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Sunday, February 21, 2016

What's the Latest?

Hello, everyone! Life has been happening with a vengeance, like it does for everyone, I suppose. We're settling in nicely and still making the transition happen in our new state. Here's a mini-update.

The Man of the House has been doing a great job as the lead teacher for his new Lutheran school. He has great ideas to implement and great plans for the future. When we had a parent-student volleyball game this fall (we miss you all, Texan Eagles!), it was deemed a great success and lots of fun. It is very strange not to be in the middle of basketball games and state tournaments right now, but he has goals for an athletic program to begin in the near future. We're proud of how hard he's working.

Miss A cried a lot over the first few months. She really missed her friends from Texas. Our going back and forth didn't help her much emotionally, but now that we're all here for good, she has really settled in. She has made good friends and we're having the conversation often about how boyfriends aren't happening for a LONG time. She began a volleyball program through the city and had a great time. We were very proud of her for wanting to try it out, even though she had never played and didn't know any of the other girls.

Curly Sue is with Little Guy every day for preschool, which is interesting, but she's also settled in and seems to be clicking well there, also. She's rocking the academic part of school and loves carrying around a notebook to draw and "write" in. She jumped right back into ballet classes, which she loves, but asked to try soccer next month for something new. The girls are being baptized together on March 19th - Curly Sue has been asking for a while. We're very excited for our Texas family to come join us for that special day.

Little Guy played in a soccer league this fall, and will start back up next month - yes, with Curly Sue on his team. They just can't seem to get away from each other! We are SO proud of how well he's doing in school. He never was happy at his daycare center as a baby. He is the shyest of our four, and having been home with me for two years, and with our sweet church friend Mrs. C for almost two years before that, we weren't sure how he would do on that first day. But he LOVED it, and we hear he is a great listener. He's really working hard on his letters and numbers. (Finally - you were right, Sharon F! It came!) His favorite thing to do is play outside and burn off his energy.

Brown Eyed Baby Girl is no longer a baby. What a big girl - 18 months now! She is running all over the place, loves play dates, loves library time, loves "coloring", loves books... basically just loves the world! She turns on the charm for everyone around her and always has a smile. We've sat her little potty in the bathroom for a while now, just to have it out so she can become used to it, and she has been asking a lot lately to try to go potty in it - and sometimes she does! Not officially potty training yet, but maybe we'll be starting that soon! Her absolute favorite things are dogdees (dogs) and babies.

I'm trying out some new ventures as well. It has been a dream of mine since I was little to be a writer. I carried around a blank book constantly, filling it with poems and stories, and I wrote plays for my friends and classmates all the time. I loved making my own newspapers and printing them off for my family to read. I would be so happy if this dream could come true. In my spare time now (ha!) I have been writing pieces and submitting them to various outlets. I've been featured on two blogs now (herviewfromhome.com and sisterdaughtermotherwife.com) and will have an article appearing in an upcoming monthly foster care magazine. I am continuing to pursue all of this to see if something bigger could happen. (On a side note, if you have any contacts with any publications seeing posts or freelance work, please pass it along!) Thanks for the prayers and encouragement! It's a bit scary to follow your dreams, but a whole lot of fun as well!

Other than writing, I've been subbing at two schools, with my name recently added to the sub list at one more school. Baby and I play in the mornings and then pick up the preschoolers for lunch. I've joined a women's Bible study and we're attending a small group for families every other Wednesday at our new church. I'm attempting to start a book club - we'll see how the first meeting goes! Life is definitely not boring!

Fall and winter in Colorado were beautiful. I was NOT one of the people wondering when the snow would be gone - I love the cold weather with hot beverages and sweaters! For the record, it IS virtually gone from everywhere but isolated shaded spots in some people's yards. We are seeing temps of 50's and 60's for the foreseeable future, but nobody thinks we're completely in the clear to start celebrating spring yet.

So, anyways, there you have it. A brief update on all of us. Thanks for thinking about us. Texas people, we miss you, and Colorado people, thank you for welcoming us! We're very blessed!

