Behaving Inappropriately

My children mis-behave. All 6 of them.

They run in Walmart. They wrestle in Target. They fight with each other. They give me attitude.

Yes, we are loud as we pass through life. Yes, not everyone is using their indoor voice. Yes, that was my son who just tried to vault over the counter top.

And, yes, you saw me ignore it.

The thing is, I have a reason for this.

Before we completed our adoption, we were required to take 25 hours of online parenting classes. And read approximately 752 books on parenting theories. And watch videos of interactions between a PhD and the adopted children she works with.

No, we do not know what we are doing! In fact, most days, I question myself over and over again. Am I ruining my children? Am I teaching them the life skills that they need to learn? Am I choosing the right behaviors to fix and the right ones to ignore?

But, we do have a reason behind the parenting decisions we make.

Reason #1 – We need to build a connection with our children.

Think, for a minute, about your relationship with God. Why do you strive to obey Him? Is it because you are afraid of His punishment? Or is it because you love Him and want to do what is right?

I want my children to obey me because they love me. I want them to obey because they know it is right.

And so I start with love.

I build connections. 100 different ways. 1,000 times over. Again and again and again. I have to teach them how to love me. I have to teach them how to accept my love.

And I have to teach the reasons behind their obedience. I don’t want them to obey because they are afraid of the coming punishment. I want the obedience to be rooted in their heart change.

“When we shift our perspective from the outward to the inward, from rules to relationships, our parenting will change.” ~ Leslie Fields, Parenting Is Your Highest Calling and Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt

Reason #2 – There are SO MANY bad behaviors, I can’t correct all of them.

This sounds horrible. But it is so true.

If I corrected every single bad behavior that my children exhibited, there would be no room for love to flourish.

So, instead, I pick my battles. And I pray that I am picking the right ones.

Reason #3 – My focus is on heart change, not on the appearance of good behavior.

This is a hard one. I know I am often guilty of parenting my children in public based on the idea in my head that Someone is watching me. Someone expects me to address this behavior. I am so embarrassed that Someone is seeing my child act like this!

But – Someone can’t see into my child’s heart. Only God can. And my goal is to create a fertile landscape where seeds of everlasting truth can take root and grow to fruition.

Our family is in a season of transition. Maybe even a lifetime of it. And this transition is messy and loud and oh-so-un-perfect. I know that I need grace over and over again. Grace from my God. Grace from my children. Grace from my husband. And grace from all of you.

I am sorry if my children act inappropriately. I am sorry if I act inappropriately.

Please know that we are all doing the very best we can.



The Legacy Of An Adopted Child – Two Mothers To Love

Oh my. The last two weeks have been hard. Rough around the edges, messy through the middle, and filled with pain at the core.

But the last few days have been good. Not perfect, but better.

Scott has been reading The Adopted Child – a book filled with wisdom for those of us who have no clue what we are doing! One of the chapters in this book deals specifically with children who have had a very short transition time from their biological parents to their adoptive parents. This is Leah.

If you remember, she had only 4 weeks between the time she left her mother and when her adoption was finalized and she came to us.

4 weeks to get used to the idea of leaving behind everything that made up her identity.

It doesn’t matter what her life looked like, what it felt like, if it was hungry and cold and angry….it only mattered that it was all she knew.

This book said that children who have this short transition time, regardless of the circumstances, they process the adoption as a sort of “kidnapping.” This, too, is Leah.

She can’t begin to reason her way through the complex emotions that fill her heart. She can’t even give herself permission to feel all of those emotions. And so she vacillates between allowing herself to grow a tenuous attachment to me, and then pushing me away and punishing me for taking her from the woman who gave her life.

This punishment rains blows upon my heart.

But, of course, I am not supposed to show that.

And so I stuff my emotions down into my stomach and don’t allow them to surface. I get indigestion. I feel nauseous. I have to draw deep, shaky breaths because I feel my lungs constricting with the effort of holding it all inside. I cry at bedtime.

And, yes, sometimes I feel angry. Angry at a world full of sin that has caused such pain. Angry at a dysfunctional family that left emotional scars on my daughter. And, wrong though it may be, angry at my daughter for treating me like this.

Leah does not think I love her. She has convinced herself that no one can love her. She has a playlist running through her head. “No one likes me. I have no friends. I do not belong anywhere. I am not worthy. No one loves me.” If she is loveable, why did her own mother not keep her?

And nothing I do or don’t do, say or don’t say, can change her opinion.

Change will come with time, and patience, and a healing that can happen only if she allows God to touch her heart.

And I think of her mother, her other mother, the one who lives halfway around the world and has not seen her beautiful daughter in almost a year.

