Countdown to Forever…

Today was an AMAZING day, even considering the fact that the first four hours of it were spent cleaning up a horrible mess made by our dog while the kids turned the couch cushions into their own version of SkyZone. Today, January 10th, 2018, was AMAZING. Today we received a phone call we had been waiting for since September of 2017.

You see, we’ve been in a very long, and honestly frustrating, process to adopt our youngest son, but we’ve been excited because according to the update from our most recent court hearing, it looked like we’d finally be getting an adoption date the end of February. So imagine my surprise when my phone rings this afternoon and it’s our adoption worker, calling from the court house to tell me his adoption wouldn’t be in the end of February, but instead is scheduled for just TWELVE DAYS FROM NOW!!! I was so excited, I don’t think I believed her at first. I told her I needed to call her back, for literally no reason other than to wrap my head around what she was telling me. I called her back seconds later after telling Nate the news, laughing because I couldn’t even communicate what I was feeling.

I immediately called my Dad to let him know, and was during that conversation that all of my emotions finally caught up with what was happening. I paused during the conversation and began to cry, tears of joy and relief pouring down my face. When you become a foster or pre-adoptive parent, it’s almost like there’s this extra layer of emotions one finds themselves digging into. I think a lot of it comes from that fact that as you become more familiar with the system, you begin to try to be prepared for the unexpected, for things to change on a dime, for life to do a “180” in an instant. So even though a case is heading a certain direction or you’re in a certain stage of the process, there seems to be this worry, fear, and doubt that lingers in the back of our minds and hearts. But not anymore.

On January 22nd, 2019, just twelve days from now, we’ll walk into a courtroom as “Foster Mom,” “Foster Dad,” and “Foster Son,” and leave as a family. Our twin boys will share the same last name as their little brother and my husband and I, along with our family and friends, will finally be able to celebrate officially becoming “McMullin, Party of Five.”

A little while after endless phone calls and text messages to share the news, JJ woke up from his nap and I could hear him calling for me. “Mama! Mama! Mama!” I ran upstairs, ran my hip into the God forsaken baby gate (every. dang. day.), scooped him out of the crib and told him the news. His response was pretty typical, consisting of stealing my glasses, a hug, and asking for food, haha. But he smiled, with his big cheek bones and dimples, and chocolate brown eyes, and again said “Mama,” as if he knew exactly what I was saying.

And so the countdown officially begins. Twelve days my sweet baby boy. Twelve days and we’ll finally be able to share your adorable face and powerful story with the world. Twelve days and we’ll be able to cross state lines without authorization from the agency or visit the pediatrician without filling out an incident report and turning in copies of doctors notes and prescriptions. Twelve days and your birth certificate will show Leah McMullin as “Mother,” and Nathaniel McMullin as “Father.” In twelve days you’ll finally, and officially, be who we always knew you would be. Ours.

•Written January 10th, 2019•

And the award goes to…

Today I was listening to one of my favorite songs, one I hadn’t heard in a while, called “My Story” by Big Daddy Weave. Now I’m listening to it on repeat as I sit stuck at a train and look back at my beautiful children in awe (the twins taking turns with a new toy MOSTLY without fighting). Usually I complain about the trains near my home because they’re everywhere and all. the. time. But today I’m thankful, because ya know sometimes it takes being stuck at a train and the perfect song to make you take a deep breath and remember who you are and all that you’ve been blessed with. The beauty of perspective, right? 

So anyway, back to “My Story.” If you’ve never heard it you definitely need to take a listen. It’s such an incredible testimony to all that God does for us, and while listening to it today it has brought tears to my eyes. So many times people praise Nate and I for all we do with foster care, for adopting and raising our three boys. We’ve been asked to speak at different special events and even awarded for following what we felt compelled and called to do, which is an incredible and humbling honor. But can I be honest with you? This life, this calling, this wild journey we are on, it is beautiful and amazing and everything I’ve ever wanted, but it is HARD. And while we have sacrificed and have put forth a lot of effort (the whole blood, sweat and tear thing), the credit in our story should not go to us. Because the truth of the matter is if not for God’s abundant grace, mercy, understanding, presence, and love, we couldn’t not do ANY of it. HE deserves the glory, the honor, the accolades and awards. 