Monday, February 8, 2016

8 Things I Want My Kids to Learn from Cam Newton

The Super Bowl. Whether you watch it for the game or for the commercials, or not at all, you probably at least knew it was happening last night.

One of the things that many people will be talking about from Super Bowl is the Panther's quarterback Cam Newton's post-game press conference. He was obviously upset with the loss, as anyone would be. After answering with mostly one-word responses, he abruptly left the interview area after less than three minutes.

If you didn't see the press conference, here is a clip I found, in which you can hear the interview questions.


Obviously, being a Colorado native, I was beyond excited for the Broncos' victory. My family and I had a great time watching an intriguing game, and were definitely in a celebratory mood afterwards. However, seeing this interview live immediately following the game, and watching it several more times, I had so many thoughts running through my head that I had to write them down. I know this is a lot different than what I usually write, but here goes!

This is not a Cam Newton bashing post.

I've been seeing this interview online, shared on Facebook, comments building up literally as I fast as I can read them. Most of them are negative and use words and phrases like "crybaby", "temper tantrum", and "lacking maturity". I even saw one headline - "The Incredible Sulk." Life is too short for negativity. I'm just desiring to share my thoughts. My kids, as well as the students and young people I see, will probably have seen this and be talking about it. (If they're not still talking about the puppy-monkey-baby commercial.) These are some of the points I would want to share with my own kids after seeing the video.

1. Life jumps from good days to not-so-good days quickly!
One day, you're named the NFL MVP. The next day, you lose a Super Bowl. Life happens. The old saying, "This too shall pass" is applicable in all situations. Remember that something different could be always around the corner - for better or for worse. Have the resilience to be able to tell yourself, "My story's not over yet."

2. It's awesome to be passionate about what you love!
The word show-boating may be thrown around in connection to Cam - and to be fair, other professional athletes as well - but, in the interest of staying positive, let's focus on the fact that he's super-passionate. No one could accuse Cam Newton of hiding his feelings. Doing what you always wanted to be doing is such a tremendous feeling - and a huge blessing! Live in the moment! Be grateful and ENJOY what you have got going for you!

3. Having a good attitude in winning and losing is a difficult feat.
It's easy to be excited when things are going your way. Everyone knows the feelings they felt on their bad days, and would much rather be living the good days instead.  But people REALLY don't like poor sportsmanship - from the winning or losing side. If you win, "Act like you've been there before and you'll be there again," says my Daddy. And, it goes without saying, nobody likes losing. When you lose, besides being angry or frustrated, you may feel horrible and are simply acting hard on yourself, but wallowing in those feelings won't help. Nobody will hate you for losing if you tried your hardest. Analyze what you can do differently next time, allow yourself the grace of forgiveness, and focus on the future. No one can come out on top every time; when it's your turn as a non-winner, acknowledge it, doing your best to swallow any sour grapes you may feel. Learn and move on. Whether you tell yourself, "Suck it up", or "Man up," or "Put on your big girl underwear," DO IT!

4. Don't allow your emotions to dictate your actions.
You can't let anger, frustration, or tiredness rule you, allowing you to be less than the standards you have for yourself. We all feel it. We've all done it. Doesn't make it okay. You don't have to be happy, but be civil. This does relate back to point #2 - passionate people have passionate responses. But don't let that passion rule you - use it to spur yourself on to greater things.

5. There will always be people to judge you and how you act. Sometimes you'll do things that, looking back, you wish you had done differently.
An interview lasting a couple of minutes now has people chit-chatting all over the country. I can't imagine that what Cam Newton wanted the nation to remember most about him from Super Bowl Sunday would be that sullen attitude he showed in those news clips following the game. However, that's what people are talking about today. This is one reason to carefully check the words coming out of your mouth, and your attitude and demeanor in all situations, so you have nothing to regret later on. Most of us won't see the publicity on this grand of a scale that professional athletes face, but we can make sure our interactions are positive, regardless of our moods and emotions.

