Our Story of Raising an Only Child

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I’ve often thought that God made babies so darn cute so that their parents continue to take good care of them. I’ll never forget holding our first foster baby from 3-6:00am one night, her giant brown eyes following me in the dark, and my two competing thoughts were, “WHY AREN’T YOU ASLEEP?” and “Gosh darn it, you are SO CUTE.” The world tends to adore babies, and when you’re up in the night for three hours straight with a newborn, those compliments you receive on social media might be the only thing keeping you going. Well, that and coffee. But babies grow. The compliments fade. And eventually you have a kid with gawky teeth who is taking awkward school pictures that even retake day can’t fix. Everyone loves a baby, but not so much the elementary kid whose has teeth five times too large for his mouth. Mama, Grandma and your BFF still love that one.

I don’t get asked childrearing questions very often anymore and I think it’s because I have one child who is now 12. Oh, and maybe it’s because I do a lot of my living alongside someone who blogs about parenting. She’s a professional question-answerer so that makes sense. A lot of my parenting experience, however, is hidden and no one can see it. I did the math recently and realized that if God had answered many of my desires for children with “yes’s” rather than “no’s” Jeremy and I would have six children. One privately adopted, one biological, and the final four adopted from foster care. For sure we still have those six in our hearts, with only the first one being the child God has given us to raise for good.

Our plans, as hopeful as they were, didn’t turn into our reality. I’m still coming to terms with this truth. I allow little daggers to enter my heart, to pierce those old desires and entice me to “what if’s” and “if only’s.” I let the memes and defensive lines from large families hurt my soul. I wanted to be one of those large families. I read about people who have more children because they value sibling relationships greatly, and I struggle to not to be filled with regret. As capable as I am, providing a sibling for Livia was not something I could arrange. I hear jokes about only children, about how spoiled they are, and allow these asides to fill me with irritation. I didn’t plan on one, I want to shout. I had hoped for more.

There was Livia. And a baby miscarried. And a very temporary foster daughter. Two foster sons gone home by a judge’s changed orders. And a beloved foster baby reunified with his beautiful family. Six total.

But that’s only the six that reside most deeply in our hearts. There were more.

There was the baby boy we got incredibly close to adopting, only to have his parents choose the other couple. There was the teenager we prayed over, raised in absolutely horrific conditions who, in the end, required much more than we could give. There was the toddler we spent the day with a small town nearby, the one we bought a stuffed animal for and fed Runza fries to, the one given to another family within 24 hours of coming to live with us permanently. There was the three year old girl who needed a family, the one who the state placed elsewhere with no reason whatsoever given to us. And in between those cases there were calls upon calls with hours upon hours of waiting for information, prayers of all kinds being raised up for wisdom and perfect timing.

So when I read a meme supporting large families or see beautiful pictures of siblings loving one another, I think of our story and have to draw a conclusion. Here is the one I’ve settled on:

God has created my family. And he is pleased to give me one child.

One daughter. One twelve year old now in middle school. No siblings older than her, and no siblings younger. But this is our one, and she is enough. I felt God asking me that question, the question of, “What will satisfy you?”
“Will another child make you content?”
“Why is one not enough?”
“When will you be satisfied?”

In my tears and sadness I had to admit that one is enough. ONE IS ENOUGH. Though I’ve been a mother to many and will carry them forever in my heart, one is what he’s given to me to care for daily and that. is. enough.

We all have different stories and no two stories are the same. No one’s story can be read entirely via a Facebook status or a picture on Instagram. We all have hurts and we all have joys, and to compare our stories will never bring us satisfaction. At the end of the day I cling to God’s promises and the knowledge I have of his character. He is good, he provides for ALL my needs, he is never asleep on the job, and I will only find my hope and joy in him. Not in babies, as cute as they are, and not in big kids in all their awkward glory. No job can complete my spirit, no spouse is perfect like God, no amount of travel or fine dining or hobbies or education can ever fill up my heart. It’s a real challenge to keep my eyes on the Lord and trust him, but that’s the goal, that’s MY goal, and He is where my soul will always be refreshed.

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**Note: Each image above represents one of the other children God has given Jeremy and me, for short periods of time. I carried a baby in my womb to the Grand Canyon upon our visit to Arizona. I remember getting carsick as we drove mountain paths and more than once I chose vegetables over french fries even though that was not my norm. I now feel incredibly grateful for such an eventful short pregnancy as I recall the little life I carried at that time.

The black and white image shows Livia with her first foster sister. What a joy she was even as I was stretched by sleeplessness! The second photo shows Jeremy and one of the little boys we had the privilege to love for five weeks. We anticipated a much longer journey with them, and I believe this image was captured the night before they went home. It was a stunning departure. The final image shows Livia and me on a train ride with our last foster baby. This little guy had lots of people in his life who adored him and we got to walk through that experience with his family, which was a privilege all its own. I still count his reunification as a huge joy.