The lyrics of this song say “if I told you my story, you would hear life but it wasn’t mine. If I should speak, then let it be of the grace that is greater than all my sin…Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in. Oh to tell you my story is to tell of HIM.” And I wouldn’t truly be living according to what God has called me to if I didn’t share this with you.

Only He can take two totally imperfect people and use them for something great. Only He can take two broken hearts after losing their biological daughter and completely redeem it. Only He can give us strength when we feel depleted, patience when we’ve run out (hallelujah), and grace when we need it (and we do, often). We aren’t perfect, not even close, but man I am thankful to serve a God who is. Friend if you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, or have questions about your faith or who He is, please reach out to me. Because knowing Jesus is life changing and is what I am thankful for most, for without Him I would have crumbled years ago. Because of who Jesus is I am alive, whole, valued, wanted, created for purpose, and so are YOU. 

I’m so thankful for every opportunity and door that has opened to us throughout our journey and can’t wait to see what lies ahead, because God is GOOD and faithful, and I know He has even greater things planned for my family. The song “My Story” explains the truth so well. I strongly encourage you to listen to it, and if you want to know more about our story, I’d be happy to share all He has done in and through us with you. 

❤️ Leah

Big Daddy Weave – My Story: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1TKAN-nAsu8

“It takes a village…”

This weekend we provided respite care for another foster family, which meant adding yet another baby boy to our bunch. With Nate out of town for a “guys trip” with the twins, it was just me, JJ (our STBA 14-month-old), and baby A (3 months). Friday and Saturday had gone pretty smoothly but even though A slept a good portion of the night, I wasn’t getting much sleep because I was listening for him. It’s like that Mom-Brain that’s constantly working just in case their little one calls for them goes into overdrive when a new kiddo is in the home.

So along came Sunday morning and like most Sunday’s, I was serving. I was exhausted from waking to feed the baby twice during the night but still woke up early to shower, frantically got both babies fed and ready to go, and we made it to church just under the wire. I pulled into the parking lot feeling rushed because I technically should have arrived 20 minutes prior, but when I got out of the van I was met with nothing but love and grace. And that’s exactly why I’m writing this right now.

After getting everything out of the van and walking toward the entrance I held two diaper bags, JJ in one arm, and A in his carrier on the other arm. I walked a few feet only to be greeted by a member of our church who ran down the stairs offering to help. He kindly took A from my arm and carried him in. When I reached the top of the stairs I was given a hug by a good friend, who also greets on Sunday mornings. She asked how I was doing and offered to hold JJ while I got settled.

I got organized in the sound booth and was trying to calm A who had started to fuss, while getting ready to take the babies down to the nursery when yet another wonderful member of our church asked if I’d like her to check JJ into nursery and after I said yes she carried him and his diaper bag downstairs.

I was then able to get A out of his car seat and yet ANOTHER friend and church member asked if it would be helpful if she held and fed him during the service.

I took this picture of her while I was changing slides during worship because as I looked over to the precious boy in her arms, I was reminded exactly what it means to truly BE the church. To be Jesus to those who walk into our doors. I was overwhelmed with gratitude as I was able to take a deep breathe and serve as I’d committed to, knowing both of my babies were in good hands.

As a parent, especially one that fosters, something I am constantly saying is “it takes a village.” This morning was wild and chaotic and busy, but thanks to the help of those around me that long to make a difference and care to lend a hand, it was a success.

This is love.

This is Jesus.

These are just a few of MANY ways each and every person can DO SOMETHING in the world of foster care and in the lives of foster children/parents.

To all of you in our village that stepped up today, and step up every day, THANK YOU. We couldn’t do what we do without you. ❤️

I am _____!

The other day this was the status of a friend of mine on Facebook:

“C’mon – you can do it! It may be awkward at first – but when you realize how amazing it is that God created you – loved you enough to die for you – loves you beyond all understanding – I mean – you MUST be pretty special, huh?? ❤ So finish it ……let’s hear it – I AM___________ !”

At first I glanced quickly past it, then when I read it I again just continued to scroll, actually avoiding it. Then I scrolled back up, then down, then up again and thought to myself “do I really struggle with my self confidence so much that I avoid even saying just one kind thing about myself?”

