Celebrating 2018

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from my family to yours!

I sent this out a few days ago to my 3 Thankful Thoughts friends, and I want to share it with you too.

[I invite you to join my inner circle of friends who get a few encouraging words each week! My weekly email is short and sweet, I promise. Join me by clicking HERE.]

The top left photo shows Russ, Mimi, Samuel, Annarose, and Claire on the final day of their trek to Machu Picchu in Peru. Russ had always wanted to do this trip and Annarose’s studies in Colombia (and travel to many other countries) were the impetus he needed to make it happen. Mimi, Samuel, and Claire joined them for this incredible adventure.

The next photo is of Hannah and David a short time before they were engaged – hence the lack of ring on her finger. The wedding is July 13th at our home, which thrills and terrifies me. We have a lot of work to do!

The bottom left photo shows Noah and Katie at Noah’s graduation from medical school. He’s now in residency with plans to become a maternal fetal medicine specialist, a subspecialty of ObGyn.

Next is a photo of Russ and me with Beza at her high school graduation. It was a big accomplishment! She is now in Job Corps in San Diego studying hospitality.

The final photo is most of us, plus two friends-who-are-family, at the Ballard Locks in Seattle.

God was gentle with us in 2018, and it’s been a better year for our family than we’ve had in a long time. Russ and I are so thankful for the good things God is doing in the lives of our kids.

We’re looking toward 2019 with hope and expectation. Change happens quickly as our kids pursue education, careers, and make big life decisions. Russ and I are in awe of the amazing people they’re becoming.

With only four left at home (and soon three), we’re helping Zoe transition out of foster care, Claire plan for college, and cheering for Ebenezer and Wogayu as they play lots of sports.

My house is brimming with family this week; I’m writing as they all sleep. I’m taking the first week of January off to spend with Russ focusing on our marriage, plans, and dreams for 2019. I may pop in, but if not, I’ll see you the second week of January.

I’ll have a new episode of The Adoption Connection podcast for you Tuesday, January 8th!

From my family to yours, may courage and love carry you through the end of 2018. I wish you a heart filled with hope as we move into the newness of 2019.

You’re a good mom – you really are. Take good care of yourself through the holiday season.

All my love,


How To Stay Connected With Your Kids When They Don’t Live at Home


Are you looking for¬†great ways to say connected with your kids who aren’t living at home?

Some of our kids leave our homes for happy reasons – they’re growing up and going to college or starting a job. Other times their departure is due to hard reasons, like residential treatment.

Melissa and I share our experiences of our children leaving home for a short time or longer – the happy and the hard.

How do we stay connected when emotions are tough? How do we connect with our big kids when our days are consumed with younger, or simply more demanding, siblings?

We share our best tips in this episode of The Adoption Connection podcast.

#19 How to Stay Connected to Kids Not Living at Home

I hope you’re enjoying the podcast as much as we enjoy creating it!


There is a Cost to Being Used by God

“There is a cost to being used by God.”¬† Aaron Couch

At a recent speaking event, I talked with the adoptive mom of two young children from foster care. With grown kids and now in her early fifties, she and her husband didn’t go into foster care hoping to adopt, but they loved these kids, and when it became clear the children would not be returning to their family, they said, “Yes,” to being¬†their parents forever.

And you know what? It’s beautiful.

And it’s really hard.

Research tells us trauma shapes the brain and interrupts normal development. We know healing the brain takes far more than love, although that’s essential. It takes time and often intense therapeutic parenting. This healing commonly requires help from a team of professionals. And it’s long – loving kids from “hard places” is a long journey.

Adoption looks messy, especially to people outside our families who don’t understand our kids’ unique needs. In fact, it looks and feels messy to those of us on the inside too, but we’re no longer surprised. It’s become our lives.

This mom told me people have questioned whether they made the right decision. Did they really hear God? After all, this appears to be a bit of trainwreck.

My response? The folks asking questions need to read the Bible.

Time and again in scripture, we see people follow God with all their hearts and yet suffer. Hardship is their companion.

There are so many examples, but today, the apostle Paul comes to mind. He was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, sleepless, hungry, and thirsty. Following Jesus did not make his life easy. It cost him everything.

As my pastor says, “There is a cost to being used by God.”

You cannot enter into a child’s suffering without suffering in some way too. Trauma is messy and spills over onto the ones willing to come near. Yet you have immersed yourself in it in the name of love.

Foster and adoptive parents, you are being used by God. You are a shelter for children needing to know they are precious, valued, and loved. When they look in your eyes and see warmth and acceptance, they begin to trust you, which is foundational for healing.

I know many of you face hardships as a result of saying, “Yes,” to caring for vulnerable children. Don’t lose heart;¬†hold on.

The apostle Paul said it himself, “Your labor is not in vain.”

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Cor. 15:58

You are good parents, doing good work in hard circumstances. God sees you and is near.

Each week I send, 3 Thankful Thoughts, a short email you can read in a minute or two with encouraging words and links to posts and resources. I’d love to include you! I’ll send you a free parenting guide filled with hope as my welcome.

With courage and hope,


Why We Took the Leap Into Foster Care

I’m honored to be a guest author today on the fabulous blog, Confessions of an Adoptive Parent.

