Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Life Skills List for Young Adults

Last week over lunch my husband and I realized we were almost exactly 200 weeks from our triplets' high school graduation. To cope with the panic we felt at all the life skills they needed to know before we launched them into the world we started making a list. 

Because social media at its best is a quick way to crowdsource ideas, I posted on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook asking for suggestions. 

The list that follows is by no means exhaustive--and absolutely will need to be tailored according to life circumstances--but in case it helps, I am sharing the list we developed. 

In the last week, I realized that simply being intentional about inviting my kids into the work I was already doing crossed many things off the list. (Other things are going to require me to develop some proficiency before I attempt to teach ;-)

I received excellent comments that covered the spiritual, emotional and character traits we also hope to develop but didn't feel they fit within the framework of practical checklist type skills/conversation topics I was considering for this particular list.

Hope this inspires your own thoughts, conversations and lessons!

Note: The formatting of this was a challenge for me so I used screen shots to capture all in one place. Maybe I should add this as a life skill ;-) The link to to the google doc is a better option for a clean, formatted and up-to-date list. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Parenting with Faith Over Fear

Yesterday the courts made official what we had been anticipating. After a year, our 4-year-old foster daughter was reunified with her biological parents. There will be another post about that...but as I was having coffee in a quiet early morning house today I read a post by Preston Yancey and felt a sweet reminder of how God is working so many things together for good in my heart and family right now. 

Preston's post has a different point than mine, but in the beginning, he shares a story about times in his life when fear and shame have been attempted as motivators, but what won out was encouragement and faith. Specifically, God powerfully used an obscure verse in Habakkuk to plant a future hope in him when he was 13 years old.

"Look at the nations and watch-- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told." Habakkuk 1:5 NIV

I have been tempted to worry about the child who has left our home. Her safety and overall development have been my concern for the last year--and now I will hopefully get an occasional visit. I pray hard against recurrences of the issues that led to her removal. I field questions from well-intentioned friends about what the 'what ifs.'

Meanwhile, I am sending three young teenagers into the world at warp speed. My Summer is a mixture of camp drop-offs--where they are out of my sights for 1-3 weeks at a time, preparing for the brand new world of high school, and teaching them the immense responsibility of driving on real roads with other human beings. 

Last week I started compiling a list of life survival/adulting skills my husband and I have yet to cover and I am almost at 200--the same number of weeks we have left with them before high school graduation. In all of these things, there are true safety considerations. They are still minors and my job is to teach them to live outside the nest...but as they become increasingly independent I find myself fighting daily fears of what could happen if things don't go well.

I want them to fly, not flop. While I know that scars and hard knocks are powerfully used to sanctify and develop us into adults who are used by the Lord, I adore these people and frankly, would prefer they arrive at adulthood as innocent and intact as possible.

So, the temptation is to desperately warn them about ALL THE THINGS. Be on guard!  The verse from Habakkuk this morning, however, took me back to being their age. I am reminded that I was never attracted to the fear-mongerers. I wanted to hear from the people who believed in me and spoke to me about the bright hope of the future. I think even of our most recent foster, at least once a week at prayer time she would point to the large painting of Jeremiah 29:11 over her bed and say, "Just pray that tonight, Mama." We all want to reassurance that there is a plan, maintained by someone stronger and wiser than us, for future hope.

Perhaps the most powerful lesson God has impressed upon me in our 4 years of foster parenting is that even our biological children are entrusted to us but for a little while. We stood before our congregation and proclaimed many years ago our belief that they are His. We build all sorts of safety nets, invest in future dreams and give them everything we have--but ultimately, we are not in control of their future. We can either be terrified by this or exhilarated.

May we never let our parental fears drown out our overwhelming hope we have for the life God has planned for the people we love. This is challenging. It requires us to loosen our white-knuckled grip and release them to their loving Creator. It is a daily laying down of our will for His. We must put this phrase on repeat: Faith triumphs fear. 

We want the people we love to be safe and dare I even say wildly successful, but at some point we have to ask ourselves how success will be measured. As for me, I choose God's utterly amazing story. 

"Look at the nations and watch-- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told." 

Friday, June 07, 2019

The Baton

I have been heavy and jumpy this week--a tightness in my chest and an inability to fully catch my breath.

It has been a season where the hurt of this world has been very apparent in the lives of intimate friends. The death of a beloved mother in our small community (and church family) has been a conduit for tender, tearful conversations everywhere I go--poolside, parking lots after kid drop-offs, over chicken salad sandwiches in delis at midday.

As I was talking to the Lord about it this morning I realized in addition to a funeral today, two of my closest friends are having divorce papers signed, my foster baby has only 1 more week in my home (after a year) and this big house is eerily quiet as all three of my teenagers are off at camps throughout the Southeast.

Yet in the last 24 hours I have had two powerful reminders of how much God is at work--even when it isn't on our time schedule or pretty and pain-free like we'd prefer.

