Day 102: To Do

I am the type of person who suffers from obsession. Some of you just laughed out loud, and/or spit your drink out of your mouth onto your keyboard. Shut up. Don't judge me. At least I'm aware of it.

I struggle with this aspect of my personality because it often feels like sin to me.

Clearly I do not/must not trust God about whatever the set of circumstances are that drive me to obsess. Right?

Add to my obsession, the need to "fix" things to come out the way "I" feel they need to be fixed and you have a recipe for spiritual disaster, or really just disaster in general.

But, having recognized the area of my life in which I struggle, God has rescued me with His Word, an entire CHAPTER of His Word to be exact. Here it is:

1Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
2For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
3Trust in the LORD and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
4Delight yourself in the LORD;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
5Commit your way to the LORD,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
6He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.
7Rest in the LORD and waitpatiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
8Cease from anger and forsake wrath;
Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing.
9For evildoers will be cut off,
But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land.
10Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more;
And you will look carefully for his place and he will not be there.
11But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
12The wicked plots against the righteous
And gnashes at him with his teeth.
13The Lord laughs at him,
For He sees his day is coming.
14The wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow
To cast down the afflicted and the needy,
To slay those who are upright in conduct.
15Their sword will enter their own heart,
And their bows will be broken.
16Better is the little of the righteous
Than the abundance of many wicked.
17For the arms of the wicked will be broken,
But the LORD sustains the righteous.
18The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
And their inheritance will be forever.
19They will not be ashamed in the time of evil,
And in the days of famine they will have abundance.
20But the wicked will perish;
And the enemies of the LORD will be like the glory of the pastures,
They vanish--like smoke they vanish away.
21The wicked borrows and does not pay back,
But the righteous is gracious and gives.
22For those blessed by Him will inherit the land,
But those cursed by Him will be cut off.
23The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
24When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.
25I have been young and now I am old,
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
Or his descendants begging bread.
26All day longhe is gracious and lends,
And his descendants are a blessing.
27Depart from evil and do good,
So you will abideforever.
28For the LORD loves justice
And does not forsake His godly ones;
They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off.
29The righteous will inherit the land
And dwell in it forever.
30The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
And his tongue speaks justice.
31The law of his God is in his heart;
His steps do not slip.
32The wicked spies upon the righteous
And seeks to kill him.
33The LORD will not leave him in his hand
Or let him be condemned when he is judged.
34Wait for the LORD and keep His way,
And He will exalt you to inherit the land;
When thewicked are cut off, you will see it.
35I have seen a wicked, violent man
Spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.
36Then he passed away, and lo, he was no more;
I sought for him, but he could not be found.
37Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright;
For the man of peace will have a posterity.
38But transgressors will be altogether destroyed;
The posterity of the wicked will be cut off.
39But the salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
He is their strength in time of trouble.
40The LORD helps them and delivers them;
He delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
Because they take refuge in Him.

All that to say, God has given me this to do list. It keeps me sane. :) Sort of.

Day 101: Seven Days Ago

Well, it's still really day 100, but it's my second blog of the day.

I am learning that the life of a foster parent is unpredictable, at best.

Seven days ago, we took the two little girls we have cared for, nurtured back to health, loved, prayed for, and called forth the emotions of love and joy from . . . we took those girls and handed them over to someone else.

I had heard that it doesn't matter who those people are, nor how great you think they are, nor how wonderful you know the children's life will be with them, relinquishing custody is incredibly, incredibly hard. It is true. It sucks.

Seven days ago, when we relinquished custody of the girls to a wonderful family, we didn't know that they would be going back to their birth mom two weeks later.

Seven days ago, we didn't know that this transition we were putting them through was going to be for such a short time.

Seven days ago, we didn't know anything other than we had been asked to help them transition into a home where there brother lived with a wonderful set of foster parents that would care for them for as long as they were needed, even if that was forever.

But seven days ago, God knew everything. And He asked us to kiss our sweet babies goodbye. And in obedience to Him, we did so.