I mean I teach my children that God has made them special and unique and perfect as they are. That He formed us in the womb and we are made in His image, yet I lacked, in that moment, the courage to make a statement that I didn’t feel was honest.

Am I beautiful? I mean my husband tells me that I am, my parents tell me so, but the woman I see in the mirror doesn’t exactly have the body I wish I had. Am I caring? Yes of course, but I’m also forgetful and miss the mark on so many levels, and I can’t tell you the number of dishes I have in my cupboards that belong to friends, who have so kindly made my family meals, that I’ve not returned. Am I a good wife? Sure, most days. But the fact that I had to have someone come in and help me clean my home because I just can’t quite get it all done often makes me feel like I’m failing in that regard. Not to mention that volcanic explosion of laundry laying on the floor in front of my washer. And then finally I decided on what I’d type. “I am a good.. Mo..” delete. delete. Hmm. “I am a good Mom!” ➡️Send.

As I read what I’d just commented I again had that internal debate. “Am I really a good Mom? I mean most days lately they just want Daddy to get home because he’s clearly the current favorite (ouch). And with twin two-year-olds plus an infant, it’s fair to say my patience is…. lacking. I know I yell more than I should and I’m pretty sure yesterday I meant to bathe all three but one got skipped…”

I could think of so many reasons why my typing “I’m a good Mom” was false, but then again, that’s exactly what the devil wanted me to do isn’t it? To forget that I am a child of God, that my children are not here by mistake. No, because in fact my God orchestrated everything so incredibly perfectly to make SURE those three boys were my babies, and He did not design ME to be a failure. He knew that no matter how insane of a day, how overwhelmed I’d become, how many mistakes I’d make or things I’d forget, that I was the Mom they needed. That He had me exactly where He wanted me and so maybe, I should take a step back and see myself the way He sees me, rather than stand there and dog myself for every tiny error I can pinpoint.

Are there things I need to work on? I think I’ve made that pretty clear, ha. But, the truth of the matter is, I’m so much more than a list of faults. I am His. And with Him, I can do anything.

Maybe you’ve felt the way I did when I read that Facebook status. Maybe you doubt yourself in more ways than you can count and you’ve lost your true identity. Do me a favor. Take a deep breath, back up that train of negative thoughts, and remind yourself who you are, who He has created you to be. Say it out loud, right it down, share it with this post or put it on your mirror. And believe it. Because it’s true.

I am a good Mom.
I am a good friend.
I am a good wife.
I am beautiful.
I am the daughter of a King.
I. Am. His. ❤️

IMG_9365

Making the most of reunification in foster care…

Yesterday I woke up to a text message from my former foster son’s grandmother containing a picture of him all dressed up in his new school uniform, ready for his first day of school. He looked so handsome, and as though he had changed and grown so much since moving home just 1 month ago. One month. How is that possible? It’s hard to believe that much time has already passed…

12 hours later I got a phone call, answered, and was thrilled to hear his voice on the other end. He was so excited to tell me all about his first day of school. About his teacher, his friends, and how bummed he is that he only gets one recess in third grade. It didn’t matter if he wanted to talk about what was for lunch or how many times he was to re-tie his shoes, what mattered was that I heard his voice at all. Because it’s not my right anymore, it’s not up to me, it is a privelage and one I am grateful for.

See sometimes in foster care it’s easy to paint the biological family as the enemy (and trust me, within the stories of the 10 children we’ve fostered in the past 3 years, I understand why), but it’s so important to remember that they’re human too. That none of us is perfect, and that maybe trying to build a bridge instead of becoming a road block, may serve us all better in the end.

With my adopted children the story is much different, different people, different issues, different reasons for coming into care, and different reasons for the outcome of the process, but it’s not always the same. Recognizing that, understanding that, and doing our best to move forward in the PRESENT circumstance is huge. I’ve heard it said before that foster care is spiritual ware fare. Which is oh so true, and I think is often within our own hearts. I have to constantly keep myself in check, remind myself it’s not my place to pass judgement, be respectful, speak kindly, because I believe God has called me to this life and this ministry and there’s a reason for it (and the reason is not for me to point my finger, or walk with my nose in the air as though I’m greater than those on the other side of this journey).

