I am a Child of God

Today Raine turns 7. She arrived on my doorstep shortly after her 3rd birthday. It seems a lifetime ago

Athena & Raine ready to celebrate

Athena & Raine ready to celebrate

and only yesterday. The report received by the private fostering agency I work for said she had an acquired brain injury from falling out of a bassinet at 6mths.

For years I’d been carrying a crib with me. Everywhere I moved to, I lugged the unopened box. It was a gift from a friend who believed me when I said, “One day soon I’m going to adopt two children – whether I’m married or not.” In the sea of people I knew, this one friend reached out and gave me a gift which cost her dearly. She wasn’t exactly prosperous, struggling with three young children of her own.

When I got the call about Raine, I set up the crib. Having just turned 3, with a brain injury, she might need it. There was also a bed in the room prepared for her. I didn’t know what she’d need.

The social worker and her co-op student, released Raine from her carseat then set about unloading the boxes of clothing and toys sent from the previous foster home. Alone, Raine made her way up to my front door. I introduced myself. She moved past me, talking a mile a minute. Venturing through the house, she landed at the dinning room table that was set with tea and cookies.

Her last name had been exotic. The case manager with my agency told me to expect a Hispanic child. Instead a chubby girl with fair skin, blond hair, and blue eyes asked me a million questions while gobbling up cookies. Raine was bright and articulate. She was not what I’d expected.

“Maybe her sister will come and you’ll get to adopt them both,” my case worker said when the social

cupcakes I made for Raine's 7th birthday

cupcakes I made for Raine’s 7th birthday

worker was gone.

“Maybe,” I agreed. But that didn’t seem remotely possible.

When shown her room, Raine pointed to the crib and said, “This is for my sister. When is she coming here?”

Due to some complications at the previous foster home, a separation was thought best for the young girls. Three months later, their social worker defied her supervisor and the medical adviser deciding to bring 1yr old Athena to my home. The crib was hers, though at that point I didn’t know this was the fulfillment.

I didn’t know these were the children I would adopt. But I invested everything I had in them. Sometimes I didn’t have much to give. Some days I still don’t. This year, as Raine’s birthday drew near, she and I were both reflecting on the time before we knew each other. My daughter hasn’t always been mine. For 3yrs she lived with people I don’t know experiencing a life I know very little about. I’ve worked hard to lay claim to her. Yet there’s a portion of time when Raine wasn’t mine.

Since coming to me, Raine has been adding up the passing time. She’s longed to reach 4yrs “because then I’ll be with you longer than I was without you.” As we near that point, there’s a reflection on that life before. Hundreds of what ifs race through my mind. Maybe it’s because I’m a novelist at heart, I always want to rewrite the past. What if my daughters hadn’t needed to become mine? Wouldn’t that be so much better?

Raine and I both awoke somewhat subdued today. It was a time to celebrate. We tried but mostly failed. Then a friend sent a message with a song attached.

I clicked on the youtube video. Raine stood quietly beside me, watching and listening while I cried. The past is what it is. I can’t rewrite the reality that the family who created Raine is no longer present in her life. Given the circumstances, it’s right that she’s not with them. It’s right for her to be here with me. But that doesn’t erase the pain for her, for her birth parents and siblings, for me. I missed three years of Raine’s life. But I’m exceedingly grateful for what we have shared and will continue to share.

I love watching her change from a slave of fear into a child of God. The transformation continues to amaze me. In the midst of difficulty, Raine’s heart has come alive. She’s learned to love her sister. She’s learned to trust me. Fear is loosing it’s grip. Raine is growing in the realization of who she is. I’m celebrating that today. I’m celebrating the beautiful daughter the Lord brought into my life.

Raine on her 7th birthday

Raine on her 7th birthday

Athena Turns 5

IMG_20140922_115545On Friday, September 19 Athena turned 5. It fills my heart with joy to see the amazing child she’s become. Birthdays always have me looking back on changes over the years.

My mom has started a tradition of taking the girls shopping shortly before their birthday. They’re allowed to pick out their own birthday gifts. Last year, before her 4th birthday, Athena didn’t enjoy the shopping trip. She couldn’t understand why only she was going. Without her sister or I along, Athena was very shy and withdrawn.

This year as her birthday drew near, Athena reminded my mom she needed to take her shopping. With joy, she looked forward to their time together. “And you’re not coming,” she told her sister. “Just me! Only I’m going!” Athena said with a smile.