What must she be feeling? Does she think about her children every day? Does she picture them in an America that she has never seen but can only imagine? Does she pray for them? Does she worry about them?

Every mother, regardless of the circumstances or the capability, has a connection to the children she births. If that child is gone, then a piece of you is missing.

And every child, regardless of the circumstances or the deservability, has a connection to the woman who carried them in her womb. If that mother is gone, then a piece of your identity is missing.

And this mother, this adoptive mother who is stumbling her way through uncharted territory, prays that Leah can somehow reconcile the love for her two mothers within her own heart.



(Author Unknown)

Once there were two women

Who never knew each other.

One you only remember,

The other you call mother.

Two different lives

Shaped to make yours one.

One became your guiding star,

The other became your sun.

The first gave you life

And the second taught you to live it.

The first gave you a need for love

And the second was there to give it.

One gave you a nationality,

The other gave you a name.

One gave you a seed of talent,

The other gave you an aim.

One gave you emotions,

The other calmed your fears.

One saw your first sweet smile,

The other dried your tears.

One gave you up —

It was all that she could do.

The other prayed for a child

And God led her straight to you.

And now you ask me

Through your tears,

The age-old question

Through the years:

Heredity or environment

Which are you the product of?

Neither, my darling — neither,

Just two different kinds of love.



Urine, Mold and Pot Gardens

My laundry room smells like dog urine.

I have been known to eye a suspicious puddle and then choose to ignore it – because I know if I ignore it for long enough (at least an hour), then it will dry up and I won’t have to clean it.

The toilet in my bathroom has orange-ish, moldy looking spots growing around the water line. I am a little confused because I always thought mold was green, but I’m pretty sure these spots (regardless of the color) shouldn’t be there.

I don’t iron. Like ever.

The kids spilled popcorn kernels all over the carpet in front of the TV. I had friends coming over. I pushed those kernels under the couch because it was easier than vacuuming.

The puppy slobbered all over Scott’s pillow. I turned the pillow over to the clean side before he came to bed. Maybe he won’t read this post and so it can remain a secret between you and I.

I am currently sitting at my computer, writing a blog, listening to music and completely ignoring my children. And the school work that we should be completing.

I am still in my pajamas.

It is 12:19 pm.

Here is a picture of my stove-top….


Doesn’t that make you feel better?

And, my children have a pot garden. That’s right! A pot garden. What are you going to do about it? They wanted to plant flowers, fruit and vegetables and so I gave them each 4-5 pots to tend. They carefully water and monitor their self-proclaimed “pot garden” daily.

As I write this, I keep thinking about a particular friend of mine. She will probably be very disappointed to read these things. In my mind, I call this friend “Suzy Homemaker.” Her house is spotless. I could probably eat off her floor. But I wouldn’t have to, because her table is always set with REAL plates. And linen napkins. And centerpieces. I feel intimidated by her. I hope she doesn’t read this. She is probably too busy cleaning her baseboards to have time to read my blog, anyway.

I have another friend – let’s call her “Martha Stewart.” She is one of those people who actually makes all the crafty things that the rest of us just pin on Pinterest. I want to be like her. Actually, I just want to kidnap her and force her to decorate my house.

Then there is my friend, “Miss America.” She is beautiful. Just painfully beautiful. And she is always clean! And her clothes match and her hair is freshly cut and styled. I am jealous of her. Really, I am especially jealous of her white, straight, evenly-spaced teeth. I want to marry her dentist.

I have been talking to my daughters a lot, lately, about the gifts that God has given them. I tell them that God has blessed us each with different gifts. Wouldn’t it be boring if we were all the same? Your beautiful voice wouldn’t sound as beautiful if everyone had the same gift of singing. Your backflip wouldn’t be as spectacular if everyone else was flipping, too. We can’t all be good at everything. Let’s thank God for the special gifts that He gave to YOU!

It sounds like my daughters have a very wise mother.

It sounds like I need to listen to her.

So, today, I am celebrating the gifts that I do have. I will not worry about those that I don’t!

Here are some of MY special gifts….

I throw the best living room dance parties! Really great ones. With laughter and music and booty shaking.

I make excellent enchiladas. They are like super-terrific. And I do it the right way – with corn tortillas, not the white way – with flour tortillas. Flour tortillas do not enchiladas make, people!

I am particularly good at laundry.

I have this one really good cat joke. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell it, my children laugh hysterically every single time.

We are an active family. My children walk, and skate, and ride bikes and see in their mother an example of what healthy activity looks like.

We eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.

I excel at publicly embarrassing my children.

Directly linked to the previous gift – I also excel at public affection. In high school, I got in trouble for this. They called it PDA. Now, I consider PDA to be completely legal and I use this gift to show my family how much I love them.