5. Sure, sometimes people only hear one side... But that side will stick with them.
In an interview with Today, Peyton Manning had only good things to say about his interaction with Cam after the game. Quote from PM:
"Sure I tell ya, Cam couldn't have been nicer to me. He was extremely humble. He congratulated me, wished me the best. I told him just congratulations on his outstanding season and just what a great future he has ahead of him. He'll be back in that game, I can promise ya. So, I've been on that side of it. It is tough -- it is not an easy pill to swallow. But he was very nice to me and I really appreciated that."
However, walking off less than three minutes into a press conference will erase any good vibes about you in the collective memory of America's online commentators - professional and amateur. Perception isn't everything, but it is something. What will your legacy be?

6. Sometimes it seems like you're just being hit when you're down. Rise above.
Listening to the reporters and their questions - "How do you feel..." "Can you put a finger on what went wrong?" "Can you put into words the disappointment that you feel?" I mean, seriously? After hearing variations of the same questions, none very interesting and mostly just negative, I'm with Cam when he says, "They played better than us. I don't know what you want me to say." Still, every NFL player is contractually obligated to do interviews, before and after games. This is part of the job. Not a fun part, sure. Nobody was intending to rub the loss in his face, even if that's probably what it felt like. People most often aren't going out of their way to offend you, even if that's probably what it feels like. No matter what kind of drivel is flowing around you, you have to keep on keeping on.  Answer the stupid questions, move on.

7. You're someone's example, even if you don't want to be.
People in the public eye may say they didn't ask to be role models. But they are. Our nation seems to follow every step of athletes, movie stars, and icons, whether they are worthy of emulation or not. Hopefully celebrity is something that can be used to further good in the world. Even if you're not in the news or on television, someone is watching you and looking up to you. No matter what your position in life or your role, you are (and can be) a leader in some fashion. ALWAYS act like someone's watching.

8. There's always tomorrow.
Cam did say during the interview, "We'll be back." There's no doubt about that for Carolina - either as a successful football team in general or going to the Super Bowl specifically. They had an AMAZING season! Sunday's game didn't erase that. I hope that Cam takes that to heart, uses his God-given admirable talents to look to next season. Cam's got a great career still ahead of him in which he can make a lasting mark. We all have growing we can do. Let's reflect on each day, asking for forgiveness from God, others and ourselves for our faults, bettering ourselves to face the next task. "Failure is not the falling down, but the staying down." - Mary Pickford.

I went from judgmental to thoughtful to pitying and all around again while thinking about this interview. I hope to take to heart some of these thoughts for myself, not only thinking them but putting them into practice. Hopefully I emulate positivity to my kids and help them learn from their world. Let's throw out a little grace to each other, and accountability for ourselves, knowing every day is an opportunity to grow - through your failures or that of someone else. As Dr King said, "Darkness can't drive out darkness - only light can do that." Be the light!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Adoption Didn't Magically Fix Me

This post was published on herviewfromhome.com on February 3rd, 2016! I am so excited to be able to contribute pieces for this helpful website! http://herviewfromhome.com/adoption-didnt-magically-fix-me/

Our adoption journey began like many others – first battling the fiend of infertility. I know not all couples who adopt have traveled that road. However, most people assume you’ve adopted because you can’t have biological kids. So, yes, we adopted because we found out a biological birth would not happen for us.

Here’s some truth. At the beginning of the course, before the test results were in, way before we began the adoption process, it upset me when some (well-meaning) person would say, “Well, you can always adopt.” At that point, I was so raw, still fighting for answers and emotional processing, I didn’t want to hear that. Pursuing adoption seemed to be acknowledging that we hadn’t succeeded, and that we would never become pregnant.

Ultimately, it became apparent that adoption would be the path by which we became parents. We first had to grieve the loss of having a biological child, of course. But, following that, when we faced the future and began making plans, I felt differently. We were and are proud adoptive parents. We absolutely believed that any child of ours, however created and brought into our family, would be completely loved.