God called us to do something unexpected when we became foster parents to a teen girl. Two and a half years later, as Zoe prepares to leave our home, I have so many thoughts and feelings.

I share some of them in this post, When Faith Requires You to Do Something Scary.

Note the title isn’t about faith requiring you to do something dangerous or foolish – but something that pushes you farther than you might think you can go.

I’d love to hear what you think.

With hope and courage, my friend,


You Won’t Want to Miss These!

I’ve gotten terribly behind on sharing podcast episodes! They’re so good I don’t want you to miss them.

#15 Using Everyday Tasks to Build Connection

You already know connected parenting is great, but does it ever feel too many burdens and expectations are set on your already heavy shoulders? My co-host, Melissa, and I have both been there and know just how hard it is.

In Episode 15, we talk about simple ways to build connection with your children in the midst of everyday life. It’s all about looking for little opportunities as we go through our days and not about making life more complicated.

Melissa and I have very different lives, families, and interests, so you’ll hear a wide range of thoughts as we talk.


#16 The Ultimate Shopping Guide for Adoptive Families

Melissa and I share some of their favorite gift ideas for the people you love, and a few suggestions for you too in this episode. Maybe you’ll find some new ideas here!



#17 Help Your Kids Discover Their Strengths and Plan for the Future – with Wendy Willard

Maybe you’re struggling to see anything positive in your child’s behaviors. Or maybe your teens’ self-esteem and confidence are so low they’re convinced they’re failures. As moms, we night question whether we’re cut out for this enormous of of raising kids with such troubled pasts.

In this episode, Wendy Willard brings us fresh insight and practical tools for helping us discover our kids’ strengths which can give us hope for the future.

Don’t miss this one – I loved it and learned new things. I’m considering ordering this book for some of my teens for Christmas, and maybe this book for Russ and me.

I hope you’re enjoying the podcast!

If you’re not sure how to listen or subscribe, here’s a quick link for you.

Also, if you’re enjoying the podcast, please leave us a rating (5 stars is awesome) and a review (even two words), which helps other foster and adoptive moms find us when they search podcast listings.

We’re in this together, friend.


How to Find Hope this Christmas Season

It’s nearly December and Advent begins this Sunday.

Many of us come to this season feeling hopeless. Maybe you’re struggling with your children. You may feel you’re living a life you didn’t sign up for and you’re grieving the life you imagined you’d have. Marriages struggle. Sickness presses us down.

Sometimes darkness closes in.

In this place of hopelessness, Jesus comes. He steps down into the lowly places to be with us in our hardest moments, in our sorrow, in our shame. Nothing is too dark for Him.

He comes as the light of the world bringing hope and light to our lives.

On the first Sunday of Advent, we light the Hope candle. In order to hope, we have to connect with our hopelessness. Even in the times when God seems silent, He is present and that first light of Advent reminds us He is near.

[This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.]

Each Sunday we light an additional candle and the light grows brighter as we anticipate and celebrate the coming of Jesus.

I’ve loved Advent traditions for many years, and have written numerous posts about the ways our family observes this special season. This year, all of a sudden, my kids are older and busier.

I’m thinking about how to hold on to what is dear¬†while recognizing life is very different now. Our evenings¬†are filled with basketball practices and games, kids’ jobs, and homework; often we’re not at the dinner table together.

While hanging an ornament on our special tree may seem childish in some ways, it roots us in our truth, that God’s redemptive plan for our lives has been in place since creation. This year we may read the scriptures and hang multiple ornaments each Sunday rather than each day. Imperfect is better than not at all.

We’ll use Unwrapping the Greatest Gift as a guide for hanging our Advent ornaments.¬† The Wonder of the Greatest Gift looks really lovely if you’re looking for a way to celebrate with your family. The pop-up tree is fantastic; scroll down the Amazon page to see pictures of the author’s daughter with the book.

We’ll also follow a free reading guide like this one available through LifeWay or this free pdf.

I recognize that if Advent is important to me, I need to put more effort into planning my personal Advent journey. I’m following the readings in¬†The Advent of the Lamb of God.¬† If it doesn’t arrive on time, I’ll start with the older version on Kindle, Behold the Lamb of God. I just might light my¬†own Advent candle each morning as I do.

Advent and Christmas also bring our family into our time of greatest grief; we lost Kalkidan four years ago on December 27th. This is all the more reason I need to press into Christ. My heart is so easily troubled and anxious. My mind runs to “what ifs,” what if we hadn’t stopped at the mailbox, what if we’d waited one more day to make the trip. And why, oh why, was there a car coming toward us on that cruel curve early that morning.

Jesus says, “Peace, be still.” Be still my heart and mind. Light the candle. Read the words of truth. Anticipate the coming of my savior, the Light of the World.

You might like more of my Advent posts:

Four Simple Advent Traditions

Finding Advent, Finding Hope

Advent: Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

My heart feels tender and tears are near as I write this morning. I know how very hard holidays can be when life feels tumultous and the days impossible. When relationships are broken and our hearts are low, when we feel shame or fear, it’s hard to hold on to hope.

I’m with you. I understand.

If you need encouragement, I have a free gift for you, Hope for Your Parenting Journey: A guide for adoptive and foster moms.

I send you my love,