Because seven days ago, God knew what would happen two weeks later. Seven days ago, He was sitting on His throne. And He's still there. He's still there.

All that to say, seven days ago, the God I serve, the God I love, and the God who loves those sweet babies had a plan. His plan. And we know that the plan He has is to prosper and not to harm. Jeremiah 29:11

Day 100: Heavy With Hope

It's a momentous day in my blog. The 100th day this year that I have blogged. Considering I was going to do it every day and it was going to be a photo journal of my life, I'm not doing too well! But in the midst of my year, we fostered two kids and well . . . things went a little crazy.

It's been one week today since they left here. I wish I could say that we are doing better, that life is easier, less hectic, but that's not true. I wish I could say I don't really think about them as often, but that's also not true. It seems everything I do is a reminder of them in some way.

I had to go grocery shopping this week, and I felt the oddest sense of loss. Almost like I didn't know how to shop for just "us." I cried up and down a few aisles, but then gave myself a pep talk, finished my shopping, and finally got out to my car where I let myself have a good cry. . . over groceries!

I unloaded the dishwasher earlier this week and there were still sippy cups in the dishwasher, and plates and little toddler silverware from their last meal at our house. I didn't sob, but the tears slowly ran down my cheeks.

I washed clothes and found a little white headband and little white socks in the bottom of the hamper. . . The reminders of them are everywhere.

Mike and I were talking in our bedroom yesterday morning (truthfully just standing and holding each other, crying) and Mike said, "We just have to continue to trust God in all of this." (love that man) "He knows what's best for the girls and for us."

So, yesterday we started our official foster parenting classes. I cried buckets in that class. . . Mike did too (Man we sound like cry babies), as they shared story after story after story of children who were rescued, and of the ones who didn't make it out alive. At the end of the class, on our ride home, we talked about the next children that God will place in our home, and the next, and the next, and the next.

All that to say, it's been a week. Our hearts are heavy with hope.

Day 99: Memorable

I set out that day to have a pleasant, peaceful, non-stressful, memorable day.

I woke up early to make french toast, because it was their favorite. But not this day it wasn't. "S" took a bite, smooshed it around in her mouth, made a face, and spit it out. She did this with every - single - bite.

I planned a morning at the mall, because they loved riding in their big fancy double bob running stroller in the air conditioned mall. Princesses.

And I planned on us eating in the food court at Chick-fil-A. But it was Sunday. And Chick-fil-A is closed on Sundays. So we ate McDonald's chicken nuggets and fries, which is NOT the same. Not even close. And the girls registered their protest at the fake nuggets and straight fries.

My plans were to have a special, peaceful, non-stressful, memorable day. I really, really tried to make it not stressful.

I even took off from work.

And we rode the carousel.

And we had chicken nuggets. And french fries. And Ketchup.

But it was stressful.

And I also had this stupid idea of doing a photo shoot on our special last day together. (Which most men hate in case you don't know that. And more than that, they hate having to wear what you tell them to wear because it matches or coordinates with something YOU are wearing.)

And Big Mike is messy and I had to warn him not to put on his "photo shoot" shirt if he was going to be messy with his lunch, which he was. (Why did I tell him to get ketchup?)

And then finally, it was time to load up our car and drive the almost two hours to the girls' new home. As everyone was putting babies in cars, and blankets, and books, and car toys and grabbing cameras and photo shoot clothes and my purse and all the other millions of things it seems to take to travel anywhere with kids, much less kids you are moving OUT of your house, I decided to run back in the house and grab a few animal crackers for the girls.

I was hurrying, because Big Mike doesn't like to wait in the car, and neither do babies, so in my hurriedness I flung open the pantry door and grabbed the animal crackers, only to be interrupted by a loud bang followed by a brown explosion all over the white walls, doors and floor of the kitchen.

Seems in my hurriedness, and my flinging of the pantry door, I dislodged a bottle of root beer extract (which for those of you who don't know, is for making homemade root beer). The dislodged bottle hit the ground and exploded.

Jacob walked in just in time to see it and said, "wow, it looks like a murder scene in here." And it did. And it was just one more thing that made me want to cry. And I had on my photo shoot shirt.