And maybe even extra loved – because, of course, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
It’s a valid point that, having been through infertility, miscarriage, or loss of a child, you are ├╝ber-aware of the gift that each child is. I would see someone with an unplanned pregnancy, and I wondered why they would be blessed with a child when we wanted one so badly. If a couple got pregnant without difficulty, I was sincerely happy for them, but inwardly, I was hurting and, I’ll say it, jealous for the effortlessness of their reproduction.

If I saw a mom looking stressed out with her kids, getting groceries or at the park or outside at school, I would immediately think, “If I had children, I would never get stressed out because of them. How can they take for granted what I want so badly?”

And I honestly felt that way. At that point, we wanted children so incredibly much, that it seemed like that would be the answer to everything. You know, the old “if only”? If only I had a boyfriend, if only he would propose already, if only I had a good job, if only we had more money, if only we could have children.  I thought that once I was a mother, that heartache and pain would go away, and the wonderful awe of being a parent would overshadow any of the daily problems that would come my way.

Once I got this fixed, life would be okay again.

Because I was in a really bad place during that time. Infertility is a stressful experience, emotionally and physically. I dealt with some situational depression. I felt hopeless and impotent. Getting through a regular day was difficult. I developed shingles due to the stress. I didn’t know how to express my feelings to my friends and family. I went to a counselor to help process it in a healthier way – which was a good decision. Ultimately, though, I felt like being a mom would help everything be okay again.

It took seven months of adoption classes, training, and interviews, and two months of waiting before we got a call for our first child. We were smitten instantly. She was beautiful, sweet, and oh-so-huggable. We settled in as first time parents do – joyfully, awkwardly, unsure of ourselves, but with the shining patina of finally being “mom” and “dad.”

Fast forward seven years. We now are the blessed parents of four kids through adoption – three girls and a boy.

Guess what. Adopting them didn’t solve every problem in the world.

Guess what. My kids stress me out sometimes.

Occasionally, I’m that mom I self-righteously thought I would never be.

The always loving, ever-patient, eternally grateful mother I wanted to be isn’t present all of the time. She’s busy with dirty laundry, facilitating meal times with young children, and playing referee to these active monkeys, while maintaining a positive relationship with my husband.

I love my kids. I couldn’t imagine my life without them. Please hear that.

As I ponder this, I realize something. This doesn’t make me a bad mom. It makes me a real one.

My kids are just like any others. I am just like any other mother. Yes, we took a crazy path to get here, and yes, I have baggage from the journey that will always stick with me. But, hey, I’m here! I’m a real mom! A real-life, sleep-deprived, coffee-chugging, Target-shopping, homework-helping, bedtime-story-reading mom, living the insanely eventful parental life. My every problem wasn’t fixed, but the dream of motherhood came true.

Adoption wasn’t a fall-back plan, or something we had to settle for. We are now a real family.

Just like Pinocchio or the Velveteen Rabbit, I’m real.  Not perfect, but a real mom.

And it feels so good.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Life Was So Much Easier

I submitted this piece to the website herviewfromhome.com and was so excited to have it published on January 17th, 2016! http://herviewfromhome.com/life-was-so-much-easier-before/

My husband and I were foster parents over the past seven years. Last month, we had the blessing of completing the adoption of our two most recent foster daughters. Along with the other two adoptions – our daughter and our son – we have now OFFICIALLY become a family with four kids. How much fun was that – standing in front of the courthouse, holding up signs that proudly read: “Party of Six!”

As I was pondering the events of the adoption week, and reflecting back to before we had these last little monkeys added to our family, I have to admit it was “easier” then. How simple and laid back it seems now to have “only” two kids to feed and get dressed and put to bed and arrange schedules.

It was so much easier with only two kids. I have two hands – one for each. Between the Man of the House and me, there were two laps and two kids – perfect! Our son and daughter are each other’s best friends and get along pretty swimmingly. We were blessed to have “normal” sibling tiffs over toys and personal space and such, but very rarely, and nothing huge.