My relationship with the bio parents of our foster daughter has been a huge focus over the past year. God has made my heart truly for them, even when frustratingly navigating the difficulties of co-parenting with people you didn't choose. We've celebrated life events together for the sake of their daughter. In recent weeks, I have started to see a true trust develop that I hope will continue to bear fruit.

The most powerful moment, however, came earlier today after breakfast. Each morning we look at our foster daughter's refrigerator "cal-den-der" to see the day's activities (represented by symbols), the number of sleeps until her next family visit and how much longer until court. As she realized today how close we are to the end, I saw her face twist.

I knelt down to her face and said, "You know, that last day isn't a forever goodbye. Your Mommy says we can still see each other and talk sometimes."

She paused as if to imagine this reverse scenario, where perhaps her home is there and her visits are here. Then she used her hands to make a gap twice as wide as her shoulders. "You know I have a lot of love in my heart? It's big 'cuz so many people love me."

It almost took my breath away.

"Yes, I know," I replied.

"And you know who loves me most of all?" she chirped.

I nodded affirmatively as she pronounced, "Je-sus!"

In an instant, I felt God's peace. It is time to pass the baton.

It can be so tempting to think her earthly safety, development, and growth is my forever job. But that is not what the relay of her life looks like. THIS was the job. Being present, God-with-skin-on, as she learned about her Creator and Savior, was our role in this leg. Our season is winding down, but our loving, sovereign God is worthy of my trust as we pass the baton back to her parents for this next leg.

"Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

As I consider the wider implications for all the other hard things in my opening paragraphs, and the seasons I have yet to face with my teenagers, my marriage, and challenging relationships in my life one thing is certain...There is a divine story being written.

We can make ourselves soul weary trying to be all and do all or we can lean into the Holy Spirit and rely on His leadership for what batons are ours and for how long.

He sees the big picture. I do not.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith..." Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV

So, may we run the race the Lord has set before us--not the offroad, overachiever (or perhaps shortcuts) we choose, but what He has chosen. He will equip us, accompany us and lead us through those seasons.

"Consider him... so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." Hebrews 12: 3 ESV

Friday, May 17, 2019


A few months ago I went into deep research mode on adolescent development. I sought out excellent resources, from secular phds to wise and experienced Christian counselors and pastors who shared solid Biblical truths. I read, binge listened to podcasts, made lots of notes. Then, I decided I needed to sit down with my husband for a retreat of sorts, we dubbed it a "Teen Summit," to outline our strategy for this next phase of life.

Trouble is, it is May and we have three involved but not yet driving themselves children--and a 4 year old foster child transitioning home--and my spouse is a surgeon and a student pilot. Life is full. My google sheet online is getting a workout as I dip in almost daily to add a topic or a quote to my Teen Summit agenda.

Meanwhile, life goes on. We are confronting typical teen issues--phones, grades, relationships, driving--and I feel increasingly on the defense instead of the offense. My default mode on the less pressing issues is to put them on "the list."

Wednesday night another fairly innocuous adolescent issue caught me by surprise and was added to the list. I sighed and said more tersely than I wish I had, "this is why we have to make it a priority to have our meeting."

My husband agreed a strategic conversation would be great, but reminded me we could handle this particular little thing without a big meeting. A conversation would suffice short term. I broke down in tears--a midweek laundry room breakdown.

I am not a crier. Thankfully, when the tears do come, Ryland does not run from them. He hugged me close and challenged me to discuss what was really going on. Fears I didn't fully realize were plaguing my heart came tumbling out of my mouth. "We only have 4 more years with our trio in the nest and 4 more weeks with this little one. There's so much left to be done. I feel like I'm drinking from a water hose. I don't want to mess it all up."

As we talked I realized almost comically that my fantasy coping mechanism amidst all our change is a spreadsheet--as if it could somehow cover ALL THE THINGS.

I know better. I really do. And yet, in times of fear and uncertainty faith is harder to hold and the idea of a physical plan feels comfortable and safe--even as I know it is fallacy.

Later I received a text from a friend, worried about scary test results, then had a long, deep conversation with another dealing with devastating life circumstances. Out to lunch, I ran into a family I know walking through a diagnosis and prognosis that's breaking their hearts.

There is no spreadsheet for all of this, but there is a Savior and his perspective is eternal. He doesn't have laundry room breakdowns, but does pull close to his beloved people in those times. He hears our worries and our concerns. He listens, then he lifts our chins and reminds us where to focus our gaze...not on the 100,000 What Ifs, but on the I AM.

I need a Summer break.
I am still planning a Summit.
But most important of all, I am submitting to the Lord's shift of my focus--from fear to faith.

Thursday, May 02, 2019


The proverbial winds of change are palpable in my home these days.

The celebrations of the middle school 'lasts' have begun. All three of my children have wrapped up the final Spring sports. The Spring play is complete. High school registration has begun.

In the next 3 weeks, my trio will graduate from middle school, turn 15, test for learners' permits and begin their whirlwind of Summer experiences.