The Sunday before her birthday, she went. Athena wanted to go to my parents’ house first. My mom had a friend visiting from England. That surprised Athena but it wasn’t long before she was comfortable. Athena devised a plan for lunch – bagels with Nutella and sliced strawberries. Apparently it was delectable. “I made up my own recipe!” Athena told me. Often she contemplates being a baker.

Athena and I - so happy together

Athena and I – so happy together

After having lunch, they went shopping. Athena returned talkative and excited. Last year she was sullen for the remainder of the day, unimpressed with the gifts she’d chosen and the fact that I’d sent her off without the safety net of our immediate family.

This year everything was different. More and more, Athena’s becoming comfortable in the world at large. When she sees familiar faces at church, she runs to greet them. When friends come to visit she doesn’t want them to leave.

And the girl who hates photos, kept jumping into every shot I tried to take the day of her birthday. I love watching my girls grow and change. I love seeing them flourish as they become confident in their position and the love of those around them. I love celebrating all God’s done!

Raine wanted to dress up as a princess in celebration of her sister's birthday. Athena didn't want to be left out of the picture.

Raine wanted to dress up as a princess in celebration of her sister’s birthday. Athena didn’t want to be left out of the picture.



Friendship… is not something you learn in school.

But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship,

you really haven’t learned anything.

Muhammad Ali
Athena opting out of Kara's attempt at t-ball with the crew

Athena opting out of Kara’s attempt at t-ball with the crew

Friends are my greatest earthly treasure. I can’t imagine life without them. Some have been around a long time – like Erin who I’ve known since I was a toddler and Kara came along when I was 13. Others I’ve met more recently and we share a more immediate history.

My sister, born two years after me, was my first friend. Through out our lives we’ve always been good friends. I am excited to have her back in relative proximity. Instead of across the country, she’s now living only 3hrs away.

Often, I’ve wondered if my girls would have the same joyous experience of having each other and a close circle of friends to see them through life. There were times when Raine’s behaviour made me mournful. She couldn’t see how vehemently she was pushing away her peers – including her sister.

Raine and Kara's daughter, Ruth

Raine and Kara’s daughter, Ruth

This past year in homeschooling, my focus has been socialization. Yesterday Raine got a passing grade!
We went to the Christian campground I grew up at. Erin and Kara were there with their kids and another friend with her foster children.
There were a few moments requiring correction, but all in all both my girls did great. Athena was talkative and engaging – often she becomes incredibly shy in these situations. Raine was inclusive and patient. Still she emerged as the leader, but had an uncommon flexibility.

a quick dinner along the Grand River

a quick dinner along the Grand River

In the shallow wading pool, Raine organized a game where all the kids lined up at the edge. When she said go, in unison everyone ran into the water. Half way through the pool, at the deepest point, all the children dropped down and began splashing. They did this for what seemed like forever. Though leading, Raine didn’t get bossy. She patiently listened when the other kids talked to her. When discouraged, for whatever reason, Raine responded to her friends with kindness.
It was a beautiful scene. Previously, Raine could only tolerate friends in short bursts. But we were there nearly the entire day. And her good attitude continued as we picked up a foster child to join us for the weekend.
Even I was refreshed after our long day.

Even I was refreshed after our long day.

In the daily grind it’s easy to loose sight of how far we’ve come. Last year we were at camp for a week and it wasn’t so rosy. Sadly we could only go for the day this year, but it was well worth the hour long drive. I loved seeing my girls so happy interacting with friends. Some day they may be sitting at the edge of that same pool with those same friends watching their kids play together.
I am a rich woman, blessed with amazing friends – a few of whom I got to see yesterday.


Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished. Luke 1:45


Years ago in the Christmas season this verse came to me. I’d read it countless times. But that year it dove deep into my heart. I was struggling to believe. Days later at work, I picked up the phone to find a woman on the other end asking if I’d like to adopt a foster child in her care. Why she ended up calling me remains a mystery. She was looking for someone else in the office but mentioned my name to the receptionist. At that point, not too many people knew about my dream to adopt. Of course the Lord was aware. He’s the one who spoke the idea into existence (see Adoption). That call came to nothing for me or the other married couple seeking a child. But it did remind me that the Lord would accomplish all He said. That year I made cards for everyone in my office featuring this verse. A few years later I tattooed believe my right arm, an ever present reminder as I continued to wait.

tattoo on right arm as a reminder to believe

tattoo on right arm as a reminder to believe

This year the wait is over. At the end of January 2013, Sloane* and Elise* legally became my daughters. The long anticipated dream of adopting came to pass. It’s been a roller coaster of emotion and experience. After some amazing prayer for Sloane a few weeks ago, I feel like we’re finally on stable ground. Today she made up a song about two babies who grew in one mom’s stomach. Because that mom couldn’t take care of them, those babies came to a new mom who adopted them. “And it’s good!” she exclaimed.