But, before that, it was so much easier with only one kid. Miss A had our full attention whenever she was with us. If one of us had somewhere we had to be, no sweat. The other was there to step in. One kid is easy to take to meetings, when they can play quietly on the floor for a period of time. One kid is easy to take to the grocery story; they only take up the child seat on the cart and don’t weight the cart down.

It was so much easier in fact before we had kids. Walking to the car after work, knowing we had an evening of good food and quiet television watching together on the couch. Taking a run whenever I wanted. Taking a hot bath whenever I wanted. Only worrying about one pair of shoes – my own. Doing laundry for only two people.

Yes, life sure was a lot easier in the past.

But there’s no way I would exchange it for what we have now.

I look behind me while driving and see four shining faces and hear their sweet voices singing. I look around the kitchen table while we eat and see the bedlam that is four kids eating a meal. I watch the kids color together, or play some cute game only they understand, and my heart swells.

I know that the craziness that is life with young children will pass all too soon. The daily routine will be less of a frantic rush to juggle everyone and everything. It will get “easier”, in a way. And yet, I don’t want it to be gone. I want to treasure each stage and soak it all in for as long as we’re able. Every day is a glorious adventure when you’re young. The giggles, the chubby tummies, the toddler talk, the dress-up clothes, the mood swings (well, we’ll have those when they’re all teenagers again!)… These will be the memories cherished in the years to come.

My soul is humbly grateful to be here for such a time as this, to be a part of my children’s lives at this stage. God is so good, and so faithful to provide strength and patience when we need it the most. He has given us the gift of all four of these little ones, and we thank Him with all of our hearts.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Party of 6!

Happy Adoption Day, Curly Sue and Brown-Eyed-Girl!


We were so very happy that this day finally happened! 493 days - WHEW! When we calculated that, it made us feel incredibly grateful that the conclusion had happened!


We began the adoption celebration the night before by eating at Lulu's Cafe in downtown San Antonio - home of the 3 pound cinnamon roll! Lots of yummy chicken fried steak was to be had, and of course we grabbed a cinnamon roll for the road!

We were met by my mother- and father-in-law love, my husband's youngest sister, and his oldest sister's family with our little niece. We were missing some of the rest of the family, but we were happy to meet up later that day and for Christmas. Sad face - I wish my parents and siblings could have been there as well, but it was good to have time with our Texas family, especially having moved out of state. We are so blessed that both of our families love our kids so much, and have supported and encouraged us, lifting us up when the road has been rough, and celebrating the good times, whether from close by or from afar.

Our hotel (the former Bexar County Jail - really cool and built in 1879, supposedly haunted!) was right on the River Walk, so after checking in, we took a walk down to see the lights. It's always so pretty during the holidays!




In the morning, we crammed some breakfast down our throats to be at the courthouse at 7:30. The hotel was only three blocks away from the courthouse, so we enjoyed a brisk walk in the Texas sunshine.

Our adoption coordinator caseworker and our two lawyers (one for the girls, one for us) met us when we arrived. We had the quick work of signing the "day-of" paperwork to make the adoption officially official.

It was about time for us to be called in. Curly Sue had a funny look on her face, part frozen, part bewildered, and you could see something happening in her five-year-old brain. I pulled her into a hug and asked if she was doing okay. She said, "I'm feeling nervous about seeing the judge. I don't know what I'm going to say." I told her that the judge would probably just ask her name, and if she wanted to be adopted. Curly Sue nodded very seriously and took a deep breath. (Oh my goodness. To think of everything she'd been through and how resilient she had been.)

We were allowed to go inside the court room (after we threatened/begged the kids up and down with anything and everything to make them be quiet! It was a packed court room, and many other cases were waiting their turn.). It was only a few minutes before we were called up to the front. We made our way down the aisle to our spots in front of her desk.