Next month, our foster child is scheduled to be reunified with her biological family after a year in our home.

I realized today that I have created 4 different calendars--on my phone, in a binder, on my refrigerator and in a countdown app to mark the time--as if somehow re-writing it is walking me through heart preparations and making it all more real.

I suppose in some ways it is a non-traditional prayer--a meditation of sorts on what is coming. As I write, I surrender the future to the One I believe holds it all together.

I want desperately to navigate the waters of all these transitions well--for myself and for the hearts entrusted to my care. As much as I am inclined to verbally process, I am trying to spend time being quiet. I want to listen to the Lord and allow Him to tend my heart and guide me in how to love my husband, my three individual bio children and our foster child well.

He has spoken to me most recently through Matthew 6:34 in the Message translation:

  “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

So much is coming...even as I type in my quiet kitchen I think I can faintly hear the rumbling of the herd of milestones in the distance. 

I am absolutely expectant but committed to not taking my attention off the lessons, joys and needs of today. Keep me focused, Lord. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

What's Next, Papa?

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”  Romans 8:15 (MSG)

I am riding an exhilarating parenting roller coaster in this season, but especially today. I had court first thing this morning to determine the next steps for the precious four-year-old foster child we've been parenting for the last nine months. 

People who have never been through the foster care process often ask me what the significance of a court date means and frankly, they are simply mile markers. Every few months we check in with the legal system to make sure everyone's rights are being observed and to monitor progress on the case and if any changes to case plans are in order. At these hearings, the judge sets a course and tells the caseworkers what (if any) leeway they have in charting next steps in visitations, etc. based on the progress of the parents in their case plan.

The stress of that is hard to explain. It is the periodic reminder that this child I've loved as one of my own's case/ future is not even remotely in my control. I sit in a room full of adults making serious decisions about her future while she’s blissfully unaware at preschool. Surreal. Humbling. Forces me to trust.

I am walking out onto the high dive, surveying the height, calculating the risk...I hear the Spirit whisper, "Do you still trust me?"

A lot happens in a short period of time in court (today, under 20 minutes) and it takes a few follow up conversations to process implications on every one's lives and schedules. 

After court today I had a two hour window before I had to attend our first official high school meeting for my trio. Talk about emotional whiplash! 

As the faculty members discussed rigorous course loads and future goals, the reality set in of all the growth, path charting and decisions coming our way. I am thrilled to see my tribe grow and change, but their exposure to the great big world increases every day. Again, I hear the Spirit whisper, "Do you still trust me?"

In the course of my running around today, my random playlist landed on Turn Your Eyes by Vicky Beeching. I listened to those lyrics on repeat.  

“Look full in His Wonderful Face and the things of Earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His Glory and Grace.” 

I am so grateful to love this Jesus, who meets me in the mundane and overwhelming me with care and concern for my little heart. 

In response to that love, I respond. Yes, I choose to trust. I choose to be lost in the beauty and sovereignty of the Lord instead of my limited perspective and fears. 

I choose to respond with childlike expectancy, "What's next, Papa?"

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Year In Review 2018

I have neglected this blog in recent months for a whole host of reasons (largely unintentional) but have been feeling a longing to get back to my love of writing.

I periodically print and bind these entries for posterity, so I thought the best way reentry might be a catch up of sorts. As we are now two weeks into a new year, I decided to take a look back and the moments that made 2018.

February included a whirlwind trip to see Hamilton in NYC with a handful of my best friends--as a belated Christmas gift to each other. The highlight (other than the quality time) was meeting NYC firefighters up close as they responded to a late night fire in the kitchen of our hotel.

In March our family traveled to the Galapagos Islands for a fantastic adventure. We made new friends, soaked up the Internet free week truly off the grid, and delighted in the miracles of creation on full display in this pristine part of the world.

In May the triplets celebrated their 14th birthdays. Time definitely seems to be moving a warp speed these days.

In June we accepted placement of a new foster child...a 3.5 year old little princess who has added a whole lot of sparkle to our home!

Fall was marked by young Ryland's foray into being a kicker on the football team. He started out at second string and through lots of practice after practice, hard work and commitment earned the starting spot mid-season. I loved seeing these characteristics of his grow and be rewarded.

Kate excelled in cross country and in her diligence as a student. Parker was rewarded for his spelling excellence by earning a spot in the first round of the state spelling bee.

We spent our Christmas holidays in Africa. From Cape Town, South Africa to Victoria Falls (Zambia and Zimbabwe), a day trip to Botswana and the grand finale was 3 nights in the bush for safari in Sabi Sabi reserve. This trip was truly a dream. We absolutely loved the adventure.

As we move into 2019 I am blown away by the major headlines we anticipate: ending middle school, 15th birthdays, learner's permits, braces off, and likely sending our foster baby home after a year (or more) in our home...and these are just the things we *think* will likely happen--only the Lord knows what is truly to come!