Remembering Kalkidan

I wish I was one of those people who dreamed of loved ones in heaven. It’s only happened a couple of times since we lost Kalkidan. This was one of those times.

Our family was gathered around a table. I was sitting at one end and the table was long with so many of us together. We were talking and laughing when Kalkidan ran into the room. 

Shouts went up, “She’s here! She’s here! Kalkidan is here!”

She ran to me, crawled into my lap, and rested her head against my chest. I kissed her forehead, my cheek brushing against her curls.

For a moment I felt warmth and joy, then I felt myself begin to surface from sleep, and I realized it was a dream. I tried to hold on to it, to sink more deeply into the dream and let it flow on, but it was gone.

I wanted to reach for Russ, rest my head on his chest, borrow some of his courage, but I also didn’t want to wake him when his alarm would do it soon enough.

I drifted back to sleep.

I woke again in the morning with a deep sense of sadness.

Today (10/29) is Kalkidan’s birthday.

This should be her senior year of high school and she should be walking next to Claire at their graduation next spring.

But even as I type the words “should” I sense that’s not quite what I mean. This all should be true, but only if I can have my own way. The fact is, I don’t get my own way, I can only walk in God’s way.

His plans are better, even when I don’t understand. I bend my knee to him– I trust him.

But that surrender is not easy; sometimes I have to fight for it. I’m reminded of a story in the gospel of John. Many of Jesus’s disciples had turned away and he asked the twelve if they were going to leave too.  Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, you are the holy one of God.”

I see no other way than to trust Jesus, the holy one of God. I can’t imagine living through a tragedy like this without him. But that doesn’t change the reality that grief is hard.

C.S. Lewis wrote,

No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.

Grief is an animal I can’t control.

Sometimes it’s powerful and overwhelming; I feel crushed under its weight. Other times it’s a small wave of sadness that almost feels right and good because it means I haven’t forgotten.

The first two years after we lost Kalkidan, I was overcome by a feeling of fear. Or maybe it was a sense of confusion, like it just couldn’t be possible. To be honest, I still feel that way some days. But there was fear and a sense that the world was no longer safe.

C.S. Lewis goes on to say,

I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in.

That invisible blanket was very real in the early years – I was different after the accident. Nearly five years later, I know I will never be the person I was before losing Kalkidan. There is no getting back to the way it was before, or who I was before. I’m forever changed.

And that feels right to me.

Some of my children have gotten tattoos as symbols of how they have been changed and what God has done. One tattoo says, “it is well” the other “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” I don’t have a tattoo, but I’m marked by changes in who I am and how I relate to the world.

Of all the things that weigh on me, I don’t want Kalkidan to be forgotten. Her life shaped mine in so many life-changing ways. Her life may have touched you too.

Today we are remembering Kalkidan. Thank you for letting me share her with you.  #rememberingkalkidan

If you have lost someone you love, I’m very sorry you are walking through this too. I send you my love.

With courage and hope,

Lisa

Have You Ever Made a Call Like This?

Way back in 2008, I was drowning. Our first three adopted children had been home for 18 months and the needs were far beyond my capacity to meet.

I was scared, sad, and feeling alone.

Our agency had a private group where parents communicated. I’d been following the story of one mom who was sharing the really hard things they were going through. Even though I didn’t say it in the group, I felt like I understood.

One weekend when Russ was out of town, everything fell apart and I needed to talk to someone – but I didn’t know who.

Nobody could possibly understand.

Then I thought of this young mom in the group. We were complete strangers, and she was more than a decade younger than me, but I knew her name.

And I knew she wouldn’t be surprised by anything I shared or what I was feeling.

I felt a little crazy, but I posted a message in the group asking if I could talk to her and she replied with her phone number.

So I called. I think I managed to say, “Hi, this is Lisa,” and then I began to cry.

Friendship

That call launched a friendship that is still precious to me. We’ve walked through so much together, lots of hard, but also lots of everyday life. We talk about kids, recipes, marriage, Jesus, and school options.

We both adopted once more after that call, so we supported each other through the ups and downs of the process and then bringing a new child home.