The judge barely had time to take a breath to begin proceedings, before Curly Sue blurted out, "I have a new name and I want to be adopted." The whole room cracked up. The judge very kindly began chatting with our little one, asking her questions - you could tell soon after that Curly Sue felt back in her gregarious element.

The caseworker and lawyers gave quick testimony stating their filings for adoption, we stated that we were here to adopt, and it was over!

The judge let the kids go up to her seat and take a picture. They also got chocolate and an apple! Curly Sue asked and was allowed to wear the judge's reindeer antlers. What a good time, and great memories for them to carry!

We stalled about fifteen more minutes in a waiting room for the certified copies of the adoption decree, chowing down on the apples. We were soon ready to go and be DONE - with paperwork in hand. What a quick resolution to 493 days of fostering!

Of course, we had to stop and take some pictures on the courthouse steps! There also was a beautiful, gigantic Christmas tree in the yard around/near the courthouse, so we took some pictures there. Wonderful momentos of the experience!

We had a great rest of the day, walking around downtown San Antonio, seeing the Alamo, eating at our favorite Mexican food restaurant... We hope that this Adoption Day will be one that all four of our kids will look back on fondly.

It has been a wild ride, but we're so happy it's done! Welcome OFFICIALLY to the family, Curly Sue and Brown-Eyed-Girl! We love you to pieces! - Mama and Daddy


Monday, December 21, 2015

Adoption Date is TOMORROW!

We are thrilled that TOMORROW! After fifteen months, the girls will officially be part of our family forever! We are blessed that this is actually going quicker than our other adoption processes - we waited almost two years for Miss A and Little Guy!

We had had this week penciled in for a month or so, but hadn't heard an exact date or time until last week. Something about that the lawyer was the one who was supposed to file for the date, but she was waiting for the caseworker to send her the paperwork, and the caseworker thought she already had… so everybody's kind of blaming the other person, and we're just sitting here like, "We just want our adoption date!" I just found out Monday that no one had even filed yet to go through this next week.

BUT - All's well that ends well! We're so happy that it's happening!

We are driving back into our "old" neck of the woods today. We have a fun evening planned - playing at the park, eating out for a fun dinner, staying the night at a hotel. We will be joined by family members and friends, which is making it extra special!

Thanks to everyone for being there for us as we have traveled this journey, and for traveling with us. We have been blessed through your encouragement and prayers. We love you all!

Cheers to tomorrow!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Living Truly Pro-Life



On what should have been one of the happiest days of my life, discomfort was my only focus.

My husband Kyle and I fostered eleven children over the past seven years. We have adopted two – our daughter, now seven-years-old, and our son, now five-years-old. Seven of our foster children have been reunified with their biological families. Our most recent case involved a four-year-old girl and her newborn sister. After a year of caring for them, with caseworker visits, monthly reports, and court appearances, we were finally at the trial date. The caseworkers decided that the birthparents’ rights would be terminated, move forward with us adopting the girls.

I was mostly nervous about testifying in court during the trial. (I was there by myself, as my husband was teaching. The kids aren’t normally required to be present at the court appearances.) I as the foster mother would testify to the girls' conditions when they first came to us, and our interactions with the birthmother at the visits.

On top of those physiological nerves, I was feeling anxious wondering if the birthmother, “Michelle”, would attend. Michelle hadn't seen the girls in almost five months. Only a few months back, she signed relinquishment papers to voluntarily surrender her rights. This is a somewhat common occurrence IF termination of the parents’ rights appears inevitable. The birthparents sometimes sign relinquishment papers voluntarily to avoid a termination being put on their record.

However, Michelle had recently declared that signing was a mistake, and that she was requesting a new lawyer to help her take back the relinquishment and continue fighting for the girls. Obviously, it doesn't work that way, but I still wondered what she would do if she showed up to court. However relatively polite Michelle had been when we had met in the past, these recent actions led me to dread whatever confrontation we might have.