I often think of Mary, blessed with the words of Luke 1:45. Did she know everything that would transpire? As she and Joseph set out for Bethlehem, did she understand the Scriptures naming this as the Messiah’s birthplace? Or did she see it as a horrible detour? Were there moments in the journey when she struggled to believe? In my own journey there have been many times doubt crept in. Despite the tattoo, many gifts from friends with the word believe, and naming my company Believe bistro (www.believebistro.com) there have been times I’ve struggled to believe.

Long ago, in the midst of waiting, I came across the Christmas musical “Child of the Promise”. So often I sang along with the words written for Elizabeth, “it must be God when the dream never dies.” With all the trials, disappointments, and discouragement my dream never died. I continued to believe.

This year, I’m moved by the song written for Joseph. “The way I thought that it would be is that God would make our pathway smooth. Our steps together would be easy. I wanted that for you. The way I thought that it would be is God would take all pain away, our lives would happen perfectly. I wanted that for you. I wanted all that for you.

There’s so much I want for my daughters. I have these perfect ideals. Still their past is something I can’t change. Both were born addicted to pain killers. They spent weeks in the hospital being weaned off those drugs. In praying for Sloane a few weeks ago, the Lord showed me a picture of her newly born in the hospital. He whispered to her, “It’s ok. I have a new mom waiting for you.” Somehow, through prayer, the Lord has eased the distress Sloane’s been living in. For the first time in her short life, she’s at peace. Her song is absolutely beautiful.

The Lord accomplished what He said to me. He’s given me, as a single woman, two children through adoption. I’m living in the blessing of believing.

This Christmas our family of three will be together on our own. It looks like our foster child, Joseph (see Love is Important) will be with his father. I’m rejoicing in the blessings afforded to me because of my tenacity to believe. The Lord has accomplished what He said. I know God will continue to bring beauty for ashes. I continue to believe. I am blessed. My children are blessed.

*name changed

photo courtesy of RAD Photography - Rebekah Dalgleish

photo courtesy of RAD Photography – Rebekah Dalgleish

My Baby is 4!

Today Elise* turns 4. She arrived three months before turning 2, so this is the 3rd time we’ve celebrated her birthday together. I had about 1wk to prepare for her arrival, which is unusual in fostering. I carefully decorated the nursery in birds, praying Psalm 124:7-8.

We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

Her older sister, Sloane*, had been with me three months when the social worker decided to move Elise to my home – against doctor and supervisor’s recommendations. I do believe everyone has been pleasantly surprised by the success of that decision – me most of all. I’ve seen my little one transform from frightened and fragile (for more info see Only Prayer) into a confident ray of sunshine.

I must admit she still sleeps in a crib – by her own choice. Up until a few months ago she still needed a bottle to fall asleep. Going without she struggles to lull herself to sleep. And she still needs a diaper for bed. Those are the biggest challenges. The fact that she continually wants to be picked up and carried is something I’m willing to indulge. As I put her to bed on the eve of her birthday, despite being nearly 4 and attending school, Elise still insisted I call her a baby. “I’ll always be a baby!” she’s decided. Not so. But I’m happy to pretend – holding her close and kissing her a million times.

As a single mom, I’ve told my girls Jesus is their dad. He’s the one who birthed them in my heart long ago. He also moved heaven and earth so I could keep them (see Adoption). He’s the one who provides for us in so many unexpected ways. When Sloane started wondering about a dad (she remembers her birth father), I casually informed her she had Jesus. It wasn’t something I went out of my way to tell Elise because she didn’t ask. But she’s got it. Recently when Sloane commented, “I don’t have a dad.” Elise piped up in sincere conviction, “Yes! We have Jesus!!!” Praying she always knows His love and protection as she grows.

*name changed

Elise at 2

Elise at 2

Elise at 3

Elise at 3

Elise at 4

Elise at 4