Two summers ago on our family road trip, we got together at her family’s homestead. It was so much fun to see our kids play together, eat together, and have fun. We even snuck away for a walk – just the two of us and her baby.

Friends, we need each other.

Since then I’ve found so many dear friends in the adoption world. Their lives may be entirely different in many ways, but as adoptive and foster moms, we understand each other.

I could share so many pictures and stories but this post would get far too long.

For years I’ve said I wish we could gather around my table with coffee to talk, share our lives, pray, laugh, and maybe cry a little. The fact that we’re spread all around the world makes that difficult.

So, I’ve created the next best thing, a sweet place where we can gather, a place that recognizes the hard of adoption and foster care while also celebrating the beauty.

The Hope Circle

I’ve created a membership community where you can renew your hopeful, courageous heart and become the mom you’re meant to be.

The Hope Circle for Adoptive and Foster Moms

If you’re weary, discouraged, or feeling alone, this group is for you. I offer hope rooted in Jesus, mentorship, and real-life strategies. Best of all, we do this in community with other adoptive and foster moms.

I love this group so much. It’s the very first thing I check when I turn on my computer in the morning. In my own way, I’m having coffee with my friends.

In order to keep the group connected and maintain a safe space, I only open the group from time to time and there are a limited number of spaces available.

The group will be open to new members Sept. 1-14 and then will close again for an undetermined length of time.

I spent many hours putting together a page with lots of good information about the group, so I won’t repeat it all here. But please take a look. If you have any questions, email me and I will answer ([email protected]). This group is my top priority.

Real Community

That call I made all those years ago, the one where I couldn’t talk because I was crying so much, it taught me something. We cannot do this alone. We need moms in the adoption world walking with us, friends who won’t say things like, “Oh, that’s just boy stuff,” or “All teens are like that.”

They get it – and they get you.

Plus, I get to hang out with you too!

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop so you can click over and read more about it on The Hope Circle for Adoptive and Foster Moms page. It’s good stuff – I promise.

I can’t wait to see you there.

All my love – with courage and hope too.

Lisa

Real Answers to “What Can I Do if I Don’t Like My Child?”

Do you ever wake up in the morning and feel you just can’t do it – you can’t be the mom you want to be? You went into foster care and adoption because you loved kids and wanted to make a difference.

But now?

You’re hardly making it through the days. You’re so darn tired and your heart feels like it could just give out.

You hardly recognize the mother you’ve become.

Or maybe this all sounds a bit dire, but you still find yourself wishing you could enjoy being a mom again. Your kids’ needs are just so consuming!

Way back in 2012 I shared a Tuesday Topic question about what to do when you don’t like your child. That post continues to be one of my most-read posts each year, which tells me something important.

While many foster and adoptive parents love their kids and are working SO hard to be great parents, the feelings of “liking” can slip away in the face of fatigue and continual challenges.

Last spring I taught a breakout on this topic at a large adoption and foster care conference. The room was packed; parents could see they were not alone in this struggle.

The good news is, there are reasons rooted in brain science for these feelings. You’re not a bad parent, so breathe a big sigh of relief.

In the breakout, I taught about Blocked Trust: what it is, how it happens, and why it matters. Blocked Trust results in changes in our brains making it hard to keep caring and feeling connected with our kids. This is called Blocked Care. Lastly, I taught about ways to overcome these challenges and renew our compassion for our children.

After the conference, Melissa and I brainstormed ways we could share this information through The Adoption Connection to really help parents overcome the challenges and renew their compassion. We worked hard to create new resources and I have good news.

The 3-Day Compassion Challenge

You’re invited to join our FREE 3-Day Compassion Challenge!

In 3 days, understand why your child pushes you away, why you’re not a bad mom because you’re losing patience, and shed the feelings of shame and guilt. There is hope, and you can regain that compassion!

If you want to learn more and continue taking concrete steps toward rebuilding compassion, you’ll have the opportunity to join our intensive, From Apathy to Empathy: How to Regain Compassion for Your Child and Yourself. More on that later – but I have to say, it’s going to be good.

For now, I encourage you to sign up for this simple FREE 3-Day Compassion Challenge to begin reshaping the hope you have for your relationship with your children.