I think too often we create a divide between ourselves and the family that has a child in care, deciding in our minds who they must be, grouping them together in a stereotype of misfits. But when we do that, when we put up our fists instead of extending a hand, are we really fulfilling our calling in the way He intended us to? Hmm.

Again I know each situation is different and can’t say there haven’t been times when this Mama Bear was ready to go toe-to-toe for my kids, because sometimes it’s necessary, but I’m careful not to let that become my default. I fell into that trap a few months ago. Granted there were plenty of reasons for me to come to all of my conclusions, but I was only seeing a few pieces of a very complicated puzzle. Now, as I get phone calls and texts from a sweet 9-year-old boy, I’m reminded that showing love and respect regardless of impression goes a long way. I built a bridge rather than burning one along the road and because of that, I am able to continue a relationship that otherwise probably would have ended the day he moved back home.

People tell me all the time that this type of outcome is rare in foster care. But why is that? Surely it doesn’t HAVE to be! Granted, it’s often not in our control, but my gosh what a beautiful thing to see a child flourish back in his original environment because he has not lost, but instead GAINED a second family thanks to foster care. So sure, maybe it’s not the typical result, but it CAN be.

I met another foster parent last summer just a few months before TJ* moved in with us, and I was so inspired by his story. He and his wife were in their late sixties, had been fostering for years, and had cared for more than 40 children. Now some of them are grown with children of their own, but every year at Thanksgiving they rent out a small hall, and all of those they’ve fostered, along with their families (I believe with the exception of 3-4), come together to celebrate all they are thankful for. How AMAZING is that?!

So, all this to encourage you to take a moment to self-reflect. Because though the process is grueling, it can also be life changing in the best of ways. Reunification often brings a mix of emotions in foster care, but just know that it can also be something really great. When it’s possible, build those bridges.  Become someone the biological family can lean on and turn to and who knows, maybe one day you’ll be the one receiving exciting phone calls about the first day of school, or making Thanksgiving plans with a few extra seats at your table.

Foster care is hard, make no mistake, but SO much good can come from it. Stay the course, pray for everyone involved in your situation, and be encouraged that God is good and He knows what He is doing. You are where you are for a reason, so make the best of it 😘.

IMG_4558.JPG

*TJ is not his real name. Changed for privacy.

And to think He loves them more…

It’s another one of those late nights, lots on my mind kind of days and I just felt like sharing another piece of my heart with all of you. Ya know, I think I write more around this time of day because let’s be honest, no one is asking me for a snack, clean underwear, or where their shoes are, haha (but seriously). The house is silent and I get just a little time to relax, to think, and then sometimes I decide someone else just might be interested in what’s running through my head. Hence, this.

So tomorrow, our sweet twin boys turn TWO. I have no idea how this has happened so quickly, and while I’m super excited to continue to watch them grow and learn and do new things, a piece of me is also so so sad that my babies are two minutes from official toddlerhood, and I’m just not ready!

And though my husband may not admit it, I think he’s right there with me. Because I swear the bedtime routine took more than double the usual time tonight. Not in a bad way, but in a “let’s make this last” “last night with one-year-olds” kind of way. And I loved it. We sang and rocked and snuggled and tickled and sang and rocked some more. Not really wanting to put them in bed at all. But eventually the over tired snuggle bugs had to turn in, and we had to say goodnight.

Fast-forward four hours and I’m sneaking into their bedroom for once last glance at my sweet one-year-old boys, who will wake up tomorrow surely so much bigger and taller and smarter than they were today, because, TWO. But then, as I quietly stood in their room, running my fingers through their hair and trying not to laugh out loud at the hilarious ways they sleep, it dawned on me… I wonder if this is what it’s like when God looks over us. When He knows there’s a big day ahead for us. That surely we’ll soon be bigger, taller, and smarter than today. Does He gently run his fingers though our hair in His own way? Does He smile down at me hogging the covers and my husband’s snoring? I bet He does.