Yes, there are things that I do not do well. But, there are so many more things that I do!

I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:141

Today, celebrate the unique gifts that were placed within you. God formed each of us to be His perfect child.


Fearfully and wonderfully made.


Words that describe me.

And my children.

And you.




We Can’t Afford Priceless

Our children have had many caregivers in their lives – birth parents, various relatives, some friends, two different orphanages, and countless nannies. And now us. We knew we would have an uphill battle convincing our children that we are here to stay. We are permanent. We are not leaving. We are a family. They are resistant to bonding because experience has proven that everyone they love will eventually leave.

We needed to provide every opportunity for our children to form that bond with us. We needed to prove that we are worthy of their trust. We needed to show them that we are their caregivers – now and forever.

So before we even left for Africa, we decided that we would home school. Not only would this help with language learning, developing a sense of security in this new country, and establishing the routine of being a part of a family, home schooling would also provide hours and hours to build the bond that was lacking.

Now, as the finish line is in site for our first year of home schooling, we realize that we made the right decision for our family. Home schooling our children has been the perfect choice for us. It has been so rewarding to be a part of placing the puzzle pieces that lead to reading. To see the light in their eyes as they feel proud of a new accomplishment. To watch them master a new skill.

It has also been hard.

To balance the needs and different learning styles of my children has been challenging. To find enough time in my day to teach, and grade, and fill out paperwork for state requirements all amidst the chaos of our daily lives has been overwhelming at times. To complete everything on my check list while maintaining a joyful countenance has been almost beyond my capabilities.

I hesitate to write those words because I know of many moms who not only survive home schooling, but they thrive in it! They teach the basics and they add in fun extras like science experiments and nature walks. I am sure I could learn many good lessons from these amazing mothers. Lessons like patience, and relaxing my standards, and spending more time on my children and less on other distractions. I admire these mothers. I really and truly do. And, honestly, I have struggled with guilt that I am not as “good” as these mothers.

Don’t we all do this sometimes? Compare ourselves to others and focus on the areas that we find lacking? I have been trying to focus on comparing myself only to the standards that God has called ME to. What has God asked for ME to do – in my home, for my children, with their schooling?

As Scott and I sat down and discussed our school plan for next year, his words sounded something like…..

“Home schooling next year is not an option for us. It is making you crazy. Really and truly crazy. And not the fun kind of crazy, either. But rather the kind of crazy that makes me afraid.”

(I may be paraphrasing just a bit.)

And I agree. Fun crazy has left the building and scary crazy is ready to move in.

So what IS an option, then?

Public school, for one. We live in an area that has many fantastic public schools to choose from. They provide a great education and many of the teachers at these schools sacrifice and love on the children in their classrooms above and beyond what is required by their job.

However, because of many issues – most of them specific to adoption and to one of our littles in particular – public school is simply not an option for our family. At least, not for now.

Another option? Private school.

Joel and Hannah had attended Redding Christian School since Pre-Kindergarten. In fact, before I had kids, I was a teacher there. We love the school and everything it stands for. The teachers and staff are amazing, the education is exemplary, and the opportunity to have God in our children’s classrooms is priceless.

But, we can’t afford priceless anymore.

We managed to pay for 2 children’s private education for 6 years. And we never once felt as though the sacrifice in our budget was not worth it. But now, here we are, with twice as many people in our family – and the exact same budget. Everything is more expensive now. Groceries? Check. Medical bills? Check. Monthly electric/waste/gas bills? Check.

Although our greatest desire was to be able to send our children back to Redding Christian School, our budget simply did not allow for it. Can you imagine the monthly bill for private school tuition times 6? Let me tell you, the number was unattainable.

We did not qualify for a scholarship (of which RCS offers many) because the process involves information and W-2s from the previous calendar year, in this case, 2012. In 2012 (gosh, that seems like a lifetime ago), we only had 4 people in our family.

So we wrote a letter to the board asking for grace. I won’t go into all the details, but the process pretty much boils down to us asking for a discount, and then listening to Joel pray every night that the board would say yes.

The board said yes.


Our children will be enrolled at Redding Christian School for the 2013-2014 school year!

Only God knows the future for my children’s education. We do not know if we will end up home schooling again, choosing one of the excellent public schools in our area, or watching our children graduate from Redding Christian. I have learned to take this journey one day at a time. God always comes through with something amazing!

Oh, how He loves us. He always provides. Always. It may not be in the way that we think, it may not look the way we expected, but our God always provides.

Thank you, Redding Christian School board members. Thank you. Thank you for showing grace and favor to my family.

My children thank you for being a part of their answered prayers.