When I walked through the hallway and found our courtroom, I saw Michelle sitting on the bench outside. The nerves kicked in again. So many feelings – worry, sadness, grief, anxiety.
And so, with my heart pounding and stomach churning, I went to the restroom to get it together. Honestly, it probably was due to cowardice; I wanted to stay removed from all of these emotions and thoughts rapidly flowing through me.

I have seen a quote by Jody Landers that goes like this: “A child born to another woman calls me Mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.” How true this is. Although incredibly joy-filled with knowing that the girls would be part of our forever-family, of being done with the court proceedings, my husband and I were aware that our joy comes at someone else’s great misery. Nobody was playing the “us versus them” game, but on that day the path would be permanently chosen – us versus her. Not a comfortable day to be living through, from anyone’s perspective.

Once I took some deep breaths and collected myself, I was now ready to calmly exit, ready for our case to be called into the courtroom.

And my foster children’s birthmother was standing there washing her hands at the sinks.

She looked up as I walked out and our eyes met. I blandly smiled, and she gave me a watery smile back and looked away. I began washing my hands at the sink next to hers.

Ugh. Could this be any more awkward?

At this point, something became crystal clear to me. Yup, it was awkward. The birthmother on the day her parental rights are terminated and the adoptive mother going home to them after court concludes. We were “supposed” to be on opposite “sides”. Shouldn’t she be angry at me for stealing her rightful place as her children’s mother? Shouldn’t I be judgmental and condescending, knowing everything in her life and lifestyle that led to the removal of her children? Shouldn’t we hate each other as adversaries?

And it truly hit me that Michelle was not the “other side”. She was the mother of my children – or, rather, the children who, by God’s goodness, would soon be named part of my family forever. Here was a young woman, only a few years younger than I was, who had been torn up by life’s hardness. Trapped in a deep hole of her own making, with each day proving more difficult to overcome. Without support of family or friends, much less a committed husband. No steady home life growing up and now a single mom going from job to job, and from place to place. Unhealthy influences all around, all her life. My modest life seemed palatial in comparison. Today was the day on which her last link to her two daughters would be forever severed. It mattered not to that she was facing the consequences of her actions. She wasn’t a rival in some game - but someone hurting.

At that point, my nervousness and anxiety about this day seemed selfish. How could I stand there silently, because I felt “awkward”, when someone was aching beside me? Chastised, I threw up a quick prayer for forgiveness. And then the thought surfaced, “Well, if it were me, I’m sure I could use a hug.” Then, “Do it. Can’t get any more awkward.”

I dried my hands, walked over, and threw my arms around her. I told her that we recognized how painful this day was for her. That for today at least, hurt for her was overshadowing any excitement we could feel. I told her how much we loved those little girls, and I choked up as I vowed to care for them to the best of my ability all my life. I told her she would always be in our prayers.

Her tears now flowing as well, she thanked me. She humbly expressed gratitude for us loving her children as much as she did. She acknowledged that her life was currently unstable, and that she knew she was unable to care for the girls the way she would like. She went on to say an abundance of kind affirmations for my husband and me that soothed my soul. We stood there, talking, bonded by our love for our children, the conversation comforting each of us, if even just a degree.

We hugged again as we exited the women’s restroom. She turned to me and said, “I’m not going to fight the relinquishment papers today. If I can’t be there for my daughters, at least I know they have you in their lives.”

Our case was called into the courtroom soon afterwards. Michelle was the first witness on the stand. She stated that she was voluntarily relinquishing her rights and supportive of an adoption by our family. As soon as she was dismissed, she walked out of the courtroom without a backward glance, out of our family’s lives.

I am pro-life. And this encounter with Michelle expanded my view of what that means.

We have been incredibly blessed through the gift of adoption, with two children already adopted and two more very soon. But before this, we experienced years of praying and hoping for a child. Naturally, that made us extra sensitive regarding children who need a home, who are neglected or abused or unwanted.