And just as I touch their little hands one last time before walking out of their room, I get lost in thinking how incredibly lucky I am to have them at all. That God knew the circumstances they would encounter when entering this world, and that He specifically chose us to be the ones to step up and step in, and raise and love them with all of our hearts. That these sweet boys call ME Mommy. That every morning I get to scoop them out of bed and get them each half of a banana and a cup of milk. But really what I’m thinking is just how MUCH I love them. And then what blows my mind is that HE, Jesus, our Lord and Savior… HE loves them even more than I do. And He loves ME more than I’ll ever know or fathom. My gosh, how incredible is that. I think of the love I have for my boys, and it’s not even a fraction of the love my God has for each of us. Because He IS love. And I am only capable of loving them as I do BECAUSE of His love for me. Wow.

I’m not sure why God placed this in my heart to write tonight. Maybe you’re reading this and you just needed a reminder that amidst all the crazy of parenthood,  Jesus chose you for your babies, and He is there and working and He is always in your corner, cheering you on no matter the day! Or maybe you’re reading this and you just needed uplifted and to know just how much you are loved  because my goodness, you ARE. And I hope you never forget that.

Its bedtime for me, because I have two TWO year olds to chase around and celebrate tomorrow! But I wanted to leave you with some verses about His love. Remember, no matter how the day may be going or how you may feel, He does and always will LOVE YOU MORE.

1 John 4:16 ESV / So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV / For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Zephaniah 3:17 ESV / The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

1 John 4:19 ESV / We love because he first loved us.

💙💙

IMG_8223

 

 

 

 

I got too attached…

It’s 1am, but I can’t seem to fall asleep. I’ve been pacing throughout the house for a few hours now, binge eating (if I’m being honest) on food that is horrible for me, crying off and on, and watching episodes of Master Chef looking for something to pass the time or offer a good distraction. See, this is that part everyone is always talking about. The number one reason I hear the words “I just couldn’t do what you do.” Because tonight is the night that the child we’ve loved, cared for, and bonded with for the past 224 days, is no longer sleeping in his bed here at our home, but in the new bed his grandmother bought for him. Tonight is the night the child we’ve gotten too attached to packed a small bag, with just enough clothes for his first trial weekend, nervously sank into the back seat of his case workers car, and rode along while she drove him back to the family he’s missed for 8 months.
I can’t seem to turn off my worry, fear, and sadness. Worried he may need me, or miss me, or feel scared or alone. Because for 32 weeks he has been mine. In the time he’s been with us, TJ has gone trick-or-treating for the first time, went on his first road trip, visited the zoo for the first time, learned how to ride a bike, had his first sleepover, his first birthday party, made new friends, went swimming in a lake, began a relationship with Jesus, and countless other exciting and new experiences.
There have been hard times, PLENTY of hard times. Moments we thought we were in over our heads. But also moments of pure joy, and laughter thanks to his witty sense of humor. And we’ve been there. He’s been here. But tonight, he’s not. And though we knew he would one day leave our home, either to another adoptive family or back with his, it doesn’t make this moment any easier. We know and feel that this is the best thing for TJ, but tonight my heart is broken. What I wouldn’t give for one is his bear hugs right about now (which he was sure to give me before leaving tonight💛).
I’m hopeful and praying that he’s just fine. That he’s enjoying his weekend, and that Sunday when he comes back he’ll have lots of good to tell me. And then a few days later he’ll leave again, as the transition continues.
See, so often people tell me they couldn’t do foster care because they’d get too attached. That a child coming, staying, and then leaving would just be too hard. But, we do too. And my goodness, it hurts each time we reach this moment. But if I can be honest for a moment, that’s what these children need. We’ve done our job right when it feels this way. Because we’ve loved as He calls us to. We’ve put our hearts on the line, accepted the risk, took the plunge, and dealt with the inevitable consequence that is heart break when it’s over. And please understand, this is not me tooting my own horn by any means, nor am I trying to put a damper on the evening (or morning, I guess), but rather this is simply a moment I’ve taken to be raw and real. So, if you’re one that’s said you just couldn’t do it because you’d get too attached, maybe it’s time you grabbed an application. Because we need people like you. There may seem to be so much to lose, but one thing is certain, there is FAR more to gain. TJ, and all of the children we’ve cared for, have certainly taught us that. 💕#FosterCare

IMG_6050{TJ is not his real name. Changed for privacy.}