All I could think of was Big Mike in the car, two screaming babies, and this HUGE mess I now had to clean up. Jacob (and Zack) helped me get most of it up, but when I finished there was a brown tint to the floor and doors and wall. But we had to go!
(But just for the record, it seemed weird to me that we were HURRYING to leave to give away our two babies, even if we were giving them to friends that we love!)

After what was a very long, hard, emotional day (complete with me forgetting to bring their crib! What kind of mother forgets a CRIB!!??) we arrived home at 10 p.m. As we walked in the door, I was assaulted by the smell of root beer and realized that I still had a freaking mess to clean up.

All that to say, as far as days go, it was memorable. Not quite as I planned it. But memorable.

Day 98: I Wonder

My thoughts are consumed with them. I wonder what they are doing. I wonder if they ate a good breakfast. I wonder if they slept well. I wonder if they wake up confused about where they are sleeping. I wonder if they miss us. I wonder, I wonder, I wonder . . . it makes me want to cuss.

Part of that is my OCD. Things like this kick it into overdrive.

I'm sick in my mind and my heart and my stomach. I cry at the drop of a hat.

And then the next ten minutes I am totally fine. I feel crazy. Like I literally MIGHT lose my mind.

I drove home yesterday fully expecting them to be staring out the window when I arrived. But they weren't. The blinds were down. The sounds of children did not exist. The signs of children did not exist. Except for the half-eaten book that still sits on my mantel.

I saw them today. (Long story) They looked beautiful. Their parents didn't look frazzled, didn't seem too stressed (other than a brief skirmish about the placement of poopy diapers - a "discussion" that Mike and I had MANY TIMES!) Baby "N" seemed excited to see me. Hugged me hard. Clung to me for just a second. Even fussed a little when I left. Baby "S" didn't seem overly enthralled with my presence. She was happy and playing with a toy. Exactly as I would want her to be.

I wonder still. How long will this weight in my chest be there, threatening to crush the air out of my lungs?

We talked of our next "kids." The next sweet babies in need of rescuing. I wonder who they will be and when they will come.

All that to say. . . I wonder. God heal my heart quickly so I am ready for the next children you send our way.

Day 97: Living Shallow

Now that I do not have toddlers in my home, I took some time to think about all the things I can do again. I was thinking it might cheer me up. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Sleep late
2. Get a pedicure whenever I want
3. Leave my purse on the couch
4. Go to a movie
5. Never eat a chicken nugget again
6. Blowdry my hair without fear that I will wake up a sleeping baby
7. Leave my earrings lying on the coffee table
8. Leave my bra in the bathroom floor
9. Leave my bathroom door unlocked
10. Go out to dinner with friends
11. Work late
12. Argue with my husband without whispering
13. Have way more sex (sorry family that reads this blog)
14. Put my shirt on in the morning and not have to worry about what will be on it when I leave for work.
15. Leave the toilet lid open.
16. Leave the ice maker on "unlock."
17. Wash clothes without searching the washing machine for "throw ins" first.
18. Take off the strap that keeps my closet closed.
19. Discontinue using my bed as a changing station.
20. Drink my coffee leisurely and eat my entire bagel all by myself.

All that to say, my life was pretty shallow apparently. Because none of that crap matters anymore. Well, except maybe #13.

Day 96: Hearing Things

We just got home from a very, very hard day. A father's day that I just bet Mike will never forget. The last time I saw him cry like he cried today was the night his dad died. Like I said, a very hard day.

When we arrived, I realized (to my chagrin) that we were going to loan the new parents one of our cribs until they could get another one. We had talked about several bed scenarios, so I just totally forgot that I was bringing one. Then we planned to have a fun photo shoot, but it wasn't fun. It was hot and stressful. (Knowing Shauna, I'm sure it will be amazing anyway.) Within minutes after we left, Shauna called to ask if I had left her any diapers. ugh. So we made a detour by Target to buy diapers and a crib. Then "celebrated" Father's day dinner and drove home.