My husband thanks you for removing the scary crazy from his wife.

My sanity thanks you for not severing the last thread holding me to reality.


Thank you.




Broken Pieces

Several weeks ago, in a rare moment of un-interrupted conversation, my husband asked me to rate my stress level.

I started to laugh.

“Seriously,” he said, “on a scale of 1 to 10, what is your stress level every day? 4? 5? 6?”

I started to cry.

Because I couldn’t stop him until he reached the number 8.

I have always been an optimist. I naturally see the good in things. I focus on the silver lining.

But, recently, the silver lining (the bonding, the laughter, the slow forward progress, the hugs and cuddles) has been an all-too-fragile exterior on a very tumultuous thunder-storm.

Here’s the thing – I love my kids. Every one of them. I am thankful for them. Every one. I am blessed to be entrusted with the job of mothering them.


It. Is. Hard.

So hard.

And I think, almost as a survival mechanism, I focus on the good as much as possible and run from the bad.

It is a sort of fight or flight mentality. Do I have the strength to wade into the middle of the battle and fight my enemy head-on? Sometimes. Yes, sometimes I do. But, most often, it is easier to flee. To put a band-aid on the problem and move on to something easier.

And I don’t think this is bad or wrong. It simply is. It is survival. It is how we are making our way through all the pain hurt crap in our children’s past. There is no easy way through. There is no way to go around. We just have to wade right through the middle of the whole stinking mess.

The pictures I post of my smiling family – they are real. There are a lot of smiles. I am not trying to lie to you all. I am just choosing to focus on the good.

You don’t really want to see the pictures of the scowl, the rolling eyes, the crying, the tantrums, the slammed doors, the hitting, the nasty words that cut like arrows, the angry faces twisted up with venom – do you? I don’t really enjoy that part, either.

You know, in my head, I realize that none of these emotions are my fault. I realize that my children are expressing things that they can’t even begin to understand.

But, in my heart, I feel it.

When they say – “I want to go back to Ethiopia.” – I feel that.

When they say – “I wish I had never been born.” – I feel it.

When they say – “We are not a real family.” – Yep, the hurt, I feel it.

When they say – “You don’t love me.” – It hurts my heart. I feel it.

When they say – “I have never been happy. Not one time ever. I am not happy in Ethiopia. I am not happy in America. I wish I could die.” – It doesn’t matter what I know in my head to be true, my heart bleeds a little every time.

And when I hear these things – when I am on the receiving end of the anger that stems from hurts that I did not cause, when I have dealt with the same issue for the 100th time, when I have to remind them again and again that they are not allowed to treat a mother like that – it is hard to be gracious. It is hard to respond with forgiveness. My inner being rears up in self-righteous indignation. My heart of hearts cries out. My soul is anguished.

But on the outside, I am supposed to personify love. To flow full of grace. To prove myself worthy of their trust. To earn the attachment and bonding that come so naturally to a birth-mother and her infant.

And so, yes, my stress level was about an 8.

Not because of the laundry and the dishes and the schoolwork and the toilet scrubbing (although that certainly doesn’t help the situation), but because of the emotional toll of raising children from hurt places.


The last couple of weeks have been better. I would put my stress level at about a 5. Much improved!

There are several contributing factors to this.

*Created For Care Conference. You just will never understand what this conference did for me. It was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it. This conference alone lowered my stress level by 2 points!

*Leah got the solo for the Easter choir. I know! So exciting! And, what exactly does this have to do with my stress level? Well, when your anger and misbehavior stems from such a place of un-worthiness – when you feel inside as though you are un-lovable and good-for-nothing – all it takes is a little something to prove that maybe you have something valuable inside of you. And maybe, if you have something valuable inside of you, you can give a little love to others.

*Giving myself the gift of grace. Guess what? I am not perfect! In fact, I am really far away from perfect. I know this. My husband knows this. My children know this. And yet, I seem to expect my parenting to be perfect. And I beat myself up when it is not. So I decided instead of aiming for perfect, I am going to aim for passing. Are my children alive? Check. Are they clothed (at least in public places)? Check. Do I love them? Check. Do they feel and hear and see my love for them at least once every day? Check. Anything above that (reading, writing, hair combing, matching shoes and gender-appropriate underwear are included in this category) is icing on the cake!

We are not the perfect family. Every single person in this family is broken. We are all broken in different ways. No one is broken better or worse than any other. But, when you put all these broken pieces together, it sure does make a beautiful picture.







Nothing Is Wasted

We spent an hour tonight at the final choir rehearsal before Easter Sunday. Four of my little ones are singing in the children’s choir. And Leah – she auditioned for and was awarded a solo.