If you have a friend who needs encouragement, please share this with her. We want to give hope to as many moms as possible.


Russ and I are with some of our kids on Whidbey Island at our favorite place in the world. Most of the older kids arrive this weekend. This is our final summer at the lovely home we’ve enjoyed for ten years.

I’m trying very hard to focus on gratitude for this beautiful home shared with us by our lovely host, but I find tears are often close. This was a gift given to us during the hardest decade of our lives and I’ll always be grateful. I’m going to miss it terribly.

It’s hard to imagine anything this good ever happening again. But God’s plans are so amazing; I’m trusting He’ll lead us into this new season of gathering as a family.

Does your family have a special gathering place? Do you camp? Rent a home? Gather at a family member’s house? I’m wide open to new ideas. Leave a comment for me!

All my love,

Lisa

Do You Pay Your Kids?

Money is a tricky subject and every family manages it differently. I’m trying something new with Greenlight.

My oldest is 32. Not to sound all nostalgic, but money was simpler when she was growing up. No phones. Lots of chores done for the sake of our homeschooling family. No allowance, but we met needs as they came up. She and her siblings earned money babysitting and later had jobs.

There is a 20-year span between my oldest and youngest – a lot has changed.

My youngest kids are now 12  and 14. They’re growing up in a radically different world and somewhat different family. They go to school, play lots of sports, go to the local pool and gym with their friends, attend athletic camps, and are generally busy outside of our home.

We’re trying something new.

Greenlight

Last weekend I set up an account with Greenlight. Their website says, “Greenlight® is the debit card for kids that parents manage from their phones with flexible parental controls.”

[After I started writing this, I found out I can refer friends! When you use this special link, we’ll both get $10!]

This is different from a standard debit card because I preloaded my parent account and now I can transfer small amounts (even $1) as often as I like. The money is immediately added to their cards.

We don’t pay them for basic household chores, but when I offer an extra chore, like vacuuming my car, I can pay them without scraping together loose change! That’s a game-changer for me.

And with a wedding at our house next month, there is plenty of extra work to be done, which means money to be earned.

Want to go to the movies with your friends? Ask mom for a paid chore.

Need money to pay for lunch at a basketball tournament? Mom can put extra cash on your card. If you want to spend more than she gave you, check your balance and see if you have enough.

With a smartphone, kids can check their Greenlight app to see the current balance on their cards and track their purchases.

How many times have I asked, “Where did that $5 go?” and been met with, “I don’t know.” Now we’ll know exactly when and where it was spent.

There are lots of other features:

  • Money can be put in permission-based categories such as “spend anywhere” or spend only at a specific place.
  • Track chores and pay automatically.
  • Money can be divided into categories of: spend, save, give.
  • Real-time notifications so you know where and when your kids are spending money.
  • Lost cards can be turned off with one tap on the app.

When my boys have cash, it disappears quickly. I hope this slows them down because they’ll see more clearly the value of their work. How many weeds did I pull for this money? Do I really want to spend it on candy at the pool?

They’ll also see how quickly money is gone if they forget to pack food for an event and spend it on snacks.

This could be even more useful for kids who struggle with impulsivity or who are easily tricked into giving their cash away.

We’re trying it for free for 30 days. Will it be worth the $4.99/month fee per family? We’ll decide at the end of the summer. I expect it’s going to be a bargain for the stress it lifts off me.

We’ve had a lot of tension over money because situations pop up all the time and I never have cash. I hate being the mom whose kid rides to an event with someone and they end up buying food for my child when they stop after a game. Or I scrambled for cash but didn’t send quite enough.

This will help with birthday money from grandparents too. A portion can go on the card for spending and the balance will be saved for something special.

Greenlight is brand new to us, but I see the potential for it being really positive.

If you decided to try it, you can use this special link and we’ll both get $10!

I’m curious, how do you manage money with your kids?

Lisa

Should You Take the Leap Into Foster Care and Adoption?

Should you become a foster or adoptive parent?

While I can’t tell you what’s right for your family, our story may help you.

Sometimes we need to jump in over our heads simply because God asks us to. That’s what happened to us a few years ago when we unexpectedly became foster parents.