It was a long drive home. A drive filled with many tears, and silence, and tears, and silence.

I'm sitting in the living room tonight, at least what is left of the night, and I swear I heard them crying in their bedroom. It was so real a sound that it caused a lump in my throat.

Even as I type these words, I can feel the tears stinging my eyes, threatening to spill out. I can feel the catch in my throat, and I'm struggling to keep it there, lest it slip out as a sob.

My home is quiet. Strangely quiet. No longer filled with the sounds of babies. And even though I am sure I heard them a moment ago, I know that if I walked upstairs to their room, their beds would be empty. It's those empty beds that make my heart ache.

All that to say, I need to go to bed and cry and mourn the loss I feel in my soul. For tomorrow will bring new mercies. To tomorrow.

Day 95: Tomorrow They Leave Us

I remember the Sunday before we got them, someone asked, "How can you do this? Won't it be hard when they leave?" It will be. And it is.

I wish I could put into words the weight that I feel in my heart. I suppose, short of them having experienced it, there is no way to accurately describe it to someone else. I have lost a child. It doesn't feel like that. I have lost a family member. It doesn't feel like that. But it does feel like grief. Like a piece of my heart is being excised, a tiny little bit at a time.

I wonder if they will think we gave them away because we didn't love them enough. I wonder if they will miss our routines and the sounds of our family rhythm. I wonder if they will feel loneliness? I hope the answer to all of that is no. I want them to be so enthralled with this new place, this new home that God has placed them in that we don't cross their minds. At least not in a way that causes sadness.

I know I am not making sense. I don't make sense to myself right now.

All that to say, tomorrow they leave us. And my heart is sad.

Day 94: When I Think About Them

When I think about them leaving, it makes my heart hurt.

When I think about them living, I am overjoyed that they will have parents who adore them.

When I think about them leaving, I feel sad and anxious and overwhelmed with emotion.

When I think about them living, I am filled with hope and excitement and thankfulness.

When I think about them leaving, I think about their empty little cribs and unread books lying in the basket in their room.

When I think about them living, I picture their sweet little room and the bookshelf that was first handpainted by their mama, then filled with books she will someday read to them.

When I think about them leaving, I ache with loneliness.

But with I think about them living, I know that each precious day will be filled with every moment of love and laughter and joy that God intended for them.

All that to say, I will think about them living, because thinking about them leaving sucks.

Day 93: I Was a Good Mama Today

Last night, without much notice, I decided to take the girls to visit their birth mom so we wouldn't have to do a big family visitation on the same day that the girls were going to move in with their new family. Seemed like a lot in one day. Visitation (always stressful for them) a two hour car ride to their new house, in a new car, with new parents. Arriving at their new home late at night, to sleep in a new bed, in a new room. Just too much.

So off we went to visitation. She was an hour late. Not unusual. But she does utilize public transportation, so I can't really fault her too much.

The thing about these birth moms is that you can't help but fall in love with them too. They become part of the package. And the same beauty that was buried deep inside her children is buried deep inside her, waiting to be called forth. I want her to know it's there too. She needs rescuing too. She just doesn't know it yet.

Last night, for the first time, she crawled into the children's gated area and played with her babies for over an hour. Usually she responds to their presence, but then spends most of her time visiting with us. She needs us to approve her, to like her, to love her.

I was proud of her last night. It was a baby step. But she really played with and loved on her babies. As their time together ended, she helped me carry the kids back to the car. After we loaded them in the car, she looked at me and said, "I was a good mama today, wasn't I?" She was. For one hour, she was. And it made me cry that she needed that affirmation.

I pray each day that God would gently reveal to her the responsibility she bears for the condition her kids were in. I felt like that question was also starting the process of her saying, "I haven't been a good mama, have I?"

All that to say, we only have three more days as the parents of these children. But I pray that God will continue to give us opportunity to love on their birth mom. (We know we still get to love on our babies . . . cause we know where they'll be living!)