As I sat in the mostly empty gymnasium, watching the shuffling feet of the children, listening to the microphone checks and the false starts of the music, I heard the choir director give an instruction to the children that ended with the phrase, “just like last year!”

And Naomi replied, “But last year, I was not here!”

But this year, dear one, you are.

When I think about the message of Easter; the fact that Jesus is so powerful and so mighty that He can conquer even death, that our eternal life grows out of something as ugly as torture and murder; it reminds me that with God, nothing is wasted. God redeems ALL of the sinful, ugly, broken parts of our world. He catches every tear. He gives beauty for ashes.

This is His promise to every one of us. It is His promise to my children.

The lyrics are just so beautiful, aren’t they?

The hurt that broke your heart and left you trembling in the dark

Feeling lost and alone

Will tell you hope’s a lie, but what if every tear you cry

Will seed the ground where joy will grow.

It’s from the deepest wounds that beauty finds a place to bloom

And you will see before the end

That every broken piece is gathered in the heart of Jesus

And what’s lost, will be found again.

Nothing is wasted – in the hands of our Redeemer, nothing is wasted!

As I watch my children sing on Sunday morning, I know I will cry. I have cried watching them practice. I have cried driving down the road listening to them sing in the back of my minivan.

Little voices, raised in praise, singing….

Jesus is our friend. He loves everyone. Jesus is alive! He died for you and me, but on day 3 – Jesus rose again! Jesus is alive!

I have the honor of watching these beautiful lives be transformed by the God who redeems.

Thank you, God, for the gift of your son. Thank you, God, for the gift of my children.






Dancing For Those Who Can’t Dance For Themselves

It is always a fine line to walk, the balance between sharing our journey and not over-sharing our children’s story. We can’t undo words that have been spoken. We can’t snatch back their history and keep it private after we have divulged it. We can’t keep their memories sacred if we have shared them with the world.

However, I think it is fairly obvious that our children have a painful past. There was more than just poverty at work in the disintegration of their family. And, in Ethiopia, there are no social services or non-profit agencies to step in and help.

In America, we are blessed to have access to many things – clean water, medical care, education, and yes – intervention services to help the hurting family.

Shasta Women’s Refuge and Family Justice Center are just these kinds of services. They provide support to victims of domestic abuse; helping them to survive, empowering them to thrive.

Yes, the mission of Shasta Women’s Refuge hits close to home. Yes, this is something I believe in. Yes, our children could have benefited greatly from just such an agency if it were to exist in Ethiopia.

And so, when offered the opportunity to help raise funds to support Shasta Women’s Refuge, I said yes.

And it didn’t hurt that the opportunity was coupled with one of my favorite activities – dancing!

I am excited to announce that I will be a contestant on Dancing With The Stars Shasta County Style! The purpose of this event is to raise funds to support Shasta Women’s Refuge and Family Justice Center. I will be spending the next several months fundraising and practicing, practicing, practicing. And on June 22nd, we will be performing at the Cascade Theatre along with the rest of the cast.

My dance partner, Nathan Myers, and I

My dance partner, Nathan Myers, and I

Would you be willing to join me in this endeavor? You can click on the PayPal Donate link at the bottom of this blog entry or go to and donate under my name. All money donated will go directly to Shasta Women’s Refuge, every dollar is tax deductable, and every dollar donated is a vote for me! There are around 1,000 regular readers of this blog. If each person gave just $10, we could raise $10,000 for this vital non-profit agency.

Also, I need a cheering section. A very loud cheering section. The other contestants are well-known in our community. They are on boards, and chairs of events, and have much experience in this kind of public arena. And then there is me – a mother of 6 with a blog. I am serious when I say that I get very nervous when I think about this adventure. Yes, I am excited and honored that I have been asked to participate. But, I also feel in over my head. I want as many of my friends as possible to come to the show. And I want you to yell louder than anyone else in that theatre. My husband and children will be in the audience, I would love for my friends to be there, too. Tickets are not on sale yet, but they will be soon! I will post more information on ticket sales as the show draws closer.

Here is a little preview of what we have in store for you…..

Working on our Waltz

Working on our Waltz


Not really sure what this is, but it will be in our Salsa!

Not really sure what this is, but it will be in our Salsa!

Who knows what else we will come up with? My dance partner has all kinds of crazy faith in me. Here is an exerpt from our first rehearsal….

Me : “I am not flexible. I can’t lift my leg over my head like that.”

Nathan : “Don’t worry. I will lift your leg over your head for you.”

Me : “Let me re-phrase. My leg does not lift over my head.”

Nathan : “Then you have some homework…practice your high kicks. 5 kicks every day.”