Becoming Foster Parents

This is the very short version of our adoption history. We had seven children by birth, adopted three from Ethiopia, adopted one more from Ethiopia. Adoption rocked our world and took us on a journey like nothing we could have imagined.

Even after parenting for twenty years, taking classes, reading books and preparing in all the ways we knew, nothing could have prepared us for the impact our children’s early trauma had on our family.

We struggled – a lot.

And we loved – a lot.

Then we faced a devastating tragedy. Russ and I were in a car accident with our daughter, Kalkidan, and she didn’t survive. We were plunged into grief and pain.

I spent many months recovering from physical injuries. The recovery of our hearts continues.

Two years after our accident I started a ministry at my church for foster families. I thought we might foster some day; maybe when we’d recovered more from our loss and our family felt whole again. For now, I wanted my church to become engaged with caring for vulnerable children.

Then I got a call from a caseworker asking if we could take a teen girl for one respite night. We figured we could handle that.

One night became two, and two nights became two weeks. There were no foster families in our community open to a teen at the time and we learned she would be placed nearly two hours away. This meant a greater distance from her family and a third new high school.

Our hearts were stirred. We weren’t ready – in fact, we were scared.

In our adoptions, we’d walked through some deep, dark places. Our family was doing better and we didn’t want to put our children through any more suffering, especially as a result of our choices.

And besides, we were grieving; grief was sometimes exhausting and even cruel.

Then there was Zoe with her own very hard story, her own losses and grief. Yet, she seemed to fit in and we felt comfortable with her. She was a real person, not a theoretical foster youth. She sat at our table, laughed with the other kids, and let me teach her how to cook dinner.

Amazingly, it turned out that after years of doing intense therapeutic parenting with some of our children, Zoe didn’t require parenting at that level. I remembered what it felt like to be a regular mom doing a decent job.

I’m not saying it was a complete breeze. The foster care learning curve was steep.

Who were all of these workers and what were their jobs? How and where did visits happen? Who made decisions for Zoe? Me? Her mom? Her social worker?

When we had our home study, I didn’t even realize that’s what was happening. I had no idea what I was doing.

The foster parent training classes took time we didn’t have. But if we wanted to keep Zoe in our family – and we did, we were required to participate in 27 hours of training. Thankfully, the classes were good and we enjoyed the other foster parents.

Surprises in Foster Care

The biggest surprise was the relationship we formed with Zoe’s family. Somehow I thought foster parents were anonymous to kids’ families. While that’s essential when the family is dangerous to the child, it wasn’t necessary in our case. We got to know them over many months. Her family has been in our home and we’ve been in theirs. We’ve met grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her brothers borrow tools for their cars on occasion and one of them cooked dinner for us a few weeks ago.

Unexpectedly, we navigated questions of adoption and guardianship. We learned it’s not straightforward with a teen, especially one with a big family who loves her.

Based on the number of months Zoe had already been in foster care, we thought that two-week stay might extend to six months.

It’s been 2 1/2 years. If there’s anything I’ve learned, foster care is full of uncertainty.

This month Zoe turns 18. We thought she would stay until she graduated in June, but she’s made a plan to share an apartment with her brothers. She’s ready to be with her family. While I have lots of conflicting emotions, she’ll always be part of our family too.

Besides, she’s only moving two miles away.

I’m not sure how to commemorate this transition or what our role will be in her future. But she’s let us know we’d better finish building the new patio in time for her graduation party.

The Big Question

This leads me back to the beginning of this story and the big question.

Do I think we should always jump in and say “yes” when a need comes our way?

No, I don’t. We need to be wise.

Consider the needs of the children already in your home. Their safety and well-being always come first. We had two weeks with Zoe to get to know her and feel as sure as we could that this would work.

Your marriage matters too. Those of us loving and caring for vulnerable children often have tender hearts. If our marriages fail under the weight of saying “yes” too many times, everyone suffers.

Be wise. Listen well. Pray, a lot.

Then when God tells you to leap – jump high and far with all your strength. He knows where you’ll land.