In terms of babies, I believe life begins at conception, each human a glorious unfolding of God-given potential - regardless of background or the way in which the baby was conceived. The concept of abortion breaks my heart. I would lovingly tell ANY woman considering abortion, without judgment, that if she doesn’t desire to parent her baby, we would be honored to do so. I know numerous other families have struggled with infertility (or haven’t) and feel similarly. Every abortion could have been a baby, an answer to the prayers of a loving family. Isaiah 1:17 (ESV) tells us, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause.” Christians use this verse to support adoption, and the loving provision of homes to children who need them. Everyone is, surely, moved by the sight of a helpless baby, and willing to extend caring arms to lift up that child.

The majority of Christians in America today would identify themselves as “pro-life.” But to some of our fellow Americans, that just appears to mean that we are anti-abortion and it might not mean much else. As the Casting Crowns song “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” aptly states, “Nobody knows what we’re for, only what we’re against when we judge the wounded. What if we put down our signs, crossed over the lines, and loved like You did?” While abortion is unequivocally against our pro-life stance, what if more could be shown in our declarations?

I am so tired of hearing that pro-life Christians are only against abortions, but not for helping those babies once they are born, nor the mothers who choose life for their babies but subsequently have to live in poverty and be a “drain on the system.” False.

Recently following the comments attached to an online article on the topic, I repeatedly saw, “If you’re against abortion, what have you personally as a so-called Christian done yourself for these unwanted babies? Have you fostered or adopted children? Have you fed the hungry or invited the homeless into your home?” That irks me, knowing that so many loving Christians DO accomplish much good in their communities because of their understanding that all life is sacred.

However, that’s a fair challenge.

I am not saying that all Christians follow that stereotype. But what witness does our world see about Christ and His Church from the news, the media, from our everyday actions? What if we went above and beyond to prove that we value ALL life as our God does?

By declaring that I am “pro-life”, I am not called to be concerned with only adorable babies. Could the verse above focus on modern-day single mothers and foster children? How about a homeless person we see on the corner? What about someone from a different cultural or socio-economic experience than us, or in another part of the world? Aren’t their lives valuable to their Creator? Could our valuing life extend to the annoying or hurtful person at work or in our church?

I love my babies. They needed a home and we jumped at the chance to be their parents. We were called to this life of fostering and adopting as our parenting journey, and feel blessed to be used in this manner. And that day, being with Michelle helped me realize that every interaction we have is an opportunity to be pro-life. Jesus’s words clearly say, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40, ESV) Even if it’s not natural or feels weird. Hugging the birthmother of my adoptive children and crying in a bathroom with her? At that moment, that felt like being pro-life to me.

All life is sacred. All life. That’s why Christians are against abortion, which ends a life. It’s important to spread our message in gentle love that babies have rights as well as women. There are so many families ready to adopt, and many organizations willing to walk beside those in need in a caring manner. This part IS incredibly important to us and to our Creator.

AND, beyond the abortion issue, let’s be known for proclaiming God’s love and salvation to all mankind. We may not agree with each other on everything, but we can still value people and extend compassion. We can still step out in faith, even when it’s uncomfortable. Let’s get messy in this wonderful, crazy community God has provided for us – at home, in our country, and throughout His world.

What can you do today to share His mercy? Think big or small! Go participate in a missionary trip overseas. But also... Go invite someone to Thanksgiving dinner who may be alone or in need of a meal. Go volunteer in a food pantry or crisis pregnancy center in your home town. Go pray about what God’s people can do regarding the refugee crisis happening right now. Whatever it is, GO! DO!

I share about that day not to bring attention to myself or our family. I am guilty of so many lost chances when I could have shared kindness, of not wanting to love uncomfortably. I was convicted and humbled as I remembered “what kind of love the Father has given to us”. (1 John 3:1) If He can lavish me with love, grace, and daily forgiveness, I can in some small way, with the help of His Spirit, attempt to do so to my fellow human beings - however many mistakes I make along the way.

God inspired James to write, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17, ESV) Let’s show the world a living faith that moves beyond politics and boundaries, beyond comfort zones.