Seriously, friends, you don’t want to miss this show!

And, please, if you have an extra $10, would you consider clicking on the PayPal Donate link below and donate? Do it right now! How much cash is in your wallet? How many lattes did you buy this week? Do you have $10 that you might be able to give? Or maybe more? THANK YOU!!!





I Am Healthy, I Am Loved

This post has only the barest whisper of our adoption story attached to it. It is mostly about body image. And loving ourselves. And finding our value in what is really important.

I grew up in a wonderful, large, loud, loving family. My mom is Mexican. This explains the loud. And it explains the large…our love of food.

Every family event had delicious food. And lots of it! Mexican food isn’t exactly known for being low-fat, you know.

Add to this the idea that I never exercised or played sports, and you end up with a very overweight teenager. I was obese.

I met Scott when I was 16 years old. We were married by the time we were 19. I just have to pause here to mention that it really speaks to the character of my husband that he fell in love with ME…not with my body. He told me over and over (and in fact he still tells me every day) that I was beautiful.

But I had a very hard time believing him.

On our one year anniversary, at the ripe old age of 20, Scott snapped a picture of me.


For some reason, it was that picture that was the tipping point for me. I looked at the photo and realized something – I was not healthy. It was not healthy to have to hold my breath to tie my shoes. It was not healthy to get winded walking up the stars to our apartment. It was not healthy to think about starting a family when my extra weight would create a difficult pregnancy for me. I wanted to be healthy. And I wanted to be able to believe my husband when he told me I was beautiful.

And so I joined Weight Watchers and I fell in love with Richard Simmons. (Don’t judge….he is cute in those little, sparkly shorts!)

At my first weigh-in I was 210 pounds. And I am only 5′ 3″.

I had no clue how to count calories or lose weight! Absolutely no clue! I remember researching low-calorie food options. This was before such widespread information was available on the internet. I walked the aisles of WinCo, read nutrition information, and made a list. For 2 months I believed that spaghetti was low-calorie and so I ate it 3-4 times a week. Why, you ask? Because someone had made a typo on the bulk food bins stating that one serving of spaghetti noodles was 20 calories. Two months later, when they rectified their mistake, I was shocked to realize that they had forgotten a zero and, in fact, one serving of spaghetti noodles was 200 calories!!!

I bought VHS tapes of Richard Simmons and started exercising in my living room. I think this was the beginning of my love of Zumba :) I remember vividly, the first time I danced along with Richard, I had to stop the video after only 20 minutes. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk. I couldn’t finish.

But despite the spaghetti noodles and the aborted attempt at exercise, I started losing weight. Slowly, sure. But also steadily. Every week I would weigh myself and see a slight loss. Every week I could complete a little bit more of the workout in my living room.

When I had dropped to 175 pounds, I rewarded myself by joining a gym. You see, before then, I was too embarrassed to exercise in public. I was sure everyone would be looking at me and thinking, “What is that fat girl doing here? She obviously doesn’t belong.”

But, the truth was, I did belong! The truth is, everyone belongs. Because we should all be doing something for our bodies, something to be healthy.

When I hit 150 pounds, I decided to try to run. Before this, I had never run a whole mile in my life. I was sure I was born with a genetic disease, or extra-small, shrunken lungs, or some really good medical reason why I should not run, because I just couldn’t seem to breathe in enough oxygen to keep going for that long! So I started with running for 5 minutes. And I added 1 minute at a time. And then, one day, I ran an entire mile in 12 minutes. Finishing that single mile, on the corner treadmill, in the back of the gym….it felt like I had just won the race.

When I hit 135 pounds, I took my first group exercise class. Oh. My. Word. What had I been missing all these years? I started attending every single class that I could fit into my schedule. And then, one day, my instructor asked me to stay after class. She mentioned that they were hosting a training workshop. And she asked me if I might be interested. (Thank you, Terie.)

So, at the ripe old age of 21, I became AFAA certified and taught my very first step class.

But, now comes the interesting part. Because this is where my journey really began.

Here I was…young, healthy, fit, teaching group exercise classes…and I still saw myself as the “fat” girl. I was sure that when I showed up to teach my step class, the members were thinking, “What is that fat girl doing here? She obviously doesn’t belong.”

And I still did not believe my husband when he told me I was beautiful.

And the truth is, this has remained a struggle for me.

Oh sure, my weight has fluctuated over the years. There was a car accident, two pregnancies, and most recently, the adoption of 4 children – all events that caused some weight gain. When I went to Africa, I was not in charge of my diet. We had a cook who prepared our meals for us. And our cook loved her carbs! Add to this the stress of our adoption and I managed to put on 15 pounds.

