning point in life.  As my dear friend once told me, you can’t bask in the glory of miracles without looking to the One who makes them possible.  God is good, and I am grateful.  Be blessed friends!    

 

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