Day 92: Eleven Weeks

The first night we got them I remember going to street church and being so nervous about meeting their birth mom. I wondered if she would like us, or if she would look at us, take an immediate dislike to us, and declare, "My babies are not going home with these old people!" I wondered if they would like us, or if they would be afraid of us.

Turns out their mom was not all that interested in us. She liked us, but didn't quiz us at all (not like I would quiz strangers about to leave with my babies . . .oh wait . . .) And the babies were so used to going with other people, that we weren't a big deal to them.

So, we took them and their small stack of belongings to our car and loaded them up in the car seat. (Word to the wise for new parents - KNOW how everything works before you have to use it - car seats, strollers, cribs, EVERYTHING!) We FINALLY got them buckled in their car seats, couldn't figure out how to adjust the straps, prayed a quick prayer and headed home.

About 10 minutes into the car ride, the screaming stopped, and all of a sudden I felt a hand on my arm. Baby "S" (who turns out is an escape artist) had wiggled free of her car seat and was tapping me on the arm. Ummmm, yeah, true confession. First night, baby not in car seat. Mimi report card: F

But, I figured out the car seat, made the rest of the ride home and took two sound asleep babies into our home for the first time, laid them in their cribs, and changed our world forever.

It's hard to believe that it really has been only 11 weeks. It feels like we've known them forever. We know the sound of the cries, individually. We know who likes what foods and who doesn't. We know what each of them needs to fall asleep. We know how each one likes to be comforted.

I feel this great need to impart ALL of that knowledge to their new family. But I won't. At least not ALL of it. I think. That feels like the right thing to do.

All that to say, transition is hard. It will be hard on all of us. Some minutes I'm so excited for them and their new family. Other times I am weeping over nothing, like finding a cinderella slipper under the couch. But our hearts are overflowing with gratitude that God would give us these 11 weeks.

Day 91: Making Our Last Memories

I don't know how to begin my blog today. My heart feels so many things. Everything from elation to devastation, all revolving around what will take place over the next 5 days, culminating in the girls leaving our home.

This morning I was frustrated because Baby "N" woke up VERY EARLY, so I had to figure out how to blowdry my hair while holding a child that needed to be held, but who also happens to be TERRIFIED of the blowdryer. Not frustrated with her, frustrated with myself for sleeping that extra 20 minutes!

(And yes, we documented this b/c I personally feel like there should be some kind of award for Mimi's who can blowdry their hair WHILE holding a baby!)

During the day, I found out that they were moving to their new home on Sunday, as in THIS SUNDAY, not on July 10, which is what I thought at the beginning of this day.

When I came home from work tonight, two happy little faces were smiling at me through the window. We have three large windows that oversee our driveway (I know, what a view, right?) and we always pull the blinds up on the windows because the girls love to play in them otherwise. I love pulling up and seeing their sweet faces in the window.

The second I walked into the door, they jumped ("N" actually jumps off the ground with two feet, but "S" can only get one foot off the ground at a time, so funny.) And then they erupted into tears, wanting to be held simultaneously. That's been the hardest thing about having twins . . . deciding who to pick up first when you have two crying babies!

I noticed that their "babies" were sitting up against the wall and Zack (my 25 year old son)explained to me how the girls had put their babies in time out, completely mimicking our motions when we put the girls in time out. There is no way to accurately explain it, but trust me, it was funny.

I cooked dinner, we had baths, we took our evening walk, drank a glass of milk, had a story, sang twinkle twinkle little star, said our prayers, (I'm talking about the girls in case you aren't following!) and then laid them down for night night.

For all intents and purposes, the night was like any other night. But tonight, it felt sweeter. Tonight, it felt like I was trying to write every detail into some permanent memory bank inside my brain. Because tonight I know that there aren't many more of these nights left.

And as if they knew it too, they played in their cribs for a little longer than usual, saying "Mimi, Mimi, Mimi, Mimi" until finally I caved in and went in to pat them one last time before they fell asleep.