But, each time I gained weight, I worked hard to lose it again. The problem is, it is not the weight gain and loss that is a struggle for me…it is my own feelings, still inside, that I am the “fat” girl. It is the fact that I still catch myself thinking, “Look at that other instructor. She looks so great! Probably all the members here are thinking that I am the fat one.”

Friends, WHO CARES?

Why do we care so much what other people think?

My value does not lie in the number on the scale. My value is not determined by the size of my jeans.

I am a daughter of the King. I am His beloved child. He is pleased with me.

I am a wife to a loving husband. I am his prize. He thinks I am beautiful.

Yes, I believe that our health is important. Yes, I believe in the benefits that exercise provides for your body. Yes, I want to be fit and strong and able.

But, no, I do not want to be a slave to body image. No, I do not want to base my worth on something as superficial as the size of my butt!

So what is the truth?

I do not weigh 135 pounds. I do not weigh 210 pounds. I am somewhere in between.

I have great cardio endurance. I have run a half-marathon.

I have stretch marks. I have extra fat on my rear end.

I have really strong legs. I can lift a lot of weight.

I have selfishness in my heart. I am easily angered.

I am full of joy. I love big.

I am healthy. I am loved.



Created For Care

If God could have reached down and planned a retreat tailored specifically to the needs of my soul, this retreat would have been His creation. Actually, I am pretty sure this retreat was His creation. And His gift to me.

Created for Care is a retreat put on for adoptive moms, by adoptive moms. There are main sessions filled with encouragement and worship, breakout sessions containing practical tips and advice for the struggles we face, spaces and places carved out for personal reflection and time with God, and coffee and chocolate with other moms who are walking the same road as I.

My roomies at the conference - lovely ladies, all.

My roomies at the conference – lovely ladies

There are so many areas where I felt conviction and found room for improvement, but over it all was grace. I felt God’s grace for me and I found more grace for my children. I won’t share every dark area that God cast His light upon, but I will share a couple of special things.

I need to listen to my children.

More than that, I need to hear what they are saying. Really hear them.

I need to look in their eyes, watch their body language, hear the pain that is motivating their behavior, and listen to their stories.

Isn’t it true that so often, the loudest voice in the home is our own? We determine the flow of our family’s day. We set the tone. We are teaching our children with every single thing that we do and say. And I don’t want my children to learn that my voice is more important than theirs.

Here is the harsh truth – I value my schedule more than I value listening to my children.

“No, (insert any one of 6 children’s names here), I can’t hold you right now. Stop crying (or yelling, or whining, or asking questions). It is 9:55. Look at my schedule. Right here on my neatly printed out home school chart. 9:55 is obviously time for math. So let’s get on with it. Bottle up your emotions, let’s focus on your fractions.”

Maybe I don’t say those exact words, but is this what my children hear? Is this what my actions are saying to them?

If my schedule is so busy that I can’t stop what I am doing, sit down on the floor, and spend time with my child – than my schedule is too busy. This is true for all of us! But, it hit me in my heart this weekend. I am so focused on reading, writing and arithmetic that I often miss the opportunity to teach life lessons.

Which dovetails nicely with the second lesson that God had for me.

I am not responsible for the outcome of my children’s lives. I am not responsible for their healing. He is.

How often do we as mothers find our value in our children’s behavior? I would venture a guess that I am not the only mother who struggles with this. If our children are well-behaved, if they obey the rules, if they don’t talk back (especially in front of other people), then we must be doing a good job.

“Look at my lovely child. Isn’t she so sweet? Isn’t he so kind? They always speak in a well-modulated, soft, indoor voice. He helps old ladies across the street. She cleans the floor with a toothbrush simply to bless me. He volunteers every weekend in the soup kitchen. She gets straight A’s. And, of course, they are always clean and they never have holes in their jeans. Look at me! I must be doing something right to have such angelic children!”

Ladies – it isn’t about us. It is about our children. It is about God.

I need to stop worrying about what other people think about us – my children, their behavior, my parenting, their choices – all of it! God sees. He knows. And that is all that matters.

I confess, I worry about the outcome of my children’s lives. ALL of my children. Will they make the right choices? Will they be successful adults? Will they love the Lord?

I don’t know. I don’t know what decisions they will make or how their life will look. But, their life story is not mine to write.

I am called to love. To nurture. To mother. I am called to create a safe space for them to grow, and learn, and blossom. I am not asked to make their choices. I am not asked to heal their hearts.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9

Oh, God. Help me not to grow weary. Let me find my strength in you. Let me find my rest in you. Let me find joy that flows from you.

For in the proper time, you will make all things new.