First Day of Middle School!

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Reading your sixth grader’s baby book the night before middle school starts is a surefire way to conjure up feelings of MY BABY IS GROWING UP SO FAST! As I looked at all the number sixes in chalk on my driveway, I couldn’t help but be amazed at how grown up Livia is now. I’m so very proud of my smart and beautiful kid. She’s a remarkable person and I’m excited for her adventures in middle school to begin today. She is ready—look out, world!

Father God, bless Livia and all the other kiddos starting school today. Remind them you go with them all day long, that you care about things both big and small. Give them courage and excitement and deep peace where there’s anxiety. Fill their hearts with compassion, kindness and joy for each other and a passion for learning. Make this day a good one, Father! In Jesus’ name, amen.

PS: And Lord, thank you for the Moreheads who love Livia well year after year. She knows now about the “surprise” on the driveway and anticipates the celebratory words in advance. What a sweet gift to have friends that love your child. Amen.

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Updated to add links to all first day shots!

Kindergarten
First Grade
Second Grade
Third Grade
Fourth Grade
Fifth Grade

A Bevy of Bradley Charmers

Sometimes a photographer asks a few subjects to test the light for her, and oftentimes it’s the girls who want to model most. I am not sorry at all for the gorgeousness captured in those moments of testing. Here are a few of my favorites.

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Washington Vacation [set 1]

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Our first leg of the trip involved getting up at 3:00am to catch a 5:00am flight out of Omaha. We bested this start time on our return flight, which left Seattle at 5:00am and had us all waking up at 1:45am. But we successfully did it and no one died. Yay us! One strategy for traveling with good attitudes is to travel with friends. A lot of smiles are shared, even when brushing your teeth dorm-room style before 2:00am.

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Marc and Kerri have the most beautiful views from their home. From the front deck you can see the Puget Sound and, if the skies are clear, the Cascades beyond it. Behind their home is an old golf course path, perfect for walking the dog or taking in some fresh air.

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My soul is deeply refreshed by salt water. Thank you, Jesus.

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It’s not vacation without the proper snacks. Doughnuts are a welcome addition to any excursion.

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Flowers everywhere. The Pacific Northwest does flowers WELL.

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Jen brought a good camera on the trip. I can’t wait to see what she captured. I shot everything with my iPhone this time around.

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We hiked up to Marymere Falls in Olympic National Park. It felt like the perfect little hike for our afternoon. After that we walked over to Lake Crescent Lodge and ordered drinks to enjoy on their front porch. The trees, wildlife, cabins, lodge and lakeside views were absolutely incredible. Visiting this part of the world is like pressing a refresh button on my heart.

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Garden Babies

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Summer Portraits

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Branched Oak Lake

Last weekend we drove up to Branched Oak and… ahhhhh… the light gleaming off the water immediately filled my bucket. I don’t know why water makes me so relaxed and content and happy, but it does. We joined friends from church at the lake for the dinner and went home as the sun was beginning to set. Almost all the rest of them stayed overnight in tents. Which is SO cute. I am so happy for them and their adorable tents. I thought about my joy for them all the way home to my air conditioned house with locked doors and a deliciously soft and thick queen-sized mattress. I digress.

The Creagers’ Life Group—what Redeemer calls our small groups—has gone camping for the past several years and it was sweet fun to join them for several hours. Photographic evidence of fun follows:

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Friends in Evening Sun

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We joined friends at Branched Oak last weekend and, as always, the setting sun inspired me. The subject sitting in the light, by virtue of his leash and a well-placed tree, was of the canine variety. Cooper posed nicely, and so did our lovely human friend Dejana.

More images coming soon.

Abigail & Colton, Engaged

A big thanks to Abigail and Colton for spending a few fun hours with me early in June. You are both wonderful and it was truly a joy to tromp under trees and through the flowery meadow (hill?) with you. May God bless you richly in these months leading toward your wedding! The best is yet to come.

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Champion for a Child

“Every child deserves a champion, an adult who insists that they become the best they can possibly be.” – Rita Pierson

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Every time I read of a drug bust or domestic dispute and there are children in the home, I know that a foster family is getting a call—often at a really inconvenient hour—to provide shelter, comfort and stability for a child. Sometimes a home is needed for a few days, and sometimes it’s for months, or for life. These kids are minors and have no voice here on social media, so yes, I am reminding the world that they exist. By no fault of their own they will find themselves in life-altering situations.

If you believe all children deserve a loving home, would you consider foster care? Think about it. Ask questions about it. Pray about it. And then act. ‪#‎fosterlove‬ ‪#‎champions‬