All that to say, we have 4 more nights to eat dinner, have baths, take walks, drink milk, have stories, sing songs, say prayers, and make memories. Memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Day 90: I Miss Him

I miss God. I tried to couch that sentence in the midst of a story about other times when I missed Mike, and why I missed him, and how that relates to me missing God, but then I thought, "forget all that fancy writing crap, just say it." I miss God.

I have this deep longing inside me right now for Him. Like I just want to crawl up in His lap, lay my head on His shoulder, and cry my eyes out. And then He would wrap His arms around me, pat my head, and tell me how much He loves me. And then I would feel comforted.

But right now, I feel distant. This is not His fault. It's mine. I have distanced myself. My prayers have been pleas of insanity. My "time alone" with Him has been hurried and frenetic. My heart has been otherwise engaged.

And now, I am lonely. And I miss Him. But I am comforted by this promise, "Ask and it shall be given to you. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you."

All that to say, "Lord, I need you. I miss you."

Day 89: The Road to Recovery

It's difficult to really express how deeply we have been affected by our sweet little babies. We have watched them really grow and mature in so many significant ways, the least of which are physical.

I sat down today and began to organize their photos (sadly, in preparation for CPS meetings) which made me realize just how significantly they have grown.

(I had to remove al the photos originally posted for legal reasons)

It's amazing how much they have healed, physically and emotionally. Their hair, believe it or not, has been the slowest to "heal." As I looked through these pictures tonight, I could finally tell that even their hair is getting better.

All that to say, they have a long road of healing ahead of them. But at least they are on the road to recovery.

Day 88: Being the Woman of His Dreams

Because I posted a blog entitled "Being the Man of Her Dreams," it is only fair that I publish a list for women on how to be the woman of his dreams. This is a compilation that comes from many "male" sources.

1. He needs you to understand that he has physical needs, namely sex, and that those needs must be met, often, regularly, and unselfishly. This doesn't make him selfish or demanding. It's how he was created. He is a visual and physical being.
That means that how you look is also important. Take the time to take care of yourself physically.
2. He wants to be your friend, but not your BFF. This means that he does care what happens in your life, but he doesn't need to know about every detail of every day and everything that happened in that day. Nor does he want to know the details of your menstral cycle or anything else that would have MORTIFIED you to talk about when you were dating.
3. He will want you to respect him, both in private and in front of others, but especially in front of others. It is also important to him that his opinion matters to you, especially his opinion about you. He wants you to care more about what he thinks than what others think.
4. And he is going to have dreams, lots and lots of them, and it will be important to him that you let him dream his dreams. They might not ever turn out to be anything more than a dream, but if you crush them at the outset, then neither of you will ever know what they could have been. And if you do it often enough, you will crush him. Let him dream.
5. He has a holy spirit, and you are not it. This will be hard for you to remember, because you are going to want to point out to him how he is not spiritual enough, doesn't pray enough, doesn't read his Bible enough, etc. You might be surprised that if you let him lead you spiritually, he will probably be a great leader.
6. And remember, he's not yours to "fix" or "change." Everytime you think about how you want him to change, go back to why you fell in love with him in the first place. More than likely, it's the things you want to change that are the things that made you love him.
7. And lastly, don't take his silence as a sign that he doesn't care about you. He does. He loves you. In fact, he doesn't feel the need to fill up the silence with words. He loves you enough to enjoy the silence.

All that to say, I'm sure I left out a few (some on purpose . . . like "must know how to fetch my beer and tv without having to be told.") Comments are welcome!

Day 87: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Nine weeks ago we brought home two little girls who were fragile and broken and angry. Two little girls who owned a blanket each, a bottle each, and two changes of clothes (and they only had all of this because of Debs Walker!)

Their skin was in such bad condition that it cracked and bled and sloughed off. And this was after the TLC that Debs had given them for the 10 days she had them, so I cannot imagine what it must have looked like before then.

Their hair was so dry and brittle that it is only just now really starting to grow and soften.

It's only been 9 weeks. And now they are happy, and healthy, and beautiful. Their skin is healthy, their hair is almost there and they are a delight.