(I wrote this post while on the airplane heading home from the conference. By this morning, I had already blown it, again! I jumped back into my life and set about finishing school assignments with vigor. I snapped at my husband who deserved nothing of the sort. He not only sent me away for refreshment, he also cleaned, he did laundry, he cleaned up vomit, he calmed a minor storm, he bathed, he loved, and he played with our children. I had to apologize. This verse came to mind – For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. ~ Romans 7:15. I am so thankful for God’s grace. Isn’t it an amazing gift? And I am so thankful that I married Scott Putnam! He deserves an award of some kind.)


Don’t Leave Me

Do you ever have one those days when you wake up feeling cranky? You can’t really pinpoint the exact reason why, but everything rubs you the wrong way.

I never, rarely ever, occasionally have a day like that, and when I do – you better watch yourself! Especially if you are a member of my family. Doesn’t it seem like we save our worst behavior for the ones we love?

Even as adults, we often have a hard time understanding or expressing our emotions.

Imagine how hard it is for a child. Especially a child who has never had a stable family environment, or a role model for good behavior, or a person to talk to when their emotions overtake them.

Now take that child and move them to a new country, leave behind everything that is familiar, and make them learn a new language.  How well would you expect them to express their emotions?

My heart hurts as I see my children struggle. I wish I could erase all of the pain and help them to see themselves as we see them – treasures.

We have had a delightful time with Leah the past two weeks. The progress she is making is so very encouraging. We have had more good days, more laughter and more hugs. I think the main difference I have seen is her ability to reign herself in when she is upset. Instead of her anger or tears taking over the house and lasting for hours, she has been working on strategies for calming herself and stopping the behavior before it escalates.

And then, last Friday, we had a rough day.

And Saturday – disobedience, hurtful words, early bedtime.

Sunday – eye rolls, crossed arms, big sighs, disrespectful attitude.

Monday – Leah came home from school at 1:00. I asked how her day was and if she wanted a snack.

“Mom, why you always ask me how is my day? Why you care? No one care about me! In Ethiopia, no one ask me how is my day! I no want snack. Everyday you make me eat snack. No one give me snack in Ethiopia! And I no want to talk to ANYONE!”

Okay. Deep breaths. Calm voice. Happy eyes.

I load Leah in the car for her usual Monday afternoon counseling appointment.

On the way, Leah sits with crossed arms, eyes averted. I rub my fingers along her tense arm. I talk to her about how it is so hard to understand our feelings. I talk about how time, and counseling, and prayer, and love will help her heart to heal. I remind her that I am leaving in only a few days to take some classes to help both her and I improve at this journey we are on together.

And that is when I see the tears squeeze out of her eyes and silently roll down her cheeks. And she breaks the silence to ask me, “When you leave? How many days? You no leave while I sleep, Mom. You wake me up and tell me you leave. You need to say goodbye.” We walk into her counselor’s office and I sit in a chair. Instead of sitting in one of the other chairs in the office, Leah slides to the floor next to me and lays her head on my lap.

You know, one of the hardest things about parenting children from hurt places is looking past their behavior and seeing into their heart. Yes, Leah was exhibiting bad behavior in our home since Friday. But, the real problem wasn’t the behavior, it was the WHY. Why was she acting out? Why was she treating me with such anger?

Because on Thursday we told the kids that I am going to be leaving for a 4 day retreat.

What she heard was….

You are leaving me.

Leah told me tonight that she is going to have a bad day every day while I am gone.

What I heard was……

I am attached to you. I feel safe with you. I will miss you.

Seven months of being together leading up to these four days of being apart. She will miss me.


Please pray for Scott as he is a single parent for the next 4 days. He will be juggling all 6 kids, home school, chauffeuring duties, cooking (okay, not really – he will probably order pizza), cleaning (he already asked me if he could hire a maid), and trying to get some of his own work completed in his spare time! He will be doing bedtime and morning time routines and everything in between. He does many of these things on a regular basis, but not ALL of them, and not ALL by himself.

Please pray for the kids while I am gone. Pray that they will not feel any sort of abandonment or fear about me not returning. Pray that they will pitch in and help their daddy. Pray for no fighting between the siblings (or that the fighting would at least be kept to a minimum).

And please pray for me. I have an amazing opportunity to spend 4 days at this conference. Worship, speakers on different adoption issues, special sessions specific to my needs, refreshment for my soul – and, oh yeah, no cooking or cleaning or taking care of anyone else!!!! And, I just want to give some extra credit to my husband here, because he is the one who found this conference and encouraged me to go.

Who knows, when I get home next week maybe all of my gray hair will be gone and my wrinkles will have disappeared. Or, more importantly, maybe my heart will be refreshed and I will be better equipped to mother all six of my beautiful children.