Since writing this, Zoe turned 18 and did move into an apartment with her brothers. She is graduating from high school this Friday and we’re hosting her graduation party.

It’s been a beautiful journey.

Courage and hope, my friends.

Lisa

3 Ways For Moms to Pray Through the Hardest Days

Last week I wrote,  5 Reasons Prayer is Essential for Adoptive and Foster Moms, and I promised to share three ways of praying that carried me through our hardest parenting season and continue to be essential to my prayer life.

What if you feel you can’t pray?

There are so many reasons we may feel this way. Lack of time and energy are at the top of many moms’ lists. Mental fog and stress are other factors. Doubt may grab you – why pray when it doesn’t seem to make a difference?

Over the years I’ve found three simple ways to pray when life is too hard and I’m discouraged, or too busy and I’m overwhelmed. In the darkest days of my life, these simple ways of praying held me close to God when I could hardly get through the days.

3 Ways to Pray

1| Pray without Ceasing

It may seem counterintuitive, but when we’re completely overwhelmed we need to pray without ceasing. You may be thinking, “What? How is that even possible?” Stick with me.

The apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Thessalonians:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

How do we do this when we’re barely making it through our days? Oh friend, this is when we need to press in all the more.

Breath prayer

Pray a simple phrase, short enough to be said in one breath, repeating it over and over as needed. It’s that simple.

Let me share some examples:

1. Lord, have mercy.

2. My help comes from the maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:2

3. When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

4. Not my will, but yours. Luke 22:42

5. Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Let me share a story about how powerful this practice of the ancient church became in my life. I prayed the last prayer in this list off and on over the years before our adoptions. After the children came home and life spun out of control, I couldn’t think clearly. I couldn’t put sentences together under this level of stress. Fear flowed through my veins.

I began praying this all the time – when I shut myself in the laundry room and fell to my knees or when I lay awake in bed in the darkness of night. It became woven into my heart.

When we had our tragic car accident, the impact knocked me unconscious and I was trapped in the car as it lay on its side in a farmer’s field. At some point, a man got down on the snowy ground, reached through a broken window, and took my hand.

When he spoke to me, I came into awareness. I don’t know if I answered him, but I realized my lips were moving. I was quietly praying, “Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” When I was terrified and in pain, this is what came to my barely conscious mind.

Choose a scripture, a phrase from a hymn or worship song, or something meaningful that speaks to you and pray it when you need help and hope from God.

2| Hold Them Before the Lord

Another way I often pray, especially in difficult times, is to simply hold the person before the Lord in my mind. I imagine them at the foot of the cross or in the arms of Jesus.

When we don’t know what to pray or don’t have the right words, the Holy Spirit does. I take my thoughts, words, and hopes to the throne of our good Father.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Roman 8:26-27

3|Pray a Psalm 

A third way to pray when we’re at a loss is to pray a psalm by simply reading it, silently or aloud, and claiming the words for ourselves.

Consider Psalm 23; words like this may comfort you:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Ps. 23:4

Psalm 13 is also beautiful, ending with these two verses:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. Ps. 13: 5-6

With 150 psalms to choose from, you’re sure to find one that expresses your heart and thoughts.

In the hardest and most overwhelming times, don’t give up on prayer. Try these three simple ways of praying. Draw close to the Father and He will always meet you.


Last Thoughts

Faith, Hope, & Connection was made just for you. We gathered writings from 30 adoptive and foster parents to create a devotional to encourage you.

One reviewer said,

I loved the book. I felt understood, empowered, guided, and encouraged. With 30 different authors who are foster parents and adoptive parents and 30 different topics, it touched on so many experiences I’ve had and felt, or had with my children. It helped me refocus on what was important and gave me a newer vision and perspective. There was no judgement, only compassion and understanding. It felt to me like I was talking to friends, and I was sorry to see the book end. I will read this devotional again, and I’m certain I will gain some new insights when I read it again.

There are 30 short essays and 30 days in June. This would be a great time to read it!

Lastly, I would love to send you weekly encouragement. We weren’t meant to foster and adopt in isolation; we need friends who understand. You can sign up HERE. 

With courage, hope, and so much love,

Lisa