Two weeks ago, we thought they were leaving. And it felt crushing. Not because we weren't happy for where they were going. We were. We are. But because we already loved them so deeply.

And that was two weeks ago. And now we have them for two more weeks. By the time they go to their new home, we will have had them for three months. A little more time to fall more deeply in love with them.

Whenever I talk of them leaving (which is often and accompanied by tears), I often get comments like, "Wow, you're really upset for only having had them for a few weeks." or "Well, at least they are going to a good home." or "Well at least you know the family they are going to so you can visit often."

Yesterday someone said to me, "I imagine that your heart is deeply grieving this loss. I'm so sorry." I cannot begin to tell you how soothing those words were.

And I thought to myself, how many platitudes have I given people who were grieving, when all they needed was someone to understand their loss?

A friend of mine used to tell me, "Don't try to offer words of comfort, just mourn with them. That's what people need." Wise words. Too often unheeded by me.

All that to say, Blessed are those who mourn with those who mourn. Jesus didn't say it exactly like that. But I think he would concur.

Day 86: Being the Man of Her Dreams

I was talking with someone today at church. We started talking about raising kids and all the things we have taught our grown kids and all the things we didn't, but wish we had. They asked, what's the one thing you wish you had taught your sons? And I said, "I wish we had taught them how to woo, and win over the woman of their dreams, and then how to be the man of their dreams." They laughed at me and said, that's a tall order. What would you have said?

"Someday you will meet the woman of your dreams and when you do, she's going to want a few things from you. She's going to want to be pursued, and then cherished. She's going to want to know that you adore her, that you think she is the smartest, most beautiful woman in the whole world. She's going to want to know that you would never hurt her intentionally and that you will also make sure no one else does.

She's going to want you to be generous to her and to others. She's going to want you to be selfless. It will be important to her that you love the poor and hate injustice. And she's going to want to see how you live that out.

She's going to want you to lead her spiritually, to love Jesus more than she does. She's going to want you to pray over her and for her and with her. She's going to want you to tell her what God is teaching you and to talk about your faith.

She's going to need you to be a good listener, which will be hard for you because you will want to fix her problems, but she really just needs you to listen.

She's going to need you to be a good provider. Not to be rich, or a money making machine, but just to know that you will do what it takes to make sure she will be cared for.

And more than anything else, she needs to know that you love her more than you love yourself.

All that to say, when I finished my discourse my friend said, "You should write that down and give it to all mothers of sons." So here it is. And because I know my sons read my blog, when you find the woman of your dreams, here's how to be the man of her dreams. I love you.

Day 85: Calling Forth the Beauty

A woman that I know told me how she rescues babies from the streets, yet while in the midst of saving these babies,she loves on their birth mothers. I asked her how she could do it (because I find myself frustrated and angry a good bit of the time) and she told me this. She said, "We were each created with something beautiful at our core. And for most of us, this broken world covers us with so much darkness, that that which is beautiful within us gets buried so deeply, that it might never be exposed. Our job, as the Church, is to see what is beautiful and draw it forth. We have to look beyond what we can see on the surface, and look into what Jesus can see."

I really took those words to heart, and I have applied them to my babies. We have foster children, as most of you know. They are precious little babies who at 22 months of age have seen more life than most of us should see, or most likely will ever see.

When we first got them, they were two sides of a coin. One was dark and brooding, a heart and spirit so hardened and calloused that it was shocking in someone so young and so little. The other was fragile, emotionally and physically. Fearful of strangers, fearful of more things than I care to write about.

The one who was dark and brooding had something beautiful inside her. And we have seen that coming forth. The one who was fragile and broken, we have seen her heal. And now she is angry. But we are okay with that too, because we know that if that anger didn't come forth, then it would be buried deeply within her as well, and that should not be. Beneath her anger is something beautiful, and we are calling it forth. Every now and then, we see glimmers of the most incredible joy on their faces.

All that to say, they are beautiful, a beauty we have yet to fully see or know, but we know that He has seen it. He put it there. What a privilege to get to see it emerge. I John 3:2 Now we are the children of God, and